Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Proper Name of the Church

I stumbled upon a book at Deseret Industries the other day called "Why Would Anyone Join the Mormon Church?"  It is written by Brad Brase, who converted to the Church.  It gives his conversion story and describes some of the opposition he got when he wanted to join the Church.  He also tells of many misconceptions that he was confronted with.  The book covers these misconceptions and gives some discussion of why they are misconceptions.

Early in the book he talks of the proper name of the church.  At one point he says, "The only true and correct name of the Church is 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.'  Since Latter-day Saints equally embrace the inspired writings of the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible, it wouldn't make any more sense to call them 'Mormons' than it would to called them 'Ezikiels,' 'Isaiahs,' Matthews,' 'Lukes,' or 'Peters'  And their doctrine is no more 'Mormonism" than it is 'Jeremiahism,' Danielism,' 'Johnism,' 'Jamesism,'or 'Paulism.'"

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Mormon in America on Rock Center with Brian Williams

Someone announced in Church last week that there was a special on NBC this week about the Church.  It was on a show called Rock Center with Brian Williams and the special was titled Mormon in America.

The piece was created due to Mitt Romney running for president and some new curiosities people have about the Church because of that.

I don't think that this program gave very much information to help their audience understand The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I think that it created more misunderstandings and distrust.

The show opened with the statement, "Tonight on Rock Center:  What it means to be Mormon in America?" I hardly think that in 42 minutes someone can define that.  I also don't think that NBC is qualified to be able to put that story together accurately.  I think it takes more than a few weeks researching that definition to be able find it.

Also in the introduction, "and some of the lesser known aspects."  While reads this statement we are show an oddly lighted pictures of what appears to be a boy being given the priesthood.  Then they flash to someone saying "magic underwear".

I'm so sick of sensationalism to keep people tuned in.  How about just have solid content to keep people coming back to your show?  While it had some good information about the Church, most it was stuff to raise eyebrows and surprise people.

The section on the Church's welfare program was titled "How the church takes car of their own."  Ignoring that the Church takes care of millions who are not members of the Church.

The entire piece focused mostly on the fringe of the Church.  Things like Gay Mormons, Feminist Mormons, Mormons who have left the Church, and of course Polygamy.

The piece on Mormon's in business was ok, even though the title of Mormon Inc was inflammatory.  They focused on work ethic and the preparation for life that serving a mission gives.

Throughout the show they continually used the word Mormon.  While many know us that way, it felt like another way to sensationalize the story and use to historically emotionally charged word to that end.  They used the official name of the Church at the beginning of the piece, but I don't recall them referring the members as LDS or using the official name of the Church at any other time in the show.

I was interested to hear that the Marriott hotel chain started as a root beer stand.  I will have to look at that more, since it is interesting and since everything else in the show was just for the shock factor.  I will be interested to know the entire truth behind that statement.

The primary guy doing pieces on the Church made the statement "there is some sort of code there, to know that a fellow Mormon has served that mission" when asked about how being a member of the Church compares to other brotherhood bonds like firefighter and military.

One segment teaser stated, "...why some many Americans are still suspicious of the religion."  They then put up a clip of a woman who left the Church saying, "I don't think they have done a good enough job of opening up.  They have been very secretive."  While having balanced reporting is good, this was not it.  As I said before everything in the story was a tease or a flash in the pan to wow or incite people.

They sited the "polygamy based dramas" on TV, as if members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were the stars of those shows.

It was interesting that when related the story of how The Book of Mormon came to be, Brian Williams states that "...even though the Angel Moroni took the plates back..."  I would've expected the phraseology to be "the alleged angel" or "the angel allegedly", just because he is not a believer.  But I do appreciate him giving us the benefit of the doubt.

There was a statement by a scholar, not of the Church, that stated that some people have a hard time believe that angels came to the prophet Joseph Smith and yet they accept that Moses parted the Red Sea.and the Jesus walked on water.

Brian Williams said, "Mormons don't drink.  No Caffeine, cigarettes, or swearing either."  If we are talking about membership in the Church only, no one is excommunicated for swearing or drinking caffeine.  Although, I agree that one would be better off and probably be stronger in their faith if they did refrain from those things.I think it misrepresented the members of the Church and our beliefs.

They site a couple of different people as members of the Church, who are members only in that they have not removed their names from the records of the Church.  These are people that do not go to the LDS Church on Sundays and mostly don't live the things they defined as what it means to be a member of the Church.

