The Will of the Lord

January 12, 2016

Many Latter-day Saints I know have struggled with the recent “policy change” that labels same-sex couples “apostates” and bars their children from baptism. It strikes them, as it does me, as deliberately splitting families and punishing children for the actions of their parents. Brigham Young used to say something to the effect that good doctrine tastes good, but this policy is about as appetizing as a hair omelet.

Most Mormons I know who have been troubled by the policy have said that it’s just a policy, not doctrine, so they don’t feel obligated to agree with it. Policies are the decisions of organizations, and they are subject to change; doctrine reflects the revealed word of God and, at least in theory, doesn’t change. The three-hour block of meetings on Sunday is policy; the saving ordinance of the sacrament is doctrine. The white-shirt-tie-and-nametag missionary ensemble is church policy; Christ’s injunction to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” is doctrine.

For a lot of Mormons, it’s perfectly acceptable to disagree with a church policy, even publicly. When I was a young boy, most of the Latter-day Saints I knew in Southern California disagreed with the church’s policy against ordaining men of African descent to the priesthood. It was a policy, they said, and it would change. And of course it did. Yes, some church leaders said it was revealed doctrine, but there was no revelation on the matter that anyone could point to.

I think a lot of people feel the same way about this new anti-gay policy: it’s just a decision of men, and it will change, so church members do not feel obligated to support it. One sign of its temporary nature is that, within a week, the church changed a significant aspect of the policy: originally, a child would be excluded from baptism if he or she is “child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship.” The church later changed this to exclude only children who are currently living with a same-sex couple as their primary residence. Of course, that opens a number of other issues, but I digress.

In short, a policy subject to almost-immediate revision is not set in stone, and does not have the authority of revelation.

Then, this past Sunday, President Russell Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the church changed everything by equating the policy with revelation. Speaking at BYU-Hawaii, President Nelson spoke about how individuals can learn the mind and will of the Lord through study, fasting, and prayer. He compared the individual quest for answers to the process by which the Lord makes His will known to church leaders:

We sustain 15 men who are ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators. When a thorny problem arises–and they only seem to get thornier each day–these 15 men wrestle with the issue, trying to see all the ramifications of various courses of action, and they diligently seek to hear the voice of the Lord. After fasting, praying, studying, pondering, and counseling with my brethren about weighty matters, it is not unusual for me to be awakened during the night with further impressions about issues with which we are concerned. And my brethren have the same experience. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel individually and collectively, and then we watch the Lord move upon the president of the church to proclaim the Lord’s will.

This prophetic process was followed in 2012 with the change in minimum age for missionaries, and again with the recent additions to the church’s handbook consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries. Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer, and sought further direction and inspiration, and then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process. So is your privilege of receiving personal revelation. My dear brothers and sisters, you have as much access to the mind and will of the Lord, for your own life, as we apostles do for His church. Just as the Lord requires us to seek and ponder, fast and pray, study and wrestle with difficult questions, He requires you to do the same as you seek answers to your own questions.

President Nelson leaves little room for disagreement here: according to him, this new policy was given by revelation and represents the mind and will of the Lord.

Nelson

My initial response was a little snarky in that I said I could see two possible explanations:

  1. God is a muddleheaded douchebag.
  2. These guys don’t know the mind and will of the Lord.

Snark aside, for believing Latter-day Saints, I think President Nelson has drawn a distinct line: either you sustain the policy as the revealed will of the Lord, or you don’t. There’s no middle ground, no excusing it as a matter of policy.

For the record, I am sure these men “wrestled” with this issue, and I want to believe they had the best of intentions. In the end, however, this policy is hurtful and wrong, and anything but compassionate.

Looking back at my life as a believing Mormon, I probably would have accepted President Nelson’s words at face value, put my personal feelings aside, and sustained this policy as the revealed will of the Lord. I suspect a lot of people I know are doing just that. Heaven knows I forced myself to believe, say, and do things I thought were wrong–just  because I believed the church was right, no matter what.

But I also think it would have gnawed at my conscience, despite my best efforts to fall in line. President Monson has often quoted Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn to illustrate that one cannot say one thing when your heart says something else:

It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray; and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was, and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. … I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. … It was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, … but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out.

In context, however, Twain is writing about the conflict between one’s conscience and what others tell you is right. In this passage, Huck isn’t praying about giving up a vice or sin; rather, he is wrestling over whether he should turn in the runaway slave, Jim. Society, the law, religion–all of these tell him that slavery is right, and helping a slave escape is wrong, but his heart tells him otherwise.

