Monday, May 26, 2008

Good Night, Sweet Prince

Markus Wuollet passed away today after his long struggle with cancer. Condolences to his partner Mark, to his family, to his friends, to all who knew him, in person and through his writing. His courage touched many of us who never even met him.

Last year, Markus posted this poem on his website and it seems a fitting elegy.

Renewal
In a bulb, there is a flower,
In a seed, an apple tree.
In cocoons a hidden promise
butterflies will soon be free.
In the cold and dead of winter
there's a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season.
Something God alone can see.

-Unknown

71 comments:

  1. Maybe he did repent at the end and he didn't just do it to save his family's feelings. Knowing how things work, likely they offered him communion and he accepted it and asked for forgiveness of his sins. Since he is human I'm sure he had some, but that does not mean that he actually specifically called out his homosexuality/relationship with his partner.

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  2. SERIOUSLY????!!!!
    Where is your human compassion? That is the most judgmental criticism. Can we just mourn the loss of one cyber-friend without having anyone hopping on their high-horse and having to decide their destiny???? Sheesh.
    My condolences to Markus and his family, including his partner.

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  3. Given some offline conversations about this, I think the first commenter is a former Laestadian rejecting any assumption that Markus' deathbed repentance was a repudiation of his sexuality or his love for Mark.

    Whatever it was, anyone who seriously thinks eternal life is granted or refused based on what one says (and to whom) needs a lobotomy. And a bigger God.

    I try to be tolerant, but this is where I get really impatient with Laestadianism. Crock!

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  4. Okay, sorry for jumping to conclusions... It just seemed so out of left field (and so... Laestadian) to be bringing up repentance and, of course, sexuality the instant someone dies.
    I apologize to the blogger if that was not the intent.

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  5. I have to admit, when I read his caringbridge site, the first thing that popped into my head was, "I wonder why he 'repented?'" And I wonder how Mark will be treated in the days to come.

    My brother, an ex-Laestadian (as am I), died unexpectedly last year. My family, still in the church, suffered terribly, believing that he went to hell. I think that whatever Markus' reasons, he had compassion abundant enough to give some comfort to his family.

    Condolences to Mark and Markus' family. Markus was a gift to us all.

    KT

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  6. Mark writes on the CaringBridge site that there are two memorial services tomorrow for Markus, one organized by him (at an ELCA Lutheran church) and one organized by the family (at a Laestadian Lutheran church). Mark and the family will attend both services, but they wanted to honor their own values and traditions.

    This seems like a respectful and honorable compromise and I hope it sets a precedent.

    Soon enough each of us will have our Laestadian and non-Laestadian loved ones gathered in mourning. May the first humbly refrain from telling the latter they are in need of grace.

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  7. It is interesting to note that there is no notice in the Minneapolis paper on his death. Is this an LLC practice not to have funeral notice? I did not grow up in the LLC but have seen notices regularly from the ALC, IALC and even the OALC. Or do you think the family/LLC did not want to "make waves" about Markus and Mark among outsiders who might happen to come to the LLC service? I wish I could go to his funeral even though I have never met him, I feel like somehow I knew him and I've been thinking about him a lot this week.

    Stranger

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  8. God's blessings to Markus's family and friends. I hope he had a peacefull passing.

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  9. Actually, if you look online here, there is an obituary. I'm not sure who put it in the paper...it doesn't say. I don't know what day it would have been in print.

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  10. Thanks for posting this Daisy...I was looking and looking and somehow missed it. It was a well-written and respectful obituary and included Mark. It seems the Wuollet family is a class act.

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  11. As a fact here Markus knew he was not ready to meet His maker and told his parents this and wanted to repent from his lifestyle and other sins of the journey. So you can speculate all you want but this is the truth and he said so himself in his final moments. God is good and hears the call from penitent souls. We rejoice for Markus that he is resting the eternal rest of the righteous. May God keep me and call all to His grace throne while there is yet day, "For night cometh when no man shall work."

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  12. You mean his lifestyle as a Laestadian? The part that judges whether other people are saved?

    That's a relief.

    Since you are not Markus you don't know what he knew or thought. Have some humility.

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  13. Markus was a wonderful, loving person, and it was a privilege to be able to know him. Let us remember the Wuollet's, Mark, and all his family and friends at this time.

    Now that he is gone, can we just remember that he was loved by a great many family and friends and let him rest in peace? It is not our place to judge his state of mind in his final days, and publicly speculating seems to be in poor taste. Even though there are legitimate questions facing our society regarding how society treats the dying and who is allowed to be considered family, this isn't the time and place for it.

    Goodbye, Markus.

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  14. Well said, Ilmarinen.

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  15. Markus truly was a wonderful person and loved by many. The truth is that in his final moments he knew and said that living faith was the most important thing. He died in living faith and has attained the rest of all who know their own sinfulness and seek forgiveness and peace. Laestadians are sinners like everyone else the only difference is we are pardoned sinners and live by grace and forgiveness in Jesus name and blood. It is only by the grace of God that anyone attains heavens glory.

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  16. Yes, by the grace of God. I agree.

    Not the Laestadian church.

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  17. I have had a few friends in the oalc in high school and always wondered why they wouldn't come to my church youth group functions, so I've always wanted to learn more about their somewhat secretive church. Why do they believe they have a living faith and other churches don't?
    my condolences to Markus' family and friends here,
    judge not lest we be judged.....

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  18. "Within Laestadianism it is commonly believed that the movement is a contemporary descendant of an unbroken line of living Christianity via the Moravian Church, Luther,the Bohemian Brethren, the Lollards and the Waldensians all the way back to the primitive Church. Martin Luther, Jan Hus, John Wycliffe and Peter Waldo are seen as spiritual ancestors of Laestadianism."

    in another word, they are wack jobs..

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  19. LLLreader sez: You aren't talking about the OALC are you? Within the OALC there was never any attempt to trace the development of the church. The only one ever mentioned was LLL himself. The true church is believed to have started with him.

