Faith-Promoting Rumor

Dedicated to oddments and marginalia in Mormondom and, failing that, deep doctrinal discussion

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What would Sean Diener do?

PETA Campaign Coordinator Sean Diener, a devout Latter-Day Saint who grew up in Salt Lake City says,“Anyone who thinks that Jesus would approve of the way that these animals are raised and killed completely misses the gospel’s greatest message: compassion.”

Do you think that the gospel's greatest message is compassion?

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Historical Mormon Smackdown: Standard Works Edition!

Well, the last time we did this, the Book of Mormon hero wupped up on the Biblical one. It got me thinking about this, a subject destined to become this week's smackdown!

Scriptural Mormon Smackdown: Standard Works Edition!
Not that one is, but if one was, which of these Standard Works is the most important: The Pearl of Great Price or The Old Testament?

The Pearl of Great Price is the source of all of our knowledge regarding Kolob and most of our knowledge regarding Enoch.

The Old Testament has Isaiah, Genesis, and several other LDS proof-texts.

Please vote and then comment below.

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PETA billboards and Word of Wisdom

At this posting, Judah holds a very slight lead with 3 votes. Personally, I think that's a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease... at any rate, on to today's topic of discussion.

Anyone see those LDS-oriented PETA billboards a year or so ago in Utah? The ones quoting D&C 89 about eating "...meat sparingly, only in times of cold or famine"? Those actually got me thinking. We (Americans) eat meat a lot, all year long. No recent famines to my knowledge. And yet we (Mormons) seem to just completely skip over this advice in the Word of Wisdom. I've asked people about this, and I can barely get the question out of my mouth when they start hollering at me "D&C says vegetarianism is not from God!" Well, no, that's not what the Lord says. He says PREACHING vegetarianism as a commandment is not from God. But in the WoW he also says it is pleasing unto him that meat not be used, only in times of cold or famine. Why doesn't anyone (except PETA) holler about that verse? Anyway, being as it's neither cold now nor faminous (I love inventing words) I opted for vegetarianism for the summer at least, with only minor villification from friends and church members.

So... whaddya think? Is a veggie lifestyle Satan's secret plan to destroy us? Or do we consume way more hamburger than was ever intended?

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

They're not lost, I just don't remember where I put them...

So, moving on from Bigfoot.... I want to know, where have those Lost Ten Tribes got to? Center of the Earth? The Moon? Russia? right here among us, disguised as ordinary citizens? C'mon, let's have it... let's hear all those wild and wooly theories.

And by the way, exactly which tribes ARE lost, anyway? Ephraim was originally one of the Ten, but now we're back; Levi didn't originally count as one of the twelve, but he is technically lost. I think we know where Judah, Benjamin and the two Joseph tribes are, right? And what about Dan? why doesn't Dan count as part of the 144,000? Is Dan lost or not, and do we want to find him? If there's 13 tribes and only 12 apostles, does somebody get to skip the judgment? Tell me more....

Perhaps we should have a poll/smackdown:
Which tribe is most historically significant, and would win on MTV Celebrity Deathmatch?

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Sasquatch and Melchizedek

Ok, since this place is dedicated to "oddments and marginalia" and other weird Mormon Legends, I have two that I'd like to hear more about:

1) I remember reading somewhere that there was a theory that Shem, son of Noah, was the same person as Melchizedek. And then I remember reading somewhere else, Mormon Doctrine possibly, that the theory was nonsense. But if I remember right, the first person was quoting Joseph Smith. Anyone else ever heard of this controversy, and could provide better sources than my rotten memory?

2) In an old copy of the Lectures on Faith, I remember seeing a quote from somebody's journal about how they were riding on a horse, and a big 8 ft tall naked hair-covered man came up beside them, and then later on the Prophet told them they had seen Cain, son of Adam. Anyone know anything about this one? Makes no sense to me... first of all, how come Adam dies of old age, but Cain gets to hang out? And why does he look like Bigfoot? And how'd he make it through the flood?

Addendum: Ok, our intrepid commentators have informed me that I had it all backwards, the Cain story was in Miracle of Forgiveness and the Shem/Melchizedek story was in Lectures on Faith.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

God v. Mammon, 2005

Didn't Brigham Young say something to the effect that he knew the Saints could withstand mobbings and lynchings, but he was worried about the effects prosperity would have on [us]?

Well here is my question: Since leaving school and working for a few years, I've been able to put a little money away and now am beginning to invest it. How aware do I need to be of who gets my money? Certainly I'm not going to go out and invest in shares of Phillip Morris or Anheiser Busch or Bally's Casinos... But what about Coca-Cola? What about companies that SELL tobacco and alcohol, like restaurants & convenience stores, What about studios that make good movies, but also make R-rated ones? What about Marriott, for Pete's sake, which has porn available as pay-per-view in all its hotel rooms? If I invest in these companies, am I not also profitting from the vices they promote and exploit?

