A questioning culture

Several months ago, I found myself in a situation where someone chastised me for something I had written on this blog. Never mind the fact that what I had written had been misinterpreted, but I was hurt that someone doubted my commitment to the church because I asked questions.

I knew I had seen quotes from past leaders embracing questioning from members, so I spent several days combing resources for such quotes and compiled them into one document.

Here is what I came up with:

  • “If [the prophet] writes something . . . out of harmony with [scripture, we are] duty bound to reject it. If [it’s] in perfect harmony with [scripture], [we] accept [it].” —Joseph Fielding Smith
  • “If [the prophet] says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works . . . it is false” —Harold B. Lee
  • “When ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ comes from [the prophet], the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.” —Charles W. Penrose
  • “There is no place in the church for blind adherence.” —John A. Widstoe
  • “I am fearful [members trust] their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence” —Brigham Young
  • “Let every[one] know, by the whispering of the Spirit . . . whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates.” —Brigham Young
  • “Every church member is expected to understand the doctrine of the church intelligently.” —John A. Widstoe
  • “God has not established His Church to make of its members irresponsible automatons” —James E. Talmage
  • “[We] . . . are obedient because [we] know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of . . . individual agency, to obey the commandments of God.” —Boyd K. Packer
  • “Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. —Boyd K. Packer
  • “Each member . . . has a right to . . . judge . . . those who . . . act in their interests” —Lorenzo Snow
  • “We can tell when . . . speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when we . . . are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’ . . . the responsibility [is for] us to determine when they so speak.” —J. Reuben Clark

You can read the quotes in context here.

Do you know of any others? Share them in the comments below.

LDS Women and Post Secondary Education

Should LDS women be encouraged to seek a post secondary education if they’ve expressed an interest in having a large observant family?

Let us assume that a large family could be classified as a family with five or more kids. These children, if all births are not multiples, can be born in a period not less than five 40 week intervals plus four 4 week periods to become impregnated again. This works out to 216 weeks or 4 years, 2 months. That’s a pretty tight schedule to keep, but possible I guess if one were motivated enough. The time from the birth of the first child until the exit from the home of the last child would be a period not less than approximately 22 and one half years (assuming a good synchronization with a school schedule or a home schooled family).

The world we live in now changes at an ever-increasing rate. There is evidence of exponential rates of change in industries and technologies used by employees and researchers the world over. The education you receive today may, depending on the field of study, not be useful or meaningful in 5 years time. Especially if you plan to work in a technical industry or in a research position. How much out of touch would you be if you were to cease your studies for 5 years? 10 years? Just imagine how hard it would be to initiate a job search in your field after leaving it for more than 20 years.

The description of a women’s role in the ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ is that “women are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” while men “are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” This is familiar territory for many families with Dad being the breadwinner and Mom working in the home with the children. Most devout LDS women who work in the home go so far as to be available through the day for their children even when they are in secondary school or choose to home school their children themselves. Both of these behaviours offer little to no availability (or motivation) for additional work outside the home.

Given that raising a large family can span over two decades and that education now has an ever-decreasing shelf life, does it make sense for a young LDS women to attend a post secondary institution at all?

Let us, for a moment, consider other reasons one might wish one’s LDS daughters to attend a college, trade school or university if their education is not of a primary concern.

One argument is that being out on one’s own is a character building experience. True enough but one does not necessarily need to pay tuition to live outside one’s parent’s home.

Perhaps the argument is that all their friends are going off to school and they don’t want to be left behind or miss out on the shared experiences of their peers. Arguments that ‘everyone else is doing’ lead invariably in my mind to an exercise in bridge-jumping and at their core hold very little weight in regard to the best activities for youth in life experience and development of coping skills. In fact, leaving the pack can often be the child’s first experience of making their own decisions and developing coping strategies of their own.

Another argument is that attendance at one of the private LDS post secondary institutions is the best way for a young LDS lady to meet and be courted by a returned missionary and in time evaluate to what extent he takes his career studies seriously; not to mention the safety of being surrounded by members of one’s own faith during that courtship. This does have some sense to it, but the question remains; would it not be more cost efficient and time saving for the young lady to simply live in Provo or Rexburg until they’ve met the man they feel is ‘the one’? Many a parent may want to keep their daughters busy while they are in search of a life partner and simply enroll them so they have something to do during the search. But is this really an efficient and effective way of facilitating such a search? And what happens when she is wed and wishes to immediately start a family? Does the education she’s started simply be thrown away? Would this not lead to issues with her self esteem and self worth?

Would it not be more fair and effective if LDS parents were to instruct their daughters who have expressed interest in leading life as an observant LDS Mother of a large family, to not bother with post secondary education altogether?

