Social and Cultural “Rights”

In the Church News there is an article about religious freedom being eroded by encroaching social and cultural “rights” which conflict with religious freedom.  The case of Perry v. Schwartzenegger in California, which challenges the Proposition 8 vote was cited by Elder Lance Wickman, the Church’s General Counsel (lawyer).  In that case the public’s decision to prohibit same-sex marriage is being challenged on the basis that voters cannot negate a fundamental right.
 
The Church is alarmed about the growing potential for conflict between social and cultural “rights” on the one hand, and the free exercise of religion on the other.
 
The deeper problem the Church has with their position on this legal conflict in California, is the position taken on the Salt Lake City ordinance the Church endorsed a several weeks ago.  In that decision, the Church announced that employment and housing were “fundamental rights” which same-sex attraction could not forfeit.  The Church endorsed the use of coercive governmental power to compel employers and property owners to permit homosexual employees and renters, upon pain of punishment by the Courts.  This was an extraordinary departure from past positions of the Church, and represented the first time the Church approved governmental compulsion against employers and property owners to protect homosexual conduct.
 
The effect of the Church’s change in view on the Salt Lake City ordinance was almost immediate.  A follow-on state-wide survey after the Church’s changed position showed that there was a dramatic shift in Utah’s view of tolerance toward homosexual behavior.  Essentially, Mormons all over Utah fell in line behind the Church’s new attitude.
 
Now the Church is attempting to sound the alarm about legal encroachment of cultural/social views (read homosexuality) into other areas which will inevitably conflict with religious liberty.  But the Church has already conceded the argument.   By extension of the Church’s position with respect to housing and employment, the only question to answer is what to define as a “fundamental right.”  If housing and employment, then why not marriage?  How does that distinction get made?  And if any judge, anywhere, or ultimately five of the nine Supreme Court Justices, decide that marriage is a “fundamental right,” then the result will follow that religion cannot prevent the practice.  And if religion cannot prevent the practice of this “fundamental right” to marry despite a couple’s homosexual orientation, then the LDS Church cannot prohibit or limit homosexual marriage practices anywhere.  Not even in their own marriage ceremonies.  For to do so would invade a “fundamental right” of the persons involved.
It will take time for the arguments to wend their way through the courts.  But ultimately the Church’s position on the “fundamental right” of homosexuals to be employed and housed without discrimination, using the coercive force of the government to protect that “right” against employers and property owners, will be the same reason the government will force the LDS Church to be coerced into acceptance of homosexual marriage.  The LDS Church’s own words/press release and public relations spokesman’s words will be the reason cited by the Court against the Church, at the time the decision is reached.  The Court will announce that the LDS Church has already recognized the need for governmental power to be used to protect fundamental rights of housing and employment.  The Court will rule the Church must, therefore, accept as a fundamental right marriage, as well.
 

Peculiar

The gentiles seem determined to end their reign. According to an announcement from the Church this week, missionary work is being shifted from European and North American populations into Latin and South America, Africa and Asia.

I’ve thought for some time that the failing conversion rates are the inevitable result of the “marketing” system being used by the Church. What distinguishes the Restoration from other faiths is our doctrine. We have been de-emphasizing doctrine for years. We try to seem more and more like another Christian faith. We aren’t. We are quite different. The reason to convert lies in our doctrinal differences.

No one is going to live the Latter-day Saint lifestyle who thinks that we are just another mainstream Christian church. To pay tithing, refrain from coffee, tea, alcohol, smoking and serve in Church leadership roles at considerable personal inconvenience and sacrifice requires our Church to be more than just another mainstream church. If that is all we are, most people (especially devoted people) are going to want an easier form of belief, like Methodism, Presbyterianism or Catholicism. If they offer the same doctrine as we do, then they will win.

I am a Latter-day Saint because I believe the doctrine. I am not a traditional Christian because I believe their creeds are false and they teach for doctrine the commandments of men. Unless someone comes to believe that, there is no reason to leave a traditional Christian denomination and become a Latter-day Saint.

Who can be a Seer?

I was asked recently.

“Who can become a seer?”

I answered this: You could probably substitute “seer” for “prophet” in Moses’ lament: “Would to God all men were [seers]”. The purpose of seership is the same as any other gift of the Spirit: to acquire knowledge of truth. And, assuming “God giveth liberally to all men,” as James promised us, it would follow this was among the things He intended all men to experience.

Read the description of the conditions of post-mortal residence in the presence of God given in Section 130. The “seership” experience there is commonplace. The “sea of glass,” or earth on which they dwell is a great Urim and Thummim, as well as the “white stone” given to them. The result is that ALL occupants of that sphere are seers. Accordingly, we should assume that we obtain our first instructions here to prepare us for living there. Seership, being necessary for life there, is something we ought to expect to be included in the Lord’s tutelage while we are all here.

