Monday, August 28, 2017

Snufferites- The New Reactionaries

When looking at any religious movement, a useful construct is to look at them as a reaction against another group. Take Christianity for example. Christianity's premise was that the Messiah had come and that Judaism as then practiced was not sufficient and needed to change. (Similar things can be said of Buddhism reacting against Hinduism and Islam reacting against Judaism and Christianity.)

Mormonism certainly is a reactionary religion in this sense, and perhaps because that is what distinguishes it, it is not all that surprising that it has as many offshoots as it does. Offshoot groups derive their appeal from this fundamental idea: That there is something missing in the current group and we need to restore things back to the way they were.

Enter Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., one of the most polarizing figures in the Latter-day Saint movement in the last decade. Snuffer started off very conservative, writing a book called The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil, where he outlines a process that he claims will allow any practicing Latter-day Saint to have a visitation from the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth. In the book he makes a claim that he seems to have gone back on: That while all Latter-day Saints can have visitations from heavenly beings, this does not give the recipient the right to direct or criticize the Church. Snuffer clearly states that priesthood leaders have the keys of the priesthood, and therefore they alone can direct the Church.

Fast forward to August 30, 2011 when Snuffer released his eighth book Passing the Heavenly Gift. The premise of this book is that the LDS Church has gone through four phases since the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith: 1) The phase where Joseph Smith lived, an era where there was continuous revelation and not much formal structure in the Church, a more open environment 2) Dominated by the plural marriage issue, the Church begins to clearly define key doctrines and practices, less emphasis on revelation and more on obedience to authority 3) This period is defined by renunciations of key doctrines, such as plural marriage. The Church is unanchored theologically at this point. 4)This is the modern, correlated church. No real emphasis on doctrine, focused solely on authority (If I have evaluated Mr. Snuffer's view unfairly, please let me know.)

Snuffer was excommunicated for refusing to withdraw this book after being asked to do so by his stake president. When the book was first written, Snuffer claimed that this was just an opinion, not doctrine. His blog from October 23, 2013 states:
If you are going to read PtHG, then read the words in the text rather than overlaying your own fears and conclusions. Your reaction to the book is not indicative of what I wrote.

There is very little of me in the book. Nor does the book represent all of what I think or know about the topics covered. It is an overview, not a comprehensive treatment.

The book assumes it is competing with another tradition taught to us by the church, and only suggests there may be another way to view events. It does not claim to be right. That is left to the reader to decide. In many specific topics the material reaches a “tie” and leaves it to the reader to choose the result.

Careful readers have claimed I am “wishy-washy” because I refrain from making conclusions. Others who read carelessly have instead damned me for their own conclusions, using “Snuffer claims” or “Snuffer views” and “Snuffer wrongly assumes” to substitute their internal reactions for what I have written.

It is not until Chapter 15 that I move from recounting what scripture and church leaders wrote or said to assume the proposed new view is true. That chapter opens with this explanation: “For purposes of this chapter, I am going to assume the church never obtained the fullness offered by the Lord in Nauvoo.” Then I give all the reasons why I would choose to believe, and remain faithful to the church. That is the point at which my voice emerges into the narrative. It comes to quiet alarm, reassure belief and to muster support for the church.

Eventually the furor will calm down and the book will have a dispassionate reading. When we finally get there, people will wonder why the reactions were so overwrought. I hope the many things now written by the pseudo-defenders of Mormonism remain available, so they can inform future saints on how to react with less fear toward unwelcome ideas.

The purpose of Passing the Heavenly Gift it to awaken all of us to how delicate a proposition it is to live faithfully. Perhaps the most offensive character treatment is given to Heber J. Grant. The offense is taken from his own hand, recorded in his own diary, preserving his own mother’s criticism of him. But those are his words and the words of his mother. I defend him and praise his candor and honest introspection. My voice praises the man; his condemns. The distinction between these two voices is altogether lost on at least one of the most harshest reviewers of PtHG. His quarrel is not with me. It is with others.

I would suggest that it is better to take a look at the source material and consider that, and leave me out of the equation.

