To LDS Seminary Teachers Everywhere

May 22, 2013 | 120 comments
By

Seminary Teacher ProblemMy husband and I are both graduates of LDS seminary. I, by the skin of my teeth after a lingering bout with mononucleosis and a pile of home study booklets. Sam, after being on seminary council and a master seminary bowler.

So far our children have attended 18 total years of seminary instruction in two states, at church buildings and seven different released-time facilities, and with at least 37 different teachers. We have three daughters who are seminary graduates, one daughter who is a current enrollee, and two sons who will be joining the ranks in the next few years.

I am a true seminary lover. By and large I have been thrilled with the instruction given. And that is no hyperbole. The teachers are dedicated, knowledgable, interesting, and have an inimitable ability to gain rapport with even the most bullheaded teenagers. (I know. I was one.) Yes, I’ve known non-paid, early morning seminary teachers who managed to go the entire year without any of the kids figuring out which work of scripture was being studied and paid full-time teachers who were more about style than substance, but our personal experience has been exceptionally good.

So I’d like to preface my gripe letter with a long overdue thank you. Yes, sure, many seminary teachers get paid and, yes, I see some real inherent priestcraftyish problems with people making a living teaching the gospel. Yes, in essence, they are just doing their jobs to be prepared and teach. But many that we have had the privilege of working with go above and beyond to bring the Spirit and light to the kids and to make the gospel interesting and relevant. And even though I’ve thanked almost all of them personally, I’ve never written an open letter of gushing gratitude, though it has likely been deserved.

That said, I have a seminary teacher issue that has been on my mind for the past 35 years. It started with my experience and still rears it’s ugly head from time to time. I’d like to address it once and for all, using a specific incident with one of my girls as the catalyst.

I’d like to be clear that the teacher in this example is no exception to my effusive praise above. He is among those who is dedicated, motivating, and sincerely interested in bringing the gospel and the Spirit to these often extremely hard-to-reach teens. But even the best teachers can be insulated enough that they don’t see problems that have become systemic. Sometimes working full-time for the church removes people enough from real-world problems and issues that they no longer see them. And that can be compounded when paid gospel preachers double as non-paid ecclesiastical leaders. The bubble can be pretty tough to break.

So here’s my story: 

One day one of my daughters came home from seminary disturbed by something she had heard. She didn’t remember the teacher’s exact words, but said he had said something about polygamy being a requirement in the eternities or to be in the celestial kingdom.

Having been taught this in seminary myself, I wrote  a letter to the seminary teacher, asking for clarification. I gave him the information I had about CES direction with regard to polygamy. In part, I said this:

I’m writing because I think it’s incredibly important that the things we present to the kids are absolutely accurate. I hope that you will verify this information and moderate what is taught to seminary kids accordingly. Hearing such information can be so difficult for kids developing testimonies.

Several months later and after this particular daughter had long moved on to a new seminary program, I received a response. I’m going to parse what was said to me to expose the kind of problems I have seen. First, the teacher said this:

It is my understanding that plural marriage is in no way a requirement for the celestial kingdom.

Whew! So far, so good. Although this didn’t seem clear to my daughter and her classmates, I was glad to hear that he didn’t intentionally teach this.

I ask  the kids – why it is even necessary in the first place.

At this point, I’m dubious. On such a controversial practice, on a subject to which so many are so sensitive,  do we want to ask young teen kids to speculate on the reasoning behind a doctrinal practice? Does he know it was “necessary”? Would he have asked the kids to come up with a plausible explanation for the racial priesthood ban? Would it come out sounding like Randy Bott?

Perhaps the better question is when/why do we ask kids to speculate at all? I know I have done it myself on occasion, so I’m not entirely opposed to it, but when is it appropriate?

Once when I was teaching a mixed race youth Gospel Doctrine class, the lesson material specifically quoted a number of authoritative sources warning against mixed race dating/marriage (another reminder that updated material is a good thing). Yes, I could have left the quotes out, but it occurred to me that the kids had or would hear about the church’s past racial issues and discussing it in a church setting — as opposed to being confronted in the school lunchroom — made sense.

When President Hinckley gave the no-multiple-piercing edict, it was a big issue with the kids. (OK, and with me, because I had five piercings at the time, including one high in the ear cartilage that I had paid dearly (in pain) to obtain.) They were all talking about it and, while the message was clear, no solid reasoning had been given and they were debating it anyway. So we talked about why he might have said it.

The teacher then told me what the class had divined as the reason for “necessary” polygamy.

The only reason we can come up with is the fact that there would be more righteous women than men.

At this point, I’m jarred. Why not just speak truth? We don’t know. Period.

But as long as we’re speculating, is this really all he could come up with? Is this really “fact”? Where are the stats? Is this the only possible answer? What about all the babies who die in infancy? What about all the other worlds with God’s children? What about the possibility of it being an Abrahamic test? Or of it being a way to make Mormons “peculiar” enough that they would be driven to the hinterlands to toughen up and become a cohesive unit? Is it remotely authoritative to claim that the only plausible explanation is that there are just too many awesome women and men are scoundrels?

And if this is true, why do we seal dead women to all the men they were married to while alive. (And why this policy applies only to dead women is a baffling mystery of the first order, but another topic entirely.)

Let’s just leave this topic where it really is. Right now it’s on the heap of kind of bizarro practices that we have yet to address fully and that we’ve obfuscated on far too many times and that we can’t really make much sense of.

Joseph’s polyandry, Emma’s knowledge, Brigham’s proliferation, Manifesto (but not so much), polygamous wives sent away, divided sects, current practice of erasing polygamous wives to prevent embarrassment, etc. There’s just a lot of baggage to sort through.

I suspect when outside voices reach a sufficient din, the church will address polygamy and other gender issues, just as they’ve addressed race, Mountain Meadows, homosexuality, and other issues to some extent. But for now, let’s leave speculation at the door. Or on the blogs. But not in seminary classes with impressionable teens.

And then came the zinger.

So I tell the girls to get the guys going and help them look and act like they should so there will be more men there and solve the whole problem.

There we have it. Women, if you will just get off your duffs and get the men in line and take charge of their morality and be accountable for their actions, you won’t have to share them for the rest of your eternal happily ever after. Ready, set, go.

I think highly of this teacher and want to be kind and fair, but to be honest, that kind of rhetoric angers me no end. Very sincerely, how dare anyone tell the girls that it is their job to get the boys to follow God? How dare you suggest that unless they take charge of the boys morality, they will be stuck sharing their husbands through eternity?

It is the boys’ responsibility alone to follow God.

I was taught the same kind of thing over and over in church.

  • We had to dress a certain way — not because our bodies were gifts from God and to  honor Him, but to keep the boys minds out of the gutter. (Even though we all know a boy can get his mind in the gutter if a girl is clothed neck to ankle in non-formfitting robes. Thus the burka.)
  • We had to make sure the boys didn’t “go too far.” They couldn’t help their hormones and desires, so we had to control not only ours, but theirs as well.
  • If they were to go on missions, it was because we made sure they did, by keeping them morally clean and withholding marriage and its accouterments until they got home, like the proverbial carrot.

When I bring up these ideas, I am usually told either that I couldn’t possibly have been taught those things at church or that the young men never hear such things. I’ll defer to Elder Holland, trusting that you’ll believe him. In a BYU devotional delivered in 1983 (when I was a student there), Jeffery R. Holland said (quote begins at about 31:47):

I’ve heard all my life that it is the young woman who has to assume the responsibility for controlling the limits of intimacy  in courtship because a young man cannot. Seldom have I heard any point made on this subject that makes me want to throw up more than that.

Amen.

Teaching seminary is not a job I envy. I’m amazed at what these teachers do day after day after day. Sometimes at unearthly hours. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for the contribution they have made to my children and the support in gospel training they have provided in remarkable fashion.

Please, please, realize how powerful this influence is. Please, please, carefully weigh the things you say and the ideas you present. They can lift young souls and strengthen testimonies or they can create burdens that last a lifetime.

At the risk of being superhero cliche: with great power comes great responsibility.


Additions: A couple of straigh-forward, thoughtful articles about polygamy:

Tags: , , ,

120 Responses to To LDS Seminary Teachers Everywhere

  1. BHodges on May 22, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Great post. A seminary teacher’s folksy attempt to inspire youth to greatness misfires yet again.

  2. EmJen on May 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    I haven’t ever heard that Elder Holland quote. Do you have the citation? It’s miles away from what Sister Dalton said in the latest YW presidency training meeting in early April: “So it’s very important for us to continue to talk standards, to teach them, and to encourage them, young men and young women, to be guardians of virtue, their own virtue and others because there are so many who say ‘It is not a young women’s problem if a boy is doing something wrong. If she is immodest, it’s not her problem if the boy does something wrong.’ Well it is! We have to take responsibility for one another, we have to help one another.”

  3. Jake Cox on May 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Regarding your three bullet points toward the end of the post: I agree that boys need to control themselves; it’s not a girl’s responsibility to police the boundaries. But I hope we won’t lose sight of the importance of a righteous girl’s high expectations. I can specifically recall times in my teenage years where I decided to obey Church standards *because* I wanted some cute Mormon girl to be interested in me. Even my choice to serve a mission was strongly influenced by the pariah status among Mormon women of non-RMs.

    Were those the wrong motivations? Yes. Could anything else have gotten me to do the right thing? Probably not. But eventually, living gospel standards became habit, and I ended up loving my mission — and so I literally thank God for Mormon girls with high standards who gave me a reason to do the right thing.

    So, I agree that boys must control themselves, and not expect the girls to impose limits. I agree that we should not be teaching girls to dress modestly as a means of avoiding sexual thoughts in boys’ minds. I agree that girls should not be taught that it’s up to them to get their boys on a mission. But I *do* think we should continue to tell our girls to have high expectations for their boys. It saved my life.

  4. Paul on May 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Alison, amen…on both your praise and thanks for seminary teachers and your criticism of this teaching.

    EmJen, I think there’s some distance between what Sister Dalton said and the notion that young women are responsible for young men’s righteousness. What I heard Sister Dalton say is that we all can support one another in keeping the standards of the church, in keeping the commandments.

    My adult daughter points out that very often her non-member co-workers are far more supportive of her living church standards than her church friends are.

  5. Riley on May 22, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Maybe this is the dog poop in the brownies I just ate talking but I remember one of my seminary teachers teaching us that not doing your homework is a sin. During that lesson I also challenged her on her interpretation of the Australian band, AC/DC, being an acronym for “Against Christ / Devils Children,” by asserting that Barbara Streisand stood for some long, made up on the spot acronym about sacrificing babies to Satan that now escapes me. She left the class in tears. I feel bad looking back now because though I feel my point was right I did it in a less than charitable manner.

    Good thoughts though.

  6. Leonard R on May 22, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    As someone just finishing a year of teaching early-morning seminary, I wonder if anyone has advice on how one should talk about polygamy, instead of only how one shouldn’t?

    While I agree “we don’t know”, period, is better than speculating about why, it doesn’t do much for those students who bring it up after reading about it online, feeling heart-break and dismay. “We don’t know” provides little comfort or clarity…

  7. Adam G. on May 22, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    This post should raise T&S’s MTB (mean time to ‘but’).

  8. Shawn on May 22, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    In response to some glaring statements:

    But as long as we’re speculating, is this really all he could come up with? Is this really “fact”? Where are the stats? Is this the only possible answer? What about all the babies who die in infancy? What about all the other worlds with God’s children? Is it remotely authoritative to claim that the only plausible explanation is that there are just too many awesome women and men are scoundrels?

    You quoted that the students came up with their answer. Do you recognize that you have now twisted this into his problem? Guided Discovery methods aren’t meant to declare facts, but to help the learner come to the appropriate conclusion through their own process. Seems to me that they are well on their way.

    And if this is true, why do we seal dead women to all the men they were married to while alive. (And why this policy applies only to dead women is a baffling mystery of the first order, but another topic entirely.)

    No mystery there, if you grasp the concept of plural marriage vs polygamy. The distinction is significant. We erroneously intertwine the two as if they are the same – which they are not.

    I’m ok with a a seminary teacher giving room for students to discover answers to topics that are not essential to their salvation. Its far better than them providing answers that are grossly incorrect.

    As for your zinger, perhaps you were the only one offended. Seems to me that this was said tongue-in-cheek. Perhaps he said something else earlier that was directed at the boys, that you aren’t privy? Odds are there was other things said and taught that you don’t have details.

    Lastly, as a student preparing to become a full-time seminary teacher at BYU-I a few years ago, as they rolled out an entirely new way of teaching seminary (Specific required courses – excellent BTW – even if you never actually teach full-time – which I opted not to do so) we learned some great truths about seminary, its purpose upon creation, and its current need and value to today’s youth. One things is clear – the days of hanging your hat as a scriptorian because you can scripture chase fast, is over. New teachers in the program are taught to teach doctrine & principles of the Gospel, using a myriad of methods, including multimedia. Guided Discovery is very valuable.

    And of the youth in that particular class, might just come to the conclusion that they don’t really know, however being prepared that it might be an option isn’t going to harm them, anymore than that food storage you’ve been collecting for 30 years has been harmful. We really don’t know if you will ever need it either – do we?

  9. Lorian on May 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Great post, Alison.

  10. John L on May 22, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    EmJen (#2), I found the quote in a couple of places. The transcription of his talk, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments”, is here: http://www.familylifeeducation.org/gilliland/procgroup/Souls.htm

    The quote is rendered “I have heard all my life that it is the young woman who has to assume the responsibility for controlling the limits of intimacy in courtship because a young man cannot. What an unacceptable response to such a serious issue!” In the YouTube version of the talk, here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5PBqxwlfHI at about 31:47, he says “Seldom have I heard any point made on this subject that makes me want to throw up more than that” in place of “What an unacceptable response to such a serious issue”.

