Category Archives: Doctrines, Teachings, Policies and Traditions

Oaks, Becoming Pornography, and Science

While I can understand the sensitivity (and hyper-sensitivity) by some when “blaming-the-victim” becomes an issue for things like sexual assault, this seems to be an odd situation where the Church is arguing a scientifically and research-based principle (not to mention common sense), and critics are arguing for the unscientific counter-proposition.

For example, take Elder Oaks’ well-meme’d statement here:


Finally, do not patronize pornography. Do not use your purchasing power to support moral degradation. And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.

Dallin Oaks, “Pornography”, April 2005 General Conference Priesthood Session

I understand why that statement causes distress.  For a scholared wordsmith such as Oaks, it’s an odd miss-step.  But in all the discussion of how awful it is that young women could become “pornography” based on how they dress, few people ever acknowledge the simple fact that study after study shows that how people dress does have an influence on other people:

Men see bikini-clad women as objects, psychologists say


New research shows that, in men, the brain areas associated with handling tools and the intention to perform actions light up when viewing images of women in bikinis.

The research was presented this week by Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“This is just the first study which was focused on the idea that men of a certain age view sex as a highly desirable goal, and if you present them with a provocative woman, then that will tend to prime goal-related responses,” she told CNN.

(Emphasis added)

If you didn’t read that excerpt from the study, take a moment and read it again.

Then take a moment and read Elder Oaks’ quote.  Then read the excerpt from the article again.

Does anyone find it ironic that one of the most common criticisms against Elder Oaks is from when he stood in conference and said something that is backed by research, brain scans, and evolutionary theory?  He might not have been as tactful as he could have been, but that doesn’t change the fact that what he said is entirely true.

And look at his whole talk.  Critics like to pretend that his comment is somehow excusing men for their thoughts, or even giving them permission or encouraging such leering.  But the entire talk (other than that one comment) is a plea to the men and teenagers to not look at objectified women that way.

I often wonder how Oaks’ comment would be perceived if he had just made one tiny little change.  What if he said this instead?


And young women, studies show that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.

For those who objected to his comment, does that make you react any differently?

If anything, Oaks should be mocked and derided for standing and saying something in conference that is so obviously true that even the stupidest person would already understand it.  The response from men, women and the entire advertising industry should have been “Duh!”

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Someone recently asked about the LDS Doctrine of families being “together forever.”  While it’s something we as LDS don’t fully comprehend, sometimes I think we don’t apply what we do know in a practical way.  We just think of this video and stop thinking after that:

Together Forever

It’s the doctrinal equivalent of a Hallmark card.

But what does being married eternally really mean?

First, LDS doctrine teaches that there are three main “kingdoms” of heaven (the Telestial, Terestrial and Celestial):


After you die, you eventually get resurrected and judged and sent to one of these kingdoms.  Now here’s the question:

If a man and woman (“Bob” and “Sue”) are married on Earth and they both die and get sent to the Telestial Kingdom, won’t they get to spend all eternity together?

From everything I can tell, yes.  Our resurrected bodies will have our memories of our Earth life.  So when Bob sees Sue in the Terrestrial Kingdom, they can hang out together and play tennis and watch Netflix together for the rest of eternity.  And if their “kids” are there, then they can do it as a family.

But what if Bob ends up in the Telestial and Sue ends up in the Terrestrial?  Well, eternity is a long time compared to the ~100 years we might get on Earth, so presumably they would eventually meet other people and make new friends.  They would always remember the fun times they had on Earth with each other, but they would probably move on after a couple hundred centuries.  And that’s assuming they even liked each other that much at the ends of their earthly lives.

So the key thing to being “Together Forever” as a family isn’t necessarily being Mormon.  It’s making sure the people you want to be with end up in the same kingdom as you.  So when missionaries tell a family that they aren’t going to be together in the eternities, they really don’t know.  It’s entirely possible the members of that family will all end up together and get to play board games and eat popcorn (see: the video) for the rest of all eternity.

The only factor left in all of this is really one thing:  can a man and woman have sex in the afterlife.  This seems to be the only distinction between being with a spouse in the Celestial Kingdom compared to the other kingdoms.

For example, look at this lesson for college-age Mormons:

Marriage For All Eternity

These quotes (from the link above) explain it nicely:

“Mortal persons who overcome all things and gain an ultimate exaltation will live eternally in the family unit and have spirit children, thus becoming Eternal Fathers and Eternal Mothers. (D&C 132:19–32.) Indeed, the formal pronouncement of the Church, issued by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve, states: ‘So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring.’ (Man: His Origin and Destiny, p. 129.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 517). – Bruce R. McConkie

“What do we mean by endless or eternal increase? We mean that through the righteousness and faithfulness of men and women who keep the commandments of God they will come forth with celestial bodies, fitted and prepared to enter into their great, high and eternal glory in the celestial kingdom of God; and unto them through their preparation, there will come spirit children. – Melvin J. Ballard


So an eternal marriage doesn’t mean being “together forever”, and it’s not about the kids you may have in this life.  It means being together forever and having operational reproductive plumbing, and the eternal reproduction you’ll have by making new spirit children.  That’s something they don’t mention in the video.

