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Interesting Post from Missionary about “Legal Danger”

Interesting Post from Missionary about "Legal Danger"

I’m been taking a bit of a summer break, but wanted to post this as I found it very interesting.

One elder serving in Tahiti wrote that they were recently visited by Elders Pearson (Area President) and Robbins (of the Presidency of the Seventy).

He describes the talk given by his mission president (with his leaders present). The topic was “dedication vs. discipline”.

The message starts off as a good one:

On one side of the scale, we have a missionary who is willing to do anything to help people regardless of what the white handbook says and on the other hand a missionary who judges his success solely by his compliance with the missionary rules.

But then the missionary writes:

A disobedient but dedicated missionary follows D+C 4 and serves with his heart, might, mind, and strength, but puts himself and his companion in physical and legal danger.

Not only could a missionary be put in legal danger, but so could the Church.

How much of this rhetoric about “exact obedience” is actually used to decrease “legal danger” for the Church?

“Dumb Stone”

"Dumb Stone"

Habakkuk 2:19:

Woe unto him that saith  to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach!

Joseph the Seer

“Ellipses? Actually, We Don’t Even Need Them”

"Ellipses? Actually, We Don't Even Need Them"

We recently published two blogposts suggesting that we should all be careful when we see them. Our first blogspot showed that an ellipsis can represent just a few words which can change the meaning of the quote. Our second blogpost showed the ellipsis can represent very large segments of the original material (which might have interesting things that are left our).

Today’s blogpost is about the absence of ellipses. In other words, our third warning about the use of ellipses in church manuals is to be careful of missing ellipses.

Consider the following paragraph from Chapter 20 of the Teachings of the Prophet Brigham Young manual:

In trying all matters of doctrine, to make a decision valid, it is necessary to obtain a unanimous voice, faith and decision. In the capacity of a Quorum, the three First Presidents must be one in their voice; the Twelve Apostles must be unanimous in their voice, to obtain a righteous decision upon any matter that may come before them, as you may read in the Doctrine and Covenants. Whenever you see these Quorums unanimous in their declaration, you may set it down as true [see D&C 107:27]. Let the Elders get together, being faithful and true; and when they agree upon any point, you may know that it is true (DBY, 133).

Now consider the paragraph from the Journal of Discourses 9:91-92 (which includes an emphasized sentence which was omitted above):

In trying all matters of doctrine, to make a decision valid, it is necessary to obtain a unanimous voice, faith, and decision. In the capacity of a Quorum, the three First Presidents must be one in their voice—the Twelve Apostles must be unanimous in their voice, to obtain a righteous decision upon any matter that may come before them, as you may read in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Seventies may decide upon the same principle. Whenever you see these Quorums unanimous in their declaration, you may set it down as true. Let the Elders get together, being faithful and true; and when they agree upon any point, you may know that it is true.

For a side-by-side comparison go here.

To be fair, the manual cited Discourses of Brigham Young “selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe” (page 206) instead of the original Journal of Discourses by Brigham Young. So, it was John Widtsoe who inappropriately modified the original by removing the sentence without using an ellipsis. The authors of the church manual were, however, (knowingly, I believe) perpetuating this misleading quote to fit the modern, correlated understanding of church governance.

Note: I became aware this missing ellipsis in the comment section of this very interesting and worth-reading article at the Rational Faiths blog.

James E. Talmage Unknowingly Draws Connection Between Apostles Then and Now

James E. Talmage Unknowingly Draws Connection Between Apostles Then and Now

You likely know the story of the Last Supper that appears in the synoptic gospels. After instituting the sacrament, Jesus says one of his disciples will betray him. Often described as an example of humility, each one of them questions whether it could possibly be them that will betray Jesus. Ironically, in the next instance the very same disciples are arguing over who is greatest. In Luke we read the following:

23 And they began to inquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing.

24 ¶And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.

