The Three P’s of Fatherhood

Good Morning Brothers and Sisters, today I have been asked to talk about the importance of Father’s as we celebrate those men in our lives who have exemplified this essential role in the plan of Salvation.  I will begin with a brief overview of some of the research that demonstrates the important roles that Father’s play in their children’s lives.  I will then outline what God has revealed concerning this vital role through the scriptures and his authorized servants. I will use our Heavenly Father as the perfect example of a Father that we can all learn from.

Honoring and obeying our parents is so important that it is one of the ten commandments. In Exodus 20: 12 the Lord declares: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”  On Father’s Day, we can reflect upon how well we have kept this commandment and whether setting goals to better honor our Father’s might be appropriate.  Proverbs 13: 1 teaches: “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.”

The Research

The importance of Fatherhood has been confirmed through the work of social scientists over the past few decades.  Researchers tend to look at the effects of engaged father figures vs disengaged or absent Father figures.  Engaged Fathers tend to demonstrate the following three behaviors: They have direct contact with and share interactions with their children (engaged).  Second, they are present, accessible and available to the child.  And three, they take responsibility and connect the child with resources for their development.   (https://boba.com/blogs/boba-reads/the-importance-of-dads)

Play has been shown to be an especially important behavior that Father’s perform with their kids, just as nurturing is to mothers.  Play is stimulating and allows the child to experience and regulate a range of different emotions.  It also helps them learn healthy boundaries in a safe environment.

An actively engaged father is also associated with enhanced cognitive development in children.    In one study, infants as young as 5 months old scored higher on measures of cognitive development if they had an actively engaged father.  Toddlers have been shown to have better problem solving abilities and by the age of 3 children with engaged Fathers even show higher IQ than their peers.

Having an actively engaged Father also predicts greater social and emotional development as well.   The research shows that these children are better able to tolerate stress and have more control over their emotions and impulses. One particular study found that children with engaged Fathers displayed greater capacity for empathy than their peers.

One researcher describes the effects of engaged Father’s on young adults’ lives in this way: “As young adults, people who had nurturing and available fathers tend to be better adjusted, dependable, and friendly, and they report higher levels of self-acceptance. They’re more tolerant and understanding and have more supportive, long-term, close friendships.”

“Father-child relationships even affect a person’s future marriage. People who had involved fathers are more likely to have long-term, successful marriage and less divorce.  In fact, the quality of the father-child relationship is the single variable that is most consistently linked to positive life outcomes.”

Fatherhood.org outlines some of the following statistics:  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home. Father absence has been linked o nearly every social ill that exists in society today.

Researchers Alen and Daly describe some of the outcomes associated with not having an actively engaged Father: “Boys, on average, are more likely to be more unhappy, sad, depressed, dependent, and hyperactive. Girls … are more likely to become overly dependant and have internalizing problems such as anxiety and depression.”

For example, those who grow up without a Father in the home are four times more likely to live in poverty, 7x more likely to become pregnant as teens, more likely to face abuse and neglect, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, go to prison,  commit crime and drop out of school.

The Family Proclamation

In the Family: A Proclamation to the World, we learn of the roles that Father’s perform in the Plan of Salvation.  The Proclamation Reads:  “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World.)

In other words, a Father’s duties can be summarized by the three P’s: Protecting, Presiding and Providing.  Each of these three duties will be examined in more detail but first I would like to emphasize the importance of the Family Proclamation.  President Dallin H. Oaks has suggested that our attitude towards the beliefs outlined in the proclamation are a sign of one’s standing before God.  The more out of alignment one is with the proclamation, the further one is from God.  President Oaks said:

“I testify that the proclamation on the family is a statement of eternal truth, the will of the Lord for His children who seek eternal life…Forty years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson taught that “every generation has its tests and its chance to stand and prove itself.” I believe our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is one of those tests for this generation. I pray for all Latter-day Saints to stand firm in that test.” (Dallin H. Oaks-The Plan and the Proclamation)

Thus, on this day, we especially honor those men who have chosen to magnify their divine callings to protect, provide and preside over their families.  This is not a day in which we celebrate men but is a day in which we celebrate Father’s as not all men create families and fulfill their roles of protecting, providing and presiding over those families.  Those who do fulfill this role are truly deserving of honor.  When considering the roles that Father’s fulfill, it is important to remember the words of Elder D. Todd Christofferson who taught: “We know that fatherhood is much more than a social construct or the product of evolution. The role of father is of divine origin, beginning with a Father in Heaven and, in this mortal sphere, with Father Adam.” (Fathers – D. Todd Christofferson)

When considering the importance and power of Fathers, the best example that I can think of is the example given to us by our Heavenly Father who performs this role flawlessly in our lives.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught:

“The perfect, divine expression of fatherhood is our Heavenly Father. His character and attributes include abundant goodness and perfect love. His work and glory are the development, happiness, and eternal life of His children. Fathers in this fallen world can claim nothing comparable to the Majesty on High, but at their best, they are striving to emulate Him, and they indeed labor in His work. They are honored with a remarkable and sobering trust.” (Fathers – D. Todd Christofferson)

The Psalmist declared that God is a “Father of the Fatherless.” Hosea said that “In thee…the fatherless findeth mercy.” (Hosea 14:3)   And James said that: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

Now, let’s look at each of these three P’s in more detail, using our Heavenly Father’s as a perfect example to emulate.

 

Preside

First, a Father is responsible for presiding over his family.  Elder Theodore Tuttle has taught:  “In reality, each family is a dominion within itself. Father heads that government. In the beginning it was the only government on the earth and was passed down from Adam to his descendants. Properly organized in the Church, the father is the patriarch of an eternal family unit. Heaven, to us, will be simply an extension of an ideal home. As the presiding priesthood officer, the father fills an irreplaceable role.” (Theodore Tuttle-The Role of the Father)

The Family Proclamation teaches us that Father’s preside over their families in love and righteousness.  To preside means to give direction and guidance from a place of legitimate authority.  This legitimate authority to preside comes from God Himself as the Family Proclamation declares that the Father’s role has been given “by divine design.”

We are also taught in the proclamation that Father’s are to preside through love and righteousness.  The scriptures teach us that love is about sacrificing for the long-term well-being of another individual.  For example, in 1 John 4: 9 we learn that God’s love is manifested unto us through the sacrifice of His son.

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Father’s emulate God and manifest their love for their families when they sacrifice that which is most precious to them including their time, talents and resources to foster the ultimate well-being of their families.

To be righteous is to live in accordance with God’s law and to be obedient to Him.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie has taught “Obedience is the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest. It consists in compliance with divine law, in conformity to the mind and will of Deity, in complete subjection to God and his commands” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 539).

Thus, Father’s are expected to Preside through sincere sacrifice for their family’s temporal and eternal well-being and through living in accordance with God’s law and His will as revealed through the Holy Spirit, scriptures and priesthood authorities.

There is also a certain spirit and style that the scriptures teach us that a Father should Preside in. In D&C 121: 41-44  we read:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.

In other words, Fathers will preside primarily by using persuasion rather than force.  By being long-suffering towards the sins and weaknesses of family members rather than being impatient and giving up on them.  Father’s will be gentle and meek rather than harsh and proud. They will also demonstrate a genuine love for family members as shown through kindness and sacrifice.  When appropriate, the Father will also correct his children quickly and clearly but then show forth an increase in love.

President Howard W. Hunter warns Father’s who do not preside righteously in the following way:

“By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independent of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion” (“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 50–51).

And D&C 121: 31-36 teaches us that once we exercise unrighteous dominion, we lose the power and authority God gave us and the Spirit of the Lord withdraws.

Another key element of presiding is providing teaching or guidance to our children. The scriptures exhort parents to teach their children the law of God.  In Psalms 78: 5-7 it is written: “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” (Psalms 78:5-7)

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4)  In the Book of Mormon, Alma tried to teach his son wisdom on his youth.  He said: “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.” (Alma 37: 35)

This function of parenting is so crucial that the Lord has revealed that if parents fail to teach their children the gospel then the sins of the children we be upon the neglectful parents head.  D&C 68: 25 reads: “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (D&C 68:25)

The second major duty outlined in the scriptures is to train and discipline your children.  This is one of the major themes found in the book of Proverbs which teaches:  “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24)  God is the perfect example of a Father, who chastens His children when they need to be chastened.  The author of Proverbs teaches: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:  For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” (Proverbs 3: 11-12)

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul reinforces this principle and suggests that we should accept chastening and correction from God who does so for our benefit because we are His children.  He says that discipline is never enjoyed in the moment but is necessary for long-term improvement. (Heb 12: 5-11)

Proverbs further teaches us to discipline our children, even though they may protest and even dislike you for it: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” (Proverbs 19:18)

If you discipline your children, you will save them from a literal and metaphorical hell:  “Withhold not correction from the child and thou shalt deliver his soul from hell.” (Proverbs 23: 13-14)

Disciplining children is far more effective than disciplining adults as the brain and body are more malleable at a younger age.  Proverbs 22: 6 declares: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Parents need to train children because they are naturally foolish and need guidance from adults.  Children do not just automatically know how to behave but need to be taught by their parents.  Proverbs 22: 15 teaches: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

The consequences of failing to discipline children are outlined in the story of Eli and his sons. God cursed Eli’s house partly because Eli was a permissive parent.  1 Sam 3: 13 records: “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” (1 Sam 3: 13)

 

Provide

Second, Father’s are responsible to provide for their families.  Our Heavenly Father provides for our needs through the abundant earth that He has created for us.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His disciples that God would provide for them.  In Matt 6: 28-33 the Lord teaches:

“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin summarized this duty to provide as follows:

“And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God…But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14-15)

In the D&C we also learn that women and children have claim upon their Fathers and husbands for support: D&C 83: 2-4 reads: “Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken…All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age.”

