Friday, May 22, 2020

"Behold, mine house is a house of DISorder"

Shanghai, China

On April 4, 2020, in General Conference, Pres. Nelson provided details regarding the announced Shanghai, People’s Republic of China temple [1]:

"Context for the plan for Shanghai is very important. For more than two decades, temple-worthy members in the People’s Republic of China have attended the Hong Kong China Temple. But in July 2019, that temple was closed for long-planned and much-needed renovation.

In Shanghai, a modest multipurpose meeting place will provide a way for Chinese members to continue to participate in ordinances of the temple — in the People’s Republic of China — for them and their ancestors."

Yet two days later, the Shanghai Religious Affairs Bureau disaffirmed that a temple would be built in Shanghai. Its announcement stated (this is an unofficial, Google-based translation) [2]:

"1. According to the relevant laws and regulations of China, foreigners are not allowed to set up religious organizations and venues for religious activities in China.

2. The Mormon Church of the United States released information on the establishment of the so-called "Temple" in Shanghai. Our civil sect department was unaware of it."

Even Foreign Policy newsletter picked up on the discrepancy [3]:


The church did not comment on the Shanghai bureau’s statements [4]. This is confusing in light of the fact that even the church said (and spent considerable space detailing) that Pres. Nelson "enjoys a decades-long association with the People’s Republic of China." [5]

The Shanghai Temple is still not mentioned on the church's list of current and anticipated temples. This may be because the church is likely dedicating a portion of an existing facility to accommodate ordinances, not building a new structure. Thus, it is considered "a modest multipurpose meeting place," not a temple. [6] Equally bewildering is the Chinese government's treatment of Pres. Nelson's announcement, for even Pres. Nelson is quoted as saying, “The Chinese people value those long-term relationships, and I’m really pleased that I’m regarded here as one of their old friends.” [5]

This is not the first time the Church has announced a temple without obtaining permission from local officials. Orem, Utah's mayor was caught off-guard when a temple was announced in his city in October, 2019. Why all the secrecy? Because [7]


Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Another temple announced on April 4th is slated for Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It's based on an invitation by the UAE government.

"The plan for a temple in Dubai comes in response to their gracious invitation, which we gratefully acknowledge." [1]

The Arabian Peninsula isn't well-known for its overwhelming membership counts. The UAE only has 5 wards and 1 branch. [8]

The Church reportedly has 2,000-2,500 members spread out among two stakes and several districts in the Middle East, northern Africa, eastern Europe and western Asia. [9]

This mirrors circumstances found in other announced/constructed temples 

* The 40,000 square foot [10] Rome Temple, where Italian membership rolls total to around 27,486. Demand for temple ordinances is so scarce in this temple that patrons need to make an appointment. [11]

* The new temple in Okinawa, Japan, will likely have only one stake (five wards and three branches) and one district assigned to it as these are the only stakes and districts in the area. [12]

* The Russia Temple [13] will service only 23,300 members found in 3 stakes (2018) [14]. Missionaries are prohibited from proselyting there. [15] With activity rates between 17-23%, that leaves 5,359 active members (which includes children) in all of Russia. [16]



Tooele, UT

A third temple I'd like to highlight will be located in Tooele, Utah. Now, the Tooele Temple was announced on April 7, 2019. [17]

On May 5, 2020, the Church announced that it would develop a residential community to surround the temple. While the church's development of planned residential communities isn't new, what is surprising is its purpose [18]: 


I've never heard of real estate being an effective protection for temples. I think most would expect that to be God's job.


QUESTIONS


(First, some background: By my count, based on this page, there are 224 temples either operating, under renovation, being constructed or have been announced. Out of those 224 temples, 41 have been announced. The oldest announced (yet unconstructed) temple is the Harare Zimbabwe Temple, announced April 3, 2016) [19].

Why does the church consistently allow a considerable lag time between when it announces a temple and when the construction commences? While I understand the need for secrecy, it seems that announcing a temple before all the Is are dotted and Ts are crossed with local officials (1) seems a bit premature/presumptuous, and (2) forcing members (especially local members) to wait for 4+ years for some temples is a needlessly long wait. 

What does "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" [20] mean to you? Is the Savior just talking about making sure you have enough money in your bank account to build a tower, or could there be a bigger picture here?

If the Lord's "house is a house of order" [21], then why are we consistently encountering temple-related misspoken announcements, building delays, etc on a worldwide basis?

Why was "a modest multipurpose meeting place" in Shanghai, China announced alongside those of new temples? The positioning of this statement left members assuming the announcement was of a temple. Not only members, but the Chinese government, too. 

