Friday, January 12, 2018

His work and his glory

(by Daniel Peterson 1-11-18)

The first chapter of the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price is dated to June 1830. The Book of Mormon had been published only two or three months before, yet the Book of Moses is strikingly different from that volume — a fact requiring explanation from anybody who regards them simply as the products of the same creative but uneducated mind.

And Moses 1 is rich, densely packed with important teachings that we perhaps now take for granted but that are also remarkably profound.

In this column, I’ll focus on the single most famous verse in that chapter, Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

This declaration offers a radically different view of God than that advocated by many theologies and theologians. Over the centuries, they have tended to portray the Father as a stern, distant, all-ruling monarch. Or, drawing upon Greek philosophy, they have sought to meld the biblical portrayal of Israel’s personal God with Aristotle’s dispassionate, even cold, “unmoved Mover” — a divine thinker thinking about the only object of thought in the universe worthy of its attention: Itself. And yet, in doing so, they have overlooked the clearest and most obvious biblical revelation of God’s fundamental character — Jesus of Nazareth.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (see John 3:16-17).

In John 14, responding to Philip’s request to see the Father, Jesus said “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (see John 14:9).

And Jesus revealed the Father perfectly, not only in the sense that he was “the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3) but in the sense that Jesus did “the works of (his) father” (John 10:37). “I seek not mine own will,” he declared, “but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). “If ye had known me,” he told Thomas, “ye should have known my Father also” (John 14:7).

And what did Jesus do? According to John 13:1-5, just minutes before his arrest in Gethsemane, “when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended … Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.”

“He that is greatest among you,” Jesus had taught the disciples, “shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).

Moses 1:39 teaches us with unmistakable clarity that service isn’t just an admission requirement for heaven, merely a test that, once passed, can be left behind. Instead, it’s of the essence of deity, at the very heart of becoming like our Father. And, in its repeated description of Moses as a “son” of God (e.g., at 1:4, 6, 7, 13, 40), distinct from but “in the similitude” of God’s “Only Begotten” (e.g., at 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 32-33), the first chapter of Moses plainly teaches the closeness of divinity and humanity.

When, in Matthew 5:48 (compare 3 Nephi 12:48), the Savior counsels his disciples to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” that exhortation concludes and sums up a six-verse passage on loving and doing good even to our enemies “that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:45). “He that loveth not,” says 1 John 4:8, “knoweth not God; for God is love.”

This teaching is perhaps especially appropriate to keep in mind during a week when we commemorate the life and ministry of President Thomas S. Monson, who so wonderfully illustrated the principle of personal service and attention to the needy, the suffering and the lonely. May we all follow his example.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

LDS author says modern shame culture was illuminated by New York Times' President Monson obituary

(by Trent Toone 1-10-18)

The New York Times' obituary for LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson was an example of how the modern shame culture stigmatizes Mormons for their traditional teachings and stances on social issues, Hal Boyd wrote in a op-ed Wednesday.

"If, as it sadly appears, the New York Times was, in the name of greater inclusion, attempting to stigmatize or shame a deceased LDS prophet and the Mormon faith, its efforts amount to the kind of hypocrisy more commonly associated with Hawthornean clergymen than with news organizations," Boyd wrote before quoting the Times' own David Brooks. "'The modern shame culture allegedly values inclusion and tolerance, but it can be strangely unmerciful to those who disagree and to those who don’t fit in.' Jesus Christ promised mercy to the merciful. For the rest of us, we ought to be cautious how we mete and measure."

In his article, Boyd, a former Deseret News opinion editor and co-author of the book, "Are Christians Mormon?" summarized how readers reacted to President Monson's obituary through online comments and social media, prompting a response from the Times' obituary editor William McDonald.

"McDonald's admission is admirable. We all have lapses in judgment," Boyd wrote. "But after the news of recent weeks, during which we have learned how damaging it can be to focus on a public persona while glossing over private behavior, it seems odd that the Times would not be more eager to give at least equal billing to the private life of such a person of prominence."

Read the entire article by clicking here.


New York Times obits editor responds to criticism of President Monson’s obituary

(by Morgan Jones 1-8-18)

The New York Times has received some scrutiny on social media over the past week for its Jan. 3 obituary of President Thomas S. Monson, the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who died Jan. 2 at the age of 90.

A petition calling for a rewrite of the obituary has collected more than 100,000 names. The obituary drew criticism for its focus on social issues that faced the LDS Church during President Monson’s time as prophet.
“Facing vociferous demands to recognize same-sex marriage, and weathering demonstrations at church headquarters by Mormon women pleading for the right to be ordained as priests, Mr. Monson did not bend,” the obituary read. “Teachings holding homosexuality to be immoral, bans on sexual intercourse outside male-female marriages, and an all-male priesthood would remain unaltered.”

On Monday, William McDonald, the obituaries editor for the New York Times, responded to questions drawn from reader feedback on the obituary. McDonald began by calling the obituary “a faithful accounting of the more prominent issues that Mr. Monson encountered and dealt with publicly during his tenure,” but later acknowledged those who feel the obituary “did not provide a more rounded view of Mr. Monson — perhaps his more human side.”

“I’ll concede that what we portrayed was the public man, not the private one, or the one known to his most ardent admirers,” McDonald said. “In 20/20 hindsight, we might have paid more attention to the high regard with which he was held within the church. I think by his very position in the church, all that was implied. But perhaps we should have stated it more plainly.”

In the end, McDonald defended his publication’s coverage of President Monson’s death.

“Still, on balance, I think the obituary makes clear that he was a man of strong faith and convictions, who stood by them even in the face of detractors, while finding ways to move the church forward,” he said.

McDonald addressed other questions, such as how the New York Times chooses “which points from a person’s life to highlight,” whether there is an obligation to pay tribute in any way in writing an obituary and why they chose to refer to President Monson as “Mr” rather than by his title as church president.