I may choose to ignore people who comment anonymously. I choose never to be anonymous online myself. I have little tolerance for this behavior.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Life Comes Down to Absolutes -- Absolutely!

“The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, His commandments, and promised
blessings do not change. They are immutable and unchanging.”—Elder L. Tom Perry,
Obedience to Law Is Liberty” Accessed January 9, 2017 from the LDS Media Library.
We have a lot of terms that we use in Mormondom that other people don’t understand unless we explain them. Sometimes they are common terms, but mean something different to us. These include words and concepts like endowment, bishop and D&C.

Most professions have words and terms in them that are quite common, but that most other people don’t understand. In government, my field of study, some of these common terms are paradigm and empiricism. These terms may sound complex; but most of us understand these concepts, just not the label used to describe them.

Since my best subjects are religion and politics, I want to explain two terms that are common in both government and religion. The terms are moral absolutism and moral relativism. Now, don’t tune me out, these terms are easy to understand.

Once you understand them, you will be astonished at how often they come up in life. You will also be able to understand more of what church leaders are trying to tell you that may have slipped by you in the past.

Church leaders use these terms a lot, especially in General Conference. They crop up in other areas too. There is an article in the February, 2014, Ensign, entitled, “The Book of Mormon and Modern Moral Relativism.”

Understanding what moral absolutism and moral relativism means will help you understand the gospel better and why our beliefs put us at odds with the rest of the world.

As Latter-day Saints and members of this church, we embrace moral absolutism. Much of the world embraces moral relativism. This is the core difference in many modern disputes and disagreements.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about Moral Absolutes

Moral absolutism means that we believe that there are unchangeable truths in the world. Truth doesn’t change. If something was true in the past, it is true today and it will remain true in the future. Truth does not change, ever. Truth is absolute.

Some of these absolute truths include beliefs like the following:

-          Heavenly Father exists and we are His children.
-          He speaks to prophets here on earth.
-          Our scriptures contain absolute truths.
-          Families are ordained of God.
-          Right and wrong exist and are unchanging.

Sometimes moral absolutism is just called absolutism. Moral relativism is often just shortened to relativism.

As Latter-day Saints, We Reject Moral Relativism

Moral relativism holds that right and wrong don’t necessarily exist. Standards can change, depending on the person and the situation.

A moral relativist may believe that ideas of the past had nothing to do with right and wrong; they were just cultural influences or beliefs at the time.

Sexual immorality, for example, was considered bad in the past; but now we are more enlightened and it’s not right or wrong, it’s just different. Relativists maintain that society, people and cultures can change their minds about these things.

As a result of having no fixed beliefs or standards, moral relativists can accept anyone or anything – except moral absolutists.

They consider people who accept moral absolutes as being rigid, old-fashioned, hate mongers, politically incorrect and intolerant.

Moral relativists’ idea of tolerance is full acceptance. Moral relativists don’t need God or prophets, because they don’t believe in truth. They consider moral absolutism as outdated and moral relativism as progressive.

Moral relativists are generally found in the social sciences or what’s called the behavioral sciences. The natural, or hard sciences, do recognize that our physical world is governed by laws, laws that need to be discovered and followed. For example, there is the law of gravity.

Whether you personally believe in the law of gravity or not, you are still bound by it. Can you imagine someone deciding that it is up to individuals or societies to believe in the law of gravity if they want to? That it might be right for some people, but not others?

Can you imagine someone declaring that they are free of the law of gravity and then jumping off a cliff? The simple fact is that the law of gravity exists. We are bound by it whether we like it or not. We function best when we acknowledge it as a law of nature and adjust our behavior accordingly. That means no jumping off cliffs.

There are spiritual laws that are just as important and just as binding as the law of gravity. These spiritual laws are absolute truths. We study scripture, listen to prophets and do our best to follow them, because we know they are true.

Moral relativists can say that they don’t believe them, won’t follow them and don’t need them; but they will suffer spiritual consequences from not abiding by the spiritual laws that exist, whether they ever admit it or not.

No one should jump off of spiritual cliffs or physical ones.

