The Fourth Mission of the Church: Why Absent from Conference?

At this last General Conference, I was anxiously awaiting someone–particularly President Monson or the Presiding Bishopric–to discuss details about the Church’s new mission: helping the poor and needy. This mission will be added to the the Church’s existing three missions, which will be called four purposes: perfecting the saints, proclaiming the gospel, redeeming the dead, and helping the poor and needy.

I assumed that it would at least be mentioned. Which would have been nice, as most members I’ve talked with, including priesthood leaders, are unaware of the announced addition to the church’s mission.

To my surprise, there was no mention of it (unless I missed something). This post is not a complaint; I imagine the Brethren know what they’re doing in terms of implementing the new mission. Perhaps they just want to take the time to develop a systematic program before they make a big deal out of it.

So why did the Church make the announcement several months ago? Perhaps it was more a message to the world than to the Saints. Perhaps they didn’t want to wait to let others know that we are really serious about helping the poor and the needy.

I’m curious if anyone has information about the rolling out of the fourth mission. Has the Church communicated anything about this to stake or ward leaders? Has anyone’s ward, stake, or quorum began any kind of organization or new callings associated with helping the poor? For example, has anyone’s Elders Quorum called a Helping the Poor and Needy chair? And would it be OK to do something like this, absent specific instructions from Salt Lake?

Marriage, part 5: Defending marriage, defending charity

This is the final post in a five-part series on marriage, in case that wasn’t obvious in the title.

Thus far I have tried to make a case for difference in marriage, arguing that without confronting the fundamental differences symbolized by the sexual unity of male and female, we are less able to understand fully what it means to be charitable. In this final post, I will argue that defending marriage – and by association, charity – requires we defend difference.

Thus far, Latter-day Saints have put a lot of money and rhetoric into defending marriage, in particular against gay marriage. Perhaps the most notable example of this was the church’s recent campaign for Prop 8 in California. Though Prop 8 passed, we have seen since its passage that this “victory” for marriage cost more than just a lot of money. For the Latter-day Saint church in particular, the victory bordered on a public relations nightmare, with a lot of hate generated against the organization and its membership. Even worse, perhaps, was the division it caused within the membership.

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Marriage, part 1: Why difference matters

This is the first in a five-part series on marriage, wherein I discuss charity in marriage, why the gay community should favor marriage between a man and a woman, and why Latter-day Saints are not positioned well to defend against gay marriage.

In all three scriptural accounts of the physical creation, Adam is created of the dust of the earth, while Eve was created of Adam (Genesis 2:7, 21-22; Moses 3:7, 21-22; Abraham 5:7, 15-16). Adam, upon seeing woman for the first time, notes the significance of this division when he calls woman bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. What is striking to me is what Adam says next: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (v. 24 in Genesis and Moses, emphasis mine). Were they not already one flesh before God removed the rib from Adam’s side?

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Another Post about Evolution

This site has been quiet for some time and it makes me wonder if we’ve stopped “thinking in a marrow bone.” I haven’t stopped thinking, but I’m not sure if I’m doing much thinking that’s worth anything. So instead, I’d like to issue a challenge and have you do the thinking for me: someone help me understand why so many Mormons accept evolution whole cloth without settling some of the most crucial divisions between doctrine and Darwinian dogma?

Let me reveal my ignorance by talking about things I don’t understand.

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Highlights from General Conference, October 2009

I always feel spiritually rejuvenated after General Conference, and this conference was no exception. Here are some of the dominant themes and highlights I noticed, along with some of my own thoughts:

1. Fresh ways of looking at the “fundamentals”

I sometimes grow tired of the way the “fundamentals” in the Church are sometimes talked about by church members: “the Sunday School answers; you gotta read, pray, and go to church; you gotta make good habits; etc.” It’s not that I disagree with the importance of the “fundamentals,” it’s that I think they are too often talked about in shallow ways.

This conference, however, had several excellent talks that can aid members in the way they think and talk about the “fundamentals” of consistent scripture study, prayer, family home evening, and worship.

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Catholics vs. Mormons on Abortion (The Pregnant 9-Year Old)

In many respects, Catholics and Mormons have similar views on abortion. In general, both churches are pro-life, although individual Mormons are probably more likely than Catholics, at least in the U.S., to be pro-life. Plus a larger number of U.S. Catholics are more likely to emphasize (Democratic) legislation and interventions to reduce abortion, rather than (merely) emphasize (with Republicans) repealing Roe v. Wade. So, on average, it is probably safe to say that individual Mormons are more conservative than Catholics on the abortion question.