This duty is so serious that the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that those that do not provide for their families have denied the faith.  Paul wrote: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim 5:8)

Protect

And third, Father’s are tasked with the divine role of protecting their families from all kinds of harm.  In Alma 43: 47 we learn about the lengths the Lord expects us to go to protect our family.  It is written “And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore, for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.”  (Alma 43:47)

Once again, our Heavenly Father is an example of a Father who protects His children.  While God does not spare anyone from experiencing great trials and tribulations in this life, He does promise that He will not allow any external force to interfere with completing our essential mission on this earth.

Through the scriptures we learn that God protects us from evil and from those who seek to do harm to us.  He does allow us to experience suffering and hardship but promises to protect us from any lasting damage and to consecrate our afflictions for our gain.  He also promises to strengthen us to be able to deal with the hardships that come upon us and to accomplish the foreordained life missions each of us were given. Let’s look at each of these principles in more detail.

The scriptures contain many stories that show how God protects His saints from evil.  Paul promised the Thessalonians: “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” (2 Thess 3:3) He also told the Thessalonians that God would recompense to every man who persecuted the Saints. He said: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” (2 Thess 1:6)

One of the most dramatic examples of this principle is found in the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 6.  Elisha was surrounded by an entire army of Syrians who sought to destroy him when his servant began to tremble in fear.  Elisha said to this servant:  “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.  And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kings 6: 16-17) God had literally sent the armies of heaven to protect Elisha from harm so that he could finish his work.

In the Book of Mormon in Jacob 3:1 we read:  “Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.”  (Jacob 3:1)  Similarly, God describes the extent to which He will go to protect His saints in D&C 35:24 which reads:  “Keep all the commandments and covenants by which ye are bound; and I will cause the heavens to shake for your good, and Satan shall tremble and Zion shall rejoice upon the hills and flourish.” (D&C 35:24)

God promised Joseph Smith that his enemies would not be able to end his life a day sooner than God had preordained.  He said: “Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” (D&C 122:8-9)

The next promise to consider is the idea that God will take our experiences of suffering in this life and use them for our eternal gain.  The prophet Lehi taught: “Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” (2 Nephi 2:2)  Jesus has been compared to a master alchemist who turns base metals into gold.  However, the base metals that Jesus deals with are the experiences of suffering and affliction that we all have and He turns those experiences into the Gold of eternal life.  Speaking through Isaiah, the Lord used this metaphor when He said: “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10)   Continuing with this metaphor, the prophet Isaiah promised that the Lord uses our experiences to burn away the dross of our souls and refine us into gold: “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin” (Isaiah 1:25).

God often hears our prayers and decrees they will be answered in His own due time and that our struggles in the meantime will be consecrated for our gain.  In D&C 98: 2-3 the Lord gives the Saints this counsel: “Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted. Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.” (D&C 98:2-3)

While God promises to ease our burdens, He does not always immediately change our external situations.  Speaking to Alma and his people who were in bondage to the Lamanites, the Lord said:  “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” (Mosiah 24:14)

The scriptures promise that the Lord can heal us of any sorrow, disappointment or affliction that we do experience.  In Psalms 147:3 the Psalmist writes:  “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” (Psalms 147:3)

This is because the Lord has personally experienced our hardships.  Alma testifies of the healing role of Jesus Christ when he says: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. “And he will take upon him death that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succour his people according to their infirmities.”  (Alma 7: 11‐12)

Ultimately, the Lord promises us eternal life with Him and complete victory over death and hell.  In 2 Nephi 9:10 Jacob proclaims: “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.”   In D&C 59:23 the Lord declares the reward of the righteous: “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.

As Father’s we can seek to protect our families in the same way that God does by doing our best to protect them from evil and from those who would seek to harm them.  We can also participate in helping our children turn their afflictions into gains and invite them to come unto Christ to be healed of their afflictions by our words and our deeds.

Father’s Day is a holy day, it is a day set aside to reflect and consider the role our earthly fathers have had in our lives but also in their reflection of our Heavenly Father. It is a day to Honour Him in His sacred role in our lives and fulfill and obey the commandment to honour Him. It’s an opportunity and blessing to be as He is and consider as Father’s how we can more closely approximate His example, and that of the Savior who gave the most honour to God the Father by continually saying the Honour be Thine.

I leave you with my testimony that our Heavenly Father lives and that if you seek Him out and submit to His will then He will protect you from permanent harm, provide you with everything you need in this life and will guide you towards peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come.  I testify that Jesus Christ lives and close in His sacred and Holy name. Amen.

The Restoration (Missionary Lesson)

1. God is our Loving Heavenly Father

God is our loving Heavenly Father and we are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected.  He loves us and weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right.  He wants to communicate with us, and we can do so through sincere prayer.

He has given us this experience on earth so that we may learn and grow. We can show our love for him through obedience to His commandments.  He has provided a way for us to be successful in this life and to return to live in His presence.  Central to this plan is the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which included His suffering the Garden of Gethsemane and his suffering and death on the cross.  Through the atonement we can be freed from the burden of our sins and develop faith and strength to face our trials.

The following scriptures teach us that God is our Father:

1. 1 Nephi 17:36: Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it.
2. Mosiah 4:9: Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
3. Moses 1:39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
4. John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
5. 1 John 4: 7-9: Beloved let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

2. The Gospel Blesses Families

The Gospel blesses and helps husbands and wives, parents and children as they strive to develop stronger relationships and spiritual strength.  Families are ordained of God and are the most important social unit in time and in eternity. He has established families to bring happiness to His children, allow them learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and prepare them for eternal life.

3. Heavenly Father Reveals His Gospel in Every Dispensation

One way God shows His love for us is by calling prophets, who are given the priesthood—The power and authority given to man to act in God’s name for the salvation of His children. Prophets learn the gospel by revelation.  They then teach it to others and testify of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer.  The teachings of prophets are found in sacred books called scriptures.  In Amos 3:7 the Lord teaches us: ” Surely the Lord God will do nothing, abut he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”

Through the atonement we can receive eternal life if we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, are baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and endure to the end.  This is called the “Doctrine of Christ” and is found in the following scripture: “And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” (2 Nephi 31:21)

All people have the gift of agency, which includes the freedom to accept or reject the gospel. Whenever people reject they distance themselves from God and begin to live in spiritual darkness. Eventually this leads to a condition called apostasy and when it occurs on a large scale God withdraws His priesthood authority to teach and administer the ordinances of the Gospel.  This is called apostasy and God ends these periods by sending a new prophet.

Prophets act as stewards to oversee the household of God on earth. Such periods of time headed by prophetic responsibility are called dispensations. God revealed the gospel to Adam and gave him priesthood authority. He learned of mankind’s proper relationship with God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and of the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel.  Men eventually rejected the Gospel and God sent new ones such as Noah, Abraham and Moses.

4. The Savior’s Earthly Ministry

A few hundred years before the birth of the Savior, people again fell into apostasy. But when he began his mortal ministry He established His church again on the earth.  He sent his Son to take upon Him, by His suffering, the sins of all who would live on this earth and to overcome physical death. He provided an infinite sacrifice so that we could enter and follow the path that leads to eternal life.  He taught his gospel and performed many miracles.  He organized His church and was rejected and crucified.

5. The Great Apostasy

After the death of Christ, wicked people persecuted the Apostles and Church members and killed many of them. With their death, priesthood keys and authority were taken from the earth.  Without the Apostles, the doctrines were corrupted and unauthorized changes were made in organization and priesthood ordinances. Without revelation false ideas were taught as truth. The nature and character of God was lost and many churches emerged out of the confusion. After centuries of confusion and darkness, truth-seeking men and women protested and sought to make changes to religion which came to be known as the reformation which opened the way for the restoration.

The prophet Amos prophesied of this great apostasy in Amos 8: 11-12 which reads: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.  And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”

The Church is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:19-20; 4:11-14). These leaders have divine priesthood authority.  Through revelation they direct the affairs of the Church.  They maintain doctrinal purity, authorize the administration of ordinances and call and confer upon others the priesthood authority. Priesthood did not continue through Peter and thus the only way it could be restored would be through divine messengers.

6. The Restoration of the Gospel

Joseph Smith lived in the United States, at the time it was the only country to enjoy religious freedom. IT was at a time of great religious excitement and many ministered claimed to have the true gospel.  Joseph desired to know which of all the sects was right as the Bible taught there was one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5).  Joseph said: “So great were the confusions and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was…to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong…In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? IF any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”

Joseph then turned to the Bible and read “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5) This inspired Joseph to ask God and so in the spring of 1820 he went to a nearby grove of trees and knelt in prayer.

Joseph then describes what happened after he prayed: “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon men…When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved. Hear Him!.”

