Personal Revelation (or Inspiration) and the LDS Church Leadership

Julienna Viegas-Haws, in an op-ed piece in, gives her definition of a progressive Mormon as one who is less likely than traditional Mormons to believe in:  “obedience to authority above personal inspiration” and “the unquestioned authority of the leaders of the LDS Church.”  Thus, I assume, she is not a believer in the phrase “once the prophet has spoken, the thinking is over.”

The issue of obedience was recently kept in the forefront when LDS leaders penned an official letter to be read to the adult membership reiterating the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage.  I suspect that a fair percentage of the members disagreed with either the tone of the message or the message itself.  So where does that leave “progressive” members?  And to be perfectly clear, I disagree with both the tone and the message of the letter.  It sounds like it was written by a lawyer and not by an inspired group of religious leaders.

Robert Kirby, also writing for, commented on the LDS letter:

I never assume that being in charge automatically makes anyone right.  So as long as I have a mind, I’m going to make it up myself.

Agreeing with someone just because they’re in charge is the best way I know of to prolong whatever it is that they may have gotten wrong.  And let’s be clear about that–no group of human beings, regardless of how special they believe themselves to be, ever gets everything right.

So where does personal revelation or inspiration fit into this discussion?  Many of us feel that the LDS leadership is wrong on the issue of SSM.  Can both the leadership and “progressives” be right?  I don’t know, but I feel comfortable with my opinion.  I don’t know if I’m inspired or not.

I’m old enough to remember the “black priesthood ban” fiasco.  I silently disagreed with the ban and was happy when for it was lifted in 1978.  The “same-sex marriage” ban seems hauntingly similar.

While I may have been silent prior to 1978, I can’t be silent now.

Posted in mormonism, Personal Essays, Religion, Social Justice | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Suggested Actions for Members Struggling with the Recent LDS Letter on Same-sex Marriage

LDS Church leaders recently had an official letter read to the teen and adult membership reiterating the Church’s stand that marriage is an institution for one man and one woman (against Mormon gay marriages).  For those struggling with the Church’s official stance, several options were suggested:

  • re-read the “Proclamation to the World;
  • resolve the issue through personal study and prayer; and
  • visit privately with your local Church leadership.

Robert Kirby, Mormon humorist and theologian, suggests an additional action:

  • adjust your medication levels.

Which made me think:  Certainly there must be other options:

  • re-read and aggressively study the Book of Leviticus;
  • review everything Christ said about same-sex marriage;
  • explain to a gay couple why their union is a threat to “traditional” marriage and give them a sincere hug;
  • talk to a biologist/geneticist about same-sex attraction;
  • interview a Catholic priest about the joys of celibacy; and
  • study GA statements about race prior to 1978.

Okay, I really don’t recommend an in-depth study of the Book of Leviticus.  In fact, I’m not a big fan of the Old Testament in general, except the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes.  And what does Ecclesiastes have to say about SSA?  “If two lie together, then they have heat.  How can one be warm alone?”  Notice, there is no mention of male or female in this verse.

Posted in bible, catholicism, mormonism, Religion, Science, Social Justice | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Pope Francis Asks the Waldensians for Forgiveness

In June 2015, Pope Francis traveled to northern Italy to visit a Waldensian Church.  While visiting, on behalf of the Catholic Church, he ask for their forgiveness.   (In an earlier post, I provided a brief history of the Waldensians and their relationship to Mormonism.)

The Waldensians were a medieval religious movement that was heavily persecuted by the Catholic Church.  To quote John Milton, writing about the slaughter of 1,700 Waldensians at the hands of the Catholic Duke of Savoy:

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones/Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold . . . who kept thy truth so pure of old.

The small sect is viewed as an important precursor to the 16th century Protestant Reformation.  Today there are only a few Waldensians scattered between northern Italy, South America, and the USA (where they are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church).

So why did Pope Francis feel the need to apologize?  According to Ed Simon, writing for

The Pope’s namesake, St. Francis, was a contemporary of Waldensian founder Peter Waldo, and in many ways they shared a similar theological perspective.  Earlier Franciscans were often marked as heretics, and in many ways it’s a contingency of history that has one group gaining approval and the other being persecuted.

The apology was an acknowledgement of this historical irony.

Is this apology unique in Catholic Church history?  Has the Church previously been too proud to ask for forgiveness.  Nope.

Previously, popes have apologized on numerous occasions, most notably for:

  • the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade,
  • the Church’s treatment of Galileo,
  • the many persecutions which attended the Catholic Counter-reformation and the early modern wars of religion, and
  • the Church’s role in the African slave trade.

While the papal apology to the Waldensians is not unique, it does demonstrate the Pope’s commitment to ecumenicalism.

