The Zoramites and I (or Should It Be Me?)

In a recent article in the Ensign (Sep 2014), Elder L. Whitney Clayton–of the LDS Presidency of the Seventy–likens me, a “less-active member,” to the “iniquitous” Zoramites.  So who were the Zoramites?  They were a sect mentioned in the Book of Mormon that separated themselves from the more-valiant Nephites:

For it was the cause of great sorrow to Alma [a BofM prophet] to know of the iniquity among his people; there his heart was exceedingly sorrowful because of the separation of the Zoramites from the Nephites (Alma 31:1-2).

The Zoramites are most famous for constructing a tower called the Rameumptom (Alma 31:21).  According to wikipedia:

A Rameumpton is a high tower or stand from which the apostate Zoramites gave a pre-determined vain prayer.  The practice of preaching from a Rameumptom was viewed by several BofM characters as sinful.  Based on a passsage in the BofM the term “Rameumptom” has come to have a metaphoric meaning in Mormon culture, signifying self aggrandizement or hubris.

In a tongue-in-cheek letter to the editor of Dialogue, Robert Nelson Jr. compares the Rameumpton ceremonies to some modern Mormon practices.  But that is neither here nor there.  Although one could argue that the Zoramite comparison might better represent today’s institutional Church services than us “less-active members.”

At Least We Zoramites Are Snappy Dressers

At Least We Zoramites Are Snappy Dressers, Although Faceless

Using Alma’s reactivation work on the Zoramites as an example, Clayton promotes a similar effort toward myself and other Mormons who are “less-active members.”  The intent is to bring us back into the fold.  Although Clayton doesn’t call it by name, the LDS program is referred to as “Hastening the Work.”

The problem is, I don’t want to be brought back into the fold and I don’t want to be “hastened.”  I’m very comfortable being a “less-active member.”  I’m not a “less-active member” because of a spat with the bishop, or a snub from a member or members, or some other superficial reason.  I’m inactive because my personal belief structure doesn’t always line up with institutional Mormonism.  Luckily, so far, my Ward has agreed to leave me out of “hastening.”  But I do appreciate the monthly lesson from the visiting teachers.  They are always very careful to limit their visit to 30 minutes.

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LDS Official Says “Be Agents of Action” in Developing Countries

By Elder Robert C. Gay, First Quorum of the Seventy [1]

Years ago some of my associates and I began partnerships that extended loans to impoverished people in India.  One of the first women we loaned money to built a small, successful business.  We asked her what she was going to do with her new found profits.  She told us, “I’m going to buy my son back from slavery.”

I have never forgotten her words.  Out of desperation for food, her family had sold their son into indentured servitude.  The harsh reality of our world is that many people live without what many of us take for granted:  electricity, education, employment, clean water, sufficient food–let alone the liberating truths of the restored gospel.

Robert and Lynette Gay Have Devoted Much of Their Lives in Serving Others through Humanitarian Efforts

Robert and Lynette Gay Have Devoted Much of Their Lives in Serving Others through Humanitarian Efforts

A fundamental question you should consider is this:  “What am I going to do with the blessings that have been bestowed upon me?”  Will you engage or be content on the sidelines?  Will you lift others or think only of yourself?

God invites us to be agents of action and be anxiously engaged in good causes.  It is easy to limit the impact of our love, our influence, and our blessings to only close friends, loved ones, and those of our own choosing.  But the Savior asks more of us.  “If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?” (Matthew 5:56).  Paul added this exclamation point:  “[Without] charity, I am nothing.”  Charity, he added, “seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13:2, 5).  We are to leave our comfort zones and bless those around us, and even those who despise us.

Some of you will say, “Who am I?  I am no genius.  I have no unique talent.  I am nobody special.  I just feel fortunate to get through each day.”

To each of you, no matter your fears or uncertainties, I say, “Never sell yourself short!”  Today you and I live in a world where good and evil share the stage, but the Lord tells the faithful, “Nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).

