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.

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Related Links
"MORMON" MUSICAL IS PURE BIGOTRY  - Bob Lonsberry

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 FairMormon.org, 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 millennialstar.org 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
disciplinary

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.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Great and Abominable Secular Church

I know there are others out there who share the same concerns I have over the direction society has taken, and what that will mean for those who choose to remain faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but sometimes it can feel a little lonely.  It is easy at times to feel a bit discouraged when you see stories like this in the news:


Millionaire Gay Couple Sues to Force Church Wedding

Mohler returns to BYU, says Mormons, evangelicals 'may go to jail together' sooner than he thought

I'm always grateful when others have the courage to stand up for gospel values in spite of how unpopular they are and will become.  I also find great encouragement in remembering that this is part of the plan.  God knew these days would come.  I am also glad know the church is lead by men who are prophets, seers and revelators guided by God and who likewise know this is a step toward what will ulitimately be the triump of good over evil.

I recently was reminded of God`s foreknowledge of these days in a big way. Below are some highlights from a speech given by Elder Neal A. Maxwell at a BYU devotional in October 1978.  That was 36 years ago.  Long before same sex marriage was on anybody's radar, long before the internet had any impact on daily life and long before anybody could conceive of pornography becoming so widespread and socially acceptable.  Religious freedom was something western nations took pride in upholding, religious ministers held the respect of their communities, and public displays of religious devotion were common, acceptable, even expected.  Yet in that climate, Elder Maxwell knew something very different was coming...



We are far past the subtle stages of all of these things he warned us about.  Elder Maxwell very accurately described our day.  I encourage everybody to take in the full speech.  I can't seem to find a video of the whole thing online, but you can listen to the MP3 or read the text.

The Book of Mormon warns us of the great and abominable church.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
 The titles church of the devil and great and abominable church are used to identify all … organizations of whatever name or nature—whether political, philosophical, educational, economic, social, fraternal, civic, or religious—which are designed to take men on a course that leads away from God and his laws and thus from salvation in the kingdom of God                                                           - Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 137–38
 In other words, the secular church spoken of by Elder Maxwell is a part of the the great and abominable church.  The scriptures promise us that in time the great and abominable church would bring about it's own destruction:

1 Nephi 14
And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell—yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.
 For behold, this is according to the captivity of the devil, and also according to the justice of God, upon all those who will work wickedness and abomination before him.

1 Nephi 22
13 And the blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood.

In the meantime, we have good leadership in place in the church and it would be wise to follow their counsel.  In a month we will be blessed with the chance to attend General Conference, and when we sustain the Prophet, let do more than just raise our hand when asked.  Let`s show in word and deed what church we really belong to.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Natasha Helfer Parker, you can do much better than this.

The March Ensign hasn't made it to my mailbox yet, but the PDF version online seems to have already created a bit of a stir in some places.  At issue is the article "The Lord's Standard of Morality", taken from a devotional address given at BYU-Idaho by By Elder Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy.  It is interesting that this comes out so soon after the media tried to make an issue of this video from BYU-Idaho's Housing and Student Living Office:




The objections made against the video are in some ways similar to those made against the Ensign article, even though the complaints against the article are coming from Natasha Helfer Parker, a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and Sex Therapist who includes her church membership in the list of her credentials on her blog and seems to have focused her career on providing her services to the LDS community.

You would expect Parker to be on the same page as the church when it comes to defining sexual morality, but instead she levels a number of complaints in her blog and even takes exception with church doctrine.  I intend to respond to her points here.

Authority
Elder Callister begins with a story from his father's life as a lawyer, telling of a time he won his case citing a single supreme court ruling to trump several newer rulings to the contrary made by lower courts.  He compares that with how God's authority trumps everything coming from men.  To this Parker says:
Callister singlehandedly wipes away all evidence-based “best practice” methods or approaches, as well as any personal revelation for self or child by stating that, “One declaration (from God) trumps all the opinions of the lower courts, whether uttered by psycholo­gists, counselors, politicians, friends, par­ents, or would­ be moralists of the day.”
The issue being discussed however is morality.  What 'evidenced-based best practice methods or approaches' are there with respect to determining what is moral?  Moral laws are laid down by a moral authority, and that would be God, not psychologists, or therapists for that matter.  God communicates them to us through scriptures and through living prophets and apostles as there is not one moral standard for one person and another for another person.

