All posts by Luke Hopkin

Father, wilderness addict, Mormon. I believe that we don't give the gospel of Christ the credit it deserves, it is much more effective, deep, and personal than we often realize. I believe in principles of faith, in doctrine, and in revelation. I hope to bring new insights, and a voice for truth, to the conversation. @lukevhopkin

The name “Christ” in the Book of Mormon

The folks at Book of Mormon Central continue to put out intriguing material.

This post about the name “Christ” as given to Jacob, lays out some very interesting insights into the names used by various prophets in the Book of Mormon.

Check it out by following this link:

Why Does An Angel Reveal The Name Of Christ To Jacob?

As an added bonus, their posts often have fancy little graphics and even recordings of the text!

Number of Names of Christ. John W. Welch

 

 

Joseph Smith: A short look at his writings

Joseph Smith was born in 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. As a youth his family moved to Palmyra, New York looking for a new start following multiple crop failures.

Joseph had, for the most part, a regular experience growing up in that time. He worked on the farm, and picked up odd jobs with his father and older brothers. He suffered from an illness, but recovered. His family suffered loss common to that time, and were generally poor. He received a little schooling, and did some reading with the family, but did not have the opportunity for a solid formal education.

All of that “normal” disappeared once Joseph had a life changing experience in a grove of trees at age 14. The remaining 24 years of his life would be anything but normal.

Joseph was involved, in one way or another, with a significant amount of writings. He brought forth the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price, he received a large number of revelations which are recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, he was interviewed by reporters, his history was recorded as it happened, and he kept a journal.

This week I had a couple of experiences that highlighted the differences in these works for me, and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts.

The Book of Mormon is 531a)In it’s current typed format including footnotes pages long. There are 15 smaller books that comprise the Book of Mormon. Each named after a primary individual, often the author of that particular book.

The main portion of the book occurs between 600 b.c. and 421 a.d., a period of over 1,000 years. Another portion of the book occurs much earlier, probably somewhere around 2,000 b.c.

The book is largely all original material, with some quotes from the Old and New Testaments. The writing is complex. Many narratives and sub-narratives run throughout the book. Theology and history are interwoven constantly, and the book contains writings that vary from simple statements of faith to deep allegories. The book even contains the use of complex chiasumus.

The book is written by a people who originated in Jerasulem, and contains authentic Semitic constructions in it’s language.

The Book of Mormon contains hundreds of names for people and places. Some names are common, or at least already known, but many of the less familiar names have also proven to have roots in, or at least familiarity with, ancient Hebrew names.

To some the Book of Mormon seems as though it has grammatical errors and a clumsy use of language. However, new studies in linguistics have been able to show that the language in the Book of Mormon is actually much more complex than originally thought and shows evidence of English language structure that predates Joseph’s time by hundreds of years.

Initial Word Print Analysis studies have shown distinct voices associated with the various authors within the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith’s role was to translate the Book of Mormon. Understandably most people imagine Joseph engaged in a scholarly style translation where one takes the original document written in “language A” and rewrites the text in “language B”. The scholar is able to do this because of their intimate familiarity with both languages and their ability to read and write in both.

This is not, however, the type of translation Joseph performed. Joseph’s translation came by the “gift and power of God“. It is much more akin to someone receiving a revelation from God, than our traditional idea of scholarly translation.

Joseph brought forth the Book of Mormon by dictating it to scribes while he received the words, through different methods, from God. He did this in a period of 60-90 days, working on the translation for multiple hours each day. The book was produced in a single draft, with out reference material or notes, and with out going back to verify internal references, adjust narratives, match names or geography, and with out the common multiple-draft editing techniques.

With all of this in mind, remembering Joseph’s lack of formal education, and considering the fact that we haven’t even explored the complexities of the Pearl of Great Price or the Doctrine and Covenants, I come to this:

Jospeh Smith first page diary

This is Joseph’s first journal, which begins about 3 years after the translation of the Book of Mormon is complete. Joseph started his journal after being instructed by the Lord that records should be kept by the church.

The first page of the journal (shown above) reads as such:


27 November 1832  Tuesday

Joseph Smith Jrs  Record Book Baught  for to note all the  minute circumstances  that comes under my  observation
Joseph Smith Jrs  Book for Record  Baught on the 27th of  November 1832 for  the purpose to keep a  minute acount of all  things that come under  my obsevation &c- –
oh may God grant that  I may be directed in all my thaughts O bless  thy Servent Amen

The reader can clearly see Joseph struggle with his first journal entry. Crossing out his first, awkward, attempt at a title for the book.

As was common for someone in his position he uses a phonetic spelling for several words: “baught”, “acount”, “servent” “thaughts”.  He also misspells “observation”.

