Friday, September 18, 2009

Pay Tithing First To Put God First???

So, I was thinking about tithing a bit this week.  Rather a theoretical commandment for me, at the moment, till I actually start having "increase" again that isn't due to a massive influx of debt. My wife and I have talked about the "pay the Lord first" concept before, but it came up again this week.  I really don't understand the justification of those teaching this position.  It surprises me to see it taught as if it were the "scriptural" way of doing things... often citing references to the Old Testament, and commandments to bring the "first fruits" as offerings.

The reason this bothers me is that all these passages referring to first fruits are most certainly not referring to tithing.  The ancient Israelites were commanded to offer many different sacrifices, for different reasons.  But in an agrarian society, paying tithing using the first fruits is a real impossibility.  Tithe literally means tenth.  It's a percentage.  It cannot be calculated until the total is known.  If I have 100 cows that are pregnant, I'm not commanded to bring the first ten calves and pay them as tithing. Why? What if 10 cows abort? Stillborn calves.  Calves dying shortly after birth.  Twins born. Etc.  My debt to the Lord would change significantly.

So that isn't the case today.  We can, with relative certainty, predict the size of our "harvest" and number our "flocks" without waiting to see for sure.  But that doesn't change the fact that the commandment to tithe had nothing to do with first fruits.  This is a modern conflation of tithes with other offerings.  Now, I know the point people are trying to teach, that we need to place priority on serving the Lord, and on obeying him... but I don't think we can say that just because we do something first we're putting it above him priority wise.  I generally get my homework done before recreating with my wife, but that doesn't mean I think that homework is more important than she is.

Is the Lord angry with those that pay their tithing, before their other bills?  Perhaps not.  But I also can't imagine that he would be the least bit displeased with those who pay their mortgage, car payment, insurance, etc. first, then hope they have enough left for tithing. This isn't a net vs gross issue, which I also find interesting.  It's a chronological first vs last.

Honestly, I imagine it's the reason we even do tithing settlement. So we can pay up once we've been able to calculate our interest from the prior year.  This has got me thinking too, and I've decided that there's really no good reason we have to use the calendar year for our obeying the "anually" part of the commandment.  Why not have our own personal tithing settlement every July, or something.  It seems December is the worst possible time, for a lot of families, by the time they pay for Christmas related expenses, to come up with extra cash they realize they ought to pay as tithing.  Why not do it right after we file taxes, or better yet, receive our tax returns?

So, any thoughts on why we need to pay tithing first, or why December is good time for tithing settlement? Or anything else tithing related, I suppose?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Summer’s Over

It’s been a short summer, if you ask me.  Too short. So sad, too, to be going back to school already. There were still so many things I’d planned on doing this summer (like posting more on this blog – sorry, ended up spending most of the time at my in-laws… sans internet)

But what can you do.  Try to do better I guess.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Testimony or Conversion

Visiting my wife's family has caused me to think about things a bit differently. Some background. I grew up in a partially-active family (dad's only been to church a few times in last 15-20 yrs... mainly missionary farewells) in a very Mormon community. My wife grew up in a SUPER-active family in VERY non Mormon community. I've noticed some differences here compared to where I grew up. When my wife talks about friends who joined the church, then stopped coming, they "left the church." For me, that term was reserved for excumunicates and those who had their names removed.

Now, something that's bothered me a bit, is her family's tendency to judge others based on testimony. It's a regular subject of conversation when talking about others. "Does he have a testimony?" etc. I'm not necessarily condemning them here for unrighteous "judging," but rather questioning their measuring stick.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Gospel vs. Science - Automatic Victory?

So I was listening to a talk on the radio the other day... it had the feel of a BYU devotional or CES fireside. I don't know who the speaker was, but they quoted (I hate when people do this, so I'm trying to track down the quote) Elder Maxwell on the subject of conflicts between science and religion. He said something about how the gospel embraces all truth, and that true science never conflicts with the gospel.
The speaker then went on to point out that our understanding of science is limited, but that the eternal gospel is unlimited. That, for him, when there is a conflict, it doesn't bother him for they will one day be reconciled.
All well and good. But here's my problem with the idea: While it's true that our knowledge of science (both individually, and collectively) is quite limited and imperfect. And it is true that the eternal gospel is limitless and complete and perfect. But, since when did we believe that our understanding of the gospel is complete and perfect? We don't! Continuing revelation is not just about establishing new quorums of Seventy and calling new Apostles. It's about revealing the Christ didn't, in person, actually go to the spirits in Prison, despite the fact that the Bible says he did. It's about eternal damnation not really meaning damnation of an eternal duration, but rather of an Eternal kind (being God's - where one of His chosen names is Eternal).
So revelation has, can, and will continue to change our understanding of the doctrines of the Eternal Gospel. So why, when a conflict arises, is there an automatic victory for the currently held belief in the church? Isn't it just as likely (ok, maybe the odds are not the same. They could be higher or lower) that the prophet will later reveal a change as it is that the scientific evidence will be overturned by newer research?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Future of Medicine

