Keep Calm and Don’t Be Gay

What follows is a retelling of this meridian magazine article. I’m pretty sure that everyone, from those who think homosexual relationships make God angry, to those who are happy to accept that they were born homosexual, can agree on one thing, which I know is a truth: It would be nice to have a choice. As much as we’ve gone out of our way as a society to accommodate gay people, from not beating them for being gay to finally granting them equal rights, they’ll still be denied some privileges of hetero couples. Hetero couples can have kids… except those who can’t. Homosexual couples could never mix their DNA in a test tube and implant the egg fertilized from their mutual DNA into one of them or into a surrogate. Also, they can’t have a relationship that lasts into the eternities, because our leaders said that they can’t. So sure, we can be kind to them, but we can’t enucleate eggs to then implant a different mix of DNA. It’s not like it’s being done in animals and could be less than a decade or so away for humans. Gays can’t even hope for having biological kids. And as a child of someone who was adopted, I can say that raising your own biological children is the greatest privilege possible in marriage and really the only reason we have marriage. When a young person understands (as well as is possible with their limited experience) the ramifications of this, they’ll never choose a barren partner, or a partner of the same sex, because science can’t fix that right this instant.   We’ve made things so easy for gay people, that now the ones being raised in a conservative religious home have some social pressure to not be the kind of person that all of their family and entire social group expect them to be. What I’m saying is that we should make it more attractive for gays to want to sleep with someone they’re not attracted to. Just because they are attracted to...

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The World Already Ended…or Didn’t You Notice?

So there’s been some talk amidst the “end of days” crowds that this September is supposed to be the beginning of the end. Or the beginning of an end. Or the seventh year in the cycle of Jewish numbers of Old Testament things and 9/11 and the recession and UN troops cross over an earthquake while Seattle is underwater and China is selling back our debt and making the stock market crash while we live in tent-cities under a blood moon, Obama something bad. As you can tell, I’m pretty much all caught up. Now there are several sources for this info; the most famous LDS one being a woman named Julie Rowe. She has stated that she had visions during a near-death experience and written some books about what she saw. While my intro is pretty flippant of the mass hysteria around these predictions, I am not one to deny that strange spiritual experiences can and do happen to reveal things to us. But I am very wary of those experiences being taken too definitively or too literally, because they are experiences filtered through the mortal minds, hearts, and biases we posses, and we may not really understand it.  How many times in the scriptures were prophetic visions 100% literal and easily explained? Even after hearing his father’s vision, Nephi had to really parse out what it meant with the help of the Holy Ghost because he couldn’t figure it out on his own. Pharaoh knew he had had a really significant dream, but he also knew it wasn’t literal or he would have told everyone to kill any skinny cow they saw. He needed someone to translate it for him, which Joseph was able to do. So in light of that, incredibly specific predictions that get right down to the date and location sound a bit suspect to me. The other part that always disturbs me, is that some people seem weirdly excited about these disasters. And if they don’t come to pass, I sense there...

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Tithing Donations Should Be Confidential

May 03, 15 Tithing Donations Should Be Confidential

Posted by in Featured, Honesty, News, Tithing

Money is a touchy topic. I remember feeling really uncomfortable towards the end of graduate school when a classmate of mine would openly ask recently hired employees of various chemical companies what their starting salaries were. I understand his interest for I too wanted to know what I could possibly expect in terms of income upon graduating, but it was just uncomfortable because money and income are culturally understood as taboo subjects. We place both our money and spending into our private sphere. For the LDS, one place that can take the details of income out of concealment is church. Members of the LDS church, like other Christian denominations, are strongly encouraged to pay 10% of their income to the church as part of their religious devotion. In order to be considered a member in good standing and to gain access to the temple, the holiest place in the LDS faith, members must declare to their local ecclesiastical leaders that they are indeed full tithe payers.  This is done somewhat informally whenever a temple recommend is renewed as well as formally at the end of the year during annual tithing settlement. An annual tithing settlement was instituted during the 19th century when many, if not most members lived an agrarian lifestyle and it did not make sense for all members to declare tithing until the harvest had been collected and accounted for. The tradition of annual accounting holds strong today and for many it is an occasion to reaffirm their obedience to the commandment by reviewing their own income records against records of tithing donations to ensure that they are indeed fully compliant with the law of tithing. One important detail from the recent newsroom article, which announced the approval of online donation payments, is the statement that tithing and other donations are “paid on the honor system. No one asks to see income statements or pay slips.” This statement is true in the sense that bishops and clerks do not request proof of income...