His sentence structure is choppy and less than eloquent. He ends the entry with a plea for help from God. This plea reveals how overwhelming writing was for Joseph.

On the second page of Joseph’s journal he misspells the names of his sister Sophronia, which Joseph spells as “Sopronia”; and his sister Katherine, which Joseph spells as “Catheri(n)”.

Subsequent entries show the same inadequacies.

Joseph eventually abandons writing his own journal entries and starts to use scribes.

Why am I delving into the details of Joseph’s writings? Because the difference between these journal entries and the translation of the Book of Mormon simply astounds me.

Joseph has trouble spelling his own sister’s name, but the Book of Mormon has hundreds of names, some quite complicated.

Joseph has a hard time coming up with a title for his journal, yet the Book of Mormon has an ongoing story line with complex narratives, intricate conflicts, complicated character interaction, long sermons, and minute details.

Joseph makes only a handful of journal entries before abandoning the practice for 10 months, yet the Book of Mormon is dictated in it’s entirety in only 2 to 3 months.

Joseph’s journal entries mostly consist of a few, short sentences, but the Book of Mormon was dictated page after page with out rest.

Joseph begs the Lord for help in writing his journal, yet he dictates the Book of Mormon for hours on end with out reference or assistance.

It is hard to ignore that as a person Joseph struggled with basic writing skills, yet as a servant of God he was able to translate one of the most significant religious texts of all time. A text that has lead to millions of converts. A text that has been translated into hundreds of languages and been distributed across the world. A text that has, as it claims it will do, bring many to a better relationship with Christ.

A text that continues to prove to be more deep and complex than we ever imagined.

 

 

*This post was inspired by a fireside given by Richard E. Turley Jr in April 2015

References   [ + ]

a. In it’s current typed format including footnotes

#becausehelives

I love talking to people. I love when they share their stories with me and answer all my little questions. Stepping into other’s shoes for a moment can be a very beneficial experience.

With Easter weekend coming on, the church has again launched, what is basically, a world wide testimony meeting. Using the hashtag #becausehelives, folks from all over the world are sharing their love of Christ.

On a special Mormon.org page the church has posted information about the last week of Christ’s life, along with a video about Christ’s role in our lives. A part of the page is displaying all of the #becauseofhim posts that people have posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – from all over the world.

becauseofhim1 becauseofhim2 becauseofhim3 becauseofhim4 becauseofhim5

 

becauseofhim7

 

 

So the question is: how has Christ changed your life?

Share your experiences, your testimony, with the hashtag #becauseofhim.

And see more at the Mormon.org website.

 

heishere

 

 

 

 

 

Wolves In Fancy Woolen Garb

I’ve never been a shepherd. I’ve never worked with sheep. But I’ve lived around sheep. I used to be able to watch a large flock of them everyday from my window so I know just a little about them. I know they like to stick together. They will fan out a little while grazing, but not too far from each other. I know that a small dog can, quite easily, get a flock of 200 sheep to start running across the fields. I also know that letting a wolf around your flock is a really good way to lose some sheep.

Sheep have some defense abilities as a flock. But wolves don’t hunt whole flocks at once. No they like to find the sheep that is a little slower, a little younger or older, maybe even a little sick or injured. Then, as a pack, the wolves will try and separate one of these from the edge of the flock so they can more easily kill it.

Wolves are patient and careful. They use impressive hunting techniques to kill with a low amount to risk and energy use. They live and hunt in packs to maximize effectiveness, and they are very effective.

As a shepherd, having wolves near your flock would be a very scary thing. You are likely to lose some sheep, and every sheep is valuable.

Imagine yourself as a shepherd. You stand watch over your flock my moonlight. It takes constant, diligent, focus to watch for the wolves and react to scare them off. If they get the sheep to run, you will have almost no chance of stopping the wolves from getting a kill.

So you watch for large, dog-like animals near the edge of the fields They are easy to distinguish from sheep, so you just need to see them in time.

Now imagine, how much harder your job would be if the wolves looked like sheep. What if they were hardly distinguishable from the rest of the flock? What if they were white and fluffy and about the same size as a sheep, but had claws and canine teeth? How would you tell the sheep from the woolen wolves in a flock of 200?

It might be a silly thought at first, but as a shepherd you would not be laughing at the prospect of trying to distinguish a wolf in sheep’s clothing from the rest of the flock.

Jesus warned of wolves in sheep’s clothinga)Mathew 7:15. He talked of false prophets that would come among the saints.

Often we apply this to individuals outside of the church. We think of splinter groups, or false teachers from another organization. We think of that guy on the front of the tabloid with his predictions. Or we think of the even more sinister, the guy who gets an entire group of people to kill themselves by his teachings. But I don’t see these as wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are more like regular wolves.

