Sunday, October 28, 2018

My Church and Polygamy: Then and Now

-by Janice Graham

This is going to be a reasonably frank analysis, so be warned. If you are too afraid to face many unsettling facts about the historical practice of polygamy by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, facts now being disseminated by the church itself, however quietly, perhaps you won't want to read this or think about any of it. However, God gave you the tools to discern truth from error, right from wrong. Truth can be a very good thing, even if it is painful. If you are a member and you face this issue honestly you will probably have to endure some measure of shock, disillusionment, and disappointment. Yes, you will be sadder, but you will also be much, much wiser. It can even be a huge spiritual growth experience if desired.

First let me say that I am a fifth generation member with somewhat prominent pioneer ancestors on both my parents' sides. My paternal great-great grandmother was Mary Hurren of the ill-fated Willie handcart company. Edmond Lovell Ellsworth, who led the first handcart company, was my maternal fifth great grandfather and he had three simultaneous wives. Now that we have some new information, and what appears to be an entirely new stance, coming from the official church, members of the church, and perhaps especially people like me who have polygamous ancestors, have a perfect right to rethink this practice, and what we have always thought about it, with an open mind.

To my surprise, starting in 2013, the church began publishing some new information about the history of Mormon polygamy and its official position on the practice today. Curiously, these essays were posted but never announced. (Click here, here and here to read the essays. Be sure to click "read more" or " if you would like to learn more," or you won't see the whole essay.) The membership of the church has never been alerted to them. You have to hear about them somewhere else in order to know they are there, in order to find them on the church's official web site, and even then it's quite difficult to find them. Apparently, someone happened upon them and called the Salt Lake Tribune, which did an article on them, October 24, 2014 entitled, "New Mormon Essay: Joseph Smith Married Teens, Other Men's Wives."

Even though members of the church are known to eat up every word it puts out, I can understand members today not wanting to read these essays. I haven't wanted to. I think it's safe to say that members in general don't like this topic much. It has been fraught with mystery and embarrassment. And dread, especially for women.

Let's go back a little. I was born in 1954. All my life as an active member of the church I was taught that the practice of polygamy was a true eternal principle. I knew it had been declared by the federal government as unlawful back in the early days and we didn't have to live it now. I also knew I had to be alright with it because I would probably have to share my husband with who knows how many wives all through eternity, which, to be honest, was always a sore spot on my soul.


Outside the church, in mainstream culture, such as in entertainment media and jokes, polygamy has always been the defining peculiarity of the Mormon church. The 1969 movie, Paint Your Wagon, comes to mind. In one scene a polygamous Mormon in the gold rush era is looking to sell one of his wives. Whoa. 

At best, polygamy has always carried with it a folklore quality in my family. My aunts and uncles on my mother's polygamous side always took it tongue-in-cheek, with a bit of pride.  I joked about it with my friends when we were young at BYU. But deep down I always cringed at the very idea. It didn't seem right or fair or moral. As a mother raising my children I read Virginia Sorensen's novel A Little Lower Than the Angels, and I realized there had to be a dark side to polygamy, given human nature.
 
To this day, within the mainstream church the subject of polygamy is pretty much avoided. Especially regarding Joseph Smith, polygamy has always been swept under the rug. One evidence of this concerns a friend who was writing a musical play about Joseph and Emma in 2007. He asked for the endorsement of a top Joseph Smith scholar, who said right up front she would not endorse his play if it covered polygamy. (This may explain why the probing Richard Dutcher never got funding for his movie about Joseph Smith, which apparently shook his trust in the church.) When polygamy is talked about at all, it is only in glowing tones as if it was a happy and comfortable and beneficial way of life for all, such as when you tour the historic Beehive House in Salt Lake City where Brigham Young lived.(Note 11/17 We have found out that polygamy is no longer mentioned on this tour!)

Throughout my life different excuses for, and questions about, polygamy have come to mind. Did the early members of the church really have too few men compared to the women? Brigham Young had 55 wives! That many fewer? Was this really a way for more children to be born into the church in order for rapid growth in numbers, and is it ethical or kind to exploit women and children in this way? Were there widows that needed marrying so they could be cared for? Were plural wives and their children always cared for properly? How could one man support so many people? Were morals different back in those days so it wasn't such a big deal? Why did women have to be faithful to one man, while that one man didn't have to be faithful to any one person? Didn't lots of biblical kings and prophets have multiple wives and concubines? Does that make it okay?

I have lately found surprising possible answers to these questions. Apparently there were plenty of men. Polygamy actually caused participating women to have less children. Widows can be cared for without becoming plural wives. (I recently ran across Mosiah 21:17 when "king Limhi commanded that every man should impart to the support of the widows and their children.") Many plural wives and their children were not provided for properly. Less favored wives were relegated to the hardest, most demeaning work. This was the Victorian era, when women did not even show their ankles, so yes, proper sexual morality was a big, big deal at this time.

About polygamy in the Bible and Book of Mormon, nowhere in these scriptures does God command anybody to take plural wives or concubines. It may have been customary or acceptable in some sense or in some cultures, but it is not God who commanded any of it. Look and see. It's always human beings who decide to do it. And if the excuse is that God allowed it, well, God allows people to do all sorts of wrong things. It's called agency and choice and accountability. In fact, God condemns the taking of plural wives and concubines over and over throughout the scriptures and emphasizes that proper marriage is between one man and one wife. It wasn't Adam and Eves.

Now here comes some of the really upsetting new information.

Growing up I never thought that Joseph Smith had plural wives. I thought anything I heard about it was a nasty rumor spread by anti-Mormons. I always thought Joseph was the most honest, angelic person who ever lived, except Jesus. This is what I was taught. Later I heard that perhaps he took the saintly, 38-year-old Eliza R. Snow as a plural wife, just because they were such great friends, but I wasn't sure and didn't think about it. Now, these new church essays state that "fragmentary evidence suggests" that in the mid 1830s Joseph Smith "possibly married his first plural wife," a teenage girl, Fanny Alger, who lived with the family. But Fanny soon left and married someone else. They call this a "separation." There is no record of any marriage ceremony or divorce that we can find.

