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.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

That Promised Day

"Are You Honest in Your Dealings With Your Fellow Men?"

A recent fire begun accidentally by National Guardsman at Camp Williams in Utah ranged out of control and burned some homes in Herriman as well as scorched some lands. Reputedly the Herriman Rose Canyon Stake leaders wrote an emailed letter on Sunday, September 26 cautioning members not to file fraudulent claims and suggested they had discovered such reports coming from Church members. This is reported by The Salt Lake Tribune and echoed in KSL the Church's television station.
A letter from three Herriman Rose Canyon Stake leaders dated Sunday and addressed to members says, “a few members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are sullying their own good name and the name of the church by such dishonest actions.”
“We are saddened by several reports coming to us of some of our members taking advantage of the willingness of the Utah National Guard to reimburse cleanup or damage expenses ... ,” the e-mailed letter begins. “It is reported that some members are filing fraudulent claims by exaggerating the amount of damage, cleaning expenses or expenses incurred while living away from home.
But the letter also tells members: “Remember the next time you sit with a member of your bishopric or stake presidency in an interview for renewal of your temple recommend, you will want to be able to sincerely answer the question, ‘Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow men?’”
The article suggests that some people are rationalizing their dishonesty:
“Others have expressed the opinion that, ‘I deserve as much as I can get, because they caused all this!’
No one needs me to argue against such obviously dishonest actions. I'll merely borrow a quote from Heber J. Grant:
God pity the men whose consciences have become so elastic.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The PEW Study on Religious Knowledge (09/28/10): Only the Mormon Results

The PEW study is all over the news today and everyone seems to be giving the results their own spin. However, I decided to go back to the source and evaluate the PEW study myself. I've extracted all the Mormon results and they are below. I only extract enough information to determine the Mormon results and avoid including the comparisons unless I need them to complete a thought or others results are higher. The term, "Mormon" is in bold. I quote extensively from the actual results.

From the Executive Summary:
Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.
Most of the news analysis I've read covers this basic point. However, the details are more interesting to me.

Mormons bested Evangelicals just slightly on Bible knowledge:
On questions about Christianity – including a battery of questions about the Bible – Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge.
Sadly, I doubt Evangelicals will ever cease claiming we don't believe in the Bible or its teachings, but they certainly cannot claim that we don't KNOW it or its teachings.
On the full battery of seven questions about the Bible (five Old Testament and two New Testament items) Mormons do best,
Religious knowledge cannot be wholly explained by educational attainment. The PEW study points out that Mormon knowledge of the Bible is high regardless of education.
However, even after controlling for levels of education and other key demographic traits (race, age, gender and region), significant differences in religious knowledge persist among adherents of various faith traditions. Atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons still have the highest levels of religious knowledge,
Under other findings in the study:
Around four-in-ten Americans know that the Mormon religion was founded sometime after 1800 (44%) and that the Book of Mormon tells the story of Jesus appearing to people in the Americas (40%). About half (51%) correctly identify Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a Mormon.
Mormons often read about their religion in books and online. This finding won't surprise Mormons since we have extensive Church-exclusive materials and expansive web sites.
Mormons, black Protestants and white evangelicals are the most frequent readers of materials about religion. Fully half of all Mormons (51%) . . . report that they read books or go online to learn about their own religion at least once a week. 
From Section 2 of the study entitled "Who Knows What About Religion" we learn the following:
Mormons outperform Jews as well as atheists and agnostics on questions about the Bible but do not perform as well as the other two groups on questions having to do with world religions such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. 
Mormons answer almost six of the seven Bible questions correctly on average.
From the survey results:
Nearly two-thirds of the public (63%) correctly name Genesis as the first book of the Bible when asked this question in an open-ended (not multiple-choice) format. More than eight-in-ten white evangelicals (85%), Mormons (85%)
A slim majority of the public (55%) correctly says that the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is not one of the Ten Commandments. More than eight-in-ten Mormons (81%) answer this question correctly, 
Of the three Old Testament figures asked about in the survey, Americans are most familiar with Moses. Overall, more than seven-in-ten Americans (72%) know he was the biblical figure who led the exodus out of Egypt; 92% of Mormons and about as many Jews and atheists/agnostics answer this question correctly. 
Slightly less than half of those polled (45%) can name all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). An additional 6% correctly name between one and three of the Gospels in this open-ended (not multiple-choice) question. Mormons and white evangelical Protestants do best (73% and 71%, respectively, correctly name all four Gospels).
Overall, Mormons score best on these items, answering an average of 5.7 of the seven Bible questions correctly. 
Fewer than one-in-five people (16%) correctly identify Protestantism as the faith that traditionally teaches that salvation comes through faith alone. Most people get this question wrong: 9% say this teaching is traditionally associated with Catholicism, 38% say it is traditionally associated with both Protestantism and Catholicism, 10% say it is not normally associated with either faith and more than a quarter (27%) say they do not know the answer. White evangelicals (28% correct), Mormons (22%) and atheists/agnostics (22%) perform better than other groups on this question. However, even among these groups, many more people get the answer wrong than get it right.
Just 46% of those polled correctly identify Martin Luther (1483-1546) as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant reformation. Familiarity with Martin Luther is highest among Jews (70%), atheists/agnostics (68%) and Mormons (61%). 
Combining these five items on elements of Christianity with the seven questions about the Bible into a single scale makes it possible to compare religious groups’ overall knowledge of Christianity. Mormons score best on this scale, getting an average of 7.9 of the 12 questions about Christianity right. 
In addition to the five items about the Old Testament, the survey included two other questions about elements of Judaism – the Sabbath and the identity of Maimonides. Overall, 45% of those polled correctly identify Friday as the day on which the Jewish Sabbath begins. Three-in-ten say the Jewish Sabbath begins on Saturday, which actually is the day it ends, while 7% select Sunday, and the rest say they do not know when the Jewish Sabbath begins. Among Jews, 94% get this question right. Most atheists/ agnostics (56%) and Mormons (55%) in the survey also answer this question correctly, 
Jews on average correctly answer five of the seven questions pertaining to Judaism (the five Old Testament questions discussed previously and the two questions discussed here). Mormons also do well on these questions (4.8 correct on average), though many more Jews than Mormons get all seven questions right (29% among Jews, 6% among Mormons).
In total, Jews and atheists/agnostics do far better on these questions about elements of world religions than do members of any other group. On average, Jews answer 7.9 of these 11 questions correctly, while atheists and agnostics answer 7.5 correctly. Mormons also score better than the public overall, getting 5.6 questions right, 
Roughly nine-in-ten Mormons (92%), Jews (91%), white mainline Protestants and white Catholics (88% each) also know what the term “atheist” means. 
Fewer people know the definition of an agnostic than the definition of an atheist. Overall, 62% correctly say that an agnostic is someone who is unsure whether God exists; 12% incorrectly say an agnostic is someone who does not believe in God, 5% say an agnostic is someone who does believe in God and 22% volunteer that they do not know the answer. Among atheists and agnostics, 86% get this question right, as do roughly three-in-four Jews (76%) and Mormons (73%).
Atheists/agnostics and Jews perform better than other groups on questions related to the role of religion in public life. On average, atheists and agnostics get 2.8 of these four questions right, and Jews get 2.7 right. Mormons and white evangelicals average 2.3 correct answers 
Atheists/agnostics (7.2 out of nine correct on average) and Jews (7.1) perform best on these general [religious] knowledge items. Mormons answer six of these questions correctly on average.
The Quiz

