Mocking Mormons is not a new sport


I suppose I should be flattered. There are several sites out there that troll the Bloggernacle just looking for conservative bloggers that take themselves too seriously. I’m probably one of them. So I’m pleased to have been given a nice LOLcat award for some poor wording on a recent post about the Yes on 8 ads and kids being taught about same-sex marriage in public schools.

This California Prop 8 thing has been getting pretty intense in the news lately. It is probably very disconcerting to the more liberal denizens of the ‘nacle who are opposed to the church’s involvement in this issue. It will probably only get more heated over the next three weeks. I hope our political views will not get in the way of our love of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mormon blogging is a small world

I have a sneaking suspicion that the only people who read my blog are other LDS bloggers. So my original intent in reaching out to those not of our faith was well-founded but perhaps not so very realistic. I have had a few comments from those researching the church but for the most part, I seem to attract readers who are on the fringe – those who are leaving or who have left.

Recently, I read an article about how few Internet Mormons there actually are. The majority of the church members – he calls them chapel Mormons – are not involved. They don’t know about the resources available to answer critics of the church. Nor do they know about amazing discussions taking place each day about the issues facing members living in an increasingly connected society.

Mocking is inevitable

My friend S.Faux posted an innocuous essay the other day about a common phrase used in New Testament times that pressed the “time to mock” button of some modern reader. It was all about the holy kiss, which sounds very unfamiliar in our day, but was apparently common back then. He illustrated his essay with a nice piece of artwork showing Peter and Paul greeting each other.

It is a sign of immaturity to mock things that you don’t understand or find hard to believe. They say it is all done in fun and yes, it can sometimes help to lighten things up when you see it from someone else’s point of view. But I am concerned for our newer LDS bloggers who share their testimonies in great sincerity and then get slammed by some ex-mo who thinks it’s funny.

Desecrating sacred things

It is inevitable in the virtual online world of LDS discussion that some of us inhabit, that we are occasionally visited by these rabid individuals. I am amazed at the talent of some who can craft a response that is intelligent and subtly mean at the same time. Others make every effort to openly offend and have not yet figured out how foolish they appear. It invalidates their point.

And then of course there are those who say they are on God’s side when they take things that are sacred to us and ridicule them in public display. No bolt of lighting comes down to zap them so they are happy to increase their efforts until someone takes the bait or they grow tired of being ignored. They have quieted down lately but you can read all about them over at the FAIR site.

Joseph was mocked

I enjoy my blogging activities about the church and LDS doctrine. Yes, my conservative views are very evident. I am also an older blogger so I see life from a different perspective from many who are proficient in the online world. Mocking on many forums and chat rooms is a common and acceptable practice. It can be a little shocking the first time a new LDS blogger is mocked.

This is not a new practice. It has been around since Joseph claimed he had seen a vision. It has just changed venues over the years until now it seems to reside online more than anywhere else. Some mocking can be said to be good natured, but I suspect most people don’t like it. Mocking is usually the forerunner to more active and serious efforts to tear down and destroy good faith.

The Savior was mocked

Those who lose their faith today are similar to those who rejected the Savior in the meridian of time. I can understand an honest loss of faith due to lack of belief in difficult doctrines. There were many who looked for a deliverer from Roman tyranny and were disappointed when Jesus did not live up to their expectations. They turned on him and mocked him as being weak.

The Redeemer was meek and did not revile. We do then same. The mocking of Jesus was at the zenith when he was taken, judged and placed on the cross. Some decided that he could not have been the Savior because he allowed himself to be crucified. We face similar mocking today as we meekly testify that these are indeed the last days and prepare for his triumphant return.

Summary and conclusion

I like to think I’m good-natured and have a thick skin when it comes to mocking. I try not to take offense at comments that are obviously from an individual who has been hurt and is taking in out on me because I wrote something that reminded him of that pain. I always try to think that it is not me that they are attacking, but the ideas that I espouse that they just don’t understand.

It is good advice to not take ourselves too seriously. That advice is especially applicable as we continue to discuss issues that are at the forefront of our political debate today. Mocking can be fun for those who engage in it and if done with the intent to help, then I suppose it can serve a purpose. It’s just seems so sad that there is no sense of the sacred from those who mock so well.

Shopping for a Celestial Marriage


The last line of Elder Nelson’s conference talk states that we “may be assured of exaltation in the kingdom of God.” What an amazing promise. He makes this wonderful declaration to the Saints conditional upon several requirements. In doing so, he is speaking on behalf of the Lord as a prophet and apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is only repeating what the Lord has promised.