I was having an interesting conversation the other day with a Family Practice doc. He works in a rural community. He's one of those docs who does everything. He takes care of pregnant women, delivers their babies, takes care of the kids, and all the way up to the elderly in a nursing home. And he's struggling to make ends meet. It just really got me thinking about Obama's new socialized medicine plans. There's pretty much no way I can see that having an optional national healthcare plan will work in the long run. I think that if we are going to offer this plan to people, more and more companies are going to stop their health plans, or at least cut back on them. The program will just keep growing and growing. And here's the deal... some people think you can pay for this by (at least in part) cutting payments to doctors.
And here's what's going to happen. There are going to be more and more docs who decide that taking care of Medicare/aid (and whatever this new program will end up being called) patients is just too big of a hastle. I've talked to him a bit about how much trouble he has already, with medicare being one of the worst reimbursers out there. There will come a point, and I think that's going to be just as all these baby boomers are suddenly needing all this healthcare, when a decent number of docs are simply going to say, no thanks. Cash only, please. (or maybe private insurance if it's still around)
And then what are we going to do?

By the way, sorry about the delay. Finals, internships, moving, etc have really kept me from getting anything put up here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Giving Your Kids What They Want

It's interesting, as I've been reading Rough Stone Rolling, how my eyes have been opened a little bit as far as parenting goes. Let me explain. I was raised in a family where you were expected to work from a young age. I bought all my own clothes/entertainment (with the exception of some Christmas/Birthday presents) by the time I was in Jr. High. I never once expected my parents to pay for my mission. I knew I'd be paying for college, so I worked hard to get scholarships. I never even thought of asking them to buy me a car. That was my responsibility. I always felt like that was really an ideal way to raise kids, as it taught me and my siblings a great deal of responsibility, taught us to be good with money, to take care of and appreciate our belongings.
But, as I was reading about Joseph's predecessors, it seems that many of them struggled with feelings of complete inadequacy because they failed to provide each of their sons with a house and a farm when they came of age.
So I guess for me the question isn't so much of if it's a good thing to provide such things. I guess I'd always thought that the historical trend was going more the other way, toward giving them more things. But if back in the late 1700's parents were already not just giving their kids these things, but actually feeling bad if they didn't, is the whole "teaching your kids responsibility by not giving them what they want" thing a new idea? Or is my family just weird?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Delay

Sorry Everyone... School has just been really crazy lately. Hopefully I'll get a new post out in the next couple of days... I figure that last one was long enough for a few posts.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jesus The Trail Guide

Here's an expanded version of an analogy that popped into my head the other day as my wife and I were discussing the atonement. Hope you like it!
I think that we can think of ourselves as lost in a huge forest (or desert, jungle, or other place where it's difficult to find your way). There are tall trees, beautiful meadows with wildflowers, scary and dark portions with wild and ferocious animals, and all other things that one would expect to find in a forest.. There are deer trails heading every which direction. And for some reason, you are completely lost, not sure how you got here, and having not even a clue as to which way you need to go to get to safety.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Priesthood Blessings, Words vs Ideas

One aspect of the LDS church that is quite unique is that of a lay priesthood. Having average guys holding the authority to acti in the name of diety seems quite unusual. Actually, I quite like it. I've seen many great blessings (read: positive happenings) come from priesthood blessings (i.e. the ordinance that is performed). I do not doubt their power. I have felt the spirit confirming what was said, both in receiving and giving them.
But talking about blessings (the ordinance) with my wife and others has led me to believe that I have a very different feeling about how the revelation/inspiration occurs. To illustrate, I'll give a couple brief examples:

Story #1 - A friend of mine had two sons. Then he had a daughter. Along came another son. At the baby blessing for the youngest son, the father blessed him that he would be "a good example to his brothers and sisters."
Story #2 - My wife and I have shared our patriarchal blessings with each other. There is actually very little that they have in common. However, there is one difference that really struck out to her as we read them together the first time. Mine makes reference to me coming forth in the morning of the first resurrection, (assuming I live my life faithfully) whereas hers does not.

So, what's the fuss about? My friends wife (from #1) pointed out to us that this statement of "sisters" must mean that they were supposed to have another child... so they did. It was a boy. So they tried again, and got a girl. Now son #3 (child #4) could really be a good example to both his brothers and sisters.

