Sunday, November 8, 2015
After reading Ezekiel 37:15-17, which talks about the stick of Judah and the stick of Ephraim becoming “one in thine hand”, a sister in Sunday School shared this thought. She held up her smart phone and commented, “They truly are one in my hand. I can hold the scriptures right here--in one hand. That prophecy is being fulfilled."
Another prophecy being fulfilled in our day is found in Isaiah. “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness” (Isaiah 29:18). Thanks to modern advancements in science, medicine and technology many of the deaf and blind are able to see and hear the truth for themselves.
But the prophets also foresaw other events in our days that are not as wonderful. They warned us that in the last days even the very elect will be deceived. And how will they be deceived? Paul may have been on to something when he wrote his second letter to Timothy.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good; Having a form of godliness but deny the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses and lead captive silly women (and men) laden with sins…ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-7).
He foresaw a day when these “despisers of those that are good” will “creep into houses” and lead people astray. What better scriptural description do we have of the internet than that!
Everything on the internet is free to "creep" into our house at any time and lead us into spiritual captivity. Where we go on the internet and what we choose to study and learn may lump us into that group which Paul said was “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Do we use our time on the internet to feast on the truth or graze on what the world has to say?
Even earlier than Paul the prophet Amos testified, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).
Daniel also testified in the last days that “many shall run to and fro” in their search for knowledge (Daniel 12:4). Yes, the internet truly allows us to run to and fro, from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east without leaving our homes; yet this ability, Amos, said would leave us famished for the word of the Lord…not because it isn’t on the internet but because we are looking in all the wrong places.
Paul again taught the youthful Timothy (which is apropos for our youth), “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned onto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
With this easy access to knowledge in the palm of our hands we can be ‘turned onto fables’; we can get caught up in media frenzies and internet firestorms. It takes a wise man, indeed, to know where not to go and what not to read.
Not all knowledge or sources are equal. Having over 30 years of journalism experience I know the value of checking my sources. I have also learned this powerful truth: the source and the substance will tell me the motive.
Any source or any substance that tears down the belief of another person or shakes their faith should be avoided. Some people, however, think it is their obligation to share with others the negative they have ‘discovered’ about a religion in an effort to save other people from it. Their attitude just goes back to what Paul said about some being "lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud…” They obviously love their own intelligence enough to they think they are doing a stranger a great service by sharing the negative and shaking that person’s faith. These "accusers", as Paul called them are, in truth, fulfilling prophecy. “And their word will eat as doeth a canker….and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:17-18).
We also know that in the last days grievous wolves shall enter among the Lord's Church, “not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).
Hosea prophesied more specifically about what would happen to the tribe of Ephraim. He foresaw that there would be members of the Church who “have made ready their heart like an oven…they are all hot as an oven and have devoured their judges” (Hosea 7:6-7). He saw our day--when members would be ready to criticize and condemn the Church and its leaders and they are doing it now--in church hallways, on blogs and internet forums, to friends and strangers and anyone who will click on their link.
Hosea explained why the members would become this way. “Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people…strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not….they do no return to the Lord their God….(instead) they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria” (Hosea 7:8-9 and 11).
When the call comes to follow the Lord God, these members check out what the internet is saying first. They check out the headlines. They align themselves with the clamor of world who cry ‘that is not what the Savior would do!’
Does the world, bathed in sin, really know what the Savior would do?
“Woe unto them!” Hosea proclaimed. “For they have fled from me: destruction unto them! Because they have transgressed against me; though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me. And they have not cried unto me with their heart…. Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me….their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue” (Hosea 7:13-14 and 16).
What a perfect description of members on the internet who rage with their keyboard tongues…who repeat the lies they have heard others speak…who have imagined mischief by the Church and its leaders. They have not cried long enough unto God with their hearts. Instead, they have found their quick ‘answers’ on the internet. They would rather return to the flesh pots of Egypt than to eat the unchanging manna of the Lord’s truth. They think, as does the world, that the Lord should change His commandments to keep up with the times.
Hosea warned, “They shall not dwell in the Lord’s land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria….Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them.”
Thankfully, Paul told us what we need to do to stay strong during these times. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”
We do need to study…the scriptures and the words of the prophets. We need to rightly divide the word of truth from the sullied version of the world, and we need to avoid anything that would shake our faith. So, in a vast internet world, how do we decide what to study?
Indeed, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul…If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
We need to drink deep from the fountain of pure light and truth. We need to speak kindness and love even if we disagree. Above all, we are not here to offend others with a word or a blog. We are not to destroy or weaken someone's faith as a means of saving them or helping them 'see' what we believe is the truth.
We also need to make sure that the sites we visit are full of light and truth, are speaking kindness and love and are not attempting to destroy anyone's faith or are speaking poorly about someone's religion or their leaders. What we post and what we view reveals our motive and our spirit.
Above all, we need to remember that negativity is a trait of Satan.
Edification is a trait of God.
Friday, November 6, 2015
There is a big uproar over the Church’s announcement of new guidelines for dealing with the children of gay couples and much of the media is not helping. Here are three actual headlines.
“New Mormon Policy Makes Apostates of Married Same-sex Couples, bars children from rites”
“LDS Church Says Children of Same-sex Couples Cannot be Members”
“LDS Church: Mormons Bar Children of Gay Parents Unless they Reject Their Families.”
Now, here is the actual policy guideline from the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"November 3, 2015, Policies on Ordinances for Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
The following additions to Handbook 1 have been approved by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for immediate implementation.
