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smac97

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About smac97

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    My name is Spencer Macdonald

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  1. Another legal concept that may be of use here is the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, described here: I think there is a similar implied understanding that exists in the TR interview process. That is, the interviewee should not resort to - as Kiwi aptly describes it - "lexical duplicity" in order to justify or rationalize "a technical excuse for breaching the contract," or else to use "specific contractual terms in isolation in order to refuse to perform his or her contractual obligations, despite the general circumstances between the parties." Thanks, -Smac
  2. Well, yes. Perhaps this is something that needs to be specifically addressed by priesthood leaders with the individual. It's an elephant in the room. I am not sure "all we can do" has been reached. I am glad to hear about your friend. I just wonder if there are things we can do to help similarly-situated brothers and sisters likewise avoid letting their "regret" define them. And then there are those brothers and sisters who feel regret but oughtn't. Who cannot serve a full-time mission for health reasons, but who nevertheless feel "less" (less valued, less valiant, whatever) for not having served. Hmm. Thanks, -Smac
  3. Well, perhaps. But is there any room for improvement on our part? I wonder if we can be more "diplomatic" and "deft." I also wonder if we can go out of our way to make these folks feel welcomed and valued and respected, regardless of the individual's measure of observance. "Bristle" is one reaction, sure. But there can also be regret. Real, heart-felt regret. Perhaps coupled with some flavor of embarrassment or shame at not adhering to the behavioral expectations. That regret can then proceed into "bristling," then outright anger, then . . . leaving activity in the Church. Okay. But I can't help but think there is room for us to improve. Not abandoning the behavioral standards and expectations, nope. But increasing genuine love and affection and support ("Mormon Nice" has a whiff of insincerity about it). Thanks, -Smac
  4. You raise some very good points. And fair. However, perception can be almost as important as reality. So feelings being "judged, shamed, stigmatized, etc." may sometimes be a combination of self-inflicted "in their heads" kind of stuff, but also some taking of offense. So we can and should go out of our way to make sure that we are demonstrating warmth and acceptance for those who, for whatever reason, do not serve. Thanks, -Smac
  5. I think perhaps the Church and the membership thereof needs to modify our cultural expectations of serving a mission. That is to say, young men (and, increasingly, young women) should be specifically and generally valued and respected if they do not serve a mission. In World War I, British Admiral Charles Fitzgerald founded the "Order of the White Feather" to hand out white feathers, at the time a traditional symbol of cowardice, to men who were not in uniform. "The organization aimed to shame men into enlisting in the British army by persuading women to present them with a white feather if they were not wearing a uniform. This was joined by some prominent feminists and suffragettes of the time, such as Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel." The campaign ran into some problems: Have young men and young women have been shamed out of the Church because they have received latent (or even patent) "White Feather" treatment by their peers because they did not serve a mission? I think so. I don't know how many, but many of these folks probably could and would have gone on to continued activity but for instances of cultural shaming because they did serve. Consider the situation of a faithful young man who, for medical or mental health reasons, does not serve a mission, but who then encounters a young woman who refuses to date anyone but a returned missionary. That's a "White Feather" moment that can drive the young man right out of the Church. I do not mean to diminish the profound importance of serving a mission. I just think we need to be more nuanced in our perception of these things. Per the above cite, there were plenty of problems with the "White Feather" campaign. Public servants and men in essential occupations were shamed for not enlisting. Men who had enlisted but were not in uniform were shamed. Similarly, there are young men who do not serve for any number of reasons. Medical and mental health issues are perhaps the most significant, as many of the young men with these conditions have probably waited all their lives to serve as missionaries, but are precluded from doing. This is hard for them, and becomes considerably more so when they are shamed by their peers for not serving. There are also young men who cannot serve because of misconduct in their youth (criminal behavior and Law of Chastity problems being the most common). These young men are precluded from service by their own actions, and this