Please explain how real estate developments serve as protection for temples. What is the scriptural basis for this?

Why is the church (presumably) spending millions of dollars building temples in areas where there are hardly any members to fill them?

We are told, "And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God;" [22] If the house of God will require it being set in order at some future date (and we know it will be in the future, because "the inheritances of the saints" who are "enrolled in the book of the law of God" have not yet been officially arranged that I'm aware of), then that supposes the house of God is what? Perhaps not "set in order"?

1      https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/04/57nelson?lang=eng
2      http://mzzj.sh.gov.cn/hygq/20200411/630779280bae4e93a781c2bfe216bbe9.html
3      https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/22/china-respond-new-coronavirus-outbreaks-harbin-russia-imported-cases/
4      https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2020/04/29/plans-an-lds-temple/
5      https://www.thechurchnews.com/global/2020-01-29/president-nelson-reaches-out-to-china-responds-to-coronavirus-by-sending-protective-equipment-172935
6      https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/temples/list?lang=eng
7      https://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/faith/orem-temple-announcement-catches-some-off-guard-excites-area-mayors/article_b712e802-9101-5c7a-9050-3fdeb0d6766d.html
8      https://cumorah.com/index.php?target=countries&cnt_res=2&wid=229&cmdfind=Search
9      https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/church-announces-temple-united-arab-emirates
10      https://www.ucanews.com/news/diplomacy-seen-in-mormons-first-temple-in-china/87744
11      https://cumorah.com/index.php?target=countries&cnt_res=2&wid=107&cmdfind=Search
12      https://cumorah.com/index.php?target=view_other_articles&story_id=687&cat_id=30
13      https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/russia-temple/
14      https://cumorah.com/index.php?target=countries&cnt_res=2&wid=179&cmdfind=Search
15      https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2019/09/09/missionaries-have-been/
16      https://cumorah.com/index.php?target=view_other_articles&story_id=465&cat_id=30
17      https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/tooele-valley-utah-temple/
18      https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/residential-community-near-tooele-valley-utah-temple
19      https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/temples/chronology/
20      Luke 14:28
21      D&C 132; 8, 18
22      D&C 85:7

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Why the LDS Coronavirus Fasts Failed

It’s the unspoken, perhaps even un-contemplated, fact we members dare not mention:

The church’s fasts for the end of COVID-19 failed, and failed miserably. In fact, their failure deepens with each passing day as more and more people continue to pass.

Why? Here are a few possibilities. Hopefully, we can learn from them, so the next time collectively fast, we’ll be able to hit the broad side of a barn.

First, a Gap Analysis


A “Gap Analysis” is the comparison of actual performance with potential or desired performance; that is, the ‘current state’ and the 'desired future state’. Gap analysis can be used in many areas, such as: sales, financial performance, human resource management, productivity, quality assurance, cost control, employee satisfaction and more. The list is endless. [1]

When the Savior was alive, his healings were unmistakable and immediate.

In Mark 5:41, when he said "Talitha cumi" ("Little girl, I say to you, arise!"), those witnessing the miracle didn’t need to wait at all to view the results. In fact, Mark 5:42 says “straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.” (my emphasis)

In John 5:8-9, Jesus said to a man with a 38-year infirmity, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.”

I could give you more examples of the Savior’s immediate blessings, but I think you get the point.

Some might say, “Well Jesus was God incarnate, so of course he could heal immediately.” Immediate healings were also evidenced when brother Joseph healed. Wilford Woodruff reported what happened when a group of priesthood holders led by Joseph Smith visited the home of one sick man:

“The next place they visited was the home of Elijah Fordham, who was supposed to be about breathing his last. When the company entered the room the Prophet of God walked up to the dying man, and took hold of his right hand and spoke to him; but Brother Fordham was unable to speak, his eyes were set in his head like glass, and he seemed entirely unconscious of all around him. Joseph held his hand and looked into his eyes in silence for a length of time. A change in the countenance of Brother Fordham was soon perceptible to all present. His sight returned, and upon Joseph asking him if he knew him, he, in a low whisper, answered, ‘Yes.’ Joseph asked him if he had faith to be healed. He answered, ‘I fear it is too late; if you had come sooner I think I would have been healed.’ The Prophet said, ‘Do you believe in Jesus Christ?’ He answered in a feeble voice, ‘I do.’ Joseph then stood erect, still holding his hand in silence several moments; then he spoke in a very loud voice, saying: ‘Brother Fordham, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to arise from this bed and be made whole.’ His voice was like the voice of God, and not of man. It seemed as though the house shook to its very foundations. Brother Fordham arose from his bed and was immediately made whole. His feet were bound in [bandages], which he kicked off, then putting on his clothes, he ate a bowl of bread and milk, and followed the Prophet into the street” [2].