  11. Erin on May 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    I really enjoyed this article. Speculative non-doctrine being taught in my high school seminary was one of the biggest turn offs to me. It always felt like the teacher was trying to show off just how far he had thought into a subject and was misguiding us into thinking that he was right regardless of the lack of doctrine on certain subjects. I really appreciate the stance of putting moral responsibility squarely on individuals. I looked up and read “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments” because of this and really enjoyed it as well. Thanks for writing a great article!

  12. anonlds on May 22, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    I was always taught you couldn’t make it to the highest level of the celestial kingdom without polygamy. I recently had a talk with a member who still believes that. I haven’t seen it refuted anywhere.

  13. jks on May 22, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Not a great experience. However, I think many teachers try to get their students to think so they ask them to come up with answers. I know as a parent I try to do it. Nothing bores students more and turns them into passive learners than having the information spoon fed.
    So, as much I cringe at my 12 year old or 15 year olds ideas about doctrine or practice, etc. I have to suffer through listening to it. My hope is that with practice they get better at coming to good conclusions. But often I have to say something that isn’t critical and then give my thoughts on the subject.
    So I absolutely support a seminary teacher asking the class why do YOU think there was polygamy. And those students will grow up and be willing to have better and deeper discussions with friends and with family and with spouses, etc. because this seminary teacher was willing to let them have a go at thinking about it.
    And as a parent if I want my kid to have a certain opinion I’d better teach it early. Like when I sent my first kid to school on election day. I suddenly thought, Oops!, and sure enough she came home having “voted” for Kerry. I happily supported her (she was a first grader) and told my husband not to freak out because it was our fault for not discussing it beforehand.
    I LOVE the idea of my daughter getting to discuss this in seminary. She claims to be one of the few who is awake enough to participate so I don’t think discussions get lively. But my daughter is an active participant in every class she is in so I would consider a discussion like that to be a good learning experience for her even if things aren’t always completely accurate or you have some folk doctrine.
    The fact is that she is brilliant and she will often have teachers who will be less intelligent or less informed than her. I am quite sure she can handle it.
    I actually can imagine a teenage class and think that if they think marriage is essential and there might not be even numbers of men and women, coming up with the idea that polygamy fixes that is pretty decent thinking.
    Can you prove that isn’t the reason?
    Now the discussion that happened vs. what actually your daughter repeated back don’t completely align. Big surprise. But not necessary to blame the teacher.

  14. jks on May 22, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    “when/why do we ask kids to speculate at all?”

    Perhaps you might need a few examples:
    1. Why should we be honest?
    2. Why do you think the Lord made Joseph wait to take the plates?
    3. Why is it hard to forgive others?
    4. Why didn’t Nephi want to be king?
    5. Why didn’t Nephi kill Laban right away?
    6. Why did Peter deny Christ 3 times?
    7. Why didn’t the apostles recognize Jesus right away after his resurection?
    8. How can you apply the atonement in your life?
    9. How can we Love God?
    10. What does it mean that a camel can go through the eye of a needle easier than I rich man can go to heaven?

    We ask kids to speculate all the time about all sorts of things. Do you seriously only ever ask your children questions that only have one exact answer?

  15. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 12:45 am

    EmJen, yes, I have the citation and the audio from the talk. I’ll see if I can find it tomorrow and post. It was the talk that eventually morphed into the book/video “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments.” (John L, thanks for looking that up. I’m going to edit the post to include the whole thing.)

    Leonard:

    As someone just finishing a year of teaching early-morning seminary, I wonder if anyone has advice on how one should talk about polygamy, instead of only how one shouldn’t?

    Leonard, I wish I had an answer for you. I don’t think we’ll have a good way until the church gives us one.

  16. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 12:52 am

    Thanks for those who have left thoughtful comments.

    Adam G. I’m so glad you got your obligatory snark out of the way early on. Feel free to move along now that you’ve relieved yourself.

    Shawn:

    You quoted that the students came up with their answer.

    No, I didn’t. I quoted that the students AND the teacher, TOGETHER came up with the answer. (“We.”)

    I’m all about guided discovery — which is one of the reasons I hate the plug and chug way most schools teach math — but you seem to be forgetting the “guided” part of guided discovery.

    Discovery methods aren’t meant to declare facts, but to help the learner come to the appropriate conclusion through their own process. Seems to me that they are well on their way.

    Yes, HELP the learner come to the APPROPRIATE conclusion. You might have noticed that I utterly disagree that they are well on their way to anything helpful with the answer they came to. (FTR, my 14-year-olds have been able to come up with lots of possibilities. In fact, my 12-year-old just did, too.)

    anonlds, click through the link to my site. You can verify the info given there if you care to.

    jks, it seems you didn’t read the whole post. I not only said I have asked students to speculate on things myself, but gave two examples of when I have done it. And in both the examples there wasn’t a “one exact answer.”

    I’m concerned about this particular issue because it’s terribly problematic and painful and CURRENT. (I suggest there are reasons the church didn’t just clear this up ages ago.) And to leave a “guided discovery” answer that suggests something that isn’t remotely authoritative — and that (at least in my daughter’s class) left a bunch of kids with an impression that the teacher himself says he doesn’t believe — probably didn’t work out so well.

  17. BP on May 23, 2013 at 1:01 am

    Great post. Many great points here: the gratitude, the insight, the throw up quote (did I miss the cite?), etc.

    The value of speculation, under certain conditions, needs a more vigorous defense: in the noble pursuit of reigning in speculative conclusions of seminary teachers brazen enough to put their points in writing for later dissection, it is key to not dismiss speculation from the classroom. No speculation, no learning. To your question, When is it appropriate to invite speculation? All the time, so long as the speculation does *not* lead to a firm but fabricated conclusion, as it apparently did in this unfortunate case. In matters of ethical living, great teachers must prompt us to speculate using sources other than ourselves, poor ones answer them for you on their own. A pedagogy problem, not a problem with speculation itself.

  18. Doug G. on May 23, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I pray that my kids have the intelligence to question and research any and all questions about what they are being taught. And I hope I have the kind of home where these things can be debated openly. When we turn our kids over to someone else to educate then we have failed them.

  19. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 1:49 am

    Thanks, again, John L, for finding that video. I heard the talk and wrote down the quote ages ago. About ten years ago I found the audio on a BYU website archive and downloaded it for reference. I didn’t know it was still available anywhere.

    When Holland created the video and book based on this talk, the entire presentation was toned down and less passionate. I love this original version. I love the throw up comment. I love that he admitted that he, too, had heard that all his life. It was NOT just the rhetoric in Young Women!

    BP, I added the citation John L included in his comment above to the OP.

    I agree with you to a point. As I said, we do have to think through many issues. I just don’t know if there is a productive, helpful, truthful way to wade through the polygamy issue unless/until our leaders give us some help. What can we conclude? How do we make sense of it?

    The church’s current position is “it’s in the past” and then they go to great lengths to keep it from coming up. For example, the teachings of the prophets manuals include biographies, most with some level of minutiae. But (last I checked a number of years ago) all the polygamous prophets biographies had been carefully edited to exclude any reference to simultaneous wives. And while the “celestial marriage” sections of the D&C are still there, I can’t recall the last time they were included in the Gospel Doctrine course of study.

    Given that the church doesn’t deal with it, how do we do it? Given that it’s such a painful topic for so many, how do we do it?

    Doug G, I’m a homeschooler, so the last thing I do is turn my kids over to anyone to educate them on a large scale. But we have been urged to send our kids to seminary. So whether you like it or not, our church leaders are ASKING us to “turn our kids over” to a seminary teacher — called or hired — to educate them for hundreds hundreds of hours.

    Of course, we hope that’s not the only religious education they get, but it’s next to impossible to reteach or unteach every erroneous idea that is presented to them — unless you know what each erroneous idea is. And even the most talkative kids and the most open parents aren’t going to get a 100% class rundown every single day.

  20. Irenaeus on May 23, 2013 at 1:55 am

    I see some real inherent priestcraftyish problems with people making a living teaching the gospel.

    Priestcraft certainly isn’t limited to a paid teacher or clergy. Priestcraft is to set oneself up as a light unto the world. The gain one receives need not be monetary (and, I would argue, is seldom monetary). Blogging works just as well for the purpose, especially if we’re riding our favorite hobby horses of doctrinal disaffection and gaining adherents along the way. Praise when preaching to the chorus, or from adherents gained along the way, is still self-affirming and often worth foregoing the hourly wage.

    And, for what it’s worth, Jacob 2:30 does give the only reason I’m aware of for the command to practice plural marriage; i.e., to “raise up seed….” — a logic that seems to require a certain type of polygamy as well (as long as we’re speculating, why not do it with some scriptural basis), as if the doctrine were not clear enough already.

    @anonlds: For the record, I’ve never heard it taught that plural marriage is necessary to enter into the celestial kingdom, and I’ve been around a very long time (as in over-the-hill long time). Even in its “heyday,” it wasn’t practiced by the vast majority of the membership.

  21. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 3:17 am

    Irenaeus, if you believe that I think “priestcraftyish problems” only exist among paid religions teachers or clergy, rest assured, I do not.

    As for Jacob, that’s not the full reason he gives. Rather, he says:

    For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

    So, yea, a certain type of polygamy, one that is to raise see to him. But, interestingly, the post-restoration polygamy doesn’t seem to have had that effect from what I’ve read.

    One early church leader (name? anyone?) said it wasn’t about “raising seed” and wasn’t about making sure all the extra women have husbands. He said it was because of revelation, period. In other words, God said so, but he didn’t say why.

    Plural marriage was taught as part of necessary celestial law. You might be super ancient, but this teaching was common enough that the first presidency saw fit to send a letter to all CES teachers telling them to stop.

  22. Ziff on May 23, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Even in its “heyday,” it wasn’t practiced by the vast majority of the membership.

    Just the Church leadership, to whom everyone should have been looking to as examples.

  23. Irenaeus on May 23, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Alison: It’s still the only justification given in scripture (which was my only point–that it wasn’t as murky as you were suggesting it was); whether God has other reasons, such as fulfilling the purpose of the dispensation of the fullness of times in “restoring all things,” he is free to find motivation in them for doing what he does without the need to obtain my permission first.

    Likewise, the Lord often gives commands that he later revokes (the command to build Zion, for example, among others) due to disobedience or others hedging up the way (cf. D&C 124:49). Modern-day polygamy was obviously suspended because of the latter. The fact that it didn’t achieve its goal to the extent that would satisfy you or me isn’t the issue, nor does it discount what light the Lord has given on the subject. I also know of no requirement that the Lord make explicit the reasons for the commandments/revelations he gives, our frustration and pain notwithstanding.

    re: “to him” — I honestly don’t see the distinction you’re trying to make here. The instructions to the Nephites were clear regarding the principle of commanding polygamy. (And, just to be clear, all seed of the righteous are intended to be raised up unto the Lord [cf. Mosiah 15:10-11+]. The principle enunciated in Jacob 2:30 was general in nature and I see no reason to assume an exception to the general principle was applicable to the saints asked to practice it in this dispensation (though God gets to make that decision as well–I’m certainly not the light you want to follow).

    And, of course, my experiences are my own, but I think they are representative. A teaching need not be commonplace to require clarification by the First Presidency in order to stamp out any error that might remain. It just wasn’t taught to anyone I’m familiar with.

  24. Steve Smith on May 23, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Good post, although I believe that speculation about the why and how of religion is just a fact of life, and one that is implicitly encouraged in the LDS church’s injunction to “search, ponder, and pray.” We should speculate and master using well-evidenced reasoning in our speculation.

    But I really like how you brought up another folk doctrine commonly circulated among the LDS community that needs to go extinct. And yes I think that we need to have fewer scruples in admonishing or questioning people, even if we do respect them, for perpetuating old folk doctrines, particularly of the damaging sort. How else will they go away?

  25. anonlds on May 23, 2013 at 10:23 am

    my point which probably want very clear was that the according to your quote of the seminary teacher her didn’t believe that polygamy was necessary to enter the celestial kingdom. you can still believe that and also believe it limits progression within the celestial kingdom. he didn’t seem to address the belief/possible folk doctrine in question.

  26. SusanS on May 23, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Wow. Elder Holland is going up in my estimation. #slowclap

  27. Steve Smith on May 23, 2013 at 11:19 am

    “Blogging works just as well for the purpose [of priestcraft], especially if we’re riding our favorite hobby horses of doctrinal disaffection and gaining adherents along the way.”

    I know, how dare those blasted liberal Mormon bloggers say things that you disagree with. Why can’t we just think more like Lee A. Palmer in his classic 1945 Improvement Era piece and accept that “when our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.”

  28. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Irenaeus, my point is that I think there is an important difference between simply “raising up seed” and “raising up seed to God” — a difference that would definitely impact the “certain type” of polygamy introduced.

    Given that the “certain type” of polygamy the early church practiced — and that it didn’t seem to promote the mere raising of seed — I tend to think God had a different reason. My preferred reasons ;) are that it was a test of faith and/or a way to isolate and unify the saints as they endured the following persecution. Your mileage may vary. Doing so, btw, WOULD seem to help “raise see to God,” even if it didn’t increase the surplus population.

    I also know of no requirement that the Lord make explicit the reasons for the commandments/revelations he gives, our frustration and pain notwithstanding.

    I don’t believe anyone has suggested otherwise. So why not leave it at that? Why not just say that we don’t know other than that God said so? (Found the source of that statement: John Widtsoe,) When the topic IS painful and God has chosen not to give his reasons (or our leaders have chosen not to ask the questions), we also have no requirement to speculate, particularly to speculate in a way that leaves so few possible options (one).

    As for whether or not a requirement for celestial marriage has actually been taught, in my experience the first presidency doesn’t shoot out letters every few minutes to address every rogue seminary teacher’s comments. They seem to save that for issues that come up routinely and/or very problematically (or perhaps that they get lots of mail about). As Steve Smith said above, I think “folk doctrine commonly circulated among the LDS community” pretty much describes it.

