Defending and preserving traditional marriage

Yesterday, in some wards in our stake here in California, a letter from the First Presidency was read. In the letter, it was requested that we do all that we can to support the proposed constitutional amendment on preserving traditional marriage here in California. In particular, we were asked to donate of our means and time to assure the passage of the ballot measure.

My wife reports that the letter was read in our home ward, while the bishop of the ward in which I serve had not yet received it. I have read reports that the letter was read in other states beside California, along with commentary that members in those states should support the efforts here. As far as I can determine, nobody got up and walked out in protest like some had suggested.

This invitation is to members of the church to become active in what some describe as a political issue. The church has made it clear over the years that this is a moral issue. That is why back in 2000 we were asked to place signs on our lawns in support of proposition 22. Carol and I walked the precincts with many others in our stake to distribute information to our neighbors.

A moral and a social issue

When the First Presidency of the church asks the members to do something, it deserves careful attention. Why is the legal definition of marriage in the State of California a moral issue? Those who are against it argue that it would not change our society at all. As a church, we disagree. We believe that marriage is ordained of God. No society has ever tried to redefine it until now.

There is great material available on the subject that explains why this is both a moral issue and a social issue deserving the participation of the church. It can best be found in the Amicus brief that the Church filed with the State of California awhile back. If you open the PDF of the link in the previous sentence, skip down to page 27 for the beginning of the argument.

I believe that we owe it to our testimonies and our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to consider carefully what the prophet of the Lord is asking us to do and to respond accordingly. I know there are many members of the church who have family members or friends who identify themselves as gay. This issue is not about that. It is about preserving traditional marriage.

The position of the Church

From the brief: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian denomination with approximately 800,000 members in California. Marriage and the family are central to the Church’s doctrine and beliefs. The Church teaches that marriage between man and woman is ordained of God and that the traditional family is the foundation of society.”

“The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” Source – The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

“The Church believes that marriage and family supply the crucial relationships through which parents and children learn to live basic moral norms and acquire public and private virtue. The Church opposes changing the traditional male-female definition of marriage because of the harm such a change will cause to marriage and the family.”

The argument of the church

[The church has] “a powerful interest in the institution of marriage. We are deeply concerned about the happiness and welfare of our members, especially our member children. Through millions of hours of counseling and ministry, we have seen at close range the enormous benefits that traditional male-female marriage imparts. We have also witnessed the substantial adverse consequences for children that often flow from alternative household arrangements.”

“Since no same-sex marriage can produce children from both spouses, the close cultural linkage between the institution of marriage and the begetting and raising of children will be weakened. Whatever the choices of individual couples, children will no longer be central to the social meaning and purpose of marriage. What plaintiffs advocate is in fact an enormous change in California’s most important social institution.”

“California’s definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is entitled to profound judicial respect. Even in jurisdictions around the world known for being highly solicitous of gays and lesbians, the democratic judgment of nearly all such jurisdictions remains that marriage should be reserved exclusively to male-female couples, with the legitimate needs of homosexuals being addressed through other protections and institutions. Judicial deference to the people’s democratic judgment on this issue is appropriate.”

Summary and conclusion

In other words, we do not believe it is appropriate that the judges have overturned the vote of the people of the State of California in 2000 in which 61% of the voters upheld traditional marriage. The opponents of traditional marriage are wondering if the people will turn out in the same numbers to support this amendment. We expressed our voice then. We can do it again.

This proposed constitutional amendment deserves our support as a church and as a people. I am impressed that the First Presidency has been consistent over the years on our position in this matter. Carol and I fully support the Prophet in this moral issue and pledge to do our part in contributing our time and means to advocate the passage of the proposed amendment.

Some have accused members of the LDS Church of being brainwashed in a culture of obedience. Nothing could be further from the truth. We use common sense, good judgment and the intellectual capacity with which God has blessed us to determine for ourselves that the prophets are right on this issue. We stand with the Lord and the prophet in defining traditional marriage.

For more information:

2. Alliance Defense Fund
3. Family Leader network
4. Campaign for Children and Families
5. Family Research Council
6. Alliance for Marriage
7. Institute for Marriage and Public Policy
8. World Congress of Families

The sacred power of marriage

I come from a typical post-WWII California family. My parents were married in 1946 and had seven children within ten years. We were not LDS at first. Although we had our quarrels and disagreements, I grew up with happy memories of a loving family with four older sisters and one brother, my other brother having died shortly after his birth.

