Book review of Converting the Saints, A Study of Religious Rivalry in America, by Charles Randall Paul
Back in 1980, I was standing at the railroad station in the southern Bolivia town of Yacuiba, waiting for my new missionary companion to arrive. Having only been a member for a few years, I had never come across missionaries from a Protestant church before. On that night, however, I came across about a dozen Baptist missionaries traveling to their next assignment, among indigenous cannibals. All were very friendly and happy to see a fellow American, except for one. He had been a Baptist missionary in Brigham City, Utah a few years earlier. Instantly, he wanted to debate what he believed was Mormon doctrine, throwing out one controversial teaching after another. Fortunately, he came upon a teaching that I was able to show in the Bible. When he protested it as a bad translation (I was using the KJV), I asked him if he believed scripture was God breathed. When he answered affirmatively, I then said he would have to consider the LDS teaching on the issue as a possibility. He quickly ended our conversation and left.
Upon seeing the title, Converting the Saints, I initially thought it would be filled with anecdotes of preaching to the Mormons in Utah. Happily, I found the book to be this and so much more. Continue reading →
Recently critics and dissidents have been clamoring for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to abolish the common practice of having lay bishops hold private interviews with youth in which they ask them questions about sexual morality and the Law of Chastity.
Many of these critics are concerned about the propriety of having a bishop talk about sexual issues with young men and women alone as well as the potential for abuse. And they point to legitimately tragic anecdotes from people who feel that the practice had a negative effect on them as youth. Some even claim that it facilitated abuse by a bishop.
Earlier this year, the church announced that it would update its policies to optionally allow youth to have a parent attend the interview with them. The church provided bishops with standardized questions to be asked. And parents and youth were also to be given information about the kinds of questions and topics that would be included in the interview beforehand.
But the changes do not seem to have appeased the critics, who will not be satisfied until they have pressured the church to abolish the interviews completely and with them any enforcement of the Law of Chastity.
I just wanted to raise a point in support of the interviews that I have not seen made elsewhere, and that I hope the critics will seriously consider:
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. Continue reading →
Hymn #36, “They The Builders of the Nation” is one of my favorite hymns in our green hymn book. I actually like it more than “Come, Come Ye Saints“, which I like too, but not as much. As I was listening to the words of Builders the other day, a line in the first verse stuck out at me and has been on my mind ever since, here is the first verse, and the line in bold,
“They, the builders of the nation, Blazing trails along the way;
Stepping-stones for generations
Were their deeds of ev’ry day.
Building new and firm foundations,
Pushing on the wild frontier,
Forging onward, ever onward,
Blessed, honored Pioneer!
“Blazing trails for generations, were their deeds of every day.” This picture collage below is of my ancestors. They came from England, Scotland, and Germany. Some of them joined the church in the early days — the 1830s, some later in the 1920s. All of them were pioneers in their own way.
This lyric made me think about those every day deeds of my ancestors. What were they? What were the every day choices they made that laid a foundation of faith for their descendants? It was things like, reading the scriptures, praying with faith, acting in faith, following the prophet even when it was very hard, dedicating their lives to the gospel of Jesus Christ, building the temple, leaving their homes in far away lands to come to America to be with the Saints, leaving their families to serve missions, having children in hard circumstances, and sacrificing what they wanted for what the Lord needed from them. None of them had very easy lives. Continue reading →