God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. The Savior told Joseph not to join any of the churches for they were all wrong.  “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

Even though many good people believed in Christ they inherited a state of apostasy and lost the priesthood authority to perform the ordinances of salvation. Just as God had done through Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses he called Joseph as a prophet to restore his truth.

Afterwards other heavenly messengers were sent to Joseph. John the Baptist appeared and conferred the Aaronic Priesthood, which includes the authority to baptize.  Peter, James and John followed and gave him the Melchizedek Priesthood.  With this authority, he was directed to organized the Church of Jesus Christ again on the earth.  Through him, Jesus Christ then called twelve apostles.

The time in which we live is called the last days or the fullness of times just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. A living prophet directs the Church today.  This prophet is the authorized successor to Joseph Smith.

7. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ

Knowing that doubt, disbelief and misinformation would remain after centuries of darkness, our loving Heavenly Father brought forth an ancient volume of Holy Scripture comparable to the Bible. It is convincing evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

Joseph was directed by a heavenly messenger named Moroni to a hill where gold plates had lain hidden for centuries. These contained the writings of prophets giving an account of God’s dealing with some of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.  Joseph Smith translated these plates through the power of God.  The prophets in this record knew the mission of Jesus Christ and taught his Gospel and Christ appeared to these people after his resurrection.

In order to learn the truth of this record, one must read, ponder and pray about it.

8. Pray to know the Truth through the Holy Ghost

The message of the Restoration is either true, or it isn’t. After reading and pondering the message of the Book of Mormon, any who desire to know the truth must approach God in prayer and ask him.  The Holy Ghost will teach us truth through our feelings and thoughts.

The Book of Mormon prophet Alma taught: “And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.”

Similarly, Jesus also taught: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

In order to pray, address your Heavenly Father, express the feelings of your heart (Gratitude, questions, requests to confirm the truth of the Book of Mormon) and then close in the name of Jesus Christ.

9. Reformers

The great reformation that occurred in Europe was preparatory work for the restoration.  The following reformers laid the groundwork for the Restoration:

1. John Wycliffe: Born in 14th century England.  Theology scholar at Oxford.  Taught the Catholic Church didn’t have priesthood keys, that the Holy Eucharist was not the actual body of Christ and that the church shouldn’t exercise political power over the people.  He translated the Bible into English.

2. Martin Luther: Born in 1483 in Germany.  Studied at Erfurt and Wittenberg.  Nailed 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in defiance of many teachings of the Catholic church such as paying money to be forgiven of sins.

3. William Tyndale: Born in Wales in 1494.  Studied at Oxford and Cambridge and translated the New Testament into English.  Made the scriptures available to common people and was executed.

4. John Calvin: Born in 1509 in France.  Studied in Paris and was a major leader to reform the Catholic Church.

Religious Leaders:

Many other nations and cultures have been blessed by those who were given that portion of God’s word “that God seeth fit that they should have.” (See Alma 29:8) Some of these great leaders include the following:

1. Buddha (Gotama):  Born in 563 B.C. of a Hindu chieftain in Nepal.  He was concerned with suffering he saw around him so he renounced the world and lived in poverty, seeking enlightenment he discovered the path of deliverance.  Claimed to reach Nirvana, a state of oblivion to care, pain or external reality.

2. Confucius: Born in 551 B.C.. Orphaned as a child.  China’s first professional teacher and greatest moral and social thinker.  Believed that heaven had entrusted him with a sacred mission as champion of the good and true.

3. Mohammed: Born in 570 A.D. in Mecca.  Orphaned in childhood and lived a life of poverty.  He gained reputation as a trusted peacemaker and in 610 prayed and meditated on Mount Hira.  He said the angel Gabriel appeared to him and delivered a message from Allah.  Claimed to receive communication from God through Gabriel.  These communications were later written in the Koran.

Sources

Preach My Gospel

The Restoration Pamphlet

The Plan of Salvation

1. Pre-Earth Life: God’s Purpose and Plan for Us

Many people wonder, “Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?” The plan of Salvation gives us answers to these questions.  God is the Father of our spirits. We are literally His children and He loves us. We lived as spirit children of our Father in Heaven before we were born on this earth. We were not like our Heavenly Father, nor could we ever become like Him without the experience of living in mortality with a physical body.  The following scriptures teach us we are children of God:

  1. Acts 17:29: Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
  2. Hebrews 9:12: Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

We also learn of our pre-existent creation in Moses 3:5 which reads: “And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air.”

God’s whole purpose is to enable us to enjoy all of His blessings. He has provided a plan to accomplish this and we understood and accepted this plan before we came to the earth.  Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan. Through His atonement, Jesus Christ fulfilled His Father’s purpose and made it possible for each of us to enjoy immortality and eternal life.

Gods Purpose is outlined in the following scriptures:

1.  John 17:3: And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
2. Moses 1:39: For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

Satan, or the devil, is an enemy to God’s plan.  Agency, or the ability to choose, is one of God’s greatest gifts to His children. Our eternal progression depends on how we use this gift. We must choose whether to follow Jesus Christ or follow Satan.  We are physically separated from God during life on earth, but He wants every one of His children to find peace in this life and a fullness of joy in His presence after this life. He wants us to become like him.

2. The Creation

Under the direction of the Father, Jesus Christ created the earth as a place for us to live and gain experience. In order to progress and become like God, each of us had to obtain a body and be tested during a time of probation on the earth. While on the earth we are out of God’s physical presence. We do not remember our pre-earth life and so we must walk by faith.  We learn of the creation in the following scriptures:

1. Moses 6:63: And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.
2. Abraham 3:24-25: And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.

3. Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve were the first of God’s children to come to the earth. God created them and placed them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, with bodies of flesh and bones. While they lived in the garden they were still in God’s presence and could have lived forever. They lived in innocence and God provided for their needs.

In the Garden, God gave Adam and Eve their agency. He commanded them not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Obeying this commandment meant that they could remain in the garden but could not progress by experiencing opposition. They could not know joy because they could not experience sorrow and pain.

Satan tempted them to eat the forbidden fruit and they chose to do so. This was part of God’s plan. Because of this choice they were cast out of the garden and out of God’s presence. This event is called the Fall. Separation from God’s presence is spiritual death.

Adam and Eve became mortal—subject to physical death or separation of the body and spirit. They could now experience disease and suffering. They had the ability to choose between good and evil, which made it possible for them to learn and progress. It also made it possible for them to make wrong choices and sin. They could now also have children, so the rest of God’s spirit children could come to earth, obtain bodies and be tested. Only in this way could God’s children progress and become like Him.

When first teaching this doctrine, do not teach everything you know about it. Explain very simply that God chose two of His children, Adam and Eve, to become the first parents on earth.
After their transgression they were subject to both sin and death. By themselves they could not return to live with Heavenly Father. The Lord spoke to Adam and taught him the plan of salvation and redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ. By following that plan, Adam and his family could have joy in this life and return to live with God (see Alma 18:36; 22:12–14).

4. Our Life on Earth

Life on earth is an opportunity and a blessing. Our purpose is to have joy and prepare to return to God’s presence. In mortality we are subject to physical and spiritual death. God has a perfect, glorified, immortal body of flesh and bones. To become like God and return to His presence, we too must have a perfect, glorified, immortal body of flesh and bones. However, because of the fall, every person on earth has an imperfect, mortal body and will die. If not for the Savior Jesus Christ, death would end all hope for a future existence with Heavenly Father.

Along with physical death, sin is a major obstacle that keeps us from becoming like our Father in Heaven and returning to His presence. In our mortal condition we often yield to temptation, break God’s commandments and sin. During our life on earth each of us makes mistakes and sin always leads to unhappiness. Sin causes feelings of guilt and shame and because of our sins, we are unable to return to live with Heavenly Father unless we are first forgiven and cleansed.

While in mortality, we have experience that bring us happiness. We also have experiences that bring us pain and sorrow, some of which is caused by the sinful acts of others. These experiences provide us opportunities to learn and grow, to distinguish good from evil and to make choices. God influences us to do good; Satan tempts us to sin. As with physical death, we cannot overcome the effects of sin by ourselves. We are helpless without the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The following scriptures teach us about our life on earth:

  1. 2 Nephi 2:21: And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.
  2.  2 Nephi 9:27: But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!
  3. Mosiah 3:19: For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

5. The Atonement
Before the world was organized, our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Redeemer. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ made it possible for us to overcome the effects of the Fall. All of the prophets since the world began have testified of Jesus Christ as our redeemer.

We will all suffer physical death, but Jesus Christ overcame the obstacle of physical death for us. When He died on the cross, His spirit became separated from His body. On the third day, His spirit and His body were reunited eternally, never to be separated again. He appeared to many people, showing them that He had an immortal body of flesh and bone. The reuniting of body and spirit is called resurrection and is gift promised to each of us. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will all be resurrected regardless of whether we have done good or evil in this life. We will have a perfect, immortal body of flesh and bones that will never again be subject to disease, pain or death. The resurrection makes it possible to return to God’s presence to be judged but does not guarantee that we will be able to live in His presence. To receive that blessing, we must be cleansed from sin.

God sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to overcome the obstacle of sin in addition to the obstacle of physical death. We are not responsible for the Fall of Adam and Eve, but we are responsible for our own sins. God cannot look on sin with any degree of allowance, and sin prevents us from living in His presence. Only through the Savior’s grace and mercy can we become clean from sin so that we can live with God again. This is possible through exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

To fulfill the plan of salvation, Christ paid the penalty for our sins. He alone was able to do that. He was called and prepared in pre-earth life. He was the literal Son of God in the flesh. He was sinless and completely obedient to His Father. Though tempted, He never gave in to temptation. When the Father asked His Beloved Son to pay the price of the world’s sins, Jesus was prepared and willing. The Atonement included His suffering the Garden of Gethsemane and His suffering and death on the cross, and it ended with His Resurrection. Thought He suffered beyond comprehension—so much so that He bled from every pore and asked whether it were possible that this burden be lifted from Him—He submitted to the Father’s will in a supreme expression of love for His Father and for us. This triumph of Christ over spiritual death by His suffering and over physical death by His Resurrection is called the Atonement.

Christ promised to forgive our sins on the condition that we accept Him by exercising faith in Him, repenting, receiving baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and striving faithfully to keep His commandments to the end of our lives. Through continuing repentance, we may obtain forgiveness and be cleansed of our sins by the power of the Holy Ghost. We are relieved of the burden of guilt and shame, and through Jesus Christ we become worthy to return to the presence of God.

As we rely on the atonement, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  In paying the penalty for our sins, Jesus did not, however, eliminate our personal responsibility. We must show that we accept Him and that we will follow His commandments. Only through the gift of the Atonement can we return to live with God.

6. The Spirit World

Even though Christ conquered physical death, all people must die, for death is part of the process by which we are transformed from mortality to immortality. At death our spirits go to the spirit world. Death does not change our personality or our desires for good or evil. Those who chose to obey God in this life live in a state of happiness, peace, and rest from troubles and care. Those who chose not to obey in this life and did not repent live in a state of unhappiness. In the spirit world the gospel is preached to those who did not obey the gospel or have the opportunity to hear it while on earth. We remain in the spirit world until we are resurrected.

7. The Resurrection, Judgment, and Immortality

When our bodies and spirits are reunited through the resurrection, we will be brought into God’s presence to be judged. We will remember perfectly our righteousness and our guilt. If we have repented, we will receive mercy. We will be rewarded according to our works and our desires.

Through the resurrection all people will become immortal—they will live forever. Immortality is a free gift to all people, whether they are righteous or wicked. Eternal life is not, however, the same immortality. Eternal life is a gift of God given only to those who obey His gospel. It is the highest state that we can achieve. It comes to those who are freed from sin and suffering through the Atonement of Christ. It is exaltation, which means living with God forever in eternal families. It is to know God an Jesus Christ and to experience the life they enjoy.

8. Kingdoms of Glory
During our mortal lives we make choices regarding good and evil. God rewards us according to our works and desires. Because God rewards everyone according to deeds done in the body, there are different kingdoms of glory to which we may be assigned after the Judgment. Those who have repented of their sins and received the ordinances of the gospel and kept the associated covenants will be cleansed by the atonement of Christ. They will receive exaltation in the highest kingdom, also known as the celestial kingdom. They will live in God’s presence, become like Him, and receive a fullness of joy. They will live together for eternity with those of their family who qualify. In the scriptures this kingdom is compared to the glory or brightness of the sun.

People who do not accept the fullness of the gospel but live honorable lives will receive a place in the terrestrial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the moon. Those who continued in their sins and did not repent in this life will receive their reward in the lowest kingdom, which is called the telestial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the stars.

Source

Preach My Gospel 

Pamphlet 

 

Scriptures

Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life

Sacrifice is Greater than Increase

Principle 1: Oliver Granger was promised he would have his name held in “sacred remembrance.” 

There is a message for Latter-day Saints in a seldom quoted revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1838. “I remember my servant Oliver Granger; behold, verily I say unto him that his name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever, saith the Lord” (D&C 117:12).

Principle 2: Oliver Granger was an ordinary man who didn’t accomplish anything great by worldly standards.

Oliver Granger was a very ordinary man. He was mostly blind having “lost his sight by cold and exposure” (History of the Church, 4:408). The First Presidency described him as “a man of the most strict integrity and moral virtue; and in fine, to be a man of God” (History of the Church, 3:350).

When the Saints were driven from Kirtland, Ohio, in a scene that would be repeated in Independence, Far West, and in Nauvoo, Oliver was left behind to sell their properties for what little he could. There was not much chance that he could succeed. And, really, he did not succeed!

Principle 3: The Lord cares more about the sacrifices we make than our increase. 

But the Lord said, “Let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord; and when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord” (D&C 117:13).

What did Oliver Granger do that his name should be held in sacred remembrance? Nothing much, really. It was not so much what he did as what he was…..We cannot always expect to succeed, but we should try the best we can.  “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:9).

The Lord said to the Church:

“When I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings. …

“… This I make an example unto you, for your consolation concerning all those who have been commanded to do a work and have been hindered by the hands of their enemies, and by oppression, saith the Lord your God” (D&C 124:49, 53; see also Mosiah 4:27).

Principle 4: The Lord is not pleased when we worry that our sacrifices to Him are not good enough. 

Some worry endlessly over missions that were missed, or marriages that did not turn out, or babies that did not arrive, or children that seem lost, or dreams unfulfilled, or because age limits what they can do. I do not think it pleases the Lord when we worry because we think we never do enough or that what we do is never good enough.

Principle 5: “Failure” is inevitable but so is being lifted up when we fall by God.

The Lord did not say of Oliver, “[If] he falls,” but “When he falls he shall rise again” (D&C 117:13; emphasis added).

Principle 6: The Lord doesn’t need us to accomplish His work so our sacrifices are what is really important.

In 2 Nephi 27:21 we read: “Touch not the things which are sealed, for I will bring them forth in mine own due time; for I will show unto the children of men that I am able to do mine own work.”

Principle 7: We cannot do anything without God and are all “unprofitable servants.” 

King Benjamin taught: ” I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” (Mosiah 2: 21)

Jesus also taught: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Source

The Least of These – Boyd K. Packer

 

Moving through the Stages of Change

Recognizing the Stages of Change

First, try to see where you are at in your readiness to change. The Trans-theoretical model of change suggests that there are 6 stages of change that include:

Stage 1: Precontemplation – No intention to take action to change in the next 6 months.  Person is unaware of the problem and consequences.  Underestimate the pros of changing and focus too much on the cons.

Stage 2. Contemplation – Person intends to start changing in the next 6 months.  Behavior is starting to be seen as problematic as pros of change start to match the cons of change. Ambivalence remains.

Stage 3. Preparation (Determination) – Person intends to act within the next 30 days and makes small steps towards change, believing change will lead to a better life.

Stage 4. Action – Behavior has been recently changed and the person intends to maintain the change.  Person begins to acquire healthy new behaviors.

Stage 5. Maintenance – Behavior change has been sustained for more than 6 months and the person intends on maintaining.

Stage 6. Termination – Person has no desire to return to the unhealthy behavior and relapse is very unlikely.

There are 10 major processes of behavioral change that can help you move through the stages of change which include:

1. Consciousness Raising – Increasing awareness about the healthy behavior.

2. Dramatic Relief – Emotional arousal about the health behavior, whether positive or negative arousal.

3. Self-Reevaluation – Self reappraisal to realize the healthy behavior is part of who they want to be.

4. Environmental Reevaluation – Social reappraisal to realize how their unhealthy behavior affects others.

5. Social Liberation – Environmental opportunities that exist to show society is supportive of the healthy behavior.

6. Self-Liberation – Commitment to change behavior based on the belief that achievement of the healthy behavior is possible.

7. Helping Relationships – Finding supportive relationships that encourage the desired change.

8. Counter-Conditioning – Substituting healthy behaviors and thoughts for unhealthy behaviors and thoughts.

9. Reinforcement Management – Rewarding the positive behavior and reducing the rewards that come from negative behavior.

10. Stimulus Control – Re-engineering the environment to have reminders and cues that support and encourage the healthy behavior and remove those that encourage the unhealthy behavior.

Motivational Inertia

What is Inertia? Simply speaking, inertia is the tendency for objects in motion to stay in motion or objects at rest to stay resting.  People are also subject the law of inertia. Often the hardest thing to do is starting a task and overcoming our tendency to stay at rest. Once we begin the task though we find that we have created the momentum to keep going.

The natural state of motivation is to remain the same. Begin a task you want to be motivated to do and you will find that motivation begins AFTER you start the task and not before. Each good act adds to our momentum.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “Each assertion of a righteous desire, each act of service… however small and incremental, adds to our…momentum. Like Newton’s Second Law, there is a transmitting of acceleration as well as a contagiousness associated with even the small acts of goodness.” (Neal A. Maxwell)

Be careful about your decision as choosing the wrong makes it easier to continue doing wrong. Use the law of inertia to your benefit.  Understand that beginning a change is the hardest part because of inertia. However, each act of change adds to your momentum until change becomes easier and easier.

Simplicity and the Hindsight Bias

Another important principle is not to dismiss simple solutions.  Steve Jobs said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

We often ignore simple solutions.  Dale Furtwengler observed: “A part of our human nature causes us to overlook simple solutions in favor of more complex solutions.  The result is that we often slow our own progress and, occasionally, we completely miss our goals because we’re overlooking the obvious answers to our problems.”