______________

[1] From a commencement address, “Continuing Your Life’s Journey,” given at Brigham Young University-Idaho on July 23, 2013.

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LDS Tribute to Mother Teresa

By Elder Robert C. Gay, First Quorum of the Seventy [1]

Seated on the podium the day I marched down the aisle in my Harvard graduation robe was Mother Teresa.  She rose and delivered on of the most memorable speeches ever given at Harvard–a profound call to service and repentance.  She expressed the hope that we graduates, “in going into the world, [would] go with Jesus, [would] work for Jesus, and [would] serve him in distressing guise of the poor.”

Mother Teresa in India

Mother Teresa in India

She also shared the following story of a couple she had met just a few days [earlier]:

A young man and a woman came to our house with a big amount of money.  I asked them, “Where did you get this money?”  They gave me the most strange answer:  “Before our wedding we decided not to buy wedding clothes, not to have a wedding feast, but to give you the money to feed the poor.”  Then I asked them one more question:  “But why, why did you do that?”  That is a scandal in India, not to have a wedding feast and special clothes.  And they gave me this most beautiful answer:  “Out of love for each other, we wanted to give each other something special, and that special something was the big sacrifice, the wonderful something.”

Here was one of the world’s genuine saints reminding us graduates that everyone–not just some fortunate few in the audience that day but even those in the poorest regions of the world with little to their names–has something to give, if nothing more than sacrifice and pure love for others.  Mother Teresa taught us that sacrificing something as simple as new clothing or a meal or a cultural rite of passage could change a life.

___________________

[1]  From a commencement address, “Continuing Your Life’s Journey,” given at Brigham Young University-Idaho on July 23, 2013.

 

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Comments about Mormon Missions, Part XI (Walker Wright)

by Walker Wright (from withoutend.org)

Stats of mission tracting and contacting were unreliable.  I knew for a fact that over the past year missionaries had lied about their stats.  I had lied about my stats on occasion.  I also knew that missionaries stretched the definition of a “contact” (the mission president apparently recognized this too and attempted to define what counted as a contact) in order to boost their numbers.  One could say that these missionaries (including me) just didn’t “have the Spirit” with them.  Perhaps.  One could also say that we were responding to incentives.  These numbers supposedly represented our quality as missionaries.  In an effort to avoid spiritual shaming and the (unlikely) possibility of being sent home, we missionaries fudged our numbers.  This meant that the statistics were either based on fabricated numbers or so lacking in quality that they might as well have been.  Instead of catching the vision, we were focused solely on making our quota.

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Change and Mormon Feminism

Neyland McBaine, a brand strategist at Bonneville Communications, has come up with suggestions for enhancing the role of women in the LDS Church (She proposes a middle path between the status quo and what groups like Ordain Women are advocating.).

  • Establish parity in budgets and fun activities between Cub Scouts and girls’ Activity Days.
  • Honor girls in front of the congregation at key ages, just as boys are.
  • Involve women in baby blessings led by the all-male priesthood.
  • Assign young women to be permanent Sunday greeters.
  • Have young women hold the microphones at testimony meetings.
  • Allow members to have a woman sit in a worthiness interview with the male priesthood leader.
  • Quote female sources in sermons, Relief Society and Sunday school lessons.

Unfortunately, this list is little more than tokenism.  Nothing on this list provides Mormon women with a greater role in the governance of the Church.  It is largely an argument for slow incremental change.  Small steps here and there.

We are living in a world of rapid scientific, technological, and social change.  So for me the issue becomes, is slow incremental change really feasible in the modern world?  Dave Banack, in a largely ignored comment on timesandseasons.org, made the following observation about slow change:

There is something of a mild crisis (Banack’s emphasis) in the sense that a not insignificant number of LDS women now appear to be tuning out or simply walking away from the Church.  One can’t simply ignore this development.  And while I agree that changes must be made prudently, so as to not alienate a good chunk of the current membership, gradualism may not be enough.  The Church is so conservative that gradual changes appear to some of us as significant changes, but if the rate of gradual change is still slower than the present rate of change in society at large, we’re still losing ground and becoming more out of step with society.  “Gradual change” sounds positive but may actually mean “we’re slowly falling even farther behind the beneficial changes in society.”

