Monday, February 28, 2005

Intellectuals Leaving the Church

My wife and I have been talking recently about people that leave the church over intellectual concerns. We decided that people who leave are smart enough to recognize the questions, but not smart enough to recognize the limits of their own perception. Orson Scott Card has a take that perfectly captures my thinking.

I clearly remember the epiphany I had as a child: If someone [Hugh Nibley] this smart, this rigorous of thought, this widely and deeply educated believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet, the Book of Mormon is true, and the Church is God’s kingdom on earth, then I will not let myself get swept away by whatever questions come up during my life. I’ll question my questions, I’ll doubt my doubts, confident that one way or another, everything will be reconciled.

In other words, truth is truth, but our understanding of it at any point in time is bound to be so limited that even our knowledge contains enough ignorance that it’s foolish to jettison something important and good merely because of slight, temporary contradictions.


The only thing that makes “intellectuals” lose their testimony of the truth of the gospel is their own failure to be skeptical of their skepticism -- their failure to subject their worldly “evidence” to the same level of rigorous questioning they apply to the gospel.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Humility of Hugh

Hugh Nibley has been a figure larger than life for me and many other Latter-day Saints. I have been noted with interest some critisicms of his scholarship. It has been said that he painted everything with a very broad brush and left it to future generations of scholars to paint in the details. With his death this past week there has been a lot of talk about him. Here is what he said way back in 1979:
"I refuse to be held responsible for anything I wrote more than three years ago. For heaven's sake, I hope we are moving forward here. After all, the implication that one mistake and it is all over with--how flattering to think in forty years I have not made one slip and I am still in business! I would say about four fifths of everything I put down has changed, of course. That is the whole idea; this is an ongoing process, and I have some interesting examples of that."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Truly Thought-Provoking Take on Homosexuality

John Derbyshire on on National Review Online

The debate on homosexuality, while not as prominent right now as before the November elections, still boils on, and probably will for a very long time. One of the main arguments--indeed, probably the biggest, right now--concerns the causes of homosexuality. Mr. Derbyshire takes this on, and gives us his understanding of the science. He then summarizes:
My own inclination, therefore, is to believe that most homosexuality is inborn, or acquired early in life, possibly by infection, or by biochemical imbalances in the womb, perhaps helped along by some genetic predisposition...Most homosexuality is, I believe, inborn, or acquired very early in life.

Can this be true? How can we say this behavior is wrong and evil if it is something "inborn"? Why would God give someone tendencies toward something He then turns around and condemns? Maybe homosexuality is just another way of life, one that we are parochial to oppose.
Or maybe not. Many people are born with--or receive early in life--problems to overcome. I'm not just talking about those that are blind, deaf, crippled, etc. What about a man who struggles with a short, violent temper all his life, because that is all he learned from his father? What about a woman who constantly is demeaning to her children, because that's the way her mother was with her? What about the person who finds pleasure in hurting small animals (for whatever reason)? Or (this one is my favorite) the person born with an extreme tendency to alcoholism? Do we just throw up our hands and say, "Oh, well, you can go ahead and do that, because you can't help it?" As Mr. Derbyshire puts it:
I don't think that the fact of a predilection's being inborn should necessarily lead us to a morally neutral view of the acts it prompts. If you could prove to me that pyromania is inborn, I should not feel any better disposed towards arson. On the other hand, I should have a somewhat more sympathetic attitude towards arsonists than I had before.

Exactly. We know, from current modern revelation, that acts of homosexuality are NOT morally neutral. We should not confuse sympathy for the confusion and struggle of the sinner with sympathy and acceptance for the sin. Just as our society condemns the actions of men and women who are abusive (to spouse or children or small animals or themselves), it is NOT morally wrong or "mean" or intolerant to condemn the actions of the practicing homosexual.
But what about God? How could a loving God give someone a challenge such as this? (Let's leave aside the question as to whether it is something God gave to the person, or if it is something that God merely allowed to happen.) All of us are born into the natural state, with natural appetites and passions and troubles. The mortal body is the natural man, and, as King Benjamin puts it, "The natural man is the enemy of God..." (Mosiah 3:19). We have all been called to put off the natural man, and "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit...and [become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord".
I truly believe this is possible. It may that the struggle to fight these feelings will, for some, last their entire lives. Perhaps some will never reach the point in this life where they can be in a heterosexual relationship, and perhaps others' paths will be marred with giving in to temptation and then struggling to return. But as surely as I believe 1 Cor. 10:13
"God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able...that ye may be able to bear it"
and 1 Nephi 3:7
"For I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them"
I know that there is always a way to live righteously.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sacrament Prayers

I have been pondering topics to write about on this blog and one came to mind a few weeks ago. I didn't do any writing. Today, I find a post that relates nearly the exact story I had wanted to relate with so much more power and poetic grace than I could have ever conjured; I am grateful I waited. In you haven't read Ninety One Words by Wilfried Decoo, you need to.

