Some Thoughts on Discipleship and “Staying Mormon”

I recently read a blog post that was posted or liked by a few of my Facebook friends: “How to Stay Mormon When You’re Tired of Mormons.” The intended audience of the post is those who wrestle with questions about some of the things that the Church teaches, or with elements of Church culture, but who nonetheless still believe and want to attend — but who feel out of place because of their questions, and their dissenting opinions on some elements of Church teaching and culture.

Today I would like to echo the message of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf in a recent General Conference: all are welcome and wanted, wherever they stand. He explains, “There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty.” He goes on to say:

If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. You might be surprised to find that we have yearnings and struggles and hopes similar to yours. Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church.

I think that it is vital that we reach out to those who sometimes wonder if they fit in, who struggle some elements of Church teaching, who are irritated by other members or some elements of Church culture. We must ensure that all feel welcome here. We should each examine our own words and behaviors and ensure that we are doing all we can to invite, not to exclude, those who are not as convinced as we are of some of the teachings of the Church and its leaders. We must do all we can to make sure that those who don’t feel they fit in are made to feel wanted and welcome. Because these are brothers and sisters — not strangers or foreigners. Continue reading

Islam: a Religion of Peace

I have seen some members of the Church express concern over the fact that Islam — as a religious faith — is not being recognized for the violence that it leads people to commit. There is a sentiment that Islam, as a religious system, should be treated with suspicion as a catalyst for violence. I just wanted to address this briefly.

On the Numbers

I don’t have numbers, and I don’t really know where to find them. But I do know that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. I also know that there are around 15,000 or so known members of Al Qaeda, perhaps 60,000-100,000 members of ISIS (exact numbers are in dispute). That’s just two groups, sure — so let’s be super generous, and assume that there’s about a million known members of violent groups who use their religion as the primary pretext for terrorist violence (the real number could be a lot more, and my analysis here would be largely unaffected, so exact values are not at issue). If that’s the case, perhaps .06% of the Muslim population is part of these groups — or, in other words, 1 in 10,000. Now, my numbers could be WAY off. But even if we doubled the numbers, or tripled it, I don’t feel like my analysis here is completely off-base.

However, the daily behaviors of the 10,000 never make the nightly news. Only the behaviors of the 1 do. And so it’s easy, without realizing it, to get a lopsided impression of Islam as a faith. Many, many people say that driving is safer than flying, because every plane crash is plastered on the news for weeks at a time. But in reality, when the statistics are done, mile for mile, flying is far, far safer than driving. But our impressions, our perceptions, are sometimes skewed by the media reporting. Similarly, our perceptions of Islam have been twisted by this lopsided representation of Islam in the media. Stories of violence get more viewers and sell more advertising spaces. And so we begin to associate Islam and violence in our minds, forgetting the fact that we live and work among Muslims every day and often don’t even know it, because they are — by and large — a peaceful people who condemn violence just as much as we do.

Continue reading

Obedience and Desire

There is a common folk myth — and I use the term “myth” not because it isn’t true, but only because I’ve been unable to independently verify it — about the training that Arabian horses undergo before riders will trust them to carry them through the harsh deserts of the Middle East. The trainers will train the horse to come to the owner at the sound of a bell. But casual obedience is not enough — the trainers want the horse to be able and willing to override their strongest urges and desires to comply with the rider’s commands.

To put this to the test, the trainer will tie the horse within sight of water for several hot days, without feeding the horse or giving it water to drink. Then, as the horse is severely parched and dehydrated, the trainer will release the horse, and the horse will immediately dash to the water, expecting a long, thirst-quenching drink. Just as the horse is about to drink, the trainer will ring the bell. Those that respond to the bell even in that moment have passed the test and are ready to be trusted — those that don’t must continue with their training. (There’s an old seminary video that depicts this, which can be found here.) Continue reading

On Social Science and Bias

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I wanted to venture once more into the contentious subject of the recent survey that has been distributed across the internet, ostensibly to learn more about the beliefs of members of the LDS church with regards to gender roles within the church. Earlier this week, we posted some initial concerns we had about the survey. Yesterday, Dr. Andrew Auman shared his thoughts as well.

The concerns expressed so far have ranged from the biases of the researchers to the construct validity of the questions on the survey. The accusation is that the survey does not objectively measure what it claims to be measuring, that the results will not be analyzed objectively, and that the research in this and other ways fails to meet the standards of rigorous research that good scholarship generally ought to have. All of these concerns are legitimate. I just wanted to contribute a critique of the project from a slightly different point of view. Continue reading

The Parable of the Faithful Husband

temple-symbols

Three men were young, naive, and smitten with love. They each believed that their bride was perfect in every way. As they committed their lives to their brides, they thought to themselves (and said to others), “I make this commitment — enter this covenant — because my bride is flawless. It is for this reason that I love her, and commit to her.”

Others looked on who were older and more mature, who had been married for quite some time. These shook their heads knowingly, and with apprehension for what these men would face in the coming years ahead. Some tried to counsel the young men, assuring them that their brides were wonderful, and that nobody — not even they — were perfect. The young men repelled such talk.

But as always, the closer one gets in a marriage, the more warts one sees. These young men soon began to notice the flaws in their brides — the toilet seat covers, the laundry on the floor, the bad cooking, the cattiness towards neighbors, the snoring, etc. To these flaws, each man responded differently. Continue reading