    Since you’re pressing the point, I have to say it seems odd that you’ve never heard the idea. It is an easily verified and prevalent historical meme. So strong that I wonder where you’ve been hiding.

    You say that the idea wasn’t ever taught to you or to anyone you know, I have to ask, if you were never taught it and never heard of it, how many people have you discussed it with? I mean, were you out in the foyer grabbing people and saying:

    “Hey, I’ve never ever heard anyone say that polygamy was a requirement for those in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom — but, just to make sure, have YOU ever heard of that idea that just popped into my head?”

    As I said in the OP’s linked article, Kenneth Godfrey’s class attendees were furiously scribbling this down. He read the quote over and over, slowly, so that people could get the exact quote from the official letter. It wasn’t some random quote that just happened to interest little old priest crafty me. The whole room (I was in) was abuzz. I was in the second overflow and we could hear the people in the original classroom all talking and asking for the repeat, and rerepeat, and rererepeat. It got to the point that he said he needed to move on and people could come get the quote after class.

    Interestingly, even Wikipedia addresses this:

    Members of these polygamist sects [speaking of break off groups] believe that plural marriage is a requirement for exaltation and entry into the highest “degree” of the Celestial kingdom (the highest of three Mormon heavens). This belief stems from statements by 19th century Mormon authorities including Brigham Young, although some of these leaders gave possibly conflicting statements that a monogamist may obtain at least a lower degree of “exaltation” through mere belief in polygamy.[51] Thus, plural marriage is viewed as an essential and fundamental part of the religion.

    See also John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, Volume 11, p 221 (“When I see any of our people, men or women, opposing a principle of this kind, I have years ago set them down as on the high road to apostasy and I do to-day; I consider them apostates, and not interested in this Church and kingdom.”)

    See also Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 11, p 269 (“The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.”)

    See also William Clayton, Historical Record, Vol 6, p 226 (““…[Joseph Smith taught] the doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth, and that without obedience to that principle no man can ever attain to the fullness of exaltation in the celestial glory.”)

    In fact, prophets from Joseph Smith to Joseph F. Smith preached pretty much the same thing.

    See Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Volume 20, pp 28, 30, 31 (“…some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I wish here, to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it to be false…”)

    Reed Smoot court case: ““We, the first presidency and apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, beg to respectfully to Your Excellency the following facts: We formerly taught to our people that polygamy or Celestial Marriage as commanded by God through Joseph Smith was right; that it was a necessity to man’s highest exaltation in the life to come.”

    Millennial Star: “And we…are believers in the principles of plural marriage or polygamy…as a principle revealed by God, underlying our every hope of eternal salvation and happiness in heaven…we cannot view plural marriage in any other light than as a vital principle of our religion.”

    More Millennial Star: “Damnation was the awful penalty affixed to a refusal to obey this law [polygamy]. It became an acknowledged doctrine of the Church; it was indissolubly interwoven in the minds of its members with their hopes of eternal salvation and exaltation in the presence of God…”

    Tell you what, just google polygamy required for celestial kingdom (to give enough LDSishness to that search). There are 202,000 results. And there are at least a bunch just on the first page that address that issue specifically.

    “Is Plural Marriage Required for Exaltation?” | “Do LDS members have to agree to polygamy in their heaven…” | “Is polygamy required in the CK?” | “Is Plural Marriage Necessary for Exaltation?”

    You’ve got some historical doctrinal catching up to do! ;)

  29. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Steve, I agree. What you said here is key:

    We should speculate and master using well-evidenced reasoning in our speculation.

    It’s the “well-evidenced reasoning” that I think was missing here, and the result was that the “only” explanation that was addressed was fairly problematic.

    anonlds, I was thinking the very same thing last night. It actually came up because I was rolling my eyes over Obama’s obfuscation when asked if anyone in his administration knew about the IRS targeting and he answered that HE didn’t PERSONALLY know about the IG REPORT. Which wasn’t remotely what he was asked.

    The first presidency statement is that we need not engage in polygamy to be exalted in the “highest degree” of the celestial kingdom. The teacher’s response didn’t actual specify the part about the highest degree, only that he didn’t believe it was required for the celestial kingdom. Given that LDS theology, however, acknowledges completely UNmarried people as ministering angels SOMEWHERE in the celestial kingdom — and given the fact that I know this to be a decent, honorable man — I assume that his response was, indeed, about the highest degree and that he wasn’t giving a smarmy answer. :)

    Steve Smith, I tend to ignore ad hominem, but the funny thing is that I would ever, EVER, EVER be considered liberal. Suffice it to say that raving conservatives/libertarians can still have a big problem with their kids getting doused with problematic gospel interpretations. :)

  30. Frank Pellett on May 23, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Not to drive this over to polygamy discussions, but I believe historical reporting of this in the manuals has progressed in the “Presidents of the Church” manuals since the omission in the BY manual:

    Wilford Woodruff (2007), John Taylor(2002), Joseph F Smith (1999), Heber J Grant(2003):
    This summary omits many important events of his life, including his marriages and the births and deaths of his children, to whom he was devoted.(emphasis added)

    Joseph Smith (2008):
    (Takes a step backward and makes no mention of it at all). It could be they left it out because there is not much agreement (or historical record) on the details, but I think they could have made at least some mention of what we do know.

    Lorenzo Snow (this year):
    1845: Enters into plural marriage, as then practiced in the Church, by marrying Charlotte Squires and Mary Adaline Goddard.

    We’re not getting too far from having all the Prophets covered. Perhaps we’ll get a better treatment of it the second time around, if we don’t go off to something completely different, like that year (or was it two?) of basic principles, which was nice.

    To the OP, I think it’s important for a teacher to help the students think and wonder about the why of things, but also to be able to come to the conclusion of “We don’t know” and anxiously look forward to the day when we find out for sure. (That whole 9th Article of Faith thing)

  31. Lizzy on May 23, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I am the great-great-granddaughter of a polygamist. He had 10 wives and over 70 children. As a wealthy convert, polygamy enabled him and his wives to raise a huge family, and I know from his biography they felt they were raising seed unto the Lord. I don’t know how many other polygamous families had this sort of progeny, but more than just a very few, I would imagine. And yes, I have heard that the early Saints believed that polygamy was necessary for exaltation, and that although we can’t legally practice it now, it will be a feature in the highest level of the celestial kingdom. I still have (older) family members who have said they still believe this, notwithstanding any current statements from our leaders.

  32. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Frank Pellett, thanks for the update.

    I have seen the “marriages” reference, but billions of people have “marriages” without engaging in polygamy. Agreed about Joseph Smith. I hadn’t checked this year’s manual (haven’t looked into this since about 2008).

    I totally understand the hesitancy to bring up the topic. My biggest issue with this has always been that — seemingly for the sake of embarrassment and PR — we HONOR and REVERE the men who engaged in polygamy, and we ERASE the women who did so under command and at great sacrifice. That is appalling to me.

    As an aside, I hope we don’t go down the teachings of prophets path again. I found the lessons to be gerrymandered and kludged trying to be cohesive while still sticking to the named prophetic source. I’d rather have a topical lesson with quotes from lots of people, or even a historical lesson about a time period, than the method employed in those manuals. (And did anyone else ever notice that sometimes the title had almost zero to do with the lesson material?)

    On your last paragraph, Frank, amen! Well said.

    Lizzy, I think you misunderstood my statement that post-reformation polygamy didn’t seem to meet it’s purpose. Your ancestor’s wives averaged about 7 kids apiece. Sure, the grandFATHER had more kids than he would have with only one wife, but did your grandMOTHERS have more kids than they would have in monogamous relationships? That seems not to be born out historically (note particularly that there was not an excess of women generally).

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the teaching about polygamy being a requirement. I also still hear older women in RS sometimes mention such things — as well as the old saw about “we can’t talk about Mother in Heaven because she’s too sacred,” etc.

  33. Steve on May 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Good grief. We need to get to the point where we say that polygamy was a mistake, has been repudiated and will not be re-implemented.

    Polygamy has done more damage to the Church than any other doctrine, even more than blacks and the priesthood. We need to acknowledge that and move on. Continuing to justify it is an impossible task.

    Prophets are men. They make mistakes, sometimes egregious ones.

  34. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Steve, I’d love to! But what is the authoritative source with which to make that claim?

  35. Steve on May 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    President Hinckley being interviewed by Larry King, September 8, 1998:

    HINCKLEY: I condemn it [polygamy], yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.

  36. Leonard R on May 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Steve:

    FWIW, while it is possible to take the “it is not doctrinal” as a repudiation of the entire doctrine, it is equally easy to take it as meaning “it is not doctrinal (at this time)“.

    I.e. – we condemn polygamy because we don’t practice it now – it is not currently a doctrine. Those practicing it now are considered apostate and, if they were members, are excommunicated, because they don’t follow the order of the Church.

  37. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Well, Steve, I like it. I cheered out loud when he said it, but have a hard time taking Larry King Live quotes as being the means by which new doctrine is incorporated into church teaching (or old doctrine refuted). Hinckley also kind of sort of affirmed that we can’t drink caffeine on 60 MInutes by simply saying “yes” when that idea was included in a list of things Mormons do.

    When he made that statement, it didn’t seem as strong as the reading might indicate. The “think it is not doctrinal” gave wiggle room as an opinion or aside and also the immediate leap to talking about legality rather than doctrine almost made it seem like he was back-peddling. To me at least.

    Sure, I get that we abide by the law, but it’s the first part we are going for, right? So, sure, I’ll hang onto what he said there, but I have to take it in the context it was given and weigh it against all the other statements as well as current sealing practices. Something doesn’t fit very well.

  38. Steve on May 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    The point is that the current position is not defensible. Repudiation is going forward.

  39. Ben S on May 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Eh. Was is not is, and wikipedia, at least, recognizes that there are competing statements. There’s a way to acknowledge those without taking them as normative today.

  40. S on May 23, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    ..”I think it is not doctrinal..” As in, today, when he participated in the interview. And I think he was referring to the spin off polygamists. I doubt you’ll find a quote by President Hinckley condemning polygamy of the Old Testament or as practiced earlier in church history. As a technical matter, we still practice polygamy. When a living man is sealed to two women “for time and all eternity,” in a religious sense he is married to two women at the same time, though one be on the other side of the veil. And, because we seal deceased women to all husbands they’ve had, presuming they accept those sealings beyond the veil, they too are “married for time and all eternity” to more than one man. No big deal. Maybe the new scripture change to “monogamy is God’s standard” is a typo.

  41. A Turtle Named Mack on May 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    My daughter came home from Seminary last month and informed her mother that the caffeine in her Diet Coke was against the Word of Wisdom. I was ready to throw things (OK, I actually did throw something!). It takes a lot of effort to teach our children what we believe to be true. I hate having to fix them after other members of the Church undermine those efforts. There is a lot of pressure to outsource their religious education through Seminary, but it no longer seems worth it. We are evaluating whether to have our daughter attend next year (the caffeine example is only one, and quite minor).

    Sorry to pull the discussion away from the inevitable downward spiral of polygamy, but the OP focus on the pitfalls of Seminary (lay, or professional) is important. I have nothing but respect for those who accept a call to teach Seminary – I surely would not do it. I’m not sure I can support my kid getting up extra early (along with at least one parent), sacrificing sleep and a decent breakfast, and dragging herself into school at the bell, if I just have to re-teach it all, later. Of course, I’m hopeful that I get a chance to re-teach her. Who knows what she’s been taught that I’m not aware of. I’m thinking that Allison was lucky to be able to have a discussion with her daughter. The other kids who were there may carry the belief with them for years. Is this cause to weep for the future?

  42. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Steve, I’ll be happy to jump for joy when I see the repudiation going forward. I won’t be alone. :)

    A Turtle Named Mack, sigh. Even though we live in Utah County, my 15-year-old has been attending early morning seminary. She attends a performing arts high school every morning for non-academic work and so she leaves (with one of us) at 5:45 am. Yes, that’s just one reason I’m glad the school year is almost over — even though Sam did the seminary driving most of the year. (Yea for him!)

    I think your concern is spot on and expressed very well. Given the drawbacks, there has to be a strong net gain to make seminary worth the cost. And that will be largely determined by who is teaching and what is being taught. Like you said, there simply is no way for parents to account for every problematic thing they hear.

  43. Paul on May 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Turtle & Alison, I think the problem you cite is possible in any class taught by lay members, not just seminary (and by lay members, I mean anyone, since we don’t have a place where our teachers go to learn doctrine even in CES). I do regularly counsel my surly teenager that before he leaves the church over something he doesn’t agree with, he should be sure the church actually teaches it.

    Of course, I help to teach our ward’s seminary class, so I’m hoping for a little grace. ;-)

  44. Alison Moore Smith on May 23, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Paul, of course you are correct. And it does happen all the time. Seminary is just a bit more intense than the once-per-week exposure during Sunday meetings. Shorter duration, but teenagers have moved beyond, “God made the flowers” and are into deeper topics.

    I do think seminary teachers have training, even those who are not full-time teachers. At least in years past I know there have been masses of seminary teachers from all over the country converging on BYU for the CES training. Do they still do that? Do they have other contacts, resources at their disposal? (I would think they do!)

    I like your surly teenage counsel. :) And if the seminary teacher praise applies and none of the criticism, please take it only that shoe that fits. :)

  45. Raymond Takashi Swenson on May 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    If young men cannot be responisble for controlling their sexual desires and actions, and must rely on the virtuous young women around them to keep them on the straight and narrow, then how in heck do your basically 40,000 young male missionaries control themselves when they are surrounded much of the day by young women who are NOT Mormon and have never attended a Young Women lecture on the importance of keeping the young men around them chaste and virtuous, and who wear whatever they feel like, without regard to the standards of modesty we derive from wearing temple garments? While I have known of a few elders who succumbed, the vast majority of them (including when I was on my own mission) manage to exercise self control and keep from getting too close emotionally with young women, LDS or not.

