Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Short List of the Positive Aspects of Mormonism & The Goodness It Creates


In my last post I discussed the harm caused by the LDS institution, so in the spirit of fairness I will now list some of the positive aspects of Mormonism and the good things done by the Mormon Church. For a more lengthy treatment of this subject, see my article The Positive Side of Mormonism. Note: this is not a comprehensive list.

"Man is, that he may have Joy" ~ The Book of Mormon
  • The Mormon Church advocates living a “Christ-like” life. Regardless of what one thinks about Mormon theology, rituals, and history, the teachings are often grounded in the teachings of Jesus.
  • The Mormon Church encourages a strict health code called The Word of Wisdom. As I write in my article linked above, “LDS members are healthy and sober like the Seventh day Adventists and Muslims. Things like alcohol is a major problem in American society."
  • The LDS church fosters a culture that seeks to be ethical, live with noble character, and practice virtue. As a result LDS culture fosters an atmosphere that generates Mormons who are generally kind, trustworthy, and giving. As the 13th LDS Article of Faith states: "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."As I say in my article linked above, "It’s an organization that promotes ethics and family values in a world that often suffers from crime and violence. … Mormons are cordial and trustworthy like the Amish.”
  • The Mormon Church promotes family values such as being good parents, and teaching kids to have high character, etc. As the late LDS leader David O. McKay once said, “The home is the first and most effective place to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self control, the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home.”  The Mormon practice of family home evening brings many LDS families closer together by doing activities together and bonding more.
  • The Mormon Church teaches self-reliance and hard work resulting in most members being active and industrious.
  • Many people find the LDS church to be a great place to serve where LDS members take care of their own members and engage in community service; such as feeding and clothing the poor and needy. They also operate Deseret Industries.
  • The LDS church offers a person the belief in a higher purpose, direction for their life, and hope for a better future; and belief in an afterlife, which many people find helpful. 
  • The LDS church functions as an extended family and support group. As I write in my article: “It offers communal support and social interdependence ... If you need help moving your LDS ward will come help. If you are looking for a job your LDS ward can help. You can rely on many of your fellow LDS members to come to your aid.”
  • LDS missions provide young men and women skills for later in life. As I write in my article: “[On my mission] I learned invaluable public relations skills, a foreign language, [and] how to be selfless and work well with others."
  • The LDS church is currently experiencing a massive number of members leaving (the most since before the days of Brigham Young) according to LDS General Authority Marlin K. Jensen. It appears that the church is reacting to this by making several positive changes I will list below. The LDS concept of "Continuous Revelation" allows the church to change doctrines and policy as newer ideas, public opinion, the internet, and internal pressure from within encourages the changes. We see many positive and progressive examples of this, including: the removal of the penalty signs in 1990 and the washing and anointing were changed in 2005; which was obviously due to the LDS members discomfort during these rituals. This shows a level of compassion on the part of the leadership, not wanting to make the membership uncomfortable; which of course benefits them by increasing temple attendance which creates further devotion and tithes. Recent DNA evidence showing that the American Indians cannot be Jews has lead to the LDS church no longer teaching the "hemispheric model" (which teaches that all the Lamanites are American Indians) as of 2006. Instead the LDS church now teaches the limited geography model and the 2006 introduction to the Book of Mormon has been changed from the Lamanites "are the principal ancestors of the American Indians," to the Lamanites "are among the ancestors of the American Indians." The LDS church has recently changed the subheadings in the Book of Mormon that now de-emphasizes that the Lamanites were cursed with dark skin; the footnotes were also updated to perhaps remove racist interpretations. There are also a couple of African Americans (who are part of the Genesis Group) going around giving talks at LDS meetings who teach that the Book of Mormon doesn't teach that the Lamanites were cursed with dark skin but that is was a metaphorical "spiritual" cursing. They also argue that the seed of Cain doctrine is false. Their presentation is offered as a DVD: Blacks In The Scriptures, which rejects the traditional LDS dogma on skin color. In the past such teachings would have been silenced by the Mormon leadership. Today, the Genesis Group are being allowed to promote their interpretation of LDS scripture and history in church meetings without any ecclesiastical interference. When Mitt Romney ran for president in 2012 a BYU professor Randy Bott spoke openly about the seed of Cain doctrine and the attitude toward blacks among some of the older LDS members. This resulted in the LDS church coming as close as they ever have before at repudiating the seed of Cain dogma and past racism by condemning the BYU professor's remarks in a statement titled, Church Statement Regarding 'Washington Post' Article on Raceand the Church, February 29, 2012 at www.mormonnewsroom.org. This was followed up by a 2013 Ensign article titled Race and the Priesthood, that blamed the priesthood ban on Brigham Young, and finally repudiated the seed of Cain dogma by stating: "Today, the [Mormon] Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form." Today, the LDS Church also allows some believing LDS scholars to publish books disclosing controversial aspects of church history and Joseph Smith, such as the book Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman. There is also The Joseph Smith Papers that offers many documents not previously made available by the church officially, which sheds light on church history for all to see. In fact, just recently (in 2013) the church's official website lds.org published an article called First Vision Accounts at http://www.lds.org/topics/first-vision-accounts?lang=eng. There is even more information on the First Vision by The Joseph Smith Papers. According to the church's newsroom, a "new book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, published by Oxford University Press, is not a Church production but was co-authored by Mormon historians Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley Jr. and Glen M. Leonard." The book presents a more honest history of those events offering more full disclosure. There is also a September, 2007, Ensign article by Richard E. Turley Jr., titled, The Mountain Meadows Massacre. Then there is the article, Truth in Church History: Excerpts from the Religious Educator’s Q&A with Elder Steven Snow [Church Historian and Recorder] on November 8th, 2013. In the article Snow calls for a more honest church history because of the internet making the information available anyway, i.e. it can’t be hid anymore. So places like church institute should provide more information about controversial issues and the truth should be told. The New Order Mormon, John Dehlin, is being allowed by the church to discuss controversial topics on his podcast without being excommunicated; although he was called in for questioning by the leadership around 2012 and since that time his tone has become much more "apologetic" than it was before at the start of his podcasts. The Mormon Church has also made a step toward showing more compassion toward gays with their website mormonsandgays.org. Shock therapy and claiming gays choose to be "gay" are no longer practiced by the LDS church. Today the LDS church says they don't know why gays are the way they are but that it is not a choice and what they call "same gender attraction" is real. They also no longer encourage gays to marry (unless they choose to) which has lead to many unhappy and broken families in the past. They are now encouraged to remain celibate or marry if they think they can fully commit to a monogamous heterosexual lifestyle. Yet Mormons like John Dehlin are allowed to campaign for acceptance of homosexuals through media talks like the one he gave called,
    The ally within: John Dehlin at TEDxUSU [Published on Nov 20, 2013]. In this TED talk he uses science to argue that accepting gays and same sex marriage will likely save lives, literally. Dehlin is allowed to present his beliefs and the scientific data without being disciplined by the LDS church. And despite what some Mormons might think, the LDS Church does not oppose the teaching of evolution and allows evolution to be taught at BYU. LDS members are free to believe in it or not as the church is now today, as far as I can tell, officially neutral on the subject.
  • There is also a major change in the attitude of most Mormon apologists today. In the past it was not uncommon for many or most LDS apologists to attack and slander former Mormons with vicious verbal attacks (in fairness this is likely due to the same behavior by some exmormons). Former Mormons were vilified by apologists as lying cowards and intellectually lazy for not learning the controversial issues from day one. There has since been what appears to be a major change in Mormon apologetics. Starting with an article by the apologist Jeff Lindsey called Cutting A Little Slack for Exmormons. To see how questioning Mormons used to be vilified by apologists, just see how a doubting missionary is represented in the film God’s Army (a Richard Dutcher film) as a cynical, powerless, coward, and a villain (on YouTube see minutes 28-30, 42-43, 58-59, 1: 10-1: 13). Today the director of that film (Richard Dutcher) who played the older true believing missionary who aggressively confronts the doubting missionary before he leaves to go home, is ironically no longer a Mormon; here is a clip of Dutcher discussing the vilification of former Mormons. Mormon apologists today are much more respectful toward those with doubts. Compare the film God's Army with a recent short film called Alone by mormonchallenges.org; the description of the film reads, “Feeling alone, Justin shares with his father and wife his concerns about his church and comes to a new understanding of his faith and those he loves." The film portrays a young Mormon, Justin, struggling with the controversial issues, especially the Book of Abraham; and how his search for truth and his healthy skepticism is treated respectfully by his family and church leaders who actually listen to him, even read "both sides" with him, and show patience and compassion. In the end his doubts don’t disappear like magic. Instead he decides to embrace doubt and faith and remain in the church at the end of the film. This to me is evidence that the internet is forcing the LDS church apologists to adapt and they are doing so in a positive direction.
Now, I cannot find anything above that is unique to Mormonism, and which cannot be found in other ideas and philosophies or among non-Mormon friends, or in other groups or organizations, religious or secular; but I believe in giving credit where credit is due. 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

