Sunday, October 4, 2015

Notes on the Priesthood Session

Most questions can be resolved through sincere study and seeking answers from God.  Using our mind without our heart will not bring spiritual answers. 
Neil L. Andersen
Most questions can be resolved?  What are we supposed to do about the ones that can't?   And why is there no warning that using our heart without our mind may not bring logical answers?

For now, give Brother Joseph a break
Neil L. Andersen
You've got to be kidding me.  While this brought a good chuckle from the audience in the Conference Center, to anyone who knows a little about Joseph's life outside what appears in Sunday School manuals, this probably elicited only rage and incredulity.

Give him a break?  Give him a break for marrying other men's wives, using power, threats and promises of postmortal rewards to prey on pubescent girls, publicly lying about his polygamous behavior, evading law enforcement, ordering the destruction of a newspaper that meant to discredit him, and boldly proclaiming that by keeping his church together, he pulled off something even Jesus couldn't manage?

And that's ignoring the creation of a cult-like, bigoted, money-grubbing church.

If you already love Joseph Smith, saying "give him a break" comes off as a good-natured point of amusement.  If you aren't already ensorcelled by the church's favorable narrative of his life, such a comment appears to be reductive, deceitful, and dismissive of actual historical scholarship.

Although heartbroken by the unexpected death of his mother, father, brother and sister, Elder Openshaw's concern immediately turned to his two younger brothers.  Ultimately it was Elder Openshaw and his brother Zane who decided that others could help at home and that Porter should stay on his mission.  They knew it was what their parents would want. 
Neil L. Andersen
This is, frankly, disgusting.

Four family members just died.  The only one to survive is a little kid.  That kid should be with the immediate family that he has left to help him cope with something unimaginably traumatic.  Porter and Zane both should have gone home immediately to be with their brother and to be united as a family.  There is nothing honorable about putting religious zealotry above the emotional needs of your family in a time of extreme tragedy.  That poor kid probably grew up with his aunt or something, wondering why his big brother wasn't there for him in his time of greatest need.

This is not the kind of example anyone should be glorifying to the entire body of the church.  The church should never be prioritized above family.  There are thousands of other missionaries in the field.  It could not have been so important for Elder Openshaw to stay away from home in such special circumstances when his fellow proselytizers were capable of picking up whatever slack his absence would leave.

My admittedly uneducated guess is that Elder Openshaw may have opted to stay on his mission because losing himself in the work helped him avoid confronting the strong emotions brought on by this tragedy.  Andersen is promoting what could be very psychologically dangerous.

And who cares if it's what the parents would want?  If that's seriously what they wanted (which seems unlikely), they were bad parents.  Maybe the best way to honor their memory would be to come together as a family and stay strong amid adversity and cling tightly to the siblings and relatives that remain.

Seriously.  This story made me so angry.  We don't need more people to do stuff like this.  We need more people who are willing to drop everything and rush home to take care of each other.

He wants to speak to you.  However, it requires a little scientific curiosity.  It requires an experiment upon the word of God and the exercise of a particle of faith.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Don't pretend there's anything scientific about it.  Where are the measurable observations?  Where is the ability to recreate the results in a different lab?  What about another important part of scientific advancement—figuring out your hypothesis is wrong and adjusting accordingly?

I don't know this young man's heart, but I couldn't help but feel terribly sorry for him.  How easily he rejected the gifts the Lord was offering him.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf
"I don't know this young man's heart, but I apparently know his state of mind well enough to pass judgment on his decision."

Maybe this kid's transition into skepticism and atheism was easy.  But the fact that Uchdorf thinks he can claim it was makes it seem like he's implying that all of us who have rejected the gospel have done so easily.  If that's the case, he's severely missed the mark.

If we can put the burden of proof on God, we think we can excuse ourselves from taking God's commandments seriously. 
 —Dieter F. Uchtdorf
We don't have to put the burden of proof on God.  It's already there.  If he's asking us to believe in him, he should probably give us some reasons to think he's legit.  The person making an assertion is responsible for providing evidence of his assertion.

And this is also a sideways reference to the "he left because he wanted to sin" assumption.  I didn't leave so that I didn't have to take the commandments seriously.  I left because I found far more reasons to think the church was a hoax than to think it was true.  Not having to follow the commandments anymore was an added bonus, I suppose.  But it took me a long time to start breaking any commandments that I wasn't already breaking before my faith crisis started.

Skepticism is easy.  Anyone can do it.  It is the faithful life that requires moral strength, dedication and courage. 
 —Dieter F. Uchtdorf
 I thought Uchtdorf was better than this.

Skepticism is not easy.  Being intellectually honest with yourself and challenging your own beliefs and assumptions takes courage.

But beyond that, I'm appalled by how easily Uchtdorf dismisses the opposition.  Both sides of the aisle have plenty of courage and plenty of cowardice, but membership in neither camp requires either attribute.  The way he writes off skeptics as amoral, weak, and lazy is...well, it's kind of amoral, weak, and lazy.


  1. I was also bothered by the Andersen talk. Family should come before anything, but he teaches duty to church above all else. Disgusting! This kind of mentality is what makes older couples feel good about leaving their children and grandchildren for years as they serve multiple missions or spend many hours each day or week in the temple instead of assisting their sons and daughters who may have sick children or children with disabilities and need a break.

    And no, Joseph, nor any other church leader deserves a break.

    Did you catch the indoctrination in the photo of the Brazilian family? The little boy is wearing a "future missionary" name tag. Just pull up the text of Andersen's talk online at

    Scientific curiosity? Come on? There is absolutely no proof of anything to do with the Book of Mormon being true. None! And if there were, the church would be jumping all over it. Look at how they run from actual proof that the Book of Abraham is false. I agree with you. I thought Uchtdorf was better than that.

    1. Honestly, Uchtdorf was the one apostle who I was giving a break. He was wrong, but he seemed to be trying and he seemed to have more compassion toward the church's detractors than his peers did. After this talk, though, I don't think he should get a break.

      And I didn't catch that detail in the photo. Which is good, because stuff like "future missionary" nametags make me sick.