Saturday, September 30, 2023

Tenochtitlan: A reconstruction of the great Aztec city

A frequent criticism of the Book of Mormon is that the people, culture, population size, and advancements of the people it describes couldn't possibly be real. Its historicity is regularly challenged along the lines of the biases that modern people have about ancient people and claims that so-called "primitive people" wouldn't have been able to achieve what the Jaredites, Nephites, and Lamanites achieved. 

This modern digital reconstruction of the great city of Tenochtitlan (now modern-day Mexico City) is a full-throated rebuttal of such presentist and, frankly, bigoted thinking. It's truly amazing what we haven't been aware of simply because of the biased rhetoric about ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations.

Monday, July 31, 2023

More Mayan Structures Revealed by LiDAR Scans

More evidence that not everything is known about the size of the ancient Mesoamerican civilization known as the Mayans. 

Laser Scans Reveal 60,000 Hidden Maya Structures in Guatemala - Houses, fortifications, pyramids and causeways were among the discoveries

Pre-Columbian Amazonian earthworks, geoglyphs, and signs of a massive civilization

Here is a collection of headlines and links about pre-Columbian earthworks found in the Amazon region of South America showing signs of an enormous civilization that was much more advanced than was previously understood.

Metal Plates and The Words of Gad the Seer


One aspect of the story of ancient texts among the Jews at Cochin, India, is the issue of writing on metal plates. The Jews at Cochin were said to have kept their ancient history on copper or brass plates, consistent with traditions of using copper plates in India for important legal documents going back at least to the third century bc.22 A hint about scriptures written on metal comes from one source who visited the Cochin colony several times early in the 1700s, Captain Alexander Hamilton23 (a British sailor, not the US statesman). In his A New Account of the East Indies, he stated that they had kept their history recorded on copper plates stored in a synagogue.24 He reports:

They [the Jews in Cochin, India] have a Synagogue at Couchin, not far from the King’s Palace, about two Miles from the City, in which are carefully kept their Records, engraven in Copper-plates in Hebrew characters; and when any of the Characters decay, they are new cut, so that they can shew their own History from the Reign of Nebuchadnezzar to this present Time …

They declare themselves to be of the Tribe of Manasseh.25

Friday, October 28, 2022

Part 4 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real"

In Part 1 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real", I covered the first five of thirty different false narratives about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our beliefs. If you're jumping into this current post from a search engine result, I recommend reading at least the first part of Part 1 for better context before continuing. I'll wait here. 😁

All done? Let's get cracking with these next five, shall we?

Women converse with each other at church.
Women converse with each other at church in Mexico.

16. No Caffeine

Costa and Starbucks are definitely off the menu for Mormons as they do not partake in tea or coffee due to the stimulant, caffeine which is seen as being a drug. Latter Day Saints have found ways to fill the gap by drinking concoctions of other drinks from recipes handed down by ancestors. Have they not heard of decaffeinated?

It's true that tea and coffee are proscribed by the Word of Wisdom (a name given to the law of health scripture the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith) touched on in Part 1. Here's a good article about it in the historical context of the original revelation. But there has never been any solid clarification on whether the issue is caffeine or some other aspect of tea (only certain kinds) and coffee (all kinds, even decaf).

If the issue is truly caffeine, then chocolate and other natural sources of caffeine would also be counseled against. But they're not. We LDS folks eat chocolate like there's no tomorrow (though we probably shouldn't in the spirit of better health). We love hot chocolate beverages (our substitute for coffee in social situations).

BYU, the Church's sponsored school, no longer prohibits caffeinated cola drinks in its vending machines or cafeterias, so it's not caffeine. It's even well-known that Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf is a Diet Coke drinker (or maybe Diet Pepsi?), so, again, it's not likely the caffeine.

One 2013 study suggested that acrylamide, a Group 2A carcinogen, which is created during the roasting process, can be harmful over the long term and/or in high concentrations. Other studies also looked into it. More research is needed to determine whether drinking coffee is a significant risk.

So why not drink tea and coffee if there are no obvious health downsides and plenty of scientifically-claimed upsides (even though those upsides can arguably be gained in other ways without coffee)?

While the Lord has not given us specifics, we commonly accept that anything that is as addictive or at least dependency-creating as coffee and tea can be (for whatever other possible reasons besides caffeine) is not good for us. 

And, yes, this also extends to too much sugar and any other substance or activity that rewards the addiction-forming neural and endocrine pathways. 

Sure, coffee and tea aren't in the same category as, say, heroin, methamphetamine, or cocaine. Nevertheless, everyone "knows" that coffee is an addiction or dependency because it's as difficult for many people to quit drinking as it is to quit smoking cigarettes. Here's an interesting anecdotal article about one person's journey to quit sugar, coffee, and cigarette addictions.

It's also helpful to consider the fact that when the Word of Wisdom was first revealed, absolutely nobody was concerned about tobacco as a health risk. In fact, for decades there were actual doctors (incentivized by the tobacco industry) who told patients regularly that smoking was good for them. Even to the point of recommending certain brands.

Why is that helpful? Because the Lord warned us in 1833 of "evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days" to damage our health. It wasn't until 1958 (!) that there began to be warning labels to try to stop people from hurting themselves. 

That, and the other prohibitions and prescriptions in the Word of Wisdom, gave LDS folks a 125-year healthy-living knowledge head start on the scientific establishment. 

We didn't need to know each of the scientific reasons. We just needed faith to follow God's words. I trust God that it will eventually be the same outcome with coffee and tea.

17. Set Forth And Multiply

In Britain, 2.4 children is the usual size of a family. With Mormons, it is more like 9.8 for an average brood. Their religion states that children are a gift from the Lord and even if the parents are experiencing financial hardships, this should not be taken into account when looking to fill those other bedrooms.

If, as is common with these hit pieces on LDS living, the author is implying that all "Mormons" are from Utah, then even that is wrong. Pamela S. Perlich, Ph.D. says:

Utah’s fertility rate has fallen significantly since 1960, when it was 4.30 children per woman, to 2.33 in the most recent data for 2014. This is an historically low fertility rate for Utah, and only slightly exceeds the replacement level of 2.1.
That's simply because Utah is not some exotic, faraway, isolated compound where only throwback "Mormon" hicks live and reproduce with abandon. It's a modern U.S. state with many decades of being integrated with the rest of modern American society, including such things as birth control, technological innovation, and migrations of people in and out of the state. It's not ever been 100% LDS people. Right now it's hovering around 60% LDS membership, but probably around 40%-50% or less are active members.

Outside of Utah and internationally, the numbers vary, but generally, we do tend to have more children on average. But 9.8 for "an average brood" is a severe outlier today, and wasn't as common as people think it was in earlier times. Poverty, disease, and infant mortality were all mitigating reproductive factors until as late as the 1950s. When the 1960s brought more and advanced birth control methods, LDS folks didn't exactly march in lock step against them.

