I have four daughters, and the topic of modesty comes up fairly often in our home. My daughters seem to have an innate desire to dress like the girls around them, and are frustrated with me when I tell them they don’t get to wear the same clothes as some of the other girls wear. Since our conversations on modest dressing are so commonplace, and my daughters aren’t satisfied with the usual answers, I have thought a lot on the subject in an effort to better explain my feelings on modesty to them. Granted, I am a male, and certainly don’t understand the female mind, but I have noticed a few things that highlight to me the value of modesty.
I often hear women discuss how discrimination against women still exists in our society. I hear of glass ceilings in the corporate world, of pay inequality, of societal discouragement for women to pursue certain jobs, such as engineering or programming. As a man, I have struggled to understand what these women were saying, as I didn’t readily see anything that would cause such results. However, something hit me one day as I sat in a continuing legal education course, bored to the point of nodding off numerous times.
I work as an attorney in Utah, and the attorney field is still dominated by men. There are women attorneys, and there are no visible barriers to a woman being an attorney in Utah, but there are not a lot of women attorneys here. I am most often reminded of this point as I sit in continuing legal education classes, where I am surrounded by other attorneys and can see how the majority of attorneys are men.
At this particular course, I was extra bored by the topic and was not really paying attention to what was being said. Instead, I started looking around the room, taking a moment to actually look at the people around me. When I took that moment, I started thinking about the type of practice the person might do, where they might live, etc. As I thought about each person and what it was about the way they looked that made me pre-judge them as I did without knowing anything about them, I suddenly saw a significant difference between the men and women in the room.
A woman was presenting at the moment, and she had just taken over after a man had presented. The two were very opposite in the way they dressed. The man was greying, balding, had a beard, wore his pants high, and had very basic clothes on, just a simple button up shirt. His hair went many different ways, and he didn’t appear to care too much about the way that he looked. He had worn his button up shirt and slacks, and appeared content that he had satisfied his obligations as a presenter. I looked around the room, and saw a room full of similar looking men. Many were overweight, had ugly hair, no hair, or patches of hair, had moles, many (including myself) hadn’t shaved, and most just wore a polo shirt to the course, but all of them looked perfectly content and not concerned about their appearance.
The woman presenter, on the other hand, had every piece of hair perfectly sculpted in some type of do around her head. Her hair was dyed to all be the same color. She had perfectly applied makeup, and wore some type of tight fitting business jacket and short skirt which exhibited her model figure, as well as high heels. By far, she was dressed and looked far superior to any man in the room.
But then, I noticed something troubling. ALL of the women attorneys in the room were dressed the same. While some were heavier than others, they all had well done hair, well done makeup, and all dressed in a way that highlighted their body to the fullest extent possible for their build. As I watched the women, I saw their hands repeatedly fix even the slightest deviation of hair, and saw them work to hold themselves in a position that always best highlighted their body.
While I have always known that women tend to be more concerned about their appearance than men, I had never thought through possible reasons behind that. However, as I sat in that continuing legal education course, something struck me that I had never realized before. Something about these women, I suddenly realized, felt bound and obligated to appear as sexually pleasing as they possibly could, even though they were in a ‘professional’ work environment, while nothing compelled any of the men in the room to feel the same obligation.
Since that time, I have thought a lot about our culture’s push and demand for women to always appear as sexually pleasing as they possibly can. To me, our culture’s demand is so strong that it appears to mentally and emotionally enslave many women. While it may sound outlandish to some, I do believe that, as a general rule, many women are mentally and emotionally enslaved, used, and mistreated, and sadly, women themselves embrace this type of abuse as they accept the lie perpetuated by society that their individual worth is tied to their ability to appear sexually pleasing.
To me, it appears many women have invisible chains controlling the way they think and act. As an example, many women I know quite literally cannot walk outside without trying to look perfect. They would die being seen in public without makeup on, or without their hair done. They appear to be enslaved to an unforgiving and constant master of trying to look sexually pleasing. When I drive to work, I see women driving while finalizing their makeup and hair. When I go to the store, I see women exhausted from shopping for hours on end trying to find a piece of clothing that perfectly fits all of the curves on their body. Women are depressed when they get pregnant as their belly grows in size, and they are depressed when they have their baby because they retain some additional weight. There is a difference, of course, between seeking to look good and seeking to look sexually pleasing, and while some women simply want to look good, many appear to be driven to always look as sexually pleasing as they can.
I have had to wait – a lot – for women to get everything about their looks perfect before they are willing to leave to a destination. From early on in life, I knew girls who spent hours each day perfecting the way they looked. Girls starved themselves, refused to get an ice cream cone, or exercised endlessly trying to maintain a perfect figure. Something was driving all of these women and girls to spend their daily energy and emotions on their looks.
From all appearances to me, most everything in many a woman’s world revolves around the way she looks. She is happy when she feels beautiful, and depressed when she feels ugly. Thin women suffer depression because another woman is thinner, or because another woman is thin with a bigger bust. In other words, women feel depressed when they don’t satisfy the ‘master’ of appearance, and it seems that very few women are content with the way they look – all because there is always someone with a more perfect image.
On the other hand, most men seem content with the way they look. They are ok with bad hair days, they are ok with a potbelly, and their self-worth generally doesn’t rise or fall on how they look. Because of this difference, I begin to think on where the ‘master’ that drives a woman in this way comes from, and why it generally doesn’t impact the man like it does the woman.
As I reflected on the women at the continuing legal education course I attended, as well as other women I have met, all of the reasons to me, ultimately, pointed back to one ‘master’ that demanded women always appear as sexually pleasing as possible – the human male.
Males, throughout history, have often done what they could to keep females in an inferior role. Women weren’t allowed to vote, own property, attend school, etc., and they had to fight and work to overcome the inferior status imposed by the males around them. Now, women have found a place where the law treats them equal with men, but inequality still persists, meaning that the source of inequality comes from something besides the law.
One significant source feeding the inequality is the difference in how we, as a culture, view and value a woman and her body. Our culture says the more sexually pleasing a woman can appear, the higher value she has in society.
Think of what this really means though. Why is appearing sexually pleasing such a big deal? I’ll tell you (and I’m quite certain on this as I am a male). It’s because men consume sexuality through what they see. Certainly, there are many different levels of sexuality, but at its foundation, male sexuality starts with what they see, and what a male sees contributes to many other levels of male sexuality as well (think of the power of pornography, all consumed through sight alone).
So, men may have given up the power to keep women away from jobs, to keep them from voting, etc., but men have maintained some serious powers still – the power to compel women to be their eye candy, the power to constantly have their sexual appetite fed through what they see, the power to make women feel that the sum total of their self-worth is found in their ability to be a sexual object.
As I pass some women on the streets or in the halls, I notice something. If I look a woman in the eye, many instantly look away, turning their head away from me. Somehow, many women are trained to do this, from the most educated in society down to the most humble of us. I grew up in a rougher part of town, where gangsters, or wannabe gangsters, roamed. It was well known that avoiding eye contact was a sign of inferiority, and I spent my time on the streets maintaining eye contact with each wannabe gangster I passed. Because I could maintain eye contact, they knew not to mess with me, and I never had any problems. People who avoided eye contact though were easy targets for them to harass or pick on, as the avoidance of eye contact signaled to them some type of recognition of inferiority.
When I watch other males walk by a female, I often see them establish eye contact for a quick second until many a female invariable turns her head away from the man. The turning of the head then gives the man a quick second in which his eyes scan the woman down and up, as the turning of the head seems to be an open invitation for the scan to take place. If a woman maintains eye contact, however, things are awkward for the man because he is not used to his scan taking place while under the direct watch of the woman he is scanning, and often the scan never occurs when the woman maintains eye contact.
This practice ultimately makes me feel more that women are treated as sexual objects by men. Why is there a glass ceiling, pay differences, and lingering inequality? While I don’t know all of the reasons, one contributing factor is that some part of a man, even if just subconsciously, views a woman as a sexual object. The woman’s body is simply there to gratify the man’s sexual appetite.
Now, I’m not saying that all men are sexual monsters or that all men consciously think of these things. But, I am saying that some part of a man, even if only a small part that he doesn’t consciously recognize, looks to a woman to feed his sexual appetite, an appetite that always begins with a scan – with a judgment on how sexually pleasing the woman looks that day. And, when the level of sexually pleasing looks is the foundation of the evaluation of a woman, equality will never be built or achieved since the male brain separates objects and individuals in the hierarchy of importance. If a woman first has to pass a sexually pleasing test in the man’s mind, she will, first and foremost, always be an object, with her individuality only second to that.
So, to get to the power of modesty. Dressing immodestly feeds the male perception that woman are sexual objects, valued only if they appear sexually pleasing. Wearing a shirt that reveals a lot of cleavage focuses the natural instincts of a man on the cleavage alone and feeds the ‘object’ mentality. Many women I know want to be seen for who they are. They want to be valued for their skills, their mind, and their individuality, as they should be. Yet, they fall prey to the lie of dressing immodestly, making it so that men only see what is skin deep, making it so that men only see them as an object, and making it, ultimately, so that they feel compelled to maintain a sexually pleasing look at all times.
I read an article a little while ago with a theme along the lines of “I never knew a bikini could hide so much.” http://chastityproject.com/2015/10/i-never-knew-a-bikini-could-hide-so-much/ The point of the article was that when women wear bikinis, people can only see their skin. Men only see a sexual object, not an individual. When so much skin is showing, people don’t see the individual, they don’t see the brains, they don’t see the heart. Simply put, immodesty blinds us to seeing the true person inside.
As people though, we are more than just a physical body. We have depth, and fulfillment in life will only come from reaching the depths of who we are and having others recognize the beauty associated with the depth inside each of us. Immodesty significantly reduces the chances of reaching that depth, as it keeps attention on the surface, attention on the object part of who we are.
Why don’t I simply tell men to stop looking at women as objects? I do, and men certainly have a role to play in treating women appropriately. However, men are hardwired to view the sexuality associated with women. It takes serious work and effort on a man’s part to escape the natural inclination and thoughts produced with sexuality. Some men work hard on this, but others do not. Some try to avoid it, but for those that actually try, when they are tired, sad, mad, or otherwise not feeling their best, they will often give in to their natural passions, especially when women all around them are offering it for viewing.
In other words, the natural man encourages a man to view a woman as an object, as an inferior, and something for his gratification. Nature simply gives man the natural passion to consume sexuality through his eyes, and it is certain that there will always be men who take no effort to overcome their natural wiring. Since that reality exists, if we, collectively as men and women, want to overcome that more base part of the natural world, we should stop feeding it. We should remove its pull. If women want to wait for men to simply learn to conquer their natural passions, women will be waiting an extremely long time for things to change. No man is incentivized to change when he can feast daily on sexuality, until he reaches a point that it has ruined his life and his family’s life. There is no reason to wait for such consequences associated with objectifying women to come though, and we should start now to stop feeding the problem.
So, why do I encourage my daughters to dress modestly? Because I want them to know that they are more than their body. I want them to know that they don’t have to fall prey to the mental and emotional enslavement of always feeling compelled to dress as sexually pleasing as possible. I want them to know that they truly are equal with every man out there, and that they do not have to live a life feeding a man’s sexual appetite. I want them to be free from the chains of depression that haunt women whose self-worth rises or falls on their appearance. In short, I want them to enjoy the power and fulfillment associated with being seen as an individual.
To me, modest dressing means power. To me, looking a man in the eye and not looking away means equality. I truly want my girls to be free from the flood of sexuality that so negatively impacts women and feeds men. I’m honest about the realities of how men view women, and I want my daughters to understand that they can feed the problem, or they can reject the chains (originating from men) that demand they always appear sexually pleasing. I want my daughters to be seen as more than an object, so I encourage them to dress as more than an object. Modest clothing conveys confidence, modest clothing directs attention to deeper and more meaningful parts of the individual, and modest clothing helps break the chains that leave women depressed and used in our country. In short, there is a real power in dressing modestly, a power that betters individuals, families and societies.