LDS also has fantastic advice for preppers. And advocates storing food & supplies for tough times.

Anonymous said...

Every single "positive" thing listed herein can easily be practiced without being Mormon. Further, the very fact that as membership numbers begin to decline leading to progressive reforms is the only evidence one needs to show that the religion is nothing more than poppycock. If there is a God and he spoke to anyone in such a way as to compel that person to put the good word down, then that's it…period. It doesn't change over time - the word is the word - end of discussion. People may differ in their INTERPRETATION but that's not the same as the base precepts chaining. If God said same sex relations are wrong - then they're wrong and BAM - DONE. If God said you work on Sunday then you get stoned, then that's it - you get stoned. Any deviation from the interpretation of those words at the time those were recorded is a bastardization of the ideals themselves. DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND ME HERE - I do not agree with far right conservative religious policies - I think such policies are nothing close to the words of God. Such policies are nothing more than weapons used by the few to control the many. My point is that it's hard to imagine a God calling us up every now and then and reversing his\her position on things previously strictly prohibited…man is flawed and therefore, so is man's ability to listen, understand, and interpret the word of God provided such God exists. Therefore, anything put to paper\papyrus\stone is flawed from the very outset. We all need to remember one simple fact - all bibles are not the word of God but in reality man's interpretation of the word of God as heard by one or a very few people at a given point in time.

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