Millennial Star – On Being Offended

There is an interesting thread over at the Millennial Star on the topic of generalizations and how making them can often offend others who feel they are being targeted for not fitting some generalized ideal. One of the examples given is statements that past presidents of the Church have made about the morality of birth control measures. Apparently, on a previous thread someone had made strong statements against birth control based upon prophetic utterance, and someone decided that a finger was being pointed at them.

This brings up a whole host of questions in my mind. When is it appropriate to get offended by someone? Is judging others a sin? If so, is it a minor sin like drinking a Coke, or a major sin like lying or stealing? How important is it to tippy-toe around gospel topics in fear of offending someone, keeping in mind that in a sufficiently large group it is almost certain that someone will be easily offended?

And how about birth control? Is it more acceptable to the Lord today than it used to be? It is clear that the prophets don’t speak out against it in the same strong and clear language that they used to. It is a fact that Americans in general, and American Latter-day Saints in particular don’t have as many children per family as they once did. Is this a decline in fertility, or are their social and cultural reasons for this? And what might those reasons be? Are Latter-day Saints who claim to be the Lord’s covenant people justified in adopting so closely the culture of the greater society? Does American affluence and materialism have anything to do with this? Why can so many poor families living in Mexico afford large families, while many relatively wealthy families in the USA struggle to support even small families? Is it a difference in the value that the respective cultures place upon children and family life? Or are there other, more important reasons?

Finally, how important is personal revelation in considering these topics? When a person is faced with a decision whether or not gospel teaching applies to his specific situation, should his first assumption be that he is an exception to the rule. Or should he assume that the rule applies to him unless he receives specific revelation that it does not?

I find these questions interesting because my own lifestyle has deviated substantially from the gospel ideal in a number of areas. For instance, I was the stay-at-home parent throughout the years that my children were being reared while my wife earned the living. There were substantial economic and health reasons for this; but had there been no divine assurance that I was pursuing a course that was pleasing to my Father in Heaven, could I have justified my deviating from the ideal family based upon my own logic and reasoning alone? My life has deviated from the gospel ideal in a number of other ways too. Should I be content that my individual situation justifies me, or do I need to repent? Can I even know without personal revelation? Repentance is never easy, and sometimes it is not even possible in the sense that we cannot always undo damage that we have done. But rationalizations don’t always bring about desired results either.

At the end of the day, I cannot imagine being wise enough to make life’s choices without personal revelation. I know that there are many in the world who seem to do just fine without it, but I would feel hopelessly incompetent without the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I barely feel competent much of the time as it is. Life can seem so overwhelming. Without my faith in Christ and his prophets, I would be utterly lost.

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10 Responses to Millennial Star – On Being Offended

  1. Jason says:

    John,

    Apparently discernment is not one of your spiritual gifts.

    The purpose of my questions was not to overturn the truth but to expose it. Your answer is the answer I was hoping you would give because it is basically correct. But, as with most of your posts, it is a mile wide and an inch deep.

    The truth is that the Lord communicates with us using the Holy Ghost. But this mode of communication has an important flaw–us. Our spiritual reciever is very poor. We can sometimes hear the still small voice, sometimes not. But even when we hear the still small voice best it still must travel through the filter of our minds. And our minds tend to put their own spin (personal desires) on the spiritual messages we recieve.

    Even the most spiritual of us have this problem. That is why the Lord communicated directly (either face to face, via angels, or through the urum and thumim) with Joseph Smith when it was a really important message.

    Take the example of Moses. When Moses was given the ten commandments the Lord did not communicate with a still small voice, he spoke directly to Moses. And just to be sure Moses didn’t garble the message the Lord wrote it on stone with His own hand.

    One other example. Remember the story of Oliver’s failed attempt to translate? In that section of the D&C The Lord gives us non-prophet types a way to get revelation–study it out in your mind, come to a decision, and then ask if its right. In other words ask yes or no questions. One reason for this is because we non-prophet types are probably too spiritually insensitive to recieve anything but yes or no answers and even then we usually screw it up.

    Basically, the Spirit has its place. But if I start getting revelations from the spirit that something is a sin that the prophet has not said is a sin, (like drinking Coke)I start to wonder what the source of the revelation really is.

  2. This is a good example of how human reasoning and logic can get a person into trouble. Anyone inspired by the Holy Ghost will recognize that the Lord is not going to authorize spiritual and moral anarchy such as you suggest.

    The Holy Ghost is not going to give anyone a commandment to break previously given commandments except in exceedingly rare situations like the Nephi and Laban story you mentioned. And in a situation like that, one had better be pretty sure the inspiration is from the Holy Ghost instead of the devil. Why do you suppose that Nephi was so reluctant to obey at first? Remember, the devil can give us counterfeit revelations too.