For many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a central tenet of our religion came into focus when the leaders of the Church announced that children living with gay parents could not receive a name and a blessing as a baby and could not be baptized until they were of legal age and living out of the home. To many members and others interested in the LDS Church’s policies, this was a policy that was difficult for them to accept.
For those uncomfortable with or opposed to the policy, their feelings with the policy were compounded by the fact that the LDS Church teaches that it is led by prophets and apostles, or, in other words, men who are authorized and are supposed to speak and act for God. For many members, conflict ran deep as they tried to reconcile and understand their feelings on the policy and their feelings on being led by a prophet. Many were placed in the situation of feeling that they needed to let go of their deep feelings on the subject of homosexuality, or let go of their belief in a prophet of God.
From what I have seen, many honest and sincere people are working through these feelings. Some people have left the church, some are still trying to decide, and some are dealing with trying to find a way to understand all of their feelings on the subject. I don’t profess to have many answers on these deep questions and concerns for people, but will at least write down some thoughts on the subject.
As a member of the LDS, or Mormon, Church, a fundamental part of my belief (and I assume other member’s belief as well) in the Church and in God is tied to the fact that God’s Church is led by a prophet. To me, a living prophet is an essential aspect of a Church that is being actively led by God. To understand why, and to understand, perhaps, the Church’s doctrine and policies on homosexuality, it is necessary to explain the bigger picture of the LDS Church’s view on life and its purpose.
I fully believe in the teachings of the LDS Church that we all lived and existed as spirits prior to our life on this earth. Our spirits were all the children of a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. In their presence, we were blessed with love, protection, goodness, and opportunities to grow and progress. Our Heavenly Parents are beings of omnipotence and omniscience, and at some point in our pre-mortal existence we wanted to become as they were. We wanted to have what they have. We wanted to be like them. In other words, we recognized our potential as their children, and recognized how neat it would be to share, to some degree, in their omnipotence and omniscience.
Of course, many of us in our limited understanding would just want to be given what our Heavenly Parents had, without working for it. Our Heavenly Parents knew though that it was essential, if we were to be given any form of power or knowledge, that we learn to control ourselves, our passions, appetites, and temptations that would arise. If we never had to learn to master ourselves, we could never be trusted with always using the power, knowledge, or blessings in a good way. I know, for example, that if I had unlimited power in my current state, I would have used it quite wrong in my many moments of feeling anger or frustration at someone or something.
In the pre-mortal world, we could fully sense the presence of our Heavenly Parents. With them always watching over us, we would likely be inclined to always ‘choose’ good as we knew that they were right there. They knew, however, that we had to develop the ability to choose on our own and to resist temptation in order to receive everything that they had. Self-control and mastery is the only way we could be trusted with the depth of the power and knowledge that they possessed. However, self-control and mastery could not be fully developed in an environment where we constantly felt the presence of God. Rather, self-control and mastery could only be developed in an environment where we truly felt on our own.
Because of this need for us to develop the ability to control ourselves in a situation where we felt on our own and were subject to passions, appetites, and temptations, God created this world for us. In addition to creating this world, He made it so that we could not remember Him or our past world. This condition of forgetfulness made it so that we felt on our own, even though He is still fully watching over us. This condition of forgetfulness also made it so that, if we choose to do good, we would be developing ourselves to enable us to actually become someone that could qualify for the things of God. Essentially, our physical state on this earth fully enables us to learn who we are and the true extent of our personal weaknesses as we get to see how we respond to our passions, appetites, and temptations with the limited power and ability that God gave us here.
This condition of forgetfulness had to be tempered though in order for us to be able to know enough about God to know the things that we needed to do to become like God. In other words, there had to be a way for us to feel that we were on our own, but also a way for us to be led back to God. The method God chose for us, in our current state of existence, is to have a Prophet who is authorized to speak for God.
A Prophet enables us to learn and understand the necessary items that we need to develop and do in this life, while still allowing us to feel that we are removed from God. In other words, a Prophet delivers the balance necessary to provide us with our testing conditions here on this earth while still allowing a way for us to accomplish and pass our time of testing to see who we really are.
Since I believe in a pre-mortal existence, a testing period on this earth, and in our potential to truly become like God, prophets, to me, are a necessary piece of God’s plan. I feel, very strongly, that there is a Prophet on this earth, and that He does speak for God. Currently, this Prophet is Thomas S. Monson, the President of the LDS Church. And, I feel that He tells me the things that are necessary for me to do in order to become a person who could qualify to receive the things of God.
Recently though, the Church’s stand on homosexuality has come into the spotlight, and with the Church’s recent policy addressing children living with homosexual parents, many feel that the Prophet is misguided or not speaking for God. From the way I see things though, the Church’s position remains consistent with the rest of its teachings and practices.
Going back to our pre-mortal existence, one power of God, that is perhaps one of the most amazing to exercise, is the power to create. God can, and has, created worlds without number, and has created all of the amazing creatures on this earth, as well as creating you and I. As part of our testing experience on this earth, God gave us a portion of the creation power, and all of us, to some extent or another, experience the pulls of this power through the power of procreation, or sexuality. To be clear, we are all given other limited powers of creation through our creative abilities, but the power of procreation is a fundamental one running through all of us.
In my mind, the power of creation is one of the most fundamental aspects of God, which may be why the world views sexuality as a fundamental part of our existence on this earth. If the fundamental reason for us to be on this earth is to experience the powers of God, then sexuality (as a small representation of God’s power of creation) would be a fundamental part of our existence here as well. To be clear, I’m not professing that God creates through sexuality, I’m only saying that sexuality is the way that we experience, in a small way, a portion of the creative power of God.
However, the creation of life and the powers associated with life are serious matters. Life is a beautiful thing of infinite worth, but creating a life carries with it great responsibilities. It would not be right for you or I to create life after life solely to satisfy our own passions as those lives must then experience everything that is thrown at them, good or bad. In other words, the power of creation carries with it serious responsibility, and is not a power to just be used as we see fit at a given moment.
Because of that, God, as part of us learning to exercise self-control and become worthy to possess the creative power of God in the eternities, commands that we bridle our sexual passions and only express them in very limited scenarios. If we are to become like God and have a portion of His eternal creative power, we have to develop the ability to use that power in eternally appropriate ways. If we misuse the limited power we possess here, we will certainly misuse the full power possessed by God. If, however, we learn to bridle our passions here and resist even the most compelling desires, we are qualifying ourselves to possess what God possesses, as He knows that we will not misuse it, even under the most compelling or tempting of situations.
To that end, God instituted a law of chastity, commanding that sexual relations only occur between a man and a woman, under marriage covenant to remain with each other and raise the children of their own union. In the teachings of the LDS Church, God has no allowance for any other type of sexual expression, be it homosexual, adult/child, boyfriend/girlfriend, adultery, pornography, or even masturbation. God asks that despite whatever compelling desires we may have to the contrary, that we learn to bridle those passions and restrain our conduct.
By doing so, we develop an immensely strong character, one that is forming the power to resist the passions and temptations associated with Godhood. Christ was an amazing example of bridling passions because He had the full power to stop His suffering at any given time, to smite people to the earth, or to create whatever was necessary to make His life easy and comfortable. Yet, He restrained. He restrained from exercising His power in any way that would result in an inappropriate use of His amazing power and ability. In other words, Christ had developed full control of Himself, His passions, appetites, and powers, and He is simply asking us to do the same. We need full control of ourselves in order to become like God.
Many people I know struggle with the Church’s stance on homosexuality since they feel that people are born with homosexual attractions. To me though, even if homosexuality is ingrained in the DNA of some people, that is fully in line with our purpose on this earth. The Book of Mormon teaches us about the “natural man”, or our physical being that is subject to all types of lusts and passions. We are taught that we are here to “put off” the “natural man” and to become a Saint, or a being who is able to exercise full self-control and choose the good.
In my mind, our DNA is the “natural man” part of us all. I certainly believe that with enough research, science will discover that our DNA plays a part in homosexuality, in sexual attraction to children, in sexual attraction to animals, in people who aren’t satisfied unless they have multiple relations with multiple partners, in people who stutter, in people who are shy, in people who are easily offended, in people who are overly anxious or depressed, in obesity, in attraction to alcohol or drugs, and even in people who lust after power or money. In short, I believe we’ll find that DNA contributes to most things about us, be it good or bad.
Our DNA certainly places us in a position that goes against what God asks of us. All of us, I am certain, have DNA that entices us to do things outside of the bounds set by God. In my opinion, God allows this and allows our DNA to drive us, as we have to have something fundamental to push against in order to develop our true self. If we have no opposition at the fundamental level of what builds us, we will never exercise or improve the core of who we are. God wants us to have a solid foundation driving everything that we do, and the only way for us to create a solid foundation in our own selves is to have to fight against something pushing against that foundation, or, in other words, we have to fight against our DNA.
I can only imagine the level of self-control and sheer will necessary for a homosexual to decide to follow the teachings of the LDS Church, but I can only imagine how quickly the solid core and foundation will develop and build for that individual as they follow God’s laws. A person who has sexual tendencies, of any sort, embedded in their DNA and successfully resists those temptations, is qualifying to possess all that God possesses, as they are able to successfully resist some of the most fundamental drives we have as humans. King David fell as a result of his inability to control his passions and lusts, but others have risen as they put off the natural man, exercise control, and learn to bridle and control their own DNA or other temptations thrown at them.
While the above highlights a general overview of prophets and the law of chastity, I wanted to offer two main points in particular response to the Church’s recent policy related to children living with a homosexual couple. I admit that I don’t have all of the answers on this particular policy, but there are two that are prevalent in my mind.
First, people talk about how harsh the policy is against the children, how it will stigmatize them and leave them excluded. People ask, if the Church is about family, why the Church doesn’t reach out to help and embrace these children.
From what I can see, the Church does care, and cares deeply about families and children. The Church has always been respectful of a person’s exercise of authority. The Church follows the laws of the land it is in, and even keeps missionaries and church buildings out of countries that ban the LDS religion. The Church also respects the authority of a parent to make decisions for a child, as a child doesn’t have the right, under the laws of most lands, to make all of their decisions for themselves. To that end, parents can refuse to allow a child to be baptized, to receive priesthood blessings that may save the child’s life, or refuse or allow religion in any degree the parent desires. The Church fully respects the authority of the parents over their minor children.
In addition, the Church allows a person to decide what family means to that person. To a polygamous individual, it may mean multiple wives, to a gay person, it may mean a gay marriage. However, just because the Church respects an individual or nation’s authority to define family, this in no way means that an individual or nation gets the benefits of the Gospel when they make decisions contrary to the Church. In particular, the Church does not allow an individual’s authority over his/her family to act as authority to set or change Church teachings on a subject.
In a gay marriage with children, the children that may want to be involved with the Church are placed into a conflicting situation, and I don’t think that anyone denies that things may be conflicted for these children who associate with the LDS Church. This situation arises from two things 1. the Church’s teachings about family and the proper use of our procreative abilities, and 2. the physical reality of the relationship of the child’s parents.
From what I’ve seen, most people point the finger of blame at the Church for responding to this conflict with its recent policy, saying that the Church is the one creating the discord for the child. However, people often gloss over the other side of that coin, which is that the gay parents also created a situation for their child which automatically sets them apart from other members of the Church and from the Church teachings. I often wonder why we are so quick to blame the Church for conflict when we have chosen to live in a way that does not follow what the Church is and teaches. For example, if I drank alcohol, my life would be conflicted with the teachings of the Church, but I wouldn’t demand that the Church change or accept me for who I was, or that the Church find a way to make my child less embarrassed about his drunk father. I would know that I decided to go down a different path in my life, and I would either have to be ok with that, live with the perpetual conflict, or give up alcohol to rejoin with the Church.
The Church fully recognizes the situation the child is placed in, being torn between two fundamentally opposing views, teachings, and realities for the child. And, the Church, as always, defers to the parental authority of the parent to make decisions for the child. When, as in these situations, a gay parent decides to raise a child in a gay marriage, the parent has decided the life and reality he/she wants to provide to the child, and the Church respects that. The policy, in my mind, defers to the reality that the gay couple wants for their child.
