Tag Archives: Dallin H. Oaks

Sticks and Stones and RABID HATRED

Have you heard the term “fanboy”?

It’s a term that carries with it a fair amount of negative connotation, and a suggestion of obsessive loyalty to a product or company. This loyalty is usually to the point of (unfairly) deriding that product or company’s primary competitor, not to mention users of that product or supporters of that company. Continue reading Sticks and Stones and RABID HATRED

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Teaching the Gospel with Twinkies

This post started as a comment, but I ended up being too long-winded. I decided it’d be bad form to pontificate that much in the comment thread.

This movie terrified me as a child.

Of course, as I’ve prepared this post, it’s grown even more (I’ve got to give you some context!). Sorry about that. Still, I feel like I’ve learned some cool things, and I can totally pontificate here as much as I like.

A Twinkie?

The original post I was considering commenting on was actually a book review of John Bytheway’s recent book How Do I Know if I Know? It was generally positive, though the author, Ivan, admitted that JB is probably closer to “milk” than “meat” (in the words of Paul’s analogy). This shouldn’t surprise anyone – JB has become popular because of his entertaining style that’s aimed primarily at youth in the Church. To borrow a business term, it’s his competitive advantage.

In response to the review, someone suggested that it might be generous to label JB as “milk.” They offered that “Twinkie” or “Oreo” might be more appropriate substitutes.

Oh no you di’int!

Gauntlet thrown! Continue reading Teaching the Gospel with Twinkies

Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before

I felt like Elder Oaks’ address from General Conference, “Loving Others and Living with Differences,” was fantastic. And heavy. And a little biting, especially if you’re one of those dweebs who doesn’t let their kids play with other kids who aren’t members of the Church.

(I mean, seriously?…)

Dang it. I just lost the “is it I?” game, deep diving into my second General Conference talk. Crap.

I feel like there’s so much in there that I’ll need to “noodle” over, but one of the heaviest parts of Elder Oaks’ talk, in my view, is the discussion about contention. “Contention” can mean a great many things to a great many people, which is what makes discussion about it so slippery. Before we look more into clues that help us see how Elder Oaks’ understands “contention,” let me tell you a story. Continue reading Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before

General Conference and Looking for “New Wording”

I’m really excited for General Conference. Come Saturday morning, I’ll be in my super comfy Nautica PJ’s (or maybe sporting my PhillyD monkey shirt), probably setting the oven timer for the amazing French toast casserole we make biannually at conference time.

This French toast recipe is as true as the Church.

Making this breakfast is a family affair. It’s tons of fun.

We don’t dress up for conference in our family, unlike some folks, I guess (the Trib runs pieces like this during the two times a year time it tries to be nice to the LDS Church, the weeks before the spring and fall conferences). That definitely helps me be excited.

When my wife and I were dating, though, I did have her convinced for a moment that in my house, we stayed in church clothes all Sunday long.

(I could see it in her eyes, the way she considered breaking up with me right then and there.)

The way we approach conference – more in terms of what we listen for rather than our dress or food quirks – is very important when it comes to getting the most out of it. Let me show you what I mean.

In 2005, then President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a talk entitled, simply, “Gambling.” I’ve always found the structure of this talk far more interesting than the content. Continue reading General Conference and Looking for “New Wording”

Correlation is for the Dogs

Lots of Rules

Mormon missionaries have a lot of rules. You can read them for yourselves in the Missionary Handbook.

There are 92 glorious pages, filled with gems like these:

  • “Refer to other missionaries, including your companion,
    as “Elder” or “Sister” and their surnames, not
    by their first names, nicknames, or surnames alone.”
  • “If you play basketball, volleyball, or another sport, do
    not allow the situation to become intense or competitive.
    (For example, do not keep score.)”
  • “Do not watch television, go to movies, listen to the
    radio, or use the Internet (except to communicate with
    your family or your mission president or as otherwise
    authorized).”

I’ve intentionally taken these rules out of context to heighten their “weirdness,” particularly for those who aren’t familiar with how Mormon missions work. They demonstrate some examples of the “do”s and “don’t”s that I was expected to live by for two years. Continue reading Correlation is for the Dogs

Looking Forward to Mormon Change

In light of yesterday’s Supreme Court case, many people are (understandably) drawing a connection between the Mormon Church’s stance on same-sex marriage and past positions on blacks or polygamy. In doing so, they suggest that a change on gay-marriage is coming in the future.

Now, I’m not the prophet of the Church, so I can’t say what will happen for sure. Still, I’m fairly confident that this position, for better or worse, will not be changing. This FAQ may explain why, and I’m hoping this format makes the issues easier to grapple with.

As a side note, these are my own answers, so I would ask that you excuse any error in them. I don’t presume, and never have, to speak for the Church.

Q: When did Mormons practice polygamy?

A: Latter-day Saints practiced polygamy early in their history. We don’t know exactly when it began, except that it was likely sometime between 1830 and 1840. It ended with Wilford Woodruff’s Manifesto in 1890. Anyone currently practicing polygamy is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Q: Why did Mormons practice polygamy?

A: There are only a couple scriptures that mention polygamy. Jacob, an early Nephite prophet, mentioned it while teaching about chastity. He said,

“For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people (to practice polygamy); otherwise they shall hearken unto these things (and practice monogamy)” (Jacob 2:30; see whole chapter).

In this verse, and similarly in Doctrine and Covenants 132:63, polygamy is identified as a method to “raise up seed”. We’re never explicitly given reasons beyond that.

Latter-day Saints believe that polygamy is biblical and righteous when it is sanctioned by the Lord. It may have been practiced by Joseph Smith as part of the “restoration of all things” (he never fathered any children by any of his plural wives).

Other reasons have been suggested, but anything else is speculation. For more on this question, see here.