It wasn't until ten years after Fanny Alger that Joseph started secretly teaching polygamy as a doctrine revealed from God, and it was much later in Utah that Brigham Young started preaching about it openly as a wholesome and necessary doctrinal practice. The church now says we don't know much about early polygamy, only that it was  "introduced incrementally" and "kept confidential." But apparently the church knows enough to publish that Joseph had dozens of wives: "careful estimates put the number between 30 and 40" (this is found only in footnote 24 of the essay), all within a period of about three years, 1841-1844. Please remember that this information is taken directly from one of these published church essays. That's about one new wife per month. Shouldn't anyone find this outrageous? Whether he had relations with each woman or not, doesn't it sound like a mockery of marriage? Why has this not been common knowledge? Why are they admitting this now?

I don't know for sure the answers to those last two questions but let's stop pretending. Mankind being promiscuous and deceitful and ambitious and greedy is nothing new. People need to read more historical classic literature. They will see that there have been many famous, and even mostly good, people throughout human experience who have had problems with sexual purity and fidelity, who have tried to find an excuse for it in scripture, and have utterly failed. (Read Samuel Pepys's famous diary for example.) And people doing whatever they can to justify sexual immorality or any other debauchery or tyranny is nothing new either. In religions, they can say that God commands, well, just about anything. The second biggest religion in the world, with 1.8 billion followers, has doctrine in its most holy book which says infidels must be killed, among many other violent and cruel tenets. With enough persuasion and emotion people can even be convinced to blow themselves up or drink fatally poisoned Koolaid and feed it to their children. Look at the LGBTQ movement. It's like a worldwide cult. They've got just about everybody brainwashed into believing sexual immorality is these people's immutable identity, that they simply can't help their very bad sexual thoughts and behaviors.

And there's more, from the church. Some of Joseph's wives were teenagers, one being of an age "several months before her fifteenth birthday." This means she was 14. The excuse given that it was not uncommon in those days for women to get married very young does not hold water for me. Again, this was the Victorian era, not medieval times. When Joseph married Emma, which I was always told was the greatest love story of all time, she was 22.  

And yes, we are now told there were also other men's wives. This is probably news to just about everyone. Joseph secretly took other men's wives and sealed them to him, even while the women continued to live with their other husbands, whom I gather were left in the dark. There even exists a list of eleven women Joseph married and their husbands available from other sources. "Several possible explanations" are given by the church, something about horizontal and vertical family bonding or linking, but it is admitted these are not understood, and they make no earthly or heavenly sense to me. To court another man's wife and get her to marry you, for any reason, whether you have relations or not, is all sorts of wrong. It's been wrong since mankind first wrote things down. 

Another thing that is very painful to me is how Emma has been portrayed and perceived. Later in my life, when it started to be common knowledge that perhaps Joseph did have some plural wives, who were more like close friends as in Eliza R. Snow (one list says she was number15), Emma began to be talked about as an unsympathetic player, blamed for all sorts of weakness and unfaithfulness, now I think unfairly. Finally, the church says, "For Joseph Smith's wife Emma [polygamy] was an excruciating ordeal . . . Emma likely did not know about all of Joseph's sealings." What kind of love story includes the infliction of that kind of suffering and deceit? Additional sources report that Emma was kept completely in the dark, that she even tried her best to dispel rumors that her husband was involved in polygamy at all. Later, when she found out at least some of what had been going on, she preached against polygamy to the women. A source from BYU says, according to John Taylor, Joseph suspended the Relief Society two years after it was formed because of Emma's crusade in opposition to plural marriage. (The Relief Society was not officially reinstituted until 23 years later in Utah.)

If I were treated like Emma I might have gone quite mad.

What a shock when I discovered that it was all of the first seven presidents of the church who practiced polygamy, right on up to George Albert Smith, #8, who became president in 1945, nine years before I was born, and was the first to not practice it. That means it was practiced for at least 100 years. (The church essay says 50 years.) In one sense, some men are still practicing Mormon polygamy today, as in when a man's eternal wife dies and he is sealed to another wife who is living, which procedure is not allowed for women. Women have different rules. (See 2010 Handbook of Instructions, #1, p 20.)  A woman can now be sealed posthumously to all the husbands she ever had but they all have to be deceased also. So now women get to have multiple spouses in heaven too?


It sure makes you stop and think. For instance, what does marriage to any number of partners have to do with salvation? The scriptures say over and over that salvation is through Christ alone. That is pretty straight forward. I don't think any new revelation is supposed to contradict the basic tenets of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Did anyone know that there was once another section 101 in the 1835 D&C? It can be found in the Joseph Smith Papers. It said marriage was only to be between one man and one wife. Apparently, it was published in order to put to rest all sorts of rumors that "fornication and polygamy" were being practiced secretly. This section remained until it was removed and replaced in 1876 with the current section as it is today (nothing about polygamy) and section 132 added, which contradictorily justifies plural marriage and remains intact.

It now occurs to me that the temple marriage sealing ceremony, which I was always taught was the only way to the highest degree of heaven, was instigated precisely to legitimize those first secret polygamous marriages. Much later, around the turn of the 20th century, it somehow evolved, without anybody explaining it, into just meaning regular monogamous temple marriage, now called "celestial marriage," as polygamy was called, even though we still have D&C section 132.

Funny, these church essays, published starting in 2013, do not say that polygamy is an eternal true principle. At least we cannot find it there. Yet just the other day a fellow Mormon casually mentioned his belief that polygamy is an eternal true principle, as if this were still common knowledge, and indicated he would obey this principle if it were reinstituted by church leaders. With gay marriage now legalized, certainly anything could happen, the least shocking of which would be the legalization of polygamy.  There are enclaves everywhere practicing it today. Personally, I don't think the church will bring it back. The church's history of it is just too problematic and in this day and age it would certainly all get very publicly dredged up. But it certainly should be brought back if legal, if Mormon polygamy is a doctrine necessary to eternal life.