    Regardless, I’m not going to discuss this with you any longer. Something tells me that you are not asking honest questions out of a genuine desire to know the truth. You are just misusing human reasoning in an attempt to frustrate the overturn the truth.

  3. J Max says:

    John,

    So I guess you are saying that the no Coke commandment does not apply to everyone, but only to some people like you. So God commands some not to drink Coke and to others He says “I don’t care.” Maybe for others He commands “drink a Coke every day.”

    If what I say is true then there are different and valid rules for different people in different situations. Heck, maybe there are even exceptions to so called immutable commandments in certian situations. We know that the Lord commanded Nephi to kill Laban, despite the fact that he gave a general commandment earlier to all of the house of Israel, of whom Nephi was a member, not to kill.

    And if there is an exception to the commandment “thou shalt not kill” then there is likely some exception to every single commandment. For example, perhaps some are excepted from the commandment to be baptized, getting thier endowments, paying tithing or attending Church regularly. And the only way to determine which rules apply to me is a personal revelation. Am I right or wrong?

  4. Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. And no, it does not apply to anybody but me. Others may have received similar personal revelation, but I have no way of knowing anything about that.

  5. J Max says:

    John,

    Are you saying that the Lord commanded you personally not to drink Coke? And, if that is the case, is it possible that that commandment does not apply to everyone?

  6. It is the Lord’s job, and in my case it was the Lord who decided that it was a sin for me to drink Coke. He inspired me that the leaders of the Church are his true prophets. And some of them recommended that I avoid habit forming beverages. The Lord inspired me that the Bible was his Word, and the Bible says I shouldn’t do anything to hurt my body because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. And I learned from personal experience that I can get so addicted to Coca-Cola that I drink gallons of it every day for years, and that is a big part of the reason my weight got up to 336 lbs. at one time. Two foods that I cannot use in moderation are Cokes and chocolate. And since they are both habit forming in my individual case, I know by inspiration from the Lord that it is a sin for me to use them. I’m sure that there are others who can use Cokes and chocolate in moderation without becoming addicted, and for them it would not be a sin.

    I still drink Cokes even though I know it is wrong for me. I also drive over the speed limit sometimes even though I know that the Lord has commanded us to obey the law. I don’t always wear my seat belt. Sometimes I am late to Church meetings. I sometimes watch TV on Sunday even though I feel I would be keeping the Sabbath holy better if I didn’t. And while I never watch R-rated movies, sometimes I see something in a PG-13 rated movie that should motivate me to turn it off, but I watch it anyway. Sometimes I use a cross tone of voice with my wife, and I know that is a sin too. I waste time most days at the computer blogging, doing recreational email, or playing computer games more than I should. I know that such time wasting is also a sin. I sin every day, and I am constantly trying to repent. Maybe you don’t sin, but thinking you don’t sin is a sin too. The Savior and his prophets have always taught that everybody sins, and only Jesus himself lived without sin.

    Confessing all of the sins listed above, I am pleased to report that I don’t sin nearly as much as I did when I was younger or even as much as I did last year. So I’m making progress, and I know that my Savior is pleased with my efforts to show my love for him by keeping his commandments.

    The world is full of people who think they can love and believe in Jesus without keeping his commandments. Well, they are wrong. When a person doesn’t keep the commandments, he is just showing that he doesn’t believe in Jesus even though he might say that he does. If I loved Jesus more, or believed in him more completely, I would try harder to repent and try harder to keep the commandments that I am still breaking.

    A person who claims to love his fellow man without loving Jesus enough to keep his commandments is a liar. A person cannot truly love his fellow man unless first he loves Jesus because without loving Jesus enough to keep his commandments, all a person can do for his fellow man is lead him down to hell. And since man does not live by bread alone, it is just as important to spiritually feed ones fellow man as it is to feed and clothe him with earthly food and garb. But a man who does not make an honest effort to keep the Savior’s commandments has nothing to feed his fellow man, spiritually speaking.

    Whew… did all that just come out of my mouth?

  7. J Max says:

    J Max=Jason Max Kerr

    John,

    Well, so you decide what is a sin and what isn’t? I thought that was the Lord’s job.

  8. I don’t know that any prophet has ever said it. I do know that a number of them have discouraged “habit forming” substances. And for me, Coca-Cola is definitely habit forming. I think of it as one of my minor sins that I am going to repent of (again) one of these days.

  9. Just so you know, John. The person who wrote the previous comment was not me.

    Thanks for your thoughtful followup to my post.

  10. J Max says:

    What prophet ever said drinking a Coke is a sin?

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