probably amplifies the feelings of pain and discomfort (and, for some, probably anger and rebellion) brought on by "White Feather" treatment they may receive, actively or passively, from their fellow members. Such young men can and should be afforded the opportunity to proceed in their lives, to serve God in other ways, and to be in full fellowship and standing in the Church. There are also young men who simply choose not to serve. This is perhaps the most delicate and difficult group to work with, as their decision not to serve may be borne of worldly priorities coming first, or laziness, or indifference, or rebellion. All of these things would seem to stem from a common root: an insufficient testimony. I think we need to resist the temptation to "White Feather" these young men, as they are likely on the outer edge of activity in the Church already. We need to love them and welcome them in full fellowship. Some of them may end up changing their minds. Some won't, and we still need to love and value these men. They have innate worth, and deserve our respect even if they choose not to follow the Lord's commandments in this respect. As a young man I had a bishop who told us that as a youth he chose not to serve a mission because he wanted to pursue a career in basketball. That didn't work out, so he went to college, settled down and started a family. Fortunately, he remained active in the Church, raised his children in the Church, and served in the Church in many ways. He strongly encouraged his children to not replicate his mistake, and to my knowledge all of his sons - my peers and friends - served missions. I wonder what would have happened to this good man and his family had he been alienated from the Church by "White Feather" treatment arising from his failure to serve a mission. To its credit, the Church has worked hard to eliminate financial impediments to serving a mission. I am very glad of that. In sum, I think we should consider the following: 1. Eliminate Litmus Test: I think we, as individual members and families, should reduce and eliminate the notion that, for young men, serving a mission is the de facto litmus test for faith and activity in the Restored Gospel. There are many legitimate reasons why a person may not serve a mission. There are also some less-than-legitimate ones. Our role, however, is better fulfilled by not presuming to judge another's failure to serve, and to instead embrace him (or her) in full fellowship and love. 2. Church Service Missionaries: I also think we should significantly emphasize the Church's emerging "Church Service Missionary" program. I have a son who was precluded by medical issues from serving a full-time mission, but who is presently serving a Church Service mission. He works in the Referral Center at the MTC in Provo. He mans the "chat" feature of Mormon.org, and hence has regular opportunities to preach the Gospel, albeit online. He is also our ward's Assistant Ward Mission Leader, so he regularly goes on visits in the evenings. He has also taught quite a few missionary lessons in person. He also regularly seeks out and performs service projects for people in our neighborhood. Notwithstanding these things, my son has occasionally struggled with the notion that what he is doing is not a "real" mission because he is not out knocking doors, or learning a language, or what have you. In a sense, he runs the risk of "White Feathering" himself a bit. I have advised him that many (most?) of the "war stories" missionaries tell relate to the inefficiencies of missionary service (knocking on doors), or to life lessons that the individual missionary learns (hard work, persistence, patience, knowledge of the Gospel, loving and serving our brothers and sisters, learning to get along with companions, etc.). His missionary work is extremely efficient (he literally speaks to people all day, people who are contacting the Church), so I have suggested that he not yearn for the inefficiencies other missionaries encounter, particularly since the overall objective of missionary work is to preach the Gospel and serve others, and he is doing that extremely well. I have also noted that his service allows for plenty of personal growth in term of hard work, persistence, patience, knowledge of the Gospel, loving and serving our brothers and sisters, etc. My son's cousin is also serving as a Church Service Missionary. Presently he works with the FM ("Facilities Maintenance") group in maintaining and repairing church buildings. He feels, correctly, that his is a sacred work since he is preserving the houses of the Lord. I understand that he also has opportunities to teach the Gospel locally as well. This wonderful program fills the gap left between A) the Church's ongoing mandate for its members to perform missionary work and B) the inability of many young men and women to serve a full-time proselytizing mission. 3. Counsel from General Authorities: Lastly, I would like to see General Authorities clearly admonish members to not engage in patent, or even latent, "White Feather" behavior, and to instead exercise greater compassion and love and abstention from judgment. __________ The cultural expectation/requirement for young women to serve has become stronger, but my sense is that it's not nearly as acute as what is brought to bear on the young men. So some of the foregoing concepts will probably begin to apply to them as well. Thanks, -Smac
