Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dialogue with Scott Lively on misusing the Bible



Original post: 29 October 2009
Latest update: 20 November 2009

Below is an exchange between a Christian missionary, Scott Lively, who came through Los Alamos on Sunday, October 25, and whom I learned about from an email that morning from our pastor friend, Doug Partin, of the Los Alamos Christian Church. The announced topic was to be what the Bible teaches about the family. So I went to The Christian Church on that Sunday to hear Scott speak during the regular Sunday School hour, which was set aside for his remarks. Doug had learned about Scott from Bill Redman, who was attending the Family and Life conference in Albuquerque where Scott was a featured speaker and suggested that we in Los Alamos might want to hear his message.

After listening to Scott’s talk, I was disquieted and went up to speak with him at the podium. But before making contact, Doug intercepted me and asked if I would drive Scott to his next appointment at the Los Alamos Church of Christ, which is only a block away from St. Dimitri Orthodox Church where I normally attend. On the way to the Church of Christ, Scott and I began a personal dialogue.

This printed exchange is an account of that dialogue:

On Tue, Oct 27, 2009 at 3:47 PM, Eugene Kovalenko wrote:
Dear Scott,

Remember the bearded guy in a Ukrainian shirt who drove you from the Los Alamos Christian Church to the Church of Christ at the behest of Pastor Doug Partin. We chatted on the way, which was less than ten minutes, but in those few minutes I got to know you better than I did from your remarks at the Christian Church.

I was touched by your testimony in church that morning and have no doubt that your acceptance of and belief in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth turned your horrific young life around to become the well-traveled and highly motivated missionary that you revealed to us. But then I became alarmed as you continued to speak and your remarks became political and homophobic. I thought you were going to talk about the family, which is why I came.

As our short journey to the Church of Christ neared its end I disclosed that my youngest son is gay and you responded that you have a gay brother. I wish I had asked you about your relationship with your brother. When I described my son as a gifted artist, a beautiful person and that he is living a life true to himself and his relationship with the Lord, you exclaimed “That is a lie!” Your immediate judgment and dismissal raised red flags for me and your ministry. And that is why I am writing this letter and copying those that sponsored you.

Before you exited the car I asked if you pay attention to your dreams. You said you did occasionally. When I asked if you took them seriously and understood them, you answered “Only if they do not conflict with the Bible.” That is where we left the conversation.

In your remarks at the Christian Church you described a general plan for ministry, which should always begin with oneself (putting one’s own house in order first, etc.) before expanding to family, neighbors, neighborhoods, etc. in ever widening circles of influence. Your website illustrates your vision about this. That is a view I subscribe to wholeheartedly in terms of Jesus’ most central teaching: Loving God first and then others as your self. It’s the “your self” that I am questioning, if that does not include knowing and understanding and working with the one’s dreams.

If one ignores or marginalizes one’s personal dreams, especially if they are troubling, one is in danger of letting one’s outer decisions be made by the personal and collective ego. And, if one falls into that trap, that is an attitude that leads not towards the peace and joy of the Good News of Jesus, but falsely towards totalitarianism in the name of Good News.

Please test me on this. I want to engage you in a personal communication about your (and my) dreams. Otherwise, I fear your zeal is heading in a direction opposite to that which you preach and teach.

With fraternal concern and in faith that the risen Jesus of Nazareth, the Prince of Peace, is the Lover of all our souls. I am your brother,

Eugene

Scott replied the same day...
________________________________________
From: Scott Lively [mailto:sdllaw@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 2:56 PM

To: Eugene Kovalenko
Cc: pastorscott@redemptiongate.org; Doug Partin; Bill Redmond
Subject: Re: Our brief chat on October 25, 2009

Dear Eugene,

I'm afraid you are misremembering our conversation. I said "that's a lie" when you said that homosexuality is not a sin and that God intentionally made your son a homosexual. That is a lie. As I then stated, God does not create people to have no choice in a behavior that He condemns.

You then asked me if I believe in my dreams and I said I give attention to them, but that I would never believe anything from a dream that contradicts the Word of God.

You apparently have accepted other sources than the Bible as your guide to truth. That is very dangerous and always wrong. Indeed, putting God below any other source of authority violates the first of the 10 Commandments and indeed the entire Scripture which is the testament to His supreme majesty over all.

I understand the desire to love one's relative who defines himself as "gay," and you should. However, to affirm a person in conduct which God condemns as an abomination is an act of hate, not love. As Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery to whom He extended mercy, "Go and sin no more." He withheld just punishment in that instance, but never condoned her or any other person's sin, ever.

Love your son by telling Him the truth that God designed him to reflect the complimentary half of the male/female duality, and that with God, all things are possible, even overcoming difficult life challenges such as same-sex attraction. Do not back your son in defying God and contradicting the clear teaching of Scripture (and self-evident truth) that homosexuality is physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially disordered, wrong and harmful.

I am attaching a PDF copy of my textbook on this issue: Redeeming the Rainbow: A Christian Response to the "Gay" Agenda. It will help you to understand how to separate your love for your son from your justification of his sin. It will also help the men whom you have dragged into this exchange (without my prior knowledge) to see that I am not the hateful bigot you have insunuated that I am.

I pray that you will restore God to His rightful place as your Lord and abandon your allegiance to whomever is speaking lies to you in dreams.

A Sinner Saved by Grace,

Scott Lively

On Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 11:12 PM, I responded:

Dear Brother Scott,

In the process of writing a reply to your response (see below), my wife Birgitta asked me to look at an email that she’d just forwarded to me. I interrupted my writing to do that and was so surprised and moved by watching with her the program in the link, that I’m copying and pasting it right here.

This trumps anything I had to say earlier!! God obviously needs no organization or intermediary to speak directly to and heal his people. I suspect the experience presented in this Sid Roth program is not dissimilar to your own experience when you first invited Jesus into your heart in the midst of your addictions. Yes, I do believe that’s all it takes even for the worst of us, if (as you say very well) we allow the Lord to cross over the inner threshold of our hearts.

That’s the bottom line: “Christ is in our midst!” as they say in Orthodoxy.

I have now completely rewritten what I had prepared before my wife’s welcome interruption.

Thank you for your prompt reply! I see you have written from what appears to be your law office and have clearly defined the issues that I raised. By doing so you have reinforced my concern for your zeal.

But before commenting on this further, allow me to acknowledge that you and I (and the two other pastoral sponsors copied here) have had personal spiritual experiences. Let us not disrespect, dismiss or marginalize them. What we can always do, however, is to revisit such experiences to re-examine and/or reinterpret them as we grow in understanding.

Rather than debating with you about what you believe I said during our brief chat (which is not what you say I said, although I believe you believe it is), I’m inviting you to become acquainted with my self-effacing friend Rabbi Gershon by looking at his home page regarding the issue of homosexuality. You will see that he has carefully studied the Jewish scriptures (his Talmud or our Old Testament, which you often refer to) and has had a revelatory experience of his own, which I believe is valid not only for his community, but for the rest of us. (He makes no such claim about this, but I do.) It was at my urging that he photographed and posted the dream images that he had painted the night of his marvelous dream. See his story on: http://home.earthlink.net/~ecorebbe/id33.html.

I had earlier copied three more men in this correspondence that I highly regard for their experience and wisdom to help me be responsible and fair. But I have thought better of this than to trouble them at this stage. One was Rabbi Gershon from Idaho mentioned above; the second man was an emeritus professor of education from whom I learned the word “beloving” [defined as: “spending time with someone such that that someone experiences his/her beauty”], one of the two most important words in my vocabulary in the past 20 years. The third man was an Orthodox priest who, before becoming Orthodox here in Los Alamos only three years ago, was an Episcopal priest for 47 years in the Midwest. It was through him recently that I learned the Russian word “prelest” [defined inadequately in English as spiritual conceit or pride] and how it manifests itself in ecclesiastical leadership. This is the second most important word in my vocabulary in the past 20 years. Both these words profoundly convicted, enlightened and freed me. These men are deeply rooted in the scriptures, well educated, and have long wrestled with the issues you have written and spoken about, which I have discussed with each of them over the years.

I am blind-copying my dear son and his partner, whom I support as being true to themselves, each other and to their own personal relationship with God. It is not my right nor yours to judge them, dismiss their experiences or insist they be different than they are. I see them both as choice spirits, which I would call angelic.

Allow me to remind you of the primary point in my previous letter and amplify it a bit; namely, that we must accept, know, love and trust ourselves as God accepts, knows, loves and trusts us before we can truly accept and love others. Contrary to what you say about dreams, we can confidently know the truth about our love for ourselves and others from our dreams, which truth needs no external reference or justification. In fact, your comment “whomever is speaking lies to you in dreams” reveals a deep misunderstanding and fear of the experience of dreaming. It is the ego’s fear—i.e., the false self--which is always afraid of dying and losing power or control. If you have a strong reaction to these words, my brother, know that it is your ego reacting. I had to wrestle with mine after I left you at the Church of Christ on Sunday and then step aside until it dissolved and I came to peace. Unless you can step aside and allow your ego to dissolve (assuming you have a strong reaction to what I’m writing here), the central pillar of your worthy enterprise in Massachusetts is very much vulnerable to falling into “prelest”, if it isn’t already there. [See: http://orthodoxodyssey.blogspot.com/2009/03/prelest.html]

Please understand that what I perceive to be your view of the Bible is not mine. You seem to believe the Bible to be the absolute (literal?) Word of God, but I do not. With this view I believe you have made the Bible an idol and that is dangerous, because such an attitude uses fear to manipulate others into behavior often in violation of their own consciences. I accept the Bible as a collection of inspired writings—like great art. Everyone experiences the scriptures (like experiencing great art) personally in terms of what they bring to the experience. But that must not be imposed on others, which is what I see you are doing. That is my concern. We all have a God-given personal conscience, which is our responsibility to obey, not someone else’s.

