Category Archives: Education

How Study Of Theology Can Strengthen Or Weaken Your Faith

Theology college courses change people. As the student sits down for his first lecture, he is surprised to hear the instructor sound atheist. Jericho was destroyed long before the Israelites got there. The bible was written during Israel’s captivity in Babylon, long after the supposed events took place. The Garden of Eden was just a fairytale based on other local legends.

“Well I still believe in the bible,” the student thinks. “I can learn all this important information and still hold on to my faith.”

Years later, the student receives a college degree. He still believes in his religion, but now he talks and acts very differently. When someone asks him about Paul’s sexist doctrine in the New Testament, he replies with a lengthy rationalization about what Paul actually meant according to the original Greek. When a young woman confides that she is ashamed about having sex outside of marriage, he tells her God loves all His children and she will not be damned for such a minor offense. In his Sunday sermons, he delivers pearls of wisdom from the scriptures, feel-good lessons that help people lead a better life.

But does he really believe the words he reads from the bible? Not any more.

People treat religion like a headache medicine. They want quick-term relief and comfort to help them sleep at night. But what happens when you become the pharmacist? What happens when you become the authoritative expert? Few are prepared to engage their religious beliefs in a rigorous classroom setting, and involve archaeology, philosophy, linguistics, ethics, and rhetoric.

When you turn personal beliefs into science , what you thought you know and what you find is reality rarely match up. It’s like that moment when you are dating and you realize all the imperfections in your partner, things you never could have imagined at first, and you have to decide whether to go on with the relationship. These dissonances will make the most brilliant and determined student push faith away, making it less personal. It will become detached and academic.

Follow Your Instinct

My number one rule has always been to follow my inner voice. My college teachers and even my church leaders may be smart and inspired people, but some of the biggest problems in life are caused by following the advice of others. There are core beliefs that are only between you and God.

Archaeologist Frank Calvert defied all his colleagues as he searched for the legendary city of Troy. Everyone told him that Troy was nothing but a myth from Iliad. But after many years his convictions paid off, and the city was discovered right where he said it would be.

There will be plenty of disillusionment as you study theology, but unless these moments of realization are uplifting, they do not make you a better man. Did Joshua really knock down the walls of Jericho like the bible says? The site of Jericho was destroyed before Joshua, so how could he? A weak theology student will take this as overwhelming evidence that the story was a myth. But, well, maybe there were two Jerrichos. There were two Bethlehems, after all. Or maybe the walls were wood, not stone, and have long ago rotted away. Or maybe the walls were dismantled and distributed to construct other buildings. There’s any number of explanations.

Or maybe the bible account we read is not what was originally written.

The challenge is to be open enough that you aren’t rationalizing everything that you presuppose, and yet you are sticking by your core convictions. Do not distance or detach yourself from your theology. I find that when I earnestly follow my honest instinct, my beliefs happen to end up in line with canon and true prophets. I find that my core convictions pay off and end up being right.

Avoid Social Justice Theory

There is no avoiding the primary question of existence: free choice vs. universal salvation. Oh we may think we got past that question long ago in the preexistence, when Lucifer’s plan was overthrown and we chose to come down to earth. But this battle is still at the heart of every non-believer, and the influence of Lucifer’s plan infests every society on earth.

How could a benevolent God allow suffering to exist? Why didn’t God create human beings who innately have enough integrity so that everyone chooses the right path? These doubtful questions are the reason why there are so many nonbelievers in America today, and they affect theologian more than anyone. The more you study theology, the more you get pushed to confront these foundational questions. Consider how great theologian C.S. Lewis doubted God’s benevolence after his beloved wife died. Or how Peter thrice denied Jesus after he saw Jesus being led away to his death. These doubts will come no matter who you are. The more you know about theology the less you are willing to just say: “I don’t know how the atonement works.” The important thing is that you are prepared in how you will deal these temptations when they come.

