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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.

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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Review: An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins

An Insider's View of Mormon Origins
An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins by Grant H. Palmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, by Grant H. Palmer, is a solid overview of the documented facts surrounding Joseph Smith Jr., the Book of Mormon, and the beginnings of the Mormon religion. With Palmer being a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a three-time director of the LDS Institutes of Religion, a former LDS seminary teacher, and a member of the Mormon History Association, I was fully expecting his book to be an apologetic view of Mormon origins, which I’m pleased to say was not the case. Palmer lays out a very well researched and referenced exposé of the foundational aspects of Mormonism that would make any ‘anti-Mormon’ proud.

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Review: Tell it All, A Woman’s Life in Polygamy

Tell it All: A Woman's Life in Polygamy
Tell it All: A Woman’s Life in Polygamy by Fanny Stenhouse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tell It All is the heartbreaking autobiography of Fanny Stenhouse. Her story begins with her as a young woman returning home to England, after spending some time in France, to discover that her family had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While investigating her family’s new-found faith, she became the object of one of the Elders’ affections. They were soon married and subsequently ‘counseled’ to serve a mission for the Church while in impoverished conditions. It was only after years of whispered rumours (and public denials by apostles) of polygamy being practiced among their American counterparts, that Joseph Smith’s polygamic ‘revelation’ was finally disclosed in England. Her adventures only truly began when she and her husband were later ‘counseled’ to emigrate to the ‘promised land’ of Utah, where she learned, first-hand, the detrimental effects of Brigham Young’s institutionalized polygamy.

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My Contribution to Exposing The Mormon Delusion

Zina D. H. Young

Zina D. H. Young

A few weeks ago, while I was reading Jim Whitefield’s The Mormon Delusion Vol 1, I double-checked a claim that the author had made regarding the Church’s official website. On pages 132-3 of TMDv1 (2011 PDF edition), Whitefield had noted that, in 2006, the Church’s biographical sketch of Zina D. H. Young grossly misrepresented history and established facts. After Whitefield had pointed out the ‘error’, the Church deleted the offending sentence – which Whitefield notes in the updated edition (I read the latest 3rd edition).

I wanted to check for myself what the current wording of the biographical sketch was, so I did a quick google search of  Zina Young site:LDS.org. Sure enough, I quickly found the revised bio, just as Whitefield said. However, in the search results, I also found a link to a Relief Society Presidents poster which still contained the original biographical sketch! There I had it, proof that the LDS Church had not only rewritten history to mislead people, but that they had deleted the misrepresentation once it was discovered!

Once I realized that I had clear before-and-after copies of the Church’s official biographical sketch of Zina D. H. Young, I contacted Jim Whitefield to let him know.

Below is Jim Whitefield’s official September 2011 update containing my contribution. Click here for the original source.

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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…

Review: The Mormon Delusion. Volume 1.

The Mormon Delusion. Volume 1.
The Mormon Delusion. Volume 1. by Jim Whitefield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Mormon Delusion, Vol 1: The Truth Behind Polygamy and Secret Polyandry (TMD-1), by Jim Whitefield, is a comprehensive and thoroughly-researched look into the polygamous & polyandrous practices of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), that lasted nearly 100 years. The author’s ability to present an incredible amount of facts and research into a well-organized, and easy to follow book, is quite an accomplishment. I read the 3rd edition in eBook (PDF) format, released in 2011.

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So, The Missionaries Called…

So, I got a call from the LDS missionaries. Normally, I wouldn’t have picked up the phone, but I had just walked in the door and answered it without looking at the caller ID. For what I initially thought would be a quick, “please don’t call again”, turned into a 15 minute theological discussion. I’m quite impressed that he was so willing to answer my questions, considering that I’m not an ‘investigator’ and am an official apostate. Rather than summarizing, I will attempt to recount the conversation as best I can:

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“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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