    The notion that young men cannot control their sexual emotions and behavior is a thoroughly evil idea that has no basis in scripture, but is a false tradition of the world that has been too easily accepted by the Saints (along with modes of dress and standards of popular entertainment).

    As to the idea that there are normally going to be more righteous women than men, the Latter-day Saints are the primary counter-example to that assumption. I personally think that the way the priesthood is currently shared and administered helps to reinforce faithfulness in young men and adult men, so they tend to avoid the Joe Sixpack life pattern that dominates male culture in modern America, especially among young adults. But for the priesthood, and other special aspects of Mormon teachings and culture, we would be like other denominations, where the predominance of women in church attendance and participation is glaringly obvious and can be assigned serious numbers showing a discrepancy of as much as two to one participation by women over men.

    I sure have not seen any huge surplus of unmarried women over men in the wards I have attended over my 60+ years, and many of the “single” women were widows who have their eternal companions waiting for them. So the assumption used by the seminary teacher only has validity for people who are NOT LDS, and are therefore not immediate candidates for celestial marriage anyway. So it hardly works to justify polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom.

    I know it is fund to speculate the background of some gospel principle, especially when you have a captive audience who can be assume to be substantially more ignorant of the scriptures and church history than you. I taught home-study Seminary for four years, meaning we had class Saturday mornings. But teachers of all kinds in the Church need to constrain our egos and not go off the reservation of known truths in a speculative thrill ride.

  46. Sam Brunson on May 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Alison, as I understand it (though my understanding is second-hand at best), the BYU seminary teacher conference ended about ten years (though my source hasn’t taught seminary in a few years, so it’s possible that it has been reinstated in the last couple years).

  47. Jax on May 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I wonder how those nut jobs go the idea that we shouldn’t drink caffeine??

    You have been counseled repeatedly to “live in the world, but not be one of the world.” Sometimes some of our members want to live as close as they can to worldly standards and yet qualify for a temple recommend. Live by the covenants you took in the temple; do not live on the fringes. You will be judged by the kinds of movies you attend, by the way you dress, and by the music to which you listen. Some yeas ago one of our teachers told his students that he used cola drinks and that it did not prevent him from holding a temple recommend. This was an indication of poor judgment on his part, and it illustrates what I mean by living “on the fringes.” Live the spirit of the commandments. (Ezra Taft Benson, The Gospel Teacher & His Message. Assembly Hall, 17 Sept. 1976.)

    I never drink any of the cola drinks and my personal hope would be that no one would. However, they are not included in the Word of Wisdom in its technical application. I quote from a letter from the secretary to the First Presidency, “But the spirit of the Word of Wisdom would be violated by the drinking or eating of anything that contained a habit-forming drug.” With reference to the cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken any attitude
    on this matter … but I personally do not put them in the class as with tea and coffee because the Lord specifically mentioned them [the hot drinks]…. I might say also that strychnine and sleeping pills and opium and heroin are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom and yet I would discourage them with all my power. (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 202.)

    Yeah, I guess throwing things is totally understandable when those wackos are the references, huh?

  48. Steve Smith on May 23, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Here’s the Church Newsroom on August 29, 2012 in response to a news piece which stated that the use of caffeine was prohibited by the LDS church:
    “Finally, another small correction: Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee.”

    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormonism-news–getting-it-right-august-29

    Keep on crusading there, Pope Urban. Perhaps I should launch a crusade myself and go digging around in Joseph Fielding Smith’s Doctrines of Salvation for quotes against birth control and believing in evolution and then go trolling on Mormon blogs to condemn those sorry birth-control-using saps.

  49. Riley on May 23, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Polygamy probably has more scriptural and prophetic coverage and support than Mother in Heaven. I love the idea of Mother in Heaven so I hope that just because someone doesn’t like it we don’t explore the concept with our youth.

  50. Cameron N on May 23, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    Steve, I don’t think the poorly worded quotes you’re thinking of are on par with the ones Jax cited.

  51. Steve Smith on May 24, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Poorly worded quotes? Here are a couple of links with a whole “quiver” (to quote Mitt Romney) of quotes on birth control from LDS church leaders, including some wonderful guilt-tripping prose against evil contraception-users.

    http://www.josephsmithforum.org/research/faqs/01-birth-control-what-is-the-first-commandment-ever-given-by-the-lord-to-man-how-does-the-lord-feel-about-birth-control-should-couples-postpone-having-children/

    http://www.mormonchronicle.com/happy-is-the-man-and-woman/

    Look the point is, by current LDS church policy, my membership is not in any better or worse standing based on my choice to use caffeine or birth control. If a bishop were to decline to give me a temple recommend simply because he didn’t like that I drank Coke or used birth control, he would be in the wrong. And were a seminary teacher to wage a campaign against caffeine or birth control in class, perhaps to the extent of turning young minds to question a Cola drinking-parent, the former would be in the wrong.

    If someone wants to share their opinion in a secular context about it being wrong to use caffeine or birth control, then whatever. But please don’t go quote hunting to try to suggest that I’m somehow in violation of LDS church policy for doing this, because I wouldn’t be.

  52. Jax on May 24, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Steve,

    As even Pres. Kimball acknowledged, you are not acting contrary to the WoW to use caffeine. He says that he doesn’t put them in the same category as tea and coffee that ARE listed. But as he also points out, caffeine is in the same category then as heroin and strychnin. So rather than just telling youth half of the story (that it isn’t against the WoW) lets tell them everything given by prophets : that is isn’t strictly against the WoW, but the prophets have strognly encouraged against it and have said that using it is choosing to live on the fringes of obedience.

    I assume you’re a good parent and that you wouldn’t want your daughter living on the fringes of the law of chastity. How about we encourage them to not live on the fringes of the other commandments as well?

  53. Steve Smith on May 24, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Uh, Jax, here’s what happened. Turtle named Mack complains that his “daughter came home from Seminary last month and informed her mother that the caffeine in her Diet Coke was against the Word of Wisdom,” suggesting that the seminary teacher gave her the distinct idea that caffeine was in direct violation of the Word of Wisdom, which it is most certainly not.

    You then very write a very defensive and sarcastic post in response to Turtle’s saying that we “shouldn’t drink caffeine.” Much like you, I have strong opinions about what people should and shouldn’t do. I believe that people should not troll on blogs. I believe that people should learn to quit in a debate when they are clearly owned. I could probably find some authoritative quotes to back myself up on these issues, but guess what, trolling and hardheaded debating after one’s argument has been knocked down are not grounds for an LDS church authority to deny you a temple recommend.

  54. A Turtle Named Mack on May 24, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I assume that living on the fringes of obedience is obedience. Otherwise, it would be called sin. And before you ask – yes, I am comfortable with that.

    I am not comfortable with Seminary discussions that conflate personal practices with doctrinal beliefs. President Kimball, as quoted above, went out of his way to make it clear that he was referencing his personal practices. That’s the example to take away from the quote.

  55. Lizzy on May 24, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Jax — I for one hope you don’t let Steve get to you. I enjoy all your posts, and feel a kindred spirit. It seems to me that Steve has to always have the last word, and protesteth too much. Of course that’s only my opinion, as I don’t know him, but he does seem to feel the need to “knock down” any ideas that differ from his own.

  56. Chadwick on May 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Jax

    I believe we also give more credence to living prophets than deceased prophets. And the current prophet has allowed caffeinated drinks to be sold on BYU campus, something not available when I attended there in the early 00’s. So clearly Coke is not of the devil anymore than is a donut, while both are clearly unhealthy.

    I honestly do not understand why the need to quibble here. It’s a drink. Do you really think the final test at the pearly gates will be over soda? And for the record, I’m not saying this to defend my behavior. I pretty much stick to water these days.

  57. Jax on May 24, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Steve,

    I apologize for mistaking you A Turtle Named Mack. I should have checked that closer.

    Lizzy,

    Thanks!

    Chadwick,

    I’m not quibbling about the drink. My original post was to show how easy it would be to find prophetic counsel on Cola/Caffeinated drinks, which would make it quite reasonable IMO for a seminary teacher to say that. The post being about seminary teachers I thought that it was completely relevant.

    A Turtle Named Mack,

    I’m curious… is it okay for girls to have more than one set of piercings in your opinion? The 1-peircing rule was never accepted as doctrinal by the church and it isn’t something that will make you lose a temple recomment or lead to disciplary action; and the current President of the church hasn’t come out against it; which appears to be your standards for behavior.

    The caffeine choice is basically the same. Yes, prophets have come out strongly against but the current one hasn’t; it won’t lead to disciplinary action (you’ll still be in good standing); and it isn’t technically part of the WoW.

    Same kind of goes with contraception really. Long, Long list of quotes form former presidents of the church AND living Apostles. Numerous comments in almost every session of conference stating that the command to multiply is still in effect, a temple ceremoney stating the same, and no formal church acceptance. The Church handbook states that the choice is firmly between the couple AND the Lord. IMO the big problem is that very, very few actually consult the Lord. They just hear that phrase and figure that they can do what THEY want and it is THEIR choice and they leave the part about the Lord out of it. If you consult him and he tells you its fine.. then go ahead and you SHOULD feel comfortable and clean about it. But IMO you better make absolutely, 100% positive, sure that HE is okay with it; because the consequences the prophets have mentioned are severe. More often than not the people who say, “we shouldn’t use birth-control”, are more correct than those who say, “it is okay for us to use birth-control.” The second group say it as if the church has come out in favor or contraception. They haven’t!! They have said that in some circumstances it could be agreeable to the Lord and that He should be consulted about it.

    So I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with a seminary teacher, gospel doctrine teacher, bishop, father, anyone telling men and women that they shouldn’t use birth-control. That should be our default position up until we get positive confirmation that in our individual circumstance it is okay to use it.

    A tree falls the way it is leaning, and we should lean in the direction of absolute, no question about it, obedience; rather than leaning in the “how far can I go” or “get away with as much as possible” direction.

  58. Steve Smith on May 24, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    “but he does seem to feel the need to “knock down” any ideas that differ from his own.”

    No I don’t. It is important to correct information that is wrong and silence/put to shame loud trolls who promote myths as facts.

  59. Paul on May 24, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Jax: “IMO the big problem is that very, very few actually consult the Lord.”

    How in the world would you know?

    “More often than not the people who say, “we shouldn’t use birth-control”, are more correct than those who say, “it is okay for us to use birth-control.” The second group say it as if the church has come out in favor or contraception. They haven’t!! They have said that in some circumstances it could be agreeable to the Lord and that He should be consulted about it.”

    I’m curious how you reach this conclusion. The handbook says this:

    “The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.

    “Married couples should also understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.”

    There is no quibbling, no quoting of dead prophets, no cautions of the dangers of using birth control (eternal or otherwise).

    And finally, there is the direct caution against judging other members’ behavior in this matter.

    Teaching anything else would be contrary to the present policy of the church.

  60. Leonard R on May 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Let me get this straight…. you quote the Handbook’s reference that the choice to use birth control is “firmly between the couple AND the Lord.”, and then state that you have no problem with people teaching contrary to that….

    That neatly ties back to Alison’s original post doesn’t it… people who have no problem teaching things directly contrary to instruction…

    Tell me… in what world do any of those people you listed constitute either “the couple” or “the Lord”?

    Now to be clear, I don’t have an issue with people sharing those teachings (except I honestly can’t imagine this being a topic in seminary…), as long as they share all of them, in context, and especially the Church’s current stance (we had both Word of Wisdom and caffeine and polygamy discussions in our seminary class this year).

    I have not problem with historical accuracy and discussing how we got from A to B. Indeed, I think our collective tendency to “brush aside” past teachings is what leads many to have a sense of disillusionment when they do come across past teachings on their own, and have the impression that things have never changed. We shouldn’t pretend that we didn’t have previous views on things, such as polygamy, Word of Wisdom, and birth control.

    But I for one would certainly take issue with anyone telling my kids they shouldn’t use birth control. Whether they should or shouldn’t and when is between them, their future spouse, and the Lord.

  61. A Turtle Named Mack on May 24, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    I’ll leave decisions about piercings, contraceptions, and colas to the individual. You’re quite correct that those are not doctrinal positions. I have ALL SORTS OF PROBLEMS with seminary teachers, gospel doctrine teachers, and Bishops selling their personal decisions as doctrinal positions. There are no default positions in the gospel.

  62. Leonard R on May 24, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Or what Paul said more succinctly than me in cross-posting…

  63. Paul on May 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Let me be even more clear. Like Alison in the OP, I believe that seminary teachers should avoid teaching as official policy or doctrine that which is not official policy or doctrine.

    President Benson’s famous 14 characteristics of the prophets talk made clear that we favor the living prophet over dead prophets. Our living prophet today has made clear in his own introduction to the present handbook the process that went into its revisions, review and acceptance by the Lord’s agents for the governance of the church.

    There is no suggestion that establishing further fences beyond those policies is required or beneficial to our salvation.

    That said, an individual is welcome to study and ponder and apply whatever prophetic counsel he can find and can reconcile to the present position of the church. But a seminary teacher — even one heavy laden with outdated teaching materials — should refrain from teaching what is not supported in the presently-accepted policy of the church.

  64. Irenaeus on May 24, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Alison Moore Smith (#28):

    [M]y point is that I think there is an important difference between simply “raising up seed” and “raising up seed to God” — a difference that would definitely impact the “certain type” of polygamy introduced.

