Category Archives: Religion

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.

 

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

Sin has a Rattle – just like this snake.

This weekend I went on a quick morning hike. The morning was cool, the desert mountain was inviting and very calm. My little dog and I trotted along enjoying the sunrise and views of the valley below as we climbed higher.

20140802_092923

On our return down the mountain we ran into this beefy fellow.

20140802_093729
We had walked right up to him without seeing him. I only knew of his presence when his rattle struck that distinctive sound.

I quickly put my dog on her leash, while locating the snake, and then gave her a command to stay back. The snake sat about six feet away, on the side of the road, well camouflaged – yet coiled and ready to strike.

Being familiar with rattlesnakes and their striking distance, I edged closer for a couple of pictures from a safe distance. He decided to retreat and I was happy to let him go on his merry way. The dog and I  turned and headed back down the mountain, away from the snake. It was only a few brief moments, that ended with out incident, but it got me thinking.

20140802_093742

On the way down I pondered how much rattlesnakes and sin are alike. I am sure I must have heard this in a conference talk or Sunday school lesson before, but I thought about it for a while and figured I’d share my version here.

Snakes and sin can be sneaky

Like the snake, sin is not always apparent. I did not see this snake until I looked. I wasn’t being unsafe, we were walking on the road, I wasn’t looking for snakes, I wasn’t expecting a snake. But it was there, it was hard to see, and it was still dangerous regardless of anything I was doing. Sin isn’t always obvious, it isn’t always something we searched out, it can appear at very unexpected times, and it can be dangerous regardless of our intent or original plans.

Snakes are patient, and so is Satan

The snake didn’t want to bite us. Rattlesnakes prefer to avoid encounters with other predators, and would rather preserve their venom for hunting purposes when they know they can make a killing strike. I fear that sometimes Satan plays the same game. Sometimes a sin, or a small dosage of sin, doesn’t hurt us enough to notice. Sometimes Satan wants us to just get close, or have a little taste. He preserves his ability to actually harm us until he is ready, until he feels that we are prey, ready to be taken. Then he strikes.

Rattlesnakes have warnings, and so do sins.

We’ve all been taught about the dangers of snakes and sin. We’ve all been warned. Regardless of those warnings and lessons we will all inevitably run into sin. But there is a second kind of warning that we need to pay even more attention too. Every warning I have been given about rattlesnakes, and every encounter I’ve had before, wouldn’t have made any difference if the snake hadn’t rattled. That moment of warning was crucial to us having a chance to avoid the snake.

Sins have rattles also. At the very least the Light of Christ helps us to know good from evil. But sins also come with many other kinds of rattles. Sometimes it is a feeling that we need to secure ourselves secretly before we proceed. Sometimes, it is looking over our shoulder to check for some unidentified presence before we take the next step. Sometimes it is the negative effects we have seen in others who have already traveled down the path of sin. Sometimes it’s just a feeling in our gut. Sometimes it is that moment when our natural side wants to proceed, but our spiritual side gives us a moment of hesitation. Other times it is that immediate loss of the Spirit as we begin to proceed to sin.

I suppose that, like feeling the Spirit, these sin-rattles are different for every person. Maybe even different for the specific situation we are in. But they are there. Sin does have a rattle. And if we are listening we can hear it’s warning.

I could take this story a lot further in comparing it to sin. I could talk about:

  • The effects of snake venom and compare them to the effects of sin.
  • How I put myself in more danger creeping closer to get a picture of the snake.
  • How I didn’t try and control or even destroy the snake, I just put distance between me and it.
  • My dog’s lack of experience and understanding compared to my own.
  • How I protected the dog with a leash and a command.
  • How I would have needed help to heal from the snake bite,  how I would not have been able to heal myself, and how that it is the same with sin.

But much more than any of those, the though that “sins have rattles too” struck me as something we should be very aware of. Something that we should hone our spiritual ear too. Something that can help us live the life we desire . That one moment in which we hear the rattle of sin, is the moment we get to choose to walk away – or risk getting bit.

Sin Snake

 

The Mutual Exclusion of God and Science

I wrote most of this a while ago, I decided to post it after the following words were recently used in reference to me and my religion: pedantic, airhead, dumb, sh*t, and idiocy. Oh, I was also told to “piss off” and inaccurate internet memes were used to belittle me and my religion. Sad thing was, I wasn’t surprised.

I am constantly amazed by the amount of effort and energy spent on atheist forums attacking, disparaging, ridiculing, and trying to disprove religion. Instead of talking about what they believe and uplifting each other, they focus on their disdain for religion. The continuation of this trend and it’s seemingly increasing intensity, and even hatred, is what encourages me to write this post.

But let us be clear on a few things first:

  1. Several of the best, most important people, in my life are atheists. They continue to have lasting positive effects on my life. I am not painting all with the same brush, but I am sure most everyone is familiar with the large and vocal group that I reference above.
  2. I will not be “proving” anything here, if you are looking for that you might as well move along.
  3. Christians, and other religious folks, you aren’t getting off the hook in this post either.

During the 500 years that the bible has been publicly available there have been a lot of scientific advances, such as: the invention of the microscope, the first real understanding of the existence of dinosaurs, mapping of the flow of blood, the control and use of electricity, and Newton’s laws of motion, and so on.

Christianity has also progressed during this time. Moving from essentially a single denomination, often officially associated with a state, to many denominations of varying beliefs but with the same basic principles.

As science and religion have progressed we have gained greater understanding of the world, and universe, around us. But we have also arrived at a point of contention between science and Christianity – a situation that I think is just plain silly, and that says more about us as people than about science or religion.

The Big Bang Theory, or at least the basis for it, was first presented in 1927- less than 100 years ago. The theory is really pretty amazing and has some very strong supporting evidence. It is, however, a theory that can not be proven or recreated (which is really too bad because I love a good explosion). As we continue to make new discoveries we continue to hone our understanding of the Big Bang and other scientific theories. Sometimes these advances support our current understanding, sometimes they change our understanding. This is true for all of science.

Before the big bang theory, there was no strong scientific, widely known, theory for how the universe was created. The only explanations came from religion.

