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Doubting the Gospel

The First thing to do is congratulate yourself, you are a normal human being!

In my opinion, if you never doubted anything, that’s really naive of you and maybe you’re too trusting of everyone, or everything. Perhaps you have been hurt or betrayed by someone, and your confidence in other people’s intentions has wavered. Perfectly normal.

Now when it comes to doubting things in the church, like doctrine or the prophets, that’s where things can get dicey.

Here’s a shocker to you, I sometimes doubt what things the prophets and apostles and other auxiliaries of the church say. And I am not ashamed to say it. That is because I am proud of the way I approach it; whenever I have a doubt, or I disagree with something someone at the pulpit has said, I remind myself these things:

1) I have a testimony of The Book of Mormon, and I have received a witness of its truthfulness by the power of the Holy Ghost

2)I have witnessed miracles, been healed instantaneously, and seen supernatural forces at work in my life as a result of me living the commandments, and the advice given to me by the leaders of the church.

3) I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, no matter how imperfect he was in word or deed. I know this because of the previous two reasons.

Sometimes when I am in the shower I question everything. Is this religion really the one that God leads? Does God even lead a religion? Does God exist? What if I’m just wasting all my time? And if all of this wasn’t true, why be obedient to commandments that were made up or that I’m told to follow by people who aren’t led by God?

That’s when I go back to my three reminders.

I even had to remind myself the days following a miracle that I had witnessed while on my mission. No one who has doubts should be ashamed, it’s in our nature as humans to be skeptical at times.

We read in the book of Moroni about those that have the gift of “exceedingly great faith” (Moroni 10:11). I at times envy these people. That’s when I tell myself this:

The story of my life will be one for the books. I was a doubter, and despite my human nature I held on as tight as I could to the rod of iron. I grasped on for dear life, not because I knew with absolute certainty that it was true, but because I hoped it was. I fought my way through all that Satan threw at me to make me doubt my faith, and I was wounded at times. I was knocked down, I was knocked off the path. I was knocked so hard I hung on with one hand from the cliffs that led down to the dark and murky waters. But I got back up. I was lost in the mists too many times to count, but I kept feeling for the rod, searching for the path. Because somewhere in my soul, my being wanted the rod to be true. I could feel a silent cry emanating from within me, calling out to it. And somewhere in my soul, I could hear the rod calling back. I know that I can’t know if the rod is true or not unless I follow it, and because of this, I will press on. Despite my doubts, my lack of complete knowledge.

“Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” – Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

That’s easier said than done for me. But I know my understanding is weak, and I know I won’t grasp everything until I take that great leap past the veil. So for now, I’ll rely on what I do know. I know The Book of Mormon is true. Because of that, I trust that all my questions, my doubts, my fears, will be resolved. And I study them out. I have books on everything from polygamy to blacks and the priesthood. I study it out, then I pray to know whether what I am learning is true.

Same with the words of the prophets. If something is said at the pulpit that I don’t agree with, I ask myself, is it in harmony with doctrine, and if so must it be correct if The Book of Mormon is correct? And if that is not enough, I’ll pray to know whether those words were true, and when I get my confirmation, I pray for my Father in heaven’s help to assist me in changing my attitude towards what was said.

I am on a quest to align my opinions with God’s views. And in order to do that, I cannot simply let my doubts sit and simmer, because that’s not healthy for me or my faith. I need to constantly reassess my views, keep up to date on what the Lord’s anointed say.

Parents, if your children say they have doubts, don’t be alarmed. Don’t react. Simply say “So do I. Let me know if you ever want to talk about them, I’d like to know how you see things too.”

Cool things to watch when you doubt:

BYU Devotional by Lawrence E. Corbridge of the Seventy

https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/lawrence-corbridge_stand-for-ever/

Safety for the Soul by Elder Holland

Take Up Thy Cross and Follow Me: Becoming Disciples of Christ

By: Alejandro Rodriguez

“Do I have a testimony?” As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints our discourse and our reunions revolve around this question. It’s understandable that the topic of belief is continually brought up while participating in an organized belief system. However, as we view the gospel through those lenses, in terms having a conviction to tenets, we filter out or exclude an important aspect of our religious experience: becoming disciples of Christ.

Having vs Being

         President David O. McKay said it best: “The purpose of the gospel is to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature.” 1This is in stark contrast to how we view the gospel today. We approach the gospel as a thing that will provide us certainty, as something that will one day validate us for having “the correct beliefs.” That’s the sense that nonmembers feel when they hear us say, “I know the Church is true.” The early followers of the Way understood this danger. James wrote,

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

         Of course, quoting this passage always opens up the debate: Are we saved by works? Many correctly point to St. Paul’s words: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) I will attempt to reconcile these points later, but for now what I want to get at is this: The credal aspect of our religious tradition is not enough. Having a testimony is not enough. We must, as President McKay emphasized, focus on becoming better.

         This is no easy task, of course, so let’s not be hypocrites about it. First, we need to start with the definition of better. The Book of Mormon explains that

“… the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord,and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19 emphasis added)

The process of becoming a saint is a rather tall order, one that entails more than just adopting the correct beliefs. It requires action, but not just action: it requires discipleship. There are a variety of disciplines that one can undertake in one’s life.  Becoming a disciple of any given discipline produces a specific outcome, or a specific work. It also produces a radical shift in identification. A mechanic, a psychoanalyst, an accountant, an artist, etc… as they become competent at their craft also form a portion of their identity with their area of expertise. If a person studies economics and then implements those techniques he, or she, become an economist. If another person studies Plato and then uses Plato’s ideas to create a framework for philosophy then that person becomes a philosopher, specifically a Platonist. When a young shoemaker takes on an apprenticeship, he or she will eventually become a cobbler. Likewise, as we follow Christ, we must allow ourselves to identify with Him, and thus allow our identities to be reformed.

