What bothers me about religious discourse

In class yesterday we were told about various religous hate groups. Little flyers were handed out summarizing these groups’ theology and why people interested in tolerance should oppose them.

Often if you Google the term Mormon websites will pop up with taglines about revealing the secrets the LDS Church hides or exposing Mormons’ “true” beliefs.

You never have to go far to find a conspiracy theory linking either Jews, Muslims, or Christians to world domination.

These are examples of what bothers me about how religious discourse is most commonly carried out. People from all sorts of religions are stigmatized by others claiming to know what that religion really believes.

Let me tell something to you, world wide web. I have attended Latter-day Saint religious services my entire life. I have served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, graduated from the LDS seminary program, attended several institute of religion classes, taken several courses on theology at BYU, read several books on Mormon-related issues, and have read the canon of the Church. I know what I believe and I have a pretty good grasp of Mormon theology. Do not try to tell me that I don’t know my own religion.

Here are some things that may be news to you if you think you know what Mormons believe:

1. There is no Mormon plot to overthrow the US government and establish a theocracy.
2. I, and most Mormons, don’t believe that African Americans are cursed or were less valiant in the pre-existence. The LDS Church also does not advance the idea that Black people are cursed or were less valiant in the pre-existence.
3. Mormons don’t think LBGT individuals are evil. We do think that homosexual behavior is a sin but you should also remember that we believe that drinking coffee is a sin, heterosexual sex outside of marriage is a sin, and pride is a sin. In short, we are all sinners.
4. We believe that Jesus Christ created the world, conquered death and sin, and that faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement is the only way that we can obtain salvation.

There are other, but I’ll stop there. If anyone actually reads this blog and has any questions I encourage you to comment or send me an e-mail at dawacu@gmail.com.

Comments
13 Responses to “What bothers me about religious discourse”
  1. Robert says:

    Hello. A number of years ago, I was a member of the LDS church. I’ve also done research on LDS history and beliefs. So I know something of your religion. Also, as an atheist, I can sympathize with you on the hate spread by various religious groups. However, given the LDS church’s involvement in the anti-gay Prop 8 campaign in California, your complaint has the tinge of hypocrisy.

    Perhaps now LDS members don’t regard African Americans as “cursed,” but that earlier generations of LDS believed so is simply undeniable.

    THE NEGROES ARE NOT EQUAL WITH OTHER RACES where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, …but this inequality is not of man’s origin. IT IS THE LORD’S DOING, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the LACK OF SPIRITUAL VALIANCE OF THOSE CONCERNED IN THEIR FIRST ESTATE [the Mormon pre-existence].” LDS “Apostle” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 527 – 528, 1966 edition, emphasis added.

    And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham’s wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that THE DEVIL SHOULD HAVE A REPRESENTATION UPON THE EARTH as well as God….” LDS “Prophet” John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 22, p. 304, 1881, emphasis added.

    Yes, Mormon believes the “standard” things about Jesus, but also hold some novel views about him too, such as that he’s Lucifer’s brother.
    More here.

    • socialsaint says:

      The fact is there have been several racist Mormon leaders and I’m sure there still are. Their racist notions, however, were the opinions of those men and not the doctrine of the Church. To be considered canonical, statements from church leaders need to be approved by common consent by the body of the church. Mormon Doctrine and Journals of discourses (the books) are not canonical works in the Church. If you are interested in how the LDS Church views issues of race, visit the genesis group’s website (http://www.ldsgenesisgroup.org/). This is an African American organization sponsored by the Church. I also recommend anything written by Darius Gray, an African American LDS author. Some interesting things you might find out the more you research this issue are that Joseph Smith ordained black men to the priesthood, that the Doctrine and Covenants prohibits slavery (D&C 101:79), and that Mormons believe that God does not, in fact, believe any race to be superior to any other. See also Gordon B. Hinckley’s “The Need for Greater Kindness” given in a general conference of the Church. Here is a quote:
      “Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord.

      Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?

      Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.

      Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.

      Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such.”

      • Robert says:

        The fact is there have been several racist Mormon leaders and I’m sure there still are. Their racist notions, however, were the opinions of those men and not the doctrine of the Church.

        Since some of the statements were made by LDS “prophets,” such as Brigham Young, their views would be considered authoritative, as if from “the mouth of God.” According to lds.org:

        The Doctrine and Covenants reveals many important aspects of having a living prophet and of his place in the Church. Of these aspects none is more important than the Lord’s own view of the prophets, which is taught plainly and forcefully in the Doctrine and Covenants. A prophet’s role is to speak the mind and will of the Lord to the people. When he does so, the Lord teaches, it is as if the Lord Himself had spoken.