I had much more to say that I have just deleted, because I do not yet have confidence that you know or love yourself well enough to know or love me. I invite you to allow me to help you in this by your sharing a recent dream—any dream. That will tell me more than anything else you can write or say about who you really are within. If you are interested, I have posted some of my own recent and very early dreams on my blog www.orthodoxodyssey.blogspot.com.

Your brother in Christ, also a sinner saved by grace!

Eugene

Scott replied the same day:


________________________________________
From: Scott Lively [mailto:sdllaw@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 10:57 AM
To: Eugene Kovalenko
Cc: pastorscott@redemptiongate.org; Doug Partin; Bill Redmond; Pastor, Church of Nazarine
Subject: Re: Our brief chat on October 25, 2009

Eugene,

If my prior reply failed to budge you, I'm not going to try further, except (for the sake of those you have included in this exchange), to point out the irrationality of your position. To invoke the Bible's teaching against idols to accuse me of making the Bible an idol is manifestly absurd.

I suggest that you have made your dreams an idol, and in doing so allowed demonic influences to steer your mind away from the truth. Or do you believe that only God can speak in dreams? Don't bother answering that because I will not reply again. You are obviously unwilling to consider that you are wrong about biblical authority and thus further effort on my part would be a waste of time.

Confident in Christ alone,

Scott Lively

Realizing that this dialogue had gone awry, I replied at once and copied the three other men previously mentioned in my letter to Scott to help give me wiser perspective:

29 October 2009

Dear Brother,

Please be at peace. When one’s ego feels threatened it either runs away or attacks. I am not attacking you nor running away, but do want to bring our dialogue into the Light.

The tone of your reply is hardly that of Jesus. I expected better. However, because you say you will not reply, no matter how I respond, I’m publishing our correspondence on my www.orthodoxodyssey.blogspot.com and inviting others to comment. I’m also adding the names of my before-mentioned three wise friends plus two others to the list to be copied.

BTW, did you not examine the link in my last letter created by the Christian Jew Sid Roth? What a story! It illustrates how Jesus came into the life of a former drug addict like you and not only healed him, but taught him how to heal others. The former addict doesn’t need an organization or an intermediary to be an effective witness for Christ.

Did you read Rabbi Gerhson's study of the Talmud (our Old Testament)? Did you consider my attached paper about Joseph Smith? Or give those three words beloving, prelest, and shadow any thought? I believe it would be worth your while.

In Christ,

Eugene

PS. Having just read this last exchange to my wife Birgitta, she asked, “What do you hope to accomplish by writing this?” My reply, “To point out how the Bible can be misused.”

Rabbi Gershon replied immediately that evening of October 29. I had copied him because I knew of his deep study of the Tora (our Old Testament) and its treatment of the subject of homosexuality, which Scott and many Christian ministers are using to justify their homophobic position:

A very interesting dialogue. My only question is why I was included in the CC. I am absolutely NOT a Christian, nor do I ever wish to be so. My ancestors were forcibly converted in Spain and were happy when Napolean took the power of the Inquisition away from the Church and freed the Jews from it’s oppression.


To which I answered the same evening:

I did not mean to offend you, but wanted you to be aware of how much I value your remarkable dream. It is beyond any ecclesiastical, ethnocentric pre-occupation. Yes, your ancestors were forcibly converted into something NOT of God, no matter how they labeled themselves. I believe from what I have read of your writings and our past exchanges that you are a man of God. It doesn’t make any difference to me what institutional or tribal group you affiliate with.

on October 30, Rabbi Gershon wrote:

Eugene, you did not offend me. I absolutely know that you would not offend me. I just also know that you know that I am not a Christian nor do I have Christian sympathies. My dream was given me by God to help me to overcome the tradition of homophobia planted in my brain by centuries of indoctrination of and by rabbis who were themselves taught to see homosexuality as an evil. I agree totally with the following statement: It doesn’t make any difference to me what institutional or tribal group you affiliate with.

---------------------------------
Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill
email: ecorebbe@earthlink.net
website:http://home.earthlink.net/~ecorebbe/


Click here for the link to Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill's story of his enlightening 1994 dream, which includes a photograph of the night shirt on which he painted the images he saw.

On November 14, I received a response to the above exchanges with Scott Lively from Mac Freeman, emeritus professor of education from Queen's College, Kingston, Ontario. I had called Mac at his home in Canada on Sunday, October 25, to discuss my feelings about the brief conversation I'd just had with Scott after dropping him off at the Los Alamos Church of Christ.

I have known Mac for almost 20 years. He is a retired minister from the United Church of Canada, which he helped found, an emeritus professor of education at Queens College in Kingston, Ontario and is a deep student of the Bible. His perspective on the Bible always allows me to gain new balance when facing troubling ecclesiastical events, such as my encounter with Scott. Birgitta and I had been guests in Mac's home only weeks before the Sunday Scott Lively visited our churches.




Mac's handwriting is hard to read. He wrote on November 5:

Hello Eugene & Birgitta. Here are some thoughts to print into the electronic hopper. I hope they will prove helpful.

Here we are just beginning to sense that winter is coming. Wet and raw wind, leaves almost entirely gone, but a comforting fire in the kitchen. Wish you were here to sit this one out! Love, Mac


Click on the printed page to enlarge. This is Mac at his poetic best reflecting a long, distinguished career of teaching about meaning from inviting questions from his students and reflecting on the Biblical account of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. It is from Mac that I learned the word Beloving, which is one of the two most important words I've learned in the past 20 years. [Beloving is defined as "spending time with others in such a way that they experience their own beauty." The opposite meaning is "power-tripping"]

Monday, October 26, 2009

Interviewing dream RTP

On Tuesday morning (October 20) I dreamed of being at and on a basketball court with my wife Birgitta, two Mormon participants (RTP and wife M) and other unidentified players. The dream came in response to my prayer request the previous evening for clarity regarding a renewed dialogue with RTP, a former Mormon stake president (like an Orthodox diocese bishop).

Here is Joseph Dillard's Dream Yoga -- Deep Listening process applied to this dream.

Date of interview: 26 October 2009

What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?
1. Being authentic and creative;
2. Reconciling conflicts with family, friends and adversaries;
3. Including, integrating and transcending various religious traditions.

Tell me a dream or experience you remember...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 0100.
With Birgitta, Russell Pack, his wife (does not look like Marion) and others in a basketball court inside a school-like building. Russ officiates a game in which Birgitta and his wife are players. I am an observer. At one point (either after or during the game) Russ talks to Birgitta alone in a windowed room next to the court. He appears to be interviewing or counseling her. When I come into the room she is crying and as I become more aware of the situation I declare, "The truth has been spoken here!"

Later, Birgitta, Russ’s wife and I are in the windowed room without Russ. His wife comments that Russ is not particularly good looking but has other admirable traits.
[CREEI score: ??+++?//+++/++? Anticipatory-Motivational]

Why do you think that you had this dream?
It is a clear response to my prayer request for clarity regarding my renewed dialogue with former local LDS stake president RTP.

If it were playing at a theater, what name would be on the marquee?
The Inner Game of Basketball

These are the characters in the dream…
School building; basketball court; windowed room; Russell T Pack; Russ's wife; Birgitta; other players.

If a second character had something especially important to tell you, which would it be?
I would choose to interview RTP after having first interviewed Basketball Court.

Character, would you please tell me what you look like and what you are doing?
I am a tall 72 year old retiree from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, who has just been released from the office of Santa Fe stake president after 9 years of service. Before that I was bishop of the White Rock ward in Los Alamos. I am enjoying spending more time doing things I like, such as tending my garden. My wife Marion and I look forward to being sent on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometime this coming spring, which we are preparing for with joyful anticipation.

Character, what do you like most about yourself in this dream? What are your strengths?
I am professionally a well educated theoretical chemist and enjoy solving quantum mechanical problems. In Eugene's dream I am engaged in refereeing a basketball game in my spare time between my wife's team and the team of Eugene's wife Birgitta, which is an activity I enjoy. This is an interesting opportunity to relate to both sides of a contest of skill between highly motivated and disciplined players. Both these women highly respect each other. I am glad Eugene is able to witness how this plays out.

Character, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What?
I would have to say I am sometime impulsive, which I do not like. For example, I unwisely added a PS to a recent letter to Eugene disclosing my wife's opinion that any dialogue between us would be wasted time. Eugene seized on that comment to make something of it more than it deserved. I should have known better, but didn't follow my better judgment. Another weakness that I am aware of is that I'm not as sensitive to the feelings of others as I ought to be. For example, in this dream Birgitta is weeping in response to something I have been saying to her regarding her game performance. I'm puzzled by this.

Character, if you could change this dream in any way you wanted, would you?
Well, of course! I would want to have this game take place in an LDS Church building, where loyal LDS and well intentioned people were players and spectators. I would also like the opportunity to witness my testimony of Jesus Christ as taught by the LDS Church. That would be my most cherished wish.

Character, if this dream were to continue, what would happen next?
Well, I like what the Basketball Court character had to say previous to my comments here. That is, a frank, honest and BELOVING dialogue would ensue between Eugene and me and our wives, such that we all would get to know, love and help each other. Isn't that what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about bringing to pass? I can't help think of the Pearl of Great Price scripture, where Jesus expresses His mission statement: "This is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

Character, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change? If so, how?
Yes, I would. As you can see I am very much a missionary and have been so for most of my life. I would like to be on a full-time mission for the Church with my wife for the rest of my life so that I can serve the Lord with her with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Character, what aspect of Eugene do you represent or most closely personify?
I represent a committed, disciplined and effective church leader, one who cares enough about others to continue to engage them and help them in their spiritual development.