The point of wearing sheep’s clothing is to be part of the flock. To be able to move freely. Their inward desires masked, their outward appearance friendly. The guy on the tabloid is of little threat, he is a wolf crying from the mountain side high above the valley. The wolf that can walk among the sheep without them realizing his potential for destruction – he is the one that we must worry about.

They have always existed in the church. But in decades past their hunting grounds were usually regulated to their geographical area, their social circle. The internet has changed this.

The internet has brought together a large portion of the flock into one valley. And by using the internet, a woolen wolf can easily walk among the flock. Since the internet allows a person to customize their public persona however they wish it is easy for them to put on the sheep’s clothing. They can present themselves as gentle, and meek, and friendly like all of the other sheep in the flock – while inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

Jesus speaks of knowing a prophet by his fruitsb)Mathew 7, by the things he brings forth. I think it is possible for us to make a list that distinguishes between false prophets and true Prophets.

This is my list (so far):

False prophetsTrue Prophets
Not ordained to lead large groups of peopleOrdained to lead the entire church
Not set apartSet apart
Not sustainedSustained according to the law of Common Consent
Focuses on “what is wrong”Teaches what is right
Criticizes true prophets past and presentExpounds upon, adds testimony to, and clarifies the teachings of prophets past and present
Claims spiritual guidanceOrdained to receive spiritual guidance
Finds faultProvides inspiration
Promotes information that decreases the faith of othersShares teachings that increases the faith of others
Claims the church must change because of internal or external influencesSeeks the will of God in administering church affairs
Attempts to find scandal in practices and procedures of the churchWorks to improve and strengthen practices and procedures
Supports or gives voice to dissenters and criticsShares stories of the faithful and the believing
Applies the teachings of men to the church of GodApplies the teachings of God to all men

It seems to me that this list could be considerably longer.

Like wolves, these false prophets will seldom take on the shepherd himself. They will usually not try to attack the entire flock at once. No they will seek out the young, the sick, the frail, the injured; and with their careful and patient ways lead just one away from the flock before destroying it. This process is made all the more easier while wearing the clothes of a sheep. With success the wolf will gather others to his pack, and they will work together to pull as many from the flock as possible. By the time the sheep realizes the true intent of those that have lead them away – it is often too late.

Isaiah gave us further insight into the mind of the wolf, he warned those who would “call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”c)Isaiah 5.

What better way to describe those false prophets that, in the name of light, try to tear down and diminish the work of the Lord’s prophets? Do they not present something dark as though it is light? Do they not take that which has come from the source of all light and call it darkness?

I have seen, recently, some who criticize the words of the modern prophets. They say the words are bitter, they claim even that the words are evil. Though we do not believe in a doctrine of infallibility, the Lord sends the sweet through his prophets and who is man that he should claim it as bitterness?

Isaiah gave equal warning to those who “are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”.  As some try to forcefully apply their world views, their political agendas, and their personal beliefs to the prophets and the administration of the church they are only showing their lack of understanding, or indifference towards, the ways of the Lord, which he has clearly stated are not our ways(Isaiah 55)). False prophets trust in their own wisdom and seek to counsel the Lordd)Jacob 4:10.

As members of the flock we must be diligent, for ourselves and our brothers and sisters, in keeping a careful watch for those woolen wolves. We must, by the Spirit of the Lord, gain a testimony of the true prophets. It is this spiritual witness that can ascend above the work of those that would bring us down. We must seek with diligence that which is truth and light. We must seek the will of the Lord over our own and hear the voice of God over the voice of man.

The warnings are there, and if we are prepared then we need not fear. If we seek the will of the The Shepherd we will hear his quiet assurance: “fear not little flock”.

References   [ + ]

a. Mathew 7:15
b. Mathew 7
c. Isaiah 5
d. Jacob 4:10

Grace? Faith vs Works? Saved? What?

Have you have ever needed a good, like really good, explanation of grace?

Have you ever had questions about how faith and works are both important?

Have you ever wondered what it means to be saved?

If so than you should start with this video.

Brad Wilcox’s speech His Grace Is Sufficient provides a walk through of how grace works, what it is, why we need it, and how to participate in it.

Using simple analogies and some humor he provides some insights that I believe are invaluable to anyone.

 

The Spectrum of Faith

Note: Some edits have been made for further clarification. 

Faith is exciting. Faith can cause a person to make significant change in their life, it can bring them through great trial, it can turn hope into action, and it can produce great strength in a once weak person.

Generally speaking, faith can be directed towards many things. We can direct it towards each other “I have faith that he will do as he promised”, towards God “I have faith that God exists and loves me”, toward a certain event “I have faith that she will heal from her illness”, towards science “I have faith that the treatments can cure my disease”.

