Posts Tagged accountability

On the giving of Tithes

Every year, toward the end of the year, the Bishop of each ward meets with each family in that ward to make an accounting of the donations given to the Church. No in depth questions, just asking if you’re a full tithe payer. (I tend to use it as an opportunity to make sure my records match what the Church has recorded.) As a challenge, our Bishop asked us to write something on social media about Tithing.

I recall that rather early on my parents let me see some of what they did each month when my dad got paid, and they used that opportunity to talk about how they paid Tithing and what it was for. Tithing was always the first thing paid, no matter how tight the month was going to be. There were also many times my family was in need, when dad was out of work or some other emergency happened. I got to see (and make use of) the use of the Bishop’s Storehouse, where the Bishop had available food to help families in need. Tithing was just something you did.

As I started making money for myself, tithing suddenly became a burden. I felt like I hardly had enough as it was, so how could I just give some of it away. I’ll freely admit that I’d not yet had an appreciation of what I’d earned, only seeing that I had some money and a lot of things I wanted to spend it on. It took ’til I did some growing up and having to be responsible for my own living expenses that it came back into being “just something you did”.

To me, Tithing is a lesser form of Consecration. Basically, Consecration is the idea that all we have belongs to God, no matter how much or in what manner we currently have it. Everything we have ultimately belongs to God, so giving a Tithe now is not a burden. I think something that helped change how I see Tithing is when I stopped worrying about how much I was earning for a specific amount of time working. I remember a time when I was so miserable at my job that I spent time working out how much time had passed and how much money that meant I earned. I’d hoped that it would cheer me up or give me some sense of accomplishment to work out the math, but instead I was just more miserable. I prefer now to just ask the simple question, “is what I earn enough for our needs”, and make adjustments if it’s not.

Some people spend a lot of time arguing which is the “proper” way to Tithe. The most popular options are “net”, “gross”, and “surplus”. “Net” is Tithing on your pay after taxes and other deductions, “gross” is Tithing on your pay before taxes, and “surplus” is Tithing on whatever you have left after all your expenses. Much of the arguments revolve around “you’re doing it wrong” (if the argument is not just against Tithing at all). I personally pay on gross, as it’s what I’ve felt is the best option for me and my family and have gotten confirmation through prayer that it is the best option for us. I will not ever say what is the best option for someone else, as the decision on what they Tithe is between them and God.

I may not be able to point to specific blessings that have come from Tithing, but I do know that it is a true principle.

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No, You’re Not Next

There has been quite enough ink (and pixels) spilled on the upcoming disciplinary hearings for Kate Kelly (of Ordain Women) and John Dehlin (of Mormon Stories). Much of it has been with sadness, but some of it with fear. People have been wondering if this is the start of a new “purge”, where anyone who asks questions is likely to be excommunicated. For me, this is certainly sad, but I have no fear. There is a marked difference between what has been done by these individuals and those who have varying beliefs, opinions, and questions about the Church.

For Kate Kelly, she has been a good voice in helping organize those who believe ordination is the answer for the problems many women face in the Church. I believe her discipline (having previous to this been put on probation) comes from the organizing of a second protest on Temple Square (even if they didn’t call it a protest) after being asked not to, and the continued expansion of Ordain Women to try and “convert” people to believe as they do. The Church has repeatedly explained that women’s ordination is not how the Church is organized and this cannot be changed by popular opinion. I am truly sad it has come to this.

For John Dehlin, I’ve little opinion. I’m glad some have found more peace in being part of the Church through these podcasts, but for me, what I’ve listened to his podcast seemed to be interested more in placing seeds of doubt than in trying to find answers. In his case, he seems to have more sought out the line where he would be excommunicated, using it to make himself a martyr for his cause. Even his latest request for messages to console his wife and children seems calculated. I’m sad he’s worked himself in the direction he has gone.

Now, for the fear part. First, two data points do not a pattern make. There is no evidence that this is a concerted effort, nor is there anything to show that other prominent voices with questions are also being “quashed”. Your Bishop is not more likely to censure you because of your ideas. These actions are not broadcast as a warning to others by the Church, nor is there any direction given to discipline those who have sympathy for them. The fear does not come from the Church, but from those who sent these notices to others. It is not the Church saying “get in line or you’re next”. This is coming directly from those taking advantage of this to promote fear in others. Unless you’re actively doing one of these things, you have nothing to fear:

– Spending your time telling people they should leave the Church.
– Teaching things that are completely contrary to Church teachings.

Even with these, it takes quite a lot of either for even disfellowshipment to be considered. These recent actions have not been sudden or unexpected by anyone involved. Undesired, certainly, but not unexpected.

No matter what the outcome, I hope that we can all continue to move forward with faith, hope, and charity.

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Virtue can be stolen (and it has nothing to do with rape)

One of the discussions running around feminist circles is about the use of Moroni 9:9 in President Dalton’s talk on virtue. The hurt expressed from using this scripture is the assumption that the loss of chastity and virtue means that the women were raped.