Of course, the Church allows children of people who drink, smoke, or violate some other sexual conduct laws to be baptized, and people ask what separates these children from children in a homosexual relationship. To me, it is a matter of degree. All of us are imperfect, and if an imperfection of a parent prevented a child from being baptized, no one would be baptized until they were 18. Therefore, parents are allowed to have some degree of imperfections, and it is up to the Prophet to decide when our lifestyle choices affect our child in such fundamental ways that the child’s life at home is fundamentally at odds with the teachings of the Church, which situations would then dictate that the child must wait until they are 18 to be baptized, since a fundamental conflict requires additional age and maturity to resolve. While age 8 may be the age of accountability, it is not the age of wisdom, maturity for all decisions (very few would argue that an 8 year old is mature enough, for example, to consent to a sexual relationship, and even the Church teaches that though accountable, a child should wait until at least 16 to even go on a date), or an age at which the child is legally free to make his/her own decisions. Therefore, when an issue is present that creates such a fundamental conflict that requires wisdom, maturity, and freedom to fully resolve, the child must wait to be baptized until the time arises at which it is appropriate to make those decisions.
And, the Church has made decisions related to when a parent’s choices are fundamentally at odds with the Church’s teachings. Polygamy is one of these, and gay marriage is another. Both of these, due to the depth of differences reached with current Church teachings, become fundamentally at odds in an irreconcilable way. Since the parent’s lifestyles in these situations do bring the child into a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict with current Church teachings, the Church simply defers to the parents’ choices and respects the authority of the parent to make certain decisions for their child. From what I can see, as the Church does support the family and a parent’s authority to make decisions for their family, its policy follows its practices.
This is especially so because the Church, if it is speaking for God, cannot fabricate a false view of its teachings that are considered to be eternal in nature. It has to stand by the eternal truths it espouses. Certainly, Church policies and some teachings have evolved to address current situations in society, but certain fundamental, eternal type teachings remain consistent, especially the ones that affect our eternal life in such profound ways. The Church knows that its members, as compassionate humans, may attempt to ease the conflict for the children by softening or not teaching certain critical Church teachings on the nature of God and the family. Allowing children in this situation to be baptized brings many of the lay members of the Church into the conflict as well, as the Church member is then torn on how to teach and carry out Church teachings while maintaining compassion. Since the Church is run at most levels by lay members, the Church has to help its members also have ways to maintain the fundamental Church teachings.
Of course, members are placed into this situation anyways, especially when they have family members or friends who are homosexual. However, the conflict is significantly increased when the conflict is carried into the heart of Church proceedings. From what I can see, since homosexuality is so fundamentally at odds with the Church’s teachings on God and the family, the Church needs policies that balance the interests of everyone involved – the gay couple, the child, Church teachings, and Church members, as well as the law (discussed below) – especially as it relates to the choices of the parents as this is always where the Church defers. And, this isn’t a policy that keeps children out or heaven, it is one that defers baptism to a later point in time, to a time when the child is both accountable, wise, and mature enough to be able to make decisions related to a fundamental conflict present in the child’s life.
Second, as to the aspect of a Prophet foreseeing the future, I see that the current Church policy may help the Church maintain its religious freedom in the future. I don’t see many people talking about how the policy intertwines with current developments in the law, but I see it as being directly correlated to the changes in law spreading over the world.
Religious freedom jurisprudence is complex and is not always homogeneous, meaning that certain cases were decided in a way that appears to depart from the ongoing evolution of the law, and while I recognize that some cases provide arguments against the following, I do not address them as I am more focused on the general trend that has been gaining steam for quite some time.
Religious freedom is a right set forth in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. For a time, courts were quite protective of this right, and required the government to show a fairly compelling justification to abridge a person’s religious beliefs. However, in 1990, the US Supreme Court departed quite radically from this requirement in the case of Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), where the Supreme Court said, in essence, that the government was free to abridge a person’s religion if it were through a law that applied equally to everyone and was not meant to target a specific religion or practice, unless the person could show that the law so substantially burdened or affected their religious beliefs. This showing of substantial burden to a religious belief is an extremely high hurdle to overcome, and it has rarely been done.
In response to this, Congress passed a statute offering more protection to religious freedom to help bring religious freedom protection to the pre-Smith era. Therefore, most of the religious freedom protection that exists right now is under a Federal statute, as opposed to the US Constitution. As an example, Hobby Lobby won its religious freedom challenge against Obamacare under this statute.
However, the Federal statute can be revoked at any time, as soon as it is no longer popular to protect a person’s religion, or one little exception to the current law can be passed excluding matters on homosexuality from the religious protections offered by the statute. If that happens, a religion would be required to revert to the Smith Supreme Court precedent where the religion’s freedom would only be protected if the religion could show a substantial burden to its religion.
Essentially, the Supreme Court precedent is not favorable to religions, and a church would need a way to show that certain laws, such as non-discrimination laws, substantially impair or burden their religious freedom. In addition, since the current religious protection is statutory, it is possible that the Supreme Court may determine that a constitutional right to gay marriage trumps a Federal statute (as the Constitution is the supreme law of the land), even if the Federal statute is never revoked by Congress. Either of these situations would lead to the loss of most religious freedom protection currently in existence in this country.
Because of these two very real possibilities resulting in the loss of Federal statutory protection for religions, religions have to find a way to articulate, show, and have evidence for what types of things would substantially burden their religion, as loss of the statute would cause the religious freedom questions to be decided under the Smith rational requiring a substantial impact shown to the religion. From what I can see, for a religion to meet the high hurdle required by the Supreme Court of showing substantial burden, religions have to live or die by the principles they claim are substantial, meaning that they have to rigidly hold to them or else the Supreme Court will not believe that one other variation from these principles (if the religion does not faithfully adhere to its teachings) will substantially impact or burden the religion.
So, in evaluating what might constitute a substantial impact on a religion, it is instructive to look to two different religious groups, the Amish and the Catholics. Both of these religions provide insight into two different ways of carrying out their religion, and both are often involved in religious freedom challenges.
The Amish are a group of people who live or die by their principles. You can see, just from observing them, that they truly adhere to and practice what they preach, and that any deviation from their practices would substantially affect their life and religion due to how much of our society they have chosen to live without. Because of that, the Amish are quite successful at prevailing in freedom of religion challenges and have successfully been ruled exempt from numerous laws that other religions are bound by, including compulsory education for children laws, some social security requirements, etc. The Amish are so often protected by courts that Congress often doesn’t even attempt to regulate them, as was the case with Obamacare where the Amish enjoyed a statutory exemption from being required to obtain health insurance.
On the other hand, the Catholic Church has many Catholics of varying degree of devotion, and the Catholic charity side assists numerous individuals not of the Catholic faith. Catholics are great examples of providing charity and assisting those in need, but their religious teachings provide limits as to the extent of the services they can provide. So, when Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, Catholic charities in the area that provided adoption services could not, under their religious tenets, place a child with two gay parents, even if such parents were legally married.
For these and other Catholic charities, they were required by law in these states to make a decision – either go against their religion, or stop providing adoption services. Basically, the Courts did not accept that, in the adoption context, the Catholics would be substantially burdened by adopting to a gay couple because Catholics adopted to other people that might violate the Catholic religion. Mormons would be an example as Mormons are not considered to be living in accordance with Catholic teaching, but a Mormon couple may be able to adopt a child. Therefore, since the Catholics reach out to many not of their faith, the courts are not as willing to find a substantial burden to the religion by requiring them to reach out to one more person not following the Catholic faith.
In essence, the Catholic Church is punished by the courts for its compassion. Because it reaches out to others not of its faith, it is losing some ground related to its religious freedom. Other individuals are also losing in the realm of gay marriage. Photographers, bakers, and caterers cannot refuse to provide services at a gay wedding because they provide services to other people. Their choice is the same as the Catholic Church – either go against your religious beliefs or stop providing the services. Since a baker will bake a cake for a non-Christian, the Court doesn’t seem to find any substantial burden to the baker by asking the baker to provide services for one more person that doesn’t follow the baker’s moral compass. I entirely imagine that the result would be far different though for a gay couple trying to compel an Amish baker to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
The track record of religious freedom versus gay marriage is not a good one in this country. Religious freedom pretty much loses in court as gay marriage becomes considered a ‘fundamental right’. Therefore, any religion has to be considering quite extensively how, in light of the recent developments in the law, it will be able to preserve its religious freedom to continue following its teachings and practices as it relates to marriage and family.
One historical item of interest and precedent in considering how to respond to a new ‘fundamental right’ is the LDS Church’s response to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) when abortion was held to be a ‘fundamental right’. By 1974, just one year after the 1973 decision, the LDS Church had a new policy on being involved in providing health care and hospital services. The LDS Church decided to leave the hospital realm altogether. Intermountain Healthcare was a non-profit created to continue providing the services previously provided by the LDS Church through multiple hospitals, and by 1975 the Church had transferred its fifteen hospitals to the non-profit.
Fast forward to today. The health care industry currently has some Federal statutory protections against providing abortions, but many places are trying to require that each health facility provide abortion services. Currently, so long as a Catholic hospital refers abortions to another provider they generally do not have to perform abortions, but the support for such could change at any time. Further, items such as the morning after pill, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, stem cell research, and other matters greatly complicate the morality of things in the health industry.
To me, the Church, through a prophet, could foresee where the health industry was headed in light of the new ‘fundamental right’ to abortion. Due to the direction the law was going, the Church stepped out of health care. I’m certain that many people could have been further helped had the Church remained in health care, but I’m also certain the Prophet knew what was necessary to keep the Church in line with its morality in relation to the new ‘fundamental right’ of abortion and its ripple effects on the rest of the health care/morality debate that would flow from it.
From what I can see, now that gay marriage is a ‘fundamental right’, the Church has to take some action to protect itself from the further evolution of the law. While many criticize the policy as being too harsh, the recent policy’s claimed ‘harshness’ may be what convinces the Supreme Court that the LDS Church does live or die by its practices in relation to homosexuality, even to the point where the LDS Church is willing to suffer intense backlash and criticism to maintain its teachings.
Of course, I certainly do not know how the law will shake out, but God’s Prophet can know these things, and God’s Prophet can be inspired about the crafting of policies that have to balance the interests of the Church, its members, gay parents, children with gay parents, and the evolution of the law. I certainly do not envy the burden of finding a way to balance all of these interests, but I see the Church’s policy as a policy that does just that, especially in light of the current and real threat to the Church’s religious freedom.
In sum, I fully believe in a Prophet. I see the current Church policy as one that has to attempt to reconcile many competing views and interests, and one that has to take into consideration the current evolution of the law. If it were up to me, I probably would have done things differently, but that is also why I am not the Prophet. God knows the depths reached, the ripples created, and the future events impacted by this policy, and He inspires His Prophet to properly navigate current and future conditions. I would invite anyone working to reconcile feelings on this subject to turn to God, being honest about all of the competing interests that have to be reconciled at this time, and I believe that God will answer your honest inquires. We just have to remember that we are here to develop the capacity to become like God, and it is only through mastering our self by following God's Prophet that we can accomplish that goal.
I often wonder why we are missing big or important pieces of information related to God, religious doctrine, or other religious matters. Life would be a lot easier if we could know a lot of these things, or so it seems at least. I certainly don’t profess to know much in this arena, but have a few thoughts on the subject.
First, I enjoy reading some sci-fi novels, especially ones where the author attempts to tackle time travel. No matter the time travel story, the time travel conundrum is always present – deciding whether it is possible for the main character to go back and visit himself in the past, especially if he does something that would prevent him from being alive long enough to reach the point in the future at which he went back to the past.
I eventually realized that knowledge of ‘everything’ can present the same type of conundrum. If God revealed to me, for example, that I was going to be in a car accident on Tuesday while commuting to work, the knowledge of what would happen to me would alter how I would act on Tuesday. I might take a different route, call in sick, etc. The ‘revealed’ knowledge on my future, and the accident in particular, would alter my conduct, which would then alter my future, making it so that I really didn’t know my future.