A word like "brood" is not helpful nor tolerant. It implies that we are breeding, or being bred, like mindless rabbits or sheep. Every child we have is precious to us. With some exceptions where households suffer from marital disharmony or abuses, most children born into most faithful LDS households are wanted. That's because, in general, we do believe that children are a gift from the Lord, not a burden or an accessory.
18. Sexy Clothing

Even reading the word ‘sexy clothing’ would lead to shame in the Mormon religion. Females, even married women, should not go sleeveless or wear anything tight or figure-hugging. This is seen as, to be blunt, trashy and disrespectful to the whole and extended family.
"Even reading the word 'sexy clothing' would lead to shame..." No, it wouldn't. We're not prudes.

Women wear whatever they want in our church. The fact that they happen to choose to dress more modestly, in general, than the rest of the human population is really nothing scandalous. But a fair amount of LDS women are choosing to go sleeveless (if they haven't already made covenants in the temple and now wear the symbolic undergarments). 

Neither is "figure-hugging" clothing banished in any way. Nor is it universally and institutionally condemned in the harshest terms possible as the article alleges.

Sure, there are some cultural and traditional norms that still hold some weight. Someone not of our faith showing up to a Sacrament meeting or to the temple in a miniskirt or bikini top is going to be noticed, for sure. That's just because that type of clothing is not the "norm" for what most members expect. 

But, especially in our most progressive congregations, they'll likely be welcomed and included in the proceedings as far as possible. In the less progressive congregations, someone may invite them to wear something less revealing to future meetings, but hopefully only after some rapport has been established, the moment is right, and the person is ready to hear the suggestion.

Men are also invited to wear clothing befitting of the circumstances of worship. Showing up in greasy, torn jeans and a dirty t-shirt (or no shirt at all) is, again, going to be noticed. But we strive to "look on the heart" and to not judge by outward appearances only, so we'll create a friendship first before we ever broach the subject of how one should dress for a Sunday meeting. Most people new to our faith just figure that out anyways and adjust their wardrobe accordingly if they decide to stay.

The elephant in the room here is the shaming of women for how they dress. That's not just an LDS problem. It's an issue that exists in all of human society. Especially highly orthodox segments of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions. That's something we can all work on.
19. Fasting

Mormons fast one Sunday every month for 24 hours. That extends to not drinking any water either for the duration. The money that would have been spent on two meals for the family is then donated to the poor and is known as ‘Fast Sunday’ – who thought that name up?
Yes, we do fast and pray for that period of time. At least, that's the ideal that we are taught. I personally struggle to A) remember that it's Fast Sunday and B) start and end my fast exactly within 24 hours. Lots of people do. Others struggle with not drinking water or not having a little nip of food here and there. It's ok. Fasting is part of the doctrine of elevated prayer, of course. But the particulars of fasting for a 24-hour period one Sunday a month is a policy bordering on a tradition.

Instead, we try to focus on the intent and faith behind a fast. Fasting isn't just going hungry and thirsty. It's an implementation of the Law of Sacrifice accompanied by sincere prayer. Jesus taught that fasting with prayer can have a stronger and more lasting outcome than just prayer alone. 

Besides, most of our existence is the mundane mindlessness of the body compelling us to eat, drink, sleep, and do other activities that we could do without for a little while if we were just more mindful. Self-denial trains the body to let one's spirit (and God's Spirit) drive for a while.

Some people have health reasons why they cannot go 24 hours or even 12 hours without food and/or water. Those folks are allowed to choose how they'll fast or even if they'll fast. They can fast in ways that don't involve food. Perhaps they will go without using mobile devices, watching TV, or some other bodily-driven desire that would stand in for that kind of sacrifice.

It is correct that we are asked to donate the money that would have been spent on two meals. That is also a policy, not a doctrine. God doesn't need money to do His will in training us to provide for others. But in a world where agrarian lifestyles have given way to industrial and now technological lifestyles, it's not as easy anymore to donate a generous portion of chicken eggs, a bag of grain, or a side of cured ham like we used to do. Now, it's simply more practical to donate money that will be used to help pay rent for someone recently unemployed, cover medical bills, purchase clothing, or (of course) buy food for a family in need.
20. Dinosaurs

You read that correctly! What on earth are dinosaurs to do with the Mormon religion? Well, ‘earth’ is the operative word as this faith teaches kids that fossilized dinosaur bones come from other creatures living on other planets that were destroyed when Earth was created. I don’t know what planet these teachers were from!
This allegation is only true in the realm of speculations that some members of our faith indulge in from time to time. Like most human beings, we are curious about the world around us. Our faith is part of that curiosity. So when we hear about scientific principles or discoveries, we naturally try to find ways to align them with what we know in our hearts about God. Dinosaurs coming from other planetary materials used to make this earth, and many other strange and unusual ideas, do emerge from time to time. Like all news about us, these ideas get "press" mostly for the fact that they are strange and unusual.

The Bible isn't a scientific textbook, nor was it meant to be. We are somewhat unique in recognizing that fact. One of the many ways I like to read scripture is to try to separate what is literal from what is symbolic or metaphorical. 

I also like to try to figure out various timelines for events described in Genesis. Personally, I believe the science of a 4.2-billion-year-old Earth and a 13-billion-year-old universe is quite solid. I don't think it detracts from science or from God to say that. God is eternal, and likely lives outside the confining boundaries of our "spacetime" reality, which means time really doesn't exist for Him. It's all one "now". So 13 billion years is a blink of an eye and might as well be 130 billion or 130 trillion.

While evolution could have been the way things came about, my observation of the enormous complexities of all creatures leads me to think it is unlikely that it was accidental or random. I believe God used scientific principles we call "nature" or "natural selection" to personally involve Himself in whatever was created. And, it's possible or even likely that some or even all creatures were transplanted, little by little, to our world from other worlds with life already on them. Lots of possibilities, but ones God has yet to confirm with more detail. Still, we wait for more revelations on the subject, per Articles of Faith 1:9.
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
Many prominent scientists have emerged from LDS homes where faith was a central value. A large number of those scientists found room in their intellect for the scientific principles they studied and implemented AND for God. That didn't hurt their professions except in institutions where non-religious individuals applied their own personal biases and put up roadblocks.

Time to end this post, but there's more in Part 5!

Part 6 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real"

In Part 1 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real", I covered the first five of thirty different false narratives about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our beliefs. If you're jumping into this current post from a search engine result, I recommend reading at least the first part of Part 1 for better context before continuing. I'll wait here. 😁

All done? Let's get cracking with these last five, shall we?