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  20. Not so, LLLreader. I also heard the tracing of the church lineage back to Christ but not in the detail mentioned above. I forget who they considered carrying the torch before Luther - it was certainly not the Catholic church! Perhaps others can provide some enlightenment. MTH

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  21. I remember hearing the OALC preachers talking about Jan Hus every once in awhile. I don't recall mention of the others though (except of course Luther and Laestadius.

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  22. The final "precious" deathbed testimony is something about which the OALCer's talk a lot. I don't see anything particularly "wrong" with that, unless it is done under duress. Surely there is nothing wrong if a person asks for forgiveness in whatever way they believe as they near death. However, as an example of the duress aspect, I remember when my aunt was dying in the hospital -- and this was a lady who I suspect was pretty much an atheist but it was her business so we didn't ask -- one of my older OALC cousins came to the hospital and basically hounded and harangued her to repent. She finally said she did, but I suspect it was just to get the guy out of there so she could die in peace. Of course, he made a huge deal out of how she had "repented" on her deathbed.

    Perhaps this is another one of Lutheran hearkenings to their Catholic roots, as it is similar in ways to the Sacramentum exeuntium (extreme unction), which is a final anointing of the sick, or the viaticum, the final Eucharistic communion, of which either or both can be administered when death is imminent.

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  23. The OALC church lineage is emphasised especially in Norway, but I've heard it mentioned elsewhere, too. However, in Finland they tend to talk more about Luther, how he received the "living Christianity" through a Catholic monk at confession, while the Norwegians tend to put more emphasis on the Moravian church of Jan Hus and the Herrnhutians who are sort of descendants of the Moravian church. Most people only know there always were "living Christians" in one way or other but are unable to specify who, when and where. And even if they are able to give details, it's only speculations, and if you take a look at what the different groups they claim to be their fellow-believers really believed, it is easy to see that they are not the same at all. Besides, there's a huge gap of about 1000 years from the apostles to the Waldensians. It's also a bit contradictory that at the same time as they speak about a lineage all the way back to the apostles they tend to speak about how the "living Christianity" was "born again" in the Swedish Lapland when the light started shining through Laestadius.

    ---

    As for the death bed repentances, I think the strong desire to believe that their loved ones went to heaven sometimes leads them to misinterpret the intentions of the person who's dying. If someone's just simply asking for forgiveness for any wrongdoings he might have done against their friends and family it may be interpreted as repenting from one's "worldly life", i.e. becoming a Laestadian. Nothing wrong about the desire to believe that one's loved ones go to heaven and nothing wrong about asking for forgiveness, but it's not good if something that is not intended to be a Laestadian kind of "repentance" is claimed to be such.

    Hibernatus

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  24. As for the OALC lineage, I always heard them referring to various "periods of visitation", of which Luther's time was one, and Laestadianism followed that. Apparently the centuries between were periods of nothingness.

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  25. At least some of them believe that the "periods of visitation" are periods when the "living Christianity" is in a congregational form but during the periods in between the "living Christianity" survives in individual believers. I never managed to get a satisfactory explanation to where the individual "living Christians" disappear when the "living Christianity" takes congregational form and the emerging congregation of "living Christians" becomes the exclusive Kingdom of God on earth outside of which there's no salvation. For example, if the "living Christianity" took congregational form when the Lutheran "period of visisation" started in the 15th century where did the individual "living Christians" in the Catholic church disappear? Wouldn't it be logical to assume that there continued to be "living Christians" in the Catholic church also after Luther if there were "living Christians" in the Catholic church before Luther? The same question of course applies also to Laestadius and the Lutheran church.

    So, if a Laestadian believes in a lineage, i.e. that there have always been "living Christians" either as a congregation during the "periods of visitation" or as individual persons between the "periods of visitation", there's a serious contradiction with their belief that the Laestadian community is the only true church. Whereas if they believe there have been periods of nothingness, i.e. without a single "living Christian" on earth, there is a serious contradiction with their belief in the necessity of hearing the forgiveness of sins from a "living Christian". Where would such a person come from if there was a period of no "living Christians"?

    Hibernatus

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  26. They won't have an answer for you. You'll just be told not to think with your carnal mind if you presented this to them.

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  27. Now, Hibernatus, one is not to question these things. A person should have simple childlike believing.

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  28. To Laestadians, having childlike faith seems to mean never questioning anything.

    Yet my own child is constantly asking me questions.

    I think having childlike faith could mean seeing the world without many pre-conceived notions. Something that is also true about children, because they have yet to be taught how to see the world to the extent that adults have been.

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  29. RWB here...

    Considering the matter of "apostolic succession" or church lineage has no bearing on the matter of salvation. That being said: It seems some churches, particularly the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, give great weight to their supposed lineage...when that is very debateable. The whole basis of the papacy is questionable at best. The Great Schism divided the two yet both claim apostolic succession. Even if the lineage can be traced or proven: What does it really mean or matter?

    Living Christianity or living faith has always existed, church or no church. Its basis and cornerstone is Christ and faith in Him. It exists in the heart of a true christian of whom only God knows. It has been spoken and taught in the OALC that living christians exist both inside and outside the church. I don't know where else sin is spoken to be sin and it doesn't really matter to me because I have that assurance within my ownself that this is the way for me. I do believe that if sin is not preached as sin along with the gospel that this is or would result in a dead or empty faith. I believe it can be "preached", understood, and felt within ones own self, but this faith is much stronger and obvious within the church form. For me, this is what is taught and spoken in the OALC....it is the living word of God according to the Doctrine of Christ.

