Nephi, Isaiah and the Constitution

This Saturday I’ll be giving a lesson to our tri-stake Single Adult’s group on “Great are the words of Isaiah”.  As I’ve been preparing the lesson, I came upon some thoughts I wanted to share here.

Likening Unto Us

One of Nephi’s most well-known phrases is “likening unto us” the words of Isaiah.  This has a[ppropriately been expanded by most Mormons to include all scripture. However, I often think we do much harm by misapplying the term to what we actually do, rather than to what Nephi encourages us to do. Continue reading

Church disaffection and the parable of the urban park

There once were two men who lived near an urban park, Tom and Henry.

The two were friends who had met while walking their dogs in the park. As they walked they would talk about the joys of the park, which was filled with hidden glades, brooks and special areas away from the crowds. They were pleased with how the park was maintained. The grass was cut nicely in some areas and new flowers were regularly planted. In other areas, nature was allowed to flourish untouched by human hands. In short, the park was a marvel for them and they loved it.

Both Tom and Henry joined a “Friends of the Park” group in which they would volunteer once a month to help clean up the park, plant flowers, dispose of fallen trees limbs, etc. They would work for several hours on Saturdays with dozens of other friends. They both felt they were doing good and part of something useful. Parks administrators would of course help with such efforts, but the success or failure of the volunteer efforts depending mostly on the work of the volunteers.

One day Henry was walking through the park and he noticed that a rather large tree limb had fallen due to a recent storm. It was blocking one of the paths. He called the park administrators, but the director was on vacation and the message got lost. So the tree limb was left there for several weeks. Every time Henry walked by he got angrier and angrier. “Why aren’t these people doing their jobs?” he would fume.

He would mention the problem to Tom, and Tom would say “I’m sure they will get to it. Isn’t it a beautiful day?”

Henry was beginning to get a bit annoyed with Tom. What a Pollyanna he is, Henry thought. But Henry did not say anything.

The next day Henry noticed that a lot of people in the park were not cleaning up after their dogs. He mentioned this to Tom and he said that he actually thought more people were cleaning up after their dogs, not less. “Boy that guy is annoying,” Henry said to himself. “Doesn’t he see that this park is beginning to fall apart?”
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We interrupt the usual doom and gloom to bring you some good news

I wanted to highlight a fascinating story in the Economist that shows that young people these days are…healthier and less sexually active than past generations.

This trend appears to be consuming the United States and much of Western Europe. As the Economist says:

In America, the proportion of high-school students reporting “binge-drinking”—more than five drinks in a single session—has fallen by a third since the late 1990s. Cigarette smoking among the young has become so uncommon that more teenagers—some 23% of 17- to 18-year-olds—smoke cannabis than tobacco. Over the past ten years pot-smoking has increased, a bit, among these older teens; but even though now legal in some states (see page 35) its prevalence is still far lower than in the 1970s, when Barack Obama was a member of his high-school “choom gang”. Use of other recreational drugs has fallen sharply. Dr Wilson Compton, the deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says that perhaps the most worrying trend in young Americans’ drug habits is the increasing abuse of attention-focusing pills such as Ritalin by students keen to improve their performance.

Teenage kicks of other sorts also appear to be on the decline. “Teens are waiting longer to have sex than they did,” according to a report on young Americans from the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank. America’s teenage pregnancy rate is half what it was two decades ago (see chart 3). Britain has experienced a lesser decline. Most mainland European countries never saw the high rates of teenage pregnancy that America and Britain saw in the 1980s and 1990s, but they too have fewer expectant youngsters than they did.

Teenagers appear not just to be waiting longer for sex, but also by-and-large to be being careful about what they get up to once they get started. According to data from the European Centre for Disease Monitoring and Control, across the European Union (EU) they are the only age group to be diagnosed with fewer sexually transmitted diseases in recent years.

What is causing this newer generation of healthier habits?

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Fifty Years in the Wilderness

[This post is part of a series on Joseph Smith's Polygamy. To read from the beginning or link to previously published posts, go to A Faithful Joseph.]

Jubilee Celebration – Picture of the 1847 Pioneers at Temple Square – July 24, 1897

The Mormon exodus and pioneer period tends to be well understood by Mormons. However as we typically don’t focus on the history of polygamy as part of that history, I feel it is useful to trace the impact of polygamy in the pioneer history between Brigham Young’s departure from Nauvoo until we see the Mormon Church denounce new plural marriages in 1890 (and again in 1904).

For purposes of this discussion, the Fifty Years I presume we agree that Mormons were in the wilderness stretch from their exodus from Nauvoo and the state of Illinois (starting 4 February 1846) to Utah’s admission as a state of the United States (January 4, 1896).
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The Family Priesthood

By now most every Mormon is familiar with Elder Dallin H. Oak’s important talk about how the Priesthood can bless both men and women. Less well know is what could be considered a companion talk that describes the relationship between Church and family authority. He states, “The Church provides the teachings, authority, and ordinances necessary to perpetuate family relationships to the eternities.” He continues, “Each is so interrelated that service to one is service to the other.” The focus on families is not a Church preoccupation, but a doctrinal necessity that the Priesthood is there to nurture. The family organization is forever as opposed to the various offices of Priest, Elder, and President that exist to maintain order.

What we know of the Priesthood comes from Jesus Christ as given to him by God, and then passed down to others. Originally this power and authority began with Adam and continued down a father and son line of authority. It was first placed on the head of Adam by God after expulsion from the Garden of Eden. He in turn, according to Doctrine and Covenants 107:41-56, ordained other males who passed it on to their descendants:

” 41 This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in the following manner:

42 From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth;

43 Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age.”

The order of the Priesthood continued with the ordination of Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah:

“56 And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.”

In Abraham 1:2-3 It is that same Patriarchal Priesthood that Abraham desired to obtain:

“2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.”

Despite Abraham receiving the Priesthood of the fathers, he did not receive it through his father who had lost it by wickedness. He had to receive it either through a new dispensation of angelic messenger or another person who continued having the authority. As is the case, he sought out the administrator with the highest authority who then lived, “Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers” (D&C 84:14). They then ate bread and drank wine together, with Abraham giving tithes to him as the greater authority (Gen. 14:17-20). It is clear from this, Priesthood didn’t have to be passed down from father to son or even first born. However, once distilled to another it did become a family promise as Abraham passed it to his posterity (Gen 26:3-5), who then will bless all nations. Continue reading