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#1 Chad

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 12:31 PM

My name is Chad, and I'm a Mormon. This wasn't always the case. As a child I was raised without any religious influence or education whatsoever. By the time I was leaving my teenage years I had embraced atheism, passionately so. I would say I was a militant atheist, eventually using the phrase "nontheist" to accurately describe my views on religion. After reading the works of the worlds most prominent atheists including Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger and Christopher Hitchens, I fell into the ranks of the New Atheism movement and embraced this culture as a huge part of my identity. For most of my adult life, atheism was the cornerstone of what defined me. I watched debates between my atheist heroes and theologians, philosophers, rabbis and priests of many different faiths and reveled as the logic and reason of the secular intellectuals always left the religious experts fumbling for words to refute common sense points and justify their irrational beliefs. I couldn't understand how these gentle hearted people, sincere and well meaning for sure, could disregard and ignore all the advancements of science and technology which had, and continues to, expand our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. I looked down on them. After a while I stopped differentiating between them all. As far as I was concerned, if you held the belief of an invisible God who is defended in arguments by logical fallacy upon logical fallacy, there was something wrong with you. And anything you said automatically became insignificant in my view. I just couldn't take someone seriously who held into the Bible for definition and meaning, a compilation of books that are thousands of years old written by sheep herders who lived in caves and worshiped lightning. The scientific method ripped the Bible apart, archeology and anthropology produced discoveries that contradicted the most sacred believes written in the Bible. The stories, the "historical" accounts that were once held as absolute truth (just like the world being flat) started to become "metaphors" that the major religions minimized and reduced to inspirational tales. I saw the inevitable collapse of a construct that has long outlived it's usefulness and needed to be put out of it's misery.

I was enlightened, I had the truth. Testable, controllable proof you can observe and measure. Over the years the passion I had started to become more subtle, but always remained solid and strong. I entered into my mid 20's very well educated in the philosophy and understanding of the generals leading New Atheism into legitimacy. I read their books, watched their debates, watched the conferences, kept up to date on the current arguments and all the while had no idea what I was talking about. I blindly followed these prominent people and bought into whatever they threw out there because they were smart, educated, held positions in prestigious universities and had a unifying characteristic that I latched onto; they were angry, bitter, jaded, and found a way to "fuck the system" on a civil platform that demanded attention. And there was no one who could walk to the debate stage with these people and walk away with their head held high or their beliefs unshaken. The fact of the matter is the New Atheism leadership had perfected the art of making people look stupid. I related to that more than anything. Bitter, jaded, nothing matters and everyone's an asshole so do whatever makes your happy at the moment. If someone has a problem with it they can mind their own business because it doesn't concern or affect them. Live and let live and stay out of other people's lives.

Heading into my late 20's I had a realization that diffused a lot of my animosity towards religion. I realized that I didn't know a single thing about what I've spent my entire adult life hating. There were crazies and ignorance aplenty that I had drawn attention to so as to justify my claims about these people. But all things being equal, you find assholes no matter where you go in life. I slowly started to realize I'd been attacking a straw man all this time. No bit of information I had learned over the years had been taught and presented without bias towards my "side" of this battle. There was bias to be found on the other side, no doubt. But I wanted to learn the basics of what the "other side" was so vigorously defending. This journey would be the undoing of everything I held onto that defined me.

I would spend a long while confused, going back and forth between what was familiar and what was new and I struggled more during this time than at any other point in my life. I was torn and those closest to me had no sympathy for my plight. They didn't share my doubts and they didn't share my interest in examining religion with a new point of view. I had been shunned for my ambiguity and the farther away I strayed the lonelier it became.

