How to Watch October 2016 General Conference Online

It's here... the 2016 October General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)! On Saturday, we enjoyed the women's session and this weekend we will have all of the general sessions, including the priesthood session. What continues to thrill me is that everything is available to watch or listen to online.

My good friend Larry Richman, over at LDS Media Talk, has put together a list of "8 Ways to Access LDS General Conference" for those of you looking for that information. I share it here because in years past I've also provided it and many of you continue to come seeking for it and I want to make sure you get it.

If you'd like to access the women's session videos (text should be up very soon), here you go: https://www.lds.org/general-conference

The Mormon Newsroom has provided a wonderful summary of all the talks given at the women's session and will also provide ongoing coverage of the conference:  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormon-women-encouraged-build-doctrine-christ/.

I know that you are looking forward to this weekend as much as I am. I expect I'll be on Twitter tweeting away throughout the weekend (@LDSNana). I hope to 'see' many of you there. The Twitter Stake is alive and well! You can follow the hashtag #LDSConf to join the conversation.

I was not only uplifted by the inspired words delivered during the women's session on Saturday but felt empowered by them as well. I continue to have a strong passion for standing for the family and feel a deep sense of loyalty to this work. I have a testimony that the Lord needs each of us to use our voice to be a light in the world. We shine the brightest when we keep our covenants and uphold the teachings of the Family Proclamation in this increasingly dark world. My latest post on Mormon Women Stand addresses the 'not' canonized Family Proclamation. I hope you'll read it.

The Doctrine of the Not Canonized Family Proclamation 

And lastly, I want to challenge each of you to share general conference via social media this weekend. Make sure others know how to watch general conference. Make sure they know how the teachings of modern prophets' and apostles' influences your life. In some way, express how living a gospel-centered life is a blessing to you and your family. Your kind and loving words will inspire others and give them much needed hope. We are so blessed to have the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives and to understand His plan.

Courage requires faith. May our faith increase as we, together, lift our voices to be light!


tDMg,
Kathryn Skaggs

First Presidency Easter Message Needed Now More Than Ever


Now more than ever, we need Jesus Christ. This Easter week, as we contemplate the tumultuous world in which we live, we need to reflect upon the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hope we can depend on because of His life and mission.  The Mormon Newsroom released this statement from the First Presidency.

"The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following Easter message:


Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Jehovah of the Old Testament, and the Messiah of the New Testament. He died and was resurrected, and He lives in glory with our Eternal Father.

As a result of our Savior’s atoning sacrifice, death, and resurrection we become the beneficiaries of His mercy and grace. In a world of trouble and uncertainty, His peace can fill our hearts and ease our minds. Jesus is in very deed “the way, the truth, and the life” for God’s children everywhere (John 14:6).

At this Easter season we give our sure witness that Jesus is the Christ. Though He was crucified, He rose triumphant from the tomb to our everlasting blessing and benefit. He stands as our Advocate and Savior. He has done for all mankind that which no other could have done. God be thanked for the gift of His Beloved Son, our Savior, the Redeemer of the world, the Lamb without blemish who was offered as a sacrifice for all mankind.

Thomas S. Monson
Henry B. Eyring
Dieter F. Uchtdorf

 An Easter Message About Jesus Christ #Hallelujah


Guest Post: In Response to Mormon LGBT+ Suicide Stats

Recently a blog post citing a rise in suicides among LGBT+ Mormons has been circulating within my social networks. People can question these statistics (as they have), but that is beside the point. The reality is that there are people suffering, some of whom have tragically taken their own lives. I do not hide that I am probably more conservative (politically and theologically) than many of those most invested in helping and defending members of the LGBT+ community. I believe that most of these people do much good, and act out of genuine concern.


I have no doubt that Christ would reach out to LGBT+ individuals, especially those who suffer most, and I think many of the Christian LGBT+ advocates and allies hope to model their outreach after Him. Unfortunately, the dialog between these people and many traditional Mormons have not been particularly charitable or productive. Accusations of bigotry and godlessness are common, and one need look no further than this blog to see comment sections filled with indignation and bile—and it goes both ways.

One idea that has continued to irk me is the assumption that if you support the Church’s new policy, you must not truly care about the people who are affected by it, and its counterpart, that if you disapprove of the new policy, you must not be faithful. I believe neither of these assumptions is true. In this post, I only address the first, in part because I think many have already articulated the latter. As I approach this topic, let me begin by acknowledging that I am a heterosexual white male who is happily married and an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; I do not think this disqualifies me from addressing this issue, though I admit I may not always understand the experience of someone who identifies as LGBT+.

