Monday, 6 April 2015

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Easter weekend for me means a trip to my parents home where we gather with my siblings and their kids.  I'm focused on spending time with extended family so I'm not as in touch with what is going on out in the world around Easter time.  I was blissfully unaware of websites training people how to object to the sustaining of General Authorities, or press releases by those planning to do so.  All the same I can't say that I was terribly surprised that 5 or 6 people made their opposition clear in General Conference.

Many faithful Mormons have reacted with varying degrees of anger or disdain towards that handful of objectors.  I can understand having that kind of reaction when somebody disrespects somebody you care about but to be honest, I'm glad they did it.  I do not say that out of any sympathy for their causes.  I'm also not convinced that it was necessary for them to be so disruptive in how they expressed themselves.

I see three possible situations here:

1.  They have a legitimate reason to object.

To me this the most far fetched thing possible, but the whole point of calling for a sustaining vote is so that if there is a legitimate reason why a certain person should not hold a certain office, it can come to light.

2.  They are sincere, good-hearted people who think they have a legitimate reason to object when they do not. 

If this is the case, objecting will lead to them receiving the counsel and information they need to realize their mistake. Back in 1980 when there were objectors over the issue of the church's opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment the objection was only leveled at the first presidency, not the Quorum of the 12, so the objectors were invited to meet with the President of the Quorum of the Twelve (President Hinckley) to address their concerns.  In this case, since they objected to both the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve they are invited to meet with their Stake President. Hopefully this will lead to them obtaining a better understanding, realizing their mistake, and gaining a renewed testimony.

3.  They have gone apostate already.

It is tempting to assume that this is the case right off the bat, but in our hearts we should be open to the possibility that they are honestly mislead people.  If however they truly have gone apostate then it is still a good thing that they have spoken up.  It is in their best interest to be released from covenants they do not intend to keep, and it is in the best interest of the church to keep an apostate from appearing to be a faithful member.

There is a difference between being able to do something, and whether you should do that thing or not.  In objecting to sustaining a leader, it should only be done in the first case, but no matter what case it is, the person doing it is likely to see their objection as legitimate.  The good thing is that in any of the cases above, their objecting begins a process that will lead to a better situation for the church and the individual as long as truth is not resisted.  

Can vs. Should

The difference between 'can' and 'should' applies in another recent event in the church. 

Recently, Elder D. Todd Christofferson remarked that members are free to hold as a personal belief views on same sex marriage that are not in line with the church's position.  This makes sense as the requirements for baptism (ie: membership) in the church don't require a person to know and accept 100% of the church's position on everything.

If a person believes in God, has faith in Christ, believes the restoration, commits to live the gospel standards, and doesn't have any past sins of a serous nature there is nothing to stop them from becoming Mormons.  Every convert, and every member born in the church, is carrying around some idea or belief that is not correct.  The purpose of the church is to create an environment where we learn and grow.  As we attend church, study the scriptures and live the gospel, God can work on us to help us shed false ideas and replace them with truth.

It would be a mistake however to assume that because a member can hold such a view, that they should.  Nothing in what Elder Christofferson gave any endorsement to a pro same sex marriage position, in fact he made it clear that acting on such views by organizing against the church, or trying to pull people away from the church are not acceptable, and that the position of the church with respect to opposing same sex marriage is not going to change.  There is no apology from the church for it's efforts to keep same sex marriage from being legalized, and no acceptance of gay marriages as moral or legitimate in the eyes of God.

I recognize that there are solid members with testimonies of the gospel who feel tension between the position the church has taken against same sex marriage, and their personal feelings on the issue.  Often this strikes very close to home where there are desires for a child or other family member or close friend who is gay to be happy and have companionship. A life of faithful celibacy seems like a hard thing to ask of somebody, yet that is what God asks.

Over the short term, that tension can be maintained and lived with, but I hope that those members are seeking for a more harmonious relationship with the gospel during that time.  God loves all people, and he wants the best for each person as well.  His commandments are not given without an understanding of the complexities of mortal life and our own emotions.

Since God can truly love a gay person and also hold to what His moral laws decree at the same time, then we can also truly love those around us no matter what their orientation, without compromising on what is right in God's eyes.  We can cling to a view on same sex marriage that is contrary to what the church teaches, but we should seek to harmonize our hearts with the gospel. 

We just have to learn to love as God loves.  I fear that those who give up on seeking after that may be expressing objections of their own in some future General Conference.  They can do that, but that doesn't mean they should, and it doesn't mean eternal consequences can't result from it.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

In search of fairness

It is not every day that the church calls a news conference like it did the week before last.  I'm sure that more than a few people anticipated or even hoped for some great change.  I saw people speculating that sister missionaries would be allowed to serve for two years and other such things until it was announced that the topic would be non-discrimination and religious freedom.

