Our Thoughts http://www.ourthoughts.ca Thought-provoking commentary on life, politics, religion and social issues. Wed, 26 Apr 2017 21:26:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.4 44185677 Will a man rob God? http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/04/26/will-a-man-rob-god/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/04/26/will-a-man-rob-god/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2017 21:26:10 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3288 If you’re Mormon, you’ve probably seen this scripture before:

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:8–10)

It’s a scripture mastery. It’s in the Preach My Gospel manual that full-time missionaries use. It’s in the Gospel Principles manual. It’s the the Gospel Doctrine manual. It’s been used by many leaders in General Conference talks. It’s one of the most popular scriptures used in Sacrament Meeting talks on the topic of tithing.

Despite it’s ubiquity, I wonder if perhaps we’ve been getting it wrong all this time.

Normally, leaders in the church (and even those of us called on to speak on tithing) use this scripture to show that the Lord commands us to pay tithing.

However, nowhere in this chapter does it even say that the church is the intended audience, let alone Israel in general. There is no audience indicated anywhere in chapter 3. You can find an audience only in chapter 2:

“And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.” (verse 1)

So, if the intended audience of Malachi 3 isn’t the Israelites generally—and just for the priests specifically—does that mean this scripture is for church members generally, like we think it is?

Maybe Malachi isn’t telling the Israelites to pay their tithing. Maybe he’s not telling members of the church that countless blessings will fall from heaven if they pay their tithing.

Maybe Malachi is telling the priests to stop hoarding the money. Maybe Malachi is telling the priests to put it in the storehouse, where it belongs. Note the footnote for meat;

“TG Food; Meat; Welfare.”

Perhaps Malachi is telling the leaders of the church at the time to make sure that offerings are put in the storehouse, so they can be used to provide for the poor. Maybe he’s telling the priests that the needs of the people are so important that withholding money from the storehouse is the equivalent of robbing God. Maybe he’s saying that we should be taking care of those who need—to quote the footnote—food, meat, and welfare.

Maybe he’s saying that we shouldn’t place members who give money over those who need money.

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The LDS church is wrong about same-sex marriage. Again. http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/03/20/the-lds-church-is-wrong-about-same-sex-marriage-again/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/03/20/the-lds-church-is-wrong-about-same-sex-marriage-again/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 21:47:01 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3279 Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy wrote an article titled “The War Goes On”. It appears in the April 2017 issue of The Ensign, an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Here is a quote from that article:

“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, but same-sex marriage is only a counterfeit. It brings neither posterity nor exaltation. Although [Satan’s] imitations deceive many people, they are not the real thing. They cannot bring lasting happiness.”

See? This is just more proof that even in 2017, the LDS church just doesn’t get it. They can think they’re all clever and progressive by dropping the S from mormonsandgays.com, but stuff like this just reiterates how out of touch leaders are on the topic of its LGBTQ members. They literally don’t get it.

There are a few problems with this statement:

Same-sex marriage isn’t counterfeit.

They can bring posterity. I have friends in so-called same-sex marriages who have genetic, biological children, whose children play with mine. Men can use egg donors, and women can use sperm donors, just like straight couples do all the time.

Are childless, straight marriages counterfeit?

Is Elder Lawrence saying that marriages without children are counterfeit marriages? Even if the marriage involves a heterosexual couple? So straight couples unable to have children are in counterfeit marriages? Straight couples who choose to not have children are in counterfeit marriages?

Was Howard W. Hunter’s (former president of the church) second marriage counterfeit? What about Russell M Neleson’s (current president of the twelve apostles) current marriage? Is it counterfeit? Neither marriage has resulted in posterity.

What about my own marriage? I have biological children, but I had a vasectomy, so I can no longer have children. Has my marriage become counterfeit. My sister has had a tubal litigation; is her marriage counterfeit.

Are marriages with adopted children counterfeit?

What about adoption? Assuming that gay couples couldn’t actually have biological children (which they can and which I established under the first subheading), they could adopt. Or is Elder Lawrence implying that adopted children of gay parents don’t count as posterity? And if so, does that mean adopted children of straight couples don’t count as posterity? Does that mean marriages with adopted children are counterfeit?

