Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I read an interesting review of the Twilight books that went to great lengths to explain why the books should be considered porn in print. The following was my response:
1) Pornography without sex is not pornography, in my opinion. Just as we should avoid restricting our definition of pornography in such a way that we allow soft core porn to go unlabeled, we also need to avoid the Victorian impulse to widen the definition to such a degree that it encompasses nearly everything that arouses sexually - including lingerie and erotic language and other things that are perfectly appropriate within a marriage. It's a fine line, but it's a line that can be as destructive on one side as on the other.
2) Why is "sexless romance" a bad thing for teenagers? These are teenagers! What's the proper alternative for those who feel they love each other?
To deny sexual attraction and tension in teenage relationships is very dangerous and ignorant. I know a young woman who grew up hearing that sex was dirty and horrible (and that "good girls" don't like sex before marriage). When she first felt aroused and realized how good it felt, she automatically labeled herself a bad girl and decided she might as well enjoy it. A teenage pregnancy later . . .
Again, why is sexless romance a bad thing? We live in a sexually arousing world. My teenagers are going to be sexually aroused - my boys AND my girls. Writing about sexual tension and desire that remains unconsummated is a bad thing? What should we do - write things that don't mention sexual desire or write about giving in to it? I only see those three options. Am I missing one?
3) I understand intellectually the concerns others have about the books, especially some of the messages it can send girls, but I like the message it sends to boys. Bella really loves Edward, and, like many young women, she is trusting and vulnerable - and it would be easy for Edward to take advantage of her. He doesn't. He respects her, literally rising above his nature in more ways than one to exercise self-control and help make the relationship work and flourish without sex. Yep, what a lousy example that is for teenagers. Girls certainly shouldn't fall in love with boys who have excellent self-control and don't try to have sex with them.
4) My daughters are huge fans, and they understand the issues everyone highlights. Their response to me when we discuss the books is the same one I hear from nearly all of their friends:
"We have a choice between books that glorify sex (or assume it's no big deal and unavoidable), sappy books that deny sexual attraction altogether or books that admit it up front and say it's OK to not give in - and that says boys are just as responsible for that as girls. Which option is the most realistic? Which one would you rather have us read?"
I understand what they are saying and, given many of the alternatives out there, I can't argue with it.
5) Plus, to reiterate for those of you who haven't read the books or seen the movie, Edward is not a "bad boy". He only looks like a bad boy to those who don't know him - who judge him based on his appearance. There is a huge difference, and it gets botched constantly in reviews by adults I read. Again, the alternative is to look at someone and judge them based on first visual impression. How is that a good thing?Do I love the books? Not really. I just disagree strongly with many reviews, and calling them "porn" really, really bothers me.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
I just know that many people now hold modern prophets to a standard that essentially would eliminate all former prophets from consideration - especially since we only have a very limited, subjective, carefully-constructed, airbrushed snapshot of those former prophets. Too often, people forget that basic fact.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Frankly, I don't think we will gain an eternal reward by trying to earn an eternal reward. I think we will receive an eternal reward when we quit trying to earn it and focus instead on helping others in whatever way we can - when we end up forgetting about being rewarded and simply love and serve and obey for the sheer joy of doing so and seeing the results in the lives of others. We won't be "given" anything; rather, we will be changed into a condition acceptable to Him. In other words, we will become something - and that something will be Christ-like and godly.
I think we will not be perfect (complete, whole and fully developed) until we can act for our Savior in the "at-one-ment" of others (individually and as a community) - in the process of relieving their suffering, taking their pain and misery from them, bringing them joy and comfort, caring for them in a real and powerful and practical way, and empowering them to do so for others (individually and as a community).
In other words, I believe we receive His image in our countenances most fully by living and loving and serving as He did. Sometimes we focus so much on his death and resurrection and "godhood" that we improperly devalue his life and "humanity" - but it is that life and humanity that we can emulate and that can engrave his image into our very being.
Friday, March 25, 2011
"Condescend" is a verb, but it also has a very different meaning as an adjective.
As a verb, "to condescend" means "to put aside one's dignity or superiority voluntarily and assume equality with one regarded as inferior". In that sense, Jesus condescended to assume equality with us - to become "as one of us", subject to all of our problems and suffering (include death).
As an adjective, "to be condescending" means "to deal with people in a patronizingly superior manner". It means making sure others know of one's higher status - that one is choosing to lower himself to deal with those who still are below him.
