Columns Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

Will Mormon leaders’ opposition turn the tide for a medical marijuana initiative in Utah?

Hemp plant, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On Thursday, a general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expressed the Church’s official position against Proposition 2, a medical marijuana initiative that’s scheduled to be on the ballot in Utah in November.

I’ve been watching this issue for months, ever since the Church’s May announcement that it had “grave concerns about this initiative and the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted.”

At that time, the LDS Church urged voters “to read the attached memorandum and to make their own judgment.” On Thursday, that tone seemed to be replaced with a more decisive opposition: the Church wants voters to defeat this measure, and emailed the state’s Mormons to fight the issue.

According to the message sent to church members on Thursday, the proposition creates “a serious threat to health and public safety, especially for our youth and young adults, by making marijuana generally available with few controls.”

It’s important to remember that the LDS statement does not oppose all medical use of marijuana in all places. In fact, the position is rather nuanced: the Church acknowledges that medical marijuana can be a viable treatment for some people who are suffering; it simply does not believe that this particular ballot measure is the best way to help those people without opening the door to recreational use, which it opposes. Instead, the Church advocates stricter controls, saying that medical marijuana must be prescribed by a physician and dispensed at a pharmacy.

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out. In April, a poll by the Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute found that three-quarters of Utah voters were in favor of legalizing medical marijuana in the state—a finding that repeated almost exactly the results from that same poll being administered two previous times.

But support dropped to two-thirds of Utah voters by the time the Tribune repeated the poll in June of this year, a few weeks after the Church’s May statement.

Now that the Church’s opposition has become more transparent, it is anyone’s guess how the measure will fare come November.

History is not on the side of the pro-2 advocates. In the past, once the LDS Church has taken a strong stand on a political issue, whether it be the MX missile or Proposition 8 in California in 2008, Mormons have tended to fall in line with the Church’s position.

Consider the Equal Rights Amendment, for example. In 1974, according to historian Neil J. Young, it looked like the ERA was going to sail through the Utah legislature easily; a Deseret News poll found that two-thirds of church members favored its ratification.

The following year, it all fell apart. What happened in the interim?

The day before the legislature’s opening session in 1975, the LDS Church published an anti-ERA editorial in the Deseret News, saying that the proposed amendment was “not only imperfect but dangerous” and “so broad that it is inadequate, inflexible, and vague.” The measure was then soundly defeated as a majority of Utah voters seemingly changed their minds overnight.

If history is not on Proposition 2’s side, what is? Demographics.

In the 1970s, a higher percentage of Utah’s population was Mormon, meaning that a directive from LDS leaders about how to vote or what to believe may have carried more political weight. Today, various polls have placed Utah’s Mormon population in a range of anywhere from 51% (PRRI, 2016) to 55% (Pew, 2014) to 63% (Salt Lake Tribune, 2014).*

So Mormonism is still a majority faith in Utah, but that majority is more tenuous than it was two generations ago. And that might make the difference come November, when Utah voters head to the polls to decide about medical marijuana.

 

* The Tribune’s figure is likely higher because it is based on membership data the LDS Church provides at the county level rather than individuals’ own self-reported religious identification, which is how PRRI and Pew obtain their numbers. In other words, the number of people who are on membership rolls is higher than the number who self-identify as Mormon on surveys.

 

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About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

70 Comments

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  • The mormon church would make coffee, tea and alcohol illegal if they had the political clout to do so.

  • Jesus specifically told his disciples to “anoint” people. That anointing took place using a specific formula made from a recipe found in the Old Testament book of Exodus.

    That recipe (Exodus 30:23) includes about 6 pounds of “kaneh-bosen”.

    According to many biblical scholars, “kaneh-bosen” was/is Cannabis (Marijuana).
    Most of the diseases mentioned as being healed miraculously after anointing are, curiously, the same ones that cannabis can heal today. Things like epilepsy, leprosy, and “crooked limbs” (an obvious reference to multiple sclerosis).

    Exodus 30:
    23 Moreover, the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even 250 shekels, and of qaneh-bosm [cannabis] 250 shekels, 24 And of cassia 500 shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: 25 And thou shalt make it an oil of holy anointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. 26 And thous shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony, 27 And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, 28 And the altar of burnt offerings with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. 29 And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.

    Carl Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University: “There can be little doubt about a role for cannabis in Judaic religion.”