But to expand even on that point, the scriptures teach that our resurrected bodies are going to be perfect restorations of our human bodies in every way:

 23 [In the resurrection] the soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame. – Alma 40:23

It doesn’t say that some people will have their sex organs sealed up or permanently deflated.  So if everything is perfectly restored, then it’s conceivable that they won’t have the power to create spirit babies, but still be able to enjoy the other benefits of the act.

So the selling point might not even be “sex” itself.  It really comes down to “eternal increase” and being “kings and priests (and queens)” over your spirit children.

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How to Teach a Temple Prep Class the Doesn’t Suck

Generally speaking, the preferred LDS method of talking about the Temple is to say as many words as possible about it without actually saying anything about it.  I suppose for lots of people, if you throw enough platitudes, bad analogies and thought-terminating cliches at them, their brain will shut off or they’ll get distracted and you can move on to a new subject and forget that you never actually said anything meaningful about the original subject.


This is extremely evident in how we talk about the Temple to those who haven’t actually been to the Temple.  Oddly, we teach a  Temple Preparation class that doesn’t really do much “preparation”.    If you are teaching such a class and want to make it a little more interesting (and relevant to the experiences the students will soon be having), I would recommend including these Church-produced resources.

First, I would start with this quote from Brigham Young, as recently quoted in GC by President Packer:


“Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.”


I would then explain to the person that when we go to the Temple, in addition to learning these key words, signs and tokens, we are making sacred covenants with God.  These covenants are described by Elder Hales in this illustration from his recent book.  They include obedience to the Lord, chastity, consecrating our time and resources, and others.  The person could search on the Church website for lots of info on all of these.




(from this book)


In addition to the signs, key words and tokens and covenants, people are taken through the story of Adam and Eve.  They can see how this works by looking at this model of the Salt Lake Temple:


The different rooms and the significance of the story of Adam and Eve as told in the Temple are recounted in this article for LDS teenagers:


When you enter the temple, you will receive instructions and learn the important events of our eternal journey. You’ll learn about the creation of this world and about our first parents being placed in the Garden of Eden. You’ll learn how Satan tempted Adam and Eve and how they were cast out of the garden and out of the presence of God into our world, with its opposition in all things. Here they learned about the joys as well as the discomforts of life.After Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden and placed in the world where we now live, they were taught the gospel, and they entered into covenants of obedience with God, just as you will in the temple. How we keep these covenants determines the nature of the life we will enjoy after this mortal experience.


In the eternal world there are kingdoms of glory. You will inherit one of these, depending on your performance in this life. The aim of the gospel and the purpose of temple marriage are not only to keep us together, but also to make us eligible for Heavenly Father’s highest reward for us—exaltation in the celestial kingdom. This kingdom is symbolized by the celestial room.…e-lord?lang=eng


There is also special clothing that we wear in the Temple that is part of the ceremony, and then a specific design of underwear (called “the garment”) that we wear outside of the Temple.  This clothing is described in this video put out by the Church:


You can see the clothing that is worn inside the Temple at the 2:09 mark.

Any other questions?

(lots more info on this page, including other ordinances)

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Doubting Thomas – The Other Side of the Coin

One of the most well-told Bible stories is that of Thomas the Apostle, who doubted the resurrection of Jesus when his fellow Apostles claimed to have seen him.  Upon Jesus’ appearance, Thomas believes, and Jesus says that it is better to have believed without needing to have seen.

This is obviously an important point for Christianity (and Mormonism), because just about all the followers of the religion aren’t going to see Jesus any time soon.

But there is an odd facet to this story that is discussed much less often.  Specifically, in the book of Mark, after the resurrected Jesus appeared to Mary, she reportedly went and told all of the assembled Apostles and [i]none of them believed her[/i].

This would seem to be the exact same situation face by Thomas, and they didn’t believe either until Jesus appeared to them.  So Thomas was no different than the other Apostles.


9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

(Emphasis added)

Mark 16

So the next time someone tells you the story of “Doubting Thomas” (or, should you have wavering faith yourself, accuses you of being a “Doubting Thomas”), have them read Mark 16 and point out that Thomas was no different than the other Apostles, who also “doubted” until Jesus actually appeared to them.

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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.


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“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.…-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.


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:…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.

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