Category Archives: Religion

BSA policy on gay scouts and leaders, Mormon style

Okay, so I just spent a while in a thread about the proposed change in BSA policy regarding gay youth and leaders on Deseret News, and it was my daily dip in the part of Mormon Culture that drives me up the walls — the smug, self-righteous, never questioned confidence that “we” are right about everything, know everything, and those who disagree are sad, stupid, unrighteous people that we will deign to pray for God to enlighten. Makes me want to swear like the Rodeo Song (it’s gotta be 40 below somewhere).

In what way is a policy that denies men participation in this program who have not violated the Law of Chastity compatible with the teachings of the Gospel? There seems to be this idea that this policy change is being driven through by NAMBLA as a way of “recruiting” lots more gay youth they can have sex with. Because, presumably, there are tons of young men out there thinking “I just can’t decide if I want to have sex with boys or girls,” and, if they can only listen to a promotional video where someone extols the highlights of choosing the gay lifestyle (it’s just a non-stop orgy, donchaknow, until God kills you with the AIDS, because he hates fags), they’ll instantly be drawn into the clutches of these evil perverts.

Sorry, but that’s just pathetic nonsense. Continue reading BSA policy on gay scouts and leaders, Mormon style

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.

Billy Joel and Jack Nicholson — Honesty is not for wimps.

If you search for tenderness
it isn’t hard to find.
You can have the love you need to live.
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind.
It always seems to be so hard to give.

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
— Billy Joel

You can’t handle the truth!
— Col. Nathan R. Jessep

I spent some time today thinking about and discussing honesty.  Here are some left over thoughts from that conversation:

Honesty is hard, no matter how you slice it.  It is hard to tell the best truth of your understanding at all times, and, sometimes, it isn’t even the right thing to do.  It has limits, and negotiating those limits is a challenge.  Continue reading Billy Joel and Jack Nicholson — Honesty is not for wimps.

Economic Choices: Choosing one thing over another, and paying the price for it.

Most of a comment made in a thread over at By Common Consent.  The dear friend might recognize herself in this description.  Some of this won’t make sense without reading over at least some of the thread, and some won’t make sense to people not familiar with Mormonism.  Sorry.

Costs and benefits. Sacrifice. Quid pro quo — something for something. Very basic economic concepts. We get what we want by doing something we don’t want to do, and wouldn’t do if it didn’t bring us what we want.

I remember a talk given by a dear friend of mine who described a time in her life where her family raised rabbits to supplement their food budget, because cash was so very tight, and rabbits happen to be a cost-effective way of producing dietary protein. She spoke of the day that she involved her young sons in killing the rabbits they were eating, so they would understand directly the sacrifice being made for their benefit. So they could see the price being paid for their lives. Continue reading Economic Choices: Choosing one thing over another, and paying the price for it.

80-85% Ally, or 100% Bigoted Homophobe

Ronald Reagan said “My eighty percent friend is not my twenty percent enemy.”  I was thinking about that while bumping into yet another rant about Orson Scott Card being a “huge homophobe,” and decided to see how it might play out.  So I came up with 10 statements (one divided into two) that I could make about gay people (GLBT if you prefer, although I’m not certain all will apply as well to the BT folks as they will to the GL) which I think most GLBT advocates would agree with, and that would be useful in determining percentage of friendship a la Reagan.  Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Gay people should not be subject to violence due to their orientation.
  2. Gay people should not be subject to discrimination in employment due to their orientation.
  3. Gay people should not be subject to discrimination in parenting due to their orientation.
  4. Gay people should be able to engage in civil unions which bring them the same legal protections for their partners that heterosexual people have for their spouses.
  5. Homosexual orientation is not a matter of choice.
  6. Homosexual orientation is not primarily about sex.
  7. Gay people should be welcome in regular LDS meetings, regardless of their membership status.
  8. Gay people should be able to function as leaders in Boy Scouts of America on the same basis as straight people (ie, subject to criminal background checks).
  9. Gay people should be allowed to marry their same-sex partners
    1. civilly
    2. in the temple
  10. Gay marriage/civil unions should be recognized by the LDS Church for the purposes of the Law of Chastity as equivalent to heterosexual civil marriages.

Now, I recognize that not all of these statements would be weighted equally by the hypothetical GLBT advocates mentioned above, but I don’t think those differences in weighting are so huge as to totally invalidate their usefulness.

Speaking just for me, I can agree with almost all of those statements.  I can’t go with #10, and I could probably go with #9.1 at some point, but don’t see #9.2 happening ever.  That would put me at a 80-85% score.  From more extensive reading of OSC than the average person (ie, I have read more than Ender’s Game and his columns opposing Same Sex Marriage), I think he would reject #9 and #10, and I have 50% confidence he would agree with #4 and #7, and reasonably confident he’d accept the remainder.  This would put him at 60-80%.  That might be high — he might be at 50% or even 40%.

And what does this mean?  Am I an 80% ally, or a 20% homophobe?  Or am I just 100% homophobe because I don’t whole-heartedly agree with SSM and reject the Church’s standard for sexual behavior?  There are Mormons who will be uncomfortable with my support for #8, and with me even suggesting #10 as a possibility, although agreeing with 100% of these statements would not make me ineligible to hold a Temple Recommend.

I do believe in the principle that we need to accept those who agree with us most, or even some of the time as at least partial friends as opposed to constant and total enemies.  I’ve never found anybody I agree with 100% of the time — not even myself.

Dear Dove World Outreach Center

I just heard about your plan to have a Quran burning event.  I am stunned at the stupidity and hatred you are demonstrating in the name of my master who commanded me to love my enemies.  I would request you suspend said stupidity, and spend your time gaining a better understanding of the message of Jesus Christ than you are demonstrating.

If, however, you are bound and determined to burn something, please burn copies of the Book of Mormon instead.  My Muslim friends are very sensitive to how you treat the physical text of the Quran, but I don’t care how many copies of the Book of Mormon you burn.  I don’t worship the physical text, nor the words of the text — I worship God, and love the text, and no amount of burning on your part can take it away from me.

Have a nice day,
Blain

All Forms of Islam Oppress Women?

A response to a column on problems in all categories of Islam due to their treatment of women:

An interesting column, but the reasoning gets a little strained in the middle. It conflates, and then condemns, all forms of Islam because they all fail to demand complete equality for women. If we are to condemn every culture/subculture who fails at that line, we’re going to find very, very few still standing. The feminist ideal of total gender equality has proven to be very difficult to define in detail, let alone to accomplish, even in societies which have made the attempt to pursue it.

Islam is a different religion than Christianity or Judaism. The cultures which practice it are different than Western culture. And some in that religion, from those cultures, are attacking Western societies in an effort to destroy them. They draw their reasoning from the Islam of their understanding, and some of that reasoning will resonate, to a greater and lesser degree, across Islam. But their goals, strategies and tactics are not shared by all Muslims, and we need to exercise caution in casting too general a blanket over all Muslims. Not all are our enemies, and we benefit greatly by having some as allies. They are not unlike Christians who shoot abortion doctors and blow up abortion clinics, or who protest the funerals of soldiers, or who build compounds and gather weapons and explosives, in that these do not represent the view of all Christians. However, the Muslims who are trying to destroy our culture very much want to have this defined as a fight between Christianity/Western Culture and Islam. They want to frame it as the New Crusade. It’s the only chance they have to get wide-spread support among Muslims for what they are trying to do.

I think it is wiser for us to reach across the tribal barrier here and make allies than it is to continually reinforce that barrier and make all Muslims categorically wrong simply because they are Muslims. That is not only logically flawed reasoning — it’s counterproductive.