Character, how would you score yourself 0-10, in confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, peace of mind, and witnessing?
Confidence 10. All my life I have been committed to the gospel as taught by Joseph Smith and have no doubts as to his divine calling.
Compassion 5. Yes, I help people and work very hard at this. But I'm afraid I am not as empathetic or sympathetic to the trials of others as I ought to be and don't feel their pain and suffering as I wish I could.
Wisdom 5. I would like this to be higher, but I fear my hard work is not making up for this lack.
Acceptance 4. For example, I have trouble with Eugene's pride and strange views and what I perceive is his past, sinful behavior. He isn't my kind of church member. He has not taken my counsel well and is prone to be abusive towards me.
Peace of mind 5. I am sometimes troubled by my dreams, when I remember them. I do not like to disclose or share them. Especially do I NOT trust sharing them with Eugene!
Witnessing 6. I am not sure what you mean by this. I love to witness about the gospel, but I'm not sure you are asking about that. If it means do I see the big picture, I'm not so sure, but think I do.

Character, how would Eugene’s life be different if he naturally scored high in all six of these qualities all the time?
He would confidently and clearly fulfill his spiritual work. Of that I am quite sure. I wish I could help him in this.

If you could live Eugene’s waking life for him, how would you live it differently?
Oh my, I would have him immediately acknowledge his sinful ways, repent of them and then be re-baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If you could live Eugene’s waking life for him today, would you handle his three life issues differently? If so, how?
Yes. If by being "authentic" he means being honest, I could accept that, but being "creative" ought to mean being constructive. I think his second issue is commendable. Regarding his third issue, I am not interested in exploring other religious traditions as he is. I would concentrate on the LDS tradition and its focus on entering the celestial kingdom.

Character, what three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of his life?
Loving the Lord
Following the Brethren
Repenting of his sins

In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Eugene to imagine that he is you and act as you would?
He could offer a more solid base to others for building community.

Character, why do you think that you are in this dream?
To remind Eugene that he has much to change and remedy.

Eugene, what have you heard yourself say?
There is a bigger frame of reference within me that has been available for community support than I have been aware of before now.

If this experience were a wake-up call from your soul, what do you think it would be saying to you?
This is a time to integrate my life experiences and become balanced. Part of these life experiences involve Russell Pack who has appeared in my dreams at least four times. These began in August 2006, after we began a dialogue in early 2005 after he came over to me after a public concert to shake my hand and invited me to talk. In each case I have become aware of my own reactions to his appearance in my dreams in addition to how I am affected by his letters and his personal contacts. He clearly has had an important place in my life, even though it is not as he wishes it to be.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Interviewing Basketball Court

Original post: Friday, 23 October 2009
Latest update: Monday, 26 October 2009


On Tuesday morning (October 20) I dreamed of being at and on a basketball court with my wife Birgitta, two Mormon participants (RTP and wife M) and other unidentified players. The dream came in response to my prayer request the previous evening for clarity regarding a renewed dialogue with RTP, a former Mormon stake president (like an Orthodox diocese bishop).

Here is Joseph Dillard's Dream Yoga -- Deep Listening process applied to this dream.

Date of interview: 23 October 2009

What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?
1. Being authentic and creative;
2. Reconciling conflicts with family, friends and adversaries;
3. Including, integrating and transcending various religious traditions.

Tell me a dream or experience you remember...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 0100.
With Birgitta, Russell Pack, his wife (does not look like Marion) and others in a basketball court inside a school-like building. Russ officiates a game in which Birgitta and his wife are players. I am an observer. At one point (either after or during the game) Russ talks to Birgitta alone in a windowed room next to the court. He appears to be interviewing or counseling her. When I come into the room she is crying and as I become more aware of the situation I declare, "The truth has been spoken here!"

Later, Birgitta, Russ’s wife and I are in the windowed room without Russ. His wife comments that Russ is not particularly good looking but has other admirable traits.
[CREEI score: ??+++?//+++/++? Anticipatory-Motivational]

Why do you think that you had this dream?
It is a clear response to my prayer request for clarity regarding my renewed dialogue with former local LDS stake president RTP.

If it were playing at a theater, what name would be on the marquee?
The Inner Game of Basketball

These are the characters in the dream…
School building; basketball court; windowed room; Russell T Pack; Russ's wife; Birgitta; other players.

If one character had something especially important to tell you, which would it be?
Basketball Court (to begin with)

Character, would you please tell me what you look like and what you are doing?
I am a standard size basketball court that would be found in any American high school or American LDS ward or stake house. In addition, however, I have a non-standard windowed room adjacent to one of my walls that allows anyone on the court to see inside that room.

Character, what do you like most about yourself in this experience? What are your strengths?
I am well built and functional. I am here to serve a purpose in helping Eugene navigate his ecclesiastical, spiritual and religious life.

Character, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What?
Nothing to dislike.

Character, if you could change this dream in any way you wanted, would you?
No.

Character, if this dream were to continue, what would happen next?
A frank, honest and BELOVING dialogue would ensue between Eugene and Russell and their respective wives, such that they would get to know, love and help each other.

Character, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change? If so, how?
This is a good place to begin again. I have appeared in two other dreams in Eugene's past. The first was in the third scene of the first set of dreams that Eugene had on the night of 11-12 November 1964, after having read Hugh Lyn Casey's book Venture Inward, which described various techniques for recalling dreams. [Click on journal page below.]



In that dream Eugene was with his first wife Betty in an observation room overlooking the basketball court, but with only one basket in view. An announcer voices a special event to watch Indians. Not many people in the place. No apparent interest. An ordinary looking family comes out on the floor and begins shooting a few practice shots. Eugene did not then know how to interview or make sense of his dreams. It is significant that only yesterday on PBS he saw a program featuring a well-known Native American poet, Sherman Alexie, who revealed that basketball is the game of choice of his people!

In the second dream containing me as basketball court, which occurred in the first of three scenes on the night Eugene was first excommunicated from the Mormon Church on April 2, 1966, Eugene was met on the floor by an older man who had been waiting a long time for him. After commenting how ready Eugene seemed to be on his life path, the man led Eugene on an increasingly tightening spiral path on the floor, apparently following some pre-set, but invisible pattern, which segued into delivering Eugene to a room full of Mormon ecclesiastics in temple robes. How that dream ended was distressing to Eugene and he did not at the time know what to make of it. He would learn soon enough that he was being prepared for a tough, solitary job.

Character, you are in Eugene’s dream, correct? He created you, right?
Yes, I am in his dream. But, no, he did not create me. I have been sent to give him perspective on the task that he has been assigned from long ago. I am a puzzle to him yet, but the puzzle is gradually clarifying. He has not yet been allowed to know more than mere hints about his work, which he is obliged to work out as best he can in his imagination and in response to edges and obstacles that have been put in his path to teach him maturity. Russell Pack is one of these obstacles.

Character, what aspect of Eugene do you represent or most closely personify?
A place to work out his spiritual assignment, which now involves his wife and a solid LDS ecclesiastical representative.

Character, how would you score yourself 0-10, in confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, peace of mind, and witnessing?
Ten in all categories.

Character, how would Eugene’s life be different if he naturally scored high in all six of these qualities all the time?
He would confidently and clearly fulfill his spiritual work.

If you could live Eugene’s waking life for him, how would you live it differently?
Not for me to say. He is growing into his preordained work.

If you could live Eugene’s waking life for him today, would you handle his three life issues differently? If so, how?
I would not handle them differently. Much of what he decides in dealing with his above-stated life issues is in response to the decisions of others in community settings.

Character, what three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of his life?
It is not for me to choose different issues.

In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Eugene to imagine that he is you and act as you would?
He could provide a more solid base for building community.

Character, why do you think that you are in this dream?
To remind Eugene that I have been with him from the beginning of his inner search for meaning.

Eugene, what have you heard yourself say?
There is a bigger frame of reference within me that has been available for community support than I have been aware of before now.

If this experience were a wake-up call from your soul, what do you think it would be saying to you?
This is a time to integrate my life experiences and become balanced. My old poem Rainmaker now comes to mind.

Rainmaker

I’m nervous as I sit in front
the third chair from the isle.
The man who sits before me
now speaks but doesn’t smile.

“What is your journey here, sir,
before you are retired,
and make no joke about it
the word is more like fired!"

Startled I woke that New Year’s day
as the dream began to fade,
and three days later on the job
my back just up and gave!

Down flat in bed my body lay
retired by the pain
while outside great clouds gathered
and then began the rain.

As outer ragged darkness
sent torrents raging down
I dimly came to be aware
the Master was in town.

His inner light began to glow
in a school room way down deep
to show me what I’d failed to learn
long formal years asleep.

He came now as a rainmaker
from regions far away
where Nature’s master rhythm
is balanced night and day.

He took confusion on himself
influenced from without
and as the inner struggle grew
began to sort it out.

A rainmaker comes for inner work
chaotic states to feel
and restoring balance in himself
new harmony forms congeal.

* * *

"This is now my journey, Sir,”
I say back in the dream,
“to seek that place where rainmakers
can learn the craft they bring.

“I know it isn’t far beyond
for I can see the way;
the longer are the strides I take
the sooner arrival day.

“Even detours to the right or left
are harder now to take
as my journey speed increases
it’s less effort moving straight.

“So that is where I’m going now,
I hope you understand.
If not, that’s all right too, Sir,
but I’m moving to new land.

“I’ll return a later time then
when I’ve better learned my craft,
and if you’re here and still in need,
my work will make you laugh.

