I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Radio Host Delilah and the Controversy Over her Kid's School

Radio host Delilah has removed her children from attending Crosspoint Academy. I'll try and quote her reasons from the article:

“I would like to say that I am merely ‘deeply concerned’ about a recent addition to the school’s teaching philosophy, but instead, I am forced to admit I am actually HORRIFIED by the recent addition of a book by Mormon author Steven (sic) Covey,” she wrote in a Nov. 24 open letter to Crosspoint parents.

“He intends to indoctrinate the world with his theology by wiring it in a way that people can accept,” she said.

If the article can be relied on to be accurate, Delilah is reacting to the fact that Covey wrote the materials that are going to be used as materials in her children's school. She does not attack anything in the materials as being inconsistent with Christian faith. In fact, there are not any quotes detailing what she finds as objectionable. It seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to Covey himself and his religion rather than the materials. She appears to assume that because Covey wrote them they are "Mormon" beliefs and not "Christian" beliefs as if the two beliefs systems are separate and inconsistent. I do not believe they are.

If this assumption on my part is accurate then I think Delilah is prejudiced in the worst sense. If I were a parent, I would examine the beliefs that were being taught rather than the person that wrote them. I have embraced many ideas from members of other faiths such as the late Richard John Neuhaus. From what I have learned, Neuhas did not like Mormons, but some Mormon leaders such as M. Russell Ballard, Dallin H. Oaks and Alexander B. Morrison have quoted from Neuhaus' ideas.

A few clues in the article suggest Delilah's concerns go further than Covey.

Delilah said smaller issues have led her to believe Crosspoint is trying to rebrand itself to attract families familiar and comfortable with Covey, but not perhaps with Christianity. A plaque with the Ten Commandments was recently moved from a prominent spot in the school’s main hallway to a not-so-prominent classroom. A “Seven Habits” poster advocating meditation was put up at Crosspoint, with a Bible verse taped to it “as if to make Eastern religion acceptable to the Christian,” Delilah wrote in her Nov. 24 letter.

“They even changed the school’s name to take the Lord’s name out,” she said.

Delilah seems to assume that Covey's ideas are inconsistent with Christianity but does not go into any details. I have to wonder if she would have reacted to the ideas and materials if she read them without knowing who the author was. Again, I find this to be bigotry.

Monday, December 14, 2009

NDE's (Near Death Experiences) and the Church

A December 9, 2009 article in the Christian Science Monitor by Dinesh D'Souza caught my eye. Entitled "Life after death: What does the evidence show? D'Souza reflects on these experiences. I heard Mr. D'Souza speak once at Virginia Tech when I was a Ph.D. student. He seems to have wide interests. He's written on a number of different topics. In this article, he states the following:

"Atheists who deny both God and an afterlife may be vastly outnumbered, but they think they occupy the intellectual high ground on this question. That's because religious believers typically affirm the afterlife on the basis of faith, while atheists regard themselves as denying it on the basis of science and reason."
I have followed some of the writings on people who have technically died and then returned to life with extraordinary descriptions of what they have experienced. I've read some of Raymond Moody's work, Return From Tomorrow by George Richie, as well as Mormon collections of these experiences including Life Everlasting by Duane Crowther.

As I was going through these materials I naturally evaluated them by my secular self as well as my religious self. One story really stands out in my mind as significant proof. I don't remember which item it was in but I think it was one of Moody's books. The person who related the N.D.E. was a patient that had died in the hospital while being worked on by a doctor. After being revived, the person not only related experiencing an afterlife but could also relate what was said in the operating room by medical personnel, what happened in the emergency room, described the contents of the room, as well as the concerns by the doctor about an non-hospital situation where he had lent a hand. This incident had occurred earlier in the day, I think, while the doctor was commuting to work. He was concerned that he may be sued for it because of some legal loop holes in liability law (Good Samaritan Laws generally fix these problems). Besides relating everything going on around her body in the hospital and experiencing the afterlife, the author pointed out that the patient had read the doctor's mind.

N.D.E.'s are consistent with what little we know of the afterlife from church leaders and modern revelations to prophets.