In other words, knowledge of the future acts to change my current path, leading me away from the path on which the knowledge of my future was based. Suppose, for example, that my path, prior to knowing about the car accident, was ‘path X’. When I learn about where my path X is leading, I would suddenly change my conduct, meaning that I am now on path Z, which leads to a different future, which would mean that I never saw my actual future when I saw where path X led. Trying to follow all of these possibilities is quite the mental exercise, but it certainly creates an interesting problem when it comes to ‘revealing’ the future, as the ‘future’ may simply be a path that never results when I switch paths as opposed to my ‘actual’ future.
The point of this is to simply highlight that ignorance may keep us on the right path. If we believe and accept that 1) God loves us and has our best interests, in an eternal sense, in mind, 2) we are imperfect creatures that would likely, if given the option, choose to avoid hard or difficult times, and 3) growth can come through trials, then I think that it necessarily follows that God will not reveal everything to us so that we remain on the path that will produce the best results for us, as such path of best results is likely strewn with obstacles, work, effort, hardships, pain, loss, etc. In other words, it seems that we would naturally gravitate towards the path of least resistance, as opposed to voluntarily remaining on the path that will bring us the most good in the end.
While my example involved a future harm (a car accident), there are other things that we don’t know that don’t appear to cause harm, such as many details related to Heaven, God, why some are born with disabilities, etc. We often want to know answers to many questions in life, but I would guess that we are entirely incapable of recognizing how certain information will affect our current path. Some information may change our perspective, even so slightly, as to cause us to go down a different path than we would have before. And, if that new path was less optimal than the path we were on, it seems to me that a loving God would withhold the information so that we persevered on the path that was most optimal for us. Multiply this by the infinite number of affects to other people’s paths that results from my ‘changed’ path, and I am left recognizing that only an all-knowing and all-seeing God could perfectly balance the amount of information necessary to be known with the amount of information necessary to withhold, both for my life and for the course of humanity.
Basically, it seems to me that only a ‘perfect’ being could be all-seeing, as only a ‘perfect’ being could submit to a path that He knows would produce great heartache and pain. As an example, Jesus knew of the agony of the atonement and crucifixion, yet He never deviated from the path that He knew perfectly well would produce his most serious pain and sorrow, as He knew it was the path that was necessary for our salvation. I am certain I do not have the commitment or willpower to knowingly stay dedicated to such a path as He did. Therefore, I am grateful that I do not know everything and do not know all that my future holds, so that I can move forward one day at a time, trusting that whatever comes, God will give me the power and ability to overcome and continue on.
Second, I feel that we lack information on many details simply because it is impossible for our finite minds to process infinite subjects. If there are certain subjects that we cannot understand with our limited mind power at this time and of which we would form a seriously wrong impression of based on the information received on the subject, it seems to me that God would simply not talk about the subject and just reassure me that answers are there – I just need to keep moving forward until I reach a point at which I can understand those topics. I do this all of the time with my children, not telling them everything about life before they can fully understand what I am telling them, and I can see no reason why it would be different for me as a Child of God.
While I know that we tend to think of ourselves as quite learned and smart, the reality is that we have only begun scratching the surface of an infinitesimally small portion of our Universe (our Earth). There is so much yet to know, understand, and learn, that we really are like little children in God’s eyes, growing, learning, and developing. Therefore, when I think about an all-knowing, all-seeing God, I think about how far I still have to go and realize that I can be content not knowing everything yet, as I have a lot of growing, developing, and progressing to do.
Third, I believe that, in order to become like God, we have to exercise faith. We have to be willing to walk paths that take us to an unknown, but hoped for, destination. There is a lot of discussion and information packed into the concept of faith, but right now it is sufficient to mention that faith allows us to tap into and utilize the power of God in our life. Faith is a form of power, and allows for the creation of something new, something that benefits and improves. If I recognize that I don’t know everything, I can put my belief and efforts into the hands of the One who does know everything and let Him make far more of my life than I would otherwise be able to if I thought that I knew everything about the item I was addressing at the time.
Ultimately, I believe that, with our finite minds, there are many matters that cannot be comprehended or understood without us experiencing those items. The greatest truths of life have to be experienced in order to be understood. True love, for example, has to be experienced to be understood. Color has to be seen, not described. Crisp, fall air has to be felt, not talked about. Life, ultimately, is an experience, and logic and information only go so far in promoting our understanding. The deepest sense of understanding comes through experience, and it takes faith to experience things as we have to first believe and then act in order to experience.
For example, if we are at a place and surrounded by darkness, God might whisper to us to continue forward. Our mind may raise warning alarms due to the appearance of harm or the unknown. The path we are on might take us through some tough times, and it may be impossible for us to understand why the path is a good one prior to our experiencing it. Due to this, our faith in God, if followed, will propel us forward despite what we ‘see’ or ‘understand’, and will help us to maintain a hope that there is a good reason and purpose for the path we are on. However, our limited mind might scream at us to stop since the appearance of our path, or the logic we can understand, suggests that it isn’t the right path. If we continue forward in faith though, we ultimately experience things we would never be able to otherwise experience, and those experiences deepen our understanding and enrich our lives at some point in the future. As I certainly cannot see the future, I do my best to move forward in faith, trying not to get too weighed down with what I don’t understand so that I can experience, live, and grow and make it closer in the end to God.
I’m certain that there are many more reasons why God doesn’t reveal everything to us. However, these three give me plenty to think about and help me understand that I can trust that God knows what He is doing. From what I can see, our optimal futures can be reached through the information revealed so far (helping us to get off of bad paths), while the withholding of other information may help to keep us on an optimal path. Of course, we can choose to deviate from these optimal paths despite what God has revealed, but if we choose to have faith and move forward based on what has been revealed, the combination of information known and faith required on the information unknown will help us to stay on the right path and lead us to the brightest possible future. Therefore, I elect to keep following God, even though I certainly don’t understand everything involved yet, and yet keep a hope that one day, one day, I will have experienced enough to understand the answers to my deepest questions.
There seems to be a trend away from religion and religious beliefs, especially beliefs that take a firm stand on certain issues. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known by the abbreviation "LDS" or known as the "Mormon" church due to a book of scripture read in the Church called the "Book of Mormon". Since animosity towards religion seems to be increasing, I wanted to offer an explanation as to why I'm a Mormon.
To be honest, being a Mormon is challenging. To fully live my faith, it requires a lot of sacrifice of time, energy, and resources. We are asked to dedicate much. I have served in a variety of positions in the Church, many requiring lots of time away from home. I have had the opportunity to visit and administer to those who are sick, and to be visited and administered to when I am sick. I donate resources to help further good works in the world, and I do these things just the same as the countless other individuals in the Mormon Church.
Despite the challenges, I love being a Mormon. Here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons why I am Mormon. Feel free to ask me about any other aspects of the Mormon religion that you have questions about. I have no problem discussing my beliefs. Some of these items below I do not find present in other religions, which helps to solidify my adherence to the Mormon religion.
Christ is certainly the main focus of the Mormon religion, and the main focus of everything I do. The Mormon Church teaches more depth on His atonement and resurrection than any other religion I know. We're taught that His atonement allows us to overcome our shortcomings, mistakes, and problems to become better, whole, complete, and more like God. It also allows us to be healed from the bad things that happen in life. Mormonism teaches that Christ is our path back to God, and teaches the requirement of belief and good works to qualify for the highest of God's blessings.
Mormons take a different view of Heaven than most others do. Most religions are divided into a simple Heaven and Hell scenario. To me, this simple scenario would not promote any individual to good works, and as I often see, just causes one to express, in words, that they accept Christ, but does little to change their actions or course of conduct. Mormons though believe in three major divisions of Heaven, called the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial Kingdoms, with further divisions present inside the three major divisions. To me, these divisions reconcile what other religions cannot, and that is having a place for all to go based on who they decide to become. If the "Saints" in life will be in the same Heaven as one who only accepts Christ in word but not deed, I cannot see how that is fair to the Saint who gave so much for the cause of good, or similarly, why it would be just to send a 'good' person to Hell simply because they never said 'I believe' during this life. We will all receive are appropriate due. To me, the belief in divisions in Heaven is an important piece in having a just God.
Mormons have churches for Sunday worship as well as Temples where additional ordinances take place, including the sealing of families together for eternity. In addition, vicarious work for the dead is completed in Temples, allowing those that have died without a knowledge of God's Gospel to accept the ordinances necessary to become a better person and live with God. To me, this vicarious work is absolutely essential for God to be both merciful and just, as it balances the requirement that all must participate in certain ordinances with the realities of life for those that never heard the fullness of the Gospel. Due to choices of mankind, truths have been lost from the earth at times and people have lived without the ability to know or believe all that is necessary, and the vicarious work for the dead shows the way God prepared to provide every person the opportunity to fully partake of all that His gospel offers.
I know of no other religion that has a way to justly reconcile what happens to people that do not get the opportunity to hear the Gospel and participate in the necessary ordinances. In addition, it is amazing to go to a Temple and see the vast amounts of Mormons who work tirelessly to perform vicarious work for the dead. Nothing, in my mind, could compel such a large group of people to do such a work except for the love of God. To me, the Temples provide such amazing evidence of God's love for all of his children.
The Spirit World
Mormons believe that after we die, we go to a place called the 'Spirit World' prior to being resurrected. The Spirit World goes hand in hand with the Temple, as it is in the Spirit World where all receive a full opportunity to be taught the Gospel and accept the ordinances performed for them in the Temples. The Spirit World again helps to balance the justice and mercy of God and provides a way for all of God's children to be saved. It also helps me be less judgmental of people as I recognize that we all get a complete chance to accept the Gospel, and my limited view of a person in this life is not a complete view of who they may become.
The Book of Mormon
Christ came to Jerusalem and reached such a small portion of the earth's population during His time on the earth. The Bible is a compilation of different things written by different people about Him or about the events of people and groups that believed in Him. However, the Bible offers no satisfactory reason as to why Christ would be limited to the Israelites and the Jews. If Christ is the God of all, why not visit others at various times on the earth? To me, the Book of Mormon highlights a very important truth, that God is the God of all and forgets none of us. The Book of Mormon gives an account of Christ and his visit to peoples in the Americas after His resurrection. The Book of Mormon serves to highlight that Christ is concerned for all, and that His teachings are not limited to the Bible. I have found great access to God through the simple truths in the Book of Mormon.
Prophets and Apostles
The Bible makes readily clear that God has used prophets to communicate His will to the earth. Prophets provide an appropriate balance between our need to know God's will as well as our need to exercise faith. The Mormon Church is lead by a Prophet and Apostles, just as Christ's Church was. I can find no good reason why God would cease talking to us after His resurrection as we are just in need of direction in our day as others would have been earlier. The fact that we have Prophets and Apostles leading us provides me with trust in God, as He is still using His established practices to guide His Church. These Prophets and Apostles speak to the entire world twice a year in a General Conference. I invite you to listen to what they have to say, as by listening you too can feel the Spirit of God testify to the words of God they speak. They hold a General Conference the first Saturday and Sunday in April and October, and can be viewed online at www.lds.org.
Mormons believe in a pre-mortal, or pre-earth, life. We believe that we existed as Spirits before coming to this earth. To a Mormon, this earth is but a short stop on the path of eternity. We believe in the eternal nature of life, meaning that we have always existed in some form and will always exist. I find many answers to question of "why" wrapped up in the fact that we lived pre-mortally. This knowledge helps to reconcile many holes in the big picture of our life and gives me a very different outlook on the purpose of this life.
The Big Picture
Ultimately, many of the pieces present in the Mormon religion fit together to produce an awe inspiring masterpiece for life. It takes time to understand the full picture created by the Mormon Church, and just hearing one piece of it may make it seem that the Mormon religion does not make sense. However, when you fully study all that it teaches, it produces a very complete picture of life.
