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How do you even apply the atonement in your life?

The other day, John C had what I believe is a really great, heartfelt post at By Common Consent: Lord, it is I. I think what I like most about it is its visceral personal nature — it’s not an intellectual post but words from John’s soul. From the post:

Actually, if God won’t save me in my sins, what is the point? I’ll never not sin. Sometimes I experience the remission of sin, where I genuinely don’t want to sin anymore, but then I get tired, my family won’t listen, a co-worker irritates me, and Amen to that remission. I’m right back off the wagon, wishing ill and hardening my heart.

Which is, of course, the worst bit. Even if I manage to somehow, via willpower and a higher power, quit my bad habits and to not start new bad habits, I am as prone as anyone to pride and judgment. I might hold my tongue, but in my heart I am likely to think ill of the broken and the straying. Charity for those who offend me, who are not my enemy but whom I would not have as a friend, requires effort and I am frequently lazy.

So, I’m familiar with my sins. Being kind of lame, I take a bit of pride in this as well. I may not be perfect, but at least I know I’m not perfect (unlike some people I could name, but won’t). I’m probably better for admitting my sins (vaguely, with no specifics) than all those sanctimonious people out there. Moral superiority through sinning; who knew?

It is nice to hear, as President Uchtdorf told us in Priesthood session, “Brethren, we must put aside our pride, see beyond our vanity, and in humility ask, “Lord, is it I?”,” but I know it is I. I am the cause of most of my own problems, without a doubt. The question is, what do I do about it?

I could change I suppose, but I don’t know how. I’m relatively old now and I am almost certainly who I am going to be. That I disappoint myself doesn’t really reveal anything; who doesn’t? As if to demonstrate what a cliché I am, the scripture is replete with prophetic self-recrimination. Isaiah says, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Nephi says, “O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.”Alma says, “I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.” If even the prophets aren’t satisfied with their effort, how am I ever to be with mine?

Part of me was thinking that what John C was coming against is Mormonism’s tendency toward works righteousness…but the big question is whether or not we can actually ever work hard enough to be righteous.

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Don’t get your hopes up: Conservative arguments against liberal activism in Mormonism

I’ve seen this argument a few times in Mormon discussions about certain movements perceived to be liberal, progressive, etc., For a version of this argument stated plainly, moderate, as-a-matter-of-course by Hawkgrrrl, on Mormon Heretic’s recent post asking people to chime in on their thoughts of Ordain Women’s most recent General Conference (to attend the Priesthood session at their local stake centers) action:

…First of all, trying to attend another church meeting is definitely not my style. Second, sisters attending locally had a few different outcomes: 1) some few attended with little fanfare, 2) some attended after a bit of browbeating at the door (being asked why they wouldn’t follow the prophet), and 3) some were reportedly blocked from attending by men at the doors so their womanly taint would not disrupt the meeting. IOW, it’s a reflection of local leadership how the women were treated.

Those who were treated shabbily will probably be gone within a year, along with their families. Maybe that would have happened anyway. Some people seem to care about that more than others.

Emphasis added. Read more…

Addressing Shane Hayes on Agnosticism, Atheism, and Choosing to Believe

The End of Unbelief: A New Approach to the Question of God, by Shane Hayes

A week ago, Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) featured an excerpt from Shane Hayes’ new book The End of Unbelief: A new approach to the question of GodI only found out about that post because of Hemant’s tweet about a followup from Shane where he addressed a few of the comments in the first thread and provided additional explanation. Shane is part of the collection of formerly-atheist Christians who claim to have new methods for converting atheism as a result of their own conversion. However, like most formerly-atheist Christians, Shane ultimately shows that apparently, not all people experience atheism similarly, so one person’s reasons for converting won’t appeal to another. (Maybe if I become a theist I can write my own book, though?)

That being said, even if I wasn’t convinced by Shane’s thinking, I give him some credit for being willing to walk into the proverbial lion’s den. Also (and the main reason for this post), I also did find the excerpt interesting for its unexpected Mormon parallels (because I doubt Shane is familiar with the Mormon thinking on the subject.) Read more…

Decoupling the Status Quo from Eternal Doctrine

Over at Wheat & Tares, Hawkgrrrl has a great post following up on an earlier one she wrote about the strange bedfellows of the LDS Church. The basic idea is this: as the church has entered into several political initiatives, it has become allies with organizations that it should seem to be enemies of. For example, most notably, Mormons worked with evangelicals and Catholics against gay marriage during Prop 8, even though there’s lots of stuff running through Mormon history suggesting that the Catholic Church is the “great and abominable church,” the church of the devil, the whore of babylon or something like that, and evangelicals are probably better known to Mormons as the people who have explicitly targeted the LDS church in their countercult efforts.

