Friday, June 22, 2007

Creationism and Evolution

In my experience, the vast wastelands of the Internet are not a very helpful source of information on the Church, creation, and evolution.

Those of us just wanting to know what the issues are and what to think, tend to end up shell shocked by the intensity of participants in most of the discussion of relevant issues. While this is hardly an unusual environment for such a topic of controversy and debate, it does present a challenge for someone who prefers to be reasonably informed, reserve judgment, but just wants a bit more information.

Among of the best references I have found to actual Church doctrine and policy on this matter is at the biology department of BYU. Undergrad students at BYU use this information packet for reference. It contains a copy of several authoritative statements on the evolution and origins of man. You can read it without getting battered by proponents from any of the various warlike camps staked out all around this controversy.

One assertion I love to read very succinctly spells out what I want to know -- the real meaning of "evolution"...

Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.

From the information packet at BYU.

Highly recommended.

Healing through Jesus Christ

Interesting discussion in the Bloggernacle pondering whether we might opt to prevent homosexuality by pre-natal treatment.

I have no answer to offer. But the discussion suggested some instructive parallels with the New Testament incident recorded in John chapter 9. Jesus anointed the eyes of the man who had been blind since birth, and told the man to go and wash in a pool of water. The man followed his instructions, and his eyes were opened.

I cannot say from reading the scriptures that the many acts of "healing" performed by Jesus, during his ministry, imply any particular value judgment by the Savior regarding physiological or mental dysfunction. What we can learn from the scriptural accounts is that Jesus had compassion on the people for whom he provided healing ministrations. He granted the healing that they sought from him, in the form of relief from the problems they felt were afflicting their lives.

From my reading in the ninth chapter, there are many details that seem to open more questions than they answer.

For example, I cannot imagine what to make of the disciples query that apparently prompted the healing.

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

When Jesus administered to the man, the story says he made clay with spittle and applied it to the man's eyes, before instructing him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. I am not sure this procedure was common to his healing ministrations, and wonder why he did it this way. Why not just pronounce the man healed, and make it so?

I have afflictions of my own that I suffer with. Jesus has not deigned to relieve me of these burdens. While I would hypothetically like to participate in the process designed to educate me in true appreciation of God's eternal purposes, I suppose the dim hope always lives, somewhere in the back of my mind, that it might not be quite so agonizingly painful.

Impatient soul that I am, yet I wait on Jesus Christ for healing. I know it will come, in the Lord's own time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


How does honesty become anti-social and pathological?

Reiterating this question for my not-so-friendly friend, Steve Evans, Bloggernacle blogger.

It cannot be that people like Steve simply cannot be bothered to address such questions. But due to an unfortunate miscommunication, he shut me out of his forum before we finished the dialog.

So, in my forum, it remains an open question. Perhaps for Steve, or maybe for some other soul that values truth and honesty.

"I drew a circle that took him in".

Monday, June 18, 2007

Surviving the Internet

One of the great disappointments I have come to realize over time is that faithful church members have, for the most part, lost a presence on the Internet, betrayed by disaffected and abandoned to the control of the devil's minions.

Long ago this point was driven home when the original "Mormon-L" experiment veered off the tracks and established a permanent camp in the parking lot of the "great and spacious building". In spite of every erstwhile effort to drive a silver stake through the heart of the evil beast, it refuses to die, and even flourishes in its own unique niche of darkness and corruption.

More recently, I came to see this particularly in light of a whole infrastructure of LDS-related blogs that sprang up literally overnight, and with breathtaking evolution, were subsumed into an impressive collective referred to informally as the "Bloggernacle", or perhaps more pretentiously, the "Mormon Archipelago".

Sadly, the Bloggernacle has just as soon evolved into a haven for the same folks that gutted and spitted the original Mormon-L forum. I fear most of the participants there are beyond saving. The downward slide has been all the more ironic, because so many of the prominent players seem to think they are in charge of "saving" the church from its mistakes -- unfortunately, most of this is just ark-steadying or some other flavor of outright apostasy.


