Tolerance and Disagreement

It’s not criticism and open critical thought that Christ condemned when he taught among the Nephites, but contentions and disputations. There is a difference.

Two days ago I had a conversation with Warren Puckett, an affiliate and friend to Shawn McCraney and his CAMPUS church. Shawn hosts Heart of the Matter weekly ministry (hotm.tv) where he has become famous for his efforts to help Mormons leave their faith and come unto Christ. I took occasion to read Shawn’s recent book, Knife to a Gunfight and was impressed with the books message that among Christians “we do not need to divide.” and “The Spirit of Christ that abides in all who are His plainly suggests that we can remain accepting of each other while differing greatly in opinion, praxis and thought.” (pg 224).

What impressed me about my conversation with Warren (who now has begun his own online ministry, Breaking Bread with Warren Puckett) was how this group lives what it preaches. Warren related to me how he strongly disagrees with Shawn’s preterist views (ibid ch 14, pg 139). This struggle became so great that felt he needed to disassociate himself from Shawn and the CAMPUS church. As he poured out his heart to God about the matter he didn’t receive any confirmation about preterism, but nevertheless, as Warren put it, “I felt impressed of God to stay with Shawn because he is definitely a brother in Christ regardless of our differences in understanding doctrinal points. I love God and I love Shawn and the beautiful thing about the gospel is basically those two things. 1) Love God and 2) Love people! All the law and the prophets hang on THOSE TWO THINGS! If the focus is on those commandments of God, division can and will be replaced with harmony in the midst of disagreement!

Shawn does not require or insist that Warren agree with his views in order to feel included. All are welcome, despite their views. I feel confident that even as much as the group disagrees with Mormonism, one who desires to fellowship with them, even though he may believe in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, would be welcome there. Contrast this with those in the Christian community who applauded Shawn’s success in bringing Mormons out from the LDS church, but when Shawn disagreed with their Trinitarian ideas they declared him a heretic.

We should ask ourselves, as Latter Day Saints can we be as openly accepting of contrary views into our midst as Warren is with Shawn McCraney? Or are we more like the Zoramites standing upon our Rameumptoms declaring, “Holy God,… we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children… and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee… And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen. (Alma 31:16-18)

I’m reminded that it was not uncommon for early church leaders to disagree and debate over questions of doctrine. Brigham Young and Orson Pratt often had strong differing views. Did these disagreements destroy or harm the church? Clearly not. Brigham Young recognized that “’Mormonism’ includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel.” (Brigham Young, DBY, 3)

All of us understand things differently, and in some cases more completely as a subject is studied. Even the same individual will understand things differently over time. As we study in good faith and confidence before God we may believe in something that we will change our understanding about later. I think that is inevitable as we progress.

Christ taught the Nephites, “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention… Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Ne 11:29-30)

It’s not criticism and open critical thought that Christ condemned, but contentions and disputations. There is a difference. Consider this. First, tolerance requires disagreement. Insisting on agreement is not tolerance, but it’s opposite. Second, Christ clearly teaches against disputations and contentions among His followers. Therefore, is it possible to have disagreement without disputations and contentions?

From a recent news release, “President Thomas S. Monson made a plea during general conference… for more religious understanding: ‘I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours.’” (Respect for Diversity of Faiths)

It appears Joseph Smith agrees:

“I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine. (DHC 5:340)

As did Hugh B Brown:

“I admire men and women who have developed the questioning spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas and stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.” Hugh B. Brown, Speech at BYU, March 29, 1968.]

We should seek to be more tolerant in our views without being contentious. As Rumi once wrote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

 

Questions. To Ask, or Not to Ask, That is the Question.

A question mark opens, the period closes… It’s only when we ask questions that we get answers.

On July 29, 2013 I got an email from a friend. He wrote:

“An interesting thought.
‘The trouble with us today, there are too many of us who put question marks instead of periods after what the Lord says. I want you to think about that. We shouldn’t be concerned about why he said something, or whether or not it can be made so. Just trust the Lord. We don’t need to try to find the answers or explanations. We shouldn’t try to spend time explaining what the Lord didn’t see fit to explain. We spend useless time when we do this.’”

I responded:

Where is this quote from? I actually gave this quite some thought.

I found these comments interesting because I’ve always considered it the other way around.

“question

A question mark opens, the period closes. I think we are damned more by putting an exclamation point or period at the end of statements instead of question marks. A period makes it a statement, dot, the end. No more to be said, no more to learn, no more divine wisdom to be gained.

It’s only when we ask questions that we get answers.

Questions are what has brought about some of the most profound revelations of salvation on record. And often the answer to the question asked was only an introduction to much greater revealed wisdom. Some examples: Joseph Smith, first vision, what church to join? (JS History 1:10-20). Nephi, asked to see what his father saw (1 Nephi ch 11 & 12). Brother of Jared, how do I light these vessels? (Ether 2:22-25 and ch 3).

