Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Critics

We Latter-day Saints are used to criticism. It's part of our Mormon heritage. The most vociferous challenges do not usually come from Jews or Muslims or Buddhist, but from other Christians. This should probably not come as any surprise.

Modern technology provides a new forum for the critics. Most newspapers have an on-line counterpart allowing people to read articles via computer. Many of these also include the opportunity to respond to the article by posting comments. Articles dealing with the LDS Church or its members usually generate a lively series of posts by both antagonists and protagonists. Often the responses degenerate into an exchange of personal attacks against other commenters. The actual reasons why people are drawn into these debates is an interesting subject. If asked, I suspect many of them would claim some hope of noble service rendered in saving their opponents from future grief. I am skeptical of that being the primary motivation.

The missing ingredient from all these debates is the LDS admonition to seek our ultimate answers from God. While there are many members of the LDS Church who have not done so, we are under obligation to pray for divine confirmation of our faith until we receive a spiritual witness from Heaven. Once received, logical argument and worldly evidences recede into the background.

We may study the evidence as means of understanding events and culture pertinent to our belief, but it should never be confused as being proof. We may offer evidence to others as a way of piquing their curiosity and motivating them to further investigation but our missionaries always instruct individuals to pray for their own answer. While divine confirmation does not come all at once, the recipient of knowledge borne by the Holy Ghost should recognize the superiority of God's intelligence over any logical argument devised by mortal man. The critic is arguing from a position of inferior experience, for which there is no logical compensation. The believer can say: "I have had a personal experience," to which the only valid rebuttal is: "No, you haven't."

One other bit of understanding should be obvious to non-LDS Christians but seldom is. If you believe in the God of the Bible - a mighty and all-powerful God - you must also believe that He could easily reveal himself and convince all people of the truth of His existence, but He chooses not to. Why? We are left with the inescapable conclusion (one confirmed by the Bible) that we are being tested here in mortality as to the strength of our character and our ability to walk by faith. God asks us to proceed through life, sometimes stepping into unknown territory, while being guided only by the whisperings of the unseen Spirit. If God were here amongst us it would spoil the test.

This we accept as one of the great challenges and purposes for our current separation from God. He could make belief easy but instead He makes it easy to argue Him out of existence, providing all the circumstantial counter-evidence the atheist needs. We might find worldly evidence that a man named Jesus once lived, but there is no physical or scientific evidence that He ever performed any miracles or ascended into Heaven. The miraculous accounts of the Bible are not logical or reasonable and yet they are accepted by millions without physical evidence. They can be easily argued against by anyone with a disposition to do so.

Now, to come to my point. If we accept this situation as being consistent with God's designs for our mortal probation, should we not expect the same God to present us with the same scenario should He perform a miraculous work in our own time? If He came to the Earth and spoke to Joseph Smith and others, He surely would not spoil the test by making belief in this easy. Those who rely on worldly evidence will naturally come up short. If you go looking for ammunition against LDS claims, you should expect to find it. If the claims are false, any supporting evidence will be purely coincidental. If the claims are true, we should expect God to carefully arrange for the scoffers to find what they are looking for.

The critics, who's acceptance of the Bible should be based on spiritual experience, usually rely on human logic and circumstantial evidence as "proof" of an LDS hoax. Would it not be consistent for God to require a spiritual investigation to discover the real truth of His work? The fact that the LDS message can easily be construed as bogus proves nothing other than the predisposition of the critics. The same is true for critics of the Bible. It is not the work of God that is being tested. It is us. Those who are exposed to what the LDS Church actually teaches will either recognize something good and valuable, or they will not. Either they will be willing to push aside all their worldly concerns to have it, or they will not.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Homosexuality and the Church

We Latter-day Saints will come under intense criticism in the future for our stand on morality and sexual relations as it applies to increasingly vocal gay and lesbian communities. Too often we are perceived as harboring ill feelings toward individuals who choose to live by another moral code. This can sometimes be true of individual members but it is not encouraged by church leadership. When Larry King interviewed President Hinckley, he was asked about the church’s position with regard to homosexuals. President Hinckley said that “we love them and we want to help them.” The beauty of our moral code is in its simplicity and also that it applies to everyone equally. It does not need to identify any one group or type of personality. It does not disqualify a person from activity in the church because of genetics, temperament, upbringing, predisposition, natural tendencies or temptations. It addresses only active behavior. It forbids physical contact for the purpose of sexual arousal outside of the traditional married relationship between husband and wife. Temptations of the heart and recurring thoughts of inappropriate behavior are a private affair between God and man and best addressed on our knees.

Our “law of chastity” is the same for everyone. It is often a difficult law to live. For some, it is much more difficult to live than for others but the law itself does not single anyone out. It does not matter if you are a teenager with raging hormones, engaged to be married, a married couple, divorced, widowed, a middle-aged person who has never been married, a married man attracted to another woman, a woman who is attracted to other women, a man who is attracted to other men, or an adult who is attracted to children. It is God's law and it applies to all.

No matter who we are, we have all lived in a state of being single and without a sexual partner. Many of us who are married will find ourselves single once again at some point in our lives. Living in a state of unmet sexual desire is a natural part of being human. The duration and intensity of this state varies greatly and many seem to suffer through no fault of their own.

The problem of homosexual desire has very little to do with us as a church but everything to do with a person’s relationship with God. If you believe there is a powerful God in Heaven, you must also accept that inequity and the seemingly unfair distribution of pain and blessings is an intrinsic part of this mortal experience. If we cannot abide this inequity, then we must reject God and His wisdom in placing us in the environment we inhabit. We all have different tests in this life. We must believe that God has a great reward in store for those who pass the greater test. According to our belief, those who are called upon to live without a mate in this life will be given that opportunity in the eternities if they live worthy of that blessing.