William James

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

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.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is the LDS Church "True"?

The question was put:

"What say you?

I am LDS and I (??????????) that the LDS Church is true.

Am pretty sure
Am not sure
Don't care
Don't know
This is an utterly stupid poll

Any other word that I missed that might better describe your thoughts?"

To which I responded:

It is impossible to give a meaningful response without first determining the intended use of the term "true." Here are some potential definitions:

1. Error-free in doctrines, claimed history, official pronouncements, policies, the assignment of callings.
2. Error-free in doctrines, claimed history, official pronouncements, policies, the assignment of callings, and the official acts of high-ranking leaders.
3. Error-free in current official doctrine only.
4. Not necessarily error free in doctrine or claimed history, but possessing authentic priesthood authority from God.
5. Not necessarily error free in doctrine or claimed history, but being the only church with which God is well pleased.
6. Not necessarily error free in doctrine or claimed history, but being a church with which God is well pleased
7. Not necessarily error free in doctrine or claimed history, but being the only church on earth with any authentic priesthood authority from God
8. Any combination of the above

For me, I feel virtually certain (leaving room only for the possibility that I am insane, severely deluded, extremely unintelligent, or woefully uninformed) that at a minimum, the LDS Church is not what it purports to be, i.e., free of doctrinal errors and errors in the faith-promoting version of its history. But I do make room for the following possibilities (non-exhaustive list): (1) the partial authenticity of the Book of Mormon; (2) that Joseph Smith genuinely had a physical vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ, and of various angels at various times, and was called as God's prophet to restore the church; (3) that there is such a thing as priesthood authority and that on Earth, it is exclusively found in the LDS church; (4) that at least some callings are inspired by God; (5) that there exists authentic revelation in the Church; (6) that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet called of God; and (7) that temple rituals are authorized or inspired by God.

What I definitely do not accept the idea that any of the foregoing 7 possibilities necessarily leads to the conclusion of doctrinal inerrancy. I also feel that, even if those 7 possibilities turn out to be true, they are for now matters of faith which are neither intuitive, nor supported by universally accessible proof of objective certainty, and people should not be despised or looked down upon for not having yet concluded the truth of those matters, or for having decided to take a second critical look at those issues after having previously accepted them as settled truths.

So to summarize, I personally have faith that the LDS Church is "true" in the loose sense, but I do not believe it is true in the dogmatic absolute sense. Because of the ambiguity in the term "true," I tend to grow uncomfortable with people trying to make black-and-white characterizations like, "Either the Church is true, or it isn't." There's a lot more to it than that, and like most things, the Church has a lot of shades of gray within it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Where I See The LDS Church In 2030

The question was put:

"Where do you see the Church, the missionary force, temples and membership 20 years from now?

I see the Book of Mormon being renamed to "The Book Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints"

Just a thought. What do you see?"

To which I responded:

I'll go out on a limb and speculate for the year 2030:

1. The First Presidency and/or Quorum of the 12 will have issued some type of document designed to pacify the uproar over blacks being denied the priesthood in the past (it may be an outright apology, or it may be something less than that). Enough time will have passed that the old leaders who had previously supported the ban will have passed away.

2. There will be around 50,000 active missionaries.

3. There will be around 18 million members on the books, 17% of whom will hold temple recommends.

4. There will be around 200 temples.

5. Missionaries will be allowed in at least some predominatly Muslim countries which are presently closed off to missionary work.

As for other, more significant changes, I believe we are not likely to see them for another 60 to 150 years, including:

(1) Women being ordained to the priesthood and to church leadership positions;
(2) Consensual polygamy being permitted (both polygyny and polyandry) under certain circumstances;
(3) Homosexual relationships being permitted (they might not be called "marriage," but I suspect there may be unions "for time");
(4) Masturbation no longer being condemned;
(5) Sexual fantasies about people other than your spouse no longer receiving across-the-board condemnation;
(6) Members being permitted to openly disagree with official church stances while remaining in good standing;
(7) Prophetic pronouncements dealing much more directly with environmental sins such as pollution and environmental degradation;
(8) The Church getting more involved in humanitarian causes, such as vocal and public opposition to genocide, enslavement, corporate corruption, governmental corruption, torture, poverty, and wars wages for unjustified reasons such as greed;
(9) The Church opening up its historical archives to all scholarly research, whether performed by friends or critics of the Church;
(10) The Church acknowledging that Joseph Smith and other church leaders inserted at least some of their own personal ideas into their purported revelations.

On Loving Our Neighbor And Discrimination Against Gays

The comment was made:

"I was not alive during state sanctioned segregation, so I don't really have an understanding willful ignorance/willful stupidity and willful absurdities concerning bigots. I admit a few years ago I made statements that hate crimes legislation gave special privileges (though I had never read proposed wording of hate crimes legislation).

However, when I read the initial article about SLC adding to/adopting anti-discrimination policies in employment and housing, I immediately read the ordinance and quickly realized the ordinance was nuetral - that is, the ordinance does not provide special treatment to one class of persons, but rather provides preferential treatment to all.

At the moment all I can think of is the teaching Christ gave about "when I was naked ye clothed me, when I was hungered ye feed, when I was [homeless] ye took me in", in light of that message - the least of these thy brethern - and considering the universality of the "love thy neighbor" it really does boggle my mind that people feel so wronged and make such outlandish claims of "our freedom hangs in the balance" when it comes to having laws which support the very notions Christ taught.

edited to confirm implication

Just to be clear I consider anyone who discriminates in employment on anything other than essential job function qualifications to be a bigot. I consider a person who discriminates in housing on a basis of sexual preference to be a bigot - excluding housing discrimination by one seeking live in roommates."

To which I responded:

Disclaimer: I have not read the subject ordinance banning discrimination against homosexuals.

Laws forbidding discrimination can sometimes be a gray issue. On one hand, people should generally be permitted to live as their conscience dictates. On the other hand, doing so will sometimes have a negative impact on others, and a balance must be struck in determining how much license each person should have in making their own decisions. Most LDS probably support laws which forbid evangelical Christian employers from refusing to hire LDS on religious grounds (I, for one, support such laws), but it is interesting to observe how so many conservative Mormons are apparently unwilling to extend the same principles to the protection of homosexuals.

It seems to me that the real root of the issue is that, in the minds of these conservative Mormons, a person's choice to adhere to most religions other than Mormonism could be made in good faith, whereas active homosexuals "ought to know" that their lifestyle choice is sinful and cannot be morally justified under any reasonable conscience which a person might have. I think the LDS conservatives conclude (perhaps subconsciously) from this distinction that the line between permissible and impermissible discrimination ought to be drawn at the outer limits of reasonable conscience. Where the person being discriminated against engages in activities, or holds beliefs which no reasonable conscience would tolerate, then discrimination on that basis should be permitted; where reasonable minds might disagree on the acceptability of certain beliefs or conduct, then discrimination on the basis of such beliefs or conduct is more subject to government regulation.

True, I have oversimplified a very complex issue. To be fair, I agree with much of the concept I set forth in the proceeding paragraph, execpt that I believe homosexuals very often are justified in having homosexual relationships. For biological, psychological, and physiological reasons which I do not fully comprehend, it appears many homosexuals will have homosexual desires throughout mortality. The solution is not for homosexuals to live lives of miserable, agonizing celibacy, but rather for them to find loving, respectful, responsible relationships to allow them to be as happy as possible during mortality, and I leave it to God to figure out what happens after this life.

All of that said, I still believe there are reasonable limits within which discrimination against homosexuals should be legal. Examples include: (1) non-profit organizations ought to have plenary power to deny employment to homosexuals (i.e., the LDS Church should never be forced to hire homosexuals if it offends its religious tenets); (2) perhaps very small employers (say, 1 to 5 employees) should have the right to refuse to hire homosexuals; (3) landlords who want to rent out part of their own dwelling space, and perhaps also landlords who live in very close proximity to a dwelling space to be rented out and there are a very small number of units, should be allowed to refuse to rent out to homosexuals. The rationale for these latter two examples is that "now it's personal"; not only would the employer/landlord be providing a job or liviing quarters to the person against whom they wish to discriminate, but now they also will be much more likely to have to interact with them. But on the whole, for larger, more institutional, for-profit employers and landlords, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation ought to be legally prohibited. To allow such discrimination by these larger, more powerful groups unjustifiedly increases the risk that the powerful will ultimately suppress the conscience of the weak. Not only that, but their interest in discriminating is much less than the three examples I listed above, and so the balance of interests favors prohibiting, rather than permitting, discrimination on sexual orientation grounds; larger groups and interests' main motivation is generally profit, rather than furthering a privately-held moral agenda.