Although I don’t remember much of the first few years of my life, we have family videos that show lots of happy scenes – visits to parks, local Southern California attractions and vacations. Because both my parents worked, my grandmother took care of me until I was old enough for school. Life was good in our little family growing up in the sixties.

As I matured, I observed my parents in a different way for the first time – as a married couple. I watched how my father treated my mother. He was and is a kind and gentle man. He adored my mother and wanted to give her everything he could to help her be happy. I know she loved and appreciated him as she told me so many, many times.

The priesthood in marriage

My mother was an incredibly talented and intelligent woman, independent and used to taking charge. She was well educated and was a teacher. There is no doubt that she ran our house – just ask anyone else in my family. She got her way on most everything but dad didn’t seem to mind. There was little or no ego there – he was OK with her style.

When my family joined the church, my father entered a world that was difficult for him but which he accepted dutifully. Raised on a farm, dad was quiet and kind to his bothers and sisters. His dad worked hard on the farm and so did my dad – physical manual labor. Family leadership for dad meant providing food for the family. He also prepared it.

So when my parents learned that fathers are to preside in the home, mother did her best to encourage dad to take charge in family prayer, family scripture reading and family home evening. It worked for awhile but was just too foreign to dad’s nature. He was too easy going to enforce any routine on his family, but was always responsive to mother’s urging.

Dealing with stress in marriage

When mother struggled with frustration in her life, dad was always the calming, soothing influence in our home. He just wanted everyone to be happy. When mother was going through her difficulties with priesthood leadership, dad was very supportive. When her LDS bookstore failed, he took it in stride even though it meant a loss of their life savings.

Sure dad got frustrated with mother. He told me so. When he was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, mother sold his car without asking or telling him. Nobody knows why she did it. When he got home and found it missing he just figured she wanted the security of having some ready cash on hand. Yes, my dad is amazing.

Because of dad’s example, I am by nature a relatively easy-going kind of guy too. I am not particularly ambitious and am satisfied with very little. When I read of the success of others my age in business or academics or finances I am not filled with envy or desire to be like them. I am more interested in being a peacemaker and sharing my knowledge.

A family in today’s world

When I first married, I brought with me the idea that I would take care of earning the living and my wife would take care of the finances and raising the children. I found an early love for computers and have been making a middle class living most of my life. Several things have made my own marriage different from my parent’s experience.

Like my parents, we both have had to work to make ends meet. We tried to follow the advice of prophets and did all we could to live within our means. I don’t know if living in California is all that more expensive than where you live but living on my income alone was just not going to cut it. Finances have always been a struggle in our marriage.

Unlike my parents, we both came to marriage as true believing and active Latter-day Saints, married in the temple. That has made a huge difference in the way we approach life’s challenges and opportunities. There has always been a commitment to work things out. Although we have both been tempted, divorce has never been a serious option.

Based on teachings of prophets

“Soul mates are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.”

Do you recognize that quote? It is from President Spencer W. Kimball and was a great influence on me in choosing my sweetheart and asking her to marry me. We had a lot in common. We were both active LDS returned missionaries. We both studied computers in our local community college. We both came from average middle-class families.

I think the thing that has served us best in our 26 years of marriage is our commitment to the Lord which I hope is equal to our commitment to each other. The Lord commands men to love their spouses with ALL their hearts. That is also how he commands us to love him. The Lord knew that men would need to be commanded in this area and it works.

Summary and conclusion

I feel like my investment in our marriage is just beginning to pay off. I have done my best to love and encourage my sweetheart for many years and suffered with her as she struggled with self-esteem and self-image problems. You can read her story on her blog. I don’t know what has happened to her lately, but I am amazed at the powerful changes.

Our marriage is vitally important to me. I am more interested in seeing my wife blossom than I am in my own fulfillment and satisfaction. I am convinced that the Lord will take care of my needs as I take care of what Carol needs from me. The Lord has been so very patient with me and blessed me with a father who provided a great example of patience.

There is a sacred power in marriage. It is the kind of power that can change lives. I am witnessing a miracle in the making. Carol has lost 70 pounds in the last year. It is going to take her more time to get to a healthy weight. Now the pressure is on me to follow her wonderful example. I wish I knew her secret to motivation and could bottle and sell it.