Then one day it finally happened. I had what I would call at the time an "epiphany" that lead me to go to church on my own for the first time in my life. I knew there were lots of Catholics where I lived (Massachusetts) so I found a church near by and started going. I got there pretty early and I remember walking in and being humbled at how beautiful the inside of the building was. There were a few people who were already there but I felt like I had the privacy and solitude at the moment to sort out what I was feeling. I sat down, looked around, and felt a feeling that was burning in my chest that I never felt before. I couldn't explain it, I didn't know how. It was the first time in 28 years that I had felt the spirit in my life. I remember whispering out loud to myself "so this is why people go to church. I finally get it." I knew I had finally found the direction to take my life in but I was not on the right path just yet. I spent a few months going to that Catholic church, trying to keep up during mass and trying to learn what I could but most of the time I just felt lost as to what was going on, and I wasn't getting the meaning to it all. One day I met with a woman who worked for the church to get the information I needed about what I should be doing to further myself along in the church. She was a very sweet lady, old as dirt but was overjoyed to sit down with me and answer my questions and give me some direction. I told her my story up to that point (mostly) and told her where I was in my spirituality, in my religious knowledge and where I wanted to be. She went over the basics of Christianity and I was able to keep up. Then she got into the specifics of Catholicism. I will never forget this, she said to me "you're going to learn about the mystery of faith." And I looked at her with a very quizzical look and said "what do you mean? Mystery?" to which she excitedly replied "oh yes, you'll learn all about it. The great mystery of the Catholic faith. I can't wait for you to start learning." and this was confusing to me, and irritating. I took a small bit of offense to this 'mystery of faith' and sat up straight, lean forward and made my thoughts as clear as I could without badgering this poor woman. My response was "what do you mean great mystery of the catholic faith? I have mystery, I have tons of it. I didn't come here for more mystery I came here for answers, do you have the answers or not?"

Well she didn't. They didn't. That church didn't. So I left her office and never went back. Even though I viewed this as a huge setback, I didn't lose a bit of my resolve to figure "all this" out for myself. I needed information on what made all the different churches out there special and unique from all the other churches out there. So I hit the interwebs in search for truth. A few months prior to this point I had been best man in my cousins wedding. His wife was raised in the Mormon church but had not been in 10 years. I had heard of Mormons from South Park. Their episode taught me all I knew. Most of my research into other denominations produced very similar information. Plus all these different churches all branched off from Catholicism. If the Catholics didn't have it right, how could an offshoot of the Catholic church be correct? Didn't make any sense. So I looked up the Mormons. I read a little about their core beliefs and their history, and if nothing else they had a different story to tell and a very unique history that no other church I'd read about it could compare with. This church made some bold claims. I read about prophets, golden plates, temples and underwear, sounded like orc mischief to me. On my way off their website I stumbled across a video of some guy who worked for the church, giving what seemed to be a motivational speech. By this point I had my mind made up about this Mormon stuff. But I felt I should watch the video, hear about the church and this Joseph Smith guy from the mouth of an employee of the Mormon church. So I clicked play. What followed was a talk by a gentleman named Jeffrey R. Holland. He was speaking at an event called "General Conference" held twice a year by the church where it's leaders prepare talks to give guidance, inspiration, hope, and information about the status of the church. I found out that Jeffrey R. Holland was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his talk "Safety for the Soul" that I accidentally stumbled upon changed my entire life in ways you normally read about in books. It was a talk about the origin of the Book of Mormon, and the final events and moments surrounding the murder of the churches leader Joseph Smith, and the murder of his brother Hyrum Smith. Every question that I had was answered, and questions I didn't know I needed to ask were answered as well. Sitting at my computer I had a spiritual experience that has never been rivaled. By the end of Elder Holland's talk I would have done anything he asked, I would have been baptized right then and there if I could have.

I clicked my way through the website to request my free copy of the Book of Mormon. A few days later those dreaded white shirt and tie missionaries came to my house to give me my free book, and answer any questions I might have. I don't remember a lot of what was said, They asked me a few basic questions about my knowledge of Jesus Christ and of Joseph Smith. What do I remember was that spiritual experience I had felt before was there again, testifying to me spirit to spirit that I had found what I had been looking for. These young men had the answers to my questions. As they taught me the core beliefs and history of the church, that spiritual feeling became stronger and more clear, talking to me and bearing witness that I was finally hearing the truth, the most important truth I would ever hear.

I was baptized in less than 3 weeks. I excelled as a new convert but not without growing pains. Changing my lifestyle and behavior proved (and continues to be) a process. I had moments of weakness in the following months. I took a long serious look at how I'd lived my life and struggled to come to terms with it. But never did I doubt what I had learned, never did my faith flinch. The only thing that suffered was my ego. I stuck it out, made mistakes, came back from them, and stayed on the path the LDS church was taking me.

Year and a half later I am living in Utah. I've been through the temple and completed all of the ordinances performed within them and entered into the accompanying covenants you make while going through the temple. I had a temple marriage last month to my eternal companion. I've received both priesthoods and am now a Sunday School teacher in my ward, I teach Gospel Doctrine.

