Tag Archives: Homosexuality

A Harmful Address from General Conference

I like to explore the blogosphere after General Conference ends. I’m interested in the reactions that others have to the words of the Church leaders, men who I consider to be prophets, seers, and revelators. This helps me to think more critically about what I’ve heard, which in turn builds my testimony in what they’ve said.

One particular post caught my eye. A marriage and family therapist, and member of the LDS Church, wrote a post on the Saturday morning session of General Conference, dividing each speaker’s comments into (potentially) three sections:

  • Messages I Found to be Healthy and Uplifting
  • Messages I Found to be Needing of Further Nuance/Discussion
  • Messages I Found to be Harmful

The first two sections aren’t anything special – this blog, for example, is a place where I often add my own nuance and discussion (from my perspective, of course) to the words of prophets. That third section, though, piqued my interest, perhaps because it’s an idea that is so foreign to me – it’s a short walk from “harmful” to “dismissible,” and that concerns me ever so slightly.

In the interest of adding to the dialogue, I’d like to look at the “harmful” portions identified by this blogger in Jeffrey R. Holland’s address. Continue reading A Harmful Address from General Conference

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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

Polygamy, Priesthood, and Prop 8 – a FAQ

This is where the alliteration stops. I promise.

To return to my Mormonism/Same-Sex Marriage hub, go here.

An Understandable Connection

Many people have (understandably) drawn a connection between the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage and past positions on priesthood or polygamy (that alliteration wasn’t even on purpose). In essence, they’re saying this:

The Mormon Church used to practice polygamy, and now it doesn’t. The Mormon Church used to restrict priesthood ordination among blacks, and now it doesn’t. The Mormon Church is currently opposed to same-sex marriage – someday, it won’t be.

Could this be the case? I can’t say for sure. Still, I’m fairly confident that the Mormon Church’s position on same-sex marriage, for better or worse, will not be changing. This FAQ is meant to explain why.

Of course, these are my own answers. I’ve yet to hold any position of import in the Church, so take them for what they’re worth, and please excuse any error in them. I don’t presume, and never have, to speak for the Church. Continue reading Polygamy, Priesthood, and Prop 8 – a FAQ

The Five Things Mormons Won’t Tell You About Same-Sex Marriage

So, I have a confession to make. The title of this post is completely misleading. It will talk a fair amount about Mormonism, and a fair amount about so-called same-sex marriage, but I’m not planning to reveal five things, or ten things, or any specific number of things that Mormons won’t tell you (as if there were any to begin with – usually, you can’t get a Mormon to shut up!).

Rather, this post is meant to act as a hub. I’ve written about Mormonism and same-sex marriage from time to time, and the recent ruling in Mormon Land (read: Utah) made me think that this might be a good time to organize. Till now, my posts have been largely reactionary and haphazard. My goal now is to fix that to some degree. Continue reading The Five Things Mormons Won’t Tell You About Same-Sex Marriage

“I am the True Vine”

You might have heard that a young Latter-day Saint was barred from missionary service for his views on homosexuality and so-called same-sex marriage.

There are two things you can be fairly confident of at this point. The first is that there is almost certainly more to the story. The second is that, of course, I have something to say about it. Continue reading “I am the True Vine”

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.

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.

“I Wish You Could Open Your Mind”

Gelett Burgess said,

“If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.”

This post is about checking our views, and how we discard old opinions and acquire new ones. In it I mention controversial subjects, including the 2008 financial crisis and Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. Make not mistake, this post is not about fiscal politics or social issues or Republicans and Democrats. I only ask that, should you disagree with my positions on these controversial subjects, you look past your disagreement to the principles I’m trying to demonstrate with real-life examples.

Where does this fit in a religious blog like this? We’ll see if I can pull it all together at the end.

Evil Republicans and the 2008 Financial Crisis

Mitt Romney recently announced that his VP running mate will be Paul Ryan. The Obama-nation has already started pounding the pavement in their political mission to bury him. An ad released the same day as the announcement ends with a condemnation of Ryan for supporting “the top-down policies that crashed our economy.”

(Before I continue – in the interest of full-disclosure, I myself am a Conservative.)

I know, I know, this is politics. I can’t really expect better than for each side to spin our collective woes for their own good. Still, this drives me nuts. Do you know why?

Because the 2008 meltdown had far less to do with partisan politics and far more to do with the pesky habit mankind has of acting in our own self-interest.

