Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Two Thoughts About Same-Sex Marriage

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My parents this past December. They have been married almost 34 years, have five children, and have blessed the lives of countless others. What great examples to me!

With the Supreme Court expected to make a ruling about same-sex marriage this summer, I have been thinking a lot about the issue lately. During 2008, I was (and still am) a strong supporter of Proposition 8. During my more recent musings on the matter, I have come to two different conclusions:

1. Supporters of traditional marriage are seeking to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.

The fact that it's about the definition of marriage is crucial. It can be hard to see through all the rhetoric about equal rights. Of course I believe in equal rights. Of course the churches believe in equal rights. Of course God believes in equal rights, for "God is no respecter of persons," (Acts 10:34), and "all are alike unto God" (2 Nephi 26:33). What supporters of traditional marriage want is not unequal protection under the law. What we want is for the definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman. Marriage between one man and one woman is available to all. If there is a partnership between two people of the same gender, it is not marriage. It is something else. Tax benefits or visitation rights can be afforded to same-sex couples, but not because they are members of the institution called marriage, because the definition of that is a union formed between one man and one woman. In this way, equal rights are not violated. Which brings me to point number two, which is dependent on point number one.

2. The major reason the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposes same-sex marriage is to protect its rights as a church.

I am not a spokesman for the church. However, from reading and listening to statements from the church and its Apostles, I believe the major reason the church opposes same-sex marriage is to protect its rights. I say this because I think people often feel the major reason the church or other denominations oppose same-sex marriage is to discourage sin. To be sure, discouraging sin is a chief role of the leaders and members of the church. However, if same-sex marriage is legalized, it will be impossible for churches and their members to maintain free exercise of conscience without stepping on the toes of gays and lesbians. Already pressure has been put on church-affiliated adoption agencies and wedding photographers, to name a couple off the top of my head,  to go against their consciences. Nationwide same-sex marriage legalization will only add fuel to this fire, and the rights of churches across the nation will suffer as they try to do what they believe is right.

I do not support mean or unfair treatment of any person based on their sexual orientation. However, I do support the rights of people and churches to free exercise of conscience with regards to matters of sex. If the definition of marriage is changed to include same-sex couples these rights will be compromised, as people will be forced to decide between treating people unequally with regards to the laws of the land and being disobedient to the laws of their Creator. This is what we want to avoid.

One of my favorite lectures on same-sex marriage was given in an address at BYU in 2008 by Robert George, the MP3 of which can be found here.

What Easter Means to Me

I love Cadbury Creme Eggs. When I was little, my mother would buy them and use them as prizes for scripture trivia. Then, when I was in high school and she was the teacher for our before-school seminary class, she would buy them in bulk and freeze them so they could be used as prizes year-round. My friends and I stole many of them from our basement freezer. I still feel the rush of joy and the instinct to hoard it away from other sugar-loving scavengers when I see one.

As nice as it is to feel the nostalgia (not to mention the sugar-rush) of eating Cadbury Eggs, I'm glad there's more to Easter than this treat. I'm glad there's more to Easter than the plastic egg hunts and chocolate bunnies, as fun as all of that is. Although I'm told all of this spawns from pagan rituals that were adopted long ago, the true meaning of the celebration lives on in my heart and mind. Today, I worship Jesus Christ.

A recent video (below) produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tells the story of Jesus Christ's suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, as well as His triumphal resurrection of in a very reverent way.

I love my Savior for all that He has done and continues to do for me. He has broken the bonds of death, so we will all someday be resurrected as He is. Because of this knowledge, the sting of death is swallowed up in hope that my mortal body will some day be restored to its perfect form, never to die again (Mosiah 16:7-8).

Equally importantly, He has bridged the void that separates me spiritually from God, our Heavenly Father. Although I distance myself from God each time I sin, Jesus Christ satisfied the demands of justice through infinite and incomprehensible suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary. I have felt the gnawing feeling of God withdrawing the presence of His Holy Spirit when I have sinned, but I have also felt the sweet relief that comes through the grace of Jesus Christ as I repent and allow myself to be reconciled to God. There is nothing like that feeling in all the world, and it is only through the events that took place at Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago that it is possible.

