Teaching OD-2

Last Sunday was a personal milestone for me as a Gospel Doctrine teacher. It was the first time I’ve ever taught a class on Blacks and the Priesthood. Come to think of it, it may be the first time I’ve ever been present in a class on Blacks and the Priesthood, whether as teacher or student (though maybe I’ve just forgotten). As someone who has ridden the priesthood ban hobby horse over the years, and who has suffered lots of angst over it, I’ve long wanted to teach this topic, but never before had the right opportunity. Sunday was the first time I felt I had such an opportunity, so I took it.

The assigned chapter from the D&C manual was “Lesson 42: Continuing Revelation to Latter-day Prophets.” When Steve Evans pointed this out to me at Molly Bennion’s post-Sunstone NW party the night before, I started brainstorming various ideas for the lesson, with the help of a few other Sunstone folks, assuming I’d talk about the “nature” of revelation or something. But not until the next morning, when I actually opened the manual, did I realize how mislead I’d been by the lesson title. For this was really the Correlation–KJV Bible–Additional Quorums of the 70–OD-2 lesson, all rolled into one week. One can’t possibly cover all these juicy topics in one lesson (indeed, I found myself wondering if the manual-writers didn’t intentionally put all this material in one chapter for precisely this reason), so I just chose OD-2. I started off by inviting a couple people to read the full declaration. Then we dived right in.
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Muzzling the Wife

Like Kevin Barney, I sometimes bite my tongue at Church. A class member will make a bone-headed statement in Sunday School, or Elders Quorum, and I’ll look at my wife (or neighbor) and roll my eyes. But more often than not, I decide to keep my big mouth shut. After all, it’s just not worth it to counter every stray comment I disagree with. It might cause a lot of unnecessary contention to correct someone on a point that isn’t really that important at the end of the day. Or it might make the commenter feel stupid. Or it might make me look petty and combative for having uttered the correction. And yet, there are times when biting one’s tongue isn’t the correct tack to take, I think. Some comments aren’t just ignorant and silly, but downright pernicious if left unopposed. I’ve heard many a ludicrous statement in Church over the years that I know was recognized as such by the teacher, but that was met by a polite “thank you” rather than the tactful smackdown that it deserved. We don’t want to rock the boat, naturally, but we sometimes forget that when we acquiesce to nonsense being taught in our classes, we may well be sending the inadvertant message to some that noxious comment X, Y or Z is doctrinally kosher, or at least assented to by all those within earshot. And yet knowing when to open one’s mouth, and when to keep it closed, is tricky.

Oh, let me tell you how incredibly tricky it sometimes is! A year or so ago, I was sitting in Gospel Doctrine class when someone raised their hand and uttered a real doozy. A comment that, to my mind, was just awful. I disliked its tone. I disliked its content. I felt strongly that it misconstrued a gospel teaching, while playing all too well to misguided prejudices surely held by many in attendance. It was the sort of outburst that was screaming for a rebuttal, even if I had to choose my words carefully. It basically met the entire laundry list of criteria I use for determining when it is appropriate to pull out the big guns in Sunday School. But there was one small problem. One that I had not anticipated. One that I had never run into before…

The Commenter-That-Must-Be-Opposed was sitting right next to me. She was my wife.
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Mitt Romney and “Mormon Racism”

You are Mitt Romney. Or, if you prefer, you are an LDS politician running for the U.S. Presidency other than Mitt Romney. You are at a town meeting, fielding questions from the audience, and you’ve gone on record saying that audience members can ask you any question on any topic they want. Truth be told, you would rather avoid confronting questions that deal with the specific theological tenets of Mormonism, but you are nonetheless asked this question:
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Tithes, Taxes and Progressivity

I grew up in a good Republican family, in a wealthy Southern California community, in a ward with lots of good, right-thinking Republican churchmembers. As a youth, I recall occasionally hearing an argument that went something like this: “The Lord asks all his children to pay 10% of their income to his Church, regardless of whether they’re rich or poor. He did so in the days of Malachi, and he does so today. But the government levies a tax on U.S. citizens that rises higher and higher the more money you make. Since we know that the Lord’s ways are just and fair, the government’s ways obviously are not.” In short, the Church’s tithing system was a model that the government should adopt with respect to tax policy. Progressivity in the tax code is unfair, unjust, perhaps even evil.
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Best Mormon Missionary Story Ever (yep, it’s about enemas)

This post first appeared, in slightly modified form, at the now-defunct Sons of Mosiah blog on July 2, 2004.