Lasting happiness exists with gay couples

Gay couples (and for that matter any non-cis, non-straight couple, which the LDS church just keeps ignoring) can have lasting happiness. There are many gay couples in long-term, committed relationships. Like Jack Evans and George Harris, who have been together for over 50 years. Or Ted Spring and Paul Pollard, who have been together for over 55. Or John Mace and Richard Adrian Dorr, who have been together for over 70 years. Or Vivian Boyack and Alice Dubes, who have been together for 75 years.

And regarding exaltation . . .

And why doesn’t gay marriage lead to exaltation? Because the LDS church won’t allow their gay members to have their marriages sealed in the temple. There is no scriptural prohibition regarding sealing of gay marriages. It’s a policy decision. It’s easy to say that same-sex marriage doesn’t bring exaltation when you’re the one who won’t exalt those marriages.

And on the topic of being counterfeit, consider these quotes about polygamy, which the LDS church publicly embraced for decades and still practices in their temples:

“This monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers.” —Brigham Young

“[Rome] was a monogamic nation, and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her.” —George Q. Cannon

Sometimes, I’m left wondering whether church leaders actually think through things before writing them. There are so many logical holes in Elder Lawrence’s quote at the start of this post, that it makes me wonder. Is he so blinded by his hatred for gay people (or specifically gay marriage), that he can’t see past his own bigotry? That he can’t set aside his own prejudices for a few minutes to objectively think through what he is about to write?

The church is on the wrong side of this, and if they continue to dig in their heels on LGBTQ issues, they will continue to push out their queer members, will undo any outreach they try to make in the queer community, and their 30% activity rate will continue to drop.

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Why the church needs to be doing more in helping the elderly http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/11/03/why-the-church-needs-to-be-doing-more-in-helping-the-elderly/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/11/03/why-the-church-needs-to-be-doing-more-in-helping-the-elderly/#comments Thu, 03 Nov 2016 21:23:25 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3271 This is a guest post written by Holly Whitman. Holly is a freelance writer and journalist, originally from the UK but now based in Washington DC. You can find her on Twitter at @hollykwhitman and more of her writing on her blog, Only Slightly BiasedTo submit a guest post, email ourthoughts@gmail.com.

Kids are the future.

This is the sentiment of many education programs in North America. As this is rightfully true for education, it also tends to be true within churches. Youth groups are among the most popular parts of the foundation of the church, with the hope that many will stay or return after college to evolve into the adult congregation and leaders of the future.

With a significant amount of time and money being funneled into these youth groups, it seems that another is being left out. The elderly population of churches doesn’t get nearly as much attention from the church as the youth. If you log onto any church’s website, you’ll probably find a section dedicated to events and activities involving their youth group. You’d be hard pressed to find any activities involving the seniors.

This needs to change.

Give them a sense of community

One of the focuses the church, as a whole, can hone in on is giving the elderly a safe haven. The church is already known as a safe environment where people can talk out their problems. If people who are elderly understand they can go there anytime, they may be more likely to visit.

Even if it’s just for a friendly chat, the church can advertise free group meetings for the elderly. These meetings could simply consist of seniors meeting and talking about their problems and experiences. Not only does this help people who are elderly express their feelings, but it also gives them a sense of community and attention in their lives.

Members of the church can also visit with elderly congregants if they live in a nursing home and are unable to find transportation or are too frail to leave their facility. This, too, can help build their sense of community, as they can keep in touch and socialize with other church members. People visiting a nursing home should keep in mind that 50 to 70% of nursing home residents have dementia, so they should consider how best to interact with them. Providing this type of supportive community is one of the best ways to reach out to these individuals, in whatever way is best and most suitable for them.

Give them a gift

Churches have an obligation to create a safe and positive environment for the older generations. Besides creating a group atmosphere for the elderly to share their experiences, it would do the church wonders if they not offered free food and drink as a thank you.

This may sound like an odd idea, but it makes sense the more you think about it. With all the respect the older generations deserve, it’s only fitting they get a free doughnut or coffee. Perhaps anyone over the age of 65 could stop into their local church on a specific day of the week and pick up a complimentary snack. It’s less about the actual food and more about the giving of a gift to a generation who has worked so hard to pave the way for the younger generations. Rather than unintentionally ignoring them in favor of youth, churches must actively play a role in building relationships with seniors in their communities by making them feel valued, as Christ instructed us to serve and love everyone.

