In Case of Emergency…

It occurs to me that if things were to change in regard to “women and the Priesthood” in the future, there may be a few LDS Church members (and leaders) who experience a bit of a crisis of congruity, especially if they have made strong arguments against such a change being needed or even doctrinally possible.

Were that to be the case, I would want these Church members and leaders to be at peace, and to be able to reconcile the change with their past statements and arguments.  To that end, I have prepared the following statement for them to use.  If you are now arguing against the doctrinal suitability of women receiving the priesthood, please feel free to cut-and-paste this statement and save it for future use in talks, Church newsletters, and online use including blogs and message boards.

There are statements in our literature by the Brethren and others which we have interpreted to mean that women would not receive the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood. I have said the same things, and people write me emails and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what D. Kelly Ogden said, or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

No attribution necessary.  Use it freely as needed.

U Can’t Touch This (Please Uzza, Don’t Hurt ‘Em)

LDS, and Christians and Jews in general, are no doubt familiar with the phrase “steadying the ark”, and the story from whence the phrase comes.  Here’s how 1 Chronicles 13 tells the story:

9 ¶And when they came unto the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled.

10 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.

11 And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzza: wherefore that place is called Perez-uzza to this day.

Assuming the story actually happened as reported, it’s all rather silly.

The ark isn’t God. The ark is a heavy gold chest, and apparently it was being pulled around the countryside by some oxen. The ark didn’t fly around on its own power, it didn’t have legs like a horse. It was a heavy box that people had to lift and carry, or animals had to be employed to move.

So Uzza is transporting a valuable gold chest, and the oxen stumble, apparently putting the ark at risk of falling to the ground. Are we really saying that if we were in his positition, we would stand still and watch the ark fall to the ground, spilling its contents? Was Uzza supposed to have faith that even though the Lord had allowed the oxen to stumble, he would miraculously save the ark from falling?

And since the Lord works through His followers, how was Uzza to know he hadn’t been placed in that position to act for the Lord in steadying the ark?

It’s even more silly how we try to apply some assumed lesson from Uzza’s tragic death in our day. Instead of using the principle of “ark steadying” to label those who we wish would be happier with the status quo, let me present some real-world scenarios:

- A seminary teacher arrives to the Church building early one morning and sees water running out from underneath the bathroom door, soaking the carpet in the hallway and seeping to the wood floor in the cultural hall. Since the facilities are not part of his stewardship, he decides not to “steady the ark” and shut off the water, and instead trusts in the Lord.

- While waiting for a Temple recommend interview in the foyer on a Wednesday evening, a man notices the Scout troop from another ward is meeting with only one adult leader two boys (in violation of the strict “two deep” adult leader policy). He sees some other things that make him uneasy about the situation, but since it isn’t his stewardship (or even his ward), he decides not to “steady the ark” and doesn’t mention it to anyone, trusting in the Lord.

- While visiting his brother’s ward, a man attends Gospel Doctrine class and in the course of the lesson, the teacher forcefully expresses views on the origin of the Priesthood ban that, while in harmony with teachings from 50 years ago, are out of step with current thoughts on the subject. The man’s brother later mentions that this subject comes up regularly with the teacher, and the same views are always reinforced, as well as some unusual beliefs regarding polygamy and other Church doctrines, policies or teachings. Instead of bringing the issue to someone in authority, both brothers decide it is out of their stewardship and to trust in the Lord and not steady the ark.

Those are all actual situations I have seen. Does anyone think that a person taking action outside of their stewardship in these cases is “steadying the ark”? How would it be any different than Uzza seeing the ark falling and instinctively trying to help.

It should also be noted that 1 Chronicles 13:7 says Uzza was driving the cart:


7 And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart.

That being the case, it could be argued that the driver of the cart does have the stewardship to ensure safe transport of the cart’s contents.

“The Book Of Mormon Musical” : Doctrine On Broadway …a prophecy fulfilled?