To show the scripture:

9 For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—

Sure, it’s easy to say this means rape, nicely tying chastity and virtue to it, but I think this misses that these women were taken prisoners. This could be the effects of months or even years in the hands of their captors.

These women were subjected to a period of time being prisoners. It would be likely that eventually they would come to empathize with, or even defend the actions of, their captors. The effect of this would have been a loss of virtue and chastity. Would they have the blame for this? No, it would be described that their virtue and chastity – their innocence – was taken by their captors, even if no sexual component was involved. We’ve only recently given this kind of thing a name – Stockholm syndrome.

Something more to remember are the other usages of virtue in the New Testament, when it was used to heal, as in Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48:

43And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.

Virtue, even when paired with chastity, does not mean sex. No one would argue that the woman (and others, Luke 8:19) healed by the Savior in any way sexually violated Him, but in every case, it was described as a loss of virtue.

Virtue is power used to heal others, physically and spiritually. No, I am not saying that the Lamanite daughters were used as physicians, but that in their time as prisoners their ability to heal themselves and each other waned over time in what must have been an unbelievably horrific situation. In modern times, we seem to have gone to the easy answer in interpreting the words of Moroni. The worst thing we could imagine happening to a woman was rape, but we find with sad experience that there are worse things. To be kidnapped, kept by people doing horrific things, and seeing glimmers of false hope and trust in your captors can change you, taking away the virtue and chastity you once had.

For the sake of those who have had to live through the horrors of rape and kidnapping, we need to change our usage of Moroni 9:9. I think the recent use of it by President Dalton was a good step, but it is going to take a good deal of work for all of us to un-learn our hurtful interpretation of this. Rape and sexual abuse is damaging and vile. The burden of repentance for this should never be placed on the victim. No virtue or chastity has been taken from them, even though their innocence is lost. Using our virtue to heal should be foremost in our minds, not the erroneous idea that they are somehow to blame. We’ve bludgeoned our daughters (and sons) with this long enough.

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Excommunication at a Ward level

I’ve come across a bit of a policy in the Church in regards to excommunication, and it is something that bothers me. The idea that Bishops can excommunicate non-priesthood-holding members.  When I came across one story of a young woman who had committed fornication (which is adultery for the unmarried), I thought the Bishop had made a mistake, not knowing the correct policy.  When I came across it a second time, it was pointed out to me that the Bishop can excommunicate members, with a consultation with the Stake President, but that only Priesthood holding men are sent to a court with the full High Council.  I found an article in the Ensign (A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings) that confirmed this.

I understand that the reason for this is that the person with the Priesthood has been given more responsibility and has therefore committed a greater sin, but to me this should be applied to anyone who has been to the Temple and taken out his or her Endowments, as that has included a covenant with God to remain chaste.  I realize that the High Council is busy enough as it is, but excommunication is too important to be left to the impressions of just one person, the Bishop.  I do know that Bishops are given gifts of discernment, but there have also been instances where that power has been abused.  I just think the chance for abuse is much less if the matter must always be put before the entire High Council for any member who has made and violated the Covenants made in the Temple.

There evidently also needs to be some instruction on the difference between fornication and adultery, but that is an entirely different post.  My wife thinks I should pray about this.  Always a good idea, though I’m not meaning this as a slight against the Church, I just see it as a way we can do things better.  It’s what I do.  We can, and thanks to guidance from above, we will be better.

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Women on the front lines of the military

I know the news is a couple of days old, but I tend to get recent news from online viewings of The Daily Show, so I get to blog about it now.

Evidently the Pentagon has made the decision to give women a “more expanded role” in the front lines of military actions.  I have somewhat mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, women should be able to choose if they want to have any occupation they want, even those that can potentially put them in harms way.  On the other, I know, for myself, that if I were in a life-or-death situation with a woman on my team, it would take quite a bit for me to not think of her safety before my own.  That, however, is something I would need to get over.  (Not that it is even possible, as the Military has once made it clear they don’t want me, and I don’t think I’m really built for combat, women or no).  My personal views about seeing to the safety of others, more so women, would be something that I would need to get over, just like anyone who lives in a combat situation would need to get over.  I’m very glad for those who have both the ability and desire to serve in the military.  My brother has been in the Army for 16 years now, and toured the middle east at least 4 times, and I have no idea how he does it.  I certainly couldn’t, and I’m glad there are people who can.  Yes, there may be some instances of men in combat who would seek more for the safety of the women in their unit than the men, but I think that would decrease over time.  It is certainly not a concern strong enough to keep women out of these units.

Now, concerning the absurd idea that women shouldn’t serve in the military because they are more prone to sexual assault there.  That is the kind of thinking that says men have no control over themselves and that women can go into situations “asking for it”.  The sharp rise in sexual assault in the military is shameful, and should be both dealt with more harshly (when assault has happened) and should increase the training they have on how to deal with such situations.  If the military can educate their troops and come down harshly on those who do not behave concerning gays in the military, they are more than able to train and discipline their troops in how to deal with the opposite gender.

