Drawbacks to Ordaining Women

April 9, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 11:16 am   Category: Bloggernacle,Ethics,Mormon Culture/Practices

(Note:  This post was written almost entirely before Elder Oaks’ talk regarding the nature of priesthood.  Sadly, I have not given much thought to the relevance which that talk has to my own thoughts on this subject.)

This post is not about the Ordain Women movement.  Quite some time ago, I posted a critique of the Ordain Women organization wherein I suggested that even though the movement is about faithful LDS women, that does not mean that it is actually for faithful LDS women.  Rather, I suggested, the movement is actually by and for humanistic intellectuals.  In that post, I repeated what has become almost a cliché for those who aren’t fully on board with OW:  It’s not that I am against women being ordained to the priesthood, it’s just that I object to the OW organization and the tactics they employ.  In that way, I attempted to sideline the inevitable accusations of misogyny which such a post provokes so as to look at the conflict that OW presents between intellectuals and priesthood authority (patriarchal or otherwise).  In this post, however, I wish to do the exact opposite: I wish to sideline any thoughts or preferences concerning the nature of the Ordain Women in order to focus exclusively on the ordainability of women.

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Contraception, Healthcare, and the Legal Limits of Religious Expression on Businesses

March 26, 2014    By: DavidF @ 11:43 am   Category: Life

The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday on whether for-profit businesses have religious freedom.  More specifically, whether two corporations run by Christian families could be exempt of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that businesses that insure their employees provide free contraceptive to female workers.  Importantly, religious groups already have the exemption, but what about businesses directed and influenced by their religiously minded bosses or shareholders?  Should they be forced to run their businesses in ways that go against their religious values?

The two companies are Hobby Lobby, and Conestoga Wood Specialties (ran by a family of Mennonite Christians).  The family that runs Hobby Lobby opposes the obligation to give their female employees any contraceptives that prematurely end a possible life, such as the morning after pill.  The family that runs Conestoga oppose any medical procedures that prevent a possible life, and thus all contraceptives.

So who will win, the government or the businesses?  Importantly, the Supreme Court doesn’t just weigh both sides equally and decides which deserves a win more.  The Court relies on longstanding judicial procedure to determine outcomes.  Most know that in criminal cases, an accused can only be convicted if the are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  In civil cases generally, the the plaintiff wins if they have a preponderance of the evidence on their side; that is, there’s better reason to believe they should win than reason for them to lose.  However, when a person sues the federal government claiming that the government has infringed upon his or her rights, the Court goes through a more complicated procedure.

Leading up to the 1930s, the Supreme Court regularly struck down laws that regulated how business owners can run their businesses.  These decisions allowed employers to set harmfully long work weeks with extremely low wages.  In one case, the court passively allowed the continuation of child labor.  In 1938, after the Court had struck down several New Deal laws, the court flipped.  Decades of judicial activism ended.  The new standard that developed out of 1938 was this: if the government wants to achieve a legitimate government interest–that is, seeks to protect public health, safety, welfare or morals/criminal laws–then its action/regulation need only be rationally related to achieving that goal.  So if a business owner wants to set his employees’ 40 hour workweek wages below minimum wage claiming that the government law against that hurts his business (more specifically, claiming that the government infringes upon his rights of due process or just compensation), the government need only show that the hour/wage laws rationally protect the employees health or safety, which they can of course do.  In other words, as long as Congress acts within its constitutional limitations, any law that protects the government objectives I mentioned above will get upheld. (more…)

Speech, Speakers and Privilege

March 22, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 2:06 pm   Category: Ethics,Mormon Culture/Practices

Within the bloggernacle we are confronted with a strange mix of intellectualism and faith-based non-intellectualism (I’ll just call this “faith” for short).  On the one hand, the anonymity and lack of ecclesiastical or jurisdictional boundaries within this online forum essentially guarantee that no blogger is able to justify their own ideas or policies with an appeal to their own position or authority within society.  This is very close to the defining rule of intellectualism that no claim can ever be justified by any appeal to any person’s position within society.  On the other hand, the tacit acknowledgement of various priesthood authorities by nearly all participants provides a clear and rather anti-intellectual exception to this rule in that the position of some quoted speakers within society can legitimately justify their quoted speech.  There simply isn’t much argument to be had between those who do and those who do not accept the non-jurisdictional priesthood of General Authorities.  Thus, the bloggernacle is not quite like a church meeting since there are no presiding officials, but it is not like the Salons of the Enlightenment where every person that has ever lived has equal standing either. (more…)

Visual Aid to The Gospel of Jesus Christ: Updated

March 9, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 9:01 am   Category: Life

Today I am teaching the Elders about Faith and Repentance, and made this visual aid. Have a look and tell me if there is anything you disagree with. My only thought is that I would love to replace “Sin” with “Acts of Independence” as Elder Hafen did. Maybe I will put “Sin or other acts of Independence”…

Gospel of Jesus Christ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

update: I tried to incorporate some of the suggestions from the comments. Better? Too Busy?

