Guest post: A Bishop’s interview that hurts the children

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson

[We are in the hallway of a chapel, just outside of the bishop’s office. The bishop approaches with his keys in his hand to open the door, but is stopped by Bro. and Sis. Jones before entering.]

Bro Jones: Bishop! So glad we found you. Can we have a quick word with you?

Bishop: Sure, I have a couple of minutes before my next appointment, come right in.

[All three enter the bishop’s office and take their seats.]

Sis. Jones: Bishop, you know that we love and appreciate everything you do for the members of the ward, and in particular, our youth.

Bishop: Thank you for saying so, Sis. Jones.

Bro. Jones: Absolutely, but we are concerned about a couple of things.

Bishop: Oh, what’s that?

Bro. Jones: Well, we are a bit uneasy about certain Church policies regarding interviews with our kids. This is what we want to talk to you about.

Bishop: [with a look of concern] What seems to be the problem?

Sis. Jones: With all due respect, we don’t believe that you have the proper training or experience to discuss matters of “worthiness” [Sis Jones does air quotes] with our children, and we wanted to talk to you about that as Robert, Jr. is turning 12 this week.

Bro. Jones: As a result, we just wanted to tell you that we will not be allowing you, or anyone else in the ward or the stake, to meet with Robert one on one. If you have to meet with him, one of us has to be present and we will not tolerate you asking any inappropriate questions related to his “worthiness.” [Bro Jones does air quotes.]

Bishop: As you say, Robert Jr. is turning 12 and I was planning on visiting with him about being ordained a deacon this afternoon, as well as to get a recommend to go to the temple. You would be welcome to attend if Robert Jr. wishes to have you here.
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Guest post: what is Sam Young’s true cause?

By: the Pseudonymous George Rasmussen

A Houston businessman named Sam Young is currently staging a hunger strike on the sidewalks of Salt Lake City. Young describes himself as an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I will leave it to you, gentle reader, to determine for yourself what the evidence shows.

Young is hoping to exert sufficient pressure on the Church to force the adoption of his demands. Please note that the Church put out a statement on Sunday that says Church leaders have met with Sam and that the Church will not be caving.

What are his demands? It is difficult to be sure because they have changed so much over the years, but we have some indication from a petition from October 2017:

“We call on the LDS Church to immediately cease the practice of subjecting children to questions about masturbation, orgasm, ejaculation, sexual positions or anything else of a sexual nature. This applies to all children up to and including age 17. There should be no one-on-one interviews with children. A parent or other trusted adult of the child’s choosing is to be present. We call on the LDS Church to publicly disavow this practice. We call on the LDS Church to ensure that all congregational leaders, as well the general membership, are informed that this practice is prohibited.”

(Readers, please note that Church policy clearly states that bishopric members may ask about chastity during temple recommend interviews. Children from the ages of 12 to 17 are asked if they follow the law of chastity, just as adults are asked. Claims that bishoprics are asking detailed sexual questions of members are wildly exaggerated, but all bishoprics have been informed of this issue. Bishopric members always have another adult nearby when doing temple recommends. It is clear that Sam Young has grabbed on to a cause that will bring him attention, but as this post will show, we have reason to doubt his sincerity on this and other issues because of his constant complaints about many Church practices.)

This petition is the first exposure most people had to Sam Young, but it wasn’t the start of his activism against LDS doctrines, teachings and practices. Young describes on his website how he lost his testimony in 2014. “Over the past couple of years, unexpected philosophical developments have shaken my life. They have been quite disconcerting.” He tells a tail of being set adrift and of being lonely and scared. He recollects that his family and friends couldn’t understand what he was going through.
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How will the Church respond to increasingly legal marijuana?

This is a guest post by Mormontarian, who describes himself as “a radical free choice advocate and otherwise chill dude living in flyover country. He’s ready for the current Sunday School program to follow home teaching and High Priests’ Group into history.”

Oklahoma just legalized weed.