I think I would have forced myself to accept and sustain the policy, but I would have known it was wrong. I’ve felt this way before. The summer before I left on my mission, I worked for a time as a janitor at a dialysis center (this was 1983). I got to know several of the patients fairly well, as they came in regularly. One African-American man I met was what I would call a religious seeker. He told me he was looking for the true church on earth, the kingdom of God, where he knew he was supposed to be. He asked me about Mormonism and what I believed. Then, of course, he asked about the priesthood restrictions that had been rescinded only 5 years earlier. He asked me to explain why, and I couldn’t. No answer I could come up with was adequate. A friend had recently returned from a mission to Jamaica and had said the granting of the priesthood was gradual: first only to the Israelites, then (as of the New Testament) to the Gentiles, and finally to black men. It didn’t sound right to me, especially since the New Testament made it abundantly clear that no one was “unclean” any longer and unworthy of the blessings of the gospel. I did my best to justify a policy I had never agreed with, but it was no use. He knew, and I knew, that it had been wrong.

This morning I am thinking of all those in the church who want to sustain the leaders of the church but recognize that this policy is wrong and harmful. I would imagine there will be some wrestling, fasting, praying, and studying. And that’s a good thing. I’m glad I don’t have to wrestle with this at all.

Advertisements

The Moral Intuition of Children

July 7, 2015

So, I was reading a blog post from a conservative who is quite upset about the Obergefell decision and who linked to a few articles from likeminded citizens. One piece, from Hunter Baker, “Erickson, Sullivan, and What ‘Bigots’ Deserve,” stood out to me for its egregiously bad logic:

I think one way I could try to defend opponents of gay marriage from charges of rank bigotry is to examine the moral intuitions of children. In the course of raising mine, I have noticed that they had no underlying matrix of reason by which to understand racism. When they were a little younger, they never talked about a child as being black or white. The racial awareness simply wasn’t there. If I heard them telling a story about a classmate and wanted to know more about the child, I would ask them to describe the child. They would then include a description which might include something like light skin or dark skin, straight or curly hair, tall or short, etc. The implication is that bigotry must be cultivated.

Same-sex marriage is susceptible to a similar analysis. Because of a situation in our extended family, my children became aware of a man who wanted to be with other men instead of women. They simply did not understand why a man would want to share romantic love with another man. The idea violated their concept of what a man is. A man shares romantic/marital love with women rather than men. I learned this about their reasoning before I ever tried to explain things to them or to help them understand it. Just as a child’s natural understanding tilts away from racism, I would suggest that it tilts toward a complementary view of the sexes. In other words, men go with women and women go with men. Just as bigotry must be cultivated, so, too, must the appreciation of same sex pairings. In other words, bigotry is the result of intentional cultural work and so is the appreciation of same sex pairs. Neither is a natural understanding from the child’s point of view. (Please understand that I am not morally equating bigotry with cultural advocacy of gay acceptance. That is not the point.)

Let me see if I have this straight (no pun intended):

  1. Kids have to be taught to distinguish races and have bigoted attitudes toward them.
  2. Kids “naturally” understand that same-sex couples can’t or shouldn’t “share romantic/marital love.”

So, I’m sure Mr. Baker would agree that children raised by a same-sex couple would “naturally” be puzzled at the notion that two men could share love and would feel that such love “violated their concept of what a man is.” At the same time, I’m sure he’d also agree that someone raised by members of the Klan would be just as devoid of “racial awareness” as his kids are.

It wouldn’t occur to him that his children don’t see their friends in racial terms because they weren’t taught to see them that way, or that children raised in a conservative religious environment are not free of “intentional cultural work.”

Honestly, do such folks think before typing?


Boyd K. Packer

July 6, 2015

As pretty much all of my Mormon and former-Mormon readers will know by now, Boyd Kenneth Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died on Friday, July 3, at the age of 90. I haven’t been surprised at all at the reactions from different camps. A great deal of vitriol has been heaped on his corpse in the last few days (my personal favorite: “Rot in hell, you bloated toad”), and, of course, the faithful mourn the passing of a great man who loved God and painted in his spare time (M. Russell Ballard said, “He was truly an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, he represented the Savior of the world”).

So, what was he: the Savior’s representative, or a vicious old toad? Quite clearly, how we see his life and legacy depends entirely on how we view the church he served for so long. Much has been said about Packer’s role in the September Six affair in 1993, his apparent preference for faith-promoting history over things “that are true [but] not very useful,” and his retrograde attitudes towards sexuality and, in particular, homosexuality. He clearly was a lightning rod who did not shy away from controversy. As Dallin Oaks said of him, “You can’t stage-manage a grizzly bear.”

