Friday, August 22, 2014

LDS Missionary Sister Nancy Vea Critically Injured In Oklahoma Traffic Accident

A missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been critically injured in a traffic mishap in Oklahoma. Sister Nancy Vea, originally from the the West Jordan Cobble Creek Stake in West Jordan, UT and currently serving in the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission out of Charleston, AR since May 2014, is reported to be on life support as of this post. The Tulsa World has a better account of the accident. KSTU Channel 13 also published an informative story. FOX 23 in Tulsa has a photo of the accident scene.

The mishap occurred on August 22nd, 2014 at around 8:30 A.M. CDT. Sister Vea was part of a group of three other missionaries and two regular LDS members heading southbound in a 2002 Dodge van on the Muskogee Turnpike from Greenwood, AR to Tulsa. A comment posted by Becky Bowman to the World implies they may have been enroute to a "conference", quite possibly a zone conference. The driver of the van, identified as 53-year-old Duane Carter of Greenwood, had missed an exit. Spotting an emergency cutout or barricade turnaround in the center median at mile marker 7 near Coweta, Carter abruptly slowed down to use it. The driver of a tractor-trailer immediately following the van jammed on his brakes. However, a 16-passenger VA van following the tractor-trailer did not react in time and struck the eighteen wheeler in the rear, propelling it into the Dodge van. The collision ejected Sister Vea from the van, since she was not wearing a seat belt.

Sister Vea was flown to St. John Medical Center in critical condition. Eighteen-year-old missionary Brady Osborne, originally from Las Vegas, was admitted to the hospital with head and internal trunk injuries. Three other passengers, including 19-year-old missionary McKell Peterson from Brigham City, and the driver from the Dodge van were treated and released from St. John Medical Center. The truck driver declined treatment at the scene. The driver of the VA bus was uninjured, and the five passengers were all treated and released from the VA hospital in Muskogee. FOX 23 says Duane Carter is likely to be ticketed for the illegal U-turn after toxicology reports are received.

A local church member, Gary Hughey, was quite impressed with Sister Vea's spirit:

"Just a beautiful, beautiful spirit, had just a very flowing personality. She had a certain sparkle in her eye. In Hawaii they would call it the ohana, which means the family. The mana about her, her spirit, her spirit was just so vibrant. You could just feel that she had a great love for, for everybody and for everything."

There's a comment posted to the Deseret News by Brent T. that leads me to believe there'll be an update to this story before long.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Here's Why The LDS Church Continues To Counsel Young People To Marry Within The Same Racial Background

Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long left its Priesthood ban against otherwise worthy black males behind, there's a passage within one of its manuals that has been used as grist for the propaganda mills of anti-Mormons and that progressive Mormons have used to occasionally speak evil of the Lord's anointed. Counsel given in Aaronic Priesthood Manual #3, Lesson 31, makes it appear that the LDS Church opposes interracial marriage. The manual cites a 1976 devotional speech by Spencer W. Kimball, the same President Kimball who received divine authorization to lift the Priesthood ban just two years later:

“We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).

A post on Feminist Mormon Housewives by a biracial Mormon validates the wisdom of President Kimball. Kalani, who identifies as half Tongan and half Swedish white, writes of the challenges she's faced in being accepted, particularly by Tongans. Here's the critical excerpts of her post:

I suppose I should start by saying that I am half Tongan and half “palangi,” or “white” (specifically Swedish). In Tongan, they call biracial people “hafekasi” or “half cast,” and can I just say that being biracial is freaking hard?! Author Lani Wendt Young said it best in her novel "Telesa: The Covenant Keeper", when she said that the biracial lead character was “too brown to be white but too white to be brown.” It’s a very strange feeling to be an “insider” and an “outsider” at the same time. All my life, I’ve been told by the Tongan community that I am “too white to be Tongan.” I can honestly say that I’ve never felt uncomfortably different around any group EXCEPT for Tongans. It’s so weird and hard to explain. I feel like I can walk into a room full of people of all ethnicities and feel like I can fit in, but if I walk into a room full of Tongans I’m like a fish out of water. I’m different. And not “different in a good way.” Different in a “look at her...she doesn’t act right” kind of way.


And so, when the time came for me to graduate from high school and venture into the big bad world all alone, I was very ill-prepared to deal with the incredible disapproval I received from the Tongan community because I “didn’t know how to act.” Being biracial felt a lot like walking through a mine field where other people knew where the landmines were, but they were not very forthcoming about that knowledge. Amongst Tongans, I’ve often felt “damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.” If I did or said the wrong thing, other Tongans talked about me and my family, and said I wasn’t taught right. If I asked what the right thing to do was, other Tongans talked about me and my family and said I wasn’t taught right because I had to ask. It felt like a lose-lose situation every time.