    Dr. Ethan Russo: “Assyrian medical tablets in the Louvre collection translate to “So that god of man and man should be in good rapport, with hellebore, cannabis, and lupine you will rub him.”

  • I wonder what the *real* reason is for the church’s opposition, especially when marijuana has been shown to be safe, and effective, in medical situations.

    Perhaps the church will come out with a statement that prayer is every bit as effective as medical marijuana in dealing with pain and nasty diseases…..Hmm…I wonder how senior Mormon leaders have dealt with diseases like cancer…do they pray, or seek treatment?

  • I would wager that the *real* reason is the stated reason: general opposition to recreational marijuana and a belief that this measure will increase recreational use of marijuana in the state where it has its headquarters.

    Cannabinoids undoubtedly have medical uses, but it has a history of recreational use. Why aren’t medical marijuana proponents pushing for the manufacture of precisely dosed pills or other more traditional ways of administering medicine? After all, aspirin is really useful, but you don’t see a ton of people advocating for willow bark tea anymore.

  • Perhaps some “scholars” equate kaneh bosm with cannabis, but most recognize it as calumus. Potheads have a tendency to find cannabis everywhere in history in all cultures, and yet the evidence is always scant. Hemp has been used and around for a long time, but for most of human history, it has been used as a fiber. Its use as a recreational drug or as medicine is sporadic throughout history until recently.

  • One reason the LDS church is opposed is that it likes to control as many aspects of peoples’ lives as it can.

    At least as of a few years ago, the pills did not work.

    As to harm, literally no one with any in-depth knowledge disputes that marijuana is safer than alcohol or cigarettes. And of course the idea that it is a “gateway” drug is silly on its face and easily shown to be nonsense.

    Marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug decades ago because the fellow who did the classification–his name escapes me at this moment–was a racist. He saw lots of black folks smoking marijuana and concluded that it was a drug used heavily by black people.

    It’s extremely interesting that Uncle Sam has blocked research into marijuana for decades, wjhen there is enough anecdotal evidence to at least do some real scientific investigation of it.

  • “One reason the LDS church is opposed is that it likes to control as many aspects of peoples’ lives as it can.” Ok, Howie, I’m sure you are intimately familiar with the motivations of the LDS Church. *Rolls eyes*

    “At least as of a few years ago, the pills did not work.” Clinical studies say otherwise, at least when it comes to dronabinol and nabilone for the diseases those drugs are designed to treat. The problem with whole marijuana as medicine is that it’s imprecisely dosed and contains more than a hundred chemicals whose interaction with other medications we don’t fully understand. Drugs are being researched in other countries (see below) based on cannabinoids that can be administered as pills, sprays, or injections, and can specifically target certain diseases or symptoms with precise doses and controlled release.

    “As to harm, literally no one with any in-depth knowledge disputes that marijuana is safer than alcohol or cigarettes.” Given the extent of harm caused by alcohol and cigarettes, that’s not a high hurdle.

    If you want to reschedule marijuana, I’m all for it, given that its potential harm relative to hard drugs is fairly low, but I don’t think there’s anything irrational about a concern about widespread availability of a hallucinogen that impairs judgment and has been linked to psychosis.

    “It’s extremely interesting that Uncle Sam has blocked research into marijuana for decades, wjhen there is enough anecdotal evidence to at least do some real scientific investigation of it.” This is true. The state of Utah can’t do much about that, though.

  • First of all, opioids and marijuana are very different; in their effects, in their treatment by the govt. in their marketing, in their historical use, etc. I don’t think that you can really equate the two. Additionally, the opioid crisis is not limited to Utah or to Mormons, but is a nationwide epidemic. People are not sure how to exactly deal with it anywhere, but if there was a proposal to make opioids easier to get or pave the way to their recreational use then I am sure that the LDS church would oppose it. No one anywhere (that I am aware of) is proposing that.

    Ultimately, I don’t think that it is fair to say that the LDS Church is “standing idle” in the midst of the opioid crisis. The LDS church has a robust addiction recovery program (https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-creates-original-video-series-on-addiction-recovery, https://addictionrecovery.lds.org/?lang=eng) and does a lot in that space. It is just not as controversial or as conspicuous.

    Please do not misunderstand me. I feel that the opiod crisis is extremely menacing and needs to be dealt with strongly, I just think that bringing it up in the context of this debate around Marajuana and the LDS church is a bit of a red herring.