I had only a few minor brushes with the man. Like all Mormon boys of my generation, I was well-acquainted with his talk, “To Young Men Only,” which, although it spawned countless jokes about “little factories,” made it clear to me that masturbation was a terrible evil, so I vowed to stop, and was quite successful (so much so that my urologist tells me that certain health issues I have had are a direct result of my not “stimulating my little factory”). I learned from Elder Packer that it wasn’t enough not to masturbate, but I was to control my thoughts with such vigilance that I would never allow my mind to wander to anything lustful. More than anything, this teaching is what filled my young mind with shame and guilt, which would remain for many years.

My first real-life brush with President Packer came in December 1983, a couple of weeks after I received my mission call. My birthday is in November, so I had agonized over whether I should squeeze in another semester of college before leaving or enter the MTC right when I turned 19. I finally decided to go back to school, which meant delaying my mission for a couple of months. When my roommate and I heard then-Elder Packer was coming to Provo to give a “missionary fireside,” we were excited, and we arrived early at the Provo Tabernacle to get good seats. Elder Packer spoke about how selfish it is to delay a mission for any reason, such as education or finances. I sat there, slowly shrinking in my seat, burning with shame for having acted so selfishly. Had I been more faithful, I thought, I would have been in the MTC at that very moment, instead of feeling all that guilt. After the meeting, my roommate insisted that we get in line to shake Elder Packer’s hand. The last thing I wanted to do was to have to look him in the eye, knowing I had shirked my duty and that he knew. As we got closer to him, the shame kept on building. Eventually, he put out his hand and shook mine. He looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you going to serve a mission, young man?” I told him I had already received my mission call and would be leaving for Bolivia in a few weeks. He patted my hand, smiled, and said, “Well, that’s just fine.” I was so relieved. Clearly, I had been forgiven, but I vowed I would never again put my own needs ahead of the Lord’s.

The next time I came across President Packer in person was in 1993, when I was working at the Church Office Building. Our editing staff had been invited to the All-Church Coordinating Council, which was a meeting of everyone in management in the building. We met in the auditorium, and we heard from M. Russell Ballard, President Packer, and finally, President Thomas Monson. I don’t remember Elder Ballard’s talk at all, but I do have a vivid memory of President Monson glaring at us over glasses he’d borrowed from Neal Maxwell, berating us for our poor efforts to spread the gospel message. But everyone else remembers President Packer’s talk, now (in)famous for his belief that the church faced three great dangers: “the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.” What struck me at the time was less his calling out of people who were “facing the wrong way,” but more that he read letters from members who were obviously distraught, yet his tone was disdainful and even mocking (the official transcript does not include the laughter he elicited at the letter-writers’ expense). I found the whole thing deeply troubling, and I remember thinking, as the auditorium rang with raucous laughter, “This is not a man of God.” I felt terribly guilty for thinking that, but I couldn’t shake it.

The last encounter I had with him was in 1996, when I attended the dedication of the Mt. Timpanogos Temple in American Fork, Utah. Our bishopric had received tickets to the celestial room, meaning that we would be in the same room as the prophet (Gordon B. Hinckley) when he spoke and offered the dedicatory prayer. At the time, we had 5 small children, and although we had tried to get out of the house early, we didn’t arrive until about 15 minutes before the meeting would begin. To our surprise, the room had been filled from the back, going forward, meaning that our bishop, who had arrived 4 hours early, was seated in the very back row. My wife and I, on the other hand, were in the second row, with only the secretary to the Quorum of Seventy and his wife sitting in the row ahead of us (I knew him from my days at the Church Office Building). Only a couple of things stand out to me: first was President Hinckley saying, as near as I can remember it, “That you are here means that you are the best people in the world, that is, if you were honest in your worthiness interviews.” I remember digging through my brain, trying to find some failing I’d missed, but I ended up feeling pretty good about myself. President Packer was to lead the “Hosanna Shout,” which is the point during the dedication when everyone stands, waves a white handkerchief in the air, and shouts, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna, to God and the Lamb!” three times, followed by, “Amen, Amen, and Amen!” He gave us some background history, and then led the shout. I thought he seemed bored in his matter-of-fact recitation of the “shout,” which was more of a low-key chant than anything. I’m guessing he was aiming at solemn dignity, but it sounded mechanical and uninspiring to me. I thought maybe I just wasn’t in tune with the Spirit.

