Monday, May 24, 2021

A house divided against itself by vaccinations

One of Jesus' primary messages to humanity is that of one-ness: That we can be one with him, just as he was/is one with the Father. Indeed, the doctrine of the Atonement (at-one-ment) is a core concept in Christianity.

The role of the church is to help facilitate one-ness (with God) and preach the gospel of the atonement (at-one-ment). Leaders, especially those at the local level, are charged with ensuring that we meet TOGETHER oft. [1] As Pres. Nelson stated, "The long-standing objective of the Church is to assist all members to increase their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, to assist them in making and keeping their covenants with God, and to strengthen and seal their families." [2] 

In my May 1, 2021 post "How not wearing a mask will eternally damn you (and other worthiness criteria mysteries)," I detailed a simple equation which now exists in the worldwide church:

No mask = no ordinance = no exaltation.

The ultimate aim is for members to be considered "good global citizens" [3] 

Now comes notification that at least one ward -- the Beaverton, Oregon Ward -- has developed a policy that easily informs other ward members of who has or hasn't been COVID-19 vaccinated:


Here's a comment from someone else:


Another member in the Eastern United States also wrote,

"Yes, we had our first frustrating moment today. Youth in our stake have to be vaccinated to go on our Nauvoo Youth trip. I'm so upset at the way this is being handled."

What we are witnessing here is the emergence of local policies which dictate members should get vaccinated in order to enjoy full fellowship in the church. The unvaxxed are now the 21st century versions of their leprous brothers and sisters from 2,000 years ago, and can likely expect to be treated as such.

Jesus taught, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." [4]  We now have a situation where our houses (of worship) are effectively divided between vaxxed and unvaxxed, jabbed and unjabbed. 

Would God inspire his church's leaders to effectively divide his houses? Is that what our church does - divide the unvaxxed from the vaxxed, gay from straight, the poor (who can't afford to pay tithing) from the rich, the tea drinker from the non-tea drinker, the black from the white?

"I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine." [5] 

(The next thing you know, people will be able to log in to a computer database and read up on the real-time medical status and geographic coordinates of anybody who's gotten the jab. Oh, wait - they already can! Hmmmm, I wonder how...[NOTE: The video shown on this link is unverified; all the other images on this post *are* verified])

SOURCES

1.  Alma 6:6; 3 Nephi 18:22; 4 Nephi 1:12; Moroni 6:5-6; D&C 20:75.
2.  Russell M. Nelson, "Opening Remarks," Oct. 2018 General Conference
3.  https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/church-leaders-covid-19-vaccine
4.  Matthew 12:21
5.  D&C 38:27 

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Monday, May 10, 2021

Wendy Watson Nelson’s Wacky, Wayward Wisdom

On Friday, May 7, 2021, a former family therapist and the beloved wife of President Nelson - even Wendy Watson Nelson  - was the keynote speaker at Utah Valley University's commencement. 

Her address encouraged attendees to drop their contentions, open space "for the existence of another" and, through those actions, come to find love in their lives. [1]   She also said that we should be open to other ideas, dropping contention and expectation.

I agree with her to an extent. Decades ago, author Stephen R. Covey promulgated the notion of "Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood." [2]  It's a wise, timeless principle which the church, its leaders and members could really benefit from using.

Yet Nelson has consistently taken the stance that any contention or anger is bad. This belief is undoubtedly rooted in 3 Nephi 11:29, where we read that "the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another."

Nelson's anti-anger advocacy may have begun when the then-never married (and beloved) Wendy L. Watson wrote a book in 2009 entitled, "Spiritual Truths about Intimacy that Will Strengthen Your Marriage" - specifically, the chapter called "The Alienating Influence of Anger." 

(Now, admittedly, I haven't read that chapter; I'm just intrigued by the chapter title. I haven't read the book because I fear that amidst her ideas on incorporating prayer, fasting, and scripture study into "God-Ordained Marital Intimacy," I'll need to embrace "Truth #4: For true marital intimacy, the Holy Ghost needs to be involved. It is simply not possible to have the kind of intimate experiences outside of marriage that you can have within because the Spirit will not be present." Ummm, no. I do not want anyone other than my spouse involved in intimacy, spirit or not).