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Defending the Family

Mar 16, 15 Defending the Family

Posted by in Family, Featured, Homosexuality, News

Meridian Magazine ( recently started a column inviting scholarly discussion of significant cultural and moral topics. More explicitly: Meridian EXPAND will be anxiously engaged in the good cause of defending core teachings of the Church concerning morality and the family, even though, indeed precisely because, these teachings are incompatible, not with critical thinking, but with an ideology that is increasingly ascendant among intellectuals, media elites and academics. I hope that any such defense of the family will acknowledge and wrestle with various facts I encountered as I sought to give reasons for denying same sex couples the privilege of legal recognition of their marriages. If it does so, this is likely to be a valuable discussion. The first took me the longest to accept, but has been acknowledged publicly by the LDS church: Sexual orientation is not a choice ( While the genetic and environmental factors that determine sexual orientation are only partially understood, there is overwhelming evidence that it is nearly completely determined before a child is even born. Children raised by same-sex couples are no more or less likely to be gay than those raised by different-sex couples. Does my defense of family account for this fact, that God made these people this way? The second set of facts has to do with the benefits and costs to society of same sex parents. I share the commonly held LDS view that the primary purpose for a society to recognize and support marriages is to provide stable environments for raising children as contributing members of society. My defense of family thus needs to account for the following measured facts: Lesbian couples raise children to be just as psychologically and socially well adjusted as different-sex couples, and small data sets suggest children raised by gay couples aren’t significantly different (or maybe better). Same-sex couples adopt many more minority children who, by inference from the fact of minority children being adopted less often, are more likely to grow up without two stable parents.

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46: The Effects of Excommunication on All of Us: Healing Perspectives

Feb 11, 15 46: The Effects of Excommunication on All of Us: Healing Perspectives

Posted by in Featured, News, Podcast Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS The anticipated day has come. John Dehlin has been formally cut off from the LDS church. John has been an ambitious voice and organizer for those who have deep Mormon questions. He has provided a platform for many to share their stories and find people with common concerns and common goals. For some he has shown them how to save their faith. For others he has shown them ways to examine their faith. For many he has become an important part of their life narrative, likely without designing to do so. Seeing John cut off from the church hurts. Their are lots of opinions and questions being aired. He is being examined and cross-examined again and again. Whether you have grown to love John or not, he is an important and valuable figure in modern Mormon discourse for many and his formal excommunication carries painful weight for those who value his contributions. The discipline brings up anxiety, frustration, anger, confusion, and a variety of other emotions. In this podcast our panel of Joanna Brooks, Dan Wotherspoon, Natasha Parker, and Jennifer Finnlayson-Fife offer some constructive insights and long term perspective that we can use in moving forward in our faith community after this blow.   A Poem for My Brothers and Sisters by Joanna Brooks Last night I dreamed I stood at the edge of the parade route, my friend Claire at my side, a shade over our heads, a ridge of red sandstone mountains against the far horizon. Then they came in the noonday sun Our people, so fierce, so tender, so terrible The men carrying books translated out of air, out of hats, out of hunger, Eyes straight ahead, unafraid of looking foolish to the world if it meant they could beat down death. The women too Pioneer skirts across the backs of horses Long guns at their sides Priestesses they were Tall, soft spoken, square shouldered Priestesses of a...

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Erosion of Religious Liberty?

Jan 29, 15 Erosion of Religious Liberty?

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality, News, Politics

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the US, he observed that America was more religious than Europe and attributed it to the strong separation of church and state that existed in the US. It would seem that this division of church and state, this freedom of religion is currently being tested. This is of particular concern currently because Christians of any denomination no longer represent 99% of the public. Many are talking of the erosion of religious freedom in the US. Those who express such concerns are inevitably Christian. The perceived erosion of religious freedom today is the very real erosion of Christian privilege.   I’d like to address a list of both real events (held up as examples of the erosion of religious freedom) and hypothetical threats to religious freedom. The University of California system is forcing Christian groups to compromise their religious conscience if they want recognition for their clubs. So, a public, tax-funded University won’t officially recognize and subsidize a club that excludes gays and non-Christians from leadership. Is this an erosion of religious freedom? Well, the group is totally at liberty to remain a private club, unaffiliated with the university. The issue seems to be, do they have a religious freedom to be put on a list of clubs at a public University and receive funds from the University if they discriminate using a religious rubric? This seems to be a case of the erosion of Christian privilege, not religious freedom. Houston city government lawyers subpoenaed the sermons and notes of pastors who opposed parts of a new law on religious grounds. These pastors faced not only intimidation, but also criminal prosecution for insisting that a new gay rights ordinance should be put to a vote of the people. They were subpoenaed simply because they opposed a law? No, not quite. Sermons and notes were subpoenaed because the city was being sued by a Christian group for throwing out illegal signatures on a petition to repeal the equal rights law. Those 5 pastors were...