Gospel of Jesus Christ 2

Turns Out Chronic Internet Trolls Really Are Bad People

February 17, 2014    By: Geoff J @ 5:11 pm   Category: Bloggernacle

I saw this provocative Slate article today. It was inspired by this recent study. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Overall, the authors found that the relationship between sadism and trolling was the strongest, and that indeed, sadists appear to troll because they find it pleasurable. “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others,” they wrote. “Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”

So the basic take away I get from this is that chronic internet trolls are pretty much sadistic psychos. (Seems like an apt description of some of the rabid anti-Mormon trolls I have encountered over the years.)

Anyhow, three cheers for active moderation of comment sections! We may not make trolls cease to exist, but we can at least keep these psycho sadists out of our own blog comment sections with a little effort.

Teacher Improvement Lesson 5- Effective Methods

February 16, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 9:35 am   Category: Life

This week I decided to keep things simple.

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Book Review: The Broken Heart: Applying the Atonement to Life’s Experiences by Bruce C. Hafen.

February 10, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 11:11 am   Category: Atonement & Soteriology

This week was ward conference in our ward, so no teacher improvement this week. In lieu of that, I wanted to point out an old book on the atonement and some points it raises that I found interesting. The book is “The Broken Heart: Applying the Atonement to Life’s Experiences” by Bruce C. Hafen.  (more…)

A Bunch of Imbeciles Wrote About a BYU-Idaho Video

February 4, 2014    By: Geoff J @ 6:25 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

First, here is the BYU-Idaho video that has apparently caused a small stir this week:

It is a video warning about the dangers of pornography addiction. The dangers of pornography addiction are well documented and opposition to pornography is certainly not only a Mormon thing.

So here’s a question for you: How many times did you hear the word “masturbation” used in that video?

If you answered “none times” that means you are brighter than numerous writers and bloggers across the country who railed against what they called an “anti-masturbation” video.  Here are some of the headlines from these clowns:

    The Daily Beast: “BYU to Undergrads: Self-Love Is A Battlefield — The Mormon university is urging its students to narc on chronic masturbators, whose fight against self-pleasure is like rescuing a fallen soldier during war.”

    The Stir: “College Wages ‘War’ on Masturbation With Video That Offends Soldiers”

    The Daily Caller: “War-themed BYU video implores students to rat out masturbating roommates”

Look, I realize that people who view porn often masturbate too. But this particular video is not about masturbation. How is that hard to comprehend?

I am a little baffled by these stories. They actually link to the video and write entire posts saying it is about masturbation when it never even broaches the topic of masturbation. Is this just a copycat situation from writers not bright enough to comprehend the video? Were these writers too lazy to actually watch it? Or is the concept that pornography addiction itself might be a bad thing so foreign to these writers that they miss it entirely?

At any rate, the ridiculousness of the articles irritated me enough to get me to post about it. Feel free to sound off in the comments.

Teacher Improvement 4: Ages and Stages in Gospel Learning

February 1, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 8:00 pm   Category: Life

This Lesson is a little more unfocused than prior lessons as my main goal here is the transfer of information. The basic design of the lesson is going to be to go over some general information then to allow the class to determine which age groups they would like to focus on.

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Teacher Improvement Lesson 3 preparing a lesson

January 26, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 10:18 am   Category: Life

I spent most of my preparation time this week debating whether I should teach this lesson next or teach lessons on pedagogy and age specific needs next. I went with this lesson, but could totally imagine the other order being better. This is a combination of lessons 5 and 10 from teaching-no greater calling.

Today my guiding principles for the lesson are a contrast to one another:

First- “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” D&C 38:30

Second “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”  Helmuth von Moltke (more…)

Laban’s Execution and the Manifesto on Plural Marriage

January 21, 2014    By: DavidF @ 6:31 pm   Category: Ethics,Personal Revelation,Theology

Laban’s execution ranks among the most troubling stories in Mormonism.  It’s often used as a story to show that obeying God is more important than what we think is right.  Alternatively, it’s used as an example to show how we should question commandments.  It’s been explained away as a justifiable action under Jewish law.  It’s been entertained as a possible example of Satan’s power to deceive (Nephi in this instance).  Nephi and Laban have been compared to Abraham and Isaac, and David and Goliath.  Critics cite it to discredit Mormonism, and apologists use it to bolster Mormonism.  What makes Laban’s execution so interesting is not only what it tells us about Nephi, but what it tells us about God.

