Posts Tagged religion

Politics shaped by religion – Gun Control

A few months ago I had the opportunity to try and put into words some of my political beliefs and how those beliefs had been shaped by my religion. I’ve never registered for any political party, though I do occasionally wonder if I could try getting into politics to try and help make the world a better place. I usually come to the conclusion that I’m not articulate enough in being able to either express or defend my views, nor am I strongly enough in the camp of any political party that I would have any hope of succeeding in elections, so politics is not likely to happen for me. But I do feel occasionally that I need to get my opinions on these things out somewhere, even to my limited audience, to help me better clarify these things in my own mind.

My beliefs may or may not align with yours, my Country, or my Church, but they are mine and mine alone. I speak for no one but myself and am not an example of “the standard” of any group. I’m glad for discussions on these things, but know that they are not likely to shift my beliefs by much in any direction.

Gun Control

The 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution reads simply, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The interpretation of this has been a matter of quite a bit of debate over the centuries since it was written. I don’t believe there is any strong position of the Church on this. Not many people discuss “militias”, as the connotation is crazy people grouping together to wait for society to fall apart or the government to come and force them to do something they don’t want. I’m actually just fine with people having a hobby of training to be soldiers and preparing for the worst. People have all sorts of strange hobbies. The only problem I’d have is when they start to use their training to impose their ideals on others or use those guns to actually break the law. If they are built on hate or prejudice against a particular people, then their own weight will bring them down.

For guns themselves I don’t believe we need much regulation at all. The only place I’d put regulations are in banning automatic weapons, autonomous weapons, and explosives. For all the various shootings, the attempts at any other regulations seem to be poor attempts at being seen to do something to stop such things happening. The rhetoric on both sides of the issue, unrestricted freedom to carry any kind of gun anywhere and removing all guns from everyone, seem to be rooted in trying to make sure “they” don’t hurt “us”. We may not be able to articulate who “they” are, but we are going to use guns to stop “them”. This is building nothing but fear and division, and will accomplish nothing but making our problems worse.

They problem is that “they” are part of “us”. The shooters, the victims, the hobbyists, the bystanders, the gun makers, the gun sellers, are all part of “us”. Every time something happens we quickly try to place people into a group that is part of “them”, but they are always “us”, our neighbors, our friends, our family. This is probably the core of all my political and religious views – what can we do to help “us” be better? Not looking at what we can do to make “them” be better, like taking away all guns or proudly carrying loaded guns to discourage “them” from wanting to shoot someone, but helping people to learn and grow and not want to shoot others (or themselves).

I’m not a hunter and am quite glad I don’t need to be to feed my family. I see guns as a potentially dangerous tool that should be used and cared for properly just like any other tool I might have in my home. I believe anyone who handles a gun should be trained on how to care for and use it properly, but I do not believe we should force anyone to take such care. I believe we can keep ourselves mindful of the dangers without needing laws to enforce compliance to good usage and care. Additional attention to and making available help for mental health issues would be of much greater effect in reducing death and pain from shooting than any gun control or open carry demonstration could ever have.

But that would be looking at “us”.

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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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Work for the dead done by the living

In LDS theology, there are certain ordinances that are required to progress; Baptism, Confirmation, The Initiatory (washing and anointing), The Endowment (covenants and instruction on how to enter God’s presence), and Sealing of family relationships to be not only for time but for eternity. Temples have been built, as a house for God, specifically to perform these ordinances for the living and dead. (Chapels, which are more common, are where we go for our weekly worship and learning.)

This is one of the reasons Mormons are heavily invested in genealogy and family history work. We believe that “. . . we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.” (D&C 128:18). We believe this to be in accordance with Malachi 4:6 – “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” and 1 Corinthians 15:29 – “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?”. So we work to find our dead, that we can serve them by being proxy for them in obtaining these ordinances. This does not obligate them to accept these ordinances, but gives them the opportunity that they might have the choice available to them.

