Tag Archives: Eternal Marriage

Cherry Blossom Faith

It’s beautiful in Washington state right now. Just last weekend, my family and I visited the Quad at the University of Washington, where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. The winters here are cold and dark – in December, the sun doesn’t rise until 8am and sets as early as 4:30pm – so it’s refreshing to see color and vibrancy return as we meander into spring.

That beauty was offset by some difficult news. I say difficult, because while it doesn’t really affect me directly now, it’s indicative of a culture shift that will impact me in a big way, sooner or later. Continue reading Cherry Blossom Faith

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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

Broadening My Horizons

Posts may slow down a little in a week or two. I usually them scheduled a few days in advance, just in case I get busy with something, but recent personal events may make me busier than usual!

Check out my personal blog to see:

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Turn It Off

All the posts in this series.

Go back to “Turn It Off”.

A Curable Curse
“So just realize you have a curable curse”

The Church certainly does not believe that homosexuality is “curable,” or, as shown in the section above, a “curse”.

Elder Wickman said,

“From the standpoint of a parent counseling a person, or a Church leader counseling a person, or a person looking at his or her same-gender attraction from the standpoint of ‘What can I do about it here that’s in keeping with gospel teachings?’ the clinical side of it is not what matters most. What matters most is recognition that ‘I have my own will. I have my own agency. I have the power within myself to control what I do.’”

He continued that he’s aware of some cases in which there has been progress in changing sexual orientation, and others where there hasn’t been. Regardless, that’s not where the focus is for the Church, which has left such things to medical doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists.  The focus of the Church is in, as mentioned earlier, remaining worthy and keeping commandments and covenants.

As a caution, Elder Oaks added this:

“The aversive therapies that have been used in connection with same-sex attraction have contained some serious abuses that have been recognized over time within the professions…. We are conscious that there are abuses and we don’t accept responsibility for those abuses. Even though they are addressed at helping people we would like to see helped, we can’t endorse every kind of technique that’s been used.”

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Turn It Off

All the posts in this series.

Go back to “Turn It Off”.

Being Gay is Bad
“Being gay is bad”

President Hinckley has said, in reference to people who have same-sex attraction,

“We love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church.”

There is a distinction between the value of a behavior and the value of the individual. Homosexual behavior, we believe, is sinful and wrong. Yet this does not mean that the individual is “bad”. In fact, “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:10).

While some consider same-gender attraction to be the defining fact of their existence, we can be many things. We can define ourselves as a Texan, or a US Marine, or a red-head, or a good basketball player. The ultimate defining characteristic is that we are children of God with a divine destiny, and that characteristic is far from “bad”.

Yet this love for those who experience same-gender attraction does not extend to tolerance of this behavior. I repeat the statement released by First Presidency:

“We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives, but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord.”

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Turn It Off

All the posts in this series.

Go back to “Turn It Off”.

Temptation is Not a Sin
“I think its okay that your having gay thoughts, just so long as you never act on them.”

When Elder Price gives the above encouragement to the homosexual Elder McKinley, it’s meant to come off as trite and silly to the audience. While it is true that the LDS Church takes this position, in the context of the song it acts as a straw man, a distorted and easily battered form of an otherwise rational argument.

Elder Oaks said this in relation to temptation and sin:

“The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted….

“Everyone has some challenges they have to struggle with. You’ve described a particular kind of challenge that is very vexing. It is common in our society and it has also become politicized. But it’s only one of a host of challenges men and women have to struggle with, and I just encourage you to seek the help of the Savior to resist temptation and to refrain from behavior that would cause you to have to repent or to have your Church membership called into question.”

His meaning, and the rationale behind what Elder Price has said, is that it’s completely appropriate to be tempted. That is part of the mortal condition. The expectation, though, just as it is with any other temptation, is that we resist embracing that temptation and acting on it.

That can be a seemingly cold reality. To answer this objection, Elder Oaks quoted a statement released by LDS Church leaders:

“We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives, but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord.”

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Turn It Off

All the posts in this series.

Go back to “Turn It Off”.

Heavenly Father’s Plan
“Boys should be with girls, that’s Heavenly Father’s plan”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes no qualms about this. The first words in The Family: A Proclamation to the world are,

“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.”

Similarly, the closing words are,

“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.”

Heavenly Father’s plan centers on families, and marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman.

But that’s not to say that some of the blessings of eternity are closed to those with homosexual tendencies. The blessings of exhalation and eternal life that Heavenly Father holds out to all of his children apply to those that keep themselves worthy, stay true to gospel commandments, and keep the covenants they make. Every blessing – including eternal marriage – is and will be theirs in due course.

But Elder Oaks emphasized,

“There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities.”

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Turn It Off

All the posts in this series.

Go back to “Turn It Off”.