ALL of us are to “covet the best gifts” on the one hand; and on the other “there is no gift greater” than seership. (That’s Paul and Ammon being quoted.) It follows necessarily, therefore, that we should be seeking to have some experience with this gift here in mortality.

After the Gold Rush

I’ve been a Neil Young fan since his Buffalo Springfield days. Among his acts of kindness over the years, he saved Lionel Trains from bankruptcy in 1995, because he is a model train fan. That affection grew from his relationship with his autistic son.

In any event, here is an A Cappella version of his After the Gold Rush song; one of the great anthems of modern rock. I found this on YouTube and thought it memorable.

Second Anointing

I’ve gotten numerous questions this last week on the subject of the “second anointing” or “second sealing.” This is not a subject which I think invites a lot of open discussion. I’ve intentionally avoided it in my books.

Here’s what I think is appropriate to explain:The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil is an explanation of what is required to get to the point you are prepared to meet the Lord. It is essentially a manual. It stops short of explaining what the Lord, in His on-going ministry to mankind, will do to prepare the individual for what comes next. That is His ministry. The Holy Ghost brings you to the Lord. The Lord brings you to the Father. That book was written to help you come to Him.

Beloved Enos is an explanation of what the results are, once someone has received the Lord’s ministry. It takes Enos’ record and uses it as a basis for the explanation.

Between the text of The Second Comforter and Beloved Enos, what is omitted is a description of the sacred ordinances involved in what is termed “the second anointing.” I do not feel inclined to go into that.

BYU Visit

I need to preface my remarks below with this: My son attended a Catholic High School for a year and had the wonderful experience of being in the minority there. I have lifelong friends who are Catholic. My family was Baptist and my sister remains a devoted Baptist. I have friends of many faiths, or no faith at all. Some friends have been LDS, and lost their faith altogether. Some have converted from LDS to Catholic. All these wonderful people are valued friends. I attend annually a Presbyterian service blessing the Scottish clans with a dear friend. My friendships have nothing to do with the friend’s faith.

Now, that having been said, I was down at BYU about a week ago. [While there, I was surprised to find that several of my books were for sale in the BYU Bookstore. Somehow I thought Benchmark Books in Salt Lake was THE local distributor.]

While walking about the campus I was reminded just how much I like being a Latter-day Saint. We’re quirky, even peculiar people. There’s a lot about us to laugh about. But underneath it all Latter-day Saints really try hard, in our strange way, to be good, decent people. The struggle to be that is met with frequent failure. But the exercise is good.

Devotion to any faith is good for the souls of mankind. In many ways we are not at all superior to other groups. I remember the talk given by Pres. Faust about the killings of the young girls in the Amish school a few years ago, which was followed by the compassion of the Amish victims’ families to the widow and children of the murderer. If we were to hold up a contemporary group in the United States who most succeed in living a Christ-like life, it would likely be the Amish. Nevertheless, I really like being a Latter-day Saint and in fellowshipping and struggling with my fellow Saint. I find it joyful. I love the Saints. Even as I sense very keenly our many shortcomings. For me, it is still joyful to live as a Latter-day Saint.

Personal Responsibility

I have tried to lessen the burden imposed upon Church leadership in the books I have written.  The Saints need to be more accountable for their own progress and understanding.  The books impose responsibility upon the reader to establish their own communication with God, and then to assume responsibility for their own progress.

Whatever intelligence we attain unto in this life will rise with us in the next.  Seeking to gain in intelligence, or light and truth, is always individual, never collective.

Salesmanship

Recognizing a problem is not solving it in the same way that a diagnosing an illness is not treating it. 
 
 
It is always the first step, however, to recognize a defect.  We don’t solve a lot of problems because we fail to acknowledge their existence.
 
 
Then there are those who will argue that a defect is not really a problem, but a feature.  Don’t be fooled by salesmanship.   Defects are never features. 

Infidelity

If a man is unfaithful to his wife, he will be dishonest in his business dealings and in his other relationships. Hence the saying: “an adulterer is a liar.” The two go together.

In Response to a Critic

In response to a critic of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, and you do not.  I’m content to let you disbelieve.  Why are you not content to let me believe?  One of us is clearly mistaken, but I am content with both my belief and your disbelief. 

Of the two of us, I think your hostility toward my position reveals an underlying insecurity about your confidence in your position. 

I am prepared to be everlastingly judged on the basis of my beliefs.  I insist the Lord has every right to hold me accountable for what I believe, do, think, say and how I behave. 

