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    My name is Spencer Macdonald

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  1. What is the difference? One of my sons, during his years as a toddler, was quiet a firebrand. He had quite a temper, even to the point of hitting me when he was angry. This arose because I had put him in time-out, and he refused to stay in his room (the doors had no locks, so we couldn't keep him in there). So I would take him into his room, close the door, and sit down with a book and read. He would cry and yell and rant, and I would more or less ignore him. He sometimes came up to me and tried to hit me in the face. I was a bit more stern with him about that, but mostly I just let him vent his spleen, then let him out when he started to behave. Was I his enemy during these torture sessions? Yep. Was he my enemy? Of course not. Actually, no. Let's look at it: "Natural man" seems to be a reference to a posture, an attitude. Something that the individual can "put off." During my teen years I found I had quite a temper. Now I don't. I changed myself. I was a sour-tempered person, now I am not. So it is, I think, with the "natural man" designator. Thanks, -Smac
  2. Yes, that's true. I'm not denying the legal effect of her signature. I'm just trying to understand how such a poorly-drafted document ended up getting filed in federal court, particularly given the moderate notoriety and media coverage this lawsuit has garnered. Thanks, -Smac
  3. This is not true. Yes, I think it is true. CFR, please. I'm quite open to being wrong on this point. Please point to the revelation that you are referencing here. Edward Kimball's research does not seem to support your view. Also consider these remarks by Marcus Martins: (Emphases added.) I encourage you to read the whole thing. If you have more information about this topic that Bro. Martins, I'm all ears. Not really. I'm not sure what "discrimination" you are referencing here. I'm not sure about that. See, e.g., here. Also, the Bible establishes that God can mandate lineage as a component of holding the priesthood. I encourage you to read Edward Kimball's treatment of this subject (particularly pp. 15-19 of the PDF). Lineages? Plural? Are you sure? Well, no, it does not. See, e.g., here: Richard L. Bushman, LDS author of a biography of Joseph Smith, writes: One faithful black member, Marcus Martins—also chair of the department of religious education at BYU-Hawaii—has said: A more detailed treatment of all the relevant scriptures from the Latter-day Saint canon can be found at this link. Interesting stuff. Well, I really don't think so. Edward Kimball. Marcus Martins. Armand Mauss. Richard L. Bushman. There are scholars out there who have spent far more time on this than I have. Also, I'd encourage you to not equivocate. There are certainly post hoc rationalizations for the ban that involve citing scripture. That is not what I am saying. I am saying that the priesthood ban appears to lack revelatory provenance. If you can point me to a revelation in the archives of the Church that proves me incorrect on this point, I will appreciate it and will happily stand corrected. Thanks, -Smac
  4. Hmm. I would not characterize this tragedy as "evil." Well, that's a reasonable post hoc rationalization/explanation. But it's also necessarily speculative. I think a big part of grappling with the Problem of Evil is acknowledging the constraints in which that problem is addressed. We don't have all the data, nor do we necessarily have a perfect grasp and conception of the data we do have. We also may lack the wisdom and patience and perspective to adjudicate the causes and purposes of tragedies such as Matthew dying by lightning strike. "Bad" covers a broad gamut, and is not necessarily congruent with "evil" where it ("bad") lacks a moral component. Last year I had a dear friend die from pancreatic cancer. It was "bad." He was in a lot of pain. It cut his life short. It deprived his friends and loved ones of his company and association. But I can't say the cancer was evil. There was no moral dimension to him contracting it. The cancer that killed my friend had no sentience, no agency, no motive. Also, I can't get on board with the central conceit of "the best of all possible worlds," at least as I understand the concept: That does not seem to fit within the Latter-day Saint paradigm. We believe this world is "fallen." That it is in a telestial state. That it will someday "be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." (AoF 1:10.) The earth, like us, has the capacity to be better than it is now. I think such discussions, being philosophical, will never be fully answered to everyone's satisfaction. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that. I think the answer to the problem the individual reaches will be heavily based on assumptions he brings with him to the discussion. We must experience both, to discern them from each other. I don't understand the question. Wickedness is a choice. Certainly. Each individual has agency, the ability to choose to act wickedly or righteously. I don't understand what you are saying here. I don't think anyone is calling for or expecting parity between good and evil in the world. But in the Latter-day Saint paradigm, there really is evil. This is a fair point. I think Lehi in the Book of Mormon had a similar sentiment in mind when he spoke to his son, Jacob, about the concept of agency in 2 Nephi 2: And in the very next verse, Lehi seems to acknowledge that this stuff is difficult to fully grasp and comprehend: And in the verse after that, he steps back and summarizes, well, the endgoal of the whole plan: Like you, I am a faithful believer in God. And while I think the Problem of Evil is ultimately addressed in the Restored Gospel, I admit that - like you - I do not have a complete and perfect answer to it. I am presently content to fill in the gaps and flaws of my understanding with Lehi's statement that "all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things," and with Nephi's humble statement that he knows that God "loveth his children," but that he (Nephi) "{nevertheless does} not know the meaning of all things." (1 Nephi 11:17.) Thank you for your thoughts. I sure enjoy your presence and perspective. -Smac
  5. With respect, I disagree. The priesthood ban lacked scriptural/revelatory provenance. The Law of Chastity, the meaning and significance of marriage, etc. have substantial provenance. Thanks, -Smac
  6. Here: Opinion: Balancing the tensions of our Latter-day Saint and LGBTQ conversations Some excerpts: These are some good thoughts. The references to Elder Holland's recent remarks, and to Elder Maxwell's "spiritutal ecology" comments, are poignant to me. He goes on to compare recent trends re: LGBT issues with the early Christians' encounters with Hellenistic philosophy: I wish I could write like this, particularly the second and third paragraphs above. Ty is distilling various cultural influences in ways that I think are trenchant and worthy of further discussion. Anyway, read the whole thing. Thoughts? Thanks, -Smac
  7. Since your son is not withing our stewardship, no. Encouraging members of the Church to keep the commandments is not "shaming" them. So can I. It's a reasonable concern to have. But I think it's been way overblown by the critics of the Church. See, e.g., here: "{T}he U.S.-born church is subsidizing its work {in other countries}."' "Quinn says {that} the source of those subsidies must be offerings from Americans and the businesses the faith owns." I am emphasizing this not to toot the horn of the American Saints, but to gently rebut the rather frequent criticism of the Church's ownership of business interests. Those business interests seem to be revenue generators. That is, they are making more money than they are taking in. And those profits are, as we all know, being used to prop up the opulent and profligate "jetset" lifestyle of the General Authorities, what with all of their mansions, beachfront condos, private jets, wild n' crazy parties, and so on. Oh, wait. That's not it. The profits are being used to subsidize the Church's efforts in places like Africa and Latin America. I think the Church's successful for-profit businesses are a very good thing, particularly given the modest lifestyle exhibited by the General Authorities. My sister's father-in-law is a GA, so I have had some opportunity to observe him and his wife in an informal setting. My assessment is that they . . . are very, very normal. I appreciate Quinn's remarks here, though I would quibble a bit about that last bit. "Mormonism has always been business?" As a matter of theology? Sorry, no. The Church's business interests are a means, not an end unto themselves. The Church maintain business endeavors to make money, but not for the sake of making money. The Church uses these funds to support not-yet-self-supporting areas of the Church. Church buildings, and temples, and missionary work, and so and and so forth. These are the theological "ends" of Mormonism. Pointing the children of men toward God. The Church's existence and efforts, including its business efforts, are designed to facilitate that objective. And I am glad that it seems to be working well. And here: I get that. The way forward, then, is to give the matter some thought and study, rather then reflexively and ignorantly denounce what we have only just recently encountered. As D. Michael Quinn put it: See, I think it matters a lot that the Brethren are not enriching themselves. I also think it matters a lot that nobody is accusing the Church of profligate or wasteful or unwise spending. The complaint - and it seems to be coming mostly from people who are not contributing to the Church - is that the Church is not spending enough on charitable efforts. "Seems to be" being the operative phrase there. And noticeably absent from you statement is any indication of enrichment of the Brethren. I keep coming back to that because I think Analytics' comparison of the Church to a hedge fund is absurd to the point of dishonesty. If the purpose of the Church's investments was to enrich investors - and the people in control of