Friday, March 31, 2006

Church Growth And Blogging As A New Trend

According to the 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, the three fastest growing churches in The United States are the Assemblies of God at 1.81 percent growth rate, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) at 1.74 percent, and the Roman Catholic Church at 0.83 percent.

It will be interesting to compare that statistic to the ones provided at General Conference this year to see if there are any differences in the reported growth rate. Still, it's good to know the Chruch is growing--even though it is not the "fastest" growing Church in the United States. (Can we bear to think of the Church as coming in second place in the growth race?) Come to think of it, the General Conference statistics will be world wide, not just the United States. Does anyone know if the Church's statistics are broken down further by country?

The other interesting aspect of this article on trends in American denominations is the use of blogs in spreading the word:

This year’s findings also spotlighted a new trend among churches and pastors. Blogs – online journals – are an increasingly popular medium used by the emergent churches. Examples of EC pioneers are Brian McLaren, founder of Cedar Ridge Community Church near Washington, and Spencer Burke, founder of The Ooze (, "dedicated to the emerging Church culture."

"Blogs are particularly well-suited to communicating a nuanced religious viewpoint and fostering thoughtful conversation," said the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lidner, editor of the 89-year-old annual publication since 1998.
Of course the Church doesn't have an official blog--though perhaps it should? I don't know. It's an interesting thought. Would it have to be correlated and approved as are the other official publications? It might not make for good blogging. But, we do have the bloggernacle which I think fills a similar purpose for the LDS community as do the blogs utilized by the other American denominations. We do serve that purpose right--communicating a nuanced religious viewpoint and fostering thoughtful conversation?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

In Anticipation of General Conference

In my case . . . it is with great anticipation that I await this weekend's General Conference. A great deal has transpired in my life since the last conference in October. Most significant was my Dad's death, in January of this year. Since that time it seems as though at every turn my faith has been tested and tried more than at anytime in my life since returning to the Church after a decade long absence. There is something about death, particularly of a close loved-one that bends and contorts faith almost to a breaking point. I look forward to feeling the soothing Spirit that General Conference can and does bring. I long for the spiritual rejuvenation my life so desperately needs at this time. Yet, 15 years ago, I wouldn't have given General Conference even two minutes of my self-important and selfish lifestyle. Seasons change . . . and I'm grateful they do.

I know many feel we always hear the same things over and over again each conference. And, maybe we do. Perhaps we continue to hear the same things because we don't learn or don't live the truths God imparts over and over again in each conference. But, in many of the talks I will undeniably feel a Spirit of Truth, of direction, of further light and knowledge. A Spirit gently prompting, pushing, and pointing to a path of better direction. Will I heed that Spirit? Will I enlarge my soul with the further truth, light and knowledge it wants to impart?

During this prelude to Easter, I can think of no better time for rededication and renewal leading to the celebration of Christ's Atonement and Resurrection. General Conference is the portal through which I hope to do some of that rededicating and renewing, with hope and faith in the efficacy and application of Christ's Atonement in my own life.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

E-Mail Campaigns Just Don't Work

Over at Tales From The Crib, Carrie has an interesting post about a recent email campaign by certain LDS members against HBO's Big Love series. Her post reprints the email in its entirety, and is an interesting read.

Now, the Salt Lake Tribune picks up the story (who knew Trib editors read TFTC?) and further publicizes that which the emailer's most likely would not care to have publicized--at least in the media (want to bet whether further media outlets now pickup the Trib's story?):

The unidentified authors of the e-mail hope the campaign will give "Big Love" the ax in the way many conservative groups take credit for canceling NBC's "The Book of Daniel," a controversial drama about a pill-popping Episcopalian priest. (While NBC received more than 600,000 e-mails complaining about "The Book of Daniel," the show was canceled for low ratings, according to the network.) . . .

While HBO has not yet announced whether "Big Love" will be renewed, the ratings make it likely. That won't be good news for Nicki Rime, a 25-year-old project manager from Orem who received the e-mail Monday and instantly forwarded it to 30 of her friends and family, even though she hasn't seen the show . . .

Justin King hasn't seen the show either, but the 24-year-old Brigham Young University student also spread the e-mail to more than a dozen friends and family members.

"Whenever people talk about the Mormon church, there are quite a few negative views that the church still practices polygamy," he said. It's not known where the e-mail campaign originated. LDS spokesman Scott Trotter said the e-mail did not originate with the church. But Mormon leaders had earlier expressed concern that viewers might mistake the fundamentalist family depicted in the show as Mormon, even though a disclaimer shown at the end of the premiere episode described the differences.
Personally I don't think these types of campaigns work. I also think it makes the Church and the members look bad, particularly when many participating freely admit that haven't even seen the show. HBO couldn't have paid for better publicity either leading up to the series or now that it is in full swing. All this hoopla has probably had the exact opposite effect than the original email'ers actually intended.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Big Love Viewed From Polygamists' Eyes

Today’s New York Times reviews HBO's Big Love from an actual polygamists' view. The consensus is mixed:

The five women watching the show — covering their eyes during the sex scenes, chiding the competitive wives, urging Bill to take control — were critics with special credentials: a current or past polygamous marriage.
If ever there was a question that the show seeks to advance a cultural message or theme, it may have been answered in last Sunday’s episode. In that show, Juniper Creek’s “prophet” Roman Grant is interviewed by reporters from the Los Angeles Times. He told these “fictional” reporters that if courts grant gay rights, including privacy and marriage rights, then too should they grant polygamists the same rights.

The polygamist critics agreed:

And despite the show's flaws, these women called "Big Love" a cultural benchmark, one with the potential to cast a warmer light on their lives.

"It's a more realistic view of a polygamous family that lives out in society than people have known," said Anne Wilde, a widow who was part of a multiple family for 33 years. "It can be seen as a viable alternative lifestyle between consenting adults."

Many have questioned whether the shows creators have an agenda. I now wonder if perhaps they do. It may not be as sinister, and many will argue it is not a frontal assault on traditional families and traditional family values; however, it does seek to portray polygamists and their lifestyle as just another among several which are appropriate in this day and age. A lifestyle that, like a gay lifestyle is entitled to court sanction and societal approval.