A mother and father play with their children outside
A mother and father play with their children outside

26. Polygamy

Although polygamy (being greedy and having more than one wife) still exists in the Mormon faith, it is not the usual practice this days. However, there are communities who still practice polygamy and it is accepted. I wonder if a rota is drawn up with wife A and wife B?

Polygamy or plural marriage no longer exists in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Anyone practicing it before becoming a member must cease the practice and anyone practicing it after becoming a member, and without ceasing it, is immediately excommunicated and cannot be readmitted until they stop.

The writer of the article is, again (frustratingly), equating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the FLDS group and other unaffiliated groups. The FLDS may claim a common heritage with early LDS Church history, but that's where the similarity ends. They are 100% not members of the LDS Church.

Was the practice of plural marriage "greedy"? From the ahistorical point of view that the reason the early Saints participated in it was that the men wanted more sex with more women, then......I guess? But it was never like that. This "explanation" never made sense to me because of the social cost at the time of being considered by one's community as a sexual degenerate. There was far more to lose than to gain and most men were on record in their own words as having been opposed to it until the Lord, through personal revelation, persuaded them otherwise.

Now, if it meant helping women have marital property rights and social status rather than turning to prostitution or destitution in the times before women had equal rights, I would argue that it was more helpful than hurtful or "greedy" in that regard. At certain points in our church's history, there were far more women than men (especially after deadly persecutions, apostasies, and migrations). So there were a lot of husbandless/fatherless families to take care of. It was either plural marriage to keep things respectable under the fact that men were taking responsibility for their welfare by taking them in, or turning them away to fend for themselves in a heartless and cruel frontier world.

Plural marriage has never been a question with an easy answer because one man marrying multiple women has the exact types of implications one would expect. Social ostracization around plural marriage was a very real thing when it was first introduced all the way up until it was terminated by abrogating revelations. Hostility between the sister wives and jealousy between them for the attention of the husband are obvious issues as well. Having one man provide funding for such a large household is another. And the general situation of women being "property" in either singular or plural marriages, and rejected by society outside of any marriage, is yet another.

The differences between FLDS and LDS teachings on plural marriage are vast, though. The FLDS definitely check all the misogynist boxes. I witnessed a lot of it growing up near their community. And now it's the subject of multiple documentaries. I shudder to think about what I know about on that front.

By contrast, my LDS ancestors had several God-sanctioned plural marriages. As far as the family histories I have on hand show, with the normal exceptions brought about by the vicissitudes of life we all suffer, all were successful, thriving situations for everyone. From what I can tell, the women were revered, respected, and loved by each husband and they mostly got along with and loved each other. 

Except for just one. In that one, the plurality wasn't the issue, but the proposal by the husband to one candidate wife in particular. She was underage AND his stepdaughter! It was very much unaccepted by the community and the Church and was a huge scandal. He was run out of town by a mob for his attempt and died poor and alone in Mexico. His name was erased from the family record for decades until my grandmother discovered it in some old genealogy records. By then, all of us had taken on an entirely new last name and family identity through a different and much better marriage arrangement.

In most cases, the first wife had the right of first refusal. Another ancestor of mine asked his wife for permission to marry a second plural wife. She invited the woman over for dinner and matter-of-factly stated, "It will be nice when you become my husband's second wife, for I shall then have someone to attend to the washing, the meals, and the dishes." With that, the whole proposal was ended and he didn't take a second wife.

In answer to how the "rota" or duties were divided up, it was usually the women who decided together how children were cared for, food was prepared, the house was maintained, etc. In most cases, the husband was far too busy trying to scrape up as much sustenance as possible for a single large household or multiple ones to support them all to have much of a real say.

27. Basketball

This is a strange one – missionaries cannot play full court basketball, only half court. The reason is that the missionaries are insured by the Church and are more likely to get hurt and sustain injury if paying full court basketball. They also can’t play basketball in leagues or in tournaments.
I'm not up-to-date on the current general worldwide mission rules. In my time and location as a missionary in the mid-1990s, full-court basketball was not discouraged to my knowledge. Our preparation day activities consisted of little else given that there wasn't much to do during our one day of down time.

In places where full-court basketball is not allowed, the reason for the policy is, indeed, avoidance of injury. The Church's first priority is to keep missionaries safe, uninjured, and healthy. Also, it costs tens of thousands of dollars in sacred tithing funds and personal missionary funds to outfit, transport, train, and keep each missionary healthy while they serve. When a missionary gets a preventable injury, it's a big per-person expense not to mention a healthcare cost burden for the family and for the church.

Not playing in leagues and tournaments is more about keeping an appropriate and dignified separation between the missionary and the world as he or she serves. Where I served, a 6'5"+ tall American missionary who can dunk would have been a huge boon to local teams where the average height of players was just 5' tall. He would also have been a message-distracting attraction to the local young women. Maybe it could have been a missionary opportunity, but more likely it would have been too much conflict of interest and potential for distraction.
28. Dating

Forget dating, if you’re a Mormon. That is the case if you are under 16 years of age. Mixing with the opposite sex for reasons other than studying is strictly forbidden and if a couple of teens are caught together, they both have to undertake hours of studying to repent for their sins.
Nope. We do advise our youth to not date until the age of 16, and then only in groups (not "pairing off") until they are 18 or older. This is just as much for their personal protection from decisions they're not emotionally and intellectually ready to make yet as it is for any other reason. But plenty of LDS youth decide on their own to not follow these guidelines. Nothing happens to them in terms of Church discipline if they do date before 16 or pair off and "date steady" before 18.

And, no, there is nobody looking for teens dating under 16 years of age so they can punish them with hours of studying and repentance. That's just ridiculous if one has even a little knowledge of how the LDS church works. The FLDS, however, is an entirely different story. And they don't even allow dating. Underage girls just get assigned to usually adult or elderly husbands, with no choice of their own, and that's that.
29. No Smoking

It has always been forbidden for Mormons to smoke, not just for the health implications, which is understandable, but also that it neutralizes the purity of a person and all the goodness inside them. When it comes to their passing, they can only be part of the Afterlife if they have followed all the rules.

This is another Word of Wisdom prohibition as we covered earlier. The writer of the article started out right by correctly acknowledging the well-known health effects of smoking. 

Aaaaand then they ruined it by pretending that we think it "neutralizes purity", i.e. God no longer loves or is interested in helping people after they start smoking or if they can't quit. Or that they no longer have "goodness inside them". Or that they have no chance at happiness after death unless every single rule had been followed to the letter.

Utter nonsense.

God loves everyone. Everyone is a sinner and He sent Jesus Christ to help us do and be better. There are dozens and dozens of talks in our General Conferences where the prophets have taught that no matter how many times we mess up, Jesus is there to pick us up, dust us off, and help us try again. If only we let him. And if only we don't listen to the adversary, Satan, who tries to convince us that if we don't keep "all the rules", God won't love us. 

