William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Satan's Plans At The Council In Heaven

A poll asked the question:

"What is/was Satan's plan he brought to the council?
He would save us all by forced obedience (17 votes [42.50%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 42.50%
He would save us all by having no consequence for sin (7 votes [17.50%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 17.50%
He lied about saving us all, he wouldn't save anyone. (9 votes [22.50%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 22.50%
Other, please explain (7 votes [17.50%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 17.50%
How was Satan going to destroy our agency?
Through forced obedience (20 votes [50.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 50.00%
Through not having any consequences of choices and thus no experience of good or evil (7 votes [17.50%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 17.50%
Through general sins- tempting us to sin until we were bound tight in his chains (4 votes [10.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 10.00%
Other, please explain. (9 votes [22.50%] - View)"

To which I responded:

I chose the first two choices, based upon what I consider to be conventional LDS teaching on the subject. That said, I should add the following caveats:

1. I am not convinced that Satan exists, but I accept the possibility that he does. Though I am no expert on history, it seems to me that Satan is likely a man-made invention. Evil does not require a Satan to exist, and I believe that temptation will always exist independent of any Satan-like being. But it seems that the primary issue regarding Satan is not whether he exists, but rather, what effect his existence could rationally have on us. If he is able to force anything upon us (either by controlling us, our thoughts, or by wielding any physical power over nature or objects), then it seems that we have diminished responsibility for our choices. If, on the other hand, Satan is nothing but a cheerleader for evil, clapping and shouting silently beyond the veil every time we sin, then it seems he is irrelevant. For my part, I believe we will all inevitably have to make choices about how we live, and we will sometimes make good choices and sometimes make bad ones. I don't believe Satan, if he exists, has anything to do with it. We should not concern ourselves with what Satan does or doesn't want, but rather, we should concern ourselves with what is and is not moral based upon our conscience, logic, study, and reason.

2. The concept of salvation through forced obedience is fascinating, and in my view, begs the question: "What is forced obedience?" It seems there are two ways to force obedience- one is to physically control a person's actions. The other is to create a system of rewards and punishments which are so immediate, obvious, consistent, and penetrating that the mind is compelled to have only one rational choice in any given situation. One of the reasons that I reject the notion, of a vengeful God waiting in the wings to deal out punishments when we sin, is that it too closely resembles this second model of forced obedience. Another reason is that it conflicts the the notion of a wise, patient, and loving God who has enough self-worth not to feel personally offended when we ignorant mortals sin. As I have remarked before in a different way, agency depends in large part upon the uncertainty of the consequences of our choices.

3. Though Satan may have thought that forcing obedience would have saved us, he would have been wrong. My concept of "salvation" is not about merely saving someone from eternal damnation and punishment, but rather, the enlightenment of our souls through increased love and wisdom. Wisdom can only come about through grappling with uncertainty and learning to exercise faith when the reward is uncertain. Thus, forced obedience would have killed off our spiritual development by insulating us from the uncertainty of randomness.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

On The Effect Of Pre-Marital Sex On The Likely Success Of The Relationship

An article stated:

"Couples who reserve sex for marriage enjoy greater stability and communication in their relationships, say researchers at Brigham Young University.

A new study from the Mormon college found that those couples who waited until marriage rated their relationship stability 22 percent higher than those who started having sex in the early part of their relationship. The relationship satisfaction was 20 percent higher for those who waited, the sexual quality of the relationship was 5 percent better, and communication was 12 percent better.

The study, published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology, involved 2,035 married individuals who participated in a popular online marital assessment called “RELATE.” From the assessment’s database, researchers selected a sample designed to match the demographics of the married American population. The extensive questionnaire included the question “When did you become sexual in this relationship?”

Couples that became sexually involved later in their relationship – but prior to marriage – reported benefits that were about half as strong as those who waited for marriage.

“Most research on the topic is focused on individuals’ experiences and not the timing within a relationship,” said lead study author Dean Busby, a professor at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life.

The study was co-authored by BYU professors Jason Carroll and Brian Willoughby.

“There’s more to a relationship than sex, but we did find that those who waited longer were happier with the sexual aspect of their relationship,” Busby added. “I think it’s because they’ve learned to talk and have the skills to work with issues that come up.”

Sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, who was not involved in the study, responded to its findings, saying that “couples who hit the honeymoon too early – that is, prioritize sex promptly at the outset of a relationship – often find their relationships underdeveloped when it comes to the qualities that make relationships stable and spouses reliable and trustworthy.” Regnerus is the author of Premarital Sex in America, a book forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Because religious belief often plays a role for couples who choose to wait, Busby and his co-authors controlled for the influence of religious involvement in their analysis.

“Regardless of religiosity, waiting helps the relationship form better communication processes, and these help improve long-term stability and relationship satisfaction,” Busby said."

To which I responded:

I am not and never have been for sexual promiscuity. There seems to be a great deal of truth to the concept that the friendship aspect of a romantic relationship is more likely to grow deeper if the early stage of the relationship is not eclipsed by intercourse. I, of course, am no expert, and it also seems that there are a great number of couples who were sexual early on and still had a fulfilling lifelong relationship.

That being said, I believe that waiting until marriage to have sex is not without potential downsides, among them being the discovery by one or both partners, of sexual problems, only after they have entered into a committment which can induce a great deal of sadness and disappointment. On balance, it is probably best to wait for marriage for intercourse, but sexual issues should be discussed and explored in detail before the couple ties the knot. An erotophobic attitude which seems to thrive in puritannical religious circles can severely dampen a person's ability to have a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship even within marriage.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On Biblical Prophets Committing Adultery

The comment was made:

"This one needs to be saved...!

I asked a question on another board:


How many Polygamists are in Jesus Christ's would pile that Evangelical Christians would rather sweep under the rug and "white wash" the the history to expunge the record?

Here is one of the Answers I received:


zero. We admit our prophets were sometimes adulterers."

To which I responded:

This is a fascinating topic, but as I have noted before, until the rise of modern LDS doctrine, it appears that there was but a single passing scriptural reference which might be construed to support the view that the biblical prohibition on adultery was condemned in part based upon it being an offense to the betrayed woman- the reference in the Sermon on the Mount, wherein Jesus allegedly states that, "He who looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery in his heart." Biblical condemnation of adultery appears to me to be rooted in three concerns- first, the idea that a man whose wife sleeps with another man has been wronged and interferred with his property rights and potentially bloodline; second, the tendency of sexual promiscuity to spread disease; and third, the concept of sleeping with someone outside the faith is a betrayal of God. Jesus's alleged statement, even if authentic (which I believe is itself a doubtful proposition), is not sufficiently specific to lay out the basis for the prohibition on adultery. The majority of Christianity has construed this alleged statement as a prohibition on the bulk of human sexual thoughts.

In any event, the point of what I have just written is that in Biblical times, the people (even believers) did not have the same moral code adopted today by modern Christianity. You are right to point out that people, in projecting today's morals onto ancient times to support their positions, tend to conveniently ignore important aspects of history which might undercut their position.

What qualities can a woman reasonably demand from a husband in a monogamous marriage?

I stated:

Barring health issues which are beyond a man's control, I believe a woman should reasonably be able to expect the following from her husband. The fist category is unconditional, and the second category is conditional. Since these are just my preliminary thoughts, I reserve the right to be wrong and to revise my views upon further contemplation, experience, and upon considering other ideas and arguments.

Category One:
a. to make a diligent effort to support the family financially;
b. to make significant reductions in the free time he would otherwise have to himself if he were single, in order to spend time with her and the kids;
c. to regularly show kindness to her of his own volition without being asked (i.e., wash the dishes, buy gifts, buy flowers, give massages, change diapers, take over other responsibilities to give her a break to have time by herself or with her friends, etc.);
d. to never be physically violent towards or swear at her or the children;
e. to make a sincere effort to be civil towards her when there are arguments;
f. to discipline and teach the children with love;
g. to not treat her as a sex object, demand sex, or demand that she participate in any sexual activity that she is not comfortable with;
h. to involve her in major decisions which affect her such as financial decisions, career, residency, etc.;
i. to be respectful of her right to choose her own religious views or lack thereof, and her own political views;
j. to make reasonable efforts to maintain good health, physical fitness, and an aesthetic physical appearance;
k. to help her with physically demanding tasks which are difficult for her;
l. to be charitable and generous towards her and others;
m. to support, as much as economically practical, her educational and career choices;
n. to listen to her respectfully-voiced problems and concerns and either try to help solve them or at least show empathy when possible;
o. to adopt a generally forgiving attitude towards her;
p. to not have sexual relations with anyone else so long as they are married and as long as divorce is an option;
q. to wisely manage the family finances in order to live within their means unless there is an emergency;
r. to not be hypocritical, and to hold himself to the same standards which he believes she should be held to;
s. to protect her and the children from harm.