The LDS Church is losing out by not including more women in important leadership positions.  Priesthood or no priesthood, we can’t continue to disenfranchise 50 percent of the membership.  It’s time for institutional Mormonism to speedup change.

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LDS Church and Ebola in West Africa

Earlier this month, because of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the LDS Church withdrew its missionaries for Liberia and Sierra Leone.  But it left its local members behind.

The Mormon Church has a minor presence in the two countries; the membership numbers in the thousands.  According to the LDS Church’s newroom website:

The Church through its humanitarian programs and partners, in in the process of assessing needs and considering how to best support relief efforts to its members and the people of these countries.

I wonder what kind of a message it sends to the world when we evacuate our missionaries and leave behind our members?  Aren’t we making some sort of a social statement about the relative worth of various categories of members.  I understand that missionary parents don’t want their children in harms way, but aren’t we all members of the same church?  Don’t we all have equal standing?

Given certain rules about sanitation and handling the sick and the dead, ebola is manageable.  It is not viewed as a threat to the United States or other developed countries.  I wonder if the missionaries could have been useful in helping to educate the members and the non-members without putting them in unnecessary harm?

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LDS Church and Boy Scouts Need to Split Company

Updated:  26 Aug 2014

Last week, a letter and attachment were dropped off at our home encouraging us to contribute financially to the Boy Scout program (I live in Utah County).  I was disappointed with the attachment; it emphasizes the wrong things and minimizes the important one.

The attachment gives 6 reasons (called pillars), in order of importance, why scouting matters.  First of 6 is “Be prepared by developing a testimony of Christ and of the gospel.”  Then it has the following quote:

Bearing our testimonies around the campfire:  If we take our young men to outdoor activities and forget to have them bear their testimonies around the fire, we’ve missed the purpose of scouting.

This is wrong for several reasons; I will mention two.  Scouting should be about diversity.  It should be about boys learning to live in a world that has a wonderful mix of cultures and religions.  What about our Jewish, Muslims, and non-gospel neighbors?  And either encouraging or forcing our scouts to bear their testimonies is not a healthy activity.  They are still young and developing their belief set.  There are so many other wonderful activities that can happen outdoors.

Third of 6 is “Prepare to go on a mission and teach others.”  The LDS Church has so many other venues for mission preparation, that scouting doesn’t need to be overtly one of them.  Scouting can provide wonderful experiences that may be useful on a LDS mission, but going on a mission shouldn’t be an area of emphasis.  The LDS Church already has Primary, Sunday School, Seminary, Institute, Home Teachers, Family Home Evening, and nosy neighbors for mission indoctrination.

Scouting is not a particularly good way to indoctrinate prospective missionaries anyway.  In the future, half the LDS missionaries will be women.  Boy scouts only reaches half of the  future missionary pool.

According to the Provo Daily Herald, the attachment is the work of Rushford Lee, owner of Research:Emotion:Design (RED) of Provo.  He wanted to know:

How did Scouting relate to Church objectives for youth?  Was there a spiritual side to Scouting?  Is there really any link between the trail to Eagle and a mission?

Through focus groups with LDS leaders (but apparently not with parents), Lee or RED compiled the 6 pillars mentioned above, and I assume is responsible for the poorly thought-out attachment.  He also got himself appointed Vice President of Marketing for the local council.  So more offensive material to follow.

I think that scouting needs to separate itself from the LDS Church or vise versa.  Scouting is about living in a diverse world, enjoying and respecting the outdoors, living a charitable life, and developing socialization skills.  The LDS Church has lost Sir Baden-Powell’s vision.

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