And that’s pretty much it. I didn’t know the man and certainly didn’t know his heart. Part of me admires his dedication to the LDS church. His entire adult life was spent serving the church in one way or another. After a career in the Church Education System (mostly as an administrator), he was called into full-time church service as an Assistant to the Twelve when he was only 37 years old. Eight years later he was called as an apostle, so more than half his life was spent as a full-time church leader, with almost exactly half his life as an apostle. Anyone who saw him the last few years knows he was in very poor health, and yet he still served his church to the best of his ability. He was, by all accounts, a dedicated and loving husband and father to 10 children, and despite what some have said, it seems to me that he lived a fairly modest lifestyle.

At the same time, I completely understand why so many people disliked the man, maybe even hated him (for the record, I have trouble mustering hatred for anyone, so I don’t). His teachings, regardless of their intention, put me and many others through a great deal of unnecessary guilt and shame. A friend tells me that Packer’s teachings about masturbation drove him to attempt suicide at age 45. I know a lot of gay and bisexual members (and their spouses) who have suffered so much because of his condemnation of them. Am I angry? Do I blame him for putting people through all that? It would be easy to do so, but I don’t blame him, at least not entirely and not specifically him.. He was simply expressing what everyone in LDS culture knew about sexuality: outside of marriage, it was not to be expressed or even thought of. I’m sure he believed that as fervently as I did, so I can’t blame him for saying what I probably would have said had I been in his position. Did those teachings mess me up? Undoubtedly, but, whatever I experienced, those teachings didn’t originate with him, and they were expressed just as forcefully by others, such as Spencer W. Kimball.

It’s also easy to single him out for his role in quieting dissent and keeping a lid on those aspects of church history that are “not uplifting.” But again, he was merely giving voice to certain strains within the church as an institution. Alone, he could not possibly have orchestrated the excommunication of six very different personalities; the September Six happened because that’s where the church was in 1993. That the institution’s goals coincided with his beliefs is more a problem with the institution. Packer made an easy target, perhaps because people wanted to see him as an aberration, an outlier, so they could distance the church from its actions.

I suspect he recognized his role as lightning rod. He took it upon himself to attract the attention and vitriol of those who would otherwise understand that his “controversial” statements were simply restatements of what the church was already doing. Some might call that courageous, but I think he probably enjoyed it.

In the end, Boyd Kenneth Packer was just like the rest of us: complex, a mass of contradictions, and utterly human. May he rest in peace. And may all those who suffered shame and guilt because of his words find forgiveness–both for themselves, and for him.


The Road to Apostasy

April 2, 2015

I have been thinking about the process of losing one’s faith and leaving the church. I’ve been told countless times that people who leave the church have done things the wrong way; it’s not usually a huge, obvious mistake, but a series of seemingly small and insignificant missteps along the way, that lead a person down the road to apostasy.

I thought of someone I’m familiar with (I’ll call him “H”) who has shared how he began this difficult journey and eventually found himself outside the church. As much as possible, I’ll try to let him speak for himself, in his own words. I readily acknowledge that I don’t see the mistakes, the missteps, that led H to lose faith, but I’m hoping–expecting, really–that some active members of the church will enlighten me and help me understand where he went wrong and how he could have salvaged his faith.

H did not grow up a member of the church, but when he was a young adult, he began to feel there was something missing in his life, and a chance encounter with members led him to investigate the church. Although he initially found the scriptures “impenetrable,” he felt the church offered answers to his questions and could help him to “actually handle life, and your problems, and not have them handle you.”

Joining the church gave H a feeling of belonging and a sense of purpose. “I did experience gains,” he says, and he felt he was able to let go of earlier guilt, feeling forgiven for “things I’d done as a teenager that I didn’t feel good about. I think I did, in some ways, become a better person. I did develop more empathy for others.”

H poured himself into church activity, becoming a leader and example to others. But some things about the church nagged at him because they just didn’t seem right. He heard rumors about the church’s origins and some disturbing stories about the church’s founder, whom he had come to revere. But he dismissed these concerns as fabrications from apostates. “There’s always disgruntled folks who say all sorts of things,” he thought. As H saw other church members testify of the blessings they had received, he wondered why he wasn’t seeing the same blessings in his own life. “Maybe there is something,” he told himself, “and I’m just missing it.”

Throughout his time in the church, he was always taught that either it was all true, or it was a lie. Although he struggled to believe the founding narratives of the church, he was told that, if what the church founder and witnesses had testified of had “never existed,” the church must be “based on a lie.” He decided that he would take a more liberal approach to his religion and live the church’s teachings on his own terms. He would “pick and choose” the parts of the religion he wanted to believe and disregard those things he didn’t like.

