Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Over the past several months, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published several essays addressing specific doctrines of the Church.  Many of the subjects have been a source of concern for individuals, within and without the Church, who have questioned the historicity and validity of certain truths of the gospel.  I, for one, welcome the discussion these essays have engendered and hope readers will study and pray about the messages as they try to understand what we believe.

Unfortunately, answering questions for those who struggle with their faith also invites criticism from those who never had much faith or who have a desire to ridicule or belittle the beliefs of Latter-day Saints.  Such is the case with these essays.

I wish it were not so.

I wish we could share without rancor.

I am reminded of a story from the scriptures.

In the Book of Mormon there is an experience the Prophet Alma shared as he began a new chapter in his life.  These events occurred during a transitional time in Nephite history – they were changing their form of government and some new issues came to the forefront.

Governmental workings can be dicey under the best of circumstances (just look at what we go through with a system that has been in place for nearly 2 ½ centuries) but when governance makes drastic changes, undoubtedly there will be trouble.

King Mosiah, for reasons that are clear as you read the scriptures, suggested that the tradition of Kings should be abandoned and a new form of rule accepted by the people.  He proposed a system of judges, all accountable to the people, who would take on the task of helping maintain peace and freedom.

The people accepted and Alma was chosen to be the first Chief Judge of the people.  He also happened to be the High Priest of the Church at that time.  Yes, there was a mixing of Church and State – really not that unusual in days of old (see David and Solomon for example).

Almost immediately, there was a challenge to the new ruling system.  Some who desired glory chafed at the idea of having a government determined by the voice of the people – they probably felt they were better equipped to decide what was best.

But in his role as Prophet/Chief Judge, Alma was confronted by an even more difficult challenge.  A man, Nehor by name, came among the people of the city and began to preach doctrine that was contrary to the teachings of Christ.  He was very convincing and drew many people away after his teachings.

The law of the land stated that all people were allowed to believe what they would about God and His commandments.

But no one was above the law of the land.

Nehor, with his preaching of another doctrine, was perfectly within his rights and found no legal resistance to his efforts.  Because of his work, he was bound to have adversaries in the Church of Christ.  One was a man named Gideon who had gone through many struggles defending the Church and its leaders.  When Gideon challenged Nehor’s teachings, there was a dispute and Gideon was killed with a sword.

I don’t want to focus on the individuals in this story so much as what happened after the fact.  Though Nehor was punished with death, his efforts were not destroyed.  There were still some who relished in the doctrines he espoused.

The outgrowth of this rise in a new ‘religion’ was inevitable.

Here is what Alma recorded, speaking of those who accepted Nehor's doctrine:

But it came to pass that whosoever did not belong to the church of God began to persecute those that did belong to the church of God, and had taken upon them the name of Christ…
Nevertheless, there were many among [the believers in Christ] who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows… (Alma 1:19, 22)

Despite Alma’s best efforts, many in the Church of Christ felt it was necessary to stand in aggressive opposition to those who spread the doctrine of Nehor.

The result was not good.

There is always cause to defend the truths of Christ as we understand them.  But to defend them ‘warmly’ is not the way of the Savior.

The result of ‘warm’ defense is always something less than what God invites us to do or be.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke to this subject in the last General Conference:

Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious. We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence. In doing so, we ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion. We encourage all of us to practice the Savior’s Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).

I sincerely believe in Christ and His Atonement.

I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Kingdom of God on earth today.

I believe that there are good people outside the LDS Church who have many beliefs in common with my own.

I also believe that there are many who do not accept some of the things I hold dear to my heart.

They have the right to believe what they feel is true.

I do not have the right to speak harshly, warmly, or any otherly way about what they hold to be true.

I spent two years as a missionary in another land, and to my recollection, never once spoke in the negative about someone’s religious understandings.  If they asked, I was delighted to share what I had to offer and would even show them some differences in our doctrine.  But NEVER with the intent to belittle or demean what was in their heart.  That is not the way of Christ and it is not the way of those who seek to follow His pattern.

My intent, in this message, is to remind myself and others of strong religious persuasions to be kind as we discuss differences in our beliefs.  

We are all children of the same Father and have much in common.  

Most of us have faith in a Savior who has made it possible for us to overcome all the challenges mortality can devise.  

We love Him for this gift and follow His teachings because of that love.