“If it isn’t fun to work here
anxiously building your careers,
why work to frantic sweat and toil
if you’re always in arrears?

“Send for yourselves a rainmaker
I know there’s one around
who’ll better help than I can give
when invited to your ground.”

A rainmaker comes for inner work
chaotic states to feel
and restoring balance in himself
new harmony forms congeal.


Los Angeles
Feb 78

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dialogue with Russell T Pack

Original post: Wednesday, October 7, 2009.
Latest update: Tuesday, February 16, 2010.

I have begun this post with the hope that years of misunderstanding between Russ and me can be brought into the light and resolved. I hope this open dialogue will help us both reset and/or transform our attitudes and/or views as needed. I have chosen this approach because of the impasse that has developed between us on a one-to-one basis, concluding that to continue the same pattern would be fruitless.

This is important to me because of the significant impact Russ has had on my life since he, as the new stake president, approached me at the end of a public concert one evening in early 2005, shook my hand and invited me to talk. He knew that I had years earlier been excommunicated from the Mormon Church and I thought he extended his hand in brotherly friendship. So, I accepted his invitation and went to see him at his church office accompanied by my wife Birgitta and oldest son Nick. That first meeting was "fuzzy" for me and surprisingly troubling. So, I wrote a poem to clarify my thoughts and feelings and sent it to him. He responded immediately and that launched a years-long correspondence between us. Here is the poem:

Trying the Church Before the Family

To action alone thou hast a right,
not to its fruits!


As the Presence pressed
I spoke to my Beloved
and my first born son.
We three went down
to see a Man
who claims the Plan
for saving souls.

We went down
in the Name of Love
and Justice
to see this man’s works
at the cradle of Caldera.

It is said old bottles
cannot endure new wine,
but then the smiths can blow the coals
to forge our swords to plowshares.

So, we three went down
and shook his hand, then listened
to my struggle speaking truth to power.

My confession of my bright lost son
evoked hot tears of hope and joy--
and grief--still seeking ways
for search and rescue
as did He of old for one lost lamb.

My first son spoke again
Before the Man of Plan
of scathing recent letter to his dad,
recalling past injustice.

This father then, white-faced and chastened,
repented low, and found new words
that healed a just-starved breach
to set example for this Man:
Inviting him to show the truth he boasts
and ask the questions needed
to reveal the truly true.

We will not fear to act
(as the Gita teaches)
in glasnost and perestroika.


Los Alamos
24 Feb 05


I first met Russell Pack in late spring 1993 when he was the bishop of the White Rock Ward. I had come to see him shortly after returning from Sweden where I had gone to propose to Birgitta and had just been hired as a consultant to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. I wanted to see what the Mormon attitude was like in Los Alamos and whether I could make friends there. Russ was the first person I contacted in that area.

This was also not long after I had written the poem "Morning" after hearing Ray Martin speak in the Santa Fe Ward as the representative from the Santa Fe Stake High Council. I was visiting that ward incognito, having been excommunicated the year before in Ventura, California, not wanting to identify myself too soon. I had gone to the Santa Fe Ward anonymously to join in the congregational singing of the old Mormon hymns that I loved (although still smarting from the Ventura experience). Up to that point I didn't know if I would ever identify myself, but when I heard Ray speak I became excited and thought to myself, "This man should be stake president!" Here is the poem:

Morning

Will they say of Santa Fe
the same as of Ventura?

No.

I believe they’ll say
it’s a good new day
for us to wake each other!


Santa Fe
1 Feb 93



Not long after this Ray Martin actually became the stake president! And I thought a new level of discourse with local Mormons had begun. I was right. In the summer of 1993 he came to see me, accompanied by Regional Representative Vern Payne (former chief justice of New Mexico Supreme Court and a personal friend of my brother Virgil), at my rented one-room dwelling place in Santa Fe, feeling prompted to do so but not knowing why. Nor did I know why and can't recall just now how he and I first met. Then Birgitta and I married the following October after I moved from Santa Fe and she from Sweden to live together in Los Alamos. She, a devout non-denominational Christian, chose the Christian Church to be our spiritual home together. Nevertheless, I wanted to develop a positive relationship with local Mormons and Ray was more than cooperative. He even had a married couple in the Los Alamos Ward assigned to us as unofficial home teachers. The man, Rulon Lindford, was a physicist at LANL and his wife Cecile was an excellent pianist. In those days Birgitta, who had been a professional singer in Sweden, was invited occasionally to sing in the ward and Cecile became her accompanist. Birgitta loved Ray and Cecile and Rulon and they reciprocated. We all had many long meaningful conversations and there was much good chemistry between us.

Unfortunately, this increasingly meaningful relationship with Ray and Rulon did not last long, since Ray soon accepted a position in another state and moved away and the same thing happened with Rulon. So, my relationship with Mormon Church members in that area effectively ended. That is, until early 2005 when Russell Pack, now the new stake president, extended his hand in greeting at the end of a public concert at the above-mentioned Catholic Church.

On Friday, October 9, 2009, I wrote to Russell Pack

Hi Russ,

Attached is my intended blog [see above] about our proposed new dialogue. Let me know what you think. I had it up for a few hours for your inspection yesterday. (VERY few people ever look at this Orthodox Odyssey blog and it’s likely that no one saw it while it was up).

There’s a scripture somewhere in the NT and D&C (you would know exactly where to find them) about first going the individual on a private basis with a grievance. If that is not satisfactory, then taking it to the church. That is my intent here. The blog represents the church for me.

This is an opportunity to let our lights shine in dialogue, my brother. Our respective egos would tremble, fearing death. That would be good. Let them die.

Eugene


Russ answered the same day:

Dear Eugene,

This is to respond to your three most recent emails. I apologize for being slow in answering, but I have been under a lot of pressure... Now, I can respond.

Re your proposals, I do have a few concerns: You want our dialogue to be "open" in the sense of posting comments about it on your blog. I don't mind other people seeing our correspondence. However, I would like our dialogue to be "open" in the sense of being honest. Will you really be able to be honest, or will you be playing to your readers? How will ego play into this?

In your message of this morning, you mention scriptures (incidentally, they are Matt 18:14-18 and D&C 42:88-92) about talking one on one about a grievance and wrote, "This blog represents the church for me." Both those ideas concern me. Is this to be dialogue about doctrine or about a grievance? How does his blog represent a church to you? Your readers have no authority to decide anything. Do you think that their opinions will affect anything? It is God, not humans, who decides what makes a baptism acceptable, and His decision on it is final.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about people." The fact that she said it doesn't mean a thing to me, but there is a lot of truth in the statement. In your blog (which I read both online and as an attachment to your email), I see far too much about the third of the three things she mentioned. If you do go ahead with your plan to put things online, I will reserve the right to comment online about your blogs.

I will wait for your response to the above. In the meantime, let me comment on two trivia that are probably just that: (1) My name is Russell T Pack, not Russell T. Pack. T is my middle name, not an abbreviation. That is re your blog. (2) I am not a candidate to be a mission president. When I was stake president, they invited me to suggest candidates to be mission presidents. Because the calling is a 24/7, high stress thing they want people that are younger than 60 and will only consider a man between 60 and 65 if he is in excellent health. I am almost 72!

Enough for now. I have to go work in my garden!

Russ

PS. My wife, Marion, thinks that the time I spend communicating with you is wasted labor.


I replied again that same day:

Dear Russ,

I’m delighted you are willing to continue! I will repost what I sent to you, but will have to wait to add to it until Birgitta and I return from Canada. We leave tomorrow and will be gone for a week. In the meantime I will be thinking how best to respond to you.

Best,

Eugene

PS. Does Marion’s opinion mean you and she aren’t interested in coming to dinner with us sometime?


The following day [Saturday, October 10] Birgitta and I left for a long-planned trip to Canada. During the trip I accessed my email briefly and noticed Russ had answered. But when we got home I could not find it and asked him to resend his message, which he did as follows:

My most recent email to you.
----- Original Message -----
From: RUSSELL T PACK
To: Eugene Kovalenko
Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 10:43 AM
Subject: Re: Setting the scene

Hi Eugene,

Immediately after I clicked "Send" on my last message, I realized that I should not have included that PS, so I apologize. It was an impulse.

Marion is not retired. She still teaches nearly 20 string students every week and is still feeling pressed for time. At the time I was writing that last message, I was supposed to be doing something else I had agreed to do. She came in just as I was finishing it and expressed the opinion I reported in the PS. She has a very high opinion of Birgitta. However, while she thinks you (ENK) are a child of God and of infinite worth, she thinks that all you want to do is talk and that you aren't ready to really DO anything. Hence, while we may get together for dinner some time, she doesn't feel she can afford to spend much time with you at present.

Now, I will wait to hear from you on the subject of authority to baptize.

Cheers,

Russ


I sent my reply this morning, Wednesday, October 21, 2009:

Dear Russ,

Thanks for re-sending your message.

I’m glad you did not delete the PS! It tells a truth that needed to be said, although I was surprised by Marion’s comment. You may be amused that Birgitta said the same thing when she read it! But I very much disagree that your and my exchanges are a “waste of time”, since peace-making is a priority of mine and I hope of yours, too.

Allow me to ask you this question: Do you not think it unfair of Marion to dismiss me and our dialogue given that during the 16 years that have passed since you and I met, I have spoken probably not more than ten words to her? That said, I can only conclude that she came to that belief because of what you have told her; not anything direct from me. Is this not so? I do not know Marion at all, except for having heard her speak briefly in the recent stake conference, watching her speak with Birgitta, hearing her play the violin beautifully and hearing you speak about her teaching duties. I wonder if her opinion of your and my dialogue would change during or after a dinner with the four of us. But from what you report, that does not seem important to her. She is obviously busy and seems uninterested to test the possibility that her judgment may be mistaken. I’m not sure that this applies to you, Russ, and welcome your continued responses.

