Friday, April 18, 2014

# 42: The Church Reinforces Proper Gender Roles




You should stay LDS because the Church reinforces proper gender roles.  We live in a society that is increasingly breaking down the barriers of male and female.  On Facebook, you can choose from over 50 different genders.  That's messed up!  There's only two genders, folks.  If you have a penis, you're male.  If you have a vagina, you're female.  It's pretty simple, really.

In Los Angeles, there's a boy playing with the girl's softball team.  That's messed up!

At college, there are people trying to popularize the use of gender neutral pronouns!  That's messed up!

What is the end result of the belief that gender has no correlation to body parts?  The end result is that  the words "mother" and "father" become dirty words.  "Parent" is preferable.  "Husband" and "wife" become politically incorrect.  "Spouse" or "Partner" are preferred.

If we keep trying to accommodate women who think their men and men who think they're women, we'll eventually have to make gender-neutral restrooms.  They're already doing this in some places.  Basically, anybody can go into a restroom, but everyone has their own private stall.  I think that's the way it works, though I've never been in one myself, and I hope I never go in one.

Maybe you don't believe me.  Maybe you're thinking, "A gender neutral restroom?  That's absurd!"  Well, they're doing it at Portland Community College.

And over at the Atheist National Convention, in Salt Lake City of all places, gender neutral restrooms are being advertised.

I have an idea.  How about we keep public restrooms the way they already are, separate but equal?

How does the Church reinforce proper gender roles?  They put boys in boy clothes and have them do boy stuff, and they put girls in girl clothes and have them do girl stuff.  Men get the priesthood, but women don't.  Boys work on getting their Eagle Scout.  Girls work on getting their Young Women Medallions.  Men are expected to get jobs and make money.  Women are expected to have babies and bake whole wheat bread.  And these are good things!  I testify to you, brothers and sisters, that conforming to proper gender roles brings joy, and it's part of God's plan!

I love the Family: A Proclamation to the World.  And there's an important part in there.  After outlining the various roles and responsibilities of men and women, the Proclamation states, "In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.  Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation."

In other words, sometimes Moms need to work outside the home.  And that's okay.  And sometimes men really like ballet and show tunes.  And that's okay too.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

# 41: The Latest Ensign Magazine


Do me a favor.  Go get the latest issue of the Ensign magazine, if you haven't burned it on your way out of the Church yet.  If you don't have a hard copy, access the digital one for free.

Open up to a random page, and see how much you disagree with.

I just did it.  I randomly opened up to pages 40 - 41.  (Maybe it wasn't so random.  That's where the staples are, so I think that's where the pages naturally wanted to open to, you know what I'm saying?)

I see two pictures, one of President Monson at a temple dedication, and one of President Monson with some fans shaking his hand and smiling and such.  The caption of one of the photos says, "Just as the Savior would do, President Monson has gone about doing good and blessing and loving others; this has been the driving force of his life."

The bold headings that stand out in the article "Follow the Prophet" that begins on page 39 are "2. We can be kind and loving toward children."  "3. We can follow the promptings of the Spirit." "4. We can love the temple." "5. We can be kind, considerate, and loving."

You might bristle at the phrase "Follow the Prophet."  But really, following the prophet isn't so bad these days.  The way that the Ensign explains "Follow the Prophet" makes the phrase basically mean "Follow the Savior."  Who can disagree with being kind and loving toward children?  Who can disagree with following the promptings of the Spirit?  Unless, of course, you don't believe in "the Spirit" anymore.

I suppose I don't love the idea of turning President Monson into an idol, or getting carried away with his personality and charisma.  But, it's bound to happen in every Christian religion that the minister or leader gets lifted up on a pedestal, figuratively and sometimes literally.  It would be nice if the members of the Church would focus on following God and worshipping God more than pleasing their administrative leaders.  Nephi tells us, you know, not to "trust in the arm of flesh."  But if we're going to have heroes, it's better to have President Monson as our hero, rather than some Hollywood actor or professional athlete.

OK, I just flipped to another page in the latest issue of the Ensign.  It's pages 66 - 67.  Page 66 is a full page photo of some nice smiling volunteers helping an elderly lady clean her yard.  Again, how can you disagree with that?!  This is what the Church is all about now: doing yard-work for old ladies!  

The article that starts on page 67 is titled, "We are the Lord's Hand's" and the subtitle is "Seeking out the poor and ministering to those who suffer are indispensable to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ."

That's just wonderful.  Seriously, it's just wonderful.

I agree with 95 % of what the Church is, does, and teaches.  That's a pretty good percentage.  Even though I don't believe everything the Church teaches, that's OK.

So the next time you feel like sending in your resignation letter, pick up the latest issue of the Ensign.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

# 40: 2 Nephi chapter 29



If you're one of those people who believe that the Bible descended from a cloud and is perfect the way that it is, that's cool.   Go be a Christian fundamentalist.  Maybe that's what God wants you to be.

One time I actually saw Jerry Falwell preach in Lynchburg Virginia, on my LDS mission in 2002.  Falwell said that the Bible we have today is exactly as it was when the inspired prophets wrote it down centuries ago.  He said the Bible was the infallible Word of God.  He said there was not a single error in the entire book.

