Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Does the War Go On?

In the Mormon Church's April 2017 Ensign Magazine, Elder Larry Lawrence of the Seventy wrote an article entitled, "The War Goes On".

I believe it is patently harmful to continue the drumbeat of Mormons against the world.  It's not only a tired, trite message, but it's really harmful.  In this article, Elder Lawrence instills fear and loathing of the world and its evil influences, stemming from his view that the "War in Heaven" continues in this world.

It's truly an awful article.  Rather than linking to it, you can search on the LDS website for it. One friend told me that his Bishop, upon reading the article, feels that it is essential doctrine, and has scheduled a special meeting to cover it.  If I were to attend such a meeting, here is what I would have in my pocket as discussion points:

Elder Lawrence said, "Satan’s strategy was to frighten people. He knew that fear is the best way to destroy faith."

I think we should agree with this statement.  Indeed, fear of others, and of the "world" is indeed what causes "faith", i.e. trust, to be destroyed.

Question to consider:
  • Does the war-time metaphor we use in our discussion of Us vs The World instill love or fear in us?  
  • When Jesus counseled us to love our enemies, can we be justified in condemning others?
Elder Lawrence asked, "How could a spirit with so much knowledge and experience fall so far? It was because of his pride...he wanted God's kingdom for himself."

Again, we can agree with this statement.  Whenever we set ourselves up as above others, and exclusive in our "kingdom", we are becoming like the Zoramites -- prideful in our exclusiveness, prideful in our repeated "testimonies", prideful in our condemnation of those who are not like us.

Question to consider:
  • When President Benson taught that Lucifer "wished to be honored above others", in what way does this apply to us?  
Elder Lawrence asks, "Why did you and I fight against the devil?"

Questions to consider:
  • Is there any evidence in scripture that we fought against Satan? or,
  • Is it more likely that we supported God's plan, and it was Satan who fought against us, in trying to bring us into bondage to fixed rules and regulations that guaranteed we could not make mistakes?
Elder Lawrence asks, "Why were Satan's hosts allowed to come to earth?" and is answers, "to provide opposition for those who are being tested here."  He then goes on for several paragraphs explaining how desperate Satan is to tempt and capture our souls.

Questions to consider:
  • Does teaching that Satan's hosts are here to provide opposition for us give us hope or does it instill fear in us? 
  • How does this teaching fit with Paul's explanation to Timothy (2 Tim 1:7) "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."?
Elder Lawrence teaches us that memorizing scripture is a way to resist temptation.

Question to consider:
  • When Elder Lawrence quotes "Love your enemies", in what way does this help us "resist Satan"?  
Elder Lawrence lays out his second strategy "Lies and Deception."

Questions to consider:
  • Does anyone actually say, "You need to try everything at least once -- just to gain experience. One time won't hurt you." Isn't this a bit of a strawman?  If we misrepresent what others say, are we being honest?
  • If the Church practices deception over its secret support of legislation, over the definition of marriage (our scriptures define marriage as one man and one or many women, see section 132), over historical and doctrinal issues in the past; and if Satan is the father of lies as Elder Lawrence says, then in what way is deception by the Church from god?
Elder Lawrence contends that "same sex marriage is only a counterfeit".

Questions to consider:
  • What is the celestial role of marriage?  In other words, what does "marriage" entitle us to have in the eternities?  (The answer is that marriage -- particularly, polygamous marriage -- is only necessary to enter the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, where people will be populating worlds without end).
  • If a person is lesbian or gay, and the counsel is that they are to remain celibate throughout their life, then how can they qualify for the "highest degree of the celestial kingdom", not having been married in this life?
  • If God's perspective in the Garden of Eden is it is not good for man to be alone, then how does the current church counsel justify condemning a gay or lesbian person to live alone for their entire life, unable to have a relationship with someone they love?
Elder Lawrence condemns "counterfeits" with D&C 50:23: "That which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness."

Indeed, LDS policy on condemning same sex marriages is indeed darkness.  It has caused a dramatic increase in suicides and attempted suicides in Mormon-dominated areas.  This is demonstrated by the data, since 2008, suicides among affected populations have tripled.  This isn't just about altitude, for there has been no change in altitude in Utah since 2008.

Question to consider:
  • In what way does the LDS policy declaring loving same sex married people apostates edify anyone?
Elder Lawrence condemns contention in the Church.

Question to consider:
  • When we condemn others, labeling them our enemies and servants of Satan in a battle, are we being loving or contentious?
This is truly a bad article -- toxic in the extreme.  We need to stop these destructive war-metaphors in the church.

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