When I think of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, I think first of the two reported NT events that bracket his birth and resurrection: angels singing “…and on earth peace, good will towards men” and Jesus’ twice-spoken word to his frightened-of-the-Jews disciples when he first appeared to them as a resurrected being in that locked room. He said simply, “peace” (in Russian mir vam: “peace to you”). Jesus, as reported in the NT, is my role model. A more contemporary role model for me is the life of Russian Orthodox Fr. Arseny during and after his experience in the Soviet gulags. His reported example (by those personally affected by him) moved me like I’d never been moved before. His life is as close to that of Jesus as I can imagine—but more immediate and human.

You asked me to comment further on “the authority to baptize.” In reflecting on this and before I went to sleep last night (Monday) after your re-sent message, I asked for a dream to help me focus more deeply. This morning (Tuesday) I had such a dream, which I will share with you if you are interested.

But first, I know that “authority to baptize” is a sharp and important point of doctrine for you that is essential for “salvation” (whatever you mean by that). I grew up with that idea when my reality was only from a Mormon point of view. You sent me a couple of papers about it written to a clergyman in a different religious tradition than LDS to prove the point. I’d be interested to know if and how that clergyman responded. Did he have anything worthwhile to say to you?

“Orthodoxy manifests itself; it does not try to prove itself,” wrote Russian Orthodox priest Pavel Florensky in Iconostasis (1922). I subscribe to this view.

For me the important point, regarding my baptism in the Colorado River, was the moment I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to ask to be baptized and have it acknowledged and performed by my friend John Howard, a believing, active Presbyterian elder. Those events were (are) sacred and historic for me; I will never forget them. They need no legal documentation. I know in my deepest recesses that this baptism was of the Holy Spirit. This is not to deny your own spiritual experiences and beliefs.

Nevertheless, I know this is not something you accept. But that’s OK: I have nothing to prove. I understand you believe in LDS priesthood authority as giving you the right to speak for God. Yes? Long ago I expressed to you that your belief in God seemed different from mine. In any case, I believe that one’s belief, all by itself, has power if it is accepted by another or others. I do not dismiss or discount that. But, in terms of ultimate authority, for me it is the primacy of personal conscience that is most important, together with a unity of believers. I do not accept any ecclesiastical authority as superseding my own. Nor do I accept any ecclesiastical authority as superseding yours, or Birgitta’s, or my son’s, or anyone else’s, etc. In my view these days, ecclesiastical enterprises, such as the LDS or the Russian Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, etc., are traditional scaffolding, which is important primarily for building community. Real spiritual power, however, is internal, not external.

You needn’t read further, Russ, but in case you are interested, here is my dream of this morning:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009
0100. With Birgitta, Russell Pack, his wife (does not look like Marion) and others in a basketball court inside a school-like building. Russ (who is taller than anyone else in the picture) officiates in a game in which Birgitta and his wife are players. I am an observer. At one point (either after or during the game) Russ talks to Birgitta alone in a windowed room next to the court. He appears to be interviewing or counseling her. When I come into the room she is crying and as I become aware of the reality of the situation I declare, "The truth has been spoken here!"

Later, Birgitta, Russ’s wife and I are in the room without Russ. His wife comments that Russ is not particularly good looking but has other admirable traits.


[CREEI score: ??+++?//+++/++? Anticipatory-Motivational]

Characters in the dream: school building, basketball court, windowed room, Russell T Pack, Russ’s wife, Birgitta, my dream self, other people (players).

Three current life issues:

Being authentic and creative;
Reconciling with family, friends and adversaries;
Bringing peace of mind to my involvements in various religious traditions.

Characters to interview in order (using Joseph Dillard’s Deep Listening technique): Basketball court, windowed room, Russell Pack, Russ’s wife and Birgitta.

Marquee: The Inner (Divine) Game of Basketball.

Note: the basketball court is a repetitive dream image for me. The first came in November 1964 (when I first consciously started remembering and recording my dreams). The second came in April 1966 (exactly on the date I was excommunicated in absentia and before I learned about it). This is why I would now interview that dream character first. (This interview will come later when I have time.)

Sincerely,

Eugene

PS. Attached is a short essay on Christian unity just sent by Birgitta to me and her son in Sweden, which I think is a propos to your and my dialogue. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)



On Wednesday, October 28, Russ responded:

Dear Eugene,

I suspect that Birgitta and Marion are wiser than we are. We shall see. All Marion knows is that she has watched how much time I have spent on our communications. She knows nothing of their content.

To stick to the subject:

1. To summarize your message below, you seem to be saying that, because you felt good about that baptism, that is all that is required. Am I understanding you correctly?

2. Do you realize that the position you are taking is contrary to all the scriptures? God has spoken to a lot of prophets and apostles in the history of the world, and they all sing the same song. They all agree with each other but disagree with you.

In the handout on Authority that I sent you, I discussed Acts Chapter 19 and its context and Acts 8:14-20. How does your case supercede all that? And of course, that handout only contains references to the Bible. Mosiah 21:33 is also directly relevant. John Howard told you he didn't have authority to baptize. Perhaps you should have listened to him. D&C 22:1-4 is also directly relevant. It is your opinion versus that of all the other prophets, both ancient and modern. Why should anyone prefer your opinion to that of all these men to whom God has spoken
directly? If one person's private opinion trumps all of them, what you have is anarchy, and that is what has caused all the divisions in the Christian world for the past 2000 years.

I await your response.

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you,

Russ

PS. My clergyman friend has been promising to answer those two handouts for many months now but has not sent me a word on them.


I responded on Friday, October 30.

Dear Russ,

Your suspicion about Birgitta and Marion is probably correct! ;-) Birgitta knows everything about our exchanges, and I wouldn’t have any objection to Marion’s knowing their content should she want to.

Before getting into the subject, I want you to know that your message below [Wednesday, October 28] was waiting for me after I returned from a long conversation with Fr. John Hennies that morning. We hadn’t talked for weeks, since Birgitta and I had been in Canada, and then he had just come back from his first trip to the Grand Canyon. His trip there was awe inspiring and he was excited to tell me about it. After he had done so, I asked him to pull up my blog post about my 1975 baptism in the Grand Canyon and click on the blog’s imbedded photo to enlarge it. The photo of that wondrous territory flooded us both with powerful memories, he having just come back from there and I having had one of the most profound experiences of my life.

Thus, that was the perfect precursor for receiving your email, which was waiting for me when I got home. In looking at the time you sent your letter, it was about the same time of our conversation above! Interesting… It is for this reason that I am copying Fr. John. If he feels prompted to add anything to this exchange, I would be pleased.

1. I’m not really sure why this is so important to you these days, Russ. Your summary hardly does justice to my experience. Is it your intent to dismiss or marginalize it? Or do you not believe that when the Spirit speaks to someone directly it is a sacred moment, far beyond simply “feeling good.” To speak in analytical terms is to diminish and trivialize such moments. Or do you really believe the LDS Church has special claim on how the Holy Spirit behaves and whom to bless?
2. No, I am not aware that this experience is “contrary to all the scriptures”. Fr. John would know more about this than I. All I know is that it happened and that needs no antecedent or ecclesiastical permission. I do not presume to tell the Lord how to interact with anyone. I don’t know where you got the idea, but John Howard did NOT say he had no authority. He did say that he was reluctant to respond to my request, because he did not feel worthy. But that was an expression of humility. And after he realized, felt and understood what I was asking him to do, he accepted it solemnly and joyfully. Whatever anybody has said about such an experience historically does not impact or affect mine in the least. As I have said before, there is nothing I personally need to prove, whether or not you or anyone believes or accepts it.
3. Fortunately for me, Fr. John Hennies realized the importance of that event more than I in an historical context when I shared my story at St. Dimitri parish one morning in fellowship after Liturgy. When I lamented “How many times must one be baptized?”, he exclaimed immediately, “Only once!” and then made me aware that my story was not unique in the Orthodox tradition. This surprised and pleased me, because at that time I had no intention of ever joining another institutionalized religion. I learned later that if I could verify that it had actually occurred as recounted, he would accept it on behalf of Orthodoxy. Then, only when I felt prompted to join the OCA a year ago September, did I contact John Howard for his corroboration. I know it isn’t the LDS way, which claims an exclusive relationship with God. Is this not so? This is not a letter-of-the-law issue for me as it seems to be for you.
4. I want you to do something for me before we go further if you haven’t done so already. Click on and listen to this link: http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=8771. Then tell me if you believe the young man featured in the program is telling the truth. If he is, what are the implications with regard to the above? If he is not, why not?

I await your reply.


On October 31, 2009, Robert wrote:

Eugene,

As tempting as it is to join your conversation with Russell Pack, I am so jammed by other commitments (domestic, scholarly and work) that I need to get caught up before I take on anything else. I did read the exchange with Russ and felt that the two of you are coming from such different vantage points that there is unlikely to be much persuasion, although I sincerely hope there is mutual understanding and respect. I am a liberal/progressive Latter-day Saint because that’s where the NT leads me. I am aware that some people are led by the NT in very different (even opposite) directions, but my responsibility is to be true to the truth as I understand it while being humble about my own limitations. I think it is difficult (although not impossible) for someone in Russ’s position to entertain things that lie beyond the traditional LDS paradigm. RE: your baptism: I remember a conversation with a Mrs. Samples in West Frankfort, Illinois when I was a missionary. When I taught her about baptism, she said, “But I have already been baptized in the Baptist Church.” When I tried to explain to her why from our point of view that baptism wasn’t valid, she replied, “But I felt the Holy Ghost confirming the truth of what I experienced.” I listened carefully to what she said and then replied, “I believe the Holy Ghost did confirm that to your soul because I believe you were acting on the truth as you understood it with integrity.” I then went on to read to her the great passage in Mosiah 18, which I think is the true test of the baptismal covenant.

