Wednesday, December 31

facebook: "Whoa, hold the nursing and give them more suggestive ads."

Why is this:

More sexually explicit than this?:

The first picture was removed by facebook a few days ago. The other is one of many ads (and photos) that facebook allows (or gets money from!), and continues to harass people who aren't interested in prostitutes. What is up with our standards? facebook has been pulling pictures of mothers nursing their babies to make it a comfortable place for "everyone" to go, but yet they do nothing about the countless suggestive ads (like the one above, which is for a dating site--yes, a "real" dating site)? Here is an article that addresses their policy. It is not just facebook either. The media gets away with all kinds of material that is supposed to by "child" friendly... what about the above ad is child friendly? But gosh, if a woman's breast is shown in the context of nursing, then it's taken down? Aren't a lot of these children still nursing anyway? 

Perhaps breastfeeding babies cannot afford to be airbrushed, nor do they bring in the same revenue of more obscene content.

I don't have a problem with facebook specifically. They can set whatever rules they want to, no matter how ridiculous or inconsistent. It is our society that has produced these backwards standards.

Sunday, December 28

Completely Subjective Top 5 Movies in 2008

After reviewing the movies I saw this year, I realized that for the most part, they have all been summer megacorp blockbusters.

There are a few that I still plan to see, like Eastwood's Gran Torino or Rachel Getting Married (can't pass up Eastwood as a racist curmudgeon, nor any movie about family strife, due to my professional interests).

What did you like this year? Any gems that I have missed? Feel free to be honest, because really, my list is pretty main-stream.
  1. The Dark Knight - No contest, at least for the IMAX version.
  2. Mamma Mia! - By no means a great film, but with the energy of the theater crowd I loved it.
  3. There Will Be Blood - Yes, it was released in 2007 (on Dec. 26th) for Oscar consideration. However, I saw it this year, and was amazed. Kind of a downer, but powerful.
  4. Iron Man - Burger King successfully marketed their cheeseburgers, to me anyway.
  5. Wall-E.
Honorable Mention: The X-Files: I Want to Believe - Mulder and Scully together again. As long as the chemistry is there, you could put them in Indiana Jones or Cloverfield and I would watch it.

Two superheroes, Pierce Brosnan singing, and Pixar? Do I need to expand my tastes a little? Other movies I considered but felt they were ultimately flawed:
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Just because it's long, doesn't mean it's a good movie. Plus, too much of it felt Forrest Gump-y. Take out 45 minutes and it would be pretty decent, with some interesting themes and a few existential dilemmas.
  • Pineapple Express - Watched it on a plane. Really funny, but ultimately way too violent in a senseless B-movie kind of way, which ended up just feeling weird.
  • Horton Hears a Who - Who knows? If I had not of fallen asleep, it may have been really good!
I also want to make another plug for kids-in-mind. Our ratings system is still flawed, as Benjamin Button is not for 13 year-olds (in my opinion).

Thursday, December 18

One of the reasons why I voted for Obama

"Barack Obama has an ability to be friends with people he disagrees with."

What an idea! 

Conservatives may find it pandering, liberals may be mortally offended, but I like Obama's choice of Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren to give the prayer at his inauguration. Perhaps some people are peeved by his choice, but it makes me proud to support our new President. We live in a pluralistic society. We often disagree on major issues, and the President has the job of uniting all of us. We all have differences of opinion, and sometimes they're pretty big. I believe we can always find some common ground, however. While Obama and Warren obviously do not agree on gay rights (nor do I), how can we really claim to believe in diversity if we don't accept those who don't accept us?

Perhaps liberals can embrace Obama's efforts, and truly become the party of tolerance:
"And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the [Re]publicans so?"


Wednesday, December 17

Books (mostly) read in 2008

After reading a blog-friend's post about all the amazing books she read in a year, I thought I'd show off all the drivel that I've been reading! Well, there are a few good titles here...

