A Wise Steward

Who is wiser? The man who receives money, invests it, and reaps more reward, or the man who receives money and buries it away or spends it? We don’t need to wonder, because Christ answered this in his famous parable about talents. When the Lord blesses us with something, be it money, abilities, or opportunities, He expects us to do our best and make the most of it. If we do, the Lord is pleased with us and will continue to bless us. For others, they can know that such a person is an industrious and wise steward.

This is comforting knowledge because recent news (from a self-designated leaker site no less) shows that the Church is using money it gets from its business interests to invest back into the stock market and reap the huge gains that have occurred there. The site put the possible money held now at $32 billion in 13 LLC companies, but this comes with several assumptions such as the Church owning 100% of every company. Even if you don’t think that to be the case, it still shows the Church is investing and growing its money wisely, and has a large nest egg to boot.

So why does the Church need that money? Besides churches and temples, the Church also has many employees that help everything run smoothly. Only a select number of people actually know how many people are employed, but it is well known that the Church pays well and looks out for its employees. This is in addition to all the money needed for the many activities and materials the Church creates to further the Lord’s work. The Lord expects us to do what we can and put in all our efforts to further His work and that includes having the money to do it.

Further comfort can be found in the fact that the Church is not pressed for money. Organizations, just like people, can be bullied and coerced when they need funds. The Church can maintain its independence and fend off any insidious attacks that require capital to resolve whether they be defending against groundless lawsuits, standing up to hostile campaigns, or countering false information. Just like Captain Moroni had the Nephites prepare themselves against attack, the Church must be ready too.

This information, though understandably wanted to be kept private by the Church, should earn the respect of everyone for the Church. Just as Christ counseled, the Church is being a wise steward with what has been entrusted by the Lord. Members hearts can be at ease about the Church’s financial situation.

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 20: An Ordinary Story

This is an odd story to find in the Old Testament, isn’t it? Or you might think so if you hadn’t read the emotional high notes when Jacob reunited with Esau and Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. The fast pace and gory action of Judges dies down, and the focus on great battles and important figures shifts to just one family.

Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon, Chilion. They’re just a family from Bethlehem, looking for food. We leave our homelands looking for work now, don’t we? A lot more than maybe we want to. Every American ward you go to outside of Utah you’ll find plenty of people from elsewhere, who felt called there, or who chased a job there, or who just wanted some land and it was cheap there. Nowadays I know more people from my hometown in Utah than in my hometown. It’s a lonely thing, for everyone to be around people they didn’t grow up with. And the book of Ruth is a lonely story.

Elimelech dies. No less a tragic story for being common. You might imagine Naomi would come to hate the place that killed her husband, but she stays, I’d imagine for her sons, as they take wives of the Moabites. This land becomes a land of joy and sorrow both.

Then the sorrow overthrows the joy. Her beloved Mahlon and her beloved Chilion die. Naomi alone is left of that family that left Bethlehem.

There’s a lot of weeping in this book. It’s a humble story that hits you in the heart. It’s good to read, in the midst of all the action, all the adventure, all the smiting and killing and God schooling Israel with the famine and the sword, it’s good to read about ordinary people who just couldn’t stand to see each other be lonely.

Naomi doesn’t want her daughters-in-law to care for an old woman all their lives, one with no prospects for them, returning in rags to the place she was born. Neither of them want to see the mother of their beloved husband wander off to die alone. And at the culmination of the story, we find that Boaz can’t allow Ruth, a woman with virtue as bright as the sinners of the book of Judges were dark, to linger in mourning.

Elimelech doesn’t come back. Mahlon and Chilion don’t come back. We never see Orpah again – I hope she was able to make a visit. Grief is woven into the structure of this short story, which makes it more thematically appropriate, I think, than many other stories in the Bible. Our world is broken. Sin and death reign. Hope is fleeting but it exists and blessed be the name of our God for that.

I don’t know why or how the book of Ruth survived the millennia to come to us. There are explanations, for sure, but I don’t think it would be any less great of a story if David and Christ didn’t trace their ancestry to this Moabite woman, if Spear Carrier C were the most illustrious descendant of Naomi and Ruth. It’s a reminder not only of the fallen nature of the world we live in, but that sometimes, despite that, good things happen.

