About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

About that claim of suicides by LDS teens with same-sex attraction

You may have heard the claim that there have been at least 32 suicides by LDS teens with same-sex attraction since the Church made the now well-known changes in the handbook.

I’d like to make a few comments about that claim.

First, and this should be obvious but it still bears repeating: every suicide is a tragedy, for the person and for the person’s family. I agree with the Church spokesman who said that every soul is precious to God and the loss of life to suicide is heartbreaking.

But second, the people who are trumpeting the claims are well-established critics of the Church who are reporting from people they claim have talked to them privately. No independent confirmation of these numbers has taken place. You, dear reader, can choose to believe what you want, but based on my life’s experience, I simply don’t believe that these people are telling the truth. Given the ghoulish way that they are glorying in their claims (which in their minds confirm their opinion that the Church is bad, bad, BAD), is it beyond the pale to believe that they have simply made things up? I think not.

None other than the Salt Lake Tribune, always anxious to find ways to criticize the Church, went looking for information to corroborate the claim of “32 suicides.” But, in a strange twist, actual journalism took place at the Tribune, and they were forced to report that there is no evidence of that many of suicides:

Trouble is, the number far exceeds the suicide figures collected by the Utah Department of Health.

Preliminary figures for November and December show 10 suicides in the Beehive State for people ages 14 to 20, with two more cases “undetermined.”

In fact, the department reports, the overall number of Utah deaths for that age group in those months was 25, including the 10 suicides and two “undetermined” cases, along with 11 in accidents, one by natural causes and one homicide.

“We monitor the numbers [of youth suicides] very closely. We review them every month,” says Teresa Brechlin, who works in the department’s violence- and injury-prevention program. “If we had seen such a huge spike, we would have been investigating it.”

Had there been any mention of the LDS Church’s policy on gays, her department “would have noted that,” Brechlin adds. “We have not seen that at all.”

But third, the people involved ignore the obvious reality that suicide is a complex psychological problem that simply cannot be attributed to one cause in a person’s life. It might be instructive to read this post.

Do you realize that by no research or academic standard would a simple causal factor be seen as responsible for any given suicide – even those that appear to have an obvious instigator (see below). That may be the one thing that everyone in the suicide literature actually agrees on: taking a life is an inherently complex matter (even when it seems simple).

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Elder Nelson makes clear the LDS policy on same-sex attraction is the ‘will of the Lord’

The Salt Lake Tribune has a story on Elder Nelson’s talk to young adults Sunday night in which the senior apostle makes it as clear as can be that the Church’s policies are the will of the Lord.

The Mormon Newsroom has not reported on the talk yet, so my post will have to rely on the report from the Tribune, but here are some key paragraphs:

After same-sex marriage became legal in several countries, including the United States, the LDS Church’s top 15 leaders wrestled with what to do, weighed all the ramifications, fasted, prayed, met in the temple and sought God’s guidance on the issue.

Balancing their understanding of Mormon doctrine about the “plan of salvation,” which is built on male-female marriage, with compassion for children of same-sex couples, Russell M. Nelson, head of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said Sunday night, “we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise.”

Then President Thomas S. Monson, considered a “prophet, seer and revelator” in the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, declared “the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord.”

That led to the Utah-based faith’s new policy regarding same-sex Mormon couples — that they would be labeled “apostates” and that their children would not be allowed baptism and other LDS religious rites until they turn 18.

“Each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation,” Nelson, next in line for the Mormon presidency, told the faith’s young adults in the first official explanation of the hotly debated policy’s origins. “It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson.”

Nelson explained that revelation from the Lord to his servants is a sacred process.

“The [three-member] First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel, individually and collectively,” he said. “And then, we watch the Lord move upon the president of the church to proclaim the Lord’s will.”

Elder Nelson also said that this is a time for choosing:

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Mother with chronic pain booked in Utah for using medical marijuana

Enedina Stanger is a Utah mother of two who suffers from a rare genetic disease called Ehlers-Dalos Syndrome (EDS). This fatal disease caused her bones to move out of her joints, causing constant, excruciating pain. She is wheelchair-bound.

