Archives for January 2015
This is the third and final podcast in this series on physiological issues from a practical standpoint. We all have our own interpretations of how the world works and in this episode we evaluate how our personal understanding of life can become clouded by debilitating addictions and what we can do to about them.
Obsessives compulsive disorder is another difficulty that some of us may encounter within ourselves, friends and loved ones. The ability to stay focused is a valuable trait in many aspects of our lives but we can fall into the valley of despair if we become obsessed or out of balance in our perspectives. Our good brother Ned offers several observations in the first part of this podcast that can help someone who may be struggling with this issue to seek that proper balance in life and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the second section of this episode brother Scarisbrick interviews Mark from the LDS addiction recovery program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His personal testimony concerning the nature of addiction is a moving story about the Savior’s love for each one of us. You can view Marks video on the Church’s official web site here.
As always the views and opinions expressed in this podcast may not represent those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon.
Welcome to FairMormon’s Front Page News Review for the fourth week of January, 2015. Here we provide context and analysis of the past week’s media coverage of Mormons and the LDS church. Front Page News Review is hosted Nick Galieti and manager of the FairMormon Front Page news service, Cassandra Hedelius.
We hope this will be an edifying and entertaining experience. What we present is not to be understood as being the official position of FairMormon or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We speak for ourselves, and sometimes not even then.
This week’s top news stories:
Wain Myers is a native of Dayton, Ohio and a graduate of John H. Patterson High School where he was a state discus champion and musician. After graduation, Wain enlisted in the United States Army and served a tour of duty in Bad Kissingen, Germany. After his military career, Wain returned to the U.S. and began preaching at True Vine Missionary Baptist church. Where he preached for over five years and was then introduced to the LDS church by his now lovely wife Sebrina.
Wain developed a passion for finance after his military career and enrolled in the Alpha & Omega College Real Estate in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and became a loan originator in 2007. Investing into his insurance business, he and his family moved to Terre Haut, Indiana, in 2009. Wain became very active in the Terre Haute community.
Wain has also been an active member in The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints since 1995 and served on the Bloomington Indiana Stake High Council before moving to Salt Lake City, Utah, and being call as second counselor in the Genesis Group leadership.
Wain and Sebrina are the proud parents of seven amazing children; Le’Roy Jr., Isaiah; who is currently serving his mission in the Baton Rouge Louisiana mission, Bradford and his wife Paige, Quesley, Braxton, Spencer, and Ammon.
QUESTIONS ADDRESSED IN THE INTERVIEW:
The story of you coming to find the church has some interesting twists and turns and would be a great way to get to know you. Would you tell us the story of your military career leading up to first starting as a baptist preacher?
What were some of the impressions that you had about the Mormon Church prior to becoming a member?
At one point in your story you had some difficulties with what has come to be called the Priesthood ban where those of black African decent were not allowed to hold the priesthood. You ended up having to come to terms with that and have since of course remained an active member. How did you view that part of church history, and how have you overcome it?
You are now involved in the Genesis Group. What is the Genesis Group?
You have a book coming out in October 2015 I believe called, at for now, From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher. The title might be a little obvious, but what will the book be about?
Dr. Valerie Hudson joined the faculty of Texas A&M University at the Bush School in 2012 as the George Bush Chair. She is considered an expert on international security and foreign policy analysis, she received her PhD in political science at The Ohio State University.
In 2009, Foreign Policy named her one of the top 100 Most Influential Global Thinkers. Dr. Hudson developed a nation-by-nation database on women (http://womanstats.org) that triggered both academic and policy interest including use by both the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and various agencies of the United Nations.
Valerie is one of the founders of the online Journal called Square Two found at Squaretwo.org and is on Articles of Faith to talk about her article at Square Two – Rectifying the Names: Reflections on “Womanhood and Language.”
Questions addressed in this podcast: (We apologize for the audio quality of the phone call.)
By way of introduction of our topic, I want to share a quote you gave from Confucius in your article:
“If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”
With that being said, and in order to talk about your article we need to introduce, briefly, the article from Ralph Hancock entitled Eternal Womanhood and the Limits of Public Recognition as posted on Patheos. What is that article and how did it fertilize the article you wrote for Square Two?
What are some examples of these terms that come loaded with some baggage that doesn’t seem to do justice to LDS theology?
You state in the article that you wanted to create a wiki-dictionary of new terms- created by women—about experiences that are exclusive to feminine experiences. Why is that NOT happening?
Theme: Our people need to know that God wants them to be free—and what this means. Our people need to know that God is fair—and what this means. Our people need to know that even in the context of sexual difference, men and women stand as equals before God—and what this means.
