BY COMMON CONSENT
Vol. 5, No. 4
CONFERENCES AND RUMORS
A source no more unreliable than the usual source about conference rumors confidently announces that a new Primary general presidency will be announced at this October conference. As you think about what Mormon children need, what qualities do you think a new Primary presidency should have?
Then we’ll play "Match the Profile" as we meet October 4, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., in the second floor meeting room, main library 209 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City. Janice Allred will moderate the usual free-wheeling discussion of trends, topics, and ties.
Mark your calendar now for a panel presentation on "The Proclamation on the Family: Who Gets Left Out," Wednesday, January 12, 2000, 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the second floor story room in the children’s library in the main library downtown, 209 E. 500 South. (Sorry about the location. There was a scheduling problem at the library.)
We’ll be back in the second-floor meeting room on 3 April 2000 at 6:30 p.m. for the semiannual conference critique after the first general meeting held in new Conference Center. (And was the name worthy of all the suspense? Prepare your ballots now!)
NEWS I WISH WE WERE READING IN A ENSIGN …
Summer interns at the World Headquarters of the RLDS Church included Jenny Miller, a premed student with a minor in church leadership at Graceland. She spent her internship with the Peace and Justice Ministries, researching and writing a resource on gun violence and gun control for congregations. Cassandra Wood is a Graceland student studying secondary education and church leadership. She created presentations for the International Leaders Curriculum. "It was interesting to learn some of the business aspects of the church," she said. ("Summer Interns at World Headquarters," Saints Herald, Sept. 1999, 28.
by Lew Wallace
Judging from New Testament accounts, Jesus was not very diplomatic when he encountered religious fraud. "Hypocrites!)’ he called them, a word that means a pretender a play actor, a phony. Perhaps we should examine ourselves and our church to see if we too would be his targets.
Jesus denounced the hypocrisy of giving alms conspicuously-- "sound[ing] a trumpet" before you (Matt. 6:2). We proclaim in general conference and news releases the humanitarian aid we send to disaster areas and the service projects of our teenagers. is not the avowed (and possibly real) purpose to inspire more of such behavior? Is it just to make us more comfortable with ourselves? When (or do) we cross the line?
Jesus condemned those who "love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men" (Matt. 6:5). Rather, he said, we should pray in secret (or at least in silence?) so as not to attract attention.
Jesus condemned "vain repetitions" and "much speaking" in public prayers (Matt. 6:7). His "after this manner" pattern and blueprint prayer is succinct and nonrepetitious. (The "kingdom, power, and glory" phrase was added later.)
Jesus also specifically denounced conspicuous fasting- -those who, assumed "a sad countenance" and "disfigure[d] their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast" (Matt.6:16).
He likewise rebuked those who "desire to walk in long robes" (Luke 20:46) or, in other words, wore conspicuously religious garments. What about expensive Angel Moroni tie-tacks or CTR rings?
Another withering chastisement fell on those who "love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues" (Luke 20:46). What about the proliferation of honorific titles: "Bishop," "President," and even "Elder"? What about "sitting on the stand" in full view of. the audience and usually in comfortable seats?
In other words, Jesus found conspicuous displays of piety repugnant. Seven times in Matthew, Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites. The literate scribes read the "law" aloud to others. The Pharisees were the pious, orthodox followers of the law.
I believe we have far too much pretense in our Church. We pretend uniformity of belief. We pretend to know more than we do and pretend to know it with absolute surety. We pretend to study our scriptures but race through the riches of the Bible on the four-year curriculum plan with juvenile catechism lesson manuals that cheat us as students and the biblical people we supposedly study.
We pretend to "love thy neighbor" but sometimes limit it to crisis help or feeble fellowshiping. Love "as yourself" probably implies empathy beyond our usual human capacity.
We believe in the "first principles and ordinances of the gospel" (Fourth’ Article of Faith) but skip lightly over the first principles and concentrate on the ordinances, which are much simpler, easier, and observable. You go or you don’t go. You do or you don’t do. You say or you don’t say. You pay or you don’t pay. You wear or you don’t wear. You obey or you don’t obey (a religious authority).
No one acknowledges using "unrighteous dominion", yet Doctrine and Covenants 121:39 says "almost all" are guilty. How much of our "righteousness" is really a pretense? We can and should repent, and do much better.
…. . the Case Reports. Vol 4, dealing with the 1993-95 excommunications and BYU firings.
