Good Works, but Little Faith

Since I find religious faith so difficult, I found the following quote from Jonathan Malesic on religiondispatches.org interesting:

Going back to Christianity’s origins, Paul taught that it was . . .  faith, not deeds, that made a Christian worthy of salvation.  The Protestant Reformation and, later, the growth of Evangelical churches reiterated this emphasis on belief as the core of Christianity and the prerequisite to belonging to the church.

The teaching that Christianity is first of all about belief was intended to open church membership to any person.  In a skeptical age, it may be the biggest impediment to greater Christian affiliation.

Younger Americans who have left Christianity are simply taking a longstanding Christian doctrine at its word.  The churches told them they had to believe in order to belong.  They don’t believe. So they left.  In doing so, they may well have left a vacuum in their lives and communities. But in an important sense, they may also have taken Christian teaching too seriously.

As a youth in Sunday School in the LDS Church, I often heard the expression:  “faith without works in dead.”  For me, for Christianity to leave works or “deeds” out of the equation is ridiculous, and a serious misreading of the teachings of Christ.

Since faith has become a problem for the younger generations (and the older), they are leaving organized religion, a trend that has also affected the LDS Church.

Since the death of Apostle John A. Widtsoe in 1952, the LDS Church has tried an unsuccessful rapprochement with the evangelical movement.  This has led to a de-emphasis of works and deeds.  This evolution, has serious harmed the Church.

Malesic states that individuals leaving churches may develop “a vacuum in their lives and communities.”  I don’t agree.  There are any number of organizations which can provide socializaion activities and togetherness.  But if the LDS Church were to put a greater emphasis on works and deeds, this would provide a mechanism for members to return, and in the process perhaps rekindle their ailing faith.

I suspect that there are many with ailing faith (like myself) who desire to do good works.  The Church would be a wonderful venue for supporting and organizing global good deeds.  Some argue that the LDS Church is already doing enough now.  I would argue they are not.  But that is for a separate post.

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Huntsville UT Monastery to Close

According to the Associated Press:

A northern Utah man has bought the land where a monastery is closing after 70 years in hopes of preventing future development and preserving the legacy of the landmark.

Land That Used to Belong to the Trappist Monastery in Huntsville UT

Bill White of Huntsville purchased Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity in 2016 for an undisclosed price. The Trappist monastery, founded in 1947, has seen a declining monk population and will likely close in September, The Standard-Examiner reported (http://bit.ly/2p6gSKg).

White is now working to save the property from becoming a mixed-use development, as proposed by its managers at the Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky.

“The local monks [in Huntsville] have been adamant about preserving the open land.” White said.

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Pay LDS Tithing or Feed Your Family?

General Authorities need to be careful about the advice they give members during General Conference.  Suggesting that tithing should be paid before feeding your family is NOT good policy.

In April 2017 General Conference, the following advice was given:

After some events related to a civil war in Central America, my father’s business went bankrupt. He went from about 200 full-time employees to fewer than five sewing operators who worked as needed in the garage of our home. One day during those difficult times, I heard my parents discussing whether they should pay tithing or buy food for the children.

On Sunday, I followed my father to see what he was going to do. After our Church meetings, I saw him take an envelope and put his tithing in it. That was only part of the lesson. The question that remained for me was what we were going to eat.

Since this is a General Conference talk, you are right to presume that the story has a happy ending, unfortunate shades of the “prosperity gospel:”  Give us your money and you will prosper.

And in April 2005 General Conference:

No bishop, no missionary should ever hesitate or lack the faith to teach the law of tithing to the poor. The sentiment of “They can’t afford to” needs to be replaced with “They can’t afford not to.”

One of the first things a bishop must do to help the needy is ask them to pay their tithing. Like the widow, if a destitute family is faced with the decision of paying their tithing or eating, they should pay their tithing. The bishop can help them with their food and other basic needs until they become self-reliant.