Posted in catholicism, Religion, Social Justice | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Design for DIY Monkey Rings

I recently visited an amazing wooden playground system in Pleasant Grove UT.  One of the smaller attractions is a structure that hold a series of 4 circular monkey rings.  It is approximately 5′ in all 3 dimensions.

Monkey Ring Structure in Pleasant Grove UT

Monkey Ring Structure in Pleasant Grove UT

The vertical supports are wooden poles and the horizontal beam that holds the rings is made up of two 2x6s.  The rings are attached to the beam using chain and are spaced 15″ apart.

Monkey Ring Attached to Horizontal Beam

Monkey Ring Attached to Horizontal Beam

In lieu of running the chain through the beam, I think I will use eye-bolts to hold triangular–rather than circular–rings.  Instead of wooden poles, I will use metal fence poles (2-3/8″ OD, 8′ galvanized pipes).  Also, I will add 2 more rings to my prototype.  I plan on installing a playground monkey ring system somewhere in the Navajo Nation in early August.  So more details to follow.

Posted in Navajoland, Playground | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Is World Peace Possible?

Time magazine (6-13 Jun 2015) asked this question of two experts and a celebrity:  Zbigniew Brzenzinski, National Security Adviser in the Carter administration; Cass Sunstein, professor at Harvard Law School, and Yoko Ono.

Brzenzinski provides one forebodding scenario that might bring world peace:

Worldwide peace is most likely only some decades from now, when threats to humanity’s existence generated by global warming, pollution, etc., become an imminent threat to all.

In brief, only world peace driven by a recognition of the threat to everyone’s survival is the most likely source of salvation for a shortsighted humanity currently not able to see and think beyond the immediate.

While his assessment of humanity’s shortsightedness is certainly accurate, he gives a rather depressing photograph of possible initiators of world peace.

Sunstein gives a set of conditions that might lead to world peace:

Democracies do not generally go to war against each other:  their leaders have strong incentives to maintain the peace, and information flows freely, breaking down echo chambers and enabling people to find conflict-free paths.  As self-government and freedom of speech spread, world peace becomes more feasible.

However, democratizing the world has turned out to be a much bigger task than we Americans originally envisioned.  Both Brzezinski and Sunstein seem to agree that world peace is possible, but it’s not going to happen in my lifetime.

Ono just wrote platitudes and contributed little to the discussion:  “We are very, very close [to world peace] since we know that there is no recourse.”  I consider myself an optimist, but that statement is clearly unrealistic.

Posted in pollution, Science, Social Justice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dutch Firm to 3-D Print a Bridge

By Dan Kedmey (Time, 6-13 Jun 2015)

Dutch firm MX3D recently partnered with software giant Autodesk to build a machine that can “print” bridges in midair.  Its first test will be over an Amsterdam canal in 2017.  Here is how it will work:

  1. The bot extrudes cords of molten steel in a pattern and waits for them to cool before moving ahead–like a train making its own tracks.
  2. Along the way, software continuously monitors for engineering errors and instructs the bot to correct course if necessary.
  3. When the 24-ft. (7 m.) bridge is done (it’s expected to take 2 months), it will support foot traffic and feature intricate designs.
Posted in 3-D printing, Technology | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Strange Life of Neurophysiologist (and Dolphin Researcher) John Lilly

By Joshua Foer (NG, May 2015)

There are people who go on spiritual retreats to commune with dolphins, women who choose to give birth in the presence of dolphins, and centers that claim to use the powers of dolphin energy to treat the sick. “There are probably more weird ideas about dolphins swimming in cyberspace than there are dolphins swimming in the ocean,”  writes Gregg Martin in his book Are Dolphins Really Smart?  The Mammal Behind the Myth.  Many of those weird ideas can be traced back to a single man, named John Lilly.

Lilly was an iconoclastic neurophysiologist at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health who began studying dolphins in the 1950s.  In bestselling books like Man and Dolphin:  Adventures on a New Scientific Frontier and The Mind of the Dolphin:  A Nonhuman Intelligence, he was the first scientist to posit that these “humans of the sea” had language.  Almost single handedly, writes Gregg, he “managed to transform what was initially regarded  as an odd air-breathing fish at the turn of the 20th century into an animal whose intelligence is so sophisticated that it deserves the same constitutional protection as you and me.”

With grants from major scientific funding bodies.  Lilly opened a dolphin research facility in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where attempts were made to teach a dolphin named Peter to speak English.  As the 1960s dawned, Lilly’s experiments grew more and more unconventional–at one point he injected dolphins with LSD–and his funding began to dry up.  He wandered off into the weirdest corners of the counterculture and carried with him the credibility of the field he helped create.  Dolphin “language” would be an untouchable subject until 1970, when a University of Hawaii psychologist named Louis Herman founded the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu.

Posted in Books, Environment, other animals, Personalities, Science | Tagged | Leave a comment