Laban’s execution takes us through three stages in Nephi’s mind.  When Nephi discovers Laban stumbling through the dark Jerusalem streets, God prompts him to kill the defenseless drunk.[1]  Nephi refuses to obey God because killing, ironically enough, is against God’s commandments.  God again commands Nephi to kill Laban.  The second time, Nephi pauses to come up with a reason to justify what God has asked him to do.  Nephi contemplates Laban’s offenses.  Just earlier that night Laban took all of Nephi’s family’s possessions and tried to kill Nephi and his brothers; he had disobeyed God.  The rationalization may be compelling for some, but Nephi evidently couldn’t convince himself.  So God commands Nephi a third time to take Laban’s life.  But this time, God explains why Nephi should obey his commandment.  God points out “It is better that [Laban] should perish than that [the future Nephite civilization] should dwindle and perish in unbelief.”  God has Nephi weigh the literal death of one man against the spiritual death of a whole nation.  Put in modern parlance, God gives Nephi a utilitarian reason for executing Laban.  Nephi then obeys.

It would be easy to draw some harmful lessons from this story.  Presumably, Nephi did the right thing by refusing to obey until God gave him a reason to obey.  Should we adopt Nephi’s unwillingness when we face tough commandments?  Probably not.  The Book of Mormon itself contains other stories where people took the leap of faith before knowing fully what would happen.  Nephi had just declared, one chapter earlier, that he’d obey whatever God told him to do.  Laban’s execution gives us the rare look at how a prophet, and how God, works through a situation where two commandments clearly contradict each other.  And while Nephi tries to obey the more newest one, he waits for God’s approval before acting.  There was simply no third way for Nephi, and I suspect that most people would rarely be put in Nephi’s position.  But at least one modern prophet faced a similar situation.

Wilford Woodruff had a dilemma.  God commanded the Saints to practice plural marriage.  But had they continued, the United States would imprison church leaders, close the temples, and confiscate many of the Saints’ property; the church would, in effect, perish.  Woodruff couldn’t obey one commandment (plural marriage) without failing on the other  (preserving the church).

Woodruff’s decision is sometimes taken as evidence that Mormonism is not what it claims.  If God really was in charge, He would have found a way to allow plural marriage to continue and the church to go on as it had.  Instead, he didn’t intervene, and he made Woodruff and the Saints abandon an immensely important commandment.  Clearly then, the argument goes, God doesn’t lead the Church.

The story of Laban’s execution offers an alternative conclusion.

Nephi

Wilford Woodruff

Choice 1: Kill Laban, save the church End plural marriage, save the church
Choice 2: Not kill Laban, church perishes Not end plural marriage, church suffers/perishes
Decision: Applies the greater good Applies the greater good

Laban’s execution shows that God will sometimes entertain a utilitarian judgment over directly intervening in some way to avoid the utilitarian solution.  Why?  The answer may be related to the answer to another, similar question: Why does God have imperfect people lead His church?  Perhaps it’s because the greater good is served by having people work together to improve an imperfect church rather than by having God so directly involved.  Sometimes God drops a Liahona in the sand, sometimes he commands his prophet to make do with the best of two bad choices.[2]

_______

[1] As an aside, some people have other problems with Laban’s execution.  Why couldn’t Nephi have just knocked Laban out, or what about all of the blood on Laban’s clothes that Nephi had adorned?  These aren’t criticisms of the story as it is told, but elements that Nephi didn’t explain.  I imagine that if Nephi anticipated these criticisms, he might have offered more detail on how the events unfolded.  For all we know, Nephi stole Laban’s clothes, Laban recognized him, and Nephi just recounted the order of events in reverse.  Stranger things have happened.

[2] The same argument I’ve offered here might also apply to Eve’s choice in the Garden of Eden.  However, it’s not entirely clear that Eve was thinking in utilitarian terms about her decision to eat the forbidden fruit and have children.

Teacher Improvement Lesson 2: Christ-Centered Teaching

January 19, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 9:50 am   Category: Life

My Lesson has a few guiding principles. The first comes from this quote from Jeffrey R. Holland from the April 1998 General Conference:

We must revitalize and reenthrone superior teaching in the Church—at home, from the pulpit, in our administrative meetings, and surely in the classroom. Inspired teaching must never become a lost art in the Church, and we must make certain our quest for it does not become a lost tradition.

