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

The First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 9.6Today marks the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of expectation and preparation for the Christmas holiday. During the weeks of Advent many Christians participate in readings, songs, worship, devotionals, and traditions that prepare them for the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas Eve. Advent is not something that is normally associated with LDS Christmas worship, but in many countries around the world, LDS families, along with members of other Christian faiths, celebrate the four weeks before Christmas in preparation for the holiday.

After many years, I have finally decided to start this tradition in our family as a way to turn us toward the Savior instead of the holiday rush and the more secular aspects of Christmas. Starting today and over the next weeks, I am going to share our Advent devotionals here, and hope that you will join us in preparing for Christmas.

Traditionally, on the first Sunday of Advent the readings and devotionals focus on the Old Testament prophesies of Christ. This video from the Church focuses on the prophesies of Isaiah. Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

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From Whom Do We Learn History?

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, Young Draughtsman Copying an Academy studyThis week I’ve been intrigued regarding the question of whom we look to for our history. This was prompted in no small part by the vigorous discussion with DQ, someone apparently in the Utah area who simply doesn’t believe what I am saying about Emma working with Joseph to uncover the identity of those seducing women circa 1842. DQ’s argument is that my version of events isn’t credible unless a bona fide historian concurs with what I’m saying.

The interesting thing I’ve come across is a large cadre of researchers, many not official historians, who have concurred with the idea that one can believe William Law and John C. Bennett, but one cannot believe Joseph and Emma Smith.

These are researchers who, in attempting to construct a coherent history, have been forced to discard information that doesn’t fit. Continue reading

What Thanksgiving Means to Me

400 years ago, King James I encouraged his fellow Brits to worship in any church they wished, as long as it was the Church of England. Everyone else was persecuted.

One group, the Separatists (whom we usually call Pilgrims) left England for the Netherlands, in search of religious liberty.  In the Netherlands, they did have religious freedom, but were treated as second class citizens; they did not have economic freedom.  The Separatists decided there was only one final option: travel to edge of the world.  Obtaining financing and a charter to establish a colony in the Virginia area, 102 people set off on the tiny ship, the Mayflower.

The voyage was not an easy one. Miraculously, only two people died on the crossing. One of those was a sailor, who swore and cussed frequently. The Separatists warned him that he would bring a curse upon their ocean voyage, but he did not listen.  He was washed away during a storm.

A similar incident occurred to John Howland, my ancestor.  He was an indentured servant to John Carver. During a major storm, he was on deck trying to take a message from Governor Carver to the ship’s captain.  A large wave hit the deck and carried him overboard.  By a stroke of Providence, he was able to grab hold of a rope as he was swept overboard, and held on underwater for several minutes until the sailors could haul him back aboard.

Arriving to the Americas, the Pilgrims found the storms had pushed them further north than they planned. It was too late in the year to travel down to Virginia, and so they established a new charter for the group: the Mayflower Compact. This covenant was signed by 41 men. In William Bradford’s handwriting, the charter reads:

Transient

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620.

John Carver
William Bradford
Edward Winslow
William Brewster
Isaac Allerton
Myles Standish
John Alden
Samuel Fuller
Christopher Martin
William Mullins
William White
Richard Warren
John Howland
Stephen Hopkins
Edward Tilley
John Tilley
Francis Cooke
Thomas Rogers
Thomas Tinker
John Rigsdale
Edward Fuller
John Turner
Francis Eaton
James Chilton
John Crackstone
John Billington
Moses Fletcher
John Goodman
Degory Priest
Thomas Williams
Gilbert Winslow
Edmund Margesson
Peter Browne
Richard Britteridge
George Soule
Richard Clarke
Richard Gardiner
John Allerton
Thomas English
Edward Doty
Edward Leister
Continue reading

Another Approach to Addressing Gender Concerns

Taylor_wivesIn light of the recent discussions about Joseph Smith having many wives and the gender issues survey, I think it’s not inappropriate to bring up the impact beliefs about polygamy have had on the way men and women behave towards one another in the Church.

One thing that I have found quite striking in my discussions with Mormon men about Joseph’s polygamy is the large number who cannot wrap their minds around a Joseph who might have remained physically faithful to Emma, or at the very least didn’t go to bed with every woman he could corner into having sex.

When I talk about this to non-Mormons, they get the implications of the small number of children and the fact the DNA data fails to prove any of the children were engendered by Joseph. They get the idea that there wasn’t effective birth control in 1840.

But Mormon men, in particular, are very invested in a Joseph who was sexual in his plural marriages. Why? Why is my hypothesis on this point treated with derision by some Mormon males who have studied polygamy? What does the “traditional” view of Joseph do for them that they are so invested in protecting it? Continue reading