Richard Alger

Personal Online Journal

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Disciple’s Plea for Openness and Inclusion

From "A Disciple’s Plea for Openness and Inclusion | An Interview With Elder Marlin K. Jensen" by Terryl Givens.
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During his 24 years as a beloved LDS General Authority and Official Church Historian, Elder Marlin K. Jensen presided over an historic shift toward greater openness in the LDS church’s approach to its history. In this Conversation with Terryl Givens, we get an intimate glimpse into Elder Jensen’s personal life and thoughts, including: 
- How loving and serving his older brother instilled a determination to include “those who are different”
- The spiritual experiences that led him to consecrate his life to serving in the church
His wish for more “overtly spiritual” church experience
- How our spiritual lives can be enriched by people, practices and writings from other religious traditions
- The challenges and the fruits of complete openness and transparency in telling the history of the church
- The urgent need to embrace those who are different or “don’t meet the norm” in the church
- His stirring witness of Christ 
An attorney by profession who is more at home on the ranch, Elder Jensen became one of the public faces of Mormonism during what came to be called the “Mormon Moment.” He was featured prominently on the 2007 PBS series The Mormons. 

Under his direction as church historian, dramatic advances were made in church history, including creation of the Joseph Smith Papers project, construction of the new Church History Museum next to Temple Square, and greater access to scholars on a number of fronts. Terryl Givens once wrote of Elder Jensen: "Marlin Jensen has done more to further the cause of Mormon history than any person of the current generation."
I love this story from Elder Jensen

a year ago in our stake conference, a young, bright mother stood and talked about having done her daily scripture read, after which she was sitting quietly thinking about what she had read and then began to reflect on the entire restoration and Joseph Smith. Then there came into her mind the question, “What if all of this isn’t real? What if it isn’t real?” Then she progressed from there to thought about our Savior and the Fall and all of these beliefs that we have as Latter-day Saints, and began again to question. 
Up until that point, she’d had a life much like most Latter-day Saints: a series of progressive experiences confirming what she believed, then had the lived experience of “By this you can tell if it’s God’s doctrine or if I speak of myself.” That’s the experiential part of this: “Any man who will do the will of the Father, he shall know of the doctrine: whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.” 
She, at that point, got into what I would call a spiritual free fall, which I think is happening to many good Latter-day Saints today. I think the way I reason through that in my humble way gets to what you’re talking about, and that is that ultimately it all centers on Christ. What we sincerely in our hearts think about Him, believe about Him, hope about Him, is going to determine the kind of person that we’ll be, I think, and what our actions are going to be. 
So when I look at this world, and I ask the question, “Where is Christ? Who has Him? Who is living like Him? Who is being taught His teachings? Where is it facilitated to do what He did?,” I’m led to our Church. That’s where I come: to this Church. 
That fact, however it got there, to me, is that if someone looks at the New Testament and is trying to find the Christianity that was practiced there, taught there, and written about there in the book of Acts, he will eventually in a thoughtful way come to Mormonism. He will embrace the Christ of the Restoration and with that, takes those historical facts that brought that all to pass. That’s where I come out in my thinking on this.
When asked about "moments of time in our past are transformative, shaping moments that determine who we become spiritually and intellectually.", Elder Jensen said this first.

I think the first would have been the fact that two years before I was born, my mother gave birth to my older brother, Gary, who is now 77 years old and who, because of oxygen deprivation at birth, has only attained the mental age of about a 5 or 6-year-old. 
He and I were raised sort of in tandem. After my birth, there was a hiatus of about 10 years before my parents ventured to have another child, which may say something about me, but it was significant being raised with that special brother at a time when there was very little provision in the Church, in public education, and society generally for what we now call special needs children. Observing his treatment at the hands of other young people trying to come to his aid; watching my parents devote their life, their resources to his enlargement as a person — I think at a very young age, that became one of the most defining parts of my development. 
I’ve always been a softy when it comes to those who are different and I think it began with my brother — and it remains. We share, within our family, giving him care now that my parents are gone. I’ve been blessed, I think, to have just a little look into the eternities about the person he will one day be. It makes me very grateful that I’ve been nice to him. I’m always desirous of being that way throughout his life because I think he was given to us that we might learn things that we would have otherwise never learned.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Sincerity of Joseph Smith

