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Comment Re:Haters Gonna Hate (Score 1) 915

I disagree. If I believe that some particular behavior will damage society at a fundamental level, isn't it reasonable for me to feel a responsibility to try to protect society from the thing I believe will harm it? The fact that other people disagree with me does not, in and of itself, mean I should sit down and shut up, regardless of how many people engage in that behavior.

This only becomes a problem when one side of the debate refuses to address the underlying concerns (does it really cause the perceived harm?) and instead simply throws mud at those who disagree ("if you think it's bad you're an intolerant bigot!").

The problem I see is that (in the case of gay marriage) very few pro-gay-marriage people are actually willing to address the root concern: the belief that having the government officially endorse gay marriage will [further] erode the fundamental building block of society (the family unit).

As a related example, I've never been given an actual answer to this question: "Since psychologically speaking it is most healthy for children to grow up with both a mother and a father, wouldn't it be best for us as a society to place children in homes with both rather than homes with only [two of] one or the other?" The only responses I've gotten have either been insults ("You're just intolerant of gays!") or irrelevant counterquestions ("don't gay couples deserve children?") or irrelevant points ("plenty of single mothers/fathers raise healthy children!"). Wouldn't it be far more productive for us to have an honest, meaningful discussion about the topic, instead of hurling insults at each other and refusing to talk about anything at all?

Comment Re:Haters Gonna Hate (Score 1) 915

Somebody has read The Great Apostasy ;)

For anyone interested, the book is a pretty interesting examination of the doctrinal changes the Catholic Church underwent in the centuries following Christ's death, and the book bases its assessment on writings from early Catholic priests among others.

My personal favorite example of mishandling the Papacy is either the time the Papacy was put up for auction, or the time the Pope had a baby with a prostitute, and then was killed by that prostitute, who put her son on the Papal throne. If memory serves, that young Pope was among the most depraved and immoral to hold that particular office. (I might have some small details wrong, it's been a while since I read the book linked above.)

Comment Re:Haters Gonna Hate (Score 1) 915

Just because something is 2000 years old doesn't make it right.

Doesn't make it wrong, either. The age of an idea is irrelevant to whether it is correct or not. (And in religious debates, whether an idea is "correct" or not is often either impossible to prove or entirely irrelevant... at least, that's true if your goal is something other than hurling insults.)

But where I do have a problem is when the members of the church try to deprive the rights of homosexuals outside of church.

The fundamental problem with arguments about gays and/or homosexuality in general is simple: nobody bothers to agree on terminology up front. If terminology were agreed on before a debate were started, then the nature of these debates would be quite different. This is the mistake you are making.

Suppose I create a club whose only requirement for membership is that every club member must wear a red shirt at all times. Now suppose I tell a club member that I will kick him out if he continues to wear blue shirts. Would you embark on a campaign to get the Red Shirt Club to change its rules so that the member who wants to wear blue shirts can feel included?

Now suppose I create a chain of nonprofit clothing stores using my club's logo, and the store only sells red shirts and red-shirt-related items. How would you respond to salaried store employees who complain that the requirement that they wear red shirts at all times, even off the clock, stifles their freedom of expression?

Suppose I set up a club-funded hospital, and open it to everyone, but only provide red hospital gowns. What would you say if a Blue Shirt Club member comes in for treatment, then later refers to the doctors' unwillingness to provide a blue hospital gown as persecution or intolerance?

Suppose I fund an adoption agency, under the restriction that the adoption agency can only place children in homes where only red shirts are worn (whether or not the prospective family is part of the club). What would you say when a Blue Shirt Club member complains that the Red Shirt Adoption Agency denies their adoption application?

My point is, it's not relevant whether the club's rules are frivolous or even plain stupid. It's not even relevant whether they're right or wrong. What's relevant is that these are the rules applied to club members and people who want certain types of service from club members. Is it really reasonable to force that club to change its fundamental rules in the name of being "open-minded" or "accepting" or "tolerant" or whatever?

It's a waste of time to tell red shirt club members that they're being bigoted or whatever for not allowing blue shirts in their club -- and it misses the point entirely. Furthermore, none of the above scenarios require that the Red Shirt Club members believe themselves superior to anyone else in any way, and it's a mistake to assume otherwise.

In this situation, if you want to argue about something, argue about whether the behavior in question is itself acceptable, not about whether it's acceptable for the group to deny membership to people who engage in it. Of course, at that point you leave the realm of what can be proven as fact and enter the realm of doctrine... That's probably why most non-religious people simply don't try, instead accusing Catholics of bigotry or being anti-gay or whatever, without actually trying to understand what Catholics believe and, more importantly, why.

Personally I don't see why it's a problem for a group that believes a particular behavior is a sin to ask its members to not engage in that behavior, or to prohibit hospitals it funds from providing services it finds morally objectionable, or to go around trying to convince everyone else to share those opinions.

Comment Re:Humility? (Score 1) 915

Many organizations have official spokespeople; is it arrogant of the official spokesperson to think he's the single official conduit for communication from that organization, when that is the role the organization has asked him to fill?

I don't see why a church leader should be viewed any differently.