I'm still who I was before in many ways. I don't pretend to be this perfect little Utah Mormon that didn't live the life I did or do the things I wish I hadn't. I am very open and honest about my past, more so than I ever have been. I'm big, I'm bald and have tattoos up and down my arms. I swear (despite my best efforts) and I will never fit into the mainstream culture of the church. I am sarcastic (as best I can be) and still have a sense of humor that couldn't get anymore shallow. A lot of people who have had trouble accepting the changes I've made in my life over the last year and a half. Some have accused me of being fake or trying to be someone or something I'm not. Part of those accusations come from their ignorance of the LDS church and what is really taught and believed. The rest of the accusations come from a clear and unwavering prejudice against the church with a closed door policy for discussion about it. Some members of my family cut off all communication with me, the only family who came to my baptism were my mother, my cousin and his wife who I best manned for at their wedding months earlier, and that was it. My stepfather wouldn't go, stepsisters wouldn't go, I had one single friend who came to support me in addition to the 3 others.

Being raised in Massachusetts and having a circle of friends who deeply rooted their beliefs in everything I just walked away from lead to fight after fight, confrontation after confrontation and eventually lead to the dissolution of many friendships. Some of those people I've lived with, been on vacation with, and went to their wedding. My gay friends were on the front line, prop 8 was a board that they beat me over the head with. I was a Mormon, and therefor a gay bashing close minded bigot. Never once was I given the chance to tell them what I felt and thought about the church's teachings and how we could still be friends. That idea, apparently, just proved I was a hypocrite. I still struggle with some of those people, trying to find new common ground. Some have cut me off, refusing any and all contact with me. Some I've let go from my life, their choices, beliefs and lifestyles have lead them to a place where our friendship is unable to survive.

I've spent a great deal of time trying to get my life to work right. I have a family, a home, I start college in a few days, and I have the answers to the big questions that can't be found anywhere else. I've received the gift of healing in my life, and I've helped bring that to others. I take a long look at how I lived my life up until last year. The bad choices I made over and over, being a victim to my circumstances, just letting life drag me along without any thought to where I was going or what state I would be in if I made it there. I realized that I wasn't living, I wasn't even surviving. I was stuck in the same place making the same mistakes for years and years. That isn't a life. Some have had the audacity to ask me "don't you miss the old days? How are you happy with all these "rules" this church puts on you?" I used to get mad and defensive when asked questions like these. Now I just feel deeply sorry for those people. They ask me "Don't you want to have a drink, don't you want to go out and get laid?" The question is so beside the point that I can't give them answer they will understand. Like "wanting to" was ever justification for anything.

I want to be very clear, I don't have a shred of doubt about the history or the authenticity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don't have a shred of doubt as to whether I made the right choice by being baptized into the church. Joseph Smith was called of God to be His prophet and usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times. I have always belonged here, this is always who I've been. I've tried to jam my round shape into every square hole I could find for as long as I remember. I've said and done horrible things to cover up that emptiness in my life, I will be first on the witness stand to testify about how imperfect and down right screwed up I am. I try very hard not to judge, I've been humbled an awful lot throughout this journey, it's helped me to see and admire things in people that I was never able to see before.

I don't expect anyone to believe what I do, I won't try to make you believe either. I will gladly answer questions you have, I will never give you an answer that I myself personally don't believe. If I don't know an answer I will tell you so. If I can't find a reliable answer, I will tell you that as well. In closing ... I will not argue, I will not debate. I will teach, I will testify, I will explain as best I can and if needs be I will agree to disagree. I will try to be as polite as I can, even if you make no such effort. No promises, I'm far from perfect. That's my story to bridge the gap of the last 2 years to anyone who is interested. Sorry for this being so long. I get a bit speechy sometimes. My goal is not to convert you (unless you ask) my goal is to get you accurate, reliable information that is as unbiased as possible.

The "Ask a Mormon" thread is open for business. Ask away :banana:

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#2 Dave

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 02:54 PM

Is there any equivalent to Hosties or Jeezits? Why or why not?
Maximum Awesome
"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend

#3 Chad

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 03:33 PM

Is there any equivalent to Hosties or Jeezits? Why or why not?


For the blessing and passing of the sacrament the LDS church uses actual legitimate bread ... baked, packaged, shipped and sold at grocery stores for use by Latter-day Saints over the world.

The Hosties cereal is exclusive to Catholics ... although the LDS church has been working on a spin-off cereal that has missionaries packed inside for the toy surprise. They will be packed in plastic wrappers and fall into your bowl about half way through the box. Deluxe models are rumored to have white bicycle helmets included. No progress on fitting the bike inside yet. There has been some snags in the development process though. Like death.