the Church's - then I could understand the venom and outrage. If the Church was going skint on missionary work, physical facilities, schools, humanitarian/charitable work, etc., then I could understand the venom and outrage. But those things aren't happening. The Church is spending huge amounts of money on good and proper things. The Church is also growing in areas that are nowhere near being self-sustaining. The Church's management of its funds is plainly within the bounds of the law, as even folks like Analytics seem to be conceding. So all the hooplah is less about what the Church is doing, and more about what critics and opponents think the Church should be doing. Well, fine. Free Speech and all that. But then let's stop pretending that Hunstman's lawsuit is anything but a pretext. It's not about "fraud." It's about Huntsman wanting to vent his spleen and tell the Church what to do. I'm pretty okay with that. The Church has all sorts of committees and checks and balances and safeguards in place, and by every indication those seem to be functioning quite well. If we had evidence of the Brethren enriching themselves, or of unwise or wasteful spending, then I would be more concerned. As it is, however, I see no evidence of misconduct, and plenty of evidence that the Church is doing what it is supposed to do. I get that critics are endlessly looking for dirt on the Church, but I think it's inappropriate to file vexatious lawsuits (as Huntsman, Gaddy and others have done), or to encourage Church employees to steal from the Church and secretively send it to critics (as Ryan McKnight has done), or to protest on sacred ground during a sacred convocation (as Kate Kelly has done), or to malign the bishops of the Church has latent perverts and child molesters (as Sam Young has done). I think a reasoned and fairminded inquiry into the Church's finances would yield some findings, such as: We can see that the Brethren are not enriching themselves. We can see that the Brethren are not living lavishly. We can see that nobody is getting rich of the Church's funds. We can see that the Church's funds are being spent on missionary work, temple and family history work, construction and maintenance of facilities, educational endeavors, charitable/humanitarian/philanthropic work, and on and on and on. We can see that Bishops spend 100% of fast offerings on helping people in need. We can see missionaries and members volunteering millions of man-hours of time and labor to serve others. We can see all this and more. But none of this matters to the critics. No credit is given for what we do "right." Instead, the search will continue for what they think we've done wrong. And if something that we've done "right" comes into view, they'll just move the goalposts and demand more. Because the objective is not to find information, but to find fault. Thanks, -Smac
  8. Huh. I thought we were having a reasoned discussion, that's all. But I'll leave you to it. Thanks, -Smac
  9. That's a mighty big "if." I suspect you have in mind a laissez-faire approach to sexual ethics. That is, the Church does not have such an approach, and instead teaches a set of ethics that - by modern standards - are stringent and exacting. I submit that the real "roadblock" to a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ is the laissez-faire approach. If and when we impose restraints on what we allow Jesus to say about how we live our lives, we distance ourselves from Him. Hence we get the mealy-mouthed "I'm spiritual, but not religious" stuff. If the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to have meaning and effect in our lives, there must be obedience to the precepts He taught. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15.) "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21.) We each of us must overcome our own roadblocks. For some, the roadblock is the Lord's constraints on our sexual behavior. For others, it is the pursuit of wealth, or the use of harmful substances, or the refusal to forgive, or the failure to repent, or laziness, and so on. I'm trying to, yes. I don't know what this means. I sure would like to be free to disavow polygamy. I sure would like to be indifferent to same-sex marriage. I sure would like to not having to endure the endless disparagements and vitriol that so many folks these days send our way. But here's the thing: I believe the Lord has, at times, ordained and commanded polygamy. I also believe the Lord expects and requires us to obey the Law of Chastity. I also believe the Lord expects us to not bend to prevailing social winds as regarding the radical re-definition of marriage. Because I believe these things, and because I believe these are part of "the true message Christ taught," then I guess yes, I am willing to "take the consequences may have on {my} membership." Those consequences are . . . that I carry to obligation to stand up for and defend the Church of Jesus Christ against those who endlessly speak and act against it. I reject the notion that "the true message Christ taught" includes laissez-faire sexual ethics. I find that notion wholly incompatible with both scripture and modern prophetic counsel. I doubt it. Because he's choosing to disobey a commandment. Deliberately. He doesn't get to re-define the commandments to suit his personal tastes and preferences. I'm reminded of this anecdote about Abraham Lincoln: The individual is, of course, at liberty to tithe or not tithe. But just as we can't re-characterize a calf's tail and say it has five legs, we also cannot re-define "tithing" and then pretend that this constitutes obedience to the Lord. It ain't. My membership in the Lord's Church is an important part of the covenants I have made with Him. I'll not play politics with it, nor will I impose capricious conditions on it. Thanks, -Smac