The Nauvoo Temple was not complete. Ever. Nor did they perform any endowment in a completed structure. When they left Nauvoo after shutting down the rites, they prayed to be allowed to complete the Temple so they might be able to dedicate it. The next day the attic caught fire and the area where the endowment had been performed was badly damaged. While they re-covered the roof, the attic was not repaired. Finally they abandoned work and “considered it complete enough to dedicate.” These events are chronicled and the sources quoted. In light of Section 124, those events matter. I was hoping to provoke some effort to examine those facts. Instead all I see are personal attacks directed at me borne out of ignorance and insecurity. Your insecurities do not belong to me. When you react to the book by attacking me, you expose your own doubts.

We should confidently state the case for Mormonism. I’ve done that in PtHG, even with historical lacunas in our story lines. If a reviewer wants to react to the events, then it would be a better service to everybody, myself included, to fill in the missing connections.
So, if we takes his post to be sincere, then he is saying this is not even necessarily his opinion, just one possibility among many. However, in his post on November 22, 2013 he states:
Passing the Heavenly Gift is not an historic analysis of Mormonism. It is primarily a doctrinal analysis and only incidentally related to history. The many different historic sources allow different stories to be told and supported by selecting from among them. There are some undeniable events foretold by prophecy. It is prophecy which should allow us to make a correct choice between a false and a true narrative. In Passing the Heavenly Gift, I tried to see if there was another possible narrative conforming to the prophecies to replace the traditions we all know. The book explored this possibility.

In the January 1841 revelation to Joseph Smith the Lord stated “the fulness of the priesthood” had been “lost unto you, or which [The Lord] hath taken away.” (D&C 124: 28.) To “restore” it the Lord needed to personally come to a Temple that He was required to be built within a limited time frame. The length of the time given to accomplish the building was not specified by a date certain. Instead the Lord said He would give to the Saints “sufficient time to build a house unto me.” (D&C 124: 31.) In the time between January 1841 and the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in June 1844, the Nauvoo Temple was not completed. The walls were only complete to the second floor.

The absence of any date for “sufficient time” to build the Temple leaves that an open question. Traditionally, we believe that extended until sometime following the departure of the Saints in February 1846. A small group remained behind and eventually the Temple was dedicated. But these are undisputed facts:

1. When the endowments were performed between November 1845 and February 1846, the attic was used, but even it was not finished. Canvas was used to separate different areas.

2. At the time the endowments were performed, the rest of the Temple was incomplete.

3. When the endowments were performed, the attic was the only place temporarily dedicated for that limited purpose.

4. The day before departing Nauvoo, the Apostles prayed they would be able to finish the incomplete Temple.

5. The next day, the attic caught fire and the area used for the endowments was badly damaged. Although it was subsequently re-shingled, the charred attic space, which had not been finished before the endowments were performed, was never re-finished to the condition it was in with the canvas dividers. They re-roofed the outside top and left the charred interior alone.

6. When it was finally dedicated, it was only “considered complete enough to dedicate” and not actually a finished structure.

It does not matter which historic source you use there is no diary, letter, journal or talk which says that Christ came to the Nauvoo Temple and “restored again the fulness of the priesthood” which He had previously taken away from the church. Most importantly, there are no claims made by any of the leaders of the church that the “fulness of the priesthood” was bestowed upon them by Christ in the Nauvoo Temple. There are multiple explanations of how “the keys” (which the typical LDS apologist claims to be the same as “the fulness”) were passed to the church’s leaders. None of these involve Christ coming to the Nauvoo Temple to restore again that which was lost. These accounts of “passing the keys” to the Apostles include the following:

1. By virtue of the Apostleship, which is the highest office in the church, keys are automatically passed.

2. By the rituals Joseph performed in the Red Brick Store.

3. By Joseph’s declaration about the “keys of the kingdom” made in a meeting of the Council of Fifty in May 1844.

4. By reason of the equivalencies (Twelve “equal in authority” to the First Presidency, etc.) set out in D&C 107 (an argument never raised during the election in August 1844).

Never has there been a claim that the “fulness” was “restored” to the church by the visit of Christ in the Nauvoo Temple after it had been completed.