CAVEAT: nothing in this email constitutes my endorsement of discrimination against homosexuals-- only the legalization of such discrimination. It is neither practical, nor feasible, nor possible, nor desirable, to attempt to outlaw all behavior (i.e., invidious discrimination) which we believe is morally wrong (that is one reason, for example, why I support first-trimester abortion rights, even though I personally believe abortion is generally imprudent if not morally wrong). In our democracy, we must make the compromise of recognizing that it is often necessary to allow others to exercise their own conscience even though it offends our own. There is a legitimate line to draw in limiting this principle- where a person's choices clearly and unjustifiedly cause a negative impact on others, but no one has yet shown me any solid evidence that consensual, responsibly-conducted homosexual behavior has a significant, objectively harmful impact on society (let alone employers or landlords).

On Criticism Of When Mormons Celebrate Christmas

The comment was made:

"One of my stalkers has an obsession when it comes to Mormons and Christmas. He claims that because Mormons believe that Christ was born April 6 (or during the Passover) then for us to celebrate Christmas in December is just another attempt to deceive the public. When asked if he thought Jesus was born on December the 25th or when asked for evidence that all Christians believed this; he gave no supporting evidence.

True it is we believe that Jesus Christ was born during the Passover, but we do not have any "second" Christmas celebration in April. In fact the topic is seldom ever discussed.

If this is a conspiracy, of the Church to decorate Temple Square at Christmas, then that conspiracy extends into the homes of every Latter-day Saint.

This is what passes as "scholarly criticism" (as this person is a "Biblical Scholar" who teaches the Bible on a college level."

To which I responded:

Frankly, I don't think it matters what day of the year Christ was born. We worship him anyway, and given the very lengthy Christian tradition of celebrating his birth on what I understand to be the day of Winter solstice (in order to integrate Christianity into existing pagan traditions, and which date shifted to December 25 through inaccurate calendars), it makes sense that LDS would celebrate with the rest of Christianity on that day. As you point out, I doubt there is any consensus among Christianity on which day Christ was born. The Bible doesn't tell us.

This is yet another example of how narrow-minded fundamentalists focus more on non-essential differences than they focus on the big picture of what makes a "Christian".

On The Eternal Nature Of God

The comment was made:

"On another thread (another board) someone was talking about how the church continues to change. The idea was that God never changes…I posted this which just disappeared.


A God who once demanded animal sacrifice and then did not. A God who supported stoning of Adulterers and then did not. A God that called for the death of an entire culture through Saul and then a God who is tolerate of all people. A God who once favored just one race of people and declared himself their God and no other and now the God of all. A God who once denied the Priesthood to all but one tribe and who now allows it for all. A God who once allowed polygamy in the OT, but seems to condemn it in the new. A God who indentifies himself as the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" all polygamist, and now condemns any who do so. A God who still claims that if we accept him we become the seed of Abraham, yet Abraham turned out his wife a child to die in the desert. Don't even go there.

I put it back...see how long it lasts now."

To which I responded:

Because I believe in the principle of eternal progression, I feel I must also take the view that God is constantly changing, not in his fundamental nature, but rather in ever-so-small increments as he continues to increase in knowledge (I abandoned any belief in God's absolute omniscience long ago), glory, etc. That said, I don't believe that my model of the type of change God continues to undergo is an adequate explanation for the discrepancies in doctrines over time. A far more persuasive explanation is that these changes are not a result of God changing, but rather of MAN'S PERCEPTION OF GOD changing. Because I consider this principle to be so obvious, I have long believed that scripture should not be the end of our inquiries about either morality generally or the nature of God. Any doctrine which cannot withstand the scrutiny of critical thinking is subject to being disregarded, in my opinion.

On Consequences Of Disobeying Commandments

The comment was made:

"We all know about the rich young ruler and his conversation with Jesus where he askes Jesus what he must do to be saved.

I know there are many legitimate layers of meaning to that example, but the one that i want to discuss is the literal aspect of it.

Christ told the young man that if he wanted to gain eternal life, he had to sell everything he had and follow Him.

My question is, for those who argue that we are saved by faith alone, could the young man have gained eternal life without obeying that specific commandment of Christ's to him?"

To which I responded:

This raises a host of issues, including:

1) Time. Are we talking about a permanent disobedience, or one that is repented of later? In my view, God will always allow us to repent, and at no time is any one of us beyond saving, even after our mortal lives are over. However, as taught in the BoM, God will not save us "in" our sins but will save us "from" our sins. Only when we turn from our sins and become enlightened will we be able to be saved.

2) What is the purpose behind the commandment? For example, was Jesus really saying that the rich man had to give away all his material possessions, or did Jesus have some other purpose in mind? I believe the accumulation of wealth for it's own sake, when pursued without a desire to use that wealth to make the world a better place and serve your fellow human beings, is a serious sin. Perhaps if Jesus had been questioned on the record, he would have admitted that his saying to the rich man was a rhetorical device used to illustrate this principle, rather than a commandment merely to be taken at face value.

3) I believe that salvation happens as we become enlightened about the universe and our duty towards our fellow beings. For the most part, commandments are mere tools to do two things: (1) enlighten us; and (2) give us joy. I do not personally believe in the principle of obedience for obedience's sake. If people choose not to follow certain commandments, the effect will be that we will be less enlightened and less happy, rather than per se barring us from any salvation at all.

On Criticisms Of The So-Called "Homosexual Agenda"

The comment was made:

"Being a sometime participant in the debate over same sex marriages I consider myself to be somewhat conversant in the various controversies that swirl around the subject. In the prop 8 fight, if I recall correctly, the pro same-sex marriage side was livid over certain television commericials implied (or better said, out right stated) that if same sex marriage were normalized then same sex marriage would be taught in schools as being on par with heterosexual marriage,etc. The hue and cry was that this was not true (though and Juliann pointed out several times, they really never told us it why it wasn't true). Now comes this story:

Obama's Safe Schools Czar Tied to Lewd Readings for 7th Graders

First of all, is there anyone who doesn't agree that such content is really not appropriate for 7th graders? Heavens, I'm pretty sure it's not even appropriate for seniors in high school. Neverthess, how can the claim that same sex relationships will not be taught/advocated/defended in school be squared with the evidence that, in fact, gay rights groups are, and have been, attempting to do just that?

Second, why is there no outrage about the many of these "stories" that involve pedophelia and sexual abuse of minors? I know that whenever the two have been conflated on this list (pedophilis/homosexuality) there is outrage. Why, then, would the gay community seek to show such relationships in a positive light?

Finally, at what point does this move from a fring issue to a mainstream issue? Isn't GLSEN a "mainstream" gay organization?"

To which I responded:

Disclaimer: I am not, never have been, nor ever will be, homosexual. The issues addressed are very sticky and difficult, and I expressly reserve my right to change my opinion as I become more educated on the topic.

Being only somewhat, but not fully, informed on this topic, I think there are a few points to make:

1. Age alone is not an indication of maturity. Some kids are way more equipped at early ages to responsibly digest and deal with mature subject matter. Others are much less mature and more likely to either get the wrong message or experiment in unsafe ways.

2. Sex education, including education about homosexuality, should be phased in according to the maturity of the child, which, although is often correlated with age, cannot conveniently follow some rigid chart about what to teach when.

3. There exists in our country and around the world a large sector of the population which is both homophobic and erotophobic. The phobia aspect of our reactions to this story need to be filtered out in an attempt to allow us, if possible, to look at this issue objectively.

4. In my opinion, with some exceptions, it is not appropriate for seventh graders to be encouraged (or forced) to read highly explicit stories about sexual encounters (heterosexual or homosexual), because seventh graders generally lack the maturity to deal with it. Any stories directed to children about non-consensual sexual encounters must take great care to explain and emphasize the critical difference between fantasy and reality; while a private, carefully managed sexual fantasy about a non-consensual encounter can sometimes be harmless fun (for example, research shows that many responsible adult women privately have rape fantasies although in real life they would never seek or desire such an encounter), reality is an entirely separate matter which must be taken extremely seriously, and real-life non-consensual sexual encounters are NEVER OK. Because children do not usually have a fully-developed sense of the distinction between fantasy and reality, explicit depictions of sexual acts should not be directed at children in a way which fails to signal disapproval of non-consensual acts. In fact, for young children, it is better to refrain altogether from any explicit depictions of sexual acts, consensual or not, because, again, they lack the maturity. While I have no objection to adult consumption of non-abusive, consensual, adult-oriented, non-gross, non-overly-explicit, erotic materials, the maturity gap between adults and children prevents application of the same rules to children.