It’s not my intent to detail the issues here. If you want to delve into the quagmire that is sub-prime mortgages, credit-default swaps, systemic risk (“too big to fail”), and moral hazard, that fringe right-wing organization PBS did an outstanding piece on the cause of the financial crisis. I also enjoyed this (significantly) shorter YouTube video on the crisis.

But the moral of the story is that the crisis was not the result of “top-down policies,” nor was it Romney’s or Ryan’s fault. It’s as simple as powerful company leaders making risky bets than ended up not paying off.

“I Wish You Could Open Your Mind”

I felt passionately enough about the subject that I posted on Facebook about it, and shared the two links above. That day, I received the following message:

“I would be laughing my head off if you were on my Facebook page and saw some of the posts from friends and family on the “other side of the aisle”….. Especially from women who believe so strongly that Mitt and Paul… your “guys”… are so against what they believe to be their “rights”…. I wish you could at least open your mind and see the reasons other people believe what they do.

“I personally welcome reading your posts to get the “right wing” perspective because it helps me to understand and learn. I wonder if you have any friends or family that do not agree with your ideas and beliefs. It is so good to think “outside the box”… just for intellectual challenges. Please do not be upset with me for expressing myself. Again… I admire your passion and your ability to express it. Lots of love…. A Democrat for Life.”

Does anyone else see the irony in having the self-proclaimed “Democrat for Life” exhort me to open my mind and think outside the box?

But that’s beside the point. What concerns me more is that when I post something almost completely unpartisan (whether the catalyst behind posting was partisan or not is irrelevant), it is largely ignored because it does not jive with the partisan message coming out of the Left – that Romney and Ryan (and Romney’s kind – i.e. bankers – as if that should have any bearing on his presidential fitness) are to blame for the financial meltdown.

I repeat myself – my rational, non-political message backed in logic and data was completely ignored, even dismissed, because Obama-ites said that the Republican candidates were to blame.

That’s disconcerting.

Self-Awareness and Chick-Fil-A

What of the suggestion that I need to open my mind?

For the record, I actually try very hard to check my opinions. I ask myself if the thoughts I run so quickly to are right and ethical, if they are backed by any kind of empirical data or if they are simply born out of tradition, and if there is not a fuller, more accurate view I could embrace.

I’ll even give you an example.

A few weeks ago was Chick-Fil-A appreciation day. For those who live under rocks, the short story is this.

  • Chick-Fil-A’s CEO, Dan Cathy, is Christian, and the chain is known for being closed on Sunday in observance of the Christian Sabbath.
  • Cathy was asked, for a Christian publication, what his view on marriage was. He said that he favored traditional marriage.
  • Chick-Fil-A got some heat from the political left for this “hate”
  • Mike Hucabee suggested that conservatives rally behind the restaurant and eat there on a specific day to show support

Thus Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day was born.

But Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day was not a day only for friends to voice their support, but for detractors to voice their discontentment. One such detractor was Adam Smith, who went through the drive through and badgered a young girl working at the window. He even video-taped himself and posted the video to YouTube.

He was subsequently fired.

My first thought was, “What a jack a**, he got what he had coming.” I cheered a little inside.

But then I thought about it.

Chick-Fil-A was getting heat because Cathy had exercised his right to free speech. The massive support for the restaurant was not, as some might have assumed, at all about gay-marriage. It was about how important free speech is. Scare tactics and bullying are despicable attempts to stifle that right.

Yet here I was, celebrating the termination of Smith’s employment, a termination that was the direct result of Smith exercising his right to free speech. He really was an a** to that young girl, but since when has niceness ever been a standard for exercising free speech? Yet here I was, rejoicing.

Double standard much?

Then again, liberals were so vehement in their condemnation of the way that Cathy shared his opinion. Certainly they must rejoice that similar action was taken against such an insensitive jerk! It doesn’t matter that they likely agreed with him, right? (This is sarcasm, and hopefully you see my point).

Just dessert’s much?

And so here I stand, still undecided about how I feel regarding Smith’s firing. There are much deeper ethical issues at work here beyond the firing of someone who I fundamentally disagree with.

How many of you put that much thought into the situation?

Perhaps you didn’t, and that’s alright. We can’t examine so closely every event we are privy to. This just happened to be one that I closely examined. Hopefully there is something similarly recent that you can point to as a time you checked your own opinions, and searched for a fuller truth beyond your own paradigms.

Bringing It Together

So now here we are, with me having to pull it all together and relate it to religion. Why does this matter?