My wife, noting the difference in our blessings, went on to explain to me that she was quite sure that the second coming will happen within her lifetime, because of the lack of this clause. Note, this is not something that she just concluded on her own. Apparently this was a common thing in her stake... the youth of the church are now receiving blessings without telling them when they'll be resurrected. This means that, obviously, they won't be... they'll be changed at His coming.

I don't want to sound antagonistic, or superior, but am I the only one who doesn't view blessings (the ordinance) as scripts given by the Lord to the individual? Am I the only one who doesn't think the exact wording is necessarily inspired? Havind two more kids because of an "s"?!? Not expecting death, because a phrase was not mentioned in your Patriarchal blessing?

From my experiences with giving priesthood blessings, here's how I see things. My guess is, my wife had a new Patriarch appointed, who tended not to say anything about the resurrection in his blessings (my wife's was not an isolated case... apparently this has been taught in church/seminary where she grew up). I think my friend was expressing a righteous desire in blessing his child, with faith that it would come to pass. He wasn't given certain quantites of siblings to include in the sentence.

I've given numerous blessings (ordinance, and hopefully at least occasionally been involved in the positive happenings of their lives :-) ) and I can say that, for me at least, the words spoken are frequently my own. I feel guided in what I should tell a person, what council I might give, etc., but for me, I would describe this process of being inspired with feelings. I feel the love that God has for his children. I "feel" what he wants to tell them. Then I try and get it out in language.

Am I alone here? How do you think of Priesthood blessings. Are the words that important?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spiritual Diabetic Neuropathy

The last few posts have gotten a bit long, so I'll try and keep this a bit shorter. I was just reviewing my notes from Conference and thought I'd share some thoughts I had from Pres. Eyring's Priesthood talk. He spoke about the responsibility we have to look after others. This struck me because (well, mainly because I'm nerdy) I'd just attended a conference on diabetic neuropathy (see, I told you), which has some interesting parellels. Then, during the talk, he kind of drew them even closer together for me.

After reccounting the story from "Black Hawk Down," he said, "Such a feeling of responsibility for others is at the heart of faithful priesthood service. Our comrades are being wounded in the spiritual conflict around us. So are the people we are called to serve and protect from harm. Spiritual wounds are not easily visible, except with inspired eyes."

So what does this have to do with diabetes? One of the complications of diabetes, long term, is that it causes problems with your nerves, frequently in the hands and feet. When you start to lose sensation in your toes, you can't tell when your shoes are uncumfortable, or if there's a rock in your shoe, or even if you step on a thumb tack. This leads to infection. Also, the nerves that should control your sweat glands die off too, so now you have ultra dry skin, which cracks, and leads to opportunities for infection even without any particular trauma. Even normal feet generally have a relatively poor blood supply, which is how you fight off infections, so this adds up for a perfect storm, leading to a lot of lower limb amputations.

What's the solution? Well, one of the best things you can do for your feet is to examine them twice a day, and stop going around barefoot (ever) once you have lost/poor sensation. However, one of the things they stressed in the conference was the benefit of having someone else to help you. Having you husband/wife check your feet (even if it's every few days) can have a tremendous impact on the health outcomes for patients. The problems are detected early, before they start to take over and kill off a lot of tissue.

Same with the gospel. That's why the Church exists at all (or one reason anyway). Not be be each others master, but to check our feet for us. (Sometimes it's hard to see in some spots)

Pres. Erying said, "Only an authorized judge in Israel is given the power and the responsibility to verify that there is a serious wound, to explore it, and then, under inspiration from God, to prescribe the necessary treatment for healing to begin. Yet you are under covenant to go to a spiritually wounded child of God. You are responsible to be brave enough and bold enough not to turn away."

and, "I would never put off such an impression because I had learned that the wounds of sin are often not felt at first by the one being hurt. Satan seems sometimes to inject something to deaden the spiritual pain while inflicting the wound. Unless something happens soon to begin repentance, the wound can worsen and widen."

