Apr 26

Plan of Salvation Happiness

Note: I was unaware of it at the time I wrote this post, but there’s a much more in-depth look at these terms, as well as some additional ones like “plan of redemption” at the blog Nearing Kolob.

When I was growing up and I learned in church about God’s plan to get people back to live with him, the plan was always called the “plan of salvation.” But sometime between my childhood (1980s) and now, this plan has come to be described more often as the “plan of happiness.” The two terms are clearly used to refer to the same thing. For example, here’s Elder Nelson in an April 2013 Conference talk:

The Book of Mormon . . . explains God’s great plan of happiness—the plan of salvation.

I don’t recall when the change took place, though. So I did some digging in the Corpus of LDS General Conference Talks. The corpus goes all the way back to the 1850s, but it looks like the first usage of “plan of happiness” didn’t even take place until 1979. And it didn’t really become popular until 10-15 years later. I’ll make a graph to show you some more complete data.

Continue reading

Apr 24

For the Discouragement of Youth

In the “Entertainment and Media” section, the For the Strength of Youth booklet advises:

Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way [p. 11; all page references are to the PDF version].

I saw this bit of FtSoY quoted recently in a discussion somewhere on the Bloggernacle (sorry–I don’t recall where), and it struck me as being overly absolute. In any way? For violence in particular, doesn’t this rule out all kinds of sports and virtually all movies? Isn’t this a little unrealistic?

Running into this statement got me to wondering about whether this type of absolute phrasing was common, or if this was just an isolated example. To find out, I read through the rest of the FtSoY booklet. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how few similar statements I found, but I did find several others that I think have the same problem. In this post, I’ll quote the statements from FtSoY that I think are a problem, and then explain what I think is wrong with them.

Continue reading

Apr 20

An Angry Birds Easter

While sitting in sacrament meeting today singing, “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown”, I had an epiphany. It was all clear to me–I could finally see the connection between Angry Birds and the Gospel. Who says sacrament meeting isn’t inspirational?

 

Before I explain, let me step back and give some necessary background about my faith transition. I have written about this before, but the past couple of years have been difficult as I’ve processed my changing beliefs and sought for a new place within my faith community. Continue reading

Apr 17

“To Be Like Man, Almost”

“How infinite that wisdom,
The plan of holiness,
That made salvation perfect
And veiled the Lord in flesh,
To walk upon his footstool
And be like man, almost,
In his exalted station,
And die, or all was lost.”

W.W. Phelps, “O God the Eternal Father,” Hymns 175

Theologians often distinguish between a “high christology” and a “low christology.” The former emphasizes Jesus’ divinity. It is called “high” because it begins with Jesus as God, and looks at his descent to earth. A “low christology” on the other hand, is primarily interested in Jesus as a human being, in his mortal experience. The two approaches are not seen as being in conflict; they simply have differing emphases.

Latter-day Saints, I think, tend to talk about Jesus with a “high christology” orientation. We strongly emphasize his divinity. I do not think this is in and of itself a bad thing. However, the danger of focusing too much on this is that it can leave one with the impression that Jesus wasn’t really quite human, as can be seen in phrases like the one in the hymn I’ve quoted above: “to be like man, almost.” This leads to several problems. Continue reading

Apr 15

Thoughts of a Non-Convert

I worry about posting this. I know it can be a touchy topic, and I don’t want to be the elephant carelessly stomping around and offending people right and left. So if I’m doing that, then tell me. Really. Then I’ll know what to do better next time.

I’m not a convert.  I know, I know, “everyone’s a convert.”  But really, I’m not.  It’s not that I’ve just stayed in the Church because I was raised in it, and never engaged in any kind of thought for myself, as some are quick to assume.  But quite frankly, I have no idea what it would be like to be a member of a different religious tradition, or none at all, and then switch to Mormonism, and I don’t think I should pretend that I really understand the experience.  I have plenty of admiration for those who do it—one of my professors in grad school was an expert on conversion, and one of the things he always said is that we ought to have a lot of respect for converts to any faith, because it’s an immensely challenging life transition.  But it’s something foreign to me. Continue reading

Apr 11

Train Tripping (Part 3)

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

10 April 2014

3:36 AM

Central Time, now, as we’re in Nebraska. I fell asleep around 11:00, and while it hasn’t been continuous sleep, at least it’s been some. But I’m awake enough at the moment that I decided to get up for a while. I can tell we’re going pretty fast, because it’s harder than usual to type, as the train is jerkier than usual.