A Marriage of Necessity:
Arthur C. Wiscombe
Those whose fate require them to live at peace with and in harmony in mass culture while loving and exploring esoteric culture will need coping skills of the first order. Our sanity so requires. I suggest that one of these is securing a proper marriage of the odd couple, Credulity and Skepticism.. Each of these living alone render the soul unwhole. Doing so preserved a reasoned sanity for Shakespeare. Napoleon, brilliant as he was, thought it necessary to believe all things and to doubt all things. Excess into Credulity renders reason and judgment blind as we lapse into superstition. Excess into Skepticism renders us impotent to take responsible action. Each, ‘going it alone, is as destructive as the other.
Credulity and belief, yes, yes, we must believe! We must secure our hope and preserve our faith. These are the essentials for action when the ends are not known (and they are seldom known). Without action, we render ourselves little when we might have contributed much. The world’s work remains undone as we shrivel and atrophy in spirit and in fact. We sustain the fires of life by service and by love. Love must be made a verb, a noble action, in the interest of other. While freedom and equality, though they countervail, pull the chariot, justice must drive and, in that arbitration, secure a reasoned harmony, an amiable peace. When faith fails, action is rendered impotent; we fail in earth’s blind requirement to be subdued by moral intelligence.
Skepticism and doubt, yes, yes, we must doubt!’ We’ must have the courage to question our assumptions, our desired hypothesis, our received traditions, and our most revered’ illusions. Failure to doubt well distorts balance and harmony and renders us unwhole. We do not pride ourselves on doubt for its own sake. We doubt to sustain our dignity and resolve against the fraud monger standing at the door of our soul. We all need to ask why it is, in the march of history, that so often the holy doctrine we are ready both to die and kill for, turns out in the end to be mere prejudicial illusion, alienating us from our own precious dignity.
Our challenge in, this strange marriage is to preserve a reasoned faith and a’ humble doubt. Anyone who has been around, the block’ of life already knows what it means to be dead wrong when we thought we were dead right. Wisdom directs that in. this marriage of necessity we secure for each other a peace without victory, for both our Credulity and for our Skepticism.
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cracks the rock,
pokes the air
with perfect petals.
it lacks awareness.
I say it understands
there is no order of difficulty
4 May 1999. Ultra-conservative Mormon Republican Barbara Blewster, an Arizona State representative, has, in recent months announced the following opinions in public: Indians lack intelligence. Slavery wasn’t all that bad. There should be no state- supported schools. There should be no free breakfast at public schools; kids could spend that time at home with their families. Homosexuality leads to bestiality, human sacrifice, and cannibalism. She told one Jewish legislator that she was surprised he was Jewish and that he would "make a good Mormon." She had also opined that she didn’t think another Representative was Jewish because he didn’t have "a big, hooked nose." "It isn’t that she is coated with bigotry," said Sam Steiger, a former state lawmaker. "She is honestly Stone Age dumb." ("LDS Embarrassment?" (Tucson) Arizona Star, 4 May 1999; internet version.)
July 1999. Instructions on the Church’s TempleReadyTM computer program read: "Make sure descriptions and titles are not included with names submitted for ordinance work. For example
• .Boy. girl, child. widow~ Miss. Mr. Jr.. Dr. Judge. Reverend. Rev, Colonel rcoli ~ . . * Because the identity of a woman can be derived from the name of her husband, the use of Mrs. is an exception." (Paul E. Koelliker, "Now That Members … " Ensign, July 1999, 65-66.)
4 July 1999. The San Francisco Examiner, the North American West Area Presidency in California (John B. Dickson, John M. Madsen and Cecil 0. Samuelson -- - Samuelson has since been reassigned to a Utah area presidency) sent letters dated 11 May 1999 to be read in ward priesthood and Relief Society meetings on 23 or 30 May, instructing members "to do all you can by donating your means and time to assure a successful vote" on an initiative that would prevent any but heterosexual marriages from being recognized as legally binding. The letters were to be read by "a member of the stake presidency or high council" rather than the bishop, in itself a measure of the letter’s significance.
The letter reads in part:
"On March 7, 2000, Californians will vote to affirm that the union of one man and one woman is the only form of marriage that will be legally, recognized in California.
"This traditional marriage initiative provides a clear and significant moral choice. The Church’s position on this issue is unequivocal." It then quotes a First presidency letter of 1 February 1994 that opposition is required to "any efforts to give legal authorization to marriages between persons of the same gender." The area presidency’s letter continues:
"Therefore, we ask you to do all you can by donating your means and time to assure a successful vote. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of, God, and is essential to His eternal plan. It is imperative for us to give our best effort to preserve what our Father in Heaven has put in place." It promises additional information on "a broad-based coalition" then in formation.