More recently, as the morning breaks and the shadows flee, I see some hope on the horizon. The appearance of a new web site encouraging development of consecrated Internet resources -- More Good

Dramatic growth and development of resources at

Continued expansion of the Church's online web presence at and related sites.

The collection of valuable resources at BYU also continues to grow and impress. Particularly the transcripts of speeches and devotionals, and the growing library of streaming media resources.

If you haven't been watching, take a look at these sites and see how they've continued to evolve.

The Prodigal Son

Who is the prodigal son, in the parable Jesus taught in Luke 15?

...wasted his substance with riotous living...

And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

The mercy and compassion of this forgiving father is overwhelming. And the despondent hopelessness of the lost son is all too familiar.

It is always difficult for me to read the passage where the lost son rehearses his self-denigration and begging for help -- I can never get past it without bitter tears. How many times have I gone to Father in Heaven with the same thoughts.

The lost son plans to beg the father to make him as a servant. Yet the father is so overjoyed to have regained his lost one that he doesn't even seem to hear, and apparently no thoughts of restitution or justice even entered into his mind.

I wonder, on reflection, how can a father ever forgive such wilful wasting of his hard-earned wealth? And then the thought follows -- how could he not?

Heavenly Father has no desire to punish his children. He is not vindictive or capricious. His greatest joy is in bestowing gifts on his children. His work and glory is in bringing them to everlasting rewards.

Yet the Father's mercy is not unconditional. He does not owe us these favors. We are in the position of the lost son, hopeless to return to Father's house without his undeserved mercy.

How many of us yet vainly continue in hunger, when limitless bounty is within reach? Why fill our bellies with the husks of swine? Perhaps for some, the day of reckoning has not yet arrived, and we are still in the process of wasting our substance. How ironic, for those of us who, through our own willful choice, enter the mire to wallow with the swine.

I have been there myself, many times. As it seems, at the time it was the only alternative. Yet when I come to myself, as the son in the master's parable, I realize once again that the promise of forgiveness and being cleansed is open to all of us.

The fatted calf awaits. There is still time for us. Let us repent and return to the Father's house. He ever receives the prodigal son with open arms.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Reason and accountability

This is a better theme for serious "Father's Day" discussion than the perpetual silliness that goes on here, for example. So many participants in the "Bloggernacle" just seem to love to muse and moon over meaningless questions.

I've wondered for a long time how men could surrender themselves to the bland impotence that so characterizes such discussions, amongst the obsessively politically correct, and elsewhere. To me, it seems to represent a concerted effort to betray most of the meaningful things that distinguish us as men.

We can focus in on the one of the particular points of doctrine that so offends, especially at this weekend event that at least theoretically used to be about celebrating "fatherhood", but is now more commonly used as an opportunity to denigrate.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World proclaims, among others:
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.
The Proclamation is dynamic and bold -- and that offends quite a few people. Though it is not politically correct, it should go without saying that men have a unique role that differentiates them from women. This axiomatic premise parallels Melvin Udall's stereotyped thinking, in the film "As Good as it Gets".
Receptionist: How do you write women so well?
Melvin Udall: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.
There are fundamental differences between men and women, males and females. Some institutional implementations are founded upon those ideas, and they function successfully to the degree that those sex differences are recognized and properly accommodated. While Udall's encapsulation may not perfectly characterize the kernel of the fundamental difference, he does far better than most, in this age of unreasoning antipathy toward the male of the species.

Check some earlier comments that relate to this issue, in fascinating and intriguing ways.

(Interspersing some replies from that other blog discussion...)
Melvin Udall was held up in the film as a generally reprehensible (and somewhat insane) human being — that was the point.
Yes, I think I understand why you felt we were intended to regard the character of Udall as “reprehensible” and insane. But in fact, his most offensive trait in the film seemed to be a rather painful and brutal degree of honesty.

How does honesty become anti-social and pathological?

(Other blog reply...)
Jim, let me ask you a yes or no question: do you believe that in order to describe women, you “think of a man… and take away reason and accountability”?
I could discuss this question at some length, but first, you must answer a yes or no question: Do you believe in the “divine design” reflected in the Proclamation?