“We all know the story of…”

I cringe when I hear those words at church.

?Ǭ†Usually, they are spoken by a Gospel Doctrine teacher when introducing a topic .?Ǭ† I’m sure on any given Sunday, those words are mentioned a couple dozen times in any average ward.

The reason why I cringe is mostly because of my dear wife.?Ǭ† She joined the church after her 18th birthday.?Ǭ† She had very little exposure to the gospel before that.?Ǭ† Her knowlege of things taught in primary could probably fit in a large thimble (ok, well, she?Ǭ†probably knows more than she lets on, but it’s nowhere near what us BIC’ers have encountered).?Ǭ† Usually after a lesson in which those words are mentioned, she asks me about the story that the teacher was referring to.?Ǭ† I do my best to explain it.?Ǭ† She usually mentiones something like “well, knowing that would have helped to make sense of the lesson”.

?Ǭ†Another variant is the phrase “We all know…”.?Ǭ† This one is even worse.?Ǭ† It’s not just a story, but usually some cultural church practice or perhaps some meaty chunk of doctrine.?Ǭ† The instructor usually glosses over the important parts and dives right into his / her analysis, leaving my poor wife in the dust.

?Ǭ†I’ve noticed it’s lessons or discussions / talks like this that make church services so unplesant for my wife.?Ǭ† After a consecutive string of Sunday’s like this, she usually?Ǭ†wants?Ǭ†a break and we all take a rest from going to church.

I guess what really baffles me is the fact that we are suppose to be a missionary minded church.?Ǭ† We are suppose to be ‘inviting others to Christ’, but when they get here, we treat them as if they’ve been here all along and end up frustraing the heck out of them.

Religion and a learning disability

A few years ago, I went to see a psychologist in order to have an IQ test done. I will not say what the score was, but it was fairly high. Higher than 98% of the population in fact (but still much lower than others I have met).

Anyhow, while in the 90-minute assessment, the psychologist noticed something different regarding the way I responded to some questions and pressed further after regarding some background. She later determined that I have a slight learning disability. Without further tests, however, she was unable to diagnose me or say specifically which it was.

What she did say, however, was it was likely trauma induced (I received a concussion during a skiing accident in Saskatchewan when I was 14) and it affected my ability to concentrate.

Up to that point, I had never really thought about it before, but I did find it difficult concentrating after that. I did well academically in elementary school, but relatively poorly once I hit high school. I often daydreamed in class. And that was in the classes where the teacher wasn’t boring; in those classes I would fall asleep.

It sure made sense why I hated school so much. It was not because I was too stupid to learn anything. It was because I found it difficult to concentrate. It also explains why I did so well in college compared to university. My college programme was all project-based and required very little lecturing.

Anyhow, I am digressing.

This limitation in my ability to concentrate or focus also affects how I interact in church meetings and other religious activities. I find it difficult to focus on most speakers in Sacrament. I have a hard time simply reading the scriptures. I can easily fall asleep saying silent prayers at night.

I have not been able to find ways to cope with sacrament speakers since I cannot really change how others present sermons. In that regard I just bear through it and try taking in the occasional sound bite or story. Stories usually help because they allow me to imagine the event being retold.

Scripture study and praying have been easier, however, since I have control over what I do.

I found three things that help me study my scriptures. The first, which I tried for the first time several years ago, is to rewrite the verses I read in my own words. I went through the entire Book of Mormon this way. It helps because it forces me to focus on one verse (1?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú2 sentences at a time).

The second is to use a commentary. Good commentaries are Institute manuals. I will read the commentary, including the scriptures on which it comments. While easier than trying to read straight through the scriptures, it still requires a fair bit of concentration.

The third method ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù and the one I currently use ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù is probably my favourite. It entails me reading only a verse or two at a time and really digesting what is in it. I ponder messages in the verse and questions that it prompts in my mind. I also follow the footnotes in the verse providing me with context and further elaboration. I like this method because it helps me focus on a short selection of verses and it helps provide more depth to my understanding of gospel principles. In addition, it is a method that is guaranteed to provide me with gospel study for years to come (it can take a month to get through a single chapter).

Finally, the way I have found to cope with saying my prayers is to say them aloud, or at the very least to mouth the words if I am saying them silently. My morning prayers are often the most difficult since I say them at breakfast while the rest of my family is running around as the morning starts; it easy to get distracted. Prayers at work are easy since I have my own office and prayers in the van before I go on a visit or to a meeting are easy as well.

By speaking aloud, it helps me to concentrate and prevents me from day dreaming and forgetting what I have already said.

I am just glad I am not a bishop. That is the last thing a ward needs: their bishop falling asleep during Sacrament or having glazed over eyes during an interview.