Salvation cannot come to us without both the physical and spiritual salvation that are called the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I have felt the powerful witness of the Holy Spirit in increasing magnitude throughout my life that this is true. Gladly I celebrate this reality at this time of the year and throughout the rest of the year. Happy Easter, everyone!

A Return to Virtue

Lately there has been a lot on the news about different approaches people wish to take to combat budgetary, educational, health-related, and a whole slew of other problems faced by the people of our nation. As I try to follow these current events, sometimes it can be discouraging that people seem to completely miss the mark with their suggested solutions.

As I have been reading about these things, thinking about them, and discussing them with others, my mind has been brought back time and time again to a talk I heard a couple of years ago. On September 13, 2009, Elaine S. Dalton spoke to the young adults of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about leading the world in a "Return to Virtue". Virtue is sexual purity in desires, thoughts, and actions. It engenders strength and confidence. At one point during her talk, under the section entitled A Return to Virtue Could Save a Nation, she said the following:

 

We live in a world that is concerned about cleanliness and purity—the cleanliness of our air and the cleanliness of our environment, our water, and even our food. In some places we legislate against pollution and even have government-funded environmental protection agencies to ensure that we are not made ill by contaminants that get into our air, our water, or our food supply. Yet society tolerates moral pollution in the form of pornography on billboards, television, and the Internet and in entertainment and other media. We tolerate filth that invades our minds through suggestive lyrics, music, and language. In some respects we are an organic generation ensuring purity and quality in our lives, and yet we are polluting our moral fiber. I believe that the lack of virtue in our society is directly responsible for many of our social, financial, and governmental ills. I believe that the disintegration of faith and families and the financial unrest are directly related to a lack of virtue in our society. And I believe that a return to virtue could save an entire nation.

We call for a social reform, but what is really needed is a moral reform—a call for a return to virtue.

I whole-heartedly agree with Elaine Dalton. The whole talk is excellent, and the text, audio, and video can be found here. As I think about the troubles facing this nation and the world, nothing seems like it would solve more problems in our personal and collective lives than a return to virtue. As people turn from their selfish, lustful pursuits and focus their efforts outward, productivity and goodwill will increase. Many of the dangers that threaten the family will dissolve. Strong families educate and nurture the type of responsible, level-headed citizens that made America great. This bipartisan solution would be more effective than any policy I know of, and it would resolve a deep problem that directly or indirectly affects us all.

What do you think? What impact would a national return to virtue have on your life?

Rational Towers of Babel

Previously I wrote a little about my opinion on the compatibility of my scientific interests and my religious convictions (see Science vs. Religion). For the sake of clarification and because I just wanted to share some of the things I've found, I'm revisiting the topic.

I do not claim that spiritual knowledge can be proven through any scientific methods we now possess. This is illustrated in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 2:14: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." In Science vs. Religion, it was my purpose to show that my understanding of the physical world can strengthen and enrich my testimony of God and the truths He has restored in recent times, but that understanding can never make a suitable foundation for such a testimony.

Genesis 11:4 states, "And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven..." These people thought that they could reach God by building a tall tower, and that wicked notion resulted in the confounding of their languages. As ridiculous as the idea is that God may be reached through physical means, there are many today who aim to do the exact same thing, through postulates and theorems. As the late Truman G. Madsen put it in one of his lectures, "They have built a rational Tower of Babel, from which they comfort themselves with, 'We haven't heard from God, but he must still be there.'" I would also add that those who climb to the top of the tower often adopt the opposite point of view, this time saying, "We haven't heard from God, so he must not be there."

It is frustrating to see believers and non-believers alike arguing about the existence or character of God on the basis of tangible evidences. If God is real, what makes anyone think that they can possibly discover Him in this way, especially when it is directly contrary to the manner He prescribes? Faith is the formula for conviction.

A belated merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all!

Note: Perhaps in a later post I will describe some of the specific reasons I believe in God, as well as reasons for my equally strong conviction that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) is true. Until then, here's the link to my page on Mormon.org where I describe some of my beliefs.