Your antipathy for this line of thinking makes me uncomfortable to pursue it further. Sorry for disturbing the peace. Please feel free to ignore my comments, if it will make you feel happier.

(Other blog reply...)
Cobabe, don’t confuse antipathy for you with antipathy for the Proclamation. Consider yourself persona non grata until you answer my question, you coward.

And to show you that I’m not a coward, I’ll answer your question, you loathsome wuss: Yes, I believe the “divine design” part. Now what?
(Further quote from "As Good as it Gets"...)
Carol Connelly: Do you have any control over how creepy you allow yourself to get?
Melvin Udall: Yes I do, as a matter of fact. And to prove it, I have not gotten personal, and you have.
Yes, I obviously thought I saw something instructive in Udall’s unusually hyperbolic thinking. Of course it is not correct to so simply characterize differences between men and women — doesn’t do it justice at all. That would be an interesting and complex subject in itself.

Then too, I see this with the understanding that Udall is a fictional character, a sort of composite caricature of someone manifesting psychiatric dysfunction. Udall is not a real person, neither is the thinking reflected in his fictional character an accurate portrayal of o-c disorder. His character is as exaggerated as his statement about how he writes women.

The sad fact is that Udall is able, in his twisted sense, to readily identify an important truth that our politically correct society cannot countenance. Udall is honest about his perceptions. Many of the rest of us have to pretend to deny what is fundamentally true. Those laboring under this bizarre obsession/compulsion are perhaps more seriously mentally afflicted than Udall himself.

Perhaps, when we look at the Family Proclamation, the reductionist approach is somewhat problematic. The initial selection of one phrase in isolation from the rest of the Proclamation may detract from the obviously holistic intent of that instrument. As I read it, the Proclamation intends to advocate for a particular balance. All members of a family are included and to be considered as a unit, notwithstanding the different contributions each member brings to the group. Regarding the individual pieces, particularly from a defensive or antagonistic perspective, probably distracts us enough from the original intent that the real message of the Proclamation is compromised.

Men and women do not exist independent of each other. Rather, their different roles complement each other to create a relationship that works to satisfy the specific and individual needs of all its members.

"Unrighteous dominion" is almost an automatic reaction for many liberal-minded LDS Church members in this context. One of the considerations that generally seems to be neglected when we invoke “unrighteous dominion” is that it would seem to imply that “righteous dominion” is also a possibility.

In fact, I would suggest that “righteous dominion” predominates in almost all cases, and “unrighteous dominion” is, for practical purposes, a temporary and transitory state. I suspect most of us wander into that territory from time to time. Thank God we have the opportunity to repent and correct our mistakes.

One more thought — unrighteous dominion. It is not just a man’s territory. Anyone can tread there.

In the church there is a peculiar tendency to become blind to this, perhaps because the scriptures make such a dramatic point in condemning the problem as manifested in the ranks of priesthood. For priesthood-holding men, unrighteous dominion has certain unpleasant implications that do not affect non-priesthood-holders. But abuse of authority is an egregious sin, in any case — whether the offender be a man or a woman.

I further extend my previous comments about “dominion” in general. Under the guiding principles of the gospel, it is our prerogative to have dominion over our individual stewardships. This applies to men and women, fathers and mothers — and children, in a more limited sense. One of the challenges of mortality is to learn to administer our dominion according to righteous principles.

Each of us has a unique assignment that constitutes our stewardship. This principle is taught in the parable of the talents. Dominion over our own stewardship is righteousness inasmuch as it is guided by gospel principles. It is a reflection of the eternal stewardship we look forward to, modelled after Heavenly Father’s eternal kingdoms.

I think it is instructive to compare phrases like
…reinforcing the norm of gender-disparate economic power
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If I were to make it the subject of intensive study, which one of the philosophical approaches these statements epitomize would seem likely to yield the most productive result — e.g. happiness, fairness, prosperity.

I don’t share any grave concerns about catering to the lunatic fringe on either side of the “iron rod”.

