LDS policies on gay marriage leave more questions than answers

I’m sure by now you’ve read a recent change by the Mormon church regarding participants in and children of same-sex marriages.

As a parent of an LGBT teenager (who had earlier this summer left the church and experienced significant ostracization and judgement as a result), I can tell you that this policy change has been weighing on my mind heavily over the last two days. Continue reading LDS policies on gay marriage leave more questions than answers

Why I think Mormonism is incompatible with conservatism

Next week, Canadians go to the polls to cast their ballot for someone to represent them in the federal government. (Well, most will vote for a party instead, but that’s another post altogether.) At 78 days, this year’s election campaign will be the third longest since confederation but the longest since 1872.

On top of that, the election campaign for the 2016 American election is also underway, as candidates for party nominations debate and campaign across the United States.

And because I have so many Facebook friends in Canada and the United States, I have been seeing so much political content shared on social media. And it’s quite polarized.

The fact that a good portion of the posts are shared by friends who are Mormon means that a good portion of the posts shared laud right-wing conservatism.

Because my journey toward communism has overlapped these campaign periods has allowed me to see this attachment to conservatism in a light different from how I have seen it in the past.

I’ve come to the conclusion that despite what the conventional traditions and culture of Mormonism indicate, the scriptural doctrine of Mormonism includes far more principles of socialism and other left-leaning political ideals than it does of conservatism and other right-leaning political ideals.

Here are a few examples to illustrate my conclusion.
Continue reading Why I think Mormonism is incompatible with conservatism

Why did Jesus teach so little about the family?

Recently, I was contemplating Jesus’s view on families, and I realized that Jesus actually seemed to have said very little about families. He certainly didn’t seem to share the same rhetoric so common in the LDS church today regarding strengthening and protecting the family.

Consider Luke 14:26, for example:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Or Matt. 10:36–37:

And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Or Mark 3:31–35:

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

I wonder if it’s at all significant that we have so few teachings from Jesus on the family, and that those we do have are seemingly dismissive of the family.

Does communism support Christianity?

Recently, I was reading the Communist Manifesto, and I came across this excerpt:

In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.

This got me thinking.

I realize that to some of the earlier LDS prophets consider communism to be antithetical to Christianity, but I wonder given Jesus’s role as a Jewish revolutionary, if communists today would have supported him (or rather his movement).

I suppose when we think of communists and revolutionaries, we tend to imagine people more violent than Jesus. However, that doesn’t mean Jesus wasn’t a revolutionary.

One of Jesus’s purposes in coming to earth was to fulfill the law of Moses (see Matt. 5:17), an entirely revolutionary act. And when he brought about his changes through his teachings (see Matt. 5:22–48, for example) and his acts, he was ridiculed, persecuted, and eventually put to death because he dared to challenge the norms and traditions of the society in which he lived.

Sounds like a revolutionary to me.

So, if communists would support Jesus (or his movement) as a revolutionary (as implied by the quote above), I wonder what Jesus would say about the communists.

“Effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” doesn’t refer to homosexuality

This week, I’m teaching the Gospel Doctrine lesson on 1 Corinthians 1–6. While I was preparing my lesson, I came across 1 Corinthians 6:9, a popular scripture among Christians who oppose homosexuality (or more specifically, anything that isn’t heteronormative):

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

Specifically, those who use this scripture to justify their opposition to homosexuality, point out the mention of “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind.”

The problem with this interpretation is that it’s inaccurate.

What we translate as “effeminate” was in the Greek version malakoi. This word is more accurately translated as softness or moral weakness. Likewise, what we translate as “abusers of themselves with mankind” is arsenokoitai in the Greek, which more accurately describes something like shrine prostitution.

This is one of the problems with using modern cultural paradigms to understand ancient ones.

Two problems I have with the family proclamation

Despite the fact that The Family: A Proclamation to the World has never been canonized, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints treat it like scripture.

Whether it is scripture is a topic for another day. What I want to discuss is a couple of things I find problematic in the proclamation.

My understanding, based on the rhetoric of mainstream Mormons is that this proclamation is a response to efforts to legalize marriage equality. If that premise is true, I don’t think that those who drafted the document completely thought through how the wording would affect Mormon past.

Consider this from the first sentence:

. . . marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God . . .

Does that mean marriage between a man and more than one woman is not ordained of God? What about marriage between more than one man and one woman?

Does that mean plural marriage is unordained of God? Does it mean the current practice of sealing a man to more than wife is unordained of God?

What about this sentence from the seventh paragraph?

Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.

Does that mean plural marriage is not essential to God’s plan?

If plural marriage is not ordained of God and is not essential to his plan, why did as a church practice it at all?

If plural marriage is ordained of God and is essential to his plan, then how does it fit into the wording of this proclamation?

Do Mormons really believe in prophet fallibility?

For family scripture study this past week, we’ve been reading in 1 Corinthians, and a few things Paul wrote prompted a discussion on the fallibility of prophets. I’ve been reflecting on this over the last few days, and I wanted to write my thoughts down to help me think through things.

For example, consider 1 Corinthians 11:4–9:

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

I think you would be hard pressed to find a Mormon who takes this counsel literally. I bet that a more common reaction would be, “Oh, that Paul.” I don’t think it’s difficult for Mormons to dismiss words of an ancient prophet that seem incongruous with our current society (secular and spiritual) paradigms.

What about more recent prophets?

Well take a look at this quote from Brigham Young:

“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? When we view its face we may see what is termed “the man in the moon,” and what some philosophers declare are the shadows of mountains. But these sayings are very vague, and amount to nothing; and when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fellows. So it is with regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain. It was made to give light to those who dwell upon it, and to other planets;” (Journal of Discourses. 13:31. P. 271)

Again, I think you’d have a hard time finding Mormons who take this literally. In fact, I’m confident most would do their best to dismiss it (as opinion, popular belief at the time, or some other rationalization).

Speaking of Brigham Young, what about the Adam God Theory that he taught, along with Heber C. Kimball, Franklin D. Richards, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff? I don’t think most members accept this teaching as doctrine.

Or how about this teaching of Joseph Fielding Smith:

“There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantage. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less. . . . There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, pp. 66–67)

This doctrine still has staying power, as I have come across a few members (by no means a majority) who still believe this. Despite its lingering nature, it’s been denied as a doctrine by the current church:

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

It seems to me that, in theory, members of the LDS church support the idea of prophet fallibility. In fact, it seems many live it. At least when it comes to dead prophets.

I wonder, however, what would happen if someone suggested that a statement of Thomas S. Monson was problematic in some way.  I could be wrong, but I get the impression that most Mormons would view that as a sign of apostasy or at least ill speaking of the Lord’s anointed. Assuming this is true, then why is it okay for Mormons to claim fallibility in dead prophets but risk church discipline if they claim it in living prophets?