That was actually Satan's plan when he tried to overthrow God in the premortal life. He failed because, well, nobody can overthrow God and because a great number of us rejected being forced into obedience. We now get to choose our own path and Jesus is there to invite us to choose His path. 

In the end, those of us who choose to follow Christ will receive the highest glory God can offer...eternal life and exaltation with Him. And, as our loving Father, He will give us every chance and every benefit of every doubt to help us, through Christ's merits and grace, to return to live with Him. The most beautiful thing is that it's going to be most of humanity, once all is said and done!

To get anything less, a person has to actively reject that invitation over the multiple times it is and will be presented. And even the lowest of those levels of glory is so great to behold that Joseph Smith said it "surpasses all understanding" and that "no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it". (Which is probably a big reason we're not made aware of it. We'd probably all "rage quit" this lone and dreary world to get there.)

For the very, very worst, there is a punishment called "Outer Darkness". The only people that go there are the ones with the most knowledge of God who then rejected Him in spite of it and to spite Him. They also deny the Holy Ghost and everything the Holy Ghost ever revealed to them. Which is just about everything. It's like, I don't know, five named once-living people (?), including Lucifer (a.k.a Satan) and his always non-corporeal followers, in all of scriptural history who we know of that had that level of knowledge. And we know almost nothing about specific conditions in Outer Darkness. God seems to have chosen to keep that information from us so we won't focus on it.

30. Popularity

Recent statistics have shown that conversion to Mormonism, Church of the Latter Day Saints, is growing at a rate of one million people a year. There is an almost even split of men and women and many of them have not followed any particular religion previously. It just goes to show that the rules attached to being a Mormon may not be as bizarre as we think!

I'm glad the author ended on this positive note. Though flattering, the "million people a year" number is a bit high. The Church's growth is, at its highest, a few hundred thousand per year between convert baptisms and organic growth within LDS families (more children "of record" in LDS households being baptized). While we would love it if a million people a year joined, we're not there.

Yet. If you look at the overall growth of the Church, there is a sharp incline in the mid-20th century. That increase occurred mainly due to improvements in general transportation, communication, and technology, as well as foreign language skills among our missionaries. As the world progressed in productivity and global access, so did the Church.

Even though our 16.8 million membership is a drop in the bucket compared to the over 8 billion people that exist in the world, our message is, indeed, appealing to a good number of people. We amplify our small numbers by having a strong focus on family values. 

Though we are often confusingly denounced as non-Christian in spite of the very name of our church, we appeal to people looking for traditional Christian ideals. People who have been disaffected from other faiths or a belief in God due to issues ranging from unanswered questions to horrific abuses have found their faith home among the various LDS congregations ("branches", "wards", and "stakes").

Some do leave, though it's not clear that they leave "in droves" as some critics contend. Even if that may be the case in North America and parts of Europe, which are experiencing a general decline in peoples' affiliation with any faith, it's not the case in Latin America and parts of Asia and the Asia Pacific.

In my experience reading ex-LDS stories on social media, most that are leaving do so for what they feel are more inclusive churches. Some leave for no other churches at all because they feel their issues with our doctrines, and Abrahamic doctrines in general, are too great to turn around and fill with any other faith. 

We feel sad (and, yes, a little bit upset, especially with mean, hateful, trollish types) when people leave. We who stay are staying for reasons we can't imagine leaving behind for anything else. It's sad to think of our brothers and sisters abandoning those amazing blessings. 

I hope this exercise has been helpful to people confused by what they read in the original article, especially if they know LDS people who don't fit the negative stereotypes it conveys. If you want to know more about us, visit and click on "About Us" or stop by any of our chapels on any given Sunday to experience one of our Sacrament meetings for yourself.

Part 5 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real"

In Part 1 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real", I covered the first five of thirty different false narratives about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our beliefs. If you're jumping into this current post from a search engine result, I recommend reading at least the first part of Part 1 for better context before continuing. I'll wait here. 😁

All done? Let's get cracking with these next five, shall we?

Young women at a youth activity
Young women at a youth activity

21. Church Dress Code

There is a strict dress code at Church which stipulates men must wear a white shirt and tie and females are forbidden from wearing trousers. This is to separate the sexes as to their duties within the home. The male is the bread winner and goes out to work to support the family and the female, in her dress or skirt, will cook and clean.
This one is related to #18 in Part 4 in that there is no "strict dress code" in the sense that anyone gets punished or excommunicated. There are traditional and cultural expectations, most of them on their way out, that most people follow with regard to how to dress at formal church meetings.

In the home, there is no dress code whatsoever. I guess that for members who have been through the temple and now wear the symbolic undergarment, we do have the expectation that a person at least wears a t-shirt and shorts over them. That is more to honor the sacredness of what those garments symbolize and not to "show them to the world" of people who have not made temple covenants. 

But other than that, if he knows what's good for him, no LDS man living in this modern world is going to tell his wife she has to dress like June Cleaver. She'll dress however she wants. And vice versa. No LDS man is going to force his wife into any task or role. She, herself, gets to choose of her own free will what she does in the home. Ideally, though, husbands and wives will counsel together and mutually choose what they do, and wear, inside or outside the home. 

Men and women are equals in the Church and neither is allowed to exercise any form of autocracy or unrighteous dominion over the other.
22. Piercings

That should read ‘lack of them’ if Mormon rules are to be abided by. Females may have their ears pierced but only once at each side whereas males are not permitted to get anything pierced, not even their nipples! It’s all to do with purity and disfiguring the body which, in turn, means you are not totally committed to your religion.

This relates back to what I talked about in #14 (tattoos). The same principles apply. Culturally, it was the (mostly Western) custom for a long time, until the last 30-40 years, to have one piercing in each ear for women and none for men.

But the prophetic counsel, again, is about the extremes of bodily mutilation that has manifested itself in a slippery slope competition of "Piercing Bingo" about who can put the most holes into their bodies the fastest. That slippery slope has paved the way for more than just piercings. There are now a great many other types of mutilations that are not only medically unnecessary and inadvisable, but also irreversible, highly risky, and even deadly.

None of us, at the relatively young ages when tattoos and piercings are first desired, is able to query far enough ahead to get permission from our future selves for the permanent things we are thinking of doing to our bodies. That goes not only for piercings and tattoos, but for drug use, risky stunts, single motherhood, and not taking care of our bodies through diet and exercise.

23. Teachings

Each member of the Church must visit other members once a month and deliver ‘teachings’. For men these are called home teachings and for women they are visiting teachings. The Church will do random tests on members around 3 o 4 times a year to check their knowledge.
As I've prepared this series of posts, every time I've read this one I chuckle in both amazement and in dismay. Not so much twistedness of this narrative, but at the fact that this is, counterintuitively, one of the most difficult parts of our faith to get right.

