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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ethical Issues That Aren't Overt: Moral Decision Making in Mormondom #9

(This is an occasional series that discusses normative questions. Too often we do not consider the inferences and implications of what we do. In short, we fail to realize when a moral decision is necessary. This occasional series will do so. Readers are encouraged to pose their own questions and views in the comment forum.)

Sometimes we wander into ethical quandaries that aren't obvious. I could cite numerous examples, but I'm primarily concerned with one category: priesthood power.

Local leaders are often under intense pressure to perform, whether it's imposed by themselves or by other leaders. Usually it is an effort to improve statistics. Sometimes their answer to this dilemma is to impose requirements on those underneath them. It can often take the following forms:

  • Assigning people to accompany the missionaries in their activities.
  • Requiring people to provide food for an activity.
  • Pulling rank and telling members they should obey you, because you are their priesthood authority.
  • Usurping responsibilities of someone else's calling.
The last example has a business equivalent, it's called "doing an end run." People that allow others to pull an end run around another person are assisting in unrighteousness.

For example, if a local leader starts instructing the missionaries directly, bypassing the Mission Leader, this is misuse of priesthood power. If the missionaries, or others, allow this to happen, they are assisting in unrighteousness.

What do these examples have in common? Answer: force, compulsion, loss of agency, etc.

Often, it doesn't occur to people that they are being little dictators or that their methods mirror Satan's plan (D&C 29:36Moses 4:1–4Abr. 3:27–28). However, they are and it does.

Priesthood power should only be exercised under the conditions made explicit in Doctrine & Covenants 121:41.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
This is further explained in the Handbook of Instructions, 2.4.3 Exercising Priesthood Authority Righteously:
The priesthood should be used to bless the lives of others. Effective priesthood leaders preside in love and kindness. They do not try to force their will upon others. Rather, they counsel with others and try to come to a consensus through revelation. The Lord has said that the power of the priesthood cannot be used except in righteousness (see D&C 121:36). The proper use of the priesthood is by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, sincere love, and kindness (see D&C 121:36, 41–42). If a man tries to abuse priesthood power, “the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:37).
Whenever a leader over you says, in essence, do this because I said so, you can be sure that person is exercising unrighteous dominion. If a leader tries to force you to do something, or somehow takes away your agency, that is unrighteous dominion. We all know this is a common tendency. See Doctrine & Covenants 121:39:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Stop thinking that you are an exception and start evaluating what you are doing, what you have done and what you will do in the future. Don't let these problems creep into your behavior without you noticing. If they already have, then reverse course, FAST.

If you have used priesthood power unrighteously, you need to repent. That includes apologizing to those you alienated, dictated to, forced something on, did an end run around, etc. If others witnessed your action, you need to come clean with them too, not just those who were directly injured by you.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

They Are Looking For It . . .

Apparently, Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt. Articles like this irritate me, but not for the reasons you might think.

The reasons people apostatize never seem to change. It is the same old, same old. These are the same tired issues people have been apostatizing over for decades. None of this is new. It isn't new for the Internet either. All of this stuff has existed for a long time.

The face of apostasy never really changes. I have no reason to even revisit this issue. I covered it all in a prior post entitled, Church History and Limitations of Historical Research.

I'm even irritated by the reporter. A reporter for the New York Times should know better than to refer to the Church as the "Mormon Church." This is poor reporting.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Used Gum Morality Analogy: Stop Using It!

Ever since Elizabeth Smart spoke out about how her morality lessons affected her ability to value herself after her kidnapping and rapes, I've been thinking about this issue. And, I keep getting angrier and angrier.

I had to endure the "used gum" analogy as well as the "mangled flower" and other similar analogies. These teachings occurred in church lessons and private conversations. I could see the problem in the analogy then. It bothered me. It bothered me a lot.

However, my 9th grade Seminary teacher countered all these flawed teachings. He told us that he didn't like those analogies. Because of the Atonement, we weren't forever altered, damaged or flawed by what we repented of or what was done to us. The gum was perfect, the flower was flawless and bored holes in the block of wood were pristine.

Any prior damage had been completely removed. We were whole. We were clean. We were without sin. It was as if nothing had happened. That was the Atonement's gift to us.