Popular culture today thrives on social justice. Environmentalism, social equality, gender equality, etc. all rely on social justice as the fundamental belief. The same rhetoric we fought against in the pre-existence is taught nonstop on PBS television and in the gender studies classroom–and in theology university courses. Social justice is merely a rehash of universal salvation, the same highly-competitive belief system that has been around from ancient Babylon to modern-day Communism.

The God of Christianity is like a math teacher who gives some students A’s and other students C’s. But is it just for God to create some people who eventually fail? Why can’t everybody get A’s? Universal salvation declares that nobody should be allowed to be better than anyone else. They will force you to live the right way to get to heaven. We are surrounded by chilling social justice rhetoric today.

Most religion professors and journalists put the cart before the horse in order to push a social agenda. They use religion to push gender equality or gay rights. But you get your social agendas from religion, not religion from your social agendas. With faith deconstructed, the theology classroom convinces students to replace empty meaning with social justice causes. So what is really at the heart of your social crusades, religious journalists?

Universal salvation.

Go On Your Own

In 1967, the LDS church acquired some fragments of the Joseph Smith papyri that some falsely say Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Abraham. The church’s leading expert in archaeology, Dr. Hugh Nibley, translated the fragments and discovered they were from the Egyptian Book of Breathing, not from the Book of Abraham. Nibley was tasked with presenting his findings to the world. So how did Nibley explain it?

Nibley wrote the most important volume on Mormon archaeology ever produced: Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri:. The fragments contained only a small handful of hieroglyphics, so the easy explanation was that the Book of Breathings was a companion to the Book of Abraham text, which has not survived. But this was not enough for Nibley. He researched the crap out of it, exploring every angle and the background of every piece. He did not seek rationalizations of his religious beliefs, but earnest investigations from various conjectures. His answers fit neither the narrative of the church nor the narrative of mainstream archeology. He explored new theories on the nature of translation and inspiration. He confronted what the world fundamentally thought about Egypt and ancient literature, and changed everything. He was honest and sincere.

Do not be afraid to break new ground. Now, this is dangerous because I see plenty of religious journalists out there pushing all kinds of wacky theories, spreading false doctrines. It is important to keep your ideas grounded in reality. Wacky theories arise when people try to take shortcuts to truth. No, Ezekiel 1 is not about aliens. The answer is much more complex, and only an earnest, hard worker will discover it.

Do not rationalize your false beliefs. Yet do not make hasty conclusions without exploring every piece of evidence. The answer is there. The scriptures lead you to the answer. Theology is great because you can involve all kinds of fields of study to back you up. We are encouraged to “seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118) The key is a combination of study and faith.

Science can enrich your theology. Sir Francis Bacon pointed out, “even that school which is most accused of atheism doth most demonstrate religion.” An atheist scientist who sincerely seeks out truth can deliver truth. I find that to be true. It is up to you to deeply ponder the facts and tie them all together. The Social Justice ideology is thin and easily defeated with reason and logic. The “contemplative atheist is rare” to be found, indeed.

Evil ideology is cold and bears a false resemblance of humanity. True religion embraces human warmth in a sincere way, as it points man to God for his magnanimity. Feel out this direction with your eyes closed, like rays of the sun, and do not heed the calls of anyone else. To comfort the widow, strengthen the weak, cloth the naked, this is true religion.

See also: Why Do People Who Look Into Mormon History Lose Their Faith

How To Ask Difficult Questions In The Mormon Church Without Expressing Doubt

Some Mormons feel like there are skeletons in the closet that they aren’t allowed to discuss. The pressure to be quiet feeds the media articles and television clips about Mormonism’s “dark history.” Racism, sexism, a history of violence. How can we talk about these issues without inviting doubt and apostasy?

Raw Story acted shocked when a Mormon Sunday School teacher was reportedly “fired” for discussing black history in the church. Ex-Mormon Bruce Fey asked: “Where can a sincere devout member with difficult questions regarding church history, doctrine, and culture go to discuss those questions?”

Get Both Sides Of Every Argument

This is a strange question, because I never felt like questioning the church was banned. Growing up, my father played anti-Mormon Christian talk shows in the car. When the Christian talk radio started bashing Mormons, my father did not even say anything. He simply let it play. When I later asked him why he did that, my father explained: “I want you to get both sides of the argument and make up your own mind.” I was amazed that he put so much faith in my ability to make wise choices, especially considering how persuasive anti-Mormon arguments were.