Yes, in the past we had a program for what was called "Home Teachers" and "Visiting Teachers". The former role was automatically expected of all of the men and the latter of all of the women. The idea was that, yes, once per month we would formally visit each person or family assigned to our stewardship and offer a lesson, counsel, prayer, and any material assistance we could.

However, it was never a thing that we would do random knowledge tests on members. Not even once, ever, let alone three or four times per year. This honestly sounds like an accusation some disaffected member made up after they didn't like being visited by people who were just trying to fellowship with them. You know, like Christ and the apostles counseled us to do in the early Christian church.

The problem has always been a willingness to go out and serve in that capacity. Lots of men and women didn't enjoy having an assignment "route" to commit to each month. And some families simply didn't enjoy regular assignment-based visits to their homes. I get it. I'm one of them. 

It's not that we didn't appreciate their efforts or couldn't make time for them (though some families do struggle with that). It was more that my family prefers more organic friendships that happen to have a spiritual component to them. Someone showing up with a lesson to teach is never not going to feel like an obligation to us.

But, there are also many members of the church who absolutely love being assigned to and receiving visits from various members. Especially men and women who are widowed or single and/or who are shut-ins due to health issues.

A few years ago, the program of Home and Visiting Teaching was revised. It is no longer called that but is now called Ministering. It brings things closer in line with what God has always expected: that we more voluntarily seek out our brothers and sisters outside of church meetings and seek fellowship with (or minister to) them. 

Yes, there are still assignments (someday we'll get it right and this will all be totally natural because of increased love towards one another). But the visits are no longer tracked individually, nor is it even expected that visits occur at all. Members simply try to make some kind of conversational contact, however minimal and however seems most natural. It can be a short "how ya doing" conversation in person at church, going out to lunch, stopping by occasionally with baked goods (yes!!), and even emails and text messages. It can be offers of service like babysitting, yard work, or giving someone a priesthood blessing when they're sick. 

We strive to tailor our ministering to the individual needs of each member in our care. Exactly what Christ taught.
24. No Abortion

Members of the Church strongly oppose abortion and refuse to allow it as one of the Commandments says ‘ Thou shalt not kill’. Church leaders have opened the possibility for abortion in extreme instances such as danger to the mother’s life, incest and rape.
So far, this is the only one that has been true insofar that we change it to say "most members" instead of implying that it's all members. 

I personally know many members who are very progressive in their stance on abortion. Up to and including the moment of birth (and some even after, sadly). They have not been excommunicated and they continue to attend Church meetings and go to the temple. The Church does not dictate exactly what opinions every member will have. The only time the Church gets involved in the membership status of anyone along these lines is when the member is intentionally working to draw away other members from Gospel doctrines.

In the Church of Jesus Christ, we are taught that life is sacred at every stage, from conception to birth and beyond. Obviously, murder is 100% "right out" (as the British say). We believe Jesus meant what He said when He stated:

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Abortion, in terms of Church policy, has some grace-based gray areas when it comes to the mother's life, incest, and rape. However, abortion is not automatically prescribed in church policy in those instances. 

While choice is respected in those situations, leaders are still within their stewardship to counsel members seeking abortions, if only to ask them to seek revelation from God as to what the truly best course of action is. While it may be that God will reveal to the member seeking the abortion that it is ok to do so for their particular circumstance and life plan, He may choose to reveal to another that a bigger blessing will come from allowing the child to live than surgically or chemically ending its life. It's up to each woman to make her own decision from there.

In all cases, the member seeking the abortion still has their own choice. If it is done merely for convenience (i.e. not under the umbrella of the mother's life, rape, or incest), they can probably expect that a membership council will occur.

Men or women who are seeking to join the church, but have participated in an abortion in the past, are interviewed by the president of the mission in which they reside. The mission president can then provide baptismal authorization, or not, depending on the individual's circumstances and/or measure of repentance.

Statistically, not many LDS-member abortions under rape, incest, or the life of the mother circumstances have occurred. But among the few stories I've encountered, some women truly prayed and asked for knowledge of Heavenly Father's will and found they needed to carry the pregnancy to term. The phrase "beauty from ashes" definitely applies to those poignant and uplifting stories. Plenty of women outside the Church have also had similar experiences.
25. Pornography 
Mormons see pornography as a sin. Viewing it in a magazine or online is treated as seriously as burglary. They believe it is incredibly belittling to women to treat them as objects and again refer to the Commandments which say ‘Thou shalt not covet’.
Chalk up another true one. Yup. We do. It's treated as a "burglary" in the sense that the truly priceless purity and dignity of any person who is featured in pornography have been stolen. 

The person who is viewing it is being robbed (or is allowing themselves to be robbed) of purity, dignity, self-respect, and an addiction-free life.

A huge amount of pornography is driven by the powerful and violent human trafficking industry. Here are some statistics that drive this fact home.

By now (2022), in absence of the most recent data and at the rate it has grown year over year prior, it is likely that over 80% of human trafficking is sex trafficking. An astounding amount of it is likely allocated to pornography. How could it not be, since online pornography has become a growth industry and child pornography has grown 35 percent between 2020 and 2021?

With all that we know academically and anecdotally about how it is produced and the toll it takes on individuals, families, and nations, anyone trying to argue that pornography is "harmless" or that those against it are "puritans" cannot be taken seriously.

Time to end this post, but there's more in Part 6!

Part 1 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real"

The sun shining on a red-brick chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at dusk.
A Farmington, Utah chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

From time to time, some ridiculous and completely wrong article about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comes across my social media feed. I usually ignore them. But sometimes, just to get a laugh at how wrong I know they'll be, I read one. 

Here's one that I've decided to pick apart. It's from one of those trashy blogs that exist only for search engines to find and display advertising as you're forced to click "next" 30 times to see the whole article. 

I write this so that at least some counter-answer will be available to balance out the misinformation and disinformation about us. Maybe someone searching for these keywords will come here instead of going there. This is, as Paul Harvey's catchphrase goes, "the rest of the story". In most cases, it's a complete refutation. 

Before we begin, there are two major overarching themes of these misinformed posts. 

1. an inability (or, often, a deliberate lack of attempt) to distinguish principles and doctrine from culture, tradition, or even policies within our faith. 

There are many cultural and traditional practices that creep into every organization on the planet that have little to do with or are even antithetical to their core principles. Those are the works of men and women, not God. 

The same has happened to us over the two centuries that we've been trying to get these things right as a church. We are human beings, fallible to our core, but nonetheless trying to do things the way the Lord wishes them done. We often fail to listen well. We make mistakes, but the Lord lets us learn through them, teaches us, and lets us try again. If He did not, then we would be forced at every turn to do things exactly as He wishes and all free will would be erased. We would cease to be His children and instead become slaves.