NPR recently posted the soundtrack to “The Book of Mormon”, the Broadway musical from the creators of “South Park” and “Avenue Q” that has turned into a smash hit.

http://www.npr.org/2…-book-of-mormon

I haven’t seen the show, but after listening to the soundtrack a few times, I have to admit that the music is really good. I suspect from the quality of the music alone, these songs may be with us for a long time. I have dozens of CD’s of Broadway and film musical recordings, and this would definitely be in the top 5 or 10.

Posted Image

30 years ago, President Kimball expressed his vision for the arts, and the ways in which music, film and art could help tell the story of the Saints. In some way, as I see the success and reaction to “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway, I see a skewed fulfillment of that vision.

Quote

In the field of both composition and performance, why cannot someone write a greater oratorio than Handel’s Messiah? The best has not yet been composed nor produced. They can use the coming of Christ to the Nephites as the material for a greater masterpiece. Our artists tomorrow may write and sing of Christ’s spectacular return to the American earth in power and great glory, and his establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in our own dispensation. No Handel nor other composer of the past or present or future could ever do justice to this great event. How could one ever portray in words and music the glories of the coming of the Father and the Son and the restoration of the doctrines and the priesthood and the keys unless he were an inspired Latter-day Saint, schooled in the history and doctrines and revelations and with rich musical ability and background and training?

Faithful LDS have given it their best shot over the years, to mixed (and usually underwhelming) success.

As far as the songs go when it comes to “religion”, it’s a mixed bag. Several are harmless, several are “interesting”, and some are so patently offensive that they would be extremely objectionable to anyone who is sensitive to profanity and “lightmindedness” towards the Church and its leaders.

One song stands out as particularly interesting, and I’ve listened to it more than the rest. It’s surreal to imagine this song being sung to packed houses in New York, and soon it will be heard all around the world (and, with the inevitable film version, it could help shape future perceptions of the Church in ways we can’t yet foresee).

The song is called “I Believe”. It is sung by Elder Price, as he deals with a crisis of faith on his mission in Uganda. You can hear it here:

http://www.npr.org/2…mormon#playlist

(The song has one aside line from an African that contains some profanity. If you want an edited MP3 of the song, PM me).

Here are the lyrics:

I Believe!

Ever since I was a child, I tried to be the best
so what happened?

My family and friends all said I was blessed,
so what happened?

It was supposed to be all so exciting, to be teaching of Christ across the sea.
But I allowed my faith to be shaken, oh what’s the matter with me?

I’ve always longed to help the needy, to do the things I never dared.
This was the time for me to step up, so then why was I so scared?

A warlord who shoots people in the face,what’s so scary about that?
I must trust that my Lord is mightier…and always has my back!

Now I must be completely devout…I can’t have even one shred of doubt!

I Believe!

…that the Lord God created the universe

I Believe!

…that He sent His only son to die for my sins

And I believe!

…that ancient jews built boats and sailed to America.

I am a Mormon, and a Mormon just believes.

You cannot just believe partway, you have to beleive in it all.
My problem was doubting the Lord’s will instead of standing tall.

I can’t allow my self to have any doubt, it’s time to set my worries free.
It’s time to show the world what Elder Price is about, and share the power inside of me!

I Believe!

…that God has a plan of us!
I Believe!

…that that plan involves me getting my own planet.

And I believe!

…that the current President of the Church – Thomas Monson – speaks directly to God.

I am a Mormon!

And dang it, a Mormon just believes.

I know that I must go and do the things my God commands.
I realize now why he sent me here.

If you ask the Lord in faith, He will always answer you.

Just believe in him and have no fear!

I Believe!

…that Satan has a hold of you

I Believe!

…that the Lord God has sent me here.

And I believe!

…that in 1978 God changed his mind about black people.

You can be a Mormon! A Mormon who just believes.

And now I can feel the excitement, this is the moment I was born to do.
And I feel so incredible, to be sharing my faith with you.
The scriptures say that if you ask in faith, if you ask God himself you will know.
But you must ask Him without any doubt, and let your spirit grow…

I Believe!

