Category Archives: Religion

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

Divinity v Mortality in our lives

This is a response to someone who wrote about the need for us to define our lives in terms of the divinity within us, rather than our mortal nature.  It included the idea that we could live in that divinity every moment of every day.

I don’t see how this can work. Seriously. I think it’s good to keep ahold of that little divine thread we’ve each got, so we don’t get totally overwhelmed by the mortal. But there’s way, way more mortal in us at this stage than there is divine, and that little bit of divine isn’t up to running every moment of every day for people who are still breathing. We were put in this world to learn how to develop that, and I think that’s great, but we are categorically unable to live divine all the time. That would put us above the need for divine grace, and that doesn’t happen.

We make mistakes. And we make bad choices. We sin. That’s not ideal, and it’s not really acceptable, but it’s also inevitable. There will not be a day that we aren’t going to have something to take to God to say “I’m sorry, but I screwed up again.” That’s not permission to do something really bad, which it could very easily be heard to be. It’s just part of the annoying truth in this life. We just need to do the best we can (which is so pathetically inadequate compared to the needs of the moment so often), and continually invite the Savior into our lives and hearts to fill the gaps, fix the breaks, and chip away the parts of our hearts that are like us so he can replace them with parts that are like him. This grows the divine in us, which is certainly good. But we can’t have a divine life until we are in a divine world, and this one isn’t.

So hang on to the hope that comes in remembering our little fledgling divinity, and our massive divine potential, definitely. But don’t expect to do that all the time — it’s a set-up for a failure to believe it’s even possible.

Limitations of Religion

This is an excerpt of a comment I made to a friend who is having a tough time with the church she recently left:

No matter what you do, churches are made of people, and people fail. I don’t have much experience with a pastor-based church, but it seems that what you’re alluding to is an unfortunately common experience. Great pastors being followed by inadequate interim pastors who are unwilling to be replaced by more competent pastors, resulting in schism and exodus. I don’t have a solution for that — it seems inherent in the system to me.

But, without churches, there isn’t anybody to teach us about important things. Yeah, I know, we can go directly to God, but our ability to do so on our own isn’t always that good, and it’s very easy to teach ourselves the Gospel according to Me, which includes all our pet doctrines and gospel hobbies, and avoids anything we don’t want to think about very much.

Churches, scriptures, and the witness/testimony of others are windows through which we can perceive things of God. They are helpful, good and useful, but they aren’t God, and worshiping them is a much easier idolatry than worshiping God is. If we accept them in their limitation, and seek to transcend those limitations with God’s help, as we try to transcend our own limitations with that same help, over the long run, we will get what we most need. If we set our sights on them, and succumb to the temptation to worship them at the expense of the God they teach, then we will fail, sooner or later, but badly.

A note to Mormons (and others) trying to help friends avoid a planned divorce.

This is what some of them would like to say to you, but don’t necessarily know how:

Thank you for your concerns about me and my family. I know you have the best of intentions for us, and want to do what you can to help keep my family intact. I love that you want to do this for us.

You can’t do this for us. We’ve already tried every available option, looked under ever rock, and prayed as much as we can. We will be divorcing. That isn’t a question. We don’t know what the future holds beyond that. I don’t yet know when or if I will be married again. This is a very difficult time for me, and I’m none too sure what I will be doing tomorrow. I might just cry a lot.

When I say things like “We just grew apart,” or “We’re not in love anymore,” or just generally don’t tell you anything bad about my marriage or my spouse, this is my attempt to tactfully tell you that what you’re asking about isn’t your business. I’m not going to tell you why we’re divorcing, and you should be grateful that I won’t. There are any number of things that may or may not have led into my decision that you don’t want to hear about: emotional, physical or sexual abuse of me, my children or both, addiction, mental illness, infidelity, and a great deal of pain. I don’t want you to think of or treat my ex badly, and I really don’t want to talk about any of this with you. And I really do want you to drop the questions about what we’ve done or not done, or tried and not tried. As I’ve said, this is a very, very difficult time, and your well intentioned inquiries just poke at emotional wounds that haven’t had the time to become scars yet. It feels a lot like getting kicked when you’re down, and this is why many people leave the Church after they divorce.

I have a support system that’s working for me right now. I appreciate your willingness to be a part of it, but right now isn’t the time for that. Perhaps later.

Updated Gospel Principles Manual to Be Used in Priesthood and Relief Society 2010-2011

While I was writing this post, I found this tidbit of information on the front page of LDS.org:

Updated Gospel Principles Manual

The Gospel Principles manual contains information on 47 core principles of the gospel for personal study and teaching. In 2010 and 2011, this manual will be used in Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society classes, as well as the Gospel Principles class for investigators and new members. The manual is available online in multiple media formats. 

