Category Archives: Church

s/(Priesthood Ban)/Temple and $1/gi

A podcast I was listening to yesterday pointed out that what I’ve been calling the Priesthood Ban was also a ban on black women entering the Temple.  This was not a product of them not having the priesthood, since non-black women don’t hold the priesthood either, but were not barred from the Temple.  So I think the proper label for that is the Temple and Priesthood Ban, and I wish every place you’ve ever seen me use the former term to be considered to be the latter.  Thus, the title of this post (which will probably make no sense to people not familiar with regular expressions — sorry).

 

Ether 12:27

I wrote this as a contribution to the Mormon Stories Sunday School blog, so it could be included in the Mormon Stories Sunday School podcast. 

During a difficult part of my life, while dealing with addictive and compulsive behaviors, I discovered Ether 12:27, and found it a great help in changing my life.  I had read it many times, quoted it not a few, and liked it prior to that point, but I didn’t discover its meaning until I was in that place.

Before, it was a nice, kinda gauzey scripture about how God will make weak things strong, with the emphasis on the strength.  But, when I looked at it more closely, I noticed there was much more to it than that.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.”

This seems counterintuitive.  If we come to God, we won’t get a pat on the back, we will be shown our weakness.  That doesn’t sound very pleasant.

“I give unto men weakness that they may be humble;”

This does not say that God gives us specific weaknesses — it says he gives us the state of being weak.  I think this is the most misread part of the verse — I know I read it the other way for a long time.

He gives us this state of being weak to give us the opportunity to be humble.  This implies that, without being inherently weak, we would not be able to be humble — very compatible with King Benjamin’s formulation that “the natural man is an enemy to God.”  Out of the box, left to ourselves, we aren’t friends to God, but, because of this gift of weakness, we have a chance to be humble and rebuild our relationship with God.

“and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;”

And if we humble ourselves before God, then, and only then, is his grace sufficient for us.  God’s grace truly is amazing, but we have to prepare ourselves to receive it through this process of humbling ourselves before him if we are to receive it.

“for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them”

If we add faith in God (the first principle of the Gospel) to this humbleness before God, then he will make “weak things” become strong unto us.  That’s the first time in the verse we have plural weak things, rather than the state of being weak.  Might this mean that our individual weaknesses (in the sense of Dorcas Lane’s “one weakness”)?  Or are other people in our lives “weak things?”  I don’t know, but I think this part, for all that it’s the part people seem to notice in the verse, is the least important part of the formulation.  We don’t need to understand in detail exactly what will be made strong, because the payload is more to be found in the previous clause.

If we humble ourselves before God, his grace is sufficient for us, and we also need to have faith in him.  Humility is understanding our own lowness, and his greatness.  Faith in him is trusting that he is there, that he loves us, that he wishes to help us and heal us, and that he will do so if we will allow him to.  This became my plan for recovery, and, over a period of years, it helped me through quite a bit of healing and growth.

Having Faith in Christ

This is a talk I gave four years ago that I found while looking for something else on my hard-drive. This is possibly the hardest Sacrament Meeting talk to write that I’ve ever written.

Having Faith in Christ

24 August 2008

I’d like to start my remarks today with an annoying nit-pick. While preparing them, I considered calling this challenging a false doctrine, which would likely have grabbed your attention, but, on reflection, I decided to call it an annoying nit-pick. I have heard a number of times that the first principle of the gospel is faith – truth to tell, I have said this before. However, this is not completely true, and I’m certain that most of the children in the Primary know what’s wrong with saying that. The first principle of the gospel is not just faith – it is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For the next several minutes, I’m going to discuss the difference between faith and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, why they are absolutely necessary, and how we can develop the faith we most need.
Continue reading Having Faith in Christ

Religion and Science

Richard Dawkins, who nominally started this whole conversation, and whose picture is here to allow me to post this to Pinterest.