         Discipleship is not just having faith, nor is it just having works. Rather, it is the process by which faith produces action. If our faith does not produce works, then there is an error in the process: our faith is dead. If our works are faithless then there is also an error in the process, and works alone do not have the power to save us. The process by which we exercise faith, and then produce good works, must then also invoke a change in us. We must become more like Him. As Christians, this is what is means to take Christ’s name upon us.

Agent, Arena, and Ascension

         Our sense of self, our self-perception, frames our relationship with the world. We all inhabit several “arenas” and hierarchies. Each arena demands a task from us, and our ability to meet that task calibrates our standing within the hierarchy that occupies each arena. For example, as infants we are  placed in a cribs. Once we have mastered being in a crib we move on to the next arena. Our range of motion becomes wider and wider as each arena becomes more and more complex. Consequences for mistakes also become more and more painful and impactful. As a result, our identities also develop with each arena.

         We feel a deep sense of meaning when our identity is fitted to the arena which we find ourselves in. The world then becomes a place of opportunity that constantly affords us moments to fulfill our role and purpose. We know what to do and are confident that we can do it. This “atunement” to the arena does not come easily but I believe that the deep sense of at-one-ment, forgiveness, and meaning that we will experience makes discipleship worthwhile.

         The unique doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posits the highest goal — “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.” 2Becoming a disciple of Christ is the pathway we take towards this divine ascent. Christ is our perfect example and teacher. “…Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus is the “King of Kings” which means that He embodies the values enable us to rise within and above all hierarchies.

Vision, Repentance, and Love

Putting off the natural man and becoming a saint requires serious repentance, which is terrifying for many people. Facing our shortcomings is something that we do so infrequently that our faults become unconscious. Like looking through a pair of spotted spectacles, the specks of dust are invisible to us despite the fact that they are right in front of our eyes. We simply see through the specks of dust and forget that they are exist.

         President Nelson, in his April 2019 General Conference address We Can Do Better and Be Better spoke of metanoia, which is greek (μετάνοια) for “repentance.” The word is derived from  meta- which means change, and -noein which means “mental perception.”3 Vision is only possible by making value judgments (which your brain does instantly and unconsciously). Because there are too many things to perceive in the world and such a limited amount of brain cells specialized for sight, your brain must instantaneously determine what’s relevant and worthy of sight. Objects that facilitate the accomplishment of our goal become visible to us. Objects that are obstacles to our goals are also relevant and become detectable. However, whatever is irrelevant to your goal becomes practically invisible to you, even if they are right in front of you. Because your vision, and therefore your aim, is determined by your values repentance, or metanoia, calls for a radical restructuring of your values. Once our values have changed, our goals then change. Our vision then will shift and the things which we were overlooking will become obvious obstacles.

         A dramatic example of metanoia is when a couple has their first child. Before that child arrives in this world the couple tends to view the world in an ego-centric (but not necessarily selfish) manner. The prioritization of concerns is sorted in such a way that the needs of the couple come first. This is a reasonable and even noble way of orienting a couple’s life. Once a newborn is introduced to the couple’s world the needs of the child now take precedent. The health, safety and comfort of the infant is now such an important enterprise that the success of that enterprise might have to be reached at the expense of the health, safety and comfort of the parents. Despite parent’s decline in energy, health, free time, resources, and peace of mind, they consistently report that life becomes much more fulfilling.4 This radical shift in perspective, priorities, effort, care, and self-organization is a deep metanoia or repentance that is motivated by love.

         We all experience a deep sense of awe, and love towards infants even though newborns do not provide us with any services, goods, tangible benefit, nor reciprocity. Babes have not earned our love, nor have they met any kind of qualification to deserve our love rather, the intense love we feel towards them presupposes their invaluable worth. This is the type of love that we must share with the rest of world! It is this kind of love that makes us realize our shortcomings while simultaneously showing us that we can be much more than we currently are. Fay Weldon amusingly puts it this way: “The best thing about not having children is that you can go on believing that you’re a good person.”5

         Describing the radical shift in vision that repentance produces Jesus said,

“Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5 Joseph Smith Translation)

Discovering beams in our eyes is shocking to us, and their removal is even more painful still. After all that our work is not yet done and we must proceed to remove the mote from our brother’s eye, which is also uncomfortable for both parties. We are deeply flawed, and those around us are ready to remind us of that. Another reason repentance can be so difficult is because the people around us will inevitably attempt to crucify us with the very same beams that we have pulled from our eyes. (A cross is made up of two wooden beams.) Yet as disciples of Christ we must follow His example. We must do as He did! Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world. But what does that mean for us if we are to emulate Him? It means that we must live in such a way that we are at-one with God and then live in such a way that rectifies the errors of others. Can we honestly rise to such a task?

Grace, Narcissism, and Victimhood

         God’s grace is sufficient for all; however, we are not all we could be. For Martin Luther the self was vacuous, and ultimately could not amount to anything resembling the goodness of God. Therefore, the self is internally conflicted as it continually falls short of God’s glory. According to Luther, the only respite from this damned condition was to be found by constantly seeking the unearned, undeserved, and external validation of God’s arbitrarily-given grace. Luther’s gospel and the protestant movement that ran with his exegesis prepared the cultural soil for the embrace of narcissism: expecting constant external validation while self-loathing. It should be no surprise that victimhood culture is spreading across the West and has seeped its way into the Church. We must be wise as we respond to this shift in our culture.

         In the final analysis we are all victims of several painful injustices. Christ on the cross is the ultimate victim and presents the conditions under which we are called to be disciples. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ ” (Matthew 27:46). The life of a disciple of Christ is a life voluntarily faced being deeply aware of the fact that life is fundamentally unjust, and fundamentally painful to such a degree that it feels as though God has abandoned us. However, identification as victim frames our lived experience too narrowly, and drastically limits our range of action and opportunity for growth. Our identification as Sons and Daughters of Heavenly Parents, and as Disciples of Jesus Christ, afford us more opportunities to fulfill our purpose on this earth, and transcend our suffering.