Q: Isn’t polygamy breaking the commandments?

A: Latter-day Saints believe that polygamy is the exception, and monogamy is the rule, but that polygamy is not contrary to the commandments when it is directed by the Lord. There has never been, in the Church, anything like “self-nominated” polygamy – it was always at the direction of the president of the Church.

We believe this position to be biblical. A more in depth answer won’t be provided within this short FAQ.

Q: Why did polygamy end? The timing of Woodruff’s “revelation” is pretty convenient.

A: It’s not difficult to see that Latter-day Saints were willing to follow what they believed to be a divine commandment regardless of the cost. Convenience would have dictated abandoning polygamy much, much earlier. Church leaders did not end the practice until there was literally no other course of action that would prevent dissolution of the Church.

Woodruff later wrote the following about why polygamy ended:

“The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question, and He also told me that if they would listen to what I said to them and answer the question put to them, by the Spirit and power of God, they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter.

“The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice); or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?

“The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice…. I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write….

“I leave this with you, for you to contemplate and consider. The Lord is at work with us.”

We may not always understand why the Lord does things, but it’s not difficult to argue that he is often pragmatic, and the dissolution of his church would certainly have been contrary to his will. In that respect, the timing of the revelation was not only convenient, but essential.

Q: What about blacks? They were kept from holding the priesthood or participating in temple ordinances until the 1970’s.

A: During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a number of blacks were ordained to the priesthood. Early in Church history, Church leaders stopped ordaining blacks. No official explanation was given for this practice, and later Church leaders believed that a revelation was needed to alter it. They received this revelation in 1978.

Divinely sanctioned discrimination is not without precedent in biblical history. We don’t know why it was practiced by the Church in modern times. Further, it’s common to find accounts of members, prior to the Church lifting the ban, expecting it on the horizon. Of course there were racist Mormons, too, but many believed intently that the discrimination was going to end – it just hadn’t ended yet.

Many blacks were baptized and remained faithful throughout all of Church history.

I’m white myself, so it may be worth seeking out accounts of active, black Latter-day Saints and seeing what they have to say about their faith.

For more on this subject, see my post about the “Bott-gate” fiasco.

Q: This “revelation” seems awfully convenient, too.

A: It might. Yet much as was the case with polygamy, convenience would have dictated that this change happen much sooner – perhaps as much as 20 years or more sooner – than it did.

Q: So you have no idea why your Church practiced polygamy, and you have no idea why your Church discriminated against blacks. What’s the deal?

A: The deal is that sometimes we’re expected to have faith. We are often not told explicitly why we need to obey one commandment or another. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said,

“It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do we’re on our own. Some people [have] put reasons to [commandments] and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong.”

We have seen examples of this in relation to both polygamy and the Church’s dealings with blacks. Sometimes, we just don’t know why the Lord does things.

Q: That’s a cop out, and you’re describing blind obedience. That’s one reason why people think Mormons are a cult.

A: And people are free to think what they want, but there’s quite a difference between blind obedience and faithful obedience. The former is passive, but the latter is quite active.

N. Eldon Tanner said,

“We do not suggest blind obedience, but obedience by faith in those things which may not be fully understood by man’s limited comprehension, but which in the infinite wisdom of God are for man’s benefit and blessing.”

Even though we may not comprehend everything behind the Lord’s commandments, we can still have faith in Jesus Christ and his servants. We gain this faith by actively studying out the issues and praying that God will confirm what we’ve learned and decided.

Brigham Young said,

“I will say a few words in regard to your belief in being led, guided, and directed by one man. …Our enemies hate the fact of our being led by one man. Thousands of times my soul has been lifted to God the Father, in the name of Jesus, to make that verily true in every sense of the word, that we may be led by the man Jesus Christ, through Joseph Smith the Prophet. You may inquire how we are to know that we are so led. I refer you to the exhortation you have heard so frequently from me. Do not be deceived, any of you; if you are deceived, it is because you deceive yourselves. You may know whether you are led right or wrong, as well as you know the way home; for every principle God has revealed carries its own convictions of its truth to the human mind, and there is no calling of God to man on earth but what brings with it the evidences of its authenticity….

“What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.”

Q: What’s so wrong about expecting the Church to change it’s mind on homosexuality and same-sex marriage? We just talked about how the Church did it before with polygamy and blacks.

A: It may happen. With the changes in 1890 and 1978, there’s certainly precedent. One Latter-day Saint, writing about this same question, argued that change was possible and said,

“For those readers who might argue that it was the Lord that dictated the LDS Church’s positions — pro and con — on polygamy and equal rights for blacks, I argue that they allow themselves to dwell on the possibility that the Lord may also intervene on behalf of gay marriage as well.”

I can’t disagree, and this is why I gave my brief disclaimer early on. The Lord, through his prophet, may absolutely change the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage and homosexuality. If that happens, I doubt that we’ll know any more about the reasons why than we know now about the reasons behind changes with polygamy and priesthood discrimination.

Q: But you’re not sold on that idea.

A: No, I’m not. I think that, at best, our understanding of the principles behind polygamy and the priesthood ban is vague. Additionally, neither was related to sinful behavior. With homosexuality, it’s different. The principles behind that position are not only well understood, but central doctrines to Latter-day Saints and core to the Plan of Salvation. Let me explain.

Look at polygamy, for example. It was never practiced widely in the Church, nor do Latter-day Saints believe that polygamy is essential to salvation. Additionally, even today it’s not recognized as a “mistake” by modern Latter-day Saints; it’s culturally and socially abhorrent to us, as it was to those in the early days of the church, but we believe it was a divine principle initiated by revelation and discontinued by revelation. The purposes for that initiation or discontinuation are unclear, but Latter-day Saints do not believe that its legitimate practice was ever contrary to the commandments.

