Author Archives: cinepro

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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The Eternal Win/Win

Just think, if humans could have babies before the age of accountability, and some sort of virus was introduced that limited the lifespan of every human to die before the age of accountability, then everyone could be saved according to God’s plan (see D&C 137:10)

I believe Stephen Covey calls that a “Win/Win”!

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“Others” in the BoM: Michael Ash and MormonTimes

In a recent article on “MormonTimes”, LDS apologist Michael Ash tackles the problem of “Others” in the Book of Mormon.  The problem being that the book doesn’t clearly acknowledge there being existing peoples and civilizations when the Lehites landed.

Why aren’t other peoples mentioned in the Book of Mormon?

For reasons I do not know, Ash declined to acknowledge some of the reasons people feel strongly that there weren’t “others” here when the Lehites landed (for the purposes of discussion, “Others” refer to people not specifically integrated into the Book of Mormon narrative; the Jaredite remnant and Mulekites aren’t counted.)

So, for the benefit of those who like to see both sides of an issue, here are some of the reasons people might believe there weren’t others:

– For a book that is so focused on Christ and bringing people to him (and missionary work in general), it seems odd that they wouldn’t mention the conversion of whole cultures of natives in the first few decades of their colonization. The mass conversion of such people (who didn’t even share a common language upon Lehite Landfall) would be one of the greatest miracles in the history of Christianity, and hopefully worth mentioning somewhere between the  lengthy transcriptions of Isaiah and descriptions of Nephite coinage.

The Lehite conversion of the indigenous pagans would also offer an interesting precedent for missionary work throughout the rest of the BoM. At the very least, I can imagine the Sons of Mosiah being inspired by the story of their ancestors long ago converting whole populations at the same time they were learning their language.

Jacob 1 (~40 years after Lehite landfall) presents a “laundry list” of the existing population, naming each group by name.  There is no “other” category.  This may be explained by having every existing native aligning with a Lehite sub-group, but that kind of destroys the “small sub-culture” theory of Lehite integration.

13 Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites.

14 But I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names, but I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi, and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites, or the people of Nephi, according to the reigns of the kings.

– Intermarriage.  Traditionally, the God of the Old Testament takes a dim view towards his chosen people intermarrying with the pagan natives in designated promised lands.

2 Nephi describes the Promised Land as being “kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.”  This would seem to be at odds with the idea of a land already populated by numerous pagan cultures.

It would be like someone inheriting a house from a grandparent and being told the house had been “preserved” for them as a special place of sanctuary and peace.  Then, when the family shows up, they find it overrun with a bunch of squatting Canadian illegal immigrants.  They then look at the fine print in the will, and see that the grandparents knew about the squatters, and that it was intended for the two families to intermarry and get along sharing the house.

– When Nephi catalogs what they find in the New World, he includes cows, horses, goats, wild goats, and “all manner of wild animals”. He also includes gold, silver, and copper.   But no mention of…unusually dark skinned, loin-clothed people who speak an odd language but are particularly susceptible to conversion to pre-Christianity?

– In the Wentworth letter, Joseph Smith describes his first visit by Moroni, in which Moroni gives an other-less overview of the history of the Americas:

I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people was made known unto me.
———————————————-
In [The Book of Mormon] the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country.  The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.

(emphasis added)

So, while I agree there are some interesting (and, as it turns out, necessary) arguments to be made for “others”, we shouldn’t forget why some believers in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon might find such arguments to be less than convincing.

Whether or not the expression of such ideas would be welcome in “MormonTimes”, I can only imagine.

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“Book of Mormon Obstacle Course” Now Available For Primary Activities

Sandy, UT –

Since 1997, “Inflatable Creations” of Sandy Utah has provided inflatable “bounce houses” and other activities for birthday parties and community events.  Seeking to expand into the lucrative LDS market, owner Sam Steed recently announced a new line of inflatable fun:
“We’ve noticed a huge fall-off in our business on Sunday afternoons as the majority of our clients go to Church and stay at home.  So we put our heads together to come up with some Sabbath-appropriate infaltables.”
The first in their line of “Sunday Fun-nies” is the “Book of More-fun”, an 8 foot tall inflatable Book of Mormon.  Already available for rent or purchase, Ward Primaries and YM/YW classes all over the Sandy area having great fun using them to teach about the Book of Mormon.