         The answer to the problem of suffering of life is to bear it up, to love others, rise above our shortcomings, our suffering, and become better! The alternative is to become worse and loathe ourselves. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24-15). If we continually strive to become our best selves, perhaps we can set our small portion of the world right, and perhaps then there will be less unnecessary suffering for us and for those near us.

Conclusion

         Our religion must not be reduced and limited to a set of propositions we simply agree with. If the Church is going to be the Body of Christ, then we must embody His example.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as He is pure. Amen.” (Moroni 7:48 emphasis added).

The bearing of testimony can be beautiful and inspiring. The truth that members of the Church have discovered was been won with careful study, heartfelt prayer, and the overcoming of traumatic trials. Our sense of being, which informs our course of action, must be congruent with our testimonies.


NOTES

1 President David O. McKay, in the film Every Member a Missionary, as quoted by Elder Franklin D. Richards in Conference Report, Oct. 1965

2 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1982/02/i-have-a-question/is-president-snows-statement-as-man-now-is-god-once-was-as-god-now-is-man-may-be-accepted-as-official-doctrine.html?lang=eng

3 https://www.goarch.org/-/repentance-and-confession-introduction  “The Greek term for repentance, metanoia, denotes a change of mind, a reorientation, a fundamental transformation of outlook, of man’s vision of the world and of himself, and a new way of loving others and God.”

4 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/curious/201204/is-parenthood-linked-greater-joy-and-meaning-or-misery-science-speaks 5 https://philosophyofmotherhood.wordpress.com/2019/06/12/the-shadow-of-parenthood/


Photo Credit to Lawrence OP

Victimhood, a Rational Trap

Being a victim without victimhood

The Search for Oppression and the Siren Call of Self-Pity

Foundations:

Let’s get one thing straight, everyone is a victim of something. Some people have a terrible disease, some people have experienced prejudice, some people have experienced hate for things they never did, and everyone was born into situations that they didn’t choose. But what is the difference between victims, and victimhood? A victim is just that, a victim of something. But surrendering to victimhood is looking for other ways that you could potentially be victimized and assume ill-intent of a perpetrator. It is separating all of society into victims, and oppressors. You can be a victim without being trapped in the mindset of victimhood, however, and this is where people get mixed up. They act in a victimhood mindset and justify it by saying they are a victim (which they are).

But if we are truly trying to emulate Christ, who’s archetypal existence was a symbol of being a victim, he chose to not surrender himself to victimhood. He overcame the world in that manner.

This view of society automatically decreases your empathy. In an effect called priming, you’re programming yourself to be on the defensive against people who you know nothing about, and not just the cautious kind of defensiveness, but the assumption of belonging to a class that might have oppressed any number of groups. We, as humans, are programmed to thing in terms of groups, us versus them. We want to view the world in terms of “good people and bad people” as Dr. Jonathan Haidt puts it. He wrote the book The Righteous Mind: How Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. We want to feel good, our brain releases chemicals that make us feel elated when we perceive us or our team to win a hit against someone else or another class, or another team, etc. Viewing the world in terms of classes and not individuals is taking us to a pre-Enlightenment ideal system whereas it’s not the individual that is supreme, it’s the class in which they belong to. And some of those prejudices were continued past the Enlightenment to this day, but they exist in spite of the foundations of Enlightenment thought, not because of them. Victimhood is heavily intertwined with postmodern thought because postmodern metaphysical and sociological assumptions make it easier to rationalize yourself into the victimhood mindset.

In the Church: Get Them Offended

People are tempted to divide our Church into classes. Ruling classes, the commoners, etc. Once identity politics is mixed into how you view the Church structure, (such as viewing politics and Church in terms of Marxist ideals, rejecting the status of the individual as supreme) then it is easy to become offended by the nature of the organization of the Church. This is seen often on ex-Mormon Reddit. That page is infused with either comments about identity politics, the CES letter, or polygamy. People looking for things to be offended by will always find it, not because it is always there (because it could be), but because logic will rationalize an answer to the question that you want to answer. Logic is used as a tool by your psyche to rationalize why you feel a certain way, to justify post hoc your intuitions. “…the reasons we produce to explain or justify our judgments and actions are for the most part post hoc rationalizations rather than the actual source of those judgments.” Link to study. It is a fundamental tenet in moral psychology. This is also an argument for the superiority of revelation as opposed to reasoning as an epistemology. This is why we are commanded to learn by study as well as by faith.

Lucifer: Master of Reason

Lucifer, Son of the Morning, or in his original Hebrew name Hawlayle (“Day Star”), he represents the light of reasoning. Lucifer is the king of rationalizing. He wants to keep you in your thoughts, never going beyond what you can rationalize. Yet Christ said, “I am the light…” (John 8:12). Lucifer’s light of reasoning is the counterfeit to truth because it convinces you that all you need is “the arm of the flesh” or the faculties of your own mind and understanding and that you don’t need to rely on anything else. Don’t question your own abilities, do not reach out for revelation, after all, you might find out something that could compromise your belief systems. When something in the Church offends you, don’t pray, don’t think back to the miracles that reason cannot explain, stay in your mind. This is where he wants you. Be offended, and assume the worst of intentions in people, their prejudice, they’re oppressors, you are virtuous. You, versus them. You are good, they are bad. You must separate yourself from the bad people. Leave the Church, that oppressive structure, be yourself, you are fine just the way you are, you don’t need it. Be careful about going down this slope. I have taken it, and it took great effort to drag myself out, with the help of divine intervention on multiple occasions. Once you rationalize yourself into victimhood, it is almost impossible to rationalize yourself out. You don’t want to give up the heightened sense of moral-superiority to other people, and the siren call of self-pity lulls you into a hypnotic state of feeling that the world is out to get you. It tells you that if the Church is oppressing you (after all, self-pity never calls you to re-evaluate the foundations of your own value structure), then the logical solution is to separate yourself from it.