God "does not like anger"

Fast forward a decade, when Watson (now Nelson), while accompanying her beloved husband on a tour of Indonesia, publicly pronounced her anti-anger beliefs in a talk: "Jesus Christ makes it very clear that he does not like anger. By anticipating an interaction in advance, we can learn how to respond with love rather than anger, even when provoked. We can pray right in the moment to be given an extra measure of patience or compassion for a person who is lashing out in anger."

She continued, "Now the scriptures are filled with inspiring examples [of those] who were serious about living the Savior's doctrine of zero contention." [3] 

This is really interesting to me, because as I scan the scriptures for words like anger, angry, contention, indignation and wrath, a different God appears:

  • "O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation." (Isa. 10:5)
  • "O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is their indignation." (2 Ne. 20:5)
  • "I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath." (Hosea 13:11)
  • "For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction." (2 Ne. 20:25)
  • "For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction." (Isa. 10:25)
  • "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him." (Hosea 14:4)
  • "And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth." (Isa. 63:6)
  • "And the word came to Alma, saying: Go; and also say unto my servant Amulek, go forth and prophesy unto this people, saying-Repent ye, for thus saith the Lord, except ye repent I will visit this people in mine anger; yea, and I will not turn my fierce anger away." (Alma 8:29)
  • "And the LORD said unto Noah, The daughters of thy sons have sold themselves; for behold, mine anger is kindled against the sons of men, for they will not hearken to my voice." (Gen. 8:3 JST)
  • "And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them." (Moses 7:34)
  • "And the Lord said unto Noah: The daughters of thy sons have sold themselves; for behold mine anger is kindled against the sons of men, for they will not hearken to my voice." (Moses 8:15)
  • "For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains." (Deut. 32:22)
  • "And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you." (Jer. 15:14)
  • "For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face," (Jer. 32:31)
  • "Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day." (Jer. 44:6)
  • "Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle." (Zech. 10:3)
  • "But if ye will repent and return unto the Lord your God I will turn away mine anger, saith the Lord; yea, thus saith the Lord, blessed are they who will repent and turn unto me, but wo unto him that repenteth not." (Hel. 13:11)
  • "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment." (Isa. 63:3)
  • "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched." (Jer. 7:20)
  • "Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely:" (Jer. 32:37)
  • "Oh, this unbelieving and stiffnecked generation-mine anger is kindled against them." (D&C 5:8)
  • "Therefore I command you to repent-repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore-how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not." (D&C 19:15)
  • "Hearken, O ye people who profess my name, saith the Lord your God; for behold, mine anger is kindled against the rebellious, and they shall know mine arm and mine indignation, in the day of visitation and of wrath upon the nations." (D&C 56:1)
  • "But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them." (D&C 60:2)
  • "For I, the Lord, have decreed in mine anger many destructions upon the waters; yea, and especially upon these waters." (D&C 61:5)
  • "I, the Lord, was angry with you yesterday, but today mine anger is turned away." (D&C 61:20)
  • "And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart." (D&C 133:51)

(I could have shared more scriptures, but my copy-and-paste muscles are worn out).

With all of these anger/indignation/wrath verses well in hand, I set to work to see if the Lord is all talk and no action. Sure enough, as a God, he let his wrath and indignation loose a number of times. Ancient Israel was often the beneficiary of that anger. During his mortal life, the Lord got a little ticked off at times. For example, here is John 2:15: "And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;" (a "scourge" is actually a whip).

It's incredible that someone who is supposedly so internationally recognized and respected as (the beloved) Sister Nelson would say "Jesus Christ makes it very clear that he does not like anger" and preached "the Savior's doctrine of zero contention." The scriptures are overflowing with examples of just the opposite, with excerpts from Jesus' pre-mortal, mortal and post-mortal lives. Heck, even seminary students know Jesus used a whip to clear out the temple moneychangers.

With all due respect to Sister Nelson,

  • Jesus Christ makes it very clear that he can and does get angry.
  • He can love us AND be angry at the same time, even when provoked. 
  • The scriptures are filled with examples of God being provoked to anger and releasing it.  