For about 1,500 years (exact time is debateable) the Catholic church was the primary Christian church and the majority of the Western World’s understanding of the creation came from the church. For the last 500 years, our understanding has changed because of the public availability of the bible and the emergence of other churches.

As science has progressed, reasons to question the details of the bible’s account of the creation have arisen. But really only for about the last 150 years. This is where things get silly.

As I visit the forums of the internet, and talk to people, the debate between religion and science about the creation has become more and more absurd to me. Many times this debate is based on one simple thing: “God created the earth in 6 days, and on the 7th he rested”.

A literal interpretation of the the bible’s account of the creation would lead one to the conclusion that the world was created only several thousand years ago, and was done so in six-24 hour periods. From a scientific point of view this just simply isn’t possible and is in fact directly opposed to the evidence. This is where the contention starts.

Lately I have seen a lot of comments like “…as stupid as modern day Christians…” or “…you mean that book written by a hallucinating drunk in the near east…”. These comments almost always lump Christians into one big stereotype and then are usually followed up by some berating that tries to establish the beliefs of all religions as “mythical” and “based on fables”. And it is always done by someone who claims to be more intelligent, more educated, more “enlightened”.

No one questions when scientist advance their theories. No one baucks when science finds it’s previous theories were wrong in light of new evidence. No one throws out the entire science book when a single part of it turns out to be less than perfectly accurate. No, we call that “progress”. But a different standard is held for religion. Religious views aren’t allowed to advance, there is huge controversy if a religion decides that a previous theory needs adjusting, and it has been suggested many times that the entire bible be thrown out simply because of the translation and interpretation of the word “day”.

But really the simple fact is this: Neither religion, nor science, have a complete knowledge of all things.

Any legitimate scientist knows full well that we are entirely in the dark concerning some things. Other things we understand to a degree, but not fully. Still other things we have nailed down. For many Christians – I’d contend the majority of them – religion is the same way. Some things haven’t been revealed at all, some things we understand to a degree but not fully, and some things we have nailed down. This is certainly true of the LDS religion that expresses the doctrine of continuing revelation and unrevealed truths.

Science is accepted as an ever advancing quest to understand the world around us, but religion is suppose to already know everything – otherwise it can’t be true. Science is allowed to be fluid, but religion is supposed to be already carved to perfection. And this diametric standard sometimes holds true for both non-religious and religious people – just from opposite viewpoints.

Many Christians seem to be slow to trust science, to allow it to be incorporated into their beliefs – expecting that anything that doesn’t “jive” is just a wrong theory and will some day change.

Many atheists seem to think that science some how discounts, and proves wrong, all of Christianity’s beliefs.

These types of extreme views only prove to slow our actual understanding of our own existence and create debates that can essentially be summed up with: “I’m not wrong, you are wrong.”

What if I told you that God and science are not mutually exclusive?

Could it be completely possible that God used the properties of nature in his creation of the world? Could it be that God used physics, and a big bang, and extended periods of time, and even at least some amount of adaptation or evolution in his creative process? I believe so. What exactly he used, I don’t know for sure, but it would seem illogical for the God of nature to not use nature.

Maybe, just maybe, God is more of a scientist than a magician.

If you want to believe in a strict literal interpretation of the bible, I am ok with that. If you want to believe only what has been, or will be taught by science I am ok with that too.

However, no matter what you want to believe we should all, from either side of the debate, finally admit: We don’t know it all.

We like to act like we know everything, saying things such as: “Science has proven…” and “The bible says…” but if we are actually being honest – we’ll look around and humbly admit that there are a lot of things out there that we don’t understand.

And let’s stop throwing around disparaging comments about “stupid Christians and their fables” or “heathen atheists and their damned souls”. These types of comments, this type of “debate”, really shows just how undeveloped we are – spiritually, evolutionary, whichever you prefer.

Instead let’s all work together to better understand our existence. We won’t always agree on everything, but that is ok because if we always agreed we’d never progress. But there is a difference between disagreeing and schoolyard name calling. There is middle ground between having diversity in our understanding and tearing at one another because of our differences. We can be honestly educated about things and not have to agree with them or believe in them – but we also don’t have to attack them.

On the Topic of Faith:

I have seen several posts about “faith” not being a reason to believe in something. Comments such as  “…does religion have no other claim than faith?” are often found in atheist forums. It seems that many people do not realize how much faith they actually have in science. Some person, in some country, whose name we don’t know, whose credentials we’ve never checked, can perform an experiment we don’t understand, and write a paper that we will never read, and then when we skim over the blog post summarizing it with a cool picture and 3 paragraphs we are suddenly ready to accept it as truth without any verification – simply because the person is a “scientist”. That is some serious faith! I do it too, we all do. Lay followers of science exercise a lot of faith regularly. How many times have you heard the words: “Well you know THEY say…” when the person has no idea who “they” are? Two of the biggest theories in science (the creation of the universe though an explosion, and the divergence of a myriad of species from a single common ancestor) can’t actually be proven. They have strong supporting evidence, we can observe parts of the entire theories, but they can’t not be recreated or observed entirely – therefore, to a certain extent, accepting these theories requires some level of faith. There is nothing wrong with this.

On the other hand, for some people it is very hard to even consider that something might be true if it in anyway challenges what they were taught in Sunday school. Instead of allowing our understanding to grow, and our faith to stretch, we shut out new ideas. We ignore them, or dismiss them with a casual gesture. We can’t allow our faith to be challenged, or for it to wrap around and embrace a better understanding of life. Faith is meant to grow. Sometimes that means it gets stronger, sometimes that means it expands.

I would challenge anyone who believes science automatically discounts all of religion to really look a the situation and consider what you are saying. What you are saying is that the entirety of religion should be thrown out because some small part of it doesn’t match up perfectly with your understanding of the current claims of science. You are saying that none of it can be true because science hasn’t proven it, when the whole basis of science is the quest for better understanding. What you are saying is that you “know it all”.