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 19: What Are Tales For?

When Latter-day Saints hear the phrase “the reign of the judges” we think of the Book of Mormon version, or the time period that takes up the bulk of the narrative, a time of unity for the Nephites under an ostensibly democratic form of government. There are profitable comparisons between that and the Old Testament reign of judges, where the heirs of Moses and Joshua ruled over an Israel at least as prone to pride cycles as the Nephites.1Pride cycles are better than just being wicked all the time. The unknown compilers of Judges were, like Mormon, interested in showing that Israel prospers when it obeys the Lord. I’m sure Mormon based some of his style in compiling Mosiah and Alma and Helaman from the version of Judges he had access to.

We don’t have much from the book of Judges, though by all accounts it seems to have some of the oldest, least-changed bits of the Old Testament. Nobody really had a reason to alter it. It is what it is. And what it is is stories. I’m normally against mining stories for basic one-sentence moral lessons, and I’m especially against that here. The Gospel Doctrine manual focuses on the stories of Gideon, Deborah, and Samson, and those stories do have some of the easiest morals to mine, but we shouldn’t let that mar our appreciation of them as stories. Gideon tests the Lord in a very suspenseful passage, we know people have died for this sort of thing, but when he’s been satisfied he’s completely true and faithful, and the winnowing of his army and his victory in the night are just good literature. Samson is prideful and haughty and a bit of a bully, so in a way we’re glad to see him fall, at the same time he manages to pull off a heroic comeback right at the end.

And even the stories in Judges that we don’t talk about, those frighteningly violent stories of Ehud and Eglon or the war with the Benjamites, what sort of value do you think those had for the Israelites? Sure, you could try to make Ehud into some sort of moral lesson, but his 80s action hero one-liner “I’ve got a message from God” before he blows away the Moabite king is a sure crowd-pleaser, along with his hapless servants so terrified of their king’s wrath they don’t even know he’s dead. The awful story of the Levite and his concubine and what happened after has enough sex and violence to satisfy today’s HBO crowd, and I’m sure some of that sentiment was around back then.

And Jephthah? I really don’t know. What were the Israelites thinking when they heard this? It’s the worst story in the Bible. What sort of lesson can you even take from it? Maybe it’s just been left in as a reminder that history is weird and vague and murky and we don’t know how these stories got here.

In any case, Samson, Gideon, and Deborah are good stories. I’m glad we get to focus on them at least once every four years.

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 18: Joshua at the Banks of the Jordan

You can’t conquer Canaan.

The other ten spies were absolutely correct. The Canaanites were too established, too numerous, too big to fight. A band of squabbling tribes that just spent forty years sleeping in tents didn’t have a chance against them. That’s the point. They haven’t had a chance since the firstborn of Egypt were sacrificed for their freedom. Seas and deserts and armies have been in front of them, each one more than enough for the (almost certainly less than five million strong) host of Israel. Yet here we are. The Jordan River.

Your ancestors lived here, Joshua. Were they better men than you? Will your name be spoken in the same hushed tones as theirs are? Will the trial that breaks the sons of Abraham happen on your watch? If you were Moses you would have been leading them already, but Moses is gone, and it’s up to the son of Nun to walk the last mile.

The lesson of a lifetime. You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you. Does the Lord tell Joshua every detail of the conquest of Canaan? Does he need to? A fearful man could know the Lord’s plan and still flub it. Believe me, it happens. Knowledge isn’t necessary. What is required is to be strong and of good courage, and to walk the Ark into the Jordan, and feel the water deepen around your ankles.

And down the walls tumble. The sons of Abraham are once more established in righteousness, in freedom, in the fear of the Lord. And Joshua stands before the ashes of Jericho, before the booty of Canaan, the fields they did not plant and the houses they did not build and the slaves they did not hire, and he asks his folk to make the decision he already made, before ever the sword of the exile rang in these cities of giants – Who will you serve?