You could say that I am Mormon because it produces the most complete outlook on life, ranging from eternities past to eternities yet to come, and it helps me look outside my limited vision to see a little bit more of what God might see. My mind always wants to understand the "big picture". When I read the Bible, listen to things that are taught, or otherwise review doctrinal matters, I want to know why. I want to know how that piece I am seeing fits into the purposes and designs of God and life. I want to know how my choices today affect my life tomorrow. From what I can see, the Mormon faith provides a far more expansive view and understanding of the big picture and gives far more answers than what I can otherwise find.
Of course, God does not give us all the answers yet. Faith is a necessary component of this life, and so there are still questions that exist in my mind. I don't have all of the pieces in place yet, and I don't see the entire picture. Yet, I don't let myself get hung up over one matter that I am working on understanding since the big picture is still there. I have found that as I continue to move forward, answers do come, pieces fit, my perception changes, my heart softens, and I am able to see how my area of concern fits into the bigger picture. There are items I have been working for years to understand and don't yet understand, but I am comfortable that once I grow in understanding, I will be able to grasp these things and see their place.
To me, a great truth found in the Mormon religion is that there "is opposition in all things." While many people do not feel that they have experienced God in their life, most people I have met would readily agree that they have experienced darkness and evil. I certainly have been faced with many dark periods of life and know firsthand the depths of darkness. I also see on a daily basis the reality and spread of evil. Evil and darkness lead some to believe that God must not exist, but they lead me to find God and become more sure of his existence.
Many people I have talked to say they cannot believe in God because bad things happen. Yes, bad things do happen, but I firmly believe that our view of what is "bad" will be readily and quickly altered as our minds are opened up to the eternal nature of what is taking place on this earth. I believe in an all powerful God who can take all bad things and turn them into something good for us. I believe in an all powerful God who can remove the pain, suffering, and darkness associated with the bad and fill it with health, joy, and light.
Two simple experiences I have had illustrate how seeing a bigger picture can alter our perception of what is 'bad'. In high school, I enjoyed wrestling. I wrestled my sophomore year and was excited to start again my junior year. The coach had high expectations for me that year, and I was looking forward to working to go to the state wrestling competition. However, due to my class load that year, I did not have time to wrestle and complete all of my homework. I decided to wrestle anyways, and quickly fell behind in homework.
The first meet came and I started in my weight class in the varsity spot. Not more than two minutes into the match, I tore the ligament in my elbow and was out for the entire season. Due to a torn ligament, I couldn't do much besides homework, and so I was able to get good grades that year. Those grades enabled me to obtain scholarships to get through college, something that I probably would not have been otherwise able to afford to do. Looking back, I am grateful for the torn ligament as it gave me much more than wrestling would have. At that time though, there was intense pain, rehab, and disappointment, but it put me on a better track, one that I couldn't see at the time.
A second experience came when I was walking with my children to an appointment. One of them was refusing to walk for no reason that I could see. I was getting frustrated as we were going to be late. As I walked back to get the child refusing to walk and pull the child along, a car suddenly jumped the curb onto the sidewalk a little ways ahead of us, right about the spot where we would have been if we had been walking at normal pace. Seeing the car land on the sidewalk made all of my anger and frustration disappear in a second as I was suddenly grateful that we were not walking at normal pace. I often wonder in life how many 'cars' were on the sidewalk, or path, ahead in life, but which I simply never saw. One day, I am confident I will see the full picture, and at that day much of my frustration will turn to appreciation.
To be clear, I do not profess that all "bad" experiences are good, which is one reason why Christ offers healing to us through his atonement. However, I am certain that many things we view as bad or troublesome will no longer be viewed that way when we see the big picture of life. Being a Mormon helps me expand my perspective far beyond what I normally would as I reach into the pre-mortal and post-mortal worlds to gain a greater appreciation and understanding for the things of this life. This view helps me be grateful and put things into the proper perspective.
Ultimately, I fully believe the Mormon teachings that experiencing the good and bad of life educates us in a way impossible to replicate. The classroom can only go so far, and personal experience becomes the best educator as well as the best testing scenarios to see how well we internalized what we have been taught. As I turn to God and his Gospel as revealed to past and present Prophets, my mind is opened to many possibilities and my heart is changed to better understand how God can take bad things and make them good things for us. In short, Mormonism expands my outlook on and deepens my appreciation for life in a way that nothing else has come close to doing.
Ultimately, I fully embrace the teachings in the Mormon Church that I can one day become like God. This fills me with hope and purpose in life as it ingrains two principles into me - one, that I am a child of God and therefore have infinite worth, and two, that I have much to look forward to in life as I will always be able to progress. We believe that God will always be our God and Father, but that He will share all that he has with those who choose to abide by His requirements. While His mercy will save us all from death, His justice requires that we learn to abide by certain principles in order to be able to receive all that He has. Therefore, Mormonism encourages me to become better each day and offers me a purpose and reason to look outside the pleasures of the moment to see the worth of working today for a better tomorrow, or of working in this life to build a better eternity.
In addition to the ultimate picture produced by the Mormon faith, I have had God's Spirit testify to me of the truth of the Mormon Church, which is really the Church of Jesus Christ as Mormon is simply a nickname, not an official name. The Mormon religion fully teaches that God will speak to both our mind and heart to give us confirmation of His truth, and I have had such experiences, where I can know in my mind and feel in my heart what is true. The Book of Mormon extends a promise to everyone that they can also know, if they diligently seek and study these things.
Ultimately, you could say I am Mormon because I dare to believe in great things. I dare to believe that I can be a father to my children and a husband to my wife for eternity. I dare to believe that God provided a way for me to move past my mistakes and follies in life. I dare to believe that God is both just and merciful with ways to fully provide for both. I dare to believe that I can know truth. I dare to believe that I am an eternal being, one of great worth, even to God. I dare to believe that I can progress, improve, learn, and grow and ultimately become like God. I dare to believe that the darkness of today is temporary and that it can be replaced with the light of tomorrow. In short, I am Mormon because I dare to believe we are literally a Child of God and that we are capable of growing up to be like Him.
Equality. We all talk about it, at some level we all ask for it. What exactly does it mean though? Many people today want more and more equality. Are there consequences to striving to achieve a form of complete equality, as many seem to push for? These questions seem to get glossed over as it is simply assumed that “equality” means the same thing regardless of who is speaking and that all forms of “equality” are inherently good. However, based on what I can see, the push to achieve the modern form of equality has many serious consequences, and I wish to highlight some of those here.
To begin though, what is equality? There will be many different answers to this question, depending on who is asked. Generally though, most answers can be divided into two camps, as shown below.
As stated above, “modern equality” is the type of equality that says all people are the same. There is, of course, some good that comes from this concept as it is important to recognize that we all are humans, brothers and sisters, and that one is not more important than the other. We need to keep our pride in check and promote brotherly love and remember that we are all children of God. At a very foundational level, it is true that we are all the same.
However, there is a danger that arises in taking this concept too far. Taken to its extreme, an idea creeps into our minds saying something similar to “well, we are all the same, and because of that we should all have the same things. Therefore, since Bill down the street has more than I do, he needs to give some of that to me.” In other words, this modern version of equality quickly leads to a line of thinking in support of redistributing the wealth throughout society, as wealth redistribution is one of the main methods espoused to make sure that all people are the same.
In addition to redistributing wealth, this type of equality seeks to deny legitimate differences in people and pretend that we are all the same. People often assert that women are just the same as men, even though men and women have actual differences. Gay marriage advocates assert that gay marriage is just as deserving of a marriage title as traditional marriage. People who have never worked a day in their life assert that they deserve the same as someone who has worked daily. And the list goes on and on. Somehow, modern equality convinces us that differences are somehow bad and to deny legitimate differences between people.
Unfortunately, this type of thinking only takes things from society and from people. In other words, modern equality does not produce anything for society, it only takes things away from those who have something different. In addition, it prevents us from exercising our talents and acting on our opinions as modern equality demands that we all be the same. However, the only way for us to be the same, in the form demanded by modern equality, is to not allow people with different abilities to use their abilities. We cannot simply give someone the abilities of another, and so to achieve modern equality we have to take away (or deny, redefine, minimize, etc.) the abilities of those who are more able.
As an example, from what studies can find so far, the greatest indicator of a child’s success in school and life depends on whether or not the child’s parents read to him/her. Therefore, the conclusion goes, that when parents read to their children, their children are given an advantage in school and in the world that children do not get who are not read to by their parents. For people who view the need to give children “equality”, they have to address how to “make” things equal between children who are read to and children who are not read to. Since many parents will still not read to their children even if a law is passed requiring reading, there is no way to produce a situation where all parents read to their children. Therefore, some academics of the world have theories that push, in the name of “equality”, for reading to children to be banned, although they acknowledge that most people will not like that idea, at least right now. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/new-family-values/6437058
This example of creating “equality” for children requires the holding back of children who can advance faster and further than other children and direct interference in the ability of a parent to exercise their freedoms. Sure, I never liked that my classmates in art class far excelled and beat my artistic talents, while those same artists never liked that I could perform well in math class. However, I never wanted to stop someone from reaching their potential for the sake of making me feel “equal” with them.
My life is full of amazing things, all brought to me by the knowledge and capacity of people who far excel me in talent and ability. I can’t create a computer, I can’t paint a Van Gogh, I can’t even write a song that anyone would willingly listen to. But, if I demanded and pushed the notion that I was the same as everyone else, I would ultimately have to demand that the Van Goghs stop painting, the Thomas Edisons stop inventing, and the Steve Jobs stop revolutionizing. Otherwise, I would feel unequal to these talented people as their talents and abilities far exceed mine.
Of course, if I carried equality this far, I would be destroying and taking things from society. People that have talents and abilities are able to produce things that make my life enjoyable and comfortable. Instead of being upset about people’s talents, I am glad that people have talents I do not have. I certainly want those people to excel, even at the potential that I feel inferior or “unequal” to them.
I recognize that many people will say that they celebrate “diversity” or celebrate “differences” as this is often spoken by many. However, despite what we say with our lips, the underlying trend with modern equality is to require that we all treat everyone the same. Tellingly, the recent Supreme Court decision in the gay marriage cases full embraced the heart of the principles driving modern equality. Regardless of one’s views on gay marriage, the Supreme Court rooted its decision in the “dignity” of humans, and said that by “excluding” the gay and lesbian community from “marriage”, the gays and lesbians felt they were of lower value. The Supreme Court then went on to say that “equality” means that we cannot offend the dignity of a human being as all must be treated equally.
This case creates a precedent fully built on all that the concept of modern equality envisions. Modern equality has us believe that we have equal worth as humans, and because of that we are the same in all respects. If anyone treats you differently or gives you a “preference” due to their valuing something associated with you that others don’t have, then someone else’s dignity will be offended. “Dignity,” as defined by the Supreme Court, doesn’t find fulfillment in having differences that society values differently, it only finds fulfillment in being the exact same. The only way to remedy this is to take things from those that have and give it to those that don’t have it. For items that cannot be taken (such as reading to children), the only solution will be to not allow anyone to read to their children, or else children will have an “unfair” advantage over others. Like it or not, this is what the concept of modern equality leads to, and it is what the Supreme Court has adopted as the ruling law of the land.
Since modern equality always takes things from others, some in the marriage context may ask what gay marriage “takes” from traditional marriage. The answer is that marriage has been reduced from everything that it once was to a simple contract made between two consenting adults. Marriage was not just changed to include men and men and women and women, it was reduced to nothing more, in the eyes of the law, than a simple contract.
Marriage, at one time, was a serious covenant and obligation undertaken to care for and value the “fruits”, or children, of the marriage. Marriage modeled most closely the form in which all of us came into being in this world. Every one of us, gay or straight, are the product of a male and a female. Every one of us has a father and a mother. Traditional marriage upheld the notion that the mother/father relationship mattered and that we are a product of our roots. I am the product of generations and generations of males and females who combined together to eventually create me. My DNA has been shaped, molded, and passed down for thousands of years until it resulted in the creation of me. My roots run back thousands of years through these individuals that gave me life, and these roots give meaning and depth to who I am. The best way for me to understand my roots is to interact with my father, my mother, my grandparents, and my siblings, all of whom share these roots. These interactions provide value, understanding, identity, and a sense of belonging that cannot be replicated by any other institution or relationship. Simply put, our heritage is not replaceable and forms the foundation of our existence.