And Jeezits are used by the Catholics exclusively as well. We haven't figured out what for yet. It could be a simple snacky goodness given out in between services, some argue that Jesus was really from New Jersey (the shore, specifically) so when he set up the sacrament the bread representing his flesh was orange. The doctrine of Jesus using spray tan was never unanimously voted on during any of the ecumenical councils. It's one of those "mysteries" they talk about.

Edited by Chad, 23 August 2011 - 03:34 PM.

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#4 Dave

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Posted 24 August 2011 - 04:00 AM

This question is hastily written, but such are life's pressures.

Is there any public/private distinction or doctrine within Mormonism pertaining to a division between public social/political life and private religious life?
Maximum Awesome
"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend

#5 Chad

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Posted 24 August 2011 - 07:45 AM

This question is hastily written, but such are life's pressures.


Amen.

Is there any public/private distinction or doctrine within Mormonism pertaining to a division between public social/political life and private religious life?


I think I need a bit more clarification so I answer the right question with the right information. Also, I'll throw this out there, you don't have to worry about "offending" me. The LDS Church makes some seriously bold claims that call for exceptional levels of scrutiny in some areas. The scriptures refer to us as the Lord's "peculiar people" and in contrast with "the world" I absolutely understand why people who glance at us call us a cult. I can explain why that isn't the case but I know there is a lot of crap to sort through to get down to real answers. I want the tough questions and those aren't always easy to ask when it comes to church stuff. I remember where I came from though. I remember the thoughts I had about organized religion, especially weird ones like Mormonism. I just don't want people (in this particular case you, Dave) walking on eggshells. Some topics will be harder to work though than others. But my whole point in this is getting direct, accurate answers to questions about the church and hopefully clear the air on a lot of misconceptions. Hopefully.

So if you could, can you be a tad more specific with your question?

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#6 Dave

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 02:37 AM

Sure. We can start with a small part of what I'm asking. Does Mormonism include a doctrine (or does it teach anything) about its role in secular government (if any)?
Maximum Awesome
"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend

#7 Chad

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 09:47 AM

Sure. We can start with a small part of what I'm asking. Does Mormonism include a doctrine (or does it teach anything) about its role in secular government (if any)?


It sure does, started by Joseph Smith and carried down to modern times. I've been trying to put together a post but a couple of the sites I use for reference and resource are not working. Sad day. Hopefully tomorrow (technically today) they'll be up and running and I'll be able to put together a solid response for you.

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#8 Chad

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 05:04 PM

I have been putting together the longest TL;DR answer ever. I also started school so I haven't abandon this question, very much the contrary.

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#9 Dave

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 01:16 AM

Lot of that going around. No problem.
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"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend

#10 Chad

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 05:38 AM

I haven't been to school in a long time. Forgot how much stuff there is to do. Like buy books for the classes you're taking. Or buy a parking pass so you don't have to park across the street at Walmart then walk a mile to class. Or buy books :wall:

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#11 Dave

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 12:07 AM

Half.com is your friend. Previous editions that are not substantively different from the current edition are your best friends.
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"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend

#12 Chad

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 01:04 PM

Sure. We can start with a small part of what I'm asking. Does Mormonism include a doctrine (or does it teach anything) about its role in secular government (if any)?


Short and long answer is yes.

Short answer ...


The Church's twelfth article of faith states,

“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”



Additional

In addition to the twelfth article of faith, section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants outlines Latter-day Saints' “belief with regard to earthly governments and laws in general” (D&C 134, section heading). The section includes the following statements:

“We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society. . . .

”We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.

“We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men show respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker” (D&C 134:1-6).



Latter-day Saints also believe in the importance of freedom of religion. The eleventh article of faith states:

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”


The Church does not endorse political parties or candidates, nor does it permit the use of its buildings for political purposes. The Church does not participate in politics unless there is a moral question at issue, in which case the Church will often speak out.

The Articles of Faith and the Doctrine and Covenants are scripture to the LDS Church, official canon and part of a collection known as the standard works. Information and commandments contained in those works are official doctrine of the LDS Church, revelation directly from God to his chosen prophet and is regarded as the literal word of God. The Articles of Faith and the Doctrine & Covenants are unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints alone, no other church recognizes them as holy works, or even inspired. They are considered "modern day revelation" and D&C (Doctrine and Covenants) and the Pearl of Great Price (collection of books and writings that the Articles of Faith are a part) fall under the category of modern day revelation. As the name implies, it's additional scripture that we've received in modern times as opposed to the Bible which was written thousands of years ago. The Book of Mormon is considered modern revelation even though it is a historical record that is thousands of years old. Because of the time that the Book of Mormon (BoM) was brought fourth to the world it is considered modern day revelation.