Defeat of the initiative would not legalize gay marriage in California., where marriage is now defined as between a man and a woman. LDS Church spokesman Dan Rascon said that members "aren’t absolutely required to support the ballot measure or to give money to the campaign" and that "nobody is going to be disciplined" but that members should consider the letter as "inspired and coming from the Lord."
He would not say whether the Church had donated any money directly as it did in Alaska ($500,000) and Hawaii ($600,000) to fund similar anti-gay marriage laws- -about 40 percent of the anti-gay contributions. (According to an NPR report, the Church contributed more than half the funds.) California’s 740,000 Mormons comprise approximately 2 percent of the electorate. An estimated 6 percent of the California electorate is gay or lesbian. NPR determined that some Mormons had been asked to contribute specific amounts ranging from $30 to $250; a Church spokesman said this activity was improper, but a letter from Area Seventy Douglas Callister outlines a fund-raising strategy including targeting ,the more affluent and suggesting specific amounts. According to Kathy Worthington, Bountiful gay rights activist, forty-six homosexual Mormons have written letters requesting that their names be removed from Church records. (AP, "LDS Church Supports Ban on Same-Sex Marriages," (BYU) Universe, 6 July 19991, 1; San Francisco Examiner, "Calif. Mormons Urged to Donate to Anti-Gay Vote," Salt Lake Tribune, 5 July 1999, A-1; (AP) "LDS Urged to Back a Ban on Gay Marriage," Deseret News, 5 July 1999, A-2; Robert Salladay, "Mormons now target California: Church ask members to back state ballot initiative," San Francisco Examiner Sunday, July 4, 1999, A-1; printout of website version in my possession. "Letters Sent to LDS Church," Pillar, Aug. 1999, 12.)
6 July 1999. Speaking at a BYU devotional, BYU law professor Richard Wilkins, who is also director of NGO Family Voice: The World Family Policy Center, called students to sign "A Call from the Families of the World," available in 45 languages and also for students with language facility to contact "religious and community leaders of other countries." Wilkins’s wife, Melany Moore Wilkins, related how she had earned a master’s degree and "suggested to her husband she work part-time … . . . Her husband didn’t think it would be good for him to try to persuade others to defend family values if his own wife wasn’t at home with the family." Melany, the mother of four, ages not specified, conceded, "I would rather be at home than any other place." (Curtis L. Black, (BYU) Universe: "NGO ‘Family Voice Defends Values at U.N.," 6 July 1999, 3; "Law Prof. to Speak on Family Values," and "Law Prof. Emphasizes Family Values,"
ibid., 7 July 1999, 3.)
1 Sept. 1999. The three members of the Relief Society general presidency "each personally donated a hand-made quilt to officiaily start" a series of quilt shipments to Kosovo, via the Church’s Humanitarian Service Center. The article’ did not say that the three women--Mary Ellen Smoot, Virginia U. Jensen, and Sheri L. Dew--personally made the quilts they donated. "Responding to a request from the Presiding Bishop," they have arranged for the donations of thousands of quilts from Re1ief Societies throughout the United States and Canada." Smoot commented that they chose not to merely donate blankets because "a hand-made quilt expresses love and concern in a personal way." ("LDS Relief Society Sending Quilts to Kosovo," Deseret News, 1 Sept. 1999, B-2)
2 September 1999. Random House will Publish Gordon B. Hinckley’s Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues that will Heal Our Hearts and Homes, (or possibly, according to the Deseret News, Stand for something) early next year. It will use historical and personal anecdotes to illustrate such qualities as "civility, forgiveness, and integrity in our daily lives." Mike Wallace will write the foreword. Publicity plans include "a 20-market TV satellite tour and print teleconference as well as a national radio drive-time campaign." LDS spokesman Dale Bills said that the use of the royalties "will not be announced until publication." (Peggy Fletcher Stack, "Random House to Publish Essays by Gordon B. Hinckley," 2 Sept. 1999, Salt Lake Tribune, C-3; Carrie A. Moore, "Pres. Hinckley Writes Book Aimed at General Readers," Deseret News, 1 Sept. 1999, B-1.)
11 Sept. 1999. In ceremonies at Mountain Meadows, attended by descendants both of the slain emigrants and of local Mormons who did the killings, a new monument at the site was dedicated by President Hinckley, who specified "No one can explain what happened in ‘These meadows 142 years ago" and "That which we have done here [dedicating the monument] must never be construed as an acknowledgement . . . of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful and tragic day." (John L. Hart, "‘Let the hook of the Past Be Closed," Church News, 18 Sept. 1999, 3, 8.)