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26: General Conference Compressed Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS Have you ever wanted to cover 10 hours of material but only had one to give? Rational faiths has the solution for you with our conference response and review session. Listen in to the highs and lows of conference expressed through 5 individual conference...

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Recycling talks?

RECYCLING TALKS? by Geoffrey Nelson Those who google search things as they hear them (or have an excellent memory) may have noticed that President Monson’s priesthood session talk was primarily a retelling of a conference talk he gave in 1982, and his Sunday morning talk was a remix of one of his 1974 talks. This may be a surprise for some. However surprising it might be, it is not new. Not even close. I first saw this explicitly when looking for a talk given by President McKay on meditation (it is an incredible talk by the way). Just go search to find many other duplicated talks. It’s easiest to find them from a GA who served for a long time (President Hinckley also repeated talks) and if the talk had some unique words. So go check it out for yourself and share what you find. Is there an age threshold at which we see talk duplication? Are there specific topics which are more likely to be repeated? Specific types of stories? Let’s...

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Israel-Palestine Conflict

Aug 04, 14 Israel-Palestine Conflict

Posted by in Featured, Mormonism, News

A voice is heard in Gaza mourning and great weeping Fatima weeping for her children refusing to be comforted because they are no more. Israel is committing a systematic incremental genocide. While this genocide is being brought to fruition Israel has severely limited and in many cases totally robbed Palestinians of their basic human rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Israel has consistently sought out the deaths of civilians including women, children, and the elderly despite having had every opportunity to avoid doing so. Israel has the ability to restore peace by ending the occupation of Gaza and making reparations to the Palestinians. This of course should be followed up with an increase of love, patience, charity and forgiveness to ensure a lasting peace is established. The burden for peace should never be laid at the feet of the oppressed. Israel is responsible. In 1942 in the midst of World War II the First Presidency said, “Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace . . . ” (D&C 98:16) Thus the Church is and must be against war. The Church itself cannot wage war, unless and until the Lord shall issue new commands. It cannot regard war as a righteous means of settling international disputes; these should and could be settled—the nations agreeing—by peaceful negotiation and adjustment.” (First Presidency Message, General Conference April 6, 1942) Any support of Israel’s constant aggression is contrary to the counsel of LDS leaders. Elder Lance Wickman taught, “we should be repelled by the evils of war, not rejoice in them…Revulsion is how righteous and spiritually sensitive people react to the horrors of warfare.(Bruce Young. “Following Christ in Times of War.” Common Ground Different Opinions. Ed. Faulconer and White. Greg Kofford Books 2013) I feel revulsion at the one sided slaughter that is taking place right now. My heart is drawn out in compassion for those who suffer innocently. I stand with Palestine and call on Israel to cease all violence, stop the occupation, and with a...

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Repurposing Sunday School

This post must begin by acknowledging the current events regarding the excommunication of Kate Kelly. Regardless of how you feel about the excommunication, we should all be mourning together. We should all be grieving. We should all follow our baptismal covenant to comfort each other and bear each other’s burdens. We need to avoid using this as some piece of evidence to prove that our view or approach is right. The Catalyst But I digress. This post is not directly the excommunication. It is about an idea which was brought to light in an interview on RadioWest with church spokesperson Ally Isom. First, it’s important to note what Ally Isom from public affairs had to say about the autonomy of the Pulbic Affairs department: Well first let me be clear that public affairs does nothing in isolation or insulation from our church leaders. We act at their explicit direction. In fact, we have a number of them who chair a committee who sit in counsel with us regularly. They are well aware of our efforts. They are well aware that I’m here today. They are well aware of what the message would be going forward. We do nothing in isolation… [Public Affairs work] is actually a First Presidency assignment and we work in concert with them very closely. Just a couple minutes after her statement that public affairs does nothing in isolation from the church leaders, there was this surprising exchange (Doug Fabrizio in italics & Ally Isom in bold): How and where may a member express doubts or opinions in good faith? It seems like what you were saying before is ‘do it wherever you want, but use the right tone, use the right questions… What if you believe, as some women do, that it’s time for the church to give women the priesthood? Where do you express that?   There are many avenues to express that and discuss that.   Where? In public?   No one is questioning your ability to discuss it...

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