Wednesday, 29 May 2013

As the twig is bent...

It irks me to no end when some fellow Mormon feel that they need to wag their finger at the Church and scold them for not doing things their way.  Case in point, two posts on the blog By Common Consent.  Don't take my providing the link as some kind of endorsement, it isn't.

The first post is here.  It complains about a recent story in The Friend.  In the story a young girl is taken shopping with her friend.  Her friend suggests a top in her favorite color that has spaghetti straps and is "really short".  The girl is tempted to try it on, but recognizes the Spirit warning against wearing something like that, so she declines and finds something modest instead.

So what is the big deal?  Well, according to Mathew, who authored the post, "children can't dress immodestly" and "the idea that small children should assume the burdens of adult sexuality because they will later become adults is repugnant".

Let's really stop and think about that.  If a 10 year old goes walking down the sidewalk with nothing on except shoes, is that modest?  No.  So then children of Primary age can be dressed immodestly.  It shouldn't take such an extreme counterexample to make that point but for some people it seems that it does.

On the second point, I fully agree that modesty should not be taught in a way that makes somebody ashamed of their body or that leads girls to think that it is their responsibility to keep the males around them from feeling tempted.  While it is true that it is easier for a man to resist or avoid temptation when there is no provocation they have necks to turn their heads with, eyes that can be made to look anywhere they choose, even eyelids to prevent them from seeing anything.  Each man is responsible for his own behavior and thoughts. 

As one reply to the article put it: "modesty isn’t about exercising some kind of control over male lust, it is about honoring and respecting the sacredness of the human body, and isn’t a child’s body every bit as sacred and honorable".   When modesty is understood in those terms, means that even if a person dresses immodestly and nobody around them is affected by it in terms of sexual temptation, it is still wrong, it still dishonors the sacredness of their body.  In t his way modesty applies to young children as much as to teens and adults.

Sadly that poster appears to be in the minority on that page while the likes of a Primary President who abandons the Sharing Time outline when it calls for a lesson on modesty forms the majority.

Children need to be taught a principle of modesty, and they need to know it  before they hit their 12th birthday.  The world is doing everything it can to teach any kid old enough to understand speech that dressing immodestly is normal, exciting, and gets you lots of positive attention so by the time they hit their teens and young adult years they feel no shame from immodesty and have closests well stocked with revealing outfits they love to wear.  As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined.

The second post that came to my attention there is similar to the first, in that it shows where a photograph used on the Church's website was Photoshopped to add cap sleeves to a sleeveless dress worn by a Primary aged girl.  Much mocking and pointing of fingers ensues.

There is the standard set by the world and there is the standard set by the church.  Those that point and make a mock of the standards upheld by the Church are not the ones holding to the iron rod, they are the ones partying on in a great and spacious building.  I do hope that those people come to change their minds and not set the kids in their lives up for challenges they do not need.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A double minded blog...

I made a decision last night that it makes more sense for this blog to be just about the news and current events from an LDS perspective.  Some people may be interested in that, but not in the marriage and family related posts so I've removed the other content and it will likely form the basis for another blog before long.

As an experiment, I've allowed for anonymous posting of comments.  If abusive comments become a big issue I'll change that back.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Thoughts on gay youth, LDS Scout Troops, and the BSA

Very recently the Boy Scouts of America elected to make a policy change that would allow gay youth to participate in Scouting.  In response to this change the Church issued a statement (found here) that does not condemn the change in any way.  In fact some members are worried that the church is bowing to the demands of gay activist, while some others celebrate it for the same reason.

Both are wrong however.  Take a look at this part of the statement released by the Church:
The Church’s long-established policy for participation in activities is stated in the basic instructional handbook used by lay leaders of the Church: “young men … who agree to abide by Church standards” are “welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church [2010], 8.17.3). This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest. These standards are outlined in the booklet For the Strength of Youth and include abstinence from sexual relationships.

There are two key things to get out of this.  First, while this is a change for the BSA, it is not a change for the Church.  We have not been excluding youth on the basis of their sexual orientation, even when the policies of the BSA would have allowed us to do so.  There is no 'slippery slope' here for the church, we will carry on exactly the same as before.

Second is a strong affirmation of the standards of the Church.  The statement reiterates the requirement for youth to not engage in sexual relationship and refers further to For The Strength of Youth.  On page 36 of that booklet you will find:
Homosexual and lesbian behavior is a serious sin. If you find yourself struggling with same-gender attraction or you are being persuaded to participate in inappropriate behavior, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you.
So, the reaction of the church to this policy change neither undermines the standards of the church nor changes the direction of the church with respect to homosexuals.  Literally nothing has changed for us.

It is a good policy for the Church to follow as well.  There is no purpose served in rejecting a gay youth who is living the standards of the church.  Not only would doing so deprive them of an environment that will strengthen their resolve to follow Christ, but it would push them towards those who would lead them into abandoning the church and it's standards and embracing a lifestyle of sin.