I have linked those two topics together for a long time.  The relentless push to make gay marriage legal has succeeded up here in Canada, but having it made legal has not been enough for LGBT activists.  They now push for it to be accepted and celebrated by all, and any who dare not conform become targets of their anger.  Likewise in the United States, and Elder Oaks pointed to a number of examples of this.

What the Church called for in the press conference was exactly the right thing.  The debate has become polarized with Christians feeling that the institution of marriage is being vandalized and gays feeling they are hated and mistreated just for being gay.  When each side sees the other as an enemy the middle ground becomes a minefield and nobody wants to go there.

Being gay is no reason to refuse to rent an apartment to somebody, or hire them, or do business with them either.  Not unless doing so is harmful to the free exercise of religion, or if it violates the freedom of religious institution to operate according the requirements of their faith.  For that reason the Church is well within its rights to require that Church employees, employees of some Church owned entities, and students at church operated schools adhere to the moral standards of the Church.  While that standard would exclude practicing homosexuals, it would not forbid gays who live by the standards of the Church.  It would also exclude heterosexuals who are breaking the law of chastity.  It isn't what you are, it is what you have done.

While it was the right thing for the church to call for a balanced approach that seeks to find a solution respectful of the needs of both sides, it remains a goal that seems a long way off.  The reaction of the LGBT community has been deeply hostile, casting the press conference as an attempt to buy off the gay rights movement with a deal to give them some things they want in exchange for (as they see it) legal protection to continue to be bigots.  The reaction from the religious right was not as harsh, likely due to the fact that when it comes to defending traditional marriage we Mormons have earned a lot of credibility.  Even so, some Evangelical leaders have brushed off the recommendation as naive.

While I fully agree with the message presented in the press conference, I am unsure if it will have much impact on legislators or judges.  Especially outside of Utah.  With gay marriage coming before the US Supreme Court the topic is timely, and Elder Oaks certainly has the legal credentials to give weight to his words so there is some reason to hope that it will influence outcomes.

What constitutes 'fairness' is subjective however.  At this point a lot of people feel that there simply is no way to achieve it, that each side defines fairness in a way that conflicts with how the other side defines it.  Finding that middle ground is the 'hard work' that Elder Oaks and Christofferson talked about.  Believing that finding it will be easy would be being naive, but believing it doesn't exist at all is a cynical self fulfilling prophecy

Over 10 years ago I became friends with a co-worker who was an openly gay man.  He was friendly and personable and we often had lunch together in the cafeteria there.  We talked about all kinds of things.  This was shortly before same sex marriage became legal in Canada so the topic often came up.  

Our conversations were never contentious, I would explain in detail my position and my reasons for it and he would do the same.  No slogans, no name calling, just calm discussion.  I eventually left that job and while he and I still disagreed about legalizing same sex marriage, he came to see that the hate filled Christian bigot stereotype just wasn't accurate (in my case at least).  He reached a point where he saw that my motives and my reasons were rooted in standing for a moral principle I honestly believe in, without hate or bigotry.

If the LGBT community, the religious right, lawmakers, lawyers and judges can get to that point, then we have a shot at achieving fairness for all.  If that doesn't happen, then this press conference will stand to condemn all those who failed to do their part to make it happen.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Dear Charlie Hebdo...

Dear Charlie Hebdo,

Being an ocean away, I never heard of you before the attack on your office that resulted in the needless death of twelve people, including the two unarmed police officers providing security outside.  What those gunmen did was evil, and now that they are dead they will face a justice system far better than they would if they were taken alive. 

The emotional outpouring of support around the world is both understandable and strangely irritating to me.  Injustice like that provokes sympathy, but it bothers me that others seem to be trying to lay claim by proxy to a virtue of courage that in reality they do not show.

How many of these media talking heads have spent years refusing to admit the existence of radical Islamic terrorism, refusing to use the term even after a terrorist attack in Ottawa, the utter destruction of a Nigerian village, the beheading videos, and everything else that has happened?   How many people who marched for unity in France also protested against people with traditional views on marriage or pro-life ideas who were invited to speak at a university or college?

Rex Murphy is a commentator here in Canada who hit the nail on the head in this column. I can't help but wonder however if he had to say this in the somewhat conservative National Post because the forum he is best known for (the ever so politically correct CBC) still avoids labeling terrorism as terrorism.  They are the broadcaster of choice to those very people that Mr Murphy points an accusing finger at.

