The Flip Side of the Coin – Mormon Youth Bishop Interviews & Abuse

[ Cross-Posted from J. Max Wilson’s blog: Sixteen Small Stones ]

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:

What about youth who are being sexually abused by their own parent? Continue reading

Steelmanning: Counterpoint to Davidson Regarding Brother and Sister Givens

Earlier this week, a guest post by Michael Davidson titled “The Givens Attack the First Vision” was published here at the Millennial Star.

You can read it here: https://www.millennialstar.org/guest-post-the-givens-attack-the-first-vision/

Guest post: the Givens attack the First Vision

Michael’s post has attracted some attention, and I want to post a counterpoint response to what he has written that I hope will demonstrate why I think his post was inappropriately personal and accusatory, even though I sympathize with his concerns. Continue reading

Disagreeing with LDS Prophets and Apostles vs Losing Confidence in Them

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[Cross-Posted from Sixteen Small Stones: Disagreeing with LDS Prophets and Apostles vs Losing Confidence in Them]

Among some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it has become increasingly common to openly and publicly criticize teachings, directions, decisions, and policies of the prophets and apostles of the church.

I recognize that this trend is at least partially the consequence of a more general societal shift in attitudes and perceptions of privacy; a shift that is influenced by blurring lines between the public and the private driven by information technology and the Internet.

As long-time readers of my blog know, I am very troubled by this trend. I am troubled by the nonchalance with which members of the church confidently declare that they know that the prophets and apostles are wrong about this-or-that.

While I have have written extensively about this and related topics, I recognize that my posts are long, disconnected, and probably not very accessible to casual readers. When you are discussing the issue in the comments of social media, pointing to pages and pages of blog posts written over the course of several years just doesn’t work well.

So here is my attempt to distill my reasoning into a single, more succinct and consumable post: Continue reading

Beware Uncharted Islands – The Beast Below and Enduring in the Old Ship Zion

[Cross-posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

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Last month, my daughter sent out an email query to the members of our family asking for each of us to respond as quickly as possible with the name our favorite magical creature of all time. I didn’t respond immediately and so her question slipped off my radar. She followed up with an email reminder, and then a verbal reminder. I didn’t understand why it was so important, but after a little thought, I told her that my favorite mythical creature was Fastitocalon.

Like most people, she had never heard of Fastitocalon.

Fastitocalon is the name of a gigantic mythological sea monster that floats at the surface of the ocean and deceives seafarers. The wicked beast waits for sea travelers, who easily mistake it’s huge carapace for an uncharted island, to secure their ships to its shell and disembark for a rest from their journey. Just when they are starting to feel safe and enjoying themselves, Fastitocalon dives into the sea, sinking the ships and drowning all the travelers.

For Christmas, my daughter gave each member of the family an original drawing of the creature they had told her was their favorite. And she gave me a wonderful drawing of Fastitocalon, a photo of which I have included at the top of this post.

I love my daughter’s conceptualization of Fastitocalon as a giant turtle. I like the line between what appears above the surface and what is below; the change in lighting and color. The welcoming island above and the beast below.

My first encounter with Fastitocalon was through J.R.R. Tolkien’s delightful poem of the same name in “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil“: Continue reading

On the Folly of Demanding Demographic Diversity among the LDS Apostles

[Cross Posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

As you probably already know, three new apostles were called during the recent October 2015 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Apostles serve as special witnesses of Jesus Christ and hold priesthood authority and keys to direct the work of God on the earth. Jesus directs his church through these living apostles and prophets. And as members of the church we believe these men are called by God through inspiration to the living prophet and president of the church.

Some members of the church, and not a few dissidents and former members, have expressed disappointment and feelings of hurt because the three new apostles do not come from diverse enough backgrounds to meet their contemporary concepts of Diversity. All three new apostles are white men, born in Utah. These disappointed members and critics wanted new apostles with backgrounds more representative of the diversity in church membership, which now has more members outside of the United States than in.

There has been plenty of commentary about this criticism, and I don’t want to rehash what has already been said. But I do want to step back and take a more abstract look at some of the problems with wanting the Lord to call apostles based on demographic diversity.

Diversity is a good thing. Each individual brings a unique package of experience, background, talents, and ideas that can contribute to building the Kingdom of God.

However, when considering diversity, it is important to recognize that we, as human beings, tend to draw arbitrary lines and to group people based on simplistic similarities. However we draw those lines, we unavoidably generalize, oversimplify, and reduce people from complex individuals into artificially uniform groups.

Continue reading