As I said, I have no doubt that Christ would reach out to individuals within our community who are suffering, including those who identify as LBGT+. How exactly He would do so is not so clear to me. In what follows, I will explain an alternative paradigm about relieving the pain and meeting the needs of people who experience same-gender attraction and/or identify as LGBT+. I begin with the premise that the psycho-emotional turmoil that can eventually lead to suicide among LGBT+ members of the Church (and others like them) stems from the tension between their identity and LDS doctrine and/or culture. Given this premise, I think most of us are likely to agree that 1) this tension should be addressed and 2) the current situation must change.

As many have pointed out, one way to relieve that tension is for the Church to make changes. Likely, some of the staunchest defenders of the recent policy change would agree, I hope, that some members have, if nothing else, spoken insensitively about non-normative sexuality. All can certainly become better at speaking with people who identify as LGBT+, and speaking about sexuality in general (and homosexuality in particular).

That said, tension exists between two points. In this case, one of those points is the Church. But it is one-sided to think that is the only possible path to relief; the tension could also be relieved by addressing the other point.

While some may defensibly say that the Church should do more to “accept these people for who they are,” it could also be advocated (just as defensible, in my opinion) that society should stop insisting that sexual orientation represents “who they really are.” A person who experiences same-sex attraction is many things, and sexual orientation need not be the defining characteristic. True, our highly individualized and sexualized society generally insists on making one’s sexuality among the most important aspects of identity, but perhaps, within our local church communities if nowhere else, we can transcend those broad societal pressures and cultivate relationships in which “who someone really is” has little or nothing to do with sexual orientation.

To explain what I mean by this, consider one’s skin color as an analogy to sexuality: In our society, skin color has tended to matter quite a lot in how we identify ourselves (arguably in a way similar to sexuality). However, I can imagine a society in which eye color mattered more than skin color. People would see me and, mostly ignoring my skin color, would notice and respond to my hazel eyes. There is nothing essential or necessary about which aspects of our appearance matter for identity. I think something similar could be said about sexuality. Our mode of categorizing sexual orientation currently matters quite a lot, but I can imagine a society in which it did not matter so much.

In that kind of society, one’s identity would not be implicated in the acknowledgment of same-sex attraction. If I found myself feeling attracted to other men, I would not necessarily experience a crisis of identity because I would not feel inclined to attribute to those emotions definitional authority. I believe this would diminish the tension between identity and Church doctrine and culture. Sexual identity would be less heavy in the weighing of identity because there would be other aspects of one’s self that were more culturally significant. Ironically, the now common insistence on identifying people by their sexual orientation and then on accepting them as that identity depends on and reinforces the belief that our society’s categorization of sexuality actually represents who these people really are. That belief is as necessary an ingredient in the anxiety-producing situation as is the Church’s culture or doctrine.

Tension results from the disparity between two poles, neither of which in this case is monolithic and immoveable. Admittedly, the identity end of the tension is harder to see because it is part of an ideology that is pervasive and ubiquitous—it’s in the air we breathe. But identity is not as simple and straightforward as some might like to think. I am not an expert, but I do have an academic interest in identity (in its relation to learning), so I believe my opinion is reasonably well-informed. I will simply say that, in my studies, identity is generally not considered stable or unitary (in fact, many scholars prefer the term “subjectivity” to avoid this connotation), but seen as emerging from the relationship between individuals and their sociocultural context. This suggests that it can be changed by altering the context within/against which one relates. “Who we really are” depends on the way we relate to a given social context—and both the context and our relating, and consequently our identity, can change.

It is easier to point to ways the Church can change than it is to figure out how to change the way our identities are shaped. But just because it is easier does not mean it is better. I believe efforts like those expressed in a recent blog post of The Brothers Sabey to at least consider the identity end of the tension are worthwhile and even full of love and concern. It would be ironic indeed if these ideas were ignored because the authors were presumed ignorant, or disliked because they were deemed hateful. And I hope that those who agree with the perspective I have expressed here will interact with those of opposing viewpoints with the same kind of generosity of spirit, recognizing that, though we may not always agree on means, we likely share a vision of desired ends—the well-being of our brothers and sisters. Which side of the tension will ultimately provide the best means for reaching that end is yet to be seen. 





David Sabey is pursuing a Ph.D. in Education. He has friends who have experienced same-sex attraction and who have identified as LGBT+. They remain friends. David usually writes for The Brothers Sabey blog, which attempts to provide a forum for nuanced and civil discussion of social issues and family life. 