Here is how she describes the pain she is in:

(The pain) is excruciating! I hurt all of the time. I have to try and smile, otherwise I’d be crying all of the time.

I call this my “concentration camp.” I realize that sounds drastic, but I’ve studied history and identify with Man’s Search for Meaning and other people who have experienced horrible things. My body is my concentration camp. My joints are the SS guards. At any second, they’re going to turn on me, and I have to be able to brutally take it, pop them back in, and keep on going.

She has tried many opiate-based medicines to help with the pain, but they all have side effects and often do not work. The only drug that helps her get through the day and act as a mother to her kids is marijuana.

On October 1 she was using medical marijuana in a car by herself in a Wal Mart parking lot. She was there because she has to sell her house to pay her medical bills, and the Realtor was showing the house. She was given a citation, and today she was booked by the Weber County Sheriff’s Department.

Because of cases like Stanger’s and others in Utah, the legislature is considering laws that would allow patients to use medical marijuana. I would like to add my voice of support to legalizing medical marijuana in Utah to help people like Enedina Stanger.

I have had discussions with many friends who oppose marijuana legalization, and I can see their arguments and understand them and even agree with many points they make. The best point against legalization is that it normalizes a drug that is bad for you and more people will likely smoke marijuana if it is legal. I think this is true.

But remember: Utah is not considering fully legalizing marijuana, it is considering making it available for people with chronic pain. I cannot see any reasonable arguments against legalizing medical marijuana. Most people have no problem with addictive, harmful opiates being legal and available through prescription. Then why not another drug that is less expensive and in many cases more effective?

You can read more about Enedina Stanger at her blog here.

Did Jesus have long hair and a beard?

This post entitled “The Error of the Long-haired Jesus” makes the very interesting case that Jesus did not have long hair and a beard. Read it yourselves, but I will summarize it in this post.

(In case anybody is interested, it doesn’t affect my faith one whit whether Jesus has long hair or not. I have a vision of His face in my mind that has nothing to do with his hair length or whether he has a beard. It is mostly His eyes that I see in my mind. But I find such historical speculation interesting. And, yes, this also applies to temple depictions of the Savior, which like everything in the temple are done to help our worldly eyes understand the mysteries of the eternities. Please note that each of the temple films has a Jesus who looks different, so we should not let ourselves get bogged down about details (such as Jesus with long hair and a beard) that miss the point.)

So, the post I link above makes the point that it was the custom in Palestine in the 1st century AD for most Jews to have short hair. Jesus was not a Nazarite (they notably had long hair). And Paul’s writings seem to imply that people who are followers of Christ should have shorter hair. In addition, early Christian writers make the point that most people in the 1st Century AD thought Jesus had short hair.

The idea that Jesus had long hair and a beard came from the attempt to make Christianity more palatable to Greeks and Romans, who all imagined gods in that way. Here is a statue of Sarapis (Zeus):

serapis1

But, the post claims, there is no reason to believe Jesus actually looked at all like this.

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Supporting the Brethren on the environment

As I pointed out in this post, it is easy to support the Brethren when they take positions that agree with your ideology. But a faithful Latter-day Saint should support the Brethren even when it is difficult.

The Church has made several statements about the environment in the last few years. The most important is this:

All humankind are stewards over the earth and should gratefully use what God has given, avoid wasting life and resources and use the bounty of the earth to care for the poor and the needy.

God created the earth to provide a place for the human family to learn, progress and improve. God first created the earth and all living things spiritually, and all living things have great worth in His eyes.

The earth and all things on it should be used responsibly to sustain the human family. However, all are stewards — not owners — over this earth and its bounty and will be accountable before God for what they do with His creations.

Approaches to the environment must be prudent, realistic, balanced and consistent with the needs of the earth and of current and future generations, rather than pursuing the immediate vindication of personal desires or avowed rights. The earth and all life upon it are much more than items to be consumed or conserved. God intends His creations to be aesthetically pleasing to enliven the mind and spirit, and some portions are to be preserved. Making the earth ugly offends Him.

I would like to ask readers to read the above statement at least twice before proceeding. My experience is that most people read all kinds of things into that statement that simply are not there.

OK, have you read and re-read that statement? Yes? Then let’s keep on going.

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