Recently I was reading part of James E. Talmage’s book Jesus the Christ and came across his description and comments about this scriptural story (page 595, emphasis mine):

There was further cause of sorrow to Jesus at the supper. Some of the Twelve had fallen into muttering dispute among themselves over the matter of individual precedence, possibly as to the order in which they should take their places at table, over which triviality scribes and Pharisees as well as the Gentiles often quarreled; and again the Lord had to remind the apostles that the greatest of them all was he who most willingly served his fellows. They had been taught before; yet now, at this late and solemn hour, they were suffused with vain and selfish ambition. In sorrowful earnestness the Lord pleaded with them, asking who is greater, he that sits at the table, or he that serves? And the obvious reply He supplemented by the statement: “But I am among you as he that serveth.” With loving pathos He added: “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations;” and then He assured them that they should lack neither honor nor glory in the kingdom of God, for if they proved faithful they should be appointed to thrones as the judges of Israel. For those of His chosen ones who were true to Him, the Lord had no feeling less than that of love, and of yearning for their victory over Satan and sin.

Compare this with story in President Spencer W. Kimball’s biography Lengthen Your Stride below (Cited here and here. Emphasis mine):

“The serious business of the weekly meetings of the First Presidency and the Twelve did not bar a spirit of camaraderie, a little gentle teasing.  The group usually lunched together … and for dessert … passed around a box of Cummings chocolates – beginning with the First Presidency.  As one of these meetings ended, President Kimball asked, Is there any further business?’

David B. Haight, then the junior apostle, queried, in fun, Is there any chance to reverse the usual order of choosing chocolates?  I don’t care for dark chocolate, and by the time the box gets to me, that’s all there is left.’

Spencer joked, If you live long enough, you’ll move up into the light chocolates.’” (30).

A similar story was reporting told by Elder L. Tom Perry at a stake conference in Idaho (emphasis mine):

Every week the Cummings Chocolate people send us a 3 lb. box of chocolates. In our meeting, we follow our order and President Packer picks first, then I choose, and so on. Poor Elder Eyring has never had a light chocolate yet! Perhaps if he lives long enough!!!

Are these apostles not doing nearly them same thing, as James E. Talmage says, by caring and institutionalizing “as to the order in which they” eat Cummings chocolates–something that could be considered a “triviality scribes and Pharisees as well as the Gentiles often quarreled” about?

In the scriptures, Jesus corrected them by reminded them that such concerns over authority do not belong amongst his disciples by reminding them who actually is greatest. Has he reminded our leaders today that this type of concern regarding order amongst his apostles is something belonging to the “scribes and Pharisees” and not His special witnesses?

Anyone Like Simple Equations?

Anyone Like Simple Equations?

One missionary recently shared the following “insightful equation” from Elder Bowen of the Seventy (emphasis mine):

Last Wednesday we had Elder Bowen of the Seventy visit our mission, he shared a insightful equation for miracles in our life.

Obedience+Works(faith)= MIRACLES! I know that is true. I have seen miracle in my mission and in my life.

I know that as we are obedient, work and have faith,

God will be merciful to us and bless us more than we can receive it.

What does “Work(faith)” mean? Does it mean work equals faith (they are interchangeable)? Does it mean work is a function of faith?

And given that obedience is a work does that mean miracles come from the combination of two kinds of work?

No wonder there is so much confusion about Mormons, grace, and works.

What’s in the Ellipsis? George Albert Smith on Tithing

What's in the Ellipsis? George Albert Smith on Tithing

Yesterday we published a blogpost about a Church manual on Lorenzo Snow that used an ellipsis to imply that Snow was saying every “man, woman, and child” should pay tithing rather than “every man, woman, and child who has mean” (underline mine) should pay tithing.