There comes a time in every missionary’s Mission Training Center (“MTC”) experience when he or she would prefer to be struck by lightning than spend another day cooped up in the “missionary gulag” (Or was it just me?). You spend 8 whole weeks doing “SYL”, attending class 27 hours a day, and eating the same soggy brussel sprouts over and over again. Oh, to finally get out into the real mission field! But in the meantime, you’re stuck “on campus” and you’ve got to find some way to keep yourself entertained.
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Seattle Bloggersnacker. Woo-hoo!

The wife and I are hosting a Bloggersnacker this Saturday, October 13, at 6:00 pm. If you live or frolic in the Seattle area, you are invited to attend. We will be providing all food, drink and dessert, so please don’t feel the need to potluck it. Our address is: [Read more…]

The Greatest Sacrament Meeting Story Ever Told

The year was 2003. The place was Southern California. It was a pleasant Summer Sunday, and the wife and I were attending our weekly church meetings. On this particular morning, we elected to sit closer to the pulpit than usual, planting ourselves right in front of the Bishop, but a few rows back. As the meeting began, I chatted with the wife, made faces at the child sitting in front of me and doodled on the hymnal. Pretty standard, forgettable stuff.
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Well, now, Brother William, when the house of Israel begin to come into the glorious mysteries of the kingdom, and find that Jesus Christ, whose goings forth, as the prophets said, have been from of old, from eternity; and that eternity, agreeably to the records found in the catacombs of Egypt, has been going on in this system almost two thousand five hundred and fifty five millions of years…

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In What Sense are Church Callings “Inspired”?

President G was not my favorite mission president. Little of his advice or influence has left any lasting impression on me over the years. But one particular Zone Conference speech of his stands out as one of the stronger memories of my mission, and in a good way. President G spoke about a certain sister in the mission who had been paired with a companion she didn’t like and who was vocally unhappy about it. Relations in the companionship deteriorated so severely that the exasperated sister finally accosted President G at a conference and let him have it:

President, you say you pick our companions based upon the “inspiration” of the Lord, but it’s obvious to me that I was not meant to be with my companion! Our companionship has been a disaster! You clearly were not inspired when you put the two of us together!

President G then shared with us his response to the sister. It came as something of a surprise to me. [Read more…]

They’re on to us …

Our crafty little scheme has been exposed!

Time to close up shop, I guess…


Elder Nelson doesn’t believe in Evolution

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has posted a transcript of a recent interview it conducted with Elder Nelson and Elder Wickham. One of the questions discussed concerned evolution. Here is the relevant section:

Forum: The church has said it neither promotes nor opposes capital punishment. It says it “opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience.” It does not oppose removing a medical patient from “artificial means of life support.” Different denominations deal differently with questions about life’s origins and development. Conservative denominations tend to have more trouble with Darwinian evolution. Does the church have an official position on this topic?
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Mitt Romney believes in Evolution

At least he didn’t raise his hand during tonight’s GOP presidential debate when the moderator asked those who don’t believe in evolution to “raise their hands.”

Does this profoundly affect my view of his presidential candidacy? Does anyone care? Did this question even make sense in the context of a presidential debate? No.

But at least now, when I have to explain to incredulous LDS Churchmembers that there really is such a thing as a “Mormon evolutionist,” I can point to one of our most famous members as Exhibit A. Woo-hoo!

Joining the Church, Leaving the Church

Whatever else he intended by his comment, I doubt Richard Dutcher was hoping to provide fodder for my blog posts. Nevertheless, Richard’s spiritual journey away from orthodox Mormonism has caused me to reflect on a question that I ponder from time to time: From an LDS perspective, is it heretical to believe that God might have a plan for at least some of His children that entails something other than their joining (or staying a member of) the LDS Church?
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Questions about Tithing

I have some tithing-related questions. Your input and assistance is greatly appreciated…
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Melee in the Mother’s Lounge

My ward contains a “Mother’s Lounge,” and it is plainly labeled as such. You can find it on the other side of the foyer from the chapel doors, right next to the Bishop’s office. Young mothers with newborn children (and there are many of them in my ward) often use the room as a respite from the noisy commotion out in the hall, or as a place to change their baby’s diaper, or as a refuge where they can move their screaming babies out of earshot from other ward members, or what have you. The lounge consists of a sofa and some chairs hidden behind a shear curtain that partially provides another layer of privacy in the event the outer door is left open. There is also a changing table just inside the door, and various other items in the room. For all I know, many wards have just such a lounge (I’ve never had my own baby before, so I’ve never bothered to notice), so you can probably picture what I’m talking about. [Read more…]

