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JUST ANOTHER TRIP AROUND THE SUN

 

32 of 52 Trip Around The Sun - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Tierrasanta

 

Sunday, December 8, 2002

 

Have traveled about 360,000,000 miles.

 

Thoughts during the week:

 

I do think organized religions tend to have a set of very good beliefs and another set of very bad ones. The good ones are those that are about caring and the inclusion of all people. It’s hard to find a religion that does not have these beneficial beliefs. The bad beliefs are those that are about preserving position, excluding others, and competition.  It’s also hard to find a religion that does not have these detrimental beliefs.     - CKB

 

As religions develop over time, they find it ever more difficult to separate the important from the ceremonial. Which hand is raised becomes important – what color the cloth is – what is used for a symbol, etc. What is symbolized can be substantive, but the symbol itself takes on a life of its own. Is this idolatry?

 

We teach we are not to worship a graven image – or a statue – but what if we put such great import on other symbols? An example: “Baptism must be done by immersion.” That immersion is only the symbol of a burial. We may say, “If you get it wrong, the baptism will not be of effect.” The substantive here are the promises made and kept – not the symbols. The symbols are often judged to require “authority,” but the substantive in the issue, the promises and their keeping, require no authority. The things which require authority are only a little import. The importance of these unimportant things is conserved by the second set of beliefs – the competitive and exclusionary beliefs. What we really mean by authority, is “You can’t do it – only we can do it.” “God has chosen us – not you.” People around the world are doing this, and they will go to great lengths to conserve the position of being the one’s God accepts exclusively.

 

If there is a God who deserves our love, He does not select any group as His special group. He simply loves us all. When we lend our support to this “specialness” around the globe, we do great harm and cause great anger among those outside the group selected as special. People write “scripture” to support that God is on their side – other people write scripture saying just the opposite, and both miss the truth. God does not take sides – no matter what your scripture says.

 

 

The Visit:

 

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Tierrasanta – This was our old ward.

 

Some may not feel comfortable about what I did here – but I wanted to see some LDS people without their knowing who I was. I disguised myself – wore glasses – clothes different from my normal dress – enough that even people in this ward who know me pretty well might not recognize me. I gave them a false name. Only one came to me and told me she thought she knew who I was – during the entire time. I admitted the truth to this one – and asked that she not tell the others – she agreed.

 

It was an interesting experience. I got lots of hugs from people who “felt” like they knew me. I pretended to know some of them by a kind of “magic,” and believe it or not, they were taken in by this – with considerable enthusiasm. I called them by name with delight in my eyes, and surprised some of them quite a lot. I laughed with them – even loudly – and found them to be very comfortable with what seemed to me – a little odd and downright fanciful.

 

I had an insider in the ward – who knew who I was – and even what I was up to. He gave me names and other bits of information - so I could “know” things a little amazing about the people I talked with. I wondered, “would they believe this stuff?” You bet they would! – lots of them! I did not tell them the truth – I wanted to just let them go home with the experience. I would not normally do this, but it seemed apropos for the time.

 

Then I went into a classroom and removed my Santa Claus suit. This was their Christmas party.

 

 

We had visitors at home Sunday morning from out of state. When it was reasonable to do so, I went to find out if the church I had planned to attend had a late meeting. (Calvary Chapel) They did not –

 

So I decided to do a little research on Islam – in preparation for a visit next week. I’ll check out Calvary Chapel later.

 

There is an Islam Center (Temporary) in Poway – Following are some of their advertised tenets.

 

 

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These are the framework of the Muslim life: faith, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.

 

Faith

Prayer

The 'Zakat' 

The Fast 

Pilgrimage

 

 

1) FAITH

There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which all the faithful pronounce. In Arabic, the first part is la ilaha illa Llah - 'there is no god except God'; ilaha (god) can refer to anything which we may be tempted to put in place of God - wealth, power, and the like. Then comes illa Llah: 'except God', the source of all Creation. The second part of the Shahada is Muhammadun rasulu'Llah: 'Muhammad is the messenger of God.' A message of guidance has come through a man like ourselves.

Shahada inscribed at Ottoman Topkapi Palace, Istanbul. 
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2) PRAYER 

Salat is the name for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam, and no priests, so the prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Quran, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Quran, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one's own language.

Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life.

A translation of the Call to Prayer is:

God is most great. God is most great.
God is most great. God is most great.
I testify that there is no god except God.
I testify that there is no god except God.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Come to prayer! Come to prayer!
Come to success (in this life and the Hereafter)!
Come to success!
God is most great. God is most great.
There is no god except God.

 

New Mexico, U.S.A.
Prayer Call from Abiquiu Mosque.

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3) THE 'ZAKAT' 

One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakat means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.

Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of one's capital.

Zakat keeps the money flowing within a society, Cairo.

A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqa, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as 'voluntary charity' it has a wider meaning. The Prophet said 'even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.'

The Prophet said: 'Charity is a necessity for every Muslim. ' He was asked: 'What if a person has nothing?' The Prophet replied: 'He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.' The Companions asked: 'What if he is not able to work?' The Prophet said: 'He should help poor and needy persons.' The Companions further asked 'What if he cannot do even that?' The Prophet said 'He should urge others to do good.' The Companions said 'What if he lacks that also?' The Prophet said 'He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity.'

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4) THE FAST 

Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.

Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in one's spiritual life.

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5) PILGRIMAGE (HAJJ) 

The annual pilgrimage to Makkah - the Hajj - is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.

Pilgrims praying at the mosque in Makkah.

The rites of the Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include circling the Ka'ba seven times, and going seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafa and join in prayers for God's forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment.

In previous centuries the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, Saudi Arabia provides millions of people with water, modern transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities.

Pilgrim tents during Hajj.

The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the main festivals of the Muslim calendar.

 

 

The actual teaching of most, if not all, religions is all about being good for ourselves and toward others. The “dangerous beliefs” take over the hearts of people and essentially nullify the real religion. Most Muslims, of course, cannot reasonably be blamed for what a few do – same for we Christians – seems obvious, but oh my how people like to blame the whole group – or country – etc.

 

 

32 of 52 Trip Around The Sun - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Tierrasanta

 

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