Elders Quorum

What’s Wrong With The Mormon Church?

Martin Luther hanging the Ninety-Five Theses

Martin Luther hanging the Ninety-Five Theses

Today is October 31st, “Reformation Day”.  It was on this day 494 years ago that Martin Luther nailed “The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (commonly known as “The Ninety-Five Theses”) unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. “The Ninety-Five Theses” is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

And while readily acknowledging that I’m no Martin Luther, it is with a hopeful spirit for reformation in our lifetime that I offer these Ninety-Five Theses to a modern church that, in my opinion (as well as in the opinion of many others) is badly in need of it. More

If I were “Mope” (Mormon Pope) Revisited

If I were “Mope” (Mormon Pope) Revisited

You know . . . “It’s good to be the Mope!”

Near the end of my last blog I made some pretty bold statements:

“…I see some good things in the LdS Church and I see even more in Mormon Culture. There’s also much – particularly in the former – that, in my opinion, is really, really bad and needs to change. Never-the-less I’m just crazy enough to believe that there must be a way to keep the good and jettison the bad…

However, to get there from here the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from my perspective, must reform. And THAT, at least for me, is still a work in progress. That’s to say, it’s a work in progress for me because while I think I have an idea as to what end state might look like, I know that I’m not alone in this vision and I find the ideas and thoughts of others often more interesting than my own – hence the need for ongoing dialog.”

At this point you’re probably wondering, “Sounds interesting but exactly what kind of  ‘reform’ are we talking about? And what kind of ‘end state’ do you have in mind Mr. Smarty Pants?”

Fair enough. More

The Cat is Officially Out of the Bag

It has been a while since I posted, I haven’t been magnifying my calling as a blogger very well apparently. I will try to do better.

Several weeks ago in Sunday School Class, the teacher was making some interpretations about Jesus that I didn’t think were correct. The dummy that I was, raised my hand and said, “but that interpretation means that Jesus enables us to sin.” I truly wanted a discussion to come from this and try to get the teacher to think a little more about what she was saying. However what happened was that there were some audible gasps from the rest of the class and my EQ Pres who was sitting next to me said, “you are just trying to stir the pot.” Well that comment made me sort of pissed. I determined to not go to Sunday School class and just sit in the foyer at least until I can learn to shut my trap and not raise these questions.

So last Sunday, I was sitting in the foyer, playing some inane game on the iPhone when the EQ Pres. came and sat next to me. “Al”, he said, “I noticed that you haven’t attended EQ class for the last while, what is going on?” Well I opened up on him with both barrels. I said “I just don’t think that anyone wants to hear what I have to say, so I am going to stay out here until I can learn to not get so mad when dumb things are taught”. He back peddled and said that everyone wanted to hear from me, and when I reminded him of the previous incident he just said “I didn’t mean that we didn’t want to hear from you”, I said, “then put me back as an Elder’s Quorum teacher”.

He: So what is really bothering you?
Me: I don’t believe all the things that are taught in here are “true”.
He: Like what?
Me: I don’t believe in pre-Columbian horses in America. I think the BoM is a work of fiction, not written solely by JS, but in concert with Harris, but mostly Cowdry. I think that Joseph Smith did some wicked things in his life and if we really believe that God would never lead the church astray, then the mob in Carthage was doing God’s work. I believe that JS was drinking that night and that if alcohol was so evil Jesus should have turned the wine into water to teach us a lesson. That the churches current prohibitions on it are only a remnant of the temporence movement during the turn of the century, and just like giving blacks the priesthood and recanting polygamy, wasn’t divine revelation, the church was just following the rest of the world. I think that Science has confirmed through DNA testing the Land Bridge Hypothesis and the Native Americans are decedent of Asians not Hebrews. I don’t believe that there was ever an Adam and Eve, nor a Global World Wide Flood, and that the Jews didn’t build the pyramids. I had all of these and more doubts (I served in the bible belt after all, and heard it all) but when I heard about the BoA and it’s falseness, it was the final blow to my testimony in JS, and that the Church is the one and only true gospel restored to earth in the later days.