In Argumentato Pietatis – You suggest using language to reclaim language. What is In Argumentato Pietatis, and how does this approach form your argument?
[This post originally appeared at Virtuous Society and is reposted here with the author’s permission.]
Written by Tom Stringham
Do young Latter-day Saints, and especially gay youth, commit suicide at a higher rate than other youth in the US? The short answer: with the data we have, we don’t know. So what do we know for sure? The Mormon teen suicide problem Some readers may have read a recent interview in the Huffington Post with Wendy Williams Montgomery, a Californian mom and LGBT advocate. In the interview, Montgomery refers to a widely recognized problem within Mormon culture: the high rate of suicides among gay youth. “Mormons,” Montgomery asserts, “have the highest rate of gay teen suicides in the country.”
Over the last few years, the idea that Mormons have a problem with teen suicide, especially among gay youth, has become common wisdom. In 2012, a Reuters article highlighted the issue of gay teen suicide in Utah. The Huffington Post has featured the issue multiple times, as in a 2012 post. High-profile Mormon critic John Dehlin frequently discusses gay teen suicide among Mormons, and recently referred to the phenomenon as epidemic. His characterization seems to fit the general impression: Mormons have a special problem with suicide among gay teens.
There is no question that gay teen suicide is a reality among Mormon youth. In many cases, we have heard their stories, either through media or personal experience. Fortunately, we are more aware of this reality than we were in the past. Unfortunately, however, these stories seem to be accompanied, more and more frequently, by statistical claims that are not supported by data. Ms. Montgomery’s assertion that Mormons have the highest gay teen suicide rate in the country is unsourced in the original interview, and other blogs and outlets making similar claims are also missing sources. I surveyed all the government and health data I could find on youth suicide in the United States, and was unable to find any agency that collects public data by religion or sexual orientation (data so specific would be very difficult to collect). In fact, the American Association of Suicidology’s LGBT Resource Sheet notes, “to date, there is no empirical data regarding the number of completed suicides within the LGBT community.” The claim appears to be fabricated.
Other claims to the effect that Mormons, or Utahns, have a unique or unusually acute problem with gay teen suicide, or even teen suicide, cannot be supported by any data I can find.
The data we do have
Much of the interest in Mormons and teen suicide seems to originate from a 2006 article in the Deseret News, a newspaper owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The article pointed out a few statistics about suicide that would have been surprising to most readers at the time. First, that Utah had the highest rate of suicide among males age 15-24. Second, that Utah had the 11th highest overall suicide rate in the United States. And third, that the youth suicide rate in Utah had tripled over the preceding half-century (in fact, this is true across the United States). The newspaper didn’t cite its sources, but all of the categories of statistics they refer to are available through the CDC and other federal sources and appear to be genuine.
What else do we know? The data in that report is now nine years old, so it’s worth taking stock of the current reality. I’ve collected a set of more recent figures below, from public data and representative surveys:
A collection of more recent statistics is below:
- Utah’s suicide rate among people age 15-24 is 9th highest in the United States, among 47 states with reliable data (CDC, 2013)
- Utah’s suicide rate among males age 15-24 is 7th highest, among 46 states with reliable data (CDC, 2013)
- Utah’s suicide rate among females age 15-24 cannot be reported as the number of cases is smaller than 20 (CDC, 2013)
- Utah’s overall suicide rate is 5th highest in the United States (CDC, 2013)
- Utah is 29th out of 40 states with available data for the rate of high school students who have attempted suicide (not completed suicide) (CDC, 2013)
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Utahns age 10-17. (Utah Department of Health, 2012)
- Across 9 sites surveyed (all in the Midwestern or Eastern US and California), lesbian and gay high school students had a rate of attempted suicide that was approximately 4 times higher than for straight students (CDC, 2011)
- A representative survey of students in Grades 7-12 across the US using the Add-Health database found that Mormon gay teens reported significantly less depression and fewer suicidal thoughts than their nonreligious peers. (Add-Health, 2010)
- The same survey found that religious gay teens had a lower attempted suicide rate than nonreligious gay teens (the number of cases did not allow for statistical significance, however).
To the best of my knowledge, these statistics are the closest we can come to answering the statistical questions surrounding gay teen suicide among Mormons, or within Utah. Specifically targeted data on completed or attempted suicide among gay Mormon teens simply isn’t available. The data speak well enough for themselves, but it’s worth pointing out that none of the relevant data points appear to justify an unusual suspicion about Utah (or, by extension, Mormons). This is especially true since the surprisingly strong link between high altitude and suicide rates has become well established. Among high-altitude states in the Rocky Mountain West, Utah appears to have overall rates within the average range, and youth rates slightly lower than the average. We have no empirical data specific to Utah for gay and lesbian youth, but we can assume that like other states, the rate of attempted suicide, and presumably completed suicide, is considerably higher than for straight youth.