Not Even at Our Best Are We Near Perfection

Each time I read through the ‘War Chapters’ of the Book of Mormon I am astounded by the letters exchanged between Moroni and Pahoran – both righteous Nephites. Moroni, who valiantly led the Nephite armies in defense of their faith, families, and liberty and Pahoran, the Chief Judge over all the land, entrusted with the responsibility to righteously manage the affairs of government and to oversee the works of Moroni ensuring adequate provisions and manpower were provided.

Both had the same end-goal: to preserve liberty so that the people could worship according to God’s will and live out their lives in peace. Both were challenged in different ways as they strived to fulfill their missions. Interestingly, what provoked the passionate exchange between these two saints was the adversity both were experiencing simultaneously, unknown to the other.

In these dire circumstances, Moroni sent a scathing letter to Pahoran chastising him for not sending adequate support; a sign that he’d turned away from the Lord. Because of this, the Lamanite army had gained significant ground and many God-fearing Nephites had been slaughtered in the process. Moroni felt that no other logical reason made sense than to believe that Pahoran was no longer his brother in Christ and had submitted to desiring power unto himself.

Because this account has a happy ending -- as we find out that Pahoran himself was fending off those trying to overtake the government and not ignoring Moroni at all – it leaves one to wonder why Mormon shared this account in the Book of Mormon? Because, honestly, the story initially doesn’t reflect well on Moroni – the guy so highly esteemed by Mormon. Throughout the ‘War Chapters,’ it mentions multiple times Moroni’s anger toward those who opposed God’s will and, this time, it was directed towards Pahoran’s presumed rebellion. And whether or not Pahoran actions were acceptable or not, I’ve struggled with Moroni’s 'righteous' anger -- was it? It leaves one to wonder if Mormon struggled to share this account because of that fact? I suppose we will never know, but perhaps this key verse about the importance of cleansing the “inner vessel” and its personal application to each of us has something to do with it.

"Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.” (Alma 60:23)

The reality is that not one of us, even at our best, is near perfect – nor our wonderful leaders. We all need to continually look within, repent and recommit our devotion to God. Constant preparation to withstand the fiery darts of the adversary is an ongoing experience of every disciple of Jesus Christ – Moroni surely understood this in what he witnessed of the saints throughout his life. I am grateful for inspired reminders that God will see each of us through a perfect lens, though not yet perfect, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, as we strive daily to do what is right.

tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs 

Recent Policy Change is 'Will of Lord' Says President Nelson

During last night's Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults President Nelson shared how the "prophetic process" to receive revelation works; then shared two recent examples. Of most interest, the policy update to the Handbook that affects same-sex couples and their children.

From the Deseret News report:

“The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel, individually and collectively,” he said. “And then, we watch the Lord move upon the President of the Church to proclaim the Lord’s will.” 
This “prophetic process” — which also includes fasting, prayer, studying, pondering, counseling with each other as they wrestle with the issue — was followed in 2012 with the change in age for missionary service, as well as the recent additions to the Church’s handbook, consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries, President Nelson said. 
“Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter,” he said. “Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. 
“And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process. And so is your privilege of receiving personal revelation.”

LDS Church Shares Teachings of Joseph Smith to Clarify Position on Religious Freedom

While the official LDS Church takes a neutral position when it comes to 'party' politics, it's willing to get loud in proclaiming its strong position to preserve Religious Freedom -- even bringing the teachings of Founder, Joseph Smith, to the table for clarification. This, just posted on the Mormon Newsroom:


"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in regard to party politics and election campaigns. However, it is not neutral in relation to religious freedom. The following statements by Joseph Smith from 1841 and 1843 are consistent with the Church’s position today:


If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a "Mormon," I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.

—Joseph Smith, 1843


Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Nauvoo, that the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans [Muslims], and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges in this city ...

