Dear Reader,


A Latter-day Saint who believes that the Church and its leaders are authorized of God doesn’t necessarily accept whatever the Church puts forth as “gospel.” On the contrary, anyone who wants a better Church tomorrow really ought to speak up today. We aren’t potted plants. Let's face it: Theological malarkey gets a long lease on life when members merely say “amen” to it all.

That is the main reason this site exists.

It also reminds Latter-day Saints who are struggling with their faith that, despite flaws, the restored church is the Lord’s church.

Each article is listed below with a title, short synopsis and a link. They were written by Steve Warren (bio below). Articles by others may be added.

Keep the faith.

Steve Warren
West Valley City, Utah

“God is actually trying to create a much more profound relationship with us. We can only do that if we are actually wrestling with issues at hand.”
--Fiona Givens

Christ moves closer to us as we move from dogma toward truth.

Steve Warren was raised in Heppner, Oregon, and has lived in Utah for 43 years. He attended Ricks College for two years, served a mission to Colombia-Venezuela, and graduated from BYU in 1973 with a degree in communications. He and his wife, JaNiece, have two sons and a daughter. He wrote and published Drat! Mythed Again, Second Thoughts on Utah in 1986 and was a copy editor at the Deseret News from 1988-2008. He wrote and printed 100 copies of a novel, Beyond the Finish Line, but has yet to find a real publisher. (February 2017)
Knowing, believing, seeing Insights into our borderline dysfunctional LDS relationship with the word “know.”

Pathway to heaven The Scriptures show one sure way to return to God’s presence: possess a heart that pleases him.

Obedience gone awry Strictly following the prophet is an excellent idea—at least as long as he’s right.

Falling short, staying put Living prophets constantly err, but that’s not a good reason to leave the Lord’s church.

What in the world? Certain strange features of the Book of Mormon add to its credibility.

Some kind of miracle Fiction. An invitation to speak in sacrament meeting begins a Utah couple’s wild ride.

The cross = victory The cross is a worthy, positive symbol because it reminds us that it is the dying Christ who saves us.

Pilate tried Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus; Pontius Pilate sought to set him free, so let’s give the man a break.

Father, Father, Father Why do we repeat the name of Deity so often in prayers these days?

Witnesses Multiple witnesses provide a compelling reason for anyone to ponder the claims of Mormonism.

Who is God? The Book of Mormon emphatically teaches that Jesus is our God and that he acts and speaks as both the Father and the Son.

Creation stories Teachings about the Creation tend to bog down when they go beyond “God created the earth.”

Short takes Brief quotes, comments and reflections on a variety of gospel topics.
A few heresies... that would make for a more interesting sacrament meeting.
Oopsy-daisy 40 foul-ups.







Thursday, October 22, 2015

Short takes



Don't see R-rated movies? Just another myth


Question:  How many presidents of the Church have said members should never view R-rated movies?

Answer: None

Yes, President Ezra Taft Benson counseled young men at a 1986 General Conference priesthood session not to view R-rated movies in order to keep their minds free of entertainment that is immoral, suggestive or pornographic. (He later offered similar counsel to young women of the Church.) But the general membership of the Church has never received counsel from a church president not to attend R-rated movies.

Indeed, President Benson's counsel to youths suggests that attending R-rated movies might be acceptable even for LDS young people if the movie contains no suggestive material but merely contains profanity or realistic depictions of war, etc.  In fact, I would not hesitate to recommend to my fellow Latter-day Saints age 16 and above that they view such R movies as The King's Speech, Crimson Tide, Gran Torino and Schindler's List. 

Here's a couple of other problems with letting a rating given by the Motion Picture Association of America determine whether we see a movie. First, by relying solely on rating and ignoring movie content, we may miss a great movie containing one F-word while convincing ourselves it's OK to see a PG-13 movie that is mediocre and full of vulgarity, violence or idiotic content. Second, the MPAA rating ignores the fact that many members live in countries where movies receive no MPAA rating.  Third, by automatically following someone's counsel never to see an R-rated movie, we trust in them and the MPAA to guide us rather than wisely exercising our agency. 