I stand in opposition to both those terrorists who attacked you and to the self-censorship so prevalent in the media.  I stand firmly for the principle of freedom of speech, but I hope you understand that I can't offer my personal support for what you produce in your magazine.  Perhaps it is too soon to start this conversation, but there is no question that your magazine produces material that is lewd, puerile, insulting, derogatory, inflammatory and even pornographic at times.  I do not question your right to produce it, but I do question the wisdom in producing it.

Not because there are those who would lash out violently when offended.  Prophets, apostles, and missionaries have offended people many times in the past and become the targets of violent persecution and even murder as a result.  I've offended my share of people (although not to the point of them trying to kill me) and it is not in my nature to try and appease a bully.

I'm saying that your brand of humor is unwise because when you denigrate and mock a race, gender, group or religion, you erode the foundation of all freedoms.  I expect you would point out that you target Christians, Jews and Muslims equally and think yourself noble because of it, but that doesn't really make it any better in my eyes. 

When you stir up contempt for your targets, you dehumanize them into caricatures not to be taken seriously, not to be listened to, not to be afforded any respect.  You facilitate and inspire your readers to accept the kind of prejudices that would lead them to make other people second class citizens because of their beliefs.  It is a subtle attack on freedom of religion and there is no higher purpose in it for you than to provoke a cheap laugh by appealing to the lowest common denominators of society in a quest for profit.

We Mormons faced a lot of violent persecution in our early days specifically because there were people who stirred up contempt against us in much the same way you stir up contempt against your targets.  Innocent people were killed by mobs incited to violence by publications that attacked and mocked Mormons.  Just because you have a right to do something doesn't mean it is the right thing to do.

So please don't take my condemnation of your attackers as any kind of endorsement for the material you publish.  It isn't.  I won't be buying a copy of your latest issue and if I want to point to an example of courageous free speech, I'll refer to Malala Yousafzai or Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Saturday, 25 October 2014

If you are surprised, you have NOT been paying attention.

Two Canadian soldiers are dead.  Attacked and killed on Canadian soil by cowards who did not dare to face them in a fair fight.  Cpl. Nathan Cirillo  was shot as he stood, unarmed, as a sentry at Canada's National War MemorialWarrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run over in the parking lot outside a government office in a strip mall.  His killer is reported to have waited there for hours for the chance to kill a soldier.

Both of the accused are recent converts to Islam.  Both had already acted in such a way that the government felt compelled to revoke their passport in a bid to keep them from joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Unable to join the fight there, they each launched their own attacks here.

It really doesn't matter to me if there was any kind of organizational support behind them, if their attacks were planned or coordinated with others or not.  Even if you consider them both to be lone wolves, the fact of the matter is that they were both incited to plot and carry out their murderous plans by a subculture that now exists within every Western nation.  A subculture that glorifies murder in the name of Islam and promotes an ideology of violence and repression.

These acts should be a huge wake up call to the sleepy citizens and politicians who had their heads stuck so deep into the religion of peace sand that they couldn't tell this was coming.  I'm not saying that all of Islam is violent and repressive, but anybody who denies the existence and influence and danger of that violent subculture within Islam is like that character in a disaster movie that you hope dies of their own stupidity before they bring more disaster on those around them.  This denial gives space for that subculture to flourish even further, and blocks effective actions against it.

Striking back by vandalizing mosques or persecuting somebody for their religion is not acceptable behavior.  But a lack of condemnation from Canadian imams isn't good either.  A lack of public outrage from the Islamic community invites people to see nearly all of Islam as being sympathetic to terrorists or worse.  And I'm not talking about just these two incidents, but every time all over the world that radical Islamists rise up in violence or display their cruel and repressive intentions the near total silence from the rest of Islam is deafening.

The Westboro Baptist Church and the KKK are pushed to the fringe of society for their extremism.  To belong to either of those groups makes you a social pariah both in Western civilization and among Christians.  Why don't we see those Imams calling for violent jihad treated the same way in Western nations?  Where are the outraged followers of Muhammad shouting down and protesting against the radicals, or rejecting their ideology, stripping them of respect and influence over other followers of Islam?

If they really want us to believe that these kinds of acts are reprehensible to them and an aberration among their religion they need to do more, and be louder about it.  If they don't then it's hardly surprising that some people would draw certain conclusions (as some already have), and for some of those people to strike back against a perceived threat with vandalism or worse.  I don't want to see that happen.