Traditional marriage recognizes and upholds the relationship that gives life to all of humanity. It celebrates the relationship of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, or the relationship of those who share similar roots. Gay marriage, on the other hand, cuts out the importance of these relationships and reduces marriage to having nothing to do with children, heritage, and actual family. Gay marriage sends the message that all of these items can be replaced with a simple contract between two adults.
In a world with gay marriage, any child that is a part of these marriages will not have full access to their roots. No child is the product of two men or two women. “It’s okay though” we say, “as the child will still be loved.” Maybe so, but the child will never experience the depth of life that can come through knowing his/her heritage. Instead, the child will be cared for by a person not related and who shares a very different heritage. Certainly, this happens with adoption, but even adoption used to model, to the extent possible, the relationship that the child would have experienced and the relationship that created the child. In addition, we will quickly lose sight of the value of these relationships as the law rejects their importance, and as these relationships fade they will be replaced by more and more social programs as individuals will lack the basic foundation of receiving help from those tied to us by biology.
Yes, men and women can still marry each other and have children, but the law now says that society has no interest in promoting a relationship that brings life, because others who have no desire for that type of relationship feel hurt by the promotion. The law now says that children are just as well off in any situation in which they might be loved. This is a loss for all in society, including the children who yearn to know their roots. Many of us simply cannot calculate or understand the depth of the impact our roots have on us, and we cannot foresee the effects of a societal wide displacement of the value of the actual family.
Of course, gay marriage just highlights part of the growing trend with modern equality. Modern equality is running rampant throughout more and more aspects of society. Simply watching the news for a few minutes shows that there tends to be a serious dislike of the rich. We often hear that the rich need to pay more taxes, they have enough, it isn’t fair that I don’t have as much, etc. Socialism is premised on the notion that equality demands that everyone have the same wealth. Somehow, we believe that wealth should be given to us, even if we do not have the same talents, capacities, work ethic, or abilities of another.
Modern equality causes people to demand that the government increase subsidies. We want health care, but we don’t want to pay for it so increase subsidies. We want food, but we don’t want to pay for it so give us food stamps. We want tax breaks, but we want nice roads, big militaries, free meals in school, and free education for our children. “We deserve that” we say, “because others have it and we are all ‘equal’”. Why should a rich kid get to eat everyday? Doesn’t “dignity” require that we take the excess and share it around?
“Yes,” many will say, “dignity” does require that we redistribute wealth. Many have no qualms pushing for socialistic measures. They do not think of the consequences though. Food has to be produced. Wealth has to be produced. Technology has to be produced. Life, even, has to be produced. You did not come into existence because the government ordered you here, and the government has no lasting power to produce.
People only are willing to produce when they get a reward for it. Just imagine if you applied for a demanding job with high pay. As you interviewed, you were told you were a great fit and the employer valued your humanitarianism. “At our company,” the employer said, “we take human dignity seriously. So, your paychecks will go straight to those in need. You will work and work and get to feel the satisfaction of having your entire paycheck assist those who are not as fortunate as you to have a job.” I imagine, if you are honest with yourself, you would revolt at the idea of having the fruits of your efforts simply taken and given directly to others, and you would likely decline the job offer and look elsewhere.
Humans are motivated to work through the receipt of “fruits” or rewards of their efforts. When those rewards are taken from us, we grow upset, and then insist that the rewards be taken from others who have more than us. Eventually though, we entirely run out of people and places to take money from, and we are all left with nothing. In a world where we force the redistribution of resources, the “leveling” of the playing field in academics, and the notion that we are all the same, people lose the motivation to work and improve. I can simply jump on the bandwagon of modern equality, do nothing, and yet be equal to you as I have no incentive to work as anything I earn in excess of what you earn has to be given to you. It’s a great world for a time for those that do not strive to improve or work, but once the burden becomes too great for the remaining producers to carry the weight of all those who claim to be “equal” with them, the entire system falls apart and the result is quite catastrophic since by that time individuals have lost all necessary skills and abilities to provide for themselves. It only takes one generation of children raised in a state of having things handed to them to produce an entire society of people lacking the necessary skills to provide for themselves. And, when those skills are lost, there is no one for us to turn to from which to take our resources to maintain our “equality”.
Modern equality drives society and nations downward as it does not produce and simply takes from those that have. Imagine for a moment that notions of modern equality as adopted by the Supreme Court crept into sports. “We need to give everyone an equal opportunity to play sports” one might say. “It isn’t right that one player earn so much more than the rest of us” another might say. “The dignity of the poor players who did not make the team has been hurt” still another might say. “Sports is about more than just winning, it should take into account the dignity of all who want to participate.” So, based on these observations, assume sports is made to be “equal” to all with no one having the right to exclude anyone from the team. I can then get on my favorite pro team, even though I can’t really play too well. I can then make lots of money, even though I can’t play too well. Fans hate watching me mess things up for the team, but they do not say anything or criticize me for fear of offending me or causing me to feel less than the players who really can play the sport well. Life is great for me and all is well in my world. However, the other players who have to put up with me hate to do so, and even my enjoyment of the situation dies when the rest of society joins me since every game is now filled with all types of players lacking talent and ability. With all being equal, the sport is now meaningless, meaningless because it is most unrecognizable in its current form filled with people lacking talent and because it is no longer enjoyable to watch.
I recognize that most would consider the above example to be fairly absurd. Yes, we would say, it is ok to exclude people from sports, even if it hurts their dignity. But modern equality would disagree with it being ok to exclude because it views us all as being the same. I deserve praise, money, and access to whatever you get praise, money, and access to. I deserve your money, I deserve your talents, I deserve your opportunities, simply because I am human.
Modern equality destroys families, laws, societies and nations because it removes anything from us that might set us apart. It prevents us from reaching our potential if others don’t have the same potential. Marriage can no longer be about children, heritage, and the life of the world because it sets it apart from gay unions, which, by their very nature, cannot produce children, generations of heritage, or life for the world. In the realm of education we can no longer strive to help all achieve our full potential because my potential in math might set me apart from others who have lower potential than I do. Work can no longer be about attracting those with the best talents and abilities because that sets them apart from those who do not have the same talents and abilities. People cannot be fired for poor performance at work. Colleges cannot base entrance on grades alone but have to consider race, gender, and other factors in an attempt to “equalize” us all.
The list will certainly go on and on. People will despise me if I can do something they cannot, and they will despise you if you can do something they cannot. The wealthy will be hated for their ability to accumulate wealth, or for their ability to do invent something or provide a service that the rest of us are willing to pay money to have, like the iphone. Religious people will be despised for asserting that certain conduct is wrong, or immoral. Modern equality will demand that we continue to take and take until we are all reduced to one homogenous body, the level of which is set by the lowest common denominator in society, as any other level would “exclude” or offend the “dignity” of those with the least amount of talents and abilities.
Society gets nowhere through this type of reduction. America became great because individuals chose to exercise their talents that set them apart from everyone else. Individuals performed tasks that no others had been able to do. My parents brought me to this world, Edison brought light, the Wright brothers brought flight, Bell brought the telephone, Steve Jobs brought handheld devices, and many others have likewise contributed. All of us can and do contribute when we choose to. Society, when we all contribute and work, grows and progresses. However, when we demand that no person ever get ahead, that no person ever be valued differently due to different characteristics, and that all be viewed as being the same, since that would be “equal”, we lose, and we lose so much.
Ultimately, we have to be willing to make certain judgments and value decisions. An NBA coach makes judgments about the right person for his team. Oftentimes, the right person for one team will also be the right person for another team, and so the sought after individual can increase his price until he finds the team that values him the most. I certainly should be free to work to find those who value me the most as well as increase my value. When I increase my value society becomes a little better. When I demand that I be given part of someone else’s value though, I may have a temporary gain but society loses big in the long run. All of us are best off searching for the places and people that value us the most and allowing others to do the same, even if they end up earning or achieving more than I do.
We are different, we each have different talents and abilities. Whether you believe in God or not, we were all created with varying levels of ability, and it is critical to recognize and accept the basics of our nature and existence. All of the laws in the world cannot make it so that I can write music like Beethoven. If I demand and push that we are all the same, we lose the Beethovens of the world. Imagine if radio stations had to play everybody’s songs, to make it so that all people who produced music did not feel that their dignity had been hurt. Radio could still, sometimes, play the great songs of our time, but if we had to listen through hours of lower quality music to hear one great song, then we would certainly have lost in that exchange as we would not be able to maximize the value of our time.
We can stop the destructive nature of modern equality by limiting our demand for equality to situations where we treat similarly situated people similarly, which equality is referred to in this article as “traditional equality”. This type of equality makes us strive to improve and strive to earn, through producing, what we want to have. This effort occurs under traditional equality because when I see something that I want, I have to perform the same as someone that already has that thing. For example, if I decide that my neighbor’s car is really cool, I would have to go and do the same value of work my neighbor did in order to purchase the car. My work would produce things and provide value for society, and I would know that if I paid the price for the car like my neighbor paid the price for the car, I would receive the car, just as my neighbor did.
As another example, think of the Amish people. They live a very different type of lifestyle than many others in America do. Is it necessary to regulate their community the same as New York City? No, certainly not. They are in a different situation, and thus different rules can justly apply. America’s concept of Federalism (maintaining local governments and a limited Federal government), sought to help keep traditional equality as it allowed the local governments to govern according to the situation applicable to the specific locality. The constant increase in the number of Federal laws quickly destroys this protection though as Federal laws require the same treatment for all, regardless of situation. For example, there is a Federal minimum wage that applies across the country, despite the fact that the cost of living is so different from state to state and city to city.
Another illustration of the differences between the two types of equality can be found in medicine. Consider autism. Autism includes a broad range of disorders. Science is currently trying to understand what causes autism, and some people suggest causes ranging from vaccinations to pollution to processed foods to genetics. No studies have conclusively shown what causes it though. Now, compare that to a rash. A rash could include things such as chicken pox, measles, hives, allergic reactions, etc. If science were to treat rashes like autism, it would search for one cause for all rashes. We would laugh at that as we know that there are many causes for rashes, and that each specific type of rash is caused by something different, be it a virus, allergic reaction, bee sting, etc. The only way we know that though is because we have specifically identified the differences in the measles rash versus an allergic type rash.
Basically, the way autism is defined can be analogized to what modern equality does to our society. With autism, all sorts of disorders are lumped together into one definition, and science is still at a loss to explain why autism occurs. Perhaps if science more precisely categorized the types of autism, like it does with types of rashes, it would then be able to better identify specific causes for specific types of autism, some of which are likely very different from the others.
The autism/rash example shows the value of focusing on differences and treating similarly situated things the same. Science cannot progress much at all if it just makes all disorders equal (like with autism). It has to find specific strengths and weaknesses of specific types of issues, and has to be willing to identify and treat different things differently. Similarly, society has to be willing to admit that there are differences. Yes, we are all humans at the core and there is a foundational set of rights given to all, as reflected in the Constitution, for our status as a human, but we cannot, and must not, demand that we be treated the exact same as everyone else in the world. Otherwise, we cannot progress, cannot discover, and cannot improve.
Traditional equality builds and motivates us to progress since we have to work to make ourselves better so that we can be treated the same as others with higher abilities. Traditional equality is honest about differences and looks to all relevant factors to determine similarities and when people should be treated the same. Modern equality destroys because it takes from those who have built and motivates us to demand that others give anything they have in excess of what we have. Modern equality denies there are differences, or that the differences matter, and insists that human “dignity” requires that we all be treated the same, regardless of what we have done to earn the treatment.
Therefore, it is important for us to recognize the difference in how “equality” is used. It is appropriate to treat similarly situated people similarly, but it is not appropriate to pretend that all people are the same. Essentially, it isn’t bad to be different as it brings so much life and vitality to our existence. However, it is bad to begin to deny differences and pretend everything is the same between us as society loses every time we do so. We must be willing to recognize the value in different traits, abilities, and actions, and work to promote items that produce value for our society.
