Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What does Dr. Ben Carson's campaign will show us about anti-Mormonism?

The presidential campaign of Dr. Ben Carson, a Seventh-Day Adventist, provides and interesting opportunity to compare and contrast how two religions with superficially similar histories are treated in the press and by political commentators.

It has been a long time since I wrote a S.P.A.M. post.  Amateur Mormon defenders like me eventually run out of gas over time because anti-Mormonism is incessant--and it's stupid.  It's like defending against racism.  Racists won't admit they're racist, and even if you can shame them into admitting it, it still doesn't change their feelings.  No reasonable argument will shame them out of it.

Eventually, you burn out because, after writing hundreds of articles to answer every anti-Mormon attack ever conceived, you get idiots who write comments like, "Yeah, but you believe in a different Jesus" or "You think you have to work your way to heaven."  They are obviously too stupid to use a search window on a blog or to Google keywords that might reveal articles that explain our doctrine fairly and truthfully.  There is no end to the idiocy and life just eventually calls you on to other things.

Real Mormon apologists--the university professors and the like--stay in their academic ivory towers and write nice papers with footnotes that the idiots will never read.  And even if they did read the articles, their critics will find one phrase or sentence to take out of context and bend it to their purposes.  The academic approach to Mormon apologetics ignores the one central truth of anti-Mormonism: it's always personal.

If the anti-Mormons were simply concerned about orthodoxy or conformance to a historical Christian template of some kind, we'd eventually find acceptance.  Civil conversation could occur.  Instead, anti-Mormons always have a personal reason behind their choice to fight against Mormonism.  Some of them are former members who apostatized and can't leave the Church alone.  They try to stir up enmity among the ignorant and gullible.  Some are sectarians who regard Mormonism's growth as a threat to the continued existence of their flavor of Christianity.  Some are atheists who fight against any belief in God, and more particularly, find the belief in a living God who speaks today to be a frightening possibility.

When Mitt Romney was running for President, Mormonism was in the news every day.  There was the Book of Mormon musical.  There were daily articles about polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, doing baptisms for the dead for Jews, Mormon underwear on TV.  It was the central issue of Mitt's critics.  The head of the Southern Baptist Convention admitted that Mitt's Mormonism was more troubling than Newt Gingrich's adultery.  That was a really revealing comment.  The prejudice against Mormons was that strong.

As a disclaimer, I'm not a partisan.  I'm critical of both politcal parties in the U.S.  I was not particularly a Romney supporter in the last election.  I was proud that a Mormon was running for President, but even then, I thought that Romney ran away from his religion instead of embracing it.  If anything, he wasn't Mormon enough for me.  When the spotlight was on him, he downplayed his religion almost to the point of denying it.  In one interview, he emphatically stated that God hadn't spoken to anyone since Moses.  Excuse me!  Any Mormon missionary worth his salt can show you about 20 examples of God speaking to someone in the Bible since Moses, not to mention Joseph Smith in the 19th century!

During the last two presidential elections, Romney's religion was the central focus of his critics, particularly on the evangelical Right.  They tried to hide it, calling Romney a "flip-flopper" on various positions in which he became more (not less) conservative.  From as early as a year out from the 2008 election, the media was already beating the anti-Mormon drum.  The "Mormon Moment," as it came to be known, was driven by anti-Mormon obsession ingrained in the entire culture.

Now there is a new presidential candidate rising in popularity.  Dr. Ben Carson is beginning to pull even in polling with celebrity businessman Donald Trump.  Trump was the first one to bring it up in a direct way.  Trump is a sort-of non-committal, lackadaisical, generic, white-bread Presbyterian.  Religion really isn't a big thing with him.  Few people are aware that Ben Carson is a Seventh-Day Adventist and even fewer would know what that even means.

There are a lot of seeming similarities between Mormons and Adventists.  Both sects arose in the 19th century.  Both are millenialist movements of a sort.  Both were founded by individuals claiming to be modern prophets.  Both have a code of health.  Neither denomination affirms a belief in the orthodox Trinity.  Neither believes in an orthodox "heaven or hell" doctrine common to historical Christian sects.  Both denominations teach that there was a Christian apostasy.