Given my tendencies toward depression, it’s generally not a good idea for me to have too much time alone to just think—I’m likely to think myself into a dark place. But there’s something magical about trains for me. It’s easier to resist that lure. It’s easier to stay in the present. I know what my therapist would say: it’s not actually magic. It’s that I’ve made a particular association; that I’ve invested the train with this meaning, with this power. But I still maintain that it’s a little bit magical. Continue reading

Apr 10

Train Tripping (Part 2)

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

9 April 2014

2:18 AM

I read for a while last night and then tried to fall asleep. It almost happened a couple of times, but not quite. Obviously this isn’t the ideal environment for sleeping, but usually I can manage nonetheless. I think I’m just kind of wound up tonight. Anyway, I decided to get back up for a while. Eventually I should be tired enough to crash.

I’m looking around the car, and I can see people wrapped up in blankets, sprawled out on the seats. Most of them, like me, have double seats to themselves, though a few are sharing. It’s not quiet, exactly, but it’s as quiet as a train gets at night. You can hear the movement of the cars on the tracks, and conductors and other people periodically walk by. Continue reading

Apr 08

Train Tripping (Part 1)

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

7 April 2014

10:04 PM

I’m already packing, and it’s not even midnight. Impressive, I must say. I’m done with my suitcase; what I’m figuring out now is what to bring with me in coach. I don’t generally pay for meals on the train (they’re pricey), so I have to rely on my own provisions. So I’m gathering enough snacks to last three days: grapes, carrots, crackers, granola bars, rolls, peanut butter, cheese, cookies, m&m’s.

I used to spend forever deliberating over what books to bring, but no longer. My Kindle is well-stocked, so I can jump between epic fantasy and psychological thrillers, or whatever else I might be in the mood for. Continue reading

Apr 07

The Negative Response to Ordain Women

I was not surprised to see that conservative Mormons had a negative response to the actions of Ordain Women over the weekend. But I was curious to see what specific issues would come up in the conversation about it. Toward that end, I read a 203-comment thread on a popular conservative Mormon website, created some general categories, and categorized the comments. This is a brief overview of what I found. Continue reading

Apr 05

What Elder Oaks Did and Didn’t Say to OW

Elder Oaks gave a talk in Priesthood Session tonight that was the most direct response to Ordain Women that I’ve yet heard a GA give. He hit a lot of points that have already been argued to death on the Bloggernacle. For example, have you ever heard that priesthood is for boys and motherhood is for girls? That one was certainly news to me!

But he did say one thing to OW that I thought was actually interesting. He said that the Quorum of Fifteen doesn’t have the authority to decide to end the female priesthood ban:

The First Presidency, and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting church policies and procedures . . . But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.

This seems pretty straightforward. What he’s saying is that ending the female priesthood ban isn’t something the Quorum of 15 believes can be done without a revelation from God. (Or at least he personally believes ending it would require a revelation.) Of everything he said in his talk, this comes closest to actually addressing what OW is asking for.

But what’s frustrating is that he either doesn’t know in any detail what OW is asking for, or he doesn’t care to address it. From their mission statement:

We are committed to work for equality and the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood. . . . We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.

OW isn’t asking Church leaders to end the priesthood ban without God’s say-so. They’re actually asking the General Authorities to ask God about it. So Elder Oaks is sidestepping the question OW is asking, and jumping to answer a question that they haven’t asked. I can see two possible reasons why he would do this. First, it’s possible he’s simply unaware of what they’re asking for. He’s a busy man, and he doesn’t have time to delve into the details of who OW is or what they want beyond the name of the organization. Second, it’s possible that he knows what they’re asking, but that he thinks it’s not worth taking the question to God, since he’s sure already that the answer will be “no.” After all, he calls the female priesthood ban “divinely decreed.”

I have to say, neither possibility is terribly encouraging. I am glad, though, that at least he didn’t say that they’ve asked God and God said no. I’m sure all the OW critics will take what he said to mean this, but I’m glad he didn’t actually say it. This means the OW request is still out there, unasked and unanswered.