I did not feel afraid to ask questions at church either. But then again, I did not get bothered by other Mormon members who looked down on me. There is always going to be self-righteous good-doers, and people are always going to react to their hostility by poking holes in their beliefs, namely the church. We are going to equate the self-righteous jerks with Mormonism itself. It’s always going to be that way, because that’s human nature wherever you go. So I think it is wise to try to separate concerns about unpleasant ward members with questions about eternal truths.

I was never interested in “gotcha” questions, like race history that anti-Mormons use.

Let’s use a different example: Joseph Smith being sealed to girls besides his wife Emma. Someone with shallow faith would hear that and their knee-jerk reaction might be to ask their Sunday School teacher: “Why would a prophet of God enter plural marriage with a young girl?” Someone with even shallower faith would whisper to their friend: “Hey, have you heard Joseph Smith did it with a girl on the side?” But an earnest and humble person who is concerned enough to find out the truth of the matter would research. I’m not talking about somebody’s blog or Wikipedia. Wikipedia is crap. I’m talking about prayerfully reading the girl’s autobiography and all other resources available. That’s what I did. Then, they would discuss the matter with someone who knows about this issue. They would then discover that the “marriage” was strictly for the afterlife and never involved physical relations, and that it was necessary to institute polygamy for Mormons at that time.

So my answer to the question is, everywhere. Ask your doubtful questions everywhere as long as you are sure they are sincere questions seeking truth about eternity. Just gather evidence from all sides of the argument. The truth will always set you free.

When I engage anti-Mormons on twitter they usually either block me or ignore me. They might talk to me at first but once they find that I know what I’m talking about, they try to move on. That is because they are not actually interested in discussing questions; they are only interested in disseminating anti-Mormon literature to Mormons to get people to leave the church. Actually, their methods are lot like the methods terrorists use to recruit people online. Terrorists quote some history book about slavery among the founding fathers, or say Christopher Columbus was a genocidal madman. Terrorists and anti-Mormons both have a series of “gotcha” issues that sound damning on first impression, but are actually very easily explained when viewed in the proper context. If these “gotcha” issues can instill just a tiny seed of doubt in your heart, they hope to fertilize that seed by moving on to other more personal issues. Gotcha questions are the thin end of the wedge to open up your doubts. We all have doubts.

Confront Issues That Make You Ask

What creates those doubts? When confronting your doubtful questions, it is important to ask yourself, “Why is this important to me?” There has got to be some underlying personal issue that makes this question stand out. Maybe someone is being mean to you at church. Or mybe you resent not being given a “higher” priesthood office. Or maybe you resent not being allowed to drink coffee like your cool friends. The questions of the heart are much harder to pin down and much harder to answer than the questions of the head. But they must be confronted.

It is also important not to rationalize. Cognitive dissonance will remain if you simply try to patch up your testimony with half-hearted answers. The issue is often some transgression that causes you guilt and makes you look for a way out–it is actually about you, not the church. Maybe coffee is just a symbol for the physical relations you have with your boyfriend? If so, gather raw church information for why chastity is a good thing, and compare that with arguments for why sexual relations outside of marriage makes you “free” and “empowered.” Then talk to people who wisely understand the issue, such as a Mormon family psychologist.

Admit that you don’t know the answer to begin with, and that’s okay. Maybe you have made big mistakes in life or maybe some of your beliefs are wrong. Admit that maybe you have a shallow concept of who your ideal self is and how to get there. Take a few hours to quietly ponder it.

You can’t rely on other Mormons for your testimony because they will let you down. People are going to be mean to you at church. They are going to act hypocritical. If you build your self-esteem and eternal goals on the praise of others, you are going to be crushed when you discover that in this world the only person who really looks out for you above all else, is you. God is certainly there to lift you up at a moment’s notice, but ultimately it comes down to you deciding who you are going to be. How are you going to let yourself be defined?