This is a collection of excerpts from a conversation I took part in with some other uncorrelated Mormons on Facebook  (some with 5+ scores on the Dawkins Scale), in response to an article pointing out how Richard Dawkins had “admitted” that he wasn’t totally certain of the nonexistence of God (which was determined by several in the thread to be neither news nor as significant as the person posting the link seemed to think).

My part began quite innocently, in response to the person who originated the thread saying “I think it is foolish to believe that we can see, or have access, to everything that is.”  I said:

It’s also unscientific. Science is limited to things we can see or have access to. It has nothing of value to say about anything beyond that, [n]or can it predict how long or far we will be able to mine the pile of things we can see or have access to to bring us further understanding or technical progress.
Continue reading Religion and Science

Homosexuality and Mormons

This is something I just submitted to my Mormon.org profile, but which has not yet been approved.

What is the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ attitude regarding homosexuality and same sex marriage?

The Church teaches that sexual morality is very important, and does not teach of any context in which homosexual sex is moral. The Church does not recognize same-sex marriage, and does not approve of any sexual behavior with anyone other than one’s heterosexual spouse. I’m not aware of any equivocation on these questions from any official source.

That having been said, the Church also teaches that we are to love everyone, which does not have an exception for anyone based on their sexual orientation. Priesthood leaders have the responsibility for determining the worthiness of an individual to join the Church, to receive the Priesthood, to hold a calling or enter the Temples. Individual members do not have the duty to judge others’ worthiness, nor are they authorized to do so. Whatever the nature of our struggles in life, and the difficult paths we have to walk, we are all children of God; brothers and sisters who need to serve each other and receive service from each other.

Jesus taught we should love our enemies. If so, we should *also* love our children, brothers and sisters who are gay, and ought not be their enemies. We need not fear that sexual orientation is so plastic that exposure to the idea of homosexuality will make otherwise straight people gay. Most straight people have been exposed to this idea while remaining straight. Letting go of our fears with regard to this and the controversy surrounding it will help us show forth the love we are commanded to.

My letter to the General Conference audio team

I just sent this through the feedback system at lds.org.

The category I needed was “gratitude for work well done.”  Specifically for the team involved with preparing the mp3 files from General Conference.  If you can forward this along to them for me, I will have gratitude toward you as well.

I have been making use of these mp3 files for about as long as they have been available.  I have seen the process you’ve used improve from one requiring days for the files to be made available, to the present time where they are available within hours.

There was a time when I would download the full session file to get the music and the reports which were not available, and when I would download the podcast version from KSL to get the music in higher bitrates than the 64k which was adequate for the spoken word.  Today, as I’ve looked thoughtfully at what’s available in the zip files for each session, I see no need to do either again.  Not only are all the reports and the music available in that file, with the music at a higher bitrate than the podcast version, but the file-names provide an easy way to play the whole session in order, or to separate out the music from the talks with some simple command-line work.

And there was a time when I was unable to listen to the proceedings of the Priesthood session, due to work.  Now, I am able to include those talks in my listening pattern.

These things don’t just happen without considerable effort, I am well aware, so I wanted to thank all responsible for their efforts, and to let you know that somebody out here noticed them.

I’m not certain what I think of the new interface.

Thank you,
Blain

From CNN Belief Blog’s thread on the Vancouver Temple

Some of my comments to this thread, in case I want to use them later.  They also discuss quite a few anti-Mormon claims you may have seen or heard in the wild:

1.  In response to a comment listing a bunch of Mormon “beliefs’ and “facts,” including the abundance of Masonic symbols in this (or, presumably, any) temple:

Interesting claims. I’ve been in that specific temple a dozen times, and will be back there next Tuesday and Wednesday. Please inform me of the many Masonic images to be found there. There’s the compass and the square, but then what? Two hardly qualifies as “many.” Continue reading From CNN Belief Blog’s thread on the Vancouver Temple

Not Temple Day in Canada As Planned

I have scheduled my departure for my Temple appointment for 90 minutes before the session starts.  This gives me a 30 minute cushion, since I’ve found it takes about 60 minutes from the time I pull out of my driveway until I leave the New Name Booth.  Making plans remains a great way to give God a good laugh.