But suddenly it doesn't seem to be. Indeed, rather than restating that polygamy is doctrinal, these new essays indicate that polygamy, "the new and everlasting covenant," is old and no longer everlasting. Despite D&C 132, the church now states, "Marriage is to be between one man and one woman unless God commands otherwise." The church, despite section 132, now says on its online newsroom, "The standard of the Lord's people is monogamy unless the Lord reveals otherwise. Latter-day saints believe the season the church practiced polygamy was one of these exceptions." A season? An exception? I am a latter-day saint and I was never taught or believed anything of the kind. I was told the opposite, that the standard of the Lord's people is polygamy unless the Lord reveals otherwise, that we are now being forced to live the exception, not the other way around.

From another essay (click here and here) on the church's website,"The precise nature of these relationships [any polygamous sealings, of the living or the dead] in the next life is not known . . . "  adding that these confusing things will all be sorted out hereafter. So maybe no polygamy, even in heaven? Is that what they are saying now?

Does this new way of couching the polygamy problem sound like the necessary rite that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many more, preached polygamy was?  I mean, women were told they would go to hell if they didn't participate. Now it's only seasonal, perishable, like oranges? It comes and goes? When did that change? Not that is isn't a huge relief.

It occurs to me for the first time that most of the church's early troubles, perhaps all of them, were rooted in the unlawful and immoral practice of polygamy. The excommunications of members of the first presidency and apostles who may have resisted, the persecution, the jailings, the order to destroy the Nauvoo Expositor which was exposing Joseph's exploits, the martyrdom, the split, the displacements, the pioneers, all of it. And here I was always taught that Joseph Smith was falsely accused and killed, and the early members suffered, all because the devil wanted to stop the true church.

Are we being tossed to and fro or what? Polygamy was wrong, then right (even absolutely necessary), then wrong, but sort of right (but we don't understand it so we are told that it will be sorted out after we die), and then could very well be proclaimed totally right again in the here and now.

For some time, due to the LGBT movement, members have been speculating that the church will cease to perform marriages at all, to avoid having to accommodate gay couples. They say people will have to get married civilly and then be sealed in the temple afterward. Okay, but this won't work either because the gays will say they want to be sealed forever to their partners too. Remember it's all about nondiscrimination and perfect equality. The LGBT logo is an equal sign. So the church will have to find a way around that too.

Let's plant our feet firmly on the ground. God gave us hearts and minds. To use. He is also no respecter of persons. That means men and women are valued the same. I see now that polygamy puts men at a higher value than women. It demeans women. In polygamy, no number of women need ever equal one man. Such women are not singled out as the love of a man's life, even though they are required to make him the one love of their lives. Practically, they don't have their husband around for support or help nearly as much, if at all. They are not equal partners in the home. The man is the single highest authority and has status over everyone. Does this sound right in any way? Is it good for anybody?

Just watch some of those documentaries about religious polygamy today (See YouTube online). Here we have the practice of polygamy being lived out for all to see, as under a microscope, and we should note that Mormon Fundamentalist-type polygamy is always one husband and multiple wives, as it was historically, not the other way around.  Seems to me, spiritualized polygamy is an excuse to legitimize a man's promiscuity. It turns the man into an endless philanderer on the constant lookout for young/attractive women, obsessed with power over as many people as he can amass. It turns the wives into pathetic perpetual flirts, vying for their wandering-eyed husband's attention. In other words, these people never grow emotionally past teenagerhood. They don't settle down the way normal married people do. The marriage relationship perhaps never matures and deepens. They act like adolescents. Plus the youngest wife, usually pregnant, turns into a daily babysitter for dozens of children, while the other wives go off to their career day jobs. The husband always comes across to me as a smarmy tyrant who manipulates every movement and thought of his domesticized flock by way of falsely spiritualizing everything to his advantage, even his current new courtship. Yes, the whole family (or rather, families) is instructed by the husband in praying together and voting on any new girlfriend. One little boy gets tickled and teased until he votes in the affirmative. And there's surely a lot more weird stuff going on we don't see. On the bright side, the women say polygamy teaches them about being patient and unselfish. Maybe, and maybe they are fooling themselves. (Believe me, you have a chance to learn those things just as well, maybe better, in monogamous marriage.) And what does the man learn? That throughout his life he can quite easily beguile an unlimited number of women, and make an unlimited number of children with them, and lord it over all of them, and think himself self-righteous in the process?


 No one knows better than me how awfully hard it is to find out these things about one's heroes and ancestors. Men just can't seem to be good all the time. Many men (and women, too) just can't resist acquiring some degree of power over others, and they always choose the easiest targets. Yes, there is some good and some bad to us all. Think what good you will of these early founders of the church, but there is also definitely some stuff that is really bad. We never should have idolized them in the first place.

None of this is mysterious if you have learned a little about human nature. In deep, basic ways human beings have always been, and will always be, the same. The scriptures call it "the natural man." There are some things human beings tend to do that have always been wrong and will always be wrong. It's that simple, no matter what we grew up being told and no matter what people are saying today.

There is a lot more to this. There is a great deal of written documentation which, because of the internet, is now available to everyone. Believe it or not, what I have offered here is a somewhat soft-pedaled version, although I have not done much to disguise my personal feelings. People will have to study it out for themselves and exercise their own minds and hearts to figure out what all of this really meant and really means. I am aware this issue is especially difficult for parents to confront as they raise their children. They want their young ones to love and trust the church. But their children are going to have to face it sooner or later. Isn't it much better to begin right away to teach them that church leaders are human beings, that all human beings make some bad mistakes, and that we are commanded to put our trust not in people but in God?

To sum up, the worst thing about Mormon polygamy for me is that I was led to believe it was the Lord's unchanging eternal principle, and that I have had to work hard at being open to living it if I wanted to go to heaven with my husband. And that now, without being announced formally so that everyone can know, polygamy is suddenly being portrayed as a temporary commandment that may come and go like the seasons, and we don't know how it translates into eternity. Isn't that practically a complete turnaround?

It comes down to this for me. For no apparent reason, I, especially because I am a woman, have been terrorized by the threat of polygamy all my life, and put down as a second class human being and child of God. And given the facts put out by the church itself, I don't know how anybody can argue with that. And I won't hear anything about how being blindly obedient to church leaders is the most important law. I will follow no human being to hell. We are supposed to be free in order to choose for ourselves to live the true gospel of Jesus Christ.