The near death experience of an apostle

In keeping with the instruction from Brother Brigham in yesterday’s post, I add today the words of Heber C. Kimball, also from remarks made at the funeral of President Jedediah M. Grant, who died of pneumonia at the young age of forty, while faithfully serving in the First Presidency with Brigham and Heber. Again, the source is the Journal of Discourses, Volume 4, pp. 135-138 and the date is December 4, 1856.

“Jedediah is not dead. I went to see him one day last week, and he reached out his hand and shook hands with me; he could not speak, but he shook hands warmly with me. I felt for him, and wanted to raise him up, and to have him stay and help us whip the devils and bring to pass righteousness.

“I laid my hands upon him and blessed him, and asked God to strengthen his lungs that he might be easier, and in two or three minutes he raised himself up and talked for about an hour as busily as he could, telling me what he had seen and what he understood, until I was afraid he would weary himself, when I arose and left him.

Jedediah teaches of the spirit world

“He said to me, brother Heber, I have been into the spirit world two nights in succession, and, of all the dreads that ever came across me, the worst was to have to again return to my body, through I had to do it. But O, says he, the order and government that were there! When in the spirit world, I saw the order of righteous men and women; beheld them organized in their several grades, and there appeared to be no obstruction to my vision; I could see every man and woman in their grade and order.

“I looked to see whether there was any disorder there, but there was none; neither could I see any death nor any darkness, disorder or confusion. He said that the people he there saw were organized in family capacities; and when he looked at them he saw grade after grade, and all were organized and in perfect harmony. He would mention one item after another and say, “Why, it is just as brother Brigham says it is; it is just as he has told us many a time.”

“He saw the righteous gathered together in the spirit world, and there were no wicked spirits among them. He saw his wife; she was the first person that came to him. He saw many that he knew, but did not have conversation with any except his wife Caroline. She came to him, and he said that she looked beautiful and had their little child, that died on the Plains, in her arms, and said, “Mr. Grant, here is little Margaret; you know that the wolves ate her up, but it did not hurt her; here she is all right.”

Organization and buildings there

President Grant explained to Heber C. Kimball the importance of being true to our calling in this life and the effects of not being faithful. “To my astonishment,” he said, “when I looked at families there was a deficiency in some, there was a lack, for I saw families that would not be permitted to come and dwell together, because they had not honored their calling here.”

“He asked his wife Caroline where Joseph and Hyrum and Father Smith and others were; she replied, ‘they have gone away ahead, to perform and transact business for us.’ The same as when brother Brigham and his brethren left Winter Quarters and came here to search out a home; they came to find a location for their brethren.

“He also spoke of the buildings he saw there, remarking that the Lord gave Solomon wisdom and poured gold and silver into his hands that he might display his skill and ability, and said that the temple erected by Solomon was much inferior to the most ordinary buildings he saw in the spirit world.” This is consistent with the reports of others who have visited the spirit world.

Beautiful gardens in the spirit world

“In regard to gardens, says brother Grant, ‘I have seen good gardens on this earth, but I never saw any to compare with those that were there. I saw flowers of numerous kinds, and some with from fifty to a hundred different colored flowers growing upon one stalk.’ We have many kinds of flowers on the earth, and I suppose those very articles came from heaven, or they would not be here.

“After mentioning the things that he had seen, he spoke of how much he disliked to return and resume his body, after having seen the beauty and glory of the spirit world, where the righteous spirits are gathered together. Some may marvel at my speaking about these things, for many profess to believe that we have no spiritual existence.

“But do you not believe that my spirit was organized before it came to my body here? And do you not think there can be houses and gardens, fruit trees, and every other good thing there? The spirits of those things were made, as well as our spirits, and it follows that they can exist upon the same principle.

Jedediah Grant returns to his body

“After speaking of the gardens and the beauty of every thing there, brother Grant said that he felt extremely sorrowful at having to leave so beautiful a place and come back to earth, for he looked upon his body with loathing, but was obliged to enter it again.” He was very clear that the mortal body is very coarse and debilitating to our more fine and pure spirits.

“He said that after he came back he could look upon his family and see the spirit that was in them, and the darkness that was in them; and that he conversed with them about the Gospel, and what they should do, and they replied, ‘Well, brother Grant, perhaps it is so, and perhaps it is not,’ and said that was the state of this people, to a great extent, for many are full of darkness and will not believe me.