Gang Leader for a Day - Sudhir Venkatesh - A sociologist's experience basically living with a Chicago street gang over the course of a few years. His story is also in Freakonomics.
Under the Banner of Heaven - Jon Krakauer - I previously wrote about this one.
Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer - Almost finished... it's very intriguing, and making me feel not so bad about driving around in 8" snow.
The Gift of Therapy - Irvin Yalom
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail - John Gottman
Family Therapy: History, Theory & Practice - Sam Gladding

Mary Mary - James Patterson
Along Came a Spider - James Patterson
Judge & Jury - James Patterson
Four Blind Mice - James Patterson
The Brethren - John Grisham
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
Y: The Last Man, Volume 1 - Bryan K. Vaughan

What stood out to me when making this list is that I have probably read parts of 20 or 30 more books (nonfiction of course, although I did stop from boredom halfway through Eclipse). Most of the fiction listed above was to keep me awake while driving, something that Patterson is generally pretty good at, although Krakauer has taken over as my driving stimulant of choice.

What has been your favorite book this year?

Tuesday, December 9

The Subaru Impreza WRX vs. The Chevy Citation II

Highway 24
Originally uploaded by ashergrey

Some friends of mine who seem to be photography experts compared to my dilettantish efforts took these of their respective sweet rides. You decide for yourself which car is cooler, because I think it's a toss up!

the citation
Originally uploaded by jayacg17

Monday, November 24

''Sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner''

I know I said there weren´t going to be any posts until next week, but I recently read this quote from Spencer W. Kimball, and thought it was fantastic. Plus, it fits well into my personal theory of counseling.

“Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We can show forth our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them. We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings.”

I would like to write more about what I believe `sin´ is, but that will have to wait. For now, I will just say that I believe sin is anything that slows or halts our progression. We all sin, it is part of life. What matters is our ability or effort in continuing on, in repairing relationships, and not giving up on the ultimate task of life, that of personal growth in ourselves and others. I think it is important to reframe the stigma of the word 'sin' into a conceptualization that is something that is a part of our lives, something that we need not loathe ourselves over, but rather rejoice that we have the opportunity to live and love and repair and even grow sometimes even though it can be painful.

Monday, November 10

bless them that curse you

"I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye amay be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?"

Are we only to love those who love us? Accept those who accept us? We're all in the same boat, no matter what side of what proposition or debate. We're all part of humanity, and we all have plenty of excuses to "fight hate with hate." Does that mean we should?

Voting is part of the democratic process in our country. So are protests. Hate speech, incitement of violence, aggression, and vandalism are not.

It is not easy to hold onto a spirit of love, tolerance, and a desire to understand the fears and hopes behind any action that appears to be "hateful." But we should. We have to.

Thursday, November 6

B. Hussein Obama as a scary man, and other observations

Friend's Facebook Update: "****** is MOVING OUT OF THE COUNTRY because of B. Hussein Obama!"

Me: "I wanted to move 8 years ago, but the world didn't end like I thought it would. Regardless of how we feel about the new President, life will go on."

Friend: "You are right, life will go on but I don't want to live in a socialistic country! He is a very scary evil man who has fooled a lot of people!"

Me (trying really hard to be kind): "Wow, you have really strong feelings about it! It is interesting how we have all switched. I thought and still think that W. was scary and evil (well, mostly some people on his staff). So I guess the universe balances itself out. My condolences that you have that view of our new president. That is not a fun place to be. It was pretty rough on the other side of things for the past 8 years, so in a strange way I can understand how you are feeling."

The reactions to my gay marriage stance have been mixed (although many people were kind and understanding, even if they disagreed, so thank you). Here's one:

Friend #2: "Adam, you are KIDDING ON PROP 8 RIGHT?"

Me: "Did you read my blog?" (I had referred him here a few days ealier.)

Friend #2: "No, did you read the letter from the First Presidency?"

Me (once again trying to be kind): "Please read my blog."

After some discussion I was given these questions: "Do you think the prophet is just a guy with some good ideas?" and "Do you believe God is Your God or do you believe that God is God of the whole world?"