Although no president of the Church has said we should never see R-rated movies, some lower-level authorities and uninformed members have said we shouldn't. Let's keep in mind that they don't speak for the Church but are merely expressing opinions.  

The best focus

The paragraph below is from reflections by Linda and Richard Eyre about their friend Stephen Covey.  It ran in the July 20, 2012, Deseret News.

“One evening he told us that there were many large, extended families who summered at a different lake, the one where he and Sandra always took their kids for the Covey family reunion. He said that after watching all those families for several years, he realized that they fell into three categories: families that were church-centered, families that were family-centered and families that were Christ-centered. It was only the third category, he said, that lasted, stayed strong and stood the tests and challenges of life without becoming divided.

Proof that there is a God

I offer the following experience as proof that there is a God.

Around midnight in the late 1990s, I waited in my car for a left-turn signal on northbound State Street and North Temple in Salt Lake City.  I had just finished a Saturday afternoon/evening shift at the Deseret News, but for the occupants of many of the other 10 or so cars it perhaps was late-night party time.

At the front of the left-turn line was a car with several rowdy young men, windows open and loud music rolling forth.  Behind them was a car with two more males.  I was third in line, and other cars to the right occupied the northbound lane. As the rest of us dutifully waited for the lights to change, the first car peeled out and accelerated through the red light onto westbound North Temple.  In effect, the message the young men sent to the rest of us was: “Hey, losers. You can obey the law if you want, but we sure as hell don’t have to.”

A few seconds later, as I muttered to myself, it got worse.  The men in the second car also peeled out!  Apparently, the fellows in both vehicles were part of the same night-on-the-town group. My muttering grew more intense. I'm ashamed to admit that I might have thought, or spoken, the word “bastards.” My main thought was: Why is there never a cop around when you need one?

Finally, the light changed and the rest of us proceeded.  About two blocks later, to my surprise I saw the two peel-out cars parked on the side of the road.  As I passed, I saw flashing lights on the dashboard of the second car—it was an unmarked police car!

In that moment I went from being a muttering loser to a man with one joyful thought:  “Yes, there is a God.”

The Spirit made me do it

Many active, mainstream members take a dim view of those who don’t always follow the Brethren and who appear to pick and choose when to obey. That's especially true if the picker and chooser is an Obama-lovin' bleeding heart liberal. Yet mainstream, more traditional members also pick and choose—but with a major difference.  When one of them chooses to disobey, he may feel he is doing so because the Spirit has directed him. (Which is, by the way, a good excuse for disobeying.)

Following are four common ways that active members disobey the Brethren. 

First, testimony bearers, perhaps the majority, tend to disregard specific counsel from the Church about testimonies not being, in effect, mini-speeches or verbal newsletters. Yes, some may be unaware of the counsel, but unawareness represents a failure to pay close heed to leaders—also a form of disobedience.

Second, speakers routinely disregard the time limit assigned for their talk.

Third, the leaders of some organizations, perhaps caught up in a presumably spiritual lesson, allow their meetings to run several minutes over the time specified for the meeting block. Often, when a meeting has already gone over, leaders allow the closing song to be sung, followed by a prayer, as family members wait in the hall.

Fourth, leaders have repeatedly counseled against repeating the name of Deity in prayers, but we constantly hear Father this and Father that.  (See “Father, Father, Father” on this site.)

A rather dramatic example of “Spirit-driven” disobedience happened a number of years ago in a previous ward that I attended.  During two sacrament meetings a couple of weeks apart, the first speakers went well over their allotted time, leaving no time for the final, main speakers.  In order to right this wrong, the bishopric invited the two speakers who had been jilted to speak in a sacrament meeting the following month.  This would have been a wonderful solution to the unfair treatment of these two brethren except for one thing—the first man proceeded to hog nearly all the time!

An approach to the Word of Wisdom

For years, a man named Cory entered the same bar every Tuesday night, sat at the end of the counter by himself, and ordered three small beers. On his latest visit, however, he ordered two large beers.