“I never had a view of the righteous assembling in the spirit world, but I have had a view of the hosts of hell, and have seen them as plainly as I see you today. The righteous spirits gather together to prepare and qualify themselves for a future day, and evil spirits have no power over them, though they are constantly striving for the mastery. I have seen evil spirits attempt to overcome those holding the Priesthood, and I know how they act.

Summary and conclusion

This is an apostle relating the experiences of another apostle who visited the spirit world two nights in succession before he died. I categorize it as a near death experience, obviously because he died immediately afterward, but also because he testifies that his spirit left his body. I have read many near-death experiences and believe them to be real, not figments of the imagination.

I was especially intrigued with President Grant’s description of his ability to see the spirits of his family members the next day when they came to visit him. He states clearly that some had darkness in them and would not believe that what he was relating was true. Apparently, the amount of light in our spirits is directly related to our faith and our obedience to the truth.

This is one of the most powerful near-death experiences that I have read from our rich history of spiritual experiences in the church. It teaches us so much about the reality of the spirit world and that there is work for us to do there. It is so important that we prepare ourselves for the rest of our education when we get there. We can do that best by faithful obedience to truth here.

Brigham Young teaches about evil spirits

And now, a few words of instruction from Brother Brigham on the subject of the evil spirits in the world around us. The occasion was the funeral of President Jedediah M. Grant on December 4, 1856. The Source is the Journal of Discourses, vol 4, pp. 129-134.

“…when I die…I do not wish any of you to cry and feel badly, but prepare yourselves to fight the devils while you live, and after you pass through the veil…there we will do a great deal more than we can here.

“Brother Grant can now do ten times more than if he was in the flesh…He is in the spirit world. He has conquered death and hell…He is no more subject to the devils…he commands them, and they must go at his bidding; he can move them just as I can move my hand.

The righteous have power over evil spirits

“When men overcome…they have power over all disembodied evil spirits…Those evil spirits are under the command and control of every man that has had the Priesthood on him, and has honored it in the flesh, just as much as my hand is under my control.

“Do you not think that brother Jedediah can do more good than he could here? When he was here the devils had power over his flesh, he warred with them and fought them, and said that they were around him by millions, and he fought them until he overcame them.

The spirits that afflict us and plant disease in our bodies, pain in the system, and finally death, have control over us so far as the flesh is concerned. But when the spirit is unlocked from the body it is free from the power of death and Satan; and when that body comes up again, it also, with the spirit, will gain the victory over death, hell, and the grave.

The devils control spirits, not bodies

“When the spirit leaves the tabernacle of flesh and goes into the spirit world, it has control over every evil influence with which it comes in contact, and when it takes up the body again, then the body also, with the spirit, will have control over every evil spirit that is in a tabernacle, if there is any such being, just as far as the spirit that has the Priesthood had control over evil spirits.

“Perhaps you do not understand me. Take a spirit that has gone into the spirit world, does it have control over corruptible bodies? No. It can only act in the capacity of a spirit. As to the devils inhabiting these earthly bodies, it cannot control them, it only controls spirits.

“But when the spirit is again united to the body, that spirit and body unitedly have control over the evil bodies, those controlled by the devil and given over to the devils, if there is any such thing. Resurrected beings have control over matter as well as spirit.

Spirits of the departed all around us

“We are surrounded with more evil spirits than good ones… The spirits of the just and unjust are here. The spirits that were cast out of heaven, which you know are recorded to have been one-third part, were thrust down to this earth, and have been here all the time, with Lucifer, the Son of the Morning, at their head.

You and I have yet to deal with evil spirits, but Jedediah has control over them. When we have done with the flesh, and have departed to the spirit world, you will find that we are independent of those evil spirits. But while you are in the flesh you will suffer by them, and cannot control them, only by your faith in the name of Jesus Christ and by the keys of the eternal Priesthood.

“Where do you suppose the spirits of our departed friends are? Where they ought to be; they are here…they are controlling the fallen spirits here, or somewhere else. They could not control the spirits of evil men while here, only by faith, but now one of our departed brethren can control millions of disembodied evil spirits; while they were in the flesh they were afflicted by them.”

What I have learned from these remarks

The early leaders of the church spoke plainly and frankly about the influence of the evil spirits upon us. I do not find that we speak as much about this doctrine any more. We are warned against the influence of the adversary in general. Has this belief or teaching about the power of the evil spirits fallen out of favor? Are we too concerned that the world will ridicule our belief?