5. Ultimately, no matter how hard we might try to prevent it, children will have access to media and experiences in the sexual realm which exceed their level of maturity. That is no excuse for failing to make any effort to censor their activities, but we should not automatically assume that children who are exposed to certain ideas will necessarily act out the behavior.

6. Parents should be permitted to teach their children about whether homosexual activity is morally permissible, and public schools should not force children to adopt a moral code condoning homosexual behavior. That being said, science, rather than religion, should govern in terms of what children in public schools learn about the nature of homosexuality and its prevalence in society. Tolerance for those of opposing viewpoints, including gay people, is an important part of our public education. While it is the parents' right to teach their children that homosexual activity is not morally acceptable, no school should encourage or condone hatred, invidious discrimination, or dehumanization towards gay people. Teaching about gay "marriage" is not the same as teaching empirical facts about homosexuality. As I have stated many times before, the term "marriage" has a religious connotation to it and the principle of separation of church and state should bar a public school from indoctrinating children concerning the acceptability of "gay marriage."

7. Stories of gay teens engaging in consensual gay relationships with older people should be dealt with carefully. Morally, I think such a relationship is not per se wrong, depending upon the younger partner's maturity level, the precise nature of the relationship and precautions taken, the level of commitment, etc., but most of the time, a teenager lacks the maturity to truly consent. That is why we have laws defining statutory rape. In terms of the perpetuation of such stories, it can be OK so long as the reader is mature enough to distinguish fantasy from reality, the goal of the story is to supply a fantasy or to help people gain tolerance for themselves and others, and the story is not encouraging the acting out of risky behavior.

8. As to this particular Obama appointee, I don't think that what I've read so far should disqualify him from his appointment. However, if it were up to me, I would question him very carefully to confirm that his views did not violate any of the principles I have outlined above.

Lessons I've Learned Which Have Contributed To Changes In My Beliefs Since Childhood

The comment was made:

"A friend just called me and asked me if I would pose a question here to believers. He said, "I would do it, but you have some credibility there." After I stopped laughing, I told I'm I'd post it.

Here it is:

How have your beliefs about the church changed since you were, say, 8, or 16, or 25? What has motivated your beliefs to change?

Have at it."

To which I responded:

As a small child and until puberty, I think I had absolute faith in the Church. I knew nothing about the history of polygamy or the blacks and the priesthood issue, nor did I have any understanding of human physiology and how it conflicted with the Church's puritannical brand of chastity. As I grew older, I began to understand certain critical concepts, including:

Church leaders are fallible, even prophets, and make mistakes both in personal choices and doctrinal pronouncements.

Parents are not perfect, and children have no duty to submit to abusive parents.

Coercion in religious matters is one of the worst things parents can do with their children.

Empirical data strongly suggests that at least some people are irreparably predisposed to homosexual tendencies.

The history of Christianity's doctrinal pronouncements governing sexuality strongly suggests that such doctrines were announced in ignorance of the facts about human sexuality and physiology, and in an environment where chauvenism and erotophobia reigned.

People lie about their beliefs and their behavior in order to fit in, giving others the false impression they are abnormal or shameful, thereby perpetuating the tendency for more lies and pretentions.

Joseph Smith's life history is not always complimentary to the quasi-infallible status conferred upon him by the Church.

Few if any of us actually know; most of us just believe and say we know, either because it makes us feel better, look more self-assured in the eyes of our peers, or because we have not been sufficiently confronted with experience and contemplation to make us humble enough to realize that what we really have is belief, noble as it may be.

In general, but with exceptions, life experience, study, honest contemplation, and a sincere desire to do the right thing better qualify us for discovering truth than living "worthily" according to present church standards. In fact, efforts devoted to complying with church standards and teachings can actually taint our honest inquiry and unduly influence our perception to make it more likely that we will find in favor of church teachings.

Prayer sometimes works.

The fairytale ending view of temple marriage is highly damaging to the church's youth and likely contributes to many failed marriages. Rather than focusing on whether our youth have a "temple marriage," we should focus on them having a happy marriage, disabusing our youth of the notion that, if they just live righteously, they will have a blissful marriage. It is also unrealistic to pretend that somehow our sexuality can be turned on and off like a switch- you can turn it off before marriage, and flip it on once you're married to have perfection.

At least 98% of men and 80% of women in a relationship, whether married or not, regularly have sexual fantasies about someone other than their spouse. Normally constituted human beings are capable of (and usually do) differentiate between fantasy and reality so that, although they privately entertain fantasies in their minds, they refrain from acting out those fantasies with other people and are thus able to maintain fidelity within a marriage. The focus should therefore not be on preventing the fantasies, but rather helping people who have problems to distinguish fantasy from reality.

The emphasis on the family, while important, should not obscure the true principle that each person has a God-given right to reasonably seek their own happiness, constrained only by the duty to try to serve others within reason and treat the rest of the world with kindness and love.

Joseph Smith never preached that the priesthood should be denied to blacks.

Joseph Smith was fallible and made many mistakes in his prophetic pronouncements, but was still a prophet of God.

No records exist of Joseph Smith having ever condemned masturbation, although it was a topic of significance in his day.

Church leaders in the late 1800s and the early 1900s likely believed that masturbation cause physical ailments.

Brigham Young did not condition missionary service on a lack of history of fornication.

Faith generally should not conflict with logic and reason, but faith can reasonably subsist where logic an reason do not seem to provide a likely answer to a question.

People in the Church so often are bearing their internal crosses silently.

Because it is forbidden to openly criticize church doctrines, there is often a disconnect between what people actually believe and what they profess to believe. The church would be a whole lot better off if some things could be discussed and debated more openly instead of on anonymous boards like this.

A great many men in the Church are quietly depressed and sad about their sexless marriages, and Church doctrine is of little help.

The maxim of "when in doubt, select the choice which is the most selfless" is wrong and highly damaging. Although it is true that we have to be very careful not to become too selfish at the expense of others, how are we to love our neighbor if we do not also love ourselves?

On Controversy Over The Celebration Of Christmas

A poll asked the following questions:

"This is just pitiful. This is what makes me hate religion. (Also, what do you think of the Christmas Wars?) Rate Topic: 1 Votes Poll: Christmas Wars (50 member(s) have cast votes)
What do you think of the Christmas Controversy?
There are much better things to worry about. (13 votes [26.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 26.00%
Public areas are off-limits to explicitly religious decorations. But, there's no problem with private property. (12 votes [24.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 24.00%
Public property, and government buildings should be allowed to display any religious decorations. (20 votes [40.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 40.00%
Public property, and government buildings should be allowed to display only Christian decorations. This is, after all, a Christian Nation. (4 votes [8.00%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 8.00%
It doesn't matter that much, but this sort of behavior is uncalled for. (1 votes [2.00%] - View)"

To which I responded:

This poll should have been created with more options, including a catchall "other" option. I did not vote because none of the choices do justice to my views on the subject.

I personally find it refreshing when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. On a certain level, it grates on me that the tradition of Christmas has become so commercialized. But it is the commercialization, rather than the secularization, which bothers me the most. For believing Christians, Christmas does and should have religious significance as a time for them to contemplate Christ and be grateful for him. But we must be very careful not to convert Christmas into an opportunity to make non-believers feel like outsiders by sort of conditioning their enjoyment on a subscription to our own religious views. Christmas has a place in secular morality because, even if one does not believe in Jesus as the divine savior of the world, Christmas stands for broad moral principles which are generally universally accepted throughout the world: charity, love, peace, tolerance, selflessness, generosity, etc. It is not right for us Chirstians to attempt to deprive non-believers of these positive aspects of Christmas by insisting that these principles only exist because of Jesus, or that failure to believe in Jesus as the divine savior necessarily implicates rejection of these true principles. Many good and selfless people still do not find it in their hearts to believe in Christianity, let alone even God. To these people, the best we can do is show our love and try to demonstrate how our beliefs help us to more fully live the good principles they believe in.

In terms of private versus public property and the use of religious symbols, etc., I think generally private property owners, who own premises which are not open to the general public, can do just about anything they want. Mall owners can also do a great deal, so long as there is not unfair discrimination. As for publicly owned property, the display of religious symbols is OK so long as it does not constitute an official endorsement of any particular religion or religion in general. In making that determination, weight should be given to whether the message includes generally accepted secular teachings: charity, love, peace, tolerance, selflessness, generosity, etc. Christmas in my opinion has developed such a strong secondary secular connotation that the term generally should not be shunned or censored, but at the same time, as mentioned before, care should be taken so as not to shut out non-believers.

Tolerance As A Principle Of The Gospel

The comment was made:

"On another thread I made the comment that tolerance is not a principle of the gospel, but that obedience is. What I mean by this is that we do not have to tolerate evil or help men justify their evil acts. I am continually amazed that people seem to think that all manner of sin and wickedness deserve the same sort of tolerance that we should give to differences of opinion, race, or cultural differences.