This is the nexus that I have argued implicates the Church’s Proclamation On The Family. Advocating that the gay lifestyle and by extension polygamy is just another valid choice slips one step further down the slippery slope, which many argue does not exist. I'm begining to wonder. (As do others). And, while I have absolutely no objection to what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes, I do object to their re-definition of marriage for all of society as a marriage between one man and one woman, and the slow erosion it has and will continue to have on society’s basic unit: the family.

The show’s agenda coincides with the message the pro-polygamists want to spread:

For the women gathered in a hotel room here at the request of The New York Times to talk about the intersection of their lives and popular culture, more is at stake than good ratings. "This is a glimpse of a family that is mainstream," Mary Batchelor, a 37-year-old mother of seven and director of "Principle Voices," a leading polygamy advocacy group, said of the Henricksons. "There are hundreds of these families. It shows an aspect of polygamy nobody ever sees. Before, you saw families in crisis." She referred to media images of men being carted off to jail for beating women or children or marrying child brides.

"This is making all of America say 'Why is there a law against polygamy?' " said a 55-year-old woman who wanted to be known only as Doris, because she feared repercussions at her new job after years of staying at home with her 14 children in suburban West Jordan. "This guy is just trying to support his family, and the family is just trying to make it."

While the women said "Big Love" had too much skin and not enough religion or humor for their taste, they agreed that it portrayed the Henricksons like any other American family, especially in an era of mixed marriages of all sorts, gay partnerships, single parents and serial monogamy.

In addition to Doris, Ms. Batchelor and Ms. Wilde, the women watching "Big Love" on this night included Linda, a 53-year-old widow and mother of four who said she lived for 30 years "in a plural situation" with 12 other wives; and another Mary, 52, who has been married for 10 years, has five children and whose sister-wife ("my best friend") lives up the street in a town called Bluffdale. She is an artist and high school teacher.
The other issue is the show’s impact on the Church. While there are disclaimers both from the show’s producers and also in the press, there are unmistakable links to the Church–at least its past. In Sunday’s episode, “prophet” Roman Grant led the Los Angeles’ Times reporters on a mini tour of the compound. This included a brief discussion, with a mural for show and tell effect of how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon; How Joseph received the revelation on plural marriage; How it was continued by Brigham Young after arriving in Utah; How in 1890, the then leadership of the Church went astray and buckled to pressure and abandoned “ the principle.”

While each episode, after discussions between HBO and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, includes a disclaimer that the Mormons long ago renounced polygamy, thousands of polygamists who call themselves Mormon fundamentalists say they are following the church's original teachings on marriage, called "the principle." Some live in religious communities, others live independently.

The other LDS connection is in the introduction of each episode. There is a brief scene of Bill and each of his wives meeting at what appears to be a white transparent veil. Afterward they are portrayed as sitting together in a constellation of planets: almost like a creation scene. For those familiar with LDS theology, these are very symbolic references in the LDS community.

The article also quotes the ex-communicated professor Michael Quinn on polygamy’s history:

C. Michael Quinn, a historian and former professor at Brigham Young University, said his research shows that the devotion of fundamentalist Mormon teenage girls to polygamy helps keep the practice alive. Dr. Quinn, the author of several scholarly books on Mormons, said the girls from polygamous families cannot imagine another life. The boys, he said, cite the difficulties in supporting a big family but find wives among the girls in their community.

"They believe polygamy was a commandment from God to the Mormon founder, Joseph Smith Jr., in the 1830's," explained Dr. Quinn, himself an excommunicated Mormon from a Mormon family that goes back seven generations. He estimates that one-third to one-half of about 30,000 to 50,000 Mormon fundamentalists are also polygamists; Tapestry Against Polygamy estimates that there may be as many as 100,000.

It seems that the shows producers and writers seek to provide more than just entertainment in this new series. There are unmistakable attempts to portray modern day polygamy as just another choice on how to live and raise your family. Am I wrong?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Gay Day At The Y

Times have changed since I attended BYU. A so called group for the freedom of "gay" folks from religious and political oppression is making its way across the country stopping a various campuses in an effort to spread their message. One of their stops will be BYU, on April 10, 2006. This morning's Tribune notes:

Preachers and proselytizing are nothing new at Brigham Young University. But the missionary force due on campus next month is spreading a doctrine rarely if ever heard at the LDS Church-owned school.

Their message: BYU discriminates against gays and that's not OK.

Soulforce - a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy group - is scheduled to visit the school April 10 as part of a nationwide Equality Ride tour. After previous stops at other religious schools and military academies, more than 30 advocates plan to comb the Provo campus to talk to students about how BYU allegedly oppresses homosexuals.
Two immediate problems I have are:

1. Gays are a constitutionally protected class in the same sense as are religious groups, women, and other minorities;

2. BYU is involved in unlawful discrimination.

I know it is politically popular to jump on the gay rights bandwagon, and many courts have done so; however, I think it an incredible stretch to reach the conclusion that gay sexual behavior places someone in a constitutionally protected class of individuals, meriting the same constitutional protections you are afforded if you are black, a woman, or a political or religious minority.
I don't believe the Church (from where BYU gets its guidelines) or BYU specifically discriminates against gays, solely for being gay:

"All these schools teach history, and history shows a wealth of information that religion has been misused time and again to discriminate against people," said Jacob Reitan, co-director of Equality Ride. "Is it really OK that I couldn't be a student at BYU simply because I'm gay?"

BYU's Honor Code - which prohibits extramarital sex and drug and alcohol use - addresses homosexuality in this way:

"Brigham Young University will respond to student behavior rather than to feelings or orientation. Students can be enrolled at the university and remain in good Honor Code standing if they maintain a current ecclesiastical endorsement and conduct their lives in a manner consistent with gospel principles and the Honor Code.

"Advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle [whether implied or explicit] or any behaviors that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in nature, are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code."

I think this is an incredibly fair approach by the Church and BYU. They will respond to actual student behavior, rather than belief or feelings. Once you cross that line, whether it is a gay lifestyle, or drinking, drugs, or even prohibited heterosexual conduct, then you subject to discipline. Gays are, and should be treated just like anyone else in terms of inappropriate conduct by BYU students who have expressly agreed to abide by a specific honor code.

