Marriage is more than a “right”

Something is wrong, here. It’s suddenly become very normal to talk about marriage as a “right” and a “freedom” and that seems to me a rather impoverished way of talking about marriage. And yet, though one side (those opposed to gay marriage) often disagrees on marriage being a “right”, neither side can seem to get past this issue.

The “right” to be self-fulfilled

Let me try to articulate what I’m talking about: by talking about marriage as a freedom and a right, people are essentially drawing on a narrative like the very one I grew up with: when I marry, I want someone to whom I am physically and sexually attracted; I want someone who treats me well (in part because of their attraction to me) and who helps me reach my full potential as a person (can take me to the temple, etc); I want someone who cares for me like I care for them, who I can keep secrets with and who will share my life with me. I want… I want… I want…

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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 2: Teaching our children charity

This post is a follow-up from “Marriage, part 1: Why difference matters.” Three more related posts will follow.

In the previous post, I argued that differences were actually essential for a spirit of charity to thrive in marriage. In seeking out and embracing these differences, we learn to love that which is other than us – and by love, I mean in part to appreciate and embrace the unique contribution made by those differences.

Charity, as Paul says, “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). The truth is, we (husbands and wives) are different, and to have charity, we must rejoice in those differences. Doing so has the benefit of uniting us, as I discussed before. In this post, I’d like to discuss another benefit through a semi-narrative.

Imagine two people perpetually in conflict with one another. Let us say their conflicts are sometimes not particularly contentious, but do (as they must) get heated every once in a while. Now, in spite of how those conflicts play out (i.e., whether they are resolved or not), imagine that these two people also love each other with complete fidelity – that they are desperately faithful to one another. We might even see their love for one another manifested during conflicts.

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Why Mormons Should Be the Most Environmentally Friendly People on Earth

We had an excellent Sunday School lesson today in my ward about the Creation, which focused primarily on our stewardship for the earth and for all of God’s creations.

Here are some great quotes (most of which were distributed from my ward’s gospel doctrine teacher) that illustrate just a taste of why, I believe, Latter-day Saints should be the most environmentally friendly people on earth. Continue reading

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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In Defense of Elder Hafen: Brief Response to FMH

Elder Hafen recently gave (at an Evergreen conference) what I consider to be a wonderful speech concerning same-sex attraction and gay marriage. It is linked on the LDS Newsroom. This speech is probably the most well-balanced and well-informed article on same-sex marriage by an LDS general authority.

Then, to my dismay, I came across this post at FMH, in which ECS criticizes Hafen’s speech, in particular his use of references. But the FMH post itself is misleading and needs to be critiqued.

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Jodi Foster’s Empiricism in Contact

[This is a “reprint’ of part 2 of a series I posted on my home blog, www.ldsphilosopher.com]

One of my favorite movies is Contact, based on a novel written by Carl Sagan. One reason I like it is that it makes such important statements about how we come to know things. (Spoiler alert: Those who haven’t seen the movie and would not like the plot spoiled for them should not read this post.)

Ellie Arroway and her friend Palmer Joss discuss the meaning of religious experience.

One of my favorite movies is Contact, based on a novel written by Carl Sagan. One reason I like it is that it makes such important statements about how we come to know things. (Spoiler alert: Those who haven’t seen the movie and would not like the plot spoiled for them should not read this post.)

The movie is about a woman named Eleanor Arroway (Ellie, played by Jodi Foster), who is an astronomer working for the SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). She scans the stars using radio telescopes, looking for radio signals from other planets that may be communications from intelligent life outside the solar system.

Traditional Empiricism

Ellie is an atheist (or at best, an agnostic); she does not find any compelling evidence to believe in God. She refuses to believe in anything unless it can be demonstrated to her scientifically. She does not feel that there is enough evidence to warrant belief in a Supreme Being.

Ellie befriends a man named Palmer Joss, who is a theologian and a humanitarian specialist who writes books about the lack of meaning in our lives. He finds it remarkable that despite an increased standard of living and incredible technology, we Continue reading

Rationality Redefined

[This is a “reprint” of part 1 of a series I posted on my home blog, ldsphilosopher.com]

Early Greek philosophers saw reason as the conduit through which human beings could access the unchanging certainties of the cosmos. This perspective actually makes some sense. We may age, wither, and die, but the Pythagorean theorem remains unchanged through time. The conclusions of rational thought were seen as the bedrock truths at the bottom of our swiftly changing world.