…that God lives on a planet named Kolob.

I Believe!

…that Jesus has his own planet as well.

And I believe!

…that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.

I believe the Lord will reveal it. And you’ll know it’s all true, you’ll just feel it.
You’ll be a Mormon, and by gosh, a Mormon just believes!

I Believe!

The song touches on a few points that have been discussed among LDS for years (Eden in Missouri?), but presents them as most traditional Mormons see them (and Church publications present them). In other words, I find this song to be a plainer expression of what Mormons (and certainly energetic Missionaries) believe than one would get from some online quarters.

Certainly, there could be quibbles with the wording (God lives near Kolob, not on it!) but I suspect such quibbles would make the wrong point about our belief in such things.

What do Kraft and the LDS Church Have In Common? They Both Have Lots of Singles…

In the recent April 2011 General Conference of the Church, it was mentioned more than once that the singles in the Church (and specifically the single men) need to get married.  The encouragement didn’t get much more specific than that, so it was left to each individual to determine how, exactly, they would accomplish this, but the message was certainly clear:  There are too many single adults in the Church, and the Church leaders think that their unmarried status isn’t entirely outside their control.

As President Monson said:

Now, I have thought a lot lately about you young men who are of an age to marry but who have not yet felt to do so. I see lovely young ladies who desire to be married and to raise families, and yet their opportunities are limited because so many young men are postponing marriage.

I realize there are many reasons why you may be hesitating to take that step of getting married. If you are concerned about providing financially for a wife and family, may I assure you that there is no shame in a couple having to scrimp and save. It is generally during these challenging times that you will grow closer together as you learn to sacrifice and to make difficult decisions. Perhaps you are afraid of making the wrong choice. To this I say that you need to exercise faith. Find someone with whom you can be compatible. Realize that you will not be able to anticipate every challenge which may arise, but be assured that almost anything can be worked out if you are resourceful and if you are committed to making your marriage work.

Perhaps you are having a little too much fun being single, taking extravagant vacations, buying expensive cars and toys, and just generally enjoying the carefree life with your friends. I’ve encountered groups of you running around together, and I admit that I’ve wondered why you aren’t out with the young ladies.

Brethren, there is a point at which it’s time to think seriously about marriage and to seek a companion with whom you want to spend eternity. If you choose wisely and if you are committed to the success of your marriage, there is nothing in this life which will bring you greater happiness.

I was fortunate to have met my future wife in high school, so I haven’t had an extended period of post-mission singleness in my life.  So I can only say this as an observer.

But it seems odd to me that unmarried adults would be a problem in the Church in this day and age.  I mean, in the past, men and women had a minuscule pool of potential partners from which to choose, and yet somehow they were able to find someone.  Now, with modern transportation and communication methods (and the size of the Church worldwide), the pool of potential spouses is absolutely [i]huge[/i].

I can only guess that an oversupply in the single LDS population stems from an unwillingness to get married on the part of the men and women, meaning that even with so many potential candidates, they choose not to marry because they are waiting for an unlikely “ideal” to come into their lives.

So the solution to the problem would have to be a shift in the culture and expectations of LDS youth and single adults.  Since many of these attitudes probably stem from the culture at large (and the influences of advertising, movies, music, books and idealistic messages in Church lessons and videos), I doubt a few talks in conference are going to do much to discourage the single men from waiting for the “perfect”  woman (however they define it) to come along.

In other words, President Monson may need to counsel the single women to do everything they can to look like Kim Kardashian if he wants this problem solved.

The Future of the Book of Abraham

The Book of Abraham has an odd and interesting history in the Church, from the arrival of the mummies in Kirtland to the final publication of the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price.

But in recent years, the true nature of the book (and Joseph Smith’s translation) has come into question by believers and critics alike.  While most believers defend the translation (sometimes with the caveat that Joseph Smith was translating something else and not that papyri that the Church has today), it isn’t inconcievble that the Book of Abraham could continue to fall into scholarly disrepute and eventually become a liability to the Church.