More specifically speaking, the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to have faith in Christ.  Though the scriptures are full of teaching about faith we seem to have developed a simplified view of faith.

We tend to think of faith like this:

Capture1

In this diametric view of faith we perceive faith as an “all or nothing” experience, has a “on or off switch”, or as a “got it or not” kind of possession.

One of the biggest problems with this is that we then label ourselves, and our brother’s and sisters in the church, with the same kind of limitations. We tend to split everyone into two groups: either faithful or faithless. And then we apply labels to each group like this:

Capture2

This kind of view on faith has serious flaws and even more serious, and damaging consequences. It is further complicated by the idea that someone’s belief in certain things is the same thing as their faith.

Faith vs no faith (minus the accompanied labels) might be a good way teach faith to young primary children. But as more mature saints we need to posses a more complex understanding of faith and it’s relation ship to belief and doubt and the kind of life we live.

One example of this diametric view being wrong is the fact that not even Christ uses it. We know from Doctrine and Covenants 76 that even in his final judgement Christ won’t sort us out into “Group A” and “Group B”. There isn’t just a Heaven and Hell. There are multiple kingdoms of glory and with in those kingdoms there are differing glories even as “one star differs from another in glory”. If Christ does separate us into just two group, then why do we think we can do so?

 Spectrum of Faith

 The truth is that our belief operates on a spectrum. Something more like this:

Capture3

As life long investigators of the church, we can exist anywhere on this spectrum at different times in our life. The general idea being that we hopefully, in the end, have more belief then we started with.

However, there may be times in our lives that we move more to the left in the spectrum as our belief is tested or shaken. That is fine, we are allowed to be tested and tried. Always striving for a better understanding and increased belief is what is important.

By looking at belief in this manner we can now apply faith to the spectrum:

Capture4

The very left side being someone without faith at all because their doubt prevents it. And the very right side being someone who has moved from having a portion of belief  to “doubting nothing” by exercising faith.

However, the majority of members of the church will be somewhere in the middle section – the “Spectrum of Faith”.

Capture5

With this in mind we move from an understanding of faith being so diametric:

Capture1

To an understanding of faith existing on a spectrum, and thus much more inclusive:

Capture6

Suddenly we see that “the faithful” includes a great many more people than we previously supposed. We see that faith can exist even in the face of serious doubt, and that trying to measure someone’s faith by their belief is more difficult than we thought.

An understanding that faith and belief are strongly connected, but not the same thing, is important. Belief produces faith and faith produces belief, but one’s belief is not a measure of their faith. Faith can exist in the presence of even a small amount of belief.

We then realize that the spectrum of faith is different than our belief:

capture8

We now look around church and see that everyone there believes, everyone is exercising faith, everyone is somewhere on the spectrum of faith. We can also see that many who are not at our church, or any church for that matter, on Sunday can still be on the spectrum of faith.

Even the person whose faith has not brought them to church, still has some faith.

The person who has serious doubts, but came to church anyway, is expressing their faith.

The person who doesn’t have belief in all things, but still shares testimony of the things they do believe, is exercising faith.

So also is the person who is excited for church, and read their scriptures, and said their prayers, and believes all of the doctrine.

We all live on the spectrum of faith.

 Which Faith Really Matters

 At this point it is important to clarify what faith we are really talking about. As I stated before we can exercise faith in a great number of things, which can all have positive effects if exercised appropriately. But the faith we are really talking about here is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For without this faith, no other faith matters. It is only through him that we are saved from our mortal state, thus all other faith is subsequent to, or an appendage of, our faith in Christ.

All of our faith in the scriptures, and prophets, and doctrine can’t save us if we don’t have faith in Christ. However, faith in the scriptures, and the prophets, and the doctrines can help us better know Christ and exercise our faith.

Living on the Spectrum of Faith

 It is so easy for us to think that we can have a single spiritual experience and suddenly be completely converted and left free of all doubt and with an unbreakable faith. However this is rarely the case.

When we teach from Moroni 10:3-5 we teach that praying sincerely can bring a manifestation of the spirit that something is true. This doctrine of gaining faith is correct, but our interpretation of it has been somewhat narrow. We imagine that Moroni and the other prophets are telling us to kneel down and pray for a “once and done” kind of spiritual experience. But that isn’t at all what is being said. It is simply saying that sincere prayer brings spiritual understanding of the truth. Is that one prayer or is it a thousand? Is that one prayer for all doctrines, or one prayer for each doctrine? The truth is, each individual will have a different experience with how they gain and grow their faith. As we increase our belief so can our faith increase, and as we increase our faith so can our belief increase also.