It is through consistent simple acts that great things are accomplished.  Vincent Van Gogh said: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

If we humble ourselves and perform simple prescribed acts then we can be healed.  This is illustrated in the story of Namaan in the Old Testament.  Namaan was a mighty captain of Syria who became infected with leprosy and was eventually sent to Elisha the prophet to be healed.  Elisha told him to wash in the river Jordan 7 times and he would be healed.  Namaan was prideful and refused until hsi servant pointed out that if Elisha asked him to do some great thing, Namaan would have done it.  Namaan humbled himself and performed Elisha’s simple solution and was healed.

The same principle is also taught in the story of the Brass Serpent found in the Book of Numbers chapters 20-21. Speaking of this story, Nephi said: “He [the Lord] sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished” (1 Ne. 17:41).

Hindsight Bias is one of the reasons why simple solutions are often dismissed.  Hindsight Bias occurs when you overestimate how likely you would have predicted the correct outcome after hearing the outcome.  his is also known as the “I knew it all along” phenomenon.

Psychologist David G. Meyers writes:

“One problem with common sense, however, is that we invoke it after we know the facts. Events are far more “obvious” and predictable in hindsight than beforehand. Baruch Fischhoff and others  have repeatedly demonstrated that when people learn the outcome of an experiment, that outcome suddenly seems unsurprising…People overestimate their ability to have foreseen the result.

Daphna Baratz (1983) tested college students’ sense of the obvious. She gave them pairs of supposed social findings, one true (for example, “In prosperous times people spend a larger proportion of their income than during a recession” or “People who go to church regular tend to have more children than people who go to church infrequently”), the other it’s opposite. Her finding: Whether given the truth or its opposite, most students rated a supposed finding as something “I would have predicted.” (Excerpt from: David G. Meyers, Exploring Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994, pp.15-19.)

The “I-knew-it-all-along” phenomenon not only can make social science findings seem like common sense but also can have unhealthy consequences. It is conducive to arrogance — an overestimation of our own intellectual powers. (Excerpt from: David G. Meyers, Exploring Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994, pp.15-19.)

Reasons to Change

One simple but powerful exercise is to brainstorm all of the benefits of changing and the cons of not doing the same.  You can use the following worksheet to help you find the motivation to make positive changes in your life:  Pros and Cons of Change

The Dangers of Pornography Use

The Purpose of this post is to challenge the belief: “Watching pornography doesn’t hurt anyone.”  This is to help members move from a naive and simplistic perspective on pornography to a more nuanced and holistic view.  Watching pornography harms the self, your current/future spouse and society. Justifications for pornography are usually reductionist and distorted.

Case Overview

Arguments to support the claim are broken down into the following four sections:

Section  1: Pornography Harms the Self: Kills your spirit, Primes Negative Behaviors, Fosters Addiction & Has Many Opportunity Costs.

Section 2: Pornography Harms Your Current/Future Relationship with a Spouse. It contributes to role dysfunction, fosters dishonest behavior and affects sex life.

Section 3: Pornography Harms Society: Changes culture and leads to role dysfunction.

Section 4: Justifications for pornography use are reductionist and distorted.  

Section 1: Pornography Harms the Self

i.) Leads to Spiritual Death

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught:“Setting aside sins against the Holy Ghost for a moment as a special category unto themselves, it is LDS doctrine that sexual transgression is second only to murder in the Lord’s list of life’s most serious sins.   “Clearly God’s greatest concerns regarding mortality are how one gets into this world and how one gets out of it. These two most important issues in our very personal and carefully supervised progress are the two issues that he as our Creator and Father and Guide wishes most to reserve to himself.”” (Jeffrey R. Holland)

President Hinckley taught that Marriage is the Institution God has ordained for Children to be born into: “ I believe that it should be the blessing of every child to be born into a home where that child is welcomed, nurtured, loved, and blessed with parents, a father and a mother, who live with loyalty to one another and to their children.” (Gordon B. Hinckley)

President Hinckley Continues:“As we look out over the world, it seems that morality has been cast aside.  But, my dear friends, we cannot accept that which has become common in the world. Yours, as members of this Church, is a higher standard and more demanding. It declares as a voice from Sinai that thou shalt not indulge. You must keep control of your desires.”

The scriptures teach us that there are severe consequences for breaking the law of chastity that include:

a.) Destruction of the Body:  “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?  If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Cor. 3: 16-17, 6: 15-18)

b.) Destruction of the Soul: But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.” (Proverbs 6: 32)

c.) Loss of Peace: “No family can have peace, no life can be free from the storms of adversity unless that family and that home are built on foundations of morality, fidelity, and mutual respect.” Gordon B. Hinckley

d.) Loss of the Spirit & Excommunication: “And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.” (D&C 42:23)

e.) Addiction: “Pornography is as addictive as cocaine or any illegal drug.” (James E. Faust‐The Enemy Within)

f.) Destruction and Impairment of Family Relationships: “Pornography impairs one’s ability to enjoy a normal emotional, romantic, and spiritual relationship with a person of the opposite sex.” (Dallin H. Oaks‐ Pornography)

g.) Forfeit the Priesthood: “Those who seek out and use pornography forfeit the power of their priesthood.” (Dallin H. Oaks-Pornography)

ii.) Primes Negative Behaviors

Pornography also primes negative behaviors in the following ways:

a.) Frontal Lobe Shrinkage: For more than 10 years, studies have shown that addictions can cause the brain’s frontal lobes to start shrinking leading to poorer decision making and inhibitory control.

b.) Self-Hatred: “Immediately after the action of self-indulgence has been performed, when the appetite for it has been temporarily satiated, the addicts described experiencing an intense emotional and physical let-down, characterized by sadness, regret, discouragement, and guilt.”

c.) Self-Concealment: “The addict’s reaction to the addictive behavior is shame, and the reaction to shame is almost always a life-style of deception designed to hide the addiction.”

d.) Isolation: The more pornography you watch the less able you are to form relationships with real people fueling a cycle of increasing isolation.

e.) Isolating Behaviors: “The addict’s actions of self-concealment thus not only lead him or her back to feelings of isolation but also intensify those feelings, so the void within the person becomes larger than ever.” (Martha & John Beck)

f.) Isolation from God: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)

iii.) Fosters Addiction & Tolerance

Pornography can be just as addictive as most drugs.  Those who use pornography tend to show signs of role dysfunction, tolerance and withdrawal, the three classic signs of addiction.

Tolerance refers to needing more intense dosages over time to achieve the same effect. The mesocorticolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain is your “pleasure center.”  It is activated by a chemical in your brain called “Dopamine.”  Whenever you feel pleasure it is because dopamine has stimulated this part of your brain. Addictions occur when your pleasure center is continually overloaded with pleasure chemicals in an unnatural way. Your brain responds to this overload of pleasure by reducing the amount of “dopamine receptors” you have and thus decreasing your ability to experience pleasure. This is the biological foundation of “tolerance” and explains why addicts need more and more of the substance/activity to achieve the same initial high.

Alma reminded us that Wickedness and happiness are mutually exclusive and that pleasure is not the same thing as happiness: “Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10)

Withdrawal refers to abnormal symptoms that develop as a result of dependence on a substance for normal brain functioning.  Since porn addiction rewires your brain it means that your brain can only function normally when using and when you are not using your brain does not function normally. This is the foundation of “dependence” as when you are not using your brain produces negative “withdrawal” symptoms that reflect its inability to function anymore without the substance.  Your brain compensates for the chemical changes brought on by pornography use and can no longer function without them.  Many experience withdrawal as feeling under stimulated and underactive.

Role dysfunction is seen as the addict falls further into a sense of isolation and meaninglessness.   Traditional experiments on addiction have been done with rats in cages. Traditionally, rats are given a choice between normal water and drug water and rats always chose the drug water. Bruce Alexander did a series of experiments in which he changed the environment the rats were living in from a cage to a “park” filled with meaningful things for the rats to do. The rats in “Rat Park” did not use the drug water but instead used the regular water. The implication is that addiction is about the environment within which people live. The rats in the empty cage used drugs while the rats in a resource-rich cage with lots of other rats did not use drugs.

Addiction can also foster a sense of alienation from God.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)

Pornography addiction is often driven by a lack of meaning and connection with the compulsive behavior a maladaptive attempt to fill the void of meaning and connection.  Our culture promotes a false parody of connection and meaning within which addiction thrives.  To overcome addiction, one must establish deep connections with others and find a sense of real meaning.

Pornography undermines this drive for connection with others by providing parodies of connection that can deceive the person into believing this innate need is being met when it isn’t. It is analogous to consuming “junk food” to obtain nutrients.  You think you are giving your body what it wants when you really aren’t.

This leads to a Vicious Cycle of Loneliness in which you feel lonely so you attempt to alleviate these feelings through porn which gives you temporary relief but in the long run makes you lonelier.

Christ is the true Antidote for Loneliness.  Jesus taught: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4: 13-14)

iv.) Has Many Opportunity Costs

An Opportunity Cost is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.  The opportunity costs of pornography use include:

Spiritual Losses

a.) The Ultimate Cost is Eternal Life in the world to Come.

b.) Peace in this life is lost.

c.) Loss of the Holy Spirit & Excommunication.

d.) Loss of the Priesthood.

Biological Losses

a.) Loss of Decision Making Abilities & Self-Control.

b.) Loss of ability to experience pleasure.

Psychological Losses 

a.) Loss of Self-Esteem, Integrity & Honesty.

b.) Loss of Connection with Others.

c.) Loss of freedom and independence.

Section 2: Pornography Harms Your Current/Future Spouse

i.) Conditions Deviant Paraphilias

Pornography conditions deviant paraphilias, which are abnormal sexual desires.  In one study, rats were taught to associate the smell of death with sexual arousal.  Naturally the rats were turned off by the smell but through exposure learned to love it.  As a result, the rat became aroused by death.  Through classical conditioning, you teach yourself to become aroused to terrible things.

Pornography researchers have found that users acclimate to the porn they watch—they get used to it, and it stops being exciting or arousing. Why? Because their brain’s pleasure response has gotten numb.  In a 2012 survey of 1,500 men, 56% said their tastes in porn had become “increasingly extreme or deviant.”

Paul warns the Colossians against “inordinate affection” or attractions that are not within reasonable limits: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5)

ii.) Alters beliefs about sex, love & women

Pornography presents a distorted and false idea about what sex is and how people actually engage in it. Beliefs are altered in the following ways:

a.) Women as sex objects: In one study it was found that the more pornography a man watched the more likely he was to prefer that women were submissive and subordinate to men.

b.) Decreases Love: After men watch pornography, they rate themselves as less in love with their partner than prior to watching it.  They also are more critical of their spouses appearance, sexual performance and displays of affection.

c.) Changes Views of Love: Frequent porn use is associated with feeling cynical about love in general, less trust in romantic partners, and with feeling like marriage is confining.

d.) Changes Attraction: In a study in the 50’s researchers determined what colors male butterflies liked most in females and then created cardboard cutouts and the males began trying to mate with the cardboard cutouts and not the females.   Like the cardboard cutouts, images in pornography are not realistic.

e.) Distorted Views of Women: A study of the most popular videos found that nine scenes out of 10 showed women being verbally or physically abused, yet the female victims almost always responded with either pleasure or appeared to be neutral.

f.) Distorted Views of Sex: Sex acts shown are overwhelmingly degrading toward women, and are usually focused on enhancing male pleasure leading to warped ideas about what sex is.

iii.) Negative Effects on the Spouse

Pornography use negatively affects the spouse in the following ways:

a.) Depression & Anxiety: Many partners of pornography users report feeling depressed, anxious, and feeling like they can never measure up. Some even develop symptoms of PTSD and suicidality.

b.) Betrayal and Mistrust:  Several studies have found that partners of  users often report feeling loss, betrayal, mistrust, devastation, and anger when they learn that the other half of their committed relationship has been using porn.

c.) Feeling “Not Good Enough”:  Women are often surgically enhanced, air-brushed and photoshopped like the cardboard cut-outs referred to earlier.  In one study, 6/7 women reported that pornography use had changed expectations of how women should look.

d.) Less Attraction:  As mentioned earlier, people who use feel less attracted to their partner over time.

e.) Isolation: Many women isolate themselves as they fear telling anyone about the problem due to embarrassment or a fear of being blamed.

The Prophet Jacob warned the men of the Covenant  of the damage they were doing to their wives when he said:“For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people…because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands….For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (Jacob 2: 31-33)

iv.) Pornography use is associated with a decreased satisfaction in sex. 

Pornography use is also associated with a decreased satisfaction in sex. Pornography use often leads to less sex and less satisfying sex. And for many users, porn eventually means losing the ability to have sex at all as it isn’t stimulating enough.

Whenever you experience something pleasurable your brain leaves markers that makes it easier for you to engage in that behavior again. When you stop associating certain things with pleasure your brain removes those markers making those things harder to get pleasure out of.  Many pornography users cease to associate seeing, hearing or cuddling with their partner as pleasurable and their brain rewires in response.  Meanwhile their brain starts to associate virtual images and being alone as pleasurable and pretty soon they do not associate sex with a real person.

Paul may have described this condition of Latter Day men in this way:“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves Without natural affection.” (Tim 3: 1-3)

v.) The opportunity costs in relationships include

Changing Tastes & Preferences

a.) Loss of Attraction to Healthy/Wholesome Sources.

b.) Loss of freedom from deviant attractions.

Changing Beliefs

a.) Loss of a Healthy View of Women as more than sex objects.

b.) Loss of Ability to Love Your Spouse.

c.) Loss of Realistic Views of Sex.

Effects on Spouse

a.) Loss of Esteem, Peace & Security.

b.) Loss of Trust.

c.) Loss of Attraction & Satisfaction.

Section 3: Pornography Harms Society

i.) Pornography Damages Families

Pornography undermines commitment, trust, attraction and love between partners.  This can lead to broken families and a host of other ills such as divorce, stress, trauma, poverty and role dysfunction. In a survey of members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers taken in 2002, 62 percent of the divorce attorneys surveyed said that obsession with pornography had been a significant factor in divorce cases they had handled in the last year.

Another survey of porn addicts reports that 40% lost their spouse, 70% had severe marital problems, 68% were exposed to HIV and other STD’s, 27% lost their career and 58% reported legal consequences as a result of this destructive behaviour (El Hage, 2004).

In the Family Proclamation the Lord declared: “WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” (The Family Proclamation)

Pornography use is also correlated with anxiety, body-image issues, poor self-image, relationship problems, insecurity, and depression. Professors Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman at the University of Alabama have studied the effects of pornography for over 30 years and conclude that there are “no rigorous  research demonstrations of desirable effects can be reported.”

ii.) Pornography hurts women & society

Pornography has been found to hurt women in the following ways:

a.) Promotes violence against Women: In one study, researchers analyzed 50 of the most popular movies and found that 88% contained physical violence and that the typical scene averaged 12 physical or verbal attacks. Those who watch pornography are more likely endorse statements supporting aggression against women.

b.) Promotes Sexual Assault: exposure to both non-violent and violent porn increases aggressive behavior, including both having violent fantasies and actually committing violent assaults. Even Watching non-violent pornography makes men more likely to use verbal coercion, drugs and alcohol to coerce women into sex. Other studies reveal that those who watch pornography are more likely to believe that women like being raped and this belief is predictive of sexually aggressive behaviors.

c.) Promotes the Sex Trade: In one study that looked at prostitution across 9 countries, 49% said videos were made of them and that many men seek out prostitutes to fulfill fantasies they learn about through pornography.

d.) Increases Crime: When Sex businesses in Oklahoma City were shut down, rapes declined 27% while they rose 19% in the rest of the state who did not shut those businesses down. In another study, Queensland kept restrictive pornography laws while South Australia did not.  Over a 13 year period, rapes increased 6 fold in South Australia while remaining unchanged in Queensland. Another study of sex criminals revealed that 53% used pornography as a stimulant before committing their crimes.

iii.) Opportunity costs

This leads us to several opportunity costs for society that include:

Harm to the Family

a.) Loss of Healthy Relationships & Functional Families.

b.) Loss of Psychological Health & Well-Being.

Harm to Women

c.) Loss of a Healthy View of Women as more than sex objects.

d.) Loss of Ability to Love Your Spouse.

e.) Loss of Realistic Views of Sex.

Harm to Society

f.) Loss of Respect & Safety for Women.

g.) Loss of a Society free From Sex-Trade & Assault.

Section 4: Justifications are Reductionist Distortions

Reductionism is: “The practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the  like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it.” The Belief: “Watching pornography doesn’t hurt anyone” is naïve, simplistic and is reductionist because it seeks to reduce sex to a biomechanical reaction. It ignores the effects that sex has on a host of complex biopsychosocial and spiritual factors.

Elder Holland warns us against this reductionist view of sex when he says: “To give only part of that which cannot be followed with the gift of your whole heart and your whole life and your whole self is its own form of emotional Russian roulette…. If you persist in giving parts and pieces and inflamed fragments only, you run the terrible risk of such spiritual, psychic damage that you may undermine both your physical intimacy and your wholehearted devotion to a truer, later love.” (Jeffrey R. Holland)

A distortion is something that is not a complete representation of the facts or reality. When we distort something we give a partial representation of the facts but neglect to account for the rest of those facts.  Satan is a Master Liar and Distorter.  In Moses 4:4 we learn: “And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.”

“Pornography use doesn’t hurt anyone” is distorted in the following ways:

i.) Anticipatory Beliefs: It focuses only on the pleasure associated with using and ignores the host of ills associated with it.

ii.) Helpless Beliefs: It is often justified by a belief that sexual impulses are uncontrollable and that the user is not strong enough to resist them.

iii.) Permissive Beliefs: This is a form of permission giving.  The act is justified because the claim is made that nobody is really being hurt so it’s okay to use.

iv.) All-Or Nothing:  It is an all-or-nothing statement that rejects what is really a more complex reality.

v.) Mental Filter:  This involves selectively paying attention to evidence that supports your belief and ignoring evidence that does not.

vi.)Fortune Telling:  This involves believing you can predict the future, knowing all the consequences that this behavior will have on you.

vii.) Minimization & Denial: This involves distorting the seriousness of a behavior so that negatives are either ignored or not taken seriously.  Pornography never shows anyone contracting STI’s, getting pregnant, getting injured or having to consider the feelings, opinions and beliefs of a real person.