For a number of years, H continued in his journey of faith, but eventually, things came to a head in 2008, when H was horrified at the church’s public support for Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage proposition in California. When he voiced his concerns to his church leaders, they downplayed the church’s role and urged him to drop the matter. A church member told him, “The church is not political. We all have tons of friends and relatives who are gay. … It’s not the church’s issue.” He knew that wasn’t true.

His frustration with the church led him to search the Internet for information about the church. Looking at unauthorized sources made him feel a little nervous, as he had always been taught that the only trustworthy information about the church was what the church published itself. His research uncovered a lot of troubling information, most of which would be familiar to my readers. But what struck him the most was seeing a high-ranking church leader tell an obvious untruth to a television interviewer. He met with “apostates” who had left the church, and many of them were angry, saying they felt “betrayed” by the church.

Feeling that his world was unraveling, H reached out to church leaders, who dismissed his concerns as being unfounded and urged him to rededicate himself to increased church activity to renew his flagging faith. After agonizing over his choices, H eventually realized that he could no longer be a member of the church in good conscience. He wrote a long letter explaining his decision and his reasons for making it, and sent it to his closest friends and leaders in the church. The response was unexpected. They insisted that he had listened to the wrong people and that he should have shared his concerns only with his church leaders, who could help him. Instead, he had listened to apostates and those who opposed the church, who were obviously lying. Besides, if he “genuinely wanted to change” the church, they told him, he “should stay within the organization, not quit; certainly, going public was not helpful.”

Although they tried to help him stay in the church, his friends and leaders reluctantly accepted his decision, but insisted that he keep his reasons for leaving to himself. Discussing what he had found out about the church could “damage” the lives of the faithful, and he had no right to do that. He told his friends about the information he had found on the Internet, urging them to see for themselves, but they were not willing to listen to information presented by enemies of the church. One friend told him that looking at those web sites was “like reading ‘Mein Kampf’ if you wanted to know something about the Jewish religion.”

Leaving the church has cost H relationships with some friends and even some family members. He has a keen sense of loss: “If you identify yourself with something for so long, and suddenly you think of yourself as not that thing, it leaves a bit of space.” But he is philosophical about it. “It’s not really the sense of a loss of community. Those people who walked away from me were never really my friends.”

What did H do wrong?


52 Questions That Might Lead You to Mormonism

March 16, 2015

  1. Why does God give some people brown skin?
  2. How many shares does God want me to buy in a hotel and at what price?
  3. What is my “little factory,” and what does it mean to tamper with it?
  4. What does it mean to be “used up”?
  5. What’s so special about Missouri?
  6. Where does the sun get its light?
  7. Was Martin Luther King part of a Communist conspiracy?
  8. Why do Native Americans look so much like Jews?
  9. If a spirit appears to me, how can I tell it’s an angel and not a demon?
  10. If God had a couple of billion dollars sitting around, what would he do with it?
  11. What kind of underwear does God want me to wear?
  12. What is the Egyptian word for the Sun?
  13. Is it wrong to try to have a personal relationship with Jesus?
  14. Is a seer stone used for finding buried treasure, translating scripture, or both?
  15. I’m a married man, and I’d like to have sex with another woman without my wife finding out about it. Is that OK with God?
  16. Is there some kind of secret handshake you need to get into heaven?
  17. Should clergy be paid, or only the ones at the top of the hierarchy?
  18. Is this man a dodo?
  19. To reach the “tree of life” and everlasting joy, are we supposed to hold onto an iron rod or a rope?
  20. Does God preserve scriptural records for 1,400 years so that eventually they will be translated by someone who doesn’t actually use them in the translation?
  21. Can we get rid of the italicized words in the King James Bible?
  22. Are gay people happier if they remain celibate?
  23. Should churches ever apologize for their mistakes?
  24. I like to re-enact disastrous journeys, such as that of the Donner party. Where can I find likeminded people?
  25. Does God have a penis?
  26. Does the Godhead consist of 2 or 3 personages?
  27. Should people of different races marry each other?
  28. In the nineteenth century, how common was it for a married man in his late thirties to marry a teenager without his wife’s knowledge or consent?
  29. Is it OK with God for prophets to borrow millions of dollars from the funds of the true church?
  30. When the Lord establishes a bank through His prophet, how long should we expect it to stay in business?
  31. What does “carnal intercourse” mean?
  32. If I have to choose between following my conscience or obeying a religious leader, which one should I choose?
  33. How many earrings are appropriate in each ear?
  34. If I do an act of charity, should I do it quietly or should I do something to attract attention to myself, such as wearing a bright yellow shirt?
  35. If the natural man is an enemy to God, does that mean gays are God’s friends because their desires are unnatural?
  36. Which one was Jesus: Quetzalcoatl or Wiracocha?
  37. How, where, and when did Arthur Patton die?
  38. Where can I find an organization that will help me find happiness in conformity?
  39. What were Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger doing in the barn?
  40. When is steel not actually steel?
  41. Is “ofin Zimim ezmon E, Zu onis i f s veris etzer ensvonis vineris” Hebrew?
  42. Is it ever OK to criticize a religious leader?
  43. Is Anubis a slave?
  44. Does God approve of oral sex?
  45. Is it ever appropriate to lie to the police?
  46. Where does God live?
  47. Are organizations that have secret rites and oaths good or bad?
  48. Should women have an education and career, or should they stay home and have lots of babies?
  49. If the Holy Spirit tells me to kill someone, should I use a sword or a knife?
  50. Are there any moral absolutes?
  51. How badly do I need to believe in things that are not so?