Alma  expounds upon this idea in his preaching of the seeda)Alma 32. Alma’s comparison of faith to that of a seed gives us great insight into how faith works. Faith may burst from the seed with that first prayer. But it does not burst into a full grown tree. It instead it grows from a tiny seed to a massive tree over time.

Just as the rings of a real tree reveal different amounts of annual growth, our faith too will grow with varying amounts. A drought of water can slow the growth of a tree, a drought of the Spirit can slow the growth of our faith. On the other hand, years with plenty of water or Spirit, both produce accelerated growth.

Alma cautions us to “nourish [our faith] with great care” so that “it may grow”. Just as with a spruce or a redwood, faith takes time and care to grow to full maturity.

Your tree of faith may be taller than mine right now. But over the next year mine might grow more than yours. Mine might have a year of no growth, and in that same year you might have the greatest amount of growth you’ve ever had. Each of us will grow in faith at different periods and in different ways.

Labeling Faith

 When looking at faith as a spectrum it becomes very hard to label someone else according to where they are on the faith spectrum. But it becomes much easier to see where we sit on the spectrum. Our definition of disciple becomes much more broad and our definition of apostate becomes much more narrow. I do not mean to claim that there is no point where someone has lost their faith – there certainly is. Nor do I say that apostasy doesn’t happen – it does. But by looking at faith as a spectrum in which we all move as life goes on, we see that a great many more of us have faith as opposed to being without faith.

We may be a disciple that doubts some, like Thomas b)John 20:24-29. Or we may be a disciple that is working on gaining a perfect knowledge c)Doctrine and Covenants 46:13. Even still we may be a disciple relying on the faith of others d)Doctrine and Covenants 46:14. In any case, we are still disciples.

 Faith and Righteousness

 With the spectrum in mind it is also easier to see that belief does not always directly correlate to righteousness. A very believing person can commit a very grievous sin. The scriptures contain examples of this. On the other hand, a person whose doubt outweighs their belief right now can still live every commandment and produce much good for others.

Faith produces action, and exercising faith on even a small amount of belief can produce a righteous life.

However, Thinking that we are safe from sin because we measure ourselves on the right side of the belief spectrum is a very dangerous practice. On the other hand believing that we can stay on the left side of the spectrum and be comfortable there forever, is also a very dangerous practice.

Righteousness also works on a spectrum in which our obedience increases and decreases. With this we can see that our positions on each spectrum may not always coincide.

We may believe a lot and exercise little faith, thus possibly leading to less obedience:

3 spectrum

Or we could believe little, but still exercise great faith, thus leading to a life of obedience.

Capture10

Life is more complicated than getting a single answer to a prayer, and then being “good to go” forever more – free of doubt and sin. Our position on each spectrum can be constantly moving. it can change quickly. We must exercise our faith to improve and refine both belief and obedience in the face of doubt, opposition, and temptation. At the same time we can increase our belief through study and pray so that our faith may also increase. We can also exercise our faith and live righteously allowing the spirit to work with our doubts and help us believe.

 Growing our Faith

 Alma e)Alma 32 warns us that if we “neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.”

On the other hand, if we “nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.”

Alma’s analogy makes it clear that the growth of our tree-of-faith depends largely on our actions, on our choices, and on how we approach our faith. He that doesn’t care for his tree will allow it to wither in the sun, he that does will give it water allowing the roots to follow the water to greater depths – thus finding more water.

Our faith can pull us through times of doubt and temptation.

Doubt, struggles with testimony, fears, temptations, and confusion can all come into our lives for different reasons and in many different ways. Alma directs that a diligent, patient, and hopeful approach to faith, both before and during times of doubt or struggle, can make all the difference between a tree that produces fruit and one that withers.

 Conclusion

 What do we learn from looking at faith as a spectrum rather than a division?

We learn:

  1. That labeling ourselves and others as faithful can be very difficult and is rarely helpful.
  2. That almost everyone is excising faith. We may all be at different places with our belief but we can still exercise faith and live righteously.
  3. We must have an honest idea of where we are on the spectrum, and be willing to make course corrections that will allow us to grow.
  4. We must too, be willing to help others make course corrections. While being careful to not tear down the faith of others.
  5. We should always be striving to increase our faith with patience, and diligence, and hope. Caring for our tree-of-faith with the utmost tenderness.

Faith is too important to be treated lightly. It should be a deeply integral part of our daily lives. No matter where we are on the spectrum of faith I encourage us to continue to help our own tree grow, help others trees grow, and see people for the faith that they do have, and not the faith they don’t have.