For many non-LDS Scout troops this will be a significant change, and it will be interesting to see the fallout of that. I expect there will be parents pulling their kids out of Scouts (or just not enrolling their kids into Scouts in the first place).  There may be some experienced Scout leaders stepping down because of this.  There are troops that are sponsored by other churches that take a harsher stance on homosexuality, and those sponsors may feel they have no option but to withdraw their support.  Whether this will happen on a scale that hurts the BSA or not is anyone's guess at this point, time will tell, but if it happens in a big way, it will result in a larger percentage of the BSA being LDS.  The fears of a 'homosexual takeover' may in fact result in a Mormon takeover.

In the mean time, the Church will continue to be a positive influence within the BSA.  Shortly before the vote on the policy change was held, Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, the presiding bishop of the Church addressed over 1,500 Scout leaders on the topic of how 'Duty to God' is a fundamental part of Scouting.

It can't be ignored however that this is another sign of how the culture is changing, and it is not unreasonable to think that down the road there will be a push to allow homosexual leaders, and if that succeeds, a push to promote homosexuality as much as the school system already does.

The BSA is a private organization and it is well within their right to allow it or disallow that as they please and change their policies in accordance with their established procedures.  If this policy change does become the first step in a full surrender to the demands of gay activists, it will be great loss, and if they do not allow the Church the freedom to conduct a Scouting program that conforms to the standards of the gospel, they will have to find a way to go on without our participation. 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Why am I here, and where am I going with this?

I suppose every blog is in some way exercise in ego, you have to believe that you have something worthy of other people spending their time reading, else why bother doing it? 

I have a very analytical mind, I look at the data and I see trends, I see principles at work and I can often extrapolate very effectively.  I need this skill for my job, and I'm good at it, but I apply this skill to a lot more than just the things that land on my desk at work.  I analyze the news, I analyze the teaching of Christ, I see things what is going on and recognize patterns and principles laid out in scripture and how they may fit with what is going on in the world and where things are headed.

Important Things
This blog will be primarily about examining news and current events from an LDS perspective, as well as talking about thing going on in the Church itself, and issues in the media relating to the Church.

It isn't the job of the church to go around and tell the members what they should think and do about everything.  It is their job to teach us the correct principles and it is our job to study things out and make use of the gift of personal revelation to guide us.  Part of that process should be discussion with others for 'in multitude of counsellors there is safety' (Prov 24:6)  My hope is that what I post here will be helpful to others in following that process.  I hope I can earn your respect as somebody worth listening to along the way.

My religion
The gospel has been very important to me since I was quite young, and I have always had a strong internal drive to 'Choose the Right' as the Primary hymn teaches.  I know that God is there, that He knows me better than I know myself and He loves me and has a personal concern for my happiness and well being.  I know that Christ is His Only Begotten Son, that He died for me on the cross and through his atonement I have the chance to return to be with God again, together with my family forever.  I know that Joseph Smith was truely a prophet called of God, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is God's kingdom on the earth, guided by divine relation given to the Lord's anointed apostles and prophets.
I know that the leaders of the Church are mortal men and fallible like the rest of us, but I also know that when acting in the office of their calling we are obligated to heed their words.  'Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.' (D&C 1:38)  I find it hard to sit quietly by if a 'Mormon intellectual' tires to lobby the church to 'get with the times' in some way, or those who think the leaders of the church should take their counsel rather than they take counsel from the church.  On the other end of the scale I am sometimes frustrated with how some members take the personal opinions of a General Authority as if it was scripture. 

In terms of this blog, don't expect a lot of posts specifically focused on discussing this doctrine or that.  There will be some of those, but more often what you will see is how I think the principle of the gospel should be applied to other areas of life and issues in the news.  I'll also comment on issues that come up in the media concerning the church,  like the recent push by some for the ordination of women, the recent decision by the BSA to allow gay scouts and the church's reaction to it.  If you are an avid fan of Sunstone or Dialoge: A Journal of Mormon thought, you may not like some things I say.

Current events and the culture we live in
We are not to be of the world but we still have to live in it.  I think it is fair to say also that we are close, VERY close, to seeing some of the less pleasant prophecies of the last days coming true.  I track what is going on in the world very closely, looking for indications of the fulfillment of those predictions, or at least looking for ways the events of today could reasonably lead to what the scriptures talk about.

No, I'm not some kook building a bunker to wait out the end times, I'm doing what the wise virgins did, waiting and watching for the bridegroom to arrive.  I believe there are a lot of ways that the teachings of the gospel apply in matters of politics and government.  I think in fact that the gospel can and should be used as a guide in deciding how we vote, what causes we support, and what public voices we should heed or ignore.

