Maybe God IS Racist

Picture this: Another February rolls around and all throughout literary Mormondom I get to read that “this was racist” or “that was racist” or “why doesn’t the church do this” or “blah… blah blah blah… blah blah… blah blah blah blah!” Okay, so I am supposed to be more sensitive right? Everybody in being sensitive while maligning Brigham Young and his legacy. Brigham Young had racist views! So what? I am almost willing to stake my life on the fact that each person alive today has at least one racist view about his own race let alone all the other races! Am I justifying racism? No, I am just tired of the new ways that appear about why Black Mormons should feel good about a forty-year-old policy being done away because new evidence suggest that a 19th-century White man is racist! Really? You don’t say. Show me a 19th-century man who wasn’t racist by today’s standards. By the way, just as an aside, if you are looking for fair and balanced in this article, you have chosen to read one of my rare works where I am as biased as hell! And if you don’t believe that hell is biased, listen to the product its admission representatives pitch. Those hellish employees never tell you what happens if you choose their product!   Now that I have put that rant out, let me tell you about Brigham Young, a prophet of God. Usually, I find many examples in the scriptures where something similar may have occurred to prove that Brigham Young was not setting a precedent here with banning a race of people from the priesthood. And yeah, I said it. Brigham Young banned an entire race of people from the priesthood. You know what? Who cares if something similar happened in scripture or not? Obviously many of us keep trying to justify it so that we can feel good about our faith and religion.  Seriously people, just because some old dusty nomads did the same thing...

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God’s Agents

Jun 02, 15 God’s Agents

Posted by in Faith, Featured, Humanity

One common way of explaining the need for priesthood authority in the LDS Church is the idea of authorized agents. Priesthood holders, especially those in leadership positions, are described as agents of the Lord with authority to act on his behalf in important matters. For a person to take such authority upon him- or herself – making promises for God without His authorization – would be presumptuous and potentially blasphemous. By tracing a line of authority from Jesus through John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John and on to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the Church makes a direct claim to the legitimacy of its priesthood holders as authorized agents of God. When I was a missionary, this all seemed very proper and clear. What I didn’t understand then were the challenges highlighted by an agency model of priesthood. Understanding these challenges more fully has changed the way I think about sustaining my leaders, expanded my reliance on faith within the institutional church, and deepened by appreciation for the Atonement. The main challenge of God being represented by man is identified in social science literature as the principal-agent problem. In simple terms, it is the recognition that the interests of the agent are usually at least slightly different than those of the principal whom the agent represents. So, for instance, negotiators may consider their own income from a deal as well as their client’s goals. Or, like the unjust steward, agents may be tempted to curry favor with those who can grant greater power, wealth, or authority later.[1] One useful incentive that agents have is keeping their current job. This can be positive because it encourages them to act more faithfully as a representative of the principal. It helps align their incentives. Or it can be a negative, causing them to spend more time hiding bad behavior. In fact, the Lord has addressed the principal-agent problem of the priesthood in words we mention often: “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And...

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Spoken of for a Memorial of Her

“Symbolic language conceals certain doctrinal truths from the wicked and thereby protects sacred things from possible ridicule. At the same time, symbols reveal truth to the spiritually alert.” (1) Women are not allowed to preside over the Sacrament; yet the Sacred Feminine is ever-present in the Sacrament itself. You just have to know where to look to find it. One of the most popular symbols for Mary Magdalene is the rose. This is also a well-known symbol for Mary the mother of Jesus in the Roman Catholic tradition (consider the Rosary). One Sunday morning after Sacrament meeting, I glanced over briefly at the Sacrament table and noticed the Sacrament Cloth was overlaid with rose embroidery. For me, the symbolism was unmistakable. However, as with all sacred symbolism, there is much more to the story than meets the eye. Considering the Sacrament is symbolic of the Atonement and a renewal of our sacred covenants, I find it interesting the cloth that would be used to cover the elements would represent Mary Magdalene, who I firmly believe to be the wife of Jesus. It is her sacred symbol that shrouds the Sacrament cloth just as the burial shroud covered Jesus’ body as he was laid in the tomb. The symbolism behind the cloth itself is also significant, for it was the women historically who wove the tapestries for the statue of Asherah, the Mother Goddess housed in the King Solomon’s Temple. According to Patai, “How Asherah was served by the Hebrews we do not know, apart from the one obscure and tantalizing detail of the women weaving ‘houses,’ perhaps clothes, for her in the Jerusalem Temple” (2) – in the women’s court, perhaps? Sadly the reforms of King Josiah would bring a bitter end to those days. Maxine Hanks suggests that it was the women of the Relief Society who would revive this ancient practice. She notes that early on, the women sewed clothing, draperies, carpets and other furnishings for the inside of the Kirtland Temple....