Bonus question: Which is worse: decaffeinated coffee or caffeinated soda?

If you enjoyed this list, you might also like the Concise Dictionary of Mormonism.


What If Lucifer Had a Blog?

February 13, 2015

The nature of deception is spelled out clearly to us in the teachings of Lucifer in the scriptures.

What if Satan had a blog, created podcasts, collected comments, solicited letters on his behalf, and formed candlelight vigils of his supporters when he was called to judgment before the Father? What if he were able to send out press releases to an obliging media? He hasn’t directly used those technological opportunities, but his teachings sounding from the pages of the scriptures seem remarkably similar to today’s assaults upon the truth.

We know that Satan is the father of lies. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants, “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; and whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning” (93:24-25). Thus, the first thing we would notice was that Lucifer’s blog would be full of lies. Not just obvious, blatant lies, but subtle ones, ranging from slight shadings of the truth to omitting important details.

You see, Lucifer uses truth sparingly, often in support of a lie. If he were here today, he would say to us (perhaps in a podcast or public conference) that telling the whole truth is wrong, that some things that are true are not very useful. He would have us believe that only those so-called facts that promote belief in him are worthy of sharing. “In some instances,” he might say, “the merciful companion to truth is silence. Some truths are best left unsaid.”

He would also use the tools of the crooked politician to tell half-truths or distort the truth. If asked, for example, whether members were ever asked to mime slashing their own throats in the temple, he would, in a Clintonesque use of verb tense, insist, “There are no penalties in the temple.” He would further deny the existence of organizations he is involved with, such as well-known committees within his church.

God wants us to love one another, as He loves us, but Lucifer wants us to point the finger of scorn at those he perceives as our enemies. He would publish book reviews that attack the character of those who think differently; he would write articles comparing dissidents to anti-Christs from the scriptures (such as Nehor and Korihor) and would reserve especially harsh judgment for the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement, and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals. He would compile dossiers on anyone who publicly differs from his teachings. He might even send threatening anonymous emails to obscure bloggers and their spouses.

Lucifer would have us judge others “on the outward appearance,” whereas “the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). In God’s church, “He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33). But in Lucifer’s church, people are to be judged by such things as skin color (until he changes his mind), profession, wealth, clothing styles, number of earrings, facial hair, and tattoos.

In God’s church, we become as little children, pure and innocent before Him. In Lucifer’s church, everything is eroticized down to the bare shoulder of a 4-year-old girl and the walking pornography of a bare midriff. God reassures us that, although we are weak mortals, the Atonement rescues us from our shame, “that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7) that we may stand without guilt at the last day.

For Lucifer, guilt and shame are tools to engender fear and unquestioning obedience. If we follow Lucifer, we are not secure in the forgiveness of the Lord but are to be reminded regularly of our shortcomings so that we may feel “appropriate” guilt. Lucifer might, for example, say to us:

In your mind’s eye, wherever you are across the far corners of the earth, would you picture a huge scroll sliding down from the ceiling? On it are listed the names of those who purchased pornographic literature. The list is large enough so that all may see. Is your name on the list?

Did you buy some pornographic literature?

Now suppose those names are removed, and the names of all those who attended or viewed x-rated movies are presented so that all who are in the congregation may see. Again, is your name on the list?

Now, my young friends, and I am sorry to say, many adults, how about all those of you who have a masturbation problem? If the names of those who had the problem were projected across this big, huge scroll, would your name be there, or would you be able to sit back confident and pure in heart?