I would challenge anyone who is afraid that their religious beliefs can’t abide science, to allow their beliefs to grow and strengthen and to embrace a more full understanding. Your faith doesn’t have to be threatened by science. Can you believe that God created the world and still accept the canon of science in general? Absolutely. If you try to say that science is all a bunch of theories of man that are probably wrong, simply because science doesn’t match up perfectly with your religion then what you are really saying is that you “know it all”.

Humankind is a complicated species, our history is complicated, our present is complicated, our future will be complicated and the universe that we live in is even more complicated. It is doubtful we will ever understand everything through religion or science.

Whatever your position on science and religion, whatever you believe, I’m OK with it, just remember – you don’t actually know it all.

Post Script:

Below is the comment area, if you are the type of person who feels the need to disparage, attack, belittle, or mock regarding ones belief in science and/or God – please move along without commenting. Regardless of your position I will freely trash any comment I deem as trash. If you like to discuss, ask sincere questions, or enjoy an honest discussion please continue.

In regards to the LDS faith, of which I belong:

  • Official doctrine on the length of time taken to create the earth: none
  • Official doctrine on the big bang or evolution: none
  • Doctrinal understanding of the actual process of creation for man or earth: very little, other than God was the creator.

 

Sometimes “Doctrinal Problems” Are Actually Our Own Problems

Recently I have been digging deeper into some of the more debated doctrines of the LDS church. I have been using various sources for my research including LDS doctrine, scripture, historical events, science, scholarly research, and even the beliefs of other religions. This isn’t the first time I have done this, but each time I have, I have arrived at the same conclusion: sometimes doctrinal problems, are actually our own problems.

Sometimes we have an issue with a gospel doctrine, church policy, religious practice, or scriptural interpretation. The issue can vary from simple wondering, to confusion, to outright offense. We tend to place these problems at the church’s feet, or the feet of its leaders. As I have read articles, listened to podcasts, and had lengthy conversations with others, I have come to realize that sometimes we see a problem when none actually exists. Instead what is wrong is our own lack of study and understanding, compounded by assumptions.

A Story to Illustrate

Brother Teller was a faithful member of the church. He had grown up in the church, he had gone to primary and sunday school and seminary. He served a mission and taught the truth to many people in a foreign country. He returned and began attending college and serving in his student ward. Everything was fine, he was happy and content, and enjoyed his life.

But then something happened. He learned that in general scientists theorize that horses were brought to the America’s by the Spanish. For Brother Teller this was a moment in time that many others have experienced, a moment when a sudden doubt has no immediate answer. He knew that the Book of Mormon references “horses” existing in the America’s long before the Spanish every arrived.

Uncomfortable showing doubt to his LDS friends, Brother Teller Turned to online forums and critical websites. The voices there were loud and extremely varied. It was difficult to sort through all of the “facts” and opinions. Some of these voices brought up more concerns which compounded his doubts. He continued to try and work out these concerns and doubts, but Sunday school didn’t really deal with his questions and he just didn’t have a lot of other places to turn. Eventually, Brother Teller stopped studying, stopped going to the temple, and stopped going to church as often. Suddenly one day he realized that his faith was shattered, and trying to piece it back together seemed like an overwhelming task. He eventually left the church.

This story, or some variation like it, plays out regularly in the lives of individual members of the church. Unfortunately, I believe, it often plays out not because of a problem with the doctrine, but because of a problem with our personal study and the way we react in the face of doctrinal opposition and doubt.

In Brother Teller’s case he suddenly found an apparent conflict between doctrine and science. He also found little help in the resources he relied on. Eventually leading to more issues with doctrine.

But the problem really began with Brother Teller’s understanding and assumptions. See, in Sunday school and seminary, we often deal with the basics. We deal with messages of hope and faith and the understanding of the commandments and the most central doctrines of the gospel. The same is true of General Conference and church publications. We deal very little with things like horses in the Book of Mormon and similar subjects. Thus, when some unexpected information comes to our attention we can suddenly feel conflict or doubt. But there are several really good reasons that the church deals with basics – and part of those reasons is because we as a people don’t put in effort.

Our effort

Lets be honest, how often to we put in an hour worth of study to be ready for this week’s sunday school lesson? How often do we really study the church publications and manuals? How often do we do more than read our scriptures daily? How often do we even read our scriptures?

The church is a vehicle to dispense the gospel and to teach what is necessary for salvation. Thus the doctrines that are most important for salvation are given the priority in church teachings. True gospel scholarship is our own responsibility. And problems can arise when lack of scholarship allows for doubts. The doubts are usually exasperated by our natural emotional reactions to the doubt.

Often I have witnessed doubts arising because a particular scripture teaching appears week in the presence of a scientific theory, a historical account, or some other contradiction. And in these instances I have found that often times the person’s doubt really begins with the fact that their scholarship of the subject is limited to what they were taught in a primary or early sunday school class. And that no additional study, or meditation, or understanding has ever occurred since that first basic rendering of the subject.

Our Problem

“Doctrinal problems” are really our own problems when we learn just enough to have doubt, but not enough to actually fully understand the subject causing doubt.

They are our problems when we allow our emotional reactions to overcome our faith.

They are our problems when we give a source or critic more credit than is due, simply because they present themselves as more “objective” or having gained “greater understanding”.

They are our problem when we chase controversy instead of seeking faith.

They are our problems when we rely on what we know from Sunday school alone, and don’t admit that our gospel scholarship is weaker than it could, and probably should be.

If our “scholarship” consists of the stories we learned in primary, a few daily verses, and the occasional reading about a particular subject then our ability to deal with conflicting information, previously unknown details, or our own internal conflicts will be diminished. However, our “right” to really have any doubt is also diminished. If we are willing to be casual in our understanding of the gospel, then we must also be willing to be casual about our doubts. This is, however, rarely how we respond to doubt – and not a great way to live the gospel.

Dealing with Doubt

All too often, a person with 100 reasons to believe can have their faith jeopardized by one reason to doubt.

Our reactions to a doubt are often magnified with intensity, while our reactions to inspiration are often subdued and undernourished. We are slow to believe, but quick to doubt. It would appear that in this battle we see doubts as the David, and our belief as the Goliath. When actually, if our faith was a David it would be able to withstand any Goliath of doubt.