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Sacred Spaces: For Men Only

I’ve been trying to think of how to approach this subject as recent events in the last few years have made women’s treatment in the Church a hot-button issue sure to elicit immediate knee-jerk responses of all kinds. Add to that my deeply ingrained cultural upbringing that comes from being a Minnesotan Mormon woman, and I’m loath to offend anyone, even those I disagree with. Also, making jokes is way funner than all this serious crap, so I’d rather be doing that. But sometimes you have to just say what’s going on and let the chips fall where they may, even if that means offending internet strangers (who I visualize typing in top-hats and monocles while sneering their disdain), or writing something serious when you’d rather dull the pain or intensity by making it funny. And at the end of this, I’m totally inviting you all over for some hot-dish, bars, and passive-aggressive disagreements because that’s how we roll in Minnesota. In my very first post on Rational Faiths, I talked about how the lack of female narratives I grew up with in the Church had affected me and in some ways left me totally unprepared for things like pregnancy and childbirth. In the years since then, I also became aware of another institutional failing we seem to have in regards to women in the church: sacred spaces. As our church is currently set-up, there are only a few places found in the temple where no man can go, no matter how high his calling. However, outside the temple, there are several places no woman ever has the authority to enter, but not a single space where the reverse is true. There are always at least a handful of men who have the authority to enter women’s spaces and even dictate how that space should be run if they view that as necessary. And while most priesthood-holding leaders are thankfully not inclined to do that, our structure absolutely allows for it. Men are even...

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Noah, Same-Sex Marriage, and Citizenship

The church offers materials in 105 languages on its website. At least portions of the website are available to be viewed in at least 73 languages. The Gospel Topics section, which has gotten a lot of attention for its essays on controversial topics, is available in 10 languages. Some of these are recent additions. I wanted to look at the Gospel Topics pages in each of the 10 languages to see if they all have the same pages available across languages. Here is the summary:   Pages which are only available in English Addiction Technically there is an addiction page in the other languages, but it only suggests that they look at “Gambling”, “Pornography” (also only in English), or “Word of Wisdom”. Citizenship While you might think that this should be a universal topic, the Gospel Topics page on Citizenship is very American centric. If you look at the footnotes you’ll see that 3 of the US founding fathers are cited. Daughters in my Kingdom I guess this book hasn’t been translated? I don’t know. The page links to a different page with “faith-promoting principles patterns, and practices contained in the history”. Maybe just that page of resources isn’t translated. Employment This surprisingly isn’t explicitly American centric in content. It basically says that you need to work and that according to the Family Proc, fathers are supposed to preside and provide. Maybe it’s not translated because of the awareness that in many economies internationally both parents have to work. However, if that was actually the reasoning then you’d think that it would easily apply in the US as well (because very few people have jobs capable of providing for a family on one income). Environmental Stewardship and Conservation I’m not sure why this isn’t available in other languages because it is a fantastic page. It even directly addresses likely rebuttals that you would hear from your average member, such as “If the earth will be changed at the Second Coming of Jesus, why does it...

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A Lack of Knowledge

by Michelle Wiener Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge: because thou has rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” In this verse, Hosea is condemning the Northern Kingdom of Israel for their rampant idol worship. Many people assume Israel’s main sin was Asherah/goddess worship, but that is only part of the equation. Israel’s real transgression of the “law of God” was, in essence, committing “spiritual harlotry” by linking Asherah to Baal worship. In doing so, they were profaning all that was sacred to God – namely, his Wife. Let’s examine these scriptures in context…. Keep in mind Hosea was given a rather odd prophetic assignment. He was asked by God to marry a woman of rather “questionable” reputation, and it is clear he was deeply in love with her. Could we even say, lovesick? However, try as he did to keep her in his arms, he could not. All throughout the Scriptures, we see scattered references to Heavenly Father as a “jealous God” (see Exodus 20:4-5, Deut. 32:16). What does this mean? It seems no one knows what to think of this verse, let alone how to interpret it. Does God have quasi-human characteristics? Why would the God of the universe be described as jealous? What could God possibly need that he doesn’t already have? Perhaps Hosea holds the key to interpreting this passage – for God, like Hosea, is a jealous husband – deeply in love and extremely protective over his beloved Asherah, who the Israelites keep “whoring out” to Baal. All throughout the Hebrew Bible, there is an ongoing competition between Baal and the Hebrew God/Heavenly Father. No sooner than the Israelites leave Egypt, they are found worshipping the golden calf, representative of the Canaanite god Baal- just in time for Moses to come down from the mountain carrying the Ten Commandments. This...

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Kate Kelly

Jan 05, 15 Kate Kelly

Posted by in Featured

As I look back on the Mormon roller coaster that was 2014, I think of my family and my transition out of church activity. It was a tough year for me theologically and personally. 2014 was a year of real ups and downs but, one milestone sticks out clearly: this year gave us a new kind of heroine- Kate Kelly. Though I do not agree with every tactical decision of the Ordain Women I do appreciate what the movement has given us. A new model for change. A way to invest in the Church without letting it dictate for us the future. Ordain Women has taught us an important lesson. Just because everything hasn’t changed doesn’t mean nothing has changed. Orthodoxy and radicalism can be intertwined and no group of white men can tidily untangle the mix. The leader of the Ordain Women movement, Kate Kelly, was burned at the proverbial stake by Church leaders, and has since been vilified by multitudes of orthodox and heterodox Mormons. Disappointingly some of those scurrilous attacks occurred right here on this very blog. But, she has since arisen like a phoenix out of the ashes with a newfound grace and tenacity that I hope inspires my girls and young women like them. Did Mormon women get the Priesthood? No. But, to see that as a failure of the movement is myopic. I do not think Mormonism will ever be the...