Although these similarities exist, there are profound differences in how Mormons and Adventists approach scripture, revelation, the Godhead, the afterlife, and the purpose of life.  Nevertheless, from a purely "outsider" view of the two faiths, it would be easy to lump Mormons and Adventists in the same group.   You'd think that they'd be treated similarly by press pundits, secularist cynics, and Christian critics.

So why is it that Mormons are the targets of literally thousands of hateful anti-Mormon web sites, sectarian clergymen, college professors, political commentators, media and cultural icons and Seventh-Day Adventists are not?  Politically, we are not dissimilar.  Both denominations tend toward conservatism.  Why isn't there a Broadway musical parody about SDA beliefs?  Why isn't SDA founder Ellen G. White portrayed like Joseph Smith was--as the villainous "Joker" from Batman?

Certainly Seventh-Day Adventists have some "extreme" beliefs.  Pacifism.  Vegetarianism.  No coffee or alcohol.  The Papacy is the biblical anti-Christ.  They say the rest of the Christian world is in error for worshiping on Sundays.  Why are these beliefs not the subject of hateful discussions of web sites like Free Republic?  I'm surprised that the media hasn't tried to link Ben Carson to David Koresh and the Branch Davidians whose "compound" was burned to the ground by federal troops during the Clinton's regime.  The Branch Davidians were Adventists.

My intent here is not to stoke enmity against Adventists.  What I'm doing is making a comparison about how Mormons are portrayed in the media and in popular culture compared to a very similar denomination.  You'd have to be blind or ignorant not to see the disparity.

I wrote an article a long time ago about the Icarians.  The Icarians were a French religious movement that came to the USA in the 19th century.  They were similar to Mormons in a number of superficial ways, like the Adventists.  They believed in having communal property.  They dressed similarly, preached against smoking, and lived orderly, virtuous lives.  Nobody attacked them.  Nobody demanded they be driven from the state with "powder and ball" like the Mormons.  Their founder, Etienne Cabet, was not tarred and feathered or murdered by a mob, like Joseph Smith.

As a matter of fact, the Icarians setttled in the very place--Nauvoo, Illinois--from which the Mormons were driven by hateful mobs.  Although the Icarians didn't fit in with the local culture any more than the Mormons, they were praised for their industriousness.  No one burned their homes, killed their cattle, or destroyed their crops.

I have to ask, why is it that one non-conformist religious sect finds tolerance and acceptance in the general society and another does not?  Why is it that Mormonism is continually targeted and singled out for mistreatment by our fellow Christians and the media?

I can only speculate that it is because Satan has hold of the hearts of the wicked.  Satan knows who has the keys of the kingdom on this earth.  He knows to whom God has given power and authority.  He knows where the true kingdom of God is on the earth.  That kingdom and power is the greatest threat to Satan's dominion.  That's why he stirs up the hearts of the ungodly against it.

In a football game, everybody wants to tackle the guy who actually has the football.  Nobody is concerned if a wandering lineman or tackle strays across the goal line--unless he has the ball and is going to score.  The possibility that a Mormon might inhabit the White House was too much good press for the Lord's Church.

It will be revealing to see how the media will treat Ben Carson's faith if he gets the nomination.  He will get some criticism because he's conservative and the media is overwhelmingly liberal, but will there be an "Adventist Moment?"  Probably not?  Will the haters on Free Republic, Christian Press, Red State, or other web sites go into paroxysms over Carson's faith?  Probably not.

Mormons have the football.  We're running to the goal.  Satan doesn't care if an Adventist becomes President.  It doesn't affect his game plan whatsoever.  It's a non-issue.  A Mormon?  That's entirely different!  That's what Ben Carson's campaign will ultimately show us about anti-Mormonism.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

BYU brawl brings out the anti-Mormons

BYU's football team got into a brawl after the final play of the Miami Beach Bowl today.  It was a shameful display of unsportsmanlike conduct, admittedly.  I'm sure we'll see players or perhaps the whole team suspended.  Of course, this might be the last game of the season.  I don't keep track of football very much.  (When I do, I cheer for the Sooners.)

