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Hi I'm Tom

I'm a spouse, a father, a feminist, a computer programmer, an amateur scholar of Ancient Greek, and I'm a Mormon.

About Me

I am an individual with varied interests and hobbies. First and foremost I am a father to my daughters and a husband to my partner of several years. She is an incredible woman with more endurance in difficulty and seeking after challenges than I who has taught me many things, both in terms of life but also intellectually. I am by trade a computer programmer. I am also an armchair classicist and have studied Ancient Greek and love learning about the ancient world. In so many ways it is like a foreign country: simultaneously similar and yet different to our own culture. I guess it's difficult, but in this regard I enjoy the difficulties. Puzzles fascinate me and I love thinking.

Why I am a Mormon

I am a Mormon because of what the faith represents to me. As I study the history of the faith, especially its earliest years, I am struck by the democratization of Christianity that it represents. Here was a faith that was founded upon a foundation of revelation---not just revelation through a strict hierarchy but one where all could prophesy, all could preach, and all could be edified. The early Saints who enjoyed this free flow of power and inspiration, both men and women equally, are to me an ideal of what is possible for Christians today and Christian behavior. The ideal of agency is also a powerful doctrine: the idea that life is a proving ground for us all to grow through our choices is, to me, a liberating doctrine. I am bothered by those who would attempt to place limitations on our freedom of choice; there are some who feel that they are somehow better suited to make choices for others. How can we grow without these opportunities? How can we be benefited if others, through the forces of culture, politics, or other supposed forms of authority, attempts to curtail the rights and freedoms of others? We believe in the freedom of choice for all men and women, let them worship "how, when, or what they may." I'm a Mormon because the journey that the Church has traveled over its history, while twisted and rocky, is interesting and I want to see where it will travel. We continue to grow and adapt both to the revelations received by some of our leaders and to the changes that society itself brings. From 1890 to 1978 and beyond, the future for Mormonism is exciting and beyond human knowledge. We are a church of human beings; us and our leaders have made mistakes in the past, both large and small, are making them now, and will probably continue to make mistakes of various magnitude. Yet believe that through the grace of Christ we will continue to move forward with boldness. The future is unknown, but if we are prepared we shall now fear.

How I live my faith

I am a teacher in our Sunday School where I currently teach New Testament. It is a fun time to go over the various writings of the New Testament evangelists. It is important to me to stress the individuality of the various authors (whoever they were): they were human beings like the rest of us. They gospels are not pleasant histories written to amuse and educate us: they are polemics written with a purpose and goal in mind. They are meant to be difficult and to bother us. And each of them has something different to say and they are not meant to be read in tandem with each other as though they all thought the same, felt the same, and spoke the same. I enjoy this because it is like the modern LDS Church: while we are striving to find Zion, where all of us can be of one heart and one mind, we value and treasure the individual conviction that everyone has to give. The LDS Church is a wide tent with room for everyone within who can have a testimony of Jesus of Nazareth as the Savior of Humankind from sin and death and that the LDS Church is the vehicle through which God's word can authoritatively be taught. We have room for all, be they black or white, bond or free, male or female, traditionalist or liberal, straight or gay, patriarchal or feminist. All are welcome at the table. Just as the differing gospels agree in what matters and do not feel the need for harmony on other details, so too does the Church ask for harmony of what matters but celebrates the diversity of all of us children of God who band together within it. Embracing this diversity is part of what I love about Mormonism. Though I, and many others of my age and younger, do not believe that the Book of Mormon is an ancient work, there is still a place for me here. Being Mormon is not a checklist of beliefs that a person must believe, but a community striving to be one "one heart": a Zion-like community. Whether we believe in Joseph Smith or Brigham Young is irrelevant to that community we seek for.

What is the role of the husband and the wife in the family?

Tom
The role of spouses in the home is to love each other and their children. It is to support the needs of every member of the family as possible. These needs go far beyond the simple needs to clothing and feeding our bodies. Spouses have an obligation to help each other to fully develop their talents and abilities, to support each other in times of trial. They need to listen to each other and respect each other. No individual is the "head" of the relationship between husband and wife each are to be equal partners. Both fathers and mothers, if they rely upon God for aid, can be equally suited to nurturing and providing for their children. Show more Show less

Can a husband and wife be together forever? Do Mormons believe that families will live together in heaven?

Tom
While almost all religious people today believe that their treasured family relationships can endure beyond death, in the LDS Church this belief is actually found in our scriptures. Doctrines and Covenants 131 and 132, respectively some recorded teachings and a revelation of Joseph Smith, detail that God can allow the sacred bonds of marriage to continue beyond death through special, sacred covenants and rituals made in LDS Temples. These same covenants and ritual, called "sealing," are also available to our ancestors through proxy work also performed in Temples. This is partially why Mormons work diligently on genealogical work. In our modern age where marriages are so much more than mere social contracts but are full expressions of love between people it is wonderful to know that LDS scriptures promise humankind that the “same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:2). Most religious people assume that their love for their spouses in life will remain unimpeded after death, but Latter-day Saints do not just assume it but proclaim that God has let us know that this is the case. Show more Show less

What is the Relief Society?

Tom
The Relief Society began in 1842 when the Latter-day Saints were enjoying a brief period of peace in their city of Nauvoo, Illinois. A group of women in the Church decided to begin a women's organization and took the initiative to prepare to organize it. With some input requested by them of Joseph Smith, the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo enjoyed it first meeting within a few days. After receiving some words of counsel from Joseph Smith, the women began the process of selecting and voting upon their own leaders, quickly selecting the Prophet's wife, Emma Hale Smith, as President of their organization. Devoted to the prevention of vice and to solving suffering, Emma encouraged the women to look forward to doing great things. However, the Society was closed in the tumultuous months before and after Joseph's death and wasn't started up again for many years. Eventually in Utah, Brigham Young requested that the Relief Society begin its work again and he selected Eliza R. Snow as its second President. Since then, the Relief Society has been a tremendous force for change and good. In times past the organization has owned businesses, published journals, supported feminist causes such as women's suffrage, and encouraged trade and scholastic education and civic involvement for women of the Church. While initially in Nauvoo an exclusive organization with membership applications and dues, the Relief Society is now free and open to all women of the Church worldwide. Show more Show less

How does the Church finance its operations?

Tom
The majority of official Church operations are funded through tithing, which since the late 19th Century has been defined as 10% of our income. Paid as an example of faith and sacrifice, members of the Church believe that their lives have been enriched by the blessings God has given to them for their faith in sacrificing tithing. Tithing supports the building of certain religious buildings such as Temples. There are also many other funds that the LDS Church has available for charitable donations. The Humanitarian Aid fund offers support to many emergencies and crises worldwide, though its not among the highest expenditures of the Church. The Missionary Fund provides help for many missionaries who could not otherwise afford the expense of serving missions for the Church, as well as paying for the production of their materials. The Perpetual Education Fund provides trade schooling for Latter-day saints worldwide who wish to better provide for their families and themselves. And Fast Offerings made during a monthly fast provide valuable temporary assistance to needy LDS in congregations worldwide. The Church also operates many for-profit businesses and other ventures that help to further the work of the Church including bookstores, real estate, hunting preserves, ranches, farms, and much more. Interest gained from the many charitable funds is also well-spent on many other non-religious purposes as well as supporting many full-time General Authorities for their efforts. Show more Show less

Why don’t Mormons drink coffee, tea, or alcohol? What is the Mormon Church’s law of health and proper diet?

Tom
Joseph Smith received a revelation commonly called "The Word of Wisdom" in 1833. Originally seen merely as divine guidance, the revelation warned against the use of hot drinks (now commonly defined as tea and coffee), tobacco, excessive consumption of meat, and strong drinks. Mild drinks made of barley are specified as approved in the revelation however, though generally Mormons today avoid all uses of alcohol. Far from being a collection of substances to avoid, however, the revelation also contains encouragement of grains, vegetables, and fruits. Representing the best medical advice of the 19th century the Word of Wisdom doesn't mention other dangerous substances and practices such as the abuse of illegal and prescription drugs, but modern leaders have followed the example of the Word of Wisdom in counseling members of the Church to seek to live healthy lives and to enjoy all things in safety and moderation and to avoid the use of dangerous substances and practices. The Word of Wisdom eventually became a stronger commandment upon Church members over the first half of the 20th Century, finally becoming, following the repeal of US Prohibition legislation, a requirement of living for those wishing to participate in sacred rituals within LDS Temples. Show more Show less

Who chooses the Mormon prophet?

Tom
After Joseph Smith's death the Church entered a dark period of confusion and uncertainty. Joseph had not left any public instruction about who might lead the Church following his death. Following a few weeks of competing claims, Brigham Young and the majority of the Quorum of the Twelve began the process of helping to comfort the people in their shock. Within the year plans were made to head west to the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young, as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was sustained by the common consent of the people to be the next President of the Church and led the Church as its sustained prophet for three more decades. During his Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles continued to be filled as other members died of old age. After Brigham died in 1877, John Taylor, who was President of the Quorum of the Twelve, was sustained as President of the Church. Since then it has been tradition that who ever has been in the Quorum of the Twelve the longest (and is thus President of the Quorum) becomes President upon the death of the current President. After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally incorporated in the early 20th Century the traditional assignment of the President of the Quorum of the Twelve as the next President was officially codified and has been the practice ever since. The Lord selects who is called to the Quorum of the Twelve and thus controls who will eventually become President. Show more Show less

What are Mormon Temples used for?

Tom
The Mormon Temple is a sacred place that represents power and purity. Seen as a location set apart for the highest truths and ordinances God has to give his children, the Temple is a location where rituals are performed that bind marriage partners, families, and ancestors together in unbreakable bonds. Though Mormon doctrine does not detail how or why, Mormons feel that without these ordinances family unity will not be able to endure beyond death. Other ordinances performed in the Temples represent the dispensing of divine knowledge and approval to God's children individually through what is known as the Endowment. Marriages performed in the Temples are called "sealings" and bind the couple together forever. Families where the parents were not previously sealed can all be joined together in a similar "sealing" ritual. Also in the Temple every ordinance of the Church is performed by living participants on behalf of dead individuals, often ancestors found through genealogical research. Many years ago Temples also used to feature re-baptisms for health as well as faith-healings by male and female individuals set apart for that purpose, but these non-essental ordinances have long been removed from the Temples. Show more Show less

Does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endorse political parties?

Tom
It does not; in fact, in the international world the LDS Church lives in, advancing the cause of most political organizations would be meaningless. In the United States, of course, most active Latter-day Saints adhere to political ideologies that are libertarian or conservative in nature, but there are a small and vocal minority of progressives. There are many problems in how Church culture reacts to minority voices, and sometimes these problems are expressed (incorrectly) in local wards and stakes. But in the end, the Church supports the causes of peace, happiness, and righteousness, and all of these ideal can be found in all major political parties. Show more Show less

Do Mormons practice polygamy?

Tom
The LDS Church no longer practices nor approves of polygamy in this life. Members of the LDS Church who participate in living polygamous marriages are excommunicated from the Church. Show more Show less