Faith like a David

President Uchtdorf discussed this very phenomenon in the October 2013 General Conference address “Come, Join with Us”.

Two sentences in this adress really stood out to me, they were:

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith”

and:

“A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others”

Some have taken issue with this first quote, which is not completely unique to President Uchtdorf, but I would say they are falling for the very trap he is warning against. They doubt his words about doubt, before looking at it from a faithful viewpoint.

The second quote sums up almost every experience I have personally had with doubt. I see some eventually thrive in testimony and faith after experiencing a doubt, and others fall and crumble at the mere suggestion of the same doubt.

If we are going to look beyond basic doctrine, if we are going to dig deeper, if we are going to give ear to critics, then we must also be willing to look beyond doubts, dig deeper than the controversy, and give ear to faithful discussion.

Often, people stop when doubt arises and fail to take a deeper, faithful look. When really we should be willing to “first doubt your doubt”, and continue in faithful study to acquire more light and knowledge (D&C 50:24; Moroni 10:5). It is likely that what was once a doubt will later “build faith”.

My dear fellow saints, please don’t fall for this trap. Hang on to your belief with a firm grip while you work to figure out your doubts. Your final position on the subject will still be yours to make, but in the mean time give faith the benefit – and doubt the suspicion.

Faithful Study

As I said before, almost any “doctrinal problem” we might run into has probably already been explored, investigated, debated, and had had various opinions offered. If we have doubts, we must patiently search out faithful discussions. In Brother Teller’s case, a little additional study and faithful analysis would have certainly given him the opportunity to increase his faith, instead of lose it.

It is imperative that, before venturing into deeper water, we learn to sail. A strong testimony in, and solid understanding of basic doctrines provide us the ability to navigate against unexpected currents, and can be essential to a successful voyage. But above all, we need to resist the urge to abandon ship, just because we see a little water on the deck.

I encourage the study of history and science and doctrine. I encourage an honest inquiry. But I encourage it with a focus on faith not doubt, with a good measure of patience, with careful thought, and with a consistent diet of prayer and personal inspiration.

P.S. Here are a few places to find faithful discussion:

 

Thinking Through Kate Kelly’s Op-Ed

Thinking Through Kate Kelly’s Op-Ed

In a recent op-ed for The Guardian, Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women, discussed her thoughts in regards to women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and her current status with the church. I have already addressed a comment by one of Kelly’s supporters, the following are my thoughts upon reading Kelly’s writing.

Kelly begins by discussing an upcoming disciplinary council being held on her behalf:

 “On Sunday, I will be tried in absentia for apostasy by the leaders of my former congregation in the Mormon church. I face potential excommunication for the simple act of opening my mouth and starting a conversation about gender equality in the church and the deep roots of this institutional inequality.”

 Kelly would have us believe that she is being persecuted for the “simple act of opening [her] mouth”. However that is not the extent of Kelly’s actions. She has started an entire movement – with an official name, a website, and facebook page. She has lead a march on church owned property, during a church run event – twice, after being specifically asked not to. She has participated in a number of media interviews, blog posts, and public appearances to teach in opposition of church doctrine and leaders. She has lead others to also act against the church and its leaders and procedures. This is much more than simply “opening my mouth”, this is an active campaign to change the church, its policies, and its doctrine. It is a very loud campaign, though it holds a following of less than 2/10ths of a percent of the total church membership.

In addition, excommunication is not the only possible result of the upcoming disciplinary council. There are at least five potential results as laid out in the church handbook: no action,  informal probation, formal probation, disfellowshipping, and excommunication. None of which are considered to be permanent, non reversible, actions. Though they may be very difficult and be accompanied by serious pain, they are not a final condition unless chosen so by the individual. A council, though referred to as a “trial” sometimes is far from a courtroom proceeding. Excommunication is a distinct possibility, however, excommunication is not used lightly. Excommunication can be used in the event of apostasy, something that the church has defined clearly – only a disciplinary council can decide of apostasy has occurred and excommunication for apostasy can only occur after other remedies have been explored, which is the case this time.

 “My grave situation is another example of how silencing women has long been a top communications priority for patriarchical institutions, both literally and figuratively.”

 If anything, church leadership has only increased the voice of women in the church. The first woman to speak in general conference was Lucy Mack Smith in 1845. However, for decades after, women speakers were only seen on an occasional basis. A predominance of male speakers at such an event would have been nothing but a social normality at the time, and was not a conspiracy to keep women silent. There certainly was no doctrine that women couldn’t speak publicly, at they were invited to from time-to-time. As time went by, especially for about the last 30 years, we have seen more consistent appearances of women in General Conference. In just the last year we have seen Linda S. Reeves, Rosemary M. Wixom, Bonnie L. Oscarson, Linda K. Burton, and Carole M. Stephens all speak at least once at General Conference. We have also seen them, and other sisters, speak at other meetings around the world.

Twice a year there is a general meeting just for women of the church.

In addition, women often write articles in the official church magazines. In just one recent issue of the Ensign we see at least seven female authors. Women also help develop and write church curriculum. There are also many female Mormon authors who write wonderful scholarly and historical books and sell them on the regular market.

Kelly herself references, in the article, a song written by a female. Another song written by a female member of the church is likely the most popular of all LDS hymns.

Recently the church PR department met with an unofficial LDS women’s group and thanked them for the work they are doing to support each other and other women.

For years BYU, a church owned school, has held an annual Women’s Conference which features both male and female presenters. BYU hires female professors, some of which are among the most popular on campus.

The church includes the largest women’s organization in the entire world – the Relief Society. An international organization of service and fellowship that utilizes female lay leaders and instructors from every walk of life. This organizes and binds more women in the world than any other single women’s organization.

Does this mean there aren’t some kinks that could be worked out? No, but the above is hardly the work of a conspiring organization that wishes to silence women and keep them oppressed.

 “In the Mormon church, all positions of authority and leadership require ordination to the priesthood – and no women can be ordained, though the vast majority of male members, age 12 and up, are. This means that no women can lead any official rites and ceremonies, despite the fact that there is no specific Mormon church doctrine explaining why women are not ordained.”