The main difference between the BoM, D&C and the Pearl of Great Price is that the BoM was already written by prophets, Joseph Smith only translated the historical accounts of the old prophets into the modern BoM, he never actually wrote any of it. D&C and the Pearl of Great Price were authored almost exclusively by Joseph Smith. They contain revelation given directly to Joseph Smith from God, with an unbroken chain of custody from deity, to prophet, to published doctrine. We believe that since Joseph there has been a succession of prophets who lead the church, another unbroken lineage that will continue until the Millennium.

I hope that helps explain certain things, specifically terminology, official church history, and official teachings of the LDS Church.

Now on, to what you're question is (I believe anyway) rooted in. The LDS Church has been in mainstream news coverage more than ever in the last several years. Starting with Mitt Romney in 2008, going into California's proposition 8 vote, the repeal of prop 8, a satirical musical from the creators of South Park and now 2 potential candidates for president, each being born into and raised faithfully in the Mormon Church. People are starting to ask (publicly and often without any tact) if those wacky things they've heard about Mormons is true. Here is an official statement from the LDS Church Newsroom concerning the political involvement of the Church in secular affairs, and specifically some of the issues I mentioned ...

http://newsroom.lds....ical-neutrality


Political Neutrality

The Church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established.

The Church does not:

•Endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms.
•Allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes.
•Attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to. This policy applies whether or not a candidate for office is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
•Attempt to direct or dictate to a government leader.


The Church does:

•Encourage its members to play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections.
•Expect its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters.
•Request candidates for office not to imply that their candidacy or platforms are endorsed by the Church.
•Reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church.


In the United States, where nearly half of the world’s Latter-day Saints live, it is customary for the Church at each national election to issue a letter to be read to all congregations encouraging its members to vote, but emphasizing the Church’s neutrality in partisan political matters.

Relationships With Government

Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.

Modern scriptural references to the role of government: Doctrine and Covenants, Section 134

Political Party Participation of Presiding Church Officers

In addition, the First Presidency letter issued on 16 June 2011 is a re-statement and further clarification of the Church’s position on political neutrality at the start of another political season. It applies to all full-time General Authorities, general auxiliary leaders, mission presidents and temple presidents. The policy is not directed to full-time Church employees.

"General Authorities and general officers of the Church and their spouses and other ecclesiastical leaders serving full-time should not personally participate in political campaigns, including promoting candidates, fundraising, speaking in behalf of or otherwise endorsing candidates, and making financial contributions."

Since they are not full-time officers of the Church, Area Seventies, stake presidents and bishops are free to contribute, serve on campaign committees and otherwise support candidates of their choice with the understanding they:

•Are acting solely as individual citizens in the democratic process and that they do not imply, or allow others to infer, that their actions or support in any way represent the church.
•Will not use Church stationery, Church-generated address lists or email systems or Church buildings for political promotional purposes.
•Will not engage in fundraising or other types of campaigning focused on fellow Church members under their ecclesiastical supervision."



General Authorities and the general officers of the church do not hold jobs or employment outside of their church duties. The church employs a lay clergy so anyone outside of full time roles (pretty much all local and area leadership) work and support their families in addition to their church callings. In any case no one gets paid for serving in ecclesiastical callings in the church. Some do receive stipends, some do not. It is NOT standard for someone to be called as a General Authority and start receiving compensation from the church. My father-in-law has served as a bishop, a stake high councilman, a high priest and a seventy and I've picked his brain about this stuff to no end. Some of the General Authorities did very well for themselves before being called, some had actual jobs within the church for most of their lives (usually within the Church Education System) before being called and were dirt poor in comparison. In an instance where someone is called as a General Authority and leaves their employment, and doing so will have consequences on that individual and his family where they would not have means to provide food or a place to live, the church would most likely (<-my personal opinion) provide or help with those necessities. For instance, the President of the Church gets his own apartment in Temple Square. It's a regular apartment building, granted the top floor is all his, but regular folk live in all the other units in that building. That is provided at the expense of the church. So is his travel, security, etc but nothing extravagant. Especially if you consider how much money he would make in the private-sector counterpart to his position as president of the church.

The hierarchy of the church is very military-like and has a clear chain of command. I've tried to explain the differences in roles and give some info into those roles, and how each relates to church policy and doctrine concerning involvement and participation in secular government and politics. Believe it or not, this is the short answer. Long answer on it's way (packed with all kinds of fun history facts concerning the church and the federal government, and some state governments as well) but please feel free to respond to anything listed in the short answer.