That's just the way sin works. Often, we don't feel its effects (peripheral nerve damage happens first). But others around us can notice small changes, if they look. If they don't, and we don't, soon a larger sin enters in, and begins to take over. Once inside, the results can be devastating (even more so with sin than with the loss of a limb)

Sorry, that wasn't so short after all...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Modesty, Garments, & Nudity? - Part 2

To not be lost, catch the first part of the discussion of modesty in Part 1.
(My apologies, it's a bit late for coherent writing, but I wanted to finish this before time gets away from me.)
So, back to modesty. What is it really all about? I think it's about avoiding pride. If we look at it this way, the admonition to be be modest in our dress has more to do with dressing so as not to intentionally draw undue attention to ourselves, being "free from conceit or vanity." Wearing a swimsuit to church would be immodest, because it would serve to draw attention to myself. Going swimming in tuxedo would likely have the same result. It seems that it is all about our attitude in the clothing choices we make. The outcome we desire has an impact on the correctness of an action.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Modesty, Garments, & Nudity? Part 1

Wow... after reading over at MormonMatters about the mormon nudists, I've been doing a lot of thinking. I've also been scanning the bloggernacle for older posts having to do with modesty, nudity, and the garment. I have to say my thinking has undergone some interesting shifts over the last couple of weeks.
So what exactly is modesty? It's really interesting, considering the emphasis in the current church, that I wasn't really able to find anything in the scriptures on the subject. A quick search of the scriptures led to a single use of the word modest, in 1 Timothy, Ch 2. Here, the use seems to fall in line with the traditional definition of modesty, which has nothing to do with dress per say. It's about being humble. About avoiding what the Book of Mormon calls fine twined linens and costly apparel. About not being prideful.
Looking through the scriptures, I find lots of negative comments about clothing generally, and some neutral ones like admonitions not to worry about it. When it's not mentioned negatively, any positive views are often talked about only in reference to clothing the naked. Here, it seems, it's more about providing something to someone who is poor, no different than providing housing to the homeless.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Teaching Ideals

Another interesting tidbit that kind of jumped out at me during conference:
The other day I was reading on another blog (I'll post a link if I can find it again) a discussion about the way the church always teaches to the ideal. There was a great deal of fus and debate in the comments, about whether the Church is right or wrong in teaching ideals -- like children have the right to a 2 parent, married in the temple, father working, mother staying at home kind of childhood -- and it was generally taken for granted by everyone that in fact the church does this. The main line of discussion seemed to be whether that was proper or not, whether that neglected those who couldn't meet those standards etc.
During the Priesthood session, Bishop Edgley had this to say:
Bishops, the sisters have a role in this effort. Because of the economy, many mothers are finding it necessary to make budget and other living adjustments. Some are even finding it necessary to leave the home to find work. The Relief Society sisters, with their specially endowed, compassionate hearts, can help. They can help identify the needy. They can teach. They can babysit, console, comfort, and encourage. They can make a difference.
I found this quite refreshing. He was explicitly telling the members of the church how they can help those who find themselves in circumstances that don't permit them to provide the "ideal." Telling the sisters to provide babysitting, so that mothers can work... what an awesome move that would be in the Church. If we can get around this whole idea of judging each other. Sure, it might not be the ideal, but maybe I should do all I can to make it more ideal.
Just a thought. I think it's interesting that sometimes we can get really caught up in arguing about whether something the Church is doing is the best or not... even when sometimes that may not be what they are doing at all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Are We Too Reverent?

There's a scene in Monty Python & The Search for the Holy Grail, where Arthur and his knights see God in a vision. They, keeling and bowing before him, are told that He's tired of everyone groveling all the time. Now, I don't think that's how God feels at all, and I think we should do all we can do show proper reverence and respect to him.
However, I do sometime feel that we take reverence to an innappropriate extreme... or rather, in the wrong direction. Frequently (ok, maybe occasionally is more correct) we get counseled in conference (most recently, this weekend by Elder Nelson, if I remember correctly) about the proper form of prayer. (Maybe I'll update this with some quotes once the transcripts are available) He talked about the importance of using the respectful words of Thee, Thy, and Thou in place of You and Your.
Now I'm sure this is something that's been pointed out around the Blogernacle before, but I don't get it. In every other language I'm aware of, prayer is done in the familiar, not formal conjugations of verbs. We don't teach the Spanish-speaking members to pray in Usted. And my understanding is that Thee, Thy, and Thou were once to the English language what "tu" is to Spanish. We English-speakers started praying that way because that's how everyone prayed. Now, the familiar conjugation is virtually absent in English, so it has come to seem very old-fashioned, which we moderns seem to interpret as formal. But it's not. The reason for saying Thee and Thou should be to develop a closer relationship with Diety... not create distance.
The question is further complicated by the fact that 99.999% of english speakers haven't the foggiest idea how to conjugate their verbs appropriately to use Thee/Thy properly. Even in the church (myself included) we don't know how to do it with the exception of a few common verbs (didst, wouldst, hast, doest, etc). So how is that showing respect to use a gramatically innappropriate (and familiar) pronoun for the verb I'm using, or even switching between Thou and You in the same sentence? It's partly because of this that for me, years after my mission, I still do all my private prayer in my mission language... it's more intimate, and I can just talk, without thinking about the proper way to say "you wanted" in thou (thou wantedest?)
In another talk this weekend, we heard from Sister Liffert(?) of the Primary General Presidency. She encouraged us to teach are children proper respect by teaching them to call the members "Brother Smith" and "Sister Anderson" rather than Jack and Jill. Again, we miss the point of the titles brother and sister. They are intended (or iriginally did) to put us on the same level... not to put them on a pedestal of respect. So what do I call Dr. Smith, MD, DDS, MD, JD, PhD? I call him Brother Smith. What do I call Mr. Anderson, with no formal schooling past 3rd grade. Brother Anderson. It's not about respect. It's about the opposite of respect. That's why we read of the Saints talking of Brother Joseph, or Brigham... because they weren't demanding respect.
They were trying to be one... Sure, I'm the prophet, but that doesn't mean I'm better than everyone. Which brings up the question as to why do we Mormons tend to get a bit cranky when someone decides to call one of the Brethren by something other than the full name with middle initial. Why can't we say Gordon Hinkley, or Brother Monson? It just sounds so strange. (the one exception is to include only their title and last name... i.e. Pres. Hinkley) But since when was calling someone by their given name "evil speaking of the Lord's annointed"? Or is there some other reason we do that?
Basically, I think reverence and awe have their place. That place is Deity, not each other. And even then, I think we need to be careful that we're not creating artificial barriers, or creatin new distance between us and God by our "reverence," worrying too much about the words of our prayers, than our prayers themselves.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mormons: Don't We Want Further Revelation?