They paraded out Abbey Huntsman, who is not active in the Church.  They referred to her as Mormon royalty, which showing video of her with her father, the former governor and candidate for president.  They then talked of her being descended from an early apostle.  Neither her father being in politics nor her ancestry make her Mormon royalty, especially since there is no such thing.

She talked of the Church being black and white.  She stated, "You are either in or you are out.  You either live by the Mormon doctrine or you do not."  How this a statement worth even airing?  Obviously you live by a set of doctrines or you do not.  Is she proposing that people that want to be things that Latter-day Saints are not and should still be considered Latter-day Saints.  This is just more things to make drama for TV, which having worked in TV and in PR Abbey would know plenty about.

The story moved to comparing a Catholic cathedral to a LDS temple.  They stated that people can freely enter a Cathedral.  Comparing a cathedral to a temple is not an equal comparison.  It would be more accurate to compare a cathedral to one of our chapels.  Making the comparison base solely on the fact that they are both extraordinary and large religious buildings.  The equivalent of mass would be our sacrament services, which are held in local meeting houses or chapels, not temples.  Those chapels are freely open to the public.

I'm sure they are thinking that marriages are performed in both places, so they are equivalent.  The marriages that are equivalent to cathedral marriages are performed in meeting houses.  The marriages performed in temples are more sacred and not open to just anyone.  There are standards to be married in the temple and there are standards to attend a wedding of two people that have chosen to live those standards.  We honor the the standards the couple has set for themselves by abiding by those same standards to be at their wedding.

After the wedding there is a reception.  Some even choose to have a more traditional ceremony after the temple ceremony, so that more people can attend.

They brought up the topic of temple garments.  I realize that people are curious about this, but is there nothing that can be respected.  This is likely one of the reasons the temples are closed off to the public.  Those who haven't made the covenants and those that don't understand the covenants talk about them frivolously.  It this case they are showing pictures of what are supposed to be temple garments and talking about them.  Not only are these people's underwear, but they are something that is sacred to those people and here is a television program putting them up there for the whole world.

Brian Williams said in the program, "But when it was found that they were baptizing even Holocaust victims who died because they were Jews.  The Church admitted the mistake and acted to stop it."  I don't recall anything where the Church stated this was a mistake.  They agreed to stop because the Jews asked them to. The only mistakes I have heard that the Church has spoken of on the subject of work for the dead for the Jews was when members have done work for Holocaust victims without the Church's knowledge that that is who the deceased people were.  Then the Church apologized and put more checks in to prevent it and spent time training members that this was not to be done.

It almost appears to me that the actions of the Jewish nation is fulfilling the prophesy that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  The Jewish nation is demanding that the Jews not receive the blessings God has for them and thus other peoples are getting those blessings before them.

Brian Williams gave us more polarizing words, "There is another part of Mormonism in the recent past that has been late to change and that's racism.  African Americans were not allowed to become full members until 1978."  To label the policy of denying blacks the priesthood for a time as racism belittles what blacks have gone through.  It also minimizes the efforts the Church has taken to eliminate hate against blacks and all people in our nation.

He continued gave this image of the Church of fear and unpreparedness and as if they are hiding something with, "The Mormon Church is under pressure to move fast.  Faster than they'd like to open up, because they're being pushed by questions and public fascination with their religion, in no small part because a Mormon could be the next president of the United States."  Is this supposed to reflect on Mitt Romney, like he is hiding something from the American people and this should implant doubts in their minds about him?

As Brian continued to bring in clips of Abbey Huntsman he referred to her as being from a prominent Mormon family.  I looked up the definition of prominent.  It said something about standing out.  If the word is being used to say that they are famous and Mormon, then I suppose that works.  But if someone takes it to say that they standout as what Mormons are, then I would say that would be the wrong perception.

Abbey made the statement that Mormons believe this is their day with Mitt Romney and the prospect that he will be president.  I wish that were true for me.  Unfortunately there is a large percent in the Church that are all in on Mr. Romney and I think just because her is a member of the Church.  Just as many vote for the Republican candidate just because he is a Republican.

I distrust Mitt Romney for many reasons.  It would be great to have a strong member of the Church that sticks up for what he believes in become President, but the things that I hear about his voting record don't convince me that is who he is.