  10. I'm glad to hear it. No organization or society or community can long withstand the corrosive effects of A) fetishizing and glorifying "victim"-ness, B) endlessly self-indulgent and capricious individualism, C) glass-jawed crybullying. If the Church is what is claims to be, then we need to buck up and be devoted to and appreciative of its merits and virtues, while also being resilient and patient as to its flaws and shortcomings. I find it hugely ironic that our critics endlessly fault us (often unfairly) for our supposed pursuit of "perfectionism," and then turn around and rail against us for not being perfect. For having flaws and making mistakes. That is appreciated. I too think the members are good people in generaly, and that goodness principally flows from adopting the doctrines of the Church into our daily lives. "Safe." Rather a strange word to use in this context. Not really. I think this notion of "safety" is infinitely malleable, and facially unsound. Worse, it's a subtle manipulation. "I won't come to church until and unless I feel 'safe.' And I won't feel 'safe' until everyone around me hops to and capitulates to my personal preferences and choices." Again, no organization or society or community can long withstand the corrosive effects of this sort of thing, which I think relates back to what I said above about fetishizing "victim"-ness (note the scare quotes), capricious individualism (I can't think of a better example than "I don't feel 'safe' because...") and crybullying. There is nothing unsafe about reasonable guidelines regarding dress and grooming. There is nothing unsafe about doctrine-based constraints on tattoos, particularly as pertaining to youth. I think you raise a reasonable point about unkind (and likely unsolicited) generalized remarks about "the gay community." I have never heard such disparagements in any church setting during my adult life, but I won't altogether discount individualzed anecdotes. That said, I think the Church is trying very hard to maintain its doctrines and policies regarding the Law of Chastity and same-sex marriage while still being compassionate and kind and respectful toward those who have divergent viewpoints. I don't know what this means. Also, "pushback" seems cover a broad spectrum of behavior, some of which is quite appropriate (reasoned and reasonable disagreements in the Marketplace of Ideas), and some of which are not (endless disparagements, unfair characterizations, evil-speaking, intentional efforts to alienate and terrify LGBT youth, etc.). I think we would have some substantial disagreements about what can or ought to be categorized as "flaws" in the Church. Could you provide some examples? Thanks, -Smac
  11. Trendy, unserious, substance-free blather. The Church is a voluntary association of individuals. It's sort of odd that I have to point that out. Thanks, -Smac
  12. I thought the application would be self-evident. I guess I had in mind the (fictitious) quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln in Disney's Pollyanna: Res ipsa loquitur. No, I am suggesting that what you call "serious issues and problems" are, in the main, not "serious." White shirts? Injunctions against tattoos and multiple ear piercings? These are, in your view, "serious issues and problems?" Well, that's probably part of it. But the other part is that I am not looking for "these problems." I am not seizing on a few minor quibbles about the Church, or even one or two more-than-minor grievances, and using them to condemn the entirety of the Church. But that's my point. I didn't have to "look all that hard to notice" the flaws in my ward's church building. They where there, but I didn't notice them until I went looking for them. One of the worst things about faultfinding is just how easy it is to become an expert at it. Should they be, though? I think . . . not. I'm reminded of Matthew 23: To be sure, "the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith" matter much more. We ought to be kind and patient and loving with each other. But there are also things that matter not as much, but are still not for us to "leave . . . undone." When I was a soldier, I was required to shave every day. This was an annoyance. But it was a requirement (and, broadly speaking, a good and reasonable one). It seemed like a rule for the sake of itself (it wasn't). It was a fairly minor daily routine, but some chose to make it more than "minor." So it is, I think, with things like wearing a white shirt (which even California Boy leaves as a theoretical grievance), or abiding by prophetic counsel regarding tattoos and earrings. These are the less-then-weightier matters that are nevertheless not to be left "undone." The very fact that people like CB point to these as valid grounds for estrangement from the Church only proves my point. I think we ought not to be in the habit of faultfinding. Of looking for things about which we can take offense, and then proceeding to publish - even by proxy - such grievances. What "privilege" are you referencing here? Thanks, -Smac