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Mormonism is Not Book of Mormon Christianity

With the new BYU curiculum change, one of the classes that will be required is “Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon.” It made me think about doctrinal similarities and differences between the Book of Mormon and modern Mormonism. Since I can’t write a blog post about every doctrinal comparison, I tried to pick the most important doctrine. In a 2012 conference address Elder Bednar quoted President David O. McKay stating, “If at this moment each one of you were asked to state in one sentence or phrase the most distinguishing feature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what would be your answer?” (“The Mission of the Church and Its Members,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1956, 781). Elder Bednar continued: “The response President McKay gave to his own question was the ‘divine authority’ of the priesthood. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands apart from other churches that claim their authority is derived from historical succession, the scriptures, or theological training. We make the distinctive declaration that priesthood authority has been conferred by the laying on of hands directly from heavenly messengers to the Prophet Joseph Smith.” (David A. Bendar, “The Powers of Heaven” April 2012 General Conference). How does the Book of Mormon describe authority and Priesthood? Is it the same as modern Mormonism? Does it have the same emphasis on Priesthood from heavenly messengers by the laying on of hands? Priesthood in the Book of Mormon is difficult to pin down. The early Church followed the system of priests, teachers, and elders described in the Book of Mormon with Joseph and Oliver Cowdery, but Priesthood changes significantly after Sidney Rigdon arrived [1]. Furthermore, the “precious things” of authority, offices, and ordinations described in the Book of Mormon are not very “plain” (1 Nephi 13:40). Therefore it can be difficult to separate concepts of Priesthood in the Book of Mormon from more modern understanding of Priesthood within Mormonism, even from the perspective of an 1831 Mormon. Priesthood Authority What...

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The Answer to All the Hard Questions

Nov 20, 14 The Answer to All the Hard Questions

Posted by in Faith, Obedience

“Some of the hardest questions come when what we believe is challenged by changing cultural fashions or by new information, sometimes misinformation, that critics of the Church confront us with. At such times, it may seem that our doctrinal or historical foundations are not as solid as we thought. We may be tempted to question the truths we’ve taken for granted and the spiritual experiences that have formed our faith. What do we do when doubt seeps into our hearts? Are there really answers to those hard questions? Yes, there are. In fact, all the answers—all the right answers—depend on the answer to just one question: do I trust God above everyone else?” (The Answer to All the Hard Questions, Ensign 2014) There is a lot to say about this article, I will just say this: While they boil “the answer” down to a single question: “Do I trust God above everyone else?”….what I think they mean to say is, “Do I trust LDS priesthood authority above everyone else?” Because in their mind, obeying God = obeying LDS priesthood authority. The problem is that (when we have been given all the information) — so many of us have been disappointed time, and time again by LDS priesthood authority. For about 184 years now (and counting). But they act as if their record is spotless. For me, the essential question that I believe we all should be asking ourselves in 2014 (as LDS church members) is: * (For those who still believe in God) — “Do I trust my own ability to discern God’s will for me and my family?” * (For those who don’t believe in God) — “Do I trust my own reason/instincts/intuition/inspiration/emotion, along with those whom I love and trust, to discern what is right/best for me and my family?” To me, this is perhaps the most insidious and damaging thing about 21st century LDS authority. After almost two centuries of often egregiously disappointing behaviors, LDS church leaders still expect church members to...

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Eve as Christ’s Precursor

Nov 09, 14 Eve as Christ’s Precursor

Posted by in Featured, Feminism, Old Testament, Temple

A recent visit to the temple reinforced for me the idea that Paul got his parallel wrong: Christ is not the second Adam but the second Eve. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” Paul wrote (1 Cor. 15:22). But, considering our modern understanding of the Fall, it would have been more appropriate for the scripture to read: “For as in Eve all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Eve, after all, was the first to partake of the fruit. Rather than condemn her for this, we celebrate her sacrifice and foresight. This celebration should help us see her parallels with and foreshadowing of the Savior. Eve embraced physical death and passed through profound spiritual death (being cast out of God’s literal presence in Eden) so that we could each receive mortal life. Christ similarly embraced physical death and passed through a profound experience of (our) spiritual death so that we could all receive resurrection and eternal life. As the events are depicted in the temple, Eve’s consideration of her choice in the Garden of Eden reflects Christ’s question in the Garden of Gethsemane. This, along with her appellation as “the mother of all living,” should remind us further of the close link between both ends of morality. Eve’s responsibility for our lives and our deaths are intimately linked, both preceding directly from that fateful decision in the Garden. Focusing on Eve as a parallel to Christ also gives greater depth to the Lord’s explanation of the central symbols of the Plan of Salvation. According to Moses 6:59-60, the Lord taught Adam (and presumably Eve) to teach their children “That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of...

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