Category Two:
a. to engage in, and make himself available for, sexual intimacy with her, and to try to satisfy her sexually;
b. to share his innermost concerns and thoughts;
c. to curtail (but not eliminate) sexual thoughts about other women;
d. to refrain from flirting with other women;
e. to be completely honest with her;
f. to feel emotionally connected with her;
g. to share with her equal rights and decision-making power to any and all property which he might otherwise personally own (community property or marital property would of course already be jointly controlled)

I struggle with laying out what exactly are/ought to be the conditions I would attach to category two. But some preliminary thoughts are that all of the following are factors that contribute to whether a woman can reasonably expect the items in category two from her husband:
a. she honors and respects him for his living up to the items in Category One, and makes clear to him through words and actions that she loves him for who he is and is not judgmental towards him;
b. she shows respect for his beliefs and views, and does not try to make him feel inferior or guilty for disagreeing on religious doctrine or political views;
c. she recognizes and sincerely attempts to fulfill his sexual needs;
d. she makes a reasonable effort to maintain good health and an aesthetically pleasing appearance;
e. she makes a reasonable effort to fulfill whatever domestic responsibilities she may have (which will typically be greater if she is a stay-at-home mom);
f. she refrains entirely from any physical violence towards him;
g. she demonstrates responsibility and trustworthiness when it comes to finances;
h. she refrains from sexual relationships apart from him;
i. she proactively tries to minimize any tendency to nag or be critical of him;
j. she refrains from hypocrisy;
k. she allows him freedom within reason in his sexual thoughts, and does not try to intrude on those thoughts without being non-judgmental (although this as previously noted does not require her to engage in any sexual activity with which she is not comfortable)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What If Boyd K Packer Became The Next President Of The LDS Church?

A poll gave the following choices:

How many here could accept BKP as the next prophet?
If the Lord calls him I will sustain him (27 votes [79.41%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 79.41%
I would be very uncomfortable with him (3 votes [8.82%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 8.82%
I would go inactive until the next prophet (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
I would apostatize and leave the church (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Other (please explain) (4 votes [11.76%] - View)

And the pollster commented:

"I have noticed recently that Elder Boyd K Packer (the president of the council of the Twelve) has become the new punching bag for the critics (LDS) on this board. He seems to have replaced Elder McConkie and President Joseph Fielding Smith as the most vilified and hated of the modern apostles. I am frankly shocked at the disrespect and open hostility exhibited by some "LDS" board members. Since he is the President of the Council of the Twelve, it is within the realm of possibility that he could one day become the President of the Church if President Monson passes away before he does. So I was curious to see how the vote would go with some here."

To which I responded:

In my own opinion, it would be a disaster for the LDS Church and generally if BKP would become the president of the church. But to be clear, although that is my opinion, I still believe that BKP is a man of God, and I sustain him as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Nevertheless, one's status as a man of God, or even a prophet, in no way insulates his purported revelations from scrutiny, and a great many errors have been perpetuated by believers mistaking a leader's personal opinion for authentic revelation (even when the purported revelation is cloaked in officiality). So at this point, while I would "sustain" BKP in his official capacity, I would not swallow everything he says just because of his position. Though I believe BKP is sincere, I also strongly believe that he lacks critical thinking skills and is very closed minded and autocratic in his theological approach. Though I bear no ill-will to BKP personally, I honestly believe the LDS Church would be much better off if BKP never becomes president. I therefore selected the second choice in the poll.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Utah And Depression Rates

The comment was made:

"Get ready for the next round of anti-Mormon schadenfreude and armchair psychoanalysis of all Utahans, courtesy of of ABC News:
Two Studies Find Depression Widespread in Utah
Study Calling Utah Most Depressed, Renews Debate on Root Causes
March 7, 2008
The still waters of the Great Salt Lake run deep -- and dark.
Gotta love the melodramatic intro!
Take Wendy, a 40-year-old teacher and mother of three from Utah County. To all appearances, she led the perfect life. Just as she was expected to, she went from high school cheerleader to Mormon missionary to wife and mother.
"But life has a funny way of not being perfect," she said. "Three years into my marriage my husband was drinking, using drugs and stepping out on me.
Not much mystery, then, as to the probably source of this woman's depression.
"I knew I was depressed and needed help, but there is a stigma about depression in this area," said Wendy, who asked that ABCNEWS.com not use her last name. "People think it's a sign of weakness. It means you're not capable of being a good mother or wife or teacher."
I'm not sure this is unique to Utah.
Wendy's secret is Utah's secret. The postcard image of Utah is a state of gleaming cities, majestic mountains and persistently smiling people. But new research shows a very different picture of the state, a snapshot of suicide and widespread depression.
A recent study by Mental Health America, the country's oldest independent mental health advocacy organization, ranked Utah the most depressed state in the country.
The study mentioned above is available here. It states that there are "statistically significant associations between the following factors and better depression status and lower suicide rates:"
* Mental health resources - On average, the higher the number of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers per capita in a state, the lower the suicide rate.
* Barriers to treatment - The lower the percentage of the population reporting that they could not obtain healthcare because of costs, the lower the suicide rate and the better the state's depression status. In addition, the lower the percentage of the population that reported unmet mental healthcare needs, the better the state's depression status.
* Mental health treatment utilization - Holding the baseline level of depression in the state constant, the higher the number of antidepressant prescriptions per capita in the state, the lower the suicide rate.
* Socioeconomic characteristics - The more educated the population and the greater the percentage with health insurance, the lower the suicide rate. The more educated the population, the better the state's depression status.
I don't see "religious peer pressure" listed here, but I bet that won't stop self-appointed experts (and idiotic reporters) from fabricating such a connection.
Another survey released last week by drug distribution company Express Scripts found that residents of Utah were prescribed antidepressant drugs more than those of any other state and at twice the national average.
Right. And the decreased level of alcohol consumption in Utah (a leading means of self-medicating for depression) gets no mention here.
According to MHA, some 10.14 percent of adults in Utah "experienced a depressive episode in the past year and 14.15 percent experienced serious psychological distress. ... Individuals in Utah reported having on average 3.27 poor mental health days in the past 30 days."
The reason for Utah's mass depression, however, is unknown.
"The truth is, we don't know why," said Dr. Ted Wander, spokesman for the Utah Psychiatric Association.
Gotta love the not-so-subtle editorializing ("mass depression").
And although the experts apparently don't know the reason for comparatively higher levels of depression in Utah, ABC News helps out with giving us a reason - graphically. Check out the image that appears at the top of the article:
Doesn't leave much room for doubt about the reason for Utah's levels of depression (according to ABC News, anyway), does it?
Neither study was broken down by gender, but nationally women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depressive disorders as men, experts told ABC News.
Psychiatrists point to several factors that could contribute to Utah's high levels of depression: limited mental health resources, restricted access to treatment as a result of cost, poor quality of resources and a varied list of other factors, including an underfunded educational system and a culture deeply rooted in the Mormon faith.
That last one wasn't mentioned anywhere in the study that triggered this article. Instead, the reporter's relying on anecdotal observations.
"Availability to resources, a lack of professionals and barriers to treatment, including the ability to pay all drive up instances of depression," said Dr. Curtis Canning, a Logan-based psychiatrist and former president of the Utah Psychiatric Association. "But there is also -- especially when it comes to women and girls -- a cultural factor."
Seventy percent of Utah's residents are Mormon. When Express Scripts issued its first national survey of prescription drug use in 2002, it sparked a heated debate across Utah about what, if any role, the church played in the state's high dependence on antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft.
"In Mormon culture females are supposed accept a calling. They are to be constantly smiling over their family of five. They are supposed to take supper across the street to an ill neighbor and then put up with their husband when he comes home from work and smile about it the whole time. There is this sense that Mrs. Jones down street is doing the same thing, and there is this undercurrent of competition. To be a good mother and wife, women have to put on this mask of perfection. They can't show their tears, depression or agony," Canning said.
I don't follow this. There are plenty of expectations placed upon Mormon men, too. So why is Dr. Canning calling out social pressures placed on LDS women and girls?
"Obedience, conformity and maintaining a sense of harmony" are unspoken but widely recognized behaviors, which all contribute to what he calls "the Mother of Zion syndrome."
Hmm. Sounds like Dr. Canning is looking to make a name for himself by coining a neologism, one that comes at the expense of the LDS Church.
After all, it's not like any other element of society places pressures on women, right?
When Wendy first started seeking professional help and was put on Zoloft 10 years ago, she felt the sting of shame even from her own family members.
This isn't unique to Mormons.
"Marriage and family are so important that there was a huge amount of pressure to make things work. I was supposed to try harder, and buck up and that would make me happier and keep my husband from abusing me," she said.
This isn't a response unique to Mormons, either.
"There are expectations from the community, but mostly from other women," she said. "It doesn't come down from the church necessarily, but it's passed from mother to daughter. My family was reluctant to see me taking the drugs, but since seeing me at my worst, they now encourage me to take my meds."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints, however, says the high number of prescriptions is a result of people receiving the drugs they need in Utah more than in other places.
"I don't think it's clear that there's a crisis in Utah," said Brent Scharman, a psychologist and the assistant commissioner of LDS Family Services, a church network that provides counseling. "You've got one camp that says there is more depression and another camp that says we just have more consumers." Scharman said studies on organized religion and depression found that religious people were generally happier than nonreligious people, and that held true for Mormons.
Funny how the reporter waits until the third page of the article to let the reader know about these studies.
"It always boils down to the issue of what influence the LDS lifestyle has on the depression phenomenon," he said. "Non-LDS and some LDS people say this is a kind of driven lifestyle and that we push too hard and smile too much. But studies show, and those living it out see, that religion is good support. It creates a positive network and helps people get through crises and deal with long-term problems.
"Are there people who feel 'I'm not living up to the LDS ideal,' or 'I'm not living up to my family's expectations'? Absolutely, there is no question. But having done counseling outside the LDS community, I saw people there, too, who were depressed because of perfectionism," he said. "I wouldn't say it is any worse here than in more diverse communities."