I have nothing against those who interpret the Bible literally, and consider it to be infallible.  I just don't agree with them.  For the most part, Christian fundamentalists are wonderful people.  Perhaps God is behind their belief in an infallible Bible.  And I would rather have people believe in a literal, infallible Bible than to believe in nothing.

On the other hand, I don't want people to get so loose and allegorical in their interpretation of scripture that they turn into liberal Unitarian Universalists.  There's got to be some happy medium between extreme literalism and extreme liberalism.

It does seem like history and science has called the Biblical account into question.  The Bible has undergone numerous changes and translations.  Some books were accepted into the canon by councils, and some were rejected.  Perhaps the changes to the Bible were inspired by God.  Perhaps the changes were inspired by Satan, as 1 Nephi 13: 24 - 28 asserts.  Perhaps the changes weren't really inspired by God or Satan.  Maybe they were just changes.  Maybe the supernatural powers of the Universe didn't care enough about the changes to intervene.  I have no idea.

Anyway...

Here's a clear contradiction in the account of Christ's crucifixion:

Mark 15:25 says, "And it was the third hour, and they crucified him."

John 19: 14 - 16 says, "... about the sixth hour... they cried out, away with him, away with him, crucify him... and they took Jesus, and led him away."

So, did they nail Jesus to the cross in the third hour or in the sixth hour?  We don't know.  Mark tells us one thing, and John tells us another thing.  With this clear error in the Bible, how can it be considered infallible?

There are more contradictions and errors in the Bible.

To hear God's voice, to know Him, we need more than just the Bible.  We need loving people in our lives.  We need sunsets and rainbows that show God's handiwork.  We need personal revelation that comes from prayer and meditation.  And it probably doesn't hurt to have more scripture.  So Joseph Smith went ahead and wrote some!  I think that's what Joseph Smith was trying to get at when he wrote much of 2 Nephi chapter 29.

2 Nephi 29: 8 - 11:

"Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? ... And because I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be finished until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.  Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.  For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them."

And here's my modern paraphrase and interpretation of those verses:

"Why do you complain when you get more scripture?  Why do you complain when I, God, want to talk to my children more?  Just because I caused the Bible to be written, that doesn't mean I can't cause other holy books to be written also.  The Bible is not the end-all be-all of all my works and all my mysterious ways.  I inspire people everywhere, all over the world, throughout all history, to write down spiritual things."

In addition to the Bible, Mormons accept the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price as scripture.  More revelations are added periodically to the Doctrine and Covenants.  (Although the last one, section 138, was added in 1918.  It's been almost a hundred years since a revelation has been added to the Doctrine and Covenants.  But now we get our revelations in General Conference, I suppose.)

So, Mormons still believe in an open canon.  This, I think, is the right way to believe.  And Mormons do not believe in sola scriptura, which is the idea that everything necessary for salvation and holiness is obviously explained in the Bible.  Over at EWTN, the global Catholic Network, Patrick Madrid does a good job of debunking sola scriptura here.

Joseph Smith also explains why the notion of sola scriptura doesn't hold water.  He writes in the Joseph Smith History, verse 12, "for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible."  In other words, no text can interpret itself.  A reader has to interpret a text.  And millions of different readers have interpreted the Bible very differently.

Joseph Smith was confronted with a real problem.  In a way, it's the problem that we're all confronted with.  It's the problem of conflicting claims of religious authority.

In Joseph Smith's day, the clergy of the various Protestant denominations all were studying the same Scriptures, yet they rarely agreed on what the Scriptures meant.  So Joseph Smith prayed to get some answers to his questions and then he had the First Vision.  Or, he fabricated the story of the First Vision.  Either way, Joseph Smith produced some creative answers to the major theological questions of his day.  To answer the questions that the Bible leaves unanswered, Smith wrote down his own revelations, which can be found in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.

The only problem though - and it's a serious, major problem- is that these "revelations" in the scriptures of the Restoration aren't really "revelations."  They're more like, "stuff Joseph Smith made up."

But the bottom line is, I'd rather have made-up revelations than no revelations at all.

I believe that 2 Nephi 29 teaches true principles.  I believe in an open canon.  Mormons believe in a beautiful idea of a fluid, evolving canon.  For this and other reasons, we should stay LDS.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

# 39: www.staylds.com


If you're looking for more reasons to Stay LDS (even though you don't believe in the Church anymore) (or if you kind of still sort of kind of believe in the Church) then go to www.staylds.com.

I'm only one guy.  I do my best to offer different perspectives, but I can only do so much.  And maybe some of you are turned off by my politics.  (I'm an unapologetic tea-party Republican.)  If you want more opinions by more people, go to www.staylds.com.  StayLDS is a website and forum that can help you with your faith crisis, and can help you process the information on MormonThink and FAIR and other websites like that.  There's a lot of really nice people and a lot of really good information at www.staylds.com.