In this way, Satan wants us to become miserable, “for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27). God, on the other hand, wants us to be happy. In Him our “sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:22). We find this joy through the forgiveness and sanctification of the Atonement, which washes away our guilt. But Lucifer would have us turn away from the forgiveness of the Lord and instead wallow in sin and guilt, even if it lead to serious emotional or mental problems. And he would tell us to stay away from any therapists who believe that guilt itself is the problem, thereby ensuring we remain mired in self-loathing and shame.

We also learn in the scriptures that Lucifer “sought to destroy the agency of man, which  … the Lord God had given him” (Alma 4:3): “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it” (Alma 4:2). All of God’s children have been given this precious gift of “moral agency” (D&C 101:78) so that we may learn through our choices how to become like God: “Men are free to choose liberty and eternal life or captivity and death” (2 Nephi 2:27).

Lucifer, then, would seek to deny our agency. He would criticize parents who say they don’t want to impose the gospel on their children but want them to make up their own minds about what they will believe and follow, saying they are mistaken and should not allow their children to exercise their agency because young people can hardly be expected to understand and evaluate the alternatives that come before them.

But he would extend his denial of agency to adult followers, as well. He would tell us that we should give unquestioning obedience to our leaders, no matter whether we object on moral grounds. He would impose spiritual, social, and familial penalties on those who question or disobey, such as denying them the ability to participate in important family events, such as weddings.

Yet what kinds of laws and principles would Lucifer demand that we obey? The Lord’s laws and principles are eternal. The Savior said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Mar 13:31). Obedience to these eternal, unchanging laws carries significant promises:

Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:

He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. (Luke 6:47-48.)

In contrast, Lucifer tells us that right and wrong are not eternal principles but malleable and ever changing; he would ask us to obey not the firm, unshakeable principles of eternity, but rather the whims of his desires. Lucifer’s twisted moral relativism loudly proclaims, That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. He would insist that whatever he requires is right, no matter what it is, even things which might be considered abominable. He would promise the blessings of heaven for abdicating our own moral judgment in favor of his. He would flatter you by saying, if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.

Thus he teaches us to place absolute trust in the arm of the flesh in the form of him and our leaders. But the scriptures are clear that all men are fallen and imperfect, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). He would, however, assure us that those in authority are not capable of leading us astray; instead we can trust completely in the men who lead us, and we must take their words as if they were God’s words, because they are the same.

Although the scriptures teach us that there is only “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5), Lucifer would place men between us and the Savior to mediate our access to spiritual blessings and ordinances. And he would instill in us a highly reverential and completely deferential attitude of praise and adulation toward those men. He would compose hymns praising such men and extolling their virtue and exalted status.

He would allow no opposition, questioning, or criticism of these men. He would tell us that, as members of his church, we must set aside critical thinking and conform to what we are told, finding happiness in that conformity. We would be free to disagree and think independently, as long as we keep such thoughts and disagreements to ourselves. In Lucifer’s church, those who refuse to remain silent are to be excommunicated and banished from the community of Saints.

Criticism would not be tolerated, ever, for criticism of our leaders is wrong, even when the criticism is true. He would deceive us by telling us that we are governed by common consent and have the ability to vote against leaders and practices, while in reality a negative vote would get us a visit with our leaders and put us under a cloud of suspicion.

The comments section of Lucifer’s blog would always be closed.

Yet he would not be satisfied, as long as anyone out there spoke out against him. Though he was given a wide berth for blanketing the world with his message and shouting it from the rooftops, Lucifer would claim that the Church was silencing him. He would claim that all he wanted was free expression, open and respectful dialogue, and everyone’s comments taken at face value. This he said while belittling believers and leading away the hearts of many.

This Internet age means we are swamped with ideas that are as old as sand and as corrosive as a salt sea. They will be sold to us appealing to our care for the downtrodden and marginalized—to which we can’t help but emotionally respond. They will suggest that we have been duped into our religious beliefs and that the truly enlightened know better.

Let us not be fooled. Mormon anticipating our dilemma gave us stunning examples of what this deception looks like and advises us, “Oh be wise.”

Note: I had a lot of fun writing this, but I can’t take credit for coming up with the idea. Thanks to my good friend Odell for suggesting this.


Local Physician Faces Retaliation, Persecution for Religious Beliefs

January 28, 2015

Family Practice physician Hiram L. Beasley reports that he has been the target of increasing intimidation and harassment because of his deeply held religious beliefs.