This understanding of human reason implies that rational people will converge on the same ideas. An interesting, subtle, but extremely important side effect of this point of view is expressed aptly by John Locke: “All that is voluntary in our knowledge, is the employing or withholding any of our [rational] faculties. … But they being employed, our will hath no power to determine the knowledge of the mind one way or another.” Thus, the conclusions of rational thought are inevitable.

Modern philosophers have, to some extent, rejected this ancient perspective on rationality. Instead, reason has been seen as Continue reading

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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Literal Confusion (about D&C 137)

I’m not usually a literalist about the scriptures, but I’m a little baffled by a verse I read today and the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 137. This section is the account of a vision Joseph Smith had of the celestial kingdom. He names Adam and Abraham, as well as his parents, as inhabitants, likely those who were saved “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

And then he mentions his brother, Alvin. Joseph “marvels” that his brother Alvin is there, “seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.” And then the great revelation that “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.” Of course, this revelation plays a big part in understanding why we do work for the dead in our temples…right?

Here’s my question: What was Alvin doing there in the celestial kingdom when his work hadn’t been done yet?

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Will Prop 8 Decision Increase or Decrease Criticism of Mormons?

Today, the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 while leaving previous same-sex marriages intact.

My question is: What difference will the Court decision have on criticism of Mormons?

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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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Sacrament Meeting Talks: A More Excellent Way

Some sacrament meeting talks are more meaningful, insightful, and applicable than others. Certainly natural ability comes into play, but one of the biggest problems, from my experience, is that most speakers follow a “same old” generic pattern. There is nothing inspired or authoritative for this pattern, and in fact in many cases it can dull or deaden what could otherwise be enriching and inspiring sacrament meetings.

I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s efforts, faith, or testimony. Rather, I bring good news. It’s not hard, if one is willing, to raise the standard of sacrament meeting talks. It requires (a) recognizing the “same old” pattern as simply one way of giving a talk (and probably not the best way) and (b) being willing to try something new. I think you’ll like it.

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Fit for What?

I believe that one of the common problems of our modern era is that our relationships with our bodies have become abstracted.  This abstracted relationship manifests itself in a lot of ways, but I’d like to focus in on our modern concept of physical fitness.  I’m implicating fitness as an abstracted relationship because we talk about fitness without much discussion of what exactly our bodies should be fit for.

As far as I can see, the implied answers to these questions are  rather unsatisfying.  Fit to inspire envy.  Fit to turn heads.  Fit to be admired, liked, loved.  Perhaps secondarily we hear in the chatter around fitness some answers along the lines of fit to keep living, fit to live longer, or fit to feel good.  Whatever degree of merit these answers deserve, I submit that they all likely fall short of better answers that we might come up with.

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Recognizing the Resurrected Christ

Just a few thoughts from my reading the accounts of the resurrected Christ to his followers.

In three visitations, Christ was not recognized at first: (a) the visitation to Mary at the empty tomb, (b) the extended journey with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, (c) and the appearance on the shore while Peter and the disciples were fishing.

I think it can be profitable to point out what happened before His followers recognized Him. For Mary, it was after he called her by name. For the two disciples, it was when he blessed and broke bread. For the fisherman, it was after they, following His instructions, pulled in their net overflowing with fish.

Perhaps these stories can be analogous to our lives, in terms of recognizing the Savior’s presence and influence. When we feel that Christ knows us personally and calls us by name; when we partake of the sacrament and renew covenants with God in His name; and when, following His instructions, we are successful beyond our wildest dreams in building His Kingdom — in these circumstances, we see Christ for who He really is.

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Highlights from General Conference, April 2009

We had another great General Conference! Some of the dominant themes were faith and endurance amidst trials, temple worship, and unselfish service. Here are some highlights, with some of my own thoughts (and at least one soap box.)

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Mormon Blogs and the Search for Truth

I love to ponder, learn, share, and discuss.  I love when people challenge my beliefs in a way that stretches me to seek more deeply for understanding and helps me gain a greater vision of the possibilities and the truth.

I have always been this way and I know it is part of why I discovered the gospel of Jesus Christ and joined His Church.  If I did not desire truth and was not willing to change my mind about things, even things I deeply clung to, I would not be a member of the Church and I would not have the life I live today.

So, I appreciate when people share ideas and challenge each others’ understanding.  I think it is so valuable and so important.  I believe it to be necessary to truly become a Zion people.

Yet, there are some dangers that we need to keep in mind and be aware of:

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