  • The current leader of the LDS Church is a renowned heart surgeon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_M._Nelson). Members of the LDS church have no opposition to using drugs or surgery to treat serious medical issues, including depression, cancer, etc. The LDS church handbook section on Medical and Health Policies may serve as an interesting read on this topic (https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/selected-church-policies/21.3?lang=eng&_r=1#213)

    Here are a few excerpts:
    “Members should not use medical or health practices that are ethically or legally questionable. Local leaders should advise members who have health problems to consult with competent professional practitioners who are licensed in the countries where they practice.”

    “Members should not use any substance that contains illegal drugs. Nor should members use harmful or habit-forming substances except under the care of a competent physician.”

  • Why do some of our politicians want cannabis illegal? The answer is easy and has nothing to do with public safety, just follow the money!
    Who is against cannabis legalization in our nation today?

    * Politicians corrupted by money from corporations against cannabis legalization
    * Drug cartels and organized crime will lose $100,000,000,000 (100 BILLION) in cannabis sales forever in favor of legitimate business, regulation and taxation.
    * Corrupt DEA officials afraid of losing their jobs.
    * Court forced cannabis rehab centers will go out of business.
    * Police and Private prisons will lose federal grant money and up to 30% of their drug related “customers”. Well known contributors to anti legalization efforts.
    * Big pharmaceutical corporations are scared witless that cannabis will replace their multi-billion dollar addictive stranglehold on the US public because cannabis works better and has no physical addiction. Well known contributors to anti legalization efforts.
    * The alcoholic beverage industries are the largest financial lobby against cannabis legalization. They know cannabis is safer and less toxic than booze and it is already being used as an alternative by millions of American citizens.

    Legalization seems like a slam dunk considering the relative safety records of cannabis, booze and tobacco. Cannabis with zero toxic fatalities and almost no statistical record of traffic accidents, versus alcohol and tobacco which kill over 585,000 US citizens annually plus another 16,000 in traffic deaths from booze intoxicated drivers. Makes you wonder if our politicians and lawmakers answer to “we the people” or the corporations and criminals listed above.

    Legalize, regulate and TAX!

  • Interesting, since the modern state of Israel has been at the forefront in cannabis research for decades and uses it for medical purposes. THC was first isolated in 1964 by Israeli researchers.

  • So what’s the big deal about recreational use? See, this is the part I don’t get as a more libertarian-minded person. Why do others feel such a need to control what I do? When I endanger others with my behavior, different story. But within the walls of my own home, what is the problem if I, gasp, gasp, feel a euphoric or pleasant effect from smoking some pot? I find there are many people, not just Mormons, who define freedom as the right of others to make the same choices that person would make in similar circumstances. I just don’t need parternalism from a church or government. As usual, the Mormon church is again behind the times both from a science standpoint and societal standpoint. Some things never change.

  • Anecdotal in the United States. But there are reams of peer-reviewed research studies out of Israel and Europe pointing to the safety and efficacy of cannabis. It’s not uniformly so. Nothing ever is. But the weight of the evidence is favorable to cannabis.

  • Not sure if Spuddie was inferring this, but the body of research suggests opioid use and addiction decreases when cannabis is available as an alternative. Were cannabis as potentially harmful as opioids, sure, I’d expect there to be some hesitancy in making it widely available. But it is overwhelmingly understood to NOT be as potentially harmful, thus I don’t understand from a scientific perspective why the delays for all of the states to allow medical marijuana. What I see is politics.

  • ” I don’t think that you can really equate the two. ”
    Exactly. Opioids are far more dangerous but far less criminalized. Opioid producers have major political and medical industry boosters protecting them. MJ does not.

    I bring it up here because the chief opponent to marijuana legalization in Utah works with a major pharmaceutical concern which deals with opioids. The people most opposed to legalization are taking money from the people producing frequently abused legal drugs.

  • How dare God supply this healing herb to his choosen creatures!! Help us out LDS, put Pharma above your God.

  • I agree with everything you wrote. The answer to your question “why do others feel such a need to control what I do?” is, “Because that’s the way Mormon leadership [and the leadership of many other religions and denoms] thinks. They feel threatened if they cannot exert some measure of control over others.”

