Moral Certainty: John Dehlin as an “Atheist Who Knows God”

John DehlinA long time ago I wrote a post called Atheists Who Know God to open discussion about  a phenomenon I noticed where even outright atheists are extremely territorial about their beliefs about God.

During this discussion various ideas were offered, including a defense of the atheists on the grounds that they are just trying to show that rational inconsistency of the theist’s position. And yet, this defense just doesn’t hit the mark. How could an atheist know something with such certainty about a fictional being that no two religions even agree upon? Is it really a rationally consistent argument to argue that Santa Claus would never hire elves to make toys because it would make better sense to hire dwarves since they are better adapted to such work? The problem with trying to show logical inconsistency with fictional characters and fictional realities is that its just too easy to come up with some counter reason why that logical inconsistency isn’t a logical inconsistency.

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Why We Fight: The Bloggernacle and the Morality of Personal Attacks

Lost Sheep

As I was reading this excellent discussion on the “Bigots and Fanatics” post about how to have a tolerant and polite (and possibly even Christ-like) discussion about Church teachings, I had one of my posts come to mind.

A while back I wrote a post about how the parable of the lost sheep is often abused and often even reversed by the person using this meme so as to claim that the Church needs to accommodate the lost sheep in some specified way or else the church isn’t being Christ-like. I mentioned John Dehlin and Richard Dutcher as examples of people that misused this parable in this way and also mentioned that I felt the same tactic was being subtly used in a popular Bloggernacle post called “Our Sisters or Leaving.”

Through the grapevine I heard that one person that frequents Mormon blogs (I don’t know who) really hated my post and even thought it sick and wrong because I was (in this person’s opinion) claiming that I knew who the lost sheep were and was unilaterally deciding that the group of people mentioned in the “Our Sister are Leaving” post were not the lost sheep. Continue reading

Elder Ballard in 1999: Beware of false prophets and false teachers

M* would like to bring to your attention this talk from Elder Ballard at General Conference in 1999. Given many recent events, this warning is especially timely. Here are some key excerpts:

When we think of false prophets and false teachers, we tend to think of those who espouse an obviously false doctrine or presume to have authority to teach the true gospel of Christ according to their own interpretation. We often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. There are those who, without authority, claim Church endorsement to their products and practices. Beware of such.

Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They “set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Ne. 26:29).

Of such President Joseph F. Smith warned when he spoke of the “proud and self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamps of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings” (Gospel Doctrine, 381).
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The Second Sunday of Advent

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time for Christians to prepare for the celebration of Christmas. Our family is celebrating the Festival of Advent each Sunday leading up to Christmas with scriptures and stories. Last week’s devotional is HERE.

Luke 1.37 Nothing impossibleToday we’re focusing our readings on the Annunciation. In this important event, the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she will be the mother of Jesus Christ.
In Luke 1 we read about this event:

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

The lesson for me is an important one. Mary asks, “How shall this be?” Gabriel answers, “With God nothing is impossible.” This is another example of the enabling power of the Atonement, and of Jesus Christ in our lives. We all have hard things given to us, and with God, nothing is impossible. And I’m sure Mary, even though she was willing, “be it unto me according to thy word”, was scared of the unknown. So many times I think we all face the unknown in similar ways. The Lord gives us trials to test us and to strengthen us, but if we allow His help, nothing is impossible. Our Father in Heaven loves us, because we are His children. He wants us to succeed. With God nothing is impossible.

Tonight, we will have the blessing of hearing from the First Presidency and leaders of the Church in the Christmas Devotional. In addition to beautiful music, we will have the opportunity to hear the testimony of the living prophets about our Savior Jesus Christ. I hope that you will take the time to watch with your family and to enjoy the Spirit of Christmas. You can watch the broadcast online at LDS.org or BYUTV.org, at 6 pm MST.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

Review: Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact

imageNeylan McBaine’s book about how much we can do to maximize women’s roles in the service of God came out in August 2014, but it only recently came to my attention.

It is interesting to read Neylan’s book in light of having so recently lived through this past year, with the launch of the Ordain Women discussions/conversations and the excommunication of Kate Kelly. Neylan makes it clear that she is not agitating for changes that aren’t already possible within the current structure of the Church. From something she wrote recently, it seems some have criticized her for going beyond the mark.

Due to my own study of this matter, I was a bit disappointed to see a book so uniquely focused on the issue of women. This comes because I have studied the effect ordaining women has had on other denominations. So while Neylan isn’t agitating for female ordination, I was a bit cautious reading of some innovations that take away from the opportunity for men to have space to feel safe at Church. Also, frankly, it appears to me that the great challenge for the Church is retaining men, particularly retaining men from outside America. However we don’t want to lose anyone, male or female.

Neylan brings much that is wonderful to the fore. She does point out painful circumstances some women and those who love women have experienced. However she also shares how at times individuals, both men and women, have adjusted their stewardships to more richly bless all in the congregation.

I have lived a life where I have enjoyed the leadership of many single Relief Society Presidents over the decades, have often had the chance to participate in ward councils (even when not even in a presidency of Relief Society, Primary, or Young Women), had the responsibility to provide bread for the sacrament, and have had chances to participate alongside “the men,” as when members of our stake spent the extended Thanksgiving weekend mucking out the still-sodden homes flooded by Hurricane Sandy.

Even so, I have had my moments of banging my head against stupid (as I perceived it at the time). I enjoyed many of the innovations and insights Neylan discussed throughout the book.
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