To which I responded:

Let me start by saying that I am no "self-appointed expert." I certainly have my opinion which is based upon my own life's experiences and what I have been able to observe in other people.

1. Depression is found everywhere, both in and out of the church, everywhere in the world, and among both men and women, children and adults, etc.

2. Depression seems more common among women.

3. Depression among church members is partially brought about by highly unrealistic expectations of achievement, manifestations of spiritual devotion, and so-called sexual purity.

4. Certain church standards contribute to decreased depression in other areas. For example, the Word of Wisdom generally helps to keep people's bodies healthier, making them more functional and less depressed.

On The Claim That Societal Morality Is On A "Downward Trend"

One person commented, in response to a question of whether societal moral values today are less than in times past:

"Premarital sex. Children born to unwed mothers. Number of fathers who do not support their offspring. I'd say there has been a downward trend."

To which I responded:

These evils pale in comparison to the evils of the past like slavery, tyranny, and oppression. I marvel at how consensual sexual sin consistently ranks at or near the top of the list of evils perceived by doomsday TBMs who seem to think practically the whole world (except for themselves) is going to hell in a handbasket.

The Likely Reason The LDS Church Website Does Not Contain Overt Condemnation Of Masturbation

The question was put (December 2008):

"I recently found a copy of the pamphlet "To Young Men Only" that I received as a young man in the late 70's. It was a talk given by Boyd K. Packer at the Priesthood session of General Conference October 2, 1976. I checked on the church website and found that this talk is not there. The talk by Marion G. Romney makes reference to it, but Packer's talk is missing. I am just wondering why the church does not have this on their website. Have they changed their position on the contents of the talk, or did they remove it to avoid ridicule from critics?"

To which I responded:

My own belief is that the talk alienates many would-be investigators because the science and data available on sexuality indicate that masturbation is simply a natural and acceptable practice. The pamphlet "to young men only" has as its target audience a group which is fragile and vulnerable and ignorant, and which in many cases can be made to feel guilty about the sexuality God gave them. I was among that crowd as a teenage boy. No one came to my aid to explain that Boyd K. Packer's views on the topic were rejected by the majority of the scientific community. As I have said before, there hardly was a doctrine more likely to induce self-loathing in LDS young men than that masturbation is sinful.

To which one person responded:

"In this instance, what you characterize as the attitude of "the majority of the scientific community" is at odds with the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ. As a general Church leader, Elder Packer was entirely within the purview of his duty. Furthermore, he, not the secular "scientific community," is qualified to make pronouncements about what is morally acceptable from the standpoint of the Church."

To which I responded:

Scott: agreed. Elder Packer acting in his capacity as an official prophet, seer, and revelator, and had the authority to issue the pronouncement on behalf of the church. Just don't expect people to come flocking to Zion if it is a place where our God-given sexuality is so stifled that it becomes virtually non-existent. There is a reason why for so many decades the missionaries' approach was not to teach the so-called law of chastity until the investigator had first received a testimony about the BoM, the church, etc. It is because it would scare off a lot of people who might not even consider hearing what the missionaries have to say. Likewise, I think the church's website is intended to put on a face that is not so utterly repugnant to the world that people will be turned off. Later on, once they have a "testimony," the chastity guilt trip can take effect in more private spheres and they will feel trapped into feeling like they have betrayed the Spirit if they later back out because of perceived chastity concerns.

And another person skeptically commented:

"we stifle sexuality? hmmm maybe we define the word differently. do you suppose the high birth rate in the church is more related to 'thinking of god and queen'?"

To which I responded:

A high birth rate does not necessarily mean more sex or even a better sex life. It is more likely attributable to less birth control, prohibition on abortion, a culture which pushes the idea that large families generally are better families, and a view that financial and educational obstacles should not cause people to hold off on having kids. I don't know what you mean by the "thinking of god and queen" comment.

On Disagreement As Proof That The LDS Church Is True

The comment was made:

"In his 1982 book "The Millennial Messiah" Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated that there will be an increasing polarization of views.
"In the very nature of things, the signs of the times will not cease until the Lord comes. Those that involve chaos and commotion and distress of nations will continue in the future with even greater destructive force. Men's hearts will fail them for fear in greater degree hereafter than heretofore. Wars will get worse. Moments of armistice and peace will be less stable. Viewed in the perspective of years, all worldly things will degenerate. There will be an increasing polarization of views.
There will be more apostasy from the Church, more summer saints and sunshine patriots who will be won over to the cause of the adversary. Those who support the kingdom because of the loaves and the fishes will find other bread to eat.
While the faithful saints get better and better, and cleave more firmly to the heaven-sent standards, the world will get worse and worse and will cleave to the policies and views of Lucifer" (McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 404).
I have observed that polarization happening for several years. And happening in increasing intensity, particularly as I interact online with others on the subject of religion, and even more particularly as I observe the ever growing difference in the thinking of conservatives and liberals on the political scene.
1. Have you observed such a polarization of views?
2. If my observations are valid, is that increasing polarization part of the prophesied future separation of the righteous from the wicked?
"And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire." D&C 63: 54
What say you?"

To which I responded:

We have a "modern day bias" which causes us to reach conclusions about the world without adequate knowledge of history. If war and conflict are any evidence of "polarized views," then I would likely conclude that views have become much less polarized over the last century or so; people have managed to live in relative peace when compared to the level of wars, racism, oppression, savagery, etc. in prior historic eras.

Brother McConkie was probably focusing, as usual, on the perceived breakdown of the traditional family, due in large part to more liberal attitudes towards both individuality and sexuality. There is no doubt that the broad, general modern trend in the world has been away from religious dogma and towards more tolerance and understanding for different views and lifestyles. One negative side effect of that has been the rise of moral relativism and in some instances practically militant hatred towards religion in general. But that is not true about western culture across the board. I perceive that a great many people, who, although they reject some strict religious teachings (including puritannical brands of chastity), nevertheless retain a great deal of tolerance in allowing everyone to hold whatever private beliefs they wish, including religious fundamentalism.

Science and the availability of information have greatly changed the landscape of the evidence available to be considered by people in reaching their conclusions about religion. It is no surprise that the LDS church, which continues to cling to puritannical brands of chastity, feels threatened by the world's movement away from that philosophy. So far, the church has largely reacted by entrenching itself in its position (other than conceding that some people through no fault of their own have to deal with same-sex attraction and backing off on the prohibition on intra-marriage oral sex). If the church's actions, concurrent with the world's continued movement towards liberalization and tolerance towards sexuality can be considered a "polarization of views," then certainly it is happening. But it is by no means proof that the Second Coming is near. It is easy to point to the "polarization of views" as a fulfilled prophecy that proves the truth of McConkie's position that the LDS doctrine is correct and that the world is getting more wicked. But in fairness, I think we can say that people will always disagree, and that such disagreement proves little more than that the truth is not as obvious as some zealots claim.

On Apostolic Selection

A poll posed the following question with the following responses:

"What is the Prime factor for selecting an Apostle
God specifically identifies the man, and the President of the Church relays the message. (9 votes [33.33%]) Percentage of vote: 33.33%
Geography. The President can't choose a man he doesn't know, and he's more likely to know a guy from the Western US. (1 votes [3.70%]) Percentage of vote: 3.70%
Relationships. Similar to the answer above, the President uses his peronsal relationship with the new apostle (2 votes [7.41%]) Percentage of vote: 7.41%
Power. The church looks at candidates and selects those who can exert influence in their respective sphere. (0 votes [0.00%]) Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Spirituality. The President chooses the person he deems most spiritual. (0 votes [0.00%]) Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Wealth. The President chooses someon who has proven their abilities to lead and manage through ammassing wealth. (0 votes [0.00%]) Percentage of vote: 0.00%
A combination of two or more of those listed (Please specify below) (12 votes [44.44%]) Percentage of vote: 44.44%
Other (please specify below) (3 votes [11.11%]) Percentage of vote: 11.11%"

To which I responded:

I believe the first choice is extremely rare or non-existent, so I chose the "combination" choice, but I exclude choice No. 1.

On The Claim That Rejecting Biblical Inerrancy Precludes Objective Standards For Truth

The question was put (August 2007):

"It is a well-known fact that Mormons reject biblical inerrancy. Yet, the Christian believes that the Bible is inerrant, and that without the Bible being inerrant there is no objective basis for knowing the truth.
Therefore, I would like to know, if you're a person who has rejected biblical inerrancy, what objective basis do you use in place of the Bible to determine the validity of truth claims?"

To which I responded:

I think the starting point is that, no matter how objective we try to be, our limited understanding will inevitably cause us to err. There probably exists no single universal foolproof method for arriving at the complete inerrant truth every time. We are put to the task of discovering it bit by bit, through experience, logic, reason, evidence, science, and last but not least, faith.

It might be convenient if all we had to do was open up a book to find out the truth on every pertinent subject. But God has placed us here to work a lot of things out in our minds, not to spoonfeed us.