All of us, I believe, seek to know and understand truth, at least insofar as it applies to ourselves. We recognize that paths and decisions we have chosen are rejected by others, while we similarly reject many of the paths or decisions that others have chosen. We see conflict in asserting or believing that universal truth exists as the things that make one person claim to be happy are very contradictory to that which another person finds to make them feel happy. Take chastity for instance. Some believe that sexual relations are only appropriate between a married man and woman, while others maintain very free and open sexual relations with many different people.
Both sides of the chastity issue will likely claim that they are happy and that their views are right, even though their choices are inherently at odds with each other. This type of conflict seems to promote a trend towards people believing in moral relativism and a belief that happiness and truth, at least in the context of morality, is a person by person matter and that no one moral code governs us all. This then fuels anger and discontent towards those who assert that they believe in a universally applicable moral code, as is often the case in religion where there are commandments to follow and a fairly set and defined code of morality, as well as a claim that such morality is applicable to all the world.
I fully recognize that it is daring to claim the existence of a universally applicable moral code, of universal truth, or of commandments associated with the laws of Heaven (I will refer to all of these as "universal truths"), especially when so many people choose to live in contravention to those universal truths. Since I still firmly believe in the existence of such universal truths, despite seeing the lives of so many people who appear to be happy when not following these universal truths, I offer the following to explain why I still believe as I do.
The very essence of my accepting and believing that universal truths exist is found in my belief in God and in my belief that He is just. The only way to be just is to follow a set of established principles, or laws. For example, imagine if we are sitting together at the Pearly Gates one day waiting to see if God will let us into Heaven. Suppose that you and I have lived fairly similar lives, but when the Gates open, you are let in and I am not. "What did I do wrong?" I might ask. If God was not just and did not follow established laws, then I could be rejected for any number of things that others who were let in might have done as well. This would cause confusion to reign, ultimately, if there was no way for us to have any sort of knowledge or expectation about that which is to come. Conversely, when universally applicable laws are established and set, they create order, predictability, and an ability to be just - as justice implies that the conditions of the laws are equally applied to all.
Another reason I believe in universal truth is because I believe that there is a spiritual universe that exists and that there is life after this life. I readily compare our world and Universe to that of the spiritual universe that I believe exists. Here, we can see how laws can create order and provide us a firm foundation upon which to work, grow, and live. Take gravity as an example. Gravity acts on all of us, equally. If we respect the law and abide within its confines, it gives us great predictability and a firm foundation upon which to build and live our lives. It has consequences, certainly, as we are not able to jump off of buildings, fall off of roofs, or fly like birds without the assistance of other forces to keep us from harm. Gravity acts even to keep planets in their orbit and provides us with an awesome sense of predictability to our lives.
Other laws do the same. An established currency allows us to openly buy and sell and establish value for our goods, services, and efforts. Driving laws give us the ability to travel in great groups on freeways within mere feet of each other, to pass through intersections where other drivers are waiting to pass through in opposing directions, and to overall have the ability to get where we need to go. A hot fire gives warmth, but also burns any who get too close. These laws, if universally applied, provide us with the ability to act, progress, and improve, but also carry consequences for their violation.
If a spiritual universe exists, it would certainly have its own set of laws similar to that of gravity, to fire, to cold, etc. A universe cannot exist if it doesn't have laws to establish how things interact with each other, from the galactic down to the atomic level. In a spiritual universe I fully believe that there are cliffs that we can fall from, fires that can burn and destroy, and darkness that can cause despair, depression, and sorrow. God knows where each spiritual cliff is located, how each fire turns from one of benefit to one of destruction, and how to remain in the light that brings warmth and life. Just as I have to rely on health experts to help me know what substances and activities harm my body and which ones are good and beneficial for my body, I so too have to rely on God to tell me what activities here benefit my future existence and which ones destroy it.
To me, the universal truths that I embrace embody laws that transcend our physical existence alone. Going back to chastity as an example, suppose, for comparison's sake, that the sexual drive operated as a fire to our spiritual nature. Fire, within proper bounds, can serve very good purposes and produce much good, just as the relations between a married man and woman can produce much good. Fire, however, when it leaves its proper bounds, becomes destructive and quickly ravages lives, destroying homes, buildings, and entire forests. If, within the spiritual realm the physical sexual drive served as a fire there, then any unrestrained sexual activity here would equate to a ravage fire burning and destroying our spiritual existence there.
Of course, I don't fully know all of the extent of the damage caused to our spiritual realm when we go against what God teaches us. I do know though that we can live for quite some time without detecting the damage or destruction that is taking place. An example of this that we can readily see in our physical realm is cancer. People can smoke and not readily detect the destructive nature it has on their body. People can live close to radiation for many years and never detect the serious damage it inflicts on their body. Many products have been banned because they have been discovered to have caused serious damage to our bodies, including cancer. They were used for a long time though because the damage was imperceptible until it suddenly manifested itself at a time when it was too late to reverse the damage in the affected individuals.
Another law we are all subject to on this earth is death. Death will come to us all. At that point, and assuming that some portion of us lives beyond death, what types of cancer will we find in our spirits? What fires will have ravished our spiritual existence? When we are finally able to see the cancer and destruction that exists, it will be too late to simply remove those consequences from our existence. The very fact that a problem evidences itself means it is too late. I don't want diabetes to hit when I am 50, and so I work now to avoid eating too much sugar. I want to be able to play with my grandkids (when they come), and so I exercise regularly to try and maintain a level of energy that will allow for that later.
Granted, we are different individuals and experience and enjoy different things. Some people may find great fulfillment in being a doctor, while others cannot handle seeing any blood. Some may enjoy appearing in court on a daily basis and arguing cases as an attorney, while others avoid all conflict. We certainly have a realm in which we do work to find who we are, what we like, and what we are good at. However, just because we are individuals and some of us are doctors, construction workers, dancers, etc. does not mean that the law of gravity applies differently to all of us. The law of gravity is universally applicable, and we pattern our lives around it and avoid jumping off of cliffs because of it. Similarly, the laws that God has given are in affect just as universally as gravity, and some part of us is damaged as we violate those laws.
So yes, people can feel happy in pursuing destructive courses of conduct. Look at drugs. A man in a neighboring business to mine died last week from a heroin overdose. From what I have been told, heroin provides a seroius high to those that take it. Nobody that I know of though claims that heroin is somehow good for us as its effects can be seen so readily in the serious damage it causes to all other aspects of a person's life. And yes, like with drugs, people can be happy for a time pursuing courses of conduct that destroy their spiritual state of existence.
Because of this, happiness today or the happiness of individuals throughout their life is not an absolute measure of whether universal truths and morals applicable to all exist. If a basis for accepting moral relativism and rejecting universal truth is that people are happy pursuing conflicting paths, then we are shutting out our vision to the fact that many fun, pleasurable, or exciting actions have real consequences that cannot be perceived until later. One does not know that they have contracted an STD until well after the pleasure of the act is over, one does not know of the cancer growing from the unhealthy substances they consume, and one does not know of the extent of the spiritual cancer and disease in their soul until well after the offending deeds are done.
I do, of course, believe that God loves us and is perfectly just. Because of this, I believe that He established laws and rules to give us the ability to live together, to work together, and to grow and progress to become like Him. These laws give us the ability to act, but they also create the ability for us to be acted upon, and we have to choose to live in such a way that we balance the health of tomorrow with the excitement of today. For laws that God has established to govern and control the spiritual universe, these laws apply equally to us all, just as gravity applies and operates daily in our lives.
To me, moral relativism is simply a license to ignore the cancers and fires that are growing in the wake of our actions and decisions. Moral relativism is also at odds with the scientific pursuit, as scientists actively work to understand the laws that govern our existence, while moral relativism denies the existence of some types of laws. To deny that there are basic laws or truths that apply to all humans at a moral level is to deny that there are any consequences for our actions. Just as it is seriously shortsighted of an individual to believe that there is no future health consequence to their food and lifestyle choices today, so too moral relativism applies a very limited vision in its refusal to consider the depth of the harm that certain actions can cause, in this life and in the next.
In short, I fully accept and believe in universal truth and reject moral relativism. Without truth and laws applicable to all, our universe would simply not exist and we would have no foundation upon which to progress or improve, to be healthy, or to have any sort of future. Rather than view gravity and spiritual laws as a restriction and impediment to life, I view these laws and truths as the foundation upon which I have to build and progress to establish a lasting and fulfilling existence.
I believe God exists. I watch daily as people around the world try to discredit, demean, mock, or otherwise try to dissuade others from believing in God. It almost seems to be fashionable for people to renounce their religion. I have listened to a lot of what is said. I don't agree with it though, and so I offer my explanation of why I still believe in God despite the arguments to the contrary.
"Bad Things Happen"
Some people choose not to believe in God because bad things happen in this life. They view pain, suffering, and evil as proof that God does not exist. The question often is "Why would God allow such things to happen? If He loved us, wouldn't He do good things for us?" The inherent premise in all of this is that pain, suffering, and evil is somehow a bad thing to experience in life. I fully believe though that God exists, that He loves us, and that our experiencing pain, suffering, and evil are part of our path to become like Him.
In life, we can readily see how we have to work to have strength. Our muscles only grow and increase when they are used and meet resistance. I believe God has all power, which, ultimately, means that I believe that He has overcome all resistance, including the resistance associated with pain, suffering and evil. If, for analogy sake, God was viewed as the "World's Greatest Athlete", then anyone that sought to become like Him would have to experience the resistance associated with running fast and far, with lifting weights, with jumping, with heat, with cold, with swimming, etc. Only in passing through and overcoming the resistance can the strength and power be gained, and yes, the resistance training needs to be an almost daily occurrence in our lives.
I believe I existed before I came to this life, and I believe that I chose to come to this earth. I came here for the purpose of increasing in strength, power, wisdom, and in growing to become more like God. My main work in becoming like Him is to grow spiritually, to face, encounter, and conquer spiritual resistance, resistance such as doubt, disappointment, depression, darkness, fear, etc. By doing so I can increase in spiritual stature and become more like God, until I am able to gain the strength and ability to have all power. Power comes through overcoming the pain, suffering, and evil in the world and does not come through living a life free of pain and suffering. A life devoid of bad leaves me with no progression, no growth, and no ability to become like God.
Since God loves us though, He allows us to experience and pass through all that this world has to offer so that we can become the person we ultimately desire to be. I love my children, and I readily encourage them to exercise, to work, and to overcome challenges along the way, because I know that by doing so, their life will be much better. Just like in climbing Mount Everest, we can give up at any point and stop progressing. For me though, I want to make it all the way. I did not come here just to give up and enjoy the view from a base camp. I came to climb, progress, and improve and to become like God. To gain power, grow, and progress, I have to overcome resistance, and so I appreciate that God loves me enough to allow me to embark on a journey filled with trials so that I can gain the strength necessary to reach the top of Mount Everest. To me, pain, suffering, evil, and other trials evidence the fact that there is a purpose to life and with that purpose, a God that exists. So, despite the existence of pain, suffering, and darkness, I still believe in God.
"I'm Happy Without God"
Many people state that their life is fine without God. They view those who believe in God as needing a crutch or as being weaker, or they simply view themselves as having all that is necessary to be happy. Many view themselves as good, and thus push away the need for God in their lives. I see all of us as having good attributes though, and I view God as the way for us to hold onto and expand the good about ourselves.
I believe that anyone can be happy in life by adhering to and following principles of good, and many people follow good principles without believing in God. Going back to the Mt. Everest example though, many people feel happy and content at a base camp and lose sight of the purpose of their travels, or the purpose of their life.
I lived in Taiwan for two years as a missionary, and I daily spent time visiting homes of the people that lived there. Most of the Taiwanese people were very industrious, hardworking, and dedicated to improving their life and the lives of their children, and I spent a significant amount of time among people with these attributes. However, at one point I served in the countryside among people who said that they were happy and content, but they struggled daily to get enough food to eat, to have health, or to pay their bills, and many of them simply sat on their couches in front of their televisions, day after day, week after week. When I would visit their homes they were so absorbed in their television programs that I could not even maintain a simple conversation with them.