Churchwise, this is a mess. It is causing a lot of people to leave the church and, what is worse, even lose their faith in God. But lots of things in this life are a mess. We need not panic. As I said in the first paragraph of this post, we could use this as a great learning opportunity.  Life is for learning terribly lovely things. We could stop blindly worshiping  and following human beings and face the fact of the fallen human condition. We could seek out and develop a personal relationship with each member of the Godhead, learning to discern right from wrong, truth from error, with pure hearts, for ourselves. Isn't that what spiritual growth really is?

We are all sinners, including people who have passed on. Now we know some upsetting facts about a bunch of human beings we have always admired. Okay, but all of that pales in comparison to the fact that we still have the true gospel. So let's correct these mistakes. Let's repent of all this foolishness and put our reliance on the Lord. Let's continue to seek the Spirit to teach us the truth of all things, even if it hurts our pride and humbles us to the dust. Let's turn back to Jesus Christ as the only name under heaven for salvation.

Friday, October 26, 2018

"Big Sexy World"

It's a big sexy world of sex out there
People having intercourse everywhere
So many types of sex to choose
We understand if you're confused
We need a guide for these sexy times
With confidence and seductive chimes
He lives up in a secret lair
And he's not a fan of underwear
Trojan Man
Trojan Man
Ssseeeexxxxx

No, we are not even going to dignify the above with punctuation. These are the lyrics of a 30 second song that is obviously an ad for Trojan condoms in a campaign that was launched 2 months ago. The so-called Trojan man, first introduced 6 years ago, is a sleazy curly-haired hippie man in a bathtub. We thought it was a joke, a parody, a satire. Something you’d see these days on the profane Saturday Night Live. That's how it sounds. But no. It's a real advertisement.

The reason we know about this is because we actually heard a shortened version of these lyrics on KNRS that went: "It's a big sexy world. Trojan condoms. Explore with confidence." Yes, KNRS, where we listen to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity. We called the station and they said it was a national thing that they had no control over. Really? They don't care that their listeners' ears are being assaulted and offended by this stupid gross stuff? Who is in charge?

These ads are not good for anyone in any way. They are not good for kids or for singles or for married people or for LGBT people or for anyone. Nobody needs to explore sex, which is what this ad campaign implies. It implies that fornication, adultery, and any and every form of sexual interaction with any and everyone is normal and desirable. This is yet more evidence that the whole LGBT movement with all its emphasis on identity and diversity and human rights and love is just a ruse for Godless unlimited sexual behavior for all. No rules. Gay is passe. Sodomy is for everyone. That sort of thing. Indeed, according to The Health Hazards of Homosexuality, the gay movement has done its job to mainstream perverse and promiscuous sex, including sodomy.

 We called the Glenn Beck Show and were told there is such a thing as the unwired network which gets into the traffic on these radio shows, and that they try to be careful of it. The advertising guy didn’t know anything about the new Trojan ad but it sounded awful and he would check and get back to us. Man, it's unbelievable that these people who stand so strongly against this exact type of sexual propaganda stuff don't have any control over the ads that come on during their very own show. They are always talking about their wonderful sponsors. It sure looks bad.  And sounds very bad indeed.

This big sexy world we are living in seeks out children. A "curriculum" called CSE (Comprehensive Sexuality Education) is worming its way into public schools.  This amounts to child abuse, and teacher abuse, too. Yes, it’s sexual abuse when fifth-graders have to line up and have races on placing condoms on large erect penis models and verbalize what they are doing as they do it! No one is allowed to say “eww.” either. They have a program for that too called “Don’t Yuck My Yum.”  Is this sick or what? And it’s all in the name of safety and personal fulfillment!

The people who come up with these “lessons” and “activities” have got to be perverts. At the very least they never grew up into adults and are stuck in some lewd adolescent twilight zone. And like the bullies and predators they are, they just can’t keep their mitts off of the innocent, the young, the children. This is the NEA. This is GLSEN. This is the ACLU. This is Planned Parenthood.

No, this program is not about maturation and wearing deodorant. Those programs have gotten bad enough. (By the way, our free 5th grade maturation programs are available on our web site to use in place of what the public schools are offering.) But CSE goes even further. It is about VAO, that’s vaginal, anal, and oral sex. For kids.

Decent people need to pay attention to the totally sexualized culture being foisted on them and their children, to the infiltration of sexual promiscuity propaganda into our everyday lives. If everybody who thought this type of thing was wrong noisily stood against it, it would stop, or at least be stalled off.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Are Churches Getting Out of the Religion Business?

These days we regularly listen to sermons given by an evangelical pastor named John MacArthur. We listen to them on weekdays and on Sundays, whenever, and find we agree with most of what is said. Yes, we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but we find that to get a steady diet of  real sermons centered on salvation through Jesus Christ alone and Him crucified for our sins we have to go elsewhere. Being human we find we need those regular reminders. Otherwise we more easily slip into our natural selfish worldly human ways.

Yes, we need and want to go to church meetings regularly. But what we increasingly hear there is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead we hear a great deal of sociological secular humanist jargon.Yes, church these days seems to be more about human relations than about any relationship with the members of the Godhead. We think people actually believe their human interactions translate into interaction with God, but with no conscious thought of God in the process. Apparently this is common in all churches today. It is what MacArthur has called the "emergent church" or the new "social justice church." Another name for this development is the Christian Left, with the word Christian losing most of its meaning in the process.

We are not alone. We have heard from many people who belong to our church who have shared the same perception. To paraphrase:


Yeah, we don't come to church so often anymore---we head to our cabin on weekends because we don't hear much about the gospel here. 

It's all about airing people's problems and feeling good about ourselves, instead of being about faith in Jesus Christ and our need for repentance.

Our Sunday School lesson was all about social justice this week! And the instructor pretended his ideas came from the Bible! All the sudden he's on the internet promoting the acceptance of  homosexuality and gay marriage, and every other leftist cause! I've discussed it with him and the powers that be to no avail. And I wasn't the only one there who didn't like it.