The PEW site includes fifteen questions from the the quiz the results were based on. The entire quiz includes 32 questions. You can complete the quiz and compare your results with the survey's results. I'll admit I got 14 out of 15 questions correct -- better than 97 percent of the quiz respondents.

The following questions include the option, "Mormon". 
Was Mother Teresa Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or Mormon?
Which religion aims at nirvana, the state of being free from suffering? Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam?
Is the Dalai Lama Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic or Mormon?
 Elements of Mormonism (3 questions)
When was the Mormon religion founded? After 1800, between 1200 and 1800, or before 1200 A.D.? 
The Book of Mormon tells of Jesus appearing to people in what area? The Americas, Middle East or Asia?
Was Joseph Smith Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu?
So, what do others know about Mormons based on these three questions? The full results are below:
The survey included three questions about Mormonism. Overall, 51% of Americans identify Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter-day Saints, as a Mormon, and 44% know that Mormonism was founded after 1800. Four-in-ten know that according to the Book of Mormon, Jesus appeared to followers in the Americas.
Mormons clearly know more about their own faith than others do about Mormonism. On average, Mormons get 2.7 of the three questions right, with eight-in-ten Mormons (81%) answering all three questions correctly. Atheists/agnostics (2.1) and Jews (1.9) each get an average of roughly two of these questions right, with members of other religious groups exhibiting significantly lower levels of knowledge about Mormonism.
Section 3 of the study is entitled, "Factors Linked With Religious Knowledge." The Mormon results are below:
Religious affiliation also remains a good predictor of religious knowledge in these models. Even after education, race and other factors are taken into account, atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other religious groups on this survey. Atheists and agnostics get an additional 2.9 questions correct compared with the national average, Jews do 2.3 questions better than average and Mormons get 1.9 more questions right over the national average. Atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons are followed by evangelicals, who do 0.9 questions better compared with the national average. 
The above section evaluates data grouped in categories other than religion. So, the Mormon specific data is sketchy although inferences about Mormons can be drawn. I chose to limit this blog to Mormon-specific references.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why All This About Polygamy?

I'm suspicious. There is an HBO Drama entitled "Big Love" and now a reality show on TLC entitled "Sister Wives." Why all this interest in polygamy?

Frankly, I don't think it is benign. Ever since the whole same-sex marriage movement got started I realized that the arguments used to advance it could also be used to advance polygamy as well.

I wondered if the ACLU had thought of this also. It obviously has because I found an article back in 1998 where it declared itself in support polygamy.

But, I didn't think there would be a slippery slope where polygamy could ride in on the same-sex marriage movement. There simply wasn't broad support for polygamy when it was evident that broad support for same-sex marriage was building. Now, I'm not too sure.

So, why all this entertainment fare? I think there are ulterior motives to all this. I do not think it is happening by chance or without intent.