This excites me quite a bit. One of my biggest concerns in the Church is the problem of doctrine. Mainstream Christianity has a relatively stable, if disputed, and quite elaborate set of doctrines which answer essential theological questions, but Mormonism has a much smaller set of core, essential doctrines and a large and robust set of speculative doctrines. Mainstream Christianity also has a large body of professional clergy who learn these sets of doctrines and the chatecisms, confessions and creeds from which they are derived to carry these doctrines to individuals to strive to keep their belief orthodox. Mormonism, by contrast, has no paid clergy, and is based in revealed truth that extends beyond, and sometimes contrasts with, the chatechisms, confessions and creeds of mainstream Christianity. We believe that many things will yet be revealed pertaining to the Kingdom of God. And we have, and have had, a large group of leaders that we believe can speak, through inspiration, the word of God, just as scriptures hold the word of God.

The profundity, and, from some perspectives, audacity of this claim is hard to overestimate. And it brings some major consequences to Mormonism, as nobody speaks through inspiration all the time. Over time, these leaders have explored doctrinal ideas, and shared those explorations, without always being clear that these explorations were their own personal understanding — what I call speculative doctrines. Speculative doctrines are things which might be true, and are contrasted with essential doctrines which must be true. Speculative doctrines can appeal to people for a variety of reasons, some of which are good, because they are true, and some of which are not so good, because they are false, but they can be handled reasonably well when people understand that they are speculative, and not essential. Think of these as doctrinal urban legends, and you’ll have the right idea.

Occasionally, someone will take a speculative doctrine and, with the best of intentions, extend it far enough that it actually becomes a false doctrine. And it can appeal to other people, and spread. This is a problem. The most striking example I can think of of a false doctrine is the doctrine of Salvation by Works, where the importance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is minimized in the misguided attempt to point to the requirement that we do work both to live and to accept the influece of the Savior in our lives. There is no scripture of which I am aware that tells us of anything that can save us but the grace and love of God manifest in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But, because we don’t want to be seen as accepting the notion that one can proclaim Jesus with their lips, and do nothing to follow the commandments he gave, and be saved, far too many over-react and over-estimate the importance of our own efforts.

So I am excited to see that this course of study is going to reach all the adults in the Church over the next two years. This course will cover the essential doctrines of the Church in their most basic form. Anything not found in this course, or in the temple ceremonies, is not an essential doctrine. Speculative doctrines are fine, so long as they are understood and spoken of as being speculative. I am hopeful that this will help clarify this distinction.

The Mormon Thing

This is primarily for my Facebook friends, particularly those who have not hidden everything I post there (I post quite a lot of stuff, and can understand if it gets a little overwhelming sometimes). I post quite a few things having to do with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormonism and Mormon life, and I want to add this to make clear why I do this, and, at least importantly, what I don’t expect anybody to do about it.

I am Mormon. I was born in Mesa, Arizona, which was founded by Mormons, and was strongly Mormon when I lived there (and still is, although there has been quite a migration of Mormons to Gilbert and then further east in the Valley). I call Mesa the southern end of the Jello Belt, which extends north through Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, and up to Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. It is made up of the many communities colonized by Mormons under the direction of Brigham Young, and was once known as the territory of Deseret, before it was brutally gerymandered to form the smallest possible area that would be politically controlled by Mormons in the form of the modern state of Utah. Unlike many Mesa Mormons I grew up with, I was a second-generation member, since both my parents joined the Church as adults (Dad wasn’t baptized until after I was married), and I was the first in my family to be blessed as an infant and baptized at age 8 (the usual Mormon childhood ordinances). When we moved from Mesa when I was 13, I left the Jello Belt, and haven’t lived there since.

It was several years after this that I actually read the Book of Mormon and, in the process, was converted to the gospel taught by the Church. Although my life has had ups and downs in pretty much every way possible since then, I have never lost the certitude of the truth in that gospel. I have not been a terribly mainstream Mormon for quite some time, and gave up some time ago the notion that I have a responsibility to persuade anybody to believe anything in particular that I believe. I will discuss things Mormon with anybody who is willing to have a respectful conversation free of attempts to persuade anyone of anything within the constraints of reality. I am quite certain that nothing anybody can say will make me want the Church to not be true any more than I already have wanted it to be, and that wanting has not been able to change my certitude that it is true, so I can’t imagine that’s going to change under any circumstances.

