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Archive for August 2009

He Spoke 29 Languages

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself. — Sir Richard Francis Burton

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Cosmic Calendar: Mother Star

The Cosmic Calendar resumes, but not here. I’ve moved it over to Sense of Wonder. The latest outpost on the calendar is the explosion of our Mother Star.

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Pure Religion and Stewardship

[Sometimes I fantasize about what I would say if I were asked to speak at an LDS meeting. Is that weird? This comment that I made at a friend's blog may be the seed of one possible such talk. I am responding to the question "What truths can you think of that have been twisted by Satan to distract us?"]

I realize the fact that you may be skeptical of what I’m about to say because of who I am. I only ask that you listen to what I say.

Dreaming about heavenly mansions above can distract from doing important things today. The eloquent and compassionate hymn Have I Done Any Good teaches us this.

Dreaming about a heavenly reward and worrying about whether we’ll be worthy of it diverts our energy from the tasks at hand. Pure religion and undefiled (James 1:27) requires that we exercise compassion through our actions now, in the present.

The principle of stewardship that you mention says that we are the caretakers of our earthly home. We are told that we will be held accountable for the condition that the earth is in when our stewardship is over.

Sometimes, I hear people with the mindset that what we do here and now ultimately doesn’t matter because Jesus will come again and rescue us from the chaos that precedes his coming. This may make sense to some kinds of Christians, but this runs contrary to the ideal of the faithful steward taught by the Bible and the other LDS scriptures.

The notion that we are not doing irreparable damage to our home despite numerous evidences only serves to dull the senses and allow us to continue to live the easy life, the life that we’re familiar with. The life of a disciple of Christ should call a person to wake up to the harm they do and live a higher life.

It seems to me that faithful followers of Christ should be striving to return their stewardship to the hands of the Lord of the Vineyard in good condition.

I focus on the good that I can do today while the sun shines, and have faith that if I succeed in exercising compassion and fulfilling my stewardship—and if I meet God after my life is over—that I will be welcomed home into his mansions. Focusing on the possibility of those mansions now is only a distraction from the good that can be accomplished today.

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2012 Bitches

Dinosaur Comics manages in six panels to expose the stupidity of all calendar-based predictions of the end of the world and other important events. This includes pretty much everything John Pratt has ever submitted to the credulous editors of Meridian Magazine. When 2000 came and went with no Apocalypse-themed mayhem, I started to get the impression that humanity had been stood up and it was time to pay the waiter and go home.

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The New Gospel Principles

I have mixed feelings.

The LDS church has published an updated edition of Gospel Principles (already available for purchase). Sunday school teachers use this manual to teach new church members and anyone thinking about becoming a member. For the next two years, the church will also use this manual to teach the other adult members during the last hour of Sunday services instead of another installment in the Teachings of the Prophets series.

A number of changes have been made to the manual since it was last published in 1997. Among changes made for clarity, the church has also made changes that eliminate or significantly downplay a number of doctrines:

  • Faithful members will become “a god”.
  • God was not always a god.
  • God became a god the same way members of the LDS church can become gods.
  • Jesus Christ is our eldest spiritual brother.
  • Satan is also our brother. That makes Jesus and Satan brothers.
  • We are the children of “heavenly parents” (i.e. we have a Mother in Heaven).
  • Adam and Eve are the “parents of the human race”. They are now simply called “our first parents”.
  • The church in Jesus’ time had the same organization as the current LDS church.
  • The organization of the church in Joseph Smith’s time was completed within “several years”. Instead, the manual says that the church is still developing.
  • Faithful members must be obedient to all of the commandments in order to gain Exaltation.

I applaud some of those changes. One gives enough wiggle room that members can stop ignoring the evidence that humans evolved from apes. Another may help ameliorate the plague of perfectionism among Mormons. Others open the door to the admission that the church has changed over the years.

And hey, the new cover is an improvement (which happens to nicely complement this blog’s theme).

At the same time, I’m sad to see the leaders of the LDS church continue to distance themselves from some of the doctrines that I cherished most as a member of their faith. These doctrines gave me hope and made Mormonism interesting. Without them, Mormonism becomes just another shade of Protestantism. yawn

Some LDS members will say that this doesn’t represent a change in doctrine, that the church is only simplifying things for new members. I would be tempted to accept that except for a couple of things. First, this is being used to teach all adult members, not just the new ones. If the intention was to ease new members’ learning curve, then why dumb doctrines down for everyone?

Second, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find those doctrines in any official publications. It would be an enlightening exercise to research the last official publication that explicitly mentioned, for example, that faithful LDS members would become gods and goddesses. Even the temple ceremony doesn’t present that doctrine. I’m not sure how anyone learns that doctrine anymore except by word of mouth.

More and more, the Mormonism that I grew up with is becoming an oral tradition expunged from the written record. That makes me a little sad, strangely enough.

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