 

References   [ + ]

a. Alma 32
b. John 20:24-29
c. Doctrine and Covenants 46:13
d. Doctrine and Covenants 46:14
e. Alma 32

Jennifer, Iggy, Beyonce – Please Don’t Be My Daughter’s Role Model

Recently, Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea released a video for the song cleverly named “Booty”. It was viewed on Youtube over 20 million times within two days of being posted.

I won’t link the video, but here is the synopsis: Two grown women dance in swimsuits and underwear while the camera focuses and pans across their butts, bellies, and other body parts. There is limited screen time for the women’s faces but that is overshadowed by the body shots and the slapping and caressing associated with those shots.

Here is the problem that I have with the video: it is bad for girls and women, not to mention boys and men.

There is an on going battle for women to be treated with more respect, to be seen for more than just their bodies, to not be ashamed of their shape and size. In addition we have campaigns to end sex crimes against women and to save women in sex trafficking. We are trying to change the attitudes and social stigmas surrounding rape – and how we approach preventing it. In general we are pushing for society to stop treating women as meat or the property of others.

All of these ideas I am more than in favor of. I may not agree with every one of the claims or actions of the various campaigns and groups, but I agree that women in our society are not being treated appropriately and that things need to change.

Lately I’ve been feeling like we have been making some headway in improving how women are treated. But my hopes have been greatly damaged by several recent events – this video by Iggy and Jennifer being paramount amongst them.

Think I am being a prude, or passing judgment on a couple of “proud, powerful, independent women”? Well lets take a look at the lyrics:

The way she twerk it, not fair

She got a booty, that’ll swallow a thong

I wanna take that big ‘ol booty shopping at the mall

The entire song is similar, using the word “Booty” 35 times and the word “big” 45 times to describe that booty

But wait, there is more. Remember, we want women to be treated with respect right? We want men to stop looking at women as meat right?

How will we ever accomplish that when two of the most powerful women in music, strip down, slap each other’s butts, and sing:

All the sexy girls in the party

Go and grab a man, bring him to the dance floor

Go on let them jeans touch you while you’re dancing

It’s his birthday, give him what he ask for

What is the message here? What are we telling women and especially girls? We are telling them they are meat! We are telling them to take their “big booty”, grab some random dude, and let him touch them on the dance floor. And why are we doing this? BECAUSE IT’S HIS “BIRTHDAY”?

And how is this message going to affect the attitudes of males? Boys who are trying to figure out how to be men are now thinking: “hey, let me touch you. You should give me what I want, because it’s my birthday”. Jennifer and Iggy say that’s the way it should be. How is a teenage girl, or boy, supposed to argue with them? Iggy and Jennifer are powerful, proud, independent women – right? They are famous, they get 20 million views and tons of money and are given awards on the TV.

Beyond what is said in the video, what is done in the video has a similar message. A 45 year old woman and a 24 year old woman (remember: rich, famous, celebrities) spend 4 minutes half naked rubbing, shaking, caressing, slapping, and teasing for the viewer. If this is what is needed to be popular and loved (something most people, especially young women, want) then why not just make your own video? You’ve got a camera phone and Youtube. In a matter of minutes you could make your own Booty video and share it for the world to see.

Part of the reason all of this this is bothering me is because I recently spent a couple of days in Vegas. Anyone who has been there knows that a quick walk down the strip reveals dozens of instances of women being used for their bodies.

I also, recently, had to listen to several pre-teen girls sing the impressive Niki Manaj lyrics:

My Anaconda don’t…

My Anaconda don’t…

My Anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hun

These girls, who have not yet even begun to develop the features of a mature female, are already being taught by Niki that they need to have a certain body type to be desirable to men. (And in this case, men that deal drugs, and who expect certain sexual favors). Beyond that they are being taught that the only thing they have to offer the world is their bodies and nothing more.

But the biggest reason that this is bothering me right now, is that we just found out we are having a baby girl. This will be our first daughter. I am very excited and a little terrified at the same time.

I hope I am able to explain to her that regardless of what rich-and-famous people tell her she does not have to follow their lead.

    • She does not have to shake her butt for others (Iggy and Jennifer)
    • She does not have to “give him what he asks for” (Iggy and Jennifer)
    • She does not have to worry about how “sexy” her “booty” is (Jennifer, Iggy,Niki)
    • She does not have to swing naked from construction equipment (Miley)
    • She does not have to crawl around on the beach mostly nude (Beyonce)
    • She does not have to bring her friends to her man’s office to dance for him (Beyonce)
    • She does not have to grind with other women for men to enjoy (Niki)

I will also try to explain to her that she doesn’t have to be skinny, and tone, and have big boobs, and, apparently, also maintain a big butt at the same time.

I will explain that a famous, rich, insecure, exhibitionist woman should not have any bearing on her ideals or self worth.

