Saturday, November 24, 2007

My view of Mormon Doctrine

If Mormons had to believe every opinion of every leader the church has ever had, let's face it -- Mormons would believe some crazy and even contradictory things. Critics of the church often try to use that against us -- taking fringe ideas as if they were mainline doctrine. But this leads to the issue: what is Mormon doctrine and what is not? And why would a prominent leader teach something that isn't true or that isn't doctrine?

Here's my view: In the church there are two different types of teachings: doctrines and interpretations of doctrine. The doctrine is always true, but an interpretation of doctrine doesn't have to be. I won't get into what constitutes Mormon doctrine (that will be for another time) but I do what to point out a few things with interpretations of doctrine.

An interpretation of doctrine is exactly what it sounds like -- an interpretation. There is no requirement or even always a need for it to be true. Interpretations are meant to be specific and practical applications of doctrine. These are the "how do I apply this to my life" things. They also come because at the time they are the best or easiest way for us to understand things. A recent example is changing one word in the introduction of the Book of Mormon from "principal" to "among." Many years ago it made the most sense if all the Native Americans were of Lamanite decent. This was never a fundamental concept and knowing for sure of its veracity had no effect on the salvation of any individual. However, recent DNA evidence suggests that there are Native Americans who do not have any Jewish blood in them. Because the idea was only an interpretation it was easily changed from all Native Americans to just some of them. Even still there is no need for any of the current Native Americans to have Jewish DNA.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Do Mormons get married too quickly?

One thing that I've never understood is how to us Mormons get married so soon after meeting someone. I've never been married, so I can't really say, but I really can't imagine meeting someone and getting engaged within a few months and getting married within a year of first meeting each other. But I have known lots of Mormons who have done that. All I can ready do is speculate as to why.

I guess as far as choosing the right person, it's really a personal decision, but the timing of the wedding should be a little more practical. After all, the first part of any relationship is always great, so to me it makes sense to test the relationship a little. It's well known that when people first fall in love, they will often ignore the other person's negative characteristics. So enough time should pass so that both people are out of this initial phase of the relationship so they can objectively see if any of those negative characteristics should prevent them from pursueing a longer relationship.

If two people get married too early in their relationship they risk one of the following consequences:
1. Divorce or separation
2. Being married, but wishing they had been a little more cautious before getting married in the first place.
I say "risk" because these aren't the only possible outcomes, but they have already happened to many people and the risk can be reduced if people just took more time to get to know each other before they got married.

So why do people get married so quickly? Again, this is largely personal and done a person by person basis. But I do know one reason why some Mormons have moved up their wedding date: sex. In the church premarital sex is condemned. However, some people either want have sanctioned sex sooner or they are worried that they will break the law of chastity before their wedding date, so they have moved up their wedding date. And not just their wedding date, the date they get sealed in the temple. Am I they only one who finds this disrespectful to the sealing cerimony? People are going to rush into making sacred covenants for sex?

Think about it: A man and a woman decide to get married at a certain date, but they realize that they would like to have sex at an earlier date, so they move their wedding date up. They've turned a short engagement to an even shorter engagement because they want sex. Don't they know the risks they are taking? (See risks 1 and 2 above)

I'd like to provide an alternative. I know this isn't going to be kosher, and most other Mormons won't agree because they've been taught the opposite, but when taking a long view of the potential consequences this is the safest: Mormons should start having sex before marriage.

If Mormons had sex before marriage they wouldn't need to get married so quickly. It is true that premarital sex has its negative consequences, but in the long run it reduces the risk for future unhappyness.

Let's take a look at the potential consequences of various actions:

Action A : Get married quickly to not have premarital sex.
Consequence: potential that everything will work out, but there is risk that it will end in divorce, separation, or unhappyness. In practice, not spending enough time before marriage makes it very difficult to tell what the outcome will be.

Action B : Longer courtship and engagement, but have premarital sex.
Consequence: Some type of church discipline, but that is only temporary. And eventually it can be repented of. There still is some risk of divorce, separation, or unhappyness, but it is greatly reduced because the two people have a better understanding of their compatibility.

Action C: Longer courtship and engagement, but no premarital sex.
Consequence: This is by far the best option. There still is some risk of divorce, separation, or unhappyness, but it is greatly reduced because the two people have a better understanding of their compatibility.

There may be some people who feel that any dating strategy that involves premarital sex cannot be ideal. But I'm not saying that it's ideal, I'm saying that better than what is currently practiced. Based on the probability of potential outcomes in the long run, the consequences of the above actions are ranked C > B > A.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

1 NEPHI 19: 23

23 ... that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning. (

I'm sure most of you are familiar with this concept -- we should apply what we read in the scriptures for use in our own lives. I'd like to provide my interpretation of this verse (although it isn't the only one that I could come up with.)

With the spiritual stuff, it's really easy to apply the scriptures to ourselves because they deal with that directly. But what about other aspects of my daily life? Relationships, work, etc. There's not a whole lot of specifics with those. But I've heard the saying that when we want to talk to God, we should pray and when we want to hear God we should hear the scriptures. But if my problem is something like "What career should I pursue?" I could read the scriptures for hours on end and not come up with anything. It's obviously something that is very important to me and I would like some Divine guidance, so how can I get it by reading the scriptures. How do I liken the scriptures to myself? I really can't give any specific answers to this general question, but I thought up a method to liken the scriptures to ourselves to receive answers to things that aren't specifically mentioned in the scriptures:

Perhaps the most important thing is the Holy Ghost. For example, I could be reading from the war chapters in the Book of Mormon trying to figure out which career I should pursue. As the Holy Ghost guides me, it will point out specific things in the verses for me to think about. As I think about those things, I can start to apply them to my situation. However, I brought up the war chapters to make a point. Likening the scriptures to ourselves doesn't mean that in a given situation we should behave exactly like someone did in the scriptures. As in war there are lots of different options, each with advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps I'll read something and see how it's similar to my life, but the Spirit will guide me to look at other options. Perhaps the war strategy used isn't the best choice for me, but if I modify it a little it would be the best.

I'm sorry if I'm not very clear with all the steps, but this is the process:
1. Have the Holy Ghost (or at least be in an environment conducive to the Spirit)
2. Read the scriptures
3. PONDER the scriptures, think about what's going on, or what the teachings are
4. As you have the Holy Ghost, think about how to apply this teaching in your life
5. To confirm that you've made the correct interpretation, you should pray and ask God

"When we want to speak to God, wepray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures; forHis words are spoken through His prophets. He will then teach us as welisten to the promptings of the Holy Spirit." (Robert D. Hales, "Holy Scriptures: The Power of God unto Our Salvation," Ensign, Nov. 2006, 26-27)