    A little bit of history as I understand it:

    Wycliffe was an early reformer whose teachings Jan Hus picked up. Jerome of Prague was mixed in there somewhere also, but I forget where. They believed that the churches of the time, particularly the RC Church, had strayed from the teachings of Christ. The RC church went so far as to have the remains of Wycliffe (died of a stroke) exhumed and burned. Hus was burned at stake for being a heretic and according to some accounts the writings of Hus and Wycliffe were burned in that fire. Of course the writings were preserved elsewhere and according to what I have read of them they were mostly teaching the Doctrine of Christ. The RC church has since issued somewhat of an apology for the burning of Hus. Luther in his time found many problems with the teachings and practices of the RC church and apparently found nowhere else that taught the true doctrine. One matter was the granting of indulgences by Tetzel, a high figure in the church. Tetzel was selling documents that could or would, for example, shorten ones time in Purgatory (a place made up by the RC church with no Scriptural basis). Luther thought Rome would back him in his condemnation of Tetzels practices, but he was wrong. The money machine that was, and still is, the RC church tried to kill him for what he saw as needed reforms within the church. Read his 95 theses. He later realized that reform would not happen within that church and his teachings grew into what is now known as the Reformation. He was not entirely comfortable at first with the name "Lutherans" given by an RC church official as somewhat of a derogatory name. He then came to accept it when, through the power of God, the Reformation swept through Europe like a wildfire as some have described it. Clearly there was a need for reform and God worked through Luther to make that happen. Laestadius preached with a living voice and it can be heard and felt in his many recorded sermons. He spoke with that pure and true word of God that awoke those Lapp people from their sleep of sin and there again that brightest light shines in the Land of Goshen. It is according to Scripture that HIS spirit would be quieted there in that "north country" from which it has spread in its church form in this last period of visitation.

    RWB

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  30. RWB, welcome back! I for one have missed your calm and reasoned expression of your faith. While we often do not agree (obviously, since I'm Catholic) I am still always happy to discuss our differences with you! I hope you find my expression of faith from a different viewpoint just as interesting to you.

    I do agree with you that the "succession", whether real or imagined, is not the important thing, and to me makes no difference at all. Only belief and faith in Jesus, the Christ, will result in the salvation of the soul, not whether church leaders -- named or not -- were somewhere in the mix.

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  31. To LLLreader:
    As I live in Finland, I'm obviously no expert on the American OALC. However, I do know a thing or two about North European Laestanianism, especially Conservative (SRK=LLC) and Firstborn (=OALC) Laestanianism in Finland and I can tell you without the shadow of a doubt that no branch of Laestadianism that I'm aware of teaches that "living Christianity" originated with Laestadius. Indeed the idea of an unbroken line of "living Christianity" is one of the most basic and "self-evident" tenets of Laestadianism as I know it and I certainly can't conceive of any Laestadian ever suggesting otherwise. I have heard references to that "spiritual lineage" and those "spiritual ancestors" in sermons (both "Conservative" and "Firstborn") and in conversations with preachers, pastors and other Laestadians and I have read articles in Finnish Laestadian publications (both Conservative and Firstborn) about the subject. The persons and movements in that quote have indeed been mentioned as representatives of "living Christianity" in Finnish Laestadian publications, for instance "Rauhan Sana", the quarterly published by the Finnish Firstborn Laestadians, as well as Conservative Laestadian publications. As I said, I'm no expert on the American OALC, but I find it impossible to believe that its teaching would differ so much from what is taught in Finland, Sweden and Norway. I can't explain in any plausible way why your impression of the OALC teaching is different, but I'm inclined to think that your connexion with the OALC and its teachings has probably not been a very strong one and that you must have misunderstood that point, because the idea that "living Christianity" supposedly did not exist before Laestadius would be considered as nothing short of a heresy by all branches of Laestadianism that I know of. Just think of Luther: surely you can't have missed the numerous references to him in sermons as a "man of living faith"? I you actually have listened to Laestadian sermons, that is. I'm not a little puzzled by this...
    Another Finn

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  32. Gotta correct a typo: "IF you actually have listened to Laestadian sermons, that is."
    Sorry 'bout that...
    Another Finn

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  33. Just noticed another error in my post, this time not a typo but a lapsus: of course the Finnish Firstborn Laestadian quarterly isn't called "Rauhan Sana" but "Rauhan Side". "Rauhan Sana", on the other hand, is the monthly published by LYRS (Lähetysyhdistys Rauhan Sana, the equivalent of the American ALC), the third largest branch of Laestadianism in Finland after the Conservatives and the Firstborn. I remember trying to scan my memory, while I was writing that post, about whether or not I could remember reading something about Jan Hus, the Waldenses etc in Rauhan Sana (which I read occasionally) as well, but as I'm more familiar with Rauhan Side than Rauhan Sana, I couldn't be sure about whether they had been referred to in Rauha Sana as well, so I decided not to mention Rauhan Sana. The result? Of course I ended up mentioning Rauhan Sana instead of Rauhan Side, precisely because I had made a mental note to myself NOT to mention Rauhan Sana...
    I guess there's a certain twisted logic in that...
    Oh well, serves me right for writing too fast and not bothering to check the result properly. Give me a hurried situation and the slight possibility of an accidental mix-up between two similar things and you can be pretty sure that the mix-up will indeed happen...
    Another Finn

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  34. RWB said: "The Great Schism divided the two yet both claim apostolic succession."

    It's pretty much the same situation as between the OALC and the ALC (and its descendant LLC), both say they are the original one and the other one split away. The Orthodox rejected the authority of Rome (=pope) claiming that Rome was acting like it had right to reign over the rest of the church without having that right, and the ALC/LLC rejected the authority of the Swedish Lapland claiming they were trying to assume a leadership position they were not supposed to have.


    RWB said: "It has been spoken and taught in the OALC that living christians exist both inside and outside the church."

    It is believed by individual OALC members, even preachers, but any OALC preacher who dares even to hint that there might be "living Christians" outside of the OALC will be considered an extreme liberal. Not even in Finland, where probably close to the majority of the OALCers think that there are "living Christians" outside of the OALC, have I ever heard anyone say it right out in a sermon that it is possible to be saved outside of the OALC.


    RWB said: "It is according to Scripture that HIS spirit would be quieted there in that "north country" from which it has spread in its church form in this last period of visitation."