A commenter weighs in with a similar experience:

anonymous "palangi" says:
July 31, 2014 at 11:51 am

I can say that marrying into the culture I have never felt more inadequate or discriminated against then when I’m with my husband’s Tongan family. Luckily it’s becoming so much more common to be biracial so I’m not too worried about my kids trying to fit it. Plus my half white kids are way beautiful and that cannot always be said about full white or full Tongan kids…

For the record I believe in gender roles to a point, but to each their own.

This is exactly what President Kimball anticipated. And since people still experience this type of discrimination in 2014, it shows the wisdom of the LDS Church in continuing to caution young LDS members against interracial marriage. The intent is not discrimination, but awareness. Marriage and family can be challenging enough as it is without further cluttering it up with racial issues. But most important in the mind of the Church is for members to marry within the faith.

Too many young people find it difficult to distinguish between being in love and being in heat. In the same lesson, President Kimball gave some principles that should guide our selection:

“In selecting a companion for life and for eternity, certainly the most careful planning and thinking and praying and fasting should be done to be sure that, of all the decisions, this one must not be wrong. In true marriage there must be a union of minds as well as of hearts. Emotions must not wholly determine decisions, but the mind and the heart, strengthened by fasting and prayer and serious consideration, will give one a maximum chance of marital happiness” (“Marriage and Divorce,” p. 144).

In the final analysis, seek the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit, and let that Spirit be your guide.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LDS Member Condemns 4th Circuit Court Of Appeals Decision To Overturn Virginia's Gay Marriage Ban

On Monday July 28th, 2014, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declared Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional by a 2-1 vote. Judge Henry Floyd, appointed to the bench by Barack Obama, was joined by Judge Roger Gregory (appointed by Bill Clinton) in the majority, while Judge Paul Niemeyer (appointed by George H.W. Bush) dissented. Not surprisingly, Judge Floyd played the 14th Amendment card, and cited the landmark 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia, which overturned the state’s law against interracial marriage, implied a fundamental right to marry that may stretch to accommodate changing societal norms. In contrast, Judge Niemeyer noted that because there exist deep, fundamental differences between traditional and same-sex marriage, the plaintiffs and the majority erred by conflating the two relationships under the loosely drawn rubric of "the right to marriage".

The case resulted from a homosexual Norfolk couple’s lawsuit against the clerk of Norfolk Circuit Court after he refused to issue them a marriage license. The ruling upheld a federal judge’s earlier ruling that the clerk’s decision in accordance with a state constitutional ban against same-sex matrimonial unions violated the men’s rights under the U.S. Constitution. Essentially, the court affirmed that the U.S. Constitution trumps the state constitution’s proscription against gay marriage.

-- Read the 98-page opinion issued in Case No. 14-1167, Bostic v. Schaefer (PDF format)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring, and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, all Democrats, acclaimed the court's decision. The Virginia clerks were expected to seek a stay of the decision, pending either a rehearing by the full circuit court, or consideration of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court. Byron Babione, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that represented one of the clerks, said they were considering their next steps. Among other media outlets reporting reaction was the Suffolk News-Herald, and the response of 48-year-old Annette Lewis, identified as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was included. Here's the excerpt:

Annette Lewis, 48, referred to marriage between two individuals of the same gender as an “abomination.”

“I don’t have anything against gay people,” she said, “but the Bible that I read says that it’s wrong.”

Lewis said she reads the King James Version of the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The court made a wrong decision, because it’s supposed to be Adam and Eve, not Adam and Paul, and you can quote me on that,” she said.

The LDS Church officially defines marriage as only between one man and one woman, but has disavowed any intent to take disciplinary action against Church members who support legalizing gay marriage.

According to the Washington Post, as of July 28th, 20 states allow gay marriage, and bans against same-sex marriage have been ruled unconstitutional in 11 other states, including Virginia. Court challenges against gay marriage bans have been mounted in all other states.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Disciplinary Council Defers Decision On Kate Kelly's Membership Status For A Couple Of Days; Disfellowshipment May Be More Likely Than Excommunication

Update June 23rd: I was a bit too kind-hearted in my assessment; Kate Kelly was excommunicated from the LDS Church on this date. In response, Kelly said “The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful. Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities. I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.” Her response is similar to the approach taken by Denver Snuffer after his excommunication.