To take it a step further, what if I don't bother to invest in individual stocks at all, but stick to mutual funds? Am I responsible to monitor each individual company the fund invests in? If I don't, then in theory, my money could be used to do things I would never dream of doing in person, right?

Perhaps I'm neurotic. After all, Phillip Morris also owns "Kraft", I could tell myself that I was investing in Velveeta instead of Marlboro. I can go to the casino just for the buffet, right, and tell myself i'm not helping finance people's addiction to gambling. If I subscribe to HBO, but only watch the PG13 stuff, never mind that i'm also helping produce The Sopranos, right? right?

What's a gospel-conscious investor/consumer to do?

[For the record, when I mentioned this dilemma to a member of my stake presidency, he told me not to worry about it, because you don't have enough time to investigate all the uses your money is put to, and because ANY company might be doing something immoral you don't even know about. I'm not sure I'm satisfied with that answer....]

Philip Morris is a tobacco company that has successfully diversified, and is now a producer of well-known brands of food and beer. (Its 2000 Annual Report noted that "Fifteen of our brands generated $1 billion or more in revenues last year: Marlboro, Kraft, Basic, Miller Lite, Virginia Slims, Parliament, L&M, Oscar Mayer, Post, Philip Morris, Maxwell House, Jacobs, Philadelphia, Merit and our newest addition, the Nabisco trademark.")

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Please Welcome Rob

FPR is pleased to announce the appointment of my brother Robert to perma-blogger status. Please feel free to welcome him to the blog.

Robert is a board-certified MD in rural Missouri with too much spare time. Although his online persona thusfar may make him seem like "House," he is really much more like "Marcus Welby" (by which, I mean, old).

In the interest of keeping all posts from becoming bitter flame wars inspired by sibling rivalry, please feel free to keep commenting (additionally, please feel free to point out that I am right).

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bloggernacle Fantasy Football

Sure, the bloggernacle is a place to discuss obscure points of doctrine and the true meaning of Zelph. It is a place where you can scratch your itch for intellectual approaches to the Gospel and fluffy testimonials. But where can you get the violence, the splendor, the glory, the gory of NFL football in the 'nacle?

Well, right here, assuming that I get 6-10 interested nackers.

Announcing the Bloggernacle Fantasy Football league! Knock heads with Kaimi*! Drill Steve Evans* into the dirt! Watch Ryan Bell* juke Kristine Harris*! Catch a Hail Mary from Rosalynde Welch*! Get sacked by Danithew*!

Let me know if you are interested.

*actual participation by said Bloggernacle luminaries is dependent on their actually wanting to participate. Also, all afore-mentioned violence was and will remain purely metaphorical. Thank you.

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Do we believe in a "timeless" church?

This post was prompted by a comment made by my brother over here. I understand that the way of God is one eternal round and that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But I don't think those things mean what they seem to mean at face value. For two reasons:

1) If God is static, whence eternal progression?
2) If the Gospel is static, whence the need for continuing revelation?


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Monday, August 15, 2005

Historical Mormon Smackdown: Scriptural Bloodletter Edition!

First, may I say that if our entirely scientific poll is any indication, then Mitt Romney will do more presidential damage than Hatch did. Mitt, the comeback kid, came from 8 votes back to win by 6.

This week's competition is the result of a special request. As you know, here at FPR, the customer is king.

Historical Mormon Smackdown: Scriptural Bloodletter Edition
Who is the less problematic scriptural holy warrior is the LDS Canon: Capt. Moroni or Joshua, son of Nun?

Capt. Moroni: Nephite war-leader; fought invaders and internal traitors; forced said internal traitors to fight or be killed; made them hoist copies of a torn coat from their towers (how gauche!); and, finally, really, really didn't enjoy himself in all of this.

Joshua, son of Nun: hung out with Moses and, apparently, God; enacted God's haram, resulting in genocide in several Canaanite cities (according to the Book of Joshua, at least); and wasn't much into the whole "shade of grey" morality viewpoint. Unfortunately, we don't know how he felt about what he did.

So there you go, two heroes of a previous generation (okay, several generations) whom we might consider monsters nowadays. Express your defense or disgust below and vote away.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

False Proxies

I promised that I would talk somewhat about temple work and the work for the dead from time to time. Today is such a time. This is less about work for the dead, so you know.

The Adversary is at his most effective when he can get us to do the right thing for the wrong reason. If our outward appearance and action seem righteous, then we are less likely to question our inner beliefs and attitudes. In our church, there is sometimes such an emphasis on certain outward shows of faith (eg. church and temple attendance) that ministry toward people making these shows is never initiated until something drastic occurs. We need a way to help the despairing, lonely, confused, and wayward before it becomes physically apparent that they need help. More on that another time...

What I want to talk about today is the way that the Adversary has taken some of the most sacred things that we do in the temple and has altered them. Not in the outward appearance, but in the inner meaning.