Trying to convert moral relativists to the gospel is difficult:


Because of those underlying tenets of moral relativism, I had a difficult time believing what the Mormon missionaries taught me about the need for the Atonement, priesthood authority, and prophets. Indeed, my journey to conversion took me six long years of constantly challenging and questioning who I was, what I believed, and whether there could, in fact, be a God who had established eternal principles of truth and error, sin and consequence.

The term, moral relativism, may be a modern term, but moral relativism has existed in the past.

Moral Relativism Even Crops Up in the Book of Mormon

In the Book of Mormon, it is the Anti-Christ, Korihori that teaches it. Elder Dallin H. Oaks remarked on this saying:

Korihor also declared “that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men.” His description of the consequence of his rejection of the idea of sin and a Savior is strikingly similar to the belief of many in our time: “Every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and … every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:17; emphasis added).

Elder Oak’s continues:

Today we call Korihor’s philosophy moral relativism….This is the belief applied by many in the popular media and in response to peer pressure…..Behind such ideas is the assumption that there is no God or, if there is, He has given no commandments that apply to us today. (Stand as Witnesses of God, by Dallin H. Oaks in Ensign, March, 205.)

Prophets and Church Leaders Have Always Condemned Relativism and Taught Absolutism

In 1971, Ezra Taft Benson taught:
Our religion is one of absolutes and cannot be rationalized into a relativistic philosophy. Satan’s Thrust—Youth, Ezra Taft Benson, October1971.

In 2011, Elder Dallin H. Oaks did not equivocate when he said:
Like other believers, we proclaim the existence of the ultimate lawgiver, God our Eternal Father, and the existence of moral absolutes. We reject the moral relativism that is becoming the unofficial creed of much of modern culture. Fundamental to Our Faith By Elder Dallin H.Oaks, January, 2011.

In 2014, Elder David A. Bednar confirmed all of this when he remarked that:
Absolute truth exists in a world that increasingly disdains and dismisses absolutes. Come and See by David A. Bednar, October, 2014.

In 1975, Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:
If men are not steering by absolute truth, they will drift in the rolling sea of relativism. Why a University in the Kingdom? By Elder Neal A. Maxwell, October, 1975.

We should never hesitate to proclaim our moral absolutism and defend it. In 2006, Elder Larry W. Gibbons of the Seventy taught:

In this day of moral relativism we must be prepared to take a stand and say, “This is right, and this is wrong.” We cannot follow the crowd! Wherefore, SettleThis in Your Hearts by Larry W. Gibbons, October, 2006.

Coming from a legal background, Elder Dallin H. Oaks is one of our top leaders who constantly addresses these topics:

We live in a world where more and more persons of influence are teaching and acting out a belief that there is no absolute right and wrong, that all authority and all rules of behavior are man-made choices that can prevail over the commandments of God. Many even question whether there is a God.

The philosophy of moral relativism, which holds that each person is free to choose for himself what is right and wrong, is becoming the unofficial creed for many in America and other Western nations. At the extreme level, evil acts that used to be localized and covered up like a boil are now legalized and paraded like a banner. Truth and Tolerance by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, CES Devotional for Young Adults, September 11, 2011, Brigham Young University.

In 2014, Elder D. Todd Christofferson remarked:

Relativism means each person is his or her own highest authority. Of course, it is not just those who deny God that subscribe to this philosophy. Some who believe in God still believe that they themselves, individually, decide what is right and wrong. Free Forever, to Act for Themselves by D. Todd Christofferson, October, 2014.

Giving in to the world and its influence is not an option. In 2013, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said:

The unacceptable alternative is to surrender to postmodern moral relativism, which, pushed far enough, declares that ultimately nothing is eternally true or especially sacred and, therefore, no one position on any given issue matters more than any other. And in the gospel of Jesus Christ that simply is not true. Conviction with Compassion by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, New Era, July, 2013.