Some say we should not ask deeper questions and delve too deep into the mysteries.

“God has revealed everything necessary for our salvation. We should teach and dwell on the things that have been revealed and avoid delving into so-called mysteries. My counsel to teachers in the Church, whether they instruct in wards and stakes, Church institutions of higher learning, institutes of religion, seminaries, or even as parents in their homes, is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Deep Roots,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 77)

Note – Wirthlin’s counsel “is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.” which, incidentally teach us to search for the mysteries.

Nephi warns us (in 2 Nephi 28:29-30), addressing Latter Day Saints (or “Zion”, see v24), wo to those who “have enough” and need no more. “For unto him that recieveth I will give more and to those who have enough shall be taken away that they have.”

Is modern day “Zion” guilty of feeling like we “have enough”?

Alma tells us that by NOT seeking the mysteries we can be taken captive by the devil and led down to destruction:

“And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (Alma 12:9-11)

I believe the reason Elder Wirthlin counsels us not to delve too deep into the mysteries in our teaching is because no one can teach the mysteries except God. However, it is clear that the scriptures admonish us to seek them.

I’ve rambled too much, but personally, I’ve found asking questions while I read God’s words in scripture has led me to much greater understanding than had I not.

My friend responded that the quote was from Harold B Lee. I looked it up, here’s more of the quote in context:

“Now, there is one thing that I think we should all be mindful of. I was with a group of missionaries in the temple one day. A question was asked by one of the sisters about the Word of Wisdom, concerning the promise made that if one would keep the Word of Wisdom he should run and not be weary and should walk and not faint. And she said, ‘How could that promise be realized if a person were crippled? How could he receive the blessing that he could run and not be weary, and walk and not faint, if he were crippled?’

“I answered her, ‘Did you ever doubt the Lord? The Lord said that.’

“The trouble with us today, there are too many of us who put question marks instead of periods after what the Lord says. I want you to think about that. We shouldn’t be concerned about why he said something, or whether or not it can be made so. Just trust the Lord. We don’t try to find the answers or explanations. We shouldn’t try to spend time explaining what the Lord didn’t see fit to explain. We spend useless time.

“If you would teach our people to put periods and not question marks after what the Lord has declared, we would say, “It is enough for me to know that is what the Lord said.”
Harold B Lee, Admonitions for the Priesthood of God – Ensign Jan. 1973

Animation Merit Badge

This weekend I had the privilege of instructing scouts at the Scout-O-Rama in Logan, Utah. I was asked if would be a counselor for the Animation Merit Badge. I’ve spent most of this week studying and preparing.

I fell in love with this impressive animation by Ryan Woodward:


For the scouts, here is a list of resources I have compiled:

First, here is a great resource of information for this merit badge from Boy’s Life:
Animation merit badge

Animation techniques (see requirement 3):
2D (by hand or on a computer)
3D (requires computer)
Stop Motion
Mixed Media / Experimental

The above video is an impressive 2D animation by Ryan Woodward from hand drawings (20,000, actually). Note the gesture art character animation.

This is another 2D animation that demonstrates how the mind will fill in missing information.

3D Animation, Baxter. Note the list of credits at the end. This took a team of people a year to complete.

Great example of Stop Motion animation with sticky notes.

Good example of Mixed Media/Experimental animation by Hillary Grist

10 Stop Motion Apps:

The 10 Handiest Apps for Stop Motion Animation


Pic Pac $4.4 *4.5
Stop Motion $2 *3.7
Motion *3.5
ClayFrames $3 *4.4
Stop Motion Maker Free *3.6


Open Source Animation Software:
Pencil2D
OS: Mac, Windows, Linux

Pencil2D

Synfig Studios (2D)
OS: Mac, Windows, Linux
http://www.synfig.org/cms/
steeper learning curve than Pencil, but more advanced features

Stykz (2D)
OS: Mac, Windows, Linux
http://www.stykz.net/
simple stick man animation tool

Blender (3D)
OS: Mac, Windows, Linux
https://www.blender.org/


Animation schools and careers:

http://www.toonboom.com/education

http://daqri.com/

https://www.scad.edu/

A God of War?

Why are Christians, who of all people should be promoters of the gospel of peace, so eager to embrace war?

Consider the hypocrisy of Christians using the Bible to justify war. How is our current occupation and war in Iraq so different from ancient Christians using the Bible to justify bloody crusades?