    You make a distinction without a difference, as far as I can tell, by noting that Jacob 2:30 adds “unto me” to “raise up seed” — the context of when polygyny (the topic of Jacob 2) is commanded in the place of monogamy remains precisely the same–to “raise up seed.” The “unto me” merely points to the person wanting to raise the seed up and for whose purpose it will be raised. I don’t see how the full context of Jacob 2 can be construed otherwise (without substantial mental gymnastics, anyway). Let me “press the point” to clarify why your distinction and conclusions you draw from it still baffle me (feel free to let me know if we’re talking past each other):

    Your logic would seem to require that polygyny raise up seed “unto [God]” in a way that monogamy could not raise up children unto God, and, moreover, that polyandry (completely unrelated to the context of the scripture) somehow be equivalent to polygyny in raising up seed/children (to God) in a way monogamy is incapable of. I’m honestly easy to convince with anyone’s vaunted “well-evidenced reasoning,” but yours seems to miss the obvious intent and context of Jacob 2:30: polygyny can raise up seed/children in a way that monogamy cannot. (I’ve heard this scripture expounded on many times in the context of polygamy, but never with the peculiarity of meaning you seem to want to impose upon it — for now I’ll just defer to the “reasonable person” standard.)

    You also went into quite the extensive exercise of quoting to prove a point I never hinted at as an area of disagreement. Your article and all my responses referred to the prevalence of the teaching in the present Church, not the past history of the Church (of which I’m well aware). It would be useful to represent my views as they were originally stated (more than once, but hopefully this example will do):

    Me (#23):

    And, of course, my experiences are my own, but I think they are representative. A teaching need not be commonplace to require clarification by the First Presidency in order to stamp out any error that might remain. It just wasn’t taught to anyone I’m familiar with.

    That’s quite an innocuous and non-dogmatic description with plenty of wiggle room for others to have had different experiences. I still think it is representative of how often it is taught in the Church today (and during my lifetime). Feel free to press home a dogmatic generalization to the contrary, but, logically speaking, I think it’s usually considered fallacious to assume someone’s experience is other than they have stated it to be, regardless of how much you wish it had been otherwise.

    Let me quote you the relevant bait and switch you decided to pull:

    You (#28):

    Since you’re pressing the point, I have to say it seems odd that you’ve never heard the idea [Never said that]. It is an easily verified and prevalent historical meme [Never the subject of either your OP or my comments]. So strong that I wonder where you’ve been hiding.

    Hope you caught the strawman you replaced for my actual (multiple) statements on the subject. You would normally save sarcastic insults for situations where you don’t mangle the straightforward context of the views presented by the party you are responding to (i.e., the present, not historical, teachings on the subject — also the time period of relevance to your OP and the person I first responded to regarding my experience on the matter).

    My sample size to determine whether it was taught “to anyone I’m familiar with” (another straightforward statement that you strawmanned up to say “anyone you know” (for the rationally challenged: those I know and those I am familiar with are not equivalent) is exactly one (1) — a much smaller sample size than required by your generalization that it is being commonly taught in the Church. [Insert your favorite snarky comment here on “grabbing people in the foyer,” but extend it to every congregation over huge geographical distances.] When it comes to standards of “reasonableness,” I prefer my sample size. I’ll even sample my (large) extended family if you think it would help your cause.

    Just to be clear, I’m one of the first people to object to “folk doctrine” when it appears in church or in my family. I’ve never been shy about it and am all for making sure folk doctrine is not taught as official doctrine in the Church, but the real irony is the prevalence with which people on this site (I’m speaking generally here) argue/imply that their favored folk doctrine replace actual doctrine (the standard works being the rule against which our doctrine is measured), while consistently complaining about folk (and official) doctrine they disagree with.

  65. Steve Smith on May 24, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Irenaeus, I think your attempt to save face is to little avail. Few have witnessed examples of such grand ownage in the history of the T&S blog as comment #28 in response to your blatant and barely believable denial of ever hearing that it was taught that polygamy was a requirement to enter heaven. Bear in mind you are the one to initiated the snark, not Alison. So it appears to you can deal it but can’t take it. Of course it is not against T&S’s comment policy to cry on the blog, but it is pathetic.

  66. Irenaeus on May 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Steve Smith, I understand the need for ad hominems when logic isn’t your forte. Feel free to address the actual issues *I* addressed.

  67. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    A Turtle Named Mack:

    I assume that living on the fringes of obedience is obedience. Otherwise, it would be called sin. And before you ask – yes, I am comfortable with that.

    That had me slapping my head and laughing right out loud. True that, Turtle. BTW, I used a pull-out of your quote in #41 as discussion point on a new post about seminary on Mormon Momma.

    Raymond (#45), excellent comment, as usual. Particularly liked this:

    If young men cannot be responisble for controlling their sexual desires and actions, and must rely on the virtuous young women around them to keep them on the straight and narrow, then how in heck do your basically 40,000 young male missionaries control themselves when they are surrounded much of the day by young women who are NOT Mormon and have never attended a Young Women lecture on the importance of keeping the young men around them chaste and virtuous, and who wear whatever they feel like, without regard to the standards of modesty we derive from wearing temple garments?

    Boom.

    Sam, thanks for the info about the CES conference. I wonder how they prepare teachers now?

    Jax #57:

    My original post was to show how easy it would be to find prophetic counsel on Cola/Caffeinated drinks, which would make it quite reasonable IMO for a seminary teacher to say that. The post being about seminary teachers I thought that it was completely relevant.

    Jax, if you’re following the content of the original post at all, you’ll notice that the only reason caffeine is part of this discussion is because — just like polygamy, women giving prayers in church, birth control, specifics about marital relationships, race/priesthood issues, etc. — the church’s position about many things has changed over time and some people either neglect to update their thinking/teaching/actions and/or they ignore the newer counsel and stick to beating their dead hobby horses.

    Here’s the deal. Some leaders made statements about caffeine in relation to the Word of Wisdom. The most recent word is that it’s not part of the Word of Wisdom.

    Here’s the other deal. Some leaders made statements about polygamy being required. The most recent word is that it’s not.

    Deal.

  68. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Jax #57 continued:

    I’m curious… is it okay for girls to have more than one set of piercings in your opinion?

    I’ll give you my take on this. My take is yes, it is more acceptable now (within the church, to church leaders) than it was when President Hinckley made the claim. And I say that as someone who had five piercings I loved and removed all but two when he made the statement. And I say that as someone who has not allowed my four daughters to get pierced ears until they are 12 and then only one set. (BTW, it’s not a “1-piercing rule,” it’s a 2-piercing or 1-pair rule.)

    Frankly, I think my answer is obvious. The clothing worn by the General Relief Society presidency in General Conference last month would have been scandalous and skanky to Brigham Young. The swimsuits worn by the BYU swim teams would have been outrageous. The moves my daughter made performing with BYU’s ballroom team last week would have been shocking.

    Woe to the sinners who win Blackpool every year!

    It seems obvious to me that many many many non-doctrinal policies/practices are based on the norm in a culture. And the church tends toward the conservative side of culture. Not because beards, long hair, and flowing gowns on men are evil incarnate (you’ve seen the temple films, right?), but because IN OUR CULTURE they tend to be an extreme that tends not to be positive with regard to religious piety.

    The “our culture” still tends toward US culture, but I think that, too, will become less true over time.

    Have you been to Polynesian Culture Center? Do you know some of the performers are given…wait for it…strapless dresses to dance in. They even show their knees! And…wait for it…they intentionally hire lots of guys with those near full body tattoos. For the love of all that is sacred!

    Here’s the thing. The things they wear are NOT extreme in Polynesian culture. They are, actually, generally normal and/or conservative.

    Good heavens, if you’ve ever lived in a subtropical or tropical climate (we lived in south Florida for a decade and my husband lived in Samoa for three years as a kid and later served a mission there), it’s pretty easy to come to realize that wearing a layer of garments and another layer of clothing to cover them — particularly while pregnant — well, THAT my friend can seem extreme. (Yes, I did it every time, but it was painful.)

    An aside on tats, read this.

    Personally, I think tattoos are stupid. Whenever I used to hear that song, “Like a Tattoo” I’d think, “Just like a tattoo, saggy and blue, I’ll always have you.” Sorry, but no matter where you put that ink today, there’s going to be a day when it’s going to look live the living crud. And I think most of them look stupid. And, yes, in American culture tattoos have been part of a more extreme part of society. A place the church tries to avoid.

    But evil? Sinful? Um, no. It’s ink on skin. Not murder on skin or adultery on skin. Ink, people.

    The Church handbook states that the choice is firmly between the couple AND the Lord. IMO the big problem is that very, very few actually consult the Lord.

    Good heavens, Jax. Do you even hear yourself? Have you done a survey or something? Why even go there?

    For the record, we have six kids and I’ve miscarried five times. So I’ve been pregnant 11 times. Is that enough for you? Do I qualify as being righteous or would you assume I just haven’t done enough praying yet?

    Or, how about this. When the decision is between a couple and the Lord, why don’t you just leave it there and mind your own 19 kids and counting.

  69. Jax on May 24, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Paul (59) and Alison (68):

    Of course I’ve never taken a poll. Are you serious? But I do talk to people. Often. About life. And we talk about families quite often. And I constantly hear people talking about different forms of birth-control that they take just as a routine. Or how their mothers started them on them and all their sisters before the wedding because that was just the way it was. Maybe you don’t have those discussions, but I have and I very, very rarely hear any say, “we’ll just have as many as the Lord sends us”, or “we want to have as many as we can”.

    What is worse is the men!!! Talk to them just after a kid is born and I routinely here, “This is it, I’m going to have a little ‘snip-snip’ and we’re through” or “I’m going to make her have her tubes tied.” And they do this despite the fact that the handbook everyone is so keen to quote says that it is to be “strongly discourages surgical sterilization”.

    Now this isn’t all about just having kids, because they “strongly discourage” where components are from anyone other than husband and wife – and that happens a lot too. They also “strongly discourage” sperm donation and surrogate motherhood. The basic idea that can be gleened is to stop trying to mess with the physical nature of your body… let it do what it was designed to do.

    Paul said this:

    The handbook says this:

    “The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.

    “Married couples should also understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.”

    but that isn’t all it says Paul. You omitted the very 1st sentence, the first thing they wanted people to know about birth-control

    It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for the spiriti chldren of God, whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear.

    First thing they want you to know? That being a parent is a privilege, and given the oft repeated command to multiply and replenish, it’s a privelege they want you to take. But if you don’t want to then that decision is between the couple and the Lord…. just please don’t leave the Lord out of it.

  70. Jax on May 24, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Here’s the deal. Some leaders made statements about caffeine in relation to the Word of Wisdom. The most recent word is that it’s not part of the Word of Wisdom.

    I’ll give you my take on this. My take is yes, it is more acceptable now (within the church, to church leaders) than it was when President Hinckley made the claim.

    I guess that everytime the President of the Church dies it’s free game to do whatever we like, because you know, everything they’ve said is now a statement from a dead prophet. And I guess the new President should instantly give out a statement about every church policy and whether or not it is still in effect.

    And until such a statement is given I suppose all seminary teaching should stop. Without such a statement how could they teach anything.

    Oh.

    Wait!

    Maybe this quote explains why we don’t need a statement each time

    “You should know, without having to have the church deliver a statement on it, you should know what the Lord’s position is on abortion, or cloning, or same-gender marriage, or birth control. All of those things, they’re built in as a part of what we know, and what we are.”

    Thanks Elder Packer!

  71. Jax on May 24, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Out of curiosity I checked the handbook for “food storage” – no entry.

    So I checked self-reliance and it said “members should build a three-month supply of food” and where possible they should “build a longer-term supply”.

    Would it be outrageous for a seminary teacher to tell students to have a year-supply of food?

  72. Paul on May 24, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    #71 Jax it would be outrageous to suggest they were unrighteous for not having a year’s supply. What they might properly teach is that the brethren previously recommended a year’s supply or more, but now the current literature seems to recommend three months to start, longer where possible.

    The point is to put historical quotation s in context and to teach present doctrine and policy.

    I have never had the kind of conversations you describe about birth control, even during my 6-1/2 years as a bishop. But it would seem those folks you heard have a different understanding as you suggest. Clearly even recently the brethren have reminded us of the blessings of having children. And their own examples make clear that some families have more and some fewer. Heaven forbid that family size or number of pregnancies should become the litmus test of righteousness.

  73. Jax on May 24, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I couldn’t agree more Paul. Family size or # of pregnancies should NEVER be considered a test of rightousness.

    And they probably SHOULD teach about food storage as you say… but it wouldn’t be outrageous, or beyond understanding, if they taught a year-supply instead of 3-months.

  74. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Irenaeus #64:

    You make a distinction without a difference, as far as I can tell, by noting that Jacob 2:30 adds “unto me” to “raise up seed” — the context of when polygyny (the topic of Jacob 2) is commanded in the place of monogamy remains precisely the same–to “raise up seed.” The “unto me” merely points to the person wanting to raise the seed up and for whose purpose it will be raised.

    I disagree and believe the distinction is actually enormous. It’s not the topic of this post, however, so I’ll direct you to this post for further reading, snarking, fretting on that question.

    I just got back from the hospital (with an all clear for one of our daughters) and she’s insisting we still try to salvage some of our date. So the rest of the response will have to wait. Try to survive without me for a few hours.

  75. Mike on May 24, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    Regarding the Word of Wisdom, I have taught in Sunday School, as my opinion, that consuming caffeinated drinks is not a WOW issue, but being addicted to caffeine probably is.

  76. Cameron N on May 24, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Just because the church has made official guidance less specific, doesn’t mean our degrees of obedience are any better. I think what Jax is saying is that such general terms often allow us to be open to taking further steps in living a principle. We can anxiously engage in many further steps without expounding our progress as doctrine or policy. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be made if we are ready.

    And I’d somewhat agree with Jax that many couples probably don’t consult the Lord as much as they should. It’s not a very ridiculous assumption to make. Why? Because many couples don’t consult the Lord on many things that they probably should consult him on. I include myself in this category, and pretty much almost every human on the planet.