        I’m sure many past LDS high officials and prophets would be surprised to learn they were never a “true disciple of Christ.” It makes you wonder who among today’s LDS high officials are not in fact “true disciples of Christ.”

      • socialsaint says:

        Not everything prophets say is considered doctrine or canonical. Doctrine and Covenants 28 shows that doctrine is only considered canonical when received by common consent in the church and this has been the pattern for all LDS scripture up through the official declarations. Prophets and apostles are also not considered to be perfect people. This is true in the Bible (Peter denies Christ thice and Paul talks about his weaknesses), and it is true today. Prophets are guided by God, but when they receive revelations that are meant to be accepted as scripture they follow the appropiate procedures (common consent) to let the members of the Church know.

        No one, even prophets, can consider themself to be free from sin without Christ’s atonement accessed through repentance. They make mistakes just like everyone else.

    • socialsaint says:

      Robert,

      This is exactly what bothers me about religious discourse. Like I said, I know about Mormon Theology and yet here you are trying to teach me about my own religion. You are simply repeating things you read from anti-Mormon literature. You can read my reponse about African Americans and the Church. Below is my response to your other points:

      Regarding your comment that Lucifer and Christ are brothers, are you aware that I also believe that you and I are both brothers to Satan and Christ? I also believe that God is our (you, me, Satan, Christ) Father. Most Mormons don’t hide this belief, they just don’t phrase it in a way that shocks other Christians. We’ll usually say something like “We are all children of our Heavenly Father. In the pre-existence Heavenly Father presented a plan to His children and chose Jesus, His firstborn, to be the Savior of Mankind. Lucifer rebelled against Heavenly Father’s plan and was kicked out of God’s presence with his followers.”

      As for the Prop-8 campaign, that is also not a secret. But since Mormons believe strongly in heterosexual marriage, in doesn’t mean we hate gay people. LBGT individuals who choose to remain celibate can be members in full fellowship. Mormons expect celibacy from anyone who doesn’t have the opportunity to marry, whatever their sexual orientation. If you research more about Mormons and LBGT rights you’ll find that the LDS Church supported anti-discrimination legislation in Salt Lake City (follow this URL for a news article http://www.towleroad.com/2009/11/mormon-church-to-shift-on-gay-policies.html) and that Church leaders have come out against discrimination of LBGT individuals (search “Same-Gender Attraction” on LDS.org, there is an article by Dallin H. Oaks of the Twelve Apostles).

      • Robert says:

        Like I said, I know about Mormon Theology and yet here you are trying to teach me about my own religion.

        I reject the notion that I’m trying to “teach” you about your own religion. My view is that you’re not presenting the full picture. “Milk before meat”?

        Regarding your comment that Lucifer and Christ are brothers, are you aware that I also believe that you and I are both brothers to Satan and Christ?

        Yes, I’m aware. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that such a belief is novel to Mormonism and represents a deviation from traditional Christian teaching.

        But since Mormons believe strongly in heterosexual marriage, in doesn’t mean we hate gay people.

        Yet I never claimed that Mormons “hate gay people.” The simple fact is, Mormons promoted discriminiation against gay people in the Prop 8 campaign (and elsewhere in similar campaigns). I found this discrimination particulary ironic given the Mormons’ history with polygamy, where the government threatened to destroy the LDS religion over the issue.

      • socialsaint says:

        I am presenting what I view to be a more accurate picture. Mormons realize that we are not your average Christians, but when people say statements like “Mormons believe Satan and Jesus are brothers,” those statements are meant to bias others against Mormonism. When the average person hears that Mormons believe Satan and Jesus are brothers they assume that we beilieve that they are alike somehow. To Mormons the concept is more like a continuum with Christ on the good end and Satan on the evil end and everyone else choosing which direction they are going.

        You don’t ever hear the statement “Jesus and Satan are brothers” preached from Mormon pulpits. You hear that we are all children of God and that Satan rejected Heavenly Father’s plan. To put it any other way distorts how Mormons view their own theology and consequently distorts what Mormons believe.