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#13 Dave

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 06:23 PM

The Church does not endorse political parties or candidates, nor does it permit the use of its buildings for political purposes. The Church does not participate in politics unless there is a moral question at issue, in which case the Church will often speak out.
...
While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.

If I had read this quickly, there wouldn't be much to challenge. But more diligent reading highlighted these two snippets. From this, it's fair to construct their view as the following: The Church will not participate in politics unless it participates in politics. (Logically, this is the form: ~P unless P. 'Unless' introduces the necessary condition, and we negate the sufficient condition, translating to ~~P → P, which is the same as ~P → P. This is unhelpful. The contrapositive is ~P → ~P...also unhelpful. Others insist on translating 'unless' as a disjunctive: ~P v P (The Church will not participate in politics or it participates in politics). Also tautologically true.)

Edited by Dave, 03 September 2011 - 08:42 PM.
fixed my own errors

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"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend

#14 Chad

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 10:22 PM

The church will "speak out" as they say, and they may speak out to members of congress or other government officials. But I wouldn't say discourse of any kind between the church and an elected official qualifies as actively participating in politics. I see your point, but I think it's a stretch IMHO. It is a humble opinion too, but it's fair. There's a pretty big gap in between communicating with political figures and backing or endorsing them.

http://newsroom.lds....-marriage-votes

Some, however, have mistakenly asserted that churches should not ever be involved in politics when moral issues are involved. In fact, churches and religious organizations are well within their constitutional rights to speak out and be engaged in the many moral and ethical problems facing society.While the Church does not endorse candidates or platforms, it does reserve the right to speak out on important issues.


If the church is "speaking out" on a politically or socially charged topic, it might send letters to local leadership with instructions for them to inform their members of whatever situation or issue the church has publicly responded to. This has happened more than once. But always included in the FYI is a disclaimer clearly stating that Latter-day Saints can vote however they want for whoever they want without any affect on that individuals membership or standing in the church.

Voting choices by Latter-day Saints, like all other people, are influenced by their own unique experiences and circumstances. As we move forward from the election, Church members need to be understanding and accepting of each other and work together for a better society.



I have met members who at one time or another have been influenced and intimidated by their local leaders when it comes to voting and politics. That has happened and I'm sure it will happen again. But if and when that does happen it is entirely against church policy, regulation and doctrine. Once something like that is elevated to the proper level of authority then things will be set right and someone is probably going to get fired, at the very least.

The church doesn't even get involved if a couple is getting a divorce. In fact local leaders have clear instructions to encourage the couple to seek help or counseling, but that is it. Even in instances where violence is involved, the church will take steps to make sure everyone who needs protection gets it by reporting any instance of abuse to the police, but will not take part in any divorce or separation proceedings. Physically abusing your spouse or anyone will get you excommunicated immediately. There are instances where you are subject to church disciplinary action in regards to your personal conduct, especially when it comes to marriage. Your membership in the church is the end of the line though for church involvement in your behavior, as long as you aren't breaking any laws. But if two people fall out of love and want a divorce, no laws have been broken and no church guidelines have been crossed, help will be offered and encouraged but the level of non-involvement is surprising, especially in contrast with other mainstream Christian denominations.

Apologies if I've strayed too far off topic, just from my understanding of how other church's handle these issues, the LDS Church isn't nearly as involved as I had once thought they were.

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#15 Dave

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 09:14 PM

But we're both going to agree that citizens in a democracy have a right to vote for whomever/whatever they choose. The Church can't grant that right. That's a political right, not a spiritual right. That's something that natural rights theorists believe we have 'naturally,' and democratic theorists will say we have by virtue of living under a republican democracy.

I think what interests me here is a hidden assumption that political life and spiritual life sometimes overlap. Certainly, I'd agree that spiritual life can sometimes inform one about how to behave in political life. But political life often involves compromises. These results of these compromises may contradict spiritual teachings. This is what we, as citizens, sacrifice in order to live in the harmony of a broader political sphere that includes a multitude of differing personal spiritual beliefs.

Some groups say, "tough. Spiritual life trumps. To hell with compromise." But compromise is political reality. I understand that there can be severe spiritual consequences for certain acts, but that's why I mentioned earlier that there seems to be a hidden assumption about this overlap. Imagine for a moment that this assumption is false.
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"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend

#16 Chad

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 07:43 PM

But we're both going to agree that citizens in a democracy have a right to vote for whomever/whatever they choose. The Church can't grant that right. That's a political right, not a spiritual right. That's something that natural rights theorists believe we have 'naturally,' and democratic theorists will say we have by virtue of living under a republican democracy.