I played with those a little but it is not fun to be manipulated. Why do we ask those types of questions to each other? I know I have, especially online. Why do many of us listen to manipulate rather than understand?

After pointing out that prophets can sometimes be wrong, e.g. that "Brigham Young was racist,"  he said, "Everyone was racist." While I regretted bringing that up and continuing this type of discussion, I could not help but smile at the deep irony of his comment. "Everyone was racist." Now once again, I don't know what will happen 150 years in the future, but perhaps we as a people and a church will look back on today and excuse our current ideas with, "well, everyone was heterosexist."

Finally, for Utahns, how in the holy name of Buddha did Chris Buttars get reelected? Who were the 18,000 people in South Jordan that voted him in again? Do they not like black babies either?

Monday, November 3

My testimony, and why I'm against Prop. 8

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is not a comfortable opinion to have. I often worry that other members will pigeon hole the rest of my beliefs into the fact that I'm not anti-gay marriage. So let me be absolutely clear.

I believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Savior of the world, who will one day ease the suffering in the world and fix what is broken in most of us and our relationships. I believe we can turn to Him now for peace. I love the church for its community, trust in volunteer members, and its deep and inspiring theology. Almost everything good in my life has come as a direct result of my membership in the church. I love the temple. I believe I have felt the influence of God there on more than one occasion. Despite his flaws, I believe God worked through Joseph Smith. I love the Book of Mormon. I know it is good and true as much as I know that I love my wife and son.

I have tried to remain as neutral as possible on the gay marriage debate. Most of the time I just passed it off with "well, I don't live in California, so I don't need to make a decision." However, as the saying goes, "the personal is political." For me to be against gay marriage is to be against family, against good friends. How can I tell them, "You know, I love you but I really hate this particular fundamental part of who you are." I refuse to do that. People who are lesbian or gay who want to be married did not choose their sexuality any more than I chose to be straight. So it has become a personal issue for me. If I were in California on tomorrow, I would vote no on Prop 8, because I cannot discriminate against people I love. That is how I see it. I'm not saying you need to agree.

I don't know what will happen in the future, or what the "effects" of Prop 8 passing or failing will be. I could be misguided. I will continue to support the church and President Monson in every way that I can, and I am also grateful that the most fundamental aspect of the gospel is that of agency. While it is not easy having an opinion that is different from that of our leaders, I have disagreed with prophets in the past on polygamy and the priesthood ban, both unarguably huge issues. I am not using that as an excuse, but rather an example of how I can be a faithful member and not hate homosexuality.

I hope that my friends and family outside the church will respect my religious beliefs. I hope that my friends and family inside the church who disagree with me will be understanding and not decide that I have lost my testimony or some other temptingly easy but untrue explanation. The very least we can do with all this is allow it to makes us a little softer, a little more humble, a little more patient. A little more Christlike.

Related Posts:

Sunday, November 2

Reminded why I like John McCain

He hosted a few years ago and it was hilarious. Then again, SNL can make me a fan of almost anybody.

I think McCain is funnier than Obama. Why did he wait so long to bring out the humor in his campaign?

Here's McCain talking about his new strategy to be a "double maverick":

In a better world, McCain would not have had to court the conservative base, could have run on a platform with some major points being immigration reform and climate control, and could have picked Joe Lieberman as his running mate. I don't know if that would have been enough to sway my vote, but it would have made the decision a lot harder.

Monday, October 27

One-Sided Mormon History

Under the Banner of Heaven Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

My review

Rating: 2 of 5 stars
I like my history at least striving for accuracy and balance, and this book almost completely failed in that category. While the sensational style kept it very interesting, I think the author did a great disservice in leaving out all the relevant historical details that don't confirm his view. (Which is what many decidedly pro-LDS books suffer from.) In no way could this be considered a scholarly work. Two stars for being entertaining, and for the interesting thoughts about whether people who claim to receive revelation should be declared mentally incompetent in a trial. Has anyone else read this book? Any thoughts?