    Virtually every individual Mormon I’ve met is a pleasant, polite individual. (It is said that “that’s because they’re afraid their bishop or his representatives are watching them”–probably not far from the truth.)

    But Mormonism as a religion is entirely fraudulent. Joseph Smith was a big fraud–a sex addict and a con artist.

  • From a libertarian standpoint, there’s no argument against recreational use because libertarians don’t think it’s the government’s job to protect people from things they can avoid themselves, and they don’t think the government has a role in promoting morality. Historically, governments have always taken on some role in both.

    The (I believe, rational) concern is that recreational drugs make the population less prone to productivity, more prone to poor decision-making, and impaired judgment causes them to take actions that directly threaten the safety of others. Those things affect society generally, and therefore everyone in it.

  • One 3,000 year old nomadic culture that lasted less than three centuries rebutted my statement? It’s still sporadic by any definition.

  • As to the motivations of the LDS “church”:

    1. I’ve read lots and lots of books by Mormons and ex-Mormons; one of the constant themes in all these books is control of the behavior of others.

    2. I have reasonable knowledge in the behavioral sciences, and that knowledge tells me that there are some people who have a particularly strong desire to control the behavior of others.

    Lots of those folks are found in authoritarian movements–and no one with any knowledge would deny that the LDS church is highly authoritarian.

  • I have no doubt that I have read even more books by Mormons, and I am reasonably certain that I have read at least as much material from ex-Mormons. The alleged desire to control is almost always the interpretation of a jaded ex-member. Sure, some people want to control others. I have seen very little evidence that leaders of the LDS Church have any desire to control people for the sake of having control.

    “Obvious example: question LDS teachings publicly, and there’s a fairly good chance you’ll be punished in some way–which could include losing your job, losing family members, etc.” You say this as though it is universally true or guided by Church policy. It is not. I agree that someone somewhere has undoubtedly lost friends or a job at least in part because of their estrangement from the Church. This, however, is the exception, and not the rule. Besides Church employees (whose employment contracts explicitly state that active membership in the Church is a condition of their employment) there are remarkably few people who lose their job because of their status in the Church. There are laws against it. Further, the Church officially–and in my experience, practically–teaches against shunning or any other practice designed to alienate friends or family who leave or distance themselves from the Church. Many members in a crisis of faith or former members report family strain, but this reflects a separation of formerly shared beliefs and ideals–not an active effort to control.

  • Any faith, organization, or person can say what ever they want about legislation, because of the first amendment. Proposition 2 is recreational Marijuana with extra steps. This proposition would allow anyone who complains about some sort of pain they have to any medical professional so they then can obtain whole plant Marijuana for apparent medical use. The proposition is too broad on who qualify’s and leaves it up to the individual as to how much they can use for a dose. There are benefits to compounds used in Marijuana, such as cbd oil and perhaps very small amounts of thc, but the way this legislation is being presented i done poorly.

  • A few observations:

    1. A Mormon friend and I had extensive email discussions about Mormonism for about 2 years. My friend was a lawyer, older when he converted. He, too, like others, maintained that it was “jaded ex-members” who were critical. DUH: Of course it is ex-Mormons who are critical. Orthodox believers in any religion do not question, have no disagreements with their faith.

    2. He (a one-time bishop) acknowledged that those who question could get into trouble with authorities, that shunning was a defacto wide-spread practice, even as the church claimed it opposed that practice. (He told me about a few times he’d represented individuals called before their bishop to defend themselves–and had won for them, incurring the subtle anger of their bishops.)

    Anyone who has any knowledge of human behavior understands the LDS “church: very well. It started out as a fraud, a way for Jos Smith to “normalize” his behaviors, and it continues that way. The church, for example, has told the truth about its history–Mountain Meadows Massacre and so on–only very grudgingly.

  • 1. True, but none of this is evidence that one side is right and the other is wrong.

    2. As an attorney and one-time bishopric member, your “friend” is wrong. Your bizarre description of him “represent[ing] individuals called before their bishop to defend themselves–and [winning for them” either requires further explanation or appears to be made up. That’s not how disciplinary councils work.

    The rest of your characterization of the Church has been addressed thoroughly in volumes of material defending the Church. I’ll just say that I disagree wholeheartedly.

  • My phrase “representing them” is my own language. I do not recall the exact language he used, but the gist of what he said was that in a few cases he *did* appear with people called before the bishop for alleged infractions of some sort, in effect “representing” them, and did “get them off” or got them cleared–and he said definitely that the presiding bishops were not happy with him.