Parker goes on to explain her objection further saying:
The problem with this approach, of course (discussed in General Conference by Uchtdorf), is that God’s “declarations” have been communicated and interpreted by fallible men – Callister included.  This is why it is so important to rely not only on prophetic teachings but also ...others who would have our best interests in mind when coming to conclusions on such an important and sacred topic as sexual morality.
As I said previously, nothing Elder Uchtdorf said undermined the divinely inspired doctrines of the church or it's policies.  It was not a license to try and sort through and cherry pick what you think the church is right about and reject what you think the church may be wrong about.  While friends, family, professionals and others can add valuable understanding and insights, if their recommendations go outside the boundaries set by the church then they are the ones in error. I would hope that is what Parker meant, but her scare quotes around the word 'declarations' along with her outright rejection of some of the church's moral standards makes me suspect that is not the case.

She also seems to overlook the fact that all the research and studies she is prone to rely on also comes from falliable humans.  People who mostly do not have any kind of relationship with God, who do not have the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and who have grown in being in the world and of the world as well.  There have been cases of studies deliberately faked, right down to inventing the raw data out of thin air, all to serve an agenda.

Masturbation
Parker's next objection is that Elder Callister refers to masturbation as 'self-abuse' (which is not an uncommon way of referring to it).  While she has a point that 'self-abuse' is not a precise and correct term for what he is talking about, Elder Callister does define his usage of it saying: "Self-abuse is the act of stimulating the procreative power of one’s own body."  I seriously doubt anybody who heard his devotional address or who reads the article will not understand what he is referring to, and if they really don't get it, they will have it laid out very clearly for them if they follow the footnotes.  This is hardly worth hyperventilating about.

Parker's objection however goes much deeper than the semantics.  She says:
...to [refer to] masturbation as self-abuse shames a natural developmental process that begins in the womb and hinders an important relationship with self that needs to be developed in a shame-free environment in order to facilitate the transition into healthy marital sexuality.  He states that the Lord “condemns” masturbation – I have seen no evidence of this in any scriptural resource.  The only “condemning” has come from a religious culture at large (way before Mormonism even existed) and certain LDS prophets of old who have spoken on the subject...
This is completely at odds with the position of the church.  We are not talking about some personal remarks from long ago by somebody who happened to be a church leader.  President Spencer W. Kimball got up in General Conference and as the Prophet and as the President of the Church declared that masturbation "is not approved of the Lord nor of his church".  That is a 'Thus saith the Lord' statement and it did not come with an expiry date.  He goes on to say: "Latter-day Saints are urged to avoid this practice. Anyone fettered by this weakness should abandon the habit..."  Seems pretty clear to me.

Other leaders like Elder Boyd K. Packer, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone and Elder Richard G. Scott have condemned it in General Conference and elsewhere, and here she has before her another condemnation of it.  If that is not enough, For the Strength of Youth, The Parent's Handbook, the Eternal Marriage course for Institute students, and even the Church History Gospel Doctrine course we all had last year contain condemnations of it. Often these currently used official publication quote the very leaders that Parker wants to dismiss, but quoting them in current manuals gives those quotes a current day stamp of approval from the church.

Just because something is natural doesn't make it moral.  It is pretty natural for teenagers to fornicate for example.  Even proving something has certain heath benefits doesn't make it moral.  There are plenty of studies out there suggesting a little red wine may be good for you.  If something is good for the body but harmful to the spirit, then it is harmful.

Fear
Parker also objects to the style of teaching used, saying "Callister uses fear-based language and overall approach that is inconducive to healthy sexual education.".

Here she misses the point that Elder Callister is not teaching a sex-ed workshop, he is instructing people on morality.  I'm not really sure how you inform people of the negative effects of sin and the harm it can cause in their life, without actually telling them that those sins will cause harm and have a negative effect. Warning of real dangers and describing the real consequences of something is not fear-mongering.  While he warns against immorality, he also says sexual intimacy within marriage has "the blessing and endorsement of the Lord".

Pornography
Parker states:
Callister allows for no level of arousal or sexual thought outside of a spouse as a natural part of being a mortal human.  He speaks of avoiding material that is “pornographic in ANY way.”  For many of my OCD clients this becomes an impossible feat
Elder Callister is not teaching about what is and is not a natural part of being a mortal human.  He is talking about morality, which requires overcoming the natural man and living by the moral standards the Lord has set.  He clearly laid out that "Pornography is any picture or narrative that feeds the carnal man within."  so yes, if some painting or sculpture at the local museum has that effect on you, you are wise to avoid it, look away, do not dwell on it.  If Parker feels a certain amount of indulging in pornography is OK, she is again at odds with the standards of the church.

