About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for 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. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

Tithes and Offerings

Tithing image from lds.org

Today my bishop mentioned that tithing, by definition, means a tenth.

This piqued my interest. I’ve been moderately active in following commentary posted on the internet. So I happened to be aware that early members of the Church of Jesus Christ did not have our modern understanding of the tithe. While many gave their all, Steven Harper in his LDS Perspectives interview pointed out that Bishop Partridge originally proposed members of the Church donate a mere 2%.

So when my bishop said that tithing, by definition, is a tenth, I did a quick google search. By golly, it turns out that this is a universally acknowledged definition for the term “tithing.” Digging a bit deeper into the Hebrew term used for Malachi 3:8, it turns out the “tithe” Malachi chided the people of Judah to give to the temple was, in fact, a tenth. 1

So if the early members of the Church didn’t understand tithing to be a tenth, it was more a feature of their lack of education than anything else. It certainly wasn’t the Church that invented the definition that a tithe is a tenth. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Wikipedia has a nice article on how tithes were administered in Israel. A lazy reading might leave you thinking they only paid a tithe in the seventh year, but a tithe was paid every year. In years 1,2, 4 & 5 the “second tithe” was provided for consumption by Levites generally. In years 3 & 6 the tithe was for the support of the poor. In the 7th year the tithe was specifically for the use of the tabernacle.

When You Are Broken

[Image of a suffering female saint (Catherine of Siena)]

This week our local missionaries came over for Sunday dinner.

Those of you who have read my blog posts over the past five years might imagine that I quickly found a way to talk about Joseph Smith and how he aggressively worked to save women (and men) from the effects of coercive seductions that had occurred at the hands of some men in the community.

In the course of this conversation, I swayed into discussion of the time I spent the night behind closed doors with my zone leader, because I had earlier that evening been kissed and fondled by a young man who had expressed his hope of spending the overnight sea voyage having sex with me (or at least necking, etc.).

It wasn’t that I was demanding protection. It was mostly that my zone leader hadn’t known he was reserving a two person cabin for our trip. He was too embarrassed to change the situation, and I was too rattled by the encounter with the eager would-be sexual partner to object to having someone with me that night.

I’m assuming the recent telling of this mission story is what prompted my husband to send me a link to the Salt Lake Tribune story from August 2018 about female missionaries dealing with assault.

Have people not read the Book of Mormon? Have they not studied Church History? Why in the world would anyone ever think that missionaries are immune from harm?

There are times when we have been broken, whether solely as the result of others or as a result of circumstances in which we played a consenting role.

When we are broken, we can seek healing. The great promise of the gospel of Christ is that Our Savior has suffered to make it possible for each of us to be healed. The covenant we make when we join the Church is to minister to one another on behalf of Christ.

I believe what the scriptures say about the reality of a resurrection and a judgment day, when we will all stand before God. In this judgment, I believe we will know as we are known, that we will see all, though our mortal understanding might have been incomplete, as seeing through a dark glass.

I expect, in that day, to cry out in anguish over the pains I could have helped heal, over the pains I inflicted. And I will anguish at the pain I suffered and how those who afflicted me are then forced to acknowledge the harm they, in turn, inflicted.

But in that day of truth and anguish, I believe I will rejoice that My Savior has done for me what no mortal could do, that I and those I love may be cleansed of our wrongs and our sufferings.

Reflections on Reading the Book of Mormon

A couple of days ago I finished reading the Book of Mormon, which I had started in October based on President Nelson’s challenge.

About a year ago I recall opining that the Book of Mormon peoples had a more complete version of the creation narrative, a narrative which was neutered by the Deuteronomists and then corrupted during the Babylonian captivity. At that time I was wondering if the fullness of that creation narrative, which we see in accounts canonized in the Pearl of Great Price and the temple endowment, could have been contained in the initial manuscript pages that have been lost.