    My characterizations of the church are hardly unique. Most non-Mormons with knowledge of the church, know that it is entirely fraudulent–I mean, golden plates? Your own planet? ETC? Gimme a break.

  • Your description is totally foreign to church discipline. No one “respresents” anybody else in disciplinary proceedings. You can’t “get them cleared”. You have misunderstood your friend so badly as to distort his story beyond recognition, or you are fabricating the story.

    “Your own planet?” Ah, there it is. If it wasn’t clear before, your view of Mormonism is now certainly based on assertions by its critics–not knowledge of what Mormons actually believe. Also, I have no idea what “ETC” refers to. It’s certainly not an acronym regularly used by Mormons.

  • I don’t understand the point you are making.

    The point *I* was making is that if prayer really works, if god loves his people, and so on, then medicine is not necessary–prayer should accomplish everything. Right?

  • If they *really* believed in god, that god does what they think he does, etc., it would be unnecessary to do anything other than pray.

  • It’s certainly possible that I misunderstood him. So why don’t you correct me with specifics?

    Let’s say my neighbor reports me to the bishop for using alcohol and being seen at a motel with a woman not my wife. My bishop calls me in to explain. What happens at that meeting?

  • From time to time,. I’ve read about (in the writings of ex-Mormons, of course) a concept among Mormons called “Lying for the lord” . It would help me improve my understanding of Mormon culture and belief if you could say a few words about this.

  • Sure. Let’s take drinking and adultery separately since these would likely take very different paths.

    Drinking: The bishop will likely ask you about you and your family and ask if there is anything he can help you with. This will give the bishop an opportunity to evaluate how you’re doing (financially, emotionally, and spiritually). You could take that opportunity to discuss your drinking, and if you need help stopping (for example, if you’re an alcoholic), the bishop can connect you to resources to help. If you deny it, the bishop will tell you that someone thought you were, and if you continue to deny it, the bishop will probably do nothing more absent further evidence. If you simply say, “yeah Bishop, I was really stressed and went drinking the other day”, the bishop would likely teach the importance of the Word of Wisdom, and then either send you on your way, or maybe say that you shouldn’t take the sacrament for a week or two, and you should not attend the temple for the same time period. If you express an intent to continue drinking, the bishop may revoke your temple recommend or put you on some sort of informal probation, but he would explicitly not convene a disciplinary council (Word of Wisdom is one of a list of things for which a disciplinary council is not appropriate). If you continue to drink, the bishop will continue to encourage you to stop, will almost certainly revoke a temple recommend, and will not extend any callings of great responsibility.

    Adultery: The meeting will likely start the same way (general discussion, opportunity to confess, explanation that someone saw you, etc.). However, if you confess at all, the bishop will immediately put you on formal probation and, if you are a new member of the church, will continue to counsel, teach, and advise. If you have are a longtime member (especially temple-endowed) the bishop will likely convene a disciplinary council, and if you have a prominent position in the church, the bishop will definitely convene a disciplinary council. If you deny the allegation, the bishop will likely go back to the person accusing you, explain that you denied it, and drop the matter if there’s no further evidence, or convene a disciplinary council if he believes the accuser. The disciplinary council generally consists of the bishop and his counselors if excommunication is off the table, and a stake president, his counselors, and the High Council if excommunication is a possible outcome (it’s actually slightly more complicated than that, but I’ll keep it simple). At your disciplinary council, you would have the opportunity to present evidence and explain yourself, however, it is not a trial, and you don’t get a lawyer or other representative to go with you. If you disagree with the outcome, you can appeal, but again, there’s no lawyer or equivalent involved–you would typically write a letter or meet directly with your stake president if you are appealing a ward disciplinary council.

  • “Lying for the Lord” is a concept coined and described by anti-Mormons. It is not a concept taught in the Church. True, there are examples in both ancient scripture and Church history in which someone lied under exigent circumstances where telling the truth would have resulted in death or imprisonment (Abraham lying about his wife, early LDS polygamy, etc.), but there is no categorical teaching that lying is ok if it’s to advance the cause of the gospel.

  • My knowledge of human behavior, and especially, what I’ve read about the church, tells me that *some* bishops would behave as you state.