With one thing and another, I ended up being about 8 minutes late getting into the car.  No big deal — that leaves me 22 minutes of cushion, and that’s what the cushion is for.  Then, there’s a flagger on my way to the freeway, which adds a couple more minutes to my trip — 20 minutes of cushion left.  Then, habit gets in the way, and I take the southbound freeway exit rather than northbound (I only go north once every two weeks, because the only thing I go north for is the Temple, so it’s very out-of-habit for me), which eats about five more minutes of cushion — I’m down to 15 minutes of cushion.

But now I’m northbound, everything’s fine.  I get to the (Truck) crossing, and there is nobody in the Nexus line in front of me.  The border person looks at whatever comes up on the screen, glances in the back seat, and says “Thank you.” and I’m through in record time.  It’s almost like it was too easy.

He looked in the back seat, which brought to mind that that’s where I leave my temple clothes — right behind the driver’s seat.  And then it hits me — I forgot my temple clothes.  I can’t do the session without my clothes, and it’s now exactly an hour before the session starts.  And it takes 15 minutes to get from my house to the border.  Which wouldn’t be a problem if I had 30 minutes of cushion left.  But I don’t.  I have 15 minutes of cushion.  So I complete my shortest visit to Canada where I was admitted into the country, have a short and genial conversation with the US Customs lady, and go home.  All dressed up, and no place to go.

However, I’m lined up to go to the youth Temple trip tomorrow to help out, so I’m still going to get some templing into my week.  I’m frustrated.  But it’ll be okay.

Temple Day in Canada

So, the plan was to be at the 1:30 session I had the appointment for.  I wanted to get some initiatories done for the 17 names I had reserved (the boys).  I wasn’t sure how this all might work, so I got there a little over an hour early.  I got the cards printed out and checked, and asked at the office about initiatories.  They told me to talk to someone in the locker room.  So I asked at the locker room, and got some confused looks.

Turns out that, after being open for a whole week, they don’t have everything figured out yet.  It’s like they’re learning or something.  Lots of guys in white jackets holding laminated cards and looking, well, confused.  And others wandering around, either wondering where they’re supposed to be or where the guy is who’s supposed to be where they are.  Confused High Priests can be really cute, actually.  So, after surfing the learning curve for a while, I learned some stuff, like: Continue reading Temple Day in Canada

Let Virtue Garnish Your Thoughts — The lesson I’ll be giving in Priesthood Meeting today.

I’m working from the text of the talk by Bishop H. David Burton from the Sunday Morning Session of the most recent General Conference.  It’s interesting that this was the talk I was asked to teach from, because Bishop Burton is the only speaker in that conference that I have a problem with.  It’s likely unfair of me to have this problem with him, but it turns out that I do.  About a decade ago, Bishop Burton came to our Stake Conference and, during the Adult Session, repeated the notion that faithful women in the Church who die without being married are promised that this will be made right in the next life, but that men do not have that promise.  He presented this in a way to put pressure on single men in the Church to stop slacking off and get married.  I was sitting next to my single male friend in his late 20s, and could sense his discomfort in this.  I can’t help but wonder if Bishop Burton has noticed the shortage of single men in the Church.  If so, I wonder if he’s ever considered that this pressure and disrespectful way of speaking to and about them has anything to do with that shortage.  I don’t suspect he would much enjoy being spoken of in a similarly disrespectful fashion.

While I was not and am not a single man in the Church, I hope to be one shortly.  I am not going to let Bishop Burton’s well-intentioned remark drive me from the Church, and I suppose I should feel grateful for the Surf City gender-ratio I will be facing when I enter the Mormon Meat Market.  But my heart goes out to single men who feel like they don’t fit in the Church because they don’t have a wife.  I don’t think the Church is benefiting by their absence, and by failing to be a help to them in their struggles.

Now, with my little temper-fit out of the way about the messenger, it’s time to look at the message he delivered. Continue reading Let Virtue Garnish Your Thoughts — The lesson I’ll be giving in Priesthood Meeting today.