Two Women

TWO WOMEN 
A Parable by Denver C. Snuffer, Jr.
 
Once there were two women.
One was born to privilege, whose family had great wealth.
The other, named Martha, was born poor.
 
They both grew up and at length Martha married, but the woman of privilege never did marry.

As adults both women felt the need for motherhood.
Martha bore seven children.

The woman of privilege spent seven years in college studying child development and education, eventually receiving her Ph.D., but never married, nor had a child.
 
Now as coincidence would have it, the woman of privilege inherited her parents‛ home and moved back into the wealthy neighborhood in which she was raised.

Martha’s family needed more room and searched for a house.  They found a modest home located in wealthy neighborhood which had once been a servant’s. Now the servant’s home needed repairs, and few were interested in a home which, in comparison with the others around it, seemed merely a servant’s residence.

Martha however, believed there was an advantage for her children to grow up among the children of greater privilege and therefore purchased the unwanted house.
 
And so it was that the woman of privilege and Martha came to live in the same neighborhood.

Martha, ever eager to learn more, had read books to better understand parenting.  She was surprised to learn one of her favorite teachers lived in her neighborhood.

As coincidence would further have it, both the woman of privilege and Martha were called upon to serve together in teaching neighborhood children.  They spent many hours together, but oftentimes did not agree.
 
For Martha, the experience of raising her own children led her to view things differently than the woman of privilege whose experience was based upon study, borrowed understanding and the science of others.

After six years, Martha concluded the conflicts between them were insurmountable.

In the seventh year, Martha concluded that if the woman of privilege could gaze into the eyes of her own children for but five minutes, she would know more than she did now, notwithstanding the many years of study which she had devoted to child development and education.  

In the eighth year, Martha concluded it was her responsibility to teach the woman of privilege, and so the occupant of the servant’s house undertook the burden of teaching the needy but unwilling. 

It was a role that would require many years, with only limited success.
 
Pride is unbecoming in a pupil; and meekness ever required of a teacher.

Apostasy

I was asked whether those who are in the middle of an apostasy can detect that it is underway.
 
Yes and no: Yes, as to isolated individuals.  No, as to the institutional mindset or they would have done something about it.  The Great Apostasy began sometime during the second century.  But you have to get down to the Protestant fathers in the 1500’s and thereafter before there is any widespread shouting about what has been lost.  For the intervening thirteen centuries people respected authority, and trusted that the leaders had the keys to save them.
 
I can’t imagine the courage it took for Martin Luther to refuse to back down when he was confronted with thirteen centuries of history telling him he was wrong.  We really do owe a debt of gratitude to him, and those who followed after, for ultimately establishing religious freedom. Americans more than any other people are the direct beneficiaries of that courage.

Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day.  Although I’m hundreds of miles away, my thoughts are with my wife. David and Solomon clearly never found a wife to be their equal, helpmeet, love and joy. I pity them. I have she who completes me; my queen and high priestess, love and companion, wise counselor and faithful friend. She is the standard against which all other women are measured, and all others found to be wanting. She is home.

I have yet to see a marriage I think the equal of my own.

The final parable in Ten Parables begins deliberately. I hope readers realize how important that discussion is to the way things really are.

Daniel

When Daniel saw the Lord he “alone saw the vision” (Dan 10:7) and not those who were with him. The others felt the great presence (v. 7) but saw nothing. The physical effect upon Daniel was exhausting. He collapsed and had to be strengthened (v. 10). Three times he collapsed and three times he was touched by the Lord to strengthen him (vs. 10,16,18).  It was real and VERY physical. Yet he alone saw the Lord. It is always so. Hence Paul’s comment “whether in the body I cannot tell; or whether out of the body I cannot tell” ( 2Cor12:2).  It IS physical. But those who are excluded merely feel the terrible presence, and see nothing. Those included are like Daniel and Joseph Smith, left exhausted from such encounters (see JS-H 1:48).

Not for entertainment

I was reading in the first volume of the Joseph Smith Papers and came across a letter written by Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde upon their return to Kirtland after their mission to England.  During the interim things had broken down in Kirtland with lawsuits, cross accusations and apostasy.  Although the missions had been a great success, with more than fifteen-hundred converts joining the Church, when they returned they found the existing Saints in disarray. 
 
They were immediately confronted with criticism of Joseph and other Church leaders by the residents of Kirtland.  In the letter to Joseph Smith, received on July 6, 1838, they responded to the criticism they were hearing with a comment which stood out to me.  It would make a good motto:
 
“The faults of our bretheren is poor entertainment for us.”  (JSP, Vol. 1, p. 280.)
 
I like that.  I think it is still good enough advice to remain true over a century and a half later: The faults of the Brethren are poor entertainment for any of us.