    But let us remember, these MEN have no formal training in being a bishop, and certainly not in human behavior, so the idea that what you describe would be “uniform” is just not credible.

    As well, I’ve read numerous times that the farther away from Utah a bishop is, the less judgemental and harsh he is.

    You make a very important point when you state “… if you have a prominent position in the church…” A simpler way of putting this is, “…..but some are more equal than others…”

    And based on what I’ve been told and read, I simply do not believe that if the accused denies it, the bishop would say “OK, I believe you, see you later.” I have no doubt at all that in the LDS church, you are considered guilty till proven innocent, since that approach puts a heavy–indeed, near-impossible– burden on the accused, and that;’s one of the key ideas in the Mormon religion: if you have power, put others, especially those under you, at a disadvantage, the better to control them.

    I am trying to gather more info on this whole topic. Not that I think you will accept what I say, but it should be interesting, if I can find more.

  • Sorry, but your reply looks disingenuous to me. A different way to state your first sentence above is “Mormons are perfect, and would never do anything questionable in defending their church, and only ex-Mormons or folks who are anti-Mormon will make any criticisms of any aspect of the church, and those should not be believed.”

    I’ve seen this approach many times from Mormons who, understandably, want to defend their church.

  • Bowie, it’s your response that is disengenuous. I never said Mormons have never lied about anything, even inappropriately. I said that it’s not a teaching in the Church, and it’s not a phrase that we use.

  • Those with a prominent position are held to a higher standard. I took your question as genuine. Clearly that was a mistake.

    You are not an expert on this topic. No one should give any weight to statements based on what you’ve heard and read. I’ve lived it.

  • The info at the link was very interesting and useful. Thank you for sending the link.

    I do not disagree with anything stated at that page.

    HOWEVER, there are two things missing, and please tell me if I missed them.

    1. it. What I found missing was an acknowledgement that there might be some Mormons who would, in fact, “lie for the lord.”

  • Yes, you did miss it.

    [Edited to include more context] “Did some Church members or leaders make wrong choices in such difficult moral choices? Probably—they and we do not claim any inerrancy. In the main, however, it seems clear that Church members did not “lie” or “deceive” because it was convenient, or because it would advance “the cause.” They lied because moral duties conflicted, and they chose the option which did the least harm to their ethical sense. Happily, they had personal revelation to guide them. Concludes Elder Oaks:

    “I ask myself, “If some of these Mormon leaders or members lied, therefore, what?” I reject a “therefore” which asserts or implies that this example shows that lying is morally permissible or that lying is a tradition or even a tolerated condition in the Mormon community or among the leaders of our church. That is not so. (emphasis added)”

  • But isn’t it true that as a loyal Mormon you would not speak up (for a variety of reasons) about any problems you saw or thought existed in the church?

    Isn’t it interesting that members of other denoms, such s Catholics, have been quite vocal about problems they thought existed in their church.

  • You didn’t say that, and you did not deny it.

    You would have earned a LOT of credibility if you’d been more candid and said outright, something like “Mormons are not perfect, we have varying degrees of faithfulness to our teachings, human beings being what they are, it’s probably true that some have gone overboard in trying to defend the church,” and so on.

  • You asked me about “lying for the Lord”, which critics of the Church insist is some kind of policy or teaching. I denied that it is a policy or teaching. Nothing more. Nothing less. I shouldn’t have to say that Mormons aren’t perfect; that fact is self-evident. I never said anything to imply that it isn’t.

    Your implication that I said something that I didn’t, on the other hand, is deceitful.

  • “But isn’t it true that as a loyal Mormon you would not speak up (for a variety of reasons) about any problems you saw or thought existed in the church?” No. I regularly speak up about problems I see or that I think exist in the Church.

    “Isn’t it interesting that members of other denoms, such s Catholics, have been quite vocal about problems they thought existed in their church.” You haven’t been around “the Bloggernacle”, have you? There you will find a group of faithful, active Mormons who regularly complain about what they see wrong with the Church. It is often too cynical for my tastes, but it’s a large group that is regularly critical. Heck, Jana Reiss is an active Mormon who is frequently critical of the Church.

  • Perhaps I have not read carefully, but I don’t think I have EVER seen any critic of the church say it was policy or advocated by the church.

    All I’ve seen is people saying “it occurs”.

