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)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

DNA and the Book of Mormon (and the Bible)

I don't want this blog to be full of my questions about Mormonism that would make me almost appear to be a dissident. So I'm going to bring up a few points about DNA and the Book of Mormon. There's a lot that can be said on this subject, but I really want to focus on how hypocritical it is when other Christians criticize the Book of Mormon for "failing" the DNA test. That is because the exact same DNA tests that they use to "prove" that the Book of Mormon is false would also prove the Bible false with pretty much the same logic.

Their arguments against the Book of Mormon go something like this:
1. The Book of Mormon teaches that the ancestors of Native Americans are completely/mostly/primarily Israelite (or Jewish in modern times.) Or rather, Jews and Native Americans share a common ancestor.
2. Jewish DNA and Native American DNA are not alike enough to indicate that they share a common ancestor.
3. Therefore the Book of Mormon is not true.

A lot can be written about the flaws in their logic, but I just want to point out how this logic stands up with the Bible:
1. The Bible teaches that ALL humans share a common ancestor (First Adam and Eve, then Noah and his wife.) By ALL humans, that must include Jews and Native Americans.
2. Jewish DNA and Native American DNA are not alike enough to indicate that they share a common ancestor.
3. Therefore the Bible is not true.

I should note that there was only 11 generations between Noah and Abraham, so if they believe #1, there isn't enough time between Noah and Abraham for them to conclude that #2 applies to the first example, but not the second example.

So, it is hypocritical of a non-Mormon Christian to say that DNA disproves the Book of Mormon, but not the Bible.

Priesthood Session of General Conference

I really don't want to come off as caustic, but there is something about the way General Conference is presented that I've never understood. Why isn't the Priesthood Session of General Conference broadcast in the same way that ALL the other sessions are? It's not like there's anything secret said. Transcripts and DVDs of everything are published soon after conference. Whenever a big announcement has been made it has been reported in all the major Utah newspapers and TV stations. So why is it made less convenient for people to watch or listen to?

I used to think that it was because if it was broadcast normally, the Priesthood wouldn't go. But that's a stupid argument. If somebody didn't want to go, he just wouldn't go.

Imagine this:
Suppose you had some information and you felt it was really important for the whole world to know it. So you publish the information in a video conference that the whole world can see on the Internet. Sounds good so far. Now suppose that some of this information you decide to publish, but not in video form on the Internet. People can read transcripts about a week later. Or if they really want to watch the video broadcast can find a nearby meetinghouse where it is broadcast (which might not be all that close depending on where they live.) It kind of makes it sound like that information isn't as important to you -- that it's more of a footnote or something technical.

My point is that if Priesthood session information is as important the other session information, then why would they make one much easier to access than the others? Or when they made the decision to do things that way, did they just not think about that?

Again, I apologise if I sound caustic, but I really want to know why Priesthood session is broadcast the way that it is?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Getting Married in the Temple

This is something that I've never really understood. As a Mormon, I pretty much have three options when it comes to getting married:

  1. Get married in the temple
  2. Get married outside the temple, wait at least a year, then get married in the temple
  3. Get married outside the temple
I don't have any problem with the temple itself, but getting married in the temple means at least three things:

  1. Any non-member or non-temple recommend holding member cannot attend the ceremony.
  2. I live outside of Utah, so I have to explain to all my coworkers and friends why they are not allowed (or not invited) to come to my wedding.
  3. I would have to drive about 3 hours to get married in a place the neither I nor my fiance has any connection with other than the fact that there is a temple there.
I can't wait to explain to my coworkers:
"My finance and I do see the advantages to getting married in a nice setting nearby and inviting everyone we know to this very special day in our lives, but instead we are going to have a small ceremony about three hours from here, so it will only be a little inconvenient for people to come. I would really like to invite you, but our religion won't allow it."
What are they going to think?
"Send the missionaries my way." (That won't work because they'd have to wait at least a year.)

So what are some solutions?

  • We could have a traditional wedding, wait a year, then get sealed in the temple.

This sounds like a compromise, but most Mormon girls that I've talked to don't seem like they'd be willing to go with it. Plus, do it like this is almost considered a sin (at least repentance is necessary). President Joseph Fielding Smith said, "Unless young people who marry outside the temple speedily repent, they cut themselves off from exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God. If they should prove themselves worthy, notwithstanding that great error, to enter into the celestial kingdom, they go in that kingdom as servants." ( emphasis added.) So for some reason, this method won't work.

  • We could get sealed in the temple and then have a tradition wedding.

Again this sounds like a fair compromise, but again it is not advocated. The website indicates: "The Church instructs members not to have a second wedding ceremony after a temple sealing because it shows disrespect for the sacredness of the temple ordinances. If a member disobeys these instructions, there is no direct punishment as far as the Church is concerned. However, without complete and full repentance, the temple sealing will not be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, and it will be of none effect, leaving the couple with no promises of eternal family living." ( Again, this method is considered so wrong that it merits repentance and withdrawal of divine promises.


I've presented some of the things I've been taught, but I still have a few questions. I would love it if someone would put a comment and answer these because I would really like to know. (That's why I started this blog.)

  1. Why do Mormons need to wait a year after getting married in a traditional ceremony to get sealed in the temple?
  2. How does having another ceremony after a temple celling show disrespect? The way I see it, if people didn't respect it, they wouldn't do it.
  3. Why does having a wedding ceremony outside the temple so serious that it necessitates repentance and can affect salvation?