I knew another young man similarly afflicted. He was all a young man could hope to be in physical appearance. He was handsome and strong with wavy blonde hair and a powerful jaw. Yet he too was a stutterer. In a singles ward where I heard him bless the sacrament, I never remember feeling more keenly the power of each word in the prayer. Every one in the congregation prayed for him as he struggled to offer a prayer for all of us. I think that this is one of the places where I learned to understand the power in humility. It is so easy to want and pray for the success of the humble. It is much harder to feel so inclined toward the proud. I'm grateful for the humble people in my life that have helped me be a better man.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Teaching Children Sacrament Meeting Reverence

I noticed a link from Times and Seasons to this older article from Orson Scott Card. It is a winner. With a 15 month old child, I'm going to give it a try and civilize the world one child at a time.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Answers to Prayer

Jim F. at Times and Seasons shared some of his notes from a lecture discussion on prayer he attended at BYU. He was describing the comments of Thomas Griffith, a general counsel for BYU. Here is a portion of what Jim wrote.

Finally, Tom spoke of the kind of prayer and answers to prayer we find in the Book of Mormon, of what Terryl Givens has described as “dialogic prayer,” “an individualized, dialogic response to a highly particularized question” (Hand of Mormon 217).

I think that he surprised many in our audience when he said that he had rarely, if ever, experienced that kind of answer to prayer. But that surprise was prelude to another: once when he had the opportunity to speak of such matters with a member of the Twelve, Tom told that person of the absence of direct, dialogic answers to his prayers. Elder X responded, “The kinds of answers you are talking about are gifts of the Spirit. Evidently, you don’t have that gift.” After a slight pause, Elder X added, “Neither do I.” Then they talked about the variety of forms that inspiration can take.

Finding answers to prayer is one of the most important subjects we ever address in the church and I'm surprised I hadn't really thought or heard this before. I interpret this term "dialogic" to mean that a person asks the Lord a question and feels they are impressed to take a certain course. This is, I take it, different than merely feeling that an answer is accepted of the Lord. This latter sort of answer is what every person ought to feel, I think, about foundational principles in the gospel. People ought to reach a point where they feel the peace of forgiveness or the motivation to action upon hearing inspired counsel. I wonder how many in the church do have the gift to receive more pronounced personal direction from the Lord in their affairs?

It would be an error to interpret this quote, as I did in my first impression, that not all people in the church will receive revelation. It is only this particular type of revelation that is being referred to. There is always something comforting in knowing that other people face the same challenges as I do in receiving revelation. I'm grateful that Tom shared these thoughts and that Jim conveyed them to me.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Moral roots of poverty

Robert Rector reviewed American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare, by Jason DeParle. In that review he made the following comment:

"He argues that the next step must grapple with the absence of fathers and marriage, which he correctly sees as the arch-problem fueling all others. In this, he concurs with long-held conservative views.

"At heart, American Dream shows that the problems of the underclass are not economic but moral and behavioral. Liberals, for decades, have studiously ignored the moral dimensions of poverty — which leaves them ill equipped to address the crippling problems presented in this book. Conservatives, on the other hand, have always seen poverty and social problems as emanating from individual behavior. They have long proposed policies targeted specifically at the problems that afflict DeParle's families. These policies include programs to promote healthy marriage, vouchers for poor children to attend religious schools, and public funds for faith-based drug treatment. Each of these ideas is currently mocked by the Left, just as conservative workfare policies were derided in decades past. But these policies, aimed at fundamental moral change, offer the best hope for broken families to find the American dream."

Everytime I hear my neighbors having a knock-down-drag-out shouting match on their front porch I cry out in my heart that it doesn't have to be that way for them if only they could catch the vision of what Christ tried to teach the world. He must cry in His heart a thousand times more bitterly as He contemplates what He offered to them if they will only accept it. I don't know if I will every have (or make) the opportunity to share the gospel with my neighbors. We haven't lived here long and we don't know much about them. We are just trying to be friendly neighbors for now. Hopefully that is what the Lord would have us do for now. Sometimes it is almost a guilty feeling to know how blissfully happy I am with my life and that others could have the same thing if they only would accept it.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Peter, the Rock

I just read some powerful thoughts about Peter the Apostle of Jesus, written by Kristine Haglund Harris at Times and Seasons. How I love the man Peter. Reading Harris's words reminded me of that wonderful talk by President Kimball, "Peter, My Brother." As I did a search of the Internet to find the talk, I stumbled upon this gem from the past: a talk by Jeffrey Holland while a Dean at BYU. Here is just a snatch.

"Launch out into the deep," he counseled this fisherman one morning in Galilee, "and let down your nets for a draught." (Luke 5:4.) After an unsuccessful night of effort, Peter's expert judgment told him a final effort was useless. But this was a man of genuinely childlike faith, and he lowered the net. The number of fish taken in that single attempt strained the strings until they began to break and filled two boats until they began to sink. In that small ship Peter kneeled, stunned, at the feet of the Master. Jesus said lovingly, "Henceforth thou shalt catch men." (Luke 5: 10.)

Launch out into the deep! Peter could not have known the ever-widening circles that single command would make in the stream of his plain and simple life. He was launching out into the expanse of godliness, into the eternal possibilities of redeemed and celestial life. He would be learning the mysteries of the kingdom. He would be hearing unspeakable things. To launch out into that limitless sea of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Peter brought his craft to shore, turned his back on the most spectacular single catch ever taken from Galilee, "forsook all, and followed him." (Luke 5:11.)

If you want to hear the talk by President Kimball, you can get an MP3 from BYU.

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