On The Religious Indoctrination Of Children

I commented (August 2007):

As a practical matter, there is no workable way to stop LDS parents from bringing their children to LDS chapels, Catholic parents from bringing their kids to mass, Baptist parents from bringing their children to revivals, atheist parents from forbidding their kids to go to any church, or Muslim parents bringing their kids to mosques. We will always have disagreement about other people's beliefs, or lack thereof, and it will always be disappointing that millions (or billions) of kids are raised with beliefs that we disagree with. Most people, it seems, stick generally with what they were taught and tend to be skeptical or even totally closed off about considering differing views. But the only way to get around that on an institutional level is to invade the autonomy of individual families to exercise their private discretion in these matters to a reasonable extent. Inasmuch as I would not want the government to tell me I either must or may not teach my children my beliefs, so I would not advocate the government doing so with other families whose beliefs differ from my own.

All that being said, I strongly believe on a moral level that parents need to be sensitive about not unduly preventing a child from being open to full and fair consideration of all of the philosophies that are out there. Loyalty to a set of beliefs should only be as strong as reason dictates given the evidence available. All too often, the reason a person refuses to give new evidence and argument fair consideration is the LOYALTY to family, friends, and tradition, rather than logic and reason. This doesn't mean that we have to be silent and not share our own opinions. There are some aspects of morality that are so settled that we have an obligation to instill them in our kids to the best of our ability (i.e., don't murder, be generous and loving, seek knowledge, etc.) But as children start to reach a certain age, we need to start telling them that what we are teaching is our opinions that we have reached though our own life experiences. I want my kids to know that, even if they ultimately reach different conclusions than I have on various subjects, I will be supportive of them as long as they have put forth a sincere effort to consider all the evidence and arguments before them, bearing in mind that a certain degree of self-sacrifice is necessary to acheive maximum happiness. If it ever turned out that I was wrong in my own convictions and beliefs, the last thing I'd like to have hanging over my head is my having drowned out my own children's conscience and reason in favor of loyalty towards me or a group of people.

On Temple Sealing Guaranteeing Salvation Of The Children Of Sealed Parents

I commented (August 2007):

"I recently spoke with a TBM whose son left the church and is living with his girlfriend. The TBM mother told me that, although she was extremely disappointed, she had done some research on the subject and determined that at least four modern day LDS prophets have said something to the effect that, the temple sealing power is "so strong," that all wayward children sealed to their sealed parents, will eventually come back to the fold and embrace the Gospel.

With all sympathy for the heartache any parent feels when they perceive their children to be going astray, I think that doctrine is hogwash, regardless of whether any prophet has stated it. That doctrine flies in the face of my conviction that every individual alone has stewardship over their own salvation. This is so, even though I believe that the overwhelming majority of people will eventually be "saved" and experience eternal happiness, and that few if any souls will be damned to hell or an eternity in the Terrestrial Kingdom. I suppose this TBM's belief could be reconciled with my own if you consider that, in my view, nearly everyone will end up coming to a knowledge of the truth and being saved anyway, but it wouldn't be as a result of the "sealing power" helping the sealed wayward children but not the unsealed wayward children.
Two questions:
1) Do you tend to agree or disagree with this woman?
2) Does anyone know of any prophetic quotes that would support her doctrinal position?"

To which one person responded:

"I think she is referring to Orson F. Whitney's talk in conference in 1929:

Paraphrasing the Prophet Joseph Smith, Elder Orson F. Whitney said that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. â?¦ They will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving fatherâ??s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God (in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110).

Quoted in John K. Carmack, When Our Children Go Astray, Ensign, Feb 1997, 7"

To which I responded:

I'll gladly concede the following: It is by no means a free ride for someone to obtain salvation/exhaltation only after their sincere repentance and suffering for their sins.

However, "free rides" are not the issue here; what is at issue is whether a person has any greater assurance/opportunity/likelihood of exhaltation than another based upon circumstances not relating to his own merit (i.e., that his parents happen to be sealed).

Let's get a few things straight. First, God is perfectly just. He is no respecter of persons. Therefore, he would not allow for person A (whose parents are sealed) to have any greater assurance of salvation/exhaltation than person B (whose parents are not sealed). Now it may ultimately turn out that A and B (or rather, all people in the world who fall into either category) will all be saved/exhalted (a very real possibility in my opinion). But the minute we believe that B, equally as sinful and undeserving as A, has no assurance that he will ultimately be saved/exhalted because God will at some point give up on B because B keeps rejecting God, but that God never gives up on A no matter how many times A turns away from God (on account of A's parents being sealed, and thus guaranteeing that at some point throughout eternity, A will repent), then God is unjust and becomes a respecter of persons.

I can live with the idea that other people's actions will affect (1) our experiences in life; and (2) the speed and timing of our eternal progression. Those are inevitable consequences of agency. But what would be highly unjust would be for God to allow any person's eternal and final predicament to depend upon circumstances beyond the individual's control.

And another person commented:

"But what would be highly unjust would be for God to allow any person's eternal and final predicament to depend upon circumstances beyond the individual's control."

To which I responded:

Like somebody atoning for their sins?

The answer that resolves this issue has been given in this thread but people seem to have completely overlooked it. Strange that everyone here wants to throw out all the prophetic statements on this issue. Even if there's a question over what Joseph Smith said the Lorenzo Snow quote doesn't say it's based on anything Joseph Smith said. It's the prophet Lorenzo Snow teaching the gospel and the same principle has been reiterated recently in conference. But that means nothing to the board members here.

BTW, there's another huge point that seems to be missed: none of these statements say that a person can only be exalted if their parents had been sealed in the temple. Reading such a concept into the statements then arguing against your inaccurate perception of the statements only confuses the issue.

This post has been edited by CMZ: Today, 12:45 PM[quote]

CMZ, first point:
With respect to Christ's atonement, since it is universally available to all mankind "through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel," God's deciding to exhalt a person based upon their being covered by the atonement does not make God a respecter of persons since acceptance of Christ is ultimately the effort and merit of the individual; the atonement is available to all.

Second point: I never claimed or implied that the advocates of this faulty doctrine are saying that "a person can only be exalted if their parents had been sealed in the temple." I totally realize that you and others who believe this doctrine are not saying that. Of course all people who accept and live the Gospel will be saved. The instant question concerns the wayward ones who turn away from God and righteousness. What happens to them? It makes no sense whatsoever to console sealed parents by telling them that, on account of the sealing, their wayward children will eventually return to God because of the promises God has made to the parents. Doesn't that necessarily imply that unsealed parents have no such assurance?

Third point: I realize that TBMs tend to focus on whether particular doctrines were actually taught by prophets, rather than whether the doctrines themselves appear sound. I am not making a stink about whether Joseph Smith, Lorenzo Snow, or anyone else taught the doctrine. I think the doctrine is simply unsound, period, no matter who preached it. Even prophets err, and we need look no further than the Church's present official stance with regard to things Brigham Young said to establish that concession. The doctrine that more of God's attention (i.e., "the eye of the Shepherd") is given to some people than to others depending upon whose parents are sealed is simply ridiculous and contradicts the justness and fairness of God. Give me one good reason why I, as a child of unsealed parents, should have any less blessing, promise, or God-given advantage than my neighbor whose parents are sealed (apart from natural consequences in effect during mortality, i.e., being raised in the faith, etc.).

To which one person responded:

"Your misunderstanding is clouding everything. Instead of saying, "I think I'll put this on the shelf until I understand it better," your reaction is, "That's totally false!!!!!!"

And in specific reaction to my challenge to, "Give me one good reason why I, as a child of unsealed parents, should have any less blessing, promise, or God-given advantage than my neighbor whose parents are sealed", the person commented:

"I never said that. Exaltation is freely available to you. There's a big point that's still being missed here. Once it's understood everything will clear up."

To which I responded:

1. I take your response of, "I never said that" to mean that you agree that: There IS NO GOOD REASON why I, as a child of unsealed parents, should have any less blessing, promise, or God-given advantage than my neighbor whose parents are sealed.
2. Therefore, I take it you are conceding that: Someone whose parents ARE sealed doesn't get anything extra thereby from God.
3. Therefore: Parents who are sealed cannot take comfort in feeling that THEIR children will get any extra attention or help from God than the children of unsealed parents.
Now, please spare me the riddles, and help me figure out the "big point" I'm missing. Thanks.

To which the person responded:

"The issue is not about comparing or saying that somebody has an advantage over somebody else. None of the quotes in question say, "And those people whose parents haven't been sealed in the temple are without hope." When you bring that into it it muddies everything.
The problem here is that we are looking at one quote in isolation. If it seems to contradict another gospel principle then we say it must be false instead of saying that we will withhold judgment unless and until we get further information. Joseph Smith taught that "the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 137). In our gospel teaching experiences, I wonder how deeply we go. Do we plumb the depths of the gospel with our students, or do we quickly skim over the high points?"

To which I responded:

For everyone believing in the above quote as being entirely accurate, do you also therefore believe that a person who is not eventually saved might fairly be told the following?:

"Sorry, buddy, your parents were not eternally saved, and the 'eye of the Shepherd' was therefore not on you as much as it was upon your neighbor, who went equally astray, but who, through no merit of his own, had the fortune of his parents having been eternally sealed; therefore, God made 'divine promises' to his parents for 'valiant service in the Cause of Truth,' which saved not only themselves, but their son. Though your neighbor wandered, the tentacles of Divine Providence reached out to him and drew him back into the fold."