And they tried to remember, and they nearly did, and when the long-promised Messiah came to that oft-conquered land he did not bear the name of Abraham the father or Moses the liberator or Aaron or David or Solomon. The name on the tablet on the bottom of the living-water river is Jesus, Yeshua, Joshua, the name of a man who faced an impossible task but was strong and of good courage.

Women Are The True Victims Of The Racist Ban On Blacks In The Mormon Church

While Mormon leaders met with NAACP leaders this week to heal the racial rift that white female journalists in Utah all agree still exists in the church, journalists were understandably fooled by a fake website and tweeted out fake news instead of reporting on the meeting. Hey, it was a convincing-looking website, give us a break! We’re just journalists! But the great thing about it is the Salt Lake Tribune went viral with a story on this fake website and the meeting was totally forgotten. This is how progressive journalism makes the world a better place.

But let’s talk about the priesthood ban for a second.

Did you know that until 1978 the Mormon church excluded African-Americans from priesthood positions? This is a well-kept secret, but I think racism from almost 50 years ago is something we need to talk about more, every hour instead of merely every couple of days. It happened, and the question is how do we move past it?

Well, the Democrats fought fiercely to keep slavery in America, but now it is the Republicans who are racists. How did that happen? How did the Democrats wake up one day absolved of their original sin and Republicans who fought against slavery became the bad guys? Because Democrats took it far further than just freeing slaves. We need to obsessively make the cause about much more than just what it is really about. Today, the fight against slavery means college admissions for kids that don’t perform well but get it because of their skin color. Republicans who oppose this are racists.

The same applies to Mormons. Who still doesn’t have priesthood leadership positions? Women. That’s right, women. We can move past the racism debacle, comfort our Black brothers and sisters, and progress as a church if we signal our virtue and make it all about feminism. So while I admire the creator of this fake news website for distracting from real news, it was ultimately not helpful because it turned the narrative back to being all about race, when it really should be about feminists. Every morning, all Mormon women in the world wake up with tears in their eyes because they have different roles and responsibilities than men in the church and are not standing up at the pulpit receiving respect and adulation of the congregation.

We are the true victims of that policy and we need everybody to be constantly reminded of this.

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 17: The Subtle Art of Not Forgetting

I’ve got a pet peeve about gospel discussions where we sagely shake our heads at how ridiculous the people in these scripture stories are. We look at the pride cycle, at Laman and Lemuel seeing an angel and immediately rebelling, at the Israelites complaining about all that manna they get to eat. We imagine that we, enlightened Latter-day Saints who are capable of fasting once a month when we remember it and sacrificing a Saturday for a temple trip now and then, would do better in those situations.

I don’t mean to call modern Saints weak, or even, for many of us, particularly untested. I mean to suggest that the scriptures are meant for us to self-insert as the forgetful ones. It’s not normal to remember. This selective amnesia we read about is the default – as we find when we remember those commandments that are hard for us, that we haven’t taken from burdens to habits to blessings yet. Imagine the Saints of the future reading about you, and the commandments you haven’t kept, and gently chuckling as they think about poor so-and-so, who forgot.

The Ancient Israel we read about in Deuteronomy this week isn’t some tribe of losers God is leading along to show off his power to save even the bumblers – if it were, he’d be the butt of the joke. This Israel is God’s A-team, a nation of righteous supermen pruned by divine eugenics from the most righteous man to walk the Earth, and they still are so forgetful they need God to make special reminder headbands for them. The Exodus was a series of events based on shocking fear of God into the children of Israel so hard their great-grandkids would still be punch-drunk. There were many in that Host more righteous than you.

But they were men, not gods, and they lost their privileges, and they lost their faith, and they lost their promised land. As you could yours, and your grandchildren could leave the church and their children could grow up not knowing what a Mormon is. Hell is before us all.

The story of Alma the Younger is not about how powerful angels are in developing one’s testimony. It’s about how amazing Alma was for keeping his, even after an angel visited him, and the struggle he made even for that. And that struggle is available to you.

You can remember. You can carve this law in your heart. Hell does not have to prevail. Just don’t imagine you can get away from Babylon at a walking pace.