I believe this is how healings are supposed to be. This is because with “immediate healings”, at least two powerful forces are in play: Faith (that the person will be healed on the spot) and Love (from heavenly parents, granting said healing). This is the upper part, or dot, on our gap analysis -- the “potential or desired performance” part.

The ‘actual performance” part begins with Pres. Nelson’s March 26, 2020 call for a March 29th worldwide fast, in which he invited all “to join with me in a worldwide fast—for all whose health permits—to pray for relief from the physical, emotional, and economic effects of this global pandemic.” [3]

It continued on April 4, 2020 with a second invitation “in as many weeks” for a worldwide fast “on Good Friday, April 10, that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized.” This announcement was even accompanied with the expectation, “Good Friday would be the perfect day to have our Heavenly Father and His Son hear us!” [4]

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of fasts. If the Savior found it necessary to fast 40 days and nights, then my puny efforts to skip a couple of meals is at least a baby step in the right direction. Plus, fasting on a limited basis may actually have some health benefits, including a temporary boost to your immune system.

Yet the church never stated why a second fast was needed.

Nevertheless, if we put a stake in the ground on April 10, 2020, we can and ought to expect immediate healing to have taken place (remember that “potential or desired performance” part?) “straightway” or “immediately” thereafter.

As I write this, I note that tomorrow is April 24, 2020 -- exactly two weeks after not the first, but second, worldwide fast. Here is a comparison of the worldwide stats on 4/10/2020 and yesterday (4/22/2020) (remember, these were worldwide fasts, so our scope of analysis should also be worldwide):

As of 4/10/2020As of 4/22/2020Difference
Worldwide COVID-19 cases *1,691,0222,635,716944,694
Worldwide COVID-19 deaths **105,771184,06678,295

* Includes deaths and recovered or discharged patients (cases with an outcome). [5]
** [6]

See those two figures on the right-hand column? That’s the “gap” part of the gap analysis.

Now, some apologists might say:

  • “It’s only natural that there should be a few deaths and cases in between the worldwide fast(s) and now.” But that unequivocally flies in the face of that “potential or desired performance” part, because you and I both know that based on the scriptures and church history, a proper healing has what attached to it? Unmistakable, immediate, decisive, compelling results. In other words, FRUITS. You know, that little “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:15–20) criteria. The one where Elder Dean L. Larsen of the Seventy stated in the October 1985 General Conference that “the Lord’s test is the only one that will stand with the passage of time and reveal the truth about those who claim to do his work.” [7]
  • “Well, the faith of the Saints needed to be stronger to produce the desired results.” If that were the case, then why didn’t the April 2020 General Conference talks focus like a laser beam on faith development, not the restoration?
  • “Our faith needs to be tried before the miracles can happen.” But the history of ancient and modern immediate healings blows that argument out of the water.
  • “Maybe it’s God’s will that those people were supposed to die. It was just their time.” But that’s (by their own admission) an assumption. Such needn’t be the case. The people the Savior healed (including Lazarus) and Elijah Fordham prove that assumption dead wrong.

Face it -- 944,694 COVID-19 cases and 78,295 deaths since 4/10/2020 are not really positive results. Just click on the source links at the bottom; you’ll see that as of this date (4/23/2020), the worldwide curves aren’t flat at all. Not even close.

How long do we need to wait for the “immediate” and “straightway” fruits to kick in?

A Second Gap Analysis


In my second post, I showed how COVID-19/coronavirus is a latter-day pestilence. I also showed that God brings pestilences upon mankind to spur them to repentance. He’s done so all throughout history. And with God’s ways never changing, he’s doing the same again today.

So first, in a theoretical gap analysis chart, let’s consider “worldwide repentance” the top dot, the “potential or desired performance” part.

Next, let’s look at what President Nelson asked us to fast for (the “actual performance” dot): “I invite all, including those not of our faith, to fast and pray on Good Friday, April 10, that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized.”

Praying for the worldwide economy is problematic for two reasons: First, the current materialistic, idol-based economy is the same one which Isaiah mercilessly tears to shreds time and again. It encourages purchase and/or investment in “treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” [8] while discouraging investment in things that don’t provide a return on investment, like building wells or schools in third-world countries. You know, the less fortunate.