Comment Re:Here it comes... (Score 1) 540

There's more to the polygamy issue than you make it seem. The practice of polygamy was never "OMG LOTS OF WOMEN FOR SEX", and in many cases it wasn't even about having more children. For example, by all accounts, though Joseph Smith had some dozen wives, the only one he ever slept with was his first wife, Emma. Other men were asked to marry and provide for widowed women who had lost their first husbands.

Also note that even among the early Mormons only a subset of men were asked to marry multiple women; it was not a general commandment for everyone. Furthermore, if polygamy is ever reinstated by the LDS Church as a practice here on earth, I do not believe the Church would mandate it, nor do I believe most Church members would practice it if given the option.

Among Mormons, marriage (when performed under the appropriate authority) is considered eternal. We do not use the phrase "until death do us part" in our marriage ceremonies. We believe it is better for a man to be married to multiple wives than for a woman to go for eternity without a husband.

I'll speculate on why God allowed it one way (polygamy) but not the other (polyandry), but before I do I want to make it absolutely clear that the remainder of this post is my own speculation and is in no way representative of official LDS doctrine.

One possibility is that more women than men are going to make it into heaven. In that case, assuming there is some benefit to being married in heaven, it would be better for some men to have multiple wives, so that all women can be married.

Another: it might be possible for married couples to have some manner of offspring in heaven. (Note that I am not referring to married couples becoming gods, I am merely speculating that since it is possible for married couples to have children during this life, perhaps it is possible in heaven as well.) If this is the case, then polygamy makes sense because a man can have children with multiple women at once, but polyandry does not because a woman can only bear the child of one man at a time; so, for the purposes of bearing children, polyandry offers no benefit over monogamy.

Again, this is my own speculation, and is not representative of LDS doctrine in any way.

At any rate, laugh if you wish. I believe God is omniscient, and I also believe that God has defined certain specific things regarding the practice of marriage. How can I argue with God? (That's rhetorical, please don't bother trying to convince me that I'm deceiving myself.) Experience has taught me on many occasions that God is much smarter than me, so I'm willing to trust Him on this.

Comment Re:Here it comes... (Score 1) 540

Whenever the local courts were unable to dispense justice in the manner the local populace felt was appropriate.

I said "under American law". American law does not permit civilians to mete out their own death penalty just because they are not satisfied with the conclusions of the justice system.

Heresy and sedition, respectively, for the most part. Learn some history. Not even vaguely similar to the situation in Nauvoo or Beaver Island.

You don't think the Mormons were persecuted for heresy? If not, then you clearly don't know anything about Mormon beliefs.

When I said "I don't have the answers", I meant that I cannot understand why people would resort to physical violence merely because someone believes something different. (In some parts of the world, this is known as "intolerance".)

See, Mormons believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ are two distinct beings, each with their own physical bodies. Even now most people don't consider us Christian, for that fact alone, regardless of the fact that we indeed believe in Christ; two hundred years ago, this idea was even more alien to the mostly Protestant Americans than it seems now to the modern Christian world. Even in Joseph Smith's teen years, before he ever mentioned any other doctrine or even the Book of Mormon, he faced persecution for the mere fact that he claimed to have seen God and Christ, and that they were two separate beings.

But no, even though heresy has historically been the excuse for a wide variety of persecution and violence, and even though the Mormons believed something that the majority of the Christian world still considers heresy, heresy could not possibly be the reason that the early Mormons were driven out of their homes time and again.

Even later, when the Mormons went so far as to settle in a desert so that nobody would bother them and so that non-Mormons would have no reason to drive them out, the number one reason that their state (in its various proposed forms) was not permitted entry into the United States was their practice of polygamy. Not a history of thievery or piracy or arson or violence or murder, but because they practiced polygamy and the rest of America viewed the practice as immoral. That didn't die down until years after Mormons renounced the practice.

(Interestingly, despite the widespread acceptance of both the homosexual lifestyle and the sexually-active-but-unmarried-heterosexual lifestyle, and even the tacit acceptance of married-but-unfaithful behavior, Americans still view polygamy as immoral -- even though unmarried but sexually active heterosexual Americans probably have a far larger number of sexual partners than polygamists. Nope, having sex with lots of people is fine, but committing to more than one sexual partner in the form of marriage is not. Go figure.)

Mormons have been persecuted for their religious beliefs, for the most part. Learn some history.

Comment Re:Here it comes... (Score 1) 540

According to Wikipedia, around 12,000 initially followed Strang (which probably was about a third of the church), but most left Strang's church before his death. I would suppose that they realized his teachings did not reflect those of Joseph Smith. I stand corrected... sort of.

Why did mobs continually chase Mormons out of town? Why were the early Christians persecuted by Jews and Romans alike? I don't have these answers.

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Mormons were indeed thieves of the worst sort. Would that justify the arson, violence, and murder perpetrated against the Mormons? Since when was vigilante "eye for an eye" justice ever acceptable under American law? It's certainly not acceptable under Christ's teachings. We have a justice system for this exact reason.