  6. New First Presidency

    And not only profess it, but well and truly mean it. It does not follow, however, that members are obligated to publicly itemize the specific flaws and errors of the General Authorities. I'm not sure about that. I think we can do that in the appropriate time, place and manner. I'm tempted to provide a link to Elder Oaks 1987 Ensign article, "Criticism." It it just so very relevant to online discussions these days. The wrong time, place and manner, it seems. Well, no. Publicly speaking in opposition to the General Authorities is a serious matter. Do you agree? Can you also agree that such opposition might, in some circumstances, warrant some measure of discipline (such as the removal of a temple recommend)? If so, then what we're left with is . . . a judgment call. Not a per se error. A judgment call. Thanks, -Smac
  7. New First Presidency

    But that's not what is being suggested, I think. If a bishop asks "Do you keep the Word of Wisdom," and the interviewee responds with "Well, pretty much, yes," or "For the most part," and if the bishop then asks for clarification, he is not really "add{ing} to the questions." He is seeking a clear and honest and unequivocal response to the authorized question about the Word of Wisdom. I don't think the bishop should use his own personal interpretation of the Restored Gospel, I agree with you there. I think the bishop should ask the questions, and clarifying inquiries where appropriate, based on the teachings of the Church. As Elder Andersen put it: Rejecting Joseph Smith as a prophet might be a disqualifying issue. Rejecting the Book of Mormon as having "historicity" might be a disqualifying issue. Some private interpretations of the Word of Wisdom (such as the the one I posed in my previous post) might be a disqualifying issue. Private interpretations of the Law of Chastity might be a disqualifying issue. And so on. Thanks, -Smac
  8. New First Presidency

    Okay. This sounds like a rejection of historicity altogether, rather than incidental disputes of specific details and characterizations. I don't think it does. Words must have a commonly-understood meaning in order to have utility. Equivocation can be a form of dishonesty, after all. And a bishop could be derelict in his responsibilities as a judge in Israel if he ignored equivocation or other Dehlin-esque efforts to mislead/deceive. And then there is the spirit of the thing. If a person in a TR interview says to his bishop "Well, I don't drink alcohol or use tobacco or drink coffee or tea. However, my interpretation of the Word of Wisdom allows me to smoke marijuana, dabble with Percocet, and drop acid now and again. None of these is prohibited in the text of the Word of Wisdom, so in answer to your question, yes, I keep the Word of Wisdom," how do you think the bishop should proceed? I invite you to reconsider this statement. I have a hard time believing you can stand by it. How can you possibly affirm a statement when you deny the necessity of that statement to have meaning? Imagine you are a litigant in a lawsuit about a fistfight you had with your neighbor, Joe. Your neighbor sues you, and at the trial his attorney asks the following: Attorney: So tell us a bit about the actual fistfight. Where did it take place? Rockpond: On my driveway. Attorney: And when? Rockpond: On July 2, 2017, at about 3:00 p.m. Attorney: What was the fight about? Rockpond: Joe came over and yelled that my dog had bitten his daughter earlier in the day, then he started the fight. Attorney: What do you mean, "he started the fight?" Rockpond: It doesn't matter what I believe it means. Attorney: Um, what? You just said that Joe "started the fight." What does that mean? Rockpond: You're missing the point. Attorney: Well, no, I'm not. This lawsuit is about a physical altercation between you and Joe. You are claiming that Joe "started the fight." We need to understand what that means. Rockpond: No, we don't. Words need to have meaning in order to convey information. Refusal to explain the meaning of a response to a question does not "miss the point," either in court or in a TR interview. The entire point of both events is to gather information and discern truth. The TR questions are not some rote incantation that a bishop mindlessly utters. If that were the case, the Church could simply have people fill out a form online. There would be no need for an interview. To be sure, there are times when a bishop can exceed the appropriate scope of inquiry in a TR interview. But just as a bishop can construe that scope too broadly, I think you may be construing it too narrowly. The role of bishops as "judges in Israel" is not just flowery prose. It's not just an honorary title. It's supposed to mean something. I agree. But we aren't talking about added questions. We are talking about responses to the approved TR questions. I have nothing to say regarding your friend. I'm speaking generally, not specifically. I think a bishop or a stake president can discern when an individual is equivocating or otherwise using deceit in a TR interview. That being the case, further inquiry and discussion would not only be appropriate, but imperative. Thanks, -Smac
