Category Archives: Culture

Protect the Children: Overview

Dallin H. Oaks

Dallin H. Oaks

Elder Dallin H. Oaks recently gave a talk titled, “Protect the Children”, during the Saturday session of the October 2012 General Conference broadcast. In this talk, Oaks described many ways children suffer abuses around the world, and how these abuses are the result of “selfish adult interests.”

Oaks touched on the tragic situations common among children in third-world nations, such as high infant mortality rates due to malnutrition and preventable or treatable disease, and children being forced to fight in wars as soldiers or exploited in prostitution and pornography. He even addressed wealthier nations’ children, some of whom suffer both physically and mentally from neglect, prenatal damage, insufficient health care, poor education, and dangerous living conditions. However, in what could have been a wide-scale call to action for humanitarian aid — as the Church has done for political campaigns — he chose to associate these kinds of epidemic abuses with the “disadvantages” of children born into or raised by non-traditional families.

While the subject matter (the welfare of children worldwide) is a worthy cause for greater awareness and concern, this is ultimately not the focus of Oaks’ talk. He shamefully used this subject as a means of reinforcing the presumed importance of heterosexual marriages and nuclear families, by claiming that any other family arrangement can have devastating consequences to child welfare and development. In first presenting humanistic concerns for the dire conditions in third-world nations, he bridged the general suffering of these children with the assumed suffering of those in non-traditional families. He conflated the severity and type of suffering as being equal across all non-ideal living situations. This gives his audience the impression that children raised by single or gay parents are being victimized or otherwise disadvantaged to the same extent as those who are starving in Africa or being trafficked into slavery.

Oaks began his talk with two overt logical fallacies in an attempt at manipulating his audience to unquestioningly accept his position. The first is an appeal to emotion where he said, “We can all remember our feelings when a little child cried out and reached up to us for help… Please recall those feelings as I speak about our responsibility to protect and act for the well-being of children.“ Invoking   compassion and empathy in this way has the effect of encouraging his listeners to feel, rather than think about what he’s saying.

He immediately followed this with a second fallacy, an appeal to authority. Oaks reminded his audience that his position as an “Apostle is responsible to witness to the entire world” and that he speaks “from the perspective of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including His plan of salvation.” Later in the talk, he also mentioned his “service on the Utah Supreme Court.” However, none of his authoritative positions qualified him to speak on child welfare, childhood development, social services, sociology, psychology, statistics, economics, history, medicine, or scientific research of any kind. Yet, by appealing to his assumed existential authority, he presented himself as a knowledgeable and trusted source, and proceeded to touch on every one of the aforementioned fields of study.

Oaks tried to mitigate some potential backlash by claiming not to “speak in terms of politics or public policy” but he “cannot speak for the welfare of children without implications for the choices being made by citizens, public officials, and workers in private organizations.” While this would normally be seen as an honest and forthright acknowledgement of the implications of his talk, it is undermined by his later criticism of specific laws and policies that he deems immoral or promoting immorality. What is a true believing Mormon to do when a leader of the Church, who claims authority to speak for a perfectly moral and loving god, condemns such laws and policies? Oaks’ attempt at distancing himself from politically charged rhetoric seems disingenuous.

Throughout his talk, Oaks referred to adult selfishness as being the underlying cause of children’s suffering. Whether it be the exploitation of children, abortion, or divorce, among others. Though this is by no means a new theme, Oaks capitalizes on the audience’s emotions on another level: guilt and shame. By demonizing any action that puts the needs of the parent ahead of the immediate needs of the child, one is left with the impression that staying in an emotionally neglectful or combative marriage is preferred over filing for divorce, for the sake of the children. This attitude toward the needs of the parent(s) ignores the potential for the longterm benefits of having two separated-but-emotionally-stable parents for the sake of a marriage certificate.

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Special thanks to go my wife and partner, Eileah, for her continual support, encouragement and her critical mind.

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Walking the [Gay] and Narrow Path

Last week, a blogger by the name of Josh Weed, posted a personal story that quickly went viral. Why? Because Josh Weed came out as a gay Mormon man who is happily married to a woman. I’ve decided to write a response to Weed’s story, not so much because of what he said, but mainly for what was not said: his omissions and the implications of his story on the wider LDS and LGBT communities.

You can read his story on his blog, The Weed, here: Club Unicorn: In which I come out of the closet on our ten year anniversary.

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Superstition, Rationality, and the Merits of Religion: A Facebook Debate

Last month, I was engaged in yet another Facebook debate — this time with an old work colleague of mine, who’s non-LDS. It turned out to be a great example of the kind of debate in which I wish I could engage my family and close friends, since I found it to be both intellectually challenging and amicable. Unfortunately these days, my family and friends rarely engage me in anything other than idle chit-chat, fearing that I’ll bring something up that will make them “uncomfortable”; but I digress.

The debate started off discussing whether irrationality and/or superstition is a requirement to do others harm; branched into a debate on whether Hitler was a theist or not; then came to a comparison of definitions of religion & other philosophies.

With permission from the other parties, I have decided to include the entire debate below; I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

[Note: due to Facebook’s limited abilities, I’ve taken the liberty of re-formatting the text of the debate for my blog. I’ve modified paragraph & line breaks, fixed typos, added emphasis, etc. Other than this, the debate remains unedited in terms of content. I’ve also colour-coded each speaker to make it easier to follow the conversation: I (Tom) am red, Travis is blue, and Jason is green.]