On 26 June the state of Oklahoma, where I live, held a primary election. As with any primary, there were different ballots printed based on party affiliation. The Republican primary ballot my wife got handed was pretty busy, as one might expect in a state sometimes called “the buckle of the bible belt”. Lots of action there. My own Libertarian ballot only had three names on it, as the party is only contesting the Governor’s race this go-round.

But every Oklahoma voter also got a bonus ballot this time, to vote on State Question 788 regarding medical marijuana. The question passed with 57% of the vote statewide. This passage came in spite of a huge push from a law enforcement and medical coalition that spent half a million dollars on ads demonizing the measure in the most furrowed-brow we-know-better manner possible.
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A Meditation on the Rank of Eagle Scout

This is a guest post by Mormontarian, who describes himself as a small-town Midwest transplant, who grew up on the west coast but managed to flee without turning into a pillar of salt. He is a compulsive communicator, though it helps to read his work as though you were all hanging out at a diner, chatting over greasy-spoon steak and eggs on a slow Saturday morning.

My grandfather was an Eagle Scout. His two sons (my father and uncle) are Eagle Scouts. I (and my three brothers) are all Eagle Scouts. One might call this a family tradition.

My son is not an Eagle Scout. This caused my father some concern. In a moment of “family tradition”-motivated panic, he went so far as to offer my son $1000 if he would earn his Eagle. That was when a series of realizations finally crystallized for me.

The rank itself is burdened with superfluous meaning that has been layered on for a long time. But it was clearly very important to my father, and I admit that I was pretty proud of myself when I got mine back in the day. Was I robbing my son by not pushing him to do this? I wasn’t sure.

So I sat down and took a good hard look at Eagle, breaking it down to the fundamental lessons it seems designed to teach. This required setting aside a volume of mystique and tradition. Is Eagle important because you learn first aid? How to pitch a tent? Who your elected representatives are? Those things are fine and good to know, and having a structure in place to learn those things is useful, but are they the fundamental lessons? Are they the things Eagle teaches?

Ultimately, no. In searching for those, I found three concepts that might be described as pearls of great price.

Lesson the First: Delayed Gratification Continue reading

Guest post: the Givens attack the First Vision

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson, who is a not-quite-so-young man living in Highland, Utah with his wife and kids.

At the tender age of 14, Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees near his home in New York in order to seek knowledge from the Lord. In the vision that followed, Joseph was told by the Lord not to join any churches then extant, for “they were all wrong” and that “all their creeds were an abomination in His sight” and that the preachers of these religions and creeds were “all corrupt.” It was in this First Vision that the Lord introduced Joseph, along with the rest of us, to the need for a restoration of the Gospel. The Lord makes clear that a simple reformation of existing christianity would be insufficient, driving the point home with strong language as was and is His prerogative.

In a recently published excerpt from “The Crucible of Doubt,” Terryl and Fiona Givens note that this account causes “many readers” to “feel the sting of a wide-net rebuke” in this narrative. And yet the Givens don’t seem to believe that such a rebuke was warranted. They introduce the First Vision narrative with a disclaimer that “[t]he language of Mormon culture … is fraught with contradictions” and that the “wisest and best men and women can say uninspired, ridiculous, and even reprehensible things.”

The Givens then observe that the First Vision narrative is “harsh to modern ears,” but seeks to excuse “Smith’s language” by saying it “fits right into his cultural milieu.” Further driving home their point, the Givens later bemoan the “colorful language of condemnation” in the canonized First Vision account because of its supposed “tragic influence on Mormon thinking,” including the “notion that Mormonism has a monopoly on the truth, that other churches and traditions have nothing of value to contribute, and that the centuries between the death of the apostles and the events of 1820 were utterly blighted and devoid of truth.”

Even further, the Givens argue that at least some “Mormons claim a monopoly on salvation” as well. But to them, “it grows increasingly difficult to imagine that a body of a few million, in a world of seven billion, can really be God’s only chosen people and heirs of salvation.”

It is with these two “myths” in mind, myths of Mormon monopolies on truth and salvation, that the Givens began their attack on the canonized First Vision narrative. They fault this narrative, which they claim sets the stage for the flourishing of these myths.

What purpose is being served by this attack by the Givens? Continue reading