However, in terms of their institutional positions, it is the other way around–the LDS church is more liberal.

These differences are relevant in light of the Catholic church’s recent automatic excommunications of the family and doctor of a nine-year-old Brazilian girl who received an abortion. The pregnancy (twins) was a result of rape from the girl’s father (the girl is not subject to automatic excommunicated because of her age). Two weeks after the decision (March 2009), the archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho (who made the ruling) stepped down, prompting some to wonder whether the Vatican disagreed. Time Magazine (above link) reports, however, that a recent Vatican publication “unequivocally confirmed automatic excommunication for anyone involved in an abortion — even in such a situation as dire as the Brazilian case.”

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Lessons from Primary

My five-year-old daughter came home from Primary one Sunday and told us all about her lesson the Word of Wisdom. Her teachers had creatively made pictures of things that were “bad” so the children could throw them away. They threw away images of cigarettes, alcohol, tea, and coffee – all the things that are restricted based on D&C 89 and other, later admonition from the prophets.

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LDSApology.org: Climate of reconciliation or of accusation?

There is currently a petition to the First Presidency to apologize on behalf of the Church for “official statements, rhetoric, policy and practice” that “have been injurious to gays and lesbians and their families and friends.”

First, I should say that in many ways I respect this petition. There clearly is a self-conscious attempt to address reconciliation without demanding the Church change its moral position on homosexuality or its political position on gay marriage. There has been a genuine effort, I think, to actually try to make inroads with the Church. I especially like the line, “We believe that people of good will may have differing views about homosexuality, while maintaining amicable relationships.” Yes–let’s hope this is true.

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To Be on Facebook But Not of Facebook: A Mormon Dilemma

Imagine inviting all of your friends over for your birthday party.

And by friends, I mean just about everyone you knew in high school, your college friends, people from your ward(s), people from work, relatives, ex-boyfriends/girlfriends. In other words, this is a BIG party.

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Meditations on Time, Part 1: My Childhood Fear of Living Forever

CB007962This is the first of a series of short posts entitled “Meditations on Time.” In this series I will explore some of my thoughts and experiences concerning time and the gospel.

Living forever hasn’t always been a pleasant thought for me.

I still remember when the notion of living forever first dawned on me. I was probably 4 or 5 years old. Prior to this time, I had believed in life after death, but I never had really thought about what that would be like. I remember having some kind of conversation with my older sister, and she said something about how in the next life time never ends. That idea was so foreign, I couldn’t even begin to fathom it. I asked my mom if this were really true, and she said it was. When I expressed that it sounded so weird to me, my mom replied, “Well, wouldn’t it be weirder if your life just suddenly ended?” I had to admit that I of course didn’t like that outcome either.

Therein was my dilemma. Both possible outcomes — living forever and ceasing to exist — frightened me.

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“Objective” Has to Go

I hear the word “objective” used fairly often. I’ve heard it at home, at the university, at work, and even at church on occasion. One thing I think we fail to appreciate is that this word can have several different meanings and that some of these meanings may convey more philosophical baggage than we might know.

Although there may be more ways to use the word, I’ve decided to deal specifically with two ways I hear the word “objective” used daily.

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The Election: Why I’m Happy and Sad

Like most things in life, this election is bittersweet.

I’m happy Obama won.

I’m sad that so many of my friends and family members are, well, not so happy.

I’m happy that so many people across this country have brighter hopes for America and for the future.

I’m sad for those who think that the end is near.

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Open Letter to Mitt Romney (Dear Cousin)

Hey Cuz!

You don’t know me, but I think we’re fifth cousins or something like that. We’re both descendants from Parley P. Pratt — 2 greats for you, 3 for me. We have lots in common: we’re both active Latter-day Saints, we’ve both graduated from BYU, and we’re both not afraid to change our minds about political matters.

Considering we don’t know really know each other, I was touched that you would take time out of your busy schedule and send me the postcard that I received today. How thoughtful of you!

You wrote to tell me to vote Republican this year. I wish your postcard would have arrived earlier — I’ve already voted! And I’m worried you’re not going to approve because I actually voted for some Democrats.

I voted for some Republicans also. So hopefully we can still kind of be friends.

But what I really wish, cuz, is that I would have sent you a postcard before you sent me mine!

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Obama vs. McCain 2008: Who Will You Vote For and Why?

We have finally reached the end of our weekly forum on the presidential election. We have had many great discussions on a range of topics, such as character, Iraq, the economy, abortion, relationship with LDS Church, health care, faith and family values, terrorism and diplomacy, education, and political corruption. Click here to see the full list of topics.