I also don't believe BYU engages is unlawful discrimination against gays, or anyone else. It is clear they target specific behavior. The specific gay behavior they target, is as taught by the Church, a sin. Churches have the right to proscribe certain conduct as sin. Our Church has done this with all sexual conduct outside the bonds of marriage, whether gay or hetrosexual. Like the Boy Scouts of America, I believe the Church and BYU have an absolute First Amendment right to exercise their religious beliefs by disciplining conduct they have categorized as a sin. Gay sex happens to fall within that category.

That said, I believe that if Soulforce behaves and complies with BYU's regulations they should be allowed on campus to spread their message. Alternatively if they go beyond BYU's requirements for off campus groups visiting campus, they should suffer the consequences of those choices. BYU and some of the students body apparently feel the same way:

In her message, Vice President of Student Life Janet Scharman told students and faculty that BYU's campus is open to all visitors as long as they are courteous and engage in nondisruptive, civil dialogue.

"Individuals may not, however, harass our students, faculty or staff or use our campus as a public forum in violation of BYU's public-expression policy," she wrote. "This policy applies to anyone or any organization that wishes to come onto our campus."

BYU junior Matt Snow doesn't mind Soulforce advocates coming to campus. "If anything, it should solidify how we feel about the matter," said the exercise-science major.

Scharman said BYU has told Soulforce the school will not change its policies or practices to accommodate the group's desire to promote its initiatives. She added if Soulforce activists follow BYU's policies, then students and faculty should show them the same civility.

"They should be treated fairly," said BYU freshman Jessie Cook, a Houston native. "Just because we don't believe in what they're doing doesn't mean we think they're bad or we're discriminating against them."
There was a time where this type of interaction was unheard of at BYU, like when I attended. I did have a friend who was gay, and who lived for a time on campus. He was a student, and later worked at BYU for a time as well. Of course he kept his sexual orientation to himself--for the most part. This was back in the mid 70's to early 80's. Gays would meet in private homes, or apartments. So, it's nothing really new at BYU--though it is becoming more open. I don't know whether that is a good thing or not.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sacramento Temple Tours This Summer

The Sacramento Bee reports that the Sacramento Temple, actually located in Rancho Cordova, a small unincorporated suburb of Sacramento, is about 70% completed, with tours to begin this summer 7/29 through 8/26:

He is the unofficial symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Angel Moroni, in flowing robes with a horn pressed to his lips, appears on everything from church pamphlets to the grave markers of Mormon servicemen.

This week, a 10-foot gold-leaf statue of Moroni was installed at the new Mormon temple in Rancho Cordova.

The statue is also a sign that the temple is nearing completion. It will serve more than 80,000 church members in the region and is "about 70 percent done," says West. It is expected to be completed by summer.

President Hinckley is scheduled to dedicate the Temple on 9/3/06. Like the Newport Beach Temple open house, the public will need tickets for the open house; however, my experience at the Newport Beach open house suggested to me, at least, that tickets were not strictly enforced for actually attending the open house:

Church officials announced this week that the temple will welcome the community during a free open house from July 29 through Aug. 26, excluding Sundays. Open-house tickets will be available beginning June 26.

Gordon Hinckley, the 95-year-old president of the church, is scheduled to dedicate the temple Sept. 3. After the dedication, the temple will be open only to faithful church members.

There is a temple cam where you can monitor the construction, in the link below:

Church members have been watching the temple's progress by accessing the so-called "templecam" at, which has a live camera at the construction site. They've also been able to see updated weekly photos of the construction site at This site also features photos of the interior of the temple.
I'm looking forward to the open house, and plan to take a day off to take the tour. The Newport Beach tour was very worthwhile as well.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Not So Lovely Big Love

The byline to the London Times article reads:

Polygamy is played for laughs on the small screen, but for many women the reality is bleak.
A sobering reality check to all the fun, glitz, glamour, and giddiness leading up to HBO's Big Love premiere. The Times article explores some of the realities behind some of the communal polygamists as opposed to the Hollywood version--and those realities are stark. The Times points out that Big Love is based on a breakaway group from the LDS Church, known as the Apostolic United Brethren:

Loosely based on a brand of polygamy practised by the Apostolic United Brethren, a breakaway Mormon group that has its headquarters half an hour’s drive south of Salt Lake City in Bluffdale, Big Love should prove “bizarre enough to get an audience”, says one former member of the group.

But it masks a far bleaker reality endured by many women trapped in fundamentalist sects across a swath of North America from British Columbia to Arizona.

Another hour’s drive into the mountains from Bluffdale, Pauline Strong and her daughter, Rachael, live as outcasts from their former congregation, the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days (TLC), in Manti, a farming town founded by Mormon pioneers in the late 19th century.

Until last year, Pauline, 60, and Rachael, 21, were both married to Jim Harmston, a former property developer and lobbyist to the Reagan Administration, and founder of the TLC.

Rachael was 11 when Pauline left her first husband to become Mr Harmston’s third wife. Later, the TLC’s self-styled prophet told Rachael he had known he would marry her from the first day he saw her.

She was 17 and already unhappily married to a much younger member of the church when Mr Harmston convened a meeting of his wives and told them that Rachael needed to be married to him to receive “ordinances” from Christ.

In 2004, she was, bringing Harmston’s number of wives to 21. Like all his marriages except his first, this was not legally binding, protecting him from prosecution for bigamy, which remains a felony throughout the US. But it made Rachael his.

“He said I had to marry him right away because the end was coming and he had to set the house in order,” Rachael says. “And then I had to sleep with him right away.” She moved in with Angie, at 16, Harmston’s youngest wife.

“He made schedules; he gave us our calendars and scheduled our nights. And he’d just come over on those nights, sleep with us and get up really early in the morning before anyone was up.

“Growing up (in Manti) he made me call him Dad. He played my stepfather, he did all the things a stepfather does. To go from that to having to sleep with him was absolutely the most horrifying thing anyone could do.
This is not your father's Big Love series by any stretch. I'm glad to see at least one article focusing more on the realities of polygamous life than Hollywood's creations. Watching only HBO's version of polygamy on TV limits my understanding of the polygamous live of thousands all over the southwest, and to an extent in Mexico and Canada. Yes, I know there are the compound scenes in Big Love, which are indeed interesting; but, the series clearly focuses on the more "normal" and "acceptable" versions of polygamy as found in the Hendrickson families.

