Sunday, November 8, 2015

"The Plan of Happiness" By President Boyd K. Packer

Find this talk here.

  • I'm grateful for the occasional testimony from those a fair bit older than I that "longtime married love", as Pres. Packer put it, is a really nice thing.
  • I'm not convinced that sealing really should be equated to marriage. I've probably mentioned that in other posts. If sealing and marriage aren't the same thing, it goes a long way toward explaining Joseph Smith's "polygamy" coincident with his repeated denunciations of the idea, it explains Malachi's "turn the hearts" quotes more fully, and it explains how the early D&C statement that marriage should always be public (removed when section 132 was added by Brigham Young in -- I think -- the 1870s) can still be honored.
    • It would also allow the Church to get out of requiring marriage licenses from candidates for marriage. The marriage license is an improper intrusion of government into what should be a private contract, In most states it makes the state the actual, legal owner of children produced by the marriage, which is how the state has legal basis for compelling education, taking custody through child protective services, and probably other stuff. Moreover, that contract is indissoluble, so once the state owns you, there's nothing you can do about it, even with a divorce.
  • After reading Pres. Packer's "Little Factory" talk ( I have a rough time listening to him discuss matters of intimacy, even in the relatively Puritan terms he uses here.
  • D&C 132 has enough internal inconsistencies that it's hard to trust it for much, but I think Pres. Packer's quote here is probably pretty close to correct. Too bad his quote of D&C 124, which is far more trustworthy, is taken completely out of context. It's speaking of baptism for the dead, not sealing.
  • "But unlike the case of our mortal bodies, when the repentance process is complete, no scars remain because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ." So Christ can't heal our physical body without scars?
  • It's certainly true that God's the Father and full of love, and that in His mercy, He'll repair wrongs and give just recompense. But it's too easy to use that fact to paper over the difficult bits in man's policies and behaviors, such as the Church's recent refusal to baptize children from same-sex couples.
  • It's too bad no one ever talks about what the Holy Spirit of Promise is. In the second anointing ordinance, I understand that the officiator claims to be the Holy Spirit of Promise, but that's obviously false given history and context. It can only be Christ confirming the promise (of sealing, or whatever) to someone in person.
    • We also tend to forget that D&C 132 (if you want to trust it) makes the blessings of sealing contingent on ratification by the Holy Spirit of Promise.
  • A testimony is supposed to be a statement of fact. Without recounting the evidence behind his testimony that Christ lives and is at the head of the Church, it's tough to take it seriously.

“Is Not This the Fast That I Have Chosen?” By President Henry B. Eyring

Find this talk here.

  • "When we offer succor to anyone, the Savior feels it as if we reached out to succor Him." This really does mean anyone.
  • He read Matthew 25 incorrectly. The Savior separates sheep from goats not "after our life in this world is complete", but "when the Son of Man shall come in his glory" (Matt 25:31)
  • It's true we can all obey the law of the fast. Those of us who can do more shouldn't confuse "something we can all do" with "the only thing we personally should do". Pres. Eyring seems to make that incorrect conclusion later on. A local high councilor here made exactly that mistake.
    • Isaiah's description deserves special notice. We tend to read it and say, "yay, we're fasting", but going without food is hardly the full extent of Isaiah's description. My own experience is that most Church members frown on libertarian political activism, yet does that not fall directly under the heading of "break every yoke"? How can we "let the oppressed go free" without stirring things up a bit?
    • "Hide not thyself from thine own flesh" means, as I read it, to take care of your extended family.
  • "Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am." That's a blessing I want. There's far more there than simply warm fuzzy feelings when someone tells a touching story in testimony meeting.
  • "then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday" I imagine this is the sort of thing people meant when they said Joseph Smith's testimony was given with power, and when they lamented that without Joseph, there might be no one left with such power.
  • "And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." As a would-be desert farmer, I love this imagery.
  • And now we get Pres. Eyring's description of what our fasts our like. It has very little to do with the fast described in the scriptures. No wonder we're always praying for rain and health, instead of getting made like watered gardens.
    • Writing a check to the Church and letting them seek out and deal with the needy hardly fulfills Isaiah's instructions.
    • It's sometimes reported that local leaders informally compete to see who can send the most fast offering money back to Salt Lake, and that they'll avoid using it locally for "better" numbers in that regard. Regardless of the reason, there are thousands of instances where Church members have failed to receive help from ward leadership when it was clearly needed. Of course mistakes will happen everywhere, but we absolutely must be willing to go beyond a simple fast offering, to fill needs around us.
  • The story of the war refugee paying her equivalent of the widow's mite is certainly a remarkable instance of obedience, but given the Church's profligate waste of tithing funds and abject unwillingness to follow scriptural direction to disburse funds by common consent and reveal tithing use to all members, it's heart wrenching.
    • Early church leaders' counsel regarding tithing was that it should be paid after all other needs were met. "Interest", as used in section 119, means not "income" as a First Presidency letter in the 70's (I think) claimed, but "surplus" (ref. Webster's Dictionary, 1828). Elder Holland deliberately misquoted James E. Talmage in a conference talk in Oct. 2001 by removing the parts of Talmage's quote that very clearly said tithing should only be paid by people who can afford it. ( for details)
  • Does anyone else wonder if Christ's 40 day fast (and that of Moses) were miraculously managed without any food or water for that whole period? 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A note on women's conference