My bishop said he wouldn't do anything if homosexuality were being promoted from the pulpit. But he said he might go home and tell his own family it wasn't right . . .  

All people do in church is make lists on the blackboard that never change anyone. They don't talk about how we must humbly apply precepts to overcome the natural man and become new kinds of beings in Christ.

When our nation's Christian churches abdicate their responsibility to uphold moral and scriptural truths and preach Christ, it means that churches aren't really churches anymore, just self-protecting institutions pretending to be religious.

It's understandable that the people who run churches would want to ease their way out of the now very unpopular business of confronting and warning members about the very real evils taking over world culture and the need to turn back to God. But isn't this their job? Isn't this why churches exist in the first place?

Could it really be that churches would rather avoid some pressure and unpleasantness by evolving into humanitarian, sociologically "safe" places? Is it many of today's churches' goal to make the people who feel comfortable in the world, as it is today, feel just as comfortable in church, thereby turning the church into a mere extension of the world, while continuing to be thought of as religious institutions and continuing to entitle themselves to all sorts of financial benefits, support, and gain?

All we may have that is left to live and pass on real religion is the individual and the family. Shifting some teaching responsibility from the church to the home could potentially mean leaders wouldn't have to worry about certain teaching certain topics, say, sexual immorality in the church. They could let uncomfortable things like homosexuality and transgenderism and adultery and fornication and unwed motherhood and abortion and sexual abuse freely infiltrate the church, and they could then indicate that teaching about such things, pro or con, is tricky, or private, or individual, or whatever, and must be done in the home. All the hot-button social and political evils, even though clearly condemned in scripture, could be ignored at church with this excuse. Church can just be about all that inclusiveness and unity and serving one another. Not serving God, mind you, serving one another. Indeed, it's already happening.

Maybe it's about money or, in other words, self-preservation. If a church takes no official stand on these issues, in today's climate it can't as easily be sued. This is exactly what has happened in schools. Years ago when pro-gay stuff was entering our kids' high school and we tried to be heard by the PTA, we were shut down, told the school had to be on the pro-gay side of things to reduce the risk of being sued.

We don't know what motivates churches, but if a safe place is their goal, it must be pointed out that such safety is a total delusion. For one thing, such a place is not safe for everyone. People with conservative family values and truly religious beliefs are shut up, shunned, even persecuted. They are even being burned alive or beheaded overseas. For another thing, failing to stop evil leads to more evil. Just as we see happening in the public arena, Godless people are getting really angry and violent. And no, they won't stop. They will only get more fractious. When God is taken out, it is usually evil and anarchy that fill in the void, however gradually.

Let's admit it. Taking any degree of religion out of churches by the churches themselves is a forfeiture of our freedom to assemble and worship according to the dictates of our conscience. By the way, getting rid of religion is one of the first things despots in communist and socialist countries do. They board up the church buildings. And here we are doing the same thing in spirit of our own accord!

What's important about church is not the time we spend in meetings and activities, but what we discuss and learn there, what we believe as a group. And apparently we are discussing and learning less and less religion these days in places built specifically for discussing and learning Religion with a capital R. 

What about those of us who want real theology, who want God, who want Jesus Christ, who would still find it greatly helpful to meet together often with like-minded people to discuss the welfare of our immortal souls? Well, some have taken the problem into their own hands. We have heard of groups who have been meeting in their houses for Sunday School. Our church used to give such groups a big no-no. Something about the danger of getting off-track. Just recently they appear to be encouraging such extracurricular activities.

At this crucial time we don't need less religion. We need more. Inside and outside our church buildings. Inside and outside our homes. But it's got to be real church, real religion, unadulterated Holy Scripture. Not a lot of stories about human beings, alive or dead, and all their situations and achievements. Incidentally, we've thought lately, shouldn't people everywhere be endlessly learning about applying the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ in their most fancy, holy buildings? Is that happening?

Yes, real religion is politically incorrect. Yes, it's uncomfortable. Yes, it's hard doctrine. There are many much easier and more palatable things to talk about and emphasize and do, things that people mistake for religion. But we need real religion, real truths that pierce our hearts. Truth is where real and lasting comfort comes from. Truth is where we find the Lord's solutions. We need Truth that transcends ourselves and this wayward world, Truth that comes only from God.

People can take or leave the gospel of Jesus Christ. But churches purporting to be centered on Christ have to offer it first and foremost or they aren't religious and they aren't churches. They are something else altogether. 




Monday, August 20, 2018

A Quiet Place---Nightmare Come True

Image result for a quiet placeHave you seen the movie A Quiet Place? The premise is that fierce, man-eating, blind aliens have invaded the earth and viciously and violently attack human beings based on their keen sense of hearing. Survivors have learned through gruesome experience that they must be completely quiet or they'll greatly endanger themselves and most likely be instantly killed. The people live in fear. They have to give up all sorts of freedoms, including the freedom to speak, in order to merely survive. The good life is no more.

We submit that this is how more and more conservatives are feeling in our environment today. People who believe in the Biblical God or who merely espouse traditional family values are shutting up because of the climate of intimidation and punishment that is prevailing in every aspect of modern living: media, work, school, church, even friends and family.

In only a few decades societal norms and perceptions have completely flipped. We here at SoL, born in the 1950s, grew up in a culture of shared values, a culture that taught and supported and promoted  God and life and goodness and reality and order. Now we find ourselves surrounded by a culture that in the most important aspects of human existence teaches and supports and promotes vice and death and evil and fantasy and chaos. And if we dare to make a sound decrying these monstrous invaders we may greatly endanger ourselves--our jobs, our financial security, our church membership, our social standing, our reputation, our relationships. Which amounts to a loss of freedom, even of feeling free to think and converse according to the dictates of our conscience.


Small case in point: The other day we received in the mail an anti-sexual revolution sticker from our friends at Mass Resistance and actually hesitated to put in on our Jeep!