I post things from a Mormon perspective here primarily for my friends who are Mormon or interested in Mormonism to any degree. Facebook does not give me the power to limit my postings to any of the groups of friends I’ve created, and I would be happy to restrict my posting of Mormon things to one if they did. However, I don’t know which of my non-Mormon friends are interested in Mormon things to any degree, so I just post things, and leave it to you to decide if you want to look at it. Some of the things I post are likely to make some of my Mormon friends less than comfortable — as I said, I left the mainstream of the Church a long time ago — but I don’t post things that I don’t find interesting or important. I do not intend to convert anybody through these things, whether it be converting them to join the Church, or to join me outside the mainstream, or, for some, to join me in my place which might be closer to the mainstream than they are. I do not believe I have the power to change anyone’s mind, and I make no effort to do so. As with most of the things in my life, I share what I find interesting and important for the benefit of those who find benefit in it.

So, I apologize to those who might find these things uninteresting or unimportant, and absent any benefit for them. I am not trying to annoy people (it’s a talent I was born with — I don’t even have to try). I appreciate the patience of those who have chosen not to complain at me for having annoyed them with any of this. I remain willing to talk to anybody about any part of this on a respectful and non-persuasive basis, and I return you to your life, already in progress.

Some ideas on avoiding divorce.

I’ve been perking up to some near-conclusions about avoiding divorce.

One is that there is really no ground to be gained by perpetuating the myth of divorces in the Church caused by silly people who decide that divorce is no big deal, or that they should quit when marriage is hard. Those people represent a very small portion of Mormons who experience divorce, and they’re dumb enough not to recognize themselves in that description. This straw-man needs to be left alone. Continue reading Some ideas on avoiding divorce.

Blain’s Dating Rules

These aren’t really rules in the sense that I enforce them, or that there’s some artificial penalty to breaking them. They are really more suggestions, or guidelines. Rather than fight over what they say, I’d prefer people think about the principles and reasons behind them.

The New Divorce Rule

No dating nor flirting of any kind for at least a year after a divorce is final. You need that year to heal and explore your own contribution to the divorce. You didn’t end up with a failed marriage because you were too perfect, and you’re not going to get better without time, effort and help. Take as much time as you need to get your head straight. Get used to standing on your own two feet, without depending on someone else. Wait until your fear of dating is greater than your fear of not dating, at the very least. Single life isn’t terrible, so find and enjoy the good parts of single life. This protects you from the rebound marriage and the consequent next divorce. Continue reading Blain’s Dating Rules

Some comments on Christianity

I wrote this in response to a post on ‘s LJ:

In response to your last paragraph, I think this is where the punch is. Again, it’s not a matter of “my team/tribe has this all right, while yours has it all wrong,” as I think it’s just a human thing. When I did my NLP Practitioner Training, many years ago, we talked about meta-patterns, which are just basic ways that people work. Some people move toward what they want, while others move away from what they don’t want. It’s a subtle, but fundamental difference, and, like all dichotomies, it is false when taken too far — we all do some of both, but we will tend to fall on one side more than the other.

But it’s something we have some choice about, if the choice is presented to us so we know we have it. We can choose to build more of what we want, or to try to tear down what we don’t want. We can try to sustain what we hope for, or to run from what we fear. This doesn’t mean that we can just up and choose the positive over the negative every time — if we don’t run from some of the things we fear under certain conditions, we don’t survive to pursue our hopes anymore — but it’s something we can reflect on from time to time, and find ways that we can lean more toward the positive and away from the negative.

Putting on the Christian identity does not make one a Christian in any substantive way on its own — it’s in choosing and walking the Christian path that one comes closer to the proclaimed Master and joins the fold of the Good Shepherd. That path is strait (note the lack of “gh”) and narrow, and few there be that find it. But those who continually seek it will find it, and those who ask will receive, and those who knock will be opened unto. It’s not something that is done in a moment — it’s something that is grown into, or planted and nourished until it grows within us and transforms us. It’s like dew, that distills so subtly that you don’t notice it’s coming until it’s there.

I’m a fan of a Christian life, rather than a Christian identity. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but it’s a lot easier to put on the latter than to live the former, and not a few will stop once they’ve done the latter and think that they’re done. A life-Christian will strive to love all, especially their enemies, while a identity-Christian will berate them for having not been saved. Being saved in an instant by cheap grace, and then being able to sin however one wishes and put it on the Jesus account is a mockery of the Christian message, and it is far too popular within the Christian Church.

It’s not the Christianity that’s the problem, and you can replace the name of almost any team or tribe or party or -ism where I said “Christianity.” The problem is always going to be more in the building of the positive values and living into them than it is in taking the name and doing it for show.