People ask me if the Church would practice polygamy again if it were legal. The answer is no. Currently, the Church is in countries where polygamy is legal. Church members are not allowed to practice it. No formal ecclesiastical authority currently exists to sanction polygamous unions in the Church.

In an effort to keep things from getting convoluted again, I'm printing my original piece on "Big Love" in this blog:

My View on HBO's Series "Big Love"

With additional thoughts and information on polygamy and Mormons (L.D.S.)

It is clear from reliable news sources that HBO will present an episode of Big Love where a temple ceremony is portrayed.

HBO Series Inaccurate and Misleading

Since faithful Mormons promise not to disclose details about the temple ceremonies, HBO's presentation could only be based on information from those who have broken this promise. By definition, these sources are undoubtedly untrustworthy and unethical. This alone should make them suspect.

Those of us who are temple going Mormons will neither supply, nor correct, the information HBO presents. HBO MUST rely on ex-Mormons, apostates and the disgruntled for its information -- these are not reliable information sources in my opinion.

There is no way anyone who practices polygamy would be temple worthy or even allowed to retain membership in the L.D.S. (Mormon) Church.

The “authority” to marry a man to one wife is not the same as the “authority” to marry a man to more than one wife. No Mormon since the 1890 change has had the authority to marry any man to more than one woman. So, in the Mormon view, none of these so-called polygamist marriages are valid, religiously or legally. None of these “polygamists” are Mormons.

Membership in the L.D.S. Church is not a vague identification or feeling of alliance; it is an actual membership record. You either have a membership record or you do not. You either are a Mormon or you are not. There is no gray area. If you try to practice polygamy your membership is canceled and you are kicked out of the Church (excommunicated).

Polygamists are not Mormons period. Since their marriages are neither valid nor legal, real Mormons consider the polygamist lifestyle not only illegal but immoral as well. No one doing something illegal and immoral would be allowed inside a temple or allowed to retain Mormon membership.

The whole "Big Love" story line is completely implausible.

Polygamy in the Early L.D.S. (Mormon) Church

In the very early days of the Church, polygamy was not something you chose to practice. You had to be allowed to practice it and the marriage had to be done by proper Church authority. There was only a small contingent of top level Mormons that were allowed, of which my ancestor, Thomas Bullock, was one. He had three wives. I descend from his first wife. My sister had a roommate in college who descended from his second wife.

Why any surprise? With multiple wives and children you have to assume that modern posterity is running around somewhere. I am it!

Polygamy was, and is, repugnant to most Americans. In truth, Mormons were not wild about it either. Most considered it a "test" of their faith and many strongly resisted the principle, before finally embracing it. It is not any easier for their modern counterparts to accept the existence of this early, but abandoned, practice.

In trying to gauge how prevalent polygamy was in the early days of my Church, you have to know whether the participants were allowed to practice polygamy, whether the marriage actually took place and if the person performing the marriage actually had the "authority" to perform a polygamist marriage.

Only the Church would have this information. For these reasons, the Church is the only entity that has reliable information on this issue. You have to go with their numbers. Outside estimates are not possible.

It is nearly impossible to determine if the marriages even existed, let alone how they functioned on a day-to-day basis. There is almost no historical information and what we have is often completely contradictory.

No "Authority" Exists to Conduct "Polygamous" Marriages

From what I can determine, most of the current polygamist groups in existence today claim that the "authority" to conduct polygamist marriages was secretly given to an early leader and this "authority" has been passed down to a current generation of polygamists.

Any "authority" to do anything in the L.D.S. (Mormon) Church is NEVER given secretly. It is ALWAYS issued through open public channels or it is not valid. So, if these polygamists' so-called "authority" to conduct polygamist marriages was given to them secretly, it is not valid because it must be conveyed through open and proper channels.

Authority is either properly conveyed or it is not valid. So, polygamists’ claim to "authority" cannot possibly be valid. Once again, Mormons can only conclude that these polygamists are engaged in immoral behavior.

Polygamist Groups Are Small and Obscure

I was born, raised and educated in Utah and I am a 7th generation Utah Mormon. Do you want to know how many polygamists I have personally known in my lifetime? (drum roll) ONE! I am only certain because a mother revealed that her daughter was a polygamist. I have to rely on the news media for any other exposure. They shine a magnifying glass on a handful of isolated, obscure polygamist groups and give the illusion that it is common.

The news media inaccurately calls these polygamists Mormons or fundamentalist Mormons or something similar. “The Associated Press Stylebook states, “The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other Latter Day Saints churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith’s death.” This is a rule the news media has adopted for itself. When current news operations claim these polygamists are Mormons, then they are not following their own rules. This is very sloppy journalism.

True Mormons do not call polygamists "Mormons." To the best of my knowledge, the polygamists do not refer to themselves as Mormons. The news media is the actual origin of this inaccurate labeling.

Temple Ceremonies are "Sacred" not "Secret"
Robert Kirby, a Mormon humorist who writes for the Salt Lake Tribune, recently pointed out something in his column. He said that the news media keeps harping on the ridiculous notion that our temple activities are "secret" and/or "secretive."