The argument that the Lord didn’t need to come because the “fulness” was dispensed by the Apostles in the Nauvoo Endowments in November 1845-February 1846 ignores the language of the revelation. The language of the revelation required the Lord to come and restore again what was lost: “For there is not a place found on earth that he [Christ, personally as I read it] may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you.” (D&C 124: 28, emphasis added.) I take these words at their plain meaning. Therefore. I view the complete absence of any record or claim that the Lord came to the Nauvoo Temple and restored again the “fulness of the priesthood” as an important point to be accepted. The traditional narrative is that the endowments were sufficient to restore the removed “fulness” to the Saints.

History also reflects the Saints were chased out of Nauvoo by an armed mob. They left with considerable hardship in the dead of winter, leaving for the most part in February 1846.

The January 1841 revelation states: “ye shall build [the required Temple] on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build [the Temple which Christ was to visit to restore again the fulness]. If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy. And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place. But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them. And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord. For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practise before me, saith the Lord.” (D&C 124: 43-48.) If you accept these words as a guide to knowing the truth, then answer for yourself the following questions about what happened:

Was the Nauvoo Temple consecrated by the Lord?

Was the Nauvoo Temple made holy by the Lord?

Did the Lord visit it?

Did the Lord restore the fulness to the church within it by coming to bestow it again? How? To whom? When? What was involved?

Did the Saints hearken to the voices of their leaders, Joseph and Hyrum, who had been called by the Lord?

Why did Joseph complain that the church failed to listen to Hyrum? Was there some greater risk to the church if it did not hearken to Hyrum?

Were the Saints moved out of Nauvoo?

Did the “sufficient time” begin in January 1841and last until a date we can now deduce?

What date did the Lord take Joseph and Hyrum from us?

Was three-and-a-half years sufficient to complete the Nauvoo Temple construction?

Were there other projects completed in that time frame, including houses for the church leaders, and Seventies’ Hall, the Masonic Lodge?

If the effort given to these other building projects had instead been spent on completing the Nauvoo Temple, could it have been finished earlier?

Could it have been completed by June 1844?

Was the Nauvoo Temple ever completed?

Were there “blessings” or “cursings” suffered by the Saints immediately following the three-and-a-half years between January 1841 and June 1844?

The effort to build the traditional narrative taught by the LDS church using other source material than I have used can only persuade me I am in error if:

1. There is proof the Lord came to the Nauvoo Temple. (Never claimed by anyone.)

2. There is proof that while in the Nauvoo Temple the Lord restored again the fulness of the priesthood. (Never claimed other than to say the Nauvoo Endowments were the same thing as. But if this were true why did the Lord say He needed to come? I assume the Lord said what He meant and therefore we could only reobtain “the fulness” if He gave it to us, personally, as the revelation promised.)

3. There is proof the Saints were not moved out of their place in Nauvoo because it had become “holy” to the Lord and He defended it. (Which cannot be proven because the opposite happened.)

4. There must be proof the Saints were not cursed, did not suffer wrath, and did not have the judgments of God poured down upon their heads following Nauvoo. (The suffering and wrath of God is apparent from all the contemporaneous accounts of the terrible suffering, privation and death suffered by the Saints in the western trek.)

I have allowed the prophecies to inform the story. I readily admit anyone can build another story that ignores the prophecies, and  tells us “all is (and was) well.” But there is no source you can appeal to that conforms to the prophesied events as well as the story proposed in Passing the Heavenly Gift.

The book was written to explore and introduce an idea. That idea is to let the prophecies, instead of our pride, speak to us about us. I want to see our failures, if we have any. I do not want to substitute a happy account based on arrogance to deprive me of the truth. If the warnings are talking to me about me, then I want to face up to that no matter how painful it might be. In the book, in addition to the January 1841 revelation to Joseph Smith, I also use Christ’s prophecies, and Nephi’s warnings to us from the Book of Mormon to inform my effort to reconstruct what has happened in this dispensation. In the end I think it is faith promoting to see ourselves stripped of our vanity and fulfilling the prophetic warnings by our failure. It it a false faith, only pseudo-faith, to ignore the truth and substitute a false narrative about unmitigated success. It was foretold by Christ that we would reject the fullness.

