Tag Archives: Facebook

“This is for the Record”

Geez Cousin you are super into this whole thing.”

I had posted a link to Kate Kelly’s excommunication letter, released by Ordain Women, on Facebook. I thought that it provided an interesting counter to some of the claims that Kelly has made about the process she has gone through. It wasn’t the first time I’d posted or written about the recent controversy, either: Continue reading “This is for the Record”

My Thoughts on Today’s Supreme Court Review

Yesterday, you might not have known what was on the Supreme Court’s docket for today.

Today, you know.

You know because you probably have a Facebook account (1 billion of us do, as of October 2012) and your news feed was likely filled up by activists and constitutional “experts” on both sides of the argument, all commenting on news coming out of the Supreme Court.

My Anecdotal Observations of Fellow Latter-day Saints

I’ve written before on the subject of so-called same sex marriage, but I feel like I can contribute to the conversation in one way tonight. I’d like to talk about some of my observations of the LDS community. Certainly I don’t have a good view of all Latter-day Saints, so my observations will be little more than anecdotal. Still, that doesn’t make them invalid. I, at least, think that they’ll be worth considering.

A Diverse Body with An Important Foundation 

We Latter-day Saints are a fairly diverse group of people. You might not think it, getting pop culture hints from “The Book of Mormon” musical and Big Love, but Latter-day Saints are a 14 million member strong group who live all over the earth and have varied levels of activity and belief, and a wide range of personalities, opinions, and mannerisms.

I’ve mused before about what, among such a diverse group of individuals, unites us, and you can read that post for those thoughts. Since then, Elder Robert D. Hales spoke in General Conference about “Being a More Christian Christian”. His criteria for what it means to be Christian (and I think “Christian” here is interchangeable with “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saint”, as will be clear in a moment) is also a fine study about what should be the same among Latter-day Saints. A Latter-day Saint is:

    • Someone who follows the gospel pattern of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (paragraphs 2 – 4).
    • Someone who believes that God has followed a pattern of calling prophets to teach His children, and that this pattern has continued in our day with Joseph Smith and his successors (paragraph 5).
    • Someone who believes in the Godhead as taught in the scriptures and by modern prophets. This belief regarding the nature of God is at odds with Trinitarian theology (paragraph 6).

There is quite a bit in there that mainstream Christianity would find objectionable, but that should suggest to us that when Elder Hales asks, “With these doctrines as the foundations of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we (Latter-day Saints) are Christian?”, he’s not comparing Latter-day Saints to modern, mainstream, creedal Christianity as much as he’s comparing Latter-day Saints to biblical Christianity.

But that’s a talk for another day and another post.

The point is that Elder Hales highlights a belief in the principle of prophets and a testimony that the leaders of the Mormon Church are the modern-day equivalents of  Peter, Moses, or Paul. That’s not an idle statement to make or believe in. Paul wrote to new church members of his day,

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:19-20).

Distance from Modern Prophets

Whether or not you’re familiar with the LDS position on the issue of so-called same-sex marriage, consider these posts from some of my Latter-day Saint Facebook friends:

“Hopefully today is the first step towards increasing equality in our nation.”

“Real equality would be government that is not in charge of marriage.”

“taking agency away from a group of people is what satan (sic) wants…..”

And many of them posted graphics, like these:

Posts like these really confuse me. They confuse me because, for example, the leadership of our Church said just today:

Today the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments regarding the definition of marriage in this country.

We firmly support the divinely appointed definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman because it is the single most important institution for strengthening children, families, and society.

We hope the court will agree, and we look forward to the decision on this important matter.

That’s not even the least of all they’ve said, but it suffices for this post. It’s not difficult for the sincere student to learn more about the LDS position (try here, at Mormons and Gays, which then links to other legitimate sources at the bottom of the page). This position is in direct conflict with many of the sentiments and graphics above.

Something seems off….

A Story with a Moral – Faithful Obedience

I’m reminded of the story of Martin Harris and the lost 116 pages. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, here is a refresher.

Joseph Smith began translating the Book of Mormon plates in the late 1820s. He had a scant education, and enlisted the help of Martin Harris, a local of Palmyra, New York, to act as scribe. Harris’ help was invaluable – not only was Harris a respected member of the community, but he also gave significant resources to help finance the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon.

By the middle of 1828, Joseph had dictated 116 pages to Harris. Unfortunately, Harris’ relationship with his wife was tenuous at the time. Additionally, she was suspicious of Joseph, and opposed to the resources her husband was devoting to Joseph’s cause. Harris asked Joseph if he could take the manuscript home to show his wife. He thought this would help encourage her support and help heal some of their strained relationship.

Joseph asked the Lord if Harris could take the manuscript. The Lord refused. Still, Harris pressured Joseph to ask a second time. Again, the Lord refused. Harris pressured Joseph once more, and the Lord agreed to let him take the manuscript as long as he showed it to only a few specified family members.

Tragically, Harris lost the 116 pages of the manuscript. They were never recovered, and Joseph was commanded not to re-translate those pages (the thieves who had stolen them had changed the words so that, were Joseph to re-translate, the two versions would not agree – see Doctrine and Covenants 10).

The Lord, with his omniscient foresight, had prepared for this loss. He told Nephi, one of the primary authors of the Book of Mormon, to make two sets of records covering the same time period.

And the reason for making two sets of records? Nephi didn’t have a clue. He tells us,

“Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.

“But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men” (see 1 Nephi 9).

Mormon, who almost 1,000 years later would be inspired to include Nephi’s record in concert with his abridgment, would write,

“And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (see Words of Mormon 1:3-7).

Joseph continued to translate, but from this additional record instead of the material he’d previously translated. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said,

“We got back more than we lost. And it was known from the beginning that it would be so.”

For more on that story, you can also read my post, “God’s Divine Backup Plan”.

Some Principles to Follow

Often when we hear this story, we focus on Martin Harris and Joseph Smith. There’s nothing wrong with this – there’s an important lesson to be learned from them. But I’d like to focus on two different individuals. I’d like to focus on Nephi and Mormon, and particularly Nephi.

Nephi, as we saw, was commanded to make a second record detailing the same period he’d just covered. Keep in mind that this is an age before copy-and-paste, before xerox, before the printing press. Nephi was making records on metal plates while traveling as a nomad through uninhabited Arabia and (likely) South America. That would have been extremely arduous and tedious. Yet he did it.

Nephi did this, all without (as far as we know) ever knowing why. He never received any indication of what the Lord’s “wise purpose” was, what fruit would be born from his laborious seed planting. Not even Mormon, who spent his life protecting and abridging these records, ever knew the end from the beginning in regards to these records. Yet they obeyed. And because they obeyed, we have the Book of Mormon today, complete with the powerful testimony of early Nephite prophets.

What’s the connection for Latter-day Saints to same-sex marriage?

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.

Regardless of the other issues at work here – and make no mistake, this is a highly complex and controversial issue – the Church leaders have been very clear about what is expected of faithful Latter-day Saints. After that, the decision is ours to decide which way we face.

The choice is, of course, ours to make. But let’s make no mistake about what’s happening when we follow personal whims, lean on political correctness, or disregard prophetic counsel. Perhaps President Brigham Young said it best:

“You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell.”

Stand with the prophets, even if you don’t understand why. You may never understand – we learn that much from Nephi and Mormon – but you can have faith that the Lord knows what he’s doing.

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