5 Ways Young Woman Leaders Should Stifle Boys In The New LDS Youth Program

1. Always Put Girls First

Insults naturally bounce off men but little acts of contempt slowly wear out their self-esteem. This what I have found. So if women leaders hire only women at the workplace, give only girls a good grade in the classroom, and constantly demean male members of the scout pack, this will go a long way to not only empower girls but also crush the male spirit. You can do this in scouting by picking only girls to lead the troops, picking girls to decide activities, and only praising the achievements of girls. It’s time to clip the Eagle Scouts’ wings.

2. Demean Male Behavior

It is no secret that men tend to have behaviors that lead to wars, crime, and aggression. It is important to know that parents are to blame for not programming their children to be more like girls. You can fix the mistakes of parents by taking the leading role in shaping their children’s lives. The great thing is people can be programmed to behave however you want. This is why I always attack males for reckless behavior and violent sports, like baseball and hockey. Throughout the history of scouting, there has been appallingly violent behavior that we need to put a stop to. No more camp fires and hikings. In fact, did you know the general idea for scouting was established from the Beor War which introduced concentration camps to the world? I’m glad that we got rid of this toxic organization and have a new youth program to shape around the ideals of equality. So never miss an opportunity to shame anyone for masculine behavior. You might even have to remind the Bishop to check his privilege and allow us to create a safe space for our young sisters. Continue reading “5 Ways Young Woman Leaders Should Stifle Boys In The New LDS Youth Program”

A Just Mercy

Similarities and Difference

We all have some things in common: we are all children of God, each on of us born with a purpose, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died for each one of us, and each one of us will one day stand before God and give an accounting of our lives. Yet each of us comes from a huge variety of life experience; a few examples:

  • Some people are born into wealth with a world of opportunity and few material challenges at their feet. Some people are born in abject poverty with barely a chance to stay alive.
  • Some people are born into safe nurturing environments with many opportunities for growth. Some are born into nightmarish circumstances with challenges few of us can imagine and even fewer can relate to.
  • Some people are born with hereditary challenges that make keeping God’s commandments a greater burden than for others.

Most of us fall somewhere in between these extremes. Multiply these differences the world over and our variety of life experience is nearly infinite. Continue reading “A Just Mercy”

The Boy Scouts Is Quickly Becoming Like Hitler’s Youth

Why did they push the Mormons out? As the Boy Scouts changes names to “Scouts BSA” (though at this point they might as well call themselves Soy Scouts) many former scouts are asking this question.

Why did BSA decide to antagonize a religion that made up 20% of their organization? BSA has been losing members and income every year, so why would they push away the fastest growing demographic of members in the organization?

Maybe they are just making terrible business decisions? Organizations have been known to push away their base for the sake of political correctness, after all. But looking at BSA’s strategy for growth, this business decision doesn’t just appear idiotic, it’s plain suicidal.

Continue reading “The Boy Scouts Is Quickly Becoming Like Hitler’s Youth”

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 16: Look, A Talking Donkey!

Last week we left the Children of Israel absolutely face-wrecking the Amorites, man they gave them a canonically legendary curbstomp and gave us some important lessons on sustaining our leaders and looking to God to boot. This week we’re changing focus from the rampaging Israelite horde to their victims.

The camera pulled back at the end of the Amorite war in Numbers 21, sort of the literary version of a camera rolling over burned villages and an artfully placed abandoned doll, and now we zoom in on the Moabites, who are sore afraid, as they should be.1in 22:4 we find that Christians ACTUALLY BELIEVE cows eat grass by licking it; science has proved that cows bite grass, checkmate theists

Balak, king of the Moabites, summons his soothsayer Balaam, who may have been a righteous priesthood holdout like Jethro, though they do bring him silver to cross his palm.2Maybe the rewards of divination were just viewed as payment, some sort of tithing? Maybe details were embellished or added by someone who thought it’d be obvious they treat a prophet like a fortune-teller? Maybe the Lord just worked through soothsayers at this place and time? Balak is being a good king, providing for the welfare of Moab and not relying on the arm of the flesh, but preserving Moab is not the Lord’s plan right now.

Continue reading “Gospel Doctrine Lesson 16: Look, A Talking Donkey!”