Friday, October 24

Monday, October 13

Some existential questions...

"Death is the condition that makes it possible for us to live life in an authentic fashion." ~Irvin Yalom, M.D.
  • How do you feel about the quality of your life?
  • How would you answer if you knew you were about to die?

Thursday, October 9

Nature of The Person

New post of mine on mormon matters.

Wednesday, October 8

The Facts on Debate #2

This should be standard viewing procedure after debates.

Monday, October 6

Taking care of our bodies

Grad school takes a toll. After some minor/ongoing health issues, I have begun to realize that our bodies are basically like cars. We only have them for so many miles, they need fuel, and repairs. Some cars break down and die before their time, some last 300,000 miles, like my uncle's Suburban. Granted, that car is also a miracle of auto-science and duct tape.

I know that whether I exercise or not, I will eventually die. But I want to be as healthy as I can while I am alive. While I may not have as much time as Dara Torres or Lance Armstrong, one of my goals this semester is to workout at least 3 times a week. That may be 27 times less a week than these two, but it's a lot better than the 0 of last semester! Still, they are quite inspiring.

What inspires you to exercise, to live in healthy ways? Is it worth the effort? Do you need a personal trainer to see real results?

Sunday, October 5

Is lying okay if you warn people first?

Let me get this straight.
  1. McCain announces that he will begin personal attacks on Obama. 
  2. McCain then makes good on that promise. 
  3. Obama then accuses McCain of smears
  4. McCain says they are all "true facts" (as opposed to "misleading facts," or "true lies," or just "lies").
Was the McCain strategy (or tactic? I obviously don't know the difference) to tell us in advance that he was going to be throwing mud so we wouldn't be so disgusted when it happened?

For those who "just can't vote for Obama" for whatever reason, you have my condolences that McCain is your only other viable option.

10/7 UPDATE: Obama throws back a few whoppers of his own. I'm going to go crawl into a hole. Are we all just resigned to the fact that our leaders are dishonest?

SNL VP Debate

One of my favorite lines: "I do think it's patriotic to tell the government, 'Hey, get out of my way, stop trying to impose on my right to shoot wolves from a helicopter!'"

Monday, September 29

Gay Marriage & Some Real Threats to The Family

A colleague and I led a discussion on lesbian and gay families in class last week. Here are some of the talking points from the text:
  1. “Lesbians and gays are simultaneously depicted as chic and pioneering, and as a major sign of social deterioration and the source of the destruction of the family as we know it.”
  2. “There is no uniform or normative definition for the “gay family” any more than there is for the “American family.”
  3. “Governments, through social and family policies, determine the rights, rules, and benefits for families… in the process encouraging some family forms and discouraging others.”
  4. “This fiery and continuing national debate has nothing to do with the success, mental or social health, or social responsibility of lesbian or gay couples and their children. It has everything to do with cultural struggles over the meaning of “family,” and protecting and preserving heterosexual marriage..."
  5. “It is clear that gay and lesbian expressions of family and kinship are having profound effects on the larger society’s construction of these categories.”
What think Ye of these points? What would it be like to be simultaneously considered "pioneering" and a "sign of deterioration" (#1)? Legalizing gay marriage will have an effect on society. The important point is, what kind of effect? Should we widen the "legal" definition of a "married couple" or is it a threat to the heterosexual definition of The Family? Why?

I think the real threats to the "The Family" are poor parenting, disorganized attachment, lack of adequate health care, the idea that love = romance, and extremely poor emotional regulation and relationship skills, to name just a few. These problems exist in families across the board, despite sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, or ice-cream flavor preference. 

Rather then spending so much time and money in California and elsewhere, imagine if we all put the same money and effort into providing effective mental health care, parent and couples education, and programs like Circle of Security? What if we went door to door and put up signs and made phone calls and read letters over the pulpit encouraging community action to work on these insidious problems that have been plaguing The Family for generations?

Friday, September 26

Conservatives turning on Palin? O Mitt, where art thou?

From conservative website National Review Online:

"Some of the passionately feminist critics of Palin who attacked her personally deserved some of the backlash they received. But circumstances have changed since Palin was introduced as just a hockey mom with lipstick — what a difference a financial crisis makes — and a more complicated picture has emerged. As we’ve seen and heard more from John McCain’s running mate, it is increasingly clear that Palin is a problem. Quick study or not, she doesn’t know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin should conditions warrant her promotion...

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League. No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there. Here’s but one example of many from her interview with Hannity: “Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we’re talking about today. And that’s something that John McCain, too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this." ...

What to do?

McCain can’t repudiate his choice for running mate. He not only risks the wrath of the GOP’s unforgiving base, but he invites others to second-guess his executive decision-making ability. Barack Obama faces the same problem with Biden. Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

Do it for your country."

Monday, September 22

We are all addicts

“There is dissatisfaction and frustration. Often nothing seems to go right. There really is a wound. But it is not necessary to scratch it. Working with addictions is about not just impulsively grabbing for something to stop the itching, not just grabbing for something to fill up the space, not giving in to this impulse to feel okay and just to get comfortable as soon as possible.

When we scratch the wound and give into our addictions we do not allow the wound to heal. But when we instead experience the raw quality of the itch or pain of the wound and do not scratch it, we actually allow the wound to heal. So not giving in to our addictions is about healing at a very basic level.”
~Pema Chödrön
We are all addicts, if not to drugs, gambling, pornography, or video games, then to the way we interact with each other. We often respond in predictable ways to getting cut off on the freeway, being defensive when we are criticized, or escalating conflict. It is an addiction, a habit that we can let go of. We can only know the extent of our habits if we have tried to stop. 

If you don't think you have any addictions, I challenge you to observe the times when you habitually respond in a negative way to something or someone. You may have to ask a loved one for a few examples. I'm sure they'd be willing! Once you know what it is, go ahead and try to stop it next time you feel the urge. It is NOT an easy thing to do, because our brains have been wired over the course of our lives to respond in certain ways. 

Also note that the term "addiction" is not in the DSM. "Addiction" is not necessarily the same thing as dependence, tolerance, or withdrawal as related to substances.

We can change, but it will require us to "allow ourselves to heal" and to not "scratch the itch" so to speak. It's not easy to rewire our brains--it may take years of practice. 

For the record, some of my addictions include air conditioning, taking things personally, and needing my clients to like me. I also get defensive when N complains that I haven't cleaned the bathroom since we've been married. Granted those are not huge problems (well, you better ask her first) but thinking about this is a little disturbing to me. I don't want to be ruled by my habits or impulses, especially in my relationships. It's also something I like about being a counselor--helping others train themselves to let go of their habits and interact in positive ways.

Thankfully most of us are more in control than the couple in this video, but sometimes I feel like I have very little say in how I respond. This is something I am working on.

What are some of your habitual responses in relationships? What has your spouse been complaining about for years? Okay, so you might not respond to a complaint with "You're a liar!" but we all have room for improvement.

Friday, September 19

Just the Facts and some SNL Therapy

"The ads are fast, furious, and factually flimsy."

Who's the bigger liar? I welcome proof otherwise, but McCain seems to be in the lead. Apparently reading my mind, SNL tries to make me feel better by putting a positive spin on McCain's ever-growing body of lies:

Wednesday, September 17

Joseph Smith and Losing Faith Over History

This is a paper presented by historian Richard Bushman (author of "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling") at the seminar "Joseph Smith and His Critics." It explains "the experience of Latter-day Saints who are or have been troubled by historical aspects of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel." 

Credit to BHodges for the text, and Deseret News and for the photos.