However, in the post Hawkgrrrl also describes LDS cultural or political efforts to support causes she believes are inessential or incompatible with Mormonism. As she wrote of the pitfalls of these alliances:

  • Introduction of False Doctrine.    What’s worse than others misunderstanding us?  Our own people conflating our doctrines with those of our political allies.  For example, do some members begin to think that we have a different or stronger stance on issues because our associates do?  Do they think we are young earth creationists, that we scoff at science, that we are biblical literalists, that we believe women should be subjects to their husbands?  Or perhaps more insidiously, do we just downplay our unique doctrines to fit in?  Do we pretend there is no Heavenly Mother or that we don’t believe we are God’s literal offspring with divine potential?

However, my issue was that I was a bit incredulous at Hawkgrrrl’s questions. Hawkgrrrl asks: “Do [some members] think [Mormons]…scoff at science?”

…well…don’t Mormons scoff at science?

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All the single ladies (and men)…the Mormon church is not “for” you

After my previous post asking why we can’t have a pro-women Mormon theology, I read and commented on a post by Hawkgrrrl contrasting a church of duty with a consumer church. My comment was as follows:

I’m not exactly driven to go to church, but it’s not because there aren’t rock concerts or small prayer groups. It’s because on any given Sunday, it will probably be boring and utterly irrelevant to my life circumstances punctuated with moments of absolute offensiveness.

I think there is conceivably a value to learning how to hear offensive things without even blinking…learning how to regulate internal blood temperature, as it were…but then i realize that baffling things happen in life without seeking it out in a church.

My thoughts really are that, for some folks, the LDS church experience can be very relevant and interesting to their lives. I mean, when it comes to building white picket fence families with husband, wife, and 2.5 kids (ok, let’s be real…there will be more kids), LDS church teachings are admirable. But when someone doesn’t fit that mold in any of a number of ways.

Over at By Common Consent is a guest post: Thoughts from a Mid-Single Mormon. And while I sympathize and hope that things can become more welcoming and inclusive, at the back of my mind is the thought:

This church simply isn’t for you.

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Why can’t we have woman-affirming Mormon theology?

This past week, I actually saw a post in my RSS feed titled “The brides of Satan.” i am not paraphrasing. I am not making this up. I actually saw a blog post where the blogger said:

Given the fact that Lucifer’s plan appealed specifically and directly to female spirits and their natures and did not appeal at all to male spirits and their natures, it is logical to assume that the 1/3 were all female.

I probably should have DoNotLink‘d to that post, because a sliver of me considers that the only reason someone would write a post like this is for pageviews. (FWIW, at this point, I am 97.333333% convinced that Matt Walsh is just writing for pageclicks, and that all of the liberal outrage shares/clicks are falling exactly into his trap. That is my gift of discernment.) 

I did not do that because for a variety of reasons, I happen to believe that LDS Anarchist is fully sincere in believing what he’s writing. I know I’ve gotten Anarchist confused with his coblogger Justin — a confusion that has cause plenty of laughs for everyone, I’m sure — but my impression of the entire LDS Anarchist blog is that these are sincere out-of-the-box doctrinal/theological investigations.

But let’s get back to me in bed, reviewing my RSS feed items. As soon as I saw this post, my gift of discernment clued me in on something — I knew that the fruits of this post would be that it would get posted to some liberal Mormon FB group, and it would cause a lot of drama. I knew that there was nothing I could do to prevent the drama. The only thing I could do was hope that ground zero of said drama would not be the Mormon Hub.

Fortunately for me and the other Hub moderators, it was not. Instead, it was posted to the Feminist Mormon Housewives Facebook group, which was probably an even worse place it could go. And indeed, there was drama. So much drama. I don’t want to get into the drama, because it was so much.

I just want to say a few things.

Firstly, if this is satire, this is bad satire. In the sense that it is completely and 100% ineffective. I mean, maybe I’m just a stick in the mud, but I don’t see how this is satirizing anything. It is possible that this is the best example of Poe’s Law, but I’ll get on that in the future.

Secondly, probably the best thing that arose from this was that I learned the new term “Schrodinger’s Asshole.” I will keep that term saved for later.

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Is liberal faith and spirituality credibly Mormon?

A week ago, James Olson wrote a post at Times and Seasons summarizing many of the arguments for and against the treatment of women at the church. The purpose of this “dialectical mapping” was to align people with the most current iterations/rounds of the arguments, rather than having people repeat the points of rounds long since finished.

I think the most interesting thing that happened in this discussion was that very early on, there was pushback in the comments about James’s bias. In particular, several commenters believed that James weakly summarized the final responses of the nonfeminist side. Commenter SilverRain (among others) pointed out that the problem is that James’s entire endeavor to present the arguments intellectually misses that the sides don’t rely on the same premises. As she wrote:

The reason “AA” doesn’t have a great response to you is because you have set a battleground upon which she cannot win. Then, you assume that she has no ability to win.