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Allowing people to govern themselves

One of the discussions that occasionally comes up on various Mormon blogs is the issue of how to react and/or teach about inappropriate behavior and dress.  The youth, particularly the young women, tend to be most often the subject for this, as the standards given by the Church are more specific than elsewhere, but the problem, for me, is more in how to react to these issues, rather than the standards themselves.  Standards and laws are much the same.  You can simply follow them the best you are able, or decide not to and understand that there are consequences involved.  A person driving over the speed limit may be subjected to a fine.  A girl in a bikini at a Church function may be asked to cover herself with more appropriate clothing.  I’m not going to argue the merits or effects of those standards and laws.  I want to address the ways to enforce said standards and laws.

In all of the dealings of God the Father and Jesus Christ, the example has been set – praise in public, reprove in private.  This is very important in dealing with anyone, no matter what the issue.  Another thing to remember when reproving, or even just advising, someone is your relationship with them.  Some theoretical examples:

  • Once I saw that a young woman had managed to get a sticker attached to the backside of her dress without her knowledge.  Rather than tell the girl myself (which would be embarrassing to her), I passed it along to an older woman to take care of it discreetly.
  • At another time, a young woman in the class I was teaching was absent-mindedly leaning back in her chair, not making the connection that she was wearing a short skirt.  Even though I was her teacher, I felt it was more appropriate for me to mention it to her mother, rather than going to the girl herself.
  • At a church youth dance, I notice that the skirt of a young woman seems a little too short.  Not being a leader, teacher, advisor, or of any relation to this young woman, I have no recourse.  It is not my job to police or even advise on dress standards.  It doesn’t even need to be kept as something to “deal with” later, or remember as more proof of “kids these days”.  (What am I doing checking out young women’s legs, anyway?  Creepo.)
  • I am an advisor to the Deacons Quorum.  I notice that some of the young men are starting to get a little sloppy in their dress for passing the Sacrament.  In a private setting (not in front of the whole group), I make mention of this to the Deacons Quorum President, who can choose how to manage it himself.  I can advise if asked, but it is not my responsibility to fix.  If one of the deacons is my son, however, I get the responsibility to teach my son how to dress better.
  • I notice someone has been coming to Sacrament Meeting dress in t-shirt and jeans or other inappropriate clothing.  I make no mention of it at all, not even a disapproving glance, as it is absolutely not my purview and I have no idea as to the circumstances of that person.  The only thing I should be doing in this situation is welcoming and fellowshipping the person, as it is the person, not the clothes, that have come to worship.

Open criticism is akin to gossip.  You are telling the perceived faults of another to people who have no concern in it (especially bad when you, yourself have no concern in it).  For most of the people in your ward you are not their keeper or minder.  Seek out the virtues of each person, get to know them as people, and let those who are placed to advise to their own work.  Vigilant criticism, especially before others, is hurtful and damaging, most especially to you.

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Leaders called by revelation who do bad things

I have read a number of stories of people who have fallen away from the Church because of the poor decisions of local leaders, blaming the Church or those who put these people in authority for the misdeeds. I have a friend who often states that leaders “must have been listening to the wrong spirit” to have called someone who has either sinned or treated them in what is perceived (at least by my friend) as in a poor manner. I have seen still others point to misuses or perceived carelessness of leaders as an example of the “intolerable” male-dominated system of leadership within the Church.

In all of these cases, the choices of an individual, with their own free agency (or ability to choose their actions), is being projected onto those who received personal revelation that a particular person should be in a particular position, or onto the Church as a whole. That these leaders choices were independent of the trust placed in them is ignored. It is assumed that those assigning the positions (or making the callings) “should have known” a problem was going to happen.

In the Church organization began by Jesus, 12 Apostles were called, in anticipation of their leading the Church when He was gone. All of them were men with their own strengths and weaknesses, their own knowledge and experience. Two (at least) failed for a time to live up to what was expected of them. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for money. Peter betrayed his own Apostolic calling to declare that Jesus is the Christ when he denied three times that he knew or associated with Jesus. Was Jesus just not listening to God when he made these calls? The idea of predestination can also be discarded, being contrary to LDS teachings.

If Jesus can call men who have the potential for making mistakes, could we not also, even with direct inspiration from God also call men who have the potential to make great mistakes?

The plan of salvation given by God, as opposed to that given by Lucifer, is one of choice. Each one of us is capable of being worthy to return to Heavenly Father, and are also able to choose not returning. The plan of Lucifer was to remove that choice, so all would return. Hence, no matter what callings are extended, no matter what opportunities we have in this life, we all retain the possibility of doing both right and wrong. To lose trust in the personal revelation of others in who should fill what positions when they have been called of by God to do so will erode the trust in the Church as a whole, and ultimately in God.

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