RIP Rock Waterman – Apostate or Abinidi?

The excommunication of Rock Waterman is complete. Another Mormon pushed away, punished, and exiled from Mormonism for expressing his thoughts and exercising intellectual analysis. Some people call this border control or boundary maintenance. I call this an infringement on intellectual freedom of expression. Of course, there is no bill of rights when it comes to freedom of expression in a private institution like the LDS Church. Private clubs can set their own rules, but when the foundational documents invite all to come and partake, it seems counter-productive to exclude some who express their views.

A disciplinary council is where a group of volunteer ecclesiastical leaders gather together to judge a person who is accused of a serious offense. It is often referred to as a court of love. Rock said the only love in the room was the love he brought with him. He compared his excommunication experience, just as Paul Toscano once did, to being raped by a group of Care Bears. Rock’s wife described the scenario like a corporate firing: a dead feeling in the room followed by a series of charges, a moment to say something, and then the execution of said firing. Having been the victim of a corporate firing, I can relate to the deepest level of the deathly feeling of that room. I would likely go ape-nuts if I were to be called to a disciplinary council, so I can only imagine the gut-wrenching feeling of those who face up to it.

Back to the topic at hand: was Rock an apostate? Some would say that his refusal to follow every word of the living prophets constituted his apostasy. Others might say Rock appealed to a higher authority in his arguments. Some might say the situation is unfortunate, but a church can do as it pleases as a private institution (as long as it doesn’t cross federally protected lines). Others might say that the definition of apostasy is too broad and loosely applied.

It hurts to be part of a church that acts this way to those in dissent. I was so angry when John Dehlin and Kate Kelly were ex’d. I was enraged after reading about the September Six. Now, Rock Waterman has been handed the same fate. I cannot summarize all of Rock’s positions, but several ring true to me:

  • Getting married civilly should not carry a one-year ban from the temple sealing ordinance for those couples who wish to have family and friends of diverse faiths attend. There is no such ban in Europe where only civil marriages are acceptable, so the same should be worldwide. link
  • Tithing is based on one’s increase, not on one’s income. link
  • Corporate Church is not the same as the Church of Christ. link
  • Polygamy was a mistake and should be denounced. link
  • Word of Wisdom strictness may not be historically supported. link

John Dehlin calls Rock a “modern-day Abinidi” in his interview with Rock post-excommunication. I tend to agree. How about you?

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“One True Church” is not proprietary

Why do Mormon’s lean so heavily on the phrases “One True Church” or “THE True Church” or “The Church is TRUE”? Whether or not you believe this statement to be true, there are a few points to consider:

⊗ This appeal to authority is automatically diminishing of all other organizations. If I were to walk in a room of strangers and say, “I am the most beautiful person in this room. Who would like to compare their beauty with mine?” I’m sure I wouldn’t get too many takers.

⊗ The Book of Mormon clearly states that God is managing more than one group at once.

3 Nephi 16:1 And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister. (REF)

God is running several civilizations at once, so before Mormons go Sid Meier on the rest of the world, Mormons ought to be careful in considering themselves the only ones.

⊗ Adam Miller, the brightest mind in Mormon Thinkdom, knows this concept is silly:

The gospel is not a proprietary system. It’s open sourced and many of the ideas and practices that are most decisive in living a joyful life are shared broadly across the world’s traditions and cultures. (REF)

So let’s drop the vernacular of a one, true church, and let’s start living like we deserve to be called disciples of Christ.

Thoughts sparked while reading Times & Seasons.

Going to church angry

The most common marital advice I have received is “never go to bed angry.” I won’t go into detail why I disagree, but suffice it to say I always wake up refreshed and have generally forgotten why I was upset the night before.

But what about church? Never go to church angry? Sometimes anger happens between tying my half Windsor and finding my favorite pew. And sometimes it ruins the whole experience. But what is there to be done?

Leaving church for an hour to hash out the argument defeats the purpose of staying. Avoiding the confrontation is as noticeable as the cheerio that one mom crushes into the carpet with her cheap flats because she’s too lazy to pick it up.