Exposure to Luxury Can Affect Us

One of my listserv's produced a link to a working paper posted on a Harvard Business School site: The Devil Wears Prada? Effects of Exposure to Luxury Goods on Cognition and Decision Making. You can find it at this address: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6317.html

"Although the concept of luxury has been widely discussed in social theories and marketing research, relatively little research has directly examined the psychological consequences of exposure to luxury goods. This paper demonstrates that exposure to luxury goods increases individuals' propensity to prioritize self-interests over others' interests, influencing the decisions they make."

I don't think people like to talk about subjects like this. Most of us don't want to admit that our coveting may actually affect our thinking and behavior towards others, but research suggests that it does just that.

Our coveting probably affects others as much as it does ourselves and not in good ways.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Should Romney's faith be an obstacle?

Today, there is an article entitled, "Should Romney's faith be an obstacle?" It is written by David Frum and is a special to CNN. I especially like the last paragraph.

"Mormon America has provided leadership and support for conservative politics out of all proportion to its numbers. If there's a test for conservative identity that excludes Mormons, it's not a good test. And if conservatism has shrunk too small to contain conservative Mormons, it is not only Mormons who will search for something bigger."
There are real and actual differences between Mormons and Evangelicals in theology. However, it makes no sense for us to be political enemies when we are natural allies. We want what they want. We should be able to work together for desired political ends.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Child Abuse Accusations Against the L.D.S. (Mormon) Church

Many news headlines regarding my Church recently have been focused on a lawsuit filed by individuals claiming the Church mishandled cases of child abuse as well as a story coming out of Missouri alleging extreme sexual abuse centered in a family. I know that the likelihood of legal cases like this being successful is small. The mere filing of these charges generate publicity, but publicity is rare when these cases are found to be without merit. And, many of these cases are without merit and get dismissed. I know this because I know what my Church does to prevent and handle child abuse allegations and I carefully follow the news. I'm going to quote liberally from a Church statement on the Newsroom. The quotes all come from this site.

Child abuse is considered a pernicious evil.
Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, publicly denounced child abuse as a terrible evil. In the early 1980s, he captured our thoughts and feelings when he said in a worldwide conference broadcast: "I am glad that there is a growing public awareness of this insidious evil. The exploitation of children . . . for the satisfaction of sadistic desires is sin of the darkest hue."
The Church actively seeks to address the child abuse problem and train the lay clergy.
The Church has also developed extensive training materials and videotapes. These materials are used to train Church leaders on how to identify and respond to such abuse. A 24-hour Help Line staffed with professional counselors provides customized advice so local leaders can take appropriate action in each case.
Helping the victim is the first priority.
Helping the victim is of first concern. It is the very nature of Christians to reach out with compassion and love to those who are struggling with the agonies of abuse. It is integral to our ministry. Within the Church, victims can find spiritual guidance that eventually leads to healing through faith in Jesus Christ. Abuse victims are also offered professional counseling so they can benefit from the best of secular expertise, regardless of their ability to pay.
A Help Line for clergy is available 24/7, 365 days a year.
. . . a Help Line was established in 1995 to provide bishops with immediate access to professional counselors to guide them in protecting abuse victims. Bishops are good people, but it is impossible for them to understand all the complexities of child abuse, including the different legal requirements of different states. What they can do is call the Help Line phone number immediately when a child is in danger. With just one phone call, they can receive guidance from seasoned professionals.
Child abusers are denied access to children and youth.
Can child abusers who have paid the legal price for their crimes and gone through a rigorous repentance process with local Church leaders become members of the Church again? Yes. As Christians, we believe in forgiveness. But can they ever again, in their lifetime, serve in any capacity that would put them in direct contact with children? Absolutely not. Forgiveness does not remove the consequences of sin. Protection of the family is a first principle of the Church.
Church membership records of child abusers are "tagged."
Since 1995 the Church has placed a confidential annotation on the membership record of members who previously abused children. These records follow them to any congregation where they move, thereby alerting bishops not to place them in situations with children. As far as we know, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the first religious institution to create such a tracking mechanism. We hold the family sacred and protect its children. This explains why the Church is one of the few denominations that imposes formal ecclesiastical discipline on mere members (as opposed to official clergy) for sexually abusive conduct.
The Church voluntarily tracks its members.
Our Church applies this tracking system because of our core beliefs. No court in the United States has held a religious institution responsible for failing to protect its members from abuse by other members. To do so would turn religious institutions into police instruments, its leadership into law enforcement officers. The Church voluntarily tracks its membership, not because of the law or fear of lawsuits, but out of its own concern for families and children.
The tracking is rarely removed and must be done by the First Presidency.
From the Church's Handbook of Instructions: 'The Church's position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse . . . are subject to Church discipline. They should not be given Church callings and may not have a temple recommend. Even if a person who abused a child sexually or physically receives Church discipline and is later restored to full fellowship or readmitted by baptism, leaders should not call the person to any position working with children or youth unless the First Presidency authorizes removal of the annotation of the person's membership record."
Most lawsuits concern abuse perpetrated years ago.
Many hundreds of child abuse cases are filed every year against churches in the United States. While even one case is too many, relatively few are filed against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — far below what one would expect based on its more than five million U.S. members. One of the reasons for this is the Church's aggressive effort to address the problem over the past 20 years. Most cases brought today involve abuse that allegedly occurred well before the Church implemented its present policies and training programs.
Lawsuits rarely accuse actual church leaders.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is almost never sued for abuse perpetrated by its bishops. Instead, cases brought against the Church typically involve one member who has abused another. Often, the alleged abuse did not even occur on Church property or in connection with any Church activity.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recent Support of Non-Discriminating Legislation