During this reading, however, I realized the fullness of the creation narrative can be found scattered throughout the extant Book of Mormon, included as asides during doctrinal discussions about the purpose of this life and the need for a Redeemer.

Saving the 60 Billion

According to some estimates, roughly 60 billion humans have lived on this earth, including the ~7 billion that are alive at the moment.

If God’s plan includes offering redemption to all His children, how are the bulk of the 60 billion to be saved? As many cultures are lost to memory, we cannot do the work entirely by means of searching out the records. There must needs be a way to learn the identities of those memory has forgotten. Continue reading

Responsibility

Hyman Rickover was a great man and a controversial man. He was convinced nuclear power was fundamentally dangerous, and yet he created the US nuclear Navy. His interviews of prospective officers for the nuclear Navy were bizarre. At times he demanded a candidate call their fiancée and break off the relationship. One time he told the officer candidate to shut himself up in the closet and remain there until Rickover let him out, which did not occur until the next day.

When the young officer asked why Rickover had forced him to stay in a closet without relief for an entire day, Rickover responded that the time could come when the officer would have to stay at the reactor in an emergency, a time when it would not be possible to leave the station without disastrous results.

Rickover on Responsibility

A colleague has the following Rickover quote as the wallpaper for their computer screens:

“Responsibility is a unique concept… You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you… If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else. Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.”

There are many contexts where this view of responsibility is compelling. In my view, however, parenthood is the most critical of these contexts.

The mother and father of each individual born into this life have this responsibility. When they fail, others may surge forward to take up the burden of caring for the child. While this is admirable, we should never create so strong an adoption market that children are wrested from their biological parents by design.

In a similar fashion, scientific investigation of the outcomes for children consistently show that the gold standard is for a child to be raised by their biological parents (necessarily male and female) in a committed marriage. Anything short of this gold standard results in significantly increased probability that the child will be damaged.

A man or woman who, through selfishness or fecklessness, denies their child this gold standard will rightly be held to account for the damage they have done. If you don’t know how damaging “alternate lifestyles” are for children, check out the research of Dr. Brad Wilcox of the National Marriage Project. An example is his NY Times piece, “Why the Ring Matters“. For what it is worth, Dr. Wilcox is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Continue reading

Pageants, they is a-changin’

Facebook informed me that the Church is stepping away from some of the pageants that Church members and their friends have attended over the past decades.

According to the Deseret News, 2020 will be the last year the Hill Cumorah Pageant will be held with direct support from the Church. The Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti will no longer benefit from direct Church support after 2019.

On the other hand, the two pageants that are held in Nauvoo will continue.

I haven’t attended the Hill Cumorah pageant in decades. I hear in the past few years attendance has dwindled. Apparently the local mission decided this summer it was no longer appropriate for full-time missionaries to attend the pageant, attendance which involved long miles of travel and very late nights (even when missionaries ostensibly were accompanying those seeking to learn more about the Church).

I haven’t attended the Manti pageant. I’m not sure what I’ve heard about that pageant is accurate, or if what I remember of comments is actually what people told me.

I am happy to hear the Nauvoo pageants will continue. These pageants were written recently, reflecting history that is relatively accurate.

This news is interesting in light of what I did yesterday. I and several family members traveled 7-8 hours each way and spent $45 apiece to spend the day at Hart Square Village, a privately assembled collection of over 100 pioneer structures. Hundreds of docents and artisans assemble on the fourth Saturday of October each year to explain and recreate quotidian activities of 1800s life. We shucked corn, sampled sweet sorghum, sang hymns in the log chapel next to the lake, and watched as re-enactors fought a Civil War-era skirmish (in this North Carolina setting, the Confederate soldiers won the day). It is not that crowds won’t assemble for such gatherings, but the zeitgeist of our age is not the same as the 1937 sensibility that gave birth to the original Hill Cumorah pageant.

An era is coming to a close. But for me and my household, we look forward to the future and the new opportunities that wait in store.