  77. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2013 at 2:29 am

    Irenaeus #64:

    You also went into quite the extensive exercise of quoting to prove a point I never hinted at as an area of disagreement. Your article and all my responses referred to the prevalence of the teaching in the present Church, not the past history of the Church (of which I’m well aware). It would be useful to represent my views as they were originally stated (more than once, but hopefully this example will do):

    Me (#23):

    And, of course, my experiences are my own, but I think they are representative. A teaching need not be commonplace to require clarification by the First Presidency in order to stamp out any error that might remain. It just wasn’t taught to anyone I’m familiar with.

    That’s quite an innocuous and non-dogmatic description with plenty of wiggle room for others to have had different experiences.

    Actually, Irenaeus, this is how it started, with your comment in #20:

    For the record, I’ve never heard it taught that plural marriage is necessary to enter into the celestial kingdom, and I’ve been around a very long time (as in over-the-hill long time).

    As I already pointed out, it was authoritative for decades and — just like many, many, many things that become less a part of our teachings — was never rescinded as far as I know until the letter I wrote about in the linked post.

    If your quibble is that “never heard it taught” means you never personally sat in a room and heard it from the mouth of a teacher with your own ears and if your other quibble is that being “familiar” must be defined as someone, I suppose, whom you know well enough to have asked them if they’ve ever personally been taught something that you never personally heard taught (and how many people does that include?), then so be it. Define your terms.

    That still leaves that fact that it’s so common — and, yes, I do disagree that the church sends out such edicts without a there being a significant issue to address, as I’ve already said — as to have required a first presidency letter, STILL persists in some venues, and that there are questions about it all over the internet.

    I didin’t claim your experience was fallacious. I said it was odd. And I do. Or maybe intentionally oblivious.

    Since you’re pressing the point, I have to say it seems odd that you’ve never heard the idea [Never said that].

    Your entire rambling defense seems to be that you believe your statement that “I’ve never heard it taught that plural marriage is necessary to enter into the celestial kingdom, and I’ve been around a very long time” can only be read one reasonable way. I suggest to you that rather than being straightforward, it’s actually ambiguous.

  78. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2013 at 2:55 am

    Steve Smith #65: Smack. Thank you for granting me “ownage.” :)

    Jax #69:

    But I do talk to people. Often. About life. And we talk about families quite often. And I constantly hear people talking about different forms of birth-control that they take just as a routine. Or how their mothers started them on them and all their sisters before the wedding because that was just the way it was.

    So what? That isn’t the issue, is it? Which woman are you on such a personal basis that they’d turn to you and say, “Oh, and Jax, in case there is any concern about my birth control, rest assured, we have fully counseled with the Lord in this matter. Fear not!”

    Jax, today my daughter was in the hospital for a CT scan. Guess what? I had prayed about what to do about her care. And never once did I confirm my counsel with the Lord to anyone except my husband. I suppose there were some Jax’s there who thought, “Wow. We are commanded to counsel with the Lord in all our doings, yet here is this Alison woman just snatching up that scan without every once even falling to her knees.” But, dude, I would never share that kind of info with someone like that.

    Maybe you don’t have those discussions,

    Or maybe I just don’t assume that people who talk about birth control without reassuring me that they are doing it the right way, aren’t doing it the right way.

    but I have and I very, very rarely hear any say, “we’ll just have as many as the Lord sends us”, or “we want to have as many as we can”.

    You might notice — just as an exercise — that the actual church counsel doesn’t say anything like either of those statements.

    On the first, for heaven’s sake, you act as if baby making is magical and God just poofs those kids down with the stork. I was born to an unwed mother. I suppose we all should have cheered that God “sent” her a baby?

    Getting pregnant has almost everything to do with having sex and ovulation and very little to do with God deciding when a baby goes down the chute. It’s biology. God created us and he let’s it happen.

    On the second, “as many as we can” is bogus.

    Husband and wife are encouraged to pray and counsel together as they plan their families. Issues to consider include the physical and mental health of the mother and father and their capacity to provide the basic necessities of life for their children.

    Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have a great responsibility not only for bearing children but also for caring for them through childhood…

    Does this remotely sound like “have as many as you can”? Good grief.

    So, how many kids do you have? How close are they together? How old are you and your wife? I just want to make sure you’re doing your fair share.

  79. Irenaeus on May 25, 2013 at 3:03 am

    Cameron N (#76):

    I enjoy your insights and agree that Jax isn’t trying to be a stick in the mud, but rather trying to suggest that “obeying at the fringes” isn’t a recipe for spiritual progress, but for personal stagnation. By the very nature of what’s required to make us “work out our own salvation,” commanding in all things would defeat the very purpose of the necessity of being capable of being led in all things by the Spirit.

    I recall President Packer stating exactly that (though I forget where): that the apostles must of necessity finely balance answering all the questions they are presented with by members of the Church because it would damage the necessary spiritual progress required of the individual to arrive at the proper answer for themselves. If man were capable of living by the Spirit, no commandments would be necessary; Commandments are given as a light in the dark until we can learn to navigate on our own. They are beacons we pass on our journey, not the destination.

    I also think the Church doesn’t so much change it’s policies as it tries to adapt it’s teachings to the spiritual level of the saints themselves. (It’s my guess as to why they are now emphasizing a 3-month supply rather than a year’s supply–I think they found the membership (speaking generally) just not willing to make the necessary sacrifice after decades of teaching, and that a 3-month supply was probably more likely to be viewed as achieveable and, consequently, receive greater adherence to the counsel than the “eat the elephant all at once” step of a 1-year’s supply. I also think the Lord will often aver to what the membership is willing to receive spiritually, withdrawing higher (and harder) standards until the membership is willing and capable of obeying them, as in the case of the law of Moses.

    Alison Moore Smith (#74):

    Don’t worry, Alison, I wasn’t waiting with baited breath and have no expectation of follow-up when I post. I’m also not tied to my computer (which is why you’ll find large gaps, at times, in when I’m able to respond). Don’t get too tangled up in snarking about snarkiness. My sarcasm goes up in direct proportion to the sarcasm and condescension that I sense coming my way (it’s a personal weakness I’d rather do without — it’s one of those “I do sin in my wish” things that I indulge in anyway. I suppose I look at it as a tool that echoes back the shortcomings of using ridicule-as-reason in hopes that you might notice it when it is turned on its head, so to speak. Or just call it karma. I’ll try to avoid it with you in the future (which is no the same as saying I won’t be direct if I disagree–feel free to ignore me).

    The article you referred me to didn’t help me understand your logical reasoning as to how Jacob 2:30 works (it suffers from precisely the same errors as far as I can tell); to wit:

    “Your logic would seem to require that polygyny raise up seed “unto [God]” in a way that monogamy could not raise up children unto God, and, moreover, that polyandry (completely unrelated to the context of the scripture) somehow be equivalent to polygyny in raising up seed/children (to God) in a way monogamy is incapable of.” [#64]

    The problems I have in understanding your logic (that’s not a put-down–I’m sincerely baffled) boils down to what I stated before:

    “… your[ reasoning] seems to miss the obvious intent and context of Jacob 2:30: polygyny can raise up seed/children in a way that monogamy cannot.” [#64]

    To suggest otherwise makes it feel like we’re getting into the realm of arguing what the definition of “is is” in order to avoid that obvious implication. That’s a discussion I’ll tend to bail on if it merely goes in circles. Feel free to bail yourself if you think it’s already gotten there or if the subject annoys you. I (honestly) have no interest in your feeling like you’re wasting your time on a discussion you have no interest in.

  80. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2013 at 3:06 am

    Jax #70:

    I guess that everytime the President of the Church dies it’s free game to do whatever we like, because you know, everything they’ve said is now a statement from a dead prophet.

    Are you actually claiming that you don’t see and acknowledge the cultural shifts that actually exist and that are fully embraced by the church? Do you believe that the women in the General RS presidency cover themselves from neck to ankle to wrist — as Brigham Young and the Retrenchment Society demanded?

    If not, why not, Jax? Is it because everyone threw out everything both Joseph and Brigham said the minute Brigham was cold in the ground? Or because, as I suggested, as culture shifts, the accepted LDS norm shifts, too, just not as far. Or maybe something else?

    Make sense of it, Jax. I’m listening.

    You might also notice that fairly often, the church leaders simply allow stated policies and practices to die out with out ever making a statement. For example: garments next to the skin and sacrament taken only with the right hand.

  81. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2013 at 3:14 am

    Jax #71:

    So I checked self-reliance and it said “members should build a three-month supply of food” and where possible they should “build a longer-term supply”.

    Would it be outrageous for a seminary teacher to tell students to have a year-supply of food?

    Outrageous? No. Wrong, inappropriate, going overboard. Yes.

    They have no authority or position for telling students to have a one year supply. (Or a two-year supply as used to be the counsel — even though it USED to be counsel.)

    Here’s the thing, Jax, the church says three-months or more if possible. Why in the world do you NEED to make a DIFFERENT statement? Why would anyone presume to make such a decision?

  82. Irenaeus on May 25, 2013 at 3:18 am

    And Alison [#74 — having just seen it posted], the context of my multiple comments regarding the frequency with which “polygamy is required for exaltation” is presently taught should have made the time period in question clear. I have no interest in belaboring a point I didn’t make.

    And of course it was significant enough if it required a letter from the First Presidency. That doesn’t change my perception that it wasn’t common and I’ve been eating and drinking gospel doctrine with friends (including nonmembers) from the time I was in high school, was hanging around LDS discussion forums since the inception of the internet, having active discussions with family members on doctrinal issues virtually every time we get together, and an eager listener and learner, so I take my experience to be representative. Feel free to feel otherwise. Just don’t take it personally or feel you need to resort to insults or ridicule to “win” the argument. It’s okay if your experience was different from mine. It’s okay for me to disagree with a misrepresentation of my position. Feel free to ask questions next time before jumping to conclusions.

  83. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Irenaeus #79:

    Don’t worry, Alison, I wasn’t waiting with baited breath and have no expectation of follow-up when I post.

    You don’t fool me. You can’t wait. I’m psychic like that.

  84. Irenaeus on May 25, 2013 at 4:30 am

    As a separate aside, I think there is a difference in stating that LDS culture changes as opposed to acknowledging that unchanging principles of the gospel allow for change as surrounding societal norms change the meaning of what our actions imply, including dress standards, etc. Wearing a bikini or even a modest one-piece today has distinctly different per se cultural meaning than it would have had were they worn in Brigham Young’s day or even the first half of the 20th century.

    As another example, cultural standards as to which actions imply disrespect also change (in the taking the sacrament by the right hand example). The unchanging principle itself–that the sacrament be taken with respect–is not being discarded or softened in the least. Words/actions have meaning only as defined by the cultural norms of usage/behavior that surround them. It is the meaning that many Church policies seek to maintain, not the specific words or behaviors long after their cultural meaning and significance/symbolism has been altered. I think it is the sine qua non to understanding why LDS cultural norms as statements of Church standards always tend to lag behind society as a whole; i.e., after the cultural context has already altered the meaning of any particular behavior. It’s not the standards that have changed, but the meaning of the “words” as defined by societal norms.

    I think understanding this allows us to ask the correct question when we hope for changes to current policies, as opposed to doctrines and principles that themselves don’t change, but that anticipate changes in policy such as Christ and the gospel being sent initially only to the house of Israel. Likewise, other doctrines (e.g., Jacob 2:30) don’t change, per se, but rather anticipate changes in policy under the stated doctrine.

  85. Irenaeus on May 25, 2013 at 4:35 am

    Funny, Alison (#83). (I’m also beginning to realize the need to refresh my page before posting if I leave the browser window open before getting back to the computer–I’ll make more sense that way.;)

  86. Steve Smith on May 25, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I get the sense that too many people are interested in coming up with a list of what you should and shouldn’t do from a personal standpoint, which they then proceed to impose on others. The LDS church has a list of some things that you can and can’t in order to be considered a member in good standing. But the church leaves a lot of issues to personal choice. Sure there may be some hints of encouragement to do x, y, and z on these matters left to personal choice, but the fact that the church has left the issues of caffeine consumption, birth control, believing in the necessity of polygamy in the afterlife to be matters of personal choice, which it does not question people about in formal church settings, is significant. And many on this threat are simply not valuing that significance; instead, they dig around past quotes for clarification and almost seem to be to the point of writing church headquarters and demanding that they give more specifics on the issue or maybe an injunction to forbid members from drinking caffeine, etc. They won’t. Why? It would probably cause division among the membership and maybe even some fallout between the core membership and the high-ranking leadership.

    I’m interested in behaviors and beliefs that the church can formally discipline you for. So for instance if someone were to suggest that they could drink coffee and still be a member in good-standing, I would then inform them that they couldn’t and that a bishop had the right given to him by the church authorities to deny that person a temple recommend or perhaps even a calling, unless they gave up drinking coffee. But as for Coke, the church’s policy is clear to the extent that there should be no lingering questions; it is a personal choice over which we should not question peoples’ faithfulness.

  87. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Irenaeus #82:

    And of course it was significant enough if it required a letter from the First Presidency. That doesn’t change my perception that it wasn’t common…

    Let’s just say I see this conversation, by and large, as a game of equivocation on your part. I suppose the quibble now is the definition of “common”? Let’s go with “occurring, found, or done often.” Apparently this problematic teaching was taught often enough for it to be a problem. For the purposes of my post, that is the only common that matters.

    Whether or not you personally (or someone with which you are sufficiently knowledgeable to be defined as “familiar”) sat in a room within the necessary proximity of someone with an official calling of “teacher” making the exact pronouncement from their lips and which sound waves actually hit your ear drum and continued through to conscious brain processing — and whether or not you have decided that the moving target of your experience, however it might be defined at this precise moment, is representative of the church or mankind or all sentient beings — doesn’t change the fact that it’s common enough to be a problem.

    And that is the problem I wrote about.

    [It occurs to me that perhaps I need to write a post titled “intellectual honesty” to which I can refer such conversations in the future.]

    I’ve been eating and drinking gospel doctrine with friends (including nonmembers) from the time I was in high school, was hanging around LDS discussion forums since the inception of the internet, having active discussions with family members on doctrinal issues virtually every time we get together, and an eager listener and learner, so I take my experience to be representative.

    Well, it that is the gauntlet you’re going to throw down, I’ll pick it up.

    I’ve been discussing gospel doctrine with friends (including nonmembers) from the time I was in elementary school (and probably from the womb). I was having religious discussions on university intranets before the inception of the internet and hanging around LDS BBSs and listservs before forums existed. I uploaded religious documents using XMODEM. In college I was a charter member and staffer for America Online and was in charge of some of the first (and still some of the best) live LDS chats in both the Family Computing and Homeschooling departments and also managed multiple topical religious forums. I was also part of Scott Card’s private LDS community, under the name GingerHead, once serving as “bishop.” I began reviewing curricular materials from an LDS perspective on my first website in 1994. I own what appears to be the oldest blog still active in the Bloggernacle (launched January 1, 2003). And it all started on a Mac 512K using MacTerminal and RedRyder.

    So I take my experience to be representative.

    Now let’s do genealogy!

  88. Jax on May 25, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I get the sense that too many people are interested in coming up with a list of what you should and shouldn’t do from a personal standpoint, which they then proceed to impose on others.

    Yeah, like this guy

    I never drink any of the cola drinks and my personal hope would be that no one would. However, they are not included in the Word of Wisdom in its technical application. I quote from a letter from the secretary to the First Presidency, “But the spirit of the Word of Wisdom would be violated by the drinking or eating of anything that contained a habit-forming drug.” With reference to the cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken any attitude
    on this matter”

    He acknowledges the church takes no action, and that it his personal opinion… but since he’s been dead for year’s now, and the culture has become increasinly wicked because we ignore much of his other advise, feel free to ignore this as well.

    Mike (75) said

    Regarding the Word of Wisdom, I have taught in Sunday School, as my opinion, that consuming caffeinated drinks is not a WOW issue, but being addicted to caffeine probably is.
    And I guess since Cocaine isn’t stated by name in the WOW then you should feel free to use it as well, as long as you aren’t addicted?? Better make sure seminary teachers get the memo!

  89. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Irenaeus #84

    As a separate aside, I think there is a difference in stating that LDS culture changes as opposed to acknowledging that unchanging principles of the gospel allow for change as surrounding societal norms change the meaning of what our actions imply, including dress standards, etc.

    They are “different” in that the latter provides context for the former. But the “change” allowed in the latter is cultural change. You’re in absolute agreement with what I posted earlier.

  90. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Jax, I’m still waiting for your reproductive accountability report. I don’t think I can listen to anything you say until I am assured you are sufficiently counseling with the Lord and, of course, reproducing as often as humanly possible.

  91. Jax on May 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    6 kids in 12 years. No contraception at all. could have another at any time and we’d both love it!

  92. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Only 6? By my calculations you should have 15 or 16 by now. I’m sure you’re not praying enough. Time to repent. I’ll help.

    No more nursing. You know that acts as an anti-ovulation device for many women. And once you send me your wife’s cycle calendar, I’ll pass on your new sexual activity schedule. As a bonus, I’ll include a list of meds to avoid as well as lower extremity clothing that you’ll need to dispose of. (Please don’t send them to DI, we don’t want anyone accidentally sinning in their snug jeans or heat inducing running pants.)

    You are welcome.

  93. Tim on May 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Jax,

    What would you do if it were 13 kids in 12 years? I had a couple friends growing up who were both in the same grade, with one brother in the grade ahead and one in the grade behind. They had a whole slew of other siblings too. No twins. I have no idea if their mother used birth control or not, but I’m guessing that for at least 10 years she didn’t. And what if you had to support them on a teacher’s salary?

    I’m not saying six kids isn’t a lot. I am saying that for most of us, 13 kids is too many. Too many for our mental health, too many for our income, too many for society to fund teachers for all of them, assuming all of us had 13 kids.

    A “no contraception” rule may have been less okay back when the kids worked the farm and helped put food on the table. It’s not now.

  94. Jax on May 25, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Alison,

    I more than a bit surprised, and very sadden, by your last post. You usually do a GREAT job of noticing and pointing out how arguments are/are not related to the subject. Your last one was off-base and petty, and I bet you know it.

    The issue is not about # of kids, or how to support them. It is in use of birth-control. You supplied kids and birthing info BUT I NEVER ASKED FOR IT AND STATED IT IS IRRELEVANT AND NOT A SYMBOL OF RIGHTEOUSSNESS. But you strayed from the argument to try to gain some ??? what? points for snark? I kept my opinions and quotes directly related. did you?

    This was beneath your usually high standard.

    Tim,

    From Dallin H. Oaks:

    How many children should a couple have? All they can
    care for! Of course, to care for children means more than simply
    giving them life. Children must be loved, nurtured, taught, fed,
    clothed, housed, and well started in their capacities to be good
    parents themselves. Exercising faith in God’s promises to bless
    them when they are keeping the commandments, many LDS
    parents have large families. Others seek but are not blessed
    with children or with the number of children they desire. In a
    matter as intimate as this, we should not judge one another.

    What would I do with 13? As he suggests, I’d exercise faith that the Lord will bless me for my obedience and will keep his promise that we will have “enough”. Maybe we’d be without some luxuries we have now (like this computer for insance) but my wife and I would be just as happy to accept that many. I don’t judge anyone as righteous/unrighteous based on the number of kids they have. If they are obedient and have zero they are just as righteous as those who are obedient and have 15. But I also agree with Pres. Kimball

    President Kimball said, “It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so”

  95. Frank Pellett on May 25, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I vaguely remember a talk in last years GC about not judging others for their choices on the number of children they have, but can’t for the life of me find it. Anyone else have a similar memory?

  96. Eric Facer on May 25, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Question: Do the scriptures contain any instance where Lord compelled—directly commanded—his people to practice polygamy? I know that, at times, He tolerated it, but I’m having a tough time finding a single episode where he expressly told His people that they must engage in the practice.

  97. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    The issue is not about # of kids, or how to support them. It is in use of birth-control.

    Actually, it’s not about birth control. It’s about teaching inappropriate/erroneous things to kids in gospel settings. But alas…

    Don’t pretend that the number of kids most people have doesn’t have some relationship to behavior (whether you classify it as “birth control” or not). Of course it does. And, frankly, the entire “birth control is evil” meme is likely something we adopted from other Christian churches, which was likely picked up from the Catholic church. And the whole thing makes little sense.

    Can we just for a minute acknowledge biology?

    We don’t have to pretend that using a condom is somehow in a different realm from refraining from sex on fertile days. And refraining form sex when you’re fertile means you’re not having as many kids as you can.

    We don’t have to pretend we don’t know that women are less likely to get pregnant four minutes after giving birth because they might not be healed enough to engage in sex. And if they don’t engage in sex it means you’re not having as many kids as you can.

    We don’t have to pretend that every couple has an identical sex drive, and that those who are less “driven” will be less likely to get pregnant because they aren’t doing it as much. And that means they aren’t having as many kids as they can.

    We don’t have to pretend that nursing doesn’t tend to prevent ovulation. And when you prevent ovulation, you won’t have as many kids as you can.

    In fact, unless you are actively TRYING to get pregnant, every single month (taking temperatures, charting the calendar, checking mucus, using an ovulation predictor kit), you aren’t even TRYING to have as many kids as you can.

    Of course children are wonderful. Of course we are here to bring other spirits here. Of course it’s selfish to refuse to have kids for the sake of the trivial.

    But is should also be an “of course” that instead of quoting prophets who’ve been dead for decades you should be listening to what the say NOW. And that is that it’s none of YOUR freaking business how anyone manages their family, unless you happen to be the husband or wife in question. Or the Lord.

    That, Jax, limits you to input on exactly ONE couple’s family planning.

    No matter how much you chit chat with people “about life,” almost no one on earth is going to share with YOU their most person decisions about how they decided to have or not to have kids. Even if you’re open, even if you’re friendly, even if they joke about stuff with you. And probably less likely when they know you’re a bull-headed, selective Bible-thumper, who has already decided that most people don’t do their due diligence with God.

    Look, I know lots of people show a different side when they’re on the internet, but you’re fooling yourself if you think people around you in the real world don’t have a pretty darn good idea about how you see things.

    What would I do with 13? As he suggests, I’d exercise faith that the Lord will bless me for my obedience and will keep his promise that we will have “enough”

    This is nonsensical adjacent to the quote you gave. Oaks didn’t say “have as many as you can and then God will make sure you have enough.” For heaven’s sake. Look around the world for two full seconds and you can see MILLIONS of examples of that.

    He said couples should have “all they can care for” and then went to great length to clarify that wasn’t just shooting them out of the birth canal. In fact, he’s putting the onus on YOU BEFORE you have kids to use your brain and your personal inspiration to make sure you CAN provide life, love, nurturing, teaching, food, clothing, housing, and a good start at adulthood.

    In the context of Oaks statement, the only thing selfish would be refusing to have children IF YOU CAN CARE FOR THEM (as defined by the list Oaks gave) and still just can’t be bothered.

    Heck, why depend on the randomness of biology? Since you say you’re happy to welcome more, why don’t you do it? There are thousands of hard to place kids waiting for a loving home. Why aren’t you lined up to adopt them? Aren’t you being selfish to let them languish when you have already said you can handle more?

    You might also take a minute to notice something about our church leaders. Over the years, they have actually started considering women more than they used to. They have started listening to women. And they have modified a number of stances (appropriate sexual relations in marriage, birth control, women as rewards or property, etc.) They have actually NOTICED that the capacity to give birth is not synonymous with being able to “care for” a child. There are many facets to consider and they have left that decision — with the caveat for particular consideration for the WOMAN — to the couple and God.

    Leave it there, Jax. It’s not your stewardship.

  98. Cameron N on May 25, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Eric (96), I think that has been pretty clearly implied based on Jacob 2, D&C 132, and the Old Testament. Am I missing something?

  99. Eric Facer on May 26, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Cameron, I agree that it is implied in Jacob 2 and D&C 132, but I just can’t find any specific instance—other than in the modern church—where the Lord said to his prophet Abraham, David, Solomon, Lehi, Alma, Paul, et al.: “Thou must practice polygamy.”

  100. Jax on May 26, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Only 6? By my calculations you should have 15 or 16 by now. I’m sure you’re not praying enough. Time to repent. I’ll help.

    No more nursing. You know that acts as an anti-ovulation device for many women. And once you send me your wife’s cycle calendar, I’ll pass on your new sexual activity schedule. As a bonus, I’ll include a list of meds to avoid as well as lower extremity clothing that you’ll need to dispose of.

    Heck, why depend on the randomness of biology? Since you say you’re happy to welcome more, why don’t you do it? There are thousands of hard to place kids waiting for a loving home. Why aren’t you lined up to adopt them? Aren’t you being selfish to let them languish when you have already said you can handle more?

    I guess your stewardship reaches further than mine, because again, you’ve stooped beneath your usually high standards. I never tried to apply any specific quote to you or any other individual. You’ve now repeatedly tried to give direct counsel to me, something I have NOT done, in direct contradiction of your statements saying no one should do that.

    Oh, and not that it is any of your business (again) but we applied as foster parents to do exactly what you say, help hard to place kids have a loving home.

    I’m living up to the standard I’ve professed.

  101. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2013 at 11:28 am

    That was the point, Jax. If you couldn’t tell that the idea of ME giving YOU a sex activity schedule was intentional outrageous sarcasm, then I can’t imagine that you’d ever recognize it.

    You are in no position to make sweeping statements about the sufficiency with which other people consult with The Lord on child bearing or anything else.

    As for adopting, applying for foster care isn’t enough. Foster care can be great (or horrific), bur its far from the sme commitment adoption is.

    My family adopted three kids (including me), one “hard to place.” My sister adopted a sibling group of three older kids (with 7 bio kids). A good friend of mine is mom to 20 living kids and many beyond the veil. A distant relative adopted/fostered 60+ over a span of years, adopting all that were released, which was in the dozens. So until you’ve got about 70 kids, I’m pretty sure you aren’t doing it right.

    In case you’re unsure, yes, I’m being sarcastic.

    You’ve got this arbitrary line in the sand where you are pretty sure you know other people are not inspired. I don’t know if that is number of kids or spacing between kids or conditions upon when to have kids, or a combination of factors. But I could just as easily apply some other arbitrary standard to you, like requiring you to adopt x number of kids or spend x amount of resources or whatever. Either way, I would be wrong, just as you are wrong.

    When I was dating Sam, I told him I’d have two kids “if I like the first one a lot.” But after one, I wanted two. After two, I wanted four. After three, I wanted six. (There’s a pattern there!) After four, I still wanted six. And there it stayed.

    Did I pray about it? Of course I did. Have I prayed about it every day since we married? No. When we really felt good about having six kids and felt that confirmation, we were content with that. We prayerfully determined what timing would be good given all the gazillion factors and went with the plan.

    The only time we readdressed the issue was when it became apparent that I might not be able to carry another child to term. Given the extreme difficulty of losing babies, mentally and physically, we prayed some more and still felt good about six. When we got to six — I had Caleb when I was 39.5 — we stopped “trying” because we had long known that was our family. (Meaning that we have used birth control since and will until getting pregnant isn’t an issue or I have a vision denouncing our past confirmations.) We didn’t need to deal with it over and over or badger God about it every few minutes. How would that even be productive? (heh)

    Yes, we’re open to having God make me another Sarah, but suspect he won’t. And we’re open to having him urge us to adopt or foster or something, but we’re not seeking it out.

    There are so many variables in families and it is so patently obvious that refusing birth control isn’t the most significant factor in discerning God’s will, that making claims about others’ personal revelation based on use of birth control is simply nonsense.