Well, the Church's recent statement and support of a Salt Lake City ordinance is heating up the airwaves.

I suspect that everyone will try and put his or her own spin on the statement. To me, it looks like the Church is simply underscoring its prior statement after Proposition 8 passed in California.

I believe this all goes back to my points on the institution of marriage and the legal, contractual rights that generally accompany it. Not losing your job or your home because of your sexual orientation does not overtly have anything to do with marriage. These rights are important to single people. The ordinance does not endanger marriage so the Church simply underscored its statement that it "does not object" to these type of rights.

Well, some of our traditional conservative allies may take issue and it may give false hope to homosexuals concerning what the Church may do in the future, but I see no contradiction.

I like Otterson's remarks and they are instructive to all:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Saints March In!

The link and story below is the U. S. Army's version of the Mormon Battalion. I'm glad to say that it squares with the Church's version.

Saints March In!

The story includes two pictures. Both pictures are of officers that commanded the Battalion after it was organized by Colonel Allen. Colonel Allen died sadly and abruptly after the Battalion was created.

The Church has a marvelous video history of the Battalion. It is entitled "A Legacy More Precious than Gold." It is available in videocassette in Spanish and English. It can be purchased on DVD as part of a three DVD set of Church History. The video runs 24 minutes, 16 seconds.

Seeing "A Legacy More Precious than Gold" gives you a perspective for how so many things are connected in achieving higher goals. For example, the Army's pay and equipment to the soldiers helped fund their own trek to Utah as well as that of their families. After being discharged, the men were able to earn more money and supplies to take to Utah from California. They cut roads into the wilderness that numerous travelers used after them. There are so many other examples.

Looking at all these events individually gives you a sense of the extreme hardship and sacrifice these people made. But taking a magnifying glass to any of the details simply makes you think of one word -- hardship. By looking at the whole, you get an idea of how all these "hardships" taken together played such a big role in all the benefits that happened later. All these events were of enormous benefit to both Mormons and others. Roads were forged, cities were built. Much of the later prosperity of the Mormons and communities in California is undergirded by these events.

Reflecting on this has made me look at my own life. I think I appreciate a bit more how my multitudinous many hardships under gird my own achievement. I recall a comment from an article I read years ago concerning a girl who became a paraplegic. She said, "Yes, I do wish I could walk again and this had not happened to me, but not if it would mean giving up everything I have learned from being this way."

I feel similarly.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pew Forum: A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.

The Pew Forum did an extensive study of Mormons and published it on its site July 24, 2009, a rather significant day for Mormons I might add. It celebrates the day Mormons first entered what later became Utah in 1847.

Back to the Pew Forum study.

There are a few questions badly worded that skew the results -- such as the ones on eternal life -- but much of the study tells many of us what we already know, but what many don't know about us.