So far the most critical review of the book assumes I am writing history and it proceeds to gather other historic sources to contradict me and to reinforce the traditional narrative. It damns my book and proclaims again that “all is well.” My book isn’t history. It is doctrine. It focuses on prophecy to see if the subsequent events can be shown to fulfill the prophecy. This is how we should always try to understand our condition. Not through the tools of the apologist historian, but instead through the lens of prophecy. What God has said matters a good deal more than what we think of ourselves.
So, we can see from this post that Snuffer's original defense of himself was false; he thinks the Church has taught false history and did not receive the keys it claims to have received. This is apostasy; it is openly stating (and charging for it) that the Church is in error (after being asked to stop). Snuffer is a lawyer and will try to wiggle his way out of this, but the Church had good reason to excommunicate him.

However, up until this point, Snuffer was somewhat defensible. He was not unlike other members of the Church who have thought that the Church has made mistakes and could do better (though he did so in a way that others would not have done.)

The breaking point for Snuffer (the point where we would have to choose between him and the Church) came on September 9, 2014, when he gave the final talk of on a ten stop tour:
At the time I was excommunicated, I was in good standing with the Lord. I had nothing amiss in my personal life. There was no sin warranting church discipline. As a former member of the High Council for years, every church disciplinary proceeding I attended that resulted in excommunication, always involved serious moral transgression, betrayal of marriage covenants, and in some cases criminal wrongdoing. In contrast, the reason for my discipline was a book I had written about church history, in which I attempted to align the events of the Restoration to the prophecies of the Book of Mormon and the  Doctrine and Covenants. The stake president admitted to me and my wife before the Council began, that I was then worthy of a temple recommend.19 By any standard of moral conduct, I was an innocent man, whose only offense was believing the scriptures revealed our condition before God. On the evening of May 1, 2014, the Lord gave me further light and knowledge about His work in His vineyard. The Lord is in control over the church, men, and all things. When He undertakes to accomplish something, “there is nothing that the Lord God shall take in His heart to do, but what He will do it.” (Abr. 3: 17.) Often the means used by the Lord to accomplish His “strange act,” and to perform His “strange work”(D&C 101: 95), are very small indeed. "Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls." (Alma 37: 6-7.) It is almost always the case that the Lord uses simple things to confound the mighty. I can think of nothing smaller or simpler or less important than myself. Inside the great church to which I once belonged, I was obscure. However, I lived my religion, attended faithfully, served to the best of my ability, upheld church leaders with my prayers, paid tithes, fasted, observed the Word of Wisdom, and helped answer questions for those needing assistance with troubling issues. There was no reason to regard me as a rebel who should be singled out for discipline. Nevertheless, the Lord chose to use a faithful and believing member to accomplish His design. Only someone who is devoted to His will could accomplish what the Lord had in His heart. Now He has accomplished it. The Church has Doctrine and Covenants 121, verses 36 to 40, to warn it about abusing His authority. There is an "amen" or end to authority when control, compulsion, and dominion are exercised in any degree of unrighteousness. Therefore, when using authority, great care must be taken. In any case, the church was careless. Therefore, those involved, are now left to kick against the pricks, to persecute the Saints and to fight against God. Section 121 is a warning to church leaders. It is addressing the powerful, not the powerless. It is addressing those who occupy the seats of authority over others. Only those who claim the right to control, compel, and exercise dominion, are warned against persecuting the saints, who believe the religion and practice it as I did from the time of my conversion. My excommunication was an abuse of authority. Therefore, as soon as the decision was made, the Lord terminated the priesthood authority of the stake presidency and every member of the High Council who sustained this decision, which was unanimous. Thereafter, I appealed to the First Presidency, outlining the involvement of the 12 and the 70. The appeal gave notice to them all.20 The appeal was summarily denied. Last general conference, the entire First Presidency, the 12, the 70, and all other general authorities and auxiliaries, voted to sustain those who abused their authority in casting me out of the church. At that moment, the Lord ended all claims of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to claim it is led by the priesthood. They have not practiced what He requires. The Lord has brought about His purposes. This has been in His heart all along. He has chosen to use small means to accomplish it, but He always uses the smallest of means to fulfill His purposes. None of this was my doing. The Lord's strange act, was not, could not, be planned by me. Was not, could not, have been controlled by me. It was not anticipated by me, or even understood by me, until after the Lord had accomplished His will, and made it apparent to me on the evening of May 1, 2014. He alone has done this. He is the author of all of this. (Preserving the Restoration, pg. 6-8)
So, Denver seems to have a few dilemmas here. First, he is suggesting that his excommunication was enough to cause all the general authorities to lose their priesthood. Besides being a very arrogant claim (I am sure other people have been excommunicated unfairly), why would his excommunication result in all authority being taken from the Church? It is highly unlikely most general authorities (even apostles) knew about Snuffer or his case prior to his tour and subsequent Remnant ideas. So this claim has very little evidence behind it.