Think we're exaggerating? There are more and more examples coming to light. Bakers, photographers, florists, printers, targeted, harassed, sued, punished financially, even losing their livelihoods, for daring to stick to their religious convictions. People fired from their jobs merely for standing for traditional values/marriage or being too conservative.  Others have been targeted, marginalized, cancelled, forced to resign. We've been cancelled multiple times ourselves.

Image result for tim allen last man standingTim Allen comes to mind regarding his TV show on ABC, Last Man Standing, in which he stars as a die-hard conservative, exactly what he is in real life. This extremely popular sitcom aired for six seasons and then one day it just got cancelled. The network stressed that Allen's conservative leaning did not factor into the decision and gave some really lame excuses, such as they decided not to have comedies on Fridays. What? (It has since been picked up by Fox.)

Spoiler alert: In A Quiet Place, the father, who has protected the family all through the movie, screams out to save his daughter and is instantly attacked and killed by the stealthy aliens. In other words, he got cancelled. Is it any wonder people are either switching their lifelong beliefs or going totally silent?

There is some good news. We were talking about how when we were growing up there was rarely any mention of Jesus or even God in the mainstream---not at school (except during the pledge), not at community activities, not on TV,  not at the movies; only at church and church activities. Well, now we can watch religious cable channels and Fox and lots of stuff online and hear about God and Jesus all the time. There are Christian movies in the theaters pretty regularly. These are signs of revival. But alas, too little, too late?

It turns out that most of the big folks supposedly on the side of God and goodness made a great mistake. Generally, they have merely spoken up for the good  (as in pro-life and pro-marriage) and neglected to decry the evil (as in abortion and homosexuality). In doing so they pretty much forfeited the right of truly God-fearing people to speak out against evil at all. This is how evil has come to bully and dominate our society.That is how so many people, even churches, have come to be either  silent or compromising on these issues.

There can be no peace between good and evil. The more evil infiltrates, the less good will be allowed. That's where all of this is headed--toward more evil--where else? And they want us all participating.

We ordinary people who love God, who believe in striving toward and conserving goodness and rightness, are living in a dangerous, post-apocalyptic, nightmarish, quiet place. Many are feeling that they must give up all sorts of freedoms, especially the freedom to speak up and live according to their consciences, in order to merely survive. The good life is no more.



Sunday, August 12, 2018

The New Telestial Religion

There was a devotional talk (read: propaganda) this past week by a BYU religion professor named Huntsman, a member of the Tabernacle Choir, about "safe spaces for all kinds of feelings," within our church, including homosexuality, which was glowingly reported in the church news. "We should never fear that we are compromising when we make the choice to love." What? So all human feelings are righteous? So human love is the object of our existence? This is religion? Since when?

The church is not an encounter group, or a civic center, or a social club. It's not kindergarten or diversity training or an ethics class. It's not Impact or Mr. Rogers or the Peace Corps.  Those things may well have their place, and may espouse some goodness and truth, but they are not about Jesus Christ. They are not about the welfare of our immortal souls. They are not about fallen man and law and justice and redemption. They are sociological only, perhaps the best people think they can do in  these telestially-focused institutions. Although some who participate in them may individually believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in and of themselves these entities are not centered in Christ.They are not valiant in the testimony of Christ as Divine Redeemer. In fact, Christ and any principle of the gospel don't usually appear at all, not even indirectly. If we screech to a stop at the  message that we are of value or even that God loves us, and have nothing more to say, true as it is, it is not Christianity. If we carry this over into the churches, we are essentially acting as if Christ does not exist, that is, we are acting anti-Christ.

This doesn't just matter in an eternal sense. It matters now. Aside from families, truly God-centered churches are the last societal stronghold in preserving human freedoms. This is because human value and human freedoms are only guaranteed if people believe there is God and His Righteousness and His Judgement. God is the source of everything protecting us. If men cease to believe in God men can arbitrarily make up whatever sort of society they like with whatever sort of rules they like and whatever sort of enforcement of those rules they like. And these rules will most likely be nonbenevolent toward humankind. They have been in the past. When we forsake God we forsake the good life.

This has been said much better than we can say it. How we wish everyone would read and reread C. S Lewis's The Abolition of Man! It's only a very thin volume. And then read The Great Divorce also by Lewis. And lots and lots of good old books, and some of the good new ones, too. We don't think people are reading much of anything of value at all. And if they are, they aren't caring to understand what can be got out of the great books that is true and right and unchanging.

We get it. We get how in these times we humans are sorely tempted to downplay our convictions, to cozily position ourselves as compassionate and accepting, to rack our brains for another solution, to avoid disagreement or contention at any cost, to fool ourselves into thinking our human abilities or temporal influence can bring people around, and we do all of this---why? So we can be seen in a positive light. So we can feel comfortable and get along with everybody who matters to us. So we can feel important and morally "superior." So we can be the saviors of others.

Wrong. All wrong. In compromising our principles we may gain the culture or the family or the neighborhood or the ward or the world or success or fame or fortune, but we lose the gospel. Churches primarily exist to preach God's Word, arouse the spiritual faculties and shape the consciences of God's children, not to make us comfortable in this world. True Christianity is and will always be an affront to the natural man. No public relations campaign, no musical program, no sociological rhetoric can ever soften the offense Christ gives to the sinner, or equal the relief Christ's amazing grace gives to the repentant and believing. 

The truth is, we cannot greatly help each other in any permanent sense. All we can do is throw out a few ideas and hope people will use those ideas to turn to the Goodness and Truth and Salvation of which Christ is the Author and Finisher. The ubiquitous teaching that God helps us through each other has gotten way out of hand. We must not stop there. We must not forget the true Giver, said C. S. Lewis. If we do, we tend to get puffed up in our pride and rely solely upon each other, rather than turning to a divine source. The only arbiter is Jesus Christ. He is the only name under heaven whereby we can be truly helped. He is where we should be pointing each other.

If we turn elsewhere we are practicing an earthly religion we have created in our own image. 