I sorrow for the loved ones of those soldiers.  There has been a heartwarming outpouring towards their families and the best of Canadian values has been on display in our reaction to this.  But I feel sorrow for Canada as well, because despite the usual rhetoric from politicians about being more resolved then ever, I struggle to believe the political willpower to solve this problem will last long enough to see it solved.

I think if  any Western government really did do what it had to do to remove that subculture from their nation, their actions would become politicized, and with the aid of a biased media their citizens would be stirred up to replace the government with one who will only do what is politically expedient at the moment, just as what happened in the USA in reaction to the World Trade Center attack and the response to it. 

If we look for a similar situation in the Book of Mormon, then the story surrounding the Title of Liberty comes to mind.  We think of Captain Moroni rallying his people but often overlook the broader story.

Captain Moroni raised the Standard of Liberty to rally the Nephites against the enemy within, the king men.  When the king men saw they were outnumbered they fled, intending to join with the Lamanites and continue their efforts to overthrow the Nephites from there.  Captain Moroni intercepted them, and all those who would not take an oath to uphold the Standard of Liberty were put to death.

Later, after the Lamanites began to wage war on the Nephites, the king men rose up again and deposed the rightful leadership.  Then they worked to deny the military of supplies and reinforcements.  Captain Moroni defeated them and executed their leaders.  Once again, any who would not uphold the Standard of Liberty and fight for the Nephites rather than against them were also put to death.

Don't misunderstand what I'm getting at here.  I am NOT calling for blood in the streets, my point is that when there is a subculture in a free nation that seeks to overthrow that freedom, and is willing to resort to violence or illegal actions, it must removed quickly, decisively, and as completely as possible.

If the subculture that generates radicals is not stamped out, we will have more radicals, more attacks, more deaths.  This subculture is not just something that exists in some mosques, it exists in a milder form in some university lecture halls, high school classrooms, and in much of the popular culture.

Those academics and actors who promote the idea that Western civilization, capitalism, or Christianity, is a force for evil, and the idea that those who do not subscribe to the right ideology are not entitled to the same level of respect or freedom as others grooms impressionable minds to be radicalized and helps make violence appear legitimate to them.

Sedition and treason are not protected free speech.  A religion stops being a religion when it advocates overthrowing the government to replace it with a theocracy, and a free and democratic society can not expect to endure if it tries to prove it's commitment to diversity by celebrating a culture that encourages, condones or facilitates violence.

If the deaths of  Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and the other victims of terrorist attacks around the world do not eventually lead to the death of  political correctness then Western governments will not be able to eradicate this cancerous subculture in their society.  It will be almost as if they died in vain, and that is a tragedy for everybody.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Playing around with bigotry.

Recently, The Book of Mormon Musical began showing here in my city.  Naturally this has brought some attention to the church in local media, including an article in a local paper and a short interview with out Stake President in a local newscast.  Naturally the Church takes the high road, not protesting against the play or even denouncing it directly.  Instead the Church has purchased full-page, inside the front cover ads on the playbill encouraging people to read the book now that they've seen the play.  Well done.

Any negative message from the Church, no matter how it was worded, would be counterproductive.  It would leave people with the impression that perhaps the play makes a valid critical point of some kind.  Critics would pounce accusing us of being afraid of a harmless play, wanting to censor others, and worse. 

Well, I am not representing the Church, I'm just a regular everyday Mormon.  I would never seek to limit the free speech of others, and I'm not going to limit my own free speech either.

I'll admit that I haven't seen the whole play, I can think of hundred better ways to spend my time and money, but I have seen some of the musical numbers and read a couple detailed synopsis of the play and I have some comments based on what I have seen in those sources.  These are comments that should have been made by any pundit or blogger who want to uphold freedom of religion, but it looks like many of them fail to notice the connection.

Obviously the play is crude, vulgar, filled with profanity, deliberately blasphemous and wildly inaccurate in it's portrayal of Mormons, missionaries, our faith, civilization in Uganda and more.  No surprise given it comes from people responsible for TV shows and movies of a similar bent.  People going to see it know it will be like that and won't mistake it for some kind of documentary.

So no big deal, right?

Well, perhaps not.  All humor has to have some intersection with something that is perceived as being true or the joke falls flat.  When audience members laugh at a joke at our expense in that play, how often will that perceived grain of truth be something that is actually true?  How often will the 'truth' they perceive be that Mormons are lacking in judgement and rational thinking skills, or that all LDS missionaries are ignorant social misfits or liars, or that religion is general is a foolish concept.  While people won't view it as a documentary, I expect a great many of them will view it as symbolic of how things really are.