And what of the racial discrimination? President David O. McKay, in 1954, said,

“There is not now, and there never has been a doctrine in this church that the negroes (sic) are under a divine curse. There is no doctrine in the church of any kind pertaining to the negro. We believe that we have a scriptural precedent for withholding the priesthood from the negro. It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed. And that’s all there is to it.”

Why was the policy in place? We’ve already discussed that we don’t know. The same President McKay said that, while blacks were children of our Heavenly Father, they

“were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man.”

Whether we know the reasons or not, it remains that while the ban was practiced, it was not founded in any doctrine.

The Church’s position on same-sex marriage is borne of much more fundamental doctrines that will not change.

Many of those doctrines are found within The Family: A Proclamation to the World. It reads,

WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

IN THE PREMORTAL REALM, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

WE DECLARE the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.

HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

A number of the fundamental doctrines covered in this proclamation include the eternal nature of families, the rights of children to a home with mothers and fathers, and the eternal nature of gender. These principles, which are not subject to change, are not the product of an individual church leader’s musings or theorizing. This proclamation represents the testimony of the unified body of men that lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and as such, commands a much greater influence over gospel cannon than “that one thing Bruce R. McConkie said that one time” or “that sermon Brigham Young gave way back when”.

Additionally, the law of chastity is applied to everyone, not just homosexuals. True, homosexual Latter-day Saints are expected to be celibate, but so are single heterosexual Latter-day Saints who don’t marry, whether it’s because they are just plain goofy or it’s because they have some physical or mental handicap that prevents it.

This is an unimaginably difficult circumstance for those who feel same-gender attraction, and I will never fully understand that plight. Perhaps Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ words apply here. When asked if he could describe this enormously complex question in a couple of basic principles, he said,

“God loves all of His children. He has provided a plan for His children to enjoy the choicest blessings that He has to offer in eternity. Those choicest blessings are associated with marriage between a man and a woman by appropriate priesthood authority to bring together a family unit for creation and happiness in this life and in the life to come.

“We urge persons with same-gender attractions to control those and to refrain from acting upon them, which is a sin, just as we urge persons with heterosexual attractions to refrain from acting upon them until they have the opportunity for a marriage recognized by God as well as by the law of the land. That is the way to happiness and eternal life. God has given us no commandment that He will not give us the strength and power to observe. That is the Plan of Salvation for His children, and it is our duty to proclaim that plan, to teach its truth, and to praise God for the mission of His Son Jesus Christ. It is Christ’s atonement that makes it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins and His resurrection that gives us the assurance of immortality and the life to come. It is that life to come that orients our views in mortality and reinforces our determination to live the laws of God so that we can qualify for His blessings in immortality.”

For more on this complex issue, see Mormons and Gays and the Interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickman on Same-Gender Attraction.

Judging a Hospital for Sinners

Those familiar with me know that I have plenty of soapboxes. Some of them have to do with the non-gospel practices of LDS Church members. For example:

These soapboxes have nothing to do with the doctrine of the Church, or legitimate practices encouraged by the Church, but rather with personal orthodoxies (that I see as contrary to the gospel) preached as the gospel.

I’ve recently taken a stance on the way a BYU student reprimanded a peer for breaking the dress standards of the BYU honor code, and I commented on a follow-up story published by BYU’s paper, the Daily Universe. A Facebook friend had this to say:

You are way too worked up about this incident. Aren’t your judgmental words about the boy worse than his own?

(Never mind the irony of these kinds of statements, with the criticism of being judgmental a judgment in its own right.)

I replied that “love everyone, judge no one” is junk religion, and summed up the stance you can read about in the post mentioned above. I also inferred that the letter-writer was a “sheltered, bubble-craving isolationist” and straight-out called him “a cowardly, small-minded boy”. As an example of how short-sighted, childish actions can convict the Church in the court of public opinion, I brought up the proxy baptism scandal that has resurfaced in the wake of President Romney’s campaign (recently, LDS “dweebs” have disregarded prophetic counsel regarding the baptism of holocaust Jews). The same friend replied:

Sorry, but I still don’t see name-calling within our own religion as ‘righteous judgement.’ You are obviously free to make your opinions known; however, your negative comments may have the very effect you see these ‘dweebs’ having: harming the image of the church. Some negative opinions are better left unsaid.

And then, a few days later, a stranger posted this:

Don’t you think the guy has gotten enough flack for it by now? Who would come forward and dare express their opinion with the entire world ragging on them? The guy never intended this to go to the press. He was shy enough not to just talk to Brittany about it in the first place. Whether he was right or wrong, he probably feels terrible and wishes he never would have written the note. It was probably a built-up of all the things he saw and considered to be immodest on campus, and he thought he should do something about it this time. I’m not saying it was the right method or it was a good judgement call, but give the guy a break. We all have motes and beams from time to time, do we not? I personally wish I could find this guy, give him a hug, and say, “Okay, that might not have been the best decision, as we’ve seen, but I’m sorry for all the hate thrown at you right now.”

(Speaking of my soapboxes, why can’t people online use paragraphs?)

There are two arguments in these Facebook comments, both of which I take issue with. The first deals with concealing internal issues, and the second with withholding all judgment. While I welcome people who disagree with me, I take issues with those who discourage open dialogue and healthy disagreement. That, in my humble opinion, is reprehensible.

Internal Name-Calling

The first argument is that we shouldn’t “name-call” within our own ranks. This mirrors the view of C. S. Lewis, who said in Mere Christianity,

“So long as we write and talk about [our disputed points] we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.”

I talk about this argument when I discuss the preface to Mere Christianity. You can read more there, but in brief, I think that this position is off. Why?