The very question “Where can I ask questions” shows a faithless reliance on what other people think of you. It shows that you expect answers to be handed to you instead of searching the raw data for yourself. Fellow saints are not the keepers of your testimony, you are. We should absolutely lift each other up, share wisdom, and give each other positive encouragement. We should be family. But in striving toward perfection, we must not put the cart before the horse and pretend like we have all the answers, the image of our ideal self pinned down, or the path to get there. At some point, we need to be realistic about who we are and love ourselves for the good and bad.

Ask All Questions

Finally, don’t just ask your questions at church. Ask them everywhere about everything. Realize that loss of faith does not occur in a vacuum; people don’t just become “un-religious.” Whatever or whoever inspired you to ask a question has a religious agenda themselves. This includes the movement to ordain women, the movement to marry gays, the media website or television channel that wants you to buy their commercial products. Ask what their agenda is. They like to frame themselves as secular movements fighting against backwards religion, but the truth is they are every bit as religious, and their crusades against the church are religiously motivated. They are not just nice people who want “equal rights.”

When you seek both sides to the argument, don’t treat the other side as simply the negation of church doctrine, but ask yourself what they would replace that teaching with. What is their solution? What is their fundamental ideology? In considering the feminist dogma that crusades against Joseph Smith for marrying that girl, and ask yourself why if secularists just want “the right to love” for gays, why do they oppose polygamy–the right to love. Do they truly want to give people the “right” to marry whomever they want? Ex-Mormons like to call themselves ex-religion, but it is impossible to go through life without believing in something, in your heart and in your head. They have an ideology, and there is a reason why they conceal it and refuse to talk about it openly.

Why Mormons Should Split From The Boy Scouts Now

The latest slide down the slippery-slope of political correctness, the Boy Scouts of America announced that they are including “transgender” children who identify as male.

This is a good opportunity for Christian churches to split from the BSA, but not for reasons you would expect. The transgender issue should not be part of the announcement to ditch the BSA. In fact, the replacement boy’s organization should be technically open to trangenders for any activity that is also open to girls. If we do it right, this could shift the narrative and provide a healthy environment for us to raise our children as a community.

Why We Should Not Ban Transgenders

The LDS church reacted to the BSA announcement by stating it is “studying the announcement… the Church has made several changes to its programs for youth, and continues to look for ways to better serve its families and young people worldwide.”

As the primary base of the Boy Scouts, an LDS church split would be devastating to the organization.

While I am not one to shy away from strongly asserting my beliefs, I can see the wisdom in the church’s discreetness. First, we do not want to be put on the defensive and play into the leftist narrative. The Leftists are setting a narrative that we are divisive and refuse to accept people who are different. We need to take control and push people’s focus back to what is important: training young men to be healthy and productive adults. A knee-jerk reaction would shift the public focus away from that issue and strengthen the media crusade.

Second, there ought to be no reason why a “transgender” youth would want to be in a Boy Scout troop. The male/female “binary” is not something we should have to enforce through policy. Youth naturally flock to on their own. Boys want to hang out with boys and girls with girls. If scout troops teach healthy principles and spiritual truths, this will naturally repel those youth who do not abide by those standards. Why join a group that is opposed to your values?

If they insist to be included because they think they are actually a boy, why not have some activities that include girls which they can go to?

On the face of it, this is a case similar to the policy that children of gay couples should not be baptized. But when you get to the reasons behind the policies, it’s actually different. There is no reason to exclude children of gays from baptism except that we don’t want to turn the children against their parents by teaching them homosexuality is sinful. But when it comes to “transgender” youth in scouting groups, do we have the same concern? If not, then why not include them?

How To Prevent Social Justice Infiltration

The focus is to stop Social Justice warrior adults from infiltrating the youth group and indoctrinating the children with evil ideologies. The focus is to avoid poison from reaching a position of authority, and to teach the youth how to deal with Social Justice ideologies as they are exposed to it at school and American society. To this end, we need to focus the narrative on a strong organization of leaders, and this will always be a great challenge.