This connects with why we don't have people performing in blackface any longer, portraying those of African heritage as shiftless, lazy and ignorant comedic characters.  Those performers were funny to people in the past because racist attitudes lead them to see the act as having an element of truth.  Today we don't share those attitudes, so the act loses it's connection with truth and we see it as the racism it is.  Likewise with performances that vilified Jews or any other minority group.  People didn't see themselves as racist, they just considered their views accurate.

But it's harmless right?  All just a bit of fun that doesn't mean anything.

Again I would disagree.  We like to think we are rational people ruled by our minds, but the truth is that we are deeply emotional people most of the time and what we feel often has more power over us than what we think.  This is why some works of art are seen as dangerous by totalitarians.  They can't tolerate a play or painting or book or song that will sway the emotions of the people against them.  They ban and suppress anything that could incite opposition.

An example of this is Shen Yun Performing Arts, a company based in New York that is dedicated to preserving ancient Chinese culture through traditional dance and other performing arts.  I took my wife out to see their show as her Christmas present and we were blown away by the beauty of it.  What I did not expect was there they also had a dance number portraying the current persecution of believers of Falun Gong by the Chinese government.  It was poignant and powerful.  Many members of Shen Yun are Chinese citizens who want to promote greater freedom in their homeland.  Shen Yun is not permitted to perform in China.

For some, The Book of Mormon Musical will become the thing that leads to them investigating and even joining the church, but for many others I expect the result will be a hardening of their heart against the message of the restored gospel.  I also expect that the play will promote that idea that people of our faith are intellectually deficient.  Why hold Mormon views on marriage or anything else as worthy of respect and consideration when Mormons discredit themselves by believing in a religion like that?  

Mockery has the effect of dehumanizing the target and relegating them to second class citizen status.  It leads people to feel justified in denying them their rights or persecuting them in other ways.  While totalitarians will ban arts that would incite opposition against them, they will also promote arts that attack and demonize their enemies.

The mocking of any religion promotes religious bigotry and it is a swipe at religious freedom itself.  While there are some out there who recognize how this play encourages that (see the links below), mostly it seems to be a good stealth weapon.  

 I'm not saying that this one play is going to create some huge wave of persecution against Mormons or anybody else.  It will have it's day and fade away.  But I am saying that it is a sign of the times we live in, evidence of a larger trend in society that Mormons need to be aware of so they can oppose appropriately.  It is a call for us to let our light shine all the brighter.  The less truth people see in those who mock us, the more their mockery will only damage themselves and the sooner people will see that play and anything like it for what it is.


Related Links

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A wolf in sheep's clothing looks like a sheep

I must admit that I was glad when I heard the news that Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women Now, and John Dehlin, had both been asked to attend a disciplinary council by their local church leaders.  Before you think bad of me for that, it isn't because I have some kind of grudge against either one of them.  Rather, I felt a sense of relief seeing that church leaders were not afraid to do their job even when they know the world will cast stones at us over it.

In both cases calling a disciplinary council was well justified.  Whatever the Ordain Women Now movement may have started off as, it has become an organization that actively recruits members of the Church to protest and rebel against what the Church has clearly laid out as doctrine.

Kelly's local leaders have informed her that she was acting contrary to doctrine and counseled her to cease and desist.  The Church officially requested her group not protest the last General Priesthood Meeting and made it clear that what they demanded was contrary to the doctrine of the Church and the will of God.  She got an answer and refused to back down because is was not the answer she wanted.  She has gone far beyond simply asking a question and nothing proves that better than the fact that her website now has missionary-like discussions designed to try and convert other Mormon women into accepting her false doctrines.

As  Elder George Q. Cannon said:
...we could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the authorities of the Church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing those differences of opinion, and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife, and to place the acts and counsels of the authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term.
While Kelly and her followers portray themselves as faithful Mormon women who are just asking a question, their actions are exactly what Elder Cannon described.  As Elder Ballard said, "in the Lord’s Church there is no such thing as a loyal opposition".  The Church is a kingdom, not a parliament or a debate club.  The king is Jesus Christ and he has called men to be his prophets and apostles that they will lead the Church according to his will.  Those who are members of the kingdom become members by entering into a covenant that they will follow, not lead, and obey, not rebel.  Nobody is forced to join, nobody is forced to stay against their will, but if you want to say you must live by the covenant you made when you joined.

A wolf in sheep's clothing looks like a sheep.  They will point to their Mormon upbringing, their pioneer ancestors, their mission service, their temple marriage and anything else they can to lead others into seeing them as a sheep.  Their actions show otherwise and when somebody points out their wolfish behavior they talk about how hurt they feel over that, how noble their motives are, and play the martyr.  They don't answer accusations, they just play for sympathy and cast blame.

