Our Thoughts http://www.ourthoughts.ca Thought-provoking commentary on life, politics, religion and social issues. Thu, 10 Aug 2017 18:07:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 44185677 Why I was wrong to march with Mormons Building Bridges http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/08/10/why-i-was-wrong-to-march-with-mormons-building-bridges/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/08/10/why-i-was-wrong-to-march-with-mormons-building-bridges/#comments Thu, 10 Aug 2017 18:07:04 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3318 Last year, I marched with and organized a group of local Mormons in the Lethbridge Pride Parade. We marched under the Mormons Building Bridges banner.

My reasons for marching were varied. Our daughter had publicly come out the previous summer. The LDS church had released their divisive and damaging policy update on marriage equality just months before. I thought it might be an act of solidarity to show the local LGBTQ community that some Mormons wanted to be supportive. I also considered that marching openly as a Mormon was an act of protest, co-opting “Mormon” from the church and redefining what it meant to be Mormon.

I realize now that marching was wrong.

Some background

I had planned to march this past June. I was even organizing a group of Mormons again. Then I had a discussion with some friends of mine (who have Mormon ties and are members of the local LGBTQ community). I learned that for them, seeing Mormons dressed in “official” attire and under the “Mormon” banner brought pain, reminding them of the hurt the church laid on them in previous years.

After some reflection, I cancelled the group’s organizing.

I admit that I took it personally. I felt hurt and sidelined. But after the hurt subsided, I realized that being called on my actions was an opportunity for me to reevaluate my role as an LGBTQ ally. I took the last 2–3 months to do some research and some introspection.

Why it was wrong

First, Pride is an act of protest. The first parades (if they can be called that) were held in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco on 28 June 1970, as a way to commemorate the Stonewall Riots the year before.

Anyone watching a Pride parade today would have trouble finding that connection. Pride today has been commercialized, overrun with floats from companies, politicians, political parties, and other non-queer organizations.

If you ask anyone attending Pride what Pride is about, you’ll invariably hear the word “inclusion”. But why must Pride include everyone? Why must the event include companies that used to fire employees for being queer? Why must it include the political parties that used to oppose marriage equality? Why must it include the same institution that used to arrest and imprison them for just being who they are? Why must it include the churches that used to (and often still does) excommunicate, ostracize, and even encourage violence toward their queer members?

Pride is an LGBTQ space

Pride is an LGBTQ space. It always has been, and it always should be.

Too many people are trying to co-opt it. I literally saw organizations handing out branded rainbow flags at this year’s parade. One longtime Liberal Party candidate had the gall to say that the Liberal-branded rainbow flag was a better flag than the generic flag we had already received from organizers.

I realize now that my marching under the Mormons Building Bridges banner took space away from the LGBTQ community. I was trying to appropriate Pride to make a political point. And that was wrong. And I am sorry for my ignorance and actions.

If Mormons (or anyone for that matter) want to show support to the LGBTQ community through Pride, they should do so in collaboration with the community. They should be willing to participate in the floats and marches of LGBTQ-specific organizations, arm in arm and hand in hand. Show them that they are willing to be supportive without being selfish.

I won’t be marching under Mormons Building Bridges anymore. But to be clear, this isn’t really about Mormons Building Bridges. I feel exactly the same regarding similar organizations, such as Mormons for Equality. It’s not the specific organization; it’s the message we’re sending when we want to be allies while still remaining in our comfort zone.

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9 church initiatives for the inspired activist http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/08/07/9-church-initiatives-for-the-inspired-activist/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/08/07/9-church-initiatives-for-the-inspired-activist/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 22:19:39 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3314 This guest post is written by Kate Harveston, a writer and political activist from Pennsylvania. She blogs about culture and politics, and the various ways that those elements act upon each other. For more of her work, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

The good works of holy disciples have always been a point of pride for religious organizations. While it might seem like a touchy subject in today’s polarized America, faith can provide opportunities to contribute, even for those with non-traditional views.

The church is nothing without people, and many of those responsible for inspiring a return to community service are young people. Spurned by what they feel is a commercialistic approach to faith — the televised megachurch approach — new church leaders are opening up to new ideas and promoting community involvement for people from all walks of life.

Here are a few great examples.

Project Gateway delivers career training in Africa

South Africa has struggled with civil unrest for many years, but like so many places, its people are vibrant and eager to rise above the conflict. Many have left the country to seek careers elsewhere.

Whether they choose to stay or emigrate, Project Gateway offers real-world training that can change lives. The Christian service organization provides shelter and safety, trains attendees in computer literacy and even offers programs on the fashion industry.