What then?

While some might foresee (or just wish for) a dramatic removal of the Book from the LDS Canon, if Church leaders decided it was time for the sun to set on that particular book, I suspect it would be done much more subtly.

Basically, the Church would, if needed, gradually remove the Book of Abraham from the “canon” over the course of a few decades.

I’m not referring to an actual physical removal, but a spiritual removal, where it is left in the Pearl of Great Price but it is de-emphasized in talks and lessons, and it gradually becomes forgotten and irrelevant. Kind of like the last 38 verses of Section 132.

There would be no public pronouncement or retraction. Within a few generations, only a small percentage of Church members would be aware of the BoA and its history, and it would be looked at as nothing more than an obscure curiosity. Kind of like the last 38 verses of Section 132.

Beards

Can someone explain to me where an aversion to beards might have originated?

Usually, when the Church issues a guideline on appearance, its meaning is obvious from the culture at large.

For example, long hair (for men) was associated with hippies in the 60′s. Tattoos and too many earrings (and any earrings for men) are associated with counter-culture attitudes and rebellion against authority. Modesty stems from obvious attitudes about the importance of covering certain parts of the body, and the ungodly feelings of “lust” that can be stirred by inappropriate clothing.

But I’ve never, ever heard of any negative cultural attitudes towards beards. As long as the beard is well kept, I’ve never heard of anyone being looked down on, or thought badly of. I’ve never heard that the skin of a man’s face is supposed to be shown to the world and not covered by hair.

Styles and trends come and go, and beards seem to be in less fashion these days than in times past, but this is true for many things and the Church seems able to not formulate policies based on such whims of culture.

If the Church had no policy on beards and you were to go to the Temple and saw one male officiator with a beard and one male officiator without, would you think any less or differently of the one with the beard? If not, what possible reason could there be for a Church policy on the issue?

They’re mad as heck, and they’re not going to take it anymore!

Last weekend in General Conference, Elder Packer gave a talk that apparently was meant to speak to the Church’s position on an issue having something to do with Same Sex Marraige.  That seems to be what a lot of people got from the talk, but we can’t be sure because President Packer never actually used the words “gay”, “homosexual” or “same sex marriage”.

Here’s a SLT article that reports on the controversy:

Mormons Divided on LDS Apostle’s Speech On Gays

Honestly, I’m starting to feel sorry for the Church on the whole “Same Sex Attraction” issue.  It’s becoming obvious that the Church leaders just don’t know what the heck to do.  They have no solution to the problem, and they know it.

For decades (and centuries), they were able to tell gay LDS to either become heterosexual, or just totally control their homosexual desires.  And that worked as long as gay LDS accepted that counsel and kept quiet.

But it seems those days may be coming to an end.  Acting (or becoming) heterosexual hasn’t proven to be a good option, and it seems maybe gay LDS don’t want to live without the joy and companionship that can come from living a life (including sharing sex) with someone they love.

And the analogies that LDS draw between gay LDS and single heterosexual LDS don’t seem to be providing the comfort they once did (if they ever did), especially once they realize that single heterosexual LDS have the benefit of hoping they could meet the right person at any time, and the knowledge that their desires for intimacy are God-given and God-approved, if only they could meet the right person.

The sad truth about Elder Packer’s talk is that for years, gay LDS seem to have been asking if this is really the best God’s Prophet’s and Apostles can do when it comes to dealing with the situation, if this is really everything God has to offer when it comes to their place in the Plan of Salvation. And Elder Packer has definitively answered “Yes.  Yes it is.”

Frankly, I wouldn’t wish being a gay LDS on my worst enemy.

Why would LDS believe in “Intelligent Design”?

In the last few years, a theory of human origin has been gaining in popularity among religious-minded folk.  This theory is called “Intelligent Design”, and it is meant to counter evolutionist theories that present a view of human origin that doesn’t involve God.