As predicted, I'm right there with you. My only reason for pointing out the specifics in regard to what the church says about something and their non-involvement in who and what members vote for, is that, to me, is a perfect demonstration of the separation of church and state. I think I also was trying to acknowledge that there are denominations in mainstream Christianity that try to dictate who and what their members are voting for. That is ridiculous and I thankfully don't have to deal with that. I wouldn't, though. If my bishop stood up on Sunday and ordered me to vote for a political candidate I would be out the door.

I think what interests me here is a hidden assumption that political life and spiritual life sometimes overlap. Certainly, I'd agree that spiritual life can sometimes inform one about how to behave in political life. But political life often involves compromises. These results of these compromises may contradict spiritual teachings. This is what we, as citizens, sacrifice in order to live in the harmony of a broader political sphere that includes a multitude of differing personal spiritual beliefs.



I agree with you again. Mostly, I don't think there's a hidden assumption, I think there is a clear overlap in very specific areas and issues that the government has no business being involved in at all. I also think when that happens, the idea that someone has to compromise a religious belief or practice to accommodate some new unconstitutional law (which is almost always the case) is crap. The constitution is brilliant. And when our government behaves within the guidelines the constitution sets up for it, you don't have this overlap. Ever. Unless your church is the kind that wants religion taught in science class. If that's the case then you might want to start investigating a different church. I just don't think someone should be forced to pick and choose in matters of faith and politics. The framers of the constitution didn't think so either. So that's my opinion.

Some groups say, "tough. Spiritual life trumps. To hell with compromise." But compromise is political reality. I understand that there can be severe spiritual consequences for certain acts, but that's why I mentioned earlier that there seems to be a hidden assumption about this overlap. Imagine for a moment that this assumption is false.


The assumption should be false. We agree yet again. Now imagine laws aren't being passed that are taking away the freedom of religion. In mono's thread about his church experience we touched on this. I believe the claim was that a church should have their tax exemption status revoked for involvement in elections where same sex marriage is being voted on. When prop 8 rolled around and all these churches united together to support it, there were a lot of people who were very outspoken about ANY involvement from a church in the vote. A lot of churches were pleading a case that there are laws, if passed, that would remove certain rights from a church to have freedom to practice their own brand of religion. Those claims aren't unfounded. Mass passed legislation that made it illegal for a privately run adoption agency (in this case, the Catholic church's) to refuse an adoption to same sex couples based on their same sexedness stuff not being able to be resolved with religious beliefs concerning homosexual behavior. The state pulled the license from the church, said what they were doing was discrimination and they Catholic charities in Mass were closed.

I've always believed that private groups (like churches) have full rights to deny you membership into their little club based on a persons sexual orientation. They don't have to let you in, they don't have to marry you, as long as that little private group isn't getting taxpayer money, they should be able to run things the way they want to. If a privately run and privately funded adoption service has religious guidelines it has to follow, pulling that agencies license and shutting them down is an absolute violation to freedom of religion. Like I said though, once taxpayer money is involved then things change. If an LGBT adoption agency came to be and they wanted to adopt children exclusively to same sex couples, as long as taxpayer money isn't involved I would fully support that. At the end of the day though, these overlaps are happening because our government does not stay within the bounds set by the constitution. I said in mono's thread "the government doesn't have the right to marry anyone" and he responded by insisting they do, but there is nothing in the constitution concerning marriage. At all. There's no reason for there to be either.

These overlaps and conflicts happen directly and solely because of unconstitutional laws being passed by a government that is illegally and overly involved in micromanaging their citizens lives and messing with people's freedom.

Don't let the terrorists win. Vote for Ron Paul.

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#17 Dave

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 08:50 PM

Tax exemption is equivalent to getting taxpayer money. Every dollar churches don't pay is made up by the rest of us taxpayers. So when they inject themselves into the political sphere, they should (according to the IRS) lose their tax exempt status.

Separately: Marrying of people in churches is up to whatever the churches want to do. Marrying people by state officials is an area outside the spiritual sphere: there are tax and commercial consequences of marriage--these are concepts to be addressed by the public/political sphere. By the way, just because an organization is a so-called private org doesn't make it immune from Constitutional protections. I'm no expert, obviously, but there are situations where private orgs were found to derive benefit from or place a burden on interstate commerce and therefore had to abide by the Constitution. This has nothing to do with intrusion; this is about protection. It's not a mere semantic difference. This is part of the fight of individuals to secure rights as against government powers that has played out for centuries.
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"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend

#18 Chad

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 11:32 PM

Link-o-law

Organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, organizations may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.


Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.


Blah blah blah.

I support civil unions for legal and tax stuff, sure. But that's the farthest it goes, 2 consenting adults can be recognized by the government as a "couple" or whatever word they would use and be given whatever rights and privileges that would come along with that. This is strictly my own personal opinion of how things should be. Even back during my militant atheist phase I thought the idea of the government classifying and grouping us according to lifestyle, or sexual orientation, or whatever, and labeling people as "X" or "Y" and dividing up different sets of rules or standards for each one is outrageous.

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#19 Chad

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 01:15 PM

10/10/11

Rev. Robert Jeffress, who introduced Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit last Friday, reiterated that he views Mormonism, the faith of Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, as a "cult" on Monday's edition of "Hardball With Chris Matthews" on MSNBC.

Jeffress didn't back down from the eyebrow-raising suggestion and sought to clarify his remarks. He signaled he sees Mormonism as a "theological cult," rather than a "sociological cult," like the group led by Jim Jones, who founded the Peoples Temple. The Baptist pastor added that he believes that Mormons are not Christians.


Link-O-Rama to full article

So this is old news now (about 2 months old news) but back in October a Baptist Pastor garnered 15 minutes of fame for going on CNN and calling Mormonism a cult. This is a classic claim made against the church. A cult classic, even. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has many different beliefs than those of mainstream Christendom. The biggest difference being the LDS belief in the Godhead instead of the Trinity as the true nature of Deity. Let's briefly examine each belief.

Trinity

Since the beginning of the 3rd century the doctrine of the Trinity has been stated as "the one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Trinitarianism, belief in the Trinity, is a mark of Roman Catholicism, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy as well as of the "mainstream traditions" arising from the Protestant Reformation, such as Anglicanism, Baptist, Methodism, Lutheranism and Presbyterianism. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes the Trinity as "the central dogma of Christian theology". The Trinity developed as early Christians tried to reconcile the traditional Jewish monotheism recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures with their portrayal of Jesus as also divine. The Trinity is considered to be a mystery of Christian faith.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says ...

The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the "consubstantial Trinity".


Godhead

Latter-day Saints believe There are three separate persons in the Godhead: God, the Eternal Father; his Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost. These three Gods form the Godhead, which holds the keys of power over the universe. Each member of the Godhead is an independent personage, separate and distinct from the other two. The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bone and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, without flesh and bone. Each is a God.

Joseph Smith said ...

“I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. It is the province of the Father to preside as the Chief or President, Jesus as the Mediator, and the Holy Ghost as the Testator or Witness.”

The foundation of the Trinity is that there is one God. The foundation of the Godhead is that there are 3 separate Gods. Mainstream Christianity uses the Trinity as the measuring stick for "true Christianity." If a church teaches that the nature of God is something other than the Trinity, then that church is not considered a "true Christian" church. Pastor Jeffress goes a step further and classifies Mormonism as a "cult" because the LDS Church does not teach the Trinity.

In 2008, Pastor Jeffress went as far as to say ....

"Followers of Mormonism ... they’re not worshiping the same God in a different way. We believe they are following after false gods ... [Mormonism] is not Christianity, it is not a branch of Christianity, it is a cult."


This is circular to the point of being silly. Calling the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a cult evidences bigotry that should be offensive to good people everywhere. The idea that Mormons worship a different Jesus is equally offensive.

As I said earlier, this was over 2 months ago. The good Pastor's 15 minutes have come and gone, but his influence is farther reaching than you might think. Robert Jeffress is the senior pastor of the 10,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. Ten thousand people look to him for guidance and leadership. I am so sorry for them.

DallasNews.com has interesting feedback on Jeffress ...

I am thankful to our Lord for providing pastors everywhere who courageously speak the truth of God's word with boldness and strong personal conviction. I am sure the Rev. Robert Jeffress will receive much criticism, just like Jesus did during the three years of his ministry.


"Courage" and "bravery" with a comparison to Christ. It's like arguing with a 4 year old that 3 + 5 = ice cream.

Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you. -Bane


#20 Dave

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 06:57 PM

Have you seen the Trey Parker/Matt Stone play, and, if so, what did you think?

(I haven't seen it yet, but I'd like to.)
Maximum Awesome
"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend