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Hi I'm Ben

I'm a husband and father. I'm a PhD student in history. I'm a natural skeptic. I'm a Mormon.

About Me

My proudest achievement is a beautiful and brilliant wife, with whom I have the privilege of raising two amazing children. Education is a large part of my life. I received a bachelor's degree in literature and history, master's degrees in theology and political thought, and am currently a doctoral candidate in history. Eventually, I hope to teach at the university level, introducing students to the importance of history and the tools of critical thought.

Why I am a Mormon

I'm a Mormon for many reasons, three of which stand out the most. First, I was raised in the LDS faith with pioneer ancestors and committed parents who offered a legacy of sacrifice and devotion; I reverence and respect the heritage I have inherited from them, and part of the way I do that is through the continuation of the pattern of LDS faith that they established. Second, the Mormon community provides a wonderful opportunity for support, a close kinship for friendship and community, and a model environment for raising a family; my ward and stake congregations feel like extensions of my own family, and I cherish the fellowship they offer. And finally, I have a strong conviction of Mormonism's theological claims, a deep reverence for Mormonism's temple rituals, and, most especially, a profound love for Mormonism's God. I love the idea of a God who weeps with us, yearns for us, and speaks to us. I love the concept of a God not intent on improving or showcasing his own glory, but is selfless enough to raise each and every one of us to his same glory. That, in my mind, is the only deity worthy of my adoration and worship.

How I live my faith

I believe the most important validation of any religion is how it encourages its adherents to love one another and look after one's neighbor. I live my faith by trying to be the best saint I possibly can: caring for the poor and the needy, offering service to those who require help, and, most pressingly, become a better husband and father for my wonderful family God has blessed me with. To put it simply, I believe the best way to live my faith is measured in how I treat those around me, regardless of whether they are Mormon or not. Secondary, but still important, I believe that a central tenet to living the Mormon faith is gaining as much knowledge as possible. If "the glory of God is intelligence," as Joseph Smith's revelations dictated, then to become more Godlike entails increasing in light and knowledge. But, again, the prime reason for this knowledge is the creation of empathy: the more you learn, the better you are able to understand and help those around you. Hatred often stems from ignorance, and the best remedy for an angry world is empathetic knowledge.

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

Ben
The Church does not endorse political parties, though it encourages members to become politically involved through both participation and voting. There are faithful Mormons on all sides of the political spectrum in most countries the Church is found, and though many members claim Mormon foundations for their political ideals, the Church rightly refrains from endorsing specific political platforms. Show more Show less

Why do some call Mormonism a cult?

Ben
The "dean" of American religious history, Martin Marty, once defined a "cult" as any religion other than your own. While terms like "cult" or "sect" are used a specific way in academic or scholarly language, they often carry a different connotation in mainstream discourse. Often, one uses the term "cult" in a practice scholars define as "boundary maintenance": in order to reaffirm one's standing or belief, competing claims are dismissed as "other," safely outside the boundaries of acceptable practice. This has long been an issue in America since its founding, and it continues today. Thus, when some people claim Mormonism is a "cult," they typically mean that the LDS faith is found outside of their self-appointed boundaries of Christianity--most often in reference to Mormonism's rejection of the post-New Testament Creeds. However, this dismissal is often based on a misunderstanding of both "Christianity" and "Mormonism," and it hinders, not helps, dialogue. Show more Show less

Why don’t women hold the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? How do Mormon women lead in the Church?

Ben
This is a question that is tough to deal with, and I still don't have a satisfactory answer. Put simply, I believe that we belong to a predominantly patriarchal society, and that our Church practice reflects that society. But there are things that help me deal with the issue. "Priesthood," in its best understood usage, is the responsibility to serve those around us. All of us have this responsibility, and as a priesthood holder I have that responsibility reaffirmed and encouraged every time I consider my position within the Church. Women play a somewhat similar and important role within the gospel, including in both public and private life, and anyone who examines the Church closely recognizes that their fingerprints are found on every positive thing we have accomplished. Show more Show less

What do Mormons believe about the nature of God?

Ben
Mormons believe in an anthropomorphized God--meaning, a God who is just like humanity. God is an exalted human being with a body of flesh and bones, feelings that sympathize with our everyday experiences, and a yearning that all of us children will make the choices and progression necessary so that we can all live together in heavenly glory after this life. As revealed through LDS scripture, reaffirming fragmented sections of the Bible, we believe in a "weeping God" (cf. Moses 7:28-41): a God who cries with us, yearns for us, and speaks to us. Our God is not a jealous God who seek his own glory at our expense, but a God who wishes everyone to obtain that same glory and progress in perfect happiness, wisdom, and love. When I picture God, I envision loving heavenly parents who wish the best for me. Show more Show less

Are there restrictions based on race or color concerning who can join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have the priesthood?

Ben
Beginning with Brigham Young in the late 1840s, the LDS Church placed a restriction on the priesthood from those of African lineage. Though there was never a revelatory or doctrinal reason given for this ban, it remained in place until 1978 when President Spencer W. Kimball announced that, through revelation, that restriction was removed and that every faithful, worthy man was eligible for the priesthood. A specific and comforting lesson I have learned from this history is we should not expect LDS leaders to always be supra-human in transcending their personal circumstances and ideas, and that we should acknowledge that God works with people who, like me, have our own prejudices, preconceptions, and limitations. If God can work through them, He can certainly work through me. While some folkloric teachings still occasionally circulate about why this ban was in place, Church leadership has rejected any proposed doctrinal reason. Speaking in an interview for a PBS documentary, Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland proclaimed that such "folklore must never be perpetuated." A few years ago, then-President Gordon B. Hinkley proclaimed that no man can "consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?" Show more Show less