Recognizing the importance of our beliefs, Jesus taught: “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).  Jesus gave a commandment to control our thoughts as well as our deeds. He said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). …

Chastity violation is maintained by beliefs that distort the positives of sin and minimize the consequences of it.  These beliefs include ideas that give us “permission” to sin or ideas that we are “helpless” or “powerless” before biological urges.

An essential part of overcoming a pornography addiction is to make  your mind single to the glory of God and bring all thoughts in subjection to Christ (D&C 88:67–68; 2 Cor 10:5)

Summary

The Belief: “Watching pornography doesn’t hurt anyone” is naïve, simplistic and seeks to reduce sex to a biomechanical reaction.  It is irrational in that it persists despite the large body of evidence that suggests otherwise including:

i.) Warnings from Scripture concerning the gravity and consequences of the sin.

ii.) Warning from Neuroscience concerning addiction, frontal lobe damage, loss of ability to feel joy and the formation of deviant paraphilias.

iii.) Warnings from Psychological Research concerning the maladaptive attempt to establish connection with others that paradoxically eliminates your ability to connect with real people and fuels isolation.

iv.) Warnings from Psychological Research concerning the likelihood of adopting false and distorted views of sex, women and love and ultimately losing the ability to feel love for or have satisfying sex with a real person.

v.) Warnings from Research that outlines the negative effects on the mental health of the user and on the spouse.

vi.) Warnings from Research that outlines the damages done to the spouse including betrayal, mistrust, loss of intimacy, self-esteem, attraction & Connection.

vii.) Warnings from Research concerning the damaging effects of pornography on the family and how it contributes to divorce rates.

viii.) Warnings from Research concerning how it promotes violence against women, increases crime and promotes the sex trade.

ix.) Distorting the experience to ignore all of the negatives and to only focus on the perceived benefits.  It involves reducing sex to a biomechanical reaction with no other components.

Sources

Fight the New Drug Resources: http://learn.ftnd.org/

ElHage, A. M. (2004). Sexual Degradation: How Pornography Destroys the Family. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.ncfamily.org/PolicyPapers/Findings%200407 SexualDegrad.pdf

Hughes, R. D. (1998). How Pornography Harms Children. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.protectkPornography Statistics. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html

ids.com/effects/harms.htm#ii

Watson, B. & Welch, S.R. (2000). Just Harmless Fun? Understanding the Impact of Pornography. Retrieved November 20, 2007, fromhttp://www.protectkids.com/effects/justharmlessfun.pdf

Weiss, D. (2005). Pornography: Harmless Fun or Public Health Hazard? Retrieved November 23, 2007, from http://family.org/socialissues/A000001158.cfm

Resources

The Dangers of Pornography Presentation

Understanding Gender Dysphoria – Mark Yarhouse

In this post, the Book: “Understanding Gender Dysphoria” by Mark Yarhouse is summarized. The Main Idea of the book is that Gender Dysphoria involves an incongruence between one’s biological sex and gender that causes intense distress.  It is understood through three frameworks: integrity, disability and diversity.  The best framework integrates all three.  Christians need to do a better job of not shaming those who are trans-gendered.  Treatment usually involves decreasing cross gender identification, watching and waiting, facilitating preferred gender identification or sex reassignment/puberty blockers.  Most mental health professionals facilitate preferred gender identification.

Key Terms

Biological sex: As male or female (typically with reference to chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and internal reproductive anatomy and external genitalia).

Primary sex characteristics: Features that are directly part of the reproductive system, such as testes, penis and scrotum in males, and ovaries, uterus and vagina in females.

Secondary sex characteristics: Have no direct reproductive function, for example, facial hair in males and enlarged breasts in females.

Gender: The psychological, social and cultural aspects of being male or female.

Gender identity: How you experience yourself (or think of yourself) as male or female, including how masculine or feminine a person feels.

Gender role: Adoptions of cultural expectations for maleness or femaleness.

Biological sex Male or Female    Male –> Intersex <–Female

Gender identity Man or Woman      Man –>Androgyny <– Woman

Gender role Masculine or Feminine   Masculine–> Outside cultural norms <–Feminine

Gender dysphoria: The experience of distress associated with the incongruence wherein one’s psychological and emotional gender identity does not match one’s biological sex.

Transgender: An umbrella term for the many ways in which people might experience and/or present and express (or live out) their gender identities differently from people whose sense of gender identity is congruent with their biological sex.

Cisgender: A word to contrast with transgender and to signify that one’s psychological and emotional experience of gender identity is congruent with one’s biological sex.

Gender bending: Intentionally crossing or “bending” gender roles.

Cross-dressing: Dressing in the clothing or adopting the presentation of the other sex. Motivations for cross-dressing vary significantly.

Third sex or third gender: A term used to describe persons who are neither man nor woman, which could reference an intermediate state or another sex or gender or having qualities of both man/woman in oneself.

Transsexual: A person who believes he or she was born in the “wrong” body (of the other sex) and wishes to transition (or has transitioned) through hormonal treatment and sex reassignment surgery.

Genderfluid: A term used when a person wants to convey that their experience of gender is not fixed as either male/ female but may either fluctuate along a continuum or encompass qualities of both gender identities.

Genderqueer: An umbrella term for ways in which people experience their gender identity outside of or in between a male-female binary (e.g., no gender, genderfluid). Some people prefer a gender-neutral pronoun (e.g., “one”).

Drag queen: A biological male who dresses as a female (typically flamboyant dress and appearance) for the purposes of entertaining others. Such a person may not experience gender dysphoria and does not tend to identify as transgender.

Drag king: A biological female who dresses as a male (stereotypic dress and appearance) for the purposes of entertaining others. As with drag queens, such a person may not experience gender dysphoria and does not tend to identify as transgender.

Transvestism: Dressing or adopting the presentation of the other sex, typically for the purpose of sexual arousal (and may reflect a fetish quality). Such a person may not experience gender dysphoria and may not identify as transgender. Most transgender persons do not cross-dress for arousal and see transvestism as a different phenomenon than what they experience.

Intersex: A term to describe conditions (e.g., congenital adrenal hyperplasia) in which a person is born with sex characteristics or anatomy that does not allow clear identification as male or female. The causes of an intersex condition can be chromosomal, gonadal or genital.

Common Biblical Teachings

There are four common scriptures from the bible that reference transgender practices. These include:

  1. The Effeminate: “Neither the effeminate . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10)
  2. Emasculation: “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord. (Deut 23:1)
  3. Cross-Dressing: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5)
  • These passages likely were about preventing the Israelites from taking part in Canaanite rituals which involved swapping of sex roles and cross-dressing.
  1. Eunuchs: “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Matt 19:12)
  • The eunuchs in these contexts were most frequently either court officials or slaves and not gender dysphorics.

The Four Acts of the Biblical Drama

Sex and Gender can be understood through the four acts of Biblical drama that include: The Creation, The Fall and Redemption.

Creation: Adam and Eve lived as different gendered person and this enabled the “one flesh” unity that God commanded.

  • “All of the research on gender differences in various personality traits, cognitive abilities, and preferences consistently shows that, even when there are statistically significant differences between women and men, these differences pale in magnitude beside the variations among women and among men.”
  • Ontological Sex: Human beings are ontologically (and not merely in appearance) male and female. God deliberately separated into female and male in the creation of humankind as a way of structuring into creation a basic need for us to be in relationship.

Fall: We are all disordered before God so Gender Disorders can be seen as a natural consequence of the Fall.  Some of the disorders that have resulted from the fall include:

  • Klinefelter Syndrome: The person has an extra sex chromosome (XXY)
  • Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome: The person has external female genitalia and an outward appearance as female but XY male chromosomes.
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH): Can have many outcomes but could include a person with XX chromosomes but male external genitalia. CAH is “the result of an enzyme deficiency and “is inherited as an autosomal recessive disorder.”
  • Essence vs Culture: How much of what we think of as essential is acculturation as male or female? Sometimes rigid gender stereotypes are culturally based and not essential.

Exceptions: Recognizing that there are exceptions to binaries is not the same thing as saying the sex binary is arbitrary, socially constructed or oppressive.

The Culture War: The current culture war is between those who view sex and gender as arbitrary oppressive social constructs that need to be deconstructed and those who view sex and gender as essential aspects of being human.

Redemption: God doesn’t want us to stay fallen and intends to redeem us through Jesus Christ.  To glory in our fallen conditions is to reject redemption.

Frameworks of Gender Dysphoria

There are 4 major frameworks through which Gender Dysphoria is understood:

  1. Integrity Framework: This lens views sex and gender in terms of “the sacred integrity of maleness or femaleness stamped on one’s body.” Cross-gender identification is a concern in large part because it threatens the integrity of male-female distinctions.
  • Same-sex sexual behavior is sin in part because it does not “merge or join two persons into an integrated sexual whole”; the “essential maleness” and “essential femaleness” is not brought together as intended from creation.
  1. Disability Framework: Gender dysphoria is viewed as a result of living in a fallen world in which the condition is a nonmoral reality. The causal pathways and existing structures are viewed by proponents of the disability framework as not functioning as originally intended. It is compared to depression or schizophrenia and seen as nonmoral.
  • “While the fall into sin has created distortions in how femaleness and maleness are experienced and expressed, living in the time of grace means that we must seek to redeem gender and sexuality in harmony with God’s intentions.
  1. Diversity Framework: A third way to think about transgender issues is to see them as something to be celebrated, honored or revered. There are those who wish to recast sex as just as socially constructed as gender.
  • Those who advocate for the strong form tend to be academics who are proponents of the scholarship of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and others.
  1. Integrated Framework: Gender Dysphoria may result from a disability and is not just the result of wilful disobedience. We need to be sensitive to the integrity of fundamental doctrines of gender contained in scripture.  We should help manage gender dysphoria in the least invasive way possible. The weak form of the diversity framework can validate a person’s experience.