The Boy Scouts organization is not able to achieve this the way things are going. Their values are outdated–an antique from the 1950’s–and they do not fully prepare boys for modern circumstances. They do not have much training for adult leaders.

As we look to a replacement organization, I caution against mimicking the Boy Scouts too closely. Do not make it all about merit badges and camping trips. The entire organization needs to be reformed so that it finds good leaders who can teach good classic principles that apply for modern circumstances. Many elements of the Boy Scouts should be retained, but it is time for a totally new structure.

Involve the internet! Instead of a five-minute merit badge, provide an extensive interactive website that immerses the boy in the subject and gets him in touch with experts in that field.

The LDS church has developed a youth organization model already that I think is superior to the Boy Scouts. The Young Woman’s organization is a good basic structure that could be expanded and adopted for a boy’s youth group.

How do we take timeless principles and adapt them for modern circumstances? A good way to do this is to build a stronger sense of seniority. When I was in scouts, the best times by far were when the older boys took charge. Older boys should be looked upon as authorities and mentors. College-aged men should be involved so that they can teach the boys what to expect in a few years–how to prepare for college, how to get a girlfriend and wife, and how to succeed early in life. Fathers should be more involved. The involvement, training, and vetting of leaders should in this way be radically changed. As our society make inter-generational interaction more of a taboo, we need to focus on a wide spectrum of age groups uniting together.

How Boy & Girl Groups Interact

The big complaint within the Young Woman’s group is that some girls want to sew clothes and others want to go on hikes. I heard this complaint all the time from girls. How do you satisfy such a variety of interests?

This is an issue that needs more exploration for the girls. But when it comes to boys, this is less of an issue. What boy does not enjoy swimming or archery? The biggest problem, from what I’ve seen, is with finding good leaders who are well trained and masculine enough to be good role-models.

A Young Men’s organization needs to teach all the principles of masculinity in the modern world, with a uniting focus on spirituality. As this focus becomes more boldly masculine-based, I don’t see why those with opposing principles would want to stick around, except to “preach” Social Justice and convert the “ignorant Christians” to Progressivism. The simple answer to that is we should enable leaders and boys to confound the infiltrators with bold truth, and then those who continue to be disruptive to the masculine principles of the Young Men’s organization will be asked to leave.

Girls will naturally be attracted to such an organization. Of course they will want to be part of a group that teaches what masculinity is. So why not include them and help them appreciate masculine principles? This will greatly help the girls in their development. Likewise, expose the men’s group to feminine principles.

Keep in mind, there needs to be a space for boys and a space for girls. Once when I was in scouts, the leaders decided to include girls in a 150 mile canoe trip we were doing. On the last day of the trip we made a stop and picked up some girls for the last leg of the trip. They were gung-ho to be on a canoe trip out in the wild, but they all ended up sitting in the middle of the canoe like baggage while the boys paddled. There was no interaction between the boys and girls and we all resented having them there.

We need a much more thoughtful approach.

The LDS organization Especially For Youth is a good model for how the Young Men’s and Women’s group can interact. In EFY, the boys and girls are split up with male and female leaders on either side, and they frequently get together for activities that promote positive interaction, with activities such as dances and games. They are careful to differentiate girl-only/boy-only time and interactive time. At EFY, I learned about feminine principles that I never got from my local church congregation or Boy Scouts troop.

This careful approach helps solve the increasing problem of youth feeling alienated from the opposite sex and not getting married. We are not getting any of this from Boy Scouts as it is, and it will get worse as the organization continues to slide into Progressivism.

Stop Waiting

We know how the Left works. They chip away at our values little by little. They order us to be “inclusive” and “compassionate.” We have only seen the beginning. The slippery slope will continue until our youth groups are completely overrun by Socialism. This happened because we were not in control of our youth programs.

It is time for us to finally take control. Take control of the organization and culture that we place our children into. Take control of the narrative, and don’t let the Leftists lecture us about inclusiveness. Yes, we are inclusive! Go ahead and send your gay or transgender child to our group, and we will teach the principles we believe in. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else. We do not believe in compulsion. Go ahead and march in the streets and try to yank our tax-exempt status! That is the position we want the Left to find themselves in.