The troubling part, at least for me, about Big Love, and polygamy's acceptance is the tie in with gay marriage, its legalization, and subsequent deconstruction of traditional marriage, and the fundamental unit of society: The family. The relationship is overt, and has been discussed in the national press, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. (I'm sure I've probably missed others--feel free to post them in comments if you wish.) Here's a couple of more I just located, Charles Krauthammer:

WASHINGTON -- And now, polygamy.

With the sweetly titled HBO series ``Big Love,'' polygamy comes out of the closet. Under the headline ``Polygamists, Unite!'' Newsweek informs us of ``polygamy activists emerging in the wake of the gay-marriage movement.'' Says one evangelical Christian big lover: ``Polygamy rights is the next civil-rights battle.''

Polygamy used to be stereotyped as the province of secretive Mormons, primitive Africans and profligate Arabs. With ``Big Love" it moves to suburbia as a mere alternative lifestyle.

As Newsweek notes, these stirrings for the mainstreaming of polygamy (or, more accurately, polyamory) have their roots in the increasing legitimization of gay marriage. In an essay 10 years ago, I pointed out that it is utterly logical for polygamy rights to follow gay rights. After all, if traditional marriage is defined as the union of (1) two people of (2) opposite gender, and if, as gay marriage advocates insist, the gender requirement is nothing but prejudice, exclusion and an arbitrary denial of one's autonomous choices in love, then the first requirement -- the number restriction (two and only two) -- is a similarly arbitrary, discriminatory and indefensible denial of individual choice.
For a couple of different takes see Ann Althouse, and Eugene Volokh. See also Volokh's law review article here.

It has also been discussed overtly in the bloggernacle, here, here, and here. (If there are others, please let me know so I can add and acknowledge). Many may not share the belief of a relationship between gay marriage, polygamy, and the deconstruction of traditional marriage and family; however, I think it unmistakable. And, it's not so much I am opposed to polygamy per se. I'm opposed to its use by so called "civil rights" activists to deconstruct that which recorded history for thousands and thousands of years have proven to be successful; however, in a sense I feel that polygamy is much more a civil rights issue than is same sex marriage.

That said, I still fall back on the Proclamation as the guide to which we need to adhere in traversing these stormy waters. I think the years to come (and not too many of them) will vindicate the argument that traditional marriage, and the basic family unit is in fact under serious and relentless attack from very real forces of evil. Quite frankly--I'm not all that optimistic.

RSS Feeds Available On Selected Church Web Pages

The Church has announced that RSS fees are now available on selected Church web sites. Check it out here.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

To all the Irish and/or adopted Irish 'naclers out there . . Here's to ya on your day. Have a great one! BTW . . . isn't this supposed to be a holdiay somewhere? Shouldn't we all get the day off?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Big Love Fools New York Times Readers

This is too funny. HA! Did anyone pick up a Sunday Times? Any chance you can scan in the ad? UPDATE: Thanks to Justin B over at Mormon Wasp for providing the copy of this ad! You really need to click to enlarge the photos so you can read the ads. They are a crack up! Great job Justin!

Also HBO's site now has an entire wedding page here.

An advertisement for HBO’s latest series “Big Love“ snuck in under the radar in the Times’ most exclusive section -- the wedding page.

Anyone who picked up a Sunday "New York Times" this week might have noticed a series of wedding announcements that looked curiously similar.

In fact, the same man was in all three of them.

No, it wasn't a mistake; it was a cleverly disguised ad for the new HBO series "Big Love," about a troubled Mormon polygamist.

The ad mimics the house style of the Vows section right down to font and picture placement, but, as in the series, there's only one husband.

It's not the first time Vows has been used for promotions; in 2004 the distributors of the film "Napoleon Dynamite" bought space on the page to plug the extended ending to the oddball Idaho comedy, which involved the wedding of characters Kip and LaFawnDuh.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Big Love's Gay Marriage --To No Marriage

The editorials and opinion pieces following Big Love's premier are again making the case that Big Love is as much about a gay marriage (maybe even more) as it is about polygamy. Stanley Kurtz over at National Review Online leads the way, by stating right up front that he takes the people behind the series at their word. In fact, Kurtz argues that Big Love is another slip along the slope of the complete deconstruction of traditional marriage and the family, and its replacement by an infinetly flexible "partnership" system. I personally think he makes a good argument:

It's getting tougher to laugh off the "slippery slope" argument — the claim that gay marriage will lead to polygamy, polyamory, and ultimately to the replacement of marriage itself by an infinitely flexible partnership system. We've now got a movement for legalized polyamory and the abolition of marriage in Sweden. (See "Fanatical Swedish Feminists.") The Netherlands has given legal, political, and public approval to a cohabitation contract for a polyamorous bisexual triad. (See "Here Come the Brides.") Two out of four reports on polygamy commissioned by the Canadian government recommended decriminalization and regulation of the practice. (See "Dissolving Marriage.") And now comes Big Love, HBO's domestic drama about an American polygamous family.

Speaking to The Washington Blade, Olsen said he and Scheffer wanted to address our culture war over the family by trying to "find the values of family that are worth celebrating separate of who the people are and how they're doing it." In other words, family structure shouldn't matter as long as people love each other. Scheffer adds that what attracted him to the Big Love project was "the subversive nature of how we deal with family values....I think what's really exciting about the show is the nonjudgmental look we have on our characters." Now maybe cultural radicals are mistaken when they claim that they can change society just by shaping the movies, plays, and television we watch. But clearly this kind of cultural transformation is exactly what Scheffer and Olsen have in mind.
Kurtz points out that even the Big Love cast feels there are deeper social issues at stake, beyond providing American homes with entertainment:

It isn't just Big Love's co-creators who think of it as something that will influence our cultural, legal, and political battles. Big Love's actors seem to feel the same way. Ginnifer Goodwin, who plays one of the wives of Big Love, says that for many women, polygamy "is the answer to their problems, not a problem in and of itself." Big Love lead, Bill Paxton, says: "This show talks about the freedom in this country. Are we free to choose who with want to live with? Well, yes, but we can't have legal rights together." Paxton seems to be pretty clearly arguing for decriminalization of polygamy, and probably for direct legal recognition as well.