City Bible Forum builds homes in Mexico

The team from City Bible Forum isn’t even concerned about what faith you are. This new-age Christian group takes a literal approach to the term “forum,” as their website is an open discussion. Part of what they do is inviting whoever wants to go to come and build homes in Mexico. That’s not so hard to get behind.

Healing Haiti

If you’d like to travel to a beautiful island, make new friends and help some friendly people at the same time, Healing Haiti could be a good fit for you.

This Christian organization organizes missionary trips to Haiti at a reasonable price that makes it accessible for everyone. Not only that, but they offer different packages for groups, families and individuals.

The Christian Left

You can’t turn on the news these days without hearing about the Christian right, but is there somewhere a Christian with liberal beliefs can belong? The answer is yes. The Christian Left has made it their mission to fight for a progressive view in the world of Christianity by supporting many feminist and LGBTI+ events.

Jewish Service Corps organizes year-long projects in 11 countries

JSC fellows can partake in service works around the world. Destinations include China, Argentina, Israel, Russia, Turkey and more.

St. Christopher’s Inn

Offering a safe place where all are welcome is a virtue that spreads across any faith. The St.
Christopher’s Inn offers just that, as well as rehabilitation services to those in need. Residents can receive primary health care, spiritual counseling and chemical dependency therapy. The “Brothers Christopher” keep the Inn as a ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.

Keeping Kids Fed Through the Church

Multiple schools and churches in Vermont have teamed up to distribute bags packed with a week’s worth of lunches to local schoolchildren. Recipients can look forward to fresh produce and the occasional book or toy in their bag. The program relies 100% on local funding and help from volunteers.

Islamic Relief USA

Regardless of your religion or belief, this humanitarian aid organization is willing to help. They support literacy and health and distribute foodstuffs worldwide. Currently, they are working with flood survivors in Afghanistan.

Fighting Bullies

The Sikh religion is less well known than more prominent western faiths, but this group is working to give marginalized Sikh children a voice. The New York-based operation works to end bullying in schools and promote freedom of religion for all people.

Since the beginning of recorded time, faith has been a force for improvement in the community. Our community has grown from a local one into a global one, but there is still work to be done. Rather than let the media define your relationship with faith, choose to be part of a positive movement with one of the groups mentioned here or the hundreds like them.

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4 things to remember about the church before you judge http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/07/24/4-things-to-remember-about-the-church-before-you-judge/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/07/24/4-things-to-remember-about-the-church-before-you-judge/#respond Mon, 24 Jul 2017 22:41:22 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3310 This guest post is written by Kate Harveston, a writer and political activist from Pennsylvania. She blogs about culture and politics, and the various ways that those elements act upon each other. For more of her work, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

Christians in today’s society have been given a bad name, often because the loudest, most judgmental ones are the people who capture the headlines and make others think that all people who subscribe to the faith are against entire demographic groups, such as the LGBT community, Muslims, or even women.

However, Christianity is a more diverse religion than you may realize, and it’s important not to become overly closed-minded and make assumptions by getting too focused on the downsides when examining the faith.

There are numerous admirable things associated with Christians, some of which are outlined below.

1. Christianity teaches that moral obligations are higher than laws

If you have ever participated in the act of civil disobedience, consider that the early Christians paved the way for your modern actions. The Bible includes mentions of how early followers of Jesus didn’t take part in rituals of sacrifice to the emperor, which was seen as shunning Roman leadership.

Later, Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a church leader during the Civil Rights Movement, recognized that if laws were not based on morality, they should be protested. It was that belief that propelled many of his sermons and subsequent actions in support of equality for African Americans. Also, U2, the Irish band that has members who follow the Christian faith, mentions that “love is a higher law” in one of its hit songs.

2. Christian movements and organizations have been instrumental for education

Historians agree the positive impact Christianity has had on promoting better access to education goes back to the 16th-century Protestant Reformation period. Later, societal groups urged reading the Bible frequently, which is widely believed to have furthered literacy on a mass scale.

Schools set up in the United States and run by branches of the Christian faith, such as Catholics and Quakers, have played a substantial role in educating people within the country, especially immigrants. Also, in less-developed areas, including sub-Saharan Africa, the missionaries who go there to share their faith often simultaneously increase educational opportunities for residents.

3. Many hospitals and health-promoting initiatives are Christian based

Think back to the name of the last hospital you received treatment from, and there’s a high likelihood it was set up by people or groups who followed Christianity. That’s especially true if the name includes the word “saint” or “mercy”.

Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross and a nurse who was instrumental in providing humanitarian aid during the Civil War, was influenced by the Christian faith because her family was heavily involved in it and known for their beliefs in the local community. Even before that, Christian organizations formed to help others by treating ailments such as the bubonic plague or serving on war-torn battlefields in earlier generations.

That health-related work is still happening today through dedicated Christian organizations that believe faith drives everything they do. Many boldly focus on underserved areas of desperate need in places like West Africa, South Asia, and South America. Short-term disaster relief efforts, crisis pregnancy centres, and health clinics are also organized through these faith-motivated groups.

4. Some Christians try to live their lives as Jesus did

While noticing a preacher with a megaphone standing on a busy city street and targeting certain groups of people, you might wonder how that person aligns personal beliefs with those that Jesus held. Although Jesus shook up society in his day and caused a stir among the population, it was largely because of how he stood up against the religious leaders for being too ritualistic.

He also encouraged people to love themselves and others. Notably, he mingled with society members who were seen as sinners or unclean people, such as lepers and prostitutes. Living as Jesus did is precisely what the Progressive Christianity or Christian Left movement tries to do.

Although there are substantial variations within the sector about specific beliefs, people try to conduct their lives similarly to how Jesus did during his time on Earth. That means they often focus on people who have otherwise been overlooked by wider society. Also, members of the Christian Left usually don’t rely on fear-based tactics to lure people into joining the movement.

As you can see from this list, thinking that all Christians are associated with only bad things in the world is grossly stereotypical. Sometimes it takes a bit of effort to notice the goodness that people who aren’t of our own thinking can offer, but it is certainly present.

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“But it’s not natural . . .” http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/07/17/but-its-not-natural/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/07/17/but-its-not-natural/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 23:27:51 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3299 If your Facebook News Feed was anything like mine during the second week of July, you probably saw a lot of posts about Teen Vogue’s article on anal sex. Most of it probably in opposition to the article. There were even progressive voices criticizing it.

But this post isn’t about anal sex. Well, not really.

Last week, I was discussing the article after a Facebook friend posted a popular video of a woman criticizing the article. In this discussion, someone labelled anal sex as unnatural, using phrases like “against how the body is constructed” and “the anal (sic) is not made for that purpose”.

And it’s that idea of nature that I want to discuss.

This is a common tactic of members of the LDS church, specifically when it comes to sexual issues.

For example, a 1974 article published in The Ensign refers to gay and lesbian relationships as being unnatural. President Kimball called homosexuality “unnatural”.  The current administrative handbook of the church counts “homosexual and lesbian relations” as “unnatural”. The current family home evening manual quotes President Kimball in labelling anything outside of heterosexual relationships as “unnatural”. The Marriage and Family Relations manual goes so far as saying even simple affection “toward persons of the same gender” is unnatural.

On the topic of marriage equality, in background material sent to all bishops and branch presidents of the church in 2015, the current First Presidency quoted the handbook when they claimed that “homosexual behavior (sic) . . . is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality”. In original wording in that backgrounder, the First Presidency also stated that “mothers and fathers matter, and they are not interchangeable.” In an Ensign article published earlier this year, Elder Lawrence called “same-sex marriage . . . counterfeit”, adding as justification that they do not “bring . . . posterity”. In an October 1999 general conference talk, President Hinckley, in discussing “so-called gays and lesbians”, implied that a “so-called same-sex marriage situation” makes light of the purpose of marriage: “the rearing of families.”

That’s probably enough for the examples, but the point is that the church likes to use the idea of nature as a way to oppose sexuality that they don’t like. Which is weird when you think of it.

Putting off the natural man

Take a look at this Ensign article about the “natural man”. Or this conference talk on the “natural man”. Or this Sunday School manual. Or this Institute manual. Or this Seminary manual. Or this New Era article.

You get the point.

For a church that so commonly talks about putting off what is human nature, it seems anachronistic to defend what is (according to them) human nature when it comes to sexuality.

What is actually natural?

Christianity (and arguably other religions) has created this narrative that marriage is, by nature, between a man and a woman. This narrative is perpetuated through stories such as Noah’s ark, in which Noah brought male and female animals to mirror human relationships and form couples to produce offspring.

But this isn’t reflected in actual nature, at least not exclusively. For example, in his book Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, biologist Bruce Bagemihl identified around 500 species that scientists had documented engaging in same-sex behaviours, including sexual activity, courtship, affection, pair bonding, and parenting.