Give them opportunities to serve

The church must move away from the idea that the elderly in their congregation are reluctant to change and thus a burden in pushing the church forward in new ways to reach the lost. In many instances, this is not the case.

Talk about the vision for the church with seniors and involve them in projects that best suit their spiritual gifts. Help those who are interested in becoming a more active part of the church, whether that be in greeting guests on Sunday mornings or passing out bulletins during the service. Purpose and engagement are crucial to building this section of the congregation.

The church has a responsibility to society. Caring for, respecting and building up our elders is one of these responsibilities.

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6 poems about faith crisis http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/10/15/6-poems-about-faith-crisis/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/10/15/6-poems-about-faith-crisis/#comments Sat, 15 Oct 2016 22:32:24 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3266 I just found out yesterday that this month is #OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month), a play on #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which occurs every November.

Coincidentally, I’ve written 6 new poems over the last few weeks. I had planned to write only one poem, but it started to go in a different direction. I knew that I had to write another. Then another. And another.

Then Gina Colvin interviewed Lindsay Hansen Park on A Thoughtful Faith in an episode called “Critiquing Progressive Mormonism”, and all of a sudden, I had loads of ideas for future poems.

What started out as a single poem about my recent faith crisis has morphed into a series. So far, I have just 6, but I plan to write a few more exploring various aspects of faith crisis, especially in a Mormon context.

Anyhow, I wanted to share what I’ve written so far, so here they are (with a brief summary of each). Keep in mind that I typically like to use a lot of symbolism, some of it subtle and some of it obvious. See if you can find all the symbols I’ve used.

The Dying Fire

The Dying Fire is a poem that explores my faith history up until the policy change last November. It’s fitting that it was the first poem because it sets the stage for the others.

As Years Crawl By

As Years Crawl By highlights the parallel between erosion and faith crisis.

Confrication

Confrication compares faith crisis with the idea of friction, and Newton’s third law of motion.

Flying to Space

Flying to Space illustrates the struggle of desiring to and trying to live in two worlds.

Familiar Dance

Familiar Dance delves into the idea of finding good in what is typically seen as bad, and vice versa.

Fall of the Mountain

Fall of the Mountain was inspired by a recent temple experience (well, my four most recent temple experiences).

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Don’t forget to include your thoughts on the symbolism I used.

Check out my Faith crisis poetry page to see new poems I’ll be adding in the future.
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My friends are leaving the church, and it makes me sad http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/09/16/my-friends-are-leaving-the-church-and-it-makes-me-sad/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/09/16/my-friends-are-leaving-the-church-and-it-makes-me-sad/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 18:36:29 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3262 I just listened to a podcast of a friend of mine discussing some of her life in the LDS church. Towards the end, she mentioned that she stopped attending church. This on the heels of several other friends of mine cutting ties this year with the church.

And it makes me sad.


But not sad for why you might think. I’m not worried about their eternal salvation or their lost blessings.

I’m sad because it deepens the friction of my own struggles. Sad because it widens the chasm between where I am and where I want to be, between my morality and my spirituality. Sad because it makes the hill I’m trying to climb steeper and higher. Sad because it strangles my hope.

I think people assume that since I decided to stay in the church after last November’s debacle that I have somehow reconciled myself with everything, and that I had smoothed out all the wrinkles and healed all the wounds. But that is not true at all. Not even close.

My faith crisis never went away.

I still struggle. Every day. I still struggle to know what I want to do. I still struggle to know where I want to be. I still struggle to know who I am.

And nothing I’ve tried fixes it. Certainly none of the typical Mormon advice.

Prayer doesn’t work. I pray every day. Several times every day. And I try. I try so hard to pour out my soul. Often my prayers seem empty and repetitious, but there are times when I put my heart into it and I plead—desperately plead—for direction and guidance and enrichment. And nothing.

Scripture study doesn’t work. I study my scriptures every day. And I don’t just skim them. I delve into the words, looking for meaning and insight. Sometimes I find it, but it all seems superficial. None of it motivating me toward a change of heart to true spirituality.