Second, Snuffer has claimed that he is not a prophet and not organizing a Church. However, in this same talk he states:
I have never said this publicly, but because of what I think will ensue after this talk I am going to say it, not for my sake, and certainly not for the sake of anyone who believes the truth or who has the Spirit, but I say it only to benefit those who may view things completely otherwise. 9 The Lord has said to me in His own voice, "I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you." Therefore, I want to caution those who disagree with me, to feel free, to feel absolutely free to make the case against what I say. Feel free to disagree, and make your contrary arguments. If you believe I err, then expose the error and denounce it. But take care; take care about what you say concerning me for your sake, not for mine. I live with constant criticism. I can take it. But I do not want you provoking Divine ire by unfortunately chosen words if I can persuade you against it. (Preserving the Restoration, pg. 4) 
It seems that Snuffer is applying the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith to himself, since those are the exact words that Moroni spoke to the Prophet when they first visited on September 21, 1823. Factor in the fact that this new "Remnant" movement will soon canonize his teachings, that they defer to him in all things, that they are organizing a temple as he suggested, it seems that it would be appropriate to say that these people see Denver as a prophet, and if Denver is allowing this that he also sees himself as such. Why not just come out as a prophet? I will leave that to Denver to answer.

As I mentioned in the beginning, many religious movements are reactionary, meaning that they see that something is missing in a faith and what to turn back. But in the case of the Remnant, what are they turning back to? Back to pre-1978? Back to pre-correlation? I see no reason to think, if that is the goal, that they will not run back into the same problem as the Church did. Also, where is the evidence that God has called Denver as a prophet? Denver has not given (so far at least) any new revelation; he is just repeating what past prophets have said. He has not brought forth new scripture. He has alleged to have experiences, but that in and of itself is not evidence we can access.

Denver Snuffer is in a long line of people (Ervil LeBaron, Joseph Musser, Brian Mitchell)  who feel that the Church has gone into apostasy and feels he can restore it back to its former glory (whatever that means). Just like them, the fire in his movement will cool off and he will be left in the ashes of history. As Joseph Smith said: "I will give you a key that will never rust, if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.” (Young Woman’s Journal, Dec. 1906, p. 543) Considering that Snuffer is neither, it is best to simply ignore him, especially after seeing that his ideas are inconsistent and false.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Traditio: Steven L. Peck

The question of the relationship between science and religion is one that has fascinated me since I was a toddler. My first love was science, especially biology and astronomy. I remember thinking "If science explains the physical world, what is God necessary for?" This continued throughout my teen years, until I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A person who was very influential on my conversion was Bruce R. McConkie, and he was very strident in his opposition to Darwinian evolution; stating boldly in his near-canonical book Mormon Doctrine: "There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution." (pg 256, 2nd edition). Thinking that McConkie spoke for the Lord (which was wrong, the Church has no official position on this issue), I decided that my faith was more important than my scientific commitments, and I ceased believing in evolution for a time. (Thankfully this phase did not last long)

After my mission, I saw that Mormonism should not only embrace evolution, but that evolution was built into its theology. Mormonism teaches that humanity begins as spirit beings, then become humans, and will eventually become as God is, who is himself an evolved being. Darwinian theory has much in common with that view, and the two are clearly not incompatible. Darwin himself said so in a letter to a friend "It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist." (Letter to John Fordyce)

This weeks traditio features one of my personal idols, Steven L. Peck. Steve is a philosopher of science and ecologist at BYU. He is also the author of many books, including Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist. More than anything, Steve is a great example of how a brilliant scholar can not only reconcile science and faith, but also be a great person who is approachable and helpful. I am proud to call Steve my friend.