One of those requirements of course, is to be married in the temple and to have that marriage sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Elder Nelson’s discourse is entitled Celestial Marriage, which is another name for temple marriage. What he taught on Sunday afternoon was not new. He did not share anything that we haven’t been taught in the church for as long as I can recall.

Teaching with patterns

And yet, there were some who claimed that what he said was harsh, crude, unfair and unkind. They seemed particularly upset that he had used a shopping analogy which he called, “patterns of the shopper.” Go figure. These are the same people that were upset at Elder Bednar when he taught us the parable of the pickle – one of my all-time favorite conference talks. I love parables.

In the shopper analogy, Elder Nelson referred to lesser alternatives. He said that wise shoppers study their options before making their selection. They focus on quality and durability. In contrast, some shoppers look for bargains only to discover that their choice did not endure well. And sadly, there are those who try to steal what they want. We call them shoplifters.

The analogy applied to marriage

Making the analogy, he said, “A couple in love can choose a marriage of the highest quality or a lesser type that will not endure. Or they can choose neither and brazenly steal what they want as marital shoplifters.” He later said, “Some marital options are cheap, some are costly, and some are cunningly crafted by the adversary. Beware of his options. They always breed misery.”

Elder Nelson was pointing out that some have decided a marriage outside of the temple is acceptable to them. He clearly stated that such marriages are of a lesser type, but can be upgraded at any time. His reference to shoplifters who try to steal a marriage was clearly intended to identify same-sex marriage as false, and not a marriage at all in the eyes of God.

More than a hopeful wish

But that may not have been the portion of his discourse that elicited the declaration of harsh by some who were watching and providing an online commentary. Elder Nelson clearly pointed out that to receive the reward of a celestial marriage requires more than a hopeful wish. It requires making a wise choice in this life and can’t be put off until the next, as many apparently suppose.

“On occasion, I read in a newspaper obituary of an expectation that a recent death has reunited that person with a deceased spouse, when, in fact, they did not choose the eternal option. Instead, they opted for a marriage that was valid only as long as they both should live. Heavenly Father had offered them a supernal gift, but they refused it. And in rejecting the gift, they rejected the Giver of the gift.”

The seven deadly heresies

This reminds me of a quote from Elder Bruce R. McConkie in a discourse delivered at BYU many years ago entitled, “The Seven Deadly Heresies.” He tells the story of a man, not a member of the Church who lived a life that was after the manner of the world. His wife, who was a member, and as faithful as she could be under the circumstances, asked him one day:

“You know the Church is true; why won’t you be baptized?” He replied, “Of course I know the Church is true, but I have no intention of changing my habits in order to join it. I prefer to live the way I do. But that doesn’t worry me in the slightest. I know that as soon as I die, you will have someone go to the temple and do the work for me and everything will come out all right.”

It was a complete waste of time

“He died and she had the work done in the temple. We do not…deny vicarious ordinances to people. But what will it profit him? There is no such thing as a second chance to gain salvation. This life is the time and the day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.”

The quote above is the text that is found on the BYU website. But you can also listen to the recording and hear him say, referring to the fact that he died and the woman had his temple work done. “He did, and she did and it was a complete waste of time.” Now I know this has been discussed and dismissed by many on the online discussion forums, but it still rings true to me.

Reaction in online discussions

I have read blog entries from several individuals, whose husbands are not members, who said they just cringed when Elder Nelson was relating the pattern of the shopper. Some said they were glad their husbands were not present to hear the story. Others reported how discouraged and depressed they felt to realize that their marriage had been labeled to be of lesser value.

I’m not sure why this doctrine comes as a shock to so many when they hear it for the first time. I know Elder Nelson did not intend to offend anyone, especially those who did not marry in the temple. I can emphasize with those who feel that the leaders of the church are saying that their marriages are of a lesser value. But in the end, aren’t they teaching an important true doctrine?

Marriage can be upgraded

I know of many faithful individuals who have struggled with this all their married lives. Not understanding or accepting the doctrine, they chose to marry civilly when they were younger. As they matured in the gospel, it became clear to them that they had missed out on something very important. You can’t attend church on a regular basis and not hear this doctrine taught.

Upgrading a marriage can be a difficult task. Elder Nelson taught that it requires a mighty change of heart and a permanent personal upgrade. I admire those individuals who continue faithful in church activity over the years as they strive to qualify for both this personal upgrade and the marital upgrade. That mighty change of heart can take a lifetime to accomplish.

Summary and conclusion

I have written about this doctrine previously. Marriage is an earthly ordinance. It must be attended to in this life. It is true that we perform vicarious marriage in the temple for those who have passed on without the opportunity to obtain it in this life. But for those who have the choice to marry in the temple and choose to not do so, what promise do they have from God?