This is where Kurtz points out he is merely taking the folks behind Big Love at their word. He also highlights a story from yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune discussing whether the "polygamy debate" will ever be the same again:

We don't need to talk about all the claims for the cultural significance of Will and Grace or Brokeback Mountain. Have a look at this fascinating piece from the Salt Lake City Tribune, "Will the polygamy debate ever be the same?" The Tribune draws an analogy between Big Love and the first appearance by a black in a television commercial. That appearance was arranged by Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, through his then intern, Ed Frimage. Now a law-professor emeritus at University of Utah's law school, Frimage has long advocated the decriminalization and regulation of polygamy. Once you get an black on television to sell refrigerators, argues Frimage, "the game is over." The Salt Lake Tribune wonders out loud whether, after Big Love, the same might now be true for polygamists. As the Tribune reports, there are already legal challenges to anti-polygamy laws based on the Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas decision. It's likely we'll see more in the future. It's hard to believe that changing public attitudes in the wake of Big Love won't have an influence on those battles in years to come.

Over at the Oregon Daily Emerald, writer Ailee Slater also discusses the social and legal implications of the recent Big Love polygamy push by HBO. In part she writes:

When television picks up on not just a set of characters, but an entire lifestyle, there is usually some factor of social fascination at work. “The Sopranos”, “Six Feet Under”, “Desperate Housewives”: Each one of these shows draws its immense audience by exposing them to little-known social realities such as the mob, the undertakers and the wealthy women of suburbia. HBO’s newest lifestyle-turned-television-show just might blow the rest of them out of the water, in terms of viewer curiosity and cultural relevance . . .

Polygamy has been forbidden since 1878, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the practice of polygamy violated criminal law, and was not protected under the freedom of religious expression. Although that legal precedent still stands, polygamous relationships are rarely prosecuted; instead, the law tends to focus on punishing the instances of polygamy wherein children are endangered or incest occurs.

Because of the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case, wherein a gay couple was seen having sex in their apartment and arrested for that act, the Supreme Court has already set a precedent allowing citizens to “engage in private conduct without government intervention.” The prosecution in Lawrence v. Texas was unable to persuade the court that a violation of sodomy law ought to outweigh the right to privacy; similarly, polygamist families and organizations plead their case for legalized polygamy on the basis that the marriage laws themselves are outdated, and that side problems such as statutory rape can be solved through criminal laws . . .

Polygamist families make a convincing argument, especially considering that the reason polygamy was originally prohibited had as much to do with religious oppression as it did marital norms. Joseph Smith, the man who stared at gold plates and translated what they were telling him into the book of Mormon, believed that God had commanded him to take more than one wife and establish the tradition of plural marriage. Although Smith could certainly be termed mentally ill for his belief in this personal connection with God, there is no reason besides religious favoritism that the U.S. legal system chooses to accept the Biblical One Man One Woman norm, yet refuses Smith’s call to polygamy. Historians often comment that the move to outlaw multiple spouses was meant as an attack on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which encouraged polygamy before it was outlawed. (Since then, the church has split into three groups, and the smallest group — fundamentalists — still believe practicing polygamy is OK.)

I think Ms. Slater is spot on in her analysis here, particularly her discussion of frontier America's legal attack on polygamy, and The Supreme Court's outlawing its practice. We are now poised in the "culture wars" to completely deconstruct the traditional family concept of marriage and the very fundamental family unit itself. The Brethren accurately forsaw this as far back as 1995 in their, The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Since that time, and even before we have seen an unprecedented assault on the family, and the institution of marriage, the consequences of which I don't think will fully be understood for decades to come.

Justice Scalia, with whom I often disagree, I think got it right in his Lawrence dissent where he noted among other things:

This reasoning leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Justice O’Connor seeks to preserve them by the conclusory statement that “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is a legitimate state interest. Ante, at 7. But “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples. Texas’s interest in §21.06 could be recast in similarly euphemistic terms: “preserving the traditional sexual mores of our society.” In the jurisprudence Justice O’Connor has seemingly created, judges can validate laws by characterizing them as “preserving the traditions of society” (good); or invalidate them by characterizing them as “expressing moral disapproval” (bad).

Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct. I noted in an earlier opinion the fact that the American Association of Law Schools (to which any reputable law school must seek to belong) excludes from membership any school that refuses to ban from its job-interview facilities a law firm (no matter how small) that does not wish to hire as a prospective partner a person who openly engages in homosexual conduct. See Romer, supra, at 653.

One of the most revealing statements in today’s opinion is the Court’s grim warning that the criminalization of homosexual conduct is “an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.” Ante, at 14. It is clear from this that the Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed. Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive. The Court views it as “discrimination” which it is the function of our judgments to deter. So imbued is the Court with the law profession’s anti-anti-homosexual culture, that it is seemingly unaware that the attitudes of that culture are not obviously “mainstream”; that in most States what the Court calls “discrimination” against those who engage in homosexual acts is perfectly legal; that proposals to ban such “discrimination” under Title VII have repeatedly been rejected by Congress, see Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 1994, S. 2238, 103d Cong., 2d Sess. (1994); Civil Rights Amendments, H. R. 5452, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. (1975); that in some cases such “discrimination” is mandated by federal statute, see 10 U.S.C. § 654(b)(1) (mandating discharge from the armed forces of any service member who engages in or intends to engage in homosexual acts); and that in some cases such “discrimination” is a constitutional right, see Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000).

Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means. Social perceptions of sexual and other morality change over time, and every group has the right to persuade its fellow citizens that its view of such matters is the best. That homosexuals have achieved some success in that enterprise is attested to by the fact that Texas is one of the few remaining States that criminalize private, consensual homosexual acts. But persuading one’s fellow citizens is one thing, and imposing one’s views in absence of democratic majority will is something else. I would no more require a State to criminalize homosexual acts–or, for that matter, display any moral disapprobation of them–than I would forbid it to do so. What Texas has chosen to do is well within the range of traditional democratic action, and its hand should not be stayed through the invention of a brand-new “constitutional right” by a Court that is impatient of democratic change. It is indeed true that “later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress,” ante, at 18; and when that happens, later generations can repeal those laws. But it is the premise of our system that those judgments are to be made by the people, and not imposed by a governing caste that knows best.