  9. New First Presidency

    There is nothing in the TR questions that requires a belief in the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon. Strictly speaking, you are correct that "the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon" is not mentioned in the TR questions. I'm not quite sure what "literal historicity" means. Are you suggesting a very tight, hyper-precise, everything-that-is-described-in-the-Book-of-Mormon-happened-exactly-as-described historicity? Or a broader "The Book of Mormon described actual, living persons and events, but also reflects some biases and limited perceptions in some particular passages" kind of historicity? Also, the question about having "a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days" means something. What are your thoughts about that? For example, can someone reject Joseph Smith as a prophet and still affirm "a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?" I think the situation described above is something better left to the properly-exercised discretion of the bishop and the individual (and probably the stake president as well). With respect, I disagree. I think exploring the parameters of a person's "testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days," particularly when the person expresses real reservations about a foundational element of the Restored Gospel (such as the Book of Mormon) is well within the purview of a bishop (and a stake president). Bishops and stake presidents are not automatons, after all. They are judges in Israel. They are supposed to exercise judgment. I appreciate and respect your concern about bishops and stake presidents exceeding the scope of the TR questions. However, the Book of Mormon is an extremely important portion of the Restored Gospel. It is the "keystone of our religion." Can you appreciate the possibility that a bishop could be justified in exploring a person's stated concerns/doubts about, or outright rejection of, that "keystone" as having historicity? Imagine someone responding to the first two questions with something like "I like and respect Jesus Christ as a purely metaphorical son of God. He was a good teacher and taught us important moral truths by which we can be saved, but He was not divine. Nevertheless, I am comfortable with answering 'yes' to both the first and second questions {in the TR interview}." What do you think a bishop should do in such a circumstance? Thanks, -Smac
  10. New First Presidency

    Thank you. I believe that because the Scriptures and the Church teaches it. It's a matter of faith, of course. But polygamy is baked into the LDS paradigm, along with animal sacrifice, male-only ordination, the Law of Chastity's narrow constraints on sexual activity, the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Tithing, the Book of Mormon and its origin story, and on and on and on. I can see that. I have a hard time understanding the basis for your position, but I see no need to press the matter. You are not within my stewardship. So perhaps we can just agree to disagree on this fundamental thing, and go our separate ways with cordiality. I wish you well. Thanks, -Smac
  11. New First Presidency

    I know it is a common trope to characterize lawyers as being obsessed with the letter of the law, as martinets who have no concern for the "human" side of legal issues that arise. Having worked as an attorney for 13 years now, I feel that such characterizations are often very misplaced. I think lawyers are some of the most clear-eyed observers of the interactions between "justice" and "mercy." Thanks, -Smac
  12. New First Presidency

    That is a good attitude. I hope our fellow Saints who have expressed displeasure with his "removal" or "demotion" will follow his lead. Thanks -Smac
  13. I guess things boil down to the expectations each of us harbored prior to watching the press conference. Was I expecting a breezy showing of banter and repartee? Nope. These men are presenting themselves in a congenial and friendly, but nevertheless solemn and decorous, way. Was I expecting their off-the-cuff remarks to be as polished and poised and well-framed as a General Conference talk? Well, not really. Are these men expert at handling press conferences? Well, not really. Can these men improve in their interactions with the press? Sure. Is conducting smooth and fluid press conferences a prominent aspect of their calling? Nope. Is most of this stuff just a matter of taste? Eye-of-the-beholder? Yes, I think it is. Thanks, -Smac