I use this quote as a reminder of the prior lesson that our objective is to be the best we can be and that great teachers want to be great teachers, are passionate about what they are learning and love those they teach.

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Teacher Improvement Lesson 1: What Makes a Great Teacher?

January 12, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 10:24 am   Category: Life

So I have been asked to teach a church teacher improvement course over the next six weeks at church. Since I was surprised to not find one laid out online at Feast Upon the Word or T&S, I thought I would post my lessons plans here and invite your input and help over the next 6 weeks. Think of every question as an invitation to discuss.

I start simply, with the following statement I nabbed from greatschools.com (more…)

Intellectuals and Priesthood Authority (Intellectuals and Mormonism, pt. 3)

December 17, 2013    By: Jeff G @ 3:28 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Personal Revelation,Scriptures,Theology,Truth

(P)recap.  The purpose of this series on intellectuals within Mormonism is bring the analytic tools of intellectualism against itself so as to help Mormon intellectuals recognize and perhaps second guess the choices that they actively make when they unnecessarily place themselves at odds with the church leadership.  To review, the first post identified the specific kind of intellectualism which the scriptures warn us against.  Briefly, the intellectual will be the person who holds that:

Any speech act can legitimately be called into question by any person, at any time and that a legitimate answer to that question cannot invoke any person’s position within society.

In the second post I articulated the ways in which Mormon intellectuals will not only tolerate, but actively embrace prophecy within their worldview.  In summary, the Mormon intellectual has no trouble negotiating a kind of compatibility between their intellectualism and their prophetic religion, since all doctrines can still be called into question and subsequently (dis)confirmed by God at any time.  In this way, the position which priesthood leaders have taken on any given issue becomes largely irrelevant to the position which Mormon intellectuals will take on the same issue.

While the Mormon intellectual can fully embrace the first leg upon which Mormonism stands (prophecy), he will have serious difficulties embracing the other leg: priesthood authority.  In this post I want to articulate the tensions that exist between intellectualism and priesthood authority, for I believe it is these that are the primary source of contention between the former and Mormonism. (more…)

Gaudete Sunday

December 15, 2013    By: Matt W. @ 9:41 am   Category: Life

In the Catholic Advent cycle, today is the “pink candle” Sunday, where in preparation for Christ’s coming we rejoice rather than repent. In fact, Gaudete is Latin for Rejoice and comes from Phillipians 4:4-5:

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

In the Catholic tradition, Gaudete Sunday follows the typical parameters of service, with two readings (Isaiah and James, both focusing on the nearness of the messiah who comes with healing in the wings) and a Gospel reading. The Gospel reading is Matthew 11:2-11, which features Christ’s praise of John the Baptist as more than a prophet, but also something else.

In these verses, John is in prison, and is very aware that he is about to be killed. He calls out to Jesus “Art thou the Christ or do we wait for another?” Or in other words, John, in his moment of darkness and need, calls out to Christ in doubt and uncertainty. We can not be certain if this is because John’s expectation of the Messiah was that he would be a conqueror sent by God who came to overthrow those people who now held John captive or if John merely were asking for assurance that all his suffering was not in vain. In either case, here is John, who was “more than a prophet” but who is in many ways “the prophet”, having weakness and doubt. Christ sends assurance to John and asks him to “take no offense in me”, but does not release him from his allotted punishment, as we all know. John dies, his head put on a platter, and Christ marches forward toward Calvary and beyond.

I find it very interesting that in this service of rejoicing at the nearness of Christ, the central story is one of the greatest of all people doubting and Christ pleading that he not take offense in him. In many ways, on the Christian path, our expectations of God and the way things should be are set, either by our reasoning or traditions, and can become stumbling blocks to us. In my life as a member of the Church I have seen many struggle. Most recently, a newly baptized couple read headlines about women being denied access to the priesthood session and haven’t been back to church since. Before that, I saw a couple struggle with how the church spends money on temples instead of caring for the poor and needy. I have known many who struggle with God’s allowance of Polygamy and the long period when Blacks were denied the priesthood. I have also struggled with all these things.

To these issues, I think Gaudete Sunday is a response. Christ, in the moment asks our forgiveness telling us we are blessed if we take no offense. If the greatest prophet of all could struggle, and later on the Cross, Christ could struggle (eloi lama sabacthanai), so must we struggle. Life paints an unexpected and confusing picture of God, which is ever changing and breaking the rules we try to contain it in. It is faith and faith only which allows us to have hope for the end to be good from where we stand, though all of our expectations of the end and our understandings of the now are tested. Even though we see through a glass darkly, We can still stand together as one, and thank God for the nearness of the Lord and his goodness. We can rejoice.

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