LDS book changing

This link is tracking the changes to the most recent edition of the LDS book Gospel Principles. You can read more about it here.

Aaron Shafovaloff tells me that the book is “the main introductory book for new converts and for members in general. The Mormon missionaries widely use it, they use it in classes on Sunday morning, and members will use it for family home evening studies.” Given this fact, and the fact that the thrust of the changes seems to be to make the LDS Church seem more vanilla Protestant in its doctrine, this is worth consideration.

Cynics (and I am amongst them) might think that this is simply a PR move to try and hide more objectionable doctrines for those who go ‘further up and further in.’ On the other hand, there is a real possibility that the Salt Lake church is going the way that the former RLDS Church (Community of Christ) went in moving towards a more orthodox Christian position. This would still leave many smaller Mormon sects in the movement that retain the charismatic and radical nature of the early LDS Church out there, but would mean that the Salt Lake church will continue on the path towards blandness, conformity, a business culture and an attempt to be as unobjectionable as possible. It is hard to see how the LDS Church can become orthodox while holding to the Standard Works that it accepts, but I suppose creative leaps could be made. Either way, the tensions with Mormonism are playing themselves out and it seems like the Mormon neo-orthodox have the upper hand in leadership positions.

Our Mad World, II

I just came across this article which further illustrates the madness of this age. I have been walking every day for the past five or so weeks, and I can confirm that very few people are ever on the streets or on the porch for any reason. Mostly what I see are TVs flickering on the wall – usually big flatscreens that are hung up high. Walking my neighborhood has given me a whole new insight into what we are like now. I used to be in an indoor bubble all the time, and most of us are. Anyway, here’s an extended quote from the article:

The sandlots and creek beds, the alleys and woodlands have been aban- doned in favor of a system of reservations—Chuck E. Cheese, the Jungle, the Discovery Zone: jolly internment centers mapped and planned by adults with no blank spots aside from doors marked staff only. When children roller-skate or ride their bikes, they go forth armored as for battle, and their parents typically stand nearby.

There are reasons for all of this. The helmeting and monitoring, the corralling of children into certified zones of safety, is in part the product of the Consumer Reports mentality, the generally increased consciousness, in America, of safety and danger. To this one might add the growing demands of insurance actuarials and the national pastime of torts. But the primary reason for this curtailing of adventure, this closing off of Wilderness, is the increased anxiety we all feel over the abduction of children by strangers; we fear the wolves in the Wilderness. This is not a rational fear; in 1999, for example, according to the Justice Department, the number of abductions by strangers in the United States was 115. Such crimes have always occurred at about the same rate; being a child is exactly no more and no less dangerous than it ever was. What has changed is that the horror is so much better known. At times it seems as if parents are being deliberately encouraged to fear for their children’s lives, though only a cynic would suggest there was money to be made in doing so.

The endangerment of children—that persistent theme of our lives, arts, and literature over the past twenty years—resonates so strongly because, as parents, as members of preceding generations, we look at the poisoned legacy of modern industrial society and its ills, at the world of strife and radioactivity, climatological disaster, overpopulation, and commodification, and feel guilty. As the national feeling of guilt over the extermination of the Indians led to the creation of a kind of cult of the Indian, so our children have become cult objects to us, too precious to be risked. At the same time they have become fetishes, the objects of an unhealthy and diseased fixation. And once something is fetishized, capitalism steps in and finds a way to sell it.

What is the impact of the closing down of the Wilderness on the development of children’s imaginations? This is what I worry about the most. I grew up with a freedom, a liberty that now seems breathtaking and almost impossible. Recently, my younger daughter, after the usual struggle and exhilaration, learned to ride her bicycle. Her joy at her achievement was rapidly followed by a creeping sense of puzzlement and disappointment as it became clear to both of us that there was nowhere for her to ride it—nowhere that I was willing to let her go. Should I send my children out to play?

There is a small grocery store around the corner, not over two hundred yards from our front door. Can I let her ride there alone to experience the singular pleasure of buying herself an ice cream on a hot summer day and eating it on the sidewalk, alone with her thoughts? Soon after she learned to ride, we went out together after dinner, she on her bike, with me following along at a safe distance behind. What struck me at once on that lovely summer evening, as we wandered the streets of our lovely residential neighborhood at that after-dinner hour that had once represented the peak moment, the magic hour of my own childhood, was that we didn’t encounter a single other child.

Even if I do send them out, will there be anyone to play with?

Mess in the Antiochan Orthodox Church

Article here.

The flurry of angry e-mails from Mr. Khalife, an archdiocese trustee, was one of the uglier manifestations of a controversy that has been causing turmoil, tension, and confusion in the venerable Christian denomination founded by Jesus’ disciples Ss. Paul and Barnabas in Antioch in 42 A.D. The bitter dispute centers on the role and authority of bishops, which in turn affects the self-rule status of the North American Archdiocese, obtained in 2003 after years of negotiation with Patriarch Ignatius IV and the Holy Synod in Damascus. Although self-governing, the archdiocese still reports to Damascus on matters of theology.