Also, Elder Callister later says:
We cannot avoid seeing every improper billboard or immodestly dressed person, but we can drive out the improper thought once it arises. The sin is not in involuntarily seeing something improper; the sin is in entertaining the thought once it comes

I don't understand objecting to the use of 'addiction-style language' for something that for many men has proven to be a powerful and destructive addiction.  Likewise, objecting to the statement that overcoming such an addition will not be something you do without applying some will power is strange.  Has anybody overcome any kind of addiction to anything without exerting any willpower?  If Elder Callister said it only took willpower, that would be worth objecting to, but that isn't what he said.

Modesty

On modesty Parker complains:
He participates in classic “rape culture” ideology where the woman is responsible for the man’s sexual thoughts and actions.  This paragraph was truly shocking: “Women particularly can dress modestly and in the process contribute to their own self­ respect and to the moral purity of men. In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for.”


There should be no question in anybody's mind that if a woman dresses in a sexually enticing manner that it will provoke the men who see her towards thinking of her sexually and thus feeding the carnal mind.  The entire porn industry makes billions off of that fact. It's true that men have a choice to not respond in that way, and they are accountable for their choice.  Women have a choice too, they can dress in a way designed to provoke carnality in men or in a way that is designed to avoid provoking that, and they are accountable for that choice.

Elder Callister's remark implies that it is the men's moral purity that is harmed if they engage in such thoughts or acts, not the woman's.  At the same time, dressing in a sexually provocative manner is wrong even if men don't take the bait. Just as it would be wrong to try and provoke somebody to anger even if they keep their cool.

How we present ourselves is also a form of communication, and a woman who dresses provocatively sends a message that her moral standards are not all that high.  Right or wrong, that is the message others will read into her appearance.  Men with a low standards will respond favorably to such a display while  men who want to live a high moral standard will be less inclined to offer a woman dressed that way their romantic attention.  Elder Callister's remarks may grate against political correctness and feminist ideology, but they are an accurate assessment of human nature.

Lust
Parker claims that Elder Callister "speaks of “lust” as the reason why many would choose to have premarital or extramarital sexual experience...Lust is just another word for sexual arousal – and there are many times when it is appropriate to feel lust and especially to lust after your spouse"

What he actually said was that "lust is motivated by disobedience, self-gratification, and lack of discipline".  He doesn't say it is the sole cause for those sins, he only sited that the difference between love and lust is that love seeks obedience to God and lust rebels against it. Parker has taken him out of context on this point.


Is it ever appropriate to rebel against God?  No, so it is never appropriate to lust.  Is it rebellion against God or a sin to sexually desire your spouse?  No, Elder Callister already said sexual intimacy with your spouse has "the blessing and endorsement of the Lord" so that desire is righteous, not lust.

Homosexuality
Again Parker sets herself in opposition not only to the church.  Regarding the requirement for homosexual to refrain from homosexual behavior to remain in full fellowship in the church she says:
It is my strong position that this is not a healthy stance for any human who naturally craves and needs the communion of partnership.  It sets the Mormon LGBTQ population up for almost guaranteed failure – being put in the position where they are forced to choose between personal/relational health or community acceptance and participation closely tied to their spiritual development and relationship with God (also part of personal health).  Are we at all surprised that our Utah LGBTQ youth lead the nation in suicide? 
I in no way want to downplay the struggles of homosexual Latter-Day Saints who strive to live all the commandments of God out of faith.  I would not wish that struggle on anybody.  I know members who have succeeded at it, serving missions and living happy productive lives of service, and others who have came to tragic ends.  No story however, no matter how sad or how inspiring, changes what God has deemed immoral into something that is moral.

Satan doesn't just want to drag people down into sin.  He wants to destroy people's lives if he can and cut them off from having a chance to repent in mortality.  He does all he can to get the sinner to become self destructive, but the solution is not to make people comfortable in their sins but help them repent and live the gospel.

Purity
Parker's last objection is over Elder Callister saying that living a morally clean life "will make us eligible for a spouse of like purity".  Parker goes on to describe the ongoing challenges faced by those who have made serious mistakes and repented.  How they often still struggle with feeling impure, fearing rejection or actually being rejected by someone they hoped to marry, all because of their past mistakes. 

I agree with Parker that if a person repents of a sin and is forgiven and cleansed of it through the atonement that it should not be a factor in how they feel about themselves or how others feel of them.  Satan will of course try to bring up the past to discourage them, and people who hold past resolved transgressions against somebody are guilty themselves, perhaps even being worthy of the greater condemnation for their unforgiving attitude.