It’s also worth noting that Utah’s overall suicide rate has increased relative to other states since 2006, while its youth suicide rate has fallen in comparison to other states. Furthermore, the Add- Health dataset mentioned above suggests that Mormon gay youth are relatively less at risk for suicide than nonreligious gay youth.
While only systematic recordkeeping and representative surveys can answer the questions we’re most interested in, we shouldn’t ignore anecdotal evidence about suicide. The sense among many concerned observers in Utah and elsewhere that the situation is bad and getting worse probably reflects an important reality. Youth suicide in the US has quickly gotten worse over the decades, and a disproportionate number of these suicides across the US, including within Utah, are among gay youth. Combined, these two trends might be giving an alarming impression to those concerned about the well-being of gay teens; an impression made locally that could be transformed into misplaced claims, such as Ms. Montgomery’s. So her hypothesis–that Mormons in particular have an unusually severe problem with gay teen suicide—could possibly be an observer’s local interpretation of nationwide trends, but it cannot be supported or rejected by the data itself, as far as I can tell.
The hypothesis cannot be confirmed or rejected by theory, either. Many advocates who highlight the issue of suicide among Mormons do so within the framework of a particular narrative, at the center of which is the idea that Latter-day Saint sexual values are harmful. Since there is no data to support the assertion of abnormal suicide rates, the theory seems to be doing all the work. But there are other theories that could be put forth—Latter-day Saints could just as well hypothesize that robust Mormon families and supportive faith communities lead to lower rates of suicide among gay youth. But this would also be unjustified; it would be best for everyone to refrain from attempting to explain phenomena for which there isn’t evidence in the first place.
Those who believe in Latter-day Saint sexual values and those who do not should be able to agree: one youth suicide is too many, including among gay youth. Even if the Mormon problem is not unique, it is still a problem. We don’t need statistics, and certainly not unsourced statistics, to tell us this.
[For further reading on this topic, please visit this link.]
In what might be an unlikely option for people that are experiencing questions about their faith, on this episode, Nick Galieti sits down with Craig L. Foster of the Church’s Family History Library to talk about how doing Family History work can help people who are experiencing trials of faith, wanting to overcome addictions, or even dealing with depression.
We need your help to get nominated again for the People’s Choice Podcast Award. In 2011 and in 2013 we made the list of nominations for our religious podcasts and in 2013 we won best religious podcast. We really appreciate your support on that. In 2012, we were beat out by an atheist group. We would rather that not happen again.
WE APPRECIATE YOUR TIME. THANKS FOR LISTENING.
Occasionally statements arise asserting that Mormons are not allowed to ask questions. Some go even further by contending that certain people were excommunicated or might face discipline simply for “asking questions.” This is puzzling, because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by a young man precisely because he asked questions. Additionally, Church leaders teach that asking questions often leads to revelation and is part of the learning process.
While there may indeed be instances where church policy has not been followed, it is clear that LDS church policy allows members the freedom to question. Even questions where the intent is not to find answers but instead to challenge church doctrine or leaders are not grounds for church discipline unless the questioner becomes public and sustained in their advocacy. Below are some statements from church leaders that substantiate this point.
From a First Presidency Statement this past June:
We understand from time to time church members will have questions about church doctrine, history or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.
Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine. (June 28, 2014, First Presidency Statement)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a current apostle in the LDS church stated:
We have the concept of apostasy. It is grounds for Church discipline…
Apostasy, being rare, has to be carefully defined. We have three definitions of apostasy: one is open, public and repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders. Open, public, repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders — I’ll come back to that in a moment. A second one is to teach as doctrine something that is not Church doctrine after one has been advised by appropriate authority that that’s false doctrine. In other words, just teaching false doctrine is not apostasy, but [it is] teaching persistently after you’ve been warned. For example, if one were to teach that the Lord requires you to practice plural marriage in this day, it would be apostasy. And the third point would be to affiliate and belong to apostate sects, such as those that preach or practice polygamy.