  14. It's not the number of people involved. As you say, the actual application of the policy in question is very, very limited. Rather, the source of the acrimony and angst is . . . you and yours. With respect, I don't think you can credibly speak for "the majority" of Latter-day Saints. At all. The issue isn't a lack of comprehension. The Law of Chastity is rather clear, after all. It's not hard to understand. It's just hard for some to accept. Quite so. The same could be said for "the richness and fulness" that can be found in some polygamous marriages. Or by and between unmarried parents. "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." (Romans 10:1-3). Have you stopped beating your spouse yet? Or are loaded questions not worth your attention? The Church has made great strides in improving how it treats issues pertaining to same-sex attraction. You are demonstrating . . . something else. Alas, if this were a question I thought was posed in good faith, I would attempt to answer it. But I don't, so I won't. Yes. And we can get along quite well. Reasonable minds can disagree about many things, including important things. The problem arises when people who despise the LDS Church come along and presume to speak for the Church. To tell others what we believe and why. To cast us in the worst possible light. To bear false witness. To foment fear and angst and discord and hatred. And perhaps worst of all, to alienate and cause the estrangement of gay Latter-day Saints from their faith and their families. Consider the following scenario: You are a young man who is raised as a faithful Mormon in a faithful Mormon family in a faithful Mormon community. All your friends and family are Mormon. But you have realized you are sexually attracted to members of your own gender. You haven't told anybody, perhaps. This is a deep, dark secret you must keep to yourself. But this young man goes online and sees all sorts of horrible rhetoric. He reads, for example, about the Church's policy regarding members who enter into a same-sex marriage, about how their children cannot received the ordinances of salvation that everybody else's children receive. This policy is characterized in the absolute worse, most negative light possible. No context is given. Elder Christofferson's remarks are not given any attention. The Church's explanation is either not mentioned, or else treated with contempt and derision. It is instead replaced with the claim - the damnably false claim - that the LDS Church "hates" gay people. These people have no problem with telling the young man what his Church and its leaders and followers purportedly think about him. That is, people already predisposed to dislike the Church begin and maintain a massive campaign to publicly excoriate and vilify the LDS Church. This campaign is similar in design and tactics to those used to train Palestinian children to fear and loathe Jews. That is, this struggling young man is all at once inundated with endless messages and declarations that the religion to which he belongs "hates" him. That the General Authorities he has looked up to and admired "hate" him. That some of his fellow Latter-day Saints "hate" him. His worldview is upended. All that he thought he knew was wrong. Everyone, it seems, is telling him that his friends, his family, his church, "hate" him. And let's keep in mind that these messages are not coming from his LDS friends and family and leaders, but from their enemies, people who are putting the vilest of words into the mouths of the Latter-day Saints. "Your church, your leaders, and your fellow Mormons hate you" is the message being purveyed. By enemies of the Latter-day Saints. To the minds of impressionable and stressed-out teenagers. How do you think that might make this young man feel? Surely such a message would be an incredible stressor to an impressionable young man or woman. And yet I have not seen much in the way of critics cautioning each other against publishing rhetoric designed to alienate Latter-day Saints from their faith. Nevo emphasized this point as made in an Archives of Suicide Research article (emphasis added): Sadly, we are witnessing people who are bound and determined to shove these stressors down the throats of LDS teens. Your post is a depressingly stark example. And they may also not find one bit of difference between a married couple having sex and an unmarried couple having sex, except that . . . the latter couple is not married. A rather significant difference, that. Again, the Law of Chastity is not some ethereal, vague concept. It is actually one of the clearest doctrines in the Church. And it's not arbitrary, either. Marriage matters. The form of the marriage matters. The purpose of the marriage matters. God's approval of these things matters. It's not a matter of what we "want" or don't "want." It's a matter of what we believe is taught and commanded by God. Here are a few thoughts: 1. Homosexual Conduct is Incompatible with Marriage: Marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God (and, as a corollary, sexual conduct outside of that union is per se sinful). As the Church has stated: Pretty clear, that. 2. Homosexual Conduct is One of Many Types of Sexual Conduct Prohibited by God: Homosexual conduct is prohibited by God (as are many other forms of sexual sin). In their 14 November 1991 letterconcerning the importance of the law of chastity, the First Presidency declared: “Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual contact, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior, is sinful.” I recognize that our current society, including some members