Eroding Your Faith

Victimhood will eat at your testimony because victimhood relies on deceiving yourself, and resentment towards a) existence and b) your perceived oppressors. Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor, Austrian neurologist, and expert in logotherapy, advocated that a life of joy and a victimhood mindset are not compatible. If true joy comes from overcoming the world, then when your resentment towards others, or for existence generates your worldview, why would that produce joy? For example, I am not blessed, I am doing the best I can, so the world (or God) has it out for me. How about another example. Searching for things to feel victimized by, a woman looks at the 12 apostles Christ had and said “They should not tell me what to do because they are not a representation of their followers, they are straight men.” (This is an actual conversation I had.) Her obsession with identity politics and resentment towards Church leaders (specifically President Oaks) and the system of Church government led to her leaving and becoming heavily involved with organizations that are antagonistic to our faith. I understand her rationale and do not blame her, because I know the nature of reason.  This push towards a Marxist, class/group-based social status perpetuates victimhood. Being victimized is hard enough, but thinking like a victim, and viewing the world through the lens of victimhood make it so much worse. It leads to anger, which leads to a decrease in empathy, discourse, and an emphasis on only one thing: power. Everyone is a victim of something, and we vary to the degree in which we are victimized, but victimhood is a choice, and Christ chose against it. It is the mindset that grinds faith into skepticism and turns faithful members into past members. It causes you to focus on the worst aspects of your life, then causes you to perceive neutral things as signs of your victimization. It never presses you to ask “How is this other person, my perceived oppressor, victimized?” It never seeks to criticize itself, nor look inward for flaws, only outward, just how Satan wants you to be. 

China’s Social Credit System

By: William Burnett 

 As a full-time missionary in Australia I had the privilege of serving with five companions from mainland China. We all became friends and often the topic of our conversations would drift to attitudes and policies the Chinese government has towards the church. My friends would talk about needing to travel to Hong Kong to get baptized, family members choosing between their government job or the church, and government officials that would often come to monitor the meetings for any anti sate rhetoric or foreign influence.  

China’s System

These nonchalant conversations made the Orwellian details of the Chinese social credit system unsurprising.  

Imagine you do any of the following:

    -Disobey minor traffic laws, such as jaywalking

    -Post anti-government messages on social media

    -Spread ‘rumors’ on the internet

    -Cheat in online games

    -Affiliate in any religion or social group disapproved by the state

A hybrid of facial recognition technology and digital activity spying will be used to monitor your actions and change your social credit score. Consequences of a low score can include: getting barred from public transport, having loans get denied, ineligibility for government jobs, and even public shaming. Getting a call from a friend? An authoritarian dial tone may first warn them they are about to communicate with a “dishonest debtor”.

On the flip side, the government will play God, raising your credit score when recording approved activities.

    -Donating blood

    -Visiting elderly family members

    -Helping the poor

    -Praising the government

Defenders of the system, and even many of my Chinese friends, will reason the good behavior encouraged by this system will outweigh the abuses of power which might arise. I respect that many Chinese citizens find comfort in a more authoritarian government. Contrasted with Americans, the Chinese view civil unrest much more cautiously given their history of internal conflicts and instability which is why one survey found 80% of Chinese citizens either somewhat or strongly approve of the system. However, even Chinese members of the church admit that under this system receiving a lower social credit score because of their religion is not a possibility but a likely probability.

Corporate Systems

I wish I could stop this article here and leave off on the note that we need to protect our brothers and sisters in countries that don’t guarantee religious freedoms but these social credit systems are entering even Americas through our corporations.  

I am personally not too worried about a life insurance company monitoring social media platforms and saying, “Hey look, John signed a contract that he wouldn’t rock climb or smoke but Facebook shows him halfway up a rock face in Yosemite posing with a lit cigar.” I think that such standards that are transparent in their contracts and punishments for certain behaviors are not the corporate social credit systems we should worry about. One of the problems with China’s social credit system and other corporate manifestations is when they are not transparent and can be subjective in how or why they issue demerits to people.

It’s easy to discriminate and bar people on the basis of race or culture because it’s visible. However on the flip side, if every visible minority from a certain group is barred from say Uber or WhatsApp, in societies where such discrimination is illegal, or at least very unpopular, the discrimination can be easily spotted and appropriate actions against such companies will be pursued. Unfortunately, what a social credit system can provide is a way to discriminate against non-visible minorities such as political or religious minorities, which in turn is less visible from the law or public outrage.

Uber drivers can give low scores to passengers they find out have political views they oppose. Enough low scores and they can be banned from the service. WhatsApp execs could find religious rhetoric they disagree with and bar them from their platform. Under current policies, this corporate discrimination could be happening today. Of course, these rankings are under the guise of preventing rude or problematic users but when they have the ability to flag actions that are not illegal but subjectively against their policies, and they can do so with complete anonymity, abuse should be expected.

Unlike a government institution when dealing with businesses many of us have the privilege of saying “well I don’t need to use Uber” or “What’s WhatsApp?” However, in many urban centers ride-sharing platforms are the most effective source of transportation and in many countries not having WhatsApp would be almost like not having cell service.  

What can we do?

As members of this church we should fight for the freedoms or religion for ourselves and as our 11th article of faith suggests “allow all men the same privilege, let[ting] them worship how, where, or what they may.” With governments like China we may avoid open criticism to protect the many members currently under their power, but corporations that want to use some form of social credit system we should demand that their policies for restricting customers use are reasonable, transparent and that they provide an appeals system for individuals to see exactly why they were punished then have a platform to make their case on. 

Opinion Exclusivity – Protected Classes

By: Luke Harmuth

There is a phenomenon happening where people say “I as a <insert class here>, have <insert opinion>”. 