    And since “lying for the [cause]” is not unusual behavior–certainly not limited to Mormons–I have no trouble believing it occurs. I have no doubts at all the the church as an organization is opposed to it–though I do wonder how strongly the church emphasizes, “avoid the temptation–don’t do it.” Can you point me to any statement where the church says something like “we’ve heard this goes on, DON’t DO IT”, etc?

    And thank you SO MUCH for showing respect to the teachings of Jesus by stating that I was deceitful.

  • “Perhaps I have not read carefully…” I think you’ve proved that.

    “All I’ve seen is people saying “it occurs”.” And I’ve seen plenty of “it’s doctrine”. YMMV.

    “Can you point me to any statement where the church says something like “we’ve heard this goes on, DON’t DO IT”, etc?” I literally just quoted a talk from Dallin H. Oaks to you that says precisely that.

    “And thank you SO MUCH for showing respect to the teachings of Jesus by stating that I was deceitful.” I recognize that I’m not Christlike in most circumstances, but I will point out that Jesus had no problem calling out liars with forceful language. John 8:43-47.

  • 1. I am going to print that info and spend some time reading it leisurely, in hopes of absorbing it better.

    2. My respect for the church will increase very significantly when I see it admit its mistakes more candidly–for example, when it admits that Ezra Taft Benson wrote lots of stuff that was racist, or that it was “mistaken” for a long time about the MMM.

  • 1. Awesome.

    2. My understanding of your comments would increasingly significantly if you didn’t use acronyms nobody understands.

  • MMM = Mountain Meadows massacre

    I do not disagree with anything Oaks wrote.

    Nevertheless, there is a serious problem with this material: it is either stunningly ignorant, or dishonest, in that it does not address the key issue, viz. that *some missionaries have been accused of lying.*

    Religious organizations have not learned the lesson that commercial organizations learned many years ago: when faced with a problem, the best way to deal with it is to address as many aspects of it as you can, as honestly and comprehensively as you can. If you don’t, the problem will continue to haunt you.

    In the case of this material, interestingly, the text shows awareness of this problem: the text starts “Some have long accused Mormons of…lying…” But that issue is never again addressed in detail.

    That raises some stunningly obvious questions: “who has made the accusations, why, what, exactly, were the accusations, etc”

    He neatly sidesteps those questions. For reasons I don’t claim to understand, but would love to understand, the church does this over and over and over again when addressing “problematic” facts in its past: lie by omission. Don’t address problematic historical issues directly. . Don’t be candid when educating members.

    I think Oaks would have been much smarter–and this material would have been much more effective–if he’d been candid and said something like this:

    “Human beings are fallible and prone to mistakes. This is understandable, if not acceptable, especially when it comes to a person trying to defend something very dear to him, such as his religion. Human fallibility makes it entirely possible that Mormon missionaries have lied, either intentionally or unintentionally, in presenting their beloved religion to others. We condemn unequivocally any such behavior.”

    Of course, I don’t know why he didn’t say that. But since this is the way the church has dealt with other problematic matters in its past, it appears that somehow, there is fear of raising “uncomfortable matters” in the minds of believers.

    Anyone who has read anything objective about Mormonism–that is, written by a non-Mormon, who need not fear repercussions for writing the truth– knows that lying by omission is characteristic of the church. Mormons in seminary are not (or at least, were not) told the truth about Joseph Smith’s wives; the church is constantly re-writing early writings of Jos Smith et al; the church lied about Mormon polygamists’ activities and wives after the 1890 decision to de-emphasize polygamy; lies by omission about Ezra Taft Benson (dementia, racism); and so on.

    All this said…I will say that the church is doing the right thing in supporting work benefits for same-sex partners.

  • ARGH!!!!!!!!!! More stuff to read! As it is, I have so much to do that I sleep only 2 hours/night and I have no time to speak to my wife…

    I suspect that the authorities understand that what Prof. Reiss writes is mild, and that if they mess with her, it will cause lots of problems.

    Any suggestions about the best place to start in reading the Bloggernacle?

  • Wheat and Tares, Times and Seasons, By Common Consent, and Femenist Mormon Housewives. All provide differing levels of critique. Of these, Times and Seasons is the least cynical (and least critical) with Femenist Mormon Housewives on the other end.