Furthermore, if Joseph Smith was such an encourager of nefarious deeds, why would he voluntarily turn himself over to the courts on numerous occasions? Why would the charges continually be dismissed? If his nefarious behavior was so commonly known, why would the people have needed to turn to "mob justice" in order to get rid of Joseph Smith in the end, rather than letting the courts do their jobs?

History does not corroborate the idea that the Mormons were intolerant thieves, arsonists, and so on.

It is interesting to note that when Thomas Reynolds became governor of Missouri, he began efforts to extradite Joseph Smith to Missouri for alleged crimes that Thomas, as a Missouri judge, had dismissed before his ascension to the governorship. It seems likely that he did so due to pressure from the citizens who elected him; it does not seem likely that he simply changed his opinion once he was no longer a judge.

Comment Re:Here it comes... (Score 1) 540

In truth, there wasn't a designated successor; there was a period of confusion among Church members for that very reason. This is why some Church members did not want to follow Brigham Young; many felt that the next prophet should be someone in Joseph Smith's family. At any rate, so far as I am aware, Strang was never a leader in the Church, and in fact, he had only been a member of the Church for four months before Joseph Smith was killed. At least the other "contenders" for Church leadership were already leaders in the Church, and had been for years. The only evidence Strang produced was a letter allegedly written by Joseph Smith appointing him to the office. Only a small subset of Church members followed Strang.

If you compare Strang's actions to the actual doctrines taught by Joseph Smith, you will see that he did not live by them, at least not after Joseph Smith's death. Additionally, the things he taught after that schism were outright contradictions of what Joseph Smith had taught. It is entirely possible that Strang taught what you have described, when he taught his people the Law of Consecration, but if so, it is not something Joseph Smith ever taught, and so not representative of Mormon beliefs at any point in time.

Insisting that Strang's teachings were representative of Mormonism as a whole is rather like saying that the beliefs of Lutherans are representative of Catholicism, merely because the former branched off from the latter and they use the same source material.

So, I fully concur with your opinion of Strang's actions, but you should understand that they were not representative of the things taught by Joseph Smith.

Comment Re:Here it comes... (Score 1) 540

FWIW, of the nine relevant definitions for "Christian" at dictionary.reference.com, not a single one references the Trinity. The same is true for the five definitions of "Christianity".

The first definition for the adjective "Christian" is listed as "of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings". The LDS Church most definitely fits that definition, regardless of the Trinity doctrine. Our doctrines are indisputably "of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings", regardless of whether the rest of the Christian world agrees with our interpretation thereof.

Comment Re:Here it comes... (Score 1) 540

So, to clarify, in Mormonism, Jesus is a God, but is not worshipped?

Correct. (Scroll down to the paragraph preceded by the heading "We worship the Father and him only and no one else".)

I can accept the definitions you've given, however I fail to see why it matters whether Mormons are monotheistic or monolatristic when deciding whether we're Christian. Regardless of whether we're technically Christian according to the definitions you've provided (and if it weren't even more off topic I could show how monolatrism actually is taught in the Bible) we're most definitely Christians in practice -- which is to say, we do our best to live our lives according to Christ's teachings, and we believe that it is only through Christ that we can be saved.

Isn't that relevant when considering whether it is reasonable for us to call ourselves Christian?

Comment Re:Here it comes... (Score 1) 540

I could point out a great many Mormon doctrines that are not just logical, but known outright to be falsehoods (starting with the infamous translations).

I actually would be interested in such examples; I have studied many supposed contradictions in Mormon doctrine, and in most cases thus far, I have found that the apparent contradiction is caused because the person suggesting it is choosing a specific interpretation for some verse of scripture, and insists that said verse does not allow for any other interpretation. Other problems people have with Mormon doctrine come down to incorrect information about what Mormons believe, differences of opinion, conflicting hearsay from 150 years ago, and so on.

I have, after many years of study, concluded that my religion's teachings are logically self-consistent (and true, mostly for other reasons); this does not mean, however, that I would refuse to accept evidence to the contrary, if it actually is evidence to the contrary. All I ask is to be given the opportunity to actually figure out whether it is, without anyone telling me that if I come to some other conclusion I'm deceiving myself. Which is to say, I don't like people going into these kinds of discussions with no intention of allowing me to show them flaws in their reasoning, because it proves they're not interested in finding truth, just in demolishing their version of my beliefs.

(Again, in the interest of not derailing the thread further I would prefer to have that conversation via e-mail. I promise not to argue, though I would appreciate it if you allow me to provide resolutions to apparent contradictions if I can. Please don't just link me to some random anti-Mormon website, I've most likely already read it.)

Comment Re:Here it comes... (Score 1) 540

As I mentioned elsewhere in this thread just now, I guess that depends on how you define monotheism. I would define it as the worship of one and only one God, which is a definition that fits Mormons; we worship God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ. (Technically speaking, Mormons do not worship Christ; Christ is instead the vehicle of our salvation, which matches what is taught in the New Testament.)

I obviously believe I am both monotheistic and Christian, because I worship one and only one God, and I believe that it is only through Christ that I may be saved. As far as I am concerned, that is what matters.

If your definition of "monotheistic" requires the belief in the existence of one and only one god, then I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree :)

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