If you believe this, then I submit that you believe God is a respecter of persons. How unfair this would be to anyone not born to sealed parents!! Inasmuch as Article of Faith #2 provides that man will be punished for their own sins and not Adam's transgression, a logical extension must follow that man will be saved through his OWN obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, and not by someone else's obedience, such as his parents. Otherwise, aren't we in effect saying that all of the children of unsealed parents might be denied extra repentance opportunities because of their parents' unfaithfulness in not living the Gospel and being sealed?

Comforting as the doctrine may be to the parents of wayward children, it is a gross error. (likewise is the doctrine of automatic salvation for children who die before the age of accountability)

Another person commented:

"I have a hypothetical situation that I would be interested in getting comments on. Suppose that twin brothers, together, leave the Church in their teen years. They move out and room together and live a less than moral life, openly criticizing the Church, even going to the point of trying to get others to leave the Church. They are dishonest, abusive and generally vile characters.
Now, suppose that one evening, at the age of twenty-three, while out in an evening of riotous living, they are involved in a car accident, in which one of them is killed. The surviving brother goes on to see things differently and goes to great lengths to repent and eventually is welcomed into the Church in full fellowship, is endowed, married in the temple and lives an exemplary and faithful life.
Will the brother who was killed be denied the opportunities of his brother, simply for not having had the same amount of time as the other, or will he get the same opportunity in the spirit world?"

To which I responded:

In my opinion, complete justice demands that the killed brother have the same opportunity for enlightenment. Your hypo is one example of why I believe nearly everybody or everybody will eventually be saved, and that when people go astray, it is almost always due in part to their not being fully enlightened.

On Criticizing Lay Members For Poorly Prepared Sermons

The question was put (August 2007):

"I recall once going to a wedding recpetion and the bride and groom gave a talk. The groom mentioned that, "prides himself on his Church talks". He then told everyone that a ward member wrote him an anonymous letter stating how bad and terrible and whatnot his talk was. I do not know if I could write an anonymous letter to a member stating what I felt about their talks or whatever. Would you?"

To which I responded:

In most cases, I can't see myself doing something like that. I don't think I would personally criticize a person for a talk being poorly delivered or prepared in itself. However, if the content was in my view extremely offensive or extremely off-base, I could imagine a situation where I might anonymously convey to that person my disagreement. Most of the time, I would not take the risk, for fear of being found out and labled a dissident/apostate.

To which one person responded:

"Seems like ark steadying to me. There are people called who's assignment it is to see that correct doctrine is taught in meetings. That is the presiding authority. Just like they don't give the average citizen the right to pull somoene over for speeding, you should tell someone who DOES have the authority to do something about it (police officer) if there is a danger and it doesn't appear that they authorities know about it. If the "proper authorities" are sitting right there, I would think it would be fairly evident that they would know about it unless their eyes are closed and loud ZZZZZZ's are issuing from their general vicinity.
I would not presume to correct someone's talk (although I have corrected incorrect or false doctrine in a class, but that addresses the point of doctrine, not the person giving it), but rather point it out to the presiding authority and let them deal with it or not.
If it is about the MANNER of their presentation (i.e. you talk was really boring and put me to sleep!), you should ask the person if they would like some feedback on their talk and with gentleness, brotherly love, kindness, meekness, etc. convey that your care for them is more important than your need to be right or appear "I know better than you." If you can leave feedback with their permission and do it in a Christ-like way, and prompted by the Holy Ghost, then I say go for it. If you just need to "get it off your chest" or can't build them up to do it better rather than a negative comment (i.e. "Have you thought of adding a humerous story or personal experience to spice up your talks before?"), then I would say leave it alone and just get over it they way you hope others will leave you and your personal shortcomings from being picked at by everyone.
If you have to do it anonymously, I don't think it is being done in a Christ-like way and would really steer away from it. It can only promote contention, suspicion (who sent this?), hurt feelings; in other words, they don't come from the source we want to be tapped into. Fear of being discovered and "ratted out" I don't think should even be a factor in deciding what to do to fix something that appears broken to us in someone else. Judges in Israel are called to do that - I say let them do their job and leave the rest to the Lord."

To which I responded:

To use your analogy, while it may be that only the cop has the legal right to pull someone over for speeding, there is no law against me rolling down my window, giving the speeder a dirty look, and telling him he's a jerk. We need not be transformed into silent sheep just because leaders in the church are charged with certain responsibilities.

As a general rule, criticism about a person's talk should be directed towards the content, and as a general rule, it should also be done in a very loving and careful manner. As I said before (or tried to), I don't want to destroy the confidence of talk-givers who are just trying their best innocently to give a good talk and fail in their manner of delivery. But suppose someone were to give a talk about how we should follow the prophet's counsel of discouraging interracial marriage. I might just get up the gumption to let that person know that someone, even if it is an anonymous someone, strongly disagrees.

You are suggesting that all anonymous criticism is un-Christlike? Certainly anonymous criticisms can hurt when they are done in a malicious fashion and with the intent of picking on someone who is behaving justly and in good faith. But not all anonymous criticism falls into that category. Anonymity alone does not establish that the anonymous person is in the wrong. There may be just reasons for remaining anonymous, as many people on this board who choose themselves to remain anonymous in their posts know full well.

Propriety Of Bringing Up Ongoing Fornication In Private Church Interview

The question was put:

"I have a friend who joined the Church in like 1989 and was marginally active to inactive all these years. In the last two years he has started coming out again and attends as many extra curricular meetings as he can. He lives with his girlfriend-who does not want to get married, he does, she does not. The Girlfriend comes out to Church although she is not a member, I think she is taking the lessons off and on or something. The bishop and the rest of us think that exeing him would be the wrong move so there is a don't ask don't tell policy, just in regards to chastity. As far as I know he believes everything and pays his tithing, I know because once he showed up with like over$80 in change and my brother had to count it all-he has no life I think! He can pass sacrament and has given one or two talks. On sunday they announced that the ward is having a Temple trip and I said to him are you going, and he said that he would like to but was ineligible. He is not a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. My query is what harm would be done if he went just to do baptisms? Maybe if I was the Grand poo-bah of the ward I might let him in. What do you think, would you let him go? Am I too liberal?"

To which I responded:

Liberal as I am, in my opinion, it is a reasonable thing to ask that people not engage in sexual intercourse on an ongoing basis outside of a committed relationship between consenting and competent adults. Therefore, I think it is fair game for the church to question this brother on this issue and ask that he make an effort to change his behavior to be more socially responsible.

By contrast, I think it wholly unreasonable and improper to demand that unmarried people have NO sexual outlet whatsoever in order to be "worthy." Single people, and married people in sexless or virtually sexless marriages, will have to get by on masturbation to relieve their urges. This does not make them unworthy.

And one person commented:

"Social standards are a bit lower than church standards, priesthood standards are higher than church standards, and temple standards are even higher still.
If I understand you correctly, then it would/should be okay to have sexual relations outside of marriage as long as each partner is commited to the relationship. How do you reconcile this position with that of the prophets - no extra-marital sexual relations?
Part of the reason we are here on this earth is to master our physical desires and appetites, not to be mastered by them, so I don't think "self-service" would allow anyone to be temple worthy."

To which I responded:

Suppose one were stranded indefinitely on a desert island with one other person of the opposite sex and no preacher to wed them. I can't imagine God condemning sex in that situation. Sex is a very important part of an intimate relationship. There is some utility (admittedly also downsides) in finding out sexual compatibility before getting married. I don't pretend to have all the answers. Neither do I think the prophets have all the answers, nor do I consider church doctrine to be infallible. I do not favor adultery as a general rule, nor do I think that it is wise to treat sexual relations too casually.

So, turning to the question, "how do I reconcile," I feel like it does not need to be "reconciled." I feel no need to have my opinions be totally consistent with current church leaders. I would point out, however, that it appears to me that Judaism's doctrines about sex as revealed in the Old Testament do not seem to resemble the puritannical versions of the "law of chastity" found in the church today.

By that reasoning, why don't we all deny ourselves every pleasure of the flesh? Why not circumcise women to make sure that they have no lustful pleasure when having intercourse with their husbands? We will never each chocolate or sweets. In fact, we could deny ourselves the pleasures of eating altogether by just hooking ourselves up to feeding tubes that give us all the nutrition we need. We will never sleep in, because idleness is a sin. Women will all wear burkas in order to prevent any lustful thoughts (or accidental erections) by men. In fact, I'll bet we could figure out some clever ways to get rid of lustful thoughts entirely. Castrate the men, and have some sort of technology that allows sperm production for procreative purposes only. Ban makeup (we'll never see women's faces anyway), cosmetic surgery, and massages. Ban jetted tubs. Ban television except for the BYU channel. Ban pillows (we can do without them). If you can't agree with these propositions, perhaps you are not sufficiently in command of your desires and appetites, and are being mastered by them.

Obviously the above paragraph's propositions are ridiculous. But my purpose is to illustrate the following: mastering our appetites and passions is only a virtue to a point. No loving God expects us to live miserably by constantly feeling tempted to engage in some activity which is pleasurable. Pleasure is NOT a sin, and a huge part of our mortal existence is intended for us to experience pleasure, as well as pain. "Self-service" is something that can bring great pleasure without the baggage and negative consequences that actual intercourse can bring. The benefits generally far outweigh any negative consequences which puritans conjure up.

And in response to my initial comment, another person skeptically commented:

"That's what dreams are for. Last I looked, having a sexual orgasm did not rank up there with eating, breathing, and sleeping in the hierarchy of needs. Who says?"

