Thursday, March 12, 2015

The "Dirty Little Secret" about Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriage advocates demonstrating in downtown Salt Lake City.
(Click to enlarge)

Given that I am typically very attentive to stories such as this one, I'm a little surprised that I somehow missed it when it first appeared almost two years ago in Slate magazine:

Of course, none of this should come as much of a surprise to anyone.  

It certainly didn't to me.  

Notwithstanding frequently passionate protestations to the contrary (on the part of 21st century same-sex marriage advocates), promiscuity is and always has been one of the ubiquitous aspects of homosexuality.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hoar Frost

Looking east southeast towards Cedar Breaks.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Early March in southwestern Utah ... where winter finally arrived a couple weeks ago.  I had to trudge through over a foot of snow to get to the hay shed this morning, and now my feet are cold and numb as I sit here on a bale four rows up, watching my shaggy horses trampling icy mud as they tear away at the alfalfa in the feeder.  I feel for them, but I just don't have the wherewithal this frigid morning to don muck boots and wrestle the feeder to higher ground.  Instead I think I'll contemplate the fleeting majesty of hoar frost sprouting from an apple tree; glistening in the blinding light of the rising sun reflecting off forty acres of quilted snow sinking into the furrows of a fallow field.

Have you ever watched hoar frost vanish?  You have to catch it early in the day, and it's a phenomenon best observed under magnification (I have a handy magnifying glass app on my smartphone).  As I watch the crystalline tendrils slowly dissolve into shiny droplets on the bark, the tableau evokes a clichè: pregnant with meaning.  As though it were a scripture.

... as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun …

In any case, I think it's something everyone should do at least once in their life.  It's certainly a lot safer than, say, skydiving as a possible line item on your personal bucket list -- and quite possibly a lot more meaningful.  So often we feel we must travel to distant, exotic locales in order to discover something sufficiently imbued by the revelatory that we can distill from it some clue, however slippery, as to the ultimate meaning of our lives -- when there could very well be hoar frost melting on apple trees right in our own back yard.

Hoar frost on my apple tree.
(Click to enlarge)

Hoar frost on my apple tree.
(Click to enlarge)

No doubt there are any number of meaningful metaphors embedded in the seeming banality of this morning's chores ... but some poems are best left without forcing an interpretation on them.  So I think I will simply trace my steps back to the house, crank the thermostat a little higher, boil water for oatmeal, and listen to a song I wrote a long time ago ... when I was a young man ... with lofty dreams and dewy certainty that everything would somehow work out in the end.

The Sound of the Wind

One moment it's here
and the next one it's gone
like clouds in the late summer sky.
You laugh at the fears;
fear just the thought
and ponder the loss with a sigh.
What is it that's lost
in the time passed away—
a promise whose words are now dim?
Or walls of a castle
the surf washed away
longing the life once within?

In the waves of the storm
the depth is obsessing.
You don't know if you'll last the hour.
You call in the night
but there's nobody listening
and nothing to hear but the sound
of the wind.

One moment it's here
and the next one it's gone
like songs from a distant time.
You turn from the mirror;
run from the thought
and measure the loss with a sigh.
But who knows the cost
of all the time lost
or the promises burned in the dawn?
And who'll know the peace
of the chorus then singing
when you have forgotten the song?

In the tide of the storm
you can feel the weight pressing.
The force of its fury drives you down.
You call out His name …
is He no longer listening?
Or is there nothing to hear but the sound
of the wind?

Farmington, Utah
© 2006 imetatronink - All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Great Charter at 800

This has been linked elsewhere, and although my blog presently resides at the far extreme of obscurity, and therefore is not likely to direct more than one or two internet wanderers to something I regard as very worthwhile, I have decided to also link to it, and in so doing at least register my personal commendation of an eloquent and courageous statement of truth.  It is the transcript of Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput's address delivered Friday, January 23, 2015, at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah:

L'Abbazia di Sant'Antimo, Castelnuovo dell'Abate, Siena, Italia
Photo by Belinda Schryver, September 2013

(click to enlarge)

The rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow ...

