On Yom Kippur

With today being Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in the Hebrew calendar, I would like to reflect on a very sacred experience that I had, and one that is very unique within Mormonism, although I was actually not yet a member of the Church when I had this experience. That said, this experience restored my faith in Christ and led to my belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet. My Jewish husband and I shared this sacred experience a year before we were married and a couple years prior to me joining the LDS church in 2010. Please forgive me if the details are sketchy, as it is never easy- and deeply personal- to recount spiritual experiences. This sacred experience would mark the beginning of my journey into the Sacred Feminine and my love for Heavenly Mother. I share these stories as I experienced them. I believe they happened because of my need at that particular time in my life – and God’s love.  Whether you believe me or not, please respect them as my sacred stories. Nevertheless, I do testify these sacred experiences are true. On this particular day in 2007, my husband and I were in the mountains of North Carolina. We were not yet married, and my husband later admitted he was about to break off the relationship since we have a significant age difference and there were just too many complications. That same day, he made it clear he had no intentions of getting married. Frustrated, I went off by myself and “yelled” at God – “You have GOT to fix this!” We drove on, and came to this beautiful waterfall called Hooker Falls in Pisgah National Forest. Shortly after we arrived, three mysterious women appeared. One was middle aged, one was a younger mother and the other a child. They all looked Hispanic. As the child splashed around in the water, middle-aged woman spoke with my husband at length, while the young mother kept me occupied....

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The Gift of Truth

Apr 19, 15 The Gift of Truth

Posted by in Featured, science, Theology, Truth

  “THE GIFT OF TRUTH EXCELS ALL GIFTS.” Peter Santina: “Faith knowledge & Truth” Broadly speaking there are three kinds of truth: 1) Definitional truth; All Bachelors are single men because that is how we define the word. 2) Logical truth; 2+2=4 and only 4 because reason requires it, and 3) Experimental truth; pure water boils at sea level at 212°F because anyone can repeat that experiment and verify the results. Next comes the matter of faith: Many atheists have great faith in science. So do I. When they use it properly it will lead them to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Many Christians think faith is a substitution for evidence or reason. This is a misunderstanding of what faith is. Faith is not the absence of evidence. Faith is sticking to your evidence-based convictions, even when you are emotionally tempted to abandon them, or they become inconvenient or difficult. Faith includes remembering the reasons for our convictions when we become temporarily confused. Faith is not believing something or trusting some authority against common sense or without evidence or some degree of certainty. Faith is neither believing nor acting in the absence of evidence, it is the fortitude to both believe and act on the evidence even when it is emotionally difficult, practically unpleasant or inconvenient to do so. This is true in all science, including theology (religion). The problem with calling Christians “People of faith” is that everyone has faith. Differences between Christians and non-Christians include what we have reasoned through and what we know. “Faith” translates from the Greek word “Pistis” which is also the root of epistemology, the scientific study of what we can know is true, how we can know and how sure we can be that it is true. I see seven great dispensations in epistemology: 1) Peter Abelard: 1079-1142: Si et non. The nature of Canon, (Authority) & its limits. 2) William of Occam: 1285-1349 Occam’s two edged Razor: Canon + reason. 3) Galileo: 1564-1642: Canon + reason...

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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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“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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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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The Doctrine of Celibacy

Oct 18, 14 The Doctrine of Celibacy

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality

When Mormons speak of the Law of Chastity, they often define it as remaining celibate until marriage.  In actuality, it would be more properly defined as remaining abstinent until marriage.  Today, the words abstinent and celibate are frequently used interchangeably, but in practice they are quite different.  Abstinence, as practiced in the Church, is the abstaining from all sexual activity until marriage.  Celibacy, however, is the lifetime sacrifice to voluntarily forgo all sexual activity and to remain unmarried for the entirety of your life. For most of us, we never make any particular distinction between abstinence and celibacy because there is no expectation for us commit to celibacy.  For those that are LGBT, celibacy becomes the primary religious requirement that the whole of their religious devotion will be qualified by.  In 2007, Elder Holland taught, “You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings.  That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention.  You are first and foremost a son (or daughter) of God, and He loves you.(1)” Elder Holland’s quote is true on some levels and not on others.  The characteristic of being LGBT is only one part of who you are.  Yet acting on that one part will disqualify you from membership in the Church and from temple blessings that bind you to your family.  The consequence of that one part is everything to a gay Mormon, especially for youth.  The consequence of that one part is also experienced in how parents, relatives and friends react to them.  High levels of rejection for gay youth can be devastating: 8x more at risk of suicide 6x more vulnerable to severe depression 3x more likely to use illegal drugs 3x more at risk to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases(2) In truth, not being able to reconcile this one part of you affects every other part of who you are.  Our internal parts are all intertwined.  In any other context, we would refer to who we are on...

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Will a Real Mormon Theologian Please Stand Up?

Aug 25, 14 Will a Real Mormon Theologian Please Stand Up?