In addition, some policies have arisen to handle situations endemic to certain time periods. They were later rescinded, changed, or replaced. Policies are not first principles nor are they doctrines that are based on principles. They are merely rules established for organizational or transient purposes and are not always perfect.

2. a lack of understanding, or engaging in deliberate misinformation, about the distinction between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and the completely unaffiliated Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS). I have some experience with the FLDS having grown up only 40 miles from their communities and having been an LDS "stake missionary" sent to help some of them escape and convert to LDS teachings. But that's the subject of another future post.

Most of the error-filled points I am quoting from the article below have a mix of both 1 and 2.

You don't have to take my word for any of the following. I invite you to simply show up to a local Sacrament meeting on any given Sunday and see and ask others for yourself.

From: "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real"
1. Passing the ‘Chastity’ Test
Females as young as 8 and up to the age of 12 are asked questions about their sexual knowledge and, hopefully, the lack of it. A Mormon girl must be as pure and white as the driven snow in order to be a suitable life partner for her future husband. Any known form of previous hanky-panky would deem the girl to be tarnished.

The doctrines of chastity in Abrahamic faiths have been pretty well-established for thousands of years. The most concise expression of the Law of Chastity is that nobody shall have sexual relations outside of legal and lawful marriage between a man and a woman. 

So, it should come as no surprise that Latter-day Saints, who profess Christianity (in spite of our detractors' howls to the contrary), also strive to live the Law of Chastity.

Part of doing so requires us to teach that law to our children. This happens primarily in the home, where fathers and mothers are both asked, per their own discretion and methods, and as far as the ability of the child to understand at any given age, to proactively instruct as well as answer questions about what sex is, when it's appropriate, what is appropriate, and how it can bless our lives. 

That goes for boys, girls, women, and men alike. Not just girls.

Another part, on a more minimal level, does happen at church. Materials published by the Church in the past have included chapters on the Law of Chastity and still do. Exactly how that instruction was relayed has always been influenced by external and internal cultural and traditional pressures. It has rightly been a subject of controversy and change for such a sensitive subject being taught to people ranging from young to adult ages.

Ecclesiastically, the priesthood leaders, who have, for thousands of years, been God's designated gatekeepers to specific sacred ordinances, are given the responsibility of ensuring that those who participate in those ordinances are properly prepared and considered worthy to participate. This includes a discussion about all the laws of God that members are expected to follow, including chastity.

When bishops interview adults or youth to discuss their preparedness for participation in baptism, the sacrament, or temple ordinances, those bishops ask questions about members' adherence to the laws of God. 

So, yes, adults, as well as youth, are asked if they keep the Law of Chastity. That's part of the covenants we make from the age of accountability (age 8) and onward. 

Bishops are more trained now than ever before in how to sensitively and appropriately approach such topics without over-informing young people, creating a situation where abuse could be inferred or occur, or creating undue curiosity. In fact, the questions they ask anyone about chastity are very minimally-worded, yes/no types of questions. You can read them all for yourself.

And more safeguards are being added with each passing year to ensure the safety of youth in the presence of an adult priesthood leader who is asking such questions. Our prophet today, as he and other prophets have consistently been in decades past, is outspoken about the evils of all forms of abuse. In our General Handbook, even more emphasis is currently being given to intolerance of abuse in all its forms. And all leaders who work with youth are required to be trained regularly in how to keep youth safe from all forms of abuse.

On to the next one.

2. Hair should NOT be risqué...

Women are encouraged, or rather have to, wear their hair in a way that doesn’t draw attention so as not to shine a negative light on the Church community. A simple pony tail or plaits are the most risque styles that would be permitted. No stand-up spikes or brazen backcomb then!

This is simply not a thing. You can tell by this "listicle" point that the author has never known anyone from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nobody is officially policing women's hairstyles in our church. If they are, then they need to repent of being judgmental. 

In fact, as time goes on, our "For the Strength of the Youth" standards, while not compromising on the intent, have become less specific and more generalized. This is to allow the youth to learn how to exercise their own agency (free will) in tandem with their own personal relationship with and revelation from God.

Even in the early years of the For the Strength of the Youth standards when they were released, and even before it was written down, there was not a doctrine of any kind that anyone could point to that so specifically dictated women's hairstyles. 

Individual members often applied their own cultural and traditional interpretations of the standards for youth appearances. Some members unrighteously judged others for what they considered to be "risqué" styles. But nobody ever lost their standing or membership in the Church over any "extreme" hairstyle.

By contrast, in the FLDS groups I was around as a youth growing up in an LDS town near them, I remember seeing such conservative and non-contemporary hairstyles worn consistently among the women of those groups. And there were very probably individual women who were "sent away" (as they called it) for violating the norms. But, again, that's the completely unaffiliated FLDS group, not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Now, let's talk about food.

3. Vegetarian Summer

Officially, Mormons are supposed to be entirely vegetarian as the scriptures state that meat ‘should be used only in times of winter, or of cold or famine’. That means a barbecue of bean burgers and Quorn sausages with a side of corn on the cobs is the only way to eat without being frowned upon.
Again, the author implies that if any member of the Church doesn't fall in line with very strict food rules, that member is imperiling his or her good standing and will be shunned or excommunicated. 

That is simply untrue. 

Those of us who know this scripture and try to live by it, yet love a good burger or porterhouse steak, have this in the backs of our minds as we strive to keep that counsel, however imperfectly. And, if we're being honest with ourselves, our potlucks and food-oriented activities sometimes tend to include too much meat (plus too many sweets). 

If we eat less meat, yes, the Lord will be more pleased with us, and, yes, we'll enjoy "health in [our] navel and marrow to [our] bones". Not strictly following the "meat only in famine" advice is not something that stops us from being able to go to the temple or to be a member in good standing. Though, admittedly, everyone in and out of the church would all be healthier for eating more veggies and laying off sodas and pastries.

On the topic of censorship...
4. Keep Quiet…

The church has a committee called ‘The Strengthening Church Members Committee’ and they keep files on every church member, especially what these members might write. If a member is caught criticizing the leadership, the committee notifies their bishop, who must confront the person about it. It’s a case of button up and shut up if you have your own views.
I'm sorry...the...what, now?

Come on. This is really embarrassing for the author of this listicle. If they had done even cursory research, they would have found that there is literally no such committee with such tasks, nor has there ever been. In the chart of official callings of the Church, there is nothing even approaching or resembling a head of such a committee, as so characterized, let alone a committee itself.

Some have overexaggerated the Church's prerogative to correct individual members who teach false doctrine mixed with scripture in various settings such as Sunday meetings and even at church schools. At various times we've been accused of being against academic freedom and free thought. 