Well, we came across another ellipsis, but this time in the George Albert Smith manual. Below is how it appears in the manual:

The Lord has given us the privilege of contributing one-tenth of our interest, for His Church, for the development of His work in the world. Those who pay their tithing receive their blessing. … We cannot expect to earn blessings without earnest effort. We will be required to make what appears to some to be sacrifices. I suppose people think when they pay their tithing that they are making a sacrifice, but they are not; they are making a real investment that will return an eternal dividend. Our Heavenly Father gives us all that we have. He places all in our hands, authorizing us to retain for our own use nine-tenths of it, and then He asks that we put His tenth where He directs, where He knows it will accomplish the most good in developing His Church.

When we heard the reports this morning of this great Church [during a session of general conference], the financial report impressed me much—to know that a great organization like this, with its multitudes of people, functioning in so many ways, in the midst of the world’s turmoil and distress is in such a condition that one of the Presidency of the Church could stand here and truthfully say to us this Church is out of debt. With the nations and most of the people in debt, yet the Church has been so managed that it is out of debt. Let us think about it. Let us sustain the Church. Let us follow the active leadership of the Church. Let us so live that the Lord can bless us as He blesses the Church.

See the ellipsis in the top half of the first paragraph? Let’s see what was left out (interesting things emphasized/underlined by me and comments added in brackets):

The Lord has given us the privilege of contributing one-tenth of our interest, for His Church, for the development of His work in the world. Those who pay their tithing receive their blessing. [ELLIPSIS BEGINS] If we do not desire the blessing, we may withhold our contribution. The Lord promises His blessing if we honor His law and not otherwise.

Everything that He has asked us to do is for our good, not for somebody else’s benefit particularly, though, of course, it benefits others when we set a good example. With this great body of Priesthood and the membership of the Church assembled here, what an influence we ought to have, if we are keeping the commandments of the Lord.

The President referred to the fact, this morning, that there were offices in the Church, and that men who hold those offices ought not to expect to hold them unless they magnify them. Why? Because they receive no benefit from it, only as they keep the commandments of the Lord and magnify their callings. It is of no particular advantage to be a High Priest or a Seventy or an Elder in this Church, just to hold that office. But if we live up to the teachings of the Lord, if we do what He asks us to do, then we have promise of a blessing. The Lord, all the years from the beginning of time, has been ready to bless His children whenever they will permit Him to do it.

There are some who do things they ought not to do, and yet they hope for a blessing. We sing: “God Bless America.” What a wonderful hymn that is ! How beautifully it is sung in large congregations ! But God cannot bless America if the people who live in America refuse to keep His commandments. We must earn the blessing if we would receive it.

We are commanded by the Lord to teach our children what they should do, that they should have faith, that they should repent, and that they should be baptized when eight years of age ; and He says that if we fail in our responsibility, the sin be upon our heads. What does that mean ? It means, to me, that if our children fall away because of our neglect and because of our carelessness, there will come a time when we realize that we did not prepare them for the blessings the Lord wanted to give them, and the result is that they have failed to receive the blessings and the sorrow will be upon our own heads.

I am grateful that I belong to a church that does not compel obedience. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not coerce. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of love, intelligence, a wonderful guide for our lives. That is what it is for. It is for everybody. Yet we find people who resist the very thing that would make them happy. They will not live the Gospel but seek happiness only in the pleasures of life that will not endure.

I think this great organization that we belong to ought to be able to set such an example that people in our neighborhoods, not members of the Church, seeing our good works, would be constrained to glorify the name of our Heavenly Father. That is the way I feel with regard to that. All that we need to do is to set an example, be good men and good women, and they will observe it. Then perhaps they will afford us the opportunity to teach them the things that they do not know.