But this isn't the only time Sister Nelson has taught beliefs which run contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sin even once, and you're eternally screwed

Another book by the beloved Sister Nelson is entitled "The Not Even Once Club." It was published on September 2, 2013 by Deseret Book, [4] a wholly owned subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, the holding company for business firms owned by the church. [5] 

This children's book is marketed as "an adorable and appealing way to engage children in a story that will help them choose for themselves to keep the commandments and to never break them. Not even once. Children will meet Tyler, an energetic boy who is excited to make new friends in his Primary class. They have invited Tyler to join their special club, but first he has to pass the test and keep the club promise."

The promise? Here's a screen capture from one of the book's pages:


"Tyler looked at the poster. It read: "From this moment on I will never break the Word of Wisdom, lie, cheat, steal, do drugs, bully, dress immodestly, or break the law of chastity. I will never intentionally look at anything pornographic on TV, the internet, a cell phone, billboards, magazines or movies." "I promise," shouted Tyler. "Not. Even. Once."

So here, kids are being taught that if you mess up, screw up or make a mistake, it's justifiable for them to ostracize and abandon you. To make sure you're out and never part of the "club." It sets an incredibly high expectation that you will be perfect, for other kids not to be merciful, compassionate and forgiving and for you not to be open and honest with others (because of potential judgment by friends). 

The (3-star) Reviews are in on (the beloved) Sister Nelson

After pondering these (and many more) questions, I wondered if I was the only one on the planet who had these concerns. I'm not.

I pulled the book up on Amazon [4] and was surprised by its high degree of dissatisfaction:


Then I checked it out on Deseret Book. [6] 3 out of 5 stars!!!


I'm amazed! This is a book by the wife of the president of the church, an international global faith leader! She should have at least a thousand five-star reviews and maybe only a couple one-star reviews. What the heck is going on here?

Why such consistently poor reviews? Here's what people said:

"This book promotes never sinning. Since Christ was the only one who would come to this earth and never sin, this book is blasphemous to expect or to heap the pressure upon anyone to never sin. The atonement was intended to offer us a way to be forgiven from sin. If we never need the atonement, do we also not need Christ to suffer for our sins? Do we then get through heavens gate without the need for Christ? These teachings open up a Pandora's box of false truths if we allow these teachings to be taught to our kids. This book should be publicly recalled and denounced as the blatantly false doctrine it is. "

"This book sends a terrible message to young kids. In the story, in order to belong to their club, you have to promise not to sin, "not even once." This message goes against everything Christ stood for: tolerance, inclusion, repentance, and forgiveness. This book teaches children to be exclusionary and that if a child sins, "even once," that they are somehow less than and aren't worthy of being friends with. This book should be retracted by the publisher."

"Wow from a licensed mental health therapist's perspective Wendy has really missed the mark in her book. She herself as a therapist should understand the damage this all or nothing thinking can bring. It's called a thinking error Wendy. Black and white, all or nothing. Where is the atonement? How is this realistic? We are all sinners, some of us don't pretend and cover it up through writing books and putting out unrealistic expectations for our children to follow. Where is Jesus in this? Where is the plan of salvation and the plan of happiness? This is brainwashing and numbing and to the parents who read this to their children I encourage you to tell your kids its ok to make mistakes and teach them how to handle it when they do instead of sweep it under the rug and pretend they are perfect because they are in the not even once club. You were born to make mistakes not fake perfection!!!"

"This is a terrible thing to teach children. Set an impossible standard so they are guaranteed to fail and then feel bad about what is the inevitable and valuable and essential human journey, learning through experience. Give them a reason to think they are better than everyone else... right up until they screw up too and are kicked out of the club. Excommunicated if you will. This is trash."

"I read this at a local book store. I couldn't believe what I was reading. Teaching kids that they can't ever make a mistake? Seriously? While it might be focused on illegal substances it definitely is applied to every other area of sin in the religion. I can't believe this author is the wife of the president of the mormon church and this is the type of message she's pushing. What happened to repentance and forgiveness? It kind of negates the foundation of Christianity. Having grown up mormon I see a lot of their problems summed up here."

"This book uses wonderful illustrations to convey an appalling message. Instead of preparing children for real life and its obstacles, or teach them how to recover after their own occasional and unavoidable failures; it tells them they are expected to be perfect from the beginning to the end, otherwise their self-worth is reduced. This book doesn't give children tools to succeed in life, all it does is hang guilt and shame over their young heads if they ever fail to be perfect."