But I know that some will differ and claim that even tolerance of evil is a principle of the gospel. So I guess what I am asking is why people think that?"

To which I responded:

First, I think we have to address some definitional issues. Tolerance has been defined generally as:

"1. The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.
a. Leeway for variation from a standard.
b. The permissible deviation from a specified value of a structural dimension, often expressed as a percent."

"Evil acts" is unfortunately somewhat vague. I don't expect anyone to tolerate murder, for example. But what about tolerance for people choosing not to believe in God? Should we respect their belief even though it differs from our own? I think so, even though tolerance does not mean that we must agree with someone.

Often times we may have a lot in common with people but will disagree with them for various reasons, including: different life experiences, different world views, different methodologies for concluding what is true, natural skepticism, overall attitude, etc. In deciding whether to tolerate someone's beliefs or behaviors, I believe we should consider some critical principles, including, without limitation, the following:

1) Whether there is room for reasonable disagreement on a particular point by people acting in good faith, including conflicting evidence and arguments, or lack of objective evidence (i.e., you might feel based on your personal spirutual experiences that it is extremely obvious that God exists, but for someone who has not had such experiences, and has not seen God, as most people haven't, it may be perfectly reasonable not to believe in him);

2) Whether the belief or behavior is objectively harmful (i.e., murder certainly is by any reasonable standard, but there is great disagreement over whether masturbation is, for example (and, indeed, the overwhelming majority of the scientific community says it is not));

3) The general principles that discovering the truth will sometimes require exercising faith, and that we have a general moral obligation to sometimes sacrifice our short-term desires for the needs of others.

So, in conclusion, I believe that tolerance IS most certainly a principle of the gospel. Intolerance is often the result of overconfidence in the face of doubt- a failure to appreciate the possibility that you could be mistaken in your beliefs. If all of the grief and suffering in human history brought about by intolerance has taught us nothing else, it should teach us humility. While we all may have our private convictions, we should exercise great caution in our judgments, because, as Jesus instructed, we may be judged with the same level of harshness with which we judge others. That is not to say that we should never judge, for indeed we must; but in doing so, we must remember that resepect for reasonable disagreement is one of the cornerstones of human peace, harmony, and even democracy. Both in our family relationships, and with the rest of the world, tolerance is the principle which helps us get along despite our differences. If that is not a true principle of the gospel, then I am not so sure the Celestial Kingdom is the place for me.

On Institutionalized Racism In The LDS Church Today

A poll asked the following questions:

"Has (or did) the restriction on Blacks holding the Priesthood… Institutionalized racism within "The Church"? Rate Topic: 2 Votes Poll: Racism (60 member(s) have cast votes)
Is racisim institutionalized within "The Church"?
Yes (11 votes [18.33%])
Percentage of vote: 18.33%
No (41 votes [68.33%])
Percentage of vote: 68.33%
Somewhat (8 votes [13.33%]"

To which I responded:

I voted "no" even though the effects of previously institutionalized racism persist somewhat today. Leaders continue on occasion to counsel people not to marry a member of another race, but I would not consider this "institutionalization" becuase there is no outright prohibition or saction tied to going against this advice.

On The LDS Church Admitting Mistakes

The comment was made:

"One of the things that came out of my thread on the banning of Blacks from holding the Priesthood is the possibility that it was just a mistake. The idea (as expressed by some GA's) that the ban my have just evolved from the social morays of the time within all churches. Many posted articles that noted that such institutional racism was common in the mid 1800's among most churches. Some churches have made apologies for past wrongs, leading others to ask why can't we (The Mormons) do the same?

But those who advocate this (who are not members) do not seek an apology, but rather by doing so we show the world that our former Presidents were not Prophets after all. As such it becomes what many call, "a no win situation". This puts the LDS Church in a unique situation that other churches do not face.

If we found that it was indeed a "policy" rather than a "doctrine", what must we do?"

To which I responded:

Members and leaders must realize a few critical points, namely:
(1) Even a major mistake such as a false doctrine denying blacks the priesthood, does not by itself prove that the revealer of the doctrine was not a prophet; therefore, admitting the mistake does not constitute an admission that the LDS church presidents from Brigham Young through Joseph Fielding Smith were false prophets. Only a few small-minded people would take an apology as an admission of the prophets' inauthenticity.
(2) What such a major mistake DOES establish, though, is that even true prophets can be fallible, and that the mere fact that a purported revelation, doctrine, or policy is handed down by a church president or other high-ranking leader as being God's will on the subject, is not a guaranty of the accuracy thereof. The necessary implication is that members have the burden of sorting through doctrines and policies themselves, and cannot just have them spoon-fed by dogmatic or (sometimes) ignorant leaders who may be relying upon their own poorly-reasoned opinions. This is what the church is most afraid of- having to trust the general membership to come to conclusions on their own about any doctrines.
(3) Try as the Church might, I am 99.999% certain that a refusal to issue an apology will make the church worse off, and no amount of rationalization will be able to talk our way around the simple fact that the denial of the priesthood to blacks was the result of people's racism, plain and simple. (side comment: likewise, the church's continuing puritannical stance on sexuality and its expression is the result of leaders' unwillingness to cast aside their pre-existing prejudices and consider the matter anew)

On Praying About Evolution

The comment was made:

"Anybody ever pray about the theory of evolution? I did, and I got spiritual confirmation that it's true."

To which I responded:

I am not in a position to deny the validity of your subjective experience. However, I can say that I strongly believe that, very often, equally sincere and well-meaning people get irreconcilably different answers in response to prayer. Therefore, I believe that prayer alone is not a reliable method of discovering the truth. But I do believe that prayer, when combined with study, logic, reason, and objective evidence, can provide us with a much stronger conviction/witness about something than we might have if we resorted to logic and reason alone. At least I have found that to be the case in my own life on multiple occasions.

I don't believe I've ever prayed about evolution, and I do not believe that a spiritual confirmation one way or the other would have any bearing on my behavior as a human being. I suppose that, underlying the issue of whether you have a spiritual witness concerning evolution is this: why does it matter? I think prayer's primary function is to enlighten the conscience to guide us in our sense of morality; once in a while it can tip us off for other purposes. For people who hang their faith in God on whether evolution is true, they may feel it is important to know whether evolution is true. But if you believe, as I do, that evolution is perfectly compatible with the concept of God, then it hardly seems to matter in a spiritual sense whether God created us with his bare hands or whether he used evolution as a tool to create us.

On Capital Punishment

A poll posed the following questions:

"Capital Punishment What do members of the church believe? Rate Topic: Poll: Capital punishment (59 member(s) have cast votes)
Hw do you feel about capital punishent?
I am LDS and support the death penalty. (42 votes [71.19%])
Percentage of vote: 71.19%
I am LDS and oppose the death penalty. (13 votes [22.03%])
Percentage of vote: 22.03%
I am not LDS and support the death penalty. (2 votes [3.39%])
Percentage of vote: 3.39%
I am not LDS and oppose the death penalty. (2 votes [3.39%])
Percentage of vote: 3.39%"

To which I responded:

I am LDS and support the death penalty, with the following caveats:

1. My reason for supporting the death penalty is independent of my belonging to the LDS faith.
2. The death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous and egregious crimes; murder alone, without significant aggravating circumstances, does not justify the death penalty. Such aggravating circumstances could include: (a) the murderer's state of mind; (b) the position of the victim, i.e., was it a perfectly innocent three-year-old unable to defend himself; (c) the number of victims; (d) the manner in which the murder was carried out (I think a slow painful death is much worse than, say, just shooting someone in the head); (e) how badly the victim suffered before dying (i.e., if there was torture or violent rape in connection with the killing); (f) the degree to which the murderer suffered from any mental conditions (i.e., retardation); and (g) whether there were circumstances beyond the murderer's control which contributed to the murderer's acts in carrying out the crime (i.e., duress, prior assault by the victim, etc.)
3. Even where the crime is particularly heinous, I believe there should be room for avoidance of the death penalty where it appears that the convict has repented, or shows meaningful remorse, or has some reasonable hope of rehabilitation.
4. Because of the irreversible aspect of an execution, it should also be reserved in cases where there is virtually no doubt as to the guilt of the person to be executed. It appears to me that there have been more than a few cases in American history where innocent people were wrongly convicted of capital crimes and put to death. This should cause us to be extremely humbled and reserved in deciding to execute anyone.

Needless to say, if I ruled the world, the death penalty would not be unheard of, but executions would be rare.

Did God Create Hell?