  13. God sent us to a fallen world Yes, I agree with that part. I don't understand this part (the "by our nature" bit). Could you elaborate? You seem to be imputing some form of Calvinism onto us. This June 1992 Ensign article by Robert Millet touches on this issue: Yep. Let's go back to the beginning. "All inherited a fallen states . . . a state in which temporal and spiritual death prevail." I think that is distinguishable from saying that we are, by our nature, "enemies" to God. "Sin conceiveth" in our "hearts" because we are in a fallen state. I think that is distinguishable from saying we are, by our nature, "enemies" to God. Millett hits on this point directly: I think Millett's entire article is worth a read. Here's another point worth considering that may be rejoinder to the notion that we are "naturally" depraved or wicked or some such. Consider Moroni 8: See also D&C 137:10: If we were, by our "nature," evil / wicked / depraved / "enemies to God," then why do little children not need baptism? Thanks, -Smac
  14. I've been attending the same ward in the same building for nearly sixteen years. I have been in the building many hundreds of times, for cumulatively some thousands of hours. The last few weeks I have been working on a project at home. I am converting my carport into a garage. I hired a guy to pour the cement footings, frame the walls and install a window and a door. I am doing the tyvek wrap, flashing, trim, siding, sealing, painting, etc. It's taking me a while, as I'm doing it in my (limited) spare time, and I've never done it before, and I'm not very good with my hands. However, I have been taking pains to install these things in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations and in line with YouTube tutorials I've watched. In the process I've become, well, pretty critical of the work. I cut some of the siding too short (these are 4 by 8 foot panels, trimmed to fit). Some of the gaps are too wide. Some of the cuts aren't perfectly straight. Not all of the screws have been into the studs. Also, the carport is about 60 years old, so its angles are not perfect. The concrete on one corner has settled a little. Last Saturday morning I and my family went to the church building because it is our ward's turn to clean. Few people showed up, so we ended up being there a while (1.5 hours, instead of the typical 20-30 minutes). While there I found myself noticing . . . all sorts of flaws in the building. A small crack running several inches in the masonry above the door to the library. A small gap in the trim in one of the foyers. A "rise" in the carpet outside the bishop's office (the subfloor is buckling up about 1/2 an inch). I had previously been aware of some odd design/construction things with the building. For example, the "funeral door" leading out of the chapel has about a 1.5 inch concrete lip on the outside, which makes getting a casket into the chapel through that door very difficult. Also, the Primary Room was, I've been told, added on years after the construction of the building. It's ceiling is plenty high in the middle of the room, but it slops downward and at each end is very low (under six feet). The fire alarm goes off fairly often, often for no apparent reason. The heating and cooling systems don't seem to reach the classroom in the northeast corner of the building, where the young women meet. They are often hot in the summary and sold in the winter while meeting there. Anyway, last Saturday I began pointing these things out to my wife. We both remarked how we had been coming to this building for years and had never noticed them. I told her that I think I had noticed these flaws because of the work I had been doing with our carport/garage. My wife then remarked that she had likewise not noticed the flaws in my work on the siding and such until I had specifically pointed them out to her. Prior to that she had thought I had been doing a really good job. She said that even after I pointed out the flaws, the overall work still looked quite good, even though she was now more cognizant of my mistakes. She then said something like "I guess it's the same with these flaws in the church building. They are certainly there, but you don't really notice them unless you go looking for them." Thanks, -Smac
  15. Here: I'm glad nobody was hurt, and that the fire was accidental. Thanks, -Smac
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