So, we go back to the first cause of apostasy — open, public and repeated opposition to the Church and its leaders. That does not include searching for a middle ground. It doesn’t include worrying over a doctrine. It doesn’t include not believing a particular doctrine. None of those are apostasy. None of those are the basis of Church discipline. But when a person comes out publicly and opposes the Church, such as by saying, “I do not think anyone should follow the leaders of the Church in their missionary program, calling these young people to go out and preach the gospel,” or whatever the particular issue of the day. And when you go out and begin to “thump the tub” and try to gather opposition and organize opposition and pronounce and preach against the Church — that can be a basis for Church discipline. [http://newsroom.lds.org/article/elder-oaks-interview-transcript-from-pbs-documentary]
Clearly, apostasy is going much further than simply “asking questions.” But even if “questioning” doesn’t lead to church discipline, are church members discouraged from asking questions?
During the most recent General Conference we receive this counsel from Apostle Russell M. Ballard:
…having questions and experiencing doubts are not incongruent with dedicated discipleship. Recently, the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding.’
Remember, Joseph Smith himself had questions that began the Restoration. He was a seeker and, like Abraham, found the answers to life’s most important questions.
The important questions focus on what matters most—Heavenly Father’s plan and the Savior’s Atonement. Our search should lead us to become kind, gentle, loving, forgiving, patient, and dedicated disciples. We must be willing, as Paul taught, to “bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” [Elder Russell M. Ballard, “Stay in the Boat and Hold On!” October 2014 General Conference]
Pres. Dieter Uchtdorf, a member of the First Presidency of the church , affirmed:
In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves [Pres. Dieter Uchtdorf, “Come, Join With Us,” October 2013 General Conference].
Later in the same talk he stated:
It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Elder Holland, also an Apostle, counseled in the April 2014 General Conference:
Last observation: When doubt or difficulty come, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we want it as humbly and honestly as this father did, we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of “real intent,” pursued “with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God.” I testify that in response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief [Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord, I Believe,” April 2013 General Conference].
And in the 2003 October General Conference, President James E. Faust, then a member of the First Presidency stated:
This morning I would like to bear a humble testimony to those who have personal struggles and doubts concerning the divine mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many of us are at times like the father who asked the Savior to heal his child with the “dumb spirit.” The father of the child cried out, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” To all those with lingering doubts and questions, there are ways to help your unbelief. In the process of accepting and rejecting information in the search for light, truth, and knowledge, almost everyone has—at one time or another—some private questions. That is part of the learning process [Pres. James ‘E. Faust, “Lord, I Believe; Help Thou My Unbelief”, October 2003 General Conference].
The prophet Joseph Smith received these revelations, encouraging us to ask questions:
“If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” (D & C 42:61)
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.” (D & C 6:14)
One can easily see from these quotations, that rather than trying to control or squelch questions, LDS church leaders believe that sincere questioning can lead to answers and revelation.
Finding answers requires faith. While Heavenly Father may not come down and give explicit explanation for all of one’s questions, He can and will guide us in our search for answers. The key to receiving such guidance is to ask in faith, and then exercise that faith by acting on it. Wavering rarely, if ever, leads to answers from God. One must commit to the Lord, take the leap of faith and live the gospel. There are no shortcuts. Alma taught us in Alma 32 to “awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” (Alma 32:27)
Elder David A. Bednar counseled:
Please notice the requirement to ask in faith, which I understand to mean the necessity to not only express but to do, the dual obligation to both plead and to perform, the requirement to communicate and to act [Elder David A Bednar, “Ask in Faith,” April 2008 General Conference].
Elder Scott also reminds that we must try our faith to receive answers.
Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). Thus, every time you try your faith—that is, act in worthiness on an impression—you will receive the confirming evidence of the Spirit. As you walk to the boundary of your understanding into the twilight of uncertainty, exercising faith, you will be led to find solutions you would not obtain otherwise. With even your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you, when it will yield the greatest advantage. Be thankful that sometimes God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. That causes your faith to increase and your character to grow [Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Sustaining Power of Faith in Times of Uncertainty and Testing,” April 2003 General Conference].
Even when asking questions, one may not receive or find answers to all of them. It is wise to focus first on the most important questions–Does God exist? Will He speak to me? Was Jesus his son? Was Joseph Smith a prophet?” Having received affirmative answers to these questions, it is easier to be patient and move forward with confidence when another question does not result in an immediate response.
Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have allowed and even encouraged its members to ask questions. If one truly wants an answer from God, then the key is “ask in faith, nothing wavering.” (James 1:5–6) Of course, not everyone wants or expects an answer and may even be disingenuous in their intentions. But simply asking questions is not grounds for church discipline or censure, and never has been.
If anyone claims that they were disciplined “just for asking questions,” you can be certain there is more to the story.