The comment was made:

"So if God is the creator of Heaven and Earth (glad I didn't have to dig around for that scripture!), then he also created Hell and exiled Lucifer there."

To which I responded:

If we LDS believe in multiple gods, each of whom has the capacity to create things, then it necessarily follows, as I see it, that NOT everything in the universe was created by God. On the subject of hell itself, I am no expert (though at times of discouragement it has felt like I was observing it first hand), but from what I can tell, the doctrine of hell is a somewhat recent invention in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In any event, if there is such a thing as hell (which I tend to doubt), then I envision it as a cold place where people, through their own stubbornness and hatred, cease to progress because they have stopped loving, and that it is a misery not thrust upon them by any outside force (such as God's judgment), but rather is suffered quietly and brought on by their own refusal to see the light. I don't think God has created, or would even need to create, such a place, because it would exist on its own, just as darkness exists automatically in the absence of light. Just speculation.

And in response to another comment that: "So what I'm asking is. . . who chooses Hell when they know that it is a torturous eternity?"

I responded:

I personally believe that few, if any, people will not be saved. It seems to me that a belief, that any soul would ever wind up in eternal misery and be denied salvation and happiness, is irreconcilably inconsistent with the notion that God's love for us is infinite and has no end. It is also irreconcilable with the notion of a perfectly just God, because an infinite punishment, to be just, would necessarily require an infinite crime, and that is something none of us are capable of committing, in my opinion. If God truly loves us that much, he will never give up on us, no matter how badly we have sinned, no matter how much time has passed, no matter how little we deserve his grace. I believe that there have been statements by Brigham Young and statements in the Book of Judas which support my view (which I arrived at on my own). This is not to say that we will be saved "in our sins" as opposed to "from our sins", but rather it is to say that there will never be a time when we are forever foreclosed from repenting, seeing the light, and progressing. The only questions are, how soon will we reach the point of eternal progression, and how fast will we progress.

On Divorcing "Apostate" Spouses

The question was put:

"I know a married couple who are both Catholic. The wife has been investigating the Church for the past year and seems favorably inclined to join. The husband is very opposed to her joining the Church (he rarely lets the kids go with her to Church). If she does join the Church, is the husband justified in divorcing her for leaving the faith that they both committed to live when they got married (i.e., Catholicism)?"

To which I responded:

Marital partners quite often marry on the assumption that their spouse holds, and will always continue to hold, a certain set of beliefs. One thing I have learned is that people and their beliefs often change, and we cannot reasonably expect, especially if we marry before the age of 35, that in 10 or 20 or 30 years beliefs will necessarily be substantially the same as when we got married. In general, it is completely legitimate for marital partners to seek their own happiness by picking a marital partner on the basis of religious belief (or lack thereof), and it is even legitimate (with conditions) for couples without minor children to divorce if one partner's belief system undergoes a radical change (whether suddenly or over time). However, when children are involved, I tend to think that personal religious preferences of one's spouse are surpassed in priority by the well-being of the children, and for that reason, in general, married couples with minor children should stay together if the relationship is tolerable and each spouse has a minimum quantum of good characteristics to be a decent parent. Naturally it is a sad thing for any couple (or the children) to suffer the stress and friction which is almost certain to result from different religious beliefs. Probably the most difficult challenge is deciding how the children should be raised when spouses strongly disagree on religious issues. Again, provided that each spouse possesses enough objective good qualities to make them a good parent, compromise and tolerance seem to be the only viable option. And anyway, it is probably very unrealistic to expect that children be raised in an environment where their parents never disagree. If arguments are conducted in a civil and respectful manner, it can be very healthy for children to observe first-hand the reasoning process of adults and they will generally benefit from having exposure to different viewpoints. Of course, some arguments may be about subjects which the children lack sufficient maturity to digest and understand, in which case it is perfectly appropriate for those discussions to take place behind closed doors outside the presence of children.

On Ian McKellan Defacing Hotel Room Bibles

The comment was made:

"Sir Ian McKellen's penchant for ripping out pages of the Bibles he finds in hotel rooms has caught on - fans have started sending him sections of text they've removed.

The openly gay Lord of the Rings star tears out a section of Leviticus, which condemns homosexuality, whenever he finds the good book in hotel suites - and his small-scale vandalism has inspired others to do the same.

He tells Details magazine, "I'm not proudly defacing the book, but it's a choice between removing that page and throwing away the whole Bible.

"I got delivered a package of 40 of those pages... that had been torn out by a married couple I know. They put them on a bit of string so that I could hang it up in the bathroom."

Book burning light, I guess. He doesn't burn books he finds disagreeable, he just defaces them."

To which I responded:

I do not condone the destruction of property as long as reasonable alternatives exist to have civil and open debate on a topic such as biblical condemnation of homosexuality. I think Mr. McKellan has other options, and that it is wrong for him to destroy these books without compensating the hotels to replace them. (the fact that millions of people consider the books to be holy objects is of no consequence) That being said, I sympathize with homosexuals and the difficulties/bigotry/hatred which they face, primarily from lessor educated, narrow minded individuals, and I do believe that certain biblical passages such as those in Leviticus have been invented and interpreted by people to support bigotry. This is a classic example, in my opinion, of the problems of accepting the Bible as inerrant.

Distinguishing Between Church Members And The LDS Church

The comment was made:

" have read a number of "exit stories" on various boards. Some even manage to get them on here despite rules against it, as they mention in passing while responding to a thread. A large percentage of them speak of the acts of a Bishop (or some other ecclesiastical leader) not performing their calling as the offended party sees it. Or a member who has done something wrong to them or something they view as wrong. During the course of whatever events transpired, the person who leaves looses faith in "The Church", instead of just loosing faith in that individual.

I believe that many lose their faith because their eyes are on the person to their left or to their right and not on the Savior. So two questions…

How do "we" separate the member from the organization?


How do we reason with the ex-member who was not able to separate the two?"

To which I responded:

I'll go out on a limb and speculate here. Although the formal reason many people have left the LDS church is some real or perceived offense committed by a leader or fellow member, I believe it is more often the case that a different reason is the real reason. Some people have gone against church standards and by virtue of that alone feel shameful, uncomfortable, or shunned. (footnote: this does not necessarily mean the person sinned, but they may think they have and may feel guilty). In other related cases, a person may come to the honest belief that, although their behavior violates church standards, the church's standards themselves are erroneous, and the person, while not feeling guilty, nevertheless feels uncomfortable being among a crowd which does not accept them the way they are because of serious doctrinal disagreements. Still others leave the church because of theological disagreements which do not necessarily have any direct bearing on their behavior. Others are simply drawn away for social reasons.

In my own opinion, the church would do a great deal more (likely more than any other measure which could be taken) to attract and retain members if it would seriously re-evaluate and modify its doctrines on certain subjects than by merely trying to extend its "loving arm" by inviting people back to church without correcting some of the fundamental errors which led to the separation in the first place. I fear this will not happen in my lifetime, but I tend to have faith that someday it will, when the science becomes so overwhelming (and enough people start leaving, becoming inactive, or refuse to join) that even people who would otherwise remain TBMs are compelled to simply recognize that the church has been wrong and call for change. How blessed that day will be. As it now stands, the Jeffrey R. Hollands and the Boyd K. Packers in the church will only let that happen over their dead bodies.

On Darwin's Influence

The question was put in a poll:

"Darwin's Influence Is Darwinism the one true science? Rate Topic: Poll: Darwin's Influence (53 member(s) have cast votes)
Should alternatives to Darwinism be taught in the classroom?
Yes (23 votes [43.40%] - View)
Percentage of vote: 43.40%
No (30 votes [56.60%] - View)"

To which I responded:

I did not vote because I believe a simple "yes" or "no" would not do justice to my views on the subject. The subject of evolution is a hot-button topic among many groups. Some see it as a theory spawned by Satan, the goal of which is to make people stop believing in God. Some people believe evolution is completely bogus, while others see it as practically gospel. I think there are a few things most people would agree with, namely:

(1) There is very compelling evidence that evolution, at least on a micro-organism level, occurs as a matter of fact;
(2) There is evidence that evolution of species also occurs, but there are sufficient gaps in the fossil record to prevent us from proving beyond doubt that human beings evolved from apes, who in turn evolved from lower life forms, on down the line until everything, including humans, evolved from microorganisms.
(3) There are aspects about human nature, personality, and physiology which are sufficiently complex that it is difficult to provide a complete explanation for their existence based upon only the current evidence we have concerning evolution; many people believe that such evidence will be found as the science and technology to analyze organisms advances, and many people are satisfied with the current evidence being sufficient to show that humans were created through the evolutionary process, although some of the details have yet to be ironed out.
(4) Children in a classroom are likely to have their views influenced by the content of the materials presented to them by their teacher and the manner of the presentation.
(5) No one has provided objective, verifiable proof of God's existence to the rest of the world, although many people claim to have had subjective spiritual experiences witnessing to them that God exists.
(6) There is wide disagreement on whether observable conditions and phenomena in the universe support the view that God exists.
(7) Parents generally should have input on what children are taught, but this principle should not be applied so as to deny a child exposure to a range of ideas, even ideas with which the parent disagrees.