What got me to pull up the blog on my laptop and write this post was the string of anti-Mormon comments in the article about the game.  The very first one was an anti-Mormon swipe:
Looks like Elohim didn’t do a very good job now did he?
Another chimed in later in the commments:
Aren’t they godly little priesthood holding returned missionary saints? Isn’t this how you want YOUR little boys to behave – as long as they do so sober and whilst wearing garments and perhaps with girlfriends that eschew tank tops? LOL hypocrites.
An apparently LDS reader questioned if the commentator was a bitter ex-Mormon.  The following was the reply:
I love how people always use the world “bitter” when talking about ex-mormons. Get over yourself, your church is a blatant fraud. Joseph Smith was a 19th century con-man/pedophile, and a bad one at that. Mormons act like they are the smartest people they know, when in reality they buy into fictional scriptures and throw away 10% of their income to perform silly handshakes. Ex-mormons aren’t bitter, we’re mocking you because we’re smarter than you. Go back to reading about how the Americas were settled by Jews (which has no DNA backing, interestingly…). Haha
This was the conversations that followed the FOOTBALL GAME!  Is it really the case that anti-Mormons become obsessed just because BYU is playing?  Are they sitting their ruminating every time they make a touchdown, the venom and bile boiling just below the surface, waiting for a chance to spill out?  Incredible.

Anti-Mormons are just full of hate. That's all there is to it!  The fight was unfortunate.  We expect more of the players at the Church's university.  Just watch the news over the next week or so.  Some kind of disciplinary actions will be taken.  But nothing will quench the hatred and blood lust of anti-Mormons.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Someone stole our name!

The Society for the Prevention of Anti-Mormonism blog has been retired for some time now.  If something really significant happens in the world of anti-Mormonism, but for the most part, we're focused on more positive things--like building up Zion.

We get a few visitors here and there and we keep the archive up just for that reason.  However, we let our domain names expire and we don't actively engage the bad guys anymore.  After four years and almost 400 articles on our old social network, we've done our part.

However, it was a little concerning to wake up this morning and learn that someone else has decided to commandeer the "spamlds" moniker for her blog.  We received an email from Google this morning saying that a new verified owner of the name had been verified.  If so, it was verified without our authorization.  It appears that we still have co-ownership through another account, but the new owner has blocked all access.  Strange.

We hold our breath and wait to see what JillBeghetto@gmail.com will do with our name.  Will she be a well-meaning LDS defender who decided to pick up where we left off?  If so, it would have been polite to send an e-mail before taking over the name, especially since we are still shown as an owner. It may be that some vindictive anti-Mormon has taken over the name with the intent to attack the Churh and cause embarassment.  If so, it's only slightly surprising.  In our years of dealing with anti-Mormons, there are no limits to the depravity they are capable of displaying in their hatred of Mormonism.

Let this serve as official notice that, as of 11 December 2014, Greg West, his associates, and the Society for the Prevention of Anti-Mormonism are no longer responsible for content published on spamlds.blogspot.com.  The new "owner" has no connection to the original S.P.A.M. site and is not connected at all with spamldsarchive.blogspot.com.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Time to focus on Jesus Christ

It is time for reconciliation.  It is time to set aside petty doctrinal bickering.  It is time for people of goodwill, whether they believe in God or not, to come together.  It is time for them to realize that anti-Mormons are trying to do harm, not good.  When everyone recognizes this, we can move past the quarrelling and strife.

For several years, during a peak of anti-Mormon activity that seemed to correspond with what the media called the "Mormon Moment," S.P.A.M. served as a source of good information about the Church and its detractors.  As the Church expanded its online offerings, which were of much higher quality than ours, our usefulness declined.  We retired from actively seeking out and countering anti-Mormon attacks.  This archive of blog posts remains as a record and we continue to get a few dozen visits a day from people who are seeking answers.