Apr 05

The Movement to Hang Pictures of Female Leaders in Church Buildings

YW leaders

Unless you live under a rock, you are no doubt aware of the high-profile movement that has been urging Church leaders to pray to ask God for new revelation regarding the hanging of pictures of female leaders in prominent church buildings. Led by Washington, D.C.-based human rights attorney Sherri Shelley, this movement has been making waves in the media, including the New York Times, Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and even the Provo Daily Herald, pushing their “non-negotiable” agenda.

Said Shelley:

The Joseph Smith Papers Project has brought to light historical documents proving that Joseph Smith espoused the then-radical egalitarian belief that pictures of female church leaders should hang side-by-side with pictures of male leaders in church buildings. He even told Emma and other prominent sisters in the first meeting of the Relief Society that its meetinghouse walls, “…would one day be a veritable kingdom of tastefully-framed photographs of well-coiffed women in a kaleidoscope of pastel colors.”

The Church, not surprisingly, pushed back at first, stating in a letter from the Public Affairs Department that the Movement to Hang Pictures of Female Leaders in Church Buildings represents only a tiny minority of LDS women. Spokesperson Jessica Rooney explained: Continue reading

Apr 04

Ordain Women, Women’s Ordination

A guest post from Jacob Baker, whose first guest post on ZD can be found here. This post is also on Jacob’s personal blog.

At the outset, I should say that at this point nothing is going to stop Ordain Women, whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s clear that no amount of criticism or shaming will fracture the movement. In fact, these have really only served (unsurprisingly) to strengthen it and add to its numbers. OW may have begun as an organized movement but has become something of an event, in the philosophical sense of that word–the eruption of something new that breaks with the prevailing order, something which marks a before and after. Those who are riveted by an event (like Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ, after which he was never the same again) can only understand certain truths in its wake. Continue reading

Apr 03

New Scripture Mastery: Now With 40% Less Prooftexting!

The list of scripture mastery scriptures that seminary students are asked to memorize last September. Over a third of the 100 scriptures (25 for each book of scripture / year of instruction) were replaced. NoCoolName Tom has some fascinating discussion of the scriptures that were dropped at his blog (from the Old Testament only: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

I thought it also might be interesting to look at the changes that were made in terms of how useful the scriptures are for prooftexting. The reason I thought of this is that I served a mission in Texas, and looking back at the scriptures I had learned in seminary, it seemed like a fair number of them had been included solely as ammunition for prooftexting arguments with other Christians. I think a prototypical example of this is 1 Corinthians 15:29:

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

I know doing ordinances for the dead is an important doctrine, but really how important is it to know that there’s this offhand reference to it in a single verse in the New Testament? It seems to me that it’s only important if the goal is to teach seminary students to have prooftexts ready for an argument, where they could (in theory) show up their opponents by whipping this verse out to show that yes indeed, baptism for the dead is mentioned in the Bible, so nyah nyah nyah!!

Continue reading

Apr 01

Church to Implement Stop-and-Frisk, Outst Feminist Agitators

To: Public Affairs Department

From: Temple Square Security

Subject: Ideological Stop-and-Frisk

Date: April 1, 2014

_____________________________________________

We have received your request that members of the so-called “Ordain Women” movement be quietly removed from the grounds of Temple Square and the Conference Center during this weekend’s General Conference.

Unfortunately it has become difficult to determine just by looking at a sister whether she is a feminist bent on destroying the family. Although in the past, helpful cues like the visibility of shoulders (or of the crease behind the knee),  or shrill demands for an so-called “equal rights” amendment, have supplied an  indication of a feminist’s unrighteousness, “Ordain Women” has publicly stated their intent to dress just like regular Mormons, behave calmly and politely, and refrain from disruptive chanting or sign-waving. It therefore seems likely that these disobedient women will be able to mix unnoticed among the large crowds of believing church-goers on Temple Square for Conference.

One option is to simply bar women from coming onto the grounds of Temple Square between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. on Saturday. This is an efficient option likely to achieve 100% success in keeping “Ordain Women” off of Temple Square; security officers could be stationed at every entrance to the grounds to politely deny any women’s requests to enter, and utility vehicles used to block those entrances once the meeting has started. We are concerned, however, that if images of hundreds of women being shut out from church grounds by a garbage truck reach the media, it may give the mistaken impression that we are discriminatorily excluding half of our church’s members from participating in core elements of church practice.

We are therefore developing a program which is guaranteed to root out subversive elements and maintain order on Temple Square. Continue reading