        As for the Prop 8 issue, I think the history of polygamy shows why Mormons are so concerned about legislation on marriage and the potential consequences of marriage legislation not going our way. When polygamy was outlawed their were several blatant violations of Mormons’ right to worship freely including the seizing of church property and the government temporarily unincorporating the Church. More recently, news stories reporting how businesspeople in Massachusetts were penalized for not wanting to support same-sex marriage added to Mormon fears that the legalization of same-sex marriage would eventually lead to infringements on our freedom to worship. While the Church hasn’t clearly detailed its motivations for getting involved in Prop 8, my opinion is that the issue was more about protecting religious freedom than discriminating against gays. This fear of violations of our religious freedom stems from numerous historical examples of the government violating Mormons’ religious freedoms combined with modern news stories from places where same-sex marriage is legal.

  2. Helen says:

    I know! Legalizing gay marriage is a farce! What’s next? Legalizing polygamy?

    How *dare* two consenting adults enjoy the basic right to attend to the sick/death bed of their lover and have visitation rights! How *dare* two consenting adults allow their declared joint income to be taxed so they may one day be rewarded for their contribution to society should one of them (Father forbid) be injured or die?

    What’s next? Allowing more than two consenting adults enjoy a state sanctioned contract that declares them both mentally competent and willing to declare their mutual affection and be taxed? If we don’t stop homosexual unions now, we may be forced to politically accept polygamist couples!

    • socialsaint says:

      I wouldn’t oppose visitation rights or the ability to jointly file taxes for same-sex couples. I would, however, oppose defining same-sex relationships as marriage. Same goes for polygamous unions.

  3. Peter Parkinson says:

    Hello,

    I have just come accross your web site. I see there has been a lot said and written by Mormons and non Mormons on the subject of blacks in the priesthood. Ignoring everything else that has been said on the subject could you please answer this one question : Why has it taken the LDS Church so long to admit Blacks into the priesthood compared to the other churches ?

    Anticipating your reply. thanks.

    • socialsaint says:

      I apologize for not responding sooner. I have pretty much abandoned this blog and do not plan on posting in it further.
      If your question is motivated by genuine curiosity the answer is because the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball did not receive a revelation from God extending the Priesthood to African Americans until 1978. We believe that our Church is led by current revelation from God. It is a very different theology than other churches.
      If your question was meant to imply racism by the Church, I invite you to consider other times when Priesthood blessings were extended to groups of people as recorded in the Bible, namely when the Levites were given the Priesthood in the days of Moses and later on when Peter received a revelation extending the blessings of the gospel to the Gentiles. None of these periods existed because God loved Levites or Gentiles less. I don’t know why God chooses to extend gospel blessings at different times to different groups, but I do know that He loves all of His children equally.
      In the grand scheme of things, whether or not a group has the Priesthood is of little consequence because Latter-day Saints believe in the redemption of the dead through vicarious temple ordinances, thereby allowing everyone for every generation to inherit eternal life if they choose to accept Christ and accept the ordinances performed on their behalf.
      Like I said, I am in the process of abandoning this blog. If you are still curious about these issues, I invite you to surf on over to mormon.org or one of the many Mormon apologetics sites out there (google FAIR LDS or FARMS LDS). My new blog can be found at thejournalsofdaniel.blogspot.com, but it is a very different project and has nothing to do with Mormon apologetics.

  4. Peter Parkinson says:

    Hello social Worker,

    I see that you have not answered my question, : Why did it take the LDS Church so long to allow blacks in the priesthood compared with the other churches ?

    Thankyou in anticipating your reply.

  5. Peter parkinson says:

    Hello again,
    Thank you for your reply to my question,i.e. Blacks in the Priesthood etc. You say that you do not know why God chooses to extend the blessings of the gospel at different times to different groups. In the case of the Levites it was as a GIFT to Moses to help out with priesthood duties. Why ?
    Because when the Israelites rebelled at the foot of Mount Sinai Moses commanded that those on the Lords side should come and stand by him. The levites did this to the man. Then Moses told them to go through the camp and kill all your brothers, friends and neighbours. Exodus 33:29 Moses said to the Levites “Today you have consecrated yourselves as priests in the service of the Lord by killing your sons and brothers,so the Lord has given you this blessing. (Good News Bible) With Peter there was no colour of skin involved. The bible
    tell us salvation is of the Jews – through Christ -as you say to ALL men including the Blacks, otherwise the sacrifice made by Jesus on the Cross has become null and void. No matter what the blacks did in the pre-existence of which there is no bibical proof. Peter quickly got the message. It took the LDS how many years to see the light ? No need to reply if you are a busy person. Thank you for your reply.

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