Saturday, July 21, 2018

No Gay Chastity Lessons from These Church Ladies

All our young lives we were taught about chastity in church. Oh my gosh. Necking, petting, fornication were no-nos of the highest degree. But that sort of preaching was and is apparently only for heterosexuals. Amazingly, nowhere will you find any warnings or instruction or preaching in churches about chastity for the homosexual. All we hear about is "celibacy" in the very loosest of terms. Of course there is a huge spectrum of acting out homosexually that falls short of sodomy and the like. Even publicly and proudly declaring one's proclivity to homosexuality is a form of acting out and advocating all things homosexual. There are all sorts of activities such as lusting, pornography, chat rooms, phone sex, masturbation, flirting, propaganda, media, entertainment, activism, and on and on, oh, and the old necking and petting too. (And we think most probably do many of the above plus more if they are bold enough and past feeling enough to publicly advertise their homosexuality.) But strangely, we hear absolutely nothing about any boundaries when it comes to the much-talked-about, highly sexually-charged, greatly celebrated, nongenerative, sodomitic homosexual identity. That's within the church. If heterosexuals are taught chastity, why not homosexuals?

What is encouraged will increase. In the past only heterosexuality was encouraged. Now, quite suddenly, the homosexual identity is being officially encouraged, and this means that more and more people will adopt and act out and spread homosexuality, and inevitably practice it in all its degrees. Is the omission we are talking about---the absence of truth and chastity and warnings and the gospel as it all applies to homosexuality---wise or kind or in any way right? After all, if  churches are all of a sudden going about sympathizing, accepting, supporting, agreeing with, and embracing homosexuality as a God-given immutable identity, ought it not also to warn of the inordinately high-risk physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological dangers that come with it, and the necessity and possibility of hope and change?

It is not there. None of it. Why?

Here's why. In the church, just as in the naive/false world, there is some sort of disconnect between the now sacrosanct, protected homosexual identity and the dangerous and disgusting impure thoughts and acts that comprise it. That's right. Comprise it. Gay is nothing special without the gay sexual component. All of it, the L, the G, the B, the T, the Q, are all about some perverse and preposterous and extreme form of human sexuality in thought and deed. Wrote C. S. Lewis way back in the 1950s, "[Y]ou and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex." Bingo. It's past time that squeamish, unthinking people face the facts. The sexual revolution is about sex, sex, and more sex.

One of our daughters had a disturbing conversation with two older women the other day at a church activity, one of whom is quite involved with church hierarchy. Our daughter did her best to shed some light on their shallow, complacent, flawed, anti-Christ thinking, but apparently to no avail. Even while they presumed to retain their own stance as conservative, family-values-based, Christ-centered congregants, in a long and convoluted discussion these are some of the goofy false ideas they tried to foist on her:
___________________________

"The gays in our church are different than other gays." (How? As in better or righteous? How prideful and blind is that? Homosexuality is homosexuality.)

"Our gays are special and above the principles of sin and repentance." (Why? These are universal true principles. This view is anti-Christ and damning.)

"Of course our gays are and will always be celibate." (Again, what does that mean?  And how does anybody really know? And how can anyone predict that? What is encouraged will increase. People experiment. These things are done in secret. Doesn't anybody care anymore about the welfare of the soul and how no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God?)

"Anyway, the homosexuals in our church are not sexual." (Come again? There is no homo without the sexuality. Why are gays special if the attractions are not romantic/sexual? There are plenty of single people in the world who for one reason or another don't participate in romantic relationships or marriage, who are not gay. So if gayness is not sexual it could follow that all these single people must be gay, and they are not. Too bad they are now being told they are! It's all crazy if you think about it at all.)

"Our gays were never abused sexually, nor have they ever used pornography or had pro-gay associations. Their sexual aversion to those of the opposite sex and sexual attraction to those of their same sex is just who they are." (So they got these ideas and feelings just out of the blue?  It doesn't have anything to do with the perverse, oversexed world and pro-LGBT juggernaut forcing itself on the world at this particular moment in time? Of course it does. And bear in mind we know of their "pristine" past and present only on their own say so. There is such a thing as lying, and such a thing as repression. Attitudes toward one's sexual feelings are learned one way or another. These people learned homosexuality. Not surprising in today's world, is it?)


"Our gays are the most spiritual humans on the planet." (How do you know? Maybe they just talk so as to give that impression, which would be to their advantage. Lots of people do that sort of thing. It's called deception or hypocrisy, it is used to get gain, and people can be very skilled at it.)

"Our gays were made that way by God and are hoping to remain that way forever." (What? Why? Heaven? Sorry, no. We take the same spirit with us which we have developed here. There is no lust in heaven.)

"It's wrong to talk about success stories, like Dean Byrd did, of people who overcame homosexual tendencies because that 's really rare and makes the ones who don't overcome it feel bad." (Dean Byrd? He was our mentor. And wait, there are no standards or ideals anymore? Just because everyone isn't successful we're not supposed to offer success? People need to know this is a vice. It's lust. Gays  haven't overcome it because they are getting something out of it. Sexual sin is thrilling, escapist, pleasurable. Say what they will, they don't want to give it up bad enough. They are keeping it alive through those ways we mentioned above. Like  St. Augustine wrote, "Lord make me chaste. Just not yet." And wait wait wait! We're not supposed to have broken hearts or contrite spirits? We're not ever supposed to talk about the mighty change of heart? We're supposed to label people by their weaknesses permanently and offer absolutely zero hope? For gays there is no sin and no Christ and no redemption and no posterity? All experiences of getting help and overcoming homosexuality are to be silenced? We are not to encourage repentance and healing? These people are to be offered  no help for getting out of this sordid, dangerous, dead-end mindset/lifestyle? How can anybody get out of it if they don't know there is a way out? What if someone is miserable, which many are, and want out? What happens when they hit bottom? Is there to be no light at the end of the tunnel? Is your head exploding yet?)

And finally, these ladies have it on the best authority that "there will soon be a really really really spiritual lesbian female leader in the church." (Because she is a lesbian? How did she learn it? Will everyone know she is a lesbian? Apparently several already do. Why does she make this known? Why does anyone need to know it? Only so people will further accept homosexualism, that's why. Why not a gay man too? Why not some transgendered leaders? Why not have all gay leaders in our churches since they are said to be so much more special and talented and spiritual than everybody else? Why not have the best of the best?)