They have no promise. It is hopeful and wishful thinking to believe that God will allow them to take some extra classes or pay a little fine in order to receive the promised blessing of exaltation. After all, that’s what a temple marriage is all about. Exaltation is what God promises to those who choose a temple marriage and remain true and faithful to their covenants unto the end.

California Prop 8 goes church-wide


Tonight all California Mormons have been invited to their Stake Centers to view a satellite broadcast from Salt Lake City on the subject of Proposition 8. Elders M. Russell Ballard and Quentin L. Cook of the Twelve and Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Seventy will address the doctrine of marriage and why the church is involved in the Protect Marriage Coalition.

However, the big news is that the Church is organizing and making arrangements for California student citizens at Institutes of Religion throughout the United States to assist with phone calls back to California voters. Although it does not appear that non-California citizens are being enlisted, it would seem logical that willing out-of-state members could be allowed to participate.

Yes on 8 ahead in the polls

For the first time since the polls began, likely voters in favor of proposition 8 have pulled ahead by about five points. This is reflected on both official websites for and against the proposition. The CBS/Survey USA released 6 Oct showed that Yes on 8 is leading by a margin of 47% Yes to 42% No. The 7 Oct Lake Research Partners poll shows Yes on 8 leading 47% Yes to 43% No.

Another amazing fact is that fund raising by Yes on 8 has exceeded the No on 8 by $10 million. Supporters of the initiative have raised $25.4 million, while opponents have raised $15.8 million. The number of contributors to the Yes on 8 campaign numbers over 61,000, the majority with small donations under $1,000. Some have estimated that LDS Members have contributed 43%.

New ads are effective

Although they have been dismissed by the opposition as being erroneous, absurd and full of lies, the new ads seem to be having an effect. Rather than embed them, which can be annoying (the embed, not the ads), I will just provide links here in case you haven’t seen them. This is what the financial contributions have been buying – short, to the point and hitting at the gut level.

Ad #1 – It’s already happened
Ad #2 – 4 Men in Black
Ad #3 – Whether you like it or not
Ad #4 – Finally the truth
Ad #5 – Everything to do with schools

Video – Robb and Robin’s story
Video – Why California needs Proposition 8

Summary and conclusion

Since the church asked us to give of our time and means to the coalition I have written a dozen articles on this subject, You can find them on my sidebar under “Essays on Marriage.” This has been an interesting journey for me. I recently changed my position about same-sex attraction. I used to believe that it was 100% choice. I now believe that some may indeed be born with it.

However, that doesn’t change my belief that homosexual behavior is a sin nor my position on same-sex marriage. Even if the Yes on 8 ads are misleading or overstating suppositions as facts, as the opposition claims, I am still convinced that we need to be involved in protecting traditional marriage. Prophets have asked us to take a stand and I am convinced they know a lot more about this than I do.

Update

The broadcast was well attended in our stake. The chapel was full, almost to overflowing. Besides great explanations of why we are involved in promoting proposition 8, they introduced a new website, PreservingMarriage.org. Elder Ballard was especially focused on helping our young people understand the need to get involved and to have the materials they would need.

Both of the videos on the new website were shown in the broadcast. They are excellent. I especially liked Elder Bednar’s discussions with the college age kids. They asked some great questions about how to answer their friends who may perceive our efforts as intolerant. I think this is the biggest complaint we get. I have written about that previously in this essay.

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YouTube links: Proposition 8 Questions and Answers:

1. Will same sex marriages hurt others?
2. Sick and tired of intolerance?
3. Are others supporting Prop 8?
4. Will courts overturn it again?
5. Didn’t we already vote on this?
6. Don’t others deserve the same happiness?
7. Will existing rights disappear?

Born that way – not a choice


A long time ago I met an individual who cast out unclean spirits for a living. This was not in some backwards third-world country but right here in California. Good people who struggled with deep emotional or spiritual problems paid him to diagnose and remove negative entities. That’s a fancy word for evil spirits. He was highly successful and helped a lot of people.

He is also LDS. I know what you’re thinking. That’s priestcraft, isn’t it? No, not really. The technique was such that it was the individual seeking help who did the casting out themselves. After guiding the person through a process to identify the source of the problem, he would help them express words in certain phrases that would cause the negative entities to leave them.

LDS doctrine of evil spirits

There are several things you probably want to know at this point. Did the man have any kind of professional training? Yes, he was a certified stress management consultant. Is that recognized in the State of California? No, there is no board or bureau that requires a practitioner of stress management to register their services, obtain a license, pass an exam or prove competency.