I also learned that we have power over evil spirits, both through faith and through the authority of the priesthood. In Brigham’s remarks I learned that the evil spirits can inhabit mortal men but that they do not control their bodies, only their spirits. The devils have control or power over our bodies only to afflict and torment us with disease, sickness and temptation.

It is also evident that the spirits of the departed are all around us. We are more likely to encounter the influence of wicked spirits as the righteous are busily engaged in good works. It is the wicked disembodied spirits who hang around that cause trouble by attempting to take possession of mortal tabernacles, even if for only a few moments, overpowering our own spirits.

Additional reading: George Richie on disembodied spirits

Doctrines of the Book of Abraham

In our Institute class last night we began to study the Book of Abraham. The instructor covered the origins of the book in short order. None of the students had any questions about the papyri or the mummies or the translation process or the discovery of the fragments. Neither did I as I have written about this previously. The Book of Abraham contains much unique LDS doctrine.

Note the facsimile above. It is a print from a woodcut that Joseph asked an early member of the church to make. It has accompanied the Book of Abraham each time it has been printed. It is simply fascinating and depicts Abraham being sacrificed on the altar by the priest of the Pharaoh. He was saved by the angel.

Even though Abraham was in Chaldea, many miles away, the government and religion of Egypt were dominant in the civilized world at that time, about 2000 B.C. The world had been inundated by the flood some 400 years earlier so there were not a lot of people on the earth. One of the descendants of Ham, one of the sons of Noah, settled Egypt. The name Egypt signifies that which is forbidden. So the line of Cain had been preserved through Egyptus, the wife of Ham.

The early heavens were different

I have been anxious to reread the Book of Abraham so although we only covered chapter one last night, I moved ahead in my readings through chapters two and three. I stopped excitedly on chapter three, verse five because I read this in a different light than I have ever done before. First let me share the verse and then I will share why I was so excited when I read it. The exciting part for me has to do with what I learned as I recently reread the works of Anthony Larson.

And the Lord said unto me: The planet which is the lesser light, lesser than that which is to rule the day, even the night, is above or greater than that upon which thou standest in point of reckoning, for it moveth in order more slow; this is in order because it standeth above the earth upon which thou standest, therefore the reckoning of its time is not so many as to its number of days, and of months, and of years. (Abraham 3:5)

This is the Lord talking to Abraham. What is the planet which is referred to in this verse? What does He mean, “the lesser light?” Is he referring to some far-away planet or star? We can surmise that the greater light is the sun, but I believe the lesser light refers to a mini-star that used to reside above the Earth, roughly in the region of the North Pole. It was very close to the Earth and took up a large portion of the sky. “It standeth above the earth.” That is very clear.

The cause of the great flood

This is fascinating stuff. What would have been the effects of having a large planet or mini-star standing above the earth? Were they somehow joined by some sort of electromagnetic pull or attraction? Did the larger planet revolve more slowly, perhaps according to the Lord’s time? We know that a day with the Lord is a thousand years with man. Perhaps that can help explain why men lived so many hundreds of years back in the early days in the time of the patriarchs.

I wonder also if the planet was at one time very close – so close that the water of the earth was pulled up towards the north pole. Wouldn’t that be a logical explanation for the cause of the great flood if the planet moved off to stand further away from the earth? All the water that was in the Northern regions of the earth would have come down and deluged civilization. The end result would be that the waters of the earth would be more like they are today.

And where did the city of Enoch go? Isn’t it possible that when the Lord says he took it unto his bosom that he raised up a large portion of the earth and that it was also hovering about the earth for a little while? That would explain why the inhabitants of the earth tried to build the tower of Babel. They wanted to get to the city of Enoch that was just out of reach in the heavens. We read about that in Moses chapter seven in our institute class a few weeks ago. Fascinating stuff!

The works of Anthony Larson

The only person I have ever read that understands this is Anthony Larson. Perhaps you have heard of his books, the Prophecy trilogy. The Internet is an amazing thing. We can get to know people that we would never have been able to meet otherwise. I mentioned Anthony’s books in a post back in January. He responded to my post and we began an email dialog that has been most rewarding. If you have not read the works of Anthony Larson, I highly recommend them.