I hope you all enjoy this podcast, where he sits down with Laura Harris Hales and discusses science and religion.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Some thoughts for those who question

Before getting into my post proper, I would like to draw my reader's attention to the title of the blog. Up until now it was titled: From the Office of Tarik LaCour. But, I came to think of the name as boring and decided to search for another name. I settled on Realism with a Human Face, which is the name of a book by one of my favorite philosophers, Hilary Putnam. He passed away a year ago, and I think of this as a way to honor him. That book in particular has had profound influence on me, and I encourage all to read it. In addition, several thinkers that I respect have also named their blogs after famous books or essays (Kelli Potter-Protocol Sentences, Daniel C. Peterson- Sic et Non), so I am following their lead in a sense.

Hilary Putnam, one of my philosophical idols

Now on to my post. As you know, I have been doing a series of rebuttals to the claims made in Letter to a CES Director by Jeremy Runnells. The series I started is not yet complete; the next instillation will be a guest post by my friend, Neal Rappleye, on the Kinderhook Plates, an issue on which he is something of an expert. I look forward to hearing his response, and I am sure that you will like it as well. His recent presentation at the FairMormon Conference was fantastic.

However, this post is not a response to the letter. Rather, this post is for those people who have read the letter and left the Church, those who have read it and have questions, and those who have not read it but nonetheless have questions.

First, questioning is a good thing. It is a sign that you are thinking about issues and that they are important to you. Without questions, we would never get answers. Likewise, doubt and skepticism are also good things. They are a sign of curiosity and independent thinking. Having said that, it is not good to have questions, doubts, or have a skeptical attitude without also a willingness to search for answers. This is one of my main criticisms of the CES Letter because the author brings up questions but does not address anyone who answers them. For example, when he talks about the Book of Mormon archaeology and anthropology, he never addresses the work of Brant Gardner or John Sorenson. He treats it as though it does not exist, which is sign of not taking the subject matter seriously. While his asking questions are fine and welcome, his acting as though there are no plausible answers is very troubling. Do not follow that example. Study arguments on both sides, weigh the evidence, make a decision, and go from there.

Second, your questions deserve to be answered. It does not matter if the question is a small one or a large one; if the question is sincere, an answer should be given. Keep in mind that a perfectly acceptable answer is "I don't know." In science, that is an answer we often give because when we make a new discovery, new questions immediately emerge and it takes time to get answers. Having said that, just because one person does know an answer to a certain question does not falsify an idea or a theory. There are many puzzles to be solved in evolutionary biology for instance; that does not show the theory of evolution to to be false. Keep asking until you get an answer, and be skeptical of anyone who thinks your question is not valid. I repeat, if the question is sincere, it deserves to be answered.

Last of all, do not think of those who are orthodox believers as your enemies. In truth, we are in the same boat as you are. I myself have many questions, but I am confident that they will eventually be answered because my other questions have been. I also have many acquaintances and friends who have left the Church, and I realize that the reasons they left were sincere rather than cop-outs. However, questions or lack of belief are not reasons to end a friendship. If you were my friend as a believer, you will be one as a non-believer.

In closing, if you have questions, ask. If you find the answers unsatisfactory, continue to question and search. I am confident that there are answers to all or most questions. If you feel you have to leave, do not lose the good things that the Church has taught you. And know that you have my full support regardless of your choice. Keep the faith!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Traditio: A.J. Ayer

Logic is one of the five main branches of philosophy (aesthetics,epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics being the others). Like all branches of philosophy,  it has evolved over time.
The term "logic" is often used in our vernacular, but most people do not know that logic in the philosophical sense is very much like mathematics. Why is this important to the layman? Because in the United States we rank low in mathematics, and mathematics is the foundation of logic. If you are not very good mathematics, you are unlikely to be a very logical thinker, which will have profound impact on your life and on the lives of others.