Well, given the sheer volume of information on temples and temple ceremonies freely available from official sources -- especially the Church's official web site http://www.lds.org -- as well as the astonishing numbers (hundreds of thousands to literally millions) of Non-Mormons who tour temples before they are closed and dedicated for use, HOW ON EARTH CAN THE NEWS MEDIA CONTINUE TO USE THE WORD "SECRET" or any of its possible derivations like "SECRETIVE"? This is nonsense.

With the numbers of Mormons themselves that attend the temples how could much of anything secret take place in temples at all? I have read all sorts of bizarre accounts of temple activities that claim that all sorts of disgusting, sexually explicit, revolting practices occur inside the temples. I know these accounts are false because I attend temples and know what goes on there.

Furthermore, very few of the temples even require appointments if any at all. Small temples have, or do, because they need to be sure they have enough staff on hand to conduct the ceremonies. This is not a concern in larger temples. So, Mormons just drop in on the temples whenever they happen to be open. How could these sordid accounts of temple activities tack place in this sort of environment unbeknownst to most Mormons or regular people? Logical, reasonable people would conclude that they cannot.

Do you need more proof? Position yourself to view the entrance/exits of any temple anywhere in the world. Take note of the abnormally high concentration of elderly people entering and exiting the temple. Do you really think that is what all those old people are doing? I think not.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quotes From My Reading: Sunday, September 26, 2010

Below are a handful of great quotes from articles I've read recently. Enjoy.

On a Mormon running for President of the United States from Newsweek:
“I don’t believe conservative Christians will vote for a Mormon, but that remains to be seen,” James Dobson
They will Mr. Dobson, and many of them live in Utah and are lifetime Mormons. ;)

On the Church's new public relations campaign "I Am a Mormon":
You get the idea. These are normal, nice folks like you, who just happen to have a religion that most Americans don't understand . . . . 
The church has even created a web site where the curious can go to chat online with real Mormons.
Now that's 21st-century religion. [City Pages -- Minneapolis/St. Paul]
My first impression is that they're incredibly slick," says Ann Pellegrini, associate professor of religious studies and performance studies and New York University. . . . .
Pellegrini says ads like these are "confronting a particular moment of fear of religious otherness…. These are the coming out of the religious closet as opposed to the sexual closet." [Fox News]
On illegal immigrants and the immigration controversy[All from Salt Lake Tribune]
They break one law to obey what they perceive as a higher calling. . . .“I doubt that anyone ever says, ‘I am not violating the law.’ ” Garcia says. “Only that there is a greater purpose of being here.” . . . .  And how significant, in the end, is a violating [sic] a border?
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank . . . has noted that illegal immigration, by itself, is a “civil violation” of federal law.
That’s significant, according to state Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City. He says violating a civil code is considerably different than breaking a moral one such as robbery or murder. The penalties, he says, should reflect those differences.
“We should seek to obey the speed limit,” McAdams says. “But that doesn’t mean that I should seek capital punishment for those who don’t obey the speed limit.” 
The Salt Lake Tribune article entitled, "Doctrinal divide confronts Mormons on immigration" by Jeremiah Stettler was published September 24, 2010. It is a thought provoking article.

On Mormon history:
The fact is, the information-saturated world in which we live simply doesn't afford the luxury of willful ignorance. At some point during our lifetimes, we will most likely be confronted with half-truths regarding our faith's history. And it's much better to understand the full context of the quote or event in question than to be blindsided by it.
In other words, censorship is bad for the soul. [Mormon Times]

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Integrity -- A Czechoslovakian Challenge

An article published Thursday, September 23 in Mormon Times (Deseret News) entitled, "Church members in Czechoslovakia worked hard to survive Cold War" by Scott Taylor contains this intriguing comment:
The Communist government wrote letters to all Czech church members, citing their own 12th Article of Faith in honoring and obeying the law of the land.
"We were asked to promise to give up all religious activities," said Gad Vojkuvka, 66, a third-generation Latter-day Saint. "All church members had to sign it and return it. I believe my parents were the only ones who didn't sign it — I still have the letter at home."
The full article is well worth reading in its own right, but this is an obvious example of governing authorities trying to prohibit private religious behavior, using the Church's own teachings against it. There are scriptural examples such as Darius condemning Daniel to the lions' den for worshiping the Lord in defiance of a kingly decree (See Daniel 6) or Amulon decreeing death for any of Alma's people caught praying. (See Mosiah 24)

Vojkuvka's father organized a number of Church activities. The article states:
Sometimes members responded bravely rather than recoil in fear. Gad Vojkuvka of Brno recalled how his father, Otokar, helped organize a large-scale church conference in a local stadium, dropping promotional leaflets from an airplane. Some 1,800 attended, but the elder Vojkuvka was arrested on trumped-up charges, had his factory seized and was imprisoned in a work camp.
Vojkuvka paid a high price but he probably knew what the price would be and was prepared to risk it. He did not compromise his integrity by saying he would abandon his religious activities when he obviously had no intention of doing so. His son confirms he never signed the agreement. Obviously, others did.