In light of the foregoing principles, I suggest that children in school (whether public or private) should be exposed, as objectively as possible, to both the theory of evolution and the theory of intelligent design. Teachers should be required, however, to present the material in a way which does not pressure students to disregard either theory or accept one over the other. For example, I would not be in favor of a curriculum where the teacher is allowed to tell its 10-year-olds something like, "Today, we're going to talk about evolution, a satanic theory which denies the existence of God and which has been thoroughly debunked by respected Christian scientists. We'll also talk about intelligent design, and learn how God created the world as described in the Book of Genesis." Likewise, I would not want a teacher teaching its fifth-graders, "Everyone but a few Christian wackos knows that evolution is true and that humans evolved from other species. The fossil record clearly shows that neither God nor anyone else had any guiding hand in how humans evolved. So-called 'intelligent design' is just an irrational theory designed by ignorant theists to cope with the unpleasant fact that they don't have a shred of evidence for God's existence and that all the science shows that humans are mere animals who were created through nature."

Any curriculum must acknowledge and explore the controversy between the two theories, fairly present the arguments on both sides of the debate, accurately and objectively acknowledge the majority consensus in the scientific community, make clear to the students that they are free to formulate their own opinions on the subject based upon the arguments and evidence put forth, and also clarify that the role of formal non-religious education is to focus on science and facts, not teach theology or advocate any set of religious beliefs.

What, precisely, are Satan's powers?

Here are the results to a poll I posted:

What, precisely, are Satan's powers? And what, if any, objective evidence is there to prove it? Rate Topic: Poll: What do you believe about "Satan"? (19 member(s) have cast votes)
What can Satan actually do?
He can tempt us be planting ideas in our heads, but nothing more (4 votes [21.05%])
Percentage of vote: 21.05%
He can tempt us and also proactively control our actions (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
He can tempt us, proactively control our actions, and exercise power over physical objects (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
He can tempt us and exercise power over physical objects, but cannot proactively control us (3 votes [15.79%])
Percentage of vote: 15.79%
He can't do anything to us, and only cheers us on when we make wrong choices (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Not sure, but I doubt Satan exists or that he has much ability to do anything to us if he does exist (2 votes [10.53%])
Percentage of vote: 10.53%
I just don't believe in Satan at all (7 votes [36.84%])
Percentage of vote: 36.84%
I believe in Satan, but I'm not sure exactly what he does or can do to us (1 votes [5.26%])
Percentage of vote: 5.26%
I believe in something similar to the LDS concept of Satan, but don't believe LDS tradition on the subject is accurate (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
I believe in Satan, but none of the above choices does justice to my views (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Other (2 votes [10.53%])
Percentage of vote: 10.53%
To what do you attribute evil in the world?
Satan, because every sin stems from his influence (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
The bulk of it is a result of human weakness and inherent selfishness which exist independent of Satan if he does exist (5 votes [26.32%])
Percentage of vote: 26.32%
Evil is caused by a mixture of Satan's influence and independent human weakness/selfishness (5 votes [26.32%])
Percentage of vote: 26.32%
Evil stems from the inevitable fact that there must be an opposite in all things- there can be no good without evil (5 votes [26.32%])
Percentage of vote: 26.32%
Evil is caused directly by Satan in every instance (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
God is the author of the evil (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
There is no such thing as evil (1 votes [5.26%])
Percentage of vote: 5.26%
Not sure (1 votes [5.26%])
Percentage of vote: 5.26%
Other (2 votes [10.53%])
Percentage of vote: 10.53%
What underlying beliefs contribute to your views on Satan? (SELECT ALL THAT APPLY)
I have physically seen him/it (1 votes [1.20%])
Percentage of vote: 1.20%
I have received what I consider to be a spiritual witness of his existence (4 votes [4.82%])
Percentage of vote: 4.82%
I have received what I consider to be a spiritual witness of his non-existence (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Historical evidence tends to indicate that Satan did not exist in early Judeo theology (6 votes [7.23%])
Percentage of vote: 7.23%
Evil in the world cannot be adequately explained by inherent human weakness/selfishness or other factors unless Satan exists (1 votes [1.20%])
Percentage of vote: 1.20%
The scriptures say he exists, so he must (5 votes [6.02%])
Percentage of vote: 6.02%
It is plain to see that humans do bad things of their own accord and would do so with or without Satan (9 votes [10.84%])
Percentage of vote: 10.84%
Theologically speaking, our analysis of what is right and wrong or how we should live our lives is not aided by factoring "Satan" into the mix (4 votes [4.82%])
Percentage of vote: 4.82%
The concept of Satan gets used to excuse individuals from personal responsibility (8 votes [9.64%])
Percentage of vote: 9.64%
The concept of Satan is a cop-out for religious conservatives to avoid having to critically question or analyze long-standing doctrines/traditions/beliefs (5 votes [6.02%])
Percentage of vote: 6.02%
The concept of "Satan" tends to have the effect of replacing rationality with fear (7 votes [8.43%])
Percentage of vote: 8.43%
It makes sense that if there is a god who is infinitely good, there would be an opposing figure who is infinitely evil (3 votes [3.61%])
Percentage of vote: 3.61%
The existence of Satan is the most rational explanation for why normally good people do bad things (2 votes [2.41%])
Percentage of vote: 2.41%
We have the ability to sin without the need for a third-party "temptor" such as Satan (9 votes [10.84%])
Percentage of vote: 10.84%
LDS church leaders frequently talk about Satan, which in my mind is convincing evidence for his existence (5 votes [6.02%])
Percentage of vote: 6.02%
Supernatural phenomena such as witchcraft, etc. are strong evidence of Satan's existence (2 votes [2.41%])
Percentage of vote: 2.41%
Demonic possession proves Satan exists (1 votes [1.20%])
Percentage of vote: 1.20%
Perceived evidence of Satan's existence (i.e., demonic possession, supernatural events, etc.) is probably misinterpretations of what is really happening (4 votes [4.82%])
Percentage of vote: 4.82%
Evil can and does exist independent of Satan if he does exist (6 votes [7.23%])
Percentage of vote: 7.23%
Because Satan is the "father of all lies," all evil stems from him (1 votes [1.20%])

And one person commented:

"Satan can do more if he is dismissed as a figment of the imagination than he can if he is presumed or believed to be a real influence."

To which I responded:

Satan worshipers would likely disagree with you. I think the principle you may be trying to articulate is partially true, that is, if people try to avoid the unpleasant truth that evil exists and that it can sometimes blossom more easily when it is not addressed or when people pretend that what is really evil is somehow good (take, for example, genocide in the Bosnian war), then evil will more easily prevail. However, I don't think the same is true of Satan, because evil exists independently. Knowing whether or not Satan is behind something evil is irrelevant; the question is, is it evil or not? If it is, then it should be stopped. If it is not, then again, Satan is irrelevant.

On Intimidation Against LDS On The Gay Issue

The comment was made:

"Forget for a moment the whole debate over the appropriateness of the 'Civil rights' analogy in Elder Oaks recent speech. Let's get right to the core of what he was communicating -- there is are deliberate attempts to intimidate and marginalize Latter Day Saints in the public forum.

Do I feel intimidated by these attempts? Actually, yes I do.

In the past year our Stake Center was firebombed and sprayed with anti-Prop 8 graffiti. (the molotov cocktail thrown through the window did not ignite.) Another building in our Stake was set on fire.

Last week, a number of LDS buildings in the Salt Lake valley were the target of a campaign of hate attacks.

Protesters by the thousands conducted angry, hostile, and vandalistic demonstrations outside LDS temples.

Latter Day Saints are being fired or forced to resign from their employment.

Whenever LDS-related stories appear in the local press, there are HUNDREDS of hostile, bigoted, hate-speech comments.

Packets of white powder have been sent to LDS Temples.

There is an active campaign to expose Latter Day Saints who donate to traditional-values political causes for the purpose of stigmatizing them...or worse.

LDS businesses are subject to boycotts because they are LDS.

There have been numerous calls to single out the Church I belong to and strip us of our non-profit status for participating in the public debate.

As a Latter Day Saint, I get the message loud and clear. "Shut up, don't take a stand, and don't participate or we will come after you and your Church.""