(I could have shared more reviews, but my copy-and-paste muscles are worn out…again).

Manipulated Reviews?

But the thing that left me scratching my head the most about the reviews wasn't their content, but how they are being misreported.

A post on the Rational Faiths blog (primarily between Sept 3-12, 2013) highlights quite a discussion about how Deseret Book has managed the reviews of this book. There are three primary categories of complaints:

  • Many people posted reviews on the book between 2013 and February 25, 2015. They are now gone.
  • Many reviews are dated 2/25/15
  • Some negative reviews are now listed as 5 stars

Sure enough, here is what I found on Deseret Book's page of this book:

  • 39 of the 42 reviews are dated Feb 25, 2015.
  • Feb 25, 2015 is the oldest review date. By comparison, on Amazon (here), 106 of the 147 reviews (72%) are dated before Feb 25, 2015.
  • One review (from Jeanine; Feb 25, 2015) which is clearly negative has 5 stars.

The Failed Test of a Supposed Disciple

The Lord gave us a tried-and-tested criteria to determine discipleship: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32) His scriptures also say, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23).

Christ is not exclusive in his offering of the Atonement. He does not have an exclusive club for only perfect people. It is unrealistic to expect perfection from our little or big children. Mistakes are not only inevitable, but are also necessary, for growth.

The children in this book obey based on peer pressure and temporal incentives instead of having a desire to be obedient based on love for their Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. The book also gives limited time to the concept of repentance and only one small reference in the discussion questions.

"Be part of my plan, or else!" sounds like a summary of somebody's plan of salvation, but not God's.

A God who lacks passion isn't rooted in Christ's words. 

A gospel which preaches perfectionism over imperfection, childhood/adolescent infallibility over repentance isn't rooted in Christ's words either.

Because the church's publishing arm continues to sell this book, 
it is also tacitly agreeing with its underlying philosophy.

It has for almost eight years.

A church which has promoted these beliefs via its publishing arm for almost 8 years? 

It's supposed to discourage and condemn the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.

It's supposed to help set us up for salvation.

Instead, it's setting many up for catastrophic failure.



QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • How do you think the book's expectations and behaviors will surface when children need to open up and talk with their parents? 
  • What about children with special needs who often do things that are considered "different" by others? Will some kids be rejected because they don't fit in with others? 
  • What about kids who already struggle to be accepted in the Church?
  • What are we to do with the concept of having a club for children where they receive candy and material rewards for keeping the commandments?
  • What if they don't play their piano or violin concerto perfectly?
  • What if they're feeling perfectionism and struggling to get straight As or to be the state basketball or volleyball champion?
  • Will they expect (or feel they deserve) excommunication if they ever tell a lie?
  • How will this philosophy affect them when they are in adulthood? 
  • What about missionaries who are left with the impression, by Sister Nelson's husband, that they need to be perfectly obedient on their missions in order to see more baptisms?   What happens if they fail to baptize a lot of people - are they failures?
  • And how will they raise their own children?
  • How many parents and/or kids will have read this book and been damaged by it?
  • Who do you think will ultimately be responsible for these consequences?
  • Just who the heck is running Deseret Books?  ; )

SOURCES

1.  https://www.sltrib.com/news/education/2021/05/07/after-tension-over-her/
2.  https://www.franklincovey.com/habit-5/
3.  https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/president-nelson-indonesia-2019
4.  https://www.amazon.com/Not-Even-Once-Club/dp/1609073371/
5.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deseret_Book_Company
6.  https://deseretbook.com/p/not-even-once-club-wendy-watson-nelson-88683 

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Saturday, May 1, 2021

How not wearing a mask will eternally damn you (and other worthiness criteria mysteries)

 If there is one thing the Church adamantly promotes, it's ordinances. 

Want to get to heaven? Be baptized.

Want to be endowed with spiritual power? Get your endowments.

Want to be a small-g god and live with your family for eternity? Get sealed.