There are a lot of people on StayLDS who have been through a lot of tough times.  They've read a lot of books.  Some of them still have traditional testimonies of the Church.  Most have non-traditional testimonies.  Some are pretty much non-believing, but they hang around the Church for their families, and they like the culture or whatever.  You can chat online with them.  Tell them about your problems.  It will be therapeutic.

It's comforting to know that there are many other people in your boat.  Right now you may feel like you're alone.  Well, I'm here to tell you that you're not alone.  It's hard to find other Mormons like you in real life, because there are so few of them, and because a lot of questioners/doubters/skeptics/non-believers are silent about their their concerns.  Me, for example, I'm pretty much silent in Sunday School, and I skip it a lot.  It helps that I have a baby that cries, so I have a good reason to hang out in the lobby.

Why am I silent in Church?  And why do I write this blog as misterfake371, rather than show the world my real identity?  Because I don't want to be excommunicated.  I want to stick with the Church, even though I no longer believe in a literal Restoration.

And so... I turn to the Internet.  And on the Internet we find Mormons like ourselves, who are grappling with all the ugly history of the Church that the Internet has disseminated.  The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away.

One last plug:  www.staylds.com

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

# 38: The Organization of the Church


You should stay LDS because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is so well organized.  It's been around for almost 200 years, and now it's got almost 15 million members, so it's not going anywhere.  The Church might get smaller in the age of the Internet, at least in America and Europe, but I think it's safe to say that the Church will still have millions of members around the world for generations and generations.

Have you ever built a business from the ground up?  Most likely, you haven't.  If you have, I commend you.  It's rough, isn't it?

Have you ever started a church, or started a religion?  That's even less likely than starting your own business.  I've never started my own church or religion, but it's got to be really hard.  If it were easy, there would be more churches and religions around.

And building a business or a church is a messy process.  Mistakes get made.  People get offended.  But I'm glad that brave people were willing to take the risks necessary to build great businesses and religions.  Of course, not all businesses and religions are created equal.  Some are better than others.  Some are more ethical than others.  Some are more "true" than others.  Yet none of them are perfect.  All businesses and all religions have room for improvement.

I think it's better to reform the Church rather than to destroy the Church.  Generally speaking, it's better to peacefully reform the government you live under, rather than go for a bloody revolution.

(And I'm not advocating an angry reformation, or even a calm reformation.  I'm talking about an individual shift in attitude.  Instead of trying to emulate General Authorities, we should try to emulate Christ.  Instead of insisting on a literal interpretation of scriptures, we should use the scriptures as a source of wisdom, a wellspring of shared stories, and a springboard for personal revelation.  Instead of signing petitions to change the temple wedding policies, for example, we should do our best to spread love and goodness wherever we go.  Generally speaking, I'm happy with the Church the way it is.  And instead of focusing on changing big structures like the LDS Church, I think you're better off trying to change yourself and your own family.)

We ought to be grateful that we're part of such a well organized and established Church.  Think of all the missionary work and volunteer hours and faith and prayers that got this big ship of Mormonism sailing.  The Church is huge, and the Church is impressive.

And to the people that are trying to tear down the Church, I say, go build your own kingdom.  (I think I stole that line from John Dehlin.)

I'm not talking about the people who are calling for more transparency and honesty coming from the Church hierarchy.  I suppose I'm one of those people myself.  I'm talking about the Ex-Mormon Foundation and the Mormon Expression podcast.  The people in those organizations seem like angry people trying to destroy the Church.  I think they might really be inspired by Satan.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

# 37: Kyrsten SINnema




Is it merely a coincidence that Kyrsten Sinema has SIN in her name?

Seriously, folks, there's this new Congresswoman in Congress named Kyrsten Sinema.  She's openly agnostic, she's openly bi-sexual... and she's openly ex-Mormon.  And she wasn't just causally Mormon, either, like the musical artist Jewel.  No, Sinema actually graduated from Brigham Young University!  That's how Mormon she was!

Well, after BYU, Sinema really went off the rails on a crazy train.  Only a few years after obeying the honor code and flirting with RM's, she was caught dancing in a "pagan spiral" in Miami Florida as part of some hippie anti-war protest.

She supports world disarmament.  She wanted to put Osama Bin Laden on trial, instead of treating him as a military combatant.  She said that stay-at-home-moms were "leeching" off of their husbands.  She calls herself a feminist and she's always babbling about the rights of the LGBT community.

Watch this video:



Isn't she crazy?!

I wish I had accurate statistics for where people go once they leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  From the few people I've known in real life, it seems like most of them go atheist or agnostic.  None of them have gone quite so far as Sinema has, but you know, it's a slippery slope.

It seems like most ex-Mormons look for liberal causes to support, or they start adopting liberal views, at least on the social issues like gay marriage and abortion.  Really, it seems like most ex-Mormons start caring a little too much about the environment.

If you leave the Church, you might turn out like Kyrsten Sinema.  Sure, she's attractive, and her rhetoric may be convincing, but do not fall prey to her siren song!  She's wrong!

If you stay LDS, you're more likely to remain true to the cause of righteousness like United States Senator Mike Lee.