It's an overwrought accusation, though, because nobody has been physically threatened by Church clergy for speaking their minds about anything. It only becomes a problem for their membership status and only when they create a platform of false doctrines and teachings using Church resources to draw others away from the faith. 

At that point, as in any other orthodox religious, or even secular, organization with principles, standards, and rules in place to protect its integrity and membership, the Church has the right to transition that member to non-member status and revoke their authority and privileges. If they change and realign themselves with the Church's teachings, they're welcome to stay or to return to being members in good standing if their membership was previously ended.

If you want to find out more about how the Church disciplines members who unrepentantly stray (and/or purposely cause others to stray) from doctrines and teachings, read this entire section. You'll find it's a process that, if done according to the Lord's manner, is done with love and concern for the member and not in retaliation or with spite. 
5. Missionaries Restricted to Seeing Family

Christmas Day and Mother’s Day were, at one time, the only two occasions where a missionary could go home to see his family. The young missionaries had to spend pretty much every waking hour knocking on doors and trying to convert as many people as possible to the Mormon religion.
The only thing this one got right, and even that's in the past now, is that Christmas Day and Mother's Day used to be the only two days each year of an 18- or 24-month missionary term that a missionary could call home. 

Unless a missionary fell severely ill or was injured, they didn't actually go home. For missionaries serving domestically, they were quite often too far from home for that to be practical or economically feasible. 

For missionaries placed in foreign lands, it was prohibitively expensive and utterly impractical to send missionaries home twice each year. Also, it used to be that long-distance domestic and international calls (if phones were even available in some areas) would cost large amounts of money. So two calls per year was a reasonable compromise to avoid blowing each missionary's allotted budget. With up to 300 missionaries in a given mission, the cost of back-and-forth international travel twice each year per missionary, plus their initial arrival and final departure, would be astounding.

For the several decades that this specific restriction was the case, the policy's higher purpose (again, not doctrine, but policy) was to honor each missionary's (and their family's) sacrifices to send them on missions abroad. It helped to establish in each missionary's mind that they were there to serve the Lord "with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day" and "with an eye single to the Glory of God".

Remember, these were young adults, many of them away from home for the first extended time in their lives. Homesickness is a really difficult thing at that age. At the time the more strict policy was in place, the young adults of that time were more independent and more capable of having those family ties put on hold for the period of 6 months between each phone call. They were instead encouraged to write and mail letters to family members and some close friends every "Preparation Day" (P-Day).

For today's generation of young adult full-time teaching missionaries, the Church has now made it possible for them to have weekly contact, if they want it, via phone or email. This policy was changed to adapt to the circumstances of an always-connected, modern world where communication is inexpensive and, let's face it, where youth tend to be less independently-minded, so as to endure long periods without calling home.

My confession is that I broke with this policy a few times while I was a missionary in Guatemala several decades ago. There were a couple of situations that I felt I could not handle on my own or with my companion and that my mission president either wouldn't understand or be immediately available to help me with. So, I called home and got counsel from my parents instead. It was a decision I felt I was making through the Spirit in order to help myself stay serving in the mission field rather than give up and go home. I was glad I did it and, analyzing it in retrospect, I never would have been sent home, much less excommunicated, because of it.

One more thing on this topic: There are now two major types of missionary service. In addition to full-time teaching missions, the Church is now rolling out a program of service missionary work. 

In a vast majority of cases, Church service missionaries live at home while they serve their local communities. 

They work in soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, disaster cleanup, and other LDS and non-LDS situations where help is most needed. 

My oldest son served as one of the first local service missionaries in our area and my youngest son just started his service in the same mission as the 21st service missionary called here. 

Neither of my sons has ever been "knocking on doors and trying to convert as many people as possible to the Mormon religion" as part of their service missions. Even full-time teaching missionaries are instructed not to do door-to-door contacting anymore except as a very last resort on a slow day, or when the Spirit prompts them to do so. Our contact work is typically done through member referrals of friends and family who have already opted into receiving lessons. 

So, say goodbye to the door-knocking LDS missionary stereotype.

In Part 2, we'll tackle another five myths.

Part 3 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real"

In Part 1 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real", I covered the first five of thirty different false narratives about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our beliefs. If you're jumping into this current post from a search engine result, I recommend reading at least the first part of Part 1 for better context before continuing. I'll wait here. 😁

All done? Let's get cracking with these next five, shall we?

A group of youth sitting in a circle in a yard and playing games together.
A group of Latter-day Saint youth sitting in a circle in a yard and playing games together.

11. Same Sex Relationships?

Church leaders in the Mormon faith believe the Bible’s teachings that romantic relationships can only be ordained by the Lord if they are between a man and a woman. They are not allowed to engage in same-sex ‘liaisons’ so that must mean a large number of gay people have to live a lie or go behind the Church’s back – how sad in this day and age.

First, some clarity on the Law of Chastity, which is where our boundaries on this matter come from. If you need a primer on the Law of Chastity, see Part 1 and also "Chastity" in the Church's scriptural topic library.

Until extremely recently (relative to all of human history) this question has never been up for serious debate in all of the history of the Abrahamic faiths. Historically, not one single instance of gay marriage or even civil unions has ever been sanctioned, or recorded as sanctioned, in Jewish, Christian, or Islamic scripture. Other religions, maybe. Animal kingdom sexual relationships, yes. But those exceptions do not do away with the rule God made for all of humanity. His laws don't cease to exist merely because humans break them. And that is all outside the scope of this question anyways.

The Law of Chastity has not changed for us in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1995, quite before the present-day tumult about same-sex relationships and gender identity, the First Presidency issued "The Family: A Proclamation to the World". 

It states firmly, in part, that "We...solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God" and "the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife."

The language on this is crystal clear with no room for equivocation along the lines of making new marriage arrangements outside of heterosexual marriage. Quoting the Proclamation:

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.


We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Strong words.

People both inside and outside of the Church rebel against this age-old notion of the traditional nuclear family. In fortunate democratically-structured nations, they have that right and we are NOT advocating for any kind of man-made theocracy that formally forces people to only participate in heterosexual unions. We believe only God will rule theocratically in His own way, and that still respects free will, when Christ comes to personally reign on the Earth again. 

Therefore, we recognize the boundaries between the religious, spiritual world we choose to inhabit and the secular, political world we are forced to inhabit. And though we try to respect those boundaries, we are also within our rights as citizens of the nations we live in to have opinions and to express those opinions at the ballot box and through free speech in the "town square" just like anyone else. Those who are agitating for us to be silenced are playing with a kind of censorious fire that sometime in the future may be turned to burn them as well.

