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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In Mormondom, Context is Often as Important as Content

Church History Library across the street from Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
 © 2010 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. Accessed
April 23, 2017 from Mormon Newsroom.
As a guest blogger on Jana Riess's Religion News Service's (RNS) site, Flunking SainthoodMette Ivie Harrison argues with the long dead ghost of Bruce R. McConkie. The article entitled, "Do Mormons worship Jesus Christ?" picks apart an address given by McConkie on the campus of BYU back in 1982.

There is one glaring problem. The address was context specific and cannot be explained outside that context. Harrison tries, but fails miserably. If you were not on campus during this time period and didn't enroll in a particular class by a particular professor, you will likely wander in darkness trying to explain this address.

The Church warns against this sort of thing. Some addresses are specific to the intended audience and can easily be misconstrued if someone does not understand the background behind them.

Harrison turned 12 years old in 1982 and Riess was 13. I think we can safely say that neither was present on BYU's campus, either right before or right after McConkie gave his address. I was.

Harrison examines the address with a modern lens. Besides, did she think this address simply got by scholars, administrators, faculty and students at BYU at the time? It was likely viewed in real time by thousands.

Just about any analysis can get twisted because of a large time gap between when the event occurred and when it gets evaluated. From my existence on the planet, I'm old enough to see some really bizarre conclusions when content is evaluated outside its context.

I'm not going to elaborate on just what the context was of McConkie's address. There are a number of different facets and I don't think I can adequately explain them all now. There was some damage that resulted from it, but not necessarily from McConkie's actual words. It was inferences that caused the damage.

None of this needs to be rehashed or relived. The time has past and McConkie's address is no longer relevant or helpful to us now.

We have plenty of scripture and General Conference teachings of Jesus Christ. We don't need Harrison beating a long dead horse and trying to reinvigorate life that is better off left alone. She should have "kicked it to the curb" herself.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Want to Teach Kids and Converts the Gospel? These Ideas Can Help!

Enos Praying, by Robert T. Barrett (62604);
 GAK 305; Primary manual 3-49; Enos 1
Accessed March 23, 2017 from the
LDS Media Library
As a lifer (in the Church for my lifetime), I want to give you my thoughts on how best to teach kids and converts the gospel. These are not wholly my own ideas, some come from others.

Also, these ideas are not intended to replace the marvelous Church materials on teaching, especially Teaching in the Savior's Way, Scripture Stories for Children or the Lesson Helps for Teaching Children which are all marvelous.

The vast bulk of these resources were not available when I was a child. Yet, some of the ways that helped me the most are still available. In addition, one resource I thought was lost, is now available in a new format.

Long before I ever read the Book of Mormon, I knew the people and their stories. One of the only tools available to me at the time was Deta Petersen Neeley's four books that make up A Child's Story of the Book of Mormon. A later effort combined all four books under one cover.

By knowing all the people and story lines in the Book of Mormon, reading the Book of Mormon turned out to be relatively easy. In fact, I got pretty bored in Seminary and BYU religion classes when the teacher tried to sort out these characters and stories in class. I had already mastered it.

Things do get a bit convoluted trying to keep Zeniff, Limhi, Noah, Ammon, Noah's priests and Alma sorted out. So, the teacher's help on these details wasn't entirely wasted on me.

My point is this: Knowing the story beforehand made it a lot easier to pick up the doctrine when I was ready for the full Book of Mormon immersion. I wish Ms. Neeley had written on the Bible and our other books of scripture.

Both children and converts could benefit from the Scripture Stories for Children. These are bite sized bits of the gospel, manageable chunks. I'm not suggesting they should be used instead of the Book of Mormon, I just think they are a quick summary that can easily launch someone into reading the Book of Mormon themselves.

In addition, the first time I listened to the Book of Mormon on audio really cemented in my mind that it is indeed a story. Slow reading didn't reveal that to me. Fast listening did.

The other marvelous resource I thought was lost is now available again, but in a different form. Read this story first:

Lunch Lessons

My husband and I had set a goal to teach our children the gospel on a daily basis, but the question was how? Our children are young: two preschoolers and one in kindergarten. I tried scheduling time in the morning for a gospel lesson, but that always seemed to get pushed aside for housework, errands, or projects. We also tried to discuss the gospel just before bedtime, but we were usually too tired.
Finally I found a time that worked: lunchtime. While my three little ones ate their sandwiches, I read to them from the Book of Mormon. Yet they frequently lost interest even though I tried to explain the verses.
Our answer finally came when we discovered a wonderful resource available through the Church’s Distribution Centers—the Gospel Art Picture Kit (item no. 34730; U.S. $25.00) which we began using during lunchtime. This was the perfect combination! The pictures, which focus on scripture stories in the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Church history, gave our children something to look at. The simplified story with corresponding scripture references on the back of each picture gave me a ready-made lesson.
We started with the first picture in the Book of Mormon section, which I showed to them as they ate. I told them the story from the back and then read a verse or two out of the scriptures. They loved it! They even asked me questions about details in the pictures.
After each short discussion, I reinforced the story in their minds by asking them questions about it. We talked about ways they could apply the scripture story in their own lives. I then bore my testimony to them of the truthfulness of what I was teaching them. I knew that along with reading the scriptures, this was another sure way to bring the Spirit of the Lord into our lessons.
The following day, before we looked at a new picture, we reviewed the previous day’s story. I was amazed at how much my two older children retained. For example, when we reviewed Moroni’s visit to the Prophet Joseph Smith, our four-year-old daughter told me that Joseph Smith was tired the next day because the angel came to see him three times in the night, and he didn’t get any sleep.
My two-year-old doesn’t understand as much, but she likes to look at the pictures and can repeat names and events. She frequently tells me, “I make Jesus happy,” so I believe the Spirit is in our lessons and knowledge is being stored in her mind and heart.
Using pictures from the Gospel Art Picture Kit during lunchtime has been an easy way for us to study the scriptures consistently. Now on days when I forget or think we’re too busy, it’s my children who say, “Mom, don’t forget the scripture story,” or “Mom, do another one. We want to learn more.”—Roselyn Sant, Wasilla Third Ward, Wasilla Alaska Stake

The Church stopped publishing the Gospel Art Picture Kit some years ago after it introduced the Gospel Art Book. However, I recently noticed it is now digital! It is in the LDS Media Library under Gospel Art Kit.

You can download it all in a zip file! You get both the images in JPG's and the lessons in PDF's.

I think this is one of the best ways to teach the gospel to children and make it a daily event.

You're welcome.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

How to Home Teach and How to Be Home Taught

Home Teaching; GAK 614; Mosiah 23:14–18

Accessed February 4, 2017 from the LDS Media Library.
Home teaching is one of the responsibilities assigned to priesthood holders. In the Mormon Corridor the program tends to work pretty well. However, outside of it, things can and do go wrong.

New members are not going to become adept at it if they have bad examples to follow. What is more, those being home taught can frustrate the process just as easily because they don't know how to be home taught. Below are the responsibilities of home teachers and the corresponding responsibility of the person, or persons being home taught.

Information is taken directly from Handbook 2, 7.1-7.4, The Latter-day Saint WomanHome Teaching|Vising Teaching topic page and various scriptures.

Home Teachers should:

Remember that you represent the Lord, the bishop, your quorum and quorum leaders when you home teach.

Visit members in their homes. Home teaching should be done in member's homes at least monthly. Other locations are not as desirable and should be avoided. This is explicit in D&C 20:52. You must visit the house!

Make certain each visit is planned with a purpose such as a lesson.

Home teachers should be with home teachees and watch over them and strengthen them in many ways.

Contact their home teachees in other meaningful ways, including via home, email, text message, etc.

Ensure that home teachees are performing their spiritual and family duties. This includes praying.

Render service to their home teachees when needed.

Consult with home teachees about their needs and special events in their lives.

Make certain their home teachees are progressing in the gospel and the priesthood by assisting them in making and keeping covenants.

Offer assistance when your home teachees are unemployed, ill, lonely, moving, or have other needs.

Make your home teaching reports in a timely manner. If your home teachee's needs are urgent, report them immediately.

Whatever you do, avoid the following bad example:

Home Teachees Should:

Remember that home teachers represent the Lord, the bishop, the quorum and quorum leaders when they home teach. Give them the respect their important office represents.

Allow the Home Teachers to come to your homes. Forget whether your house is clean or as presentable as you would like it to be. Home teachers must visit your house so you need to let them.

Listen and respond to the message the home teachers bring. Try to faithfully implement their guidance.

Assure your home teachers that you are praying and do it regularly. Brief them on how you are doing with other spiritual and family duties.

You should allow your home teachers to watch over and strengthen you. Encourage them to teach you lessons and follow up on what they exhort you to do.

Supply your home teachers with all your contact information. Respond in a timely manner to every communication they send you. Ignoring them makes it impossible for them to faithfully discharge their priesthood duties. You seriously hinder and undermine the work when you do not respond.

Allow your home teachers to render you service. Remember that they need to render it and you need to receive it.

Tell your home teachers about your needs and the special events in your lives.

Update your home teachers when you or your family members are progressing in the gospel and the priesthood, especially with making and keeping covenants.

Tell your home teachers what your needs are and especially if they are urgent. Do NOT go directly to the bishop, otherwise you are circumventing the home teaching program.


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.