While we may not agree on specific doctrines, we CAN agree to be kind in our words and civil in our discourse as we discuss these things.  That is the way our Exemplar would have us do things.

I believe in Christ.

I believe Christ.

I will speak as He speaks.

Monday, November 10, 2014


A few days ago a man who is currently serving as a bishop in an LDS ward wrote an article about one of my ‘favorite’ Mormon politicians (there was much sarcasm intended by that word).  This Bishop suggested that if Harry Reid lived in his ward there might be some difficulties in signing a Temple Recommend for the illustrious Democrat.

Harry Reid

(For those not of the LDS Faith, a Temple Recommend is the document required to allow an individual to enter Temples and participate in the religious rituals found therein.  A member is presented with a number of questions that must be answered appropriately to receive the Recommend.  Some deal with the stance on beliefs and associations that might be considered ‘against Church practices or doctrine.’)

Manti Temple

The author of the article indicated that, at least from his perspective, Harry Reid was in violation of several of the questions that are asked of each member desiring entrance to the House of the Lord.

There is no sympathy from me for Mr. Reid and his political persuasions.  His actions are often odious and despicable (see the tricks he pulled on Mitt Romney) and his leanings are so far left that I wonder how he can walk. In my estimation he is a liberal in the most offensive way that term can be used.


His worthiness to participate in the religious practices of His (and my) church is not based on his political beliefs or practices.

(I suppose if he was a member of ISIS and went around cutting heads off innocent people we might reconsider.)

He doesn't!!!

He is my brother in the gospel of Christ.

His support of some programs and laws leaves me wondering how he sleeps at night.

Nevertheless – and this is a big nevertheless – I (nor anyone else except his Bishop) do not have the authority or responsibility to determine his worthiness to enjoy the blessings of the temple.

For a few years I was invited to serve as bishop of my ward.  In that responsibility I interviewed countless individuals, seeking to determine worthiness to partake of sacred blessings.  Most who came were completely qualified to receive recommendation.

Not surprisingly, none were perfect.

But there were some who caused me to think and prayerfully consider what to do.  A few were encouraged to prepare themselves more fully in certain areas and return when they felt they were ready.

Some responded with anger or shame when denied a Recommend and left without the desired blessings.  Through it all, my decisions were based on what I knew of the person, the answers to their questions, and the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.

I sincerely believe that I never made a decision founded in personal opinion, anger, or frustration with the member or circumstance.

It is not the duty of a bishop to make judgment on souls who reside outside the realm of his stewardship.  When one bishop calls into question the judgment of another there is a serious breach of protocol and propriety.  That is not the ways things are done in the Church.

I am confident the bishop who wrote the article is a good man and is doing his best to fulfill his calling.  He is offered inspiration from the Holy Ghost to know how to lead his little flock of saints

But, he is not privy to the facts, inspiration, worthiness, or anything else concerning members of another congregation.

It is highly inappropriate to speculate on the worthiness of a member who is not within the stewardship one has been given.

I know Harry Reid in his political role by his voting record and the things he preaches.

I know nothing of his role as a husband, father, man, or member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

There is only one person responsible to give or withhold permission to participate in temple blessings.

Jordan River Temple

Those judgments are best handled by leaders who have the right to make the determinations necessary.  They are trustworthy and will do what is right.

Let them.

Without help from the ‘peanut gallery.’

Monday, November 3, 2014


I know the following is a little long, but I have always loved the message  C. S. Lewis included in his Narnia Chronicles.  This story takes place at the end of the "Last War" and is meant to help us understand why some people can't be helped.... because they won't be helped.  

Anyways, enjoy and think a little about what it means to you.

Aslan and the Dwarfs

“I hope Tash ate the Dwarfs too,” said Eustace. “Little swine.”

“No, he didn’t,” said Lucy. “And don’t be horrid. They’re still here. In fact you can see them from here. And I’ve tried and tried to make friends with them but it’s no use.”

“Friends with them!” cried Eustace. “If you knew how those Dwarfs have been behaving!”

“Oh stop it, Eustace,” said Lucy. “Do come and see them. King Tirian, perhaps you could do something with them.”

“I can feel no great love for Dwarfs today,” said Tirian. “Yet at your asking, Lady, I would do a greater thing than this.”