I say the time for reconciliation is here because the entire world around us has changed.  Judeo-Christian values are no longer the dominant force in society.  Secularism and worldliness have replaced these values.  Across the world, a generation has grown up not believing in anything.

This has come about for many reasons.  Some were raised in "do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do" Christian homes. Their parents married and divorced, remarried, and divorced again.  Parents were unfaithful to covenants of chastity, fidelity, and virtue.  They had church-going parents who drank, used drugs, and watched pornography on premium cable channels.  Their mothers had children sired by multiple baby-daddies, none of whom cared to become a real father.  These parents took to heart the message that they were "saved by grace" and that nothing they did had an impact.  They believe God will save them in their sins, not from them.

There were parents who sacrificed to send their kids to college so they might have a better life than they had enjoyed.  The college professors imbued their students with secular knowledge and intentionally undermined faith.  All educated people, they said, believe in evolution.  All morality is relative, they taught.  Religion is an outdated notion that denies people freedom of thought and encourages discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgendered, and other people who deny the moral teachings that came down to mankind from Mount Sinai.  Thus we have college-educated people who can't find that the key to happiness and the solutions to life's problems is obedience to God's commandments.

Now it is the case that the unbelieving and the ungodly hold the upper hand on earth.  In America, they have gutted the nation.  Greedy bankers continue to accumulate wealth and grind the nose of the poor.  Politicians seek power and ignore the growing cancer in the society around them.  Judges ignore cries for justice. "Justice" has been replaced by demands for revenge by those who ignore true justice as contained in God's law.  Entire communities tolerate murder, crime, and violence daily, but then riot when the authorities seek to take the guilty out of their midst.  Their highest value is not "snitching" rather than bravely confronting and prosecuting the offenders.

The immoral majority has taken the reins of the government and is beginning to use the power of the state to silence godly dissent.  The city of Houston recently subpoenaed the sermons and minutes of meetings that discuss homosexuality in a negative way.  Although public outcry against this violation of the separation of Church and State made the government back off, it is only a matter of time before they feel emboldened to try it again.

When that time comes, do you think the enemies of godliness will make a distinction between Baptists and Mormons, both of whom claim to believe in Christ?  Will the protest of the evangelicals that "Mormons aren't Christians" spare Mormons from facing persecution at the hands of the godless?  Not at all.  As Benjamin Franklin said, we will either hang separately or hang together. 

For this reason, all the arguments that Mormons aren't Christian or that we believe in a different Jesus are completely bogus.  The other side doesn't care.  The spirit of antichrist in the world doesn't care.  It simply wants to stamp out anything that professes belief in Christ.

I am not "prophesying" when I say this, but I am echoing and summarizing that which true prophets have said.  These events are at our doorstep.  The time is here in which Christians will be marginalized.  Our ability to exercise religious speech will be curtailed.  Legal actions will be initiated by the government to suppress Christian speech in the public arena.  The free exercise of religion will be reduced to "freedom of worship."  In other words, you can pick whatever church you want, but your religious rights only exist within that sanctuary.

Gay marriage is going to bring down legal "fire and brimstone" on Christians and our churches.  They will seize your property and regulate your businesses out of profitability.  Your children won't be able to say "God bless you" in a school when someone sneezes without facing disciplinary action.

Churches will be sued and taxed into "compliance."  You will be painted as an extremist, as a danger to other people.  Any religious opinion will be dismissed as invalid.

God's hand of blessing will be removed and instead the hand of cursings will be upon us.  The wickedness of our society will pile up like snow in an avalanche.  There are plagues coming--literal plagues.  There are wars coming that will touch American soil.  Foreign troops will occupy our cities.  Rapine, blood, and destruction will follow them.

Likewise, race wars are also coming.  Cities will be left in waste at the hands of their own citizens.  The love of men is waxing cold even now.  People will have to flee in search of safe havens and refuges.

Natural disasters will multiply to the likes of which we have never seen, but most of the destruction will come about because the wickedness of looters and opportunists.  

Hunger and starvation are coming to America and to the world.  Only those who will have the Holy Spirit to be their guide will endure and survive to accomplish God's purposes.  Many faithful people will be called home.