  102. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I should add that even though we felt good about six, I knew that was no guarantee we would have six. Even with the confirmation that that desire was acceptable to the Lord. I had to deal with the idea that I might actual,y want more children than I’d be able to have. That is a trial many deal with for a variety of reasons.

  103. Jax on May 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    No matter how much you chit chat with people “about life,” almost no one on earth is going to share with YOU their most person decisions about how they decided to have or not to have kids.

    Don’t look now, but YOU did! Almost everyone loves to talk about themselves and will tell you almost anything you ask them. This is the most contentious conversation about it I’ve ever had (probably because we’re strangers), but generally everyone likes to tell their story. It’s a joyful thing for them. There are SOOO few good listeners that if you show yourself to be one, people will talk about anything. A question here and there to direct their story and I can get almost any piece of information I want. The US gov’t paid good money to train me to do it well. That’s how I can say that I don’t think most people consult the Lord… they tell me, just like you did. I usually don’t care about birth-control when talking to them, but if THEY bring up children/family size then I follow along with them. And MY perception (I have no stats to back it up) tells me that far more people don’t even think of it as a religious issue than do. And that far more just routinely use it because their mothers/sisters/whoever told them to because of social convenience than ever even asking the Lord if they should.

    IMO, the default position of LDS people should be to NOT use it unless their circumstances dictate otherwise. I don’t judge the circumstances and decide whether they should or not. Nor do I judge them based on kids/spacing/adoptions/??? . I simply encourage people to ask the Lord who CAN judge and give much better advice than I can.

    Thanks for the conversation!

  104. Sonny on May 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I think the whole exchange about contraception is a great example of the OP. I for one would not want a seminary teacher of my kids spouting off old quotes about “the evils” of contraception that are completely contrary to the official LDS teaching on the subject NOW.

    And Jax, I have heard you say here and several other times how prepared spiritually and willing you are to, in so many words, kill for the Lord (if called upon). If that is indeed the case, I certainly would object to you being my kids seminary teacher and repeating that your willingness to do so is a measure of your obedience, and by inference should be a measure for the kids as well. That type of extreme show of modern day ‘obedience’, however hypothetical, has absolutely no place in a room full of kids, or even adults in my opinion.

    So to come around to Alison’s point, let’s have seminary teachers teach what the church CURRENTLY teaches and not dredge up old quotes that in no way support what is being taught TODAY, particularly on highly speculative or controversial topics.

  105. Sarah Familia on May 26, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    #95 Frank Pellet,

    I vaguely remember a talk in last years GC about not judging others for their choices on the number of children they have, but can’t for the life of me find it. Anyone else have a similar memory?

    It is in the Handbook: “The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.”

  106. Jax on May 26, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Sonny,

    I haven’t said that here. Where did you get that from?

    Like Alison, I am a seminary graduate as well – from a large Utah seminary program. During our year covering the BoM we did have a discussion on that topic since it comes up almost immediately in the BoM with Nephi. I think we had another one during the year of the Old Testament when talking about how the Isrealites were told to kill everyone. Is that supposed to be an off-limits topic for young adults?

    And Alison and I were both pretty clear about wanting what the church teaches today to be taught: that the decision should be between the couple and the Lord. We’re really only quibbling about whether or not the Lord is actually included.

  107. Bubbles on May 26, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I’m still confused about the contraception thing. What is the official church policy on that? I thought the decision to use contraception was up to the couple. Where does Jax get this idea that using contraception is wrong?

  108. Jax on May 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    “between the couple and the Lord” is the wording in the handbook Bubbles.

    But there are many a past prophet and several current apostles who have spoken quite harshly against birth-control. And at one point in time this was the official 1st Presidency statement

    “We seriously regret that there should exist a sentiment or feeling among any members of the church to curtail the birth of their children. We have been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth that we may have joy and rejoicing in our posterity.
    “Where husband and wife enjoy health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity, it is contrary to the teachings of the Church to artificially curtail or prevent the birth of children. We believe that those who practice birth control will reap disappointment by and by.”

    This was President McKay

    “When the husband and wife are healthy, and free from inherited weaknesses and diseases that might be transmitted with injury to their offspring, the use of contraceptives is to be condemned.”

    and the list goes on and on and on…

    Today they’ve changed it to focus on the fact that the choice is between the couple and the Lord. My only plea is that more people actually consult the Lord in the decision, rather than just out of habit, family practice (my wife’s mother insisted that she and her 4 sisters all start on birth-control before the wedding), or social convenience.

    Far too many don’t even think of it as a issue that would need to be taken to the Lord because it is just so common-place now. Mostly its not their fault though, it’s that nobody who should have told them, like parents/priesthood leaders/seminary teachers, didn’t.

  109. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Jax #103:

    Don’t look now, but YOU did!

    Of course I did. I’ve blogged about my pregnancy issues before and I’m really open about it. That doesn’t mean that behavior is representative of what happens in the course of general face-to-face conversation.

    And, yea, I’m just positive that there are people lined up in the foyer every Sunday just to tell you you that they didn’t consult the Lord at all with regard to having kids. Take a picture of it for us today. We can use it on “A Mormon Image.”

    here are SOOO few good listeners that if you show yourself to be one, people will talk about anything. A question here and there to direct their story and I can get almost any piece of information I want.

    It’s SO reassuring to know that there are so many “good listeners” out there who are really just trying to gather personal information so they can label people as not among the “very, very few actually consult the Lord.” Sounds more like an old ward-mate of mine who has files on everyone in Eagle Mountain. (Wait, your real name isn’t Dave, is is?)

    You might want to consider that you’re not really a good listener, but rather a judgmental busy-body.

    And MY perception (I have no stats to back it up) tells me that far more people don’t even think of it as a religious issue than do. And that far more just routinely use it because their mothers/sisters/whoever told them to because of social convenience than ever even asking the Lord if they should.

    Earlier you said:

    That should be our default position up until we get positive confirmation that in our individual circumstance it is okay to use it.

    Again you said:

    IMO, the default position of LDS people should be to NOT use it unless their circumstances dictate otherwise.

    This is presumptuous on your part. I suggest you look at and follow current church counsel. As you already quoted, Oaks states that couples should have all the children they can CARE for. That isn’t a default position, it’s a calculated decision.

    Putting yourself in a position where you may have children when you have NOT taken time to be sure you can care for them is irresponsible and contrary to church counsel. Letting biology take its course and expecting the Lord to make sure you have “enough” to provide for your children in all the ways Oaks outlined is foolish and is not what we are counseled to do.

  110. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    For the love of pete, Jax. In #106 you say:

    And Alison and I were both pretty clear about wanting what the church teaches today to be taught:

    Only to jump back on your hobby horse in #108 and ride off into the sunset:

    But there are many a past prophet and several current apostles who have spoken quite harshly against birth-control. And at one point in time this was the official 1st Presidency statement…

    There were also past prophets that, at one point, said blacks could never have the priesthood. But they don’t NOW. So we don’t run around trying to convince people that OLD counsel is what is REALLY important.

    The current counsel doesn’t harshly condemn birth control. It doesn’t say you need to have as many kids as you can. It doesn’t dictate much of anything EXCEPT that no one should get in someone else’s business about it. And in spite of your claims at piety, the current counsel is the one you’re ignoring.

    If I haven’t been clear enough, if you come on my thread and start making judgements about how/when people have kids, I’m going to give you the smack down. Your superior skills at drawing out the most personal information notwithstanding, you don’t know enough to stand in judgement about this AND you’ve been specifically counseled NOT to stand in judgment about it. So don’t do it on my time.

    For the record, if you had come here and just said something like, “I hope that people who limit their families will counsel with the Lord in doing so,” you wouldn’t have gotten much pushback from me. (Except to note that there are LOTS of ways to “limit families” besides using birth control.)

    It was your divining that most people don’t consult with the Lord enough (or at all) that was over the line.

    Bubbles, the official church position is:

    The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.

    There are also statements about giving special consideration to the mother who has a bit more skin in the game. Literally.

    Period. End of story.

  111. Jax on May 26, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Alison,

    If a seminary discussion came around to blacks and the priesthood, it would be completely crazy to NOT talk about the past positions of the church. To ONLY state today’s position would be preposterous. Same with the stance on gay-marriage/women praying in GC/etc. If it comes up (or specifically planned), then cover it in full.

    It shoudn’t be any different for a seminary discussion about family planning/childbirth? Give out the counsel of today, as has been repeated by you, me, and others already, AND give the background about what the position has been in the past. Doesn’t seem like an egregious dereliction of duty or overstepping of personal boundaries.

  112. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    You’re not presenting these as discussion points or For historical context. And yu’re certainly not presenting them as past positions that have changed. The difference that makes all the difference.

  113. Mike on May 26, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Jax,

    The difference between caffeinated drinks and heroin is that the church has issued a statement clarifying that the WOW does not specifically include caffeinated drinks (other than coffee). There has been no such statement about heroin.

    I think you missed my point, however. Perhaps I was too subtle. I think there are some people who have twisted the church’s clarification re caffeine to justify their addictions to it. (Don’t ask me to quantify “some” because I’m only aware 2 or 3 in my ward in this position).

    Of interest is this excerpt from a newspaper article about the church’s statement (suggesting possible a fear that the statement would be misconstrued by some members as an invitation to freely partake of caffeine to any extent desired).

  114. Mike on May 26, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Oops. Left out the excerpt:

    On Wednesday, the LDS Church posted a statement on its website saying that “the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine” and that the faith’s health-code reference to “hot drinks” “does not go beyond [tea and coffee].”

    A day later, the website wording was slightly softened, saying only that “the church revelation spelling out health practices … does not mention the use of caffeine.”

  115. Jax on May 26, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    I’ve seen the statement Mike. I thought it was an important change in wording. The “the church does not prohibit…” part sounded much more in favor of it than “the church revelation …does not mention” part does. It almost seemed the were taking back the idea that they didn’t care about its use, and changing it to a simple, “well, it’s not specifically mentioned” statement… almost like they were saying they DO have an opinion but that it isn’t a docrtinally based one.

    I have 2 or 3 in my family addicted to caffeine; both my parents and my father-in-law. It’s disappointing to be able to use them as examples for my kids on why to avoid caffeine, but it is what it is. Watching my father-in-law go through real withdrawal symptoms (sweating, shaking, headaches, etc) only to give up and go back to Coke, was a vivid lesson to me and my kids avoid ALL such drugs, including caffeine.

    You can’t get addicted if you don’t ever have it

  116. Sonny on May 26, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    “almost like they were saying they DO have an opinion but that it isn’t a docrtinally based one.”

    No, Jax. It is a statement for people like you, who cling to every statement and pull out quotes from previous church authorities in an effort to prove your point, AND it is a statement for me, who see caffeine use, like so many other things in life, as something useful if used appropriately and in moderation (however that is defined).

    Think about it. If indeed caffeine WAS the reason for the prohibition on coffee and tea, and if so many previous church authorities had acted and spoken as if it were, why do the leaders now back away from such absolute claims about caffeine? Marijuana use is not doctrinally based either (as far as being in the WoW), but yet it will keep you out of the temple, even if used recreationally. So since caffeine is also not in the WoW specifically, don’t you think it would make sense to clarify once and for all?

    Again, I believe the current statement is to satisfy both. But one thing is for sure and is indisputable- if a bishop asks about Diet Coke as a part of a WoW worthiness interview, he has stepped beyond the bounds in his questioning.

  117. Jax on May 26, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Again, I believe the current statement is to satisfy both. But one thing is for sure and is indisputable- if a bishop asks about Diet Coke as a part of a WoW worthiness interview, he has stepped beyond the bounds in his questioning.

    Agreed.

  118. Steve Smith on May 28, 2013 at 10:59 am

    OK I concede, Jax. You now have my blessing to lead the Mormon crusade to recapture Jerusalem from the heathens and restore it to its rightful owners. You have proven committed to flawed opinion in the face of evil logic and common sense. You have proven willing to overreact to mere minor corrections or disagreements and willing to tow the most utterly ultraconservative line possible to save face from previous comments. You have proven unflinching in your boldness to denounce even other fellow conservative Mormons. These are qualities very befitting of a crusader leader. May you be enabled in rounding up a Danite militia to undertake the true cause.

  119. Jenny on June 1, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Damn, you folks are mean.

    It feels like a hijack to bring comments back to the original topic, but in response to the original theme of handling awkward topics for which we have no revelation when we teach, I’d like to add the following:

    I teach seminary, too, and I also like to use guided discovery as I teach. Typically when something comes up like polygamy or whatever, I let the kids spew out all the wacky stuff they’ve heard parents say or made up. The answers are generally of the same amusing content as the above. After they’ve exhausted themselves, I ask if we’ve reached a consensus yet. Why not? Could it be WE DON’T KNOW? Guided discovery can be used to get to ‘I don’t know’ as well as to find a deeper meaning.

    Then I remind students about what we DO know: Heavenly Father’s goal is the immortality and eternal life of man. He loves us. The scriptures/church history are about real people and real people are weird. We’ve been promised that while we don’t know everything here, there will come a time when we will know everything. I tell them I know that answer isn’t terribly satisfying, but that yearning to know more keeps us studying and seeking. Even without knowing every answer to every question we can still have faith that God is on our side and that He will keep his promise to answer our questions later.

    That’s how I do it anyway. I wish LDS training manuals would add a section that says its okay not to know an answer, and add help on how to say we don’t know, while acknowledging different ideas and without shaking testimonies.

  120. Julie M. Smith on June 1, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    ” I wish LDS training manuals would add a section that says its okay not to know an answer, and add help on how to say we don’t know, while acknowledging different ideas and without shaking testimonies.”

    http://www.lds.org/manual/teaching-no-greater-call-a-resource-guide-for-gospel-teaching/lesson-11-keeping-the-doctrine-pure?lang=eng

    (scroll down to speculation)

    “The scriptures/church history are about real people and real people are weird.”

    best line ever!