Kelly has done that as well.  It was she, not the Church, that made the news of her disciplinary council public.  I can't think of any reason for her to make the letter public other than to try and evoke sympathy and support from the media, or in the hopes of harming the Church's reputation.  If it was the latter then it backfires somewhat as the letter show that when she claimed her Bishop refused to meet with her for some time and she was not given the option to attend the counsel via video conference she was not quite accurate.

As for John Dehlin, I first became aware of him at the time that he was all excited about the news that Trey Parker and Matt Stone would be creating The Book of Mormon Broadway musical.   I'm not a avid follower of his podcast, but of the ones I've listened to often I seen a pattern of confirming, not refuting, accusations and false ideas about the church.  He poses as a self-confessed doubter, doubting the existence of God as laid out in the scriputures, doubting the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and the validity of the Church's claim to be the kingdom of God on earth.  It is normal for people to have doubts, but seeking to spread doubt is not how somebody resolves doubt.  If you want an example of taking on kind of questions and issues that undermine people's faith and dealing with them in an honest way, go visit, not Dehlin's podcast.

Through his podcast Dehlin sets himself up as a role model, branding like minded doubting members 'Thinking Mormons' implying that those who have firm testimonies are intellectually inferior.  After Elder Uchtdorf's 'Doubt your doubts' talk, he posted "Doubt those who encourage you to doubt your doubts" on his Facebook page.   Bruce Nielson who blogs at has spent more time than I have watching Dehlin's actions and concludes:
I detect in John a private goal of actually encouraging reduced belief... How else do you explain John’s huge bias towards doubt to the point of wanting to collect all possible reasons to doubt in one document and not offer a single helpful suggestion on how to help people past these issues? Or his attack on President Uchtdorf’s rather excellent talk that actually was trying to address the very problems John Dehlin claims he cares about?
 It may be that Dehlin is just misguided in how to approach his own spiritual journey rather than somebody out to deliberately undermine the Church from within, but given his actions and the effect they have on others due to his public status, and the other things mentioned in the letter from his Stake President, a disciplinary council does appear to be more than justified.

One of the sad things about apostacy is that Satan can blind a person to the point where as they act against God's kingdom they believe themselves to be on the side of the angels.  Such was the case with Korihor:
Alma 30:53
But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.

I do sincerely hope that both Kelly and Dehlin ultimately reach a point where they are members firm in the faith and comfortable with the Church and it's doctrines.  For Kelly it may be a long road back as she is completely unrepentant following her excommunication and has expressed a desire to appeal all the way up to the First Presidency if possible.  I hope that those who Kelly has recruited to her cause will not have to pay the same price she is paying.

Below are some articles and blogs posts on this topic I consider worth reading:
Here's why Kate Kelly was not excommunicated for asking questions
Thank You, Jesus! LDS Church Responds to Ordain Women
Ordain Women is not the answer on Mormon women’s equality
Missing Context in Discussions About LDS Women
Church Disciplinary Councils and the Court of Public Opinion
The Mormon Controversy: And why it’s hurting more than feminists
Church Leaders' Message Addresses Doctrine, Questions

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The false ideas driving the Ordain Women movement.

I guess you would nearly have to be living under a rock to not know that for a couple of years the group Ordain Women Now (OWN) has been pushing for the ordination of women to the Priesthood. I would like to add my two cents to the discussion, commenting on some of the foundational beliefs. I don't necessarily mean what they say their beliefs are, but rather what their actions show their beliefs to be.

False Belief #1
Being equal requires being the same
If equality is a function of being the same, then equality is an impossible objective.  Everbody is unique, that is a fact, so any form of equality among people requires accepting the truth that people can be different and yet equal.  Two people may be of equal weath, but one has his wealth invested in the stock market, the other has built his own business from the ground up, or own vast real estate holdings.  Two people can be of equal intellect, but one has a Phd in medicine and the other in engineering, or another may have dropped out of high school to create world changing inventions.

In terms of our worth to God, and his love for us, we are all equal.  He has made it clear many times in scriptures that he is no respecter of persons, yet some are born to wealth and others to poverty, some into a free nation and others under tyranny.  Some are born in an age with air conditioning, computers, and refrigerators, others lived in far more primitive times.  Some are blessed greatly, or called of God to be a prophet, or required to pass through the furnace of affliction.  We are each given a unique mortal experience designed around our unique nature.