This assumes the heightened legitimacy of the opinion based on the perceived class of the individual. This is commonly used in discussions relating to topics and issues surrounding protected classes. A famous sentiment that wraps up the concept is abortion and the ongoing debate that the subject provokes. Saying to a man “You wouldn’t understand my position because you aren’t a member of my gender” (a protected class, at least if you’re a woman or LGBT). Saying this includes the assumption that your opinion is automatically more correct in relation to the opposing one, otherwise, you would not have included the phrase “As a…” in the statement. 

How does this threaten future Church progress? Since the governing body of the Church is run by quorums of men, it is easy for someone to say “They cannot tell us what to do because they are not a representation of us.”

However, to steelman this position, you do want people of your community to represent your voice. This is why we set up a republic, and why we generally prefer members of our own faith to clarify our beliefs to others in order to prevent misconstruction. 

To steelman, the other side, say a black conservative and a white leftist were in a debate, and the black conservative pulled the “As a black man…” card, would the white leftist have to concede their ground on the matter simply because they do not share the same status as a perceived victimized class? 

Though this phenomenon happened as a response to the rise of social justice ideology (in the Marxist sense where your class is your primary defining trait), it has been adopted by persons on the right. A member of this organization once entertained the notion of debating in the BYU Republicans V. Democrats debate in 2019, but was turned down because they were not a member of the protected class for which the subject was about. 

Danger: do not assume your opinion is more valid than another by virtue of simply being a member of a protected class. This builds the sentiment in you that you do not have to listen with as much dedication to the opposing person’s statements because they do not share your status. It’s a defense mechanism, not a contention. Though probably well-meaning, it is probably a product of pride.

Undermining the Foundation of the Nation – Future Consequences

(Image Credit: https://www.kxl.com/george-washington-statue-vandalized-on-22nd-night-of-protests/)

In recent weeks, we have seen the defacement and desecration of statues of the founding fathers, namely Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. This isn’t the only instances where persons have tried to cancel the founding fathers out of discourse. In 2016, UVA (University of Virginia) president Teresa Sullivan quoted Jefferson after the election of President Trump. She quoted Jefferson’s words: “Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind.” and “The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party divisions and make them one people.” This sounds like the right thing to do, calls for unity.

She was met with a public letter with 469 signatures, 25 of which were faculty or staff, expressing disappointment by using “…Thomas Jefferson as a moral compass.” This is a common theme among the postmodern wing: if anyone has at anytime owned slaves, made a racist or sexist remark, they ought to be forever shunned out of discourse for any positive mention, and the totality of their character is defective. This is cancel culture in a nutshell. (Though this is a cheap trick used by all factions to cancel anyone they don’t like, but it is being used by the postmodern faction with a frequency considerably higher than we have seen since probably the Communist witch-hunts in the Cold War.) These are, of course, those same men God declared were in his service (D&C 101:76-80,93-95). God does not call perfect people, and Satan has used this as a weapon against testimonies. On Ex-Mormon Reddit, the history tab is filled with people posting quotes from Brigham Young, Ezra T. Benson, and Dallin H. Oaks. The Salt Lake Tribune ran an opinion piece calling for BYU to change its name because of remarks by Brigham Young. Cancel culture isn’t coming for the Church, it has come already. The organization then ran a counter opinion piece, and what Hanna Seariac said is this:

“We celebrate Brigham Young for what he did well, but perhaps the change we need to make is not erasing him and his contributions. Perhaps we need to openly confront what he did well and what he did not do well and reconcile the two. If we adopt the standard of erasing historical figures when we discover that they did something less than palatable, we will soon be left with practically no one because, whether it is the adultery of Martin Luther King or the purported pedophilia of Gandhi or the racism of Brigham Young, even those who we prize as the best and brightest in the world have sins and stains that history remembers.”

This is acknowledgement and forgiveness. If you say we cannot let someone into polite society ever again, first you have a limit on your capacity for forgiveness, second, you are not ready to become a god because you are fueled by your resentment and not your love. Cancel culture, postmodernism, these are perpetrated by people calling for justice, but in fact they are calling for revenge. You know you are calling for justice when you want the accused to suffer the least amount they need to, and you are calling for revenge when you leave the “least amount they need to” out. But this is not an article on postmodern theory.

How this spells future danger for the Church

We know this government, and the nation of America was created for one reason: to house the headquarters of God’s true Church during the last dispensation. It was created to protect it from threats such as other nations, which is why it is on another continent which was saved. It was also made to protect the Church as an institution from other institutions, which is why we have the Constitution. But more and more postmodern influences in universities and eventually government and political activism will take root.

If one thinks this is a few protesters (they are referred to as protesters and not rioters by CNN) and not a widespread sentiment, then look to the “1619” spray-painted on the statue. This is a reference to the 1619 Project hosted by The New York Times, which seeks to frame the Revolutionary war not as a war for independence for liberty, but simply to preserve slavery. If one holds this view, why would they view the founding father’s philosophical views as legitimate?

The postmodern conclusion of the failed American experiment (and Enlightenment project) will fuel a movement to reshape the initial philosophical concepts upon which this nation was founded. Mix this with a disdain for traditional values, and the new philosophical order will contain a disdain for religion because it is seen as a construct of a patriarchal regime created for the benefit of white men and for the oppression of women and minorities, so all religions that do not conform to the dictates of postmodern theory must be fought against. Cancel their leaders. Shun their members. All, ironically in the most tragic sense, in the name of the highest virtues (or at least their counterfeits), charity and love.

Bednar Speaks on COVID-19 and Religious Liberty


By: Luke Harmuth

On June 17, an online session of the 2020 Religious Freedom Annual Review was held with two keynote speakers: Dr. Alaa Murabit and Elder Bednar. 

Dr. Murabit spoke on the importance of giving platforms to amplify those in religious communities that don’t normally have a voice (ethnic minorities, women, etc.). She made a very good point that everyone interprets the scriptural text differently based on their personal and unique experiences, even violent experiences, and because of this, we need to have an open dialogue on what we believe. 

She also warned about the fusing of a specific religion with the government because in the past it has led to negative consequences, especially for women. She mentions genital mutilation and even the desire to not have baby girls as her evidence for that. 