In a 2006 address, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught that absolute truth is an anchor for us:

In a time when many perceive truth as relative, a declaration of absolute truth is not very popular, nor does it seem politically correct or opportune. Testimonies of things how “they really are” (Jacob 4:13) are bold, true, and vital because they have eternal consequences for mankind. Satan wouldn’t mind if we declared the message of our faith and gospel doctrine as negotiable according to circumstances. Our firm conviction of gospel truth is an anchor in our lives; The Power of a Personal Testimony by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2006.

In 2009, Elder D. Todd Christofferson urged us to defend truth and moral absolutists when he said:

We need strong Christians who can make important things happen by their faith and who can defend the truth of Jesus Christ against moral relativism and militant atheism. The Power of Covenants by D. Todd Christofferson, April, 2009.

Moral relativism erodes religious freedom and we are seeing this in the world right now. In 2011, Elder Oaks taught:

He asked, “What has caused the current public and legal climate of mounting threats to religious freedom? I believe the cause is not legal but cultural and religious. I believe the diminished value being attached to religious freedom stems from the ascendency of moral relativism.

“More and more of our citizens support the idea that all authority and all rules of behavior are man-made and can be accepted or rejected as one chooses. Each person is free to decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong. Our children face the challenge of living in an increasingly godless and amoral society.” People of Faith Should Defend Freedom of Religion, Elder Oaks Says

People resent those who believe in moral absolutes because they feel like they are being judged, and judged harshly. This anger can be strong and get violent.

They also resent having to feel guilt. Guilt only comes from moral absolutes. There is no guilt in moral relativism. If you do what you want and let everybody else do the same and you think this is okay, then you never have to feel guilt.

Moral relativists feel under attack by those who assert moral absolutes.

In 1976, Elder Neal A. Maxwell suggested:

If all things are a matter of preference and nothing is a matter of principle, why not put Dracula in charge of the blood bank? Some Thoughts on the Gospel and the Behavioral Sciences By Elder Neal A. Maxwell, July 1976.

In 2014, Elder Christofferson taught:

A world without God, the living God who establishes moral laws to govern and perfect His children, is also a world without ultimate truth or justice. It is a world where moral relativism reigns supreme. Free Forever, to Act for Themselves by D. Todd Christofferson, October, 2014.

If you’ve ever puzzled over 2 Nephi 2:13 in the Book of Mormon, it should now be clear to you. It states:

And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

Satan’s false teachings are diabolical in their simplicity.

If there is no God, there is no right and wrong. If there is no right or wrong there is no sin. If there is no sin, we don’t need the Atonement. We don’t even need Jesus Christ or Heavenly Father.

But there is sin. Right and wrong exist. We need the Atonement. We need Jesus Christ. We need our Heavenly Father. We need to exercise our agency here on earth because this earth life does have a purpose.

Our belief in the moral absolutes of the gospel of Jesus Christ equips us for the journey through life by providing detailed maps, directions, landmarks, goals and a final destination with GPS precision. The destination is attainable and the journey can bring joy.

Moral relativists have no directions, no maps, no landmarks, no goals and no final destination. They attempt to drive into lakes, pedal through snow and swim through sand. They have no tools and no assistance. Whatever they think their destination is to be is unattainable and the journey is miserable.

Occasionally in my secular teaching, I was able to teach secular beliefs that coincided with gospel truths. I could tell that the spirit was testifying to my students that what I was teaching them was true, even in college where moral relativism reigns supreme and unchallenged. Their understanding was always more profound when this happened.

We must teach and defend the absolute truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ and live them! These absolute truths will help us progress through this life and achieve happiness.

#Relativism
#NoPrinciples
#WhoAmItoJudge
#Absolutism
#Moral
#Absolutes

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Donald Trump is Mentioned in the Book of Mormon

Downloaded October 25, 2016 from https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/statue-of-liberty-1304165?lang=eng
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
Accessed October 25, 2016
from the LDS Media Library.
The following passage comes from Ether 10:9-11 in the Book of Mormon:
9 And it came to pass after the space of many years, Morianton, (he being a descendant of Riplakish) gathered together an army of outcasts, and went forth and gave battle unto the people; and he gained power over many cities; and the war became exceedingly sore, and did last for the space of many years; and he did gain power over all the land, and did establish himself king over all the land.
10 And after that he had established himself king he did ease the burden of the people, by which he did gain favor in the eyes of the people, and they did anoint him to be their king.
11 And he did do justice unto the people, but not unto himself because of his many whoredoms; wherefore he was cut off from the presence of the Lord.
Sounds like Trump to me. I've seen and read numerous people stoutly saying Trump's personal life doesn't matter to them and it doesn't and shouldn't matter to anyone considering voting for him.