Russ says, “It is God, not humans, who decides what makes a baptism acceptable, and His decision on it is final.” Yes, but do we really know what God thinks on all subjects and events at all times? While God may recognize proper priesthood authority, my guess is that he is more liberal and gracious about these matters than most humans are. Will the baptisms performed by all the churches be considered invalid by the Lord? I think the Lord, like the Egyptians, will weigh our hearts. So someone who was baptized by Martin Luther, say, may have that baptism validated technically by proxy, but it is the sincerity and devotion of the believer that is more important to him. I would presume to judge your experience in the normal scales of orthodoxy.


On November 2, 2009, Russ answered mine of October 30:

Dear Eugene,

1. The reason this is so important to me is that it is important to God, and your salvation (forgiveness of sins and getting to go live with God after death) depends directly on it. I would like you to have those blessings.

2. You say you are not aware that the position you are taking is contrary to the scriptures. It appears that you have not studied the scriptures in those two handouts I sent you. Please study them seriously. Proper baptism is essential to salvation. Further, God only recognizes baptism that is performed by proper authority. That is shown clearly in those two handouts, and I know by the Holy Spirit that what they teach is true.

3. It is both the spirit and letter of the law.

4. I clicked on the link. Whether he is honest has no implications to item 2 above.The Lord loves all His children, and "the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have..." If that young man is fully honest, humble, and sincere, he will eventually discover the fullness of the gospel and join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, either in this life or the hereafter. In the meantime, the Lord will help him all He can. However, you know better than he does, and "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required..." (Luke 12:48).

For dialogue to continue, it will be necessary for you to do 2 above (and below) and respond seriously to the scriptures, either to accept them or to show why you are exempt from them.

May the Lord bless you,

Russ


On Thursday, November 5, 2009, I replied:

Dear Russ,

I should not have been surprised at your response, but I was. With the radically creative story of our Mormon culture’s origins, I still can’t fathom that you can’t see me. But this is so. Nevertheless, before I address your responses to my four points, I want to tell you a story and, since you are a student of scripture, give you a short BOM passage to ponder.

Last Saturday, on our way to Santa Fe to pick up a long-desired birthday dress for Birgitta, she asked, “Zhenya, when were you the most happy in your life?” My response was almost immediate: “At this time of my life! Never have I felt more confident, integrated, beloving and in tune with God and life’s purpose. And this is because you, my love, have joined me in my journey. Also, it is because of having become aware of ‘Brother Whiteshirt’, who is my long-time inner companion and whom I’ve only just begun to see.” She smiled and we held hands as we drove down the hill.

When “Brother Whiteshirt” first came into my awareness in a dream, Russ, and I shared the experience with Birgitta, she said, “I thought of Russell Pack.” How surprising and interesting, I thought. Why would she think of him and say that? As I reflected on what she said, I began to understand. The inner counselor and comforter began to speak to me. See here.

Had it not been for you and our dialogue, I would probably not be a member of the Orthodox Church. You have performed a valuable service in my life by holding firm to your beliefs. This might surprise if not perplex you. Writer Arnold Mindell would call this an “edge”. Brother Whiteshirt came into my awareness only when I gave up control of the vehicle I was driving in a dream and everything dissolved into an edge on the way down the Los Alamos hill.

The passage I want you to consider is this: What do the first ten words in 3 Ne 22 mean to you and why do you believe they are in the BOM?

Now, below see my comments to your responses:

1. The reason this is so important to me is that it is important to God, and your salvation (forgiveness of sins and getting to go live with God after death) depends directly on it. I would like you to have those blessings.

Thank you for those sentiments, Russ, but those blessings are already mine. (See above mentioned link about Brother Whiteshirt.) All my life-long concerns about “forgiveness of sins and getting to go live with God after death” went away for me on the morning of July 17, 1965.

You don’t know that story, because you never asked. Do you remember that we had only gotten to May or June 1965 in your systematic, note-taking interview process? Why did I allow you even to ask such questions and get that far, anyway? As if you had a right to ask. My naiveté in answering without questioning your reasons came from my early Mormon conditioning. I understand that you believed you were trying to help me, and I appreciate that, but we didn’t get to “the interesting times”, did we? Something (I believe it was the Holy Spirit) interrupted the timing of our talks when they got to that period. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but perhaps you do if you have kept your notes. We never got back to that time frame, if I remember correctly, because you apparently had already made your judgment about yours truly. It didn’t seem that you wanted to know anything more, except now you saw an agenda for me. Please tell me if this is not so.

What was I expecting? I’ll tell you. I was expecting that you would really listen to and hear my heart—NOT my head. I was expecting that you, like the Lord, would look into my heart and see its hopes and intent. I am now thinking of a priesthood blessing given to me in his downtown SLC law office by Oscar W. McConkie, Jr. in late spring 1961 in setting me apart for a U of Utah stake mission: “The Lord is aware of you and of the hopes of your heart. He will step out of his regular pattern to bless you in an especial way. You will know of a certainty what your work is before this mission is through.” These words startled me, since they were not standard stuff, but they anchored themselves into my memory. I seem to remember having told you this story long ago. Yes, I had confidence that you had that capability and that intention. It has taken a long time for me to realize that you don’t SEE, and that disappoints me no end. Why? Because I still see a great future for the LDS institution IF, AND ONLY IF, it can break through what I perceive to be the grip of prelest that now binds it. See here.

2. You say you are not aware that the position you are taking is contrary to the scriptures. It appears that you have not studied the scriptures in those two handouts I sent you. Please study them seriously. Proper baptism is essential to salvation. Further, God only recognizes baptism that is performed by proper authority. That is shown clearly in those two handouts, and I know by the Holy Spirit that what they teach is true.

About your handouts: I read through them once again and know you spent a lot of time on them and that they are well reasoned and tightly constructed and that you are proud of them. But, Russ, they simply leave me cold! It’s all in the head. Edwin Schrödinger expresses my thinking AND feelings about your handouts more eloquently, if you substitute “LDS” for the word “scientific” when he said: “The scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives me a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but is ghastly silent about all and sundry what is really dear to our heart that really matters to us.” [Ref: Arnold Mindell, Quantum Mind, p 519]

3. It is both the spirit and letter of the law.
Did you not understand or appreciate the event described in this paragraph? It was a key experience to me.

4. I clicked on the link. Whether he is honest has no implications to item 2 above. The Lord loves all His children, and "the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have..." If that young man is fully honest, humble, and sincere, he will eventually discover the fullness of the gospel and join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, either in this life or the hereafter. In the meantime, the Lord will help him all He can. However, you know better than he does, and "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required..." (Luke 12:48).
I thought you would see that the young man in the video was in direct contact with the Holy Spirit and needed no organization or intermediary to heal and guide him. His life transformed when he sincerely invited the Lord into his heart and then in addition to being completely transformed, he became a healer of others. Wonderful story! Why in the world would he want to join your church organization?

For dialogue to continue, it will be necessary for you to do 2 above (and below) and respond seriously to the scriptures, either to accept them or to show why you are exempt from them.
Are you saying that unless I agree with you and do what you say, the dialogue ends? I hope not, because I do not claim exemption from anything God requires of me. Indeed, He required things of me, which I feared. But you dismiss this. What I do claim is that you and the LDS church don’t seem able to see anything but your own frame of reference.

For your information and that of the readers of this blog, I’m attaching an AP report that was forwarded to me recently from an American friend in Berlin, who monitors the Associated Press for USA news and knows of my Mormon background. I’m sure this will be uncomfortable for you, but I urge you to read it anyway. Until now I have not given the organization mentioned any attention, because heretofore they have been too vitriolic for my taste. But something has happened to them recently to mellow their complaint. The embedded anonymous letter from an “faithful apostate” moved me, because his story would have been mine had I lied to stay in the church as he is doing. His is not my style, but his dilemma I understand. His fear about what would happen to his family, if he told them and the church the truth he had discovered, is exactly what happened to me and my family when I tried to tell the truth of what was happening to me and what I was beginning to understand. I want my children to have the courage that this man obviously does not have. This man is living a hypocritical life in fear and pain.

One further observation about our dialogue: In all the years we have been interacting, you have not once invited your counselors to participate, including your primary counselor Marion. Is this because you have not trusted their counsel? Or is it because you felt you were wise enough to make judgments all by yourself without their input?

In contrast AND because I do not trust my own thinking or ego, I have always bounced my communications to you off Birgitta or others wiser than myself when possible. This is to check and balance my own considerable foibles. I profoundly believe in and rely on the scripture, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them”. Why do you suppose I have not experienced this with you?

I wish you would share with me a recent dream, Russ, so that I may get to know and respond to the real Russell Pack rather than his ego’s agenda, is my frequent prayer.

With love and blessings,

Eugene







On Monday, November 9, 2009, Russ wrote:
Dear Eugene,

To keep this to a reasonable length and to keep to the subject, I will have to resist the temptation to respond to most of your message.