A young family in our ward spoke yesterday in Sacrament Meeting.  I was very moved by the talk given by the wife and mother of the family, who spoke concerning the atonement of Jesus Christ, and how, with faith and obedience, its power can transform us from a state of weakness to a state of strength.  In particular, I was struck by a quote she cited from Elder Richard G. Scott's October 2013 General Conference address, entitled Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ:

"The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy."

I have had much contact in my life with both those encumbered by personal weaknesses, and those who, for various reasons, have willfully entered into a state of open rebellion against God and His Kingdom.  I have consistently found myself filled with indignation towards the rebellious, whereas I am consistently filled with love, compassion, and empathy towards those whose shortcomings are due to simple human weakness.

Our modern scriptures are replete with warnings directed towards the rebellious; warnings of which they would do well to take heed:

D&C 1:3

And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.

D&C 56:1

Hearken, O ye people who profess my name, saith the Lord your God; for behold, mine anger is kindled against the rebellious, and they shall know mine arm and mine indignation, in the day of visitation and of wrath upon the nations.

D&C 64:35

And the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land. 

Likewise, the Lord has promised that, for those who will humble themselves, and come unto Him, and have faith in Him, He will transform their weaknesses into strengths:

Ether 12:27

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Friday, January 16, 2015

I am [fill in the blank], therefore ...

Speaking of Greg Smith, John Dehlin, and early 21st century Mormon apostate evangelists, I also highly recommend this short blog post logged by Greg about a month ago: "However" organizations versus "therefore" organizations

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Eternity Is You

My wife (Belinda) and I decided to get married on New Year's Day 1982. Now, over thirty-three years down the road, our relationship has evolved to the point where we have become, for all intents and purposes, a single entity. We are, to cite the old cliché, "joined at the hip." We do virtually everything together, whether it is weeding our flower garden, grocery shopping (our weekly "date night"), off-roading in search of landscape rocks, attending plays at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, or walking arm in arm – like Romeo and Juliet – down cobblestone streets in old Verona.

L'Arena di Verona, September 2013
(Click to view full size.)

We are of one mind and one heart. I find it difficult to believe that any man, in all the history of the earth, could possibly have loved a woman with a greater degree of passionate intensity than I do my beloved Belinda. With us, there was never any "seven year itch," or any period during which our love for and devotion to each other has waned. Our romance has been lived in constant crescendo. We are more in love now, after thirty-three years, than ever.

We met as Mormon missionaries in Italy. We loved our time there. One particular experience has always remained with us. It was the summer of 1980. We were, along with a few other missionaries, assigned to the city of Bari, in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. The apartment in which the sister missionaries lived was in sore need of painting, so we all set aside our proselyting for a few days to join our efforts together to accomplish the task. As we painted, we listened repeatedly to the same small "playlist" of songs that represented the entirety of our music collection at the time. One of the songs was from a Mormon-themed musical that had been popular in the late 1970s, My Turn on Earth.  For the most part, the musical, and its music, were sappy – and we would sing along with the songs more in parody than anything else – with one exception. There was a short little love song on the soundtrack that, for whatever reason, I always found appealing. And given that my romantic feelings for Belinda had their earliest beginnings during those summer days in 1980, I have always associated the song with her:

Here in our love
I feel something of eternity
Looking at you
I can see right through to eternity

Millions of years
Like pearls before us
Wind away
They wind away
Millions of years
Like pearls before us
Yours and mine

We will go on
Building upon eternity
Growing with you
Flowing into eternity

Suddenly hours and days are spinning
Suddenly heaven is beginning
Suddenly now the veil is thinning
In a place or two
Suddenly now I see
Eternity is you

And now, all these years later, as I look into her eyes, the words were never more true: eternity is you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reply to Mark Wright, Associate Editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies

A few days ago, BYU Professor Daniel C. Peterson posted, on his blog, Sic et Non, a comment that ended up being rather controversial, at least in the relatively small sphere of those who pay attention to what is going on in the world of Mormon studies.  The blog post was entitled Recovering, at long last, from the plague of Mormon exceptionalism.  It was a commentary on a book review authored by University of Missouri Professor Benjamin E. Park which was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.  The book review focused on two recently published works: David F. Holland’s Sacred Borders: Continuing Revelation and Canonical Restraint in Early America (Oxford, 2011) and Eran Shalev’s American Zion: The Old Testament as a Political Text from the Revolution to the Civil War (Yale, 2013).  Professor Park is an associate editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, which is published under the auspices of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University.