 

Take this case in point from history. In his work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon relates (A.D. 508-518) an account of a bloody rebellion involving a man by the name of Vitalian who declared himself the champion of the Catholic faith and with an army of Huns and Bulgarians (for the most part “idolaters”), “depopulated Thrace, besieged Constantinople, exterminated sixty-five thousand of his fellow Christians, till he obtained the recall of the bishops, the sanctification of the pope, and the establishment of the council of Chalcedon”.
With a hint of justifiable sarcasm, Gibbon concludes with “And such was the event of the first of the religious wars, which have been waged in the name, and by the disciples of the God of peace.” (Vol 6, Ch 47, p 34)
St. Bartholomew's Day massacre

This is actually a picture of St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre 1572, not the first religious war A.D. 514, but it still helps drive home the point.

 

Ted Kennedy of Spokane Bible Church in Washington gives an apt treatment of how it is that many Christians have used the Bible to justify supporting U.S. involvement in killing infidels on the other side of the world in his “Doctrine of God and War”.

 

As I read thru Kennedy’s presentation I can’t help pose some questions:
  • It’s not a sin of any kind to kill in war? War makes killing OK? If killing an enemy in war is not a sin, then Iraqis who kill American soldiers are not sinning either.
  • If military service is an honorable profession, then was serving as an SS officer an “honorable profession”? What about serving as a guard at Auschwitz?
  • If God “commends those who wage war against aggressors,” then shouldn’t he be pouring out blessings on Iraq since to them it is the United States that is clearly the aggressor? Does this mean that Iraqis are justified in killing U.S. soldiers?
  • Why are Christians, who of all people should be promoters of the gospel of peace, so eager to embrace a war where we are creating terrorists faster than we can kill them?

If Not Hell, What? If Not In This Life, When?

The readiness with which we accept such nonsense into our teachings give evidence for the Book or Mormon’s grim view of us as proud gentiles in the last days.

(This post is a continuation of a train of thought that I started on yesterday’s post, Hell Is Not So Bad, Right?)

The scriptures and LDS leaders clearly teach us to seek Celestial Kingdom and avoid pains of hell.

“Also in the spirit prison are those who rejected the gospel after it was preached to them either on earth or in the spirit prison. These spirits suffer in a condition known as hell. They have removed themselves from the mercy of Jesus Christ, who said, “Behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:16–18). After suffering for their sins, they will be allowed, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, to inherit the lowest degree of glory, which is the telestial kingdom.” (Gospel Principals Manual, Chapter 41, The Postmortem Spirit World)

“Are we content to aim for telestial glory? I never heard a prayer offered, especially in the family circle, in which the family does not beseech God to give them celestial glory. Telestial glory is not in their thoughts… but celestial glory is our aim” (George Q. Cannon, in Conference Report, Apr. 1900, 55–56)

The problem is not the truths we are being taught, but the misunderstandings that have crept in into our culture that skew the significance of preparing to meet God in this life.

I remember the following story being related on various occasions in sacrament meeting and classrooms as I was growing up:
“You were in the War in Heaven and one day when you are in the spirit world you will be enthralled with those who you are associated with. You will ask someone in which time period he lived in and you might hear, “I was with Moses when he parted the Red Sea,” or “I helped build the pyramids,” or “I fought with Captain Moroni.” And as you are standing there in amazement, someone will turn to you and ask, “Which prophet time did you live in?” And when you say “Gordon B. Hinckley,” a hush will fall over every hall, every corridor in heaven and all in attendance will bow at your presence. You were held back six thousand years because you were the most talented, most obedient, most courageous, and most righteous. Are you still? Remember who you are!”
This Mormon urban legend apparently became prevalent enough that the church has issued statements disavowing it (read statement by the Church, a letter of 25 February 2008)

The readiness with which we accept such nonsense into our teachings give evidence for the Book or Mormon’s grim view of us as proud gentiles in the last days. (see Mormon 8:35-38, Ether 12:35-38, 2 Nephi 33:7-9, 3 Nephi 16:10)

Over the last few years I’ve taken the opportunity to attend several non-LDS Christian worship meetings. One thing that occurred to me was the attention given to messages that are positive, flattering and reassuring as if to attract a greater audience. I’ve wondered about the emphasis we give to teaching positive messages in our own LDS meetings. This notion that religion should always encourage merriment and feasting has so taken hold that it becomes impossible to cry repentance. Anything that challenges a happy outlook is thought to be negative and of the devil. It creates the misunderstanding that the right to feel good about one’s self is a higher obligation than the duty to teach repentance and forsaking sin.

Note how the Book of Mormon stresses that  “there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.” (Enos 1:23)

Alma also makes it clear that “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors… therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.” (Alma 34:32-33)

What do we conclude from this as it relates to our understanding of heaven and hell and Nephi’s sobering warnings about our condition as saints in these last days? Joseph Smith admonished that this is a subject we ought to study more than any other:

“All men know that they must die.  And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our suffering here, and our departure hence.  What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more?  It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other.  We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.324)

“I want you to know, that God, in the last days, while certain individuals are proclaiming his name, is not trifling with you or me” (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p 346)