Guest post: Why We Need Definitions, Borders, and Boundary Maintenance

This is a guest post by Jamie Huston, who blogs at gentlyhewstone.com.

PART I: INTRODUCTION

Can you define the word “chair?” Seems simple—let’s say it’s a small, raised platform that’s supported by legs and which typically has a back against which your torso can rest. That definition brings to mind a single, simple, useful picture—in short, a conservative ideal of chairs.

But might that seem too restrictive? So let’s say a chair can have variations. Chairs with wheels are chairs, too, and shouldn’t be judged for being different! Those tacky old chairs that are shaped like a giant hand? Those are chairs that demand to exist as they are—a chair that lives on the fringes of society and is getting tired of being mistreated.

Maybe accepting some natural variations is morally decent, though, right? But now we’re on a slippery slope. There are some people who claim to be more high-minded than the rest, who embrace diversity and tolerance as the greatest values, and who therefore feel driven to constantly expand our understanding of chairs for us, for the good of those would-be chairs which have been marginalized and for those of us who are too culturally dull to know that we had many more chairs among us in the first place.

Is not, they indignantly say, a chair anything on which one might reasonably sit? Is not a bean bag a valid chair? A couch? The ground itself? Well, perhaps, we’re inclined to say, for we see many of our peers nodding at the wisdom of this, and feeling good about ourselves for being such pioneers of inclusion.

And now we’re solidly in liberal territory (liberal, after all, connotes expansiveness above all—the eternal obsession with widening existing things). Once we’ve established that the very surface of the world could be called a chair, for it can kind of serve a similar function if forced to, we have given a green light to the radicals who insist that it’s a moral imperative to recognize as a legitimate chair anything and everything that could ever conceivably be used for sitting. The hood of a car, a rock, a stack of books: all chairs.

By this point, much of society has decided that—in line with the warped thinking that has gotten us this far—virtue lies in defending the most extreme minorities possible. Life becomes a contest to advertise our righteousness by campaigning for the most imaginative visions of chairs. The tops of skyscrapers, piles of razor blades, the backs of sleeping grizzly bears: all are supposedly just as valid as any other kind of chair.
Continue reading

Guest post: only believers can testify

This is a guest post by Tom Stringham

Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?

A month ago I wrote that faithful bloggers are “often failing to productively engage their opponents within and without the church,” because “they have not openly challenged the importance of discourse itself by supplanting it with the word of God through scripture, His servants or our own inspired testimony.” Because of my unclear wording, I was misunderstood by some readers as saying that rational discourse should not be used in defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What I meant to say, as I explained to one commenter, is that a blogger should “teach and preach” the gospel, not just “teach” or “preach” it.

With that in mind, however, I’m following up on my last guest post not so much by way of qualification of my original argument as by expansion of it. I am convinced that earnest testimony is what is needed from faithful Mormon bloggers of this generation. More specifically, I think what we really need is a culture of testimony-bearing.
Continue reading

Guest post: Kate Kelly lectures her stake president on how to do his job

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson a father, husband, member of the Church, and lawyer. He’s speaking this Sunday in his branch about the Sermon on the Mount.

A month and a day ago Kate Kelly was excommunicated for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.” That conduct has been widely documented on this blog and in other places, but the letter informing Ms. Kelly of her excommunication set forth several things that Ms. Kelly must correct in order to return to full faith and fellowship in the Church. Specifically, Ms. Kelly must “demonstrate over a period of time that [she has] stopped teachings and actions that undermine the Church, its leaders, and the doctrine of the priesthood. [She] must be truthful in [her] communications with others regarding matters that involve your priesthood leaders, including the administration of Church discipline, and [she] must stop trying to gain a following for [herself] or [her] cause and taking actions that could lead others away from the Church.”

The letter went on to detail specific instances in which she had done things contrary to the counsel of Church leaders (which constitutes apostasy) and had released “Six Discussions which were intended to proselyte others and to persuade them to support [her] particular interpretation of Church doctrine.” But these things are in the past, mostly. As touching Ms. Kelly and her potential to rejoin the Church, it’s all about what happens going forward, so I’m more interested in what is happening now and in the future instead of what has already past. It is for this reason that this post will not be about what Ms. Kelly has done, but what she is doing today.

Continue reading

First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Releases Statement on Priesthood, Questioning, and Apostasy

temple-symbols

Today the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a joint statement concerning Priesthood, Questioning, and Apostasy.

https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/june-first-presidency-statement?lang=eng

In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God. We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.

We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.

Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.

Guest post: ‘O that cunning plan of the evil one!’

This is a guest post by Tom Stringham, who is a returned missionary and student of economics and mathematics at the University of Calgary. He keeps a blog at VirtuousSociety.com, and is on the editorial staff at Hustings.ca and PrinceArthurHerald.com.

True religion, whenever it has existed on the earth, has always had its enemies. Over the period of history recorded in the scriptures, these enemies often took the form of foreign armies, oppressive governments or brazen idolaters. The word “enemy” implies more than a passive conflict with the church—an enemy is usually conscious of his animosity.

If there is a war being waged against the Lord’s church today, it is being waged as a campaign of op-eds, podcast interviews, digital monologues and legal briefs. While the battlefield of the religious world is strewn with many inanimate and inadvertent obstacles, the church also has antagonists, and the method of the modern religious antagonist is rational discourse, or as Jeff G. wrote in an excellent analysis last year, critical discourse.

O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men!

Faithful Mormon bloggers and commentators respond to discourse mainly with discourse, at least in the online world. As a result, they are often failing to productively engage their opponents within and without the church. This isn’t to say they don’t mean well. But many writers have allowed the church’s enemies to set the terms of engagement. Under those terms, argument is preferable to testimony, and analysis is better than scripture. In other words, believing intellectuals are falling short because they have not openly challenged the importance of discourse itself by supplanting it with the word of God through scripture, His servants or our own inspired testimony.
Continue reading