Dear Elder Oaks

In response to your speech of October 13, 2009, at BYU-Idaho, I will not be joining you in the “march” against Prop 8 proponents.  I realize that “there is a battle underway,” but I am on the other side, along with the likes of Harry Reid, Marie Osmond, and Steve Young’s wife.  For me this is a civil rights issue and not a religious one.  And I agree with Harry Reid, there must be more important ways for my church to spend its time and money.

Also I don’t see atheism as a major threat to religious freedom.  You act as if atheism is something new.  I remember in 1966 Time Magazine published the following question on its otherwise black cover:  “Is God Dead?”  Atheism has always been with us and it always will be.  I think a bigger threat to religious beliefs among Mormons is the Church’s occasional anti-science positions.  For example, you seem to doubt the biology behind homosexuality.  Also, Church leaders and some members have been and still are anti-evolution.  Many members doubt historians, archeologists, geologists, and biologists and still believe in a literal flood covering the entire Earth.  When Mormon students go to university and find out that much in the Old Testament is not literally true, it has  potential to shake their faith.

I did enjoy your example of what has occurred in the last few years in Mongolia.  But you failed to develop the issue of the recent downfall of “godless” communist regimes in the Europe and Asia, and the reestablishment of religious institutions in these areas.  In many ways, you can make an argument that religious freedom is on the rise worldwide.  And also that the biggest threat to religious freedom worldwide is not atheism, but is fundamentist religions, be they Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, etc.

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4 Responses to Dear Elder Oaks

  1. Javelin says:

    I don’t think Elder Oaks reads this blog. I would assume he is too busy traveling on church business. Of course, anyone could reply here using his name and we would never know if it was authentic.

  2. Roger Hansen says:

    I write this blog largely for myself. It is a way of organizing my thoughts. My daughter and a couple of my friends occasionally respond. I’m sure Elder Oaks does not read my blog, which is fine. This entry was not really written for him, it was written for me. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Roger Hansen says:

    An interesting episode was recently related in BYU Studies. It was included in a daughter’s paean to her father. Lynda MacKey Wilson tells of her parents’ attempt to lure her away from religion:

    “That was the year my parents gave my sister and me a Time-Life book for Christmas called ‘The Origins of Life’. There were dramatic pictures of lightning flashing over moody ammonia seas, doing the Darwinian equivalent of thundering, “Let there be life!” The book was filled with dinosaurs and proto-humans. It was my parents’ attempt to proselyte for their agnosticism. If they worried about their oldest daughters’odd propensity to think about God, I’m sure they thought that time and a college education would cure the malady.

    I loved my dad with all my heart, but it was not my fate to absorb modern agnosticism from two parents who had rejected the religion of their youth.”

    So why is it that people assume that Mormonism and evolution are not compatible? Isn’t evolution a more elegant creation than God waving a wand and creating the world in 1 day or 7,000 years? We need to get past the idea that Christianity and evolution are not compatible.

  4. Roger Hansen says:

    Excerpts from Elder Oaks’ speech:

    “A writer for the CSM predicts that the coming century will be “very secular and religiously antagonistic,” with intolerance of Christianity “ris[ing] to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes.” Otherwise observers have noted the ever-growing, relentless attack on the Christian religion by forces who reject the existence of authority of God. The extent and nature of religious devotion in this nation is changing. The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding, and this probably portends public pressures for laws that will impinge on religious freedom.

    Atheism has always been hostile to religion, such as in its arguments that freedom of or for religion should include freedom from religion. Atheism’s threat rises as its proponents grow in numbers and aggressiveness. “By some counts,” a recent article in The Economist declares, “there are at least 500 million declared non-believers in the world — enough to make atheism the fourth-biggest religion.” And atheism spokesmen are aggressive, as recent publications show. . . .”

    And two paragraphs later:

    “For example, a prominent gay-rights spokesman gave this explanation for his objection to our Church’s position on California’s Proposition 8: “I’m not intending it to harm the religion. I think they do wonderful things. Nicest people . . . My single goal is to get them out of the same-sex business and back to helping hurricane victims.””

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