There is no longer time to have debates about whether Mormons are Christians or not.  It will not matter when Mormons and Christians stand side by side with their necks in the noose, waiting for someone to pull the lever.  We must either stand together for Christ now or we will die together for Christ.

If you have allowed yourself to be deceived by anti-Mormons, it's time to turn away from them and let them perish in the darkness that is of their own making.  They are on the wrong side.  They are not interested in truth.  They are of the side of Judas, Caiphas, and Pilate.  It is time to drop the arguing over tenets and to proclaim the word of Christ:  "If ye love me, keep my commandments"  (John 14:15).  Focus on Christ.  Do what he would do.  Follow him.

We need to tell the world--together--that faith in Christ is the way and that keeping his commandments is how we show our faith in him.

We can do this. Together.  Now.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Church surprises critics with openness about "magic underwear"

Critics and adversaries have often mocked and ridiculed Church members over our beliefs, particularly over temple clothing and the sacredness with which we consider it. 

S.P.A.M. treated the subject with this article several years ago. It has been one of the top articles on the blog for all that time.

"Magic Underwear" or Distinctive Religious Symbols?

So it is with great satisfaction that we discovered the Church's new video on the topic.  If there has been a hallmark of President Monson's presidency it is the increasing openness and transparency with which the Church has addressed its critics.  This video is a marvelous treatment of the topic that explains reverently our beliefs regarding the temple clothing and actually displays it in a proper, dignified manner, unlike our anti-Mormon critics.

Phoenix Temple Open House

If you search the S.P.A.M. archives, you'll find that the Phoenix Temple was the topic that dominated the anti-Mormon world for about a year in 2009-2010.  The announcement of the temple was met with fierce opposition and protests both in Phoenix and in Salt Lake City.  Protests included an 80-foot tall inflatable gorilla and balloons flying at the 120 height of the proposed spire.  The Church considered the protesters' complaints and redesigned the temple, making it a single story and lowering the height of the spire.

S.P.A.M. documented how it's the pattern for anti-Mormons to use zoning boards to try to block temple construction.  Their complaints usually claim that the temple will increase neighborhood traffic and noise, that there will be inadequate parking, that the lighting will be disruptive, and that it will change the residential nature of a neighborhood.  We showed that, if the Church announced that the temple would be build completely underground, with no visible signs on the property, they would still find something to complain about.

Here are some links to the original articles of the time.  Some of these may not be active after four or five years.







Anyhow, after all the anti-Mormon hoopla, the temple stands, beautiful and completed.  It is now open for open house to the residents and community.  My son visited and said that there was still one lone protester out on the street, shouting at the visitors.

Anti-Mormons will never quit--even if they will never win.

Source:  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/phoenix-arizona-temple-opens-for-public-tours

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is Google anti-Mormon?

Political conservatives gripe continually that Google search results are biased.  They claim that searches reflect the liberal bias of Google's creators.  Google says their search results are just the work of algorithms that are based on statistics.  Nevertheless, Google's leadership does lean to the left as do many of their young employees.

Likewise, a curious thing happens when you do a Google search on Mormonism.  The overall results are almost overwhelmingly anti-Mormon.  If it's just statistical, there's an incredible amount of anti-Mormon web sites out there.  What is especially weird is the consistency of anti-Mormon sites in the number one slot.

If you have a Mormon-themed site that use Google AdWords, an advertisement placement program that monetizes a site, it will frequently display anti-Mormon ads from various anti-Mormon ministries.  On the original S.P.A.M. site, we used a free social network service that embedded ads on our social network.  It was Google-based and, as it scanned your site's content, it found extensive use of the word "Mormon" and it would tailor ads to that subject, and it would load up anti-Mormon info.

When ads from the Church are in the mix, those are usually sponsored ads that the Church pays for.  Paid ads are prominent on the search page because Google makes money from them.  Often, if it wasn't for the Church's paid ads, you'd see very little favorable information about Mormonism.