In other words, participation in the Church is predicated upon faith in its basic principles (God the Father, Christ, the Spirit, personal revelation, God’s authority via the priesthood, the efficacy of priesthood ordinances, etc: ie. that the Church is true.) Without a testimony in those things, the “FF” arguments try to persuade on the battleground of intellect. But AA has no interest in fighting on that battleground. It doesn’t mean she CAN’T (after all, there are many people who do just that in apologetics, and they generally have good points even if you don’t accept them.) It means that she shouldn’t. That’s just not the battleground on which we have been asked to fight.

and, in a later comment:

One last thought: these kinds of posts illustrate quite effectively the major problems between the two schools of thought.

Those who believe in the Church’s claims of authority have really only one answer: I have searched, prayed, and received a testimony. You can, too.

But if someone is determined not to gain a testimony, or if they devalue spiritual sources of information, they will never receive that witness. These sorts of posts are like throwing a gauntlet into someone’s lap: prove it, or I won’t believe. By design, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Church cannot be proven. It is intended to be unprovable. That is why it is faith.

Ultimately, their belief and lack thereof will rest only in their own laps. Those who believe are not called to convert, but to testify. Conversion is solely between the individual and the Spirit, and ultimately it will be to God an individual must answer. Judgment as to whether or not they have reached for knowledge from God in every way they can is up to God, temporarily those He has designated, and no one else. All we can do is shrug and say, “I don’t know why you haven’t felt it, but I have.”

That’s not a non-answer, it just isn’t the answer you want.

I believe that SilverRain was on to something, but I wanted to find out further. I for one do think that many progressive Mormon folks on the internet “intellectualize” issues far often, and so conservative answers that aren’t intellectualized don’t seem compelling.

However, I was not so sure about what I perceived to be implications of SilverRain’s comments. For example, I don’t think that liberal Mormons lack a testimony, or that support for, say, women’s ordination, cannot be grounded in faith and spirituality.

So I asked a few questions

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The Reason Why Only White Jesus Saves

After I wrote my article on the ideal of being White and Delightsome, one of my friends shared it on her wall, and one of her friends wrote the following:

Praise White Jesus!

To which I replied

White Jesus saves.

A Jesus of any other ethnicity probably would get himself killed by the powers that be. Oops

Obviously, there are many reasons why the portrayal of Jesus as a white guy is problematic — and not because he was killed by the powers that be. However, this Medium article: Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down got me thinking about the popular racialization of Jesus, particularly with its subtitle: “So instead, can someone just shoot Jesus Christ already?” and a particular paragraph: Read more…

Avoiding the Appearance of Evil

When I was growing up, my parents taught me never to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Although this is advice that seems innocuous enough to be applicable to anyone, I sometimes get the sense (as I alluded to in my previous post) that this advice is laden with special meaning for black and other minority youth. Still, this was neither a lesson that any parents would give nor just a lesson with subtle racial nuances. It was also a lesson born of goodly parents, a lesson reinforced by my Mormonism.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

-1 Thessalonians 5:22

Or, as filtered more recently through a Mormon context:

…The best counsel I ever received about staying away from the edge came when, as a young married man, President Harold B. Lee called me to be a member of a bishopric. He said, “From now on, you must not only avoid evil, but also the appearance of evil.” He did not interpret that counsel. That was left to my conscience…

-“On the Edge” (1997 New Era) and “Acting for Ourselves and Not Being Acted Upon” (October 1995 General Conference), President James E. Faust, Second Counselor of the First Presidency

I know that LDS intellectuals typically want to point out that the basis for this interpretation is faulty…our modern understanding is based on linguistic shift, where “appearance” should mean something more like “kinds” (or, to put in another way, the scripture should read something closer to “Avoid evil wherever it appears.”

But I think this is one case where what is true (the linguistic origins or the actual meaning) is not useful.

Mormons certainly aren’t the only folks to suffer misinterpretations from using the King James Version of the Bible, but since Mormons do typically explicitly teach out this scripture as, “Not only avoid evil, but also the appearance of evil,” I’ll put this as a second item in a list of things I’m grateful for Mormonism for.
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A Glimpse of Becoming White and Delightsome

A long time ago when I still went to church and was a good, righteous Mormon, this elderly gentleman in the ward (who was apparently really concerned for the welfare and well-being of Africans, as I recall that he delivered several winding testimonies in Fast and Testimony meeting about the spreading of the gospel to the beautiful souls in Africa) came up to me and complimented me on how righteous I was.

He said that he was sure that in the afterlife, I would become white and delightsome.

When I tell people this story, they are often offended. Or flabbergasted. They might be sorry I had to experience that. They might be embarrassed.

The funny thing is that I wasn’t really offended, or flabbergasted, or sorry, or embarrassed at the time. I don’t think it even registered in me. I may have even recognized the intention of a compliment, and thanked him. If I felt awkward, it was because I often feel awkward being complimented in general, not because the compliment was perverse.

But you know, maybe that’s one good thing about Mormonism. It gives for me the Beatific Vision, which for a person like myself is the glimpse of becoming White and Delightsome.

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