I think it interesting that Vojkuvka was NOT sanctioned for NOT signing the paper. His other activities brought on his punishment. Perhaps the paper was simply a government manipulation tool. Perhaps they had no intention of really enforcing it. They wanted people to compromise themselves and then stand by the agreement they made by giving up their religious actions themselves without overt force from government sources.

D&C 58: 21 is often quoted:
21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
But, if you read the verse in context you have to wonder if it was time and land specific.
19 For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land.
20 Let no man think he is ruler; but let God rule him that judgeth, according to the counsel of his own will, or, in other words, him that counseleth or sitteth upon the judgment seat.
21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
22 Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.
23 Behold, the laws which ye have received from my hand are the laws of the church, and in this light ye shall hold them forth. Behold, here is wisdom.
What would Heavenly Father have us do? He has told us to obey our legitimate legal governing authority. What should we do when obeying God's commandments puts us at odds with our earthly governing entity? Daniel willingly went to the lion's den and Alma's people prayed in their minds and in their hearts.

We can retain our integrity even if we are subject to unjust laws.

I don't think we should promise to do something when we know we have no intention of keeping our promise.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Part 3: Mormons and the Edict, "You Can't Date Until You're 16"

Formal and informal dating can end up confusing many issues that we should not lose sight of. One of the purposes of dating is to develop skills necessary to establish a successful marriage. These skills are not wholly learned exclusively in dating. Many of them can be learned in less formal group interactions that take place on a daily basis.

Successful marriages stem from unselfishness, maturity, good communication skills, etc. These can be learned in many settings. Young people sometimes feel like they are not progressing towards marriage unless they are doing a lot of formal dating. This is simply not the case. Those who do not date extensively can still increase their social, emotional and interpersonal skills. In fact, they may be ready for marriage with only limited formal dating experience.

Quantity of dating has little or nothing to do with one's readiness for marriage. As in life, it is not experience, per se, but in how it is utilized for growth that matters. It is not a compliment to date extensively but find no one that wants to marry you. It is a compliment to date rarely and have everyone you date want to marry you.

In slavishly applying the edict, "You can't date until you're 16" another unfortunate situation results. Young people are only prepared for the pleasure associated with dating and not the pain. Dating is over-glamourized as a wonderful experience akin to ecstasy. Anyone that has experienced it know this is not the case. Dating can be extraordinarily painful. And this is another reason to postpone it until one is sufficiently mature.

Being able to love another human being is not something we develop with chronological age. We all have this capacity. What we do not have until we have matured is the ability to handle the extraordinarily complex emotions and situations that accompany romantic love. Experiencing romantic love at a very young age without skills to handle the emotions can be a devastating experience. The experience should not be rushed.

Church leaders have given us sound advice on which to conduct our lives. We should endeavor to keep the priniciples they teach us in mind and apply them to our personal circumstances with wisdom, reflection and prayerful consideration.

Choosing an eternal companion is the most important decision in our lives. It should be made at the right time and in the right way.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Part 2: Mormons and the Edict, "You Can't Date Until You're 16"

I served for a short time in the Young Women's program. I remember a lesson on dating. The teacher was telling the girls what they should and should not do on a date. I remember one of the girls describing a situation when she was out with a friends and they met up with a guy they knew from school. They all ended up going to a matinĂ©e movie. She spent much of the time talking to the guy. Her query, "Was that a date?"

The girl was understandably confused about whether or not she was on a "date" and this was disturbing to her because so much seemed to ride on the answer. If she was then she was not following the edict because she was not yet sixteen. In addition, if she was on a date then all sorts of rules and regulations had to be followed.

Her concerns deserve reflections. Dating has evolved. Formal dating is largely an historical relic that goes back to the days of courting and chaperons. Over my lifetime I've seen dating go from formal to informal and now back to formal. Much of the guidance young people receive in Church is geared toward what they should and should not do on a formal date. Unfortunately, unless they are in a formal date situation they may not think the advice is relevant. Not accompanying a boy into an empty home or apartment is good advice whether you are on a formal date or not.

Our advice to young people should be phrased in less specific terms and apply to all their conduct around the opposite sex, not just be specific to formal dating.

We would not want implementation of our advice to hinge on a definition of "date" would we?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Part 1: Mormons and the Edict, "You Can't Date Until You're 16"

In about the late 1980s I started arguing a particular point with my Mormon friends. I usually met with stiff resistance. What I suggested seemed to counteract Church teachings. It didn't, but it was different enough that their emotional knee-jerk reaction was enough to reject it out-of-hand. Even thinking about what I said seemed dangerous.

I propose it again, with support from For the Strength of Youth buttressed by a comment from President Thomas S. Monson.

So many of us who grew up in the Church also grew up with the edict, "You can't date until you are sixteen." Age sixteen became a milestone to anticipate and dread. When the happy day arrived, many of us sat home with the milestone unachieved.

Church leaders have always cautioned about the hazards of early dating. Good reasons exist for postponing it until one is mature and able to handle the experiences and problems that accompany it. However, I seriously doubt the edict, as applied in Mormon culture, helps achieve this objective.

The edict is based on a sound principle that has not been applied in a particularly sound manner. In fact, the edict has hardened into an inflexible rule. By ignoring maturity and emphasizing age, young people are rewarded for being older but not more mature. Aging requires no special skill. We can all do it.