One of the great things that has been achieved in these forums, I think, is a respectful demonstration of a diversity of political viewpoints held by faithful Latter-day Saints. This kind of conversation, unfortunately, is rare — and so I applaud everyone for making it happen.

Now is the time, for those who are willing, to declare which presidential candidate you are going to vote for (or have already voted for). Be sure to explain why. Arguments for third-party or independent tickets (or even for staying home, I suppose) are welcome. Feel free to make predictions also. Again, please keep things respectful; if you wish to bash a candidate, this is not the place.

If you feel more comfortable using a pseudonym (fake name), feel free to do so.

(By the way, this is TMB’s 100th post!)

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Obama vs. McCain 2008: Round 21: Symbolism of President

This is the twenty-first of a weekly series of public forums on TMB.

Arguably, one of the most important and consequential factors of a U.S. president is not simply what the president does, but what he/she symbolizes.

What might be the national or international consequences of what a McCain or Obama presidency would symbolize? Feel free to also weigh in on what this might mean, if anything, for the growth of the Church.

Be sure to visit next week (beginning Monday, October 27) for our final round, Who Will You Vote for and Why? This is your chance to declare who you will be voting for and why. Arguments for third-party or independent tickets (or even for staying home, I suppose) will also be welcome.

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Highlights from General Conference, October 2008

I thought I’d take a minute and discuss what I consider to be the highlights of this weekend’s semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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VP Choices: Biden and … Romney?

I just left the following comment on the McCain vs. Obama VP forum. I’d like to hear what you think about it, but I’ve closed comments on this post and am encouraging you to leave comments on the original VP post instead.

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Ovation Inflation: How Unique to Mormons?

Everyone is worried about the economy, including the inflation of the U.S. dollar.

But I wish to express my concerns about a different kind of inflation: ovation inflation.

Years ago I came to the term “ovation inflation” independently, but after I googled the term about a month ago, I realized, once again, that I am not as unique as I thought. “Ovation inflation” has been discussed in blogs, online magazines, and even the Wall Street Journal. In her WSJ article, Joanne Kaufman called ovation inflation “one more example of our society’s tendency to supersize every experience, emotion and commodity.” Continue reading

June 8, 1978: Revelation on the Priesthood: 30 Years Later

Last Sunday (June 8, 2008), a member of my ward, Whitney, gave an excellent talk in sacrament meeting in commemoration of the 30 year anniversary of the revelation on the priesthood (the formal announcement of). With Whitney’s permission, I am including a written version of his talk here. It is an excellent talk, which speaks honestly of some of the historical difficulties with this topic, and addresses how we need to move forward with better racial relations in the Church.

We generally speak of the restoration of the gospel in the past tense. We refer frequently to the spring of 1820 and to April 6, 1830. Article of Faith 9, however, encourages us to take a more expansive view. That “He will yet reveal many great and important things” signifies an ongoing restoration and one which continues today. June 8, 1978, thirty years ago today, the date when the priesthood was extended to all worthy males, and the blessings of the temple to all worthy members of the church, “without regard for race or color,” is a date that ought to hold a place next to those early dates of the 1800s when we speak of the restoration of the gospel. For without the full blessings of the restoration extended to every worthy member, the restoration of the gospel remains an incomplete one. Just as those important early dates of church history give us the chance to reflect upon the first vision and the founding of the church, so does today allow us the chance to reflect back upon our history and the current state of race relations within the church. Continue reading

Deseret Morning News: Removes Words, Not Panties

Last night, my wife Candice wrote a letter to the Deseret Morning News. I’ll repeat the text of the submitted letter here:

I would not expect Deseret Morning News, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to display sexually offensive advertising images on its online articles. I recently saw an ad for “Macy’s Free Ultimates Panty” (whatever that is) showing a seductive model wearing extremely tight, thin, and revealing undershirt and panties. The ad is in full color, large, and unavoidable, in the very center of the text. The paper must be aware that this kind of advertising is distasteful and offensive to the majority of its predominantly Latter-day Saint readership. I realize there are probably pressures for printing such ads, but perhaps the paper should follow the advice given last weekend by W. Craig Zwick in the LDS General Conference: “Live by your standards and stand up for what you believe in. Sometimes it is not easy, and you may be standing alone for awhile.” Shouldn’t Deseret News take a lead in making a stand against sexually offensive advertising? What message does this kind of advertising from a Church-owned newspaper send to the world? And what message does it send to Latter-day Saints about taking a stand against destructive yet popular worldly trends?

The newspaper printed the letter in its Reader’s Forum.

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