    I guess you are referring to Zechariah 6:8. Well, that is a lamentably common misinterpretation in the OALC as well as other Laestadian factions. The "region of north" or "land of north", in Hebrew 'eretz tzafon' mentioned in Zechariah is Babylon (when they travelled from Jerusalem to Babylon they first travelled straight north before turning to east, which gave them the impression that Babylon lay north of Israel although it really is north east of Israel, and that's why it was called 'eretz tzafon' i.e. the land of north). It should be possible to understand it correctly even without any knowledge of Hebrew or anything if you just take the time to read the book of Zechariah from beginning. In Zechariah 2:10 it says "Away, away! Flee from the land of the north - says the Lord - though I swept you there like the four winds of heaven - declares the Lord." So, he is clearly talking about the exile of Israel in Babylon, and not it's the right time to flee away from the land of north, i.e. Babylon. And if you wonder, the Hebrew word, translated as the 'land of north' or 'region of north', is the same in both Zechariah 2:10 and Zechariah 6:8, 'eretz tzafon'.

    Hibernatus

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  35. A typo correction:

    "and not it's the right time to flee away from the land of north, i.e. Babylon"

    should be:

    "and NOW it's the right time to flee away from the land of north, i.e. Babylon"

    Hibernatus

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  36. Great to see Hibernatus and Another Finn reappear, also RWB.
    To RWB: I have gotten into a ferocious argument on this site in the past re this issue of the possibility that there are "true Christians" outside the OALC. This very suggestion would have been considered heresy as I was growing up and I can assure you that I never once heard reference to this as a possibility. (And being the granddaughter and niece of a whole passle of preachers, I would think I'd know). So I am wondering if you will tell us: who specifically said this? A preacher? From the pulpit? It would not surprise me if there were some "liberal" OALCers in the BP area, since that congregation is so huge, it is well known that it is more difficult to "control" and "heretical" ideas are more likely to erupt. But mainstream? I doubt it. I may just ask my mother.
    Re forgiveness vs repentance: I agree that a distinction needs to be made. I went to a hospital-sponsored lecture about death and dying some years ago and never forgot the recommendations. We were told that there are 5 things one should say to a loved one who is dying: Thank you. I love you. I forgive you. Do you forgive me? Goodbye.
    Unfortunately, I had an opportunity to put that into practice last fall, when a dear friend died, and even tho it pissed off her (neglectful) daughter, I am glad that I did it. It helps with "closure". MTH

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  37. To Another Finn---LLLreader apologizes if she didn't have a good understanding of what was being preached. I just don't recall any interest being shown as to the church's lineage. As a grand daughter and great-granddaughter of preachers at the Brush Prairie church, I can't remember hearing anything about Luther, or any discussion about Jan Hus, or any of the other names mentioned-- either at my grandpa's house, or in the church. You don't have to be snotty about it AF. When I asked about all the people who came before LLL I was told to quit questioning. Would someone from the BP OALC speak up? Maybe I'm really wrong. Has Bud mentioned Wycliffe lately? What are you talking about with this "quarterly publications" stuff? Have I missed something? Does the OALC have publications?

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  38. In the OALC, there is a "quarterly publication" only in Finland. There used to be one in Sweden too until 1989 but the chief editor became too old and there was no-one continue the work so it was discontinued.

    As for the lineage thing, I think the geography plays a role there. In some areas, like Norway, they emphasise it more than in some others. And I think America would belong to the latter category, Finland somewhere in between. And of course there probably are differences also between the localities within the mentioned geographical areas as there are also in many other issues (a fact that's denied by many OALCers though...). So, if you've only lived in America, where there's no church publication in which things like the lineage theory are typically taken up, it may very well be that you've never come across it. The Norwegians probably all know about the lineage theory but I suspect many Finns would not have heard about it because it's rarely taken up in sermons, and if you don't read any books or the quarterly publication Rauhan Side (many OALCers regularly buy them or subscribe to them but never actually read them), I think it would be possible never to have heard about the lineage theory. If asked about the OALC history, most OALC people in Finland probably would say that there is an unbroken line of believers all the way to the apostles but many (if not most) would not be able to mention any individuals or groups in the past that have been part of that line.

    Hibernatus

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  39. From my own experience, having been born into and raised in the OALC in America, very few members know much of anything about the history of the church with the exception of what is spoken and the book that was published on the subject. In fact, there didn't seem to be much of any curiosity even. In the past, when I've mentioned the various other Laestadian sects existing in the U.S., people seem surprised, though they are aware of the one group referred to as the "Heidemans". I've often thought there are huge differences between the church culture in Scandinavia and the U.S.

    One example: I learned, and it's safe to say it's commonly known in the U.S. OALC, that floor-length wedding dresses were wrong. Imagine when, for the first time in my life, I saw a photograph of a Scandinavian church wedding, and the bride was wearing a beautiful, floor length gown. As if it matters anyway, the length of a wedding dress! Seems a floor length dress covers more leg. But, apparently they're a fashion of the world.

    Such silly minutiae.

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  40. Oh my. That's a lot of information, although it is interesting. Before the internet, it was very hard to find information about other branches of Laestadianism.

    I don't think it's unusual that most people in any Laestadian based church are not going to know about the Moravians, or Hus, or the reader movement, or even Luther, much less Laestadius. Church history is interesting, but a knowledge of it is not crucial. What's important is that the Bible is preached, with a prayer that the Holy Spirit would be at work now, today. Should we base our faith on the name or teachings of any mere mortal? I think not.

    I recently heard someone mention the faith of a preacher from far northern Finland. "He is so holy he doesn't even read the newspaper". Oh my.

    re Marcus: my thoughts and sympathy to his family and all who knew him, and especially to his parents.. Losing a child must be one of the hardest things for a parent to endure, especially one so young. Too young. If I were Marcus or his parents, though, I'd be troubled by the publicity and, most likely, gossip, about his life and death. We should all look at ourselves in the mirror and ask how well our lives could withstand this type of scrutiny.

    I know that God loved Marcus, unconditionally and with compassion. I'm glad that Marcus was ready and knew the love of the Father when his time came, and was at peace with God, with his family and those who loved him. May God bless and comfort them in the days ahead. May we all have compassion toward each other, imperfect as we all are.