To put it succinctly, Intelligent Design argues that there are biological traits and mechanisms found in nature that just couldn’t have happened through evolutionary processes alone (i.e. natural selection and mutation).  There must be some thoughtful outside force nudging the process along.

From what I can tell, this theory is especially common among evangelical Christians.  This makes sense, since they believe in a God that is intelligent, and doesn’t look anything like us.  So it makes sense to believe this God could have “designed” us.

But there are also apparently some LDS who subscribe to the theory of Intelligent Design, as evidenced in the discussions at the Mormon and Apologetics Discussion Board found here:

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (a discussion based on the movie of the same name)

ID, Intelligence, Meaning, Purpose

So, the question is:  Why would LDS believe in Intelligent Design?

While on the surface it might appear to be a nice blend of the LDS belief in “creation” and the desires of some LDS to also believe in the Theory of Evolution (ID allows for a belief in evolution as long as you acknowledge the necessity of God’s presence to nudge the process along), our belief in a humanoid God requires us to extend Intelligent Design one step further into the eternities.  Meaning, there must be an entity that “intelligently designed” our God!

And this Super-God doesn’t look like us (or Him), because if it did, it too would bear the imprint of an intelligent creator and we would thus have to theorize his creator.  And so on.

So to summarize: Traditional Christians can comfortably believe in Intelligent Design because they already believe in a “creator” that doesn’t look anything like us (or like anything at all).  Thus, Intelligent Design just confirms their existing beliefs.

LDS, on the other hand, believe in a God that is an exalted human, so according to Intelligent Design, He had to be designed too.  Which means that in discovering the principles of Intelligent Design, we have also discovered the necessity and non-humanness of God’s God.

Truly, the gospel is simply wonderful, and wonderfully simple.

Looking at Blessings…

The oddest thing for me is how the LDS belief in healing works.

Meaning, LDS believe there are three types of sick people:

1. People whom God isn’t going to heal. No matter how much praying or blessing you do, it’s their time, and God will take them or allow them to finish their lives with some sort of disease or discomfort.

2. People who are going to get better. Whether or not they get a prayer or a blessing, they’re going to get better.  God doesn’t need any encouragement to save them.

3. People whom God might heal. These are our biggest concern.  Apparently, there are people who have some illness, malady, or discomfort (even life-threatening ones), and God will intervene only if certain people do certain things.  It might be prayer (maybe, a whole bunch of people have to pray, or just a few), it might take fasting (again, a whole bunch or maybe just a few), it might take priesthood power (maybe a lot of faith and worthiness is needed on the part of the blessor and/or blessee, or maybe not so much), or it might take being on the prayer roll in a Temple.

But frustratingly, we just don’t know.  For any given sick person, we have absolutely no idea which category they are in until they get better, stay the same, or die.  For those in the third category, we don’t know which particular combination of actions God is waiting for.  Have enough people prayed?  Do they need another blessing, or is it a name on the Temple Rolls that is needed?  God won’t tell us, so we just have to hope we hit the right combination to get him to act, hoping the person is in category 3 to begin with.

And even after the fact, we have no way of ever knowing which category the person was in.  If someone gets better, we’ll never know if it was our fasting that did it, or if they were in category #2 and God didn’t need us to fast to take action (or no action on God’s part was needed in the first place).  If the person doesn’t get better (or dies), we don’t know if they were going to go anyway, or if we just didn’t meet the proper combination of fasting/prayer/Priesthood Blessings needed for God to positively intervene.

Even for faithful but analytically minded LDS, this can be a frustrating situation, because there is no way to know what kind of “data” we’re collecting as we go through life.  People in category #2 might be misidentified as being in category #3 if they get better after a fast, prayer or blessing.  While people in category #3 might be misidentified as being in #1 if they die, just because we didn’t know there was more we could do that would call down divine power to heal them.

Truly, God does work in mysterious ways.

FARMS: The Musical

[INTERIOR STUDY - NIGHT]

It’s a small room, with bookshelves along every wall. A small desk sits in the middle, with a middle aged man hunched over a book. A small light illuminates him.