In contrast to those seeking a clarifying revelation on the relationship between gender and the priesthood, I have never felt particularly interested in the content of the wonem's conference. I wasn't specifically invited, and am willing to accept the implied assertion that the topics weren't necessarily for me. There's plenty of stuff I can study that's more helpful to me than General Conference; I study these only because I promised to do it. But I don't intend to study the women's conference, on the grounds that it was targeted specifically to a group I'm not in.

"Until We Meet Again" By President Thomas S. Monson

Find this talk here.

  • The things Pres. Monson encouraged his listeners to do were all good things. I hope we do them.
  • He says he "invoke[s] the blessings of heaven upon each of [those listening]". It would be interesting to study who has the right to do something like that, and what power such a blessing holds.
    • Historically, I'm told it would be very common for pretty much everyone to bless everyone else in similar ways.
  • Once again, he didn't testify of any of the Church's fundamental doctrines: Christ, Joseph Smith, or the Book of Mormon. Nor did he prophesy, translate, or reveal.

"Come and See" By Elder David A. Bednar

Find this talk here.

  • If we're supposed to go teach everything Christ has commanded us, well ... what has He commanded us, exactly? We've got lots of commandments of men, trying to place a barrier around the commandments so that we won't break them (prohibitions on piercings, rated R movies, and caffeine come to mind). Christ commanded us to repent, be baptized, and follow Him. Once we're following Him, we'll let Him tell us precisely what else we need to do.
  • I very much hope people were listening when he said "we do not receive prizes or bonus points in a heavenly contest" for bringing in new members. That's very true, and very often forgotten.
  • "We're not attempting to coerce you to believe as we do." Fair enough, the coercion comes after you're baptized.
  • He refers to D&C 68:1 saying we need to proclaim the gospel. That scripture says Orson Hyde was commanded, among other things, to expound scripture. I'd love to hear more scripture expounded in the Church.
  • Somehow I have no trouble picturing the two little boys working to patch up the scratched arm 
  • If we were really so excited to share the gospel, it wouldn't take so much effort to convince us to stop talking about, for instance, "a treatment or medication that alleviates pain with which we have long suffered" and actually share gospel.
  • It's helpful also to notice that Lehi's first recorded vision came as he was praying for his people

"Trifle Not with Sacred Things" By Elder Larry S. Kacher

Find this talk here.

  • Another talk saying, "Our choices are important. Here's a semi-relevant personal story."
  • One of the forces we regularly ignore is that of evil spirits. Fully half of Christ's New Testament miracles were casting out of evil spirits, yet today we pretend they don't exist and that it's all some psychological imbalance treatable by Zoloft.
  • "...the importance of acting for myself and not forsaking my agency to others." Exactly! That's one reason claiming the prophet can't lead us astray is so pernicious: it gives our agency away to the leader of the church, and denies him agency. The commonly promulgated doctrine that the Lord will kill off "His Prophet" before the prophet can lead the church the wrong way denies the leadership agency. If the Lord kills you before you can make a wrong choice, the Lord has taken away your agency.
  • I like his example of following what has given him comfort, and that he backs it up with properly applied scripture.
    • I also like his technique of setting difficult questions aside temporarily. This is different than ignoring them or contending in support of the "faith promoting" explanation for weird bits of Church doctrine, policy, or history. The problem is when "temporarily" turns into "forever".
  • If it's really ok to question, it would be nice of the Church to stop punishing people who do it.
  • If Christ won't "vary from that which He hath said", why do so many of our own revelations contradict current policy?
    • The history of polygamy is full of such things; one lesser known such revelation is the one John Taylor claimed to receive saying the Lord would never do away with polygamy. Another is the fact that D&C 132 and Jacob 2 directly contradict each other respecting David and Solomon.
    • The manners of church discipline, of sacrament, and of meeting in general have all changed drastically from what the Lord revealed.
    • For a time, the Church was not called in the name of Christ. This began in 1834 immediately after the law of consecration was abandoned, and continued for several years. Yet we've been told by revelation that it must be named after Christ.
  • Now we have another story of someone whose "heart turned in the wrong direction" because he questioned doctrine, and didn't "ask Heavenly Father for answers." The church talks a lot about people who "turn away", but always fails to recognize that these people's stories don't often fit within the nice box of obvious neglect of spiritual things. Many people have left the church after praying earnestly and at length that the Lord would answer their questions or at least present them some witness of the Church's truth, and have left only after this wholehearted effort failed to bring them discernible results.
    • The continued assertion that being in the Church is always equivalent to being on the path to Christ and salvation is likewise highly misleading, and obviously false.
  • "Priesthood was respected" in the Miller home. Great, but what priesthood was that, exactly? The one the scriptures teach, the one Joseph Smith taught, or the one the Church teaches today? They're not all the same thing.