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  41. Norah quoted somebody else: "He is so holy he doesn't even read the newspaper".
    Well, that's Laestadian humor for you, complete with a touch of that typically Finnish biting irony that we, as a nation and as an ethnic group, certainly seem to be both blessed and cursed with...
    About Markus: Norah writes so well about him that I can't add a word to that without seeming redundant. I guess most of us (maybe all of us?) can join her in those thoughts and in those prayers.
    Another Finn

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  42. RWB, I agree with what you wrote about the different types of soil and the other examples.. but I do not agree that the "springing up" of seeds of Laestadius' time is necessarily bearing fruit today within the movements that bear his name. We cannot depend on our ancestry, there must be a renewing and refreshing by the Holy Spirit in order for true fruit-bearing in each present time.

    You also mentioned the "last visitation" in referring to this movement. But God is moving in many parts of the world today, especially where the church is being persecuted.

    In my own personal opinion, the "church" is largely asleep, and this includes all of the various Laestadian churches, from what I've read online. Asleep either in tradition, ancestry, family name, locale, outward expressions of piety, false humility.. even in the calls for "change" in music and worship style. There is very little true contentment within the church, that is, contentment of communion and knowledge of Christ with us and in us, and the all-sufficiency of His presence for each day. I don't include you in this assessment, but I think that is the reason why people look elsewhere for their spiritual needs - they are not finding it in our traditions, which seem mystifying and strangely secretive even to ourselves!

    May God love us so much that He would plow, till and weed our hearts so that we bear the true fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, kindness and self-control. Luther and Laestadius were used by God to plow a particular soil at a certain time in history, but they are by no means the only people used in this way. God has been, and continues to be, at work in the world today through many laborers. His Spirit, given in Acts 2, has endured, and is greater than our narrow vision or experience. To think that a certain group of people "owns" this Spirit is, well, ridiculous. And sleepy.

    my 2 cents :-)

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  43. I am a nurse and I have experienced many deaths. It is very interesting that as death nears, the dying want to confess their sins (regardless of their denomination). If there is someone there that can testify, the dying person is very calm after that. If there is no one there (which is often the case) the dying person turns into a swearing and fierce individual. I have had to medicate heavily as the dying tell me that they are "going to hell!" I do my best to help them and I also page the chaplain, but this anger and restlessness continues. I have seen this for years now! I pray that Markus was able to find that peace and I certainly do not want to judge him regardless of his sexual orientation. My only prayer is that my death bed, as well as you all, can be peaceful.

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  44. RWB, Constantinople has never considered the Orthodox Church of America to be outside of the Church. They just don't recognize it as an autocephalous (=independent) church but rather continue to see it as a part of the Russian Orthodox Church, although the Russian Church granted them aucephaly (=independence) already some decades ago. So, the question is not about spiritual unity but about a disagreement about the church organization.

    The Orthodox church consists of 15 autocephalous (=independent) churches which are in full communion with each other. There are some minor differences in the cultural customs and certain beliefs but not significantly more than in the OALC, which is kind of amazing, considering that the Orthodox church is thousands of times bigger than the OALC.

    Hibernatus

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  45. LLLreader to Another Finn: You are correct in thinking that I left at a young age. If I questioned, it was considered sin. But to be fair to me, I tried to listen very closely, and just couldn't believe that small handful of people were the only ones who would be saved. I couldn't get around it. There was very little said about those that came before. With the emphasis so strongly on LLL and his enlightenment through Lapp Mary, it just didn't register with me that linage was all that important, or had much to do with the develpment of the OALC. It seemed that the OALC just WAS---. I was interested in your mentioning publications. To my knowledge, the OALC doesn't have publications, at least not the Brush Prairie branch. I have read the letters from the Elders and writings of the old preachers, but don't know of anything in recent years. Can anyone help me out here? I think there may be great differences between the Finnish and American churches.

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  46. I'm fascinated by "Another Finn's" post above, and grateful that the poster has shared this information with those of us in the U.S. I've known of the Rauhan Side, but had never heard of the Ruukku.

    My initial reaction after reading about the Ruukku was that the OALC preachers here in the U.S. wouldn't tolerate such discussion, but then it occurred to me that church members here in the U.S. would be too afraid to start such a publication.

    So, yes, there are differences between what goes on in Scandinavia and here in the U.S. Seems like there's more "control" over members here.

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  47. I think the anonymous poster above is right about more control in the US than in Scandinavia, but based on my experience there are differences in that regard also between the localities within each country.

    By the way, also Ruukku has received negative attention from the pulpit, and its existence is not generally approved, there are a lot of people who think it shouldn't exist. But what can they do? ;)

    As for more recent publications in the American OALC, there's at least "the History of the Living Christianity in America" (there are several versions of it, it seems like they update it every now and then to include new events in each locality) and maybe most of all "The Father's Voice", which is based on the periodical "Fadersrösten" published by the OALC in Sweden from 1959 until 1989. They basically took the contents of all those magazines and made a book out of them, or actually three books because it's in three volumes.

    Hibernatus

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  48. Clark County OALC
    I've seen a few mention that they are from the area. That's where I am too, but haven't been inside the Church yet, just surrounded by the large community of them. I called to ask someone questions once~ that was a mistake~ the reply was if I had questions to come to the service and God would reveal what was needed. We wanted to know why the Church discourages music~ when clearly the Psalms tell us to praise God through the harp, stringed instruments, clashing of cymbals, the blast of trumpets, etc... anyone know??

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  49. Listening to music, or playing a musical instrument were preached to be a sin. These activities are considered worldly, and the church members are supposed to separate themselves from the world.

    Luther once wrote that music was second to God.

    Though it is true that there isn't anything the church could do if there were a publication such as the Ruukku here in the U.S., it would take a very courageous person to get it started. Someone willing to be rebuked, talked about, and shunned.

    I've wondered how many OALCers here realize that they are Laestadians. A long time member inquired once as to why they read the LLL sermons every Sunday.

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  50. By the way, music is one of the things about which there is a good deal of variation in the OALC depending on country, locality and family.