Posted by in Featured, Theology

  In the summer of 1865 the First Presidency issued a statement in the Deseret News condemning certain theological writings they considered to be so objectionable that they ordered copies of the works to be destroyed.  The volumes in question had been written by Orson Pratt, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and noted belligerent of Brigham Young.  Pratt had attempted — and failed — to systematize Mormon theology into a coherent strategy.  Absent at the time on a mission to Austria and Great Britain, he had no option but to offer a written apology, printed in the Deseret News.  Offering his “most sincere regrets”, he lamented; “I learn that many of my writings are not approbated; and it is considered wisdom for them to be suppressed.  Anything that I have written that is erroneous, the sooner it be destroyed the better, both for me and the people; for truth is our motto, and eternal truth alone will stand.” Pratt’s venture would not be the last time a senior church leader would find First Presidency disfavor in attempting to publish Mormon theology.  Three years before his death, and having published several volumes of Church history and theology, Seventy and Assistant Church Historian B. H. Roberts prepared publication of his major theological treatise “The Truth, The Way, The Life”.  However, a public dispute arose between Roberts, a partial-evolutionist, and Joseph Fielding Smith, a staunch young-earth creationist.  In the wake of the disagreement, Roberts’ book did not find support in church publishing, and would not reach the press for more than sixty years. Thirty years after Roberts’ attempt, Joseph Fielding Smith found himself embroiled in a fresh controversy surrounding the publication of another Mormon theological work.  Smith’s son-in-law and young Seventy Bruce R. McConkie had succeeded in publishing — apparently without Smith’s knowledge — what would become the chief Mormon systematic theological work of the twentieth century, Mormon Doctrine.  President David O. Mckay called for an inquiry headed by his counsellor in the First...

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009: Interview w/Author Adam Miller

Jun 10, 14 009: Interview w/Author Adam Miller

Posted by in Book Reviews, Featured, Podcast, Reviews

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS An interview with Adam Miller, author of “Letters to a Young Mormon,” in which we discuss aspects of faith that are deeper and broader than we often think. We covered gospel principles such as grace and charity, which we often give lip service to but do not necessarily think of how we ignore or implement them in our times of plenty or our times of trouble and difficulty. Those who remain in the faith and those who do not can both gain from approaching life in the way Adam points us, which is a much more rich, empowered, and mindful way of...

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Summoned and Unsettled: Gay Mormons and the Power of the Face of Love

Apr 26, 14 Summoned and Unsettled: Gay Mormons and the Power of the Face of Love

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality

Summoned and Unsettled: Gay Mormons and the Power of the Face of Love by Jacob Baker Renowned Jewish thinker Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) spent much of his life thinking about how and why we relate or fail to relate to others. A French Jewish prisoner of war during World War II, Levinas endured 5 years in German prison camps. Many of his family were killed in the Holocaust. Consequently, his philosophical thought, though complex, was intensely personal. Levinas’ philosophy is framed by what it means to encounter another person. He has been called, in fact, the Philosopher of the Other. The Other is unlike any object or thing in the world. The Other is like me, acts like me, has consciousness like me. But the Other can also address me, can call to me, even without using words or language. The Other is other because she has the ability to summon me. The encounter with the Other is disruptive. It can tear me from my subjective and self-absorbed world and bring me to myself, confronting me with myself, showing me other possible worlds. This summoning disruption is what creates in me accountability and responsibility. Because the Other summons me and brings me to myself, I am in a significant way actually created by her. I in turn am an Other who calls to and creates others. So, in this sense, we create one another; our identities and personalities are largely a result of our interactions with other people. For Levinas, human beings are intrinsically relational, and the face-to face encounter with the Other is for him the foundation of knowledge, the place where philosophy and inquiry begin (as opposed to beginning with God or the world and working out from there). Experience is inherently “intersubjective,” not objective (where experience comes from the material world) or subjective (where experience originates in my own internal state). I discover my own particularity when I am singled out by the gaze of the Other. The human face, Levinas says,...

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Lying for the Lord?

  The LDS Church is currently engaged in a systematic and officially endorsed effort to misrepresent some of its teachings to the outside world. This is not a new phenomenon.  As far back as the Nauvoo period, “Joseph [Smith] publicly and repeatedly denied he was advocating polygamy” while simultaneously marrying upwards of thirty women.[1]   But attempting a similar feat in the age of the internet is a dicey proposition. Mormons Don’t Get Their Own Planet? I am referring to a recently released essay on the LDS Church’s official website titled “Becoming Like God.”  While the essay should be commended for affirming that “divine parentage includes a Heavenly Mother,” such an admission cannot make up for the Technicolor prevarication in a different paragraph where it is claimed that “few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet.” As an active member of the LDS Church for over 35-years, this is news to me. A caricature is a “comic exaggeration.”  I am surprised to discover at this late date that the teaching I have personally heard and read on numerous occasions, that faithful Latter-day Saints will eventually have “their own planet,” is a “comic exaggeration.”  It is not an exaggeration at all, comic or otherwise.  It is a fact, plain and simple. The Church first ventured into this field of revisionist theology about a year ago when it published answers to frequently asked questions.  This is found on the official LDS website in the Newsroom section, which the webpage banner proclaims is “The Official Resource for News Media, Opinion Leaders, and the Public.” One of the questions that is apparently frequently asked is, “Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will ‘get their own planet’?”  The answer given to this by the Church is simple and straightforward, if somewhat unexpected.  The answer is, “No.  This idea is not taught in Latter-day Saints scripture, nor is it a doctrine of the Church.  This misunderstanding stems from speculative comments unreflective of scriptural doctrine.” Just to make sure I...

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