  • The bill was bantered around for almost 2 years by the Utah State Legislature. They had the opportunity to write it differently. What comes to the people in November as Proposition 2 is the most conservative medical marijuana bill in all 30 state that have it. Does anyone really think that if it fails, the church will advocate for it’s reinstatement with a few modifications? The best bet for getting the medical benefits of marijuana to the people of Utah who need it is to pass this bill and then let the Legislature scramble to tighten it up if necessary.

  • Meet the Sackler family, much of their wealth comes from one product – OxyContin, the blockbuster prescription painkiller first launched in 1996. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/13/meet-the-sacklers-the-family-feuding-over-blame-for-the-opioid-crisis

    The Sackler brothers, Raymond, Mortimor and Arthur, grew up in Brooklyn, sons of Jewish émigré grocers from Eastern Europe. Raymond Sackler was the last of three brothers whose controversial company many blame for unleashing a nationwide plague of addiction and overdose to narcotic painkillers with a pill that made the family one of the wealthiest in America. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/12/28/raymond-sackler-obituary-216185

  • Church leaders consistently show how provincial they are by getting involved in local politics. They never seem to get the big picture that these proposals are taking place all over the place and the whole dam is crumbling from their viewpoint and they have one little finger in the hole with a big smile on their faces. I am so glad I do not live in Utah.

  • Howard, What you are stating is a logical fallacy (an association fallacy to be exact). You are saying, in essence, is that if a person prays and that person believes that prayer can heal, then that person will conclude that there would be no need for any other activity, including medicine, to heal. You are saying that a belief in prayer and a belief in medical science is mutually exclusive and that is where you are wrong. Most people who pray understand that the answer to their prayers can come in many ways, including by the use of medical treatment.

    The point that I was making in my previous comment is that it is not the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that because prayer exists, no additional medicines or medical help are necessary. On the contrary, members are advised to seek medical help where appropriate and to do it in wise ways so as to avoid dependence upon substances which could be harmful or addictive.

  • You’ll get no argument on those points from me. The fact that Cannabis has been classified as it has and that research has been greatly restricted is ridiculous. I think that the Federal Government needs to open it up greatly and encourage research so that safe and effective drugs can be developed.

    The lobbying and corruption within the pharmaceutical industry is appalling. They definitely bear a great deal of responsibility for the opioid crisis that we now face. How to hold them accountable is a much tougher question, but one that I think needs to be asked and should be resolved.

    The challenge that I see, however, is that legalizing cannabis within a state where it is still illegal at the federal level causes all sorts of legal and ethical dilemmas. That paired with the fact that very little research has been done on what stains/delivery methods are most effective/useful for certain ailments and that the use of cannabis on an individual level is not without it’s negative side, I see widespread legalization as problematic.

  • I agree it is politics. I just wish that there would be something done at the federal level first. That is not likely given the current climate and certain individuals involved. I just don’t want to go down the recreational legalization path too quickly. I want to see more unbiased research done on the recreational impact before we move down that path in a way that could be harmful. I also want to see far more research done to develop medicines that are safer and more effective.

  • I’m sorry, but I do not understand the point you are making, so I would appreciate any additional explication you can provide.

    The point I thought I made seems obvious to me: if X works, there will be evidence of that.

    I guess I understand the point you make in your second para. To state it in slightly different terms, the LDS church clearly understands that prayer does NOT work, so it urges sufferers to also seek medical attention.

    If prayer really worked, wouldn’t it be unnecessary to seek medical treatment *in addition*?

    (An additional obvious question, of course, is, “how come so many people are cured by medical treatment alone, without prayer?”)

    In this case, we have lots of evidence that various forms of medical treatment work–meds, procedures. But I am unaware of ANY evidence that prayer works. Certainly “prayer works” when *combined* with medical treatment. So the scientific approach there is, “try it without the prayer and see if it works.”

  • Here is what seems to me the obvious experiment. Please tell me what you see as the problems or fallacies with this experiment.

    Recruit 50 (100, etc) individuals who have disease X and who report being atheists or agnostics. The disease might be breast cancer, melanoma, or any other serious disease.

    Recruit a similar group who will pray, and who will receive medical treatment.

    Recruit a third group of Mormons who will pray only.

    After 2 years, see how the 3 groups differ. The obvious prediction is that groups 1 and 2 will have much better rates of recovery or cure than group 3.

  • Good points.

    Have you ever noticed how conservatives insist that they want to increase personal freedom and get gummint out of our lives and so on, yet want to regulate what people do in private, what they consume, etc?

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