Innovative contemporary sociological theories modelling marriage relationships are all just nicey-nice. Gay and lesbian stuff is, well, enticing, I suppose, for a select minority. But the majority — more than 95% of us, I would guess — will be best served by striving for obedience to the correct principles outlined in the Proclamation. Notwithstanding the popular clamor for "diversity", there is no reason for most of us to experiment with any of these distasteful distractions or perversions from the “divine design”.

And, I presume for those who, like me, occasionally come to themselves, and find themselves straying outside of the ideal — if you’re like a happy pig, pleased to be wallowing in mire, well and good for you.

But if you're unhappy, and cannot understand why, perhaps you would be interested to see my further elaboration on this idea. If and when you come to realize how you have been mislead and cheated, and can see how far off the path you have strayed, please make an effort to repent and seek forgiveness, and set your steps to return to the true church.

Prodigal sons, as ever, will be welcomed back to the fold.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Lord's Way

Dallin H. Oaks, The Lord's Way.



In 1977 President Ezra Taft Benson explained the basic principles governing whether Latter-day Saints should accept government assistance: "Occasionally, we receive questions as to the propriety of Church members receiving government assistance instead of Church assistance. Let me restate what is a fundamental principle. Individuals, to the extent possible, should provide for their own needs. Where the individual is unable to care for himself, his family should assist. Where the family is not able to provide, the Church should render assistance, not the government. We accept the basic principle that 'though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.' "

He then voiced an important distinction between "earned" and "unearned" assistance, explaining its importance in terms of its spiritual impact on the recipient: "Latter-day Saints should not receive unearned welfare assistance from local or national agencies. This includes food stamps. Priesthood and Relief Society leaders should urge members to accept the Church welfare program and earn through the program that which they need, even though they may receive less food and money. By doing so, members will be spiritually strengthened, and they will maintain their dignity and self-respect."

By the 1980s, Latter-day Saints all over the world were being taxed to support a variety of government services not limited to the poor -- ­free hot lunches in grade schools, low tuition in colleges, and counseling services in between, to cite only a few examples. Should they forgo access to such generally available government programs ---­which they were taxed to support -- ­and turn only to the Church for aid?

As in President Benson's message quoted above, the Church has continued to counsel its members not to accept traditional government support of the poor, such as food stamps. But where a government-supported program is generally available to all citizens and where it can be squared with self-reliance and the other principles of church welfare, church leaders now raise no objection to their members' participation. For example, no objection is raised when a member makes a significant personal contribution in order to realize the benefits of a program (such as a student who must study in order to realize the benefit of the tax subsidy inherent in a low-tuition college education).

The principle of self-reliance and its relationship to government assistance is described in this key passage in the Leader's Guide to Welfare:

"Latter-day Saints have the responsibility to provide for themselves and their families. Individual members, however, may find it necessary to receive assistance beyond that which the family can provide, in which case they may turn to the Church for help. In some instances, individual members may decide to receive assistance from other sources, including government. In all such cases, members should avoid becoming dependent upon these sources and strive to become self-reliant. Where possible, they should work in return for assistance rendered."

In his testimony before the House Committee, Welfare Managing Director McMullin gave public expression to the new approach: "Where community resources are available that are compatible with our approach, we are happy to use them. Our overarching aim, however, is always to help people help themselves."

There is a large and perhaps widening gap between government's way and the Church's way of caring for the poor and the needy. The gap is inevitable because the Church's purposes, dictated by the commandments of God, are to serve spiritual as well as temporal goals.

Increasing urbanization and the diversities encountered in a worldwide church pose many challenges for those who are responsible to use the Lord's resources to help the poor and the needy. Recent changes in church organization and procedures facilitate this sacred mission, but the most important variables are still the attitude of the potential recipient and the inspired direction of the bishop. Neither of those fundamentals has changed. The Lord's way of welfare will continue unchanged, so long as the members are determined to support themselves to the best of their ability and then to participate in assisting others less fortunate, and so long as bishops continue to administer assistance in the Lord's way.