He: Wow, so what about the priesthood, you believe in that don’t you? Are you planning to bless your son?
Me: I don’t believe that for a second that if I stand up that Sunday morning and bless him to find a beautiful wife to take to the temple, and go on a mission, and all of the rest of it, and I don’t train him up to go on a mission etc, that he will go. I also believe that the opposite is true as well. I have yet to see mountains move by the priesthood, I believe that penicillin has cured more people than the priesthood, and that Thomas Monson himself couldn’t cast AIDS out of a dying man’s body. That dribbling blessed oil on heads is as useful as a magic wand (shouts out to John Larson on that one).
He: So why do you still come?
Me: Because I think that the church creates a good community, most of the people here are good people, because it is a good place to serve and be served. Because this is my tribe, I was raised Mormon and these are my people. So I plan to keep coming at least in the near-term, and take the best from Mormonism. I will be a cafeteria Mormon.
He: What do you want for your children?
Me: I want my children to be happy. I want them to know truth. If my daughter knows both sides of the story of Mormonism and still chooses to go to the temple and serve a mission and that makes her happy, then I will support her. But what I want most of all is for her to know that she doesn’t have to believe in mormonism, which was something that was never given me as I grew up. That she can leave all this behind her and that I will still love her. But what I don’t want is for her to be in a 15 year marriage with someone that thought that he had married someone that was going to help him into the celestial kingdom and then find out about the BoA, and have it crash a marriage.
He: So what do you want from the church? Do you still want to have and hold callings?
Me: Sure, as long as it isn’t missionary related, I will do most anything.

And that is where we left it. I told my wife the conversation, she wasn’t pleased. She doesn’t think that we can have friendships in the church with someone who openly doesn’t believe. I concurred that it is possible that we will be shunned, but that I didn’t think so. I also said that if they don’t allow me to bless my baby this fall, that it will probably mark the end of my active participation.

So I guess we will sit back and see what happens now. I am waiting for the phone call from the Bishop. I will keep you posted as this moves forward.

-Defiantly wearing a non-white shirt

Big Al

What is Sin?

The latest Priesthood lesson was about repentance (For Brothers and Sisters following along it is Chapter 19 in the Gospel Principles Book). I often find the opening question of the lessons to be the most intriguing point of the lessons. They are meant to be thought provoking and start a dialog. This weeks opening question was a whopper of a question “What is sin?” I am sure that the textbook/Primary answer has something to do with “things that take your spirit further from God blah blah blah.” But that is not the answer I am looking for.

I am not a philosopher, I am sure there are others out there that know about sin from a philosophical view than I. But the majority of my lesson was spent on these three words. This was not an easy lesson for my quorum. While trying to establish what sin is, I attempted to set up a few things that were absolutely sinful things and those that were not and write them into two lists on the chalkboard (you know the obligatory list on the chalkboard). Here were some of my questions and answers from the quorum:

Q: “Is murder a sin?”
A: “It depends, Nephi was commanded to kill Laban, and Abraham was commanded to kill Isaac (or Ishmael if you are Muslim).”

Q: “OK, Is it a sin to shoot Brother Jones in the back of the head, while he was jogging down the street because I didn’t like his shirt, and God didn’t tell me to.”
My response: “Whew (I chalk ‘Murder’ up on the board under the ‘Sin’ column), Brethren we are thinking too hard on this, don’t try to pull on nuances, remember ‘thou shall not kill.'” (I didn’t go into what if I “heard” God tell me to kill Brother Jones, am I then a prophet or loon?).

Q: “Is having Family Home Evening a sin?”
A: “It depends, are there other things that are more important for you to be doing?”
My response: I start searching for a gun because the voices in my head are screaming out for “sacrificing” this crowd to Baal.

Next we read James 4:17 , “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin”. I read that and I had to ask, “Is this justification for moral relativism?” Is sin just those things that the local culture approves of and disapproves of? It really has nothing to do with what is moral or not, it is just what my parents have said is right and wrong.

I asked them to find the definition of “Sin” in the scriptures and of course there isn’t one, really other than 1 John 3:4 and 1 Cor 15:56 that basically says that sin is breaking the law. So what is the need for the concept of “sin” when we have a strong government and legislative, and punitive/reformation system? (Personal interjection here: Come on God and/or God’s mouth pieces, if there was one bit of information that we need down here before we get our eternal reward it would be a clear cut definition of what sin is and isn’t. This is the stuff that we are going to get graded on. At least put it in the Bible Dictionary for me to reference!)

This lesson taught me a lot about sin. It reinforced to me that there is no such thing as “sin”. But it went a step further, there is not even the need for the concept of sin. It is time to get over this concept and do what is right, not what those in leadership positions want us to do (not just church leaders, but parents, teachers, government leaders etc). We need to the things Christ taught, like love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, and so on. It is the concept of sin that brought us the holocaust, which was nothing worse than any other genocide God has ordered his prophets of the Old Testament to carry out. Only by doing things that are truly right can we improve the world around us.

Now all we need to do is figure out what “right” is.

-Defiantly wearing a non-white shirt
Big Al