Recently, the Deseret News ran a story where Google displayed anti-Mormon information about the Church to the query "What is Mormonism?"  The source of the definition was supplied by RaptureReady.com, which is an evangelical Christian website that promotes anti-Mormonism.  The Deseret News article said that social media users discovered the definition and contacted Google to complain.

Complaining to Google is pretty fruitless.  The inspired guidance given to Joseph Smith regarding anti-Mormons who publish lies about the Church is contained in Doctrine and Covenants Section 123.  Section 123 suggests:

...gathering up a knowledge of all the facts, and sufferings and abuses put upon them by the people of this State [Missouri at that time];
2 And also of all the property and amount of damages which they have sustained, both of character and personal injuries, as well as real property;
3 And also the names of all persons that have had a hand in their oppressions, as far as they can get hold of them and find them out.4 And perhaps a committee can be appointed to find out these things, and to take statements and affidavits; and also to gather up the libelous publications that are afloat;
5 And all that are in the magazines, and in the encyclopedias, and all the libelous histories that are published, and are writing, and by whom...
One of the things that S.P.A.M. has done is to expose who are the anti-Mormons who operate in the dark on the Internet and expose them to the light of scrutiny.  The Internet requires web site owners to register their web sites and domains with Internic and other regulatory organizations.  That information is publicly available.  Thus, using these common tools like "WHOIS," we can often identify those who lie against the truth and fight against God.

The Google definition that was put at the top of the list was placed there by a man named Todd Strandberg, the proprietor of Rapture Ready bookstore in Benton, Arizona.  He has a web site for the bookstore.  The WHOIS information for his web domain gives his public contact information.  It is shown below:

Registry Domain ID:  
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.networksolutions.com
Registrar URL: http://networksolutions.com
Updated Date: 2012-09-05T00:00:00Z
Creation Date: 1999-03-16T00:00:00Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2022-03-16T00:00:00Z
Registrar IANA ID: 2
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abuse@web.com
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.8003337680
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited
Registry Registrant ID: 
Registrant Name: STRANDBERG, TODD
Registrant Organization: 
Registrant Street: 1103 Watson Pl
Registrant City: Benton
Registrant State/Province: AR
Registrant Postal Code: 72015
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.5016806733
Registrant Phone Ext: 
Registrant Fax: 
Registrant Fax Ext: 
Registrant Email: todd1@raptureready.com
Registry Admin ID: 
Admin Organization: null
Admin Street: 1103 Watson Pl
Admin City: Benton
Admin State/Province: AR
Admin Postal Code: 72015
Admin Country: US
Admin Phone: +1.5016806733
Admin Phone Ext: 
Admin Fax: 
Admin Fax Ext: 
Admin Email: todd1@raptureready.com
Registry Tech ID: 
Tech Organization: null
Tech Street: 1103 Watson Pl
Tech City: Benton
Tech State/Province: AR
Tech Postal Code: 72015
Tech Country: US
Tech Phone: +1.5016806733
Tech Phone Ext: 
Tech Fax: 
Tech Fax Ext: 
Tech Email: todd1@raptureready.com
DNSSEC: not signed
URL of the ICANN WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System: http://wdprs.internic.net/
>>> Last update of whois database: Thu, 25 Sep 2014 12:27:47 UTC 

I don't post this information with the intent that anyone should harass Mr. Strandberg.  I only do it so that his name will be indexed with Google's records and linked to the term "anti-Mormon."  Section 123 doesn't urge us to boycott businesses, to threaten the livelihoods of individuals, or to use compulsion, or coercion in any fashion.  We should not send nasty e-mails or try to get his Internet service provider to take down his site.  Freedom of expression requires us to respect Mr. Strandberg's rights to say what he wants, no matter how execrable or untrue it may be.

The Lord simply inspired Joseph to make note of the facts and the individuals connected with circulating false information.  Section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants tells us that, what is written on earth is also written in heaven.  Mr. Strandberg's efforts to harm Mormonism will fail and, at the last judgment--unless he repents, he will stand before Jesus Christ and have to explain and justify why he chose to fight against the Lord's saints and seek to harm Christ's own Church.  What is written here will bear witness of his deeds.  Hopefully, he will choose to repent.