 This statement is less than accurate. Some of the leadership positions that can only be held by women are: Primary President and counselors, Young Women President and counselors, Relief Society President and counselors, instructors in the Young Women and relief Society organizations. These organizations have women leaders on the ward, stake, and general leadership levels. There are also newly formed international boards for women leaders. In the temple there are positions that can only be held by women, some of which require those women to perform priesthood ordinances. These women perform and participate in two of the most important ordinances of the church.

Yes boys as young as 12 are ordained to the Aaronic or “preparatory” priesthood and given authority to perform some basic ordinances under the strict direction of adult leaders. Under no circumstance are they given any authority, or stewardship, over anyone other than other young men their same age. They are, however, given mandates to serve everyone in their ward as part of their priesthood service. That is how the priesthood works, it is about 90% mandate to serve and 10% authority and stewardship – and then only under specific situations as directed by a higher authority. In a regular LDS ward there are only four people who have authoritative priesthood stewardship (called “keys”) for other people in the ward. Three of these have stewardship for other boys and men, and one, the Bishop, has stewardship for all members of the ward. The vast majority of priesthood holders in the church right now do not hold any keys of authority for other people. However, each one of them is under mandate to serve others.

 “In early 2013 I felt inspired to create a movement seeking equality for and ordination to the priesthood for Mormon women. The backlash was fairly immediate from many more orthodox members of the church, but my congregation’s leaders in northern Virginia said nothing to me for over a year.

Last month I moved away from Virginia and, after I left, I was placed on “informal probation” by my former local congregational leaders and can no longer participate in church activities in any congregation or church, regardless of where I go. One of the stipulations listed in the letter from my leaders is to literally keep my mouth shut. It says, “If you are invited to pray or read a passage or comment in a class or other Church meeting, you must decline.” Under this directive, I am not even allowed to speak when spoken to in church. I am, however, encouraged to continue to tithe.”

This is not specific to Kelly’s experience. Though she would frame it as a reaction to her speaking out, the same exact instructions have been received by many church members as they work through a variety of spiritual issues – not just apostasy. One may be given the same limitations for issues with morality, issues with dishonesty, or any number of spiritual issues while continuing on the path of repentance. Tithing is one of the most basic exercises in faith. Given up something that we naturally want for the Lord, and it is personal between the individual and the Lord. Thus it is no surprise that tithing would continue for a repentant person.

 “Being silenced this way feels as though a physical gag has been placed in my mouth each Sunday, and the pain of knowing my feelings and ideas are unwelcome is sharp. I am deeply saddened that my beloved church is considering forcibly ejecting me for living out what I was taught in a primary song as a child: “do what is right, let the consequence follow”.

It is interesting that she would appeal to a church hymn to make her point. Another song she would have learned in primary says “Follow the prophet” and yet her movement is explicit in its intention to not follow the prophet unless he makes a directive to the liking of Ordain Women. Primary songs are very boiled down and simple versions of gospel teachings which allow children to begin to comprehend doctrine and be inspired to moral virtues, they are not meant to deal with more complicated issues such as gender, equality, and apostasy. Nor are they meant to be the extent of one’s understanding of church doctrine or practices.

 “Religious women with concerns about gender inequality, like myself, are faithful people, yet we have earnest questions. Our voices speak words of concern with love. Far from being censured, the valid questions we are asking should be taken seriously at the highest levels of our institutions, no matter what creed or faith. After all, women make up at least one half of all church membership worldwide.”

 Valid questions should be asked and heard, but demands such as “Ordain Women believes women must be ordained…” are not just valid questions. Campaigns to “put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood” are more than questions they are demands backed with activist tactics. Demands and activism may work in other organizations, but not in the Lord’s church.

 “For me it is because of my faith – and not in spite of it – that I have a desire to stand up for myself and my sisters. I have been taught a vision of a truly cooperative future where men and women are complete equals”

 Visions are great, anyone can receive revelation. But they can only receive revelation as it applies to their stewardship. Only the prophet can receive revelation for the church and its doctrines. This principle has been taught in the Bible (Amos 3:7), The Book of Mormon (Words of Mormon 1:16-18), and the Doctrine and Covenants (Doctrine and Covenants 1:14-16).

It is great that she has received a spiritual vision of the future, however, that vision is for her and can not be the source of change within church doctrine. If each revelation given to each of the 15 million members of the church constituted a need for change to the church we would, in the end, believe nothing and accomplish less.

 “In fact, Mormon doctrine teaches that we have Heavenly Parents: Mother and Father. As Mormon poetess and pioneer Eliza R Snow wrote in a cherished Mormon hymn:

In the heav’ns are parents single?

No, the thought makes reason stare!

Truth is reason; truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.

Knowing that our Heavenly Parents are both male and female teaches me that our potential as women is limitless. However, I do not see that eternal equality reflected in the contemporary church.”

To claim that not being ordained to the priesthood limits the eternal potential of women ignores a few doctrines of the church. The basic of which is that men and women are “equal but different”. One of the most glaring faults with Kelly’s assumptions is that not having the priesthood somehow makes her less than equal. The world’s view of equality is based on simple perceptions, the church’s view of equality is based on eternal principles and God’s teachings.

Kelly indicates that because she does not have the priesthood she can’t obtain her limitless potential – a potential known in the doctrine as “exaltation”. Yet a basic teaching of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that even people who have never heard a word of the gospel of Christ can be exalted (D&C 137:7). They too can reach that limitless potential.  If one is not damned even when they have no knowledge of the gospel in this life, how can one be damned because they don’t have the priesthood in this life?

It also ignores the fact that some truths are yet to be revealed. The things we do not yet know are almost limitless. Some of these things may never be revealed on this earth. If one is really looking for potential they will see its limitlessness, however, limitlessness in the future does not give evidence of limitations in the presence.

 “In my professional work as a human rights attorney, I have had the great honor of working with courageous women from all around the world. From Western Sahara to Cuba to Zimbabwe, I have been inspired by courageous women of all faiths, who face great consequences – many far greater than I do – for pursuing equality in and outside of their faith traditions. They have taught me that there is no reason that our churches, mosques and synagogues should be the last bastion of sexism in the world.”