As he arose to leave, the bartender said, “Hold on just a second. I've gotta ask you something. You've been coming in here for years and drinking three small beers, but tonight you had two large ones. What's going on?”

Cory smiled, leaned against the bar, and said, “Here's the story. In Vietnam in 1968 I had two good buddies, Mike and Matt. We promised each other that if one of us didn't make it out of there alive, the other two would drink a beer every week in his memory. Well, we had a terrible firefight a month later, and Mike and Matt were killed. Since that time I've had one beer a week in memory of Mike, one in memory of Matt and the third one for myself. Tonight I drank one for Mike and one for Matt but none for me because on Saturday I joined the Mormon Church, and I'm not allowed to drink.”

Two glasses half full

My wife and I attended a regional conference at the Conference Center in 2014 at which Elder Dallin H. Oaks was the final speaker.  The first several speakers addressed the importance of family.  When Elder Oaks arose, he noted that no topics had been assigned.  However, because the speakers all independently chose to speak on the same topic, family, he observed that they had selected the message that the Lord wished to emphasize.

Elder Oaks comment brought to mind words that President Gordon B. Hinckley had spoken as the final speaker in the April 1995 general conference:

“My brethren and sisters, just a few words in conclusion.  First, I’d like to say that we have participated in a miracle.  As I have listened to all who have spoken, I have noted that there has been no duplication of treatment.  Every man and woman who has spoken has chosen his or her own theme to treat. There are no assignments made to any of the speakers concerning what they should say.”

We're not that rude

For decades, letters to the editor have popped up in Utah newspapers insisting that our state's drivers are the rudest in the country.  I never thought that was true.  Having driven in all of the Western states except New Mexico, my view is that, yes, our Utah drivers may be among the rudest, but saying we're No. 1 is a total guess.  In 2014, I was pleased to get support from an outfit called Insure.com.  They conducted surveys of 2,000 drivers nationwide, asking which state has the rudest drivers. I'm happy to say we Utahns got good news—we're only the ninth rudest! 
Neither the Church News nor the Ensign bothered to inform their readers about this wonderful survey and its positive implications for Mormons.  After recently studying the numbers more closely, maybe it's best that they let that sleeping dog lie.  That's because the four states with the highest proportion of LDS residents—Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada—all finished in the top 10.  Idaho was No. 1; Wyoming was 3; Nevada was 8 and Utah was 9.

Post script, Dec. 10, 2016: A study recently released by QuoteWizard reports that Utah's drivers are “the worst in the nation.”  (To be fair, worst doesn't necessarily mean rudest.)

Who was that man?

An Idaho-raised, LDS college student related the following experience at a U.S. university.

“When [the speaker] strode onto the stage, I recall him first greeting invited guests, university leaders and dignitaries.  Then he turned, smiled and waved, and a powerful feeling washed over me.  I can only describe it as a presence of great virtue.  It was as though I felt a wave of goodness rush past me.  I recall being shocked by the experience. . . . his soul touched mine—no doubt through the virtue of a life of choosing good over evil.  I left inspired to be better.”

Perhaps most Latter-day Saints in reading this account by Matt Sanders would surmise the speaker was the president of the Church or an apostle.  However, it actually tells of Nelson Mandela’s 1998 appearance at Harvard University.  (Deseret News, Dec. 13, 2013)

Kernels of truth

“The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum.”  --Thomas Paine

“If you, who are organized by Divine Providence for Spiritual communion, Refuse, & bury your Talent in the Earth, even tho’ you should want Natural Bread, Sorrow and Desperation pursues you thro’ life, & after death shame & confusion of face to eternity.”  --William Blake

“Here in America, we are descended in blood and spirit from revisionists and rebels—men and women who dared to dissent from accepted doctrine.”  --Dwight Eisenhower

“It is better not to have so much faith, than to have so much as to believe all the lies.” --Hyrum Smith

“It is when the hour of conflict is over that history comes to a right understanding of the strife and is ready to exclaim, ‘Lo, God is here, and we knew it not.’ ”  --George Bancroft