In other words, being condescending is the opposite of what is meant by Christ "condescending" to become as one of us. Christ lived as a servant - as the lowest and least important. He didn't claim his rightful privilege as our Lord during mortality, and he didn't "lord it over" those with whom he associated. He condescended to not be condescending, so to speak.In my own words, he agreed to two manifestations of "at-one-ment" - first, by closing the gap that existed between us prior to his birth, and, second, by closing the gap that otherwise would have existed between us after our deaths.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Comment #13, by Kevin Barney, is particularly insightful.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
4) I don't think Mormonism has a "four minute answer" to the question of the meaning and purpose of life. I think we have about a "four second answer". It's the explanation of the answer that takes exponentially longer, in my opinion, since the answer itself is so counter-intuitive and illogical to most people that they simply can't understand it in its simplicity.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
You were (created) as an original. Don't become a copy.
First, I absolutely LOVE this quote in and of itself, regardless of its application to my New Year's Resolution. I understand and accept the need for communal conformity to certain, minimal standards; I really do. However, at the most fundamental level, I am a unique child of God - and that uniqueness is important to me.
What struck me about this quote and my resolution is that too many people see Zion as total uniformity / unanimity / homogeneity. They see "being united" as being indistinguishable from each other in any important way. They see becoming "perfect" as becoming exactly alike in every way. At least, that is how they appear to believe, based on how they act toward those who are different than they are.
My favorite General Conference talk of all time (as my children will attest, while rolling their eyes and exclaiming, "I told you so!") is Elder Joseph Wirthlin's "Concern for the One" - and the part that resonates the most within me is the analogy of the multiple instruments and harmonies that are necessary to create a beautiful orshestral sound. Everyone playing the same instrument all the time - or even different instruments but the exact same notes at the exact same time all the time - even when technically mistake-free and precisely is NOT beautiful music; at best, it is a beautiful melody. (At worst, it is soul-less.) All kinds of very different instruments playing intricate harmonies, counter-melodies and even varying rhythms in synch with each other and with passion and expression . . . now THAT is beautiful music.
I am reminded of the description of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 - where each and every part is said to be as important and critical as any other.
Truly, there is a need for some kind of uniformity and communal standardization, but we were created as originals. We can't allow ourselves to become copies.
Friday, March 18, 2011
I believe in the principle, but I believe in it for the earthly benefits. I don't view it as fire insurance. I don't begrudge the need to tie it to an eternal reward, but I don't like to look at it that way. I prefer to see it as a way to bless the greater community in the here and now, rather than as a way to increase my chance for an eternal reward.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Reincarnation is one of the most compelling aspects of Buddhism to me, and I see Mormonism's stages of existence as the closest thing to reincarnation that exists in all of Christianity. I kind of see Mormonism as an institutionalized, Christian version of Buddhism - or, more precisely, I see Buddhism's reincarnation as derivative of a more fundamental concept of eternal progression. I certainly think we are exponentially closer in theory and construct to Buddhism in regards to our eternal existence than to orthodox Christian theology.
I'm not saying I believe in the classic Buddhist concept of reincarnation (especially the idea of coming back as animals), but I certainly am open to the idea that our current mortal lives aren't our only opportunity to learn and grow.
I absolutely loved "What Dreams May Come" - a movie from years ago starring Robin Williams as a man who journeys to Hell to "save" his wife who committed suicide and who learns to see his life in a completely different way. It ends with a reincarnative scene, and I was moved deeply by many of the concepts explored in the film (most of which do NOT deal with reincarnation).
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
I look at the Book of Ether as reconciling the DNA issues of our day - once we move past the former assumptions of the early saints (including the leaders). The record states quite clearly that the Nephites were religious separatists by nature, so it's perfectly reasonable to assume that the Lamanites outnumbered them so heavily (despite disproportionate death in warfare) because the Lamanites assimilated some of the remnants of the Jaredite nation that didn't die in the great battle that destroyed the nation itself. That assimilation could even have been of a more numerous people (like the Nephites and the Mulekites), if the Jaredites lacked social cohesion and wanted social stability they had lost. In fact, I think that is the most logical conclusion, since even AFTER the Nephites assimilated the Mulekites the Lamanites STILL outnumbered them substantially.
There's no reason to demand that they all were wiped out in that battle (Coriantumr's claim notwithstanding) - that the Jaredites were any different than the Nephites (or any other hyperbolic historical description of total annihilation) in that regard. Many could have fled and refused to gather, joining a separate civilization instead. The Nephites certainly wouldn't have distinguished them as anything other than "Lamanites" in their records - since "Lamanites" meant "anybody not with us" right from the start.