Temple attendance doesn’t work. I’ve been back to the temple 3 times since the November 2015 policy change, and each time, it has been negative experiences. My first time back was for an endowment session, and I felt uncomfortable and like an outsider. My second time back was for sealings, and I felt intense promptings to just get up and leave (I didn’t leave.). My most recent time back was for baptisms, and it was less negative than the others, but it lacked even a crumb of spiritual nourishment. Maybe it was prophetic that the last time I attended the temple prior to the policy change I felt like I was saying goodbye.

So, I sit here sad.

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Did Heavenly Mother introduce Jesus? http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/09/03/did-heavenly-mother-introduce-jesus/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/09/03/did-heavenly-mother-introduce-jesus/#comments Sat, 03 Sep 2016 22:31:43 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3258 When Jesus was baptized, those present heard the following:

“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)

A similar event occurred when Jesus appeared to the Nephites:

“Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.” (3 Ne. 11:7)

Typically, we assign the words to Heavenly Father, although in both cases the text doesn’t indicate who the speaker is. We can certainly infer that the speaker is a parent of Jesus, given the use of “my beloved Son”.

Even the most widespread First Vision account doesn’t mention specifically that it was God the Father introducing Jesus:

“When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS–H 1:17)

If the texts are silent on who the actual person was speaking, does that mean we are projecting our own biases onto the story?

What if it wasn’t God the Father who introduced Jesus on these 3 occasions? What if it was God the Mother instead? The texts certainly don’t preclude Heavenly Mother from being the speaker.

If Heavenly Mother did speak at Jesus’s baptism, if she did introduce him to the Nephites, if she did appear to Joseph Smith, how would that change our perception of her and the role she plays in the eternities?

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The prohibition on praying to Heavenly Mother doesn’t make sense http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/08/14/the-prohibition-on-praying-to-heavenly-mother-doesnt-make-sense/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/08/14/the-prohibition-on-praying-to-heavenly-mother-doesnt-make-sense/#comments Sun, 14 Aug 2016 22:08:20 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3253 I’ve been thinking about the female divine recently, although I can’t remember what prompted these thoughts.

In Mormonism, we often refer to the female divine as “Mother in Heaven” or “Heavenly Mother”. We know little about her, but we know that she is apparently equal to God. Well, except in one important way:

We don’t pray to Heavenly Mother.

This prohibition was most recently defended by Gordon B. Hinckley in October 1991—then a member of the First Presidency—in the women’s session of General Conference, quoting an address he gave earlier that year to regional representatives:

However, in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven.

While certainly the cultural norm, this proscription makes little sense when one contemplates it. Consider your own family.

If you are a woman, imagine your child never addressing you during their entire life, always going through your husband. If you are a man, imagine your child only ever addressing you, never asking your wife anything, never sharing their concerns and struggles with her, never pleading to her for help.

Imagine having never addressed your own mother while you were growing up, not speaking to her now, and never talking to her for as long as she continues to live. Imagine only ever going through your father.

Doesn’t that seem odd? Yet that is precisely what we do when we prohibit people from praying to Heavenly Mother.

Rudger Clawson, once president of the Quorum of the Twelve, agrees. Well, perhaps not explicitly.

“It doesn’t take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal Mother, any more than it diminishes the love we bear our earthly fathers, to include our earthly mothers in our affections. . . . we honor woman when we acknowledge Godhood in her eternal prototype.”  “Our Mother in Heaven,” Millennial Star 72 (September
29, 1910): 619–20.

Hinckley continues on the topic in his address by reference multiple scriptures where Jesus prayed to God, emphasizing the fact that Jesus used the term “Father” in his prayers. These scriptures act, in his mind, as justification for the exclusion of Heavenly Mother from our prayers.

This is a weak connection, however. Erastus Snow, formerly of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, proposed that “God” includes both Father and Mother”

“There can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, or ever will be a God in any other way. We may never hope to attain unto the eternal power and the Godhead upon any other principle . . . this Godhead composing two parts, male and female.” (Journal of Discourses, 19:269–73, March 3, 1878.)

Related to this is a statement from Harold B. Lee, spoken in the October 1963 General Conference and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles:

We forget that we have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother who are even more concerned, probably, than our earthly father and mother, and that influences from beyond are constantly working to try to help us when we do all we can.

