The Difficulty of Dialogue Without Disclosure

Many moons ago, there was a certain person that started a certain movement that included something about using civil rights tactics to make changes within the LDS church. At that time I questioned this person, on behalf of a woman thinking of joining this movement, about her [the founder’s] beliefs… and started a firestorm. But I promised to revisit the issue later. I never did.

I started to, but then gave up on it for lack of time. Time passed, the movement largely died out and lost media attention. People got sick of talking about it, and that was that. But I still had this long post that took an interview (that I had in fact, at least in part, caused to take place via my questions) on FMHW and asked questions and drew conclusions based on her own words.

And just being me, I couldn’t resist throwing in a bit of irony:

On the day that Mormons believe John the Baptist restored the priesthood to the earth, [this movement] launched their 6 discussions to promote their cause. Ironically, the question [the founder] would not answer was if she believed that John the Baptist, as a resurrected angel, restored the priesthood to the earth because it was no longer found on the earth.

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Moral Certainty: John Dehlin as an “Atheist Who Knows God”

John DehlinA long time ago I wrote a post called Atheists Who Know God to open discussion about  a phenomenon I noticed where even outright atheists are extremely territorial about their beliefs about God.

During this discussion various ideas were offered, including a defense of the atheists on the grounds that they are just trying to show that rational inconsistency of the theist’s position. And yet, this defense just doesn’t hit the mark. How could an atheist know something with such certainty about a fictional being that no two religions even agree upon? Is it really a rationally consistent argument to argue that Santa Claus would never hire elves to make toys because it would make better sense to hire dwarves since they are better adapted to such work? The problem with trying to show logical inconsistency with fictional characters and fictional realities is that its just too easy to come up with some counter reason why that logical inconsistency isn’t a logical inconsistency.

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Why We Fight: The Bloggernacle and the Morality of Personal Attacks

Lost Sheep

As I was reading this excellent discussion on the “Bigots and Fanatics” post about how to have a tolerant and polite (and possibly even Christ-like) discussion about Church teachings, I had one of my posts come to mind.

A while back I wrote a post about how the parable of the lost sheep is often abused and often even reversed by the person using this meme so as to claim that the Church needs to accommodate the lost sheep in some specified way or else the church isn’t being Christ-like. I mentioned John Dehlin and Richard Dutcher as examples of people that misused this parable in this way and also mentioned that I felt the same tactic was being subtly used in a popular Bloggernacle post called “Our Sisters or Leaving.”

Through the grapevine I heard that one person that frequents Mormon blogs (I don’t know who) really hated my post and even thought it sick and wrong because I was (in this person’s opinion) claiming that I knew who the lost sheep were and was unilaterally deciding that the group of people mentioned in the “Our Sister are Leaving” post were not the lost sheep. Continue reading

Growing Evidence Links Utah Suicides to Altitude

Provo Temple nightI just read this very interesting article about the “Utah Paradox” which is that we are both the happiest state and also the one with the highest use of antidepressants. On top of that, we’ve long had a high suicide rate that many church critics have attempted to link to Mormonism. It’s also been known for a long time that Utah is part of the “suicide belt” — a group of states that all have a high suicide rate (with Utah often being the best of that belt. Since both Provo and Las Vegas are both in the belt, and have little in common culturally, the suspicion that altitude’s effects on the brain is a leading cause of suicides has floated around for decades.

Now there is growing evidence that this might just be the right hypothesis.

Unfortunately this might also mean that Mormonism might not get to take full credit for being the happiest state either. Read the article to find out why.

This is a good little fact to know, however, to deflect church critics with when they try to link all manner of church beliefs to suicide.

What the Church Taught About “Polyandry” in 1943 (and also 1960)

imageI wanted to set the record straight about what the Church taught about what we sometimes now call “polyandry” throughout the 20th century. I will probably need to do more research to build a full timeline about how the Church understood such marriages differently over time — as happens when histories get passed down through the generations. But here is a stark example of how it got taught.

Many of you — if you didn’t even know until recently that Joseph Smith was sometimes sealed to women that were already civilly married — might be surprised that the church did have a teaching on the subject. In fact, I have been aware of these “polyandrous” marriages since I was a fairly young adult. Why? Because I went down to my local Deseret Books store and picked up a copy of John A. Widtsoe’s Evidences and Reconciliations and read it.

Widtsoe was a famous scientist that also happened to be a Mormon apostle. He had a column in the Improvement Era called “Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day” where he answered people difficult gospel questions, not unlike the answers to questions column in the modern Ensign magazine or even these new essays that the Church is putting together. These columns were then collected into a rather famous book called simply Evidences and Reconciliations. I had been eyeing the book for years since my mission hoping to eventually buy it and read it.

One of the questions posed to Widtsoe was “Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?” And as part of his response, he says the following:

Another kind of celestial marriage seems to have been practiced in the early days of plural marriage. It has not been practiced since Nauvoo days, for it is under Church prohibition. Zealous women, married or unmarried, loving the cause of the restored gospel, considered their condition in the hereafter. Some of them asked that they might be sealed to the Prophet for eternity. They were not to be his wives on earth, in mortality, but only after death in the eternities. This came often to be spoken of as celestial marriage. Such marriages led to misunderstandings by those not of the Church, and unfamiliar with its doctrines. To them marriage meant only association on earth. Therefore any ceremony uniting a married woman, for example, to Joseph Smith for eternity seemed adulterous to such people. Yet in any day, in our day, there may be women who prefer to spend eternity with another than their husband on earth.

Such cases, if any, and they must have been few in number, gave enemies of the Church occasion to fan the flaming hatred against the Latter-day Saints. The full truth was not told. Enemies made the most of the truth. They found it difficult to believe that the Church rests on truth and virtue.

The literature and existing documents dealing with plural marriage in Nauvoo in the day of Joseph Smith are very numerous. Hundreds of affidavits on the subject are in the Church Historian’s office in Salt Lake City. Most of the books and newspaper and magazine articles on the subject are found there also. (For a fairly condensed but complete discussion consult Andrew Jenson, Historical Record, Vol. VI, pp. 219-236; Joseph Fielding Smith, Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage, pp. 67-94; Woman’s Exponent, Vol. III and IV; The Deseret News, especially in 1886) Continue reading