“I believe that with God it is such that all who loved each other on earth—genuinely loved each other—will remain together with God, for to love is part of God.”  --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.”  --Isaiah 32:17

“God is . . . a very present help in times of trouble.”  --Psalm 46:1

“The life of discipleship can only be maintained so long as nothing is allowed to come between Christ and ourselves . . . The disciple always looks only to his master, never to Christ and the law, Christ and religion, Christ and the world. He avoids all such notions like the plague.  Only by following Christ alone can he preserve a single eye. His eye rests wholly on the light that comes from Christ . . .”
  --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,”  --Rudyard Kipling

Hastening

We often hear these days that the Lord is hastening his work.  Let us not assume, however, that in the past the Lord was dilly-dallying.

Didn’t President Kimball exhort us to lengthen our stride?  And when President McKay said “every member a missionary,” he did not add “unless your day planner is already full.”

On the other hand, Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that . . . say, Let him make speed and hasten his work, that we may see it.” (Isaiah 5:18, 19) 

More revisions

One of the remarkable things about reading the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon and comparing it to the current English edition and to an 1830 replica edition is how insignificant have been the changes in the text.  The “thousands upon thousands” of changes noted by the book’s critics almost entirely consist of adding punctuation (the printer’s manuscript had none), correcting spelling, changing terms such as “because that” to “because” and “which” to “who,” where appropriate, and adding verses and chapters.

Still, a few trivial errors remain.

Some were errors in the original (see “What in the World?”).  But the examples listed below are likely modern glitches.

“Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous . . . ”

(Rejected probably should be separated.  1 Nephi 15: 36)

“Nephite coinage set forth—”  (This is in the chapter heading for Alma 11, which makes no mention of coins.)

“And when she had said this, she clasped her hands, being filled with joy” (Clasped should probably be clapped.  Alma 19:30)

“and he plead with them that they would not slay him”  (Should be pleaded or pled.  Oliver Cowdery appears to have written pled correctly in the printer’s manuscript. Ether 8:6)

In the introduction, which isn’t part of the original book, the description of Lamanites as “the principal ancestors of the American Indians” was changed in 2007 to “are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”  In the Doctrine and Covenants, Lamanites remains as a synonym for Indians.

Why bother with Isaiah?

Although I far prefer the Book of Mormon and the New Testament to the Old Testament, I agree with those who say that Isaiah deserves our attention.

Here are seven reasons to give heed to Isaiah:  1. It is the book most often cited in the New Testament.  2. Christ commenced his ministry by quoting Isaiah (Luke 4:17-19)  3. Isaiah saw Christ. (Isaiah 6:1; 2 Nephi 11:2)  4. Nephi twice tells us “my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah.” (2 Nephi 25:5; 2 Nephi 11:2)  5. Moroni advises us to “search the prophecies of Isaiah.” (Mormon 8:23)  6. Christ twice instructs the Nephites to search the words of Isaiah. “Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.”  (3 Nephi 23:1; 20:11)  7. The Book of Mormon, “the keystone of our religion,” includes many chapters of Isaiah’s writingsin fact, far more from Isaiah than from any other biblical prophet.

Emerson needed an editor

A number of times I have heard the following words of Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted in conference and other meetings:

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier—not that the nature of the task has changed but our ability to do has increased.”

OK, he was a great writer.  But in this instance, maybe he was being paid by the word.

Here’s what he could have said:  Practice makes perfect.

What I believe

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ who believes in the fundamentals of the LDS religion including the Book of Mormon and the divine mission of Joseph Smith. 

I believe that the LDS faith, having authority from God, offers the best prospects for mortals to draw close to Christ.  But I also believe that certain doctrines, teachings, policies and practices in the Church are questionable and, in some cases, incorrect. 

I believe Christ moves closer to us as we move from dogma toward truth and that he is merciful, patient and understanding, and is especially pleased with those who strive to live a good life, to put “love one another” into practice and to become better people.  His love extends fully to those who do not actively participate in organized religion.

Steve Warren

Sept. 22, 2014
(minor revision, June 2016)

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