In terms of our potential we are equal as well.  We all have the potential to become celestial beings endowed with glory, power, dominions and eternal life.  Yet there will still be differences between men and women even in the Celestial Kingdom.  More on that later.

Believing that equality requires sameness is not just false, it is a dangerous ideology.  The pursuit of such an impossible goal leads to frustration, anger, blame, contention, and division.  None of these are fruits of the spirit, these are the fruits of Satan.  Did not Satan's plan attempt to artificially enforce sameness on all of us by stripping of of our freedom to choose to be different?

False Belief #2
Being denied ordination to a Priesthood office is an affront to the dignity of women 
Dignity is a popular word with social activists.  It makes it easy to brand anything somebody finds unpleasant as being wrong, simply because they find it unpleasant. When used in that way however, its not a person's dignity that is wounded, but their pride.

Pride carries with it a sense of entitlement to outward signs of respect or acceptance.  It is the antithesis of humility and as President Benson so aptly put it, enmity with God.  Is this not what we see from OWN?  A prideful push made in the hopes of a self aggrandizing ordination, striking an adversarial posture against the Church with stunt protests and providing the media with ammunition they can use to undermine the respect for the Church in society?  In their aggressive quest for what they call dignity, they sacrifice their real dignity.

Real dignity comes from within.  It comes from knowing that you are worthy of respect, and conducting oneself with confidence and poise.  It does not demand, protest, or agitate to be given honors.  Nobody can take that kind of dignity away from you.

False Belief #3
The rules for ordination to Priesthood offices are flexible
One thing members of OWN will point to is the revelation given in 1978 that extended the Priesthood to all worthy males regardless of their lineage. They suggest that this indicates that the rules for Priesthood ordination are flexible and 'the time has come' for another revelation to extend it to women as well.

What they miss is that right back to the early days of the Church it was known that the ban on ordaining blacks to the Priesthood was temporary.  Brigham Young said "the day will come when all that race [blacks] will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have."  The extension of the Priesthood in 1978 was not a change, it was the fulfillment of a prophecy made long ago (and such a prophecy would not exist if the ban was motivated by racial hatred, but that is a topic for another day).

When President Kimball and the other General Authorities went to the Lord about allowing the ordination of blacks, they were not taking it upon themselves to try and see if it was OK to modify the Church to bring it into line with societal attitudes.  They were acting out of a knowledge that this was something that God said would happen some day, and they were moved to check if the time had come.

There is no such prophecy that women would be ordained to the Priesthood, so the nature of asking for such a thing is very different.  The Priesthood is not flexible, it is God's, and if there is to be some change like that he would have said so just as he did with respect to extending the Priesthood to blacks.

False Belief #4
Change can and should be effected in the Church through public pressure campaigns
A big part of their campaign has been pulling stunts like showing up at the Conference Center for the General Priesthood meeting so they could be turned away, then run to the waiting microphones of the media to act hurt, surprised, and shocked that they were denied entrance even though they knew well beforehand that that is exactly what would happen. Likewise on a smaller scale are requests for other things they know are not permitted, like participating in the blessing of children, then again using the refusal to fuel media condemnation of the Church.

I think the intention is to mirror the passive resistance tactics of Ghandi, however Gandhi was standing up against real oppression.  The consequences he faced for his passive resistance were harsh, even brutal, and so they evoked the sympathy of reasonable people which was why it worked.  It is pretty hard to feel sorry for somebody because they show up at a meeting for men and find the seating is reserved for men, and it becomes harder still when they could easily watch the same meeting live at a local chapel, or in the comfort of their homes over the internet.  Reasonable members of the Church will not see cruel oppression, but agitation by a radical fringe.  The overwhelming majority of women in the Church have no desire to add the responsibilities and duties of the Priesthood onto their already full plates.

Naturally the liberal media is happy to give these women a spotlight and use their stories as a jumping off point to cast the Church in a negative light, something OWN doesn't seem to object to.  In fact it appears to be exactly what they want.

How does deliberately provoking media attacks on the Church and fueling criticism, dissensions and conflict within the Lord's kingdom fit with keeping one's gospel covenants?  It doesn't. That is not building up the kingdom, that is a form of persecution or bullying the Church, and it treads close to evil speaking of the Lord's anointed.

If somebody truly believes that the prophet leads the Church by revelation, they would not resort to a campaign of public pressure.  They say on one hand that they just want to encourage the prophet to seek the mind of the Lord on the matter, but in their actions they have taken a hostile, adversarial stance that will do more to create contention than curiosity.  It also puts the Church in a position where they know if they create the impression that these tactics work it will encourage every other fringe group in the Church to imitate them.