This weeks traditio features A.J. Ayer, author of Language, Truth & Logic and other books discussing the development of modern logic in respects to two men: Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Lesson from Moses

This morning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released and excommunicated Elder James J. Hamula of the First Quorum of the Seventy (the press release can be read here). The article does not specify why the action was taken, but it does note that Bro. Hamula was not excommunicated for apostasy or disillusionment, so we can be hopeful that he will repent and come back into full fellowship with the Church in the coming years.

At this time, many will be curious as to why this action was taken. May I remind all interested that these matters are private and are none of our business. As the article pointed out, general authorities are not held to a higher standard than other members in matters of discipline, so we can guess that if Bro. Hamula had been the average member of the Church, he would have been excommunicated for the same actions.

Moses sees the promised land, but does not enter

There is a lesson in all of this, however. Recall with me the closing chapters of the book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible. The prophet Moses has just finished retelling the children of Israel all that had happened in their journey through the wilderness, and all the Lord had done for them; in particular he reminded them that the Lord had been merciful with them when he had wanted to destroy them in the past (Exodus 32:9). What happens next is very telling. Moses turns the people over to Joshua, and then hikes a mountain. He sees all of the promised land, but he is not permitted to enter. Why not? Because he was not obedient to the Lord when he told to speak to a rock so that it would provide water for the people; he struck the rock instead (Numbers 20:12-13).

Why is this relevant to what happened today? Because it shows that no one, not even a man as great as Moses, can avoid punishment for crimes against the Lord. The lesson we should take from the stories of Moses and Bro. Hamula is that we are all vulnerable and can make mistakes that can cost us dearly. However, as President Thomas S. Monson has said in a recent conference "There is a way back. That process is called repentance." (Dare to Stand Alone, October 2011 Conference Report)

I would like to extend to Bro. Hamula my full support and prayers, and I hope that he will find himself among us in the near future. God bless you brother. Know that you are loved.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday Traditio: Richard Swinburne

In today's world, where we see an increase of moral relativism everywhere, it is perhaps not so shocking that the same sort of thinking seeps into the Church. Take the issue of same-sex marriage for example. Because many of us, especially the youth, know someone who is homosexual (I know several myself, including a family member), many come to think that perhaps the practice is fine and that prophets, both ancient and modern, exaggerated its significance. I am not sure why this particular issue is now gaining so much acceptance among Mormons and Christians, but many I know (though not all, to be clear) see almost no problem with it and are infuriated when leaders of churches hold firm in their condemnation of the practice. Recently, an instructor at BYU-Idaho was terminated for posting on Facebook that she thought that homosexuality was normal and therefore not a sin. On the first part she was absolutely correct. Homosexuality is natural and is not a choice. This does not mean that homosexual sexual activity is therefore not a sin. Lying, fornication, and stealing are also natural; we have evidence of all of them in most civilizations. But that does not make them moral.
Richard Swinburne, Emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford

Speaking on this issue and other ethical issues from a Christian point of view is Richard Swinburne, emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford. After giving this speech at the Society of Christian Philosophers, Swinburne was attacked by University of Notre Dame professor, Michael Rea, via Facebook in the following statement:

I want to express my regret regarding the hurt caused by the recent Midwest meeting of the Society for Christian Philosophers. The views expressed in Professor Swinburne's keynote are not those of the SCP itself. Though our membership is broadly united by way of religious faith, the views of our members are otherwise diverse. As President of the SCP, I am committed to promoting the intellectual life of our philosophical community. Consequently (among other reasons), I am committed to the values of diversity and inclusion. As an organization, we have fallen short of those ideals before, and surely we will again. Nonetheless, I will strive for them going forward. If you have thoughts or feedback you would like to share with me, I would welcome hearing from you via email or private message.
I find it pretty radical that a Christian professor at a Christian university would attack a fellow Christian philosopher for teaching Christian ideas. Professor Swinburne deserves a formal apology from Professor Rea for his nonsense.

At any rate, Professor Swinburne clearly articulates Christian sexual behavior in this video, and I invite all to listen to and heed his message.