In response to the controversy that erupted in the comments section of Peterson's blog post, one of Park's fellow editors from the Maxwell Institute, Mark Wright (a very personable fellow with whom I am somewhat acquainted), posted a comment in response to some criticisms I had made of the "new" Maxwell Institute.

In reply, I posted the following:

Mark Wright wrote:

"I hope you know that I really do love your soul, Will."

I genuinely appreciate this sentiment, Mark, and I appreciate the general tenor of your post from yesterday from which this quote is drawn. I read your post shortly after it was logged, and have been pondering it since then. It is, therefore, after much serious reflection and deliberation that I now offer to you (and any others who continue to follow this very interesting comment thread) my reply to your comments in said post.

You wrote:

"As for the precarious middle ground I navigate, it stems from my heartfelt desire to actually follow the Savior; to love my neighbor, to be a peacemaker, and to build Zion."

Your statement above appears, from my perspective, to constitute a specimen of non sequitur, in that it seems to draw a logical connection between navigating "precarious middle ground" and a "heartfelt desire to actually follow the Savior, to love [one's] neighbor, to be a peacemaker, and to build Zion." All of these things are certainly commendable desires, but it seems to me that all can be just as easily pursued—and perhaps more optimally—from a more explicit posture of belief vis-à-vis the fundamental truth claims of the Restoration.

It also occurs to me that not all conflicts are amenable to the kind of peace-making you appear to be advocating. And, in any event, I am reminded of the sobering statement of the Savior himself:

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household."

The specific contexts under which this concept finds applicability are not explicitly stated, but it is clear that the Savior understood that his doctrine could be, in at least some respects, so divisive that it would "set a man at variance against" even members of his own family. So it is also, I am persuaded, when it comes to the doctrine of the Restoration as set forth by the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors.

"Contention" may be of the devil, but it is clearly not his exclusive province. Even as it warns the Saints against the danger of those who would attempt to destroy the Church from within, the largely neglected Epistle of Jude exhorts its readers to:

"… earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."

With these things in mind, then, I say that I love peace, and I commend the peacemaker. But neither can I neglect to recall from the Book of Mormon the numerous examples contained therein of how the peace of the Saints was destroyed by the systematic distortion of the doctrines of salvation by those who had chosen to see things through a "different lens" and then went about:

"… causing much dissension among the people …"

In your post from yesterday, you continue:

"I love … all those who ardently support the historicity of the scriptures (as do I). But I also genuinely love those who want to use a different lens to look [at] the Book of Mormon, who raise questions or offer interpretations that I had never considered. I may not always agree with their conclusions (and I typically don't), but I love that they are actually reading the book and taking the text seriously (even if they question its origins). Regardless of whether a scholar is out to prove the Book of Mormon true or not, the end result is that they are proving it interesting and worthy of study, and that, to me, is a worthwhile endeavor."

Fair enough. I, too, have made it a point in my life to read many of the things written about the Book of Mormon by people who "question its origins". But I do not believe any such things should be published under the auspices of Brigham Young University, and least of all by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

Those who desire to advocate such interpretations of the Book of Mormon should band together and publish (via Signature Books or any other willing press, of which there are many) New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, Volume 2 (3, 4, 5, etc.).

In any case, understand this: those who are earnestly contending for the faith that was once delivered to the Saints by way of the Maxwell Institute are prompted to do so precisely because of the fact that its original mission has now been corrupted, and to the extent that your statement I have cited above is consistent with the guiding editorial philosophy of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies and the Mormon Studies Review, then the Maxwell Institute has become unquestionably complicit in the act of:

"…stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them."

It grieves me deeply that this is so, as it also grieves me to see so many of my fellow Saints so blindly bewitched by the sophistries that, as ever, issue forth from the "Scholars' Suite" of the Great and Spacious Building.