5 Ways the Church’s LGBTQ Approach is Morally and Spiritually Bankrupt

The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.  If there was one positive thing to come out of the recent policy kerfluffle, it was the opportunity for the LDS Church to show to the world how it has run out of spiritual and moral capital when it comes to its dealings with the LGBTQ community. Simply put, the Church is bankrupt on this issue. We knew this coming out of the Prop 8 fiasco, but it has been six long years since then, with a few token gestures by the Church thrown in, and the policy incident was a needed reminder that the leaders of the Church have much work to do. “Know thy enemy,” as the saying goes. And the enemy here is bigotry. Like the naked emperor, the Church stands in the waning light of the now-fading Mormon moment, exposed for all the world to see it for what it is – an organization led by aging, straight white men born in a different era and sheltered to the point where they still believe gay families are a threat to the world. What’s most troubling to me personally is not just the open hostility, but the utter lack of moral and spiritual foundation on which to rest their argument as it relates to same-sex marriage. I’ve compiled a short list of the ways the Church’s current stance on gay marriage and its views toward the LGBTQ community fall short of even basic scrutiny: 1) The Celibacy Policy – The Church espouses the familiar Biblical refrain that “It is not good for man to be alone.” It still actively encourages young single adults to marry as soon as possible and start families. It believes families are essential to God’s plan. It believes and teaches that our eternal destiny lies in forming everlasting bonds...

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I’ll Never Tell You to Choose to Believe

Oct 15, 15 I’ll Never Tell You to Choose to Believe

Posted by in Agency, Atonement, Faith, Featured, Revelation

In college I lived down the hall from a very serious Christian. He worked hard to encourage others to be more active and outspoken about their Christianity. He was antagonistic to my Mormonism, considering it as non-Christian and me as having been led astray. We still got along well enough, but we weren’t close. One day I happened upon a scripture study he was holding with a few other students in one of the common rooms. As I recall, they invited me to share the space and eventually we began a conversation about religion. Somehow (these conversations never seem predictable), we turned to the topic of belief. While I held up Moroni’s promise as the central truth-process claim of Mormonism, he dismissed this, declaring that the Bible had replaced all such revelation. Honestly astounded by this position, I asked, “Then how do you know the Bible is true?” His response was that he just did. His position, as best I could understand it, was that one should read the Bible and simply accept it as truth. And if you didn’t? Well, then you were going to hell. There was no gray area. But there was also no revelation to buttress belief. It was just a matter of either unconscious decision (best, easiest) or conscious decision (a necessary but difficult step if you weren’t able to believe automatically). I couldn’t accept that then and I still can’t. Insisting that someone believe what they don’t, without divine help, strikes me as an unreasonable demand. I can’t imagine that being the basis for salvation. I believe because I’ve felt the spiritual confirmation that Moroni promised. I believe because, as a primary child, I felt a powerful spiritual witness while singing the song “The Spirit of God” and knew that personal revelation was real. I believe because the Book of Mormon continues to enlighten my mind as I devote myself to diligent study. I believe because I have seen the truths of the gospel reach people’s hearts and...

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Wandering in the Wilderness

It has now been 9 years since I first listened to the Mormon Stories podcast with Darius Gray and Margaret Young on blacks and the priesthood and temple ban.  In it they put the priesthood ban into context of the surrounding culture.  I learned that in the beginning, there was no ban, not while Joseph Smith was alive.  I learned that the ban started under Brigham Young and came in increments.  I learned we are really missing any smoking gun revelation from God instructing that it be so.  I learned that many justifications that I grew up hearing, namely a curse as descendants of  Cain, in my isolated whiter than white small Idaho hometown were related to the same folklore white protestants used to justify slavery and then adapted to the priesthood ban.  It was a revelation to me.  For the very first time I had an answer that made the slightest bit of sense to THE question about the church that had always most bothered me.   Two years ago, much of this same information was put into the chapter heading of Official Declaration 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants and a year later went even further in the essay on the lds.org website.  That podcast was wonderful and terrible at the same time.  It gave me answers and opened my eyes and simultaneously shook the foundations of my idea of prophets, revelation and divine direction of the Church right to the core.  It launched a whole new faith journey in which old understandings were torn apart and new ones had to be built up in their place.  Never again could I accept the model of everything the Prophet says as being inspired.  Never again could it be as simple as God’s mouth to the prophets ear.  As I have mentioned before, I am able to say I came through this journey remaining a believer.  I can honestly say I think I have a deeper and richer faith.  However, it has been a monumental task to square the idea of a church...

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Does Joseph Smith Pass the Biblical Prophet Test?