I just stumbled accross a survey done by Pew on Religion. They've got their findings nicely presented at their site. As I went through the questions, it was interesting to see how the different churches ranked for different things. It was also interesting to note that the Mormons seem to always be flanked by the Jehova's Witnesses, the Evangelicals, and the Catholics. We always tend to be at one extreme or another.

One question I saw as particularly interesting was number 11. It asked, "Should your church: A) preserve its traditional beliefs and practices; B) Adjust beliefs and practices in light of new circumstances; C) Adopt modern beliefs and practices; or D) other?"

68% of Mormon's went with preservation (A), 23% think we should adjust in light of new circumstances (B), only 3% want to adopt modern practices (C), while 6% went with other (D).

From an LDS view, I completely understand the repudiation (97% of us) of choice C... of course the church shouldn't just adopt "modern" beliefs and practices about everything. But really, only 23% for choice B? It seems to me to be by far the best choice for a church who believes in continuous revelation. Preserve traditional practices? What about polygamy? That was changed due to new circumstances was it not? (See Official Declaration #1) The entire argument Wilford Woodruff makes seems to be one of adjusting our practices in light of new and changed circumstances (laws enacted by congress, what he saw would happen if they didn't). What about adding to the quorums of the Seventy? Making the endowment videos? Changes to the endowment ceremony, and more recently to the initiatory?

If a GA says that we'll never go to the moon, don't we adjust that belief when 1969 rolls around and Neil Armstrong proves otherwise? If BRM says blacks will never have the priesthood, don't we change that belief, and the practice of not ordaining them (or endowing them, sealing them, preaching in Africa, etc.) when new circumstances arise (i.e. Pres. Kimball - See OD #2)?

For me, the having C listed as an option (adopting modern practices) softens B considerably. B seems to be an ideal choice for the latter-day saints. Where does this desire to preserve historical practices come from? Why would we value them over the new? I guess I just don't see the value in or have a desire for the Church to try to preserve traditional beliefs/practices just because they're traditional. If male/female societal rolls are simply tradition, lets have away with them. If they're an intrinsic part of our eternal being, then let's uphold them.

Or are we (68% of us) just terrified of someone misinterpretting us as meaning C, that we move past B and all the way to A, just to make sure?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

(Not) Speaking of the Temple

Speaking about the temple is a uniquely strange issue in the church. It is so strange to me that we don't have more open discussions about the temples. As a youth, it is drilled into you to prepare for the temple... but so little is said about what goes on there, aside from marriage. Being an endowed member, I'm fully aware of the covenants that are made therin, covenants not to reveal certain information outside the temple. However, those covenants are quite specific in what is not to be disclosed. Where do we get the notion that they apply, or should anyway, to the entire experience therein? For instance, take this quote from Elder Packer:

A careful reading of the scriptures reveals that the Lord did not tell all things to all people. There were some qualifications set that were prerequisite to receiving sacred information. Temple ceremonies fall within this category.

We do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples. It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience.