I admit that the stuff I am proposing is not standard orthodox LDS teachings. As far as I know, my interpretation of Abraham 3:5 is not taught in seminary or institute classes. There is no way to prove these ideas but they make so much sense to me. I guess we may have to wait until the Lord chooses to reveal all things someday before we will know if it just might have been this way. I am indebted to Anthony Larson for proposing it, but I accept it as being what happened.

You can read more about Anthony and his amazing interpretations of the scriptures on his website. He offers free email newsletters and has a wealth of information that he is willing to share with anyone who is interested. He is no crackpot. I have read the majority of his stuff and find him to be completely rational and highly intelligent. I consider him a man ahead of his time. I believe we will see the day when his theories are proven correct and fully justified.

Summary and conclusion

What does any of this have to do with our salvation? Is knowing and understanding what is contained in the Pearl of Great Price critical to our happiness? You’ve got to admit that the contents of the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham are not understood or appreciated by any other church. They do not know of it or accept it if they do. Nevertheless, the doctrines in these scriptures are fundamental to our theology that adds so much to our lives.

I submit that the material found in the Pearl of Great Price is also not understood by the majority of the members of the LDS Church. There are some fundamental doctrines there that are found nowhere else in our scriptures. Most notably, the idea of the pre-earth life or our premortal existence and a more complete understanding of the creation of the world and the fall of Adam than what is found in the Bible. I for one am so grateful for additional revelation!

Advice for a new Bishop

What advice would you give to a new bishop? I suppose it would depend on the makeup of the ward, wouldn’t it? A singles ward is vastly different from a family ward. I serve as the ward clerk of our local stake young adult ward. We do not have concerns about staffing the Primary or the Young Men or Young Women‘s organizations. Our biggest budget expense is for activities.

I don’t think I am revealing any church secrets when I share that one of the primary concerns of the bishop of a young singles ward is helping the ward members understand and accept the direction of the Lord in regards to keeping oneself morally pure. The youth of today’s world are subject to temptations that just did not exist when I was dating and preparing for marriage.

Dealing with moral issues

Perhaps you would suggest to the bishop that he become very familiar with Elder Holland‘s wonderful address to BYU students over twenty years ago that is still just as applicable today, “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments.” I imagine if you were his Stake President you would want to bless the Bishop with an extra dose of patience in dealing with moral issues in his ward.

Dealing with pornography is not limited to bishops of Young Single adult wards. I am grateful to see more and more church resources dedicated to helping leaders and individuals deal with this issue. The General Conference address on pornography by Elder Oaks a few years ago is just one example of the counsel that the prophets and apostles have delivered over the years.

Same gender attraction

While not as common an issue, I believe that counseling youth who have concerns with same-sex attraction is becoming a larger part of the bishop’s workload than it was when I was growing up. I am of the opinion that the way the church has advised leaders in this area has also changed over the years. I was pleased to read the recent discussions by Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman.

When I was a youth, our bishops relied on a couple of booklets that could be considered a little harsh by today’s standards. One was “A Letter to a Friend,” by President Kimball. The other was “To the One,” by President Boyd K. Packer. Today, I am impressed with the tone of articles from the Ensign like this one from Elder Holland, and this one, God loveth His Children.

Update: A very important resource I missed is this Oct 95 Ensign article from Elder Oaks. It is an excellent resource for reviewing the doctrinal statements of the church about the issue.

Feelings and behavior

In my opinion, counseling an individual struggling with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction is similar to helping someone who is dealing with an addiction to pornography. The doctrine is clear and will not change. It is our behavior that the Master requires us to discipline. The church does not take a stand on whether one is born with same-sex inclinations or develops them.

Elder Oaks has helped clarify the issue for me when he stated that homosexuality “is not a noun that describes a condition. It’s an adjective that describes feelings or behavior.” This makes so much sense to me. Just as the desire to view pornography is a temptation, the feelings of same-gender attraction and the desire to engage in homosexual behavior are temptations.

Sources for help

I know I have probably simplified the matter and look forward to hearing from some of you who care to educate me further. I welcome your comments. Are you aware of the organization Evergreen International? Besides LDS Family Services, I think it is one of the best kept secrets among LDS people for family help. It is not a part of the church but provides a valuable service.

For any priesthood leader who is looking for help in counseling those who are struggling with same gender attraction, homosexual behavior, pornography, depression and suicide, I have not found a better list of articles so thoughtfully organized than the Evergreen resource page. The material is helpful to anyone who is concerned for a family member or other loved one.