For example:

"Looking at religion's importance through the lens of education level, patterns among Mormons are the reverse of what is seen among the general population. . . Mormons with more formal education are more religiously committed, whereas in the general population the opposite is true."

With extensive formal education, I wondered why my fellow students seemed to think that all my good sense, intellectual skills and educational training had NOT been applied to my religion. I was perfectly capable of analyzing it as well as non-religious concepts. For some reason, they seemed to think that I didn't exert my skills in this area.

Now, there is substantial evidence that supports the fact that educated Mormons are more committed Mormons -- the only religion where this holds true. Some other conclusions are also suggested by these findings but they are not very complimentary to other religions or other educated people.

I'll watch with interest as Non-Mormon commentators, pundits and agitators try to reconcile these seemingly contradictory findings.

Leave but Can't Leave it Alone?

Today's New York Times had the following article:

All I Wanted Was a Hug

It is authored by Holly Welker who was formerly a Mormon. It describes her now as a writer who lives in Salt Lake City.

I find it puzzling for a couple of reasons. It is not overtly antagonistic. It does not place her firmly in the environs of former Mormons who "leave it but can't leave it alone" although it hints at just that.

Along with everyone else she knows the restrictions on any sort of intimacy when serving a mission. This is something everyone knows about and accepts ahead of time.

She finally reveals that she has left the church.

"If you leave, of course, it’s another matter entirely — you’re nothing, you’re no one, you’re on your own — as I would ultimately discover. But at the time, it provided comfort, such as it was."

Yes, you are on your own if you leave the Church. It is difficult to cope when left to your own strength, intelligence and skills. I don't think I would want to face the trials of life without the spiritual assistance available regular Church attendance and membership affords.

Welker claims she could not reconcile religion and art. She does not elaborate. But, it begs for elaboration. I see no conflict. Numerous artists in the Church apparently see no conflict.

If she is out of the Church and glad she's out of the Church why is she writing a memoir of her mission? Maybe she is one who "can't leave it alone."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Missionaries Rescue Samoan Children from Tsunami

This is a wonderful story about how two missionaries were able to save themselves and three small children from the tsunami that hit Samoa, with help from Heavenly Father of course:

FYI: Samoa and American Samoa are two separate entities. Samoa used to be called "Western Samoa" and is an independent country. American Samoa is a territory of the United States of America.

I don't believe it . . .

The precise day I decide to try and clarify the confusion in people's minds about who is and is not Mormon, the Church addresses this in it's own blog. See for yourself:

Misunderstanding over what is "Mormon."

"Mormon" was initially a label coined by our enemies as a pejorative term. It was hate speech. Now it seems to be more an identifying label with a more neutral connotation.

The Associated Press Stylebook notes: “The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other ... churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith’s death.”

Journalists don't always follow their own rules and that is usually where the confusion comes from.

To be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to have an actual membership record. It is NOT a vague feeling of identification or affiliation. You either have a membership record or you don't. You either are a member or you are not. There is no gray area.

Real Mormons are those who have an actual membership record with the Church. If your membership is cancelled either by yourself or the Church then you cease to be a Mormon.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Glenn Beck? What do I think of him . . .

As a 7th generation Mormon, conservative Republican with a Ph.D. in government, I would hope my opinion counts for something.

I had neutral feelings about Glenn Beck until it came out that he is a W. Cleon Skousen fan. Skousen was poised to sink into the obscurity he so richly deserves when Beck resurrected him by plugging one of Skousen's books.

I have read Skousen and we had some of his books at home when I was growing up. I have looked into his ideas and I can honestly say that I have never found a shred of evidence that supports them. In fact, the opposite is true.

What little interest or respect I had for Beck was obliterated when I discovered he is a Skousen fan. I do not think Beck will remain a Mormon if he continues as such. This is just a hunch. I do not think I would have remained in the church myself if I had not turned away from Skousen.

There is a simple way to discredit Skousen, all you have to do is look up his quotes and references. Doing this will convince you that his ideas have little or no basis in fact and that he twists facts to fit his ideas.

I have only heard Beck occasionally myself and have read a handful of articles and seen a few news snippets of him. Without Skousen I thought he was vaguely amusing and relatively harmless. Obviously that has changed.