Every blessing that we desire must be earned by obeying the law upon which that blessing is conditioned. Now, we understand that, brethren and sisters. How unwise we are if we fail, if we ourselves decline to do the thing that will earn us a blessing, when we know that we cannot obtain it in any other way except to earn it. That is the difference in the attitude of those who understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the people of the world. I have had people tell me : “Oh, it doesn’t make so much difference what you do. After a while everybody will be saved in the Kingdom of God.” It used to be quite customary when I was in the mission field in early days, to hear that. That is what the devil is telling the world. That is the way the Adversary teaches. If he can just keep them doing wrong all the time, and neglecting that which is right, he has them just where he wants them to be, and he has us where he wants us, when we fail to do right.

THE PRIESTHOOD TO BE HONORED

To be ordained to the Priesthood may not prove a blessing. We should not at any time feel that it will be a blessing to us, unless we honor it, unless we magnify it, and have in our hearts the desire that the Lord intended we should have, when He bestowed that gift upon us, and we should always desire to do good.

What a wonderful group we have enrolled in this organization! Lovers of all that is good and beautiful, marvelous choirs that come from different parts of the Church to sing for us here ; to supplement the delight that the Tabernacle Choir and Organ give to us ; this lovely build- ing in which to meet, not another like it in the world. We have every blessing that the world has anywhere, plus the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, the world does not understand it if we say it that way, but we ought to understand it. Everything that I can find that is good in any- church in all the world, is a part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No other church can say that. This is the Lord’s Church. I sometimes hear people speak of it as “our church.”

This is the Lord’s Church. Our Heavenly Father ordained that it should come at this particular period of the world’s history, and He directed that it receive the name of His beloved Son. Fortunate are we if while we are members of it we live up to the opportunities that it offers, lest we fall into transgression and lose our faith and forfeit the blessing that the Lord desired us to possess.

ADVICE TO SEEK FOR IMPROVEMENT

Now, brethren, let us do better than we have ever done before. Let us renew our determination to be real Latter-day Saints, and not just make-believe. I do not think I ought to be talking just like that to this group, because I feel that perhaps the cream of the Church, very much of it, is in this building; but I do not know anybody who can not do a little better than he has been doing, if he makes up his mind.

I think that with the distress everywhere, with the prediction that the Lord made in the first Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, that “peace should be taken from the earth,” we must feel that that time has come. Surely we ought to take stock of ourselves, and our homes should be the abiding place of prayer and gratitude and thanksgiving. Husbands should be kind to their wives, and wives considerate of their husbands. Parents should hold the love of their children by their righteous living. Our homes would then not only be the abiding place of prayer and thanksgiving, but would be the place where our Father could bestow His choicest blessings, because of our worthiness.

I pray that the peace that cometh from our Heavenly Father may abide in our hearts and in our homes, that we who have been honored by fellowship in the Church of His Beloved Son may appreciate that honor every day, and so live when the race is run that we shall have earned an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom. We must not surrender to temptation, but should meet our problems in the spirit of love and kindness toward all men, ever serving God and keeping His commandments. And we are always serving Him when we are blessing our kind ; do not forget that.

FAITH SHOWN BY GOOD WORKS

[ELLIPSIS ENDS]

We cannot expect to earn blessings without earnest effort. We will be required to make what appears to some to be sacrifices. I suppose people think when they pay their tithing that they are making a sacrifice, but they are not ; they are making a real investment that will return an eternal dividend. Our Heavenly Father gives us all that we have. He places all in our hands, authorizing us to retain for our own use nine-tenths of it, and then He asks that we put His tenth where He directs, where He knows it will accomplish the most good in developing His Church.

When we heard the reports this morning of this great Church, the financial report impressed me much. To know that a great organization like this, with its multitudes of people, functioning in so many ways, in the midst of the world’s turmoil and distress is in such a condition that one of the Presidency of the Church could stand here and truthfully say to us this Church is out of debt. With the nations and most of the people in debt, yet the Church has been so managed that it is out of debt. Let us think about it. Let us sustain the Church. Let us follow the advice of the leadership of the Church.

[QUOTE ENDS]

The point? Don’t assume the ellipsis retains the original meaning (as shown yesterday) and don’t assume it is just a few words (as shown above).