An Active Faith

First, who says that talking about disputed points will deter others from investigating the gospel? Could it not encourage them to investigate further instead? I think so. In the words of William James, those otherwise uninterested in a religion can have a previously “dead” option made “genuine” as they study deeper.

All the times I’ve dug deeper into my beliefs, or investigated a controversial issue, or struggled internally with some gnawing question, I’ve come out of it with stronger faith.

What’s more, religious organizations, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are not cookie cutter groups. We are not all the same. Why would we want to sweep internal conflicts under the rug, particularly in this age when things will always come out? (Brittney Molina’s own twitter picture is what originally went viral on the modesty story.) I’m not like the note-writer, or the LDS dweebs baptizing Ann Frank for the fourth, fifth, or sixth time after the First Presidency has told members not to. I want others to know! We’re not all crazy, and white-washing the mosaic that is the LDS Church is not the way to encourage people into the fold.

Religious Dishonesty

Second, it seems slightly dishonest, if not at least disingenuous, to sweep our disputes entirely under the rug. I like what Dan Peterson said in his article “The Restoration stands up to history”, which I recommend you read in its entirety.

He describes the three “versions” of history that are often used to describe the LDS Church.

  • “Thesis” is the rose-colored history taught by the LDS Church.
  • “Antithesis” is the opposite to thesis, the hardened and critical history taught by anti-Mormons.
  • “Synthesis” is the combination of the two – the fullest, most complete history that incorporates elements from both.

The history taught by the Church is not all-encompassing or historically complete, but why? Peterson offers,

“Because souls can be and are lost on [antithesis]. And, anyway, the church isn’t some sort of floating seminar in historiography. Regrettably, perhaps, most Latter-day Saints — many of them far better people than I — aren’t deeply interested in history, and, more importantly, many other very important priorities demand attention, including training the youth and giving service.”

If I were in a leadership position, I would probably make a similar decision to stick to thesis history. The purpose of the Church is to invite people to come unto Christ, not to educate them in exact historical matters that have no bearing on that invitation.

And yet I am not in a leadership position, and I am not the Church. Neither is the media the Church. The Church is more than welcome to censor its Sunday school material, but I can make my own choices about what I discuss in an open forum. An early LDS poet wrote,

Think not when you gather to Zion,
Your troubles and trials are through,
That nothing but comfort and pleasure
Are waiting in Zion for you:

No, no, ’tis designed as a furnace,
All substance, all textures to try,
To burn all the “wood, hay, and stubble,”
The gold from the dross purify.

Think not when you gather to Zion,
That all will be holy and pure;
That fraud and deception are banished,
And confidence wholly secure:

No, no, for the Lord our Redeemer
Has said that the tares with the wheat
Must grow till the great day of burning
Shall render the harvest complete.

And what of my friend’s insinuation that it’s not okay to name-call internally, but okay to name-call others? I’ll leave that to you.

Judging and “Judge Not”

The second argument, and by far the more important one, is that I was wrong to judge, and “way too worked up” over something that didn’t merit it. I should have kept to myself, and tended to my own beams rather than pulling at the motes of others.

I repeat my affirmation that “love everyone, judge no one” is junk religion, and that discouraging open dialogue is reprehensible. Where does judgment fit in to our every day behavior?

Maybe we would do well to define some of our terms before we get started.

Final Judgments

In 1972, N. Eldon Tanner talked about what he called “unjust criticism and judging without the facts.” What did he mean by this?

He gave a few examples. One example involved what’s commonly known as “self-fulfilling prophecy” or the Pygmalion Effect, when we pigeonhole someone else by treating them based on who we expect them to be. Another example involved what Crucial Conversations calls telling yourself stories, or attributing motives to the actions of others. Both of these behaviors are inappropriate, and examples of prejudice and gossip. President Tanner decries the “vituperative talk of personalities” and “trying to tear down another”.

Dallin H. Oaks gave a devotional at BYU in 1998. You can find the transcript of it here, or a copy of it in the Church magazine Ensign. He further clarifies the type of judgment that President Tanner condemns. He says,

“I believe this commandment was given because we presume to make final judgments whenever we proclaim that any particular person is going to hell (or to heaven) for a particular act or as of a particular time…. The effect of one mortal’s attempting to pass final judgment on another mortal is analogous to the effect on athletes and observers if we could proclaim the outcome of an athletic contest with certainty while it was still underway.”

Gossiping, stereotyping, or ignorantly attributing motive is “proclaim(ing) the outcome of an athletic contest” before it concludes. We don’t give others the chance to make redemption.

Intermediate Judgments

So is all judgement inappropriate? President Tanner says,

“Each must try to understand the questions and then stand firm by his convictions.”

Elder Oaks says,

“In contrast to forbidding mortals to make final judgments, the scriptures require mortals to make what I will call “intermediate judgments.” These judgments are essential to the exercise of personal moral agency…. The Savior also commanded individuals to be judges, both of circumstances and of other people.”

How can one “stand firm by his convictions” without judging? How can we make intermediate judgments “both of circumstances and of other people” without judging? The truth is we can’t.

Righteous Intermediate Judgments

We are not left to our own in determining how to make righteous intermediate judgments. Elder Oaks gives us six principles as a guide.

  1. “First of all, a righteous judgment must, by definition, be intermediate. It will refrain from declaring that a person has been assured of exaltation or from dismissing a person as being irrevocably bound for hellfire….
  2. “Second, a righteous judgment will be guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or self-interest….
  3. “Third, to be righteous, an intermediate judgment must be within our stewardship. We should not presume to exercise and act upon judgments that are outside our personal responsibilities….
  4. “A fourth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment of a person is that we should, if possible, refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts….
  5. “A fifth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment is that whenever possible we will refrain from judging people and only judge situations….
  6. If we apply unrighteous standards, our judgment will be unrighteous.”