There have been a few arguments against the push for getting more work done. The best one I know of is wondering how we can assume our ancestors would desire these things, believing that we are dishonoring their memory and the lives they have lived or even died for their religion. This concern has brought about a policy that ask we only do work for those we are directly related to. We’ve also been asked that we take extra care in doing work for those who died in the Holocaust, being sure we are a direct descendant. I know of some people who had personal experience with some very bad, even evil behavior from a close relative, and have purposely left them out of their work, only to have it done my some other well meaning person. We do not know how the Atonement will be applied for anyone, but we can still show compassion for others by respecting these wishes.

The other common argument I see is wondering why spend so much time and effort to do this at all, since we will have the entire Millennial Age, when Christ comes again and personally reigns upon the Earth, to do it all. This one has given me much more to think about.

On one side of the complex where I live is a strip of land, about 3-4 feet wide and about 4-500 feet long. When we moved in, there were some awful overgrown bushes on it. These have since been removed and for the past two tears has been left a bit of a lumpy, somewhat weedy, mess. The Home Owners Association hasn’t had the funds to do anything with it, though there have been ideas on what they would like to do with it, such as cover it with gravel or some other cover. The problem is that before anything can be done, the ground has to be cleared and prepared for this.

So, I’ve started digging at it. I’m terribly out of shape, so I can only manage a few feet at a time. It’s going to take weeks if not months to get it done. It could be that someone will come in with some large power digger and do it easily in a day, but that doesn’t matter. As much as I’m doing this work to eventually benefit the community, I’m also doing this for my own benefit.

Temple Ordinance work for the dead is much the same. We gain a closeness to our ancestors by learning about their lives, sitting as proxy for something they cannot do themselves. We can be in symbiosis with our dead, both benefitting from this time we are essentially working together. Doing the work now, even if incomplete and potentially incorrect, also helps make these people more real to us. Is there anyone you can look in the eye now and say, “we’ll get to you eventually”? How would it feel to you to be passed off as one of the less important masses?

Why not wait ’til these people are resurrected and let them do their own work? Aside from strengthening the bond I mentioned before, I think that there is something about these mortal bodies, as opposed to the bodies these people will have when they are resurrected, that is needed for this work to be in effect. For some reason, whatever meta-physical reaction that happens that makes these Ordinances required cannot be done by those resurrected, but can be done, by proxy, by those living and have effect on those once dead. I’ve no idea why or how this is (we can’t even measure spirit and no resurrected person has submitted themselves for testing), but this makes sense to me.

So, in the Millennial Age, there is going to be a lot more demand for the living to do proxy work for the dead. We will have more than 12 Billion people to do the work for, with only the barest fraction done beforehand. The time to get started on this, even if we can only manage a tiny percentage, is now. They need us, and we, even with our modern sensibilities, blessings, and trials, certainly need them.

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My opinion on women’s ordination

I try to avoid the general topics that are going around the Bloggernacle (LDS-themed blogs), but being an outspoken feminist that I am around work, I’ve had a few people want to talk to me about how I see this issue. Also, there’s a possibility my opinion will soon be published elsewhere, and I want to be sure to put what I feel in a full posting, rather than a simplified blurb.

First, as could probably be gleaned from previous postings, I absolutely believe in the existence of two genders, now, in the past life, and in the future. We have both a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father, both working as one, just as the Trinity are one. All of these are working in perfect unity to help bring us back home. Yes, there are sexual ambiguities in some bodies, both in genetics and form, but I don’t believe these exceptions disprove the rule. Even though they are exceptionally hard to quantify, there is a difference between men and women, and only by working together can we hope to accomplish our potential. There is no gender we can do without, at any level of home or society, and our society has been stunted by our suppression and oppression of women that continues to this day.

I will stress, for those who will surely bring it up, that I do not believe that men should only work and women should only be at home with the children. I look forward to being independently wealthy enough that we could both be home (or even in the mission field) to build up our family. I don’t care about success in the world; my focus is in strengthening my marriage and trying to help my children be the best they can be. My working now is a “necessary evil” to help provide the funds needed to do that. And no, independently wealthy isn’t even on the horizon for us right now, but we all have dreams.

As I said, gender differentiation is really hard to quantify. But I do know it exists. We would be better off utilizing both genders together than we are now, making the most of one and insisting that the other would only be useful if fit into the mold of the first. I believe we should have more women finding and working in their interests in the world, but, as with men, the family, even a family of one, should be first. I despair at how rare women are in my field, but we’re drifting from the subject at hand.