So anyone can claim that they are an expert in stress management and set up shop to help people deal with their troubles in life? Yep. Do Mormons really believe that they are afflicted with evil or unclean spirits that can possess them or even control them? Some Mormons do. So do a lot of good Christians. I have written previously about the doctrine of evil spirits in LDS theology.

Born that way, but not biological

Being intensely interested in what this man was doing for a living, I conducted several in-depth interviews that led to a discussion of the cause of homosexuality. I’m sure you can guess where this is going. He was convinced that same-sex attraction is the result of being tempted by an unclean spirit. And yes, he even felt that a little child could be afflicted from a very young age.

In other words, he did not feel that there was a biological explanation for same-sex attraction. So in effect, he was saying that what so many have been claiming about being born that way is true. That seems to go against LDS doctrine that little children are born pure and innocent. But he felt that they could be afflicted because of a parent or an ancestor that somehow passed it on to them.

Unclean spirits encourage homosexuality

A quote from the interview: “When a female spirit is controlling a man’s body, the man says, ‘I feel like a female trapped a man’s body.’ That’s the evil spirit talking. They really do feel like a female trapped in a man’s body. They’re trying to get that man to want other men, because that’s what they want. The same thing applies to a male spirit trapped in a female’s body.

“Often people get priesthood blessings, but because they didn’t have much faith in the blessing, they didn’t get rid of the cause. The evil spirit would be gone temporarily, but then they would come right back again. Why? Because they hadn’t taken care of the guilt, or anger, or fear or whatever they had that allowed the evil spirit to be there in the first place.” (Source available)

A cure for homosexuality

I won’t disclose the details of the technique this practitioner used to help individuals identify and resolve their own stress issues. I will tell you that he is not the only one who does this sort of thing professionally. This healing modality has been documented in clinical work by a licensed therapist who now markets his services in his local area and sells training through his website.

So there are professionals who are claiming that they can cure same-sex attraction. What they promote is not gender-affirmative therapy, but a technique for identifying and removing negative energy and negative entities that are the root cause of homosexuality. The majority of their work does not involve working with evil spirits but that is covered and explained in their materials.

Summary and conclusion

I throw this out there because I found it fascinating when I was first exposed to it many years ago. I have done enough serious investigation to feel that I understand the technique that is used and the theory behind it. Of course, the proponents claim it is a more than a theory, but is based on doctrine. I have withheld judgment for many years and offer it for discussion and feedback.

Comments are open. Discussion is welcome. Please don’t turn this into a circus. I was very pleased with the fifty comments I received on my last essay on this subject about same-sex marriage, proposition 8, dissent and excommunication. Thank you for the intelligent and frank discussion. I look forward to knowing what you think. I can also share a lot more information.

Update – new conclusion

After much dialog with good individuals who took the time to get me to think this through, I have concluded that my friend was wrong. Our LDS scriptures teach that little children cannot sin and that the adversary has no power to tempt little children. I am also more and more convinced that yes, some people are born with a biological disposition to same-sex attraction.

The authority I give to prophets


Now that may seem like a strange title of an essay. What authority could I possibly give to a prophet? We believe and teach in our church that prophets get their authority from God. In fact, the whole concept of authority to speak in the name of the Lord is a big deal in the LDS Church. I mean, if our claim to authority is bogus, as some say it is, then the Mormon Church is a fraud.

I have written previously about our claim of authority to act in the name of God. We teach that Joseph Smith received multiple visits in his day from resurrected beings who ordained him and gave him priesthood authority. That’s an amazing claim in itself that has been contested since the day he made it but that’s not the type of authority I would like to address in this short essay.

We all have the type of authority I would like to discuss. It is not gender specific. Both men and women and even children possess this authority. We are born with it and we will take it with us into the next life. It is a great gift and one that I cherish dearly. I have used it for both good and bad throughout my life. So why would I agree to give it willingly to someone I have never met?

My authority is my agency

The more I learn about this church, the more and more impressed I have become with this gift of authority that is mine. If there is anything that I know more than anything else, it is that I can choose to believe whatever I want. Nobody can take that away from me. I don’t think anybody can form an argument that could convince me that I do not possess this ability. It is a part of me.

This authority to choose my own beliefs is something about which I feel very passionate. When I was younger I would do all kinds of stupid things in an effort to assert my authority and prove to others, mostly my parents, that this power was mine and mine alone. It is an amazing power. It can bring me great happiness or it can bring me great sorrow and it is all based on my beliefs.