I have always enjoyed scripture study. I was attempting to “feast on the words” of the Bible but it had always been difficult for me. There seemed to often be some bit of historical context I was missing, or certain passages that seemed to contradict Mormon doctrine. To make matters worse, each time I would look through all of the Mormon resources I had available to me, the verses or chapters I had the most questions about seemed to be completely ignored. I looked everywhere to find Mormon-written books on the Bible to provide answers: Institute and Seminary manuals, commentaries available at Deseret Book, etc. I found almost all of them to be unsatisfying; most were devotional in nature, and typically used the verses as a starting point from which to quote from prophets and apostles, which meant it didn’t really address the scriptures directly. I went on a search for non-Mormon commentaries and first found a lot of Evangelical commentaries which were often more scholarly and certainly longer and more in-depth, but just as frustrating. When it came to interpretations of scripture, everything had to fit in an evangelical belief system. So while I had found more detailed commentaries, I was simply trading one religious interpretation for another. Eventually I found more academic commentaries such as the Anchor Bible series. Some may argue that these commentaries still have a bias, simply an academic or even non-believing bias. However, I found them refreshing. Rather than sweeping confusing passages under a rug and quoting from other parts of the Bible to support a position, the commentators actually read what the scriptures said, and tried to interpret what it means, even if it contradicts other scripture. This academic approach also created problems, however. I quickly ran into areas of academic consensus which were either superficially, or entirely opposed, to Mormon Doctrine. While Mormons emphasize the importance of scripture written by Prophets, I learned that many books attributed to famous Biblical figures were actually not written by...

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Your Fave is Problematic: How human bias inhibits prophetic leadership

The amount of things that have been chosen for me by men I have never met is high- things like what entertainment I can partake in, how much jewelry I can wear, how I can alter my body, how I can’t kiss, or how I really shouldn’t serve a mission. There’s always some “valid” reason- ‘Well, the prophet said so, he was inspired by God’ or ‘Elder [insert name of choosing here] counseled against that, and he’s an apostle’; it is always some variation on the same theme, but it never quite adds up especially because there is 1) no scriptural basis (honestly, if anyone can find me a scripture about necking, I will personally high five you! Also, why are necking and petting always put together when they are two, very different things?) and 2) they are pretty confined to the bubble of the priesthood holders limited experiences. What exactly do I mean by this? Lets look at the rated R example- did you know that the R rating is a category for a system used exclusively in the U.S.? If you have lived most of your life in the U.S. and you did know this then congratulations, you are smarter than me, and than Ezra Taft Benson! No, really, in a talk given in 19861 (and quoted as recently as 20132) Pres. Benson laid down the law by telling us: Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. It seems inoffensive, right? I mean, it sounds right along the lines of something a prophet would say. But wouldn’t somebody inform him that the R rating system is something that a significant number of members would not identify with? And hasn’t God managed to reveal to his present day apostles that if this was a limiting thing to say in 1986, it would be even more tone deaf and telling in 2015 when the majority of members of the church live outside of the U.S.? There are so...

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Is Revelation Just Divine Dictation? – The LDS.org Book of Mormon Translation Essay

As part of their “Gospel Topics” essays, the Church released an article on the translation of the Book of Mormon [1]. Some of the controversial topics discused include the use of the “seer stone” vs the “Urim and Thummim” and the use of a hat along with these stones. The most interesting section to me, however, was “The Mechanics of Translation.” What was interesting about it? First, they set up the process of tanslation as being somewhat mysterious. They quote Joseph Smith as saying, “It was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the book of Mormon.” They go on to quote those that recall the translation, usually from decades later, to describe what happened. There was one very obvious omission, however. The document they refused to use comes from the time of the translation (1829). It comes directly from the mouth of Joseph Smith as recorded by Oliver Cowdery, not as a later recollection but as a scribe taking down his words. It contains a description of how translation of the Book of Mormon is performed. Is this a rare document? Were they unaware of it? It’s unlikely, that document is contained right in the Doctrine and Covenants: D&C 9. Because they set up the translation process as being so mysterious one would think they would use any information available. Secular historians would agree that D&C 9 contains the words of Joseph Smith, believing Mormons would say that those words of Joseph Smith are also the words of the Lord. Regardless, it’s a much better source than secondhand and thirdhand memories. In an earlier revelation (D&C 8), the Lord tells Oliver that he too can translate the Book of Mormon. After Oliver tries and fails, the Lord explains why he was unsuccessful; that explanation is D&C 9. Why would the authors of the essay ignore D&C 9? It can’t be because they didn’t know about it. We must assume some competency on the part of the writers....

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“Even Fifty Six Years, Should Wind Up the Scene”

In 1876, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a revised edition of the Doctrine and Covenants which included, for the first time, section 130. This section includes the founding leader Joseph Smith’s prophecy that if Smith lived “until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man.” In 1879, Apostle Orson Pratt added extensive cross-references and explanatory foot-notes for the publication of the English mission edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. One foot-note Pratt added to section 130 was a “prophecy” from a meeting in Kirtland Ohio, on February 14, 1835, which is discussed below. This edition was reprinted in Salt Lake City and then officially canonized at the October 1880 general conference of the Church. The timing of these changes in the Doctrine and Covenants should not be underestimated. The belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ near Smith’s eighty-fifth birthday was very real for Utah Mormons, of the time, and it seems to have worked as a coping mechanism in the face of general “persecution” as they perceived it on several fronts, including the abandonment of the practice of plural marriage. On February 14, 1835, a meeting was held in Kirtland, Ohio to ordain the newly called Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who had previously been selected by the three witnesses. Smith was the first speaker at the meeting, and made a stunning declaration “the coming of the Lord, which was nigh, even fifty six years, should wind up the scene.” In other words, Christ should come sometime around February 1891.1   A patriarchal blessing given by Joseph Smith Sr. to Seth Church on May 23, 1836 states that “thou shalt stand till the winding up scene of this generation and Christ shall come in the clouds of heaven. Satan shall have no power over you, and thou shalt stand on the earth & thy strength shall be great when thou art seventy five.” Church was born in 1814, which would make him...