Instead, let's go straight to Number 2: A crucial truth is contained in D&C 8:2-3. (The context is also important, but I will leave it for you to study.) It reads, "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation..." In trying to answer questions like the one we are dealing with, it is very important to get the answer both in our MIND and in our HEART. If the two agree, we can have peace. If the two do not agree, we can be sure that we have something wrong. As I read your response below, it seems to me that you are just going by your feelings and ignoring what the scriptures tell your mind. Will you be willing to try to resolve the two? You accuse the scriptures of being "all in the head," but I assure you that my mind and my heart agree on this subject, and it comes from the Holy Spirit. Because of that, I have peace. This approach is very important to learn and practice. Please try it.

A few other short comments, and then I will end this email.

You and I have already discussed all of 3 Nephi 22. Do you remember that? Do you remember what the later verses add to verse 1?

I read the letter from the "faithful apostate." I have seen such things before, and they don't make me uncomfortable. What really saddens me about all this is that the man is a prisoner of his own dishonesty. There are people (and sources) that have the answers to all his questions, but he is keeping himself from getting access to them.

One last comment: Every time you point your finger at me and/or the LDS Church and say "prelest", please look and see how many fingers on your hand are pointing back at you.

Have a great day, and God bless you,

Russ


I responded on Veterans Day, November 10, 2009.

Glad to see your responses, Russ. You are always a challenge for me! Nevertheless, when Birgitta saw your letter, she said simply “Waste of time.” I disagree, because I grow from our exchanges, even though not in the way you envision.

In talking to my son Nick (whom you have met) on Monday evening about our dialogue, I’ve asked him to review and comment because it is an “edge” for me, as defined by Arnold Mindell. (See previous email.) You may rightly ask “edge to what?” I believe my edge is that of our collective ego—at least the edge of mine, because I don’t think you see or acknowledge yours. In any case, I can tell mine is active every time I see a message from you. I have mentioned this in the past and feel it in my gut. When that happens, it is a signal to me to step aside, observe its reaction and then let it dissolve. That’s when I come to peace.

Regarding number 2, yes, I believe that heart and head working in partnership is truly the best way to make decisions. Did you know that that is the central paradigm of my CREEI dreamwork process?

I know scripture is important to you, Russ, but our views differ about its importance, whether Biblical or LDS. I do not want to debate this, because your well-crafted and careful reasoning is unconvincing. Scripture aside, tell me if my perception is correct that you generally value thinking over feelings (head over heart) as the best way to make decisions. That is, rather than in partnership with feelings. Yes?

But to bring the topic of authority to baptize to a close, I say this unequivocally to you: if the LDS Church has ever had such authority and if there is any truth to D&C 121, it doesn’t have it now.

To quote an old friend of yours, who is following this blog and still active and loyal to the Church, but who has recently been officially silenced and does not want to be identified: “Question for Russ (but don’t say it came from me!). According to the D&C 121, if a priesthood holder exercises his priesthood “to any degree of unrighteousness” then his priesthood power is ended (“Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man”). If such a man were then to perform a baptism, would it be valid since he has neither priesthood nor authority? I know what his answer will be, but I think it is a legitimate question.”

Re your other short comments: you say we have already discussed 3 Nephi 22. I’m not sure what kind of discussion we really had. Or how it would differ today from what it was whenever our earlier discussion occurred. For the record, please disclose what you remember. And will you please answer my question about the first ten words of that chapter? What do they mean to you? You know that that chapter—all of it--is my favorite of all scripture. Your experience is likely different from mine, but I’d like to know it. Kindly don’t dismiss or marginalize mine. I won’t dismiss or marginalize yours.

Re the “faithful apostate”: my heart goes out to this man in his fear and pain. Yes, I too, am saddened by his plight. Do you not feel compassion for him? I would like to know the experience he had a couple of years ago that has so distressed him. Then, I would like to know one or more of his recent dreams. That would tell me more than anything how to relate to him in his present state.

Re prelest, did you feel me “pointing a finger” at you? Since you raise this subject, it is to me the most important point of our entire dialogue. But to answer your question directly, yes, I DO count my fingers every time I think about this word as applied to others, including you. ;-) Do you? I don’t think so. I cannot remember one example over the years of our correspondence of your acknowledging your own pride or ego. Yes, you did once apologize for writing to my youngest son without my knowledge, but I cannot think of another example. Please enlighten me if I am being unjust.

Did you not notice my confession in my blog post titled “Prelest” where I felt “convicted” by this word when I realized its meaning? After being thus convicted by it—and you were right to point out my ego pride months ago--I felt enlightened and liberated as the conviction ran its course through me accompanied by God’s grace. This allowed me to see and better understand my long-term conflicts with those who claim authority about anything, baptism included. After receiving your letter, I couldn’t help think of C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, where Screwtape counsels his apprentice Wormwood how best to influence his client: “But have you reminded him how humble he is?” Has this not been a problem for you?

Russ, I have tried to keep this letter relatively short and to the point with specific responses to your questions. By the same token, I have asked you questions in my previous letters, which you have not answered. In subsequent letters I will return to them and still expect an answer. You, obviously, are free to do the same.

Before ending I want to reiterate how important the issue of prelest is. It is far more important than the authority to baptize.

In God’s peace, grace and love,

Eugene

PS. One last comment re prelest, it occurs to me to attach an old (1976) memo to the late Richard Forbath, who was Roman Catholic and leader of a multi-denominational Bible study group in Los Angeles that I attended after returning to the Mormon Church in 1975. The Bible study group was sponsored by Bell Air Presbyterian (Reagan’s church). I was the only Mormon. Forbath was a marketing executive and took a strong interest in a professional relationship with yours truly. But, he could not understand my having returned to the Mormon Church and strongly challenged me to explain myself one day after class. My memo in response contains material from a class I taught at UCLA called “Creative Dreaming and Spiritual Awakening” for the university’s Center for Religious Experience East and West. Your friend Bob Rees was then the director of UCLA’s Extension Division and paved the way for the course. He was also the second editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought following Eugene England. The “Five Questions” and “Four Metaphors” comprised the take-home final to the course, which I answer for myself. You might find it a useful exercise.

Less than five people have read this memo until recently. Fr. John Hennies is one and it frightened him. That is, until we were able to talk about it. I hope you and I will one day have such a conversation. Yes, there is a lot of ENK ego stuff in this memo. Perhaps you can point out specifically where that is (and watch your own fingers).






On Friday the 13th, November 2009, I wrote again:

Dear Russ,

If you have managed to read my last letter, allow me to give you a heads up on a new movie now playing at the Reel Deal. I would have ignored it if my son Steve hadn’t alerted me to it last Monday. It is called Men Who Stare at Goats. Please see it. Then take a look at this blog link to RPK. Last, please review 3 Ne 21:8-10. You will likely think I’m crazy.

Perhaps I am.

Eugene


On November 12, Russ replied:

Dear Eugene,

When I entered into this latest round of emails, I made it clear that it was to see if we could "demonstrate that we can really engage in dialogue." (Oct. 6) I believe that we have demonstrated just the contrary. On the subject of authority to baptize, you have taken the position that your emotions take precedence over everything else. You have given no reasons and no scriptures to back your claim that your baptism was accepted by God, indeed you haven't even tried. So you just have your emotional feelings. I have known you long enough that your emotions carry no weight with me. There has been no real dialogue. And now you want to bring this topic to a close. OK. End of discussion and end of attempts at dialogue.

Joseph Smith said, "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;" (D&C 131:7) So it is also with the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. We often speak of "feeling" those manifestations because we don't have a better term. However, just as spirit is more fine or pure than ordinary matter, so the influence of the Holy Spirit is more fine or pure than ordinary emotions and "can only be discerned by purer eyes." That is also why the scriptures talk of the "still small voice." (1 Kings 19:12)

As long as you ignore D&C 8:2-3 and allow conflicts between your mind and your heart to go unresolved, you will never have peace. Now, before you claim that you are at peace, let me say that if you were at peace, you would not keep fulfilling the prophecy of Neal A. Maxwell who said of you and your friends that "they can leave the Church, but they cannot leave it alone."

I end with a few short comments:

Marion took time out of her busy schedule to read the first few lines of your most recent email. When she read what Birgitta said, she laughed out loud and agreed. I agree, too.

It was you, not I, who brought up the subject of prelest. I have dedicated my life to Christ. As long as I am true to that, my ego is unimportant.

I have spent the last 9 plus years of my life in close contact with the general authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All my experience with them is that they live D&C 121 remarkably well.

I consider the rest of your comments to be red herrings, attempts to change the subject, and I won't respond to them.

Farewell and God bless,

Russ


On November 17, my son Nick wrote:
Knowing what I know now, I am amazed at the investment people and cultures make in religious fantasies and miss the entire true nature of spirituality and Divinity.
I barely have enough energy to go to class and write my business plan, much less consume a battle of ideological, one entirely ignorant and indoctrinated, titans anymore.
I am now amused and will make sure the significance of my father's voluminous works do not go unrecognized at his funeral, presuming I don't die first.
I can say for a fact that my Dad is a loving, caring, open-minded, "spiritually gifted" man and I am proud to be his son.
Happy Birthday Dad!


On November25 I answered Russ's letter of November 12.
Russ,

I didn’t get your reply of November 12 until last night. Apparently you didn’t get my global change of address message and so you likely got two more “red herring” messages from my new address. These were written oblivious of your November 12 reply. That makes this last exchange a bit humorous. I hope you have a sense of humor!

I agree that this game we’ve been playing has reached its end. But before you leave the playing court, Russ, I have one last request to make of you. Please examine my “Interviewing dream RTP” in http://orthodoxodyssey.blogspot.com/2009/10/interviewing-dream-rtp.html and tell me if I have managed to get into your shoes well enough in this “interview” to do you justice. Do you think it is fair? In my dream “you” are a self-appointed referee in a basketball game in which “you” also chose the rules. Can you respect me enough to read my interview through and tell me if you disagree with the indicated “core quality” scores of confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, peace of mind and witnessing for my “dream RTP” character? Your assessment will allow me to calibrate my perceptions. Then I can leave the court myself.