    The Americans have the strictest attitude banning any musical instruments both at church and home. A minority of the Finns share this attitude but most of them don't see anything wrong in the use of musical instruments as such, but they don't necessarily accept all types of music or all kinds of instruments. A very typical attitude is to accept only slow spiritual music accompanied by organ, while others go further and accept for example classical music and folk music + other instruments such as guitar, piano, violin. However, organs or any other instruments are never played at OALC services in Finland unless it's a communion service which takes place in the Lutheran "state church" building, "state church" priests officiating. The OALC frequently borrow the "state church" buildings also for their own use (=sermon services) when there are only OALC preachers conducting the service. In Finland, the hymns are never accompanied by an organ at those meetings.

    The Norwegians have the most approving attitude and if the Norwegian OALC borrows a "state church" building for their meetings, they very often even accompany the hymns with an organ, and these are meetings organized by the OALC with OALC preachers conducting the entire service according to the same model as at their own prayer house. But at least so far they haven't installed any organs in their own prayer houses, as far as I know.

    In both Finland, Norway and Sweden it is very common that there is an electric organ in an OALC home. Piano and guitar probably coming next, but they are less common and more likely to be frowned upon by other OALCers. In Europe, practically only the strictest "party" within the Finnish OALC considers it inappropriate to have an organ in your home or to use an organ to accompany hymns, and pretty much all Norwegians and Swedes and the majority of the Finns consider it ok.

    Hibernatus

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  51. About instrumental music etc: that kind of thing, as many others, needs to be understood in its historical context. The roots of Laestanianism are in the "reader movement", which combined Pietistic and Moravian influences with basic Lutheran theology. Shunning a variety of "worldly pleasures", such as dancing, has always been characteristic of Pietism. As I guess everybody who reads this knows, Laestanianism originated in rural Northern Sweden in the 19th century, far away from the big cities and their sophisticated culture. In that milieu, instrumental music (typically the fiddle) was usually associated with dancing and revelry and thus (from a Pietistic point of view) with a basically heathen way of life. Typically, a fiddler who "got religion" would smash his fiddle and use it for firewood. It's my impression that most rural churches in Scandinavia didn't even have organs back then, so it's no wonder that musical intruments were associated with revelry and behaviour unbecoming a believing Christian. As radios didn't exist, they obviously couldn't listen to classical music (an activity today relished by many Laestadians). Btw, the other Laestadian subgroups are less strict about this: if you visit, say, Conservative Laestadian (=LLC) services, the songs and the hymns will be accompanied by an organ whereas the singing will of course always be unaccompanied in a Firstborn Laestadian (=OALC) meeting house.
    About the situation nowadays, I can only corroborate what Hibernatus says. Note especially this distinction: 1) Firstborn meeting houses don't have organs. 2) When a church building (of the "mainline" Lutheran Church to which all Laestadians in Finland belong) for holding a Firstborn Laestadian "sermon meeting", the organ doesn't play. 3) When Firstborn Laestadians go as a group to a church to recieve the communion from Lutheran pastors, the organ plays. That's the traditional way...
    Another Finn

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  52. Sorry, forgot to type a word there: "When a church building (of the "mainline" Lutheran Church to which all Laestadians in Finland belong) is BORROWED for holding...etc"
    Another Finn

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  53. First, I was happy to hear Markus repented. I am sorry if some of you get upset over me feeling happiness over this event. Second in the LLC music is a huge part of our lives. I learned to play the piano 10 years ago already and play all the time. I also played violin for 5 years. It is interesting to find out that there are churches who discourage music completely. Some of our most cherished memories are of music and our music programs each year at church. There is a line between music and worldly music. Healthy music is good for the soul, wordly music is good only for the flesh.

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  54. To LLLreader: in your support re the lineage issue: I had heard it mennioned and discussed as a child, but NOT from the pulpit and certainly only as an extremely peripheral issue. And when I say mentioned, I mean only mentioned, not really discussed at any length, so it would be entirely possible to have grown up and left and never heard of this at all.
    Of course RWB et al are correct when they say that lineage has virtually no bearing on what is truly important. Many blessings to all seekers after truth. MTH

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  55. Somehow, anonymous, I hear just a tinge of insincerity when you say you are sorry if some of us get upset over you feeling happiness over this event. I find it hard to believe you're very sorry. (Yes, I know you're being sarcastic, but come on. You aren't sorry at all. Actually you sound a bit smug about it. But, whatever.)

    I used to go to the LLC, and yes, music is a big part of daily life for most people. Although, to be honest, a lot of people (particularly the younger ones) play just as much country music in the privacy of their cars as they sing songs at church and other gatherings.

    I noticed when I was reading Markus' Caring Bridge site that people from the LLC mostly quoted songs to him instead of scripture. Like, a verse from a song, or more often, the whole song. An interesting side note is that when I was still attending the LLC, I remember thinking that the songs we sang expressed everything that we believed about our faith. We seldom read the Bible. We knew many of the songs by heart, but I don't remember knowing scripture like that.
    The songs seemed to focus on the same things the sermons focused on: how weak and poor each of us is, how careful we have to be so that we don't "lose" our faith, and a longing for heaven.

    I don't remember hearing much about joy or grace. Joy was something to look forward to in heaven. Laughter -- we had lots of laughter, but not faith-related joy unless someone "repented". Sometimes I wondered how much of that was happiness for them and how much of it was happiness that we didn't have to worry about the person or wish someone would convert them anymore.

    Grace as I know it now was not something I learned in the LLC. Grace was something you could lose at any minute. And we did our own share of judging whether someone had lost it or not. As long as a person came to church regularly and seemed to be living "right," we assumed that they were still believing. If they stopped coming around as much and we didn't see them at church, people started to talk about them behind their backs. You know, things like, "Did you know so-and-so hasn't been around much? I wonder what's up with him." Innuendo. Whispers.

    But the songs always directed your attention toward heaven. You make your sacrifices here on earth, and you'll get your reward in heaven. Stay away from all the bad things, (and the "bad" people), keep asking to have your sins forgiven in case you miss something or slip up, and hope you die RIGHT after you ask to have your sins forgiven. Then you'll go to heaven.