I was a youngster many years ago. What I want to know is why was this flawed teaching still being taught during Elizabeth Smart's childhood?

Why haven't thinking people countered this?

Why haven't people spoken up?

My Seminary teacher fixed the problem for me back in the 1970s. I'm grateful to him. He did me, and many others, a great service. Someone should have done the same for Elizabeth, or else not taught the flawed concept in the first place.

2018-12-21 Update

From Ask a Latter-day Saint Therapist: I Was Molested and Now Feel Unworthy by Jonathan Decker, LMFT | Dec. 21, 2018:

The gum object lesson is, to be frank, moronic. It upsets me that it’s ever used. It seems it’s on its way out. I hope so. It’s not consistent with the gospel. Even in cases where one voluntarily breaks the law of chastity, there is hope, healing, and cleansing through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. How much more damaging, then, is the thoughtless analogy when uttered in the presence of someone who has endured abuse?

Friday, July 12, 2013

I Am the New Site Guide on lds.about.com!

I've been selected as the new Guide for http://lds.about.com/

About.com is a New York Times company. It is a resource for every imaginable subject. They have chosen me to "guide" the "Latter-day Saints" site. Technically, I am now a journalist. I will update the site and write articles remotely. It is an online job.

I will continue to post on this blog, just more regularly, I hope. The evaluation process for my About.com job has kept me busy for many weeks now and interfered with my regularly blogging.

I'm referring my blog readers to lds.about.com but I am NOT referring my lds.about.com readers to this blog. Their purposes are different and I am keeping them separate.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fun, Fun and More Fun!

Why are we constantly planning social events?

Most are poorly conceived, poorly executed and poorly attended. Fundamentally, they have nothing to do with spreading the gospel, strengthening members or redeeming the dead.

People seem to justify them under the guise of strengthening members although it is debatable that they succeed at that most of the time. Social  cliques form, some people get shut out and many are uncomfortable.

Our society of constant entertainment has pervaded the Church and all we emphasize anymore is entertainment.

Church is ill-suited to deliver entertainment. Church is well-suited to church.

When I served in the single adults at the stake level, I came to the conclusion that social events were pointless. You won't get an 18 year old and an 80 year old at the same social event. What they did have in common was their spiritual needs. Also, if you are single, you end up living a selfish life unless you seek out service.

So, I focused on firesides and service events. Ages blend well at these events. Besides, socializing goes on anyway and personal social events can result from people meeting up.

I'm not suggesting all social events should be retired. I just don't think they should dominate the agenda like they do now. I don't think anyone in our current society is in danger of having too little recreation. We aren't like past generations that worked all the time.

No one should be put on a guilt trip if they don't come to a social event. For me, the decision is often preparing my lesson or attending a social event. I prepare my Sunday lesson.

Social events seem so programmed into our mindset now that nobody questions them. Well, I'm questioning them. This position won't make me popular, but popularity isn't the aim of my existence.

I'll just continue to cry from the wilderness.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Violence at Church: Should It Come to Blows?

I hope I'm not the only one disturbed by this.

An article on KSL entitled, "Man arrested for assault after saved seats taken at church" documents a recent violent episode that occurred during and after church in Utah. Here's the coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune.

An altercation over saved seats in the chapel turned into a physical argument where blows were exchanged and one individual hit the other with a vehicle.

From the article:
"(Dodge) ended up throwing a couple of punches and striking this individual. He had some blood coming from his face, so he went inside the church to clean up. And when he exited the church, (Dodge) was in his car. I guess there was another confrontation," Lowther said.
Investigators say Dodge then hit the man with his vehicle.
"Ultimately, the victim ended up on the hood of the car," he said. "(Dodge) exited the vehicle and some other people that attended the church service restrained him. And I don't know how, but he ultimately ended up in the bishop's office until law enforcement arrived."
Is there any precedent for this sort of behavior? I think there is in Alma 1:
9 Now, because Gideon withstood him with the words of God he was wroth with Gideon, and drew his sword and began to smite him. Now Gideon being stricken with many years, therefore he was not able to withstand his blows, therefore he was slain by the sword.
22 Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.

If the violence was entirely one-sided, I might be persuaded to believe this is an isolated incident unlikely to be repeated. However, it wasn't. You will have to draw your own conclusions.