I respect and admire many of the women involved in the current Ordain Women movement, and do my best to understand their feelings. I mourn with those who have been hurt by well meaning leaders doing the wrong thing. These are the hazards of a lay clergy, and every effort is being made to both reduce the suffering and teach how these decisions could have been different.

That being said, I do not believe the movement to ask entry to the Priesthood session of General Conference is being done in the best way. The Church does not work by public protest. Some would say that it’s not a protest, but a respectful query. The problem is that when you organize a large group of people to each, individually ask entry when they know they will be denied, it becomes a protest. It’s not signs and yelling and marching; it’s a sit in, without the sitting. To say it’s not disruptive is to ignore this reality.

Some have said that this is the only way to get the attention of Church leaders, doing as Zelophead’s daughters did in Moses’ time. Many changes in the Church have come from simple asking and doing, such as the Word of Wisdom (No tobacco, alcohol, etc.) and all of the Auxiliaries (Young Men, Relief Society, Primary, etc.), then these efforts being taken and moved to the entire church. However, some feel that there is no way to directly petition the leadership now, since the Church has gotten so big. I don’t believe this is strictly true. The leadership is not kept in a cocoon of male only voices, not hearing anything but the same from everyone they come into contact with. The trick is to find and connect with those who do know, and can more directly communicate with, the leaders. Do we think that Emma was the only one tired of cleaning up tobacco? Do we think Zelophead’s daughters (who probably had names, but that’s another issue) were the only women with inheritance issues? Of course not. But these are the ones we hear of, the ones who get credit, simply because they were in a position to ask. That is what Ordain Women is missing, and what they should be concentrating on. You don’t communicate to someone you can’t reach across the room by pulling out a bull horn; you send a message through the people nearby.

I do not believe that women should or will be ordained to the Priesthood. I do not accept that for women to fulfill their potential, they need what helps men toward their potential. I look forward to a different way, a Priestesshood that can only be used by women, that can be used together with the Priesthood and will be more than either could do alone and even more than the sum of what each could do.

My view of how we would get the Priestesshood (which could be completely wrong, and I’d be ok with that), would be for it to come as the Priesthood did, through the laying on of hands by those in authority. This could not be done by the authority of the Priesthood, but by those who we may barely know who had the Priestesshood before. This would be done with a full confirmation that it happened by the General Authorities of the Church, who would introduce the changes that would be needed for the Church to move together with the new Priestesshood. It would not be an easy transition, and I don’t think we’re ready for it, but I look forward to the changes that are continuing to be made to try and prepare us for it.

Men and women working together, taking advantage of what both have to offer, is the only way for all of us to reach our full potential, becoming like our Heavenly Parents, in perfect unity. The hard part will be being patient with our rate of growth and the rate of growth of those around us; to not get discouraged or despair because it seems so far away as to be unattainable. Even if I can hardly see a glimmer of how or when, I know it will happen.

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We Hope All Things

I follow a fair number of blogs, both of the personal and group variety, in various levels of faithfulness to the Church. I stay away from those that are openly and continually critical of the Church, but not from those that have owners with opinions on how the Church should or could be different, so long as they are not openly hostile to either the Church or rational discussion about these things. I don’t know where I fall on the spectrum of these things, but I wanted to talk about the reason I enjoy reading these differing views. Some people seem to think that any talk about how the Church could be different is akin to apostasy, and that those dissatisfied with things as they are should just leave. Some do, but if people are willing to be true to their covenants, I don’t see why they should. Hope for change does not equate to apostasy.

The 13th Article Of Faith says, in part, “We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.”

Hoping for more is part of who we are. The Church was founded on it. Some seem to believe that the Church has lost this; that we’ve gone into a holding pattern, reacting or barely moving over the years, being forced by societal pressures. I don’t think we have. I do think that movement has been made more difficult with the weight of history and the size and dispersion of the membership throughout the world, but we have far from stopped.