If I’m headed to the movies, but I can’t enjoy the movie due to a migraine or diarrhea, then I’m probably going to leave. Shouldn’t a spousal quarrel count the same?

Before all the Pharises tell me about how contention is if the devil and I should apologize first regardless of fault, I’d like to remind them I am a lot like Laman, not Nephi.

What are your thoughts? Stay, go, work it out there, or work it out later?

Is Church Attendance a Spiritual Indicator?

Some Sundays, I don’t want to go to church. Some religions are lackadaisical about attendance requirements, but Mormonism is not. Either you go as often as you can and are deemed “active” or you fall below that standard and are deemed “less-active.” I would add that those who obsess with attendance to meetings and auxiliaries are “over-active,” e.g. cutting a vacation short in order to avoid missing an auxiliary meeting that would have otherwise functioned just fine without you.

Aside from those Mormons who hold a volunteer position that requires them to physically be there, like to teach a class, why is it imperative that everyone else go each week? If salvation is an individual matter, why does it seem roll call plays a huge role on your perceived spirituality? Who came up with the term “active” as a way to describe someone’s attendance rate? Why is that even an issue?

The LDS Tech Wiki describes “active” as, “Participating on a regular basis, such as attending meetings, observing the principles of the gospel, and accepting Church callings; Under current Church policy, those who attend meetings at least once a month” Reference.

Is attendance a good measure of one’s spirituality? I’m pretty sure Jesus would argue against it. In fact, I think he did, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). The statistic seem to agree: “67 percent of active adult Latter-day Saints pray daily, compared to 83 percent in other denominations; and 41 percent reported reading the scriptures daily or several times a week, compared to 52 percent in other denominations” Reference. It seems that forced attendance yields poor personal spiritual habits.

Let’s get away from the roll call obsession in the Mormon church. It doesn’t matter if you attend once a year or once a week, God sees beyond our church attendance whether we are striving to be kind, loving, and charitable. Living a Christ-centered life doesn’t happen at church, it happens wherever we are. Whether by circumstance or choice, our attendance (or lack of) does not define us. How we think and act are ultimately the deciding factors of who we are.

What do you think? Does attendance matter? Should church attendance be part of “worthiness” requirements for temple recommends or ecclesiastical endorsements?

Why Do Mormons Bless Their Food?

Never mind the absurdity of blessing cookies and sugary punch to “nourish and strengthen our bodies” as is so common among Latter Day Saints. I’m more interested in delving into why Mormons bless their food at all. What’s inherently wrong with food that requires it to be blessed? Why the shame and taboo when a morsel of goodness bursts the first fruits of flavor through our culinary receptacles before a supplication is pronounced? Surely there is a doctrinal source indicating that’s what’s supposed to be done, right? Right?

Maybe not.

Part of the confusion lies in what it means to “bless.” The commonly understood interpretation is to “sanctify” or “consecrate.” Mormons obsess with consecrating things: homes, oil, graves, chapels, etc., so why not their food? Additionally, Mormons love to use the word “bless” instead of saying “heal” or “give help” in their prayers: please bless John that he will recover from his illness; please bless the missionaries who are searching for souls to save; etc. “Bless” is as meaningless as “literally” that has now become an intensifier.

I would argue the most common use of “bless” in the Bible means to “praise” often meaning a “praise God.” And when it comes to food, choosing the right definition makes all the difference. Pay attention to the word “bless” as you read these verses regarding prayer and food.

Exodus 23:25 “And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” — God sanctifies our food and takes away the sickness when we serve Him.

Deuteronomy 8:10 “When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.” — Praise God after eating.

Matthew 14:19 “And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.” — Jesus praised God and then passed out the food.

It’s much more likely, in the New Testament, Jesus pronounced a b’rakhah (blessing, benediction) that Jews were accustomed to recite before meals, “Barukh attah, Adonai Eloheynu, melekh-ha’olam, haMotzi lecheem, minha’aretz”, or , “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”

So next time you sit down to “bless the food,” try blessing, err, praising God for the food instead because it all comes from that which he declared as good (Genesis 1:31).

What do you think? Do you “bless” your food, praise God, give thanks, or just eat?

–alotlikelaman

Adapted from this.