To which I responded:

For those lucky enough to have them on a regular basis. People can survive without having sexual orgasms. But why should it be necessary to live life having only what is absolutely essential for surviving. God did not send us to Earth just to survive, but to thrive. To minimize the importance of sexual pleasure just because one's heart can keep beating without it is ridiculous. You could survive without praying or going to church or reading your scriptures, but you would not want to give those things up because you value them. They bring you pleasure. Sex also brings pleasure. Your question suggests that the truth of the statement depends upon who says it. You're trying to imply that because I am not authoritative, people should disregard what I say to the extent it is inconsistent with what church leaders say. It does not matter who says it. I believe it to be true and careful consideration, thought, and study have persuaded me. If you think that divine proclamations of church leaders are any more reliable, I think you have a hard time explaining inconsistencies in doctrines and practices over time.

On The Alleged Negative Impacts Of Gay Marriage On Heterosexual Marriage

The comment was made (September 2008):

"In spite of their best efforts, supporters of Prop 8 have yet to paint a sufficiently clear picture to me showing how Same-sex Marriages (SSM) will affect society in general, and Different-sex Marriages (DSM) in particular.

With that in mind, can any supporters of Prop 8 help me out and paint a "word picture" of how the world will change should Same-sex marriages become accepted by the government? Please pick a time frame (5 years? 15 years? 50 years?) and contrast how the state/country/world will be different with SSM being legal and accepted.

Since many arguments against SSM try to tie in DSM, please help me to also understand how DSM will change. I would think the most easily measured "destruction" to DSM would be a decrease in the incidence of DSM, or an increase in the divorce rate among DSM. If you feel capable of predicting changes to either of these metrics over time as a result of SSM, that would be very helpful."

To which I responded:

Isn't it obvious that people who are otherwise heterosexual will turn gay in droves and will soon be ready to proposition angels of the same gender who call them to repentance? Heterosexuals considering a traditional marriage will say, "Marriage means nothing now that gays can have it, too!" "Now that marriage has been rendered meaningless, I may as well shack up with my different-gender boyfriend/girlfriend. No one will care." Think of the young boys struggling with same-sex attraction who will now be encouraged to marry someone of their own gender instead of turning to God and getting shock therapy to turn them straight.

Seriously, though, I also fail to see how same-sex marriage will "hurt families." That notwithstanding, I am against same-sex "marriage," not because I believe it is my place to condemn homosexual behavior, but rather because the term "marriage" carries a religious significance, and I believe it is not the state's business to be telling religions what is or is not sanctioned by God. The state should get out of the marriage business altogether and simply have civil unions for all couples, gay or straight, and leave it up to the churches to decide which marriages they will and will not solemnize.

On The Leap From True-ness To Doctrinal Inerrancy

The comment was made:

"The Church is true" claim is often a topic of discussion on this board, and so I thought there might be some slight interest in how this is being articulated currently. This is from Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Presidency of the Seventy, from his address in the April 2007 General Conference. That is Ensign May 2007 p 74. There may be other passages of testimony from other speakers, maybe even better ones, but this is the one I came across in my study this morning and I liked how it encapsulates more or less a point of view I hold as a Mormon and what I am currently being taught by my leaders.

"The cause in which we are laboring is true. We respect the beliefs of our friends and neighbors. We are all sons and daughters of God. We can learn much from other men and women of faith and goodness . . . Yet we know that Jesus is the Christ. He is resurrected. In our day, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the priesthood of God has been restored. We have the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Book of Mormon is what we claim it to be. The promises of the temple are certain. The Lord Himself has declared the uniqe and singular mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be "a light to the world" and "a messenger . . . to prepare the way before [Him]." even as "the gospel roll[s] forth unto the ends of the earth." "

(his quotation isD&C 65:2)"

To which I responded:

And yet, even if all of Brother Anderson's underlying points are correct, it does not immunize the church from doctrinal errors. The Church is not a perfect organization, and I hate it when the truth that does exist in the church gets used as a justification for embracing the errors. So long as prophets remain fallible (which I think is bound to remain the case in the foreseeable future), each individual doctrine advanced by them must be scrutinized with the eyes of logic and reason before being accepted.

Comical Commentary On The "Book Of Mormon Movie"

The question was put:

"Will 'September Dawn' make more money than 'The Book of Mormon Movie' in its US theatrical run? It will be interesting to see how DVD sales go. Also, I wonder if it will play in markets out side the US. Some cultures love the mellow dramatic. Maybe a big hit in India ???? "

To which I responded:

Perhaps the real question is what their profit margins will turn out to be. The Book of Mormon Movie will probably have a margin of ~50,000+%, since it obviously only cost about $500 to make, broken down as follows:

Screenplay: $2.50
Directing: $1.75
Casting: $2.00
Acting (including volunteers
from local Relief Society): $0.37
Angel Moroni special effects: $14.95
Voice of Angel Moroni: $0.05
Film reel: $478.38
Distribution in Utah and Idaho: Free
Grand Total: About $500

On The Alleged Lack Of Success Of "Anti-Mormons"

The comment was made:

"While studying for my Sunday School lesson this week, I came across a story in the "Additional teaching ideas". To me this sums up the failure of those who engage in the "politics of destruction" (To use a modern day phrase). I will let the quote and scripture speak for themselves...
From Lesson 31
Have class members read 1 Thessalonians 2:2-3. Point out that Paul said the gospel should be taught with boldness and without deceit or trickery. Elder James E. Talmage added that we should boldly teach the truth without criticizing or attacking other people's beliefs. Share the following story to illustrate this:
When he was a student, Elder Talmage was once approached by a man offering to sell him an excellent oil lamp. Elder Talmage already had a lamp he felt was satisfactory, but he allowed the lamp seller to come up to his room to demonstrate.
"We entered my room, and I put a match to my well-trimmed lamp. My visitor was high in his praise. It was the best lamp of its kind, he said, and he had never seen a lamp in better trim. He turned the wick up and down, and pronounced the judgment perfect.
"Now", he said, "with your permission I'll light my lamp," taking it from his satchel. Its light made bright the remotest corner of my room. Its brilliant blaze made the flame in my lamp weak and pale. Until that moment of convincing demonstration I had never known the dim obscurity in which I had lived and labored, studied and struggled.
Elder Talmage bought the new lamp, and he later suggested what we can learn from the lamp seller as we teach the gospel: The man who would sell a lamp did not disparage mine. He placed his greater light alongside my feebler flame, and I hasted to obtain it.
"The missionary servants of the Church of Jesus Christ today are sent forth, not to assail nor ridicule the beliefs of men, but to set before the world a superior light, by which the smoky dimness of the flickering flames of man-made creeds shall be apparent. The work of the Church is constructive, not destructive" (in Albert L. Zobell Jr., Story Gems [1953], 45-48; see also The Parables of James E. Talmage, comp. Albert L. Zobell Jr. [1973], 1-6).
11th Article of Faith
11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
Your comments please..."

To which I responded:

1. Is there in fact agreement on the point that "Anti's are so unsuccessful"? What are you basing this statement on? The low conversion rates from LDS to evangelical Christianity? Those rates are rather low, although I have two siblings who fall into that category. But what about other statistics? What about people who were raised LDS just drifting away from religiosity generally and going inactive? What about extremely low retention rates among converts in many parts of the world such as Europe and South America? I suppose part of the issue depends upon how you define "anti." Do you mean largely uneducated bigotted evangelical fundamentalists who try to pretend in their tracts that current LDS doctrine consists of some now-obscure comments made by dead leaders? Or do you also mean to include the more secular and scholarly skepticism of LDS dogma? It seems to me that at least the latter is quite successful. My impression is that, among the people who make a conscious thought-out decision to leave the LDS faith, the great majority do so for reasons other than fundamentalist evangelical concerns.

2. I agree with much of the sentiment already posted that the inevitable conclusion one must draw from the claim that the LDS faith is the only true church, etc., is that all other churches are false and illegitimate. There is nothing wrong believing in the principle of one true church. But let's not pretend that people won't have a tendancy to be offended by that doctrine. There are ways to go about preaching one's views without being overly offensive. But you can't eliminate all disagreement and possibility of offense.

As to the empirical claim that the LDS church does not "assail nor ridicule the beliefs of men," all one needs to do to disprove that is listen to Hinckley, Packer, Ballard, or Holland give a talk on perceived sexual immorality in the world. You'd think practically the whole world was going to hell in a handbasket.

"Whom The Lord Calls, He Qualifies"?

I commented (May 2008):

It is often said in the LDS church that everyone who is given a particular calling has a "mantle" that falls upon him or her that qualifies him or her for the calling. This premise is utilized as one reason why members (both those called and others) are told not to doubt the divinity and accuracy of the calling.

In my own life experience, however, it appears quite obvious that in many instances (probably most), people are given callings based upon the plain-view observations/perceptions of their leaders. Some people may have hidden weaknesses or faults which if known to the leaders during the deliberation/inspiration process would make the leaders select someone else for the calling.

My questions are these:

1) What does it mean to say that a person is "qualified"? Does it mean that they are necessarily worthy in God's eyes? What about the occasional child molester who gets called to be in the bishopric? Is that person worthy? Would they have been called had that serious fault been known?

2) Is it universally true that every calling is divinely inspired? If not, doesn't this undermine the idea that church members are required to never criticize church leaders?