I’ll be the first to volunteer my comments to the standard given by Elder Oaks. Arguably, it may not meet that standard.

But that is not the point here. The point is that this stance, that we should in no circumstance judge other people, is far from the gospel truth.

Conclusion

I make judgments all the time. I judged that the student who wrote Brittany Molina that note did so inappropriately. I judged the actions of those who disregard the teachings of the Church, whether it be in terms of Prop 8 or proxy baptisms. These judgments aren’t in violation of the commandment to “judge not”.

Keep a close eye around you, and you’ll see righteous judgments all over the place. I can even help. Excuse an analogy that may help put my own judgment in perspective.

  • A BYU professor makes a blatantly racist statement (you can find it in the Washington Post article “The Genesis of a church’s stand on race”)
    • Remember how a BYU student wrote a remorsefully critical note of a fellow student
  • The LDS Church clarifies the doctrine and stance of the Church in a press release which clearly denounces the stance attributed to the BYU professor
    • I respond to the action and position of the BYU student using the scriptures and modern prophets.

Don’t be so quick to vilify those who take a stance against a position with which you agree. You may find yourself at odds with your own Church.

UPDATE: This past general conference, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a fantastic talk about this subject entitled “The Merciful Obtain Mercy”. Check it out.

The Principles Behind My Prop 8 Support

Yesterday, an appeals court upheld Judge Walker’s decision declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional. This has caused both disappointment and celebration, depending on what side of the line you find yourself. My Facebook wall, perhaps like yours, was filled with a lot of both.

One Facebook friend of mine wrote,

“This is a very bad day for religious fanatics who want to legislate their hate.”

Another, himself a member of the LDS Church, wrote,

“We as a people are witnessing a terrible obesity rate, devastating unemployment, a never-before-seen national deficit, low education scores and somehow we are worried about dictating who can and cannot get married via Prop 8? Unless you are Jesus or Muhammad, don’t worry about it. Live and let live, or move to North Korea.”

I find such comments disappointing. This is not such a simple issue, and these straw man arguments leave far too much out. What’s more, this damning and demeaning rhetoric deliberately muddies the waters of understanding (“fanatics”? “North Korea”? “Hate”? Please). I would expect more of those who find “ignorance” so appalling.

I have thought carefully about this issue. Through this process, I myself have felt anxiety, angst, and discouragement from within; and I have encountered hate, prejudice, and aggression in practically every social circle to which I belong from without.

I have not come to a decision lightly, nor have I blindly followed the whims of my Church or political party. Despite what some may think, this was for me a cognitively active process. I have written on the subject, and I’ve even read the court decisions (who among you can say the same?).

What are the ultimate principles behind my decision?

Prophets on the Watchtower

In the song “I Believe” from the musical “The Book of Mormon”, Elder Price sings,

“And I believe that the current president of the Church, Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God.”

One of the purposes of the song was to present beliefs of the LDS Church that are outlandish. Yet this belief is absolutely central to the Church and its’ teachings. There are few principles more important, and more unique, than the belief that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by a man who speaks directly with God.

Why is this so important?

The Lord tells the parable,

“A certain nobleman had a spot of land, very choice; and he said unto his servants: Go ye unto my vineyard, even upon this very choice piece of land, and plant twelve olive trees;

“And set watchmen round about them, and build a tower, that one may overlook the land round about, to be a watchman upon the tower, that mine olive trees may not be broken down when the enemy shall come to spoil and take upon themselves the fruit of my vineyard….

“And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:44-45, 54).

You can watch a four minute video, “Watchman on the Tower”, below.

A story from Nephite history illustrates this principle. During a time when they were engaged in war with the Lamanites, the Nephite commander ordered that Nephite cities be fortified (Alma 50:1-6; see also Alma 53:3-4). In order to fortify their cities, they:

  • Dug heaps of earth
  • Built timbers on the ridges of earth
  • Built pickets on the timbers
  • Built towers to overlook the pickets
  • Put men in the towers

Those in the towers were able to see far into the horizon, warn their comrades in the event of an oncoming attack, and then direct the response to that attack. The rest of the men could then ready themselves for an enemy strike.

Do you have trouble seeing what is wrong with same-sex marriage? Perhaps. But, then again, you’re not in the tower. You’re in a ditch. Of course you can’t see the same things that the man in the tower can see.

What is it about the prophet that gives him vision? Why is he so special? Why can’t we each be our own “watchman”?

I’ve written about this subject in my post “Of Paradigms and Prophets”, and I suggest you read that in its’ entirety. Briefly, though, it is impossible to keep from, consciously or unconsciously, filtering out truth from reality around us. We each create paradigms – simplified and incomplete versions of reality that we use like maps – in order to help us process information faster and navigate our world better.

How can we know that some truth we’ve excluded is not an essential part of our paradigm map? In short, we can’t. That’s why a prophet is so important. He can teach us which elements we need in our paradigms, and which elements we don’t.

Why is the prophet the best source for this “map check”? It’s not because he inherently knows more than anyone else. He is imperfect, just like the rest of us. And yet he “talks directly to God”, and God (the only being who’s paradigm is equal with reality) teaches him what to, in turn, teach us.

Prophetic Council on the Family and Prop 8

In 1995, then president Gordon B. Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. It highlighted the vital family values that our Church stands for, and called for members and citizens to support measures aimed at upholding the traditional family unit. This proclamation reads, in part,

“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children….