Increasingly teachers and church leaders at all levels are approached by Latter-day Saints who have lost confidence in Joseph Smith and the basic miraculous events of church history. They doubt the First Vision, the Book of Mormon, many of Joseph’s revelations, and much besides. They fall into doubt after going on the Internet and finding shocking information about Joseph Smith based on documents and facts they had never heard before. A surprising number had not known about Joseph Smith’s plural wives. They are set back by differences in the various accounts of the First Vision. They find that Egyptologists do not translate the Abraham manuscripts the way Joseph Smith did, making it appear that the Book of Abraham was a fabrication. When they come across this information in a critical book or read it on one of the innumerable critical Internet sites, they feel as if they had been introduced to a Joseph Smith and a Church history they had never known before. They undergo an experience like viewing the famous picture of a beautiful woman who in a blink of an eye turns into an old hag. Everything changes. What are they to believe?

Often church leaders, parents, and friends, do not understand the force of this alternate view. Not knowing how to respond, they react defensively. They are inclined to dismiss all the evidence as anti-Mormon or of the devil. Stop reading these things if they upset you so much, the inquirer is told. Or go back to the familiar formula: scriptures, prayer, church attendance.

The troubled person may have been doing all of these things sincerely, perhaps even desperately. He or she feels the world is falling apart. Everything these inquirers put their trust in starts to crumble. They want guidance more than ever in their lives, but they don’t seem to get it. The facts that have been presented to them challenge almost everything they believe. People affected in this way may indeed stop praying; they don’t trust the old methods because they feel betrayed by the old system. Frequently they are furious. On their missions they fervently taught people about Joseph Smith without knowing any of these negative facts. Were they taken advantage of? Was the Church trying to fool them for its own purposes?

These are deeply disturbing questions. They shake up everything. Should I stay in the Church? Should I tell my family? Should I just shut up and try to get along? Who can help me?

At this point, these questioners go off in various directions. Some give up on the Church entirely. They find another religion or, more likely these days, abandon religion altogether. Without their familiar Mormon God, they are not sure there is any God at all. They become atheist or agnostic. Some feel the restrictions they grew up with no longer apply. The strength has been drained out of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, and chastity. They partly welcome the new freedom of their agnostic condition. Now they can do anything they please without fear of breaking the old Mormon rules. The results may not be happy for them or their families.

Others piece together a morality and a spiritual attitude that stops them from declining morally, but they are not in an easy place. When they go to church, they are not comfortable. Sunday School classes and Sacrament meeting talks about Joseph Smith and the early church no longer ring true. How can these people believe these “fairy tales,” the inquirers ask. Those who have absorbed doses of negative material live in two minds: their old church mind which now seems naive and credulous, and their new enlightened mind with its forbidden knowledge learned on the internet and from critical books.

A friend who is in this position described the mindset of the disillusioned member this way:
“Due to the process of learning, which they have gone through, these [two-minded] LDS often no longer accept the church as the only true one (with the only true priesthood authority and the only valid sacred ordinances), but they see it as a Christian church, in which good, inspired programs are found as well as failure and error. They no longer consider inspiration, spiritual and physical healing, personal and global revelation limited to the LDS church. In this context, these saints may attend other churches, too, where they might have spiritual experiences as well. They interpret their old spiritual experiences differently, understanding them as testimonies from God for them personally, as a result of their search and efforts, but these testimonies don’t necessarily have to be seen as a confirmation that the LDS church is the only true one.

“Since the social relationships between them and other ward (or stake) members suffer (avoidance, silence, even mobbing) because of their status as heretics, which is usually known via gossip, and since the extent of active involvement and range of possible callings are reduced because of their nonconformity in various areas, there is a risk that they end up leaving the church after all, because they are simply ignored by the majority of the other members.”
He then offers a recommendation:
“It is necessary that the church not only shows more support and openness to these ‘apostates’ but also teaches and advises all members, bishops, stake presidents etc., who usually don’t know how to deal with such a situation in terms of organizational and ecclesiastical questions and – out of insecurity – fail to treat the critical member with the necessary love and respect that even a normal stranger would receive.”
Those are the words of someone who has lost belief in many of the fundamentals and is working out a new relationship to the Church. Other shaken individuals recover their belief in the basic principles and events but are never quite the same as before. Their knowledge, although no longer toxic, gives them a new perspective. They tend to be more philosophic and less dogmatic about all the stories they once enjoyed. Here are some of the characteristics of people who have passed through this ordeal but managed to revive most of their old beliefs.