In other words, I can choose to believe what I want to believe about what brings me happiness. I do not need some philosophical explanation to define happiness. I know when I feel happy and I think I am getting pretty good after all these years of identifying which beliefs and actions are the cause and effect of my happiness. My power of choice is the authority I have over myself.

Giving my authority to another

Whenever I choose to believe something that someone else tells me, I give away a part of my authority or control over myself. That’s especially true if I can’t prove what they have told me. That may seem like a crazy thing to do. I guess it all has to do with the reliability of the source. We all do it. There are things we believe that we haven’t been able to prove and never will.

For example, in relation to my membership in the LDS Church, I believe things about our history for which I will never be able to obtain or provide empirical evidence. I was not there when Joseph received the visit from the Father and the Son, nor was I there when he received the visit from the angel Moroni. There were no witnesses to these events. Yet, I choose to believe them.

I have given away a part of me – my intrinsic authority or agency – when I accept what I have been taught about these historical events while growing up. I believed what I was told because I trusted the source – my parents, my Primary teacher, my Sunday school teacher, my priesthood advisor, my Seminary and Institute teachers and just about anyone who taught me the gospel.

The transfer of that authority

When I became an adult, I had to decide if I still intended to give my authority to others who represented the source of that knowledge. In particular, I had to decide if I would transfer that authority from teachers and parents, many of whom were now dead, to leaders of this church. I felt comfortable about that transfer of authority and have now placed it in apostles and prophets.

Most of the men who were the leaders of this church when I became an adult are now dead. So of course, that authority simply slid down the line with each new prophet until today, I place my trust in President Thomas S. Monson and in the other fourteen men who lead this church. I am no different from millions of others who have had to go through this same logical process.

Last night I sat in my stake center with hundreds of my fellow brethren of the church and watched the broadcast of the priesthood session of General Conference. I listened very closely as each of these priesthood leaders spoke and weighed very carefully in my mind if what I was hearing was inspired of God and worthy of acceptance. As always, I was not disappointed. I was impressed.

The current repository of my trust

Of course, all men are fallible and so are prophets. Individually, some of the early apostles left the church and some even fought against it, denying many things that they had previously taught as facts, or truth, to be falsehoods and lies. Hmmm…that presents a bit of a dilemma. Now who do I believe – those who remained or those who left and claimed the original leaders were liars?

Fortunately, that hasn’t happened in my day so I haven’t had to make this choice among living apostles and prophets. But what if it did – what would I do then? One of the teachings of our church is that the authority for doctrine is comprised in two quorums – the quorum of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I don’t have to rely on just one leader.

In my lifetime, I have witnessed a prophet of the church fail in mental health until he was simply incapacitated and could not act as the living mouthpiece or oracle of the Lord. That’s OK. I have written about this previously and explained there why I had no problem with this. I am convinced that this church can survive even when the prophet has Alzheimer’s. That’s amazing!

The ultimate placement of my faith

A prophet wouldn’t be a prophet to me unless he leads me to Christ. I look to these men to teach me about the Savior and how I can draw closer to Him. We have a saying in our church that we repeat often – follow the Brethren. We teach our children to sing the song – follow the Prophet. We do this because we have a tradition of confidence that these men will lead us unto Christ.

So ultimately, I give my authority and my agency to the Savior Jesus Christ as these men teach me to do. I like that. Of course, I haven’t seen the Savior or been personally visited or taught by Him. Although I believe it is possible if it were necessary, I don’t believe that I need to have to receive such a visit to exercise faith in Him. In fact, it wouldn’t be faith if I had such a visit.

That’s why I am so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost. I think I would be lost without this special gift that teaches me truth and leads me to God. Now this is something with which I have personal experience and personal knowledge. It is not empirical and never will be. That’s OK. It is very real to me and makes perfect sense. I know things in my heart that I can never prove.

Summary and conclusion

We all have a kind of personal power and authority that can only be used by giving it away to someone else. We call it agency. In particular, we have the right, power and ability to choose to believe what we want. It is very important that we find trustworthy sources to whom we can look to teach us about God and Christ. God must be revealed to someone or remain unknown.

Since I haven’t seen God, I must rely on those who claim to have seen Him to teach me about Him. Of course, it is critical to my salvation to be certain that my sources are authorized to speak on behalf of God. We call these men prophets and I have been listening to them all weekend. God knows that this is a leap of faith to trust a prophet so he has given us a way to be certain.

There is one wonderful piece of empirical evidence that God gave the prophet who brought forth the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That evidence is the Book of Mormon. To me, the whole process and procedure of knowing for myself is so logical. I am confident that I have given my authority to a trustworthy source and am grateful for the power this knowledge brings.

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