One of the benefits of leaving regulation of this matter to the people rather than to the courts is that the people, unlike judges, need not carry things to their logical conclusion. The people may feel that their disapprobation of homosexual conduct is strong enough to disallow homosexual marriage, but not strong enough to criminalize private homosexual acts–and may legislate accordingly. The Court today pretends that it possesses a similar freedom of action, so that that we need not fear judicial imposition of homosexual marriage, as has recently occurred in Canada (in a decision that the Canadian Government has chosen not to appeal). See Halpern v. Toronto, 2003 WL 34950 (Ontario Ct. App.); Cohen, Dozens in Canada Follow Gay Couple’s Lead, Washington Post, June 12, 2003, p. A25. At the end of its opinion–after having laid waste the foundations of our rational-basis jurisprudence–the Court says that the present case “does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.” Ante, at 17. Do not believe it. More illuminating than this bald, unreasoned disclaimer is the progression of thought displayed by an earlier passage in the Court’s opinion, which notes the constitutional protections afforded to “personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education,” and then declares that “[p]ersons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.” Ante, at 13 (emphasis added). Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct, ante, at 18; and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), “[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring,” ante, at 6; what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution,” ibid.? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry. This case “does not involve” the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court. Many will hope that, as the Court comfortingly assures us, this is so.

The matters appropriate for this Court’s resolution are only three: Texas’s prohibition of sodomy neither infringes a “fundamental right” (which the Court does not dispute), nor is unsupported by a rational relation to what the Constitution considers a legitimate state interest, nor denies the equal protection of the laws. I dissent.

So, after all this discourse, where am I in all this? I have very strong feelings that the traditional family is the critical unit in the makeup of society. I believe that the traditonal family, and traditional marriage as defined as between one man and one woman is under a ferocious assault from the forces of evil. I believe that part of this assault to a degree is contained within the HBO series Big Love for the arguments presented in the authors cited in this post. Still, I enjoy watching the series, or at least enjoyed the first episode. I will likely watch future episodes to see where it takes the story line.

I am curious about almost all things Mormon, and LDS. I have read authors and pieces not at all complimentary to the Church, yet I rationalize this by thinking I can and do set apart certain ideas, writings, or entertainment programs from my core beliefs and thinking of right and wrong. I don't know if this is entirely consistent--but I am at times an inconsistent person. I suppose like most, I am a work in progress, and like the Prophet Joseph, I am being molded and shaped in life as my rough edges are worn and polished as I roll through life.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

HBO's Big Love Big Night--My First Impressions

Well, I missed the east coast feed on HBO, so I'm watching the much later west coast feed. So far, it's pretty entertaining--meaning very Hollywood. I liked the scene as Bill is negotiating a business deal in a boardroom somewhere, with the Salt Lake Temple in the background. Again, if not real . . .certainly entertaining. But hey, I guess that there are a fair amount of deals consummated with the Salt Lake Temple in the background--at least in Salt Lake City.

For our "feminist" sisters, there was Barb's defiant moment of refusing Bill "demanding" that she put her check in the family account in the bank. There seems to be even a feminist twinge to Big Love.

"I think chastity takes courage." Nice line, as the teenagers sit at "Debs", what clearly looks like a take off of the old Dee's hamburger stands in the Salt Lake Valley.

The compound does look creepy though. That depiction is probably more realistic in a way than some other parts of the show. And, poor Margene home alone with all those kids while Bill, Barb, and Nicki spend time at the compound. Roman, with his what looks to be a 14 year old bride at the compound is also pretty creepy.

The Mormon lingo is down pretty good though, as with the line, are you in young womens, bee hives, laurels? Talking about Relief Society, and the standard Mormon topics certainly brings the Church ever closer into focus on the show.

The short little discussion with Barb and I think it was Rhonda, the young looking (14 or so) bride of Roman "The Prophet" brought some reality into focus. I don't follow the FLDS Church or their beliefs; but, from what I have read, this portrayal seems very realistic.

"They're not us, and we're not them." Bill's rationalization about their differences, referring to his polygamous practice and that of Roman back at the compound. I wonder if he's trying to convince himself, or what.

There's man's law, and there's God's law." Nice extortion line by Roman. I'm certain there will be some good future interaction there between the "prophet" and Bill in upcoming shows

"It's not because you asked---it's because I wanted to." Barb still defiant to the end in maintaining her independence both from Bill and the other two wives, does sign over her pay check. You go girl!

The Mormon Church officially banned polygamy in 1890. Well, at least that's what HBO says. What say you?

Hey . . .overall it was entertaining. I don't know if it has the same appeal as say Six Feet Under. But, there's enough I'll probably watch a few more shows to see where they take Big Love.

President Hinckley Rededicates Santiago Temple

The Washington Post has reported on President Hinckley's re-dedication of the Santiago Chile Temple:

The Mormon church rededicated its temple in Chile's capital on Sunday, an event that drew the church's 95-year-old president, who had surgery less than two months ago.

Many of those present were "moved to tears" by the presence of Gordon B. Hinckley, said a church spokesman, Elder Sepulveda. Sepulveda asked to be identified by his church title and declined to provide his first name.

Hinckley traveled with his doctor, his sons and L. Tom Perry, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' principal decision-making body, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Hinckley also attended a cultural gathering of some 50,000 Mormons at a soccer stadium Saturday and acknowledged, "this will probably be the last time I'll be in Chile," Sepulveda said.

The rededicated temple, which had been closed for renovations, will reopen for religious services on Wednesday. It is on a site formerly occupied by a private school in the upper-class Providencia neighborhood.

I had no idea the church had 535,000 member is Chile. That is quite an impressive number. I'm certain the Chilean Saints are pleased to have their Temple back in operation.

Romney Campaign Gear

I don't know . . .just a wild guess . . . but I'm wondering whether the Romney Campaign is actually behind this website promoting his campaign. Interesting selection of gear though! Gives a whole new meaning to "Big Love" eh?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Mitt Romney BIG Love and More

I've posted on the new Mitt Romney connection and BIG Love, as well as a slew of new reviews over at Bloggernacle Times. Go check it out!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Times and Seasons Joins The Archipelago And More

Check out the new links over at T & S. They are now Archipelago, LDSelect, LDS Blogs and Planet LDS Friendly. So, will they move up a box? Welcome Times and Seasons!

Cross Posted Over at Bloggernacle Times.