“I was teaching my Deacons a lesson the Book of Mormon, and I used a quote from Elder Holland’s awesome talk about the Book of Mormon, especially the part about people leaving the Church and having to go over or around it” says Deacon’s Quorum adviser Mel Monson.  “It was especially fun to be able to take my boys out to the lawn and let them really find out what it’s like to have to crawl ‘over, under or around’ the Book of Mormon.”  13-year-old Alex Binder agrees.

“When Brother Monson told us how people leaving the Church had to go like over or around or under the Book of Mormon, it didn’t really sound that hard.  It’s not very big.  I thought maybe they had a huge pile of them somewhere that they made them use.  But trust me, I just tried going over it that huge one, and it was impossible.  I guess when someone tries to leave the Church, the Bishop must bring them out here and make them do this.”

Madilyn Cramer of the Activity Committee for the Beaver, UT Stake reported on the popularity of the “Book of More-fun” at their last Stake Softball Tournament.

“We really had a lot of people trying out the obstacle course, and there really isn’t an easy way to go over, around or under the Book of Mormon, as Elder Holland said.  Unfortunately, we found that many people just chose to ignore that part of the obstacle course, and found something else to do with their time instead of trying to struggle over that big balloon.  Which I guess is how things can go in real life too.”

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“Mormon Scholars Testify”

Recently, a website was created to facilitate Testimony sharing for LDS scholars and scientists:

Mormon Scholars Testify

The Church has its own website where Prophets and Apostles have published countless testimonies, each of them fervent and heartfelt.  So why would a separate website be needed for the LDS intelligentsia?

It would seem that sometimes “scholarly” issues appear to attack the Church, presenting a situation where a Church member might feel like they have to choose one or the other.  A website like that can be helpful in showing that it’s possible to pursue academic or scientific knowledge while maintaining a testimony of the Gospel (and the Church).

Of course, a broader view shows us many situations where very smart people believe very false things (for example, almost every false religion could probably create a similar site with notable scholars sharing their testimonies in a similar fashion).

So this would raise the question, is it possible for a very smart person to have a testimony of something that is very false?

If the answer is “Yes”, then one theory on the matter has been put forth by Michael Shermer.  He suggests that it is possible for very smart people to believe false things because frequently the smart people formed certain convictions before they were “smart” (i.e. as young children, or before they had studied certain issues or fields of knowledge), and then they use their “smarts” to defend their false belief instead of analyzing it and questioning it.  As he puts it:

Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons.

Rarely do any of us sit down before a table of facts, weigh them pro and con, and choose the most logical and rational explanation, regardless of what we previously believed. Most of us, most of the time, come to our beliefs for a variety of reasons having little to do with empirical evidence and logical reasoning. Rather, such variables as genetic predisposition, parental predilection, sibling influence, peer pressure, educational experience and life impressions all shape the personality preferences that, in conjunction with numerous social and cultural influences, lead us to our beliefs. We then sort through the body of data and select those that most confirm what we already believe, and ignore or rationalize away those that do not.

All of us do this, of course, but smart people are better at it through both talent and training. Some beliefs really are more logical, rational, and supported by the evidence than others, of course, but it is not my purpose here to judge the validity of beliefs; rather, I am interested in the question of how we came to them in the first place, and how we hold on to them in the face of either no evidence or contradictory evidence.

If that is true, than we would expect “smart” people to be found in every religion and belief system, even the false ones.  So, a website such as the one under discussion might show that it is possible for scholars and scientists to maintain belief in LDS Doctrines (which I suspect is the point, although I don’t know anyone who argues otherwise), but it wouldn’t speak to the overall truthfulness of those Doctrines.

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The Curious Case of the Church Website

Many members of the Church struggle with polygamy, but apparently none moreso than the editors of the Church website.  I can only imagine the long meetings discussing how much detail should be included about the practice, with debates raging about openness and propriety.

A good example is the Presidents of the Churchpage on the Church website, where each Prophet is introduced to the world.

For an interesting study in the Church’s inability to deal with its polygamous past, I suggest the following:

1. Click on each President, then click on “Significant Events” on the left side of the screen.

2. Compare the list of “Significant Events” for the polygamous prophets with the list for the monogamous prophets, (or prophets that had multiple wives but not living at the same time).

Do you notice any differences? Why do you think these differences are there?

Bonus Question: Three prophets married an additional wife only after their first wives passed away. Are these bios presented differently than prophets who married more than one living woman at a time? If so, why might that be?

Bonus Bonus Question: Does Joseph Smith’s profile resemble the profiles of other polygamous prophets, or other monogamous prophets? Which would you expect, and why?

Discuss.

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