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The Family (via The Blissful Heretic)

I recently came across a blog post called “The Family“, by The Blissful Heretic. I thought it was really well written, and successfully illustrates the contradiction that exists with the LDS Church’s marketing strategy of promoting themselves as a ‘family church’, while actively preaching against any and all family types that don’t fit it’s patriarchal, heterosexual, and procreational ideal.

I highly recommend my readers to follow the link below to read her great post. Here’s a sample:

In recent years, the church has been trying to enhance its image as a “family” church. It has always been adamantly opposed to homosexuality and gay marriage, and it has received a lot of press for this since its involvement in Prop 8. Nary a conference goes by without a veiled reference to “the family” being under attack. The current threat is the gay rights movement, but historically the church has also identified feminism and interracial marriage as threats to the family.  READ MORE…

“Watch Your Step” – A Review

Last month, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a Mormon Messages video entitled, “Watch Your Step” – which is a visual story created to illustrate a talk given by Jeffrey R. Holland (Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) at the April 2010 General Conference. This video is meant to show “how a moment’s decision can have far-reaching consequences – for good or bad”, by illustrating two outcomes based on a man’s decision to, or not to, look at porn on his computer. This video is a perfect example of the Church’s ignorant and simplistic black and white thinking, and its use of fear and guilt to control its membership.

For those who are not familiar with the talk, it can be found on the LDS website here: ”Place No More For the Enemy of My Soul”.

While the video can be watched right here:

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Changing Views on Drinking

One of the defining aspects of Latter-day Saints, is their abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and all kinds of illegal drugs. In this regard, I continue to be the poster-boy for Mormonism. I haven’t had a single alcoholic drink, cigarette, cup of coffee, or illegal drug in my entire life. Only recently, after having distanced myself from the Church, have I started to truly consider my reasons for maintaining this abstinence. For this blog post, I’ll be focusing on alcohol portion of the Word of Wisdom.

Alcoholic drinks were never in the house while I grew up. My world was alcohol-free, and I remember being told on numerous occasions that it was evil and dangerous to drink. My parents would even make the odd derogatory comment whenever we’d see someone drinking on TV. This type of teaching method didn’t work in the way I believe my parents intended, in that I made the correlation that bad people drink, opposed to the drinking itself being what was bad. I had always been warned that I should not be friends with anyone who drinks, and that if I found myself in a situation where alcohol was present, I should leave. Again, strengthening the idea that it’s the people who were bad for drinking, rather than the drink. Only bad people drank alcohol, or so it seemed.

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Review: The God Delusion

The God DelusionThe God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, is aptly named. It illustrates how the concept of a personal god (specifically the Abrahamic god of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is one of complete fiction, and yet has so many convinced of His existence, despite the mounting evidence that the world is not as described in ancient scripture.

Dawkins’s approach to his arguments against theistic belief in the supernatural is an obvious extension from his career in evolutionary biology. Dawkins is very careful to take the time to define each term that he uses, sorting out the different meanings, so that his specific use of the term is clearly understood. This goes a long way to avoid confusion, especially when talking about the polytheistic, monotheistic, pantheistic, and panentheistic uses of the word ‘god’. Dawkins is also very good at presenting a much more complete picture of commonly misrepresented & quote mined historical figures such as Einstein, the American founding fathers, Hitler, etc., and shows how their uses of the word ‘god’ rarely meets today’s Christian definition.

Dawkins’s ‘The God Delusion’ is a scientific approach, in methodology if not evidentiality, to the arguments against the beliefs in gods, and is much more reserved and soft-spoken than Christopher Hitchen’s rather abrasive book, ‘God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything’. These two books have a stark contrast in their delivery, but share the same sound reasoning and logic. I highly recommend both of them.

View all my reviews

Review: Letter to a Christian Nation

Letter to a Christian NationLetter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderfully concise and straightforward address to theists in general and traditional Christians in specific. The arguments brought forward in this short letter should be more than enough to convince anyone capable of rational thought of the dangerous and misguided superstitions that permeate our society. If humans expect to thrive and become more than the sum of our parts, we must shed these self-induced or inherited delusions. This work has been the first of Sam Harris’s that I have read, and it will definitely not be the last.

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Rape Apology and Joseph Smith (via Molly Muses . . .)

It always amazes me how Mormons can turn a blind eye to their founder’s sexual “transgressions” (aka. rape) while then taking the stance that all sexual sin is second only to murder (as per Boyd K. Packer’s April 2011 talk, “Guided by the Holy Spirit“) Although I plan to address this topic in greater detail in the future, I thought I’d pass along this blog post by Molly Muses, who has worded things better that I could have done.

What would you say if I told you the story of a man who declared himself to be God’s messenger, published and circulated a document threatening his legal wife with death if she did not allow him to have sex with other women, told his male followers that their teenage daughters or legal wives needed to become his sexual partners or they would all be shut out of heaven, had sex with teenage girls living in his home as wards, and allowed his best fr … Read More

via Molly Muses . . .

Tonya Miller: Ex-Mormon LDS Christian Bisexual (OUTspoken March 10 2011)

Tonya Miller, speaking at OUTSpoken (a LGBTQ week long event consisting of many public events and forums in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada – March 10, 2011

This is a touching speech from Tonya Miller about her struggles with the LDS Church and her bisexuality. I find this particularly interesting in that it deals with a topic that I have been in a heated debate over on Facebook for the past several days. (Ill have a post on that later.) Tonya is also from my own province of Alberta. The LDS stance on the LGBTQ community is not one of compassion as some might suggest.

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