“We warn that… the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

When Prop 8 was prepared as a ballot measure, the First Presidency, led by current president Thomas S. Monson, sent a letter to California congregations. It encouraged Latter-day Saints to do all that they could to support the measure. It read,

“Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families:

“In March 2000 California voters overwhelmingly approved a state law providing that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court recently reversed this vote of the people. On November 4, 2008, Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that will now restore the March 2000 definition of marriage approved by the voters.

“The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.

“A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.

“We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.”

Because “I believe that the current president of the Church, Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God,” I follow his divinely inspired direction. I make this active choice based on my faith in this principle.

In my Facebook friend’s own words, I believe Jesus has worried about this, and he has directed his prophet to teach his Church what to do about it.

The “Hikers” on the Path to the Tree of Life

Not all Latter-day Saints agree with this position. Those that don’t, like my friend above, remind me of the vision of the Tree of Life.

An account of this vision is found in 1 Nephi 8. In the vision, countless men and women are making their way on the straight and narrow path towards the Tree of Life. We learn that the Tree is a representation of the love of God, and our journey along the path is a representation of our journey through life.

Though the goal of most travelers is the Tree of Life, there are a number of “hindrances”  make their journey difficult. One of these obstacles is a dense mist that makes it impossible to see the path. This mist is a representation of the temptations of the devil. In order to find their way, travelers need hold fast to an iron rod which follows the path. This iron rod is a representation of the word of God.

Another of these obstacles is a great and spacious building. It is across a river, and overlooks the path on which the hikers travel. This building, a representation of the wisdom and pride of the world, is filled with people pointing at and mocking those on the path.

If you read the entire account (which I hope you do), you eventually find four types hikers. I’d like to focus on just two.

The first group of hikers follows the path. They cling to the iron rod to avoid losing their way in the mists of darkness, and eventually come to the Tree and partake of the fruit. It feels their souls with joy, and is sweet above all that is sweet.

The second group of hikers is similar to the first. They also cling to the iron rod, and they also come to the Tree and partake of the fruit. Yet after the have partaken of the fruit, they feel ashamed. The taunts of those in the great and spacious building make them feel embarrassed, and they eventually leave the Tree. Some join those in the building, and others drown in the river as they attempt to cross it on their way to the building.

What is the difference between the first group and the second group? They both persevere through their journey, they both taste the fruit, and they both hear the taunts of those mocking from the great and spacious building. Yet the members of the first group give no heed to the taunts.

Latter-day Saints who disregard the teachings of the president and other leaders of the Church are like the second group of hikers. Though they have personally tasted of the fruit of the Tree of Life, they lose focus and give heed to the wisdom of the world. Even if they make it to the great and spacious building, the end of that hindrance is clear – it falls, and great is the fall thereof.

Latter-day Saints and Proposition 8

Even though the principle of prophetic leadership is paramount in the rationale behind my choice, it is not the only factor. Instead of assaulting us as “religious fanatics,” become informed. It seems an appropriate duty of those who decry ignorance to not remain in ignorance themselves.

Keep in mind, becoming informed does not mean that you must agree with everything you learn. Still, it is important that you at least understand, whether or not you agree.

I’ve made it easier by providing hyperlinks below to resources you can use to lift yourselves out of ignorance. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, the author of many articles below, is especially suited to comment, as he has spent most of his life as an attorney, jurist, and legal professor.

Why not write on, or summarize this myself? First, it won’t stick unless you pay some price to learn the material. I’m not going to spoon feed you. And second, in the words of C. S. Lewis, “I got the impression that far more, and more talented, authors were already engaged in such controversial matters.” Elder Oaks, for example, is one of those more talented authors, and I commend his comments to you.

Same-Sex Attraction

  • Same-Gender Attraction – An interview with Church leaders Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman on same-gender attraction

Religious Freedom

  • Elder Oaks at BYU-Idaho – A speech given to students at BYU-I about the importance of religious freedom, and how Latter-day Saints should act in regard to Prop 8.
  • Elder Oaks at Chapman University School of Law – A speech given at Chapman University about how essential religious freedom is to our nation (you can watch a video of his address below)

Official Church Statements

Why I Love Jesus *and* Religion Part 1

Jefferson Bethke has recently launched himself into the spotlight because of a YouTube video in which he stars. The video has gone viral, with over 12 million views (pretty good, considering it’s been up less than a month). From the title, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” you can pretty much guess what it’s about.

I admire Bethke for taking a stance, and being a witness of his beliefs. Certainly standing for something means standing against something else – you can’t pick up one end of the stick without picking up another – and that takes courage.

That being said, there are some serious theological missteps in this video. I’ll admit, I do agree with some of what Bethke says; yet, most of his comments are representative of a popular (and dangerous) sub-cultural movement in Christianity, and as such I thought they merited closer examination. While I can admire Bethke for taking a stance, I cannot admire his theology (which he wraps up emotionally in rhymes, fancy direction, and moving music). Bethke wrests the scriptures to fit his meaning (2 Peter 3:16). His thesis, that Jesus came to abolish religion, is a wild claim that he fails to substantiate.

Did Jesus come to abolish religion? We’ll look at (Part 1) some important guiding principles to keep in mind while discussing the poem; (Part 2) some of my own thoughts; and (Part 3) some thoughts of others who have responded to this video.

Guiding Principles

  • Jefferson Bethke
  • A False Dichotomy
  • Two Lines of Communication
  • Love and Law

Jefferson Bethke

I don’t mean to slander Bethke at all. Any “dirt” I have on him is self-disclosed in the poem he wrote. Still, it’s important to look as closely as we can at the author in order to understand what he said.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he has a chip on his shoulder. A friend of mine, a minister at an evangelical church in California, told me,

“[This] is sort of a sub-culture for people who have been hurt by the ‘church’. If they’ve been hurt by the ‘church’, it automatically goes to this whole thought process of, ‘I love Jesus, I just don’t like the other people that love him’.”