    I sure can't speak for everyone. That is just my experience. Leaving was hard, but I just didn't believe it anymore. I couldn't believe that living faith was limited to just that church.

    mia from the llc

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  56. Hi "mia from the llc," as an ex-OALCer, I have some curiosities about the other Laestadian churches. (Of course we were raised to think of ourselves as the only Laestadians even tho we knew vaguely of the other branches out there). In the OALC, asking forgiveness is a noisy, public affair with much (in the case of my cousins, high-pitched) wailing and carrying on. I've always understood that we were the only ones who practiced this public asking of forgiveness from relatives, friends, and preachers individually. So in the LLC, HOW did you ask for forgiveness? From preachers only? Publicly or privately? Was there a designated time in the service for that? I wonder if all Laestadian churches have a formal asking-for-forgiveness routine. Thanks! Many Trails Home

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  57. I belong to the IALC, and there is no such "asking for forgiveness" part of the church service. Confessing your sins to another is considered optional and private. I've never seen anyone do this at a church service. Though I've seen a lot of rejoicing and crying, but most often its a joyous sort of rejoicing. I've always been told not to look back at sin, lest you turn into a pillar of salt like Lot's wife. In other words, have your private conversation with God, or a trusted believer if its still bothering you, go to communion, and go and sin no more. So not all Laestadian churches practice the same way, MTH. The majority of folks at the IALC have no idea who Laestadius was and how we relate to this movement.

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  58. Something else I've been wondering about, what if you don't agree with all of the rules. What if you think that letting your kids watch a Disney, like The Fox and the Hound is ok? what if we own guitars and a drum set?

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  59. mia from the llc6/09/2008 09:05:00 PM

    In the LLC, it is mostly a private affair. However, if others know of your misdeeds, they may well come and speak to you about it. If you don't confess and repent and ask for forgiveness, they will bring more people to confront you. If you still don't repent, they will "bind" you and not consider you a Christian until you repent of whatever you did.

    This could happen, for example, if others knew that you were going to movies and you didn't think it was wrong to do it. If a bunch of people came to talk to you about it and you repented, it could be a noisy affair when you (if you) repented because everyone there would be so happy.

    Which kind of answers anon's question about what if you don't agree with all of the rules...in the LLC, if you allow it to be known that you don't agree, this is what can (and usually does) happen. So it's also like a social control kind of thing that keeps people "in line". Although people don't admit that or call it that. They call it unity, of course.

    So in the IALC, you can take care of your sins by a private conversation with God? That is so totally different from the LLC. I'm amazed. I was taught that if you died out in the wilderness without being able to ask another believer to forgive your sins, you would go to hell. And I don't remember seeing much rejoicing, particularly not of the joyous kind, since this one lady died (who always used to do it).

    I don't think I ever heard anyone say not to look back at sin, though. And you could ask anyone for forgiveness as long as they were believers, too. Except if you did something wrong with someone else, you couldn't ask them for forgiveness. So if you went out drinking with a buddy, you couldn't ask each other for forgiveness, at least according to my mom. "You can't rub two dirty mittens together and make them clean," was her claim.

    The closest thing to public asking-for-forgiveness in church that I remember was either during communion, when you could see children and parents or siblings or close friends (or sometimes not so close friends) blessing each other, or near the end of a sermon when people would just put up their hands, and that would be shorthand to asking for a blessing from the minister. He would motion towards them and preach forgiveness to them from the pulpit in the middle of his sermon. The worst thing was if you put up your hand and he didn't see you. Awkward.

    Also, some people used to wait till they went to communion to ask for forgiveness because everyone asked the ministers for a blessing before they got communion and that way, you wouldn't have to tell someone that you sinned and ask them to forgive you. So if you showed up on communion Sunday and asked for a blessing before communion, you were covered.

    I have to confess, I used to try to screw up my courage to go ask some of the cute boys for a blessing during communion so I could get a hug from them without anyone saying anything about me.

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  60. The OALC has a ritualized "movement" that occurs on cue every time the same way.

    The ALC doesn't have the movement, but some congregations used to have it as recently as the seventies or eighties and some congregations still get close on occasion. Preachers will sometimes try to drum up tears and confessions, and they express regret that they don't see the waterworks and shouting as they used to. Special services can get maudlin, but the theatrics most often happens before communion, especially with confirmation classes on confirmation day.

    The FALC or Heidemans emphasize forgiveness of sins like mad. It's more important than the Bible.

    It all degenerates into dead motions that must be gone through at the set time.

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  61. thankyou for your time and all of your sharing of your experiences. I'm wondering how families are treated when the Dad doesn't attend. Are the children treated differently by the other families, are they excluded from things? Do people still send their kids over to play if Dad only attends occasionally. What if the Dad wants to keep a tv in the house, say in the bedroom.... even though Dad is a Christian, but not at their church. Are the children spoken down to about their homes if there are things accepted in the home that aren't accepted at church. I'm assuming that there has been moms who come to church alone, like any other church.....

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  62. The "take" on sin in the IALC is that everyone sins in some way. Who hasn't had jealous thoughts, or in some way hasn't honored their mother or father, or lusted in their heart? We all sin in some way every single day, and sometimes we sin on a purely unconscious level. We'd have to be taking communion all the time if that was what is necessary to get us into the kingdom of God. In theory, but of course not in practice, all sins are created equal, and if you've broken one of God's commandments, you've broken them all. It is grace which save us in between trips to the altar for communion. Grace is tricky, because everyone is born with a "cup of grace" but what is not known is how much you may have. I would not say that no one EVER has asked another believer for forgiveness of sins because of course, that often happens, but when it does its a private matter and usually occurs out of church. The same goes for confronting/counseling a believer about a particular behavior; that is usually not done in packs, but singly, perhaps a believer or two might talk to that person and try to persuade them out of that behavior. Of course I have known people who have committed some fairly "big" sins who were not confronted at all--they knew what they did was wrong and no amount of telling them was going to help them.

