Saturday, February 13, 2016

Gay Activism and the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Ruminations on Promoting Sin

by Dennis B. Horne 

President Gordon B. Hinckley knew exactly what he was talking about when, in a 1997 general conference, he cautioned members of the Church, saying: “I hope you will never look to the public press [or bloggers/social media] as the authority on the doctrines of the Church.” His point was that most commentary from such sources fails to one degree or another to accurately represent or communicate Church doctrine, practice, and policy. The result is that many readers are given a false impression of the Church’s position and judge it falsely thereby. Of course, such a result (misunderstanding) is usually what the reporter or blogger—often a gay activist—seeks. They know there is nothing easier to sway than an outraged but misinformed audience.

The Position of the Church

The Proclamation on the Family teaches that “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”[1] The First Presidency has stated:

We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord. As a doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture, we affirm that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The powers of procreation are to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family.[2]

Friday, January 8, 2016

Who, Why, and What is Church Correlation?

By Dennis B. Horne (guest blogger)

            Among the many subjects that a “bloggernacle” surfer occasionally finds being discussed, usually from a negative standpoint, is Church Correlation. It seems that Correlation’s purpose is not well understood and has become something of a boogeyman to those who have only sketchy knowledge of what it is for or that disagree with what it does. Some bloggers speak of it as something of a secret guardian that bars the interesting subjects and deep doctrines from being discussed in Sunday School and priesthood or Relief Society. If they think the approved curriculum is boring or lacking in sophistication or scholarly depth, they opine that “Correlation” is likely at fault. Since Correlation does not represent a single individual, it seems safer and less disloyal to criticize it than, say, the current prophet or an apostle.

            So what exactly is Church Correlation? What we know as Correlation today began to take formal and organized shape and wield great influence during the administrations of Presidents Harold B. Lee and Spencer W. Kimball. The main objectives were to unify church departments, eliminate duplication of work, reduce and simplify curriculum, and ensure doctrinal purity in all printed matter. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism contains an excellent overview of the history and development of correlation up to the 1990s.[1]

Correlation largely traces its roots to special reading committees, made up mostly of general authorities, organized to review manuscripts proposed for use as church study manuals. Eventually Correlation became its own church department with specific responsibilities to evaluate and approve all Church produced materials (today that includes church websites). It is what the Correlation Department supposedly does with the doctrinal and historical content of Church manuals that raises the ire of some and gives rise to repeated frustrated discussion by some bloggers. Evidently, further education and understanding is in order.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Letter to a Doubter

By Dennis B. Horne (guest blogger)

            Dear _________,

            You may have noticed that something of a trend has become fashionable in some circles regarding doubt and uncertainty being good and beneficial. Some voices have given their opinion that doubt, as it relates to gospel truths, should be celebrated. Some who feel this way have traveled around and given lectures and firesides to audiences filled with those, like you, who doubt. One purpose of such attention to doubt has been to ease and comfort the minds of those who doubt; to tell them that their doubts about doctrine and history can be helpful and assist them in their struggles. You should know, however, that such views and efforts are contrary to established gospel teachings. The only solution is to turn your doubt into conviction; only then will you find the peace, happiness and joy you seek.

            While it is true that Jesus said that his yoke was easy and his burden light (meaning He helps us through trials), He also told us that in order to be worthy to return to live with Him, we must prove ourselves obedient to His gospel (Abraham 3:25). We must pass through tribulations and tests that stretch us to the very limit of what we can bear. It may be that doubt about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is one of your trials. Like other such trials that many people experience (addiction, same-sex attraction, the false philosophies of the world), it must be overcome if you desire Exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. And yes, immortality and eternal life are real, whether doubted and disbelieved, or not.

            Writing as one who knows the truth and reality of the gospel and the afterlife, I have some suggestions for you to consider:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

On Excommunication

By Dennis B. Horne (guest blogger)

            As anyone that keeps an eye on the news knows, excommunication as a disciplinary measure in the LDS Church has recently been a noticeable topic. Outside of the stories covering the excommunication of certain higher profile and publicity-seeking individuals, there has also been much discussion about the practice itself. Most of the media attention has been critical of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and sympathetic to those excommunicated. Biased bloggers have continued to agitate on this issue, constantly stirring the pot for their readers. Through it all the Church has quietly and steadily moved forward, doing that which its doctrine and leaders determine should be done.

            While the Church has and will continue to appropriately defend and explain itself, it may be helpful to notice and review some of the issues at play from a positive perspective.[1] So much of what is written comes from detractors or unofficial, self-appointed spokespersons that misstate church motives, doctrine, and procedures.  

