William James

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

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Satan's Plans At The Council In Heaven

A poll asked the question:

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

To which I responded:

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

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

An article stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To which I responded:

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

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On Biblical Prophets Committing Adultery

The comment was made:

"This one needs to be saved...!

I asked a question on another board:


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

Here is one of the Answers I received:


zero. We admit our prophets were sometimes adulterers."

To which I responded:

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

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

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

I stated:

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

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

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

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