Dr. Murabit concludes with her hypothesis that at the end of the day, no matter what belief system you have, that all belief systems aim to provide the same thing: love and compassion in some form. So even if two people fundamentally agree, they hold to their belief systems because of that dependence on the care that the system gives them. 

Elder Bednar outlined his reflections on the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on religious liberty. 

He opens by saying that COVID has opened our eyes to our national vulnerabilities, such as reliance on foreign nations for medical and strategic supplies. This is probably alluding to China producing our medical supplies. According to the New York Post: …Rosemary Gibson of The Hastings Center and author of the book “China Rx,” “Industry data reveal that Chinese companies formed a cartel, colluded to sell product on the global market at below market price, and drove all US, European, and Indian producers out of business.” They also mentioned that since 2010, imports on Chinese pharmaceuticals increased by 75%. A Department of Commerce study found that 97% of all antibiotics in this country came from China. President Trump has warned about China’s production power over the U.S. and ordered firms to relocate back to the U.S. Elder Bednar also mentioned the second vulnerability, our national and local healthcare systems

He focused the bulk of his remarks on the dangers posed to religious liberty that the pandemic highlighted:

“I believe it is vital for us to recognize that the sweeping governmental restrictions that were placed on religious gatherings at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, truly were extraordinary. In what seemed like an instant, most western governments and many others simply banned communal worship. These restrictions eliminated public celebrations of Easter, Passover, Ramadan, and other holy days around the world. No other event in our lifetime, and perhaps no other events since the founding of this nation, has caused quite this kind of widespread destruction of religious gatherings and worship.” 

Religious institutions were deemed as non-essential and members around the globe were forbidden to meet. This pandemic displayed the readiness of citizens to forfeit their rights for the protection and security of the government. A survey pointed out that 90% of houses of worship ceased normal operations. Easter was a particularly contentious time for the religious community, as many people around the country defied the orders from their local governments to cease services. 

Elder Bednar said in relation to these orders: “We must not become accustomed to sweeping assertions of governmental power. Invoking emergency powers, government executives summarily imposed numerous orders and directives that in many ways are analogous to martial law…As we have just experienced, religious freedom can quickly be swept aside in the name of protecting other societal interests.”

Religious liberty is considered, as Elder Oaks said in 2016 at a BYU devotional: “…as just another human right, competing with other human rights when it seems to collide with them.” Both he and Elder Bednar noted the encroachment on other liberties essential to religious freedom, notably the freedom of the press and peaceful assembly. It is curious to note how the media treated the protesters on the right in April and May and the protesters on the left starting in July, one would hardly know if we were in a pandemic right now. Calls for the disbandment of large groups have gone silent as the BLM protests erupted across the nation. Some of this is due to the timing of the protests, as the people on the right protested at the wake of the pandemic, whereas now the curve was flattened and we are less concerned. It is also due to ideological reasons, as the mainstream media skews left, it is understandable that they would be more likely to defend large protests from people on their side of the argument. This is vital to understand as in the future, as religious communities protest they will again not be in the good grace of those controlling the vast majority of the mainstream media when it is not the interest of the political left to protect the religious liberty and favor more other ideas. Say, for example, a scenario in which our Church is being pressured to seal homosexual couples. Protests to enforce the Church to take such an action will have a positive framing from the media. 

It is foreseeable that given the secularization of society, driven in part by the already secularized universities, and the rise of postmodern thought, that religious liberty will be downplayed even more by the rising generation in the public sphere. Religion will be seen as an obstacle to other ideological advances. Subsequently, the members will be viewed in that way as well.

Other quotes from Elder Bednar:

“Freedom of Religion stands as a bulwark against unlimited government power.”  

“Government power can never be unlimited.”

“if the faithful are not gathering, sooner or later they will begin to scatter.”

“In the name of protecting physical health and security, or advancing other social values, government often acted without regard to the importance of protecting spiritual health and security. It often seemed

“In a time of crisis, sensitive tools are necessary to balance the demands of religious liberty with the just interests of society. Now I am not saying that religious freedom can be unlimited in the middle of a pandemic. Nor am I saying that all government officials have disregarded religious rights. Far From it. What I am saying is we can no more disregard the valid claims of religious freedom in a time of crisis. ”

“Never again must the fundamental right to worship be trivialized below the ability to buy gasoline.”

Universities: The New Religious Order

By: Luke Harmuth

Who has the monopoly on truth? Clearly it is the universities, who have been more and more advent on propping themselves up as the bastions of truth and legitimate ethical analysis. There is an elitist class of persons in academia who view themselves above the masses. They perpetuate the idea that the degree from a university is the way to knowledge, and they are the gatekeepers. You must pass them, and they are the ones who dictate morality, the only ones who can criticism it as well.

Ordinary people help them in this task. “Go to college, or else…” is spoken by many parents, college is where you go to get smart. Society also has instilled this into our collective psyche, the title of university student carries prestige.

So simultaneously while academia is becoming more secular, more exclusive, and is seen as the gateway of knowledge, who is to stop these secularists from determining what is right or wrong? After all, they are the pinnacle of wisdom. How do we know something is credible? It must come from a published journal, and peer reviewed (by those holding the same political, and thus ontological/metaphysical views as the writers). If not, then it is not considered credible. Combine this with the cancel culture and rise of the monopoly of one side of the political spectrum in the realms of psychology, sociology, philosophy, political science, and communications (where your journalists come out of), do not be surprised when in 10 years the institutions of the world will be so secularized that calling yourself apart of a religion will be blacklisting yourself (unless the religion adheres to the beliefs of the products of postmodern educators).

Don’t believe this? Take this excerpt from Mitchell Langbert’s review of the top ranked 51/66 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. in 2017:

“The political registration of full-time, Ph.D.-holding professors in top-tier liberal arts colleges is overwhelmingly Democratic. Indeed, faculty political affiliations at 39 percent of the colleges in my sample are Republican free—having zero Republicans.”