He says, "We do not discuss the temple ordinances outisde the temples." Period? Why not? Where does this come from? For sure we discuss temple ordinances outside the temple. We talk about the sealing power, temple marriage, sealing children to parents etc. What about the endowment, and the washing/annointings? When do we ever promise not to discuss these things. A good example from James E. Talmage:

“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions” (The House of the Lord, rev. ed. [1976], 84).
Here, Elder Talmage wrote specifically about the covenants that we make in the temple. Is there anything wrong with that? I think not. The covenants that we make in the temple are important. I think they are something we need to be prepared to make. That's why, I think, he wrote about them. The covenants of secrecy refer specifically to not revealing the New Name, the signs, tokens, and names of the signs. Other than that, why aren't we free to discuss the rest, to search for understanding together?

One might make the case that the brethren such as Elder Talmage have spoken about certain parts of the temple, because of the value in teaching them to those preparing for the ordinances, but that discussing the rest of the endowment (or initiatory) would be without redeeming merrit, while eliminating a sense of sacredness.

However, I feel that more open discussion would prove incredibly valuable to the endowed members of the church. For example, reading a post at FMH a while back, I came across a rather novel (to me at least) feminist interpretation of the fall and Eve's roll in it. As I read, I noticed that all the scriptural accounts (Genesis, Abraham, and Moses) could easily be interpreted that way, but that in this one particular issue, the endowment differed from all other accounts. Now, it dealt with an issue of chronology, and the endowment and scriptures are not always presented chronologically, but in this case the chronology could be significant. I found this fascinating: A) that the endowment differed here, yet I'd never noticed it or its implications; and B) that I couldn't talk about it to anyone.

Here I may have discovered something that may prove comforting to more feminist members of the church, who struggle with a patriarchal church. But, what is to be done when scripture and the temple diverge? Which takes precedence? Which carries more authority? That's something I've never been taught or heard mentioned in the church. If the endowments chronology is correct, then my new interpretation falls apart. If the Bible and Pearl of Great Price have it correct, however, the interpretation stands. Could I honestly teach this to others if the endowment differs? If not teaching it to help others, why shouldn't I at least be able to discuss it with other endowed members, to get their take on it?

So I guess I'll end with a plea... does anyone know where Elder Packer gets this notion that we "do not discuss the temple ordinances" outside the temple? It's practically ubiquitous in the church, but where does it come from? And why? The sacred need not be secret. Elder Oaks hassaid that "the ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church," yet it is far from secret. We have lessons on it in Priesthood/Relief Society, in Sunday School, in Primary, in FHE.... everywhere we talk and write and read about it, its significance and symbolism. Doing so has enriched my understanding of the atonement, and of the sacrament. It seems that to leave the temple untouched leaves to much that would be beneficial unsaid.

Sorry... crazy busy times...

Wow... I'm really sorry. This has been a crazy couple of weeks. I had a whole series of tests... some finals and a couple midterms leading up to spring break... which led into a fun and exciting, yet relaxing break from school, where I had no internet access. But, hopefully I'll be able to get something posted in the next day or so.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Healthcare Rights... or wrong?

I had an interesting conversation with a patient yesterday. He was talking about one of his favorite family practice docs. He'd built up a large practice in a pretty smalls town over the years. As he approached retirement, he decided he wanted to sell the practice. He interviewed a lot of young doctors, but wasn't able to find anyone he was willing to trust the practice to. It seemed all these young docs aren't willing to live the kind of lifestyle rural family practice docs have for years. They only wanted to work 4-5 days a week. They wanted to be able to take vacations... The patient went on to tell me that he hoped I wasn't like one of those. That I was willing to sacrifice for the good of the community.
Contrast that with a post I just read here. It tells the story of a pediatrician who's decided that medicine really isn't her #1 priority. She has a new baby. She feels like she's missing out on so much by working 65 hours a week in her current practice.
What other field is there where we expect that somone should be required to sacrifice in order to better serve us? Do I ever think, "that's just not right for Taco Bell to close @ 1:30... what if I'm hungry at 2? They are just being selfish... not willing to sacrifice for the good of the community."
I think that what it comes down to is that people are seeing healthcare as their right. They deserve it, and anyone, be it a Dr. or an insurance plan, who tries to tell them they don't have that right is just being greedy, or selfish, or not willing to sacrifice like they should.
I don't understand this line of thought. How can we possibly have that right? To say that I have a real right to healthcare is saying that I have a right to force someone else to work for me... that's slavery, or at least indentured servitude. If I have a right to take from someone their life, liberty, or property (three very real inalienable rights) if they infringe on my rights. If someone takes from me either my life, liberty, or property, they will be punished by law - and deprived of either thier life(death penalty), liberty(prison), or property(fines). Now, if I have a right, a real right, to healthcare, I am claiming that anyone who impinges on that right should be punished (taking away life, liberty, or property). Is that really what people think? Should a Dr. really be punished for not providing healthcare to a patient? If he provides poor care, causes harm, etc... for sure he should be punished. But simply refusing to treat someone? Deciding to work 40 hours a week? 20 hours?
I don't think people are following their reasoning through all the way. They are seeing something they want, that's important to them, that they may not be able to live without... and thinking they must have a right to it.
Any thoughts? Where does a right to healthcare come from?
Just for the record, I feel physicians should sacrifice for their patients. I plan on working long hours and holidays. But that doesn't mean I think the patients have a right to it. I'll do it out of charity, not obligation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Great Divorce