To which I responded:

I condemn any act of violence which is not necessary to protect a person's freedom. The violent acts by prop 8 opponents against the church and its members are, in my view, condemnable because no one is trying to take away their freedom to have a civil union with the partner of their choice, to have an intimate sexual relationship, and to pursue happiness like anyone else. It is within their right, of course, to conduct peaceful protests and to lob whatever criticisms at the church as they see fit, but physical violence simply crosses the line. That being said, it is, in my opinion, very sad that so many members of the church seem to give very little consideration to the plight of gay people, and instead insist, often in a thoughtless stupor, that these people are simply immoral and violating God's commandments. Every commandment which purportedly comes from God must be viewed through the lenses of reason and compassion, and if a purported commandment would have the effect of virtually condemning a person to a life of misery and longing (such as a gay person never being able to have a fulfilling sexually intimate relationship because homosexual acts are prohibitted from God), then it is very likely that such a commandment is not actually from God and is instead a human invention.

To those who have made up their mind that God condemns homosexuals who in good faith seek happiness and intimacy in a loving, respectful relationship, my inclination is to say, "Wo, wo, wo be unto you. See that you do not judge falsely, for by the same spirit which you judge, you may be judged also. Have you given consideration to the struggles they have? Have you no compassion? Behold, the Lord loves all His children, and though some are not by nature heterosexual, yet shall they also receive a measure of joy in this life. You have judged, but you have judged in ignorance. The Lord will suffer that, while His homosexual children remain in the flesh, they are justified in having a loving, responsible, respectful homosexual relationship. The Lord will one day reveal His eternal plans for his homosexual children, but until that happens, they are not condemned."

Extremism In Public And Private: False Perceptions About The Majority View

The comment was made:

"I came across this article, and based on this board, and others I've participated in, this rings so true. In my recent observations as submitted by some posters are we too extreme as well as other websites?

For many people — more than you might think — public and political dialogue seems dominated by extreme views that don't resonate.

A new study suggests a possible reason: People with extreme views seem more willing to share their opinions than others, but only if they believe, even falsely, that their views are popular.

However, the research looked at only a narrow topic range and involved just college students, so more study would be needed to reveal whether the findings apply broadly to other age groups and beliefs.

Still, the findings are intriguing.

The upshot of the research: Students who held extreme views on the use of alcohol on campus were more likely than others to voice their views. The key to their bold approach, scientists found, was that they tended to believe their views actually represented a majority, when that was not in fact the case.

That situation can set up a self-feeding cycle that promotes the voicing of extreme views on one side of an issue and causes moderate and even extremists on the other side to stay relatively quiet


Could it be that I may be opening a can of worms?"

To which I responded:

Intriguing indeed. A similar principle, in my opinion, is that people are more comfortable holding views which they believe are held by others in their social circle. This helps to explain why so many erroneous views in the LDS faith are perpetuated from one generation to the next. Dissenting views are generally silenced and scorned, or relegated to the fringe realms (i.e., anonymous board discussions like this one), whereas dogmatic and more established views (many of which pre-date modern science) have free reign to find their way into general conference, sacrament meeting, Sunday school, behind the closed door of the bishop's office, and conflicts in a marriage.

My Poll: "Should polygamy be required, permitted, or prohibited?"

I made the comment:

Please select your best answers. Note that question number 2 allows you to select multiple answers, so please check all that apply. Thanks for your input, everyone.

EDIT: By request, a few clarifications are in order (my apologies). First, by "modern LDS teaching" I am referring to everything from the Woodruff manifesto forward. Second, definitions: "Polygyny" = man having multiple wives. "Polyandry" = woman having multiple husbands. "Polygamy" = polygyny and polyandry. Also, the question about legalization of polygyny and polyandry refers to whether the state will recognize the marital contract as enforceable and permitted under the law (as opposed to mere decriminalization or the state deeming the relationship a "marriage" instead of some other term).

Here are the results to my poll:

Should polygamy be required, permitted, or prohibited? Writing on a blank slate Rate Topic: Poll: If you had to assume that modern day LDS teachings on the subject did not exist, where would you come out? (24 member(s) have cast votes)
Should Polygamy be required, permitted, or prohibited?
Polygyny should be required to the extent commanded by God, but otherwise prohibited and polyandry should also be prohibited (2 votes [8.33%])
Percentage of vote: 8.33%
Polygyny should be required but polyandry should be prohibited (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Polygyny should be permitted but polyandry should be prohibited (2 votes [8.33%])
Percentage of vote: 8.33%
To the extent God commands, polyandry and polygyny should be required, but both should otherwise be prohibited (1 votes [4.17%])
Percentage of vote: 4.17%
Polygyny should be permitted to the extent God commands, but should otherwise be prohibited, and polyandry should be prohibited (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Polygyny and polyandry should be permitted to the extent God commands, but should otherwise be prohibited (4 votes [16.67%])
Percentage of vote: 16.67%
Polygyny and polyandry should be prohibited period, because God never commands or permits them (1 votes [4.17%])
Percentage of vote: 4.17%
Polygyny and polyandry should both be prohibited, for non-religious reasons (2 votes [8.33%])
Percentage of vote: 8.33%
Polygyny and polyandry should both be permitted, so long as there is full disclosure and consent among adults with capacity to consent (10 votes [41.67%])
Percentage of vote: 41.67%
Polygyny, but not polyandry, should be permitted, so long as there is full disclosure and consent among adults with capacity to consent (1 votes [4.17%])
Percentage of vote: 4.17%
Polyandry, but not polygyny, should be permitted, so long as there is full disclosure and consent among adults with capacity to consent (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Other (1 votes [4.17%])
Percentage of vote: 4.17%
What guiding principles influenced your answer to the first question above? (check all that apply)
God can and does issue commandments concerning whether polygyny and polyandry are required, permitted, or prohibited (12 votes [14.63%])
Percentage of vote: 14.63%
God never permits non-mongamous relationships, but I do not fully understand why (1 votes [1.22%])
Percentage of vote: 1.22%
God never permits non-mongamous relationships, because they are inherrently immoral (1 votes [1.22%])
Percentage of vote: 1.22%
God generally stays out of dictating to us how many partners of the opposite sex we choose to marry, and leaves that decision up to us (3 votes [3.66%])
Percentage of vote: 3.66%
Since I don't believe in God, I think consenting adults should be allowed to decide the type of relationships they want without religious constraints (6 votes [7.32%])
Percentage of vote: 7.32%
Marital relationships with multiple partners have potential benefits which could not be realized if polygyny and/or polyandry were prohibited (7 votes [8.54%])
Percentage of vote: 8.54%
Polygyny is inherrently coercive and allowing it necessarily invites abuse (3 votes [3.66%])
Percentage of vote: 3.66%
Inherent differences between men and women justify a different standards as to whether polygyny versus polyandry should be permitted or required (4 votes [4.88%])
Percentage of vote: 4.88%
Men and women are more likely to have fulfilling relationships if their choice in selecting a partner or partners is unconstrained by legal prohibitions against polygyny and/or polygamy (7 votes [8.54%])
Percentage of vote: 8.54%
Monogamy is in all instances bound to be a more fulfilling relationship than polygyny or polyandry (4 votes [4.88%])
Percentage of vote: 4.88%
Allowing polygyny and/or polyandry should be prohibited because of the confusion it would create in determining the rights and responsibilities of the parties involved and affected by the arrangement (2 votes [2.44%])
Percentage of vote: 2.44%
Religious leaders, if allowed to determine who can and cannot have a polygynous/polyandrous relationship, will likely be corrupted and exercise spiritual coercion (4 votes [4.88%])
Percentage of vote: 4.88%
Polygyny and polyandry should never be a condition of any reward after this life from God (i.e., salvation, exhaltation, etc.) (5 votes [6.10%])
Percentage of vote: 6.10%
Polygyny and polyandry, if allowed, foster a better-functioning and/or more efficient economy in that parties are more free to structure responsibilities such as child rearing, providing for families, education, etc. (4 votes [4.88%])
Percentage of vote: 4.88%
Polygyny and polyandry, even if purely consensual, are necessarily unhealthy for children growing up in such families (2 votes [2.44%])
Percentage of vote: 2.44%
Some people would rather share a partner with others than choose a less desirable parter whom they could have all to themselves (9 votes [10.98%])
Percentage of vote: 10.98%
To share a marital partner with someone else, even if done consensually, is inherrently degrading and the state should therefore not even allow someone to enter into such an arrangement voluntarily (3 votes [3.66%])
Percentage of vote: 3.66%
Polygynous and/or polyandrous relationships will likely lead to more sex, which would be unhealthy and/or inherrently corrupting (1 votes [1.22%])
Percentage of vote: 1.22%
Polygyny and/or polyandry simply amount to prostitution by another name (3 votes [3.66%])
Percentage of vote: 3.66%
Allowing polygyny/polyandry would create unfairness to people who, by virtue of physical appearance or poor economic status, would be less likely to find a partner (1 votes [1.22%])
Percentage of vote: 1.22%
Would you be in favor of legalizing polygyny and polyandry, provided laws were in place to help ensure full disclosure, consent, capacity, lack of coercion or duress, and protection from abuse or inequitable treatment upon divorce?
Yes (16 votes [66.67%])
Percentage of vote: 66.67%
Yes, but with additional requirements/conditions (1 votes [4.17%])
Percentage of vote: 4.17%
Never (3 votes [12.50%])
Percentage of vote: 12.50%
Need more time to think about it (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Not now, but I might reconsider if something changed (1 votes [4.17%])
Percentage of vote: 4.17%
I have no idea (0 votes [0.00%])
Percentage of vote: 0.00%
Only if my religious leaders said I should support such a measure (3 votes [12.50%])
Percentage of vote: 12.50%
Other (0 votes [0.00%])

To which one person responded:

"Some people would rather heed the words of dead prophets over the living. This applies to other areas as well."