Is Bethke someone who was hurt? Perhaps. One strong theme of his poem is against judgmental Christians. Bethke admits to have been addicted to pornography, having had premarital sex, and having done drugs. With that kind of behavior, it’s unfortunately not unlikely that Bethke ran into someone judgmental, someone who soured his ‘church’ experience. This souring comes through in so many of the lines of his poem.

Again, I must emphasize that don’t mean to put Bethke down; it seems he is doing a fantastic job overcoming his personal demons through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and in that I rejoice with him. Still, this view of Bethke’s likely experience can help us understand his poem better.

A False Dichotomy

false dichotomy is a logical fallacy where only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there is an acceptable gray area in between extremes. For example, consider this argument in favor of abortion:

“What is better – an unwanted, unloved child who is neglected, or a fetus that is rejected quickly and likely painlessly before birth?”

Can you see the fallacy? Clearly, there are many more choices than only the two presented.

What is the choice that Bethke leaves us with? Why, it’s that we side with either Jesus or Religion. He picks Jesus. But the problem, as with all false dichotomies, is that there are many choices beyond the two that he gives us.

Two Lines of Communication

A gem from Dallin H. Oaks comes from a General Conference talk about the two lines of communication we each have with God. He teaches,

“Our Heavenly Father has given His children two lines of communication with Him—what we may call the personal line and the priesthood line. All should understand and be guided by both of these essential lines of communication.”

The personal line Elder Oaks talks about is akin to how many think about “Jesus” or “relationship“, and the priesthood line is akin to “religion“. It’s true that clinging to just one or the other will be to our detriment, but it’s also true that both are essential to our salvation. Oaks concludes,

“We must use both the personal line and the priesthood line in proper balance to achieve the growth that is the purpose of mortal life. If personal religious practice relies too much on the personal line, individualism erases the importance of divine authorityIf personal religious practice relies too much on the priesthood line, individual growth suffers. The children of God need both lines to achieve their eternal destiny. The restored gospel teaches both, and the restored Church provides both.”

There is not a better summary of what happens when we focus too much on either “Jesus” or “Religion“.

Love and Law

Bethke stresses tolerance and condemns judgmental Christians, even asking rhetorically, “If Jesus came to your church, would they actually let him in?” The insinuation is that heartless religionists or legalists would keep out the very Savior they presume to worship, just as they keep out the other dregs of society.

Is this true? Of course not. But the question can still be asked, what is the balance between tolerance and love for our fellowman, and adherence to the gospel that the Savior taught? In another General Conference, Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk that helps answer this question. He says,

“The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God’s laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love…. If a person understands the teachings of Jesus, he or she cannot reasonably conclude that our loving Heavenly Father or His divine Son believes that Their love supersedes Their commandments.”

Elder Oaks then gives us some examples of this principle. Consider the following:

  • When Jesus began His ministry, His first message was repentance.
  • When He exercised loving mercy by not condemning the woman taken in adultery, He nevertheless told her, “Go, and sin no more.”
  • Jesus taught, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

As with the principle regarding two lines of communication, balance is important between “love” and “law”, between understanding the frailty of men and adhering to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Tolerance in the name of the love of God does not trump the importance of keeping the commandments and inviting others to do the same, just as the mistakes of others does not trump our duty to reach out to them in love.

“Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” Transcript

What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?
What if I told you voting Republican really wasn’t His mission?
What if I told you “Republican” doesn’t automatically mean “Christian”?
And [what if I told you that] just because you call some people “blind” doesn’t automatically give you vision?

I mean, if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?
Why does [religion] build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?
Tells single moms God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce?

But in the Old Testament God actually calls religious people whores

Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice
[They] Tend to ridicule God’s people – they did it to John the Baptist
They can’t fix their problems, and so they just mask it
Not realizing religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket

See, the problem with religion is it never gets to the core
It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores
Like, let’s dress up the outside, make it look nice and neat
But it’s funny, that’s what they used to do to mummies while the corpse rots underneath

Now, I ain’t judging, I’m just saying, quit putting on a fake look
Cause there’s a problem if people only know you’re Christian by your Facebook
I mean, in every other aspect of life you know that logic’s unworthy
It’s like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey

See, this was me too, but no one seemed to be on to me
Acting like a church kid, while addicted to pornography
See, on Sunday I’d go to church but on Saturday getting faded
Acting if I was simply created to just have sex and get wasted

See, I spent my whole life building this facade of neatness
But now that I know Jesus I boast in my weakness
Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean
It’s not a museum for good people; it’s a hospital for the broken

Which means I don’t have to hide my failure, I don’t have to hide my sin
‘Cause it doesn’t depend on me – it depends on Him
See, because when I was God’s enemy I was certainly not a fan
He looked down and said I want that man

Which is why Jesus hated religion, and for it he called them fools
Don’t you see so much better than following some rules?
Now let me clarify: I love the church, I love the Bible, and yes, I believe in sin
But if Jesus came to your church, would they actually let him in?

See, remember he was called a glutton and a drunkard by religious men
But the son of God never supports self-righteousness – not now, not then
Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrum’s

See, one’s the work of God, but one’s a man made invention
See, one is the cure, but the other’s the infection
See, because religion says “Do”, Jesus says “Done”
Religion says “Slave”, Jesus says “Son”

Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see
And that’s why religion and Jesus are two different clans
Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man

Which is why salvation is freely mine, and forgivemess is my own
Not based on my merits, but Jesus’ obedience alone
Because he took the crown of thorns, and the blood dripped down his face
He took what we all deserve – I guess that’s why they call it grace

And while being murdered, he yelled “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Because when he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of you
And he absorbed all your sin and he buried it in the tomb
Which is why I’m kneeling at the cross saying “Come on, there’s room”

So for religion, I hate it; in fact I literally resent it
Because when Jesus said “It is finished,” I believe he meant it

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5)

The Invention of Lying Appendix

See the original post here. Because I changed from one blog to another, below are the comments I did not want to lose.