1. They often say they learned the Prophet was human. They don’t expect him to be a model of perfect deportment as they once thought. He may have taken a glass of wine from time to time, or scolded his associates, or even have made business errors. They see his virtues and believe in his revelations but don’t expect perfection.

2. They also don’t believe he was led by revelation in every detail. They see him as learning gradually to be a prophet and having to feel his way at times like most Church members. In between the revelations, he was left to himself to work out the methods of complying with the Lord’s commandments. Sometimes he had to experiment until he found the right way.

3. These newly revived Latter-day Saints also develop a more philosophical attitude toward history. They come to see (like professional historians) that facts can have many interpretations. Negative facts are not necessarily as damning as they appear at first sight. Put in another context along side other facts, they do not necessarily destroy Joseph Smith’s reputation.

4. Revived Latter-day Saints focus on the good things they derive from their faith–the community of believers, the comforts of the Holy Spirit, the orientation toward the large questions of life, contact with God, moral discipline, and many others. They don’t want to abandon these good things. Starting from that point of desired belief, they are willing to give Joseph Smith and the doctrine a favorable hearing. They may not be absolutely certain about every item, but they are inclined to see the good and the true in the Church.

At the heart of this turmoil is the question of trust. Disillusioned Latter-day Saints feel their trust has been betrayed. They don’t know whom to trust. They don’t dare trust the old feelings that once were so powerful, nor do they trust church leaders. They can only trust the new knowledge they have acquired. Those who come back to the Church are inclined to trust their old feelings. Their confidence in the good things they knew before is at least partially restored. But they sort out the goodness that seems still vital from the parts that now seem no longer tenable. Knowledge not only has given them a choice, it has compelled them to choose. They have to decide what they really believe. In the end, many are more stable and convinced than before. They feel better prepared to confront criticism openly, confident they can withstand it.


What way of speaking is most likely to win their trust and convince them we have their best interests at heart?

We began by agreeing that criticisms of Joseph Smith should not be dismissed as foolish or purely evil. The negative attacks that disturb first-time readers are usually based on facts, not merely prejudiced fabrications. To play down the force of the criticism, we believe, only convinces the seekers that we do not understand. We appear to be sweeping trouble under the rug. They may have been devastated by a criticism; we must show that we understand why. Consequently, the seminar took as its first principle to state the negative argument as fully and accurately as we can. We try not to minimize the difficulty or prejudice the case against the critic. In no other way can we persuade the doubters that we understand the problem.

Secondly, we try to avoid dogmatic answers. Rather than replace the dogmatic negative attacks of the critics with our own dogmatic answers, we attempt to show that a more positive interpretation is possible. Critics often claim that Joseph’s sins were so egregious as to utterly disqualify him as a prophet. We can understand their viewpoint, but we think there is another side to the story. Rather than destroy the critics, we want to loosen their grip. In the long run, we believe this approach will persuade questioners more effectively than claims to certainty where none is possible. We believe in stating our own strong convictions about the church as a whole, but we do not to pretend to perfect knowledge about complex historical questions.

We know that airing criticisms troubles many Latter-day Saints. Like most Church teachers, the members of the seminar do not want to draw attention to questions that will only unsettle faithful members. But we also feel that silence is not the answer. The absence of instruction troubles questioners more than anything. They feel they have been betrayed because they came through their Church classes ignorant of the devastating information now a few clicks away on the internet. The gaps in their education leave them disillusioned and angry.


We are encouraged by the scriptural recognition that not all have faith, and by the appealing remedy, “teach one another.” For many questioners, loneliness is the heart of the problems. No one seems to understand. We are enjoined by this scripture to find these seekers and bring them into a fellowship of inquiry. We hope that our papers will help Church teachers create safe havens where questions may be asked and answers explored--where we can teach one another."