But every one of them has access thru prayer to God, and if they really believe God is directing the Church, wouldn't it make sense for them to take their case to Him directly?  Do they not believe God will hear their prayers?  Do they not believe that if God really does want women ordained that he is capable of making that known to the prophet?  Based on their actions they seem to lack faith in that approach.

Likewise, the recent letter issued to the leaders of OWN through the Public Affairs Department of the Church commented on their plans to repeat their antics at the next General Preiesthood meeting saying:
Activist events like this detract from the sacred environment of Temple Square and the spirit of harmony sought at General Conference. Please reconsider.
OWN has indicated that they will ignore the Church's request to confine any protests to the areas designated for it and instead repeat their stunt.  This is not the actions of the faithful obedient, this is the behavior of the proud and rebellious.

False Belief #5
There is no doctrinal reason to deny women odination to Priesthood offices, it is just a tradition.
The recent letter also states:

Ordination of women to the priesthood is a matter of doctrine that is contrary to the Lord’s revealed organization for His Church.
That ought to be enough for them to completely disband, if their intention was to submit to the will of the Lord.  Instead the brush off the letter demanding a personal response from the prophet.

The Lord has already spoken on this.  Doctrine & Covenants Section 20 speaks of the ordination to various office of the Priesthood saying:
11 Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old;

38 An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize

60 Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him.
This is the Doctrine & Covenants, there is no cultural bias affecting the translation of some ancient language here.  In fact when it talks of people being baptized in the same revelation it includes both genders saying "calling him or her by name"and "immerse him or her in the water" (verses 73-74).  The lack of female pronouns in reference to Priesthood offices is deliberate and meaningful, and it is directly from the Lord.

Also, a part of the Priesthood is the right of presidency

Doctrine and Covenants 107:8
The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things.
But then we have:
Moses 4:22 (Gen 3:16)
Unto the woman, I, the Lord God, said: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
While it is true that in times past men have used Gen 3:16 as an excuse to exercise unrighteous dominion over women, that doesn't make the verse meaningless.  Given that the Book of Moses is a product of modern revelation and it matches what is said in Genesis on this point we can have confidence that it is accurate as well.

The idea of a woman being ordained and granted the right of presidency, power and authority over all the offices in the Church in all ages of the world is completely at odds with what God declared to Adam and Eve.

Further light can be obtained on this in the temple.  Women make a covenant in the endowment men do not make, men make a covenant women do not make.  Men are set apart to become one thing, and women are set apart for a different calling.  It's easy to miss the difference if you don't listen for it, but it certainly is relevant to the Priesthood being reserved for men.

Men and women, while equal in their value to God are also different and are called to serve God in different ways.  It is God's Priesthood and he has given men the privilege of holding it.  Not because women lack ability but because it is God's wisdom to call women to another role in His kingdom.  It's fine to wonder why that is and seek to understand the mind of God better in this matter, but trying to bully the Church or embarrass it into changing is a path that will eventually lead to apostacy and excommunication if pursued to it's natural end.  Hopefully the women of OWN will come to realize this sooner rather than later.

There is a lot more that can be said about this.  Here are some links to what other LDS Bloggers have said:

Linda & Richard Eyre:
Women and the priesthood in Mormon theology

The Life and Times of an Exceptionally Tall Mormon
Wanting Women to Receive the Priesthood is an Inherently Misogynistic Idea

At the End of the Day I'm another Day Older!
Sometimes you just gotta scream into a pillow.... 

That's what she said...
Why I'm not and won't be a part of the "Ordain Women" movement. 

Lemmony Things
The Mormon feminist protest: And why I won’t be there


Addendum (April 6th):
Elder Oaks' talk in Saturday`s Priesthood session of General Conference did a wonderful job of laying out some key points:

  • It is the decree of God that Priesthood keys and offices are only to be given to men
  • Women operating under the direction of Priesthood leaders are exercising priesthood authority
  • Men and women are equal with different responsibilities
  • Our focus should be on fulfilling the responsibilities we have, not on trying to claim a right to what responsibilities wish we had.

In other words, OWN got their answer.  Not the answer they want, but the answer that is true.  If they truly do sustain the leaders of the church (including Elder Oaks) as prophets, seers and revelators, then they will accept that and disband.

Sadly they have already said they will continue to push for what they want and this moves them further into the realm of apostacy and rebellion.  They say they won't be trying to push their way in to the next General Priesthood meeting but their leaders are still flirting with excommunication by rallying other members against the leadership of the church.