Counsel is good, but when applied dogmatically, we tend not to think. We must always consider our unique personal circumstances. Parents should never set aside the responsibility of assessing the maturity level of their children. Parents should assess their own child and his or her readiness for any activity, not just dating.

Church leaders have never said that dating should begin at age sixteen, only that that is a target age before one considers it. Young people mature at different times regardless of chronological age. Sixteen may be too young for many. 

Dating should not automatically begin for everyone at that age. Instead of being treated like a maximum age to start dating, age sixteen should be the minimum age that it is considered.

Consider also how people typically phrase the edict, "You can't date until you are sixteen." When young people are told they cannot do something they tend to assume they are being deprived of something that everyone else has access to.

The ability to date at sixteen becomes the obligation to date. This is unfortunate. Those truly not ready to date at that tender age may feel forced to date -- whether they are ready or not.

No one should be forced to date by requirement or expectations. Consider this recent statement by President Thomas S. Monson in the May 2010 Ensign

Begin to prepare for a temple marriage as well as for a mission. Proper dating is a part of that preparation. In cultures where dating is appropriate, do not date until you are 16 years old. “Not all teenagers need to date or even want to. … When you begin dating, go in groups or on double dates. … Make sure your parents meet [and become acquainted with] those you date.” Because dating is a preparation for marriage, “date only those who have high standards.” Thomas S. Monson, “Preparation Brings Blessings,” Ensign, May 2010, 64–67.
This pulls from guidance in "For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God"
Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Dating before then can lead to immorality, limit the number of other young people you meet, and deprive you of experiences that will help you choose an eternal partner.
Not all teenagers need to date or even want to. Many young people do not date during their teen years because they are not yet interested, do not have opportunities, or simply want to delay forming serious relationships. However, good friendships can and should be developed at every age. 24.
So, some teenagers don't need to date and others don't want to. Forcing or expecting kids to date when they reach age sixteen is not consistent with principles taught by Church leaders. Unfortunately, it is consistent with mindless, dogmatic application sometimes present in Mormon culture.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mormons and Immigration

I was puzzled that my former post on illegal immigration and Arizona's new law got very few hits. It was a heartfelt post and I researched it extensively before posting.

But, I think it can be explained by people resorting to knee-jerk reactions and simplification rather than contemplation of facts. When issues become emotional issues then very little thinking takes place.This is unfortunate because illegal immigration is complex.

In a recent New York Times article that made it's Most E-Mailed List for a while entitled "Mormon-Owned Paper Stands With Immigrants," Jeremy W. Peters does some simplifying of his own. The title is hardly accurate given the article's content. But, it does have some crucial points:

He [Mark Willes, head of Deseret Media] has consulted lawyers to advise him on the technicalities of immigration law and convened a committee of Deseret Media editors and executives that meets to brainstorm ideas on immigration coverage. “Everywhere we looked, the problem just seemed substantially more complicated than the dialogue,” he said.
[KSL, the Church-owned station broadcast Willes editorial. It can be found here.]

It IS more complicated than the dialogue. In addition, the dialogue is downright nasty AND Un-Christlike. Unfortunately, I agree with Joe Cannon and I don't even like Cannon:

Mr. Cannon acknowledged that changing minds would be difficult, but he said he hoped at the very least to challenge readers to reflect on immigration through the teachings of their religion.
“What are the two commandments? Love God and love your neighbor,” he said. “These people are our neighbors — incontestably, by any definition, they are our neighbors.”
Sandstrom, the Utah copycat of Arizona's controversial legislation exhibits this dialogue:
“Obviously, they’re [Deseret Media companies] trying to sway public opinion in a big way,” said Stephen Sandstrom . . . a Mormon, said he was not deterred. “I do have people in e-mails saying, ‘You’d better not back down or I’ll know the church got to you.’ And I just assure them that the L.D.S. church is not directing me one way or another on this.”
This is emotionalism, not reason.

*The New York Times article fails to sufficiently point out that the Deseret News just got massively revamped and downsized. Joe Cannon is no longer Editor and will only have an advisory role. In addition, Mark Willes is former President Gordon B. Hinkley's nephew.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

So Who Was Wallace Turner?

Today's New York Times includes a combination article/obituary entitled, "Wallace Turner, West Coast Times Writer, Dies at 89." Written by Dennis Hevesi it contains the following curious statement:
As a Times reporter in the 1960s, Mr. Turner delved into the inner workings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including its policy at the time of forbidding the ordination of blacks to its priesthood. The policy was changed in 1978 after Spencer W. Kimball, the president of the church at the time, said he had a revelation that “all worthy men” could be ordained.
There had been significant pressure within the church to change the policy, largely to support its international missionary efforts. Still, in the view of Gene Roberts, who covered the civil rights movement for The Times, “Wally probably did more than any single person to change the Mormon policy on race.”
I like reading such things. I'm always interested to find out about people who've been so influential concerning Mormondom, especially when I've never heard of them or their book.

Perhaps this is arrogance on my part but very little was written about the Church at this time enabling those of us interested and active to be aware of everything going on. This has long since ceased to be the case and I no longer consider myself fluent on everything in Mormondom.