So I just finished reading "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis... What an amazing book. I really do think that he had an amazing understanding of the gospel, but I'm more impressed by his ability to express that, in prose, rather than a discourse.

The great divorce tells a story about what happens to spirits after we die... the choices we have to make to make it to heaven. It was fascinating to watch as person after person chose to keep some part of hell in themselves, rather than give it up and receive heaven.

People hung on to pride, glory, even misery, rather than accept joy.... it really just did a great job of making me think, about the things that I hang on to, rather than move forward to receive all that God has in store for me.

My mission president was fond of saying that if you want to live in the Celestial Kingdom, you have to be willing to live a Celestial law. If there are laws we don't want to live, we won't want to be there. This just goes along with C.S. Lewis' book so well. If there's anything we want more than exaltation and eternal joy, we'll have it instead.

Anyone else read the book? Anything you've gained from it, or find wrong with it?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Does Prostate Cancer Prevention Justify Masturbation?

I came across a post yesterday that got me thinking about masturbation again, and a conversation I've had on another blog.

First off, let me say that this post isn't about whether masturbation is healthy...

The post cites an article that was just published that looked into the the association between masturbation in early adulthood and risk for prostate cancer. Now, the study showed an increased risk of developing prostate cancer early for those who masturbated most frequently in their 20's, but even in their own discussion admit that the high level of hormones leading to the increased risk may well be the reason for the higher levels of sexual activity (masturbation or intercourse). Thus, the high levels of testosterone are causing both the frequent masturbation in the 20's and early onset of prostate cancer.

One thing they showed is that masturbation in later years tends to serve as a protection from cancer, presumably from clearing the prostate of carcinogens by ejaculation. This protective affect has been shown in other studies as well. In the linked study (much larger too: 800 men in the one finding masturbation to increase risk; 29,000 in the one finding it to decrease it), the effect was shown to be true even for younger men (20's).

But as I said, that's not the point. Sure, I believe that medical science has almost completely redeemed masturbation from the disease/insanity/imbecilism-causing activity it used to be seen as. Rather, my question here is: Why do we LDS feel that in the commandments must be temporal in nature. In D&C 29, the Lord tells us that His commandments are all spiritual, not carnal, not temporal.

If masturbation is wrong morally, what does that have to do with the physical. The act could easily be inappropriate morally without having adverse health consequences. But Mormons seem to love the idea that all the commandments have direct temporal reasons for their existence.

It's like having a conversation about the health benefits of drinking a glass of red wine at dinner, or the health benefits that can be derived from drinking tea. Mormons (ok, so that's a blanket statement, and probably shouldn't be, but let's read that as, "many of the Mormons I've come in contact with") tend to think the scientists are wrong, or trying to appease their consciences, etc.

To wrap things up, I'd still recommend the reading of an article called "Historical Development of new masturbation attitudes in Mormon Culture: Silence, secular conformity, counterrevolution, and emerging reform" for a history of Mormon views on the subject. It seems to me that what started out as something that was 'bad' because it caused health problems (according to erroneous medical opinion of the day), came to be called 'bad' morally because of those cultural perceptions (mainly by Elders McConkie and Kimball) and then 'we' tend to try to say that masturbation must still be 'bad' for you in a physical way, because it is 'bad' the way Elders McConkie and Kimball claimed. Seems like some amazingly bad logic to me.

I'm willing to have a discussion about the morality of masturbation, or of drinking wine, etc., but why are we trying to say that science will eventually show a temporal, physical benefit to all the teachings of the church, or that studies that show the opposite must be wrong. Following a commandment doesn't always lead to better health or longer life. If you want to know more about what I think about it, you should read this post. Either masturbation is healthy, or its not; either it's moral, or it's not; those two have no necessary relation, if you ask me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blue shirts

School has been taking up a lot more time than expected this month.  Sorry for the delay in getting any posts out.  This one will have to be a bit brief, and hopefully I'll be able to find time to come back and add to it a bit later.