Becoming more like Christ

A new Bishop has the opportunity to change some of our responses as a church to those who are attracted to the gay lifestyle. I have served with some bishops who were hard-liners from the old days. Their counseling style left something to be desired when dealing with those who came to them for help in understanding the sometimes confusing feelings of same-gender attraction.

I would hope that a priesthood leader who is called to be the shepherd to the flock would do everything in their power to understand how the Savior would help those who struggle with SSA. Just as some of the hard-line attitudes of the past in counseling young boys who struggle with masturbation has caused some to commit suicide, those with SSA face the same dilemma.

The gospel in the home

As a church, we do NOT teach that parents have to turn their children out into the street if they come to them declaring that they want to be identified as gay. It is our doctrine that parents are to follow the example of the Savior. We love our children who have decided to believe as the world believes and participate in behaviors of which we know the Lord does not approve.

We love our children who struggle with pornography, with alcoholism, with drugs, with thoughts of suicide or any of the other temptations that can keep us from the Lord, including homosexual behavior. God loves all of his children. Because he loves us, he has offered to share with us all that He has. God is pure and invites us to be pure so that we may enjoy his gifts for eternity.

Summary and conclusion

The doctrine has not changed and it never will. The Lord’s standards on moral purity are clear. However, I think we as a church are coming to realize that some have feelings that are much more tender than those of previous generations. They do not need to be beat over the head to convince them of the doctrine. They just need our help building desire to control the behavior.

As Elder Packer has clearly stated, “We may one day stand alone, but we will not change or lower our standards or change our course.” We cannot. This is the Lord’s church and kingdom. It was not established by man. We do not have the right to change what the Lord has put into place. The standards of moral purity were given by the Lord. Our behavior is our gift to Him.

My experience with the temple

I have been impressed with the work Bryce Haymond is doing over at I am particularly pleased with the sacred and reverent manner in which he treats the subject matter. His essays on the temple are thought-provoking and illuminating. I would not have thought that one could find enough material to fill an ongoing blog on Temples, but he has proved otherwise. I should not be surprised. The temple has often been referred to as the Lord’s university.

Bryce’s work has not gone unnoticed. Other bloggers I respect like S.Faux on Mormon Insights have recommended the essays and unique perspectives there. Besides temples in general, you can read about endowments, garments, prayer circles, the veil, ordinances and commentary from Hugh Nibley, one of my favorite LDS scholars. I encourage you to visit Bryce’s site to see for yourself. I could spend hours there and always come away enlightened and uplifted.

It is OK to talk about the temple

In the church we are often hesitant to talk or write about the temple. Some have concluded that since the temple is such a sacred place that it is not appropriate to mention it or discuss what goes on there. I agree that there are aspects of the temple that we do not reveal specifically because we have covenanted to not do so. However, we do ourselves a disservice by not taking time to regularly ponder what the temple means to us and how it can bless our lives.

On the other hand, there are those over the years who have broken their covenants, sharing everything in great detail. Typically those who do so write or speak in such a way that they make a mockery of something that most members of the LDS Church hold very sacred. It is unfortunate that this has occurred but we know that there must be opposition in all things. I have always found the temple to be an awesome and empowering force in my life.

We hold the temple sacred

There is a reason that new members of the church must wait at least a year before participating in the endowment ceremony. We encourage new members to go and perform baptisms for the dead as often as they can and just as soon after baptism as possible. Waiting that year helps the new member to gain an appreciation for the sacredness of the temple that they observe in long-time members. I guess you could call it seasoning and a time to prove faithful.

That’s why it is so important that we who have been endowed be very careful about what we say and how we say it when talking to new members about the temple. They will probably absorb our attitude towards the Lord’s house as they listen to us discuss it among ourselves and as they see how frequently or infrequently we make the effort to go there. First impressions can be very lasting. I hope that we are helping new converts feel that the temple is a great blessing.

Being prepared for the temple

I went to the temple as a youth to participate in baptisms for the dead. I was impressed with the twelve oxen that held up the font in the basement and learned that they represented the twelve tribes of Israel. I remember the feelings that came to me as I entered the house of the Lord for the first time as a new deacon. There was a real difference in the way we talked and the way we acted as soon as we showed our recommend and made our way to the baptistery.