These doctrines are increasingly being emphasized:

"The only way to return to live with (Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ) and with our family is through the ordinances of the holy temple." [1]

"The only way you can have the feeling of that family embrace forever is to become worthy yourself and help others to receive the sealing ordinances of the temple. "  [1]

"The ordinances of the temple unite us in special ways and allow us to be one in every eternally significant way."  [2]

"The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to resist the attacks of the adversary."  [3]

"We will come to understand that through the ordinances of the temple, the power of godliness is manifest in our lives10 and that because of temple ordinances, we can be armed with God's power, and His name will be upon us, His glory round about us, and His angels have charge over us."  [4]

"President Russell M. Nelson has taught us, " This Church was restored so that families could be formed, sealed, and exalted eternally."" [5] 

Yet within the last year, the qualifications for entering the temple -- and subsequently enjoying their promised blessings -- have been modified.

"You will be asked to confirm your willingness to wear a face covering throughout your time in the temple. If you are experiencing symptoms or are unwilling or unable to wear a mask, you'll be invited to reschedule your appointment and return at a later time. In the baptistry, all participants except the individual being baptized will wear a face covering."  [6]

Just to re-cap:

If you want to go to the Celestial Kingdom (where Father and Jesus dwell), and live with your family in eternal glory, you must enter into sacred ordinances obtained only in the temple.

To enter the temple, you must wear a mask.

Thus, if you don't wear a mask, you cannot enter into the temple to receive special ordinances which are mandatory if you want to go to the Celestial Kingdom (where Father and Jesus dwell) and live with your family in eternal glory.

No mask = no ordinance = no exaltation. 

Another thing I need help understanding are the temple recommend questions. 

In order to be worthy for temple ordinances (and their attendant blessings), one must answer a standardized set of worthiness questions. [7]  So, for example: 

  • If "you have faith in and a testimony of God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost," (Question #1) but have no actual, thriving, dynamic relationship with God or Jesus, and don't even hear them in your heart and/or mind, that's OK.
  • If you "strive to keep the Sabbath day holy, both at home and at church" and "attend your meetings" (Question #8) but don't strive to have your baptism of fire or any other spiritual experiences, that's OK, too. 
  • If you are a full-tithe payer (Question #10) but look the other way when a beggar is asking for help, that's OK.
  • If you have met "any financial or other obligations to a former spouse or to children" (Question #12) but do not express love for those children, that's also fine.

Yet of all the temple recommend questions, I find #11 ("Do you understand and obey the Word of Wisdom?) the most challenging. Maybe you can explain the following:

  • Tea is a "hot drink" but hot chocolate isn't?
  • What constitutes a "mild drink" with barley ("barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain")?
  • We are asked to not eat meat and if we do so, it should be "sparingly" - "only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine," but (1) we have it all the time at ward parties and (2) why does the corporation of the church own one of the largest cattle ranches in the US?
  • We are told that the Word of Wisdom is "to be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint," but today its adherence is not only a requirement to get into the temple, but also heaven. What revelation was received which overrode the "not by commandment or constraint" scriptural injunction, and when was it voted upon by the saints per the Law of Common Consent?
  • How does the Word of Wisdom square with Matthew 15:10-11, 16-20?
  • Drinking tea (a "hot drink") is a no-no, but if you are morbidly obese, have no desire to care for your body, drink gallons of Mountain Dew or Red Bull, binge on junk food or pop ibuprofen like candy, that's OK.

  

Like masks, we have a situation where if you drink tea, you are unworthy of a temple recommend/entering the temple, and thus, forfeit your right to enjoy eternal blessings with God and your family.

My prediction: Someday, churchwide, worthiness to receive a patriarchal blessing will include having been vaccinated for COVID-19. Here's this little ditty from a church member in Pleasant View, UT:


I also predict that future temple recommend interviews will equate wearing a mask with "sustaining the prophet." Think I'm exaggerating/joking? Read this (courtesy of a church member in the West Jordan, UT area):


Sorry, but I feel I must end on a happy note:

SOURCES

1  Henry B Eyring, "I Love to see the Temple," April 2021 General Conference
2  Quentin L. Cook, "Hearts Knit in Righteousness and Unity," October 2020 General Conference
3  D. Todd Christofferson, "Why the Covenant Path" April 2021 General Conference
4  Bonnie L. Oscarson, "Rise Up in Strength, Sisters in Zion" October 2016 General Conference
5  Dallin H. Oaks, "Two Great Commandments" October 2019 General Conference
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn_vicNSah8&ab_channel=ChurchNewsroom
7 https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/october-2019-general-conference-temple-recommend