Nonetheless, I will likely be voting for him in November for the same reason I voted for McCain last time and others I have voted for in the past.  I will vote for him because he is the lesser of two bad choices.  I don't think I have felt strongly that who I was voting for was a solid candidate since Ross Perot.

Here Mr. Williams tries to turn the female vote against Mitt Romney "...and those kids grow up in a Church where the two genders, male and female, are not equal."  Why can't people understand that equal does not mean the same?  From my understanding the President's cabinet members equal.  They have an equal vote in counseling him, but they all have separate and distinct responsibilities and authority that the others do not.

Additionally, two dimes and a nickel are equal to a quarter, but you can't get gum out of a gumball machine with two dimes and a nickle.

Men and women are equal, but not the same.  Their responsibilities, abilities, and authority are different.

One women interviewed an interracial couple and she asks the wife if she worries about the conforming to the uniformity in the Church.  The wife kind of looked at her like she was nuts at first, since she is married to a black man.  She started to respond that clearly everything is not totally uniform and then interviewer blew her off and continued with her agenda.

They interviewed a "Mormon feminist".  The feminist talked of her daughter asking her why only boys pass the sacrament.  The only answer she could come up with was, "This is the way things are."  It is not just the way things are.  God is  a god of order and does things for a reason.  If you step outside yourself and your agenda for a little bit and focus on what God wants you can see why it is.

The story said that the "Mormon Feminist" wondered if there could be equality in the Church if women could hold leadership positions.  Has she never attended a Relief Society meeting or General Conference.  Had the reporter dug deeper to get the real story instead of just trying get a shock reaction to push ratings, maybe she would've interviewed the women that do hold leadership positions in the Church.  Maybe a relief society president or a primary president or a young women president.  Maybe one of the teen aged girls that are presidents of their young women classes.

There are tons of women in leadership positions in the Church.  They are different positions than men, but again, equal does not mean the same.  The problem with the feminist movement is that they eye what they perceive to be the top of the food chain and if there is not a woman in it then they are being treated unfairly.

Women can't be fathers.  Shocking, clearly they are oppressed because of that and they aren't being treated equally.

People get caught up in looking around them at other people and want to be what they are not and make themselves miserable being depressed or angry about it.

The program next brought a "Gay Mormon".  The reporter used phases like "shunned by his church".  They cited no examples of how the church didn't fellowship him or asked him to not come to church.  I grew up in the Amish community and I saw actual shunning by a church.  It is irresponsible for the spin master running this story to use a word like shun in this context.

I was impressed that they covered the struggle that we have with an increasingly sexualized world and that they talked about the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet as a guide for youth and families on setting standards for themselves.  She even talked about not breaking a promise when a 17 year old girl she interviewed talked of a boyfriend wanting to get physical.  They also talked about being forgiven if you do make mistakes.

I say that was positive and then they yanked the positive out of it by switching back to Abbey Huntsman and talking of how she doesn't feel forgiven.  She continues to live another life, of course she doesn't feel forgiven.  Brian Williams used the phrase "hauled in front of her bishop" as if someone physically dragged her kicking and screaming to the bishop.

They moved to a section of the program where they looked at the Church's welfare program.  Much of it was positive.  Although it was awkward that he talked about Mormon bread and Mormon honey.

It was also nice that they pointed out that one of the bishop's had his own business and did not get paid for his efforts as a bishop, even though the responsibility of a bishop is heavy.  It was also nice that they mentioned that Mitt Romney was a bishop and got the experience of leadership and service through it.

The guy, Harry Smith, who did the segment on the welfare program comment about members of the Church he met, "You would not be able to distinguish these people from any other walk of life except for their total commitment to their faith."

They did a segment on the Book of Mormon musical, which I think many confuse as being something put out by members of the Church.

It was nice that the gay guy int he musical talked about the positive experience his mission was.  Then he made the comment that he didn't feel that he could reach his full potential as a person as a gay guy in the Church.  He removed the Church from his life, concluding that it was what was keeping him from reaching his full potential.  People need to set aside their own wants and focus on their needs.  The thing that was getting in the way of his full potential as a gay member of the Church was not the Church, but that he chose to pursue being gay.

He commented that when he was in the musical he felt like he was still sharing a message in the world.  He said that right after he stated that the musical would probably have an R rating if it was a movie.  My question is, what sort of message is he sharing with the world now.