Do I know what changes the Church of the future might have? Nope. I know of things that I would like to see changed (see various previous posts to that effect), but I’m not the one in control. I don’t even think the leaders of the Church are in as much control as some think they are. I think they request direction almost constantly on what they should be doing, but much of their work is to build and maintain the Church as best they can, trying to direct people toward the Christ. Ultimately, it is His Church. I know He is working to guide all of us, no matter what position we have been given in the Church hierarchy or what we think is a minor calling, to bring ourselves, our families, our communities, our Church, and our world closer to Him. We may, as error-prone mortals, create bumps in the road for ourselves and others, but all of them – all of them – will be remedied and overcome by Him.

In the meantime, we hope, we try to help, and we continue to pray both that He will forgive our trespasses and that we will forgive the trespasses of others.

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Happiness, Belief and Morality

I recently read a blog post from an atheist site that derided the surprise of someone that Atheists could find happiness without God. I found it particularly amusing that I agreed with the atheist writer. Why shouldn’t Atheists be happy? Yes, knowing God has help make my life happier, but that does not mean that I could not have found happiness if I did not find God.

This brought me to a thought that tends to go with the thought that Atheists cant be happy – that those who do not share the same beliefs you do must be amoral (or immoral, which is different).

This is one of those ideas that works to divide, rather than bring together and uplift. Our history is resplendent with it. Native tribes had to be “converted”, since their clothes and ways were different. Jews had to be purged since they had crucified Jesus. Catholics had to become Protestants to free them from being told what to believe by the Pope.

From this kind of thinking, rumour and gossip abound: “They treat women like cattle!”, “They kill babies!”, “They let men and women worship together!” – biased (and often baseless) accusations designed to make us feel better about persecuting them.

We have to remember that all of these people are also creations of God, our brothers and sisters, or at the least, fellow human beings. They are struggling just as much as you are to learn who they are and what they want to do with their lives. Your beliefs and traditions can be just as foreign to them as theirs are to you. These beliefs do not make them immoral any more than yours make you immoral. They are simply different.

If you truly wish to help – work to improve your life so that you live up to your beliefs. Then, invite and show others how your beliefs have improved your life and happiness. Let it be their own choice, if they have a desire to change. And, no matter what they choose, continue with them. Perhaps you will even learn something from them that will strengthen your own beliefs.

Everyone has morals. Each persons morals have been shaped over the years by many more things than their beliefs. Everyone can be happy, no matter what they believe.

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Sola Scriptura

Christians, in general, seem to have widely differing views on the role of scripture in their religion. Some use only a few portions of the New Testament, some only the New Testament, some add a bare touch of the Old Testament, and some believe the Bible collection of scripture to be definitive. Still others accept all ancient books as part of scripture, and others have specific books they add as scripture.

As an LDS (Mormon), I believe as is stated in the 8th Article of Faith (which is a declaration of the LDS basic tenets):

“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”

In addition to this, we have and make use of Prophets who are called by God to preach in these days. The word of the Prophet is more important than scripture, as it is what God wishes to tell us now, not what we needed when the scripture was written. It should also be noted that the Prophets also ask us to not take any of it on blind faith, but to pray and ask God for ourselves if what was given is true.

I have had friends leave the church over this. They were directed towards seeming inconsistencies in what the Prophets have said, and decided that it meant that someone along the line wasn’t really a prophet.

The reason we need prophets is the same as in Jesus’ time. We, as a people, change. God does not change, but we change in what we need to be taught and reminded of by God. Polygamy is a good example – God gave us instruction on how some men would take more than one wife, to be kept as a very sacred and holy covenant between God and those involved. Unfortunately, some took advantage of that teaching and twisted it to their own ends, and that doctrine was taken away. No one in the LDS church now enters into plural marriage, even if the country the members live in doesn’t disallow it or it is acceptable culturally. Even if the Bigamy laws were repealed in the US tomorrow, God would not direct his people to enter into that covenant until they, as a people, showed they were ready. Considering divorce rates, we have a very long way to go before then.

Having a living Prophet is invaluable to us. Having that direct guidance from God, which we can confirm personally, helps direct us as a people in improving our homes and communities and preparing us for the time when Jesus will return in glory. Its not a dismissal of scripture, but building upon; having even more resources available to us in our quest to become more like Jesus.

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