A new section in Handbook 1, 16.13 will be added as follows:
Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing. A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:
A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:
1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage."
Is there anywhere in that guideline the use of the word ‘ban’ or a statement that a child of same-sex marriage couples cannot become a member?
Is there anywhere in that guideline a phrase that, to become a member, children with same-sex parents have to 'reject their families' or stop loving them?
So, let’s break this guideline down, piece by piece, and really look at it...not just twist it around.
“A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.”
Think about this for a moment. This is a guideline for those young children whose parent is LIVING in a same-gender relationship. The policy doesn’t say anything about the child raised by a parent who has same-gender attraction but is keeping the Lord’s standards of chastity and marriage. It is only a caveat for those same-gender couples who come to the Church wanting their child blessed while they are living in open disregard of their doctrines.
Now ask yourself this, why would a same-sex couple bring their child to receive a blessing from a religion whose doctrines they do not accept and have no intention of living? If the parents are doing so to press their own agenda, cause conflict, or bring attention, then the Church's guideline is protecting an innocent child from being placed in the position of pawn or, worse, media weapon. Is it hard to understand why the Church would want to protect a child from that situation?
What about the next part of the guideline? “A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service.”
Wait a minute...don’t the headlines and the blog posts claim the children of gay parents CAN'T be baptized…that they are banned…deemed 'apostates'...and can’t become members?
That's what the headlines and blogs claim but the Church's actual policy is very clear. Children of gay parents CAN be baptized and confirmed. They can be ordained to the priesthood. They can even serve missions.
As long as they meet two basic criteria.
One—"The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage." This criteria is the same for anyone who comes in for a baptismal interview. Everyone, regardless of age and upbringing, is asked if they accept and are committed to living the teachings and doctrines of the Church. If someone has a background that may cause him special struggles, the interviewer will help that person search their own feelings about those issues. If the person cannot accept the Lord’s position on any doctrine, including marriage and same-gender relationships, then that person is not ready to be baptized at that time. Can they be baptized later if they choose? Yes.
The Church has many good, strong, baptized members who have same-gender attractions. They fill callings, serve missions, and attend the temple. I love their courage, example and their commitment. Same-gender attraction is not the problem and never has been. It is breaking the law of chastity or espousing it as acceptable that will preclude someone from baptism. And the law of chastity extends not only to those involved in same-gender relationships but to those in hetero-gender relationships outside of marriage as well. And since the Lord only accepts marriage between a man and a women, then the person being interviewed for baptism must also realize and accept that same-gender marriage, while now legal in the U.S. and some other countries, is not the standard the Lord has requested of us.
This is not a new set of standards for baptism. This is simply reiterating the Lord’s eternal standards and taking the time to ensure someone, who may feel personal conflict, is clear on what the Lord expects and why, and is willing to accept and live those standards. If they can't then they won't be baptized at that time. People shouldn’t join a religion because they think the religion needs to change. That’s rather arrogant, don’t you think? People join a religion for the change and blessing it can bring to them.
The second criteria is the child of same-sex parents “is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.”
So why would the Church say children of same-sex parents should be 18 and not living with the parent involved in same-gender relationships before they are baptized?
Because the Church does not want to break apart families!
They do not want the children to 'reject' their parents, as the headlines are trying to claim. (The disavowing is of the practice, not the person.) The Church is intentionally trying to avoid putting emotional strain on a child who might be being raised and loved by same-gender parents! They do not want the child to feel conflict over what the Church teaches and what the child is living. In truth, what kind of Church would ask a child to endure that?
The Church has always put the parent-child relationship ahead of baptism and this guideline continues to do that. Parents have always had to agree to their child’s baptism and even if same-gender parents agree to let their child be baptized, the conflict between the Church’s doctrine and the parent's lifestyle could cause emotional harm and distress both to the child and the parent. Again, what kind of a Church would willingly do that?
When the child is legally an adult and not living with the parent involved in same-gender relationships, if the child still wants to be baptized and is willing to accept and live the standards, then he can. By waiting until he is an adult and out of a same-gender based home he is better able to make and keep his covenants without causing conflicts in the home where he was raised.
This guideline was issued out of respect for that home—not disrespect for it—for the Church has always respected home, family and parental authority. So, anyone who says the Church is against children of gay couples has either not thoughtfully read the guideline or does not understand that the Church is trying to protect the most valuable of all of God’s creations…His children of all ages. They are trying to do it without harming the harmony of the home, the child or the parents regardless of the relationships the parents choose. This guideline of respect protects families with gay parents from having their home and loyalties divided.
An experience of a friend of mine might be a good way to end this blog. She married a nonmember and they began to have an issue over a particular Church doctrine…tithing. She wanted to pay it, he did not. The tension built until she finally went to her bishop hoping he would talk some sense into her husband. The bishop listened to her side then simply told her, “Don’t pay it.”
Stunned, she asked him why. His answer is one we need to remember. “The Lord is in the business of building eternal families, not destroying them.”
The Lord’s Church is here to build and strengthen families…all families…not destroy them and fill them with conflict. If a child of gay parents sincerely wants to be baptized and has to wait a few years so there can be more harmony in his home and with his parents, why is there an uproar?
I am very grateful the Church has issued this guideline to protect those families with same-gender parents. I am grateful He loves those children and their parents enough to protect them from conflicts in their home and at church.
For two great articles further addressing this issue, check out
A Look at the Church's New Policy on Children of Gay Couples
The 9 Facebook Myths About the Churchs New LGBT Policy