Before giving the above advise, General Authorities of the LDS Church need to consult with pediatricians and public health officials who see the tragic effects of childhood hunger graphically demonstrated on the bodies and minds of children.  Hungry children:

  • are sick more often, and more likely to need hospitalization;
  • suffer growth impairment that precludes their reaching their full physical potential; and
  • incur developmental impairments that limit their physical, intellectual and emotional development.

And a possible legal issue was pointed out in mormondiscussions.com:

If you are giving money to your church and letting your children go hungry that is neglect.  Child protective services should be brought in to look out for the welfare of the children.

I hear stories about people being faithful and paying tithing then somehow ending up with just enough to get by.  Great, you made a bad decision and it wasn’t catastrophic.  Unfortunately we don’t provide televised speaking opportunities to those where the bad decision, led to worse circumstance.

Does This Make Sense?  Does This Lead to Self-Reliance?

Additionally, it doesn’t make sense to take money from the poor and dole it back in the form of welfare.  Hardly a procedure to promote self-reliance.
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Utah Looking to Protect “Dark Skies”

By Dawn House, writer for sltrib.com [1]

Utah is emerging as a global leader in protecting dark skies from light pollution, attracting visits to the Colorado Plateau that during the next decade are expected to pump $2.5 billion into rural economies.

Torrey, the gateway town to Capitol Reef National Park, is slated to become the state’s first Dark Sky Community, while Springdale, Boulder, Moab, Kanab and the border town of Page, Ariz., are considering or have passed light-curbing ordinances. The Dark Sky Community designation is an award granted so far to only 15 other communities in the United States, Canada, Scotland, Denmark and the Channel Islands.

Dark Skies Over Capitol Reef National Park

In addition, the University of Utah has awarded formal recognition to the Consortium for Dark Sky Studies, the first academic center in the world dedicated to discovering, developing and applying knowledge to help protect night skies, according to U. officials. And next year, the university will help sponsor the largest global conference to date, examining the impacts of artificial lights.

Utah has more dark-sky places than any other state or country, but light pollution is eroding this valuable, irreplaceable resource, said John Barentine, program manager for the International Dark-Sky Association. Torrey, for example, has been the single greatest source of light pollution above Capitol Reef. Visitors must hike into the deepest southern reaches of the park to enjoy the most pristine night skies.

“In the American West, small towns emit more amounts of light, relative to their populations, than do large metropolitan areas,” he said. “There’s also broader support for private-property rights, and a fundamental human fear of darkness. The tendency in rural areas is to light up property in the name of safety and security.”

Yet people can be safe and save money by using lights appropriately, advocates say. Simple shields on existing bulbs, for example, direct beams downward, rather than lighting up the heavens. And instead of using expensive all-night floodlights, motion detectors can flash an immediate alert to an intruder.

_______________________________

[1]  17 April 2017

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Parshall Proposal: LDS Gospel Topic Essays on Science

Somewhat hidden in the comments on keepapitchinin.org is an important suggestion by Ardis E. Parshall:  that LDS Church leaders provide a set of gospel topic essays on science and Mormonism.  Parshall’s OP was in reaction to some bogus “science” presentations at a recent FIRM Foundation conference at Utah Valley University:

Ardis E. Parshall

The Church generally tries to avoid open controversy in matters (of science and religion), responding to questions with general statements about the realm of the Church and the realm of human endeavor, although occasionally, for whatever reason, the Church does, gently, diplomatically, in sometimes unnoticed ways, nudge us away from fundamentalism: The Sunday School manual’s Creation lesson now openly states that the “days” of Genesis need not be understood as the 24-hour period of our familiarity.  Organic evolution is studied at BYU calmly and rationally, although I hear, anecdotally, that it still provokes cases of the vapors in some students or their parents.

If the Church did feel it was within their province to directly address some of these issues with, say, a set of gospel topics essays on science to complement those on history, it could quash, or provide the authoritative right to quash, some of the false ideas that anti-science Mormons waste so much time and effort and money on studying and promoting.  They wouldn’t need to make any positive statements about things that haven’t been revealed or are beyond the scope of the gospel, but they could point to a few issues — like the use of “day” in the Creation account — and state that the gospel does not require us to believe anything that is not true, or does not require us to believe in a named list of fundamentalist assumptions about science. That they have not, and may never, issue such statements (and I don’t necessarily fault them for that — such essays would be enormously helpful and reassuring, but are not, after all, essential to the mission of the Church) is certainly an identifiable factor in Mormonism that allows superstition and false ideas to be promoted by organizations like Firm Foundation.