—Ordinance in Relation to Religious Societies, City of Nauvoo, [Illinois] headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, March 1, 1841"

Prophet Writes Bold Letter to Unbeliever on Absolute Truth

Hat tip to Daniel Ortner for posting the link to an incredible First Presidency Message published in a 1978 Ensign -- a must share! The message is actually a letter that then president of the Church, Spencer W. Kimball, wrote to a non-believer (John), on the topic of absolute truth. I can't tell for certain, but in the closing remarks President Kimball gives the impression that the person he was writing to was a member of the Church struggling with his faith, who had many questions that deeply concerned the prophet. He also shared that the content of the  letter is "to all others who may hear it..." Apparently the reason it was published for the entire Church. Here, I will share excerpts:


"I wrote, some time ago, a letter to a disbeliever. Much of what was said in that letter has been on my mind lately and I wish to share the substance of those thoughts. With that explanation you will better understand the point of view assumed and the style in which it is given. Writing to this young man, who was battling with his thoughts, I said: 

An Outsider's Perspective on Mormons and Gay Marriage

This article was written by, Rod Dreher, not of the Mormon faith, and shares some really great insights as to why the majority of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will never accept same-sex marriage and not because we're all a bunch of homophobic bigots -- far from it. Rather, we believe in moral absolutes and to deny what we know to be true about marriage goes against everything we understand about God's plan for His children.


"Again, I cannot comment on Mormon theology, but I am struck by how much this parallels the way orthodox Christianity sees marriage and metaphysics. We too believe that male-female marriage is an icon of God and His creative work, and that it cannot be represented any other way. What’s more, marriage is not simply a representation of divine nature, but also participates in it. In other words, complementary marriage (male-female) is really real, in a way that same-sex marriage cannot be. This is not a legal distinction (because same-sex marriage is a legal reality in many countries now), but a metaphysical one. Though orthodox Christians disagree deeply with Mormons over the nature of God, we share the belief eloquently expressed by Jacob Hess that to discard what the faith teaches about the nature of marriage as a way to participate in theosis, or metaphysical unity with God, is to lose something essential to the faith. 
Again, based on what little I know about Mormon theology, the key point to take away here, re: orthodox Christian theology, is that both orthodox Christians and Mormons believe that marriage is not simply the name we give to a specific form of social relationship, but it is also something built into the fabric of reality. As Hess says, you don’t have to believe that story, but if you are going to understand why so many of us on the conservative side of this issue believe as we do, you have to understand that for us, to accept SSM is to deny something we believe is real. And that we cannot do."

It's always nice when people outside of Mormonism get it right. Make sure and read the entire article and consider sharing it: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/mormons-gay-marriage-benedict-option/

tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs

Guest Post: A reason behind Donald Trump’s popularity and a lesson to be learned from it

A Guest Post by Michael Terence Worley. Michael shares some personal insights and opinions about Donald Trump's popularity and some lessons to be learned. Please note that I am not personally taking any position on a candidate at this time but only sharing a perspective that I think you will find interesting. ~ Kathryn 


Two questions: Why is Donald Trump so popular? And what lesson can we take from this?


To the first: to the low-to-medium-information voter, Donald Trump is everything President Obama is not.
Trump is white; Obama is black.
Trump is outspoken; Obama is scrupulously politically correct.
Trump portrays himself as a war hawk; Obama has spoken as a dove.
Trump claims to oppose Obamacare; Obama championed it.
Trump is Christian and anti-Muslim; Obama, while Christian, is erroneously considered a Muslim by some.
Trump says illegal immigration is causing rape and murder; Obama has striven to provide amnesty for many illegal immigrants

There are more comparisons, but these suffice.

Profess Your Faith and Share Church Christmas Message: #ASaviorisBorn

The Mormon Newsroom released a statement about this year's Church initiative to share the good news of the gospel during this holiday season. Members are invited to share a special video 'A Savior is Born' with friends and family and also to invite them to visit Mormon.org to learn why this knowledge is central to the plan of salvation.


"A Christmas initiative that includes a video in multiple languages and outdoor advertising in New York City’s Times Square was launched today by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 2015 initiative, “A Savior Is Born,” focuses on finding, knowing and following the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Church anticipates the initiative will reach millions around the globe as people share the online content on their social channels during the month of December, when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ."

Christmas Video: A Savior is Born




"“We live in a world where the power and influence of God in our daily lives are downplayed and dismissed and where the need for a Savior is ignored and even mocked,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the December issue of the Church’s Ensign and New Era magazines. “For those who are devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, there has never been a greater need for us to profess our faith in our Savior, privately and publicly.”

The two-minute video can be found at christmas.mormon.org, as well as on the Gospel Library app. The video features children in locations around the world, including Israel, Los Angeles, New York and Utah, quoting Isaiah (see Isaiah 9:6 and Handel’s Messiah) and expressing their personal belief in Jesus Christ."

See also this new video:

Why we need a Savior -- A Christmas message about our Savior Jesus Christ





To read the entire news release about this Christmas campaign visit the Mormon Newsroom: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-launches-a-savior-is-born-christmas-initiative

Visit Mormon.org to discover WHY we need a Savior.

tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs