Top ten reasons why men should not be ordained to the Mormon priesthood

  1. No priesthoodMen have too much to do already, being providers for their families, receiving worldly recognition, presiding at home, and running a patriarchal society. Why would they want more responsibility?
  2. Church leadership is not natural for men. Mormon doctrine teaches that priesthood
    may only be exercised “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41). These are feminine qualities, and therefore men are not naturally suited for this role.
  3. Men’s divine responsibility is fatherhood. Priesthood would interfere with that responsibility and take away time that could otherwise be spent fulfilling the duties of fatherhood.
  4. Men who want priesthood do not understand their divine role. When God cast Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden, he said that Adam’s role was to till the ground (Gen. 3:23). A man’s place is in the field, not in the priesthood.
  5. Men who seek to lead at church want to usurp authority and aggrandize themselves, and they are only looking for the attention and prestige that comes from church leadership.
  6. If both men and women had priesthood, there would no longer be any distinction between men and women. How would people know whom to have sex with, and which marriages to outlaw?
  7. As we all know, men cannot control themselves or act professionally around women when put in close proximity. If we only allow women to lead, we will be protecting men from temptation.
  8. Men can have a prominent role at church without having the priesthood. They can pray, and their pictures can be put at the bottom of an all-women face book of upper church hierarchy. If the presiding women think it necessary, they can request input from male auxiliary committees.
  9. The bible doesn’t say that Jesus ever presided at any church, and he was a man.
  10. Men and women may enjoy the blessings of the priesthood in full equality, because men can get those blessings from the women who preside over them.
For a list of reasons why men should not be allowed to vote, see this 1915 list by Alice Duer Miller.

 

An Old LDS Woman Talks to Young Single Adult Brothers about Intimacy

Lucy H. WestmoorBy Lucy H. Westmoor, Ph.D.

Editor’s Note: This is from a talk given by Dr. Lucy Westmoor at a gathering of young single adult brothers. It is a companion piece for the similar talk given to LDS young single adult women by Larry L. Eastland, published by Meridian Magazine. The opinions expressed are solely those of Dr. Westmoor, and reflect neither those of the editor nor The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Introduction

6Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” 8But he refused…. 11One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house…. 19When his master heard the story his wife told him,… 20Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. (Gen. 39:6-20, NIV)

You’re Handsome

You’re handsome. Do you know that? You’re supposed to be. People probably don’t tell you that enough, but it’s true, every last one of you. Don’t be sad, little guy.

Artists since the beginning of time have painted your figure, and especially your private parts, on papyrus, ivory, copper, stone, canvas, doodle papers, and bathroom stalls. They have sculpted you all over the world. Writers have attempted to describe your strong, masculine bodies in literally millions of words through all time. Composers have lauded your most distinguishing features in the greatest works of music—from “My Ding-a-Ling” by Chuck Berry to “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel.

This should make you feel special, because women, on the other hand—with the minor exception of porn and everything else on the internet and in writing—are merely depicted in terms of their accomplishments in the public sphere, in business, the military, as doctors and lawyers, etc. You don’t want that for yourselves—your God-given manly beauty makes you special. You are free to rise above the confusing and complicated world of commerce, academics, and politics, and take your place on the pedestal as an object of manly beauty. Think of the story of “Beauty and the Beast,” where some evil witch victimizes the poor Prince by taking away one of his greatest possessions—his beauty—until he is saved by the noble and brave Belle. The Prince lives happily ever after because he got his beauty back.

So, it is little wonder that women look at you, admire you, and to one extent or another, lust after you. They—we (because I know I’m getting on in years, but some of you guys are dang hot)—notice just about everything about you, including your body parts and the way you dress. We notice how much of you is showing on the outside. If:

  • You wear a shirt that is unbuttoned low enough that we can see even a part of your chest hair, the sisters (those women that will be leering at you from across the hall as you exit this chapel) cannot help but look. You are beautiful in our eyes.
  • If your slacks are so tight that they show the outline on your sword of Laban, we admire it.
  • If you wear a tank top, some lusty female eyes will see any movement that shows your pectorals and deltoids.
  • If you lean over and you reveal the outline of your buttocks, Belle will see whatever the Prince reveals.

This is because our Heavenly Parents created you to be handsome in Eve’s sight. It’s called “attractive” because it “attracts” our eyes and more (you know what I’m talking about). And, it has worked for 6,000 years.

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, NIV)

And so, you want to look handsome, interesting, and yes, desirable. The Heavenly Mother intended it that way. When Her husband said a man shall be united to his wife and they shall become one flesh, He wasn’t talking about mud wrestling. He was talking about intimacy, the most trusting relationship between a man and a woman. Yes, I know that naked mud wrestling is one kind of mud wrestling, and that’s a form of intimacy, but you get my point.

On Being a Man

Let me tell you how to be a proper man: The bible says of David, “He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.” (1 Sam. 16:18, NIV). Of Joseph, the bible says, “Joseph was well-built and handsome.” (Gen. 39:6, NIV). Of Absalom, the bible says, “In all of Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absolom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him.” (2 Sam. 14:25). Whatever the bible praises, you know must be right.

How Women See You

There are some differences between how you see the issue of modesty—or immodesty—and how women see it. Men and women are simply different; they process images differently. While men are attracted to women’s inner beauty, women only appreciate men for their physical beauty and their body parts. Yes, men are objectified in our society. I’m not out to change that, but I’m just saying that you ought to be aware of it. Accept it quietly, and don’t struggle.

So, boys, be careful about what you are marketing. The message you are sending when you dress immodestly to be more attractive—and the message women are receiving—are two very different messages. And, here rests the challenge you face when determining how to dress and how to act. When all is said and done, you are little more than a walking billboard.

What you may see as being simply more attractive—desirable—by being less modest than you have been taught, women will see as an invitation to touch, to enjoy, to try to force you to “come to bed with me” as Potiphar’s wife did when she saw Joseph. Remember: Potiphar’s wife desired him by only seeing his hot slave body while he was doing chores around the royal palace. She knew nothing about him. She didn’t care about Joseph’s feelings, or education, or how Joseph’s day was going. All she cared about was his hot, sweaty slave body. And if you’ve seen old bible movies from the 1950s like they had when I was growing up, you’ll know that Egyptian slaves were very hot, and they went around all tan, shirtless with ripped muscles, and wearing skirts. Who could blame Potiphar’s wife, really?

What women see they want to possess. So, what you show they desire. They’re like machines. The more you show, the greater the invitation to them, as they see it, to do something they should not do, because the message received is that it is OK with you, or you wouldn’t be dressing, or undressing, that way. Whether you intend it or not, that is the message they believe you are sending—an invitation to do much more than simply admire. An invitation to caress and possess. To please and seize. To grab and nab. She might even caress and possess you without your consent. Think of what a tragedy that would be—a tragedy that might be prevented if only you had dressed modestly.

Do not believe that lust will make her love you. I have counseled too many of the sisters who are currently in a lustful relationship doing things they know are wrong including improper touching and oral sex. When asked, “Do you love him? Are you thinking of marrying him?” the heartbreaking answer is “no.” Frankly, I can tell you as a woman that if we can have our way with a man, he becomes worthless to us. He is a licked popsicle—a chewed gum stick to be discarded. If he doesn’t care enough about his virtue to dress modestly so that we will not be tempted to caress and possess him, then he doesn’t deserve our love or respect.

The Question: “Do You Live the Law of Chastity?”

I point this all out because the issue of sexual morality is a very broad one, and one that must be viewed as an issue of desire, not just of actions. To enter into a Mormon temple to be given in marriage to your eternal wife, you must be live the Law of Chastity. But let me ask, where does the Law of Chastity begin?

Infidelity or impurity does not begin with the final act.

  • Does the law of chastity begin when a young man decides just how clingy his bike shorts can be to his brazen serpent and still not be considered too immodest?
  • Does it begin when a woman decides just how far her hands can wander on a boy whom she is dating before she has entered forbidden territory?

In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, we read:

The law of chastity applies not only to behavior but also to dress, speech, and thought. Latter-day Saints are counseled to dress modestly, to use dignified language in speaking of bodily functions, and to cultivate virtuous thoughts. Accordingly, they are to avoid anything pornographic in literature, movies, television, and conversation. Though many outside the Church regard [self-abuse] as normal, LDS leaders teach that the practice is wrong, one that feeds base appetites and may lead to other sinful conduct. Similarly, unmarried couples who engage in petting or fondling are breaking the law of chastity, and stimulating impulses that may lead to other sin.

Counsel

So, I am here today to counsel you as someone who has lots of experience loving and being loved, and wants to impart to you the benefits of her knowledge so that you can receive the exquisite joys I have experienced in a lifetime of loving my little Mister and being loved by him in return, bless his heart.

If you have not made the decision to dress and act modestly, do so today. Unless you have already lost your virtue, it is not too late. Be attractive. Dress attractively. As the legendary songwriter Right Said Fred wrote:

“Cause I’m a model, you know what I mean
And I do my little turn on the catwalk.
Yeah, on the catwalk, on the catwalk, yeah,
I shake my little touche on the catwalk.”

I have been told that my remarks today should be like your underwear: the subject should be fully covered, but clearly brief. Or briefs, or whatever.

So, I’m not asking you to look like the Amish or wear a long beard and a turban, I’m asking you to be conscious of the message you are sending, and to send a message of interest and intrigue, yet modestly and wonderful attractiveness. You think that’s a difficult line to walk? Maybe, but strait is the gate, and narrow the way, that leadeth to sexymodesty.

After all, betting is evil, but I would wager with you that in 90 percent of the cases, the next young woman with whom you are affectionate will not be your wife. So, you will be allowing someone else’s wife to share intimacies and she will be sharing intimacies with you, someone else’s husband. It’s just like wife swapping, except that none of the four participants are yet married, but if you were to travel in a time machine and see your future wife getting intimate with some other future guy, how would that feel? What do you think would happen if the future husband of the woman you are being intimate with came back in a time machine to kick your shapely little butt? Make sure you have no regrets by doing something you shouldn’t—starting with the message you are sending. Women can’t be held responsible for interpreting the way you dress as an invitation for sex.

Nature

Please don’t take anything I’m saying as blaming one side or the other. As my great-great grandmother used to say to Daniel Boone: “You can’t keep the flint in one drawer and the stone in another, and ever get a spark.” Or maybe she said, “You can’t keep your flint and stones in your drawers, without starting a fire.” I can’t really remember, but the point was that I’m just looking out for you poor boys. I know from my own experience that women can be assertive and manipulative, so I have to protect you so you don’t get taken advantage of.

Sex is Natural

Sex is natural. It is basic. It can be overpowering. You do not need to advertise it. We know it’s there. Boy, do we know it’s there! We think about it all the time and we constantly imagine you naked, whether you show us skin or not. So what’s the point of being immodest?

Do you remember that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught us that we always existed? Always. First as intelligences, and then through the power of procreation Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother got together and after nine months we became little spirit children. But this life, right here and now, is the first time, in all of these eons of time in which we have existed, when the Heavenly Parents have given us the power to create, their very own power. So, it is sacred and eternal. And, if we use it properly, it will be ours for all of eternity. If not, then we will lose it again forever. We will be like Barbie and Ken dolls forever in the afterlife. Use it properly, or lose it, I always say.

Let Me Be Direct

So that there is no misunderstanding about what I am saying, I’m going to stop beating around the bush now and be both blunt and indelicate, and dare I say offensive:

1.         Do not allow her to touch you below the waist. That includes feet, because there’s  nothing worse than a female foot fetishist. You are to stay away from her private areas.

2.         You are not to lay on top of each other, and you are not to pretend sex with your clothes on or off. Sex is sex . . . whether there is penetration or not. It may not be intercourse, but if it quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. (But don’t have sex with ducks.) Back at BYU, we used to call this “Levi lovin’.” Now that I’ve told you exactly how it’s done, don’t do it!

3.         No oral sex. As we used to say back at BYU, “oral ain’t moral.” The used to say the same thing at Oral Roberts University, but it meant something different there.

4.         No self-abuse together, or alone, or on the phone, etc. Self-abuse is worse than child abuse, because the abuser and the abused are the same person. So you get the guilt from being the abuser, and the shame from being the abused, all at the same time. If you are self-abused, be sure that you report it to the police, because most instances of self-abuse remain unreported. If you don’t know what to do, call an abuse hotline and tell them what you’ve done.

5.         Keep all of your clothes on. Leave hers on her. She is not to place her hands on your clothes or under your clothes in any area that I have just described as forbidden. (Remember, that includes feet. Yuck!) In fact, just keep your clothes on always. If you have to shower, just take off parts of your clothes one at a time and wash the exposed parts, making sure that you are never fully nude. Nudity is evil in all forms.

6.         Pornography and self-abuse are violations of the moral code just as any arousal of sexual passions outside the bounds of marriage are. In fact, porn and self-abuse are basically in the same category as adultery. If you have already stepped into the seedy underworld of porn and self-abuse, all is not lost. There are twelve step programs that you can join. Someday, you can overcome your addiction and become a productive member of society again.

7.         In any circumstance, when affection turns to arousal, you’ve gone too far. It is a sin to be aroused for any reason, unless you are asleep and it happens in your dreams. If you ever get aroused, seek out the counsel of your Bishop immediately, before it is too late. It doesn’t matter what time it is. Call him at two o’clock in the morning if you have to. He needs to know, before it gets out of hand. Literally.

Honor Her Leadership

Help her honor her leadership by honoring your manhood. I’m counting on you to make her a better leader than she thinks she can be. Good men have made women better leaders from the beginning of time. We almost always exclusively celebrate the accomplishments of women, after all, but you boys also have an important role in their accomplishments.

Michael Burlingame, a history professor at Connecticut College and the author of The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln, wrote:

Mary Lincoln also took the broom to her husband, according to Hillary Gobin, a neighbor of the Lincolns’ in the 1850s. Mrs. Gobin recalled her mother saying that Mary and Abraham Lincoln ‘were very unhappy in their domestic life, and she was seen frequently to drive him from the house with the house with a broomstick.’ As a young girl, Lizzie DeCrastos visited the Lincoln home with her mother and observed Lincoln flee out the door as his angry wife attacked him with ‘very poorly pitched potatoes.’ A servant girl recalled that one day as Lincoln prepared to leave for Taylorville, ‘His wife ran him out of the house half dressed—as she followed him with a broom.’ Lincoln told the servant not to get scared’ but to go into the house and fetch him some clothes, which he donned and then ‘went up town through the woodhouse & alley.’” (p. 277)

So on the one hand, Abraham Lincoln was the legendary President of the United States who saved the nation from dissolution, won the Civil War, and freed the slaves. On the other hand, his wife beat the crap out of him. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?

On the one hand, being the greatest President of the United States of all time is nothing to sneeze at. Lincoln has earned the admiration of his peers in a way very few experience. Some men might value that. He has gone down in the history books and will be revered as a great president. Nonetheless, if you had to take more than three seconds to think about this question, you are absolutely crazy. Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.

God is counting on you to marry well, and it’s your role to raise up righteous children in holiness to the Lord. In order to do that you must date well. Here are some rules that I think are essential to doing this. When on a date:

1.         Date out not in. Go out and do interesting things, not stay in an apartment. Satan hides in your closet, under your bed, and in other dark places in your home, and if you spend too much time there, Satan will get you.

2.         Nothing good happens after midnight. Go home or send her home. Well, actually, sleep is a pretty good thing, and that happens after midnight. Also, Craig Ferguson’s TV show happens after midnight, and I’m a big fan. But nothing else.

3.         When affection becomes arousal, you’ve gone too far. Take a cold shower, sing a church hymn, and call your Bishop. Again, arousal is sin. If you are ever aroused, you must repent immediately. (Unless you are dreaming. Dreams are like Vegas—whatever happens in dreams, stays in dreams.)

4.         There is never any reason to be in each other’s bedroom, unless you are in each other’s bedroom simultaneously. That way, you’ll be in her bedroom, and she’ll be in your bedroom, and it will be kind of weird, but there can’t be any hanky-panky if you aren’t in the same bedroom together.

5.         Keep your clothes on and hands out of private places–and keep her hands out of your private places. As you should know, every inch of your body is either a private place or public property. Public places are up for grabs. Anyone can touch you there with or without your permission. But private places are your property, and you can control who touches there. However, when you expose your private places to the public, you are granting public access.

6.         Keep your feet on the floor and the rest of you vertical not horizontal. However, if you need to raise your arm occasionally so that it is horizontal, you may do so as long as you quickly put it back in its vertical position the way God intended it. No other body parts are allowed to be horizontal. Horizontal is the devil’s counterfeit of vertical. So that means don’t be lying on top of each other.

7.         Never allow yourselves to be in a circumstance where you know no one will walk in on you. Always leave a slight doubt—and the door open. If you don’t have anyone that can stumble into your private space and potentially catch you in the act, pay someone. Younger siblings are usually more than happy to disturb your privacy, and many times they will do it for free. If you don’t have younger siblings, pray that angels or the Three Nephites will disturb your privacy. If you have the Aaronic priesthood, you have been given the keys to the ministering of angels. Use them!

8.         When all else fails, follow the Joseph principle, also known as the tree principle. Just leave. If you’re too embarrassed to leave…tell her “I’m leaving not because I don’t like you…but because I do. I’m leaving because I can think of no other way to keep you from caressing and possessing me” Then leave. I don’t know how saying that will lessen your embarrassment, but if you memorize it, it will be easy to remember in difficult situations.

Review

And so, when you are getting ready to be married in the temple and you are asked the question: “do you live the law of chastity?” I would ask you to carefully review your actions, your thoughts and your desires. Be faithful in your covenants you have made to those who love you: to your parents and family and to your Mother and Father in Heaven and Savior. Do the right thing because your don’t want your parents to be embarrassed and ashamed of you. Do the right thing because your Heavenly Parents can see everything you do and are taking video for later reference on judgment day. Do the right thing because every time you are immodest, Jesus sweats one more drop of blood for you in the garden of Gethsemane and he gets one more lash with a Roman whip. Exercise your agency for holiness. If you need to see your Bishop about issues in your life, heed the counsel of Alma:

“Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34:31)

This scripture has nothing to do with confession, but it seems like it does if I quote it out of context, so I thought I’d throw it in there. Confession to a priesthood authority is fun. Everybody’s doing it. The Prophet Isaiah put it this way:

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Again, this has nothing to do with confession, but it sort of sounds like it does if you leave out the surrounding verses. So, often I have young single brothers who come to me to share their sorrow, guilt and anguish over sin who conclude by saying, “Dr. Westmoor, I’m damaged goods. Why would any worthy young woman want to marry me? Of course, I don’t disagree with them that they are damaged goods. Their virtue is gone for good, and will never come back. But I give them two answers:

First: Together your Savior who atoned, your bishop who is here to guide you, and you yourself, will get you worthy to be given in marriage to your future wife in the temple. And, when you are—and I promise you that if you will follow the guidance here, you will be—as you walk through the door of the temple and look up at the words “Holiness to the Lord,” you will be as worthy as every other worthy person who enters the temple to perform sacred ordinances. There is no such thing as “damaged goods” in the Celestial Kingdom. It’s just in this life that you are damaged goods. If you lose your virginity, that is a precious gem that you have lost forever. But by the time people reach the Celestial kingdom, nobody is still a virgin anyway.

Second: Do not live your life in guilt. Just accept the fact that your virtue is gone forever and move forward with life’s burdens. Accept the atonement of Jesus completely, gratefully, and then do what He has asked:

28Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

And what is His yoke? First, remember that a yoke is a strong piece of wood that is put around the neck of two oxen so that they will be able to pull wagons or carts. It binds them together in pulling the load, and multiplies their united strength many times greater than if they were to do it alone.

So yes, the Savior wants to put a heavy chunk of wood around your neck and make you pull stuff for the rest of your life. That’s the burden of being a man. All he’s saying is that as far as yokes go, his is a pretty light one. Plus, it’s not like you’ll be pulling Jesus in the wagon. He’s not lazy like that. He’ll be pulling alongside you. You are not laboring alone.

Additional Counsel

I was going to wrap this up because I can see how bored you are, but let me conclude with some additional counsel, things that have been hanging around in my head for some time as it deals with the sisters across the hall that will be leering at you when you leave this chapel because you are dressed immodestly.

If a relationship is over, she’s no longer your best friend. She’s your former girlfriend. Get on with your life. While there’s nothing wrong with seeing her as a friend, you’re just hurting yourself if you don’t move on. What’s the point? If she is not going to be your eternal companion, what good is she to you?

Do not assume that attention equals interest. Just because she spends time with you hanging around, it seldom develops into anything else. Many of the sisters are afraid of commitment, so the best way to have a safe companionship is to make male friends—friends—and spend a lot of time with them. Do guy stuff together. Watch football together. Fix cars. Shoot things. You know—guy stuff. Women’s natural inability to make a commitment also makes it hard to break off even if there is nothing going on. Accept that fact. If you aren’t engaged in a few months, she’s a deadbeat so it’s time to look elsewhere.

Almost never does hanging out lead to dating or a relationship. Women make that decision in the first 30 seconds—well, maybe not 30 seconds—but certainly not six months later. You might as well just forget about forming any relationship with a woman you knew six months ago. So, don’t keep getting your heart up when in reality it is not going to happen. I decided the first time I saw my husband across a ball field at a single’s ward picnic in Spanish Fork, Utah, that I wanted to ask him out. Women are like that. Dating and hanging out are two different things. Don’t confuse the two. We women make snap decisions. You are either in or out. We give you a good, careful look-over and we know right away what kind of man you are, and if you don’t do anything for us right off the bat, your chances of having anything happen in the future are almost nil.

The woman you marry will not be perfect. She probably won’t be in this life, so stop looking for the perfect woman. Stop looking for perfection and stop nagging us about our faults. We women look for perfection, but you men should not. Look for someone with the potential to be better if you will love her enough to want to spend your life making her happy. A lifetime of putting your own needs on the back-burner while you try to make her happy might convince her to someday improve herself. Or not. But you shouldn’t get your hopes up.

The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote:

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7, NIV)

You can only have that life of love by making good decisions about who you are right now. So let me give you another list, because I just can’t get enough lists, and I can’t stop repeating myself or stop talking:

1. Be modest. Please. Accept only appropriate affection. Please, I beg you. For heaven’s sake, be modest, because I can’t control my thoughts.

2. Be honest in evaluating your relationships with the sisters. Please. I beseech you. Don’t expect much of us, because we really don’t care about you that much unless you are hot. But remember, don’t be too hot because we can’t control ourselves.

And finally, take the initiative to expand your circle by introducing yourself to new women when they move into your ward. Or, if necessary, while still fulfilling your assignments and attending your activities here, don’t be afraid to visit other wards from time to time to meet new friends. Most of the marriages in this ward in the past five years have been between a member of this ward and a member of another ward. Honestly, I don’t even know why we have young single adult wards like these. Nobody ever gets married in them. They all just hang out and have fun. So what’s the point?

Now, before I conclude, let me share with you my deep and abiding appreciation for you young single men, your goodness, and your hopes and dreams for a good marriage, a righteous wife, a family that drives you crazy that you love to death, and an interesting and rewarding life together in which you play an important supporting role in the public successes of your wife.

That’s what I want for you. And that’s what you’re going to have. So help me!

Boy Scouts can now be openly gay—and the LDS Church wants it that way

Old black and White photograph of one Scout helping another injured Scout

Taking a step in the direction of equal treatment, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced today (5/23/2013) that it would admit openly gay Scouts. The change is the result of a 61-38% vote by the BSA’s National Council. This body agreed to accept the following proposed language: “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” At least for now, the ban against openly gay Scout leaders remains in place.

Given the margin of victory, it appears that this change would likely not have happened without support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The LDS Church is by far the largest organization that charters Scouting units associated with the BSA. Based on statistics from the end of 2012, the LDS Church operates 37,856 chartered units, representing 36% of all 106,200 chartered units. Scouts from these units constitute about 17% of all Scouts. In addition, many of the top BSA leaders are Mormon. Thus, the LDS Church has an outsized influence on the decision-making at BSA.

The church came out early in favor of the current language, apparently signaling an interest in “consistent standards for all BSA partners, recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, [and] a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program.” Thus, this policy appears to be exactly what the LDS Church wanted. Within hours of the vote that lifted the discriminatory policy, the church already apparently had a letter on hand in support of the new policy, signed by the church’s First Presidency, which will now be distributed to local congregations.

Interestingly, the church’s statement reveals, “Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.” Apparently, the LDS Church had been quietly at odds with BSA policy all along, and the vote today merely brings the BSA into conformity with longstanding LDS policy. If it is true that the LDS Church was violating this policy all along, one has to wonder whether the BSA was oblivious, or was intentionally looking the other way while this was happening. That would not be surprising, given that the BSA board members, who are drawn from corporate America, have been pushing for this change.

The church’s statement also raises the question of whether the church continues to disregard BSA’s continuing discriminatory policy against gay and lesbian Scout leaders. LDS Scouting policy stipulates, “Worthy adults, whether members of the Church or not, may be called to serve as Scouting leaders.” (§ 8.5). LDS policy currently considers gay and lesbian Mormons to be “worthy” so long as they are celibate. (Church Handbook of Instruction, Book 1 § 17.3.6). Conceivably, the LDS Church might get behind a BSA-wide policy that requires gay and lesbian Scout leaders to be celibate. Or perhaps the church might also get behind a policy that allows local units to follow their own policies regarding gay and lesbian Scout leaders. That way, the LDS Church can have its own policy, and other organizations who feel differently can have a different policy. If an openly gay or lesbian parent or other adult wants to be involved in Scouting, there would at least be some units where they will be welcomed.

As an Eagle Scout, I’m happy for the gay Scouts who will no longer be excluded. I am also happy that my church seems to have effectively sponsored this change. However, I don’t think the spirit and ideals of Scouting will be fully honored until openly gay and lesbian Scout leaders are welcomed into the Scouting program.

Might the LDS Church be okay with a more inclusive policy on gay Scouts and leaders?

Sketch of three Boy Scouts in an animated conversationA few days ago, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that it was considering changing its policy to allow local Scout-sponsoring organizations to make their own decisions on whether or not to ban gay Scouts and leaders from their troops. Wednesday, after pressure to delay the decision from several scouting organizations, most notably the Great Salt Lake Council in Utah, the BSA decided to delay the decision until its annual meeting in May 2013.

There has been speculation that much of the pressure on the BSA came from the LDS Church, but apparently, not so. In a news release issued Thursday, the church said that it had not yet taken a position on the proposed policy change, and denied that it had been involved in any effort to prevent such a change. It encouraged people “not to speculate about our position or to assume that individual Latter-day Saints inside or outside the Scouting movement speak for the Church.”

There is a good chance that the LDS Church’s eventual position on the BSA’s proposed change might surprise us. A few years ago, the LDS Church baffled many conservative Mormons by supporting two city ordinances in Salt Lake City that prohibited housing discrimination against gays and lesbians. And just Thursday, conservative Mormons had further reason to be baffled when it was reported that the LDS Church was quietly seeking to extend Salt Lake City’s anti-housing-discrimination protections statewide throughout Utah. I suspect that Mormon clergy overall tend to be more sympathetic toward LGBT issues than many of the rank-and-file. I think this is true of most churches. It is difficult to be overly judgmental and dismissive of people you actually know, who are in your flock and for whom you have a duty to love and serve. One might imagine that it was his prior service as a bishop and Stake president that influenced 2012 Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to come out in opposition to the BSA’s ban on gay Scouts.

The BSA’s proposed policy change actually squares with current LDS policy on sexual orientation. Openly gay and lesbian Mormons are officially welcome within LDS congregations, even in leadership positions or as full-time missionaries, as long as they remain celibate. For example, Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Mormon, was called in 2011 to serve in an LDS bishopric in San Francisco. In the LDS Church, being a Scout leader is essentially a church leadership calling. There does not appear to be any official prohibition on the calling of celibate gay or lesbian Scout leaders in the LDS Church, or the participation of gay scouts.

If the LDS Church does not intend to discriminate against celibate gay or lesbian boys and leaders, then the current BSA policy is problematic. The current BSA policy is one of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” So gay Scouts and leaders can remain in the organization as long as they are closeted. But when the come out, they are expelled from Scouting regardless of whether or not they are celibate. Thus, while a Mormon Scouting troop might want to include a celibate, openly-gay boy as a member, the BSA would not currently allow that.

My sense is that the LDS Church wants to have complete control over whatever accommodation it decides to make on the issue of sexual orientation of Scouts and Scout leaders. In a previous post, I suggested that if the LDS Church were required not to discriminate against openly-gay Scouts and leaders, that the church might part ways with Scouting. However, I don’t think that is the case so long as the LDS Church can frame its own policy, so that celibacy, rather than closetedness, becomes the criterion for admission of gays and lesbians to the Scouting program.

Mormonism and Ayn Rand

Art Deco design of an Ayn Rand postage stampObjectivist writer Ayn Rand has been in the news recently because in 2005, Romney VP pick Paul Ryan said that Rand was “[t]he reason I got involved in public service.” Although Ryan has recently tried to distance himself from Rand, by all indications, he was a Randite as late as 2009, when he argued that “Rand did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism.” As far as I can tell, nobody knows whether or not Mitt Romney agrees with Rand’s “moral” view of capitalism, but it is worth considering whether there is any place for the ideas of Ayn Rand in the Mormon worldview. I don’t think there is.

In many ways, Ayn Rand’s views as a whole are incompatible not just with Mormonism, but with all religion, as she was an atheist who rejected all forms of religion and altruism. Her philosophy was self-centered: the only morality, in her view, was the promotion of heroic self interest. She earnestly embodied the philosophy expressed by Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street that “greed is good.”

Despite the presence of anti-Christian elements within Rand’s philosophy, right-leaning Christians such as Paul Ryan and many others have overlooked Rand’s anti-altruism and strident atheism to embrace the “greed is good” part of her philosophy as a moral justification for capitalism. Undoubtedly, Mitt Romney is an altruist, as evidenced by his years of unpaid service in the LDS Church. I have no reason to think that Paul Ryan is not altruistic as well. But it is possible to be an altruist in specific circumstances yet also believe that as a general principle, the rational pursuit of individual gain and self interest is a form of morality.

Although Rand’s philosophy does not seem to have made a huge impact among Mormons, there are undoubtedly at least some Mormon Randians. Interestingly, it appears, based on partially-redacted data available on the LDS church website new.familysearch.org, that some of her fans have probably proxy baptized her into the Latter-day Saint faith. I suspect that some Mormons may be drawn to Randianism because a large fraction of Mormons happen to be conservative libertarians, and Rand provided a kind of “theology” for this corner of the political spectrum.

But it seems difficult to square Rand’s philosophy with Mormon scripture. The faith’s founding scripture, the Book of Mormon, frequently condemns those who “set their hearts upon their riches.” (Hel. 13:20). The book warns, “But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.” (2 Nephi 9:30). The pursuit of wealth, and the class pride of the wealthy over the poor, are repeatedly cited as the reason for religious apostasy, environmental disaster, and military defeat. The book envisions an ideal, utopian state as one where “they had all things in common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor.” (4 Ne. 1:3). Nothing seems further from the anti-collectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, who wrote, “This miracle of me is mine to own and keep, and mine to guard, and mine to use, and mine to kneel before! I do not surrender my treasures, nor do I share them. The fortune of my spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds as alms for the poor of spirit.” (Anthem).

Could LDS Church involvement in Boy Scouts be coming to an end?

It now appears that at least one board member of the Boy Scouts of America is thinking of overturning the organization’s traditional policy of barring gays and lesbians from admission either as leaders or as scouts. James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young, has said he is working to “encourage dialogue” on the issue. The issue of revisiting this policy came to a head when Jennifer Tyrell, a lesbian mother, was ousted as a den leader in April 2012. Seeking to change the policy, she launched an online petition directed to Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, who is also on the board of the BSA. Speaking for AT&T, Stephenson implied that the corporation did not agree with the policy, but he argued “that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable.”

From near the beginning, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a proud sponsor of BSA, and remains the largest single sponsor of scouting units. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court case BSA v. Dale upheld the First Amendment right of the BSA, as a private organization, to discriminate against homosexuals. During that case, the LDS Church led a small group of other churches in submitting an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the right to ban gays and lesbians. This brief, written by Von G. Keetch, a Salt Lake City attorney the church has hired on other occasions, suggested that the churches might “part company with Scouting altogether” (p. 25) if sexual orientation became an impermissible basis for discrimination by BSA. In a statement to the Salt Lake Tribune, Keetch suggested more positively that the LDS Church would withdraw from Scouting in those circumstances. Keetch, of course, is not part of the LDS hierarchy, and that would not be his decision to make.

But that was the year 2000. Since then, the LDS Church has softened its policy toward LGBT people, and allows gay and lesbian Mormons to function in positions within the LDS Church, so long as they remain celibate. I have heard rumors that certain local church leaders have barred gay men from positions that deal with children or youth, although I cannot find reference to any church-wide polity to that effect. Such a policy, if it exists, would be highly controversial, because it feeds into a stereotype that LGBT people are pedophiles, or that they have an agenda to convert children to their “cause.” For the most part, Americans have increasingly been willing to accept LGBT people within positions of influence with their children, without cause for alarm. For example, according to polls, most modern Americans believe schools should not have the right to fire gay or lesbian teachers. But Mormon attitudes tend to change more slowly than American attitudes in general.

Of course, if the LDS Church were to pull out of Scouting, the only opinion that really matters is the sometimes-unpredictable opinion of church’s leaders. The LDS Church has had a long history with Scouting, but the loss of Scouting would not be catastrophic. Long before Scouting was even invented, the LDS Church had created a Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association (YMMIA). When the BSA came alone in the early 20th century, the YMMIA essentially merged with the Scouting program and became an arm of the BSA. For reasons that have never been clearly articulated, the church’s complementary girls’ program did not merge with the Girl Scouts, and the LDS Church has never supported Girl Scouting, even though it maintains a Young Women organization that serves many of the same purposes.

It would not be far-fetched to expect that if the BSA decided to admit gays and lesbians, that the LDS Church would dissassociate itself with the organization and revert to the YMMIA model. That would not be a huge change, because the church already operates what it calls its “Young Men” organization for boys 12 and older, independently of Scouting. Unlike Scouting, however, the Young Men organization is designed for the spiritual needs of boys, while Scouting is designed more for recreation and to train boys in leadership and self-confidence. If the LDS Church left Scouting, the Young Men organization would have to serve dual roles, as does the present Young Women organization. What would change? Probably not much, except that the young men would no longer be wearing uniforms and badges.

I think it is inevitable that BSA will at some point reverse its policy of discrimination. But as an Eagle Scout with fond memories of scouting, I would hope that that the LDS Church would not pull out of Scouting for that reason. Realistically, any BSA policy change is not going to change how Scouting operates on a local LDS Church level. As far as I know, BSA has never required that local units appoint leaders, or admit scouts, in a way that contradicts the religious values of the sponsoring organization. All that would likely change is that Scouting units would be free to admit gays and lesbians if they chose to do so. So in some non-LDS Scouting units, there would be leaders and scouts who are openly gay or lesbian. That would not affect Scouting in the LDS Church.

Perhaps the LDS Church mighth even see a change by BSA as a positive outcome. There are undoubtedly active Mormon gays and lesbians whose skills would make them ideal leaders of local LDS Scouting units. But BSA policy currently prohibits these men and women from participation. A policy change would give the LDS Church more flexibility to appoint gay and lesbian leaders on a local level. It would also allow openly gay Mormon youth the opportunity to participate in Scouting, which could be a positive influence on their lives.

Do Mormons believe in “saved by grace”?

Ornate 12th century cross sculpted by Meister des Reliquienkreuzes von ConsenzaThe Christian doctrine of sola gratia says that salvation comes alone through the grace of God. This doctrine dates to the 529 Council of Orange, and is nearly universal within Christianity—from Catholics to Protestants to Orthodox. It says that faith, works, and salvation are made possible only through God’s grace, as a result of the atonement of Jesus. It is a separate issue from sola fide (“faith alone”), about which Protestants disagree with Catholics and Orthodox Christianity. Sola fide is the subject of another post.

By all rights, the doctrine of sola gratia should be one of the fundamental tenets of Mormonism. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was most aligned with Methodism prior to his founding of the new faith, and that alignment is not surprising in view of the earliest Mormon scripture, the 1830 Book of Mormon. In general, this book is conventionally Methodist in its its views about salvation and grace. After the speaker indicates that his people labor diligently to convince people to believe in Christ, he nevertheless notes that “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). Similarly, other passages state that “it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved” (2 Ne. 10:24), and “there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Ne. 2:8). The 1830 Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ, which served as the “constitution” of the church Joseph Smith’s founded, notes that both justification and sanctification are through “the grace of our Lord.” (D&C 20:30-31).

However, most Mormons alive today would disagree with the statement that we are saved by “grace alone.” At some point in Mormon history, the idea of salvation by grace became suspect to Mormons. This apparently happened during the 20th century, because as late as 1899, a Mormon apostle felt comfortable stating from the pulpit at the church’s annual General Conference that: “When we are in favor of the doctrine of Christ we manifest our faith by our works, and consequently are saved by grace and are justified by faith, because we manifest our faith by our works.” (George Teasdale, 1899 Conference Report, p. 33). This was not only an endorsement of sola gratia, but an endorsement of sola fide (salvation by faith alone). As late as 1954, Joseph Fielding Smith seemed to endorse sola gratia in his book Doctrines of Salvation (2:308-11).

I have not been able to pinpoint the moment when the idea of sola gratia began to lose favor within Mormonism. However, Bruce R. McConkie might have had something to do with at least popularizing the idea that Mormons are saved, at least in part, by their works. In 1958, McConkie identified two types of redemption: an unconditional type that comes by grace alone (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 623-24), and a conditional redemption that “comes by the grace of God coupled with good works” (Ibid., 623.) This “unconditional” redemption, according to McConkie, consists of resurrection of the body, but not eternal life. McConkie’s views on this and all topics were very influential among generations in the latter half of the 20th century. However, his signature book Mormon Doctrine has recently been allowed by the LDS Church to go out of print, in part because of its controversial and sometimes offensive content.

Since McConkie, other Mormon publications have followed suit in rejecting sola gratia. Spencer W. Kimball’s 1969 Miracle of Forgiveness calls the doctrine of sola gratia “one of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man.” The 1979 LDS Bible Dictionary states that “grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient.”

Around the 1980s, however, a number of Mormon writers such as Stephen Robinson, Robert Millet, Gerald Lund, Donald P. Olsen, and Hyrum Andrus—so-called Mormon neo-orthodox writers— have begun to revisit the issue of “saved by grace.” An 1981 work by Lund, for example, was published in the LDS’s church’s flagship magazine The Ensign. Olsen and Andrus have presented what are perhaps the most Protestant explanations of grace within the context of Mormonism. For example, Olson states:

[T]hose who truly have the grace of Christ have faith unto repentance, receive baptism and the Holy Ghost, are justified, are in the process of becoming sanctified, have received salvation from sin, and may have received eternal life. These blessings will be theirs so long as they do not fall from grace by trusting in good works or by attempting to earn, merit, or deserve these blessings. (Sunstone, issue 44, Augumn 1984, pp. 21-25.)

So the answer to the question, “Do Mormons believe in ‘saved by grace’?” is: it depends on the Mormon.