It is certainly easy to apply a worldly definition of equality, and politically charged issues like sexism, to a church whose priesthood is held by men. But in doing so one also admits that they do not believe the leaders of the church to be inspired. They also claim that the millions of members of the church who believe the priesthood is being administered correctly are also not inspired. These people have also prayed, they have also received revelation, and in doing so they have come to the conclusion that the church leaders are correct, that they are inspired. To claim that one lay member of the church, and few followers, have received more correct inspiration then the called and ordained prophets of God and tens of millions of other lay members – and that this inspiration must be accepted and taught – is the definition of apostasy.

It is also the claim that the world’s view of equality and gender roles should be the exact same as the eternal truths related to equality and gender. We already know that the Lord’s way is not our way (Isaiah 55:8), and we already know (as we’ll see by Kelly’s next comment) that women have the same ability to reach exaltation as men.

 “Because of them, I can more clearly see the face of God, and She is beautiful.”

Though there is no confirmation of a Heavenly Mother in LDS canon, several doctrines point directly to her existence. Doctrines such as eternal marriage, eternal nature of the family and individuals, and the doctrine of all humans being literal spirit children of God. However, to say that Heavenly Mother is our “God” is not accurate. She would certainly have Godlike existence and attributes such as omniscience and omnipotence. She would certainly be of the same exalted status as our Heavenly Father, she has not, however, ever been revealed as our “God”. LDS doctrine states that the Godhead is made of three distinct individuals: The Father, The Christ, and The Holy Ghost.

Though the Father and Christ are both exalted beings, the Holy Ghost is not. Christ was not an exalted being while he acted as the God of the old testament before his birth on this earth. These are two examples showing that “God” is not just a matter of nature, but a matter of titled position.

With this in mind, we see that our Heavenly Mother is not, for the sake of our existence on this earth, our “God”. She is our mother, which position can not be diminished. But we do not receive revelation or direction from her. In fact all things are done according to the will of the Father through His son Jesus Christ. To say that Heavenly Mother is our “God” is to ignore the most basic doctrines of the Godhead. How can one claim to know a better way for the church to follow as they step over the very doctrines that set this church apart from others?

 “Significant, worldwide progress to achieve gender equality necessitates progression from inside every religious tradition, because injustice and discrimination inside our faiths hurts all of us, not just the women in those faiths.

But while religion can be – and has been – used to perpetuate insidious discrimination, it has also been a motivation for many courageous people to seek social justice throughout history. Religion can – and should – be a catalyst for good. It can encourage men and women to re-think outdated gender roles and help us all become more accepting and inclusive.”

I agree that continuing to analyze the place of both men and women in the church is a good thing. I do not believe, however, that there is a necessity to change “every religious tradition”. The LDS church doesn’t run off tradition. Sure there may be some social and other traditions, these are usually easy to see as such, but the most important doctrines in the church are not just traditions. If you believe in revelation through living prophets, then it is easy to discern truth from tradition. This is a church of revealed truth, not a tradition.

“Outdated gender roles” is another politically charged term. What we should really be looking at is: eternal truths concerning our roles as men and women. Again, applying worldly concepts to a church of revealed truth is much like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The church of Christ can not be led by the precepts of mortal humans. I can, however, be lead by a clearly defined system of revelation and leadership.

 “Changes and reforms within faith traditions ought to come from inside our organizations. Women like me are asking heartfelt questions and seeking to improve the churches that we love. Instead of being punished for speaking out, we need to be listened to and taken seriously.

Every institution can benefit from greater participation from one half of its body. To remain relevant in today’s world, religious institutions will thrive by tackling tough questions of gender equality, engaging with concerned women and helping move us all forward, together.”

As I indicated above “speaking out” is being used very liberally by Kelly. However, I agree with the basic intent of these words, I just believe the intent is being applied in the wrong way. It is not the “church” (its doctrine and practices) that need to be improved, though there may be room for other changes. Forcing dramatic changes by leveraging against leadership will not bring true positive change. It does, as we have seen recently, bring controversy, division, and falling away.

The church does not need to be exalted. One day the church will be gone. When this mortal existence is over, there will be no “LDS Church”. All that will be left will be the body of the church – us as individuals. True change for the better needs to come from this body – from us as individuals. As we learn truths as revealed by the prophets, share them with each other, and work to improve one another’s lives we will begin to see this “limitless potential” within ourselves and others. We will see true acts of inequality, found in our own words and actions, begin to disappear. We will see changes to programs and social norms and traditions, we will see true change – inspiring and uplifting change. This type of change brings peace not controversy, unity not division, and love instead of anger.

I hope that those who are considering, or who have accepted, the teachings and positions of Kate Kelly would take the time to compare them to revealed truth. Be suspicious of flattering talking points and media controversy. Opinions will pale when compared to truth.

For Sister Kelly, I hope that she will find that she does have limitless potential, that she is a literal daughter of God, and that the only thing that holds us back from reaching our potential – is ourselves.

Expletives for God: Insights from a recent Facebook post

*Fair warning, at least one expletive is referenced in this post, not everything below is inspiring*

The Facebook post below was brought to my attention. It was made by someone I do not know, but other information attached to the comment revealed that this person is LDS and that they are referring to recent events and activism within the LDS community. Both of which have gained social and traditional media attention. I have removed identifying information from the comment because who said it doesn’t matter, it is the content and implications of the comment that does.

Here is it:

Expletives for God

At first I was shocked, and dismissed the comment as just a random outburst, but as the comment climbed to nearly 300 “likes” in just a few days, I decided I needed to say something. So in the spirit of all who have recently said “I will not be silenced” and have given a rather loud call for all to be able to share their opinions and ideas without fear – I will proceed with a response to this comment.

I worry about the effects these types of comments might have on some members of the church. I also worry what it might say to those looking at the church from an investigative point of view, or those who do not fully understand or agree with our doctrine. Whatever the case, I feel a duty to defend the truth.