First Comment – stsixtus@gmail.com

Despite your claim, some contradictions set forth in Christianity (or any other religion) are never resolved. This is where the element of faith comes in. In fact, it was a result of our questioning of authority (“really [thinking] about things”) that led to atheism in the first place.

That being said, are you really so simple as to believe a comedian did not understand the underlying tenets of Christianity? Is it not also possible that he willfully exploited obvious contradictions for the purposes of entertainment and humor? If that latter is possible, aren’t you being too simple minded or lazy to “figure out” his intent? Instead, it would appear as though you vilify Gervais as anti-Christian in order to garner the support of your largely – devout – Christian readers. It is a shame that very few of them will see your charade as just as farcical as Gervais’s “insane claims.”

I hope you see my comments as no more (or less) offensive than your own attack on Ricky Gervais and atheism.

My Response

I’m happy to respond to a few mistakes in your comment. I hope that if you would like further comments approved that you would edit more carefully your remarks.

First, there is a difference between a contradiction and an unanswered question. Contradictions are (go figure) contradictory, while unanswered questions are not. Christianity has many unanswered questions. For some, those questions are so important that they cannot believe. Others have faith that those questions will be answered in time. Either way, it doesn’t mean those questions are contradictory.

As an aside, you could still argue that there are contradictions in Christianity, but you’d have to get into them one by one because generally there are reasonable explanations. As I said above, the explanations may not be reasonable enough for some, and that’s why they do not to believe. This is just fine – I don’t need what’s reasonable for me to be reasonable for everyone else – but you still need to make this distinction if you want to sound more informed and less troll-like.

Second, asking questions is good and does not always lead to atheism. I mention in my post that Christianity supports active faith as opposed to blind faith. Many ask questions and, as a result, have a much more active belief. Others ask questions and find themselves lacking. Again, it’s all about how what is reasonable for some is not reasonable for others.

Third, regarding my “simple” assumption about Gervais – what he said was inaccurate, so there are really only two conclusions. One, he could be lazy. Perhaps he didn’t do his research, or he didn’t let his theories cook long enough, or he misunderstands Christianity, or he’s just plain dumb. Two, he could be dishonest. Perhaps he knowingly portrayed inaccuracies in order to add strength to his position, something which is much different than “willfully exploit[ing] obvious contradictions” (I refer to this practice in my post as the “straw man” fallacy). Personally, I don’t think it matters which conclusion is right. What he said is still inaccurate, and you can read why in my post.

Besides, being a comedian does not qualify him to speak on anything. It’s very possible that “a comedian” could misunderstand or misinterpret “the underlying tenants of Christianity.” He’s not a theist. He’s an actor.

Fourth, I answer your objection about it being “just for entertainment and humor” at the beginning of my post where I talk about satire.

Fifth, my attack is not on a belief system (including atheism), or even Gervais as a person, although he should make sure his position is based on accurate fact and not Christian caricatures. The attack is on what he supposes Christianity to be, as I discuss in my post.

Finally, many people see my beliefs as a “collection of lies.” We often do this to anyone who believes different than us. If we are ever going to be effective at understanding each other, we need to recognize that what we consider as unreasonable is quite reasonable for another. What they believe in is not a lie, i.e. an intentionally misleading falsity– it’s just something we don’t accept. The sooner we stop this definitional slandering, and stop categorizing the beliefs of others as “lies,” the sooner we can all have productive, meaningful conversations with each other.

Second Comment – martinchnz1@gmail.com

I like believing in a God who “allows” 22000 children to die everyday. It makes me happy to know he’s lazy too. It’s cool because it’s all their “plan” and he’s just so mysterious.

Why don’t you turn your cheek at all his stabs at christianity instead of critisizing. It’s not very nice to be so mean about his ability to tickle your funny bone, you’re supposed to love all of your fellow people and that is what the father has written… In his amazing book, which was compiled by the almighty pagan emperor Constantine with the 4 gospels out of a couple hundred that he decided were best. Constantine must have just been the “vessel” for God to choose which gospels to include…. yay. I love being such a “non-blind” faithee.

Good for you snuggles. Enjoy

My Response

Snuggles? Anyway…

First, if you are really concerned about the supposed contradiction between evil (in the form of 22,000 children dying every day, or some other form) and the existence of a kind God, I invite you to read my post on the problem of evil. You can find the first of three parts here.

Second, as for turning my cheek to the attacks of others on my belief, that’s just silly. I don’t think it’s best to go out looking for a fight, but I won’t allow any uncontested slam dunks against things which I believe. Besides, as part of the covenant I made when I chose to follow the Savior I promised to stand as a witness (Mosiah 18:9; see also verses 8 – 11). Standing as a witness of Jesus Christ includes correcting false ideas propagated by others.

And in relation to that, I didn’t intend to be mean. I did intend, though, to be blunt, and Gervais should have been more responsible with the claims he made.

Third, you make a common mistake regarding the relationship of “love” and “allowance.” I don’t have time to go over it here in a comment, but if you’re interested in learning more I invite you to read a sermon entitled “Love and Law” by Dallin H. Oaks about this relationship here.

Fourth, your Bible history is a bit rusty, but your point is well taken. If you’re interested in learning what Mormon’s think about how the Church was influenced after the death of the apostles, see here.

Clearly, what is reasonable for me is not reasonable for you. That’s just fine. Perhaps as you learn more and become better acquainted with more accurate principles regarding the concepts you’ve brought up, my position will become more understandable.