Likewise, Chieko N. Okazaki, formerly of the General Relief Society Presidency, in her book Sanctuary (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997, 59), stated “that our heavenly parents are cosufferers with us in our mortal trials ”.

Russell M. Ballard, currently in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught that  “Our Heavenly Parents’ love and concern for us continues to this very moment.” (Our Search for Happiness (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993), 70)

Jeffrey R. Holland, also in the Twelve Apostles, wrote while president of BYU, “On a particularly difficult day, . . . what would this world’s inhabitants pay to know that heavenly parents are reaching across those same streams and mountains and deserts, anxious to hold them close?” (However Long and Hard the Road (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 47)

If both of our Heavenly Parents influence us, cosuffer with us, love us, are concerned for us, reach for us, and are anxious to hold us close, why should we not acknowledge that through prayer?

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Let your light so shine before men http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/08/11/let-your-light-so-shine-before-men/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/08/11/let-your-light-so-shine-before-men/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2016 04:19:18 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3249 A few weeks ago, I decided to start studying the Gospels for my scripture study, and earlier this week, I started the Sermon on the Mount. Then I came across Matt. 5:16:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

This is a scripture I’ve commonly heard, particularly as a youth growing up in the church. I had always given it a superficial treatment. But when I was reading it this week, I gained a few insights I hadn’t considered before.

Take the phrase “so shine”, for example. That phrasing suggests that the way to let our light shine had been previously mentioned. Let’s look at the previous two verses:

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

I believe the latter half of the quote indicates the method by which we let our light so shine: on a candlestick. We don’t hide the light we have; we bring it into the open and share it, or—more specifically—we give it away.

And why do we let our light so shine? So others may see our good works and glorify God. I find the connection to our works interesting. When we share our light with others, they will notice our good works. Maybe that means that the way we let our light shine is through our good works. As we do what is right, they will see that light within is.

For some reason, I thought the end of the verse—glorifying God—was something for us to do, but I realized during this reading that this is something done by those who see our good works. In other words, we are encouraged to have works so good that they encourage those who see them to glorify God.

Is it any wonder then why Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. If we love others to the point that such love permeates our actions, speech, and even our thoughts, maybe it will prompt others to glorify God.

What do you think?

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Someone isn’t taking the sacrament; do you judge or support? http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/07/23/someone-isnt-taking-the-sacrament-do-you-judge-or-support/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/07/23/someone-isnt-taking-the-sacrament-do-you-judge-or-support/#comments Sat, 23 Jul 2016 21:01:10 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3243 I was recently listening to a A Thoughtful Faith podcast episode with Nathaniel Givens. Toward the end, Nathaniel discusses how the sacrament within the LDS church is an open experience, as we share it with one another. He explicitly mentions at one point that he was not encouraging others to watch for others not taking of the sacrament.

That idea of watching for others not taking the sacrament got me thinking.

It’s probably something each of us has seen: someone not taking the sacrament. Perhaps, even, we have been one of those who hadn’t taken it.

When we do notice someone not partaking of the sacrament, even if unintended, what is our first impulse? Do we start wondering to ourselves about what sin it might be that this brother or sister committed? Do we find ourselves judging them?

I wonder if, maybe, we should be mindful to taking another approach. One alternative, if we happen to notice someone not taking the sacrament, is to remind ourselves that perhaps this brother or sister is struggling with something. We should remind ourselves that they’re trying. We should ask ourselves what we can do to offer a hand of support without prying. We should take note of the covenant we’re making at that exact moment to take upon ourselves Jesus’s name and find a way to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.

Remember, the energy we devote to judging others is energy taken away from being more like Christ.

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Pope Francis says Catholic Church Should Apologize to Gays http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/06/26/pope-francis-says-catholic-church-should-apologize-to-gays/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2016/06/26/pope-francis-says-catholic-church-should-apologize-to-gays/#respond Mon, 27 Jun 2016 02:09:48 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3234 Pope Francis has said that the Roman Catholic Church should apologise to gay people for the way it has treated them. Is this Christ-like behaviour or just a PR stunt by the great and abominable? You be the judge.

“I think that the Church not only should apologise… to a gay person whom it offended but it must also apologise to the poor as well, to the women who have been exploited, to children who have been exploited by [being forced to] work. It must apologise for having blessed so many weapons.”

BBC News has the full story.

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