I faithfully read at least two newspapers a day since I was about fourteen and had my first letter to the editor published when I was about 17. In fact, I was 16 in 1978 when the policy on race was changed. This is old enough to remember what was happening and mature enough to grasp the significance.

I would be very surprised if anyone cognizant of that time period, or fluent on the era, thinks Mr. Turner played any part at all. I prefer to base my beliefs on what I remember happening and accounts of people who were directly involved at the time.

When the change occurred the reactions were first astonishment and then delight. We all knew it would be changed at some point. It was not a question of "if" but "when." We were all delighted it happened in our lifetime. I remember the news coverage expressing astonishment and I remember them specifically saying that it occurred during a time when little to no pressure from outside was being exerted on the Church. Basically, all those people had given up.

Yes, I also remember opposition to the change. For example, I remember a full page of one of the newspapers being commissioned by people who wanted it reversed urging us all to help change the policy. Things like this existed but they didn't really have any effect.

I don't remember one significant effort to reverse it. Opposition was sporadic and weak.

Nobody has to take my word for it. Nobody has to take anybody's word for anything. Anyone can go back and look at news coverage of the time, talk to people who were there etc. They aren't going to find any significant demonstration, protests or anything. The change occurred overnight and experienced near universal support amongst Mormondom.

This all supports my contention that if Mormons really thought blacks were inferior the change wouldn't have gone down so easily.

Or, you can listen to people like Wallace Turner and Gene Roberts whoever they are, or were.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Estonia and Others: Digitizing Records and Preserving Them for Posterity

I've been thinking about this article for some time now. Entitled, Estonian Lutherans lash out at Mormons, it was published by Baltic Reports: Daily News From the Baltic States on August 31, 2010.

The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church is lambasting the Ministry of the Interior for allowing the Mormon Church access to records that may be being used to re-baptize deceased Estonians.
Estonian Lutherans are not happy with the state’s cooperation agreement with the U.S.-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that allows the copying of Estonian state archives to Mormon databases.

I can see where these feelings may come up in a knee-jerk reaction, but none of the concerns hold up to further review.

Consider the following.

1. Yes, it will make these names available to Mormons to perform ordinances such as baptism, but since it also makes the records available to ANYONE in the WORLD any other religion is free to perform ANY ordinance on their behalf.

2. How can anyone conclude that they or their religion, country or other entity OWNS rights to people that are dead?

3. Isn't it in everyone's best interests that historical records are preserved regardless of their source?

4. Doesn't it makes sense to have the BEST system do the job?

State archivist Priit Pirsko told the Postimees newspaper that the state had started an online archive but concluded that “the Mormons’ technological capability is tens of times greater, so we made them a proposal to exchange digital copies.”

So the Mormons got the materials that were already digitalized by the state, but also made the rest of the digital archiving saving the archive three years of work.
The records are archived faster, better and access is universal.

In a similar controversy some years back,  I heard an expert comment on preservation of historical records. "If you don't have the Mormons do it, who ARE you going to have do it? The Mormons are the only ones out there." Would Estonians be better served if the records were not preserved at all?

5. Mormons PAID for access under an agreement entered into by the governing entity. In turn, Mormons allow everyone FREE access. Sounds like a good deal to me.

6. From a comment by DB:

Besides, in most cases, it’s Mormons doing baptisms on behalf of their own ancestors. How can the Lutherans lay stronger claim to those individuals than their own descendants can?
7. From a comment by Dave Crea

This seems to be an overreaction by the Estonian Lutherans. From what I understand, the Mormon Church is digitizing vast quantities of records that would be irretrievable in the near future due to record degradation or lost from courts and libraries disposing of old records that are taking up too much space. They are saving vital pieces of history that otherwise would be lost and making it publicly available to everyone. This is amazing.
8. The agreement between the Genealogical Society of Utah and the Estonian government has been in place since the early 1990s. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction by the Estonian Lutherans it appears to be a rather belated reaction.

9. Are Estonian Lutherans suggesting that everyone's MOTIVE for accessing historical records be evaluated? Are we going to withdraw records from people until we find out what their purpose for accessing them is and then evaluate whether that purpose is justified or acceptable to us?

10. Ownership of records probably isn't that clear cut. Anyway, does prior ownership constitute absolute ownership? The records have not been turned over to the Mormons. The Mormons will only own the records made of the records. The Estonian government retains ownership and control of the original records.

Tuhkru explained that as church records belonged to their congregations previously before being archived by the state under the Soviet regime, it would have been natural for the government to ask permission from the Evangelical Lutheran Church as well as Roman Catholic Church.
If being archived by the state means the Soviet's made records of the original records, then the Mormons are preserving the records of the original records.

We Mormons preserve all records we can find anywhere, often paying for the privilege and then preserve them indefinitely, at our expense, and make them available to everyone and anyone for free. Why aren't people cheering us on?

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Effect One Act of Kindness Can Have On A Life

An article entitled, "Shipwreck survivor recalls how town altered his ideas of race," published September 16, 2010 by Michael E. Ruane in the Washington Post contains a story of pure Christlike action.