“Political homogeneity is problematic because it biases research and teaching and reduces academic credibility. In a recent book on social psychology, The Politics of Social Psychology edited by Jarret T. Crawford and Lee Jussim, Mark J. Brandt and Anna Katarina Spälti, show that because of left-wing bias, psychologists are far more likely to study the character and evolution of individuals on the Right than individuals on the Left.2 Inevitably affecting the quality of this research, though, George Yancey found that sociologists prefer not to work with fundamentalists, evangelicals, National Rifle Association members, and Republicans.3 Even though more Americans are conservative than liberal, academic psychologists’ biases cause them to believe that conservatism is deviant.” [italics added]

The ideal environment is where there is a 50/50 ratio and high levels of open dialog and where one side is not consistently shut down for reasons such as hate speech. (For deeper understanding of this, read “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Jonathan Haidt, a liberal who researches moral psychology and how group-think causes you to think you are more righteous than another faction and how that leads to the silencing of one political faction who does not agree with the prevailing attitudes of those that rule academia.)

This is NOT to say that if you are a republican professor you are inherently more virtuous than a democrat one. Nor vise-versa, but if your political faction is dominated by the subsection of personality types high in openness and generating new ideas, some of those ideas are good and some are not, even if intentions are good (they’re always good if you’re the one coming up with them), and just how you are not good at checking yourself, a political faction is not good at checking itself either. Shutting out the other one is a prideful thing to do. I tell republicans this as well.

The universities and the elites of academia who use their faculties only to reinforce their own beliefs are exactly who the pharisees were (for the pharisees set up their own schools of thought, gained popularity and followers in the same way professors do). The sophists, the antagonizers of Socrates were the same way, and just like them, the pride of academia, who are setting themselves up as the new gods of this world will have their reward as well.

“When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” –Jacob

Rising Tide of Safety-ism

In 2016, Dallin H. Oaks gave a devotional at Brigham Young University. In his speech, he pointed out the dangers in the arena of speech. Read this excerpt and think about what it could mean for the future of the Church and its doctrine (or the ability to teach it freely):

“A more common and more personal challenge to free speech in current policy debates is the labeling of opposition arguments as “hate speech” or “bigotry.” This kind of name-calling chills free speech by seeking to penalize the speech of opponents—personally, socially, or professionally. A legal scholar’s recent book, which advocates pluralism, mutual respect, and coexistence, states that the label “bigot” is a “conversation stopper” because it “attributes a particular [negative] motive to an action.” The author observed that this kind of labeling “frequently appears against religious believers and groups that maintain traditional beliefs about sexuality in their internal membership requirements.” Incidentally, my dictionary defines bigot as “a person who is utterly intolerant of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from his own.” Who fits that description in this contest of motives and opinions?

3. Of greater concern are the institutionalized “free speech zones” established by some universities to provide a small designated space in which students may speak freely. The rest of the campus is then a restricted speech zone, in which certain words and ideas (including what are called “microaggressions”) are not to be spoken. Such general restrictions on campus speech seem unlikely to survive their current legal challenges. Academic freedom should not be limited to those who agree with prevailing political views. But the fact that some educators have succumbed to pressures to create such restrictions is worrisome.

4. Free speech and association are also chilled when campus pressures result in administrations canceling commencement speaking invitations or honors to persons whose prior actions or words are being attacked by faculty or students. Although institutions of course exercise judgment about whom to honor or invite, once invitations are extended, they should not be canceled just because a segment of campus is hostile to the ­honoree’s or speaker’s political views.”

Read the FULL SPEECH

It is also important to reflect on why President Oaks was chosen to give a speech on “Elections, Hope, and Freedom” on the month right before the most divisive presidential election ever held. After graduating from BYU, he attended the University of Chicago Law School, became the editor-in-chief of the University of Chicago Law Review. Later he clerked under Chief Justice Earl Warren in the Supreme Court of the United States. After that, he served on the Utah Supreme Court until his appointment to apostleship in 1984.

He was also awarded the Canterbury Medal in 2013, the Becket Fund’s highest award for his staunch defense of religious liberty and freedom. Becket is a revered law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty, and some consider it to be the premiere in the nation. Their Canterbury Medal is awarded to people who: “most resolutely refused to render to Caesar that which is God’s.” This institution of people trying to follow God gave an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ their highest honor, which shows how much respect President Oaks commands in the arena of religious law.

The Path to Hate God

Luke Harmuth


It is easy to love God when He blesses you.

So what happens when the blessings slow down? What if they seem to stop and your prayers are unheard (which means they are either a temporary or permanent no). Many people hold the paradigm of 2 Nephi 1:20 “Insamuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land;” When one is trying hard to receive a certain blessing, and it does not work out, that paradigm is violated. They lose trust in that paradigm, that belief structure, and they also lose trust in themselves. Who was that person that occupied their body a few moments ago, who could be naive enough to believe in such a promise as Lehi puts forth? This is why betrayal cuts so deep, because not only do you lose trust in the person you made the agreement (or social contract) with, but you don’t trust yourself anymore either. Danger and chaos could come from any direction, the places you thought were safe could house the next betrayal, the next heartache. You cease to trust your senses that told you what was safe and what was not, so now you consider all places and people as possible perpetrators of betrayal. In this case, the perceived betrayer is God.

“God I trusted you” is the cry of the hurt, the lost. The tragic part is that they wish they could trust Him, but their experience and their spirit are in disagreement. This is where the godly power of agency comes into play, where you can use the power of your inner god to consciously and deliberately choose to act as if you did trust Him. This is where it ceases to be blind faith, and turns into active faith. Either that, or you give in to nihilism and rework your paradigm view to explain your situation.

Common Paradigm Examples

  • “I am not righteous, that is why I am not blessed.” (Could be true, could not be true.)
  • “God picks His favorites.” (Not true, though it does appear on the surface to be. This idea arises from the harsh truth that not everyone is blessed equally on this mortal sphere, regardless of how ‘good’ of a person they are.)