of the Church, really really want to exempt homosexual conduct from the Law of Chastity. There are all sorts of machinations which have been attempted, including radically re-defining the word "marriage," accusing the Brethren of hate-based bigotry for not toeing the currently trendy line of embracing and celebrating same-sex behaviors, and so on. But I just don't think this will work. 3. Severance from the Purpose of Sex: Homosexual conduct necessarily and always separates sex from its fundamental purposes: A) the strengthening of a union between husband and wife and B) procreation. Elder Oaks put it this way: 4. All of Us Held to the Same Standard: Elder Oaks has spoken of the ongoing debate about "evidence or theories suggesting that 'there is substantial evidence for genetic influence on sexual orientation,'" about sexual behavior being "profoundly influenced by psychosocial factors such as parental and sibling relationships (especially during the formative years) and the culture in which we live," and how all of this is part of a "highly complex subject on which scientific knowledge is still in its infancy" and that "most scientists concede that the current evidence is insufficient and that firm conclusions must await many additional scientific studies." The Church, having taken this into account, holds all members of the Church to the same standard of sexual conduct (see above). 5. Feelings are Not Determinative of Morality (Where God Has Spoken): Contrary to your suggestion (that we should just capitulate to whatever we "want" to do), our desires are not determinative of the standards imposed by the Law of Chastity. God has prohibited adultery amongst His children. And fornication. God has also prohibited same-sex behavior amongst His children. And other forms of exual behavior. It is true that some of His children want to (and do) engage in adultery or fornication. This is wrong. That they "want" or "desire" to engage in this point is not determinative. It is also true that some of His children want to (and do) engage in same-sex behavior. This is wrong. That they "want" or "desire" to engage in this point is not determinative. These same standard applies to all church members. Nobody is privileged. Nobody is exempt. If we take desires out of the equation, and simply look at the standard of behavior imposed on church members, we see that the same standard is applied across the board. Once we see that, all the various arguments presented all the time based as they are on homosexuals being downtrodden because of their unfulfilled desires, fall apart. I can see how distorting and mischaracterizing "the message of the Church," as people like you do, can create conflict. Indeed, such conflict is apparently the intended objective of such distortions and mischaracterizations. And, to some extent, people like you are achieving this objective. Thanks, -Smac
  15. Right. Who are you going to believe, the leader of the LDS Church, or your lying eyes? There is a large-scale and long-term and ongoing effort by some folks in the "gay community" to alienate gay Latter-day Saints from their faith. This is demonstrated in the notion you are proposing, namely, that the leader of the LDS Church cannot relied upon to credibly state LDS teachings. I agree. Unfortunately, the above-referenced effort is having some success. Why bother listening to the Mormons? There are all sorts of critics and enemies of the LDS Church who are more than willing to proclaim to others what we believe. I've never understood this mindset. If I want to understand the precepts of a faith, I would give the leaders of that faith some presumption that they are speaking the truth about their faith. We are "much more accepting" than prior generations in terms of people who violate the Law of Chastity in other ways (extra-marital sex, for example). That is, we are becoming less judgmental and more compassionate and tolerant of people who choose to live that way. However, the Church's teachings regarding the Law of Chastity are not changing for ourselves, and I'm not sure we are seeing some great groundswell amongst active, observant Latter-day Saints to abandon the Law of Chastity's prohibition against homosexual behavior for those who have covenanted to live according to that law. That being the case, I think that's the best way to go. We maintain our standards, while finding ways to not be judgmental and not appear judgmental to others who do not live according to those standards. Oh, I don't know. I can "accept" such relationships without agreeing with them, or with adopting the expectation that they should be imported into the Church. I think the Brethren have demonstrated that they are quite aware of these trends. There is a reason why such a statistically tiny issue (in terms of the number of people actually involved) gets such vastly disproportionate attention from the Church. You mean the same way God wants single heterosexuals to bottle up their urges? Or do I detect the aroma of a flagrant double standard? I have faith that God will sort such things out. We needn't use denigrating slurs and sarcasm. Thanks, -Smac
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