See where this goes? Do we exaggerate? Why all the slobbering over homosexuality? To show how loving and tolerant and worldly we proud pseudo-Christians are? This is what we care about? How about truth and righteousness? 

C. S. Lewis wrote, "Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either." (Good people we take to mean those who are striving toward God and truth and righteousness, who know their only hope is in Christ.) We submit those women who were trying to persuade our daughter to embrace wickedness are bad people in the above sense. They have lost, sold off, forfeited their ability to discern good from evil. They can't even distinguish between the two. Perhaps they already have them almost completely flipped, good becoming evil, and evil good, as the scriptures say. 

The way these church ladies talk and think----that is why there are are no chastity lessons for homosexuals. And less and less for everybody else too. Think about it. There are hardly any such things as sins or laws anymore. Only victims and problems and special identities. Pornography addiction is no longer a sin; rather it is an emotionally-charged challenge its poor victims and the rest of us have to live with. Homosexuality is who people are, people we're all supposed to especially respect and admire. These fatal false principles are spreading into all facets of our lives.. About a leading local member of our church who also raped young girls, one bishop merely said, "Well, we all have our problems."

News flash for these church ladies. There are laws and sins, including sexual laws and sexual sins, and sexual sins are exciting and pleasurable, whether in thoughts, feelings, or deeds, but only for a time. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. But now people like these church ladies are not only doing nothing against evil, they are downplaying it, recharacterizing it,  and encouraging it---in the name of religion!

Being gay is popular nowadays. The false ideas promoted by the church ladies above are arguments to promote what are extremely popular, exciting, pleasurable, lustful, rebellious, Godless sexual sins. This reminds us of the scripture in Romans that says even the women were doing that which was against nature or finding pleasure in those that did (as in talking it up, excusing it, arguing for it, admiring it, promoting it). This can only end in all sorts of tragedy, sooner or later.

*Lewis quotes are from Mere Christianity.

Response to Distressed Mormon

Hi -------------, Steve handed me a printout of what you sent. It's all true and all happening. In fact, that one thing that happened in Utah County at the stake conference where the mother of the trans child spoke about "ministering" apparently happened in a stake center up our street where two of our grown children and their families go (unless the same sort of thing is going on all over, which it probably is).  They both got up and left the meeting with their kids and told us all about it at the time. I am a firm believer that we are free agents and shouldn't sit there listening to dangerous false ideas because not only is it spiritual abuse but our very presence encourages it. If a whole bunch of people had left the meeting that would have sent a message. At least some people saw it for what it was.

I appreciated the scriptures you pointed out. It is hard to read the Book of Mormon now because it's all so painfully obvious, but we must. It is for us. We are the ones who have it. But like you say, people aren't using the scriptures or understanding them. So sad. They are caught up in the world and going right along, albeit a few years behind.

Sunday is the hardest day of the week for me too. Not only do I not get to hear the gospel, which I really love and need to hear, also when I say anything in church it feels like I am from another planet. I have been mocked several times for my testimony of Christ as the only way to get back to God because we are all humans and weak and lacking in one way or another, as it says over and over in the scriptures. This derision usually happens in Relief Society. When I was RS pres. I did feel as if I was wasting my breath a lot. I got a lot of eye-rolling. That was a while ago. I had pulled back recently, it was just so stressful (unhealthy!)to sit in meetings where Christ is overlooked,  which is essentially anti-Christ, and then to be ridiculed for my deepest beliefs. But after a break I am feeling braver and am speaking out again when it feels right to, come what may. It takes a lot of faith and patience and thinking of people as the Lord thinks of them and not caring if they think you are crazy or annoying or unkind or any of those things. Everyone is precious and needs to know the truth. So many are being deceived. You can just see it happening in slow motion. Those invisible flaxen cords. Of course we cannot help anyone very much--just throw out a few ideas which they can think about and hold to if they wish. That's how important agency is. 

I think when a people decide a sin is not a sin anymore, as in sexual impurity/homosexuality, they equivocate on other sins as well, perhaps even decide there are no sins they have to worry about at all; those who surrender on one issue tend to surrender on others as well. We find people hard-heartedly resisting the idea of sin. Just once in a blue moon will I hear something true properly emphasized. (There was a good talk in Sac. mtg. Sunday, which I am sure some people hated if they were listening.)  I have heard from others that RS has become all about making the sisters feel good about themselves, and there is no religion really. No Christ, no repentance, no humility, no meekness, just self-indulgence. Dostoevsky wrote, "Nothing in the world is harder than speaking the truth, and nothing easier than flattery." I have especially studied the Book of Mormon anti-Christs (there are lots!) and the one thing they preached in common was that there was no need to repent. That sums up what is happening in the trenches of our church, and in all churches. This is the secular spirit of the times in which we live.

When one starts paying attention and thinking for oneself there are lots of opportunities for long-suffering and trust in the Lord alone. And isn't that a good thing? I memorize scriptures to repeat and think about in my head to help keep my sanity and spiritual-centeredness.  As in Jacob, "Lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God (it is pleasing to me!) and feast upon his love, for ye may if your minds are firm, forever." Yes, you are right about all this happening within the church; some years ago we were told by a (now) apostle we know personally that the Church (capital C) is evolving and the Brethren do not agree on some fundamentals,  such as homosexuality. Who knew this would be The Thing that would deceive so many? A house divided . . .

We don't think it is helpful to blame anyone. But we do feel as if we must take on the world and share God's truth and righteousness wherever we happen to be whenever we can, as the scriptures say. The Lord gave us hearts and minds. We are supposed to use them.  It is a blessing to find firm like-minded people, now difficult to do even within our beloved church. Still, we can't put our reliance on each other either. We have seen so many people turn.

Hang in there. The trajectory is bad and it's only going to get worse. It's a test! A hard one.  I try to remember opposition in all things works both ways. We can rejoice in Christ and all Creation, in the good and true and beautiful, in God's loving merciful plan, even in the midst of all this insidious creeping falseness and evil and persecution. We can be made into different sorts of people fit for God's presence right now.

Lord bless!

Janice