Lanier W. Phillips, a black man from the South, changed his outlook on life after experiencing one episode of kindness from the people of a small coastal community in Newfoundland during World War 2.

Scarred in the crucible of racism, he vowed to live like the people who saved him.
"I can never repay them," he said. All he can do is tell their story.
Steeped in racism Phillips hated all white men and joined the Navy in order to partially escape it although racism also existed there. Phillips considered the Navy the "lesser of two evils." A winter storm shipwrecked his vessel. Getting to shore was as fraught with danger as staying with the ship. He and a few others made it to shore but over 200 men died in the catastrophe. A local man found him and gently helped him stay warm by walking him around near a fire. Phillips was astonished.

"I had never heard a kind word from a white man in my life," 
The town's women cleaned the oil off of the survivors. They could not figure out why they could not completely clean Phillips. He told them his skin was permanently black. At that point, he thought their kindness would end, but it didn't. One of the women insisted on taking him to her home and nursing him there.

Phillips could scarcely believe what was happening: a white woman caring for a black man as if he were her son. 
This experience changed his life forever.

Phillips, 87, a retired oceanographer, civil rights activist and the Navy's first black sonar technician, received one of the U.S. Navy Memorial's Lone Sailor awards for Navy veterans who have had distinguished civilian careers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Affinity Fraud: "Tears of a Temple Thief"

He has often heard victims say, "'I heard him in church cry when he expressed his beliefs.'"
But they were the tears of a Temple thief.
In an unusually insightful article on affinity fraud, John L. Smith in the Las Vegas Review-Journal entitled, "Thieves in the temple: How 'affinity fraud' hurts LDS church members" details how Church members are taken in by fraudsters. He interviewed several white-collar crime investigators who are Mormons themselves. This collection of quotes illustrates the approach fraudsters take in separating people from their money.

"He was a religious man, so he says, and he really put on the, 'I am just so guided by the spirit and I know I'm here to help you,'
Fraudsters commonly start veiled sales meetings with prayers, sometimes spending as much as 90 percent of a pitch discussing Scripture before turning to the business at hand: separating squares from their savings by promising them, for instance, up to 10 percent monthly returns on their "risk-free" investments. In one case, a law enforcement source reports watching a rain of tears flow from one fraudster's eyes as he described the profits investors might put to good use in their lives and their religion.
Not surprisingly, it is the extensive cohesive network structure of Mormons that aids them.

"Affinity fraud's really not a type of fraud," Utah Division of Securities Director Keith Woodwell says. "It's more a way to market your fraud. … Think of it more in terms of friends and family fraud."Adds Malpede, 

"Once they can get themselves into that [LDS] community, they have kind of a built-in marketing network already. In many communities throughout the country, you can live in a place for five years and know two or three of your neighbors. That's not the case in Utah.
Affinity fraud can be compounded by whether Church leaders are involved or even if they just give their tacit approval by allowing things to occur.

"no matter how outrageous the investment or the claims, if you have somebody that's a church leader that's involved, or just attend a seminar and make comments, they legitimize it."
The articles does point out that anyone of any faith or affiliation can be taken in by affinity fraud approaches but Mormons seem especially vulnerable. Instead of automatically trusting people, we should be cautious.

Anyone who carries his religion in one hand and an investment pitch in the other should generate suspicion, not confidence,
Former Bishop Shawn Merriman was sentenced this week. So was Frank Castaldi. They are linked by their crimes but not their religions. Merriman cheated his Mormon connections, Castaldi his Italian-American ones. Both ran Ponzi Schemes.

Affinity fraud is bad enough in Mormondom that top Church Leaders have taken steps to warn members against falling victim to it.

Suicide is often the concluding chapter to these sad tales.

"We have had a number of people who, once they realize they've lost their entire investment, have committed suicide," Malpede says. "That's not an uncommon event for us. 
"Some individuals commit suicide," he says. "For elderly people, there isn't another lifetime to make the money back. They've lost their dignity."

My Ph.D. dissertation covered the savings and loan disaster of the 1980s-90s amongst other things. Suicide was a common conclusion to many of those sad tales too.

What puzzled me so much was how the perpetrators of so much misery could defend themselves even after their crimes were totally exposed. Dr. W. Steve Albrecht finally gave the answer. People judge themselves by their intentions. We judge them by their actions.

(Dr. Albrecht is in accounting professor who specializes in ethics. This PowerPoint show is a source for this idea but I don't remember the original source.)

Merriman has lost everything now, his wife, children his Church membership, his possessions, his credibility, everything. So have his victims. Merriman has claimed he didn't have bad "intent." His "intent" makes little difference to his victims. His victims' "intent" in investing with him makes little difference now too.

I read multiple accounts of fraudsters in the S&L disaster claiming their intent was good. Nearly all of them protested their innocence and insisted they had done nothing wrong. This perplexed me until I think I finally made the connection. Think of a gambler who has lost everything at the gaming tables. If you pull him away from the table he won't thank you for it. Usually the response is, "If you hadn't stopped me I would have won it all back." They really believe it too.

Sadly, I think we will see more affinity fraud in the future. Human nature just doesn't change that much.