Since February, the fabric of the North American Antiochian Orthodox church has been stretched at the seams over allegations of deception, power-mongering, and even forgery. A longtime chancellor has resigned in protest, and some insiders are predicting that the upcoming national convention in Palm Desert, Calif., will turn into “Palm Desert Storm.”

The idiotification of death

I guess people don’t like to think much, or certainly not to think things through to a conclusion, because I keep hearing some really stupid stuff about death out there. I’ve seen things about Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett dying that said something like “Now they can be on the Johnny Carson show every night forever!” Then today I read someone saying about Walter Cronkite that God needed someone to host the evening news or something. You’ll often hear that someone is “up there looking down on us” right now.

And most of this kind of garbage comes from people who have no religion and have never thought through eternity much if at all. It’s sort of the feel-good, illogical un-thought that we can expect from our soft and flabby society. If people were being logically consistent, shouldn’t they say that Joe Q. Citizen is dead, and since he is nothing more than an evolved animal, he has ceased to exist and will now moulder into the dirt? I mean, we live with no standards throughout or short lives, we can have sex with anyone at any time, we can ignore the poor, not worship God, not care about anyone but ourselves and so on, all because Mr. Darwin revealed to us that we have no accountability to a made up god. So why when we die do we suddenly hear all kinds of nonsense about an afterlife?

The ‘logic’ of the day seems to be:

[1] Do whatever you want while alive, there really aren’t any consequences.
[2] Religion has nothing to say of meaning, ignore the sacred books and just accept whatever your ‘common sense’ tells you about what god must be like, if he exists.
[3] When you die, who knows what happens? If there is a god, he certainly wouldn’t punish a good person like you. You know that when a pop star dies, they are ‘up there’ looking down on us. God really likes our celebrities and wants to help them out, sometimes taking them in their prime, which is such a tragedy, because they were just about to make a really great movie or record a new set of songs. Wow, it makes you wonder about karma and fate and all that.
[4] All “good people” go to “heaven.” Maybe Hitler isn’t there, or serial killers, but everyone else. Hitler is probably in hell, we say, “I’ll see you in hell” a lot, which must mean that there is a hell for those really bad folks who haven’t tried to do good things enough.
[5] But evolution is true, we’re all just animals. The Big Bang started it all and here we are, billions of years later in a universe of matter with no meaning. But don’t kill someone or you are evil, unless they beat you or it is an abortion. That’s not murder because a baby, er, fetus, isn’t viable until born. It’s just cells. But if it dies as a miscarriage, you’ll see it again in heaven, where it lives with Michael Jackson as he moonwalks across the universe.

our mad world

Since we are encased within our society we can sometimes forget how insane it really is. A conversation I had yesterday reminded me of the deep weird that we live in. Our women fill their bodies with chemicals to prevent them from fertility for years and years. Later, when they are older and may decide to have kids they then take fertility drugs which sometimes cause them to conceive five or more kids at a time, several of which may be selectively killed prior to birth.
If children do arrive in our modern childless families, they alternate between being treated as possessions to be controlled and burdens which must be sloughed off to the State. Most kids enter daycare at the earliest possible age so that the mother can be used by our capitalist system to increase our standard of living (plasma TVs, mobile devices, huge cars, and so forth). Daycare costs a lot though, so it is with relief that when the child is older, the free (tax-supported) system kicks in and the kids can go into 13 or so years of state-indoctrination, aimed at making docile citizens who can in turn repeat this cycle.
Young men and women know that what the are supposed to do is go to college, learning from materialist professors how to hate the values of the society (Christendom) that gave birth to our modern enlightened society. This is where people learn the really tremendous value of binge drinking, drug use and casual sex with as may partners as possible for four years or so. They also learn the exalted status of sodomy and the way in which oppressive patriarchalism held women down for millenia until they woke up in the 1960’s.
After getting a BA or perhaps a Master’s Degree, the men and women are now around 22-25, a time at which in the primitive days people had already married and started having kids. We know better than that, and so marriage is still perhaps a decade off for our average Jane. She’s got to see the world, travel, experience different cultures and figure out what to do for work. Besides, how can you start a family when you have 40K in student loans to pay off first? And who really wants to marry a Peter Pan like male who thinks life consists of playing video games, watching ESPN, getting drunk and hooking up as much as possible?
So life goes on until finding the right person in the early to mid 30’s and getting married. You still have to wait to have kids until you get the right house, travel some, and get a promotion. You get the picture, wash, rinse, repeat….The goal is to get rich via real estate or the lotto so you can stop working at that job where they don’t appreciate your efforts. Then you can just fish all day, or shop, or eat, or whatever.
To defeat depression you get hooked on TV shows or watch an endless succession of movies or Twitter or get medicated. This doesn’t even throw in the cheating, “open marriages”, abortions, child support, or simple boredom that are the other norms of our day.
This is what our world has to offer. In the end it is meaningless and futile. It is not the good life and has nothing of ultimate worth to offer us. It is merely marking the time until you die and your existence ceases, in contrast to what religious fanatics think. Welcome to 2009 proles.