Seven years later, The Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo opened an exhibition dedicated to homosexuality in the natural world, and they indicated that the number of species had now tripled to 1,500.

Clearly, homosexual activity is not unnatural.

So where does all this lead us? Well, at best, the idea that we should oppose something that is unnatural is hypocritical, at best. How can we defend what is natural while also opposing what is natural?

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The controversy surrounding altered texts http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/06/27/the-controversy-surrounding-altered-texts/ http://www.ourthoughts.ca/2017/06/27/the-controversy-surrounding-altered-texts/#respond Tue, 27 Jun 2017 21:50:27 +0000 http://www.ourthoughts.ca/?p=3292 This guest post is written by Kate Harveston, a writer and political activist from Pennsylvania. She blogs about culture and politics, and the various ways that those elements act upon each other. For more of her work, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

It’s no secret some written and artistic material can be insensitive. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are great examples of this. Though written in such a way as to shine a light on racism, the truth of their history is unsettling to all of us.

In both books, the “N-word” is thrown around constantly — both from the mouths of bad characters and from those who we’re supposed to identify with. There’s no question the language is offensive, but is its use worth preservation to tell Twain’s stories?

We can’t ignore history, and it should come as no surprise that Twain’s works were realistic in many ways — from their depiction of child abuse to the reprehensible treatment of African-Americans. If we ignore that history, are we ignoring how far we’ve come? Or are we — like Tom Sawyer — white-washing something we’d rather be untrue?

Regardless of your answer, it’s happening.

In modern printings and digital copies of Twain’s books, the language is being altered so it’s friendlier to younger audiences. Some teachers report they’ve long omitted the offensive words to save their students the embarrassment and pain of revisiting such times. Is that protection misplaced, though? Most scholars consider Twain’s novels to be books pretending to be children’s novels that are actually about the evils of racism.

When the racism is removed, what is left of the novel’s ambition? This example leads to bigger questions: Should we really be altering such prominent and renowned examples of literature, or should we be preserving them as their writers intended? And what does that mean for other, culturally important texts?

New age or original: That is the question

When it comes to fictional content like Mark Twain’s novels, the argument is important, sure, but it’s not disruptive. However, what does this precedent set for religious texts, such as the Bible? There have been many controversial aspects of the Bible — from stoning and killing disobedient children to telling women to submit to the husbands.

As we continue to evolve as a society, more aspects of the Bible become problematic. For the LGBT+ community, the treatment of gay people and the insistence on certain gender classification transforms what many feel is a book about love and forgiveness into a book about hate.

For groups like the Southern Baptists — who are millions strong — scrubbing non-inclusive language is more than just offensive — it goes against everything they believe in. For years, they have condemned Bible translations and interpretations that employ gender-inclusive language.

That probably explains why recent translations of their denomination-approved Bible are causing quite the stir. Some in the group have even taken it upon themselves to revise and release their own editions of the Bible, which include more gender-neutral language, such as “humans” and “people” in place of the Greek word anthropos, which is traditionally translated as man.

Before we debate whether this is an affront to modern religion, consider that religious texts such as the Bible have been revised, restructured and translated numerous times over the centuries. This is not the first time these important texts have been altered. But it does beg the question: Do we change art to fit culture?

Does the kind of text matter?

In the case of Mark Twain’s novels, the issue is racism and offensive language. With the Southern Baptist approved-Bible, it’s the use of gender-inclusive language. Are there other texts out there, waiting to be scrubbed clean? Given the right crowd, absolutely. But again, the answer to the question of whether this content — offensive or otherwise —should be altered, is not so easy to answer.

It’s a question that has been brewing for decades now. Does changing the offending language alter the material enough that it becomes something entirely different? Are we bastardizing classic literature and sacred texts to be more politically correct?

In the case of the Bible and religious texts, that may be a relevant problem. In the case of Mark Twain’s books, however, that argument changes entirely. Does a fictional book need racist language to convey a message, especially when it’s being read to younger audiences who are both impressionable and sensitive? If it’s a message about racism, then yes.

A cultural divide

Twain is no John-the- Beloved, so should we be treating these issues the same? The effect may be the same — removing questionable material changes the writer’s intent. What’s interesting about this phenomenon is how this conversation will divide by culture lines.

Liberals vehemently against censoring a text like Huck Finn may feel it’s time for the Bible to have a revision. Likewise, strict scripture-reading Christians may be fine with a cleaner version of Twain’s works, but they are less inclined to revamp what, for them, has been a holy text. The jury is still out on how this will play in the court of cultural opinion, but it will surely be an interesting discussion in coming years.

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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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