I don’t think I am atypical of most LDS youth in that I probably went to the temple a least every six months during my teenage years. I have fond memories of these experiences and especially enjoyed continuing this practice in the Idaho Falls temple when I went to BYU Idaho after high school. I am convinced that regularly going to the temple in my youth helped prepare me to appreciate the sacred nature of the endowment when I was preparing to go on my mission.

The importance of being worthy

In the church we place a high emphasis on being worthy to enter the house of the Lord. The process of obtaining a temple recommend is not secret and is really quite simple. The Lord has placed the responsibility on his priesthood leaders of ensuring that those who go to the temple are prepared to understand and receive the blessings that are promised there. Those who go for the first time are asked a series of questions from their Bishop and Stake President.

The questions are not designed to intimidate or to test our knowledge of what we will learn in the temple. The interview process is an opportunity for us to express to the Lord’s servants that we believe and have faith in God, our Heavenly Father and in his Son, Jesus Christ. We are asked if we have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel and if we sustain the prophet and other priesthood leaders. We are also asked if we obey the commandments and if we feel worthy.

Temple preparation classes

When I went to the temple for the first time, there was really no temple preparation class like there is now. It was expected that parents would teach and prepare their children to attend the temple for the first time. That is not feasible in today’s world with so many converts who do not have the benefit of years of exposure to the concepts of the temple through example or through discussion with family. I had parents who taught me about the temple and took me there.

On my way down to the temple, I sat in the back seat and read several essays about the temple that my mother had obtained and wanted me to read. She and my father were very active in attending the temple at this time in their lives and wanted me to understand about symbols and covenants and ritual and sacred things. I had already studied much on my own so what I read that morning was not new, but it impressed me that my mother wanted me to feel prepared.

The endowment ceremony

My first experience in the temple was not a shock and I was not surprised. I had read and been taught about the washing and anointing and clothing in the garment of the Holy Priesthood. There is no doubt that I felt something special as I entered the Garden Room of the Los Angeles Temple to be instructed through the ceremony and ritual there. In those days we did not move from room to room like we do now. That is something I love about the LA Temple today.

As many times as I have sat through the endowment ceremony, I am never disappointed by what I learn there. The first time through was especially enjoyable to be sitting next to my father and to see the smile on my mother’s face as she looked over at me several times. I am always learning something new even though what transpires is the same each time. My parents asked me if I wanted to do another session right away and was pleased to be able to do so.

Married in the Temple

When Carol and I became engaged, we immediately began making plans to be married in the temple. We had both made the decision many years earlier that we would only marry there. I also got the added benefit of marrying a returned missionary so she had been previously endowed and understood the temple. Although our wedding day was a long and eventful day, I will always remember kneeling across the alter to be sealed to my sweetheart.

I was so impressed with the covenant and the promises made as we held hands and were sealed by the authority of the priesthood in the Los Angeles temple. I love that temple. Every time we go there we look in on our sealing room with fondness and discuss what transpired there that day. The room was crowded with family and friends but the thing I remember most is the feeling I had when the words were pronounced. I knew that it was being recorded in heaven.

Vicarious ordinances for others

We have returned to the temple many times over the years to perform ordinances for those living on the other side of the veil. My mother was an avid genealogist and left me the records of thousands of our ancestors for whom we officiated as proxies in the temple ordinances. I have come to appreciate the doctrine of vicarious ordinances more and more as the years have gone by. I have felt that the work I do in the temple is appreciated and pleasing to the Lord.

The Lord has made it clear that baptism and marriage are ordinances that must be performed in mortality. We believe and teach that these ordinances can be accepted by those who have died without the opportunity to receive them here. We also believe that they are necessary in order to progress in the next life. That is why we as a church and as a people invest so much time and money in building temples, in doing family research and in doing proxy ordinances in the temple.

Summary and conclusion

I love the temple. I like to go there often. I especially enjoy our stake day in the temple which we have twice a year. Last year we filled half of the assembly hall on one of the upper floors with nearly a thousand members of our stake in attendance. It was an awesome experience I’ll never forget. I am so blessed to have lived so close to the Los Angeles Temple all my life. I never tire of going there. I have sacred memories of receiving inspiration and revelation there.

I hope to continue to visit the temple on a regular basis. I have more family history work to do. As I get older I ponder more and more about the spirit world and the next life. I want to be able to meet my ancestors and report that I did my best to do my part. They helped me get to the place where I am in my life. I live at a time where the temple is close and I can easily get there. I am so grateful to the Lord for the blessings of the temple. I know they are of an eternal nature.