3) If not all callings are divinely inspired, how do we know who was truly called by God and who was not? (i.e., what if an apostle were called because of family connections or politics, rather than God's specific desire that said apostle lead the church one day?)

On The Claim That We Sinners Crucified Jesus

The comment was made (October 2008):

"Who really Crucified Jesus?
A lot say the Jews, others say the Romans. In my view we all played a part in the Crucifixion. That until we can admit that on a personal level I do not believe we can fully understand the atonement.
A good example would be Peter denying Jesus three times as Jesus was taken to be crucified. Or when I tell a small lie or when I accept praise that is only Gods.
I do have some strong opinions on this just to be up front. I am willing to listen to your views on this as well. And of course discuss this and dig as deep as we can into it. I am Catholic, raised Mormon as a child, just to be honest up front."

To which I responded:

Although the question is framed/worded in a literal sense, you have answered it in a metaphorical sense. In essence, you seem to be taking the position that we as sinners are at "fault" for the fact that Jesus was crucified, although we were not at the scene and had not been placed on the Earth until nearly two thousand years later. I completely disagree with your position, although I am sure you have good intentions.

In a literal sense, the Romans and Jews ordered/goaded on/carried out the physical crucifixion.

In your metaphor, you imply that each time we sin, we are no less guilty/culpable than those who physically administered the crucifixion. There are a few points which should be made. First of all, at least according to LDS doctrine as I understand it, it was not the crucifixion, but rather the suffering in Gethsemane in which Jesus took on and atoned for the sins of the world. Sure, he had to die in order to be resurrected and conquer death, but I do not believe his death was required to be a violent one in order for Jesus to accomplish his mission.

Secondly, one cannot properly analogize our sins (which we commit for various selfish reasons, including laziness) as being aimed at hurting Jesus. In criminal law, there is a thing called "mens rea" which refers to a person's state of mind when an act is committed. The more culpable the state of mind which led to the act, the more culpable the act. For example, a couple of teenagers who are acting like idiots when they aimlessly shoot a pistol in the air for fun, without any intent to harm anyone, are less culpable for the resulting death of someone killed by the bullet half a mile away, than if those same teenagers had aimed the gun at their victim and pulled the trigger with no justification. In my opinion, the overwhelming majority of sins are committed without a specific intent to harm someone, and are committed because our laziness and selfishness and weaknesses cloud our judgment.

Third, there is no need to make us feel extra-guilty for our sins by the use of an inaccurate and overly-dramatic metaphor. It should be enough for us to realize that we are hurting ourselves and others when we sin, and that God is displeased.

Fourth, I think we need to understand that Jesus' atonement and sacrifice were, at least according to most Christian teachings, planned from the beginning. Given that, it is hard to say that they were forced upon Jesus against his will, and he would gladly have given his life for each and every one of us because he loves us so much. To transform that into us being "responsible" for his crucifixion is nonsensical.

As for Peter denying Jesus, the historical record is not consistent in its interpretation of that event. Peter may have had legitimate reason to deny Jesus (i.e., because he had a mission to carry on Jesus' work and therefore had to stay alive), and may even have been commanded by Jesus to do so. Of course, I think this story anyway is irrelevant to the issue of whether we should be deemed responsible for Jesus' crucifixion.

Another point: As I understand, there is no blanket commandment against lying. While that is very unpopular for me to say, one need only contemplate the matter deeper to come to the conclusion that lying is often justified and not sinful. But that, perhaps, is a topic for another day.

Thoughts On What A Testimony Is

The comment was made (June 2008):

"Another poster started a thread about ex-Mormons being faithful before leaving the church. John W. stated that his leaving was not purposeful, that he really wanted to stay and believe and that was pretty much the same story with the personal friends he had that also had stopped believing in the church.
I do not doubt his story or what he has recounted from those of his friends. That is not my purpose to criticize, judge, or categorize them. But I do have some questions about levels of belief and testimony. I have had some spiritual experiences that have locked my testimony in to the point that I can say I know Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God.
I have left the church a couple of times, but that testimony would not leave me alone and I had to return.
I brothers and sisters some of whom have remained in the church, and some who have ceased to believe. We each have went through trials of our faith. Some lost their faith, and some came back stronger than ever.
To me a testimony is something that transcends belief, even strong belief. It is difficult for me to understand how one could really have a testimony and slide from there into unbelief. I can understand how one can believe but not have a testimony and slide into unbelief.
I would like to hear from both sides of the fence. Are there among those who have left the church because of unbelief people who had had a testimony of the gospel, have had a witness from the Holy Ghost that it is true and still fallen away? If so, what triggered it? The start of unbelief? I would really like to understand.
I would ask those who still believe not to make any negative comments about or to those who decide to share their stories with us. I just would really like to understand."

To which I responded:

Thank you for your honest questions. These issues are a sticking point for many people in and out of the LDS church. People (including church leaders) do not all agree on what a testimony actually is. There is a sliding scale of conviction, ranging from mere hope to feeling absolutely convinced that something is true. One thing I have come to realize is how much our life circumstances, including our social network, has an influence on what we tend to believe. That is not to say that we are mere robots who cannot think for ourselves and who just accept everything we are taught or everything that our close friends and family want us to believe. But those things do have a very strong influence. In fact, they not only influence how comfortable we feel with accepting or rejecting certain doctrines, but they also have a tendancy to color our perception when we observe the world and try to categorize our life experiences as either supporting or undermining certain beliefs.

To take as an example, if a TBM were to look at people flocking to the teachings of one of the protestant megachurches, he might think to himself that this demonstrates what a hold Satan has on people in deceiving them from the truth of the restored gospel, which in turn supports the view that Satan is striving to lead the people away from God's true church, which in turn leads the TBM to take all necessary steps not to be led astray, which in turn leads the TBM to read and study the BoM daily and to remain active in church so as not to fall away. By contrast, a member of the same mega-church might look at the same circumstances and view the mega-church's ever-growing membership as validation that his beliefs are correct and that God is blessing his church because it is on the right path. The subtle process by which our subconscious thoughts interpret and categorize our life's experiences are strongly influenced by our existing backgrounds and prejudices. It may not ever be possible to completely rid ourselves of the prejudices and to judge on a totally clean slate.

Anyway, the above is one reason why different people can develop extremely powerful, yet irreconcilably opposing convictions. Those convictions are usually based upon assumptions that we are correctly perceiving and interpreting our life experiences. Often, however, the assumptions upon which we subconsciously relied in forming those convictions will suddenly come under scrutiny. Some people will re-examine the assumptions upon which they based their convictions. When the assumptions turn out to be certainly or most likely false, people are brought to re-evaluate how they came to their conclusions.

I'm sure many adults once had a conviction as kids that Santa was a real person. I did. And believing brought me peace and hope. But when I got a little older, I was compelled to see the writing on the wall, so to speak. So I had to start asking myself, why was I sure that Santa was real, when in fact he was not? For that matter, how can I know that the spiritual feelings I have on particular doctrines are true witnesses? The bottom line is, I cannot know, and I will have to decide whether the evidence known to me points more in one direction than the other. I have to be open to new evidence always, but I must also decide on preliminary conclusions to get me through the present. So, I have convictions, but I am always open to evidence that shows my convictions are in error.

Hope that helps. I feel that if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will discovery how little we actually know and how much of our convictions are based upon assumptions.

Biblical Comdemnation Of The LDS Faith?

The comment was made (October 2007):

"People use the excuse that us mormons are 'going to hell' unless we renounce the LDS faith as there reasons for anti-mormon(ism) products and actions- but i'm always left wondering, what bible verses are these people going off of? As a mormon I (in no special order)-
1). ...Accept Christ as the only begotten Son of God and my Savior.
2). ...Believe that i am saved by His grace and mercy when i develop faith in Him, repent of my sins and covenant with Him (which i believe happens when i am baptized).
I believe that having done those things i then may receive the gift of the Holy Ghost-which tells me my covenant has been accepted by Him.
3). ...Believe that i am saved ONLY through Christ's grace and that my own works have no power to make me worthy to be in God's presence for eternity-though i believe that desiring and trying to obey the commandments of Christ is a essential part of keeping my covenant relationship with Him.
Basically, i believe i must 'hunger and thirst after righteousness' as part of my covenant with Christ.
So again, what does the bible say about a person with beliefs such as these?
Where does the bible say that a person with such beliefs will go to hell?
And again-what bible verses support the belief that mormons are damned?

To which I responded:

A compilation of evangelical responses I have heard (paraphrased):

"But you don't worship the same Jesus as I do. You worship a different, false god, who was once a man, who has a physical body of flesh and bones, who lives on Kolob, who is Lucifer's father or brother, who had sexual intercourse with Mary, and who is polygamous, and is merely one among many gods. My god is the god of the Bible, who is, always was, and always will be the one and only true god. He is ever-present, has no body, was never a mortal, has nothing to do with the devil, and is only our 'father' in a figurative sense, having created us. You will not be saved because you don't believe in the true god."

Needless to say, I believe this line of argument is without merit. While we may disagree about God's attributes, we agree on the most essential ones and we strive to do his will. Only a capricious god (not worth worshipping) would thrust someone down to hell because their understanding of him was erroneous but arrived at in good faith.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Under Condemnation For Lack Of Unity?

