About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for over four decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation, and is working on a midrashic treatment of the events in Nauvoo associated with early polygamy.

Endowed with Power

France Paris Notre-Dame-Adam and Eve

The Temptation of Adam and Eve, bas relief, Notre Dame

This week as I attended the temple, I realized I failed to include in my Faithful Joseph series any description about the introduction of the temple ceremonies.

Members of the LDS Church don’t talk much about what happens in the temple. As is often said, we regard these things as sacred. I submit at the time the endowment was introduced there was also a need for secrecy, since it was not known who was true and who was traitor.

The ceremonies of the temple involve preparation to become servants of God. The instructions given and covenants made in the temple are towards this end of preparing individuals for eternal life.

As discussed in the Bible and argued by Jesus in John 10: 34-38, the Jewish law taught that mortals could become gods. 1 The purpose of the temple would be to allow individuals to enter into those covenants and perform those ordinances that would prepare them to becomes the gods the Bible speaks of, holy beings who serve God, the Father of all. These individuals would, if faithful, reign and minister in God’s heaven.

The instructions form a basis for understanding God’s work and salvation: our existence before mortality, the fall of Adam and Eve, the purpose of our mortal lives, the reality of resurrection after this life, and the possibility of returning to live with God in his kingdom. 2

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Notes:

  1. Psalms 82: 6.
  2. See Endowed from On High: Temple Preparation Seminar Teacher’s Manual, Lesson 1: The Temple Teaches about the Great Plan of Salvation, available online at lds.org, retrieved 18 August 2014.

Fair Mormon Conf: Ann Cannon – Why, yes! I am a Mormon, thank you very much

Cannon

In the gift shop at the Acadia National Forest, some students were talking about a group of people who would drink blood and slit the throats of babies. And then the student said, “they can’t even drink tea or coffeee or drink soup. It says so in their Book of Mormon…”

So I walked up to them and told the the part about soup was simply not true.

The New York Times recently declared that the Mormon Moment is officially over, but I think there are still a lot of people who are curious about Mormons. We lived in Tuxedo Park in New York state. When we pulled in in our U-Haul with lots of kids, we were a curiosity, kind of like the Elephant Man. When they learned we were from Utah, they would immediately ask, “Are you Mormons?” In downtown Salt Lake, this is a question you would never ask, much less as the first thing. It would be like asking “How much money do you make?” or “How’s your sex life?” So I got used to saying “Why, yes! I am a Mormon, thank you very much,” and I had to convince people that we weren’t Amish. Continue reading

Fair Mormon Conf: Robert F. Smith – The Preposterous Book of Mormon: A Singular Advantage

Smith

The title of this talk comes from Betty J. Stevenson, of Oakland, CA. This was her first impression of the Mormon religion at age 39 when the missionaries first came to her house.

“They came in and told me the most preposterous story I’ve ever heard in my life, about a white boy, a dead angel, and some gold plates. And I wondered, ‘What they on?’”

Robert Smith is about to publish a book that details the preposterous elements in the Book of Mormon and the Bible (and the Bible has far more preposterous elements and anachronisms than the Book of Mormon). [This was also the first time Robert Smith had ever given a powerpoint presentation.]

The preposterous nature of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a singular advantage, because if it can’t be true, it is all the more impressive when hard evidence shows it to be an authentic, ancient document. Bayes theorem can be used to show likelihood, which in the case of the Book of Mormon should be impossible unless it was the miracle it claims to be. Continue reading

Fair Mormon Conf – Sharon Eubank: This is a Woman’s Church

Eubanks[Sharon Eubank is the Director of LDS Charities, and her board of directors includes the three men who make up the Presidning Bishopric and the women who make up the Relief Society Presidency. In this role she travels the world and interacts with world bodies such as the United Nations.]

Sharon wants to go on record from her own experience: the doctrine and practice of the Church have given her, as a woman, things that she cares more deeply about than anything else in her life.

Sharon has found her experience in the Cuhrch incredibly empowering. She’ll talk about the doctrine and the practices the doctrine has inspired.

The Doctrine of Intelligences. We’ve always existed and cannot be created or made. We chose to ally ourselves with God, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They made it possible for us to have a spiritual body and a mortal body, and Christ allows us to have a resurrected body.

[The rest of this is often in first person, as I was just having a great time trying to capture the substance of what Sister Eubank was saying.]

Let me call my intelligence my first self. No one has the combination of gifts and personality that I have.

We then are able to add additional stewardships and roles. Christ says, I am the self-existent one: I am.” And we declared that we, also, exist. Then as we take on roles, we define ourselves in relationship to others. So as a woman I have taken on attributes and responsibilities and bodily processes.

Sharon believes womanhood has roles related to binding, connecting, bridging, and gluing. From her own experience, being in an image of the divine feminine, this is what she feels responsible for. For example, there is the Roman goddess Hestia or Vesta, a virgin who has no family, yet she is responsible for all family reslationships, her symbol is the hearth fire, she connects all family relationships into family and community, she weaves all things together. Continue reading

Fair Mormon Conf – Dan Peterson: Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director

The videos from the Fair Mormon Conference are now available, for those of us who missed the actual conference itself.

Jeremy Runnells and Dan Peterson

Jeremy Runnells and Dan Peterson

Of those that haven’t been covered, I was drawn to Dan Peterson’s discussion of Letter to a CES Director, which is 90 pages of challenges to the truth claims of the Church. By way of history, a CES Director wrote to Jeremy Runnells, a young man who had left the Church, asking why he had left. And so the fellow assembled 90 pages of objections that would take 500 pages to respond to. [I note that Mormon Stories episodes 480-482 from June 2014 are with Jeremy Runnells.]

The motif of the letter is a shotgun blast of objections, the big list technique, which gives the impression that there are insurmountable objections. These objections are compiled by individuals too intellectually lazy (my words) to examine the many existing faithful explanations, and who are clearly also too intellectually lazy to investigate to defenders’ explanations. If the defenders ever answer “I don’t know,” the attacker can declare victory. It is a painfully familiar technique.

[Updated based on kinglamoni's comment objecting to my use of the term "lazy." When people fling objections to which there are valid responses and when these accusers don't give any indication that they've bothered to research the matter, and then go about promoting their views aggressively, then I'll amend my "lazy" to intellectually lazy, or intellectually dishonest. And anyone who swallows these objections whole without considering the data is likewise intellectually lazy. By the way, I went and invited Jeremy Runnells to read and consider the information I was writing in my Faithful Joseph series a few months ago, and he never bothered responding. So I have my own reasons for thinking he is unwilling to consider information that might challenge his new-found fame.]

The Fair Mormon wiki has done a good job of organizing responses to the objections raised by the letter. Dan Petersen goes through a few of the objections raised by the writer of Letter to a CES Director:

1) DNA evidence – the writer of the CES letter grossly simplifies the matter. Dan explains, for example, the reason that the Book of Mormon never makes claims that some have made on behalf of the book, such as the idea that Book of Mormon peoples were the primary ancestors of the Indians. But the Book of Mormon never claims this for itself.
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