From “A mere impostor . . . would have broken down.”, Dan Peterson, 8 Nov 2017

In June 1851, a journalist connected with London’s Morning Chronicle published a piece entitled “The Mormons.”  He did not accept Joseph Smith’s religious faith, and believed that Mormonism was conceived in fraud.  “At the same time,” though, he wrote of Joseph,
there is much in his later career which seems to prove that he really believed what he asserted—that he imagined himself to be in reality what he pretended—the chosen medium to convey a new gospel to the world—the inspired of heaven, the dreamer of divine dreams, and the companion of angels.  If he were an impostor, deliberately and coolly inventing, and pertinaciously propagating a falsehood, there is this much to be said, that never was an impostor more cruelly punished than he was, from the first moment of his appearance as a prophet to the last.  Joseph Smith, in consequence of his pretensions to be a seer and prophet of God, lived a life of continual misery and persecution.  He endured every kind of hardship, contumely and suffering.  He was derided, assaulted and imprisoned.  His life was one long scene of peril and distress, scarcely brightened by the brief beam of comparative repose which he enjoyed in his own city of Nauvoo.  In the contempt showered upon his head his whole family shared.  Father and mother, and brothers, wife and friends, were alike involved in the ignominy of his pretensions, and the sufferings that resulted.  He lived for fourteen years amid vindictive enemies, who never missed an opportunity to vilify, to harass, and to destroy him; and he died at last an untimely and miserable death, involving in his fate a brother to whom he was tenderly attached.  If anything can tend to encourage the supposition that Joseph Smith was a sincere enthusiast maddened with religious frenzies, as many have been before and will be after him—and that he had strong and invincible faith in his own high pretensions and divine missions, it is the notability that unless supported by such feelings, he would have renounced the unprofitable and ungrateful task, and sought refuge from persecution and misery in private life and honorable industry.
(A journalist connected with London’s Morning Chronicle published a piece entitled “The Mormons.” June 1851. Quoted in Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, 356)

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Keep in line with the teachings of the Apostles

"I will give you a key that will never rust,—if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray" (Joseph Smith as reported by William G. Nelson)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Monday, September 04, 2017

"It either occurred or it did not occur"

"Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens." ("The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith", Gordon B. Hinckley Oct 2002)

"Inquiries from honest searchers after truth should always be welcomed. Intelligent learners, in any field of knowledge, ask for explanations as problems appear in their studies. Indeed, the questions asked often mark the degree of proficiency attained. Those to whom no problems occur are asleep at the wheel of truth."
(John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. ix)

“The doctrine of the Church cannot be fully understood unless it is tested by mind and feelings, by intellect and emotions, by every power of the investigator. Every Church member is expected to understand the doctrine of the Church intelligently. There is no place in the Church for blind adherence.”
~John A. Widtsoe, Evidence and Reconciliations, p. 226

“The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding. And it has been wisely said that the man who knows only half of any question is worse off than the man who knows nothing of it. He is not only one-sided but his partisanship soon turns him into an intolerant and a fanatic. In general it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion or criticism is worth defending”
~James E. Talmage, Improvement Era, Jan. 1920, p. 204

“If faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.”
~George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 14, p. 216

“Man must learn to know the universe precisely as it is, or he cannot successfully find his place in it. A man should therefore use his reasoning faculty in all matters involving truth, and especially as concerning his religion. He must learn to distinguish between truth and error.”
~John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology, p. 8

“Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in the market place of thought, and in that competition truth will emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression. Seek truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, 'From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth—O God of truth deliver us’.”
~Hugh B. Brown, BYU Speech, March 29, 1958

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Forgiveness Analogy

I have changed numerous dirty diapers. Some individuals whose diapers I changed as infants are now adults. I have not literally forgotten the soiled diapers, but it is not something I bring up in casual conversation (except when I am making this point). While I don’t bring the soiled diapers up to remembrance, it isn’t as though I might conclude that my children somehow never had soiled diapers.
("Rage and Forgiveness", Meg Stout, 1 Sep 2017, Millennial Star Website)

This is a vivid example. I relate to it as the changer and the soiler.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What is Marriage?

From Tom Stringham. He replied to a FB post.
"What's a marriage then? What's irreplaceably missing in a same-sex marriage?" 
I've written about this before, but to answer your questions briefly: marriage is, in form, a permanent, sexually exclusive union of a husband and wife. What's missing in a same-sex marriage (so to speak) is a husband, or a wife. 
"Most of us take it for granted that homosexual marriage is possible; it's a matter of allowance." 
Maybe that's true, but in my experience it's not, and people who affirm the gendered/conjugal definition of marriage like I do are almost universally misunderstood. It's not that we accept the modern formulation of marriage as a formalization of attraction and love but don't want gay people to have that--it's that we have a different view of what marriage is. 
You can see all this pretty plainly in "The Divine Institution of Marriage", which Bryce attempted to respond to in his blog post. There's very little about orientation, nothing about attraction in it. There's only one reference to love in the romantic sense. 
Rather, the claim is that marriage is an institution which is sociologically fundamental "for transmitting to future generations the moral strengths, traditions and values that sustain civilization". There are thirty or so references to children in the document. 
The church is quite clearly trying to communicate a view of what marriage *is*. 
"One purpose of this document is to reaffirm the Church’s declaration that marriage is the lawful union of a man and a woman." 
"Marriage is far more than a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations. Rather, marriage is a vital institution for rearing children and teaching them to become responsible adults." 
It even specifically refutes the idea that this is about "allowing" or "rights": 
"In view of the close links that have long existed between marriage, procreation, gender and parenting, same-sex marriage cannot be regarded simply as the granting of a new “right.” It is a far-reaching redefinition of the very nature of marriage itself." 
"The Church’s affirmation of marriage as being between a man and a woman “neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians.”[25] Church members are to treat all people with love and humanity. They may express genuine love and kindness toward a gay or lesbian family member, friend or other person without condoning any redefinition of marriage." 
(See "The Divine Institution of Marriage", Mormon Newsroom, Accessed 31 Aug 2017)
We've all been saying this stuff for years.
 See also