Dapper Draper Dashes DI's Downtown Destination

Yep . . .they did it. Draper, that new enclave of Utah's economic elite has decided they will keep the Church's Temple, but reject the poor among them--at least on the prestigious east side. There are several stories.

The Deseret News:

Draper says no to a downtown DI.

After a heated debate Tuesday night, the Draper City Council approved an ordinance prohibiting secondhand stores in the heart of its retail district.
The ordinance hits a particularly sensitive chord with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had hoped to build a Deseret Industries store on 12300 South and 300 East.
"This body is trying to limit one specific entity from locating in this community," said Councilman Paul Edwards, one of two council members who voted against the ordinance.
"It's unfortunate that this body and this community has been painted with a raw brush that we're snobs. . . . And to propose an ordinance that's specific to one entity in a rapid, rash fashion is absolutely wrong."
The church-owned thrift store reportedly has been looking at a 5-acre spot east of I-15 as a possible site for a 38,000-square-foot store. But the ordinance passed Tuesday restricts secondhand stores larger than 5,000 square feet to a commercial zone west of the freeway.
"Unfortunately, I think this whole issue has been made into an emotional issue, dividing the city into east and west, versus haves and have-nots, and I think it's unfortunate," said Councilman Bill Colbert, who heavily pushed the ordinance with Councilwoman Stephanie Davis on Tuesday.
Colbert said he'd like to see a Deseret Industries in Draper, just not downtown.
"In looking at other communities, you don't see secondhand thrift stores being put in downtown redevelopment projects," he said. "You don't see The Gateway; you don't see those uses."
The ordinance was first proposed at the Jan. 3 council meeting, then sent to the Draper Planning Commission. The commission gave its endorsement later that month.
It's been a little while since I've been to downtown Draper; but I don't recall any real similarities between downtown Draper and downtown Salt Lake City. Are they really serious about these comparisons?

Editorial--Don't Turn Back on DI

The News ran this strong editorial in response. Of course both the Deseret News and DI are owned by the same entity, which the editorial acknowledges:

There is a Deseret Industries store on Main Street in Logan and another on Main Street in Brigham City. There is one on a main drag of St. George and just off the main drag in Centerville. Dozens of other Utah communities have D.I.s in the heart of town.

But now that Draper has declared Deseret Industries — a company run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, owners of this newspaper — unfit to live among the more gentrified set, what does that say about Utah's other communities?
We know exactly what it says.

It says most Utahns are not ready to adopt the caste system of India and label one segment of the population "untouchable."
It says that charity, good will and inclusiveness are still values in most Utah towns and neighborhoods, that most places in Utah still feel it's better to lend an open hand than to offer the back of one.

It says not everybody in Utah thinks people who shop at D.I. have cooties.
It also says most Utah towns understand that thrift stores have a wide clientele, including many customers who could afford to shop elsewhere.

Still, we suspect that communities that refuse to allow Deseret Industries to set up shop in their retail cores are not really thinking so much about social norms and America's shadowy "class culture." They are really thinking about themselves and their pocketbooks. The real fear, we suspect, is that the presence of a Deseret Industries would somehow affect the value of property in the area or make it harder to attract upscale businesses. Struggles of this nature aren't about "traffic" or "storage" or "unwanted elements." They are about greed.
We have a suggestion for folks who feel like that.

Grow up.
Then go back to your English lit textbook and read the poem "Richard Cory" by the American poet Edwin Arlington Robinson. There, a moneyed soul seems to have everything a person could ever want — prestige, property, power. But the guy goes home one night and puts a bullet through his head.

Because he was hollow. He'd mortgaged his soul. He'd forgotten what mattered most.
Some believe one day the perfect city will indeed be ushered in. It will be a thing of grace and beauty. But one thing that city will undoubtedly have is respect for all people, along with a way to aid those in need.

Wow . . . is the city council feeling the heat yet? But, The News was not alone in this story. The Salt Lake Tribune, no historical ally of the Church, ran a few stories.

Salt Lake Tribune:

Draper bans DI at choice retail site.

In initial public hearings, a City Council member said Draper residents don't need a DI. Another argued that the store - with donors dropping goods off and the church trucking much of it away for humanitarian work around the globe - wasn't just another retailer.
Councilman Bill Colbert, who voted for the ordinance, said he was frustrated because the dispute seemed to divide Draper into "haves and have-nots."
Colbert argues that the ordinance still allows DI officials to request a zone change near the commercial corridor. All Colbert wants, he said, is for the store to move "one block off" 12300 South.
"You don't see [DIs] at The Gateway," Colbert said. "You don't see it in downtown revitalization in Provo."
For his part, Draper Mayor Darrell Smith - who doesn't vote on the City Council and cannot veto the ordinance - said the prospect of zoning DI out of the commercial heart was a bad idea.
"This is a decision that is not for the good of the whole community," Smith said.
But the most outspoken opponent of the ordinance was Councilman Pete Larkin.
"You want to push them to the outskirts," he said. "It's a lousy ordinance that we'll have to redo."
Interesting the Mayor has no real voice in this issue. Still, if you want to drop him an email, and let him know what you think about the city council's doings you can reach him here: Just remember, the Mayor, did oppose the ordinance. He just doesn't get a vote.

An intresting related story in the Tribune detai
ls how the DI store in Murray, Utah (just a stone's throw north of Draper) is remodeling its store and putting up a new state of the art DI, which presumably would be the same type Draper would have seen:

One of the most popular Deseret Industries stores in operation will be reduced to rubble this summer. Not to worry, the next generation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-owned secondhand store will rise from that rubble just over a year later.
This spring, workers will begin transporting used clothing, furniture, books and more from the 4500 South and Main Street store to a temporary location in anticipation of the 14-month project.
Construction on a new, state-of-the-art DI at the same site will begin this fall, with a completion date slated for fall 2007, said Curtis Ravsten, dir
ector of Deseret Industries.
"It won't be bigger, but it will be better," Ravsten said. "It will be more efficient, clean and modern."
The updated version of Deseret Industries' flagship store will be shaved down from two floors to one and include much more parking.
That's good news to Liberty Pelton, a Sandy resident who passes two other DIs to frequent Murray's mainstay.
"This is the best one around," Pelton said. "When
I come here, I have a hard time finding a parking space."
That's the case most days, customer Ken Meadows said recently as he waited for the doors to open with a parking lot full of customers waiting patiently in their cars. Meadows stops by Murray's location three times a week on his way to and from the doctor.

