Saturday, April 25, 2015

Voice of the closet conservative

As liberals go, I am not so liberal. I have always thought of myself a closet conservative while trying to champion the left side on social/humanitarian issues. Looking at the past, the present was -- in many ways -- shaped by liberals.

So, when we in the church speak of families being forever; that a marriage is between a man and a woman; that the holy spirit of promise seals a couple if they are worthy -- I think I get the gist.

As a long-term Mormon I have it down -- the words, the feelings and the general understanding behind them.

And here I sit in the car after church bristling. Maybe that is one of the reasons we have Sunday School -- to provoke members into change.  If that is the case then today's lesson was... AWESOME!
Nothing to do with the essay. 

To answer a question poised in Sunday school, No.  No, I don’t want God to change his plan to suit me or my gay friends who don't fit in. I am not expecting natural laws to be altered, or doctrine to be re-configured.

However I do want points of view to widen into an acceptance of others on its most basic scale regardless of their situation, background or prospects.

The woman leading the lesson was single – I know this because she stated such. She broke down into tears as she mentioned that she did not have children to be sealed to (eternal families being the point of the lesson.)

There seemed to be a general sentiment expressed by the class at her revelation -- the old and the young alike:

Oh, how sad – you should find something to get you by this life until the next one starts." It isn't a shockingly bad sentiment. OK, it is shockingly bad. I have called it the "get a hobby" approach; Your life is hopeless, so find something constructive to do.

Life is not over. Specifically put for the woman teaching the lesson: You don’t have a family – yet. God’s time is not our time. This is the way of the hopeful, the faithful, the proactive – not necessarily a Mormon word, but one of my favorite.

A case in pro-activity to make a point: A friend of mine spoke in a fireside about an experience. He took his truck and his son out in the woods to collect, you know…wood. Fire wood. He backed in to his favorite spot and got his truck hopelessly stuck in the mud. They tried most of the day to get it out to no avail. They decided that they could either sit and wait for rescue, or get busy loading the truck with wood. The choose to be proactive. They choose to do something.

In the end after the truck was loaded and it was becoming very cold, they decided to give it one more go. The truck bounded out of the ruts and practically muscled its way to dry road with a cord or two of freshly chopped wood. The weight of the wood had given it all the truck needed. Doing something when it seemed they didn't have a choice gave them the traction.

So, back to bristling: Maybe I am not upset at the material of the lesson on eternal marriage, but the general hopelessness of those who don't fit the mold.

Christ came to redeem us all. We came down to earth to be like our Father, and the time will come when we will be able to make a run at our goals full force. That time will be -- again -- in Gods time.

I don't know what that looks like for you. I don't know what it looks like for me. But I feel good about putting my faith in my Heavenly Father and loading up my truck.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Elder Perry and the talk that was

I gave it a shot.  I tried to justifying what Elder Perry said in his conference talk. It was a good essay, and a lot of people read it. 

But, what if Elder Perry said exactly what he was meaning to say? After all, it wasn't off the cuff. The talk was written down, typed out and approved before we ever heard it. Did something slip by whoever was proofreading? 

(The thought of someone proofing makes me laugh. "Elder, did you mean to say 'Hamster' or 'Gangsta'?) 
What if Elder Perry believes that anything outside of eternal marriage -- a marriage being between a man and a woman worthy to enter the temple -- is not good enough? 

He is someone we sustain as a prophet. Do we go with the flow until they say something we do not like?

"We want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established..." 

Those words were supported by Elder D Todd Christofferson who said:

"A family built on the marriage of a man and woman supplies the best setting for God's plan to thrive - the setting for the birth of children who come in purity and innocence from God. No one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has for His children."
And Boyd K Packer, reiterated, saying:

"The only legitimate, authorized expression of the powers of procreation is between a husband and wife who have been legally and lawfully married."

It doesn't sound like anything was overlooked, nor does it come across as leaving a little wiggle room. I can't with a good conscious say that he goofed or used the wrong word, or went overboard.
Consider this quote by Spencer W Kimball (for whom I have a soft spot. He was the Prophet who signed my mission call).

“The holy prophets have not only refused to follow erroneous human trends, but have pointed out these errors. No wonder the response to the prophets has not always been one of indifference. So often the prophets have been rejected because they first rejected the wrong ways of their own society...