Take for instance the relationship between a man and a wife. In the temple, God has something to say on the subject (although his remarks avoid a single interpretation). Outside of the temple, many other people have something to say on the topic. In the temple, the most important aspect is that God is to be involved in decision-making. Outside of the temple, however we care to structure our families is fine, so long as the parents agree with it. God is removed from the structure of family life, even though he was the one to initially ordain it. We now have an understanding of family structure without God. Some might argue that it is better this way, but I disagree. By substituting human understanding for Godly instruction, we create a situation where our inadequate social skills and our lacking wisdom is all might keep a family from self-destructing. We need God to keep our families going. Attempts to structure the family with anything else in God's place are doomed to fail.

The same can be said for the Gospel. There are several different Gospels out there, depending on how you want it interpreted. The vital truth of The Gospel is that it's interpreter is Christ himself (and, from Him, the Light of Christ). When we choose a Gospel other than Christ's, we are substituting someone or something else in His place. I had a friend who was investigating the church tell me that when it came down to it, he had to choose between what the Bible told him and what Mormonism told him. He choose the Bible. He made the choice he did because of how he understood the Bible and how he understood the way God works through it. I agreed that if we kept ourselves strictly to what the Bible (as it is translated) says, that the Book of Mormon does say and do things differently (it even contradicts the Bible on occasion). So if we want to put our understanding of the Bible above what God might tell us, we are again substituting something for God. If we prefer the interpretations of John Wesley, Martin Luther, or Eld. McConkie to what we are being told today by God, we are putting someone else in God's place. Churches or doctrines that are not founded in God are doomed to fail.

Similar things can be said regarding the bloody recitation of the suffering of the saints and the ascetic sacrifice of monks or even in the Horatio Alger stories of self-sacrifice and success, the replacement of marriage as being between a man and a wife with something much broader, or the communitarian ideal of communism. In all these cases, God is taken out of the equation, replaced with some human's idea of what is right or even some human. This is the Adversary at his subtlest. The outcome appears the same (strong families, stable societies) but the Adeversary's outcomes are only temporary. The substitution of mortal for immortal always works that way.

The appeal of all of this is to our pride. We believe that we are capable of these great moral heights without divine intervention. But we are not. We are a jealous, short-sighted, stumbling bunch of sinners. There is no lasting institution on Earth that isn't inspired and maintained by God. Although we may see in these developments things that make us better, without God, they have no effective force on us. Reason, education, reeducation, suffering, and strife have no edifying value of themselves. It is God to whom we must turn to be lifted above ourselves. All other sources are pale shadows and poor substitutes of the real thing.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ambiguity comes with the territory

In a discussion with a BYU religion professor yesterday, he mentioned that he had been told by people at the Marriott School of Business that graduates from that institution are universally praised in all areas except one (I may be slightly exaggerating here). The one area in which the BYU grad is behind his fellow MBA's? Handling Ambiguity.

I wasn't terribly surprised by the revelation. I don't want to blame the "the brethren have spoken" mindset here, because I don't believe that provides sufficient explanation for this trend. The truth is that, in the church, we are conditioned to reject ambiguity. If there are no answers to our questions, we pray/study harder. If that doesn't work, we do it some more anyway. Problems are not problems, they're "tests" that we need to pass in order to resolve. Things do not just happen in the Mormon worldview. In spite of our insistance on free will, it turns out that God has carefully controlled everything in our lives so that we can learn the appropriate lessons from our challenges (if we choose to, of course).

Why do we fear the inexplicable, the contradictory, and the unmotivated? Perhaps a certain believe in a divine overseer removes fear when life becomes unpredictable and confusing. It seems hard for us to accept that some things are beyond our comprehension (perhaps because of our beliefs about intelligence and intelligences).

Perhaps I am only speaking for myself here.

In any case, it seems that we have lost our taste for mystery (in the Christian sense) in the church. We do not like to dwell on paradoxes in doctrine and faith, telling ourselves that there are no paradoxes and creating elaborate schemes to make our contradictions no longer contradict.

But the mind of God is not the mind of man and the ways of God differ from ours.

Joseph Smith once said:
"By proving contraries, the truth is made manifest"

To be honest, I have no idea what this means. It could mean that by showing that contradictions exist and that it is necessary to accept them, we approach God. Or it could mean that by examining apparent contradictions, God can help us unravel them and find the rational truth therein. I am not convinced that we have an either-or situation here. In any case, it seems that we need to pay close attention to the paradoxes in our belief. Contemplation thereof seems to be a manner of approaching God.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Historical Mormon Smackdown: Aspiring President edition!

Now on a new day and time!

This week's contest is inspired by the news of late. Enjoy:
Which recent presidential aspirer has done more to impact the perception of the Church: Mitt Romney or Orrin Hatch?

Romney: "fixed" the Salt Lake Olympics, become a Republican governor in Mass, appears ambiguous on some key social issues, sure is purty

Hatch: has been a senator for a long, long time; constantly appears on "talking-heads" type shows; pro-stem cell research/anti-flag burning; those awful, awful songs.

That's it folks, get your political fix here. Vote to the right or below and discuss these almost-rans (or might-runs) here.

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