The final design will be nearly identical to new Deseret Industries stores in West Jordan and American Fork. The new building also will house LDS Family Services, a Humanitarian Center and an employment-resource center.

What does that final design look like? It probably looks like this photo below of the new DI store located in American Fork, UT. Not a bad design actually. At first glance it could be a Costco, or other large retailer.

Finally, from the Tribune there's this gem from columnist Holly Mullen:

Rumor has it the horsey set that populates this southeast Salt Lake County burg is pushing for a name change. The gentry was polled and it has spoken. Were it up to them, Draper would forever be known as "Ville d' Elite."

The folks on Draper's east side have asked me to explain this. You simply cannot count on the unwashed masses squatting on the west side of Interstate 15 in those ramshackle tract homes to pick up on the fine points of a romance language. You know - those places like West Jordan and Riverton. Herriman, even. Besides, last they heard on the tony side of Draper, those people west of the freeway don't even wear shoes. What could they possibly know about town and country living and leisurely rides along the bridle path?

I was out in the Ville on Wednesday. They let me through the checkpoint, even though I drive a '99 Honda Accord pockmarked with door dings. It was the day after the Draper City Council voted 3-2 to prohibit secondhand stores larger than 5,000 square feet from its prime retail district, which begins on the east frontage road at I-15 and 12300 South and winds to about 500 East.
Thrift stores, future check cashing joints and the like would be sited west of the freeway - far west of such stunning commercial gems as tire outlets, the Golden Arches and let's see, about 14 of those quickie "fresh Mex" restaurants where one overstuffed burrito tastes about like the other one across the street.

It's a good column, read the whole thing. I'm wondering if the good folks on Draper's council may have bitten off just a bit more than they can chew. Umm . . .enjoy swallowing!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

From Cedar to New York

Steven D. Bennion, President of Southern Utah University for the past nine years is leaving academia for the mission field. He and his wife will serve, apparently as mission leaders, (I believe this means Mission President and wife) in the New York City South Mission. Today's Spectrum in St. George noted:

Since Bennion's appointment as president on July 1, 1997, SUU has enjoyed one of the most prosperous times in its 108-year history.

The university has received national recognition from Consumers Digest and the Princeton Review, added four master's degree programs and several baccalaureate programs, formed two additional colleges and earned eight major accreditations.

In addition, Bennion gained approval and funding for a new Teacher Education building, which he believes will help the university continue its tradition of grooming the educators of tomorrow, and oversaw the construction of a state-of-the-art physical education building.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the TE building is scheduled for May 5.

"He's been the orchestra leader," said Georgia Beth Thompson, the university's vice president for student services. "He hasn't done all the work, but he's pulled it all together."

Bennion will be remembered as much for his warm, caring nature as his accomplishments as president.

President Bennion spent almost four decades in the halls of academia:

Bennion has worked 39 years in higher education, the past 24 as a president. He served as president at Snow College in Ephraim and Ricks College, now BYU-Idaho, before coming to SUU.

In New York, Bennion and his wife will lead missionaries in Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Bermuda. The fact that he'll be working with many college-aged people will help ease his transition, Bennion said.

I'm struck by how the most successful of people by the world's standards, such as the Bennions, and others will in a heartbeat give up the prestige and glory of their professional positions to accept a life of service that comes with a higher calling.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Nominating DKL As Next Guest Poster At fMh

DKL of fame has an extraordinary post up over at New Cool Thang. You really should go take a look at it, and take it in. My suggestion is that the "gals" over at fMh take note, and give him the next guest post over there. OUTSTANDING post DKL . . .just OUTSTANDING!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Of The Idols We Worship . . .

Lust is likely the most pernicious. It is listed among the Seven Deadly Sins. A story in today’s Deseret News describes it the “sexiest” of the Seven Deadly Sins:

Lust is the sexiest of the Seven Deadly Sins. Lust dances the tango and looks good in tight clothes. It flames. It feels good. And lust has ensnared presidents and paupers alike. Still, in modern America, where sex sells everything from toothpaste to jeans, many people find the idea of "lust is a sin" to be hilariously old-fashioned.
What exactly is Lust? The story provides a good definition as well:
David Pascoe, vice president of the Salt Lake Theological Seminary, says we tend to think the Seven Deadly Sins are quaint and musty. But they aren't. Pascoe likes this definition of lust: "Lust is the self-destructive drive for pleasure out of proportion to its worth." He emphasizes the words "self-destructive." And "out of proportion.” Sexual pleasure is a gift from God, Pascoe notes. But sexual pleasure is often made into a false idol. Worship of this idol is woven deeply into our modern-day culture, Pascoe says . . . The Roman philosopher Seneca said if you conquer the desire for sexual pleasure, you can conquer anything.
But, really . . .what does a little lust hurt?

Pascoe reminds us that lust hurts the person you are cheating on — and yes, Martin Luther beat Jimmy Carter by many centuries in saying that cheating in your heart is also a form of cheating. However, even if you are single, lust is not a victimless emotion.

Pascoe reminds us that no matter who else it hurts, the sin always hurts the sinner, personally. Dante knew this to be true as well. Even though he pitied them, Dante said lusters would spend eternity being smothered in fire and brimstone. Dante believed lust was a sin strong enough to suffocate the soul.
The cheating aspect is all the more interesting in light of Elisabeth's post over at BCC here. Even if the wife knows about it and approves, how does that vitiate the idol of Lust? It seems, to the contrary only to feed, strengthen and nourish it.

Here's a pretty interesting little quiz to see just how high you rate on the lustful thermometer. Don't worry its an anonymous quiz, and relatively harmless. It might be an eye opener about how influenced we are by our moden culture.

So, how do we avoid Lust? There are some excellent reminders for us in the scriptures, starting in Galatians 5:16-26:

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Another guide, as Jeff Lindsay posted on not so long ago here, is to always remember Christ, to consciously remember Him, so that we will have His Spirit to be with us. Another is to pray always, as counseled in 2 Nephi 32. I'm struck by how the emphasis is that we must constantly make an affirmative effort to keep Christ as the Center of our lives, or we will allow lust and its accompanying works of the flesh to suffocate our souls.