"Prophets have a way of jarring the carnal mind. Too often the holy prophets are wrongly perceived as harsh... Those prophets I have known are the most loving of men. It is because of their love and integrity that they cannot modify the Lord's message merely to make people feel comfortable. They are too kind to be so cruel. I am so grateful that prophets do not crave popularity.”

Prophets, after all, are not elected. They are not interested in maintaining the vote. Sometimes they aren't even unanimously sustained, as we all know. Those who spoke for the Lord in times of the Bible and the Book of Mormon were often put to death for the positions they took on religious issues that were at the forefront of the social world.

So, what does it mean for us if Elder Perry said exactly what he meant?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Elder Perry and the talk that wasn't

I have recently adopted the title of a Mormon apologist* -- though I reserve the right to change that title if it ends up having a connotation I don't agree with. As I understand it, a Mormon apologist is one who defends. That is me.

I haven’t wanted to use the word because of its proximity to apologize, and I don’t know that an organization is necessarily responsible for apologizing. (There are members of the church that certainly need to embrace the concept and hug the heck out of it. I am one of those simply because I talk a lot and then annotate what I have said, so anything I have ever said that is stupid is written down for all time.  If you have read me for very long, then you know.)

Maybe I am wrong.  A well placed apology hasn't ever done anyone harm.
What lovely ears you have...
However, as one who "defends", my job this week is to help the world hear the remarks made by Elder L. Tom Perry. It is not my place to interpret. If you would, please listen to the talk itself.  I encourage you to do so - the link is below. 

First, let me say that I know the man. I have met him several times. He is tall and has a very talented niece who sings like a bird and is just about as skinny. He is not the kind that seeks to offend without justification.

On first look or first read or first out-of-context-quote-from-facebook, what he said seems brash. Again. I encourage you to listen to the talk.  I listened to it in real time, and I was not offended, nor did I worry about any of my friends or family taking offence. It seemed to me at the time (and still does to me) that it was a rah-rah moment for families.

One can get a better feeling for what was actually said by hearing the thing in its entirety.

The topic was families -- all families; Mormon ones, Catholic ones, Muslim ones. Elder Perry and the LDS church have historically promoted the family as the only reliable way to raise children and come closer to Heavenly Father. Elder Perry said as much in this talk.

The family is the group created by God to nurture children. Famously, the family and the home is the one place on earth that is said to be by Mormon leaders as sacred or more sacred than a dedicated temple. Elder Perry said clearly that not making a commitment to the family is dangerous.

Elder Perry started his talk with a quote from Pope Francis, who opened the first session of a recent international assembly with this statement:

“We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. … It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.”

The tone of the talk did not change from there: Elder Perry stated: “We believe that the organization and government of heaven will be built around families and extended families.”

Elder Perry: “One problem is that much of the media and entertainment that the world shares does not reflect the priorities and values of the majority. For whatever reasons, too much of our television, movies, music, and Internet present a classic case of a minority masquerading as a majority. Immorality and amorality, ranging from graphic violence to recreational sex, is portrayed as the norm and can cause those who have mainstream values to feel like we are out of date or from a bygone era."

Here is the quote that people have latched onto – the majority of them not having read or having heard the talk. “We want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established."  Counterfeit, as per his definition is anything that takes the place of marriage and parental commitment. 

Not once does Elder Perry refer to anything gay, bi, lesbian, same sex, opposite gender, mixed orientation, LGBT… nothing. Nor does he refer to “them” in funny quotation marks. There was not one “knowing nod” or a wink to the balcony throughout the entire talk, and I watched.

The closest he gets to controversial is when he mentions traditional families. As near as I can figure out, by traditional he means a family where there is a committed parent or parents raising a child or children. There may or might not be a pet included.  He did not get specific.

Am I looking at this with a blind eye?  

*Defender, supporter, one who upholds, advocate, proponent, campaigner, informal cheerleader.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Counterfeit rant

Getting the rant over with first thing:

Has anybody else noticed that many national news sources have commented on the counterfeit families remark excepting the Deseret News which has remained silent? Come on, Deseret News. You are making life hard for Mormon Apologists. There is a story there, and clarification to be made. Make it. What a perfect opportunity for the LDS Church, through it's news entity, to do a little PR. Does the Church mean that any family that is not traditional is fake? NEWS! Don't wait until everyone has put this in the drawer before you have a comment.