You cannot make concessions with the Left. It only makes them stronger. Just the other day, the Washington Post was lecturing the Mormon church for not being more politically active in opposing President Trump’s immigration policy. This was because the church early on made a simple statement about the need for religious freedom. The obnoxious Left took this as an opening to demand that we be more politically active for their cause.

We believe in being inclusive and non-judgmental, but it is a mistake to virtue signal to the left and try to defend our values. This is a trap. Instead, we should focus on shifting control of the narrative away from them and take greater control of our own side. A comprehensive new youth program will achieve this.

Of course, I defer to the wisdom and inspiration of the church’s priesthood leaders. They are being told what’s best. But this is the direction I see things going; it’s only going to get worse with the BSA.

Leftist School Board Bans Choir From Performing At Christmas Event

The Wake County School District in North Carolina barred school choirs from performing at the Apex Christmas Nativity, reports ABC 11. The school district claims that “Mormon church leaders were providing religious testimony to our students and their parents,” they report. The church denies that there was “a hint” of proselytizing at the event.

The news station conducted a poll that found 86% of local viewers believe the school district’s decision is wrong.

Overcoming A Race-Based Policy

This story caught my eye because Wake county school district is well known as an early experiment in racial “integration efforts” in the 70’s. After decades with their horrible race-based policy, Wake switched to a socioeconomic policy that slightly improved test scores, though only 18% of the district’s schools met national progress goals. Then in 2010, the district switched to a magnet-school model that increased the number of facilities in local neighborhoods.

The media went wild with anger. Stephen Colbert called it re-segregation. But the truth is that this policy switch led to a 34% reduction in suspensions for misbehavior; less kids were misbehaving. There were also huge jumps in graduation rates.

Social Justice Crusades

Though the district has made strides by replacing their race policy, other radical Leftist policies have slipped in and severely damaged the education system. Most recently, the district announced that they would “potentially approve any requests from transgender students to use the locker-room facility of the gender they identify with,” reports The News & Observer.

But more importantly, leftist groups are pushing the school to drop a merit-based grading system. The district reportedly opposed having the state grade schools based on student test scores. All but one of the board members are registered Democrats, with two Republicans coming in come next year.

The district refused to release the list of performance goals for Superintendent Jim Merrill, reports Lady Liberty 1995, claiming that it is ‘not covered by a Freedom of Information Act request.’ Not only are they punishing success, they are keeping their own policies secret from the public.

The history of conflict between merit and “equality” set the stage for this. Now, these Leftist social justice causes are slipping in and Christmas is being banned.

The district’s chair, Monika Johnson-Hostler, promoted gender equality and feminism:

“…given the society that we live in and in the thread in the fabric of this country women are less than and oftentimes subjugated and invalidated by, structurally, our society, right? Like, we are treated as less than–so knowing that, contextually, that we have been in this country cooperating as men and women and we still see women treated less than, that to me means we are not shifting… I’m always interested in when do girls and boys change, and what are we doing environmentally to create the change. Because, what I can say for myself and my own life and friends, girls and boys are very similar, and something happens when they begin to be socialized in larger settings, that you really start to see the divide between girls and boys. And there are lots of things. I mean, you create binaries for everything. Girls get pink. Boys get blue. Girls can cry. Boys can’t. I mean, we decide those things before the children are even born. And so, it is going to take all of us to call out those things that seem very simple to really say that this is building the context that social injustice is for girls.”

by eioua on flickr,creative commons

‘Freedom From Religion’

The Christmas ban follows a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ABC11 reports, a truly despicable organization. This atheist group is known for its virulent campaigns against Christian beliefs around the country.

They post anti-Christian billboards and banners, for example ‘Nobody died for our sins’, and the anti-Christmas billboard ‘You know it’s a myth’. These people hate Christians and attack them with censorship.

They reportedly sued to remove ‘In God we trust’ from US currency, to undo the national day of prayer, and to remove a WW2 veteran statue of Jesus.