Changing Church Teachings on Tithing with Ellipses

Changing Church Teachings on Tithing with Ellipses

I just finished listening to the most recent episode of Mormon Stories with Kristy Money. During one part of the episode she talks about her bishop intrusively asking why the ward hasn’t received any tithing from her even though she previously responded that she was a full tithe payer. She mentioned that her thoughts about tithing had changed while in Brazil after she see people who didn’t have the means to pay tithing, but the Church was still telling them to pay–even if that meant going without water or electricity (emphasis mine):

After reading these scriptures together, Bishop Orellana looked at the new convert and said, “If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you.”

Now, it appears, at least one Area has starting requiring people pay tithing before they are even baptized.

She also mentioned that the Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow manual conveniently left out a key portion of a quote from Lorenzo Snow. So I decided to look into it (so you don’t have) so you can see for yourselves how the church uses ellipses to change teachings (i.e. here the change is to the teaching on who should pay tithing).

Below is the quote Money is referring to where the words with a strikethrough were replaced with an ellipsis. I also included screenshots of the manual and original conference report (page 28).

I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child who has means shall pay one-tenth of their income as a tithing.

Changing Church Teachings on Tithing with Ellipses

Changing Church Teachings on Tithing with Ellipses

Don’t Leave the Church or Elder Holland Will “Hunt You Down”

Don't Leave the Church or Elder Holland Will "Hunt You Down"

This will be short, but I wanted to share what one missionary reported that Elder Holland said he would do if any of the missionaries he was speak to left the church. We previously have reported on “interesting” behavior from Elder Holland in which he would tap missionaries on the cheek, yelled “in the face” of a sister missionary and “grabbed her head and shook it”, “grabbed my companion by the face, stuck his face right in hers and said passionately “Are YOU COUNTING?!” “, and “slapped” one District Leader. This new story is reported by one missionary below:

…then headed off to go to a big meeting in London where Elder Holland spoke to the London and London South missions!!  We didn’t get to shake his hand because our bus driver was sooo slow and arrived late, missed exits, etc etc, so that was sad.  The talk was so powerful though and humbling.  My favorite quote from it was him saying that if we left the church after our missions he would “hunt you down.  I will be scratching on the windows when you sleep.  When you take out the garbage I will be there, not in the garbage, but I will be there”.  He also told us that an Avon lady he knows is more bold than we are.  <img style='border: 0; padding:0'  src='http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/i/mesg/emoticons7/17.gif' alt=':-S'/>

 

Notes and Observations About the LDS Church’s Response Letter to Same-Sex Marriage Legalization

Notes and Observations About the LDS Church's Response Letter to Same-Sex Marriage Legalization

I like outlines and I like organizing things–it helps me see things more clearly.

Below is an outline of the LDS Church Letter to be read in church and two spreadsheets that might provide insight into the letter. These documents are under construction, incomplete, and certainly contain errors. Initially, they were a personal project which I ultimately decided to share with readers as I have found many people are still deciding how to navigate church when this new letter is discussed. I hope the documents below are helpful.

Finally, there are two recent General Conference talks that should be considered when thinking about the LDS Church’s recent Response Letter:

 

 

Below is a side-by-side comparison of similar letters released by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. The three letters we released in January 2014, March 2014, and, most recently, June 2015.

Note the following

  • the last column are my notes about changes made to the most recent letter
  • “——-” signifies a new paragraph
  • “**” identifies comments related to major additions or subtractions to the text

The third paragraph of the main body of the letter is completely new compared to previous letters and is a modification of a paragraph from Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s April 2015 General Conference Talk “Why Marriage, Why Family”. Some of the nuance of his original wording has been eliminated in the LDS Church’s Letter that will be read in congregations in the United States and Canada.

