Wednesday, October 28, 2015

LDS Leader Ballard Speaks at World Congress of Families

The World Congress of Families conference met this past weekend for the first time in the US. Considering Utah's extreme conservativism, Salt Lake was the city of choice to host it. In addition, several LDS leaders, including LDS Apostle Russell Ballard, spoke at the assemblies.

Although the words Ballard gave were the expected conservative rhetoric the LDS church always provides, Ballard also asked that kindness and civility always be the way to communicate with those who have differing opinions. He praised the legislation in Utah that protected the LGBT from public discrimination, yet also outlined and preserved the right for religious people to express their opinions against opposing lifestyles.

He mentioned an example where a school refused to warn parents about a story that was read about two princes falling in love. He called this a "diminishing of diversity" and "skewing of scales of equality". Although parents should be aware of the material their child is given, it is hardly less diverse and equal to have one story read be homosexual, where the other 300 stories they are read are heterosexual. A parent is free to remove a child from what they want to (even at the expense of the child), but having material removed for all children is really what "diminishes diversity" and "skews the scales".

LDS Doctrine begins and ends with the "natural", "nuclear" family. It warns against alternative "conterfiet" lifestyles. That has never changed. But, it has made small steps to be *more* fair in its influence in politics, and has called for civility amoung its members, condemning violence and hateful speech.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mormons Release New Essays: Heavenly Mother, Women and Priesthood

Last week, essays leaked from the LDS Church outlining information regarding the historical practices and references to female priesthood and a godly mother, respectively. Many members are calling these new additions to the recent pile of essays released by the church "very exciting". Seeing the church officially include reference to women and the priesthood in doctrine, and an explicit tribute to a mother in heaven, appears to satisfy many--pleased that the church is appearing to be transparent with its past.

Other experts believe the new information is just as confusing as the church's current stance on the issue. The essay claims that women exercise priesthood authority without being ordained to it, referencing their use of it in temples and elsewhere. But the men of the church are still the leaders, the blessers, the ordainers, and the presiders. Many believe that it's not just access to the priesthood that is important, but gender equality in the church. Ordain Women is one such organization. It's not just about "ordaining women", but acknowledging that there is inequality in the church that needs balance to further empower the equal capacities of women.

One may also ask, why take so long to release this information? People were asking these questions decades ago, long after women's rights and civil rights. Is it a move to appease the media? To calm the discussions with its dedicated members? Much of this information has always been available, but has been hidden away and slashed from church discussions. Being transparent now only brings up the suspicions as to why the information was not shared with its members and the world before.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dallin Oaks Speaks Out on Freedom For/From Religion

Dallin Oaks, a Mormon Apostle, spoke in Sacramento recently to judges and clergy about the fine line between civics and religion.

Oaks conceded that there must be a balance between religious freedom and civil liberties laws. There should be no "all or nothing", there should be no "us and them", and there should be no adversaries. Laws, he said, should reflect improvements and protections for both sides with opposing beliefs.

However, the apostle also said that elected officials should not insert personal beliefs to affect their decision making in their jobs. Giving the example of Kim Davis, the Kansas clerk that refused to issue same-sex licenses based on her beliefs, Oaks outlined that once the law is handed down from the highest officials, it is not appropriate to disobey. On the flip side, he criticized Obama and his Attorney General for not standing up for DOMA, based on personal secular beliefs against it.

Oaks mentioned that the decision handed down by SCOTUS legalizing same-sex marriage did not take extreme views and outlines that the First Amendment rights of religious people are still protected to declare their beliefs against the practice. So long as they do not prevent others who wish to have it.

The apostle says religious people are important to contribute to laws that will help government, civil law, and citizens flourish. He condemned the violations of free speech for religions, and asked anti-religious people to respect and honor a religious citizen's place in society.

The conflict between those who feel oppressed by religious intolerance, and those who feel their religious influence is being limited by government intervention has been the highlight of political topic as of late. Very controversial ideas: same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, and abortion, have been given legal status, enraging conservatives that believe their principles should be enforced on all people.

Utah Pays Fees for Fighting Lesbian Parentship

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has decided to concede and end the battle against two mothers that wish to be listed on their child's birth certificate.

Utah officials, according to the couple, denied the request from Angie and Kami Roe months ago, soon after the US Supreme Court outlawed same-sex marriage bans. The couple sued Utah, saying they could only have the non-biological mother adopt the child as a step-parent--which they considered invasive, prolonged and unfair.

Heterosexual couples have no problem listing the husband and wife on an adopted child's birth certificate. Angie and Kami said they should be treated the same.

Many argue that it's unnatural to have same-sex parents, and that the birth certificate should reflect the biological parentage. In response, proponents say that it's not questioned when non-biological heterosexual parents are listed on the document, so why would a same-sex couple be different? In addition, the parents names on the birth certificate give them full guardianship over the child, which every organization must respect. Otherwise, schools, hospitals, and similar could deny one of these mothers the ability to make health decisions for the child in an emergency. Or, protective services could take the child away if the biological mother becomes incapacitated or dies.

The cost for the case is $24 thousand dollars for Utah. Although Sean Reyes is responsible for accruing the cost and losing the case, his bill will come out of tax-payer's pockets.