The question was put:

"Does anyone else share my concerns for the manner in which differences of opinions are discussed among those who consider themselves members of the Lord's kingdom? It doesn't seem to matter what the topic, but you can find differences of opinion where people will belittle and judge others harshly for their beliefs.
The Saviour was fairly clear in multiple places in the scriptures.
John 17:21-23
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
1 Cor 1:10
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
4 Ne 1:17
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.
Do you suppose that we as LDS or even Christians as a whole are under condemnation for our behavior toward each other?"

To which I responded:

I do not view any of the quoted scriptures as "fairly clear." But my personal beliefs on the subject are:

1. Christ never meant or demanded that people should not disagree with each other. Perhaps in an ideal world where everyone had perfect knowledge, there would be no contentions or differences of opinion.

2. Regardless of whether the Book of Mormon has any historical accuracy or authenticity, I tend to be highly skeptical of any claim that there were no contentions in all the land for decades. I think that is simply implausible and even irreconcilable with both empirical human existence and our theology about our purpose in mortality. Just as a butterfly must get out of the coccoon itself, so we as spiritual children of God must be tried with the inevitable injustice and hardship of life. To live in a contentionless land would severely deprive us of that painful but necessary experience.

3. Any saving value of the alleged injunction that we be "one" must be derived from understanding that term in a rhetorical sense; we must take upon ourselves a duty to scrutinize our own opinions and views and be extremely careful to not advocate positions which benefit only us at the expense of society. We must also view others with respect, bearing in mind their value as human beings and children of God with an equal right to dignity as we have.

4. As I have said before, tolerance is a virtue and a principle of the Gospel. It is an extension of the virtue of humility- it embodies our willingness to accept our own lack of certainty and our own ignorance. It does not mean that we should abandon all conviction, but it does mean that we must be careful not to lightly cast aside the convictions of others, and we must be open to changing our convictions based upon argument and evidence.

If we stand under condemnation, it is not for our lack of unity of belief- it is for our pride in wanting so much to be right that we stop listening and analyzing our own views and the views of others.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

On The Passing Of James E. Faust

I commented:

There is no doubt in my mind that James E. Faust was a man of God. May God bless him and continue to carry Faust's love to the world. Faust, in my opinion, had one of the biggest hearts of the apostles, and I have often been touched by his talks.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On The LDS Church's Tax Exempt Status

In reaction to a story that the LDS Church's Preston, England temple had caused the loss of tax exempt status, the comments were made:

"'but tax exemptions are considered a subsidy, even though no money is collected, the subsidy is being able to keep the money that otherwise would be collected.'
That's because for decades the we've been inculcated with the idea that to not raise taxes = a tax cut. This is flawed logic. A tax cut is to lower existing taxes.
The same principle applies to a subsidies. Not collecting a tax does not equal giving money.
That's bureaucratic doublespeak."

To which I responded:

While I understand the sentiment behind your comments (about not wanting to concede the notion that the Government should have such great power over private property that private parties should view themselves as "getting something back" when the Government elects not to tax them), you are missing the point that was trying to be made, which I think is this:

In any society in which the government provides some kind of service (i.e., national defense, etc.), there will always have to be a way to pay for it, and the most common way is through a compulsory taxation system. If the pool of tax-paying entities/individuals shrinks by virtue of some of them having tax exemptions, then necessarily, the remaining entities/individuals will be shouldering more of the tax burden. Just as I would not feel particularly enthused, hypothetically, about some Neo-Nazi Church raising tons of money and not having to pay any taxes, I can understand and appreciate that some people oppose the idea of any church, including the LDS Church, having tax exempt status. I echo some of the sentiments of Tarski, in that the basis for a tax exemption should be an organization's predominant concern for charity in the objective sense. In trying to come up with a fair taxation system, we will have to make value judgments about how much organizations contribute to society.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the "Common Consent" Doctrine

The question was put:

"What was termed "The Law of Common Consent" was discussed this morning in my daughter's seminary class, and it got me to thinking again that we may have strayed from the original ideal of this LDS tenet.
Today, "Common Consent" has come to mean that we raise our hands to "sustain" whoever it is who has been selected by "the Priesthood."
And we do not oppose unless we are specifically aware of some "sin" that would disqualify the nominee for office. (A quote was read in class from Joseph Fielding Smith to that effect.)
I am not certain this is how it was originally intended.
My thoughts are that this practice was instituted to give power to the members over who would hold office in their ward, branch or church.
Its nature is such as to suggest the idea of democracy within the LDS Church, but when a student brought up that word in class this morning, he was dutifully pooh-poohed by the teacher. The Church is not a "democracy," nor do we "vote" for leaders.
And yet the Law of Common Consent seems to contain elements of both "democracy" and "voting."
I think it would be fair to say that leaders put forth a person for office, in effect nominating them for that post.
The members then have the ability to vote for or against that person.
There seems to be a deliberate tension originally set in place with this process; a combination of a hierarchical and a congregational system.
In a hierarchical system, the leaders would simply appoint a person to fill an office and the members would have no say.
In a congregational system, the members would appoint a person to fill an office and the hierarchy would have no say.
The Law of Common Consent seems to combine the two, in order to give place for both leadership and membership to have their voice in selecting church officers.
The problem, if problem there be, is that the power has shifted almost exclusively to the leadership of the LDS Church in that they select a person for office, and the membership is then expected to sustain whoever is selected; so much so that in the most recent general conference, I believe thanks was expressed for the sustaining vote of the members before the reading of Church officers.
The "Law of Common Consent" seems to have become a fait accompli in which the voice of the membership has been reduced to meaninglessness; or at best the voice of the membership is there solely for the purpose of acting as "spies" for the leadership to see if they have caught the nominee in some sin the leadership did not.
Any thoughts?"

To which I responded:

Much as I laud the ideals of democracy, I do not believe that a true church should be run on strict democracy where official doctrines and leadership positions are simply put to a vote by the lay membership. That being said, there is something horribly wrong with an organization whose leaders are so convinced of their own doctrinal inerrancy that they are closed off to suggestions, opinions, and criticisms of members (a.k.a., outsiders) who upon voicing any dissention are immediately branded as apostates. My personal speculation is that the doctrine of common consent was originally intended to give the LDS membership a voice in selecting their leaders. Just as the "councils" system today provides a forum (albeit a closed-door forum) for leaders to discuss and debate callings, policies, and at higher levels, even doctrines, I believe the "common consent" system was intended to encourage the voicing of criticisms, disagreements, and concerns so that "all things are done in order." The "order" is that members have at least some input and voice in the deliberation from which official callings and doctrines emerge. The leadership's "legitimacy" is not based upon popular vote, nor by purported prophetic decree alone, but by a process of truth-discernment which is more transparent and not obscured by stubborn dogma. Just as we should not and cannot pray in a vacuum, casting out all of our existing knowledge, just as we should "ponder" and pray, rather than just pray, so, too must the process at arriving at the truth be open to hearing and considering what non-leaders have to say. If we elect to make decisions without ever listening to or fairly considering dissenting views, we will at the outset be precluding ourselves from arriving at conclusions which might turn out to be correct. If we as a church are sincere in seeking the truth, then we will not close ourselves off to dissenting views, and will instead give them a fair voice and due consideration.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

'America's Four Gods" (supposedly)

A poll asked the following question:

Researchers say there are four views of God among Americans, each view having about an equal share. Which God is closest to your view?

1. The Authoritative God: Highly judgmental of us and highly engaged in the ongoing affairs of the world
2. The Benevolent God: Minimal judgment of our choices but highly engaged in our well-being
3. The Critical God: Highly judgmental but not engaged in the world (mainly reserving blessings/rewards for the afterlife).
4. The Distant God: Non-judgmental and not engaged in world events. God booted up the universe and then left us alone
5. No God: Atheist or Agnostic

To which I responded:

Although the second choice comes closest to my view, I did not vote because I believe it may be misleading and would not do justice to my view of God. I view God as benevolent, but I would not quite say "non-judgmental". I think God does have great wisdom about right and wrong, and that he feels bad for us when we make poor choices. I have long rejected the view of a vengeful god who is petty, easily offended, and constantly waiting in the wings to deal out punishment and judgment. I believe that everything God does in relation to mankind is for our greater happiness and progression, and that God never acts out of anger. At those times when he allows us to suffer the natural consequences of our poor choices, I believe he is not looking down on us saying, "Ha, ha! Told ya so!" or "Who's your daddy?" Rather, I believe he is thinking, "Much as I would like to help you, and much as I love you, if I were to now intervene to prevent your suffering, you would not progress and learn as you need to." I also do not think of God engineering virtually every little trial in our lives to test us. In terms of physical intervention, intervention is an exception to the rule that God generally allows the laws of nature and human agency to take their own course. Unlike most LDS, my view of God is that he rarely intervenes in our lives apart from imparting comfort and inspiration to us. But I do believe he cares about us deeply and pays close attention to our lives and the choices we make. I believe my views are very much in harmony with the scripture that says God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

One of the great mysteries for me as a believer is determining why God sometimes intervenes and why at other times he doesn't. I cannot say, nor can I conclude based upon my life experiences that people have a statistically higher chance of a good result if they first pray or receive a priesthood blessing. What I can say is that in my own life, I am convinced that there have been times when God did intervene, and I was blessed. Sometimes, I am not sure whether a good result happened on its own or because of God's intervention, but I am content to give God the benefit of the doubt.