This sunday the PH lesson was based on a talk from Elder Oaks from conference.  In it, he quoted Elder Holland's address in which he ecouraged the young men of the church to wear white shirts to church, as a symbol of their baptismal clothes, their white clothes they'll wear to the temple, and the white shirts they'll wear on their missions. - All well and good...

Then the teacher went on to say that this teaching applies to us as well, since we've all moved past those steps (I guess not everyone did all of them...).  So we are likewise needing to always wear the white shirt to church.  He confessed that he didn't always do it, but after this he was repenting and hoped to do better in the future.

Two interesting things.  First, a friend of mine in the quorum happened to be the only one in the group not wearing the standard uniform, but rather a nice blue shirt under his suit coat.  I never would have had the guts to refer to this as a commandment, singling out this one guy like that.

Second, where in the world does this come from?  Why on earth is there anything wrong with a nice blue shirt.  Is there any guideline ever asking the brethren to only wear white ones?  Does it say anything in the handbook about not letting men with colored shirts pass/bless the sacrament?

I don't understand it. I don't understand why anyone cares...  

So, anyone know of any sources for the idea/tradition/commandment that we (adult men in particular) have to wear white shirts to church?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Scriptures... A few thoughts

Sorry everyone... it's been a while.  But I'm back from break, and things should get back to normal now.

For Christmas I recieved a copy of the "Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow," from Desert Book's Gospel Scholars Series. So far it's been a pretty good read, and I've enjoyed it.  I thought today I'd just share some thoughts on some things I read yesterday, about the scriptures.

First, a quote from Elder Packer: "If [you] are acquainted with the revelations, there is no question -- personal or social or political or occupational -- that need go unanswered.  Therein is contained the fulness of the everlasting gospel.  Therin we find principles of truth that will resolve every confusion and every problem and every dilemma that will face the human family or any individual in it."

Wow!  That's a gigantic claim about the contents of the scriptures.  I'm not entirely sure how to take it though.  Is he saying that in the scriptures we will find the answers to every question we might ever face?  Do they contain information about particle physics etc?  Or is he saying that in them we find the means to obtain such information, such seeking learning by study and faith, and out of the best books?  If this is the intent, I think the statement is a bit of hyperbole.
A quote from Pres. Lee:  "I say say that we need to teach our people to find their answers in the scriptures.  If only each of us would be wise enough to say that we aren't able to answer any question unless we can find a doctrinal answer in the scriptures! And if we hear someone teaching something that is contrary to what is in the scriptures, each of us may know whether the things spoken are false--it is as simple as that.  But the unfortunalte thing is that so many of us are not reading the scriptures. We do not know what is in them, and therefore we speculate about the things that we ought to have found in the scriptures themselves.  I think that therein is one of our biggest dangers of today."

Now, I really liked this quote.  I think that if we, as a church, did a much better job in learning what is actually written in scripture, we'd be much less liable to buy into a lot of speculation that gets thrown around in the church, and accept it as doctrine.  But, I am curious as to how this fits in with a quote from the next page in the book from Brigham Young:

Wilford Woodruff tells a story of when there was some discussion in a meeting in the early church as to the place of the written scripture vs. the living oracles, and whether the prophet and church leaders should be limited by what's in the scriptures.  Brigham youn stood up and said, "There is the written word of God to us, concering the work of God.... And now, when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation.  I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books."  Then Joseph got up and said, "Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth."

So I guess my question is, how does the quote from Pres. Lee relate to that of Brigham Young, especially as it relates to the general authorities, or even "a man bearing the Holy Priesthood." Does the word of an Apostle supercede canonized scripture?  Does it do so only if it's a statement from the First Presidency and Quorum of the the Twelve? From either?  

For example:  I don't suppose I can think of an Apostle who enjoyed speculating, and preaching it as definitive truth, more so than Elder McConkie. So what of it?  Should he have followed the council of Pres. Lee, limiting himself rather than proclaiming that there was no death before the fall, or that any who imagine that God might progress in actually learning new things must be as smart as a bit of primordial goo? Or should we as a church accept his word, as a living oracle (well, living at the time), even though there's no definitive doctrinal answer in the scriptures? (I'm not just talking about these two issues... there's tons of them, so I'm not looking here for a discusssion of the progression of God)

And I guess a final dimension the this problem would be one in which the prophets disagree.  Evolution, for example.  We have different Apostles with very conflicting views on the subject.  Why don't they stick to the council of Pres. Lee and leave the thing unanswered?  Should they?  Ultimately, that is what the First Presidency did, telling the general authorities to leave the subject alone, leaving geology, biology, etc to the scientists of their respective fields, and the church to the subject of saving souls.

(I've got to get to class now, but I'll try and get some references in here for all who might like them in the very near future.)