There is another false idea out there however that can contribute to people into committing such sins, and that is the idea that after they violate the moral standards of the church, repentance will remove all consequences.  This is not so.  Repentance will remove the stain of sin, it will lift the shame and heal the wounded heart, but there are always other consequences that will have to be lived with.  That is why it is always better to obey than to sin and repent.  Elder Callister is encouraging those he is addressing to seek after the better life that comes through obedience.  While that can be hard to hear for those who have strayed and come back, it is still a true principle, and it needs to be taught.

But shouldn't Elder Callister have offered some hope to those who have been less than perfect?  Actually, he did, but the article in the Ensign is an edited version of the full speech he gave.  Below is a quote from the full speech.  The part in bold does not appear in the Ensign:

What if I made a mistake and violated God’s standard of morality—is there any hope for me? Of course there is. God made it clear that His standards cannot be violated without suffering the consequences, but because He is loving and compassionate beyond measure He gives us this glorious hope, “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.”For every honest soul who changes his heart, and forsakes his sins, God has promised, “though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.”
I don't know if the edit was made to fit a required word count limit or what the case was, but I think it has the effect of dampening Elder's Callister's message of hope to the repentant.  Even still the core of that message of hope is still there, and the speech should be taken as a whole.

The Lord's standard of morality is not popular with the world, and it will become even less so in the years to come.  We can choose to listen to the 'lower courts' that would have us embrace masturbation, homosexual behavior, etc. as natural, healthy, normal and acceptable, but the highest court there is has already given it's ruling, and those who live by it will be blessed.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Religous Freedom Roundup





While it isn't my intention that this blog be mainly about the conflict between same sex marriage and freedom of religion, but that conflict is ongoing, and also important.  Also, today is Today is National Religious Freedom Day in the United States, so below are a number of recent news stories that I feel validate things I've previously warned about or said on religious freedom:

‘Gays’ Admit ENDA Game: Outlaw Christian Morality
"Writing in the Huffington Post, popular homosexual radio personality Michelangelo Signorile confessed that, of any potential ENDA legislation that might reach President Obama’s desk for his pledged signature, “none should include any religious exemptions” whatsoever."

The Town FEMA Turned Down
"It’s already seven years since Catholic Charities of Boston closed its century-old adoption service; pluralism as understood in Massachusetts after the legalization of same-sex marriage left no room for an adoption agency committed to Catholic teaching about the family. At this writing, the Little Sisters of the Poor, women who have pledged their lives to their celibate religious vocation, are forced to sue the government to avoid being compelled to pay for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients. Ocean Grove, too, is waking up to the reality that wherever Americans motivated by religious faith once performed services for the public, often as partners of government, the government now intends to force them from the public square. "

Political Timidity & Clerical Cowardice
"What bothers me about this is that it is tantamount to surrender. Christianity is being driven from the public square. Over the last half century, there has been one court case after another aimed at requiring that the federal government and the governments of the states and localities treat religion as a form of leprosy that one must never have any contact with—and that is part of a larger pattern."
CA Teacher Forces Student to Stop Talking About Bible
"The disapproval and hostility that Christian students have come to experience in our nation's public schools has become epidemic,” said Robert Tyler, general counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom, "I hope that (the school district ) will take the lead role in adopting a model policy to prohibit this abuse that has become all too common place for religious-minded students."

On the good side, A&E suspending Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty seems to woken people up.  I'm quite happy that A&E felt enough heat from an outraged public to back down as they did.  I hope this incident serves as a wake up call to the architects of modern culture that their views are not as mainstream as they portray them to be, and helps people who hold to traditional values feel less isolated from society.

Also, recently the Church released this excellent video on religious freedom.  If you haven't seen it, you should.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Christmas is for everyone, even Christians

Back in the early 2000's the annual war on Christmas was a fairly new thing.  In 2004 I wrote an article about it that was published in the Canada Free Press and eventually got picked up by NewsMax.com.  It's a little dated of course but I still think it is worth reading so here it is again.
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December 2, 2004

Christmas is for everyone, even Christians

Some 2000 years ago, in a small, unimportant corner of the world, a baby was born. His mother lovingly wrapped him in swaddling clothes and gently laid him in a manger. Some people today want to figuratively drop that same child into the nearest dumpster and walk away.