These scriptures infers that a leader corrupt in his or her personal life cannot compensate for being exemplary in his public life. We need leaders who are exemplary in both!

The only church leader who has ever cited or examined this particular passage is Neal A. Maxwell in his General Conference talk in 2001 entitled, The Seventh Commandment: A Shield:
Previously, society has often had helpful, though subtle, balancing and restraining mechanisms—including families, and churches, and schools—to checkrein excessive individual behavior. But too often some of these mechanisms are either missing, malfunctioning, or equivocating.
Moreover, the foregoing trends are further accelerated by the fashionable nonjudgmentalism which excuses whatever wrong individuals do—as long as they do anything else commendable. After all, didn’t Mussolini make the trains run on time? Violators of the seventh commandment may still make useful contributions, but they pay a hidden, personal cost (see Alma 28:13 Of King Morianton we read, “He did [deal justly with his] people, but not [with] himself because of his many whoredoms” Ether 10:11 Apparently a fair, no-respecter-of-persons leader, Morianton did not respect himself! His self-inflicted wounds were masked by the outward ornamentation of riches and buildings (see Ether 10:12)
So sobering is all of the foregoing that what follows needs to be said, and I do not hesitate to say it. The revelations tell us that commensurate with their own sins, unrepentant sinners must suffer even as [Jesus] did for ours, as they one day personally experience the full justice of God (see D&C 19:16–18) Additionally, however, those who in various ways persistently foster and intensify this often drug-drenched drama of immorality—whether as promoters, enablers, facilitators, or profiteers—will also then face and then feel all the misery they have caused countless others!
Finally, brothers and sisters, in certain times and circumstances, discipleship requires us to be willing to stand alone!
Donald Trump's many whoredoms are well known. The excuses I hear Mormon's make sound like nothing more that the "fashionable nonjudgmentalisms" that Maxwell condemns.

Embracing these excuses makes us, at the very least, enablers and facilitators.

In modern times, it has been the Democratic Party that has brushed aside concerns about the serial adulterers it puts forth as Presidential candidates. I was always dismayed at how they pooh-poohed it and downplayed it as a serious indicator of personal corruption.

Hillary Clinton would bring a team of political and personal corruption back to the White House. To me, this option is as nauseating as Trump.

Now, it is the Republican's turn. We are doing little better at it than they. I, for one, will stand alone if I have to.

I will not hold my nose and vote for Trump. I value liberty, and this country, too much to entrust it to a person like Trump.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness


Big Lies, Big Lies Can Start with a Little Yarn. May 1984.
Accessed October 10, 2016 from the LDS Media LIbrary.
Some people seem able to turn every life experience into a faith promoting story. This applies to ordinary mortals, as well as prolific newspaper columnists.

Writers, especially LDS writers and bloggers, seem to have a constant supply of inspiring experiences and they seem able to publish them on demand.


We all like to hear good stories. So, why am I complaining? I don't believe these story tellers are telling the complete, unvarnished truth. In other words, they are lying. In the Church, we called it false witness. It is just downright dishonesty.


Why did it take me so long to come to this conclusion? Well, I've been one of these writers and I nearly exhausted my repertoire with just 17 stories. Sure, I've got a few more but not nearly as many as I would need to match all these other writers and bloggers. Even my eventful life couldn't keep up with demand.


I don't believe the human experience can produce enough stories through just one person to justify what is attributed to them.


Lately, I had become attached to some columns and writers. They always seem to have a good story. After some good hard thought, I just can't believe them anymore.


