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Recently I was preparing for a lesson with my Sunday School class of 16-18 year olds.  We’re studying the New Testament this year.  I found it interesting that in the early Christian church, there was continuous revelation.  The example in this lesson is found in the book of Acts chapter 15.

In this example, Paul and Barnabas come across some church members who are still requiring circumcision as in the Law of Moses.  Paul and Barnabas are not certain if that should be a requirement, so they go to Jerusalem and meet with the apostles for guidance on the matter.  After the apostles discuss the matter, they make a decision through guidance by the Holy Spirit (verses 19-28) and then they write an epistle for Paul and Barnabas to bring back to the church members for sustaining (verses 22-31).  They also send an apostle (Judas) back with them to deliver the message.

This process of revelation to the church is similar for the LDS church of Jesus Christ.  From what I understand, apostles contemplate an issue, pray for guidance by the Spirit, come up with a decision, then present it to the church for sustaining.  On occasion, there will be a letter sent out to congregations from the apostles and read by the local bishop, or the apostles or prophet may read it to the whole body of the church in General Conference (or General Relief Society Conference as President Hinckley did with the Family Proclamation). 

Rarely will revelation actually be canonized.  Over the last 150 years, I can only think of a few revelations that were canonized: Official Declaration 1: that announced the disbanding of polygamy in the 1890s, Doctrine and Covenants section 138 that addresses a vision given to President Joseph F. Smith (Joseph Smith’s nephew) regarding where our spirits go after we die, and Official Declaration 2 that announces that the Priesthood can be given to all worthy males (prior to this revelation black men could not hold the Priesthood). 

I have seen Mormon church antagonists take off-the-wall things that a prophet (usually Brigham Young) said or wrote in a book and highlight that as official church doctrine.  LDS apologists will be quick to answer that in that situation, the prophet wasn’t inspired and spoke without the Spirit on that occasion and since it isn’t canonized it is not official revelation.

However, there are many things that Mormon prophets and apostles have officially stated either through a letter to congregations or announced in General Conference that are not necessarily canonized.  Therefore, I can see how it could be hard for members of other faiths to see a distinction between what is revelation and what is opinion.

Personally, I feel that revelation is official as it is outlined in the New Testament example I shared.  If the apostles have gathered together, prayed, and received guidance from the Spirit on a matter, then announced it to the church officially through writing, it is “official”.  If an LDS leader decides to write a book, or say something off the cuff that’s wacky then that is not official revelation.

What are your thoughts?

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While reading this month’s Ensign, I came across a great quote by Elder Lance B Wickman of the Seventy.  He states:

[When deciding whom to marry] be careful not to base your judgements merely on..whether someone has served a full-time mission or holds a particular calling in your ward…know someone well enough to learn his or her heart and character firsthand and not just his or her “gospel resume”. (Wickman, Apr 2010 Ensign p.15)

For those not familiar with the LDS faith, this advice is probably a no brainer.  However, somehow it is a part of the LDS culture that girls must marry a return missionary (a young man who has faithfully served the 2 year LDS mission) or else they’re getting a second-rate guy. 

When I was attending Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) I remember girls treating me much differently before my mission than after my mission.  Girls who were serious about hunkering down and “getting hitched” didn’t want anything to do with me before the mission, but afterwards somehow every girl assumed since I was a return missionary that I was on the hunt to get married.  Truth be told, I wasn’t ready (for another 8 years or so, but that’s a different story).

Anyways, I’ve been out of the dating scene for awhile, but I thought it would be interesting to discuss thoughts on having to marry a return missionary.  Is the church getting away from this?  Also, where did this notion originate?

I’m sure there are some of you well more versed in LDS history who can enlighten us!

I’m always worried that when I donate to certain charities not all of the money goes towards the people who need it most.  According to this website by the LDS church 100% of the money goes towards the charity.  This will be helpful not only for the tragedy in Haiti, but to other humanatarian projects.

I wasn’t aware of this site until my wife had it forwarded to her so I thought I would share it with you. 

This link will take you directly to the donation page: https://secure3.convio.net/ldsp/site/Donation2?df_id=1861&1861.donation=form1&s_src=14703

I’m sure most people have heard the news by now about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encouraging it’s nearly 1million members in California to do “all they can do” to support the initiative in November to over-turn the ruling supporting bay marriage. 

If you haven’t heard about this, you can read the following blogs:

California Saints To Get The Call

Envisioning a Politically Thoughtful Church Culture

California Mormons Won’t Be Cool With Acts of Protest At Their Chapels

Mormons in California Called to Defend Marriage by Top LDS Leaders

The letter from the LDS Prophet and his counselors encourages saints to do “all they can do” to support traditional marriages, especially in California during the upcoming vote in November. 

Someone told me of a friend of theirs who lives in California that contacted them and asked if they were supporting the Church’s call to “do all you can do” to support the ban on gay marriages.  When my friend told the person they were not supporting it, the individual got upset and self-righteously said “aren’t you going to support the Prophet?”  This in my mind is going too far and I feel that “doing all you can do” is objective and depends on the individual.  If certain circumstances cause someone to believe in gay marriage, yet they still are believing Latter-day Saints, maybe doing “all they can do” is different than someone on the opposite end of the spectrum. 

In addition, last December Elder Ballard said in an address to BYU students that the LDS Church takes a politically neutral stance.  Yet, of all the issues the LDS Church decided to go back on that statement and get politically involved with the ban on gay marriage.  Personally, I think it is fine if the Church encourages members to take a stand on what the Church feels is a moral issue, including gay marriage.  Whether or not I decided to vote for or against it is a personal choice and if it’s a moral issue I can take it to the Lord in prayer and see what I feel. 

Obviously, the two questions are:

1. What is your take on what it means to “do all you can do” to support the ban on gay marriage?

2. Should the church get politically involved?  If it gets involved with this, do you think the Church should get involved with other issues?  Why or why not?

 

Retention

This is part two of my series on the Washington Post Article

I recently wrote a post entitled “Why do People Leave the LDS Church?”  I included a link to posts written by John Dehlin on what his opinion is as far as why people may leave.  He suggests that many people don’t know the history of the church and Joseph Smith and other leaders upon being baptized.  They feel lied to essentially that controversial issues in Mormon history aren’t discussed during the missionary discussions, etc.  This could very well be an issue.

The Washington Post mentions missionaries baptizing people after only attending church a few times or even one time.  There could be much discussion alone on these topics such as are the missionaries being pressured to baptize too quickly?  If so, where is the pressure coming from and why? 

The third possibility is that we as members are not “taking care of the flock.”  We aren’t doing our home-teaching or fellowshipping new members.  Along these lines perhaps it is that new members of the LDS faith have a very high standard of living that goes with membership and people may get discouraged and leave.  In this case perhaps members could do something to help them feel more loved and welcome.

The fourth possibility is that it’s just plain hard to be a Mormon and keep the commandments, etc. and people just choose to leave.

It is indeed a complicated issue and I would love to hear what people have to say about issues on retention.

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