“populations that we don’t want to have too many of”

Unbelievable. Read this horrible (and coldly murderous) quote from Justice Ginsburg in the NYT:

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.

Mormons and tongues – 2

Writing in the Latter-Day Saints’ Millenial Star, someone (I believe it is Heber Kimball), mentions Brigham Young speaking in tongues:

We received the gift of tongues and interpretation a few days after we were baptized. The brethren who brought the Gospel to us belonged to the first Branch of the Church that received the gift of tongues, and the Branch at Mendon was the next. Brothers Brigham and Joseph Young and myself went to Kirtland, with my horses and wagon, to visit the Prophet, a distance of three hundred miles. We saw brother Joseph Smith and had a glorious time; during which brother Brigham spoke in tongues before brother Joseph, it being the first time he had heard any one speak in tongues; he testified that the gift was from God, and spoke in tongues himself. Soon the gift of tongues became general in the Church in Kirtland. We had a precious season and returned with a blessing in our souls.

Leonard Arrington in his book Brigham Young discusses this same incident:

Still with the Prophet that evening at prayers, Brigham again spoke in tongues. “As soon as we arose from our knees the brethren flocked around him [Joseph Smith] and asked him his opinion concerning the gift of tongues that was upon me.” Joseph told them, “It is of God.” During the course of the evening the Prophet, who had never before heard speaking in tongues, received the gift himself. Those present remembered this event as a modern replication of “the day of Pentecost,” when the early apostles were “filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” That Brigham, a seemingly practical, rather staid person, should have been one of the few who exercised this “gift” is extraordinary.

Young spoke in tongues prior to this. Arrington relates:

One morning, happening upon the Kimballs as they knelt in family prayer, Brigham silently joined them. Serving as voice was Alpheus Gifford, the Pennsylvania missionary who had done most to convert the Youngs and Kimballs. Gifford suddenly began to speak in an unknown tongue. “At the same instant,” said Brigham, “the spirit came on me like an electric shock to speak in an unknown tongue, and though I was kneeling in an opposite direction, the same moment I turned round on my knees towards him and spoke in tongues also.”

Young counseled a branch of the church and:

taught them that when they spoke in tongues the language might be from the Lord, but with that tongue they spoke the things which were in their hearts, whether they were good or evil; the gift of tongues was given for a blessing to the Saints, but not to govern them, nor to control the elders, or dictate the affairs of the church.

In the book Mormon Enigma by Newll and Avery, we read: “The practice became a part of the Saints’ worship-particularly among women-until well into the next century.” Indeed, this tongues-speaking by Mormon women also generated poetry. In her book White Roses on the Floor of Heaven, Susanna Morrill discusses a poem called “Lines” by L.L. Greene Richards:

The circumstances surrounding the composition of the poem are telling, however, because the messages were conveyed through the gift of tongues by Clara H. James, then interpreted by Rida Taylor, and finally put into polished verse by L.L. Greene Richards…In order to most authentically communicate the revelations delivered in the gift of tongues, often identified as the primordial language of the Garden of Eden, or the Nephite language, Greene rendered them into poetic verse, in this way capturing both the message and the mood….

Ian G. Barber has noted that within the LDS community women were seen to be “natural” seers and visionaries who could more easily than men tap into supernatural and divine messages and powers. Women rather than men most often exercised the gift of tongues. While men sometimes attended and headed these meetings where women spoke in tongues, they rarely seem to have joined in the tongue-speaking themselves. As the community settled in Utah and as the practice of tongue-speaking became routinized, this gender separation became even more pronounced, as did a separation based on age and prestige within the church. This is not to necessarily say that those who spoke in tongues were the ones who wrote the poetry. Sometimes this was the case as, for instance, with Zina D.H. Young who was well known to regularly speak in tongues during Relief Society meetings, but who was also a sometime author, poet, and contributor to the Exponent. Rather, it is more accurate to say: the same forces that led to tongue-speaking also led to nature and flower poetry.

July Mulvay Derr notes in her review of The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, that:

In informal gatherings at Winter Quarters, Eliza and other women, many of them plural wives of Joseph Smith, repeatedly received the charismatic gifts of tongues, prophecy, and healing. These spiritual outpourings Eliza described as “a glorious time,” “a rejoicing time,” “a refreshing time”.