We all like to tell good stories. We like looking clever and funny and especially inspirational at church. We like being popular.


Do we all have the self-discipline, mastery and moral sense to confine ourselves to the truth? History tells us this is unlikely. There are two prominent LDS examples:

  1. Paul H. Dunn
  2. Douglas Stringfellow
Paul H. Dunn, a General Authority, tried to justify his good stories. We don't know what penalties and loss of privileges he had to endure as a result, but we know they were imposed on him by the Church.

Douglas Stringfellow hails from the 1950s. You can find out more about him on page 40 of the Sunstone issue devoted to Dunn's unmasking.

These sorts of problems start out innocently enough. We all want to hear something uplifting, enlightening or entertaining. We all want to be uplifting, enlightening and entertaining.

However, it is almost like we get addicted to the adulation our stories produce. This results in an attempt to tighten up our stories, make them flow better and proceed seamlessly to the punchline, spiritual point or doctrinal concept we wish to emphasize.

We tell ourselves we are more effective in teaching the gospel. Maybe we are. However, most of it is about us. It makes us feel good. It makes us more popular. It may even make us more respected, at least in this life.

We tell ourselves there is no initial harm in the small embellishments, right? We're just tweaking the facts a little, right?

Soon, stories get wilder and more complex. We always end up looking clever in our stories; while others look like twits, silly or completely idiotic. Surely you've been the victim of these stories at some point in your life.

We may end up convincing ourselves that our stories are accurate and they really happened the way we claim. Exaggerations typically multiply. Ask yourself if you are really the author of that snappy comeback or brilliant retort.

This is a slippery slope. Once we tell a story we are stuck with it. It isn't possible to retract it without damage to ourselves. These stories will hurt both ourselves and others.

Heavenly Father is our ultimate fact checker. You will never put one over on Him, however much you fool people in this life.

Honesty is more important than stories. Being truthful is more important than being entertaining. Being factual is more important than being engaging.

During a rare visit to my own family, a relative remarked that they had heard so-and-so's version of the stories and now they got to hear my version.

My version? This thought was horrifying to me. Do they expect to hear embellished stories? Do they think no one can be truly honest?

Telling embellished stories can, and should, result in a loss of trust and a loss of respect.

So, the next time you are tempted to fracture the facts, recheck your moral compass and reattach yourself to the iron rod of truth. You are not under the pressure Scheherazade faced. We should be more concerned about our eternal life, not our mortal life.

Truth is hard enough to come by in this modern world. Don't clutter it up with your lies or more lies. Your version should be the honest one.

In the end, we all know where liars go.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Don't Let Creeping Change Creep Up On You, Especially in a New Calling!






Called to the Work,

Accessed August 15, 2016 from the LDS Media Library.

I've addressed creeping change before. It's a theme that needs to be revisited constantly. So, here it is again; but with a new twist.

Creeping change is change that comes incrementally, without people intending to make changes. It is insidious change; because people usually aren't aware of how much change has occurred or what the standards really should be.

Most people happily go along with the status quo, because it is what they are used to. You have to go back and revisit the basics before you continue with past practices or change them.

Getting a new calling gives you the ability to avoid creeping change by encouraging you to go back to the basics and essentials of what you should be doing.

Let's assume you have just received a new calling. What is the first thing to do?

Here are my guidelines:

1. Read up in Handbook 2 on the Computer or Other Digital Device!

Okay, why on the computer? Simple. Only the digital copy of the Handbook is accurate. There have been additions and changes. You need to know what they are. You cannot rely on the printed copy of the Handbook to be accurate.

You should read the following at the very least:


For example, you need to know the Church's new policies on social media. You will only find it online. Access 21.2.22 and look for the link to internet.lds.org for specific guidelines on using social media in your church callings.

Remember, President Monson said there is safety in the handbooks:

You may think you know how to handle situation, but in fact, you may be on the wrong track. There's safety in the handbooks.

2. Find Out What Your Calling Should Entail.

Go to LDS.org and look at the navigation items. Working from the left to the right, click on Serve and Teach. From the drop down menu, look at the middle column and go all the way to the bottom. Click on All Callings.