“My pioneer ancestors were persecuted for living their religion, and it is terrifying to see that such intolerance and hatred are rearing their ugly heads again in the 21st century,” Beasley said from behind the desk in his modest office.

The persecution began slowly, when Beasley decided that he could not offer some medical services that violated provisions of his faith. “I felt that I had an obligation as a disciple of Christ and as an American to stand up for my First Amendment right to practice and express my religion according to my conscience.”

Beasley says he was first impressed by pangs of conscience for having prescribed birth control to women whose marital status wasn’t clear. “I hadn’t paid much attention before, and then I realized to my horror that many of these women might not have been married. I could have contributed to extramarital sexual relations, meaning I was winking at sin, perhaps even condoning it. I knew I needed to repent and use my medical skills to promote wholesome and righteous behavior.”

From then on, Beasley made a point of not performing any gynecological exams or prescribing birth control medications until he was sure he was treating faithfully monogamous, married women.

“I lost quite a few patients,” he said wistfully. “But I stood up for the right. These God-fearing hands were not about to do a pelvic exam or Pap smear on a promiscuous vagina.”

Within days, however, Beasley faced a quandary when a woman (properly vetted as a married mother of three) came in complaining of painful vaginal discharge. “As I suspected,” Beasley noted, “she tested positive for gonorrhea. I didn’t know what to do. Was she the one at fault, or had she contracted it from her husband?”

After sending that patient to another physician who was “more accommodating of her lifestyle,” he came up with a 10-page questionnaire for each patient to ensure that he would not be treating those whose medical issues had not been the result of violating the commandments of God. “How would I be able to look my Lord in the eye and tell Him that I had looked the other way when His children were entering into grievous sin?”

The questionnaire was a great success, Beasley says. Receptionist Dara Swensen agrees: “We saw a 70% decrease in the number of patients the doctor was seeing after we implemented the new policies, so we could be confident we were only seeing people with high moral standards. Sure, we lost business, but Dr. Beasley says he doesn’t want that kind of business, anyway.”

Some people slipped past the questionnaire, he said, so he relied on promptings from the Holy Spirit. “You know, sometimes you look at a guy, and you just know,” he smiled. “I’d walk in and see a guy with an earring and impeccable grooming, and I’d just say to myself, ‘I am not doing a prostate exam on that guy.’ You know what I mean.”

The harassment really took off when Beasley also decided to stop treating patients whose conditions resulted from drinking alcohol, coffee, or tea; or from using tobacco products, which also violate the tenets of his faith. “I had a guy come in here with emphysema, and I told him, ‘Sorry, no can do. You brought this on yourself. Go and sin no more.’ See? I’m helping these folks. Can’t they see that?”

But patients have apparently not understood Dr. Beasley’s positive goals. “That guy, the one with emphysema, he called me an ass and some other language you wouldn’t be able to print,” he said, shaking his head sadly. “I’m just trying to help.”

Since then he’s faced a lot of angry patients, ranging from a man with a eczema who, for reasons known only to himself, refused the doctor’s instructions to quit drinking coffee, to the young woman with strep throat who nonetheless refused to remove her second pair of earrings before having her temperature taken.

Now Beasley is facing the wrath of the entire community for refusing to come to the aid of a city councilwoman who had suffered a heart attack in a local movie theater. Viola Biggs, 57, died in the lobby of the Mainstreet Cinema after Beasley refused to enter the theater in which she had collapsed. “We could have saved her had he helped out before we got there,” said EMT Bryan Travers, “but he wouldn’t even go in and see her. What a f$#@ing jerk.”

“I couldn’t go in there,” explained Dr. Beasley. “She was watching ‘American Sniper,’ and I wasn’t about to go into a theater where they were showing an R-rated movie. What would the Savior have thought of me? It’s not my fault it took them so long to carry her out to the lobby. By the time I saw her, it was too late. She was already gone.”

Beasley fears he will have to shut down his once-thriving practice simply because he has stood up for his religious beliefs. “People don’t even look at me when they see me in the store, or they just call me a bad name. It’s not right. It’s not American.”

“I’m considering a lawsuit against the city, the chamber of commerce, and the movie theater,” the doctor said. “I’m not a litigious guy, and I don’t like suing people, but someone needs to be held accountable for the way I’ve been treated.”

City Attorney Dave Campbell chuckled when asked about the prospects for such a suit. “All I can say to Dr. Beasley is, uh, good luck with that.”

Reached by phone late Tuesday, receptionist Swensen confirmed that the practice is shutting down. “I’ve already lined up another job,” she said. “It’s just as well. He wouldn’t prescribe my birth control, anyway.”