I listened to conference. I heard the "counterfeit" comment. In context I didn't have a problem with it. He seemed to be saying that the family was key, central, the core of society. I agree with that ideal with all my heart. He seemed to be saying that we should not accept any substitutes for the family. And I agree there too.

Is a two parent family ideal? Would a child have a better chance with two parents? Yes -- I believe that. (Mormons says that one man, one woman is best.) I know of one-parent families with a dedicated parent that thrive. I also know of families that are so "not-traditional" that it is confusing for me with my little mindset of "this goes here and that goes there".

I am as supportive of them as I am of anything "traditional". Our job -- my job -- is to love people and support my brother and sisters regardless of the decisions they make.

Do I believe that God wants a man and a woman to marry and have children be sealed in the temple and make covenants and keep those covenants? YES

Do I believe that there are those who won't, can't or don’t do that and go about raising their families in a different way? YES

Do I believe that there are those who choose not to participate in families but can still make decisions to be constructive members of society? YES.

Dallin H. Oaks at one time mentioned a system of making decisions: Good, Better, Best.

"We have to forgo some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families."

I know what I want for my life, what I think is best. I make my decisions accordingly, and I believe in allowing others the same.
May we all have access to the spirit and make the best decisions we can make.

"We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives."  - Elder Oaks

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Post LDS conference and the Semi-annual controversy

My conference experience was a positive thing. I felt renewed, and came up with some plausible goals for the near future. My wife likes it when I come home from priesthood meeting. She says I am nicer and more kind.  
I should think so! Everything I hear is about responsibility, being a good father and a good husband, honoring my priesthood, showing love, caring for others, putting the needs of others before my own needs -- all excellent things.

I said to myself after several of those talks, based on conference, how can anyone say that we are not Christian?

Then I read some research today that shows that the world thinks the Mormon Church is unfriendly towards the LGBT community. It lists the Muslim religion at (84%), the Mormon Church at (83%), the Catholic Church at (79%) and evangelical churches in general (73%) as "unfriendly toward people who are LGBT". 

 *Pew Research Study

Now, I understand that the Church is not running for most popular this year. Still, if there is an element of truth to the matter, and I believe that there is, we have work to do - as a group and as god-fearing individuals.

This is not the church that I know. I know Mormons as caring committed persons who are trying to follow Christian principals and follow the prophet who (we) believe speaks for the Savior. Yes, that Savior. Success rates vary from Mormon to Mormon and I understand that. On the whole we try hard to be fair and kind.  I can disagree with you and you can disagree with me and we can still be kind to each other.

Brother Archuleta 

I was just thinking that it doesn't seem like conference without people being offended at something Elder Packer said. Then, I read that David Archuleta is apologizing for hurting feelings when he quoted a general authority regarding the nature of marriage.

In the first place, Does any one here know David Archuleta  ? Is there a mean bone in the little body? No. There is no "naive" in him. If he offends it is because of a misunderstanding.

I had to go back and look at his post. He was quoting something said at conference. Here it is.

“Romantic love is incomplete. It is a prelude. Love is nourished by the coming of children, who spring from the fountain of love…expressed between a man and a woman in marriage. #PresPacker.”

And here is his response tweeted after many were offended:

I apologize if I have offended anyone with the quote I sent out Saturday. I guess I didn't think about the line “expressed between a man and a woman in marriage” being stressed when the whole quote didn't fit in just 1 tweet. I am sorry my intentions were misunderstood, as my main focus was that too often romance is looked at as the end-all when there is so much more. The bonds that can be there within a family and raising kids, as that is the most valuable thing I have: my family. I do hope however, that whoever may have been offended may know I respect everyone’s freedom to believe and live as they choose. I hope others can respect what I value most in my life as well. Again, I’m sorry and please forgive me if I offended you. David

Now it seems like conference. 

I myself wasn't offended by the comments about marriage being between a man and a woman when I heard them in context (and I did for the most part). That has clearly been the churches stance since, well, since there was the church. 

And the comments about fake families, or counterfeit families didn't mean for me what many are claiming it was supposed to mean. I didn't take it to mean that any unconventional family was counterfeit. I understood it to mean that any group who tried to take its place or that didn't emphasis family was in error.