Mistranscription in the JD

In Mormon historical and doctrinal discussions, it is not uncommon to hear doubts voiced about whether such-and-such quotation by so-and-so General Authority as reported in the Journal of Discourses was accurately transcribed or not. In my experience, this happens most frequently in discussions of the Adam-God Theory, but there are other examples. [Read more…]

Realistic Expectations

What expectations of accuracy should we have of non-LDS writers who write about Mormonism or Mormon doctrines? Not very high ones, I think. I believe an honest assessment of all the ambiguities, disputations and confusions surrounding the category “Mormon doctrine” require that we confront a simple reality: It is not reasonable to expect non-LDS writers to get “right” what we can’t even agree upon ourselves. [Read more…]

Oaks on Gays

Not to be out-gayed by T&S or M*, let me just say that there is a fantastic interview regarding Same-Sex Attraction over at the Church’s website. It deserves more than the mere link it received here. Public Affairs has seen fit to grill Elders Oaks and Wickman on homosexuality, the nature vs. nurture debate, same-sex marriage, civil unions, etc. Whether or not one agrees with every aspect of their views, it is surely signficant that Elder Oaks and Wickman were willing to go on the record with all this, and in such detail. I was particularly struck by how good the questions were that Public Affairs posed. The interview really covered all the hard questions, and didn’t sidestep any aspect of the issues, as my cynical self might have expected it to. I certainly hope this Q&A session is a harbinger of things to come. Wouldn’t it be great to read an interview like this concerning the Church’s views on evolution, the notion of “No Death Before the Fall,” or any number of other hot topics? Imagine the endless fodder for new blog posts in an otherwise burned-out Bloggernacle! [Read more…]

When “We Just Don’t Know” just isn’t good enough

Heather MacDonald, a well-known writer at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, penned a recent article for the American Conservative that has prompted considerable discussion in the Blogosphere, particularly at NRO’s the Corner. MacDonald’s point, in a nutshell, is to express frustration on behalf of conservative atheists and agnostics towards the overtly theological rhetoric that so often characterizes American conservative arguments. Her thesis: “The conservative movement is crippling itself by leaning too heavily on religion to the exclusion of these temperamentally compatible allies [i.e., conservative atheists and agnostics].” [Read more…]

… but as for me and my house, we will serve Brie and Crackers …

I hereby announce the “2nd Annual Aaron and Stina Brown Seattle Bloggersnacker and 4th of July Party.” It will take place on the evening of July 4th, at our apartment in Seattle, overlooking Lake Union. (O.K., so last year’s 4th of July Party wasn’t a Bloggersnacker, and last year’s Bloggersnacker wasn’t on the 4th of July. Whatever.) If you are reading this blogpost and you live in the Seattle area, you are invited. If you are reading this blogpost and you don’t live in the Seattle area, you are also invited. Just don’t expect me to reimburse you for your planeticket. [Read more…]

Choosing Baby Names (or, “Help Me Name My Kid!”)

So the wife is finally pregnant. At last. After several long years of trying, and almost as many years of worrying that it might not ever happen for us, it finally has, and via natural processes! We had spent a pretty penny on fertility treatments, and were about to take them to the next level, but now we don’t have to. What a relief. We found out about 3 months ago, on my wife’s birthday. Hooray! [Read more…]

Pimp My Eternally Gay Marriage (poll)

The Prophet proclaims divine approval of gay marriage tomorrow, and he instructs all Mormon men to enter into gay marriages. Given this new commandment, and assuming you get your pick of the litter, to which BCC permablogger would you most like to be betrothed? [Read more…]

How I Know Jesus Was Married (and had kids too)

Now that The DaVinci Code has finally hit theatres, everyone and their dog is discussing whether or not Jesus Christ was married. Of course, Dan Brown’s book is just a work of fiction, but this hasn’t stopped various religious groups from weighing in on the heretical notion advanced therein: That Jesus Christ took Mary Magdalene to wife and bore children with her. The LDS Church has decided to join the party, putting forth its own statement as to Mormonism’s doctrinal position (or lack thereof) on this supposedly interesting question. And it’s not hard to see why. Unlike most (all?) other modern branches of Christianity, Mormonism has had various leaders who have sometimes advanced this notion. Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt are probably the most well-known examples. Yet the Church doesn’t appear inclined to accept the pronouncements of these men as “Church doctrine.” [Read more…]

Having Our “Doctrinal” Cake, and Eating it Too

A recent thread at T&S — ostensibly devoted to discussing today’s gay rights demonstration at BYU and the anticipated behavior of BYU students — has devolved into another spat over the meaning of the term “doctrine,” how “doctrines” differ from “opinions,” and how to tell the difference between the two. (Thank heavens nobody mentioned “policy” or “principles” or “culture,” or things would have gotten really ugly!). They say “all roads lead to Rome,” and “all Mormon roads lead to Provo,” and I can’t help but notice that all Bloggernacle discussions seem to inevitably lead to this topic, or some variant of it. Fortunately, I seem to be addicted to this sort of discussion, so today’s exchange has brought me out of my cave, at long last. [Read more…]

Who Are the Ignoranti?