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There are Save but Two Churches Only

For as long as I can remember there has been a part of me that tenses up when I hear someone bear testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true church. Even as a youth who never doubted the validity of the statement, hearing those words made me uncomfortable. What had I done in my life to merit membership in this one true Church? Why was I so special? As I became older and was exposed to both secular and religious experience outside my own tradition I found myself becoming increasingly wary of this statement. Observing Catholic Mass, reading Surahs of the Quran, and participating in Samatha meditation has sometimes left me with a sense of holy envy. I have experienced truth outside of my own tradition. My experience does not necessarily have to negate a belief that the LDS Church is the only true Church. Concepts such as the light of Christ enable a belief that other religious institutions and individuals have been touched by the divine and have a part of the truth. This is a common belief among Latter-Day Saints but is always followed with the injunction that the LDS Church has the fullness of the truth.   However, historic events and changing policy indicate that the Church does not contain a fullness of the truth. Further, statements from leaders have indicated that the Church does not have a monopoly on truth and that the Church is still learning and doctrine still unfolding. For example, Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s famous comment that followed the policy change for Priesthood ordination was to, “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have...

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Revelation Signal Flow Pt.1- Integrity vs. Fidelity

I’m an audio and video systems engineer and media technician. In my job, I design and build large-scale AV systems for conferences, corporate meetings, trade shows, parties, or other events. I work with large and complex sound reinforcement systems, video projectors, televisions, conventional and robotic lighting fixtures, and lots of computer software. With all of these elements involved in a show, inevitably problems arise that need to be diagnosed and corrected in a timely fashion. That makes the foremost requirement of my job, a keen understanding of electronic signal flow.   The Technical Bit A given audio or video source like a microphone or a camera, outputs an electrical signal that can take any number of forms, and can be conveyed over many different kinds of cables or wires (even wirelessly), with hundreds of different connector types and routed to a destination like a loudspeaker or projector where they can be heard and seen by an audience. Understanding all of these ins and outs can get complicated. The first major distinction in signal flow is an understanding of the differences between analog signals and digital signals. Analog signals carry a continuously variable “wave” of voltage alternating between two poles. All kinds of information can be indicated by voltage. How bright a light shines is controlled by increasing or decreasing the voltage fed to the circuit that controls the light. A simple on/off switch either feeds a full current of voltage or no voltage to the bulb it controls; while a dimmer switch cuts the voltage as you turn it toward “off” and increases it when you turn it toward “on”. How loud a soundsystem should play back a sound, the brightness of a camera image, or the color of a decorative light can all be controlled by manipulating an electrical signal. A digital signal is composed of binary code. A “language” of digital words spelled with two numeric values. Every bit (byte) of information in a digital signal is represented by either a one or a zero. Analog signals represent the highest...

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Dreams Wearing Garments…And Nothing Else

Aug 16, 14 Dreams Wearing Garments…And Nothing Else

Posted by in Featured, Mormon Humor, Revelation

I’ve had a recurring dream where I’m in public wearing nothing but my underwear. Because I am an active, endowed Mormon, I wear garments. So in my dreams I’m wearing just my garments for everyone to see. In my dreams I’m embarrassed to be seen in my garments. Apparently dreams where the dreamer is exposed, either through being naked or not wearing pants, etc. are somewhat common. However, my dream seems to have a uniquely Mormon component to it. After all, I’m not just being seen in my underwear, but in my secret Mormon underwear. And in my dream I’m very aware that it is my garments on display, not that I’m simply almost naked. I don’t know anything about dream interpretation. Is it all a bunch of BS? Pseudoscience? Pop-psychology? A legitimate discipline? Dreams are a frequent tool of God in the scriptures to tell us things. Is God trying to tell me something? I didn’t bother trying to answer any of those questions for this blog post. I just googled my dream and saw what I came up with. In the end, I found a guy who calls himself Professor Fecalhorfer (http://thanksprofessor.com/2011/the-loss-of-pants/) .He uses pictures of people with photoshopped dog heads to represent himself.  As far as I can tell he is not an actual Professor. But don’t worry; he’s going to give us some great tools for interpreting my dream. Maybe. So says the Professor: “Clothing is a metaphor for the identity and as such, it functions in the dream world as a mechanism of security.  One can don any costume and hide one’s true self from the world; when clothing disappears, it leaves everything “hanging out” for the world to see, so to speak.  To dream about a partial or complete loss of clothing, then, is usually equated to the exposure of some aspect of your true personality that you wish to hide from the world.” When everyone sees me in my garments, there is no hiding my Mormonism. The...

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