Therefore, the "Lamanites" (as defined expansively by the Nephites themselves) not only would have outnumbered the Nephites, but they easily could have been primarily of Jaredite descent - and the description of the Jaredites leads me to believe they originated in the Upper East Asian steppes. (Hugh Nibley also reached this conclusion in "The World of the Jaredites".) If that is true, the "Lamanites" would have been primarily of Asian descent quite quickly in their existence, which the current DNA research indicates is the best possibility.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
I hope you like and are moved by these songs as much as I am.
"We All Need Saving" (Jon McLaughlin)
"Nearer, My God, to Thee" (Vocal Point)
Friday, March 11, 2011
To me, the crux of his comment is that either Joseph was telling the truth about the biggest things (the heavenly manifestations), or he was a fraud. Either he believed it, or he faked it. I can accept that, since I couldn't remain faithful if I was convinced he lied about those foundation things. There are lots and lots and lots of things that I believe are totally open to ambiguity and mistakes; the heavenly visitations/visions aren't among them - even though I think there are multiple, legitimate ways that those visitations could have occurred without being fraudulent.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Please bear with me as I explain why I believe this.
Genesis 3:12 says:
"And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat."
"You made this woman and commanded that she should remain with me. She gave me the fruit, and I ate it."
"You made this woman and commanded that she should remain with me. That was the first and greatest commandment you gave me. Therefore, when she gave me the fruit to eat, and I realized we would be separated as a result, I ate it also in order to remain with her - and fulfill the first and highest law you gave me. I had a choice to stay with you alone forever or be with her outside your presence, and I chose to remain with her rather than to remain alone with you."
Consider carefully the following point: "None else" includes the Lord, Himself - so, in a very real way, Adam was making the choice we teach that all will have to make in the eternities (to "leave home" and the presence of the Father and Son and embark on our own eternal journey as a united couple - "God" to our own spirit children). Thus, I see figurative meaning in the Garden for both our mortal and immortal existences - and I see Adam's statement in Genesis 3:12 as his straightforward explanation of his choice to accept the Father's full plan, by placing life with his wife ahead of life alone with God.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011
Neither of the groups is "right" or "wrong" - just as swimmers who use different strokes aren't "right" or "wrong". Each might look like they are on different journeys to some in the other group, but I think we're all in the same main stream. In other words, we sometimes think we are swimming in a local creek or tributary when, in reality, we all are swimming in the Mississippi River and just might not be able to see those in a different current all the time.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
As I thought about how to begin, I realized I want to make one simple, yet critical, point:
In order to feel to sing a song of redeeming love, it is necessary to feel redeemed.
As I stated last month, there is a fundamental difference between being "redeemed" (bought back, purchased, etc.) and being "saved" (kept from being sold / lost). Mormon theology is crystal clear that all have been redeemed from the Fall and the influence eternally of evil - that the only people who are not redeemed are those who know they are being offered that redemption and consciously choose to reject it and embrace evil instead. Everyone else, regardless of their actions in mortality, are redeemed and "rewarded" in some way.
This recognition should bring a degree of joy and rejoicing to those who believe it - but, unfortunately, our focus on the "final reward" (salvation and exaltation) often gets in the way of a simple appreciation of the initial gift (redemption). Too often, the obsession with the final reward blinds us to the obligation we should feel to "sing the song of redeeming love" - and that's a shame.
Therefore, my only plea at the beginning of this month is for anyone who reads this to consider the love of God that would motivate a God to promise redemption for all who agreed to come to this mortal sphere - to not let us be separated forever - to do whatever it took to purchase us from a fallen state and, subsequently, offer to keep us from falling again.
Salvation and exaltation are impossible without redemption occurring first - so we should feel the emotion expressed within a song with which I will end this post:
I Stand All Amazed
(Click the circle next to "Words and Music" at the top, left of the page - then click the "Play" button above that spot.)
Friday, March 4, 2011
I think it could be a historical record. It's possible. It just doesn't seem to be what I was raised to think it was. It might not be the historical record of the Native American Indians.
Answer: The book itself never makes that claim.
Honestly, I have never encountered an actual claim within the pages themselves that I believe is demonstrably false. There are numerous assumptions of people on both sides of the validity debate that I think are incorrect, lame, ludicrous and even frightening - but there's no actual claim of the book itself that I have found to be indefensible or preposterous. Over the decades I have been reading it, on the other hand, there are numerous things that have snapped my head back and made me realize I had misunderstood it previously.