Just when you think all is well in Zion, an internet essay comes to your attention that promptly disabuses you of your naive sense of safety. I just read “Who are the Signaturi?”, in which the author attempts to identify a deadly cancer within the LDS community, and save all of us from falling prey to its malignant influence. Apparently, there is a dangerous dissident movement in the Church today, made all the more sinister by the refusal of its members to reveal their true feelings and intentions. Who are these wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing? Is my Elders Quorum instructor one of them? My hometeacher? My fellow bloggers? This beastly clique of Satan’s minions masquerades as a group of faithful Churchmembers, but don’t be fooled … they are biding their time until they have the numbers and strength to wreak havoc on the righteous!. Personally, I would have named them the “Gadiantoni,” or the “neo-Gadianton Robbers,” but I guess “Signaturi” will do. [Read more…]

Satan wants YOU … to watch the Superbowl on Sunday!

This Sunday is Superbowl Sunday. What this means is that lots of otherwise devout Mormons will flippantly ignore the covenants they have made with the Lord, and instead of keeping his Sabbath day holy, they will plant themselves in front of the Boob Tube and imbibe unhealthy victuals, while watching pointless acts of violence on the screen and behaving like a rabid mob. Why do they do it? Why can’t they see how offensive this is to all right-thinking people? I have finally come to a belated, but obvious conclusion: It’s because they just aren’t as spiritual as people like me. Many are tempted by the wiles of Satan, but there are a few hardy souls like myself who are able to resist the buffetings of the Adversary and who are able to maintain an eternal perspective. For this, I think I deserve to be congratulated. [Read more…]

“Brokeback Mountain” in Sacrament Meeting

Yes, you read that right. I’m sitting in Sacrament Meeting today, feeling a little sick, wondering if the talks are going to bore me to death, thinking about hanging out in the hallway and playing with the primary kids (rather than sitting in the pew like a responsible adult) when it happens … the speaker starts talking about “Brokeback Mountain.” (For those of you who don’t know what “Brokeback Mountain” is, I invite you to leave your Montana cabin and come back to Civilization for a couple weeks, and then we’ll talk). “Oh goodie!,” I said to my wife. “This should be entertaining.” [Read more…]

My Divided State (a movie review)

Once upon a time, I was an angst-ridden college student living in Utah, shocked and appalled at what I saw as the BYU administration’s inexcusable hostility to academic freedom. I had just returned from my mission and English professor Cecilia Farr was being denied tenure under what appeared to be pretty dubious circumstances. Professor Farr had, among other things (or maybe not among other things, which was itself part of the controversy), publicly espoused a rather moderate pro-choice position on abortion (carefully clarifying that she agreed with the Church’s stand as to abortion’s immorality) and all Hell had broken loose. My vision of what academic freedom at a university should be (yes, even a Mormon one) was not consistent with BYU’s actions, and I was quite the unhappy camper. Although there were a lot of lessons to be learned from this episode (and a lot of different ways of framing the issues that were in play), one of the bottom lines, as I saw it at the time, was this: An inordinately large number of Mormons have an inordinately difficult time recognizing the difference between their passionately-felt political views and the religious doctrines of their Church.

It’s been quite a few years since I lived through the angst and irritation of my BYU days, but much of it came flooding back to me the other evening, as I watched THIS DIVIDED STATE, a documentary that has just been released on DVD. [Read more…]

Dying for Jesus

My prior post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, and perhaps it was a bit insensitive (or at least poorly timed) given what is surely a terrible tragedy for one Utah family.  But I do want to segue into a serious topic that I have long found perplexing:  When and to what extent is it appropriate to stand up for one’s beliefs?  Specifically, when does publicly counting oneself as a disciple of Christ become so important that it warrants the risk of severe negative consequences, yea, even unto death?

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If you say “damn” or “hell” one more time, I think I’ll kill myself!

For as long as I can remember, my Sunday School teachers have taught me to take a stand for what’s right, at all times and places.  If you find yourself in an unwholesome environment, just up and leave!  I admire those who are unwavering in their support of righteous living.

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