Gospel topic essays on science sounds like a great idea.  And I hope at some level, the leadership of the LDS Church considers the suggestion.

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LDS Leadership Issues Statement on Homelessness

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has authorized the release of the following statement:

Homelessness is a tragic condition that afflicts individuals and even families in many places, including Utah. The causes are varied, and solutions are often difficult, but whether homelessness stems from conflict, poverty, mental illness, addiction or other sources, our response to those in need defines us as individuals and communities.

We are grateful for the willingness of government, community and civic leaders to tackle this issue. We applaud their continuing efforts to find solutions that will not only relieve the suffering inherent in homelessness but also implement measures that will help homeless individuals become self-reliant and deal with criminal elements that prey on the homeless.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feels keenly a responsibility to help in a Christlike way and has participated in efforts to address homelessness for many years, particularly in the Salt Lake Valley. Our farms and facilities provide food, clothing and resources. We have partnered with government, relief organizations, community groups and other faiths to care for those in need and to help address the underlying causes of homelessness.

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Jennifer McCullough: Autobiography of a Humanitarian

My name is Jennifer McCullough, proud spouse of an Army officer.  I grew up in New Orleans and in 2001 I said “I do” to an Officer in the US Army.  I have made it a habit that I look for a charity project, usually involving children, at each duty location.  Saying this, we are now stationed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  We are currently living under a State of Emergency established by the Ethiopian government.  There are pockets of fighting, famine, and unrest throughout the country.  Though everyone living here is impacted by it, it is the innocent children that are effected the most.   Orphanages are opened by people in villages in order to save the lives of the impoverished children.  The kids are being orphaned daily by death of parents due to fighting, starvation or their parents are abandoning them in the markets as they cannot take care of them.   Saying this, there are many orphanages (few are supported by the government) overflowing with children from newborn thru 18 years old.  Since arriving in Addis Ababa in August 2016 and witnessing these challenges, I decided to team up with a US firm named Adoption Avenue who actively works with an orphanage to make a positive impact on children’s lives.

Children at the School/Orphanage near Addis Ababa

During the next two years while my family is assigned to Ethiopia, it is my personal mission to raise awareness about this orphanage and school and to get donations to build them a better future.   My goals are to: 1) Get this school up and running like a Western School and give them the necessary items they need to get the best education they can here 2) Get school supplies, science equipment and outdoor equipment 3)  Build a chicken coop for eggs and meat for themselves and for sale, 4) Create a vegetable garden so they can be self-efficient and 5) Establish seamstress instruction to teach the girls how to sew so that they can have a skill to better themselves.   I know this may seem like a BIG GOAL, but I know I can do it with the help of donations from people like you.  I have started a Facebook page so that friends and family can follow me on my journey and see their donations at work.   You can follow my missions too at:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/891040101019461/

In Germany (2010), I raised $10,000 to build an extension to an orphanage in Hungary.  In 2012, I raised $18,000 to purchase a pump and drill a well for the children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (https://www.facebook.com/groups/189007084568794/).  Also, while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan (2006) and Bosnia (2010), I created  “Operation School Bags” where we had 200+ school bags filled with supplies and delivered them to children in rural areas.

For my Ethiopian project, I have established a page: “YouCaring” at https://www.youcaring.com/orphanage3hoursnorthofaddisababa-687197  to help the orphanage and https://www.youcaring.com/covenantchristianorphanagekindergarten-752631 to help out the school.  I have spammed my friends and family on Facebook and post daily about the children, but the donations are just trickling in.  These children here are literally starving, have very little, and I cannot do this alone. Please consider becoming a part of the “global village” and make a difference in these young peoples’ lives.

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