JW: (singing)

Day after day, night after night
Searching…

Verse after verse, one more time
Reading…

The words on the page…beautiful!
The story they tell…wonderful!

(Beautiful, wonderful…)

Chiasmus!
I see you on the page
Chiasmus!
It will soon be all the rage
How could Joseph have done it…?
He didn’t!
Was it ancient Nephi…?
Yes, he did!

[DP enters from stage right]

DP: (speaking) John, it’s late. You need rest.
JW: (speaking excitedly) No Daniel. I’ve got it! Look at the words. It’s a pattern of reiteration, found in ancient Hebrew! And it’s in the Book of Mormon! It’s everywhere!
DP: Really, could it be…?
JW: YES!

DP and JW (in unison): Chiasmus!
DP: …and secret combinations…
DP and JW (in harmony): Chiasmus!
DP: …metal plates in Babylos…
DP and JW (big finish): Chiasmus!

[CAFETERIA- DAY]

It’s crowded at every table, mostly with college-age students. Everyone is white, and dressed in J Crew or Lands End.

A middle aged man, probably a teacher, sits at the end of a bench. He has some maps, and books, open in front of him. He is JG.

JG: (singing) The pieces of the puzzle…
in front of me.

How do they go together?
It tortures me!

(The ghost of Moroni appears on the balcony. No one can see him.)

Moroni: (singing softly) Cumorah….

JG: (still singing) Meso-america…and New York.
How was it done…it doesn’t work!
So many plates, could they be all gone.
Oliver said so, could he have been wrong?

Moroni: (even softer) Two…Cumorah’s.

JG: (Looks up, as if inspiration has come from nowhere…yelling) I’ve got it! Two Cumorah’s!

(All the students are stunned. Silence as they freeze and look at him)

JG: (singing energetically) One…two… Cumorah’s!
Student1: ..What did he say?…
JG: (standing on the table, singing louder) One…two…Cumorah’s!!!
Student2: …how can the be?…
JG: (running down the table, singing to the students) It’s all so easy, it all makes perfect sense.
One Cumorah, for Mormon, the other, where Joseph went…

Moroni: HE’S GOT IT!

(All the students turn and look at him. Moroni covers his mouth and looks embarrassed)

All students, dancing and singing: One…two…Cumorah’s!

Jews…like…menorah’s!

(A student in a 50′s style nebbish shirt and tie wanders in from stage right, carrying an armful of books. All others stop their wild dancing and turn to him. Spotlight…)

Nebbish: (singing softly) In the light of revelation, and the face of evidence…
from the Prophet Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and common sense…
we cannot say…
in any way…
that the Hill we call Cumorah

All students: Yes!??

Nebbish: (Louder)That this hill we call Cumorah…

All students: What…!???

Nebbish: (yelling, with conviction and confidence) We cannot say this hill we call Cumorah…is in Central America!

(Silence. The students turn back to JG. JG pauses shrugs his shoulders, makes a funny face and yells…)

JG: I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.

(Students laugh)

JG:(Singing)And one day, you’ll be gone, but the FARMS work goes on!!
Your thinking is limited, your vision obsolete…
You made your mind up long ago, and set it in concrete.

You need to expand…your outlook.
It’s so easy, it’s all right there…it’s in the Book!
You’ll never make it in the world with ideas like that.
Scripture can be misinterpreted, hey…the Bible says Earth’s flat!

Students: (laughing and singing) The Bible says Earth’s flat…

JG: (continues) You lap up old ideas, like a bird from a bird feeder.
Stay away from talking scholarship, especially if you become a Church leader.

(Nebbish shakes his fist in anger. Moroni and Students laugh.)

(Festive music starts…everyone dances. Moroni is doing the charleston.)

Students…JG and Moroni: One…two…Cumorah’s!

(Nebbish looks resigned, and walks off stage. Festive dancing continues for until big finish.)