We’ll break the comment into parts.

“I would like to point out that eve [sic], mother of all living, disobeyed…”

I am glad that the commenter wants to get past any fluff and get right to the point. I would like to do the same thing. Let’s review the facts:

  1. Eve is created and put into the garden of Edena)Genesis 2:20-22
  2. She is given commandmentsb)Genesis 3:3
  3. She disobeys God’s commandmentsc)Genesis 3:6
  4. She is confronted by Godd)Genesis 3:13
  5. She attempts to give reason for her actionse)Genesis 3:13
  6. She is punished, cast out by God, for her disobediencef)Genesis 3:16, Genesis 3:23

If you adhere to the entire course of events as laid out by LDS doctrine you will notice that after attempting to give reason for her actions Eve covenants with God to obey His laws. Then the punishment is laid out.

In her attempt to justify her opinion by diminishing Eve, the commenter has not fully considered the doctrines associated with the passage. Yes, Eve disobeyed God – just like every other human that has ever lived on this earth! Each one of us has disobeyed God. Yet the disobedience of one person will never justify the disobedience of any other person. We are expected to be obedient regardless of circumstance; the scripture doesn’t state: “if ye love me, keep my commandments, conditionally”g)John 14:15. We can learn from the story of Eve that, regardless of intent or understanding, disobedience has its consequences. We can also, without making direct comparisons to any individual or group, learn from the story of Lucifer. Lucifer thought he knew a better way. He thought everyone should listen to him. But when he began to pull others away from God, he was also punished. He was cast out from the presence of God. And this punishment was given despite the fact that Lucifer’s plan would have guaranteed the exaltation of all of God’s children.h)Moses 4 Again, regardless of intent or ultimate outcome, when we stray too far from God’s teachings, or when we disobey, there is potential for undesirable consequences.

The story of Eve teaches us this: Even when we do disobey, the purpose of God can’t be frustrated. We are the ones that suffer for our disobedience. But even after our disobedience there is always a way to return to God. Which brings me to my next point.

I am actually excited this was brought up! I never realized that Eve’s experience with the Lord is, in fact, an account of this world’s first disciplinary council. This is an interesting correlation because of the ongoing media scene surrounding recent church disciplinary councils being held. Let’s review Eve’s story: Eve acts in a way contrary to the commandments of God, the presiding authority meets with Eve, they discuss what happened, Eve shows a willing heart to repent and improve, and a course of action is lined out to help Eve return to the presence of God.

Helping the individual return to God is exactly what a disciplinary council does. Yes, sometimes they require a separation for certain spiritual blessing – like Eve leaving the gardeni)Genesis 3:23-24. Yes, sometimes, they are very hard and require a lot of the person – “greatly multiply thy sorrows”j)Genesis 3:16. Yes, sometimes, the plan of action could be referred to as a punishment. Sometimes they also result in no action of any kind being taken. Sometimes they are just for council and nothing else. But every time, as with Eve, the reason for a disciplinary council is to help the person return to the presence of God.

What a great lesson! Even our first parents had a disciplinary council! Maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of them! Maybe we shouldn’t think they are such a scandal! Maybe we should see the good that they have done for so many people. Maybe we should be thankful to have a full set of tools at our disposal to help us repent. Maybe we should be thankful that the Lord’s church even cares about our spiritual condition.

Maybe, just maybe, Eve shared her experience with her sons and daughters so that they too could learn the importance of obedience.

“f$%(*#)ing GOD”

The commenter is very specific in her wording here. She took the time to work out a series of, less than easy to type, symbols to soften the blow of the chosen expletive – but it didn’t work.

My first concern here was to try and figure out how this word is being applied to God. I took the time to look the word up and read each definition. I then tried to apply each definition to God. I was going to share my results here, but the idea made me nauseous. I will, however, share some of the words found in the definitions: mess, anger, contempt, disgust, cheat, harsh, vulgar, obscene, copulate, coitus, sex.

I could not find any use of the word that seemed appropriate when talking about God. Let’s be clear on who this God is. The expletive is being used in reference to our Heavenly Father. The very father of our spirits – who we really are. The one who went to great, and difficult lengths, to secure our agency so that we could make comments like the one above. But then who also allowed His son to suffer every pain and die so that our comments would not keep us from returning to His presence. Our father who gave us life, who gives us breath, who answers our prayers. Our gracious God, our loving Father.

I am not sure what the commenter could possibly have meant by the use of this expletive, which is considered one of the most offensive in the English language. I just cannot fathom it.

But the use of the word isn’t what actually worries me most. It is the implications of it’s use. Here we have a person who, in her attempt to share some supposed truth from God, separates herself from Him by her very words. We see disrespect to the utmost authority in all of creation. We see a level of respect for God and his ways which includes the use of degrading and grotesque language referring to one of the most sacred gifts given to his children. We see the willingness to apply to God any language necessary to make sure her voice is heard.

The Holy Ghost uses a “still small voice”, this person uses expletives. It is no wonder that this individual would be so concerned about authority. It is no wonder that this person would be willing to defend disobedience by tearing down our first mother. It is no wonder that this person would be so outraged, for clearly what came out of this person’s mouth came from their heart – and thus we have significant insight k)Mathew 15:18.

I would understand it more if it was written “god,  because I can not see any way in which it would be appropriate to use this expletive to describe someone that you actually believe to be deity. Thus in attempt to defend against some perceived wrong, the commenter has forfeited any credibility to speak about the things of God.

“Conscious-driven agency”

Isn’t it interesting that we call to agency whenever we are being, or intend to be, disobedient and want to justify ourselves. “I HAVE my agency!” we cry, when we are wrong, but in reality it is our nature to disobey. If left to just follow our own desires we would travel very far from our Godl)Mosiah 3:19.  True use of agency is found in obedience not disobedience. Obedience because we choose to be, because we understand truth, and because we trust Godm)https://www.lds.org/topics/agency?lang=eng.