Secondly, it’s absurd to pray for the revitalization of the worldwide economy. (Now make no mistake: I, too, want to see people back at work and earning their incomes). But there’s a right way and a wrong way to bring about that result. To see the economy restored, to get people back to work, we need to first ensure that the true cause -- not the effects -- of the economic destruction goes away.

Some might believe that the cause of the economic shutdown is COVID-19. No, it isn’t. COVID-19 is itself a symptom, a result, of something else: sin. And sin is erased via repentance and receiving the atonement of Jesus Christ.

“For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.” -- Henry David Thoreau

How will the pandemic be controlled? Repentance!

How will caregivers be protected? Repentance!

How will the economy be strengthened? Repentance!

How will life be normalized? Repentance!

But in Pres. Nelson’s invitation to the world, in directly addressing a clearly-defined pestilence, he was silent on the topic of repentance! This is a huge omission, because one of a prophet’s primary missions is to cry repentance! to the world. That was true with Old Testament and Book of Mormon prophets, New Testament disciples and the Prophet Joseph Smith.

So here’s the gap: As long as we members continue to neglect echoing and amplifying God’s true message which he is delivering to us now, we can be assured of two things (both based on past precedent): First, God will not take COVID-19 away, and second, he will send us even stronger messages until (A) we get the point or (B) we are invited to take our party elsewhere.

The Missing Worldwide Perspective


We are consistently told to trust, to follow, the Brethren. That’s because (according to one apostle), they have considerable experience in administering the church worldwide. They have a global perspective:

“I have heard that some people think the Church leaders live in a ‘bubble.’ What they forget is that we are men and women of experience, and we have lived our lives in so many places and worked with many people from different backgrounds. Our current assignments literally take us around the globe, where we meet the political, religious, business, and humanitarian leaders of the world. Although we have visited [leaders in] the White House in Washington, D.C., and leaders of nations [and religions] throughout the world, we have also visited the most humble [families and people] on earth. … When you thoughtfully consider our lives and ministry, you will most likely agree that we see and experience the world in ways few others do. You will realize that we live less in a ‘bubble’ than most people.” [9]

Yet when I review today’s worldwide statistics [10], I see many more maladies with greater lethality than COVID-19 (as of 4/23/2020):

Undernourished people in the world842,000,000+
HIV/AIDS infected people41,735,000+
Abortions this year13,211,000+
Communicable disease deaths this year4,034,000+
Hunger-related deaths3,475,000+
Smoking-related deaths1,553,838
Alcohol-related deaths777,411
HIV/AIDS-related deaths522,453
Traffic fatalities419,582
Suicides333,273
Malaria-related deaths304,846
Deaths caused by water-related illnesses this year261,709
COVID-19 deaths (as of 4/22/2020)184,066
Seasonal flu deaths151,000+

Why are we members patting ourselves on the back for focusing on nearly the bottom of the list?

Where are the fasts for the undernourished millions, that they be fed?

Where are the fasts that God will soften the hearts and minds of women and dissuade them from scheduling abortions?

Where are the fasts that those who are contemplating taking their own lives are led to effective treatment facilities?

Just those three topics -- the undernourished, the abortions and those contemplating suicide -- total over 855 million people. COVID-19 is 0.00021514491 (or two one-hundredths of one percent) of that total. If we factor out the undernourished and just focus on the abortions and suicides, the total is 13,544,273. COVID-19 deaths are just 0.0135899 (a little over 1.3 percent) of that total.

If you’re one of those who prefers to wait for the results of a fast rather than expect immediate fruits, then I invite you to to tell me how long it will take for us, collectively as a church and invited by its president, to fast for any of the above mortalities which exhibit more deaths than COVID-19.


QUESTIONS


Do you believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ?

Do you have faith in Jesus Christ?

Do you believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly?

Do you believe in the phrase “By their fruits ye shall know them”?

Do you believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet and servant of God?

Do you believe that Jesus Christ worked miracles, including healing people instantaneously?

Do you believe that Joseph Smith worked miracles, including healing people instantaneously?

Why has the worldwide fast not brought about immediate fruits, similar to healings performed by Jesus and Joseph Smith?

Why are we praying for an economy which is repeatedly condemned in the Old Testament, New Testament and Book of Mormon?

Why are we not praying and fasting over the true cause of a pestilence?

Why are we collectively praying and fasting for a worldwide condition (which is important) but still statistically negligible when compared with undernourishment, abortion and suicide, as well as other conditions?

Which would the Lord encourage you to do: Focus on a gnat or a beam in front of you?





2   Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, p. 223–24
8   Matthew 6:19