I don't see issues and policies as being a thing where both sides are equally bad or wrong, and the whole thing is just a matter of opinion.  We live in a world that is governed by laws and principles, and no matter what somebody's opinion of a law or policy is, if it doesn't conform to true principles it will not succeed, not in the long run at least.  Any time one party suggest one thing, and the other suggests another, one of those suggestions will be better than the other, and we of all people should be able to figure out which one that is given that we have access to more truth and even personal revelation.

I often see members who seem to ignore all the principles of the gospel and all the lessons from the Book of Mormon about government when it comes to the issues of the day.  I'm greatly saddened how often it seems that somebody who appears to really understand the gospel falls in line with the philosophy of the world and the drumbeat of the media.  So I'm going to discuss current events and issues from a gospel perspective and comment on the ways I see the culture changing and affecting the society we live in.  Kind of like a Mormon Rush Limbaugh.

I look forward to your comments, favorable or not, and I trust you will post them with charity in your heart.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Who am I? Where did I come from?

Being the first post, I think it only fair to tell you a bit about myself.

My name is Paul and I currently live in Ottawa, Canada. Although my Dad did not join the church until I was 9, I was essentially raised in an LDS home (my Mom converted years before I was born).  The only lifestyle change my Dad had to make when he joined was to give up coffee and start coming with us on Sunday.  A year after Dad was baptized we were sealed as a family and I still remember the feeling of calm as we waited in the temple for my parents to finish their endowments before going to the sealing room.

I have always lived where Mormon are a tiny minority, and the church has always been important to me.  I never had to be dragged to church, or reminded to pray before going to bed.  No teenage rebellion, no wrestling with the decision to serve a mission or not.  I had a strong internal motivation to do what was right.  Because I was very focused on serving a mission from Primary on up, I studied the gospel diligently as I completed all four years of seminary. Yeah, I was a strange kid, but I didn't get in people's face about it.  I wasn't some obnoxious, overzealous holier-than-thou jerk.  All this is in no way intended to sound like a boast, I have my sins and flaws and weaknesses like everybody else, and you'll probably see evidence of that here from time to time. 

When I was 17 I met a girl at a youth conference dance and I fell in love with her that night.  After the dance I was thinking of how amazing she was and God decided to jump into my internal conversation to tell me very clearly that she was the one.  He had to tell me three times to get past my too-good-to-be-true defenses. Lucky for me I had enough sense to realized that sharing this revelation with a 15 year old girl I only just met would be a bad idea, so I didn't tell her about that until after we were engaged.

Sheri lived 100 miles away in another Stake so we had a long distance relationship for 2 years without the advantages (or disadvantages) of cell phones and the internet.  Exactly two years to the day after we met I was ordained a missionary and took off to England and it became a very long distance relationship.  Shortly after I returned we decided we had enough of this and got engaged.  I moved so we could be in the same city at long last, and we married in the Washington DC temple.  We are currently in our 25th year of marriage and have 6 amazing kids.

Over the years I've served as a Sunday School teacher for youth and adults, Cub Leader, Primary teacher, Ward Clerk, Ward Mission Leader, Elder's Quorum President, and other callings as well.  My wife has almost always been in Primary, usually doing the music.  She has a love for little kids that is endless and a gift in working with them.

I'm a very traditional, conservative, Mormon.  I like to think of myself as being very well  informed about the gospel and the church but I'm always happy to learn more and understand better.  I've done a fair amount of amateur apologetics online, taking on hostile anti-Mormons often enough to know that they don't have a leg to stand on, and they rarely will be honest with themselves enough to admit when they are wrong so there are better ways to spend my time.

I'm very conservative in my politics as well and I see a lot of connections between gospel principles and the principles of good government.  The Book of Mormon has an amazing amount of content that relates to politics and government.  I pay close attention to what goes on both in the USA and Canada (having a vested interest in both), and also around the world.  And by conservative I'm talking about ideology, not about political parties.  I have volunteered to help local candidates I believed in, but I would never run for office myself.  I also wrote a number of op-ed articles for Canada Free Press several years ago.

I have very clear ideas of what is right and what is wrong and those ideas are not influenced much at all by what is popular with the world or what is politically correct.  I'm not inflexible though, I don't  look down on people for holding opinions I disagree with.  In fact I love having conversations with such people as long as they are intellectually honest about it.  It helps me understand both their view and my own better, and I would rather be corrected of a wrong idea than win a debate for the wrong side.

I love movies of all kinds as long as they are true to human nature and not pushing some agenda rooted in false ideas, and I especially enjoy good science fiction/fantasy.  Stuff like Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Stargate, X-Files, etc.  I also spend a lot of time online keeping up with current events, learning about topics of personal interest, doing research for personal projects etc.  I hope someday to find the discipline to write the several novels and screenplays floating around in my head, as well as the discipline to shed this extra weight I've picked up since my 20's.