Lucy led the way and soon they could all see the Dwarfs. They had a very odd look. They weren’t strolling about or enjoying themselves (although the cords with which they had been tied seemed to have vanished) nor were they lying down and having a rest. They were sitting very close together in a little circle facing one another. They never looked round or took any notice of the humans till Lucy and Tirian were almost near enough to touch them. Then the Dwarfs all cocked their heads as if they couldn’t see anyone but were listening hard and trying to guess by the sound what was happening.

“Look out!” said one of them in a surly voice. “Mind where you’re going. Don’t walk into our faces!”

“All right!” said Eustace indignantly. “We’re not blind. We’ve got eyes in our heads.”

“They must be darn good ones if you can see in here,” said the same Dwarf whose name was Diggle.

“In where?” asked Edmund.

“Why you bone-head, in here of course,” said Diggle. “In this pitch-black, poky, smelly little hole of a stable.”

“Are you blind?” said Tirian.

“Ain’t we all blind in the dark!” said Diggle.

“But it isn’t dark, you poor stupid Dwarfs,” said Lucy. “Can’t you see? Look up! Look round! Can’t you see the sky and the trees and the flowers? Can’t you see me?”

“How in the name of all Humbug can I see what ain’t there? And how can I see you any more than you can see me in this pitch darkness?”

“But I can see you,” said Lucy. “I’ll prove I can see you. You’ve got a pipe in your mouth.”

“Anyone that knows the smell of baccy could tell that,” said Diggle.

“Oh the poor things! This is dreadful,” said Lucy. Then she had an idea. She stooped and picked some wild violets. “Listen, Dwarf,” she said. “Even if your eyes are wrong, perhaps your nose is all right: can you smell that?” She leaned across and held the fresh, damp flowers to Diggle’s ugly nose. But she had to jump back quickly in order to avoid a blow from his hard little fist.

“None of that!” he shouted. “How dare you! What do you mean by shoving a lot of filthy stable-litter in my face? There was a thistle in it too. It’s like your sauce! And who are you, anyway?”

“Earth-man,” said Tirian, “she is the Queen Lucy, sent hither by Aslan out of the deep past. And it is for her sake alone that I, Tirian your lawful King, do not cut all your heads from your shoulders, proved and twice-proved traitors that you are.”

“Well if that doesn’t beat everything!” exclaimed Diggle. “How can you go on talking all that rot? Your wonderful Lion didn’t come and help you, did he? Thought not. And now— even now— when you’ve been beaten and shoved into this black hole, just the same as the rest of us, you’re still at your old game. Starting a new lie! Trying to make us believe we’re none of us shut up, and it ain’t dark, and heaven knows what.”

“There is no black hole, save in your own fancy, fool,” cried Tirian. “Come out of it.” And, leaning forward, he caught Diggle by the belt and the hood and swung him right out of the circle of Dwarfs. But the moment Tirian put him down, Diggle darted back to his place among the others, rubbing his nose and howling:

“Ow! Ow! What d’you do that for! Banging my face against the wall. You’ve nearly broken my nose.”

“Oh dear!” said Lucy. “What are we to do for them?”

“Let ‘em alone,” said Eustace: but as he spoke the earth trembled. The sweet air grew suddenly sweeter. A brightness flashed behind them. All turned. Tirian turned last because he was afraid. There stood his heart’s desire, huge and real, the golden Lion, Aslan himself, and already the others were kneeling in a circle round his forepaws and burying their hands and faces in his mane as he stooped his great head to touch them with his tongue. Then he fixed his eyes upon Tirian, and Tirian came near, trembling, and flung himself at the Lion’s feet, and the Lion kissed him and said, “Well done, last of the Kings of Narnia who stood firm at the darkest hour.”

“Aslan,” said Lucy through her tears, “could you— will you— do something for these poor Dwarfs?”

“Dearest,” said Aslan, “I will show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do.” He came close to the Dwarfs and gave a low growl: low, but it set all the air shaking. But the Dwarfs said to one another, “Hear that? That’s the gang at the other end of the stable. Trying to frighten us. They do it with a machine of some kind. Don’t take any notice. They won’t take us in again!”

Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said “Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.” 

But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said:

“Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”

“You see,” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out. But come, children. I have other work to do.”

Lewis, C. S. (2008-10-29). The Last Battle: The Chronicles of Narnia (pp. 167-170). HarperCollins.