I will explain to her that her worth isn’t found in her body, or her sexiness, or her brain, or “who she is on the inside”. No I will teach her that her value is found in her as a whole person. Not parts of a person. Not in the eyes or opinions of others. But in her entire self and in her ever growing potential.

But yet, I am worried that I might not even be heard.

How can I be heard over the constant pressure of “powerful, independent women” like these famous celebrities?

I haven’t even dipped into the lyrics and videos produced by the male populace of the entertainment world. I can’t yet fathom how to approach that ludicrous situation.

I support ladies being treated better by men. I really want to see that happen. But how are we going to make any headway when celebrity women are sending the exact opposite message?  How can we expect better of the male celebrities? How can we possibly hope for change? How can young girls know that their worth isn’t found in their booty when the trending topic on their Facebook page is exactly “J-Lo Booty”?

How are young men supposed to know that women aren’t objects, that their value isn’t found in their sexuuality, and that the girls they associate with don’t owe them anything, when the “sex symbols” of our society are acting like objects, claiming value through sexuality, and saying that men should get what they want?

I suppose if we want our society to include the regular use of rape underwear, and rape bras, and rape fingernail polish, then we can just stay on the same path we currently travel. Because the messages we are sending young men and young women are completely inline with promoting a highly sexualized youth environment where the women are here to just give the men what they want.

I have to hold back the vomit every time I think about even a remote possibility of having to take my daughter shopping for her first pair of anti-rape panties.

I refuse to accept that as our future. I refuse to sit back and let my daughter be torn down by the celebrities that our society worships. I refuse to let society teach my sons that girls are here for their enjoyment.

And so, to “J-lo”, and Iggy, and Beyonce, and Miley, and Niki and so many others I have one thing to say: I hope you will never be my daughter’s role model.

I hope that she is able to look at you with compassion, but also understand that what you are promoting is neither right nor good.

I hope that she realizes that she is is an actual person who is glorious and amazing just the way she is.

I hope that she will understand that she can do and be anything she wants, that her dreams and desires can come true.

I hope that she realizes that a man who really has the potential to love her will respect her, not pressure her; he will show her kindness, not indecency; and he will only expect the same in return.

And above all I hope that she will ignore those who tell her otherwise. Even if they say it with a catchy beat.

Through the Eyes of Defectors

One of my favorite parts from this last General Conference was when Elder Andersen quoted someone I miss very much, Elder Neal A. Maxwell. I really miss Elder Maxwell’s way with words.

Here is the quote:

“Studying the Church … through the eyes of its defectors,” Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, is “like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed.”

It has always been interesting to me how often people regard those who have “defected” from the truth as somehow “more enlightened” or “more objective”. When in reality they, like Judas’ 30 pieces of silver, have specific motivators.

Below is the video to Elder Andersen’s talk. And HERE is the text.

I am also excited to review the talk from which the original quote comes: Elder Neal A. Maxwell: All Hell Is Moved.  It contain’s such gems as this:

Remember, however, that while it is possible to have an imperfect people possessed of perfect doctrines (indeed, such is necessary to change their imperfections), you will never, never see the reverse: a perfect people with imperfect doctrines. “

Elder Andersen’s talk:

 

Faithful Answers to a Critical Letter

There is a letter written by a Jeremy Runnells, entitled “Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony”. This letter has been circulated around the internet for almost the last two years. The writer asserts that a diligent, year long, study of LDS doctrine and history produced for him many problems related to the LDS faith. Enough so that the sum of which was sufficient to deem the religion as false.

It has received some extensive attention. Unfortunately what has not received the same attention is faithful answers to the criticisms presented by Mr. Runnells.

The letter uses a couple of basic attack methods to establish it’s point. The most obvious of which is the “Big List” attack. The idea being to attack your opponent with so many quick arguments that it is impossible for the person to reasonably answer them in a timely and succinct manner. And if they attempt to do so the attacker has more arguments ready, and is simply looking for a single opportunity to claim victory through lack of an answer by the defender.

“Big Lists” are hard to deal with because so often a criticism is allowed to be short and underdeveloped, sometimes being a single line without reference or supporting documentation. But a response is expected to be exhaustive, exact, complete, referenced, and supported. As Daniel C. Peterson aptly states it “..90 pages of quick and dirty objections would take 500 pages to respond to…”. The big list style argument puts all of the onerous on the defender, leaving the attacker in a comfy position indeed.

I will not attempt to deal with all of Mr. Runnells assertions myself. For one, others more qualified have long since dealt with many of these concerns, and are now continuing to deal with them in direct response to his letter. But beyond that, I have not found the sum total of the letter’s concerns to be worthy of the time and attention it would take me to respond point-by-point. This is partly because many of the concerns, if not all, are not new and I found faith beyond them previous to this letter’s publication. But also partly because many of the criticisms are weak and only have any strength as they exist in a vacuum without additional information or the accounting for common assumptions.