The leadership of Kate Kelly's former ward held the long-heralded disciplinary council on Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly on June 22nd, 2013, trying her for apostasy, and they notified her of their initial decision, which was promptly posted on the Ordain Women Facebook page:

Kate Kelly's Bishop just said via email: "After having given intense and careful consideration this evening to your membership status, and after carefully reviewing the materials you sent to us, we have decided that we want to prayerfully consider this matter overnight. I will notify you once we have a final decision, probably tomorrow or Tuesday."

This does not necessarily mean excommunication's off the table. What is most likely is that the members of the disciplinary council do not agree on the penalty. This increases the chance that disfellowshipment might be the penalty prescribed rather than excommunication. Kelly has repeatedly asserted her fundamental loyalty to the Church and its senior leadership throughout this entire saga, and this undoubtedly has influenced the council. In addition, over 1,000 letters supporting Kate Kelly were brought to the council, and perhaps they would like to review that correspondence prior to making a final decision.

The primary difference between disfellowshipment and excommunication is that in the case of disfellowshipment, one at least still remains a member of the LDS Church and thus doesn't have all sealings and blessings cancelled.

Vigils in support of Kate Kelly took place in more than 50 U.S. cities, including Salt Lake City (250 attendees), Seattle (25 at the Seattle North Stake Center), Denver, Albuquerque; the site of the hearing in Oakton, VA (60 people); Evanston, IL; Columbia, SC; and even far-off Anchorage, AK. It is unlikely that these vigils influenced the council. LDS Church spokeswoman Ally Isom issued the following statement after the Salt Lake vigil, which included a march from City Creek Park the the Church Office Building:

“In the church we want all to feel welcome, safe, valued, and there is room for questions but how we ask is as important as what we ask, we shouldn’t try to dictate to God what is right in this church”.

Church discipline is not the end of the world. The Deseret News published a story about six LDS members who made it back from various forms of Church discipline. The common denominators:

(1). The penitent valued a return to full fellowship and was fully repentant.

(2). The disciplinary councils played more of a pastoral than a judgmental role.

(3). All the council members cited in the story emphasized there was no command pressure from the General Authorities to decide on a particular outcome. This point has been disputed by some, most notably Denver Snuffer.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dissident LDS Blogger Rock Waterman's "Pure Mormonism" Too "Impure" For LDS Authorities According To New York Times Article

The rumors that dissident LDS blogger Rock Waterman, who edits the Pure Mormonism blog, is in trouble with his local Priesthood chain of command have been confirmed in a New York Times article entitled "Mormons Say Critical Online Comments Draw Threats From Church", published on June 18th, 2014. The New York Times has taken an interest in the latest round of prospective disciplinary actions against dissident Mormons like Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, and have now extended their scrutiny to Rock Waterman. Waterman defines "Pure Mormonism", under Joseph Smith's tutelage, as nothing less than pure Christianity, which is defined as love of God and love of neighbor; anything that does not endorse or amplify that love is considered mere religious baggage.

The money shot:

Rock Waterman, a retired innkeeper in California, writes a blog called Pure Mormonism, which attracts Mormons so orthodox that they believe their church is not sufficiently adhering to its own doctrines.

Last month [May 2014], Mr. Waterman posted a combative challenge addressed to one of the Mormon Church’s top leaders: "Stop making up your own rules and try preaching the Gospel of Christ for a change." [Ed. Note: This phrase appears in the post entitled "Vengeance And The Latter-Day Saint", under the paragraph heading "Mea Culpa"

Two days later, he said, he was summoned to a meeting with his bishop and told to either stop blogging or resign his church membership. If he did not resign he would face excommunication, he said the bishop told him, on orders from another official higher up — one of the church’s leaders known as an Area Seventy.

At the end of the article, the Times says Brother Waterman refuses to resign and is willing to face discipline, quoting him as saying "I’m not trying to get the church to change...I’m trying to get the church to abide by its doctrine".

In response to accusations that the LDS Church is trying to suppress free speech online, the Times recorded these statements by Michael Otterson, managing director of the church’s public affairs office, who appears to be concerned when LDS bloggers use discussion to recruit others for campaigns to change church doctrine or structure.

“There is no coordinated effort to tell local leaders to keep their members from blogging or discussing their questions online. On the contrary, church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue and recognize that today it’s just part of how the world works.”

“When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause and creating literature for members to share in their local congregations, the church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled.”

According to the Times, Rock Waterman is trying to get the church to abide by its doctrine. But is this always so? Perhaps in some cases, although he seems overly fond of hitting the Reset button back to Joseph Smith. But current LDS doctrine holds that consumption of beer is contrary to the Word of Wisdom. Nevertheless, in this post, Waterman suggests that D&C Section 89 verse 17 endorses beer because barely is O.K. for mild drinks.