"Our Personal Ministries" By Elder Hugo E. Martinez

Find this talk here.

  • I agree with him. Christ is far more interested in us personally than we tend to give him credit for. In my estimation, anyway.
  • Interesting that he should mention water. For whatever reason, whenever the power goes out for more than an hour or two, I've felt it important to drag a few gallons of drinking water over to the neighbor's place. Our wells all quit working when the power's out, and the thought of our elderly neighbors being without drinking water has hit me forcefully.
  • So "serving is important." Got it.

"The Book" By Elder Allan F. Packer

Find this talk here.

  • Cute story, about the hatchet's sheath.
  • This idea that we have to pay attention to all gospel requirements is misleading. First, Christ's doctrine is simply to repent and be baptized; the Lord cursed those who declared more or less than that. Second, the Lord will teach us what we need to do to purify ourselves. We should come to know Him, and then follow His instructions. Our mortal minds are not, so far as we can tell, capable of multi-tasking decently, so we simply have to focus on one part of the gospel at a time.
  • "The Church helps but cannot do it for us." I couldn't agree more, not just with the part that says the Church can't do it for us, but the part that says the Church helps.
  • The gospel is certainly far more beautiful and expansive than man's mundane checklists for entering a foreign country.
  • Cool, we get a mention of equality of authority in the Church's quorums. Too bad it doesn't actually work that way in practice.
  • So speaking of these required ordinances, where does the second anointing fall in the list?
    • I wonder if the Church has changed the second anointing ordinance as much as they've changed the initiatory, sealing, and endowment ordinances. Or for that matter the baptism and sacrament ordinances.
  • I thought the ultimate end of the Church would be the same as the Lord's goal, to bring to pass man's immortality and eternal life. Apparently it's just focused on making happy homes. Surely a happy home wasn't the extent of the Lord's goal when He commanded Isaiah to run around naked for three years, or killed off all Ether's family and friends leaving him to get fed by ravens while living in a cave.
  • The Church's focus on family history is interesting, given Joseph Smith's teachings that largely contradict them.
  • I'm interested in how hard it apparently is for the Church to convince people to do family history. They're right that it isn't really that hard, at least for those of us in developed countries, yet even that little action is like pulling teeth, it would seem.
    • To be clear, I've done family history work, and taken to the temple names of family members I found and copied into the Family Search database. Temple work was more rewarding when I did that. I'm no longer convinced it's actually useful to the deceased for whom we try to officiate, but it had its rewards

"The Lord Has a Plan for Us!" By Elder Carlos A. Godoy

Find this talk here.

  • Jefferson and Franklin both encouraged what Elder Godoy here encourages, namely re-examining things in terms of the basics. Jefferson and Franklin called it "a recurrence to first principles" and today we generally apply it in a political sense, but it works elsewhere.
  • Moses didn't quite lead Israel "back to its home." Because of his sin, traditionally considered to be his taking glory to himself at the waters of Meribah, Moses wasn't allowed to enter the promised land. Neither was Aaron around to enter the land. Joshua, therefore, had to lead the Israelites on that final leg of their journey.
  • I suspect Moses received more promises than Elder Godoy mentions (of course, Elder Godoy didn't claim his list was comprehensive, of course), but I suspect also that some of those unmentioned promises were more important to Moses' ability to endure tribulation. Lectures on Faith (lecture 5, I think) tells us that it's when we get a promise from God that our course is right in His eyes that we're able to withstand torture and trial cheerfully, but that without that particular promise, we'd falter.
  • Note that Lehi didn't exactly "remain faithful" as claimed. He did murmur for a time, along with his wife. One is forced to wonder at the doctrine of "the prophet cannot lead us astray" in light of that account.
  • The section heading says we need to consider our choices with the end in mind, but all his examples are of individuals who had marvelous visions and as a result, by Elder Godoy's interpretation anyway, they could deal with serious hardship. He then claims without scriptural support that we can be similarly persistent and resolute even without "see[ing] an angel" because "we have the scriptures, the temple, living prophets, our patriarchal blessings, inspired leaders, and, above all, the right to receive personal revelation."
  • Now he says we need to be prepared for challenges, and repeats his list of visionaries who, because of their visions, were prepared for challenges. But we're apparently supposed to be satisfied with none of the spiritual blessings afforded Moses, Lehi, and Joseph Smith.
    • And then we get a faith promoting story of someone who mentioned God in a secular setting, followed by an encouragement to expand our knowledge. They'll spend the next two General Conferences teaching us that the internet is not an appropriate place to get knowledge, without any hint that it's actually possible to follow Joseph Smith's instruction to seek divine teaching.
  • And now we're supposed to share the vision we don't need, using as examples people who did get those visions.
  • I don't disagree at all that the Lord has a plan for us. But this talk did little to teach me to find and follow that plan.