Blessings,

Eugene

.
.
As of my post of yesterday (Nov 25), this phase of the dialogue between Russ and me may be over. It took my request for a dream to discover that my spirit sees it as a game where he has been playing a self-appointed referee to his own set of rules. That was terrifically helpful to me as may be seen by my subsequent Deep Listening interviews of dream characters.

Russ has walked off the game court and back into his "real world" zone of comfort, apparently still disregarding inner reality--certainly mine, if not his own. I say this because of his dismissing even trying to understand the term "prelest". Therefore, I don't expect him to honor my last request.

Nevertheless, I'm grateful he stayed in the game as long ass he did, because my Deep Listening interviews, especially the first one Interviewing the Basketball Court has given me deeper insight into inner reality that goes as far back as November 1964, if not farther. For that one interview alone and what it brought into my awareness, my contest with Russell T Pack has been worth it.

On Thursday, February 11, 2010 11:30 AM Eugene wrote

Subject: An inner dialogue

Dear Russ,

If your plans for a mission are still alive, I want to get the attached inner dialogue to you before you go. It may amuse you, if not give you something to think about.

Here is a link I invite you to inspect:

Blessings,

Eugene


Here is the attached Inner Dialogue:

Dear Russ,

You came to mind this morning, while I was driving my school bus and waiting for the Conoco hill traffic light to change. I noticed a bumper sticker on the car in front of me. In bold blue letters it proclaimed: "GOD BELIEVES IN YOU". I thought to myself, why of course He does! Inching closer so I could read the fine print beneath those large letters I read: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".

I thought to myself again, "Yes, God surely believes in me, but Russell Pack doesn't. I can't think of one single positive thing that he has learned from me in our relationship over the years since he came over to shake my hand at the Catholic Church."

Having shared these thoughts later with Birgitta at breakfast, I wondered if my recollection was fair or accurate. This led me to recall the dream I had in response to my prayer about my confusion about our relationship.

That began an inner dialogue.

EK1: Don't bother him again, Eugene. He has made up his mind about you and isn't about to review or change it.

EK2: You may be right, but is it fair of me to think that if I am after all it is not true? Are you suggesting I leave him alone?

EK1: Yes. All he will do is drag up his favorite Neal Maxwell statement again and claim he has no stomach for red herrings. He will ignore that you knew Neal personally and that when he was a bishop of a student ward at the U of U he once encouraged our ad hoc dialogue group to become the change agents he saw was our potential.

[Note: Our 1961 dialogue group consisted of 5 young men: Eugene England, Rex Mitchell (Neal's first counselor), myself, Lou Olivier, and Tom W? Gene England moved to Stanford the next year and three years later founded Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.]

EK2: Well, I can't leave him alone feeling like I do this morning. So, I will refer him to my recent blog and ask if he could ever see himself behaving like Fr. John Hennies. Frankly, I confess that I cannot imagine it, but would love to be wrong.

EK1: Do it at your own risk.

EK2: No risk at all, except to my ego. He may want to jump on that!

EK1: Exactly! That's what you have to lose.

EK2: Then it's worth it. Besides, I think Birgitta and I can make a tasty sauce for red herrings!



On Monday, February 15, Russ responded.

Hello Eugene,

I had a feeling that I was about to hear from you. Marion and I are working on our mission papers. We hope to get them sent in in March and leave in June. We have a lot to do to get them in and get ready.

I have prayed for the ability to respond to you with charity. So, I will just make a few comments and questions on what you sent me. If you choose to answer them, please keep it brief and to the point. I haven't time for excursions.

1. The "God Believes in You" bumper sticker is one of my favorites. Yes, God believes in you, and He can help you. I don't believe I can. I love you, but I have to leave you in God's hands.

2. Why is it so essential to you that I learn something from you? Is that necessary to your ego? Your attempts so far to teach me something have just devolved into attempts to correct me.

3. The fact that you knew Neal A Maxwell would impress me if you had followed his counsel in ways he would approve. As it is, it just makes it clear that he really was talking about you.

4. You have carefully hidden what the conflict between you and John Hennies was about, so I cannot tell what it was, but I wonder why it was he who made the move to reconciliation, not you. Have you apologized and really made amends for your part in it?

5. I have behaved as John did on several occasions. I will behave that way toward you when you have shown by actions, not words, that you have really repented. So will God.

6. Can you ever do anything without your ego being deeply involved?

7. This latest communication shows that you are still into head games.

8. It also shows that you are still into the blame game.

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you,

Russ


On Tuesday, February 16, 2010, Eugene replied:
Hi Russ,

After a good night’s sleep following my initial distressed reaction to your reply below, I’m ready to resume our dialogue. Actually, I don’t expect you to continue it out here in the “real world”, but I will do so by continuing with my “dream-RTP”, which will be posted on: http://orthodoxodyssey.blogspot.com/2009/10/interviewing-dream-rtp.html. As always, you are welcome to comment.

It’s too bad you won’t be here next year to participate in a Los Alamos Open Forum. If proper arrangements can be made, this will be managed by skilled facilitators from the Process Work Institute in Portland, Oregon. Representatives from all sectors of the local community will be invited to make short presentations to get the ball rolling. These would include scientific, religious, commercial, political, cultural, social, health care, educational, activists of all kinds and regular citizens. This is a greatly expanded view of the kind of community discourse we had once discussed centered on Terry Warner’s The Bonds the Bind Us, which I’m sure you remember. In this case the discourse will take its initial direction from Arnold Mindell’s celebrated book The Deep Democracy of Open Forums. I would have submitted your name to be invited to represent the local Mormon community. I hope Fr. John will represent the Orthodox view.

Best wishes and God bless you, too, dear brother,

Eugene

PS. “Fr. John” is a title. His private name is Ronald Hennies.


Later the same day, Eugene responds to Russ's 8 comments.
Russ, here are some brief responses to your comments. (One is a bit longer.)...

I have prayed for the ability to respond to you with charity. So, I will just make a few comments and questions on what you sent me. If you choose to answer them, please keep it brief and to the point. I haven't time for excursions.

1. The "God Believes in You" bumper sticker is one of my favorites. Yes, God believes in you, and He can help you. I don't believe I can. I love you, but I have to leave you in God's hands.

I still don’t believe you really love me, but I am glad to know you finally are able to step out of playing God with me.

2. Why is it so essential to you that I learn something from you? Is that necessary to your ego? Your attempts so far to teach me something have just devolved into attempts to correct me.

It isn’t essential to me that you learn anything from me. It’s just that most evolving people learn from their interaction with others. You don’t seem to be one of these—at least with me.

3. The fact that you knew Neal A Maxwell would impress me if you had followed his counsel in ways he would approve. As it is, it just makes it clear that he really was talking about you.

Did you notice his encouragement to us five guys to become change agents? At least three of us have done and are doing just that.

4. You have carefully hidden what the conflict between you and John Hennies was about, so I cannot tell what it was, but I wonder why it was he who made the move to reconciliation, not you. Have you apologized and really made amends for your part in it?

If you must know I had mindlessly forwarded an off-color joke from my son Nick to which Fr. John took offense. That began a spirited exchange, which brought up old wounds in me that I’d thought had long ago been healed. When I went to attend Liturgy I had intended not to take the Eucharist and to ask his forgiveness for offending his sensibilities, when he brought it to me and others. But he beat me to it by stopping the service before getting to the Eucharist. When we met privately the next Wednesday, I brought our correspondence with me and we went over every exchange word by word. Although that was not necessary for him to do, it was for me. It then became important to him as we came to clearer understanding of each other’s motives, intents and understanding. We parted with our relationship reaching a deeper, more meaningful and authentic level.

In the same vein, I recall having had a dream a week or two before you came to our home one day two or three years ago where your intent was to call me to repentance. During that presumptuous and deeply offending visit, this dream came to mind and I told it to you straight at Birgitta’s urging. It didn’t seem to mean anything to you. I will tell it to you again here: [A local Mormon leader has come to see me. He begins berating me for various transgressions. I become irritated and interrupt him saying “Oh, shut the FUCK up!” The leader is taken aback at this. I then explain that he has been totally in his head, which has no interest for me. I tell him that I want to know his HEART and feelings, not his rules and rationalizations. He pauses, realizes what I am saying and smiles brightly. We come to a mutual understanding and part amicably.] You will likely again choose to be offended, Russ, but would it make any difference if you realized that that offending word comes from the old witch-hunting days in New England when people’s head and hands were put in stocks with a sign with that word above them? It was an acronym for: “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”.

5. I have behaved as John did on several occasions. I will behave that way toward you when you have shown by actions, not words, that you have really repented. So will God.

I don’t recall one such time, Russ. However, my repentance is not and never has been your business. Neither is yours my business. Being human and beloving is, however.

6. Can you ever do anything without your ego being deeply involved?

Probably not. Can you?

7. This latest communication shows that you are still into head games.

On the contrary, the game we have been playing is over. That became clear to me when I had a dream last October about you as a basketball referee. Remember? That was my projection on you, which I have had to take responsibility for and process. Dreams come from the heart, not the head.

8. It also shows that you are still into the blame game.

If you can, please explain carefully the “blame” you see. Perhaps I can then see it.

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you,

And you, too, brother.

This reminds me of the COC view, which greatly impresses me: “We have learned to see Joseph through the eyes of Jesus, rather than Jesus through the eyes of Joseph.” Russ, isn’t your view still through the eyes of Joseph?

Blessings,

Eugene


Thanks to any readers who have managed to make it this far on this thread.


.