Take a stroll through the local shopping mall and try to spot the word 'Christmas'. Listen to how rarely the staff will greet customers with 'Merry Christmas', and notice how few advertising campaigns use the word. If you want a real challenge, try to find any kind of reference to the nativity in a public school's 'Holiday' Concert. In some schools, even Jingle Bells is on the verge of being banned.

The motive might be to avoid offending some religiously intolerant person, but the result is open hostility towards Christianity. The deliberate removal of 'Christmas' from public language is a cold shoulder of disrespect that tells believers they are only tolerated if they stay quiet. George Orwell was correct when he wrote that language shapes our thoughts. Replacing 'Merry Christmas' with 'Happy holidays', or 'Christmas tree' with 'holiday tree', or 'Christmas cards' with 'special occasion cards' changes how we think of those items in a way that lessens their value, and that causes far more offence than it cures.

Treating the word 'Christmas' like it is a profanity is an insult, especially when Ramadan and Kwanza get more and more positive media attention every year. No effort is made to suppress the customs of those celebrations and you don't find the media suggesting that they are based on a myth or a lie. Double standards like this are not the way to bring joy to the world.

The fear that merely mentioning the word 'Christmas' is going to offend the multicultural masses is largely false. The number of non-Christians claiming to be personally offended by hearing the proper name for the holiday comes to approximately zero and it actually isn't that hard to find Jewish, Muslim and non-religious families that enthusiastically celebrate Christmas as a cultural holiday.

Although they don't have to, non-Christians can find good reasons to celebrate Christ's birth if they look for them. Western democracy itself is a direct result of the Christian faith of America's Founding Fathers. Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson and so very many others were openly Christian. It was the teachings of Christ, separated from the dogma of a specific sect, which formed the ideological base for the American constitution and Bill of Rights. As President John Quincy Adams said, the creation of the United States of America "laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity."

The ideas found in the American constitution can be spotted in the charter of every free nation in the world today. Americans, Canadians, Israelis, Europeans, Russians, the Afghani schoolgirl learning to read, the Iraqi mother registering to vote, and so many others all have a reason to be glad that Christ was born.

There are more reasons though. In the First World War British and German troops didn't lay down their guns on Christmas morning to play soccer and exchange gifts with each other because they were afraid of getting coal in their stocking. They were touched by something deeper, and so too are many others every Christmas season, regardless of religion. Anyone known to be in need has to put up a pretty good fight to avoid receiving a portion of the generosity Christmas brings out in everyone.
Christmas with Christ prompts us to be better people, to put aside differences, forgive past hurts, change old habits and help those we can. He called on us to not just alter our public behaviour, but to purify all our deeds and even our thoughts, to love our enemies, and treat others as we would have them treat us. He made the world a better place, but too much of that would be lost if December 25th became a day to party just because we like parties.

Christ's teachings continue to shape the world, and that probably has more to do with the drive to strike out His name than anything else. President Bush's faith is no secret, and no sham either. He was returned to office by voters who, Christian or not, hold Christian values dear. Small wonder then that the blue states' post-election temper tantrum has joined the parade of politically correct yuletide insanity.

Target, a retail chain well connected with the Democrats, banned the Salvation Army from their storefronts. In Denver, where Kerry picked up 70% of the vote, a church group was kept out of the annual parade because they were going to sing Christmas hymns and shout 'Merry Christmas' to the crowds. Both Time Magazine and Newsweek, known for their liberal leanings, are running cover stories that paint the record of Christ's birth as a myth. They are comfortable with using His name to deride the red states as 'Jesusland', but not to give credit for Christmas where it's due.

There is probably no religious holiday as inclusive as Christmas. You don't need faith that Christ is the King of kings to embrace 'peace on earth, good will towards men,' nor do you need to believe that wise men sought Him before you exchange gifts with those close to you. It is a holiday open to anyone who wants to join in and people who claim they cherish tolerance and diversity should be among the most vocal promoters and defenders of Christmas.
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Each year since has had it's share of stories of people objecting to the celebration of Christ's birth.  This year we have examples like the bus driver forbidden to a Santa suit as he has done in years past, children told they can't sing Christmas carols outside a grocery store.  But there seems to be less of these kinds of stories than in the past, and in the two mentioned above there were happy endings.  The bus driver eventually got permission, and it appears that it was just an employee of the store trying to stop them, not store policy.  While shopping I've heard Christmas music, really carols like Away in a Manger etc. playing in the background, and it is nice to see others coming to the defense of Christmas as well like this statement made recently in Canada's Parliment by a non-Christian MP.


There is much wrong in the world of course, but it's nice to feel that something out there is actually getting better.

Merry Christmas to all of you.