What happens when a person feels like they cannot succeed in a system (specifically the system Lehi proposes)? They destroy the ideal they were striving towards.

Example: Cain

Cain makes a sacrifice, and God rejects it for whatever reason. Cain feels he cannot please God (get blessings) no matter what he does, so he rebels. The new paradigm is might makes right, that brute power can get him what he wants. He kills Able, the brother who is good and is blessed for it, the very thing he wished he could be, but now abandoned the effort (or the half effort he gave, after all he did make a sacrifice). The very thing that Able was, the good man who received blessings was what caused him pain, the existence of Able cast a shadow on him, thus what Able stood for became a symbol of his pain, to Cain, an unreachable goal. No matter what he did, he would not please God (I believe he did want to please God, and when that love (in the form of acceptance) that was extended to Able was denied to him, he was hurt. He wanted to please Him, he wanted His attention, His affection, His approval. It was not given. What next? Cain switched from focusing in God’s affection, to getting His attention, and what better, more terrible way to do than than to kill the thing that God likes, what Able was, the good man. That’s what God blessed, so that’s what Able would destroy. He thought doing that would relieve him from his inner pain of inadequacy, but in doing so, destroyed the goal of what to become, and then rapidly degenerated as a result. I will go more into this psychological phenomenon in another article.

When our paradigm is compromised, we seek to change the way we view the world so that we can feel like we’re in control. “The righteous are blessed.” You are striving to be righteous, but you are not blessed, there is unexplored territory in your worldview. “God picks His favorites” is your new view that you created so that you can feel in control, like you have a grasp on the universe, even if the view gives you pain. After all, your soul can deal with pain, but it does not want to feel like it does not have control. People with coping mechanisms that are harmful to them who know they are harmful, keep them because they’d rather be in control of their pain. “As you look at many people’s lives, you see that their suffering is in a way gratifying, for they are comfortable in it. They make their lives a living hell, but a familiar one.” – Ram Dass

This is when you travel to the ultimate hell, which is hopelessness, meaninglessness (which is nothing matters because nothing will help your situation). It takes a near miracle for you to reemerge, and you cannot do it alone. Only the peace that the Atonement of Christ can bring is the power to lift you out. Alma recognized this when he was experiencing in a dream what Cain experienced in real life, but unlike Alma, Cain never (to our knowledge) reached upwards again. We even put this in movies, but fail to articulate it in our speech. Simba, in Disney’s “The Lion King” goes down a path of thorns following the monkey to the lowest patch of land, where he finds a pool. Looking into the pool he sees himself, but doesn’t know what to do. Then the image of his father (Christ, God, your potential, however you interpret it) appears to him first in the pool (which is when you actually realize the legitimacy of the ideal, the goal you abandoned). Then after Simba sees his countenance in the pool changed into his father’s, his father appears to him in the sky to remind him who he was destined to be, what his potential was that he was choosing to throw away because of his pride that stemmed from his naivety and refusal to accept responsibility for his own existence and failures (or lack of blessing in Cain’s case).

Cain, or Alma (Simba) are the two possible paths to take once you’ve descended into your hell of hopelessness and meaninglessness. Choose Cain’s path, and you will hate God, because you can’t see him in you, and because you don’t see any hope of becoming what He is, or what you believe He wants you to be.

Rioters and Trump Take U.S. a Step Closer Towards Authoritarianism

By: Luke Harmuth

In response to the riots and looters (as opposed to the peaceful protests resulting from the murder of George Floyd by a police officer), President Trump announced on June 1 that he would mobilize military forces to assist in halting the spread of violence.

“If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time. They’re going to run over you…”

That was a quote from a recording of Trump’s phone call with state governors on the necessity for repressing the riots and destruction and vandalism of private and public property.

Whether or not this decision was justified, it is always important to keep a close eye on the government whenever it uses military personnel against its civilians. After it is initially used, people expect it the next time these acts happen, which in turn normalizes the use of troops against civilians who are deemed acting in a way that displeases the society.

This is not to say that an authoritarian action is never justified on the basis of being authoritarian, though the usage of the term triggers a negative emotional response in the average person. An authority figure or institution without the capacity for an authoritarian action is unlikely to maintain order and stability. Take governments, or areas where the law enforcement has a reputation of not arresting individuals for breaking the law (which is a reflection of social norms encoded into enforceable law), there is an increase in the crime rate in those areas.

This step towards authoritarianism, expanding what is allowed by the government by the collective’s psyche, cannot be blamed on a single entity. Rather, it is a combined effort by the ones causing the unrest, and the ones calling for order. Groups that help organize violence (though they do not consider destruction of buildings as violence) such as ANTIFA and BAMN.

ANTIFA stands for Anti-Fascist, and are known for their authoritarian methods of shutting down events involving right-wing personalities, especially at universities. ABC ran a segment of the events at U.C. Berkeley when the group gained massive media attention. Watch their 2 minute coverage here. U.S. News reported on June 1, 2020 President Trump announced that the United States would designate it as a terrorist group.

BAMN stands for “By Any Means Necessary” and are encouraging more riots, which they claim are protests and marches, while simultaneously announcing:

“SPREAD THE FIERY
SPIRIT OF MINNEAPOLIS
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY”

as their heading for their “rally” in East Oakland under a picture of rioters burning a building on their official website. (Also see their pamphlet from their official google drive displaying the same announcement and picture.)

Groups such as this embolden the far-right extremist groups as well, which could justify an argument from society to increase the power of the government as a result. These groups, extremists on both sides, are used as an example by politicians for why the power of the government should be added upon, and normalize the use of excessive force on civilians. Without them, the people in power would not have a reason to increase that power with the consent of society, and this is how emergency powers are granted. A state with emergency powers can be dangerous, and the state (people with the power) will not readily give them up.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:39 “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”