There are 20 different categories. Identify where your new calling resides on click on it. This isn't rocket science. If you will be working in the Primary, then click on Primary.

There will be links directing you to Handbook 2 guidance, as well as other guidelines. Make note of these emphases.

3. View Videos on the Leadership Library

If you are unfamiliar with the Leadership Training Library, you must access it promptly and review all its guidance that relates to your calling. Some is general guidance and some is specific to callings.

Examples of general guidance include the resources on the right under Leadership Principles:
Everybody needs this general guidance. Look at the top of the screen to find specific guidance, like Bishopric, Relief Society, Primary, etc. View all the listed videos.


4. Connect With the Person Most Recently Released From This Calling

This is such a no-brainer, I almost hesitate to mention. It seems so obvious, doesn't it? Not so.  Outside of the Mormon Corridor, this is not as common as it should be.

Whoever preceded you in the calling can give you valuable advice, help you avoid landmines and help you refrain from rediscovering the wheel.

5. Meet With Your Current Leaders And Get Their Guidance

This includes members of the Bishopric, Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders. Every calling has a chain of command. Make certain you've connected with yours before you start doing anything.

6. Teaching Calling? You've Got A Lot to Do!

The Church just rolled out a bundle of new teaching resources. If you are a teacher anywhere in the Church, you've got a lot to do. Access the new teaching resources at teaching.lds.org and get to work!

Keep going back to these resources, especially 1, 2 and 3. They will help you from getting off track. If you are already on track, they will help you stay on it.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Stop Trying to Apply Secular Tools to Spiritual Things

A young woman writing a note on paper.
Accessed August 5, 2016 from the LDS Media Library.
We occasionally hear of well-intentioned efforts by individual Mormons and LDS leaders to address some particular problem in the Church.

Consider this recent example of a, "Goal Planning and Personal Performance Contract" supposedly issued by an Arizona stake.

Contracts of any sort are generally a secular legal tool used to enforce some sort of secular agreement. Contracts can be litigated in court, if necessary, to ensure all parties abide by the contents or punish them if they do not.

There is no spiritual supreme court wherein to enforce spiritual contracts so what use are they in a spiritual setting? To me it seems like a misguided attempt to use a reasonably popular secular tool to address a spiritual problem before the spiritual problem has been correctly identified.

I suspect there are multiple reasons for returned missionaries struggling, going inactive or leaving the church entirely. I think this is best diagnosed by considering the individual in question and attempting to understand what is going on with him or her.

What is more, you only need a paper relationship where there is no trust. Consider that all the covenants/ordinances we receive or perform do not involve a written contract with Heavenly Father. Records are kept of these covenants/ordinances, but these records are not structured like secular contracts.

Another variation on this idea is parenting contracts or behavior contracts. This is a thinly disguised attempt to manage families like we do our businesses. If you, as a parent, try to utilize them, don't be surprised if your children start exploiting legalistic loopholes in the language.

For example, a mother told her daughter she must be home by 1 a.m. The daughter came home at 2 a.m. justifying herself with the rationale that it was daylight savings time and clocks were moved back one hour. Therefore, she was on time. What could the mother say?

One also wonders why the creators of this R.M. contract didn't pay more attention to what the Church provides. In July, 2015, the Church notified us all that a new tool called, "My Plan" would soon be rolled out and available on the missionary portal.

Announced by the First Presidency, the tool is intended "to help returning missionaries use their mission experiences to plan for continued, lifelong discipleship." This collection of eight interactive lessons seems intended to address what the Arizona contract is trying to address.

All of this is actually symptomatic of a general problem infecting the Church: Ignorance or laxness in exploring church instruction and tools that already address the issue we are dealing with.

However, I feel like a broken record on this topic. The most obvious example is one I've written on extensively -- the LDS.org tools the Church provides for wards and stakes. In fact, people spend more time trying to duplicate or get around these tools than it would take to master them. The Church has made them straightforward and intuitive but simple instruction does exist.

I think Satan enjoys when members and leaders continue going around in unproductive circles.