To which I responded:

If we are concerned about people heeding the words of dead prophets, perhaps we ought to rethink the whole notion of prophetic inerrancy. Even prophets err, living or dead. Consequently, no prophet's teachings, living or dead, should be immune from scrutiny and critical analysis. The idea that we should automatically accept counsel/doctrine/teachings from a new prophet which contradicts that of an old prophet reminds me of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, wherein a husband instructs his wife that the sun is really the moon, and proceeds to go back and forth on what it is, chastizing her each time she follows his prior instruction because it contradicts the new instruction. I believe that the doctrine of polygamy, as taught by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor, is irreconcilably inconsistent with the church's present-day blanket condemnation of everyone who practices polygamy today, as well as the church's current lack of support for (and probable strong opposition to) the legalization of polygamy.

And another person commented:

"I am sure that somewhere a history of polygamy exists somewhere, but I throw this out for thought. When JS began his affair with Fanny, polygamy was illegal in every state of the union. According to some historians I read, somewhere, one of the reasons why Smith got in trouble was that non-LDS townsfolk saw her pregnant, and since the town was very small, the amount of gossip about her and JS was very high.

Critics will state that that is why he got the "special revelation from God" in order to circumvent the existing laws on bigamy, and that also included polyganous relationships by definition.

Prior to Utah becoming a state, a 9-0 US Supreme Court case, Reynolds v. US declared in 1879 that polygamy was illegal in all of the US states and territories. That court ruling has never been reversed, and is almost certain to remain on the books forever.

Therefore, I ask why is it that some are seeking to do what is illegal in every state in the Union? Even should there be an independent nationn-within a nation of "deseret" be established like some Native American Indian reservations are done now, that does not give anyone the privilige to break the laws of the greater United States, to which the "independent nations" are held accountable.

There are many profound implications of the LDS people to want to re-establish polygamy which are extraneous to the main issue,

How do others see it?"

To which I responded:

As I recall, the Reynolds case did not make polygamy illegal. Rather, it upheld a statute criminalizing the practice notwithstanding the convict's contention that the constitution guaranteed his right to freely exercise his religion, including practicing polygyny as required by his (the LDS) church. The Court relied on several theories, among which were the fact that most civilizations throughout history were monogamous, that polygamy was troublesome, and that it would be unfair to punish one person for polygamy when another gets a free pass because it is part of their religious devotion.

In the centuries since the Reynolds decision, the U.S. Supreme Court seems to have adopted an ever more liberal interpretation of the "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment. I think it is certainly not a foregone conclusion that, if the right case were to come before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of anti-polygamy laws, Reynolds would be reaffirmed. In addition, it is even less likely that polygamy will remain statutorily prohibited countrywide for the next two or three decades. I think it is very likely, at the very least, that some of the more liberal states would enact laws legalizing the practice under certain conditions. It will be particularly interesting to watch the Church's reaction to such trends, and to see whether the LDS Church leadership launches an anti-polygamy campaign similar to its support for Prop 8 in California.

Criticism Of The "Book Of Mormon Movie" Bomb

The comment was made:

"I remember when this concept movie was first announced. It sounded ridiculously well conceived and would have been leaps and bounds ahead of other Book of Mormon films. Sadly, the big name people had other big sized projects in Hollywood and elsewhere that took them away. That combined with the glutton of poorly conceived LDS films in the meantime, reducing profitability margins on this film, killed it."

To which I responded:

The "big name" people in the movie appear to have been recruited from the local singles ward and relief society. I'd bet a stake road show could do a better job than the Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1. I've tried to block the movie out of my mind. Oh, the horror . . . the agony! If it hasn't already been done, perhaps it is time we deal with our anxiety and form a Book of Mormon Movie Fan Club.

On The Steps To Obtain A Testimony

The comment was made:

"Elder Charles Didier gave a General Conference talk in October 1991 entitled "Testimony." Elder Didier describes the following keys for obtaining a testimony:


Key number 1 is to know for yourself. Do not be dependent on someone else.

Key number 2 is to know by the power of the Holy Ghost. Do not look at reason, logic, or the philosophies of men and theories of the world.

Key number 3 is to know by searching the scriptures and the revelations given and published in our day by the prophets—the First Presidency and the Twelve. Do not listen to apostate, unauthorized voices or speculation.

Key number 4 is to know by asking your Heavenly Father in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. Do not turn to public discussions and forums.

The purpose of having and using certain keys is always very simple: to open the right door with a particular key. The purpose of these spiritual keys is to open spiritual doors, one by one, to come to a plain testimony as described by the prophets. When children first start to read, they look at the letters and ask what they are. After a time they can recognize the letters by their names and put them together to form a word. And then a miracle happens. They can read a word, then a sentence, then a book. The steps of gaining a testimony follow the same pattern. We want to know; we begin with what we know; and when we know, we further enrich our knowledge by sharing and practicing what we know.

He also describes how one loses a testimony:


Unfortunately, there are those who gain testimonies and then deny them and lose them. How does this happen? If you follow the steps to obtain a testimony, you do exactly the opposite to deny it or lose it.

Certainly reason, logic, listening to unauthorized voices, etc., by themselves, will not supply one with a testimony. However, he seems to be saying that they should not play any role at all in obtaining a testimony.

On the flip side, he seems to be saying that one loses a testimony by doing these things - turning to reason and logic and listening to apostate, unauthorized voices, speculation, etc.

Do you agree with Elder Didier?"

To which I responded:

It feels like it would be difficult for me to disagree more. Elder Didier is in effect asking us to close our eyes to those things which might prevent us from obtaining a conviction of certain doctrines. It's sort of like asking people to gain a testimony that they can fly and not pay any attention to the science that says gravity will prevent it. If someone tells me I can fly, I will naturally demand an explanation as to how that can be before I jump off a building. I think Elder Didier is confusing the true principle, that spirituality and faith have a role to play in our quest for truth, with the false principle that having faith must necessarily exclude reason.

On Love And LDS Marriage

The question was put:

"The way I understand it, the D&C covers polygamy as it relates to the Mormon version of heaven. In that heaven, a man can have multiple wives, but a woman can have but one husband. I started thread on another site (Christianfourms) and a Mormon replied:


I don't know what can or cannot be discussed, but assume this can be since he brought it up (it's a fairly old post BTW). I don't understand how one can marry, or choose a spouse for the dead? Or, just what is the sanctity of marriage according to the LDS faith and where does love fit into it?

My question is as follows:

Is love not a requirement for marriage in the LDS faith? (yes or no)"

To which I responded:

It certainly is not a requirement for marriage. The LDS faith will never, from what I've observed, prohibit a marriage on account of the two people not loving each other. In fact, regardless of whether love exists in the marriage, one or both partners are likely to be condemned if the marriage breaks up. It seems to me rather ironic to consider the following: Marriage is intended to make us happy. Yet the LDS church seems to consider it a much greater tragedy that two people who are unhappy in their marriage get a divorce, than the tragedy of them staying together and miserable for all of their lives.

The question of whether love is required in a marriage also really begs the question, "What kind of love?" The LDS faith seems perfectly content, as I see it, for a married couple to have virtually no sexual relations or sexual attraction toward each other, as long as they are friends, can remain active in the church, have children, not get divorced, and raise their children "in righteousness." If anyone knows of a general conference talk openly coming out and condemning sexless marriages, or chastising marriage partners for not doing anything to take care of their physical appearance, I'd like to hear about it. Anyone know?