If you've made it this far, first congratulations. Secondly, what do you think? Should doubt be embraced, explored, or should we avoid it at all costs? Have you or anyone close to you been disturbed by some of the skeletons in the history closet?

Monday, September 15

Mindful Living

In one of the practices of mindfulness, as I understand it, one strives to be aware of and experience everything, from the fragrance of one's breakfast cereal to the sound of the locking the car door. It sounds kind of funny, but I actually enjoy noticing these things.

On a bigger scale, a professor of mine, when asked how he is doing often replies, "Just grateful to be alive." He does it in such an amiable and genuine way that it often causes me to ponder about my own life. Almost every day for the past week, I have thought that mantra to myself, sometimes even spoken aloud to someone else. I'm just grateful to be alive today. Every day is another day we get to learn and grow and share with others. May we all find happiness and be free from suffering.

Thursday, September 11

O'Reilly Sounding Rational

Bill O'Reilly sounding quite rational on the Lipstick fiasco:

Monday, September 8

Success & Meaning

How I define my success:
  1. How well am I interacting with those I am close to.
  2. Working to ameliorate the suffering of others, and helping them grow.
  3. How big my DVD collection is.
Okay, so number three creeps in there once in a while.

Nothing is more important to me in terms of personal success than learning to be a better partner or father or friend, through working on being less defensive, more considerate, and softer in my interactions. 

Secondly, working to help others grow is also important to me. As I discussed last week, that all truth is a part of the gospel, I consider anything that helps someone to grow to be the same as "missionary work." Meeting someone in their sphere of life and promoting their growth within it, whether through a friendship or therapy is meaningful to me.

As for number three, I'm going to write this above my DVD cabinet:
"Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."

How do you define success? What in your life gives you meaning?

Thursday, September 4

Obama and Your Taxes

What is the difference between misleading and lying?

According to Sarah Palin last night, if you vote for Obama your taxes will go up.
"The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes ... raise payroll taxes ... raise investment income taxes ... raise the death tax ... raise business taxes ... and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars. My sister Heather and her husband have just built a service station that's now opened for business - like millions of others who run small businesses. How are they going to be any better off if taxes go up?"
The truth is, if you make over $250,000 your taxes will go up. I guess if you're making over 250k per year, by all means don't vote for Obama. If you make less than that (most of America), you will see a tax cuts up to 5% by 2012... Well, we'll see if that one comes true. Also, if anyone knows, isn't that personal income Obama would be taxing? How would that affect a business?

In fact, under Obama the middle class will pay less than under McCain, (5% vs. 3%). So lets leave the "Obama is going to raise my taxes" complaint to the rich. Well, 250k is rich for me. So is 100, or 200. Should this number be higher or lower?

There will be more half-truths to come, from both sides I'm sure.

Monday, September 1


[This post will start a sometimes weekly sharing of my beliefs, and a dissemination of wisdom (be careful of confusing those two). I encourage amiable discussion, opposing views, and scurvy rejoinders.]

Photo by jayacg17
“We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true Mormons.” ~ Joseph Smith
“One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth. Let it come from where it may.” ~ Joseph Smith
“The fundamental principle that has guided my religious life is that I need believe only what is true. The gospel is the truth as learned or discovered by whatever means and tools I can lay my hand or mind on.” ~ Henry Eyring
I believe that science and religion are compatible; as a believer and a scientist, I am convinced they must be, ultimately.  There is much we don’t know yet in science, and there is much we don’t know in religion. Bringing science into religion can provide a sifting process to discard the error and the myth. Religion has much to add in turn. Eyring said,
"It is the great mission and opportunity of religion to teach men "the way, the truth, the life," that they might utilize the discoveries of the laboratory to their blessing and not to their destruction. There is need for added spirituality, of the kind that leads to brotherhood, to go hand in hand with the scientific progress of our time."
May we all have the courage to seek truth from whatever the source, and to use that truth to the blessing of our fellow human beings.

*Prajna is a Sanskrit word for clear seeing, wisdom, or understanding.