 

Cohabiting Opposite-Sex Couples Can Now Be Baptized

Cohabiting Opposite-Sex Couples Can Now Be Baptized

Edit: I find it interesting that one area wants to make people pay a tithe before getting baptized while another doesn’t care if they are cohabiting. Does this mean the Law of Tithing is more important than the Law of Chastity (as they define it)?

Recently, the LDS Newsroom announced a letter released by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. They title the post Church Leaders Counsel Members After Supreme Court Same-Sex Decision. Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said to the the Salt Lake Tribune: “The letter and accompanying background materials are ‘being sent to leaders of LDS congregations for them to share with members,” church spokesman Eric Hawkins said Tuesday, but “not in sacrament meeting [Mormonism’s main worship service]. [They’re] intended to be used to guide a discussion.’ ”

A lot can be (and has been) said about this.  I intend to do a few posts, but for now I want to highlight one paragraph and contrast it with a new policy of the Church in another part of the world.

The fourth paragraph of the main body text of the released statement says (particularly the part bolded and underlined by me):

Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We invite all to review and understand the doctrine contained in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

This is not new. I taught this on my mission. I read, heard, and seen this on many occasions. So why is this important? This claim about the “clear” law of chastity was reaffirmed by the top leadership of the Church just a few days ago.

The Church Handbook of Instructions (16.3.11, page 145) and the Mission President’s Manual (page 42) both say the following regarding cohabitation and baptism:

Persons Who Have Been Cohabiting out of Wedlock

A baptismal candidate who has been cohabiting out of wedlock with a person of the opposite gender must either marry the person or cease living with the person before he or she can be baptized.

An article called Strengthening the Family: The Family Is Central to the Creator’s Plan, from the December 2004 Ensign, used used strong language condemning cohabitation:

Efforts to Destroy the Family

The family, the most fundamental institution of society, is under attack from all sides. Adultery, divorce, cohabitation, child and spouse abuse, homosexuality, abortion, teen pregnancies, pornography, disobedient children, economic struggles, an increasing unwillingness among married couples to bear and rear children—all these and more are proof that the adversary understands very well the central role the family plays in the destiny of God’s children.

So, given the strong stance that cohabitation “[is] proof that the adversary understands very well the central role [of] the family”, that cohabitation has been written as a disqualification for baptism in two (not-open-to-the-public) church handbooks, and that it was affirmed as a “clearly” against the law of chastity by a letter from the top two councils of church leadership, I was surprised to learn that cohabiting couples (from the Philippines and who have lived together for over five years) are now allowed to be baptized.

One elder from the Philippines San Pablo Mission wrote on June 2, 2015 (emphasis mine):

We have had more success in our work and our numbers are improving.  The area presidency recently released a new rule that as long as two people have been living together for 5 years or more, they are allowed to be baptized, just because it is really hard for people here to get married or to get a divorce.  Which means that one of our investigators who has really been wanting to be baptized is now able to.  It also means that we will probably be having about 5 baptisms this month.  I think that I’m more excited for my companion than I am for myself, just because I still have so many memories from my first baptism.

So many questions:

  • Who is the area presidency that authorized this? (Answer: Ian S. Ardern (President), Shayne M. Bowen (First Counselor), and Larry J. Echo Hawk (Second Counselor)
  • Were they authorized to supersede the Chuch Handbook of Instructions?
  • Will this be implemented in other countries such as Brazil, etc.?
  • What will happen one year later when the couple try to get a temple recommend? Will they be allowed to cohabitate and still receive one?
  • Is the Church allowing people to be baptized who are “clearly” sinning according to Church teachings (i.e. breaking the Law of Chastity as defined above)? If so, who is accountable for the sins? Those being baptized, the missionaries, the church leaders?

Note: Some might (correctly?) believe this is just about numbers (and/or money/tithing). If this continues, and spreads to other areas of world, expect to see a marked increase in baptisms–which is something the Church has been struggling with (even after the increase of missionaries after lowering the age of missionaries)

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