Families and the Gospel
“When I was young my dad would treat my mom real bad”

Latter-day Saint homes are certainly not perfect. Mine suffered from it’s own form of ordinary dysfunction (I can recall my own father saying, somewhat like Elder McKinley’s dad, “Stop crying or I’ll give you a something to cry about”). Still, we try to live to the standard set up in The Family: A Proclamation to the World:

“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.”

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Turn It Off

All the posts in this series.

Go back to “Turn It Off”.

Blind Faith
“When you start to get confused because of thoughts in your head,
Don’t feel those feelings! Hold them in instead.
Turn it off…

(If you feel the same)
You didn’t pretend hard enough”

This song’s main theme plays on the stereotype that Latter-day Saints suppress doubts or concerns, and “pretend” their way into faithful activity in the Church, or into blissful ignorance. Much like Korihor of old accused, these new detractors tell us that our attitudes are “the effect of a frenzied mind; and this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so” (Alma 30:16).

Our attitude towards faith could be summarized by N. Eldon Tanner, who 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.”

Pretending is neither healthy or wise, and no one rooting themselves in imaginary ground will be able to withstand the hardships borne of being an active follower of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 13:1-23).

To learn more about what LDS leaders have said of blind faith through the years, see here.

Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical – Turn It Off

For a list of all the posts in this series, see here.

In the posts relating to this song, I’ll be referencing one source quite often. It’s an interview from 2006. Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickman, both in Church leadership, answer a number of questions on the Church’s position regarding homosexuality and homosexual behavior. To those interested in the Church’s position, it’s worth reading in it’s entirety. All the quotes below from Elder Oaks or Elder Wickman come from that interview.

Background

Mafala’s daughter, Nabulungi, shows Elder Price and Elder Cunningham to their living quarters. Here they meet other missionaries serving in the area. The District Leader, Elder McKinley, proceeds to teach them how to deal with the negative and upsetting feelings caused by their surroundings and Mormon upbringing.

Full Lyrics – “Turn it Off”

Elder McKinley: I got a feeling that you could be feeling,
A whole lot better then you feel today
You say you got a problem; well, that’s no problem,
It’s super easy not to feel that way!

When you start to get confused because of thoughts in your head,
Don’t feel those feelings! Hold them in instead

Turn it off
Like a light switch
Just go click!
It’s a cool little Mormon trick!
We do it all the time
When your feeling certain feels that just don’t seem right
Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light

And turn ’em off,
Like a light switch
Just go bap!
Really whats so hard about that?
Turn it off!

When I was young my dad
Would treat my mom real bad

Every time the Utah Jazz would loose
He’d start a’ drinking
And I’d start a thinking
How I’m gonna keep my mom from getting abused.

I’d see her all scared and my soul was dying
My dad would say to me, “Now don’t you dare start crying.”

Turn it off,
Like a light switch
Just go click!
It’s our nifty little Mormon trick!
Turn it off!

My sister was a dancer
But she got cancer
The doctor said she still had two months more
I thought she had time
So I got in line
For the new iPhone at the Apple Store

She lay there dying with my father and mother
Her very last words were, “Where is my brother?”

Turn it off!
Yeah!
Bid those sad feelings adieu!
The fear I might get cancer, too

When I was in fifth grade
I had a friend, Steve Blade
He and I were close as two friend could be
One thing led to another
And soon I would discover
I was having really strange feelings for Steve

I thought about us, on a deserted island
We’d swim naked in the sea, and then he’d try and…

WOAH!

Turn if off
Like a light switch
There its gone! (Good for you!)
My hetero side just won!
I’m all better now
Boys should be with girls, that’s Heavenly Father’s plan
So if you ever feel you rather be with a man,
Turn it off.

Elder Price: Well Elder McKinley, I think its okay that your having gay thoughts, just so long as you never act upon them.

Elder McKinley: No, because then your just keeping it down,
Like a dimmer switch on low (On low!)
Thinking nobody needs to know! (Uh oh!)
But that’s not true!
Being gay is bad, but lying is worse,
So just realize you have a curable curse,
And turn it off! 

Now how do you feel!

Elder Price: The same

Elder McKinley: Then you only got yourself to blame,
You didn’t pretend hard enough,
Imagine that your brain is made of tiny boxes,
And find the box that’s gay and CRUSH IT!

Okay?

Elder Price: No, no, I’m not having gay thoughts.

Elder Cunningham: Alright!  It worked!

All: Turn it off, turn it off
Like a light switch
Just go click! (Click click!)
What a cool little Mormon trick! (Trick trick!)
We do it all the time!

Elder McKinley: When your feeling certain feelings that just don’t seem right!
Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light!
Turn it off!
Like a light switch
Shut it off!
Now he isn’t gay anymore!
Turn it off!