Now, about "gay people have to live a lie". That's simply untrue. Everyone who wants to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can do so. Gay people are welcome at church. We love them and want them to be with us. Our General Handbook states:

God’s commandments forbid all unchaste behavior, either heterosexual or same-sex. Church leaders counsel members who have violated the law of chastity. Leaders help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth. Behavior that is inconsistent with the law of chastity may be cause for holding a Church membership council (see 38.6.5). It can be forgiven through sincere repentance.

If members feel same-sex attraction and are striving to live the law of chastity, leaders support and encourage them in their resolve. These members may receive Church callings, have temple recommends, and receive temple ordinances if they are worthy. Male Church members may receive and exercise the priesthood.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks also taught:

We seek to persuade our members that those who follow lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender teachings and actions should be treated with the love our Savior commands us to show toward all our neighbors. Thus, when same-sex marriage was declared legal in the United States, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve declared: “The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree. We affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same-sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully.”

Further, we must never persecute those who do not share our beliefs and commitments. Regretfully, some persons facing these issues continue to feel marginalized and rejected by some members and leaders in our families, wards, and stakes. We must all strive to be kinder and more civil. 

But the ancient and eternal Law of Chastity, as well as the clarifying "The Family: A Proclamation to the World", both remain in effect. Our clergy will not perform gay weddings in our chapels or temples. They are simply not authorized by God to do so and would be acting against their authority if they did, making it of no effect eternally. To force them to do it by law would violate First Amendment conscience rights under the United States Constitution and similar laws and rights in other nations.

Additionally, there will necessarily be a conversation between the priesthood leaders and any member who intentionally attempts to draw away other members with any teaching that opposes God's laws about marriage and family. That conversation can result in the person repenting and no longer working against God's laws, or it can end in that person deciding to part from us and pursue whatever path they wish. 

Nobody is forcing anyone to come to church. If any member no longer desires to be governed by God or His laws as we understand them, they are free to leave and be governed by whatever other laws they wish. We simply ask that we be respected in staying and following what we believe God has taught.

This topic is too vast to cover here. To understand more, see:

Now on to something a little less complex. Food storage.

12. Stock Up
One of the more unusual, some would say bizarre, rules in this faith is that a family should stock up with 3 months’ worth of food in case any untold emergency happens to be thrust upon them. Broken down, this adds up to an extremely large pantry and freezer as well as 48 packets of Haribos (or is that just me?)
I'm always puzzled as to why preparing for the future really trips people up about us. Or even outside of the context of the Church. In times past, it was considered common sense to stash away a little food, drinking water, money, and other resources "for a rainy day". There was nothing controversial about it.

But for some reason, when we do it, it's weird. It could be that people associate "religious people" doing any sort of preparedness (prepping) or even basic self-sufficiency with what they've seen in the media about extremist doomsday cults and even militias. Some even consider it "selfish" and "hoarding". Sure, there are always some people who take it too far. That's true for every human endeavor. But everything we do is pretty tame, common sense stuff. 

Our Church welfare system is the envy of nations. When leaders of other countries are given tours of our food and goods processing and shipping facilities, they always come away amazed and ask for information on how they can replicate such a system for their own people.

Three months of food and supplies don't really add up to "an extremely large pantry and freezer". The author of the post must be confusing that with those of us who decide to stock up for a year or two. In those cases, yes, the pantry has to be enlarged and we typically add another or larger freezer.

Haribos are pretty gross. Not sure why anyone would want that in food storage, except maybe as a laxative. Just my personal opinion. 
13. Under-Clothing

After going through the temple, Mormons have to wear special under-clothing which are known as ‘garments’. They are usually made from silk or cotton and are a reminder to be honest, virtuous, pure, chaste and to keep the Commandments. It is a myth (thank goodness) that they protect the wearer from evil and harm).

Always this fascination with our underwear! Ok, it's pretty simple. People of other faiths wear special or symbolic clothing on the outside as a reminder of what they believe or the promises they've made to God. We just happen to wear ours under our clothing. What's the big deal?
14. Tattoos

These are strictly forbidden if you are of the Mormon faith. Not even a butterfly on your bum or your parents’ initials on your wrist is allowed. The reasoning is because the body will no longer be pure. The few brave soldiers who go against their religion’s wishes, with a full sleeve, are ordered to have the ink removed by laser.
No, not strictly forbidden. That makes it sound like, again, we have police running around pulling up people's sleeves and looking for "renegade ink". Nobody is ever "ordered to have the ink removed by laser" by any church official. Maybe some parents get really upset about a teen getting ink without permission and take them to have it removed, but that's a personal family matter the Church doesn't get involved with at all. 

The basis for this accusation stems from a couple of talks given in two of our General Conference sessions years ago by the late President Gordon B. Hinckley. Taken in the context of what was once considered "normal" (relatively few people engaging in extreme tattooing and piercing), his remarks and cautions made perfect sense both to him and to the majority of mothers and fathers he was addressing, as well as the youth listening to each of those talks.

Yes, times have changed. It seems like everyone in this world has a tattoo or is planning on getting one. At least one beloved and now-prominent member of our Church, Al Carraway, who has many tattoos (obtained prior to joining our faith) has built a social media presence, has written books, and has a speaking circuit talking about her faith journey. Many, many other LDS folks, both lifers and converts, have tattoos. They're still members in good standing. As are our beloved Tongan/Maori and other non-Western members who were tattooed as a result of living in their respective cultures which include tattooing as a rite of passage.

Nobody is chasing them down, tying them up, and forcing them to have laser tattoo removals.
15. Sundays

Forget about heading out to the garden centre for a Begonia plant or meeting up with friends for Sunday lunch and a giant Yorkshire pudding. Sunday is Church day for Mormons and a day of reflecting. That means no tv, no radio, no shopping and not doing anything that might be seen as enjoyment.
Again, there is no Mormon Police force checking up on members about this. Do we hold Sundays, our sabbath, as something to be honored? Absolutely. There are suggested things we are counseled to do and not to do. The main ones are avoiding working or shopping. But we're also not absolutists about what people do or don't do. 

Growing up in my family, we regularly took Sunday drives and stopped to eat at a restaurant along the way. Sometimes, on a three-day holiday weekend, we'd travel further, go to events on Sundays as part of the trip, and return home. Lots of other folks in my small, mostly LDS town went hunting, played sports, traveled, etc. None of us were excommunicated for doing so.

As I said earlier, we were counseled against it, though. That's a whole different thing than what the article writer implies. God wants us to treat the Sabbath as holy. That hasn't changed in the Ten Commandments since ancient times. For Jewish people, that's Saturday. For us, generally, and for most Christians, it's Sunday. But He lets us choose what we'll do. And when we choose properly, we are blessed for it.

Time to end this post, but there's more in Part 4!