Part of the problem with LDS criticism and apologetics is that the criticism usually claims that if there is a “problem”, then a perfect answer is required. If there is not a perfect answer then obviously the criticism is true and the church must therefore not be true in it’s whole. If an answer is given, then that answer only applies to the single question and the entire faith can not be substantiated until all of the questions are answered. So on the one hand a single unanswered question is proof enough for falsehood, but on the other hand a great number of answers are still not enough to be considered proof of truth.

Beyond this, we know full well that we will not be given all of the answers to all questions while in this life a)https://www.lds.org/topics/faith?lang=eng&query=faith. The scriptures themselves refer to the “mysteries of God” many timesb)https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/mysteries-of-god?lang=eng. And a full understanding of the doctrine of faith demonstrates that each person, to varying degrees and at varying times, must be able to walk in imperfect light c)https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/1-cor/13.12?lang=eng#11.

Apologetics, when done appropriately, rarely claims to have proven all things. Apologetics from a faithful stance will be an act of walking in faith while analyzing and considering additional information that gives room for faith while either directly opposing the criticism or weakening the stance of the criticism. For some it is hard to accept that we don’t know all. The mind that demands perfect answers in all things must either find comfort in true faith or inevitably be left unsatisfied.

Faith will never be a result of external evidence, instead it will always be a choice. And that choice will not always be the easiest one to make.

Faith can be elusive, difficult, trying, fleeting, and shaky at times. But giving faith the time and nourishment it needs to be sustained will often lead to a blossoming of additional faith. Faith isn’t a weed. It is a tree. Trees take a long time to mature, and while growing they are vulnerable.

We have, in our back yard, a mature Quaking Aspen tree. It stands about 20 feet tall. The top half of the tree is clad in the striking white bark that makes Aspen stands so beautiful. However, the bottom half of the tree is covered with nasty black scars. The scars show the evidence of a battle with a disease that almost killed the tree. The disease is gone, the tree is healthy, strong, very pleasant to enjoy and possibly more beautiful with it’s scars. Faith is like a tree. We have no guarantee that our tree of faith will make it to maturity without a few scars. There is nothing wrong with that. Trees are very resilient, often regrowing even after having been cut to a stump. Faith can be the same way if we give it a chance and continue to nourish it over time.

It has been, for me, an easy task to find enough faithful answers to deal with the concerns brought by the CES Letter. But that is probably a product of my previous experiences and the approach with which I have learned to deal with concerns. However, each person is different, and the faith they carry is different, therefore I do not doubt that the CES Letter has the potential to scar, damage, or even defeat faith. It would be foolish to assume that it is impotent.

So in the interest of helping others to nourish their faith and approach the letter from a faithful perspective (should they even have a reason to approach it) I have compiled below some resources that deal with the same concerns that the Letter expresses.

Some of the below are part of an ongoing effort to developing a “500 page response to a 90 page argument”.

If concerned by the contents of the letter I believe the following references will be beneficial to the faithful student. I am not so concerned with the convincing of the external critic as I am providing a resource of study material for those who sincerely desire increased faith in the face of a doubt or concern.

It is up to each of us to decide our own faith. I implore anyone with concerns regarding the LDS faith to give faith time and allow yourself to make a conclusion based on more than just what the critics say. Allow a place for faithful answers, continued diligence and prayer, and patience. I love you, my brothers and sisters, and I hope peace and joy for each of you.

 

Resources Related to Letter to CES Director.

1)  This article by Kevin Christensen provides a very good platform for beginning an analysis of the Letter and its contents. It is a Birdseye approach to the Letter as opposed to a point-by-point argument, and is rather fascinating. An audio version is also available.

2) At the 2014 Fair Mormon Conference Daniel C. Petersen directly addressed several parts of the CES Letter in his intriguing presentation.

These first two give good insight into the letter. The following provide additional information and research.

3) The scholars and researchers at FairMormon.org have been working on the sort of “500 page response” that we’ve discussed, and it is an extensive analysis.

4) Fair Mormon has also compiled a list of 142 wiki articles that deal with the same issues as the Letter.

5)  Jeff Lindsay has written a really good overview of “Big List” attacks and how they work.

6)  Jeff Linday’s LDS FAQ website is also another nice source of information and so is Mormon Challenges

 

References   [ + ]

a. https://www.lds.org/topics/faith?lang=eng&query=faith
b. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/mysteries-of-god?lang=eng
c. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/1-cor/13.12?lang=eng#11