First, in answering the question of how we can keep an open mind, I offer that the best solution is to ask “why”. We are all influenced by everything around us, and often without our conscious consent. It is so beneficial to ask ourselves, for example,

  • “Why do I believe that Paul Ryan was at least partly responsible for the financial meltdown?”
  • “Why is it just that Adam Smith be fired for his comments?”

You may find that, after examining your reasons, you still believe that it was completely just that Smith be fired. On the other hand, you may find that the only reason you believe Ryan to be responsible for the meltdown is because Obama said so. Either way, you’ve come to a place where it’s possible to have an open mind because you are now conscious of the reasons behind your support.

Can we ask this of religious matters? Of course! For example,

  • “Why am I Christian?”
  • “Why am I Mormon?”
  • “Why do I believe in The Book of Mormon?”
  • “Why do I support traditional marriage? Why do I believe that it’s important to legislate my support of traditional marriage?”

These, and hundreds of other questions that you could ask, allow you to have an active faith.

Second, in answering the question of how we can reach out to people when they so often reject ideas that don’t conform to their worldview, I offer that this is why it is so important to make sure that the Spirit is involved. Cognitive dissonance is a tremendous obstacle to overcome, and it’s just one of many! We can’t have any expectation of success when we share the gospel if the Spirit is not present. The Spirit is one of the best ways to reach beyond the walls that people naturally surround themselves with.

Those are my thoughts. I encourage you to join the conversation. What do you think of all this – open minds, cognitive dissonance, asking “why?”, and teaching with the Spirit?

Quitting Mormonism

There has been a recent buzz about a group of Latter-day Saints who decided to “declare their independence” from Mormonism. The Salt Lake Tribune writes about it here.

I can echo the words of LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy, who said,

“We love and respect every member of the church. People make their own decisions about the direction they will follow in life. While there are very few who take this action, it is sad to see someone choose to leave. We wish them well.”

Still, I’m not sure I can respect what they’re doing as they climb Ensign Peak carrying signs that say things like “Finally ExMormon,” “Research the Church,” and “Transcend Mormonism”. Even though they argue that their goal is not to conquer the Church, this behavior suggests otherwise.

And what is behind this “mass” exodus (some 120 of the almost 14 million Latter-day Saints)?

  • Issues with the “timeline of events laid out in the Book of Mormon” (whatever that means.
  • The LDS stance on homosexuality
  • Issues with Joseph Smith
  • The LDS Church’s short-lived interest in forged documents from Mark Hofmann

These, and other issues like them (different accounts of the First vision, Joseph Smith’s polygamy, and other anti-Mormon drivel), have been addressed by LDS scholars time and time again. If some are not satisfied with these answers, that is fine – as Purdy says, “People make their own decisions about the direction they will follow in life”.

People with purely philosophical differences with Mormonism, though, do not band together and hike a mountain carrying signs, or write blog posts like this. I, for example, don’t align 100% philosophically with Buddhism, and yet I have not (yet) climbed atop locations with religious significance to Buddhists carrying signs decrying their beliefs.

There are deeper things here.

Another of the reasons behind one person’s “resignation” was the money spent by the LDS Church on the City Creek Center mall. For an example of a retort to this “What would Jesus build?” criticism, see here. Just as with all the other claims, there are answers out there for those who want to find them.

But for those uninterested in knowing whether or not the Book of Mormon is true or Joseph Smith was God’s prophet, and knowing it from God, those answers are little more than pearls before swine. They’ll have to overcome their deeper issues first.

While we can’t know for sure, I suspect that one day these people will feel as Lyman Johnson once did. To the Twelve Apostles he said,

“If I could believe ‘Mormonism’ as I did when I traveled with you and preached, if I possessed the world I would give it. I would give anything, I would suffer my right hand to be cut off, if I could believe it again. Then I was full of joy and gladness. My dreams were pleasant. When I awoke in the morning my spirit was cheerful. I was happy by day and by night, full of peace and joy and thanksgiving. But now it is darkness, pain, sorrow, misery in the extreme. I have never since seen a happy moment.

But again, with Purdy and the leadership of the Church, I wish them well once their 15 minutes of fame has come and gone.

The “Enemies” of My Church

The Book of Mormon Girl

Joanna Brooks, the self-proclaimed Book of Mormon Girl, is sometimes an advocate of what I think of as “Burger King Mormonism” (or what others have called Mormon-Lite or uncorrelated Mormonism). This, consequently, makes her a popular Mormon voice in secular media.

Go figure.

“Have it your way” in the Mormon church since, well, never.

This post, though, is not necessarily about Brooks. It’s about Boyd K. Packer. Continue reading The “Enemies” of My Church