    The reason why we're told to not look back at past sins and to move on is because sin itself can be a stumbling block to a believer. For example, what if a person, for example, had embezzled money from her employer. Let's say she had a hard time coming to church because of knowing what she had done--she had always been considered an upright person in her community. If she continued to look back at that sin, she might feel unworthy to come back to church. In theory all sins are the same, but there are in practice those sins that are more perceptable to others, such as in this example.

    As far as how people are treated if one parent isn't from church, I never recall it to be a problem. We do have TVs and go to the cinema, so that would not be a problem, but if there was a lot of heavy drinking or drugs going on in that home I think that would be the only reason why other children would be kept away from that house or those children. There are quite a few families in which only the mother or the father are believing and who bring the children to church by themselves or sometimes with the other spouse.

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  63. Sorry--they wouldn't necessarily try to keep them away from the children, the children would probably be invited to sleep over at another house instead of bringing their children to that house where the chemical use was happening. However, I was sent to confirmation to stay with a family in which the dad was a known alcoholic, although he did not drink when I was there.

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  64. My dad went to the church off and on, mostly to try and please my mom. My siblings and I were called "Half-Breeds" and teased quite a bit. It was also painfully obvious when we "knew" things the "regular" kids didnt because we were "exposed" to "wordly things."

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  65. Oh my gosh..I am cracking reading the explanation about LLCers "communion confessions" and the persons post that wanted to confess to a cute guy~!!
    I was in the AALC..from 1971 to the early 90's from the time I was only seventeen and "converted" by a Leastadian guy. As you can imagine, I have some very interesting stories and a lot of memories about how the ONLY TRUE church changed from time to time when the male elders felt the need to pull the reigns in or get more control. I remember individual people repenting in front of the whole congregation in the Ballard Church in Seattle in the 70's, which I was horrified to hear and see. I remember not that long ago..folks (including myself) being told they had a "lenient spirit" because of something I said or did, or didn't do or agree with.
    It is interesting and comical to me after many, many years, to read the posts here. I have been asked to write a book about my years there..and I have started. It is unbelievable for most of my collegues and friends to comprehend there is a church that calls themselves the sole "true believers" when they rule their followers through pure fear of hell and rules... not to mention the exclusivity and arrogance since most members have not "chosen" to be members, but are born into the little group. Yes, I know that those of you that are still in the fold are going be sad for me and think that I have lost the miracle of the only true faith, but I ask of you..how do you not feel horrible and guilty every single day playiing God? You have been misled and I would like you to consider that perhaps God wants you to be free of the arrogance and selfrighteousness of thinking you only hold the keys to heaven because you were born into a Leastadian family and not a Mormon or Jehovah Witness or other group. *Clearly you would be with that group if you had been born into it instead. It is just simply a slap in Gods face to think he is so very small.
    Regarding Markus, it seems that he was a wonderful person, I knew his family at one time, and if I were a betting person, I would bet that he, out of respect and concern for his family and THEIR faith, may have "repented" to leave them at peace, not so much for himself. I believe that Markus was a wonderful, struggling, precious young man and is totally at peace with his GOD and will be an example of true love and an example that came out of the Leastadian family, perhaps to open their eyes. My heart goes out to others that allow themselves to be be hurt by anyone who has the nerve to think that they have the only mainline to heaven. I sincerely feel that God was with me the day I was finally able to "LET IT ALL GO" and let true love in.

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  66. If you ever finish that book (and I hope you do) I would read it. When the time comes, please post the title and where to get it on this website.

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  67. POOR LITTLE MIA FROM THE LLC SHE IS SO CONFUSED SHE HAS LOST ALL UNDERSTANDING I CAN SEE WHY SHE HAS LEFT IF SHE FEELS THAT WAY SHE DOESNOT UNDERSTAND THE FAITH AT ALL . GENERAL CONFESSION IS NOT TO COVER ALL YOUR SINS!! NOR IS COMMUNION SAVING YOU FROM KNOWN SIN IT IS FOR unknown SIN. OH YOU POOR LIL LOST GIRL NO WONDER YOU HAD SUCH ODD THOUGHTS ALWAYS SO GLAD TO HEAR ALL THESE BLOGGERS WERE SPEAKING OF THE HERETIC LAESTADIANS NOT THE REAL LAESTADIANS! i WAS REALLY BEGINNING TO WONDER HOW SO MANY PEOPLE COULD BE SO BITTER AND BLINDED WHEN IT DAWNED ON ME THEY ARE REFERING TO HERETICS! Not christians

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  68. Holy cow!!
    I am going to assume that post was from someone who just fell off their rocking chair and killed the last brain cell there was left. Unbelievable. All these LLL worshipers makes my head spin!

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  69. Wonder which branch anon 10:21 is from?

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  70. Anon 10:21...

    What would Jesus do?

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  71. Lord have mercy--I guess I didn't clarify that I wasn't the one who thought that you could show up on Communion Sunday for a "general" blessing and receive Communion, and everything would be hunky-dory. I just noticed that there were a number of people who did just that. I was assuming that if they did that, they must have thought it was an okay thing to do.

    And if you want to get into specific types of confession for certain kinds of sin, that smacks of the Catholic practice of distinguishing between mortal and venial sins...just commenting on the apparent double standard, even though the Laestadians didn't use that terminology. And I remember how often I heard Laestadians make derogatory comments discounting the Catholic Church and their beliefs. I'm not criticizing the Catholic Church here...don't get me wrong. I just think the anonymous commenter who thinks I am "so confused and have lost all understanding," must be about a half bubble off plumb himself (herself?).

    And furthermore, communion doesn't "save you" from any sin, known or unknown. If you're a Christian, my sense is that you believe that accepting the sacrifice that Christ made for you is what saves you--from the consequences of your sins.

    But I must say, it was entertaining to imagine myself as being so confused that I have lost all understanding. Why, however do I get through a day without help??

    Okay, I've used my daily quota of sarcasm...ciao.

    mia from the llc

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