To begin, a definition is in order. A practicing Mormon is or strives to be a disciple of Jesus Christ; one who follows the teachings of Jesus and His prophets and apostles. The Church—often called Mormonism—is not a culture, a club, a democracy, or a dictatorship. It is provided for but not governed by the Constitution of the United States. To be a member of the Church means one has been taught basic doctrines, repented of their sins, exercised faith, and been baptized and confirmed. Faithful Church members serve God and their fellow men and if faithful and worthy, they may become eligible to receive further ordinances in the temples. Then they must endure to the end in righteousness and faith if they wish to receive exaltation and become like their Father in Heaven.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Further Comments on John Dehlin's interview with Bill Reel

After reading my previous post, a friend pointed out that another reason apologists have tended to turn down John Dehlin's invitations to be interviewed is that he engages in ad hominem (the very thing he believes apologists do). A prime example is the treatment of Brian Hales in the episode currently under discussion. He also pointed out that John never learns anything from his guests - he's always starting from scratch with the same old criticisms, which have already been asked and answered repeatedly over the years in his podcasts.

Something I hinted at in my earlier post on this topic is that John Dehlin does not typically let comments get posted that he does not agree with. Bill Reel posted on a forum that he's been getting "overwhelmingly positive feedback" on this podcast. He may not realize that it is at least partly because Dehlin makes it so.

Bill Reel also stated on a forum (different than the one mentioned above) that "there is a 'whistleblower' of sorts in Fair's top leadership." He appears to be referring to this blog and insinuating that a member of the top leadership of FairMormon believes the organization is behaving in a way that is wrong. This is totally incorrect. I am neither a member of FairMormon's "top leadership" (although I am involved as a lower-level manager), nor do I believe FairMormon is doing or has done anything wrong. My purpose here was to explain - in an unofficial capacity - my understanding of what happened and why I believe the way it was explained in the Mormon Stories episode was incorrect.

Bill also said, "I requested specifically (with good reason) they take my audio down and not use it (audio podcasts only). They refused and said they wouldn't as it helps people. So it is neither true that I requested all things with my persona be removed nor that My material on Fair was hurting the faith of others."

At the time of the e-mails that Bill is referring to, it is correct that it was felt that his material that was on the FairMormon website was helping people. This later changed, however, and when it was felt that the implied endorsement was doing more harm than good, based on the discussion in the e-mails of removing or altering his podcasts, I believe that it would be reasonable to expect that such might be done to any and all material involving him.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Comments on John Dehlin's interview with Bill Reel

I attempted to post these comments on the Mormon Stories website earlier today, but as I expected based on previous experience, they did not survive the moderation queue.

Responding to someone comparing the editing/removal of Bill's material to the editing of Elder Poelman's talk given in 1984:

Elder Poelman actually rewrote his own talk after realizing how it might be used by fundamentalists. You can see the real story here. And Bill Reel actually requested that his material be removed, and then later suggested that it might be modified as necessary. Neither of these things were done until later, so he may have forgotten, but he was clearly OK with these things happening at the time he parted ways with FairMormon.

And then in response to the podcast in general (with some additional information added):

If I may make a few clarifications, the reason that you have difficulty getting apologists on your podcast is not that they can't "defend the indefensible," but that they don't want to attract further attention or lend credibility to a podcast series that tends to damage faith. Bill Reel himself said in his first interview that he was attracted to Mormon Stories by the interviews with Bushman and/or Givens, if I remember correctly.

And the reason why the FairMormon Support Board was shut down is that there were a few individuals (including Bill Reel) that were repeatedly shepherding people in the wrong direction, and there was not sufficient manpower to effectively moderate it. It was determined that it was not doing what it was intended for, and so a new site is being worked on with a different format that should work better.

I already mentioned in an earlier comment that Bill himself asked that his material be removed or edited at the time that he parted ways with FairMormon. This was not done immediately, but his activities eventually crossed a line. As explained on the FairMormon Blog:
Many of our volunteers contribute content in other venues, such as on personal blogs, in scholarly publications, and in podcasts. When a current or former FairMormon volunteer publishes views that contradict the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or accuses Church leaders of wrongdoing, malicious intent, and so forth, it may become confusing or harmful to FairMormon’s audience, and contrary to FairMormon’s mission, to maintain that volunteer’s content on our website. Because FairMormon is a trusted entity for many Latter-day Saints and sincere investigators, FairMormon must avoid endorsing external content that opposes our mission and the Church’s values.

FairMormon is constantly accused of ad hominem, but when asked for examples, the accuser always comes up short. Some time ago, John Dehlin even asked for examples on Facebook, and as I recall the only thing that anyone was able to come up with was an acrostic in an article for the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon (which was published by a different organization).