The conscience isn’t some biological feature or social construct. The conscience is the light of Christ given to all men, that they may know good from eviln)Moroni 7:16. This “conscious-driven agency” would lead one to follow Christ, it would lead one to truth. It would not lead one to fight against the light. It would not lead one to edit the gospel. It would not lead one to stone the prophets. It would not lead one to degrade God with vulgarity.

It is convenient to claim some righteous form of agency when disobedience is evidence of the misuse of agencyo)Doctrine Covenants 101:78. It is easy to try and justify our actions, we’ve been doing it since the garden of Edenp)Genesis 3:12-13.

Peeking Behind the Mask

This Facebook commenter and those who support this comment have said that they are just asking questions, and being persecuted for it. They often claim that they have felt inspiration to support their particular movement. They say that the church leadership is wrong, that the church needs to change.

But what we see in this comment gives us some insight into other ideas and feelings they have. We see a willingness to twist doctrine to their liking, so that they can sound like they are speaking truth. We see a willingness to try and tear down anyone, even Eve, to lift themselves up. We even see the willingness to disrespect and disgrace God to make our voices louder.

One outspoken individual, whom this commenter supports, likes to say “We will be reverent and we will be respectful – but we will never be silenced”. Again, another insight as the above comment reveals that reverence and respect are not highly regarded in this movement. Sure reverence and respect for those who use flattering words maybe, but not for Eve and not for God.

A Final Thought

For those who are already sharpening their one-liners about not being judgmental. Let me suggest that you further study the doctrine of judgment before you proceedq)https://www.lds.org/ensign/1999/08/judge-not-and-judging?lang=eng. Like the part where we are commanded to judger)Leviticus 19:15, Moroni 7:15, John 7:24, Roman’s 14:13. It is important that we are able to make judgement so that we can discern the truth. And though I do not know this commenter and am not able to judge them specifically, nor should I, the comment has been put out publicly for discussion – and the comment itself can be judged. The comment can be judged for its truth, and the comment itself shows us what a certain people “like”.

Judgement works in multiple ways. Some have judged that the Prophet of God is wrong, that he ignores a great discrepancy in the administration of the church. They have judged that their inspiration is correct and the current organization of the priesthood is wrong. They have judged that some conspiracy has been concocted to silence them.

We have all made judgments. I too have made mine. I have judged that Christ leads his church, that the prophets are true and living prophetss)Doctrine and Covenants 1:38. I have judged that revelation has an order and a process by which to confirm itt)https://www.lds.org/topics/revelation?lang=eng. I have judged that satan is often more deceitful than we give him credit foru)Mathew 24:24.

I would encourage all those caught up by the fabricated controversy of the last few weeks to begin to judge. To judge the words of God against the words of those who rally against his servants. Judge the truth of testimony and scripture against words shared in comments like the one above. Judge for yourself: truth vs controversy.

I myself have done this. And in the end I have judged to follow the prophet, who speaks in this manner: “I leave with you my witness and my testimony that God our Eternal Father lives and loves us. He is indeed our Father, and He is personal and real. May we realize how close to us He is willing to come, how far He is willing to go to help us, and how much He loves us.”v)https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/until-we-meet-again?lang=eng rather than to listen to someone who dismisses their god with expletives.

References   [ + ]

a. Genesis 2:20-22
b. Genesis 3:3
c. Genesis 3:6
d. Genesis 3:13
e. Genesis 3:13
f. Genesis 3:16, Genesis 3:23
g. John 14:15
h. Moses 4
i. Genesis 3:23-24
j. Genesis 3:16
k. Mathew 15:18
l. Mosiah 3:19
m. https://www.lds.org/topics/agency?lang=eng
n. Moroni 7:16
o. Doctrine Covenants 101:78
p. Genesis 3:12-13
q. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1999/08/judge-not-and-judging?lang=eng
r. Leviticus 19:15, Moroni 7:15, John 7:24, Roman’s 14:13
s. Doctrine and Covenants 1:38
t. https://www.lds.org/topics/revelation?lang=eng
u. Mathew 24:24
v. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/until-we-meet-again?lang=eng

A New Path

We are excited to announce that Peculiar Thought has followed the admonition to “ponder the path of thy feet” and we decided to follow a new path! We intend to focus on posts related to the Doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and to the everyday ins-and-outs of being a saint.

We hope to provide posts that will help us to further investigate doctrine and apply them in our lives. Along with honest, faithful, discussions about current events and life in general.

We hope that you will find inspiration and a voice of truth in our posts. We welcome suggestions for posts and insightful, respectful commenting.

Activism and the LDS Church

Recent events, especially the movement of “Ordain Women”, has caused me to seriously reflect upon the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints and it’s administration.

Let me state a few things before assumptions are made:

  1. I don’t have any fundamental problem with women having the priesthood, in fact it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if someday that revelation was given.
  2. I am well aware of the huge role women play in the church. I have watched all of my leadership efforts absolutely pale in comparison to my counterparts with names like Eva, and Heather, and Mariana.
  3. This post won’t deal with all things “inequality”, but we will get to that in another post.

So what is this post about? What are we talking about here? We are simply talking about activism and the LDS Church.

What do I mean when I say “activism in the church”? It’s really quite simple actually. It is the efforts of groups of members of the church to put pressure on church leadership through the tactics usually employed in the political arenas. Protests, social media campaigns, traditional media campaigns, speeches, petitions, “walk ins”, and other such activities all fit into the definition of activism.

Activism is a powerful tool, it’s been used to do much good in the world. It’s also been used to do much evil in the world, though we don’t usually call it activism in those cases. Activism definitely has it’s appropriate place in the political arenas of states, and man made organizations. But we aren’t talking about the entities of mankind – we are talking about the Church of God. We are talking about the church whose head is Christ. Christ, the Savior of the world, the creator of all things, the very God of heaven and earth.

I expect the first response to this will be: “But the church of Christ is lead by imperfect men, who are not infallible”. This is a good point. But let us talk about what that means. We know that the leaders of the church are imperfect humans, we know that they are allowed mistakes, but we also know that God will not allow them to lead us astray. So where do we draw the line? Do we get to decide when the brethren are just being imperfect, and when they are leading us astray?

Continue reading Activism and the LDS Church