It does seem that Google is anti-Mormon at times, but it is more probable that the vast amount of anti-Mormon activity on the Internet is reflected in Google's searches.  It's one of the signs of the times.  For decades, we latter-day saints felt like we were gaining acceptance.  However, as Zion rises out of obscurity, the Gentiles are beholding it as "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners" (Song of Solomon 6:10).  Our growth and visibility frightens them.  Satan knows his time is short and he exercises influence over those who heed his voice.  Unfortunately, he has often found those who claim excessive religious zealotry to be easy to motivate and easy to deceive.

S.P.A.M. urges its readers to pray for Mr. Todd Strandberg, that his heart will be softened, and that the spirit of repentance will touch his heart.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

1 in 4 Protestant pastors struggle with mental illness

One of the old saws that is passed around the Internet is that Mormons are all depressed because of their religion.  Anti-Mormons try to cite statistics of anti-depressants prescribed that they allege to show a spike in depression in Utah.

I've written about this before, about how these statistics are manipulated and abused by our adversaries.  That's not surprising.  If you Google for stories about evangelical Christians and depression, you'll find lots of articles written by non-believers claiming that religiosity in general correlates with depression.  Then, if you Google atheists and depression, you'll find articles written by Christians saying that atheists are more prone to depression.  It's a bogus argument to try to base whether or not Mormonism is true (or any other religion) based on whether or not believers face depression or not.

Anti-Mormons want you to believe that being a Mormon will lead you to depression.  That's why I found this article especially interesting today:


A study by a Christian organization, Lifeway Research, reveals that one in four Protestant pastors have struggled or currently struggle with mental illness.  Twelve percent received clinical diagnoses.

I don't mean this in a tit-for-tat way to bad-mouth Protestants.  It just shows that they--and their clergymen--are just as susceptible to depression and other mental illness as anyone else.  In the case of Mormons, considering that all of our men act as clergy in one fashion or another, it wouldn't be surprising that they have suffered from the pressures and expectations of living a very visible gospel lifestyle.

So can we just drop the whole Utah-antidepressants thing, anti-Mormons?  Get the anti-Mormon "beam" out of your own eye and help your pastors with some kindness and support.  If you did that, you'd have less time to look for Mormon "mote" in our eyes.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pay attention to the '...'

An ellipsis is a punctuation device that allows a writer to omit words from a citation that are superfluous or able to be understood from the context.  It's the little "..." that you see in a formal paper or text.  It's a way of making writing with lots of quotes from other sources flow more naturally.  You see them all the time, but usually they are used incorrectly in more casual writing like emails and text messages.

The ellipsis is often used by religion writers to abbreviate a scriptural text so that it will flow with the other written content.  For example, an original passage from the New Testament might read:

 ¶And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

A writer or commentator discussing this passage might introduce the scene in his own words, paraphrasing the setting, and transitioning to the meat of the subject saying a man approached Jesus and asked him, "...Lord, my servant lieth at home sick...."  The ellipses at the beginning and end of the citation omit information that isn't necessary to understand the context.  Nothing vital is lost.  We get the full meaning of the phrase without the additional words that would clutter up things for the reader.  The writing is conversational.

However, the ellipsis is notoriously used by sectarian preachers to omit important passages from scripture that don't fit their church's doctrines.  It's all the more common if the passages are important ones that substantiate Mormon beliefs.  They want to avoid those at all costs!