I thought about these people a lot, and it seemed to me that they were content with their lives and their poor state because they had no vision of their potential as humans. In other words, they felt they were happy because they did not understand or believe that there was more to life, that there was fulfillment in learning, studying, growing, progressing, and becoming something more than they were at the time. I saw that their contentment with life caused them to be complacent in matters that could have seriously improved their physical state of existence.
I see a lot of similarities in spiritual matters. Many can be happy and content with their physical state if they have enough food, money, and time to enjoy what this world has to offer. However, simply having enough food to eat and enough money to play with does not mean that there isn't more to life. There is an entire universe of spiritual matters left untouched by the complacency caused by a comfortable life. With Mt. Everest, it would be similar to having a nice, warm, and fun hotel at a base camp. Staying inside the hotel would bring physical comfort and happiness to many people, but it would never bring the fulfillment or exhilaration possible by finishing the climb and reaching the top.
When we leave God out of our lives, we simply confine ourselves to a comfortable oasis along the path of our progression. It may be a happy place for a time, but the only place to find lasting, eternal happiness is by reaching the destination that God has in store for us. Thus, I constantly work to improve and continue to follow God's path as I know it is the path to an eternal, lasting happiness, one that I can enjoy together with my family. I choose to keep God a part of my life so that I can continue progressing and improving.
Currently, a big push away from God and religion seems to stem from science offering alternative views (from that of religion) about life or offering explanations of things that used to be deemed supernatural. Frankly, I'm honestly amazed at the amount of faith we place in science as many of us accept the latest and greatest study or scientific pronouncement as infallible truth, even though a new study will come out in a few years showing missing pieces of prior studies or the scientific pronouncement will later be rejected and replaced with a new one.
Science certainly has its place in our lives and has helped us understand and reach higher levels. Science, however, despite our best efforts, remains full of holes still not understood, theories, and speculation as humans simply do not understand everything about life or the Universe. So, while I accept many things that science has to offer, I do not rely on it as my ultimate source of truth.
If I were to accept science as my only source of truth, I would be blocking my view to an entire Universes of life yet untouched by science. I would also be placing my entire trust in the understanding of humans simply because they have a degree and performed a study. Not to be critical of my fellow humans, but by simply looking around and reviewing a few posts on Facebook I can readily see that I could quickly be led astray by following the understanding alone of my fellow humans.
Consider for a moment the Universes untouched by science. Life itself is a large Universe left unexplored. For example, where did we come from? Were we simply a new being created at conception? Science would say yes, but it has zero proof of that. At death, is our life over, or does it continue on somewhere else? Science would say our life is over, but only because humans haven't yet invented a machine to see into or explore other potentials. Finally, what gives life to something? Since science can actually see that life exists, it is seeking to understand what gives life to something, but it doesn't know yet. Even though science is looking for what creates life, it rejects the notion of a Universe associated with spirits.
I could go into details pointing out the assumptions and potential errors that exist in many things such as evolution, carbon dating, statistical analysis, global warming, etc. I'm not saying that these things are necessarily false or wrong, but they are laden with factors that have to, ironically and to the dismay of people who reject faith, be accepted on faith for the time being. If those faith based assumptions are proven wrong at any point, then the entire theory may have to change to address the new evidence. This is, of course, the scientific method, but it is a method that requires faith to accept the theories and conclusions as infallible truth. Rather than taking the scientific study of the day as infallible truth, I analyze the parts for things that can be proven and things that are part of the "theory", or the conclusion, that is drawn or inferred from what is known. To me, recognizing the limits of science causes us to progress further as it inspires us to continue seeking to understand that which we don't know, but when we simply accept science as infallible truth, it places limits on what we are willing to believe, search for, or strive to understand.
However, even if things such as evolution are widely accepted for the time being, it doesn't change my belief in God or in the fact that I am a child of God. Nor does it change my belief in a life before this one or a life after this one. To me, the greatest proof of the existence of a spirit is our children. They come with varied personalities far outside the realm of what their DNA or their environment alone give them. In other words, they come with spirits, spirits from a world that existed long before our world, and spirits that are the children of God. The spirit gives life, personality, and joy to our existence and transcends the current boundaries of science.
In addition, I do not equate our increased knowledge of this world with less of a need to believe in God. Simply because humans are understanding more and more does not mean that I have less and less of a need to believe in God. I believe in God because I believe in the eternal nature of life. I fully believe that death is not the end, and that birth was not the beginning. I fully believe that my actions in this life will directly impact the course of my life through eternity, and I want to live in a way that brings about eternal happiness, both for me and for my family. All of the understanding in the world pales in comparison to all of the potentials associated with eternal life. Science might be able to tell me some things that make me happy today, but it falls far short of telling me how these same things affect my eternal destiny.
So yes, I fully accept a far more optimistic view of this world than science would ever allow me to believe. I have no doubt that this life is but a stop on our eternal journey, and I have no doubt that God is in charge of and directing this eternal journey. Science seeks to understand what we can see or readily experience, but God helps me to understand and accept all of the truths that transcend sight, smell, and touch. When current science conflicts with the teachings of God, I can simply be patient and wait for a new discovery that alters the scientific teaching, or I can understand that science is discussing the nature of today without considering the impacts to eternity. One day, I believe that I can know and understand all of the ways of God as God operates based on a system of laws and principles in place. Certainly, we may be able to understand some of those laws and principles in this life, but simply because I can understand and apply a law, this does not mean that I suddenly no longer need God. Instead, I can be grateful for the things He allows me to know, and continue working to understand all of the things that I don't know.
To discover something though, we have to believe that it is possible or that it even exists. For example, the Wright brothers believed it was possible to fly, something that many well meaning people, even educated people, of their time would mock and say is impossible. If their religion had told them for hundreds of years that one day people would invent a flying machine, such religion likely would have been mocked and scorned as it would have been outside the known realm of possibilities. But, the Wright brothers believed, and they succeeded. Their faith in something still unseen led them to the discovery of something greater, something that expanded and lifted the human race.
However, the current trend seems to reject faith as a part of science. People so readily mock and demean others who believe or accept principles that science cannot yet test, verify, or prove. When the faith element of science is removed, so too is our access to the universes yet unexplored by science. We have to believe first before we gain access to those universes, and there is no better place to turn to understand what we should seek for and study than to God Himself, as He is omnipotent and knows all truth. God gives us the inspiration and knowledge necessary to continue to reach and climb, and rejecting that causes us to stay grounded and never learn to soar. In other words, rejecting faith is rejecting progression.
Another example comes from the Dean of American Astronomy late in the nineteenth century. As told by Marcia Bartusiak, "Simon Newcomb, the dean of American astronomy in the late nineteenth century, remarked at an observatory dedication in 1887 that ‘so far as astronomy is concerned … we do appear to be fast approaching the limits of our knowledge. … The result is that the work which really occupies the attention of the astronomer is less the discovery of new things than the elaboration of those already known.’" (Marcia Bartusiak, The Day We Found the Universe (2009), xv). When this remark was made, astronomers could only see the stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy and had yet to discover any other galaxies. (Bartusiak, xii). Now, astronomers can see more galaxies than stars in our own galaxy, even though at one time they thought they were getting close to seeing all stars in the sky.
From what I see, we want so much to be able to explain and understand our existence that we prematurely jump to conclusions, and the science community pushes to have us accept those conclusions as infallible or as the limits of what is possible. Take the Big Bang for example. That theory has been pushed for a fair amount of time, but just recently I saw that some scientific scholars have proposed a new model for how our Universe was created, and the Big Bang was not a part of it. I always smile at the notion and belief that we can watch the sky with powerful telescopes for a very short length of time (compared to that of the existence of the Universe) and suddenly know with certainty how the Universe was created. Even if the Big Bang did occur, many questions remain unanswered, such as what caused it, how was so much matter concentrated in one point, are we at risk for another big bang taking place in our neck of the Universe? With evolution as another example, even if our bodies were formed that way, why does that reduce the miracle of life? In my mind, it takes more faith to believe that our bodies magically evolved and formed through the winds of change to produce my eyes with their sense of sight, my ears with their sense of hearing, my nose with its sense of smell, my cells with their ability to fight disease and infection, than it does to believe simply that a far more powerful and advanced being created us as His child. Maybe His method of creation was using the evolutionary process, but maybe it wasn't. Maybe evolution is simply a scientific theory, or, in other words, a faith based pronouncement made in an attempt to explain where we came from and how we were created.
Now, I'm not saying that I reject all of the scientific studies that have been performed or the things that have been discovered. Take global warming for example. I am very comfortable that we can measure the earth's average temperature, that we can get a good estimate of the CO2 produced by humans, and that we can run the statistics and show correlation between the two. However, I am far from certain that we have appropriately analyzed all of the possibilities to understand what is really taking place. Maybe instead of passing laws to reduce CO2 emissions we need to be focused on finding ways to survive a summer season of the sun. Maybe instead of stopping mining activities we need to increase them to stockpile the materials necessary to survive a hotter earth. I don't profess to know the right answer, and I don't reject global warming claims outright, but I certainly don't believe that we have yet exhausted studying all of the variables contributing to or causing the changes that science has tracked for this last century or so. But, if the earth truly is warming, maybe we need to turn to God to be saved, rather than relying on our limited understanding. The point though is simply that there is a lot we (including me) do not know, and that we shouldn't mock or demean others who don't share the same faith or views (whether in science, God, or otherwise) that we share, as we are all working to understand life and what is taking place around us.
Instead of mocking and demeaning the role of faith in our lives, I believe we are all better off in the long run by letting people act on faith as their faith may lead to the discovery of something that was rejected before or that was never considered by others because it conflicted with the popular science of the day. If an Einstein believed that climate change was caused by an increase in say, an influx of bacteria in the earth's soil, he would devote his life to proving his faith based assumption. If he found nothing, current global warming science would not be hurt but might become become more credible. If he found something though, people could then work to figure out ways to minimize or remove those side effects. Either way, by allowing people to try and disprove the current conclusions, the world improves and moves a step forward. Demeaning, belittling, and mocking only keep us in the known and observable realms though as it dissuades other from acting on their beliefs, and there is still so much to learn, explore, and discover that the world is a much better place by encouraging people to find what they believe in. And, if we allow humans to find God, so much good could come through the efforts along the way.
So, I certainly do not reject what science has learned, but I am cautious about accepting conclusions drawn or inferred from an observation, especially when they are used to deny the existence of universes yet unexplored, as we are constantly seeking to fully understand all of the variables that affect any given observation. However, I also fully believe that God knows all things, and that He desires me to progress and become like Him - in knowledge, power, wisdom and glory. The facts I learn along the way will aid me in this process of becoming like Him, but they will never replace my faith in Him or my adherence to His teachings, since He knows how all of the variables interact to produce the grand symphony of life, in the past, present, and eternal future.
In short, I am a man of faith, working to reach new universes yet untouched by most of humanity (by their own choice). Yes, I unabashedly believe in the divine potential of all humans, and yes, I will work to achieve that potential, whether or not others want to join me along the way. So, despite the hostility of the science community to the contrary, I still believe in God.
I am confident that God lives. I have seen His influence throughout my life and the lives of others. I am saddened by the bad things that happen, I experience doubt, confusion, and darkness at times. Yet, I have also experienced happiness, understanding, and light. Based on my experiences, I have chosen to pursue a path that leads to eternal happiness, understanding, and light, and I have no desire to embrace the darkness that comes with this world. Of course, I would love it if you join me on that path, but I don't expect everyone to as life provides many an oasis of security, at least for a time. However, I do ask for more understanding and less demeaning of those who choose to acknowledge that they live by faith and who choose to believe in God. In short, I hope that by explaining why I believe in God, we can all become better and more understanding of each other, and that by doing so, we can reach new levels of progression, together, as brothers and sisters in humanity and in life.