I saw an example of this today.  I was reading an article titled, 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don't Leave the Church  on a Protestant web site called Faith It.  The article is focused on ways to keep youth from drifting away from faith when they go off to college.  The author, Jon Nielson, college pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, makes many valid points.  I couldn't help but smile when he quoted an important scripture and used an ellipsis to omit a passage that gives Protestant-Evangelicals some heartburn.  He quoted Ephesians 4:11-12 from a modern translation in this manner:
But youth pastors especially need to keep repeating the words of Ephesians 4:11-12 to themselves: “[Christ] gave…the teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Christ gives us—teachers—to the church, not for entertainment, encouragement, examples, or even friendship primarily. He gives us to the church to “equip” the saints to do gospel ministry in order that the church of Christ may be built up.
 In this case, it's important to note what he left out with that little "..." in the citation.  Here's the full original without the ellipsis:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
 I highlighed in bold print the part omitted with the ellipsis.  You see, the passages says the Christ gave APOSTLES and PROPHETS to perfect the saints, for the ministry, and for building up the church.  In the Protestant-Evangelical world, where are their prophets?  Where are their apostles?  They don't have them.  Their doctrine prohibits them because their creeds banned the possibility of any revelation after the biblical times. Is that "superfluous" information to be omitted?

You may consider this nitpicking, but we see it all the time.  My dear, departed mother-in-law read her Bible every day using a Methodist-produced study guide.  In decades of reading the Bible, she had never ever seen the words "baptism for the dead," even though it's right there in 1st Corinthians 15.  How could a person read the Bible for almost an entire lifetime and not see that?  Easy.  She used the study guide that was prepared by Methodist theologians.  They were careful to edit that out.

In France, I saw a missal in a Catholic cathedral. If you're not familiar with it, it's kind of liturgical book used to celebrate their masses.  There was a page in it that had the Ten Commandments in it.  I noticed right away that these Ten Commandments were different from the ones in the Bible.  They conveniently omitted the commandment that says we are not to have any graven images or bow down to them.  That left 9 commandments, so they split the last one about coveting into two parts, saying not to covet someone's wife and to not covet his property.  That gave them an even 10.

As I looked around the cathedral, I understood why.  It was filled with graven images of saints to which people would bow down and pray, in violation of the commandment.  They had to omit that one or face uncomfortable questions from the faithful seekers of truth in their midst.

You find this is almost every Church.  They will teach that you are saved by grace and omit the dozens of passages that say that you will be judged according to your works.  They will cite the verse that says "no man can see God" but omit the 20 verses that speak of God appearing to various prophets.

If you will be careful and wise, you need to check the doctrine against the scripture.  You will find that the other guys always have some interesting omissions in their presentation.

Mormons believe the whole Bible.  We believe all of it.  We practice all of it.  We believe all that God has revealed and that he will continue to reveal his will today.  Pay attention to the "..." whenever you read a religious article.  When you see them, look up the original and see what was omitted.  You may be surprised.

Monday, July 21, 2014

An act of faith

Scientific types always dismiss the claims of the faithful, not knowing that their own scientific research is an act of faith.  Think about it.  If all things are equal at the start of an experiment, how do you select a hypothesis to begin with.  One of them will seem more viable, more plausible than another.  The moment of selecting how to act and move forward is an act of faith.  The scientist trusts his instincts, his experience, and his gut.  That one hypothesis stands out above another comes from discernment--a spiritual gift.  Abraham chapter 3 goes all into this premise via a syllogism using Kolob as a metaphor.

This past week, there was an article in which NASA claimed that they will find life in outer space within the next 20 years.  This is a statement of faith, every bit as much as the believer's confession that there is a God that exists, but whom he has not seen.  The billions of dollars dumped into this NASA research is evidence of faith on their part.  Why would anyone put those great resources into something that is yet unseen and of which no proof exists presently?  NASA "believes" that there is life out there and they are sure they will find it.  Yet the fact that they have no proof doesn't stop them from asking Congress to give them lots of money, does it?


When we think of faith in the terms that Joseph Smith described it, that it is the cause of all action on our part, suddenly faith becomes more evident.  Whether we decided to plant a garden, lose 10 pounds, buy a home with a 30-year mortgage, or look for aliens in outer space, those are all acts of faith, because we can see what we desire in our mind's eye and act upon it even though we cannot yet see the finished product.

Everybody has faith.  Everybody believes in something.  Those who demand proof and evidence of faith need only look at their own actions for understanding how faith works.  The question then becomes, "Do you believe in something that is not seen, but which is true?"