Dealing with Shame  

 Most transgender people hear in the church that they are fundamentally flawed, and it is their fault which leads to shame. The diversity framework gets at meaning, purpose, and sense of self, identity and community.  If people just get shame from the church they will turn to the diversity framework for meaning, purpose, sense of self, identity and community.

  • Author says not to embrace the integrity paradigm at the risk of gender diversity being rendered meaningless—as merely an unfortunate form of suffering that will ultimately be erased in eternity.
  • My Own Notes: Maybe etiology doesn’t matter, as it is an expression of the fall. The only thing that matters is where one’s heart is at in submitting to the revealed will of God.  Offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit and work towards being “born again” and overcoming the fall, not rationalizing staying fallen. We have no guarantees about outcome, God may not take this away but he does expect humility, submission and effort in complying with His will.
  • Christians can benefit from valuing and speaking into the sacredness found in the integrity framework, the compassion we witness in the disability framework, and the identity and community considerations we see in the diversity framework. No one framework in isolation will provide a sufficient response or a comprehensive Christian model of pastoral care or cultural engagement.

What Causes Gender Dysphoria?

The most concise answer to the question of causation is this: we do not know what causes gender dysphoria.  It’s not the incongruence between sex and gender that is thought of a disorder but the dysphoria that results from that incongruence.

How vs Who Distinction: Some people will use transgender to describe how they are (“I am a person who is transgender, by which I mean I am a person who experiences gender dysphoria”) while others will use transgender to describe who they are (“I am transgender, a member of the transgender community”).

Brain-Sex Theory: The idea is that there are areas of the brain that are different between males and females (sexually dimorphic structures). “Brain sex” refers to ways in which the brain scripts toward male or female dispositions or behaviors. It is certainly true that the brain is the most used sexual organ of the body.

  • Two distinct sexual development processes: the presence of testosterone in utero leads to the development of external male genitalia and to a male differentiated brain. But these are two distinct processes; they do not occur at the same point in fetal development. Sex differentiation of the genitals occurs much earlier leaving a time period where disruption can occur.  This means someone could theoretically experience male genital differentiation and then female brain differentiation later.

a.) Prenatal hormonal hypothesis: Gender dysphorics are more likely to be left handed than right-handed and left-handedness is known to relate to prenatal hormonal exposure.  Finger-length ratio is a marker of prenatal hormonal exposure to testosterone and transsexual males show the same ratio as females do. The more the testosterone the more the ring finger grows.

  • However, women born with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia who produce more testosterone on average and have somewhat deformed genitals do not experience more gender dysphoria.

b.) Neuroanatomic brain differences hypothesis:  The stria terminalis (BSTc), an area of the hypothalamus, is similar in transsexual males as it is to biological females. This comes from the Jiang-Ning Zhou and colleagues’ study. However, the males in the study had been acting in cross-gender roles for years and were all on feminizing hormone therapy so we don’t know if nurture modified the brain structures.

  • In another study by Wilson Chung and colleagues it was found that the area of the hypothalamus was indeed different among men and women but this difference didn’t appear until later in life challenging the idea that the difference was apparent from birth. The brain structure did not become sexually dimorphic until adulthood.
  • Limitations: Several limitations of this research should be noted. These limitations include (1) small sample sizes, (2) post-mortem samples in which transsexual persons frequently used hormone therapy, and (3) emphasis on morphology rather than a range of other considerations.
  • Beyond morphology or structure, there are also issues with brain activity, connectivity, load (thickness) and efficiency (speed) that often go overlooked in a nearly exclusive focus on structure.
  • Identity is known to exist within the frontal cortex and not the hypothalamus so it’s unlikely this is the explanation.

c.) Biased Interaction Theory:  We identify with role models that we think we are alike.  Most males identify with boys because they act alike but for some males they identify more with feminine role models.  This leads them to think they don’t “fit in” with boys and that they therefore may be girls.

Blanchard Typology

In one typology, transgender people are differentiated into five different types that include:

  1. Male to female androphilic type: Males who transition to females but are attracted to males and are therefore homosexuals. They tend to transition earlier in life, recall being more feminine and are unlikely to get married or be parents.
  2. Autogynephilic type: The biological male finds the idea of himself as a female sexually arousing. They typically transition later in life, have sexual experiences with females are more likely to have married and to have become biological parents. They recall less childhood femininity but are more aroused by cross-dressing.
  3. Female to male: They are female at birth but believe they are psychologically male. They tend not to be attracted to males and are more attracted to females but want those females to accept she is really a male.
  4. Bisexual Type: This type has shown attraction to both males and females in the past.
  5. Asexual Types: person has shown no arousal patterns.

The fact that there is an observable typology based upon sexual attraction/orientation suggests a more complicated pathway(s) for the etiology of gender identity concerns than is found in the brain-sex theory.

Meyer-Bahlburg Risk Factors:  These researchers discovered that prenatal hormone exposure, feminine appearance, inhibited/shy temperament, separation anxiety, being late in birth order, sensory reactivity, sexual abuse and insecure attachment in boys are all risk factors for developing Gender dysphoria.

  • Parenting: Associated risk factors related to parents include preference for a girl, parental indifference to cross-gender behavior, reinforcing cross-gender behavior, encouragement of “extreme physical closeness with boys,” insufficient adult male role models and parental psychiatric issues. Gender dysphoria is not the result of a failure to identify with the same-sex parent.
  • Peer Group: Boys show preferences for cross-dressing and cross-gender play. Fear of and avoidance of other boys which leads to rehearsal of female roles in play.

“If you know one transgender person, you know one trans-gender person!”

  • Equifinality says that there could be multiple pathways to the same outcome which appears to be the case with transgenderism.
  • Multifinality says that a group of people could have the same factors as part of their history but have different outcomes.

The experience of true gender dysphoria is not chosen, nor is it a sign of willful disobedience, personal sin or the sin of the parents.  However, engaging in cross-gender behavior may be more volitional, and the motivations are different.  Are those motivations about sexual arousal or about self-expression?

 Phenomenology and Prevalence

DSM V Criteria in Children

  • A strong desire to be of the other gender or an insistence that one is the other gender.
  • In boys (assigned gender), a strong preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire; or in girls (assigned gender), a strong preference for wearing only typical masculine clothing and a strong resistance to the wearing of typical feminine clothing.
  • A strong preference for cross-gender roles in make-believe play or fantasy play.
  • A strong preference for the toys, games, or activities stereotypically used or engaged in by the other gender.
  • A strong preference for the playmates of the other gender.
  • In boys (assigned gender), a strong rejection of typically masculine toys, games, and activities and a strong avoidance of rough-and-tumble play; or in girls (assigned gender), a strong rejection of typically feminine toys, games, and activities.
  • A strong dislike of one’s sexual anatomy.
  • A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics that match one’s experienced gender.

Ideology kills: The book “As Nature Made Him” documents the case of a baby boy who underwent a botched circumcision and who was raised as a girl at a time when some experts were quite confident that social learning could trump biology. The boy, John, was actually unable to sustain an identity as a female (Joan) and transitioned to male in adolescence. Tragically, as an adult he took his own life.

Rates of Persistence: According to the DSM-5, Gender Dysphoria persists from childhood to adolescence in only 2.2 to 30 percent of biological males and 12 to 50 percent of biological females.

DSM V Criteria in Adolescents and Adults

  • A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or in young adolescents, the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).
  • A strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex character-istics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender (or in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).
  • A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender.
  • A strong desire to be the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).
  • A strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).
  • A strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

The DSM-5 includes early and late onset as specifiers.

  1. Early Onset Male to Female: There is often a history of social exclusion and harassment with high social anxiety and few social skills. They often hide their transition history if others aren’t supportive and are more vulnerable to addictions and survival sex work.  This is the more common presentation though it is likely to resolve itself in most people.
  2. Late Onset Male to Female: They grew up with more traditional masculine childhoods and have “fit in” most of their lives. They often experience great losses of employment, community and family when they transition.

Prevalence Rates: The DSM-5 estimates that between 0.005 percent to 0.014 percent of adult males and 0.002 percent to 0.003 percent of adult females have Gender Dysphoria.  Findings from other studies put the prevalence estimates in ranges from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 13,000 males and 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 34,000 females.

Male vs Female: Gender Dysphoria as a diagnosis and the broader experience of gender dysphoria along a continuum appears to be more common among males than females, with a ratio of at least 3:1.

Transgender vs Gender Dysphoria: More people identify as transgender than experience Gender Dysphoria.  In one study, between 1 in 215 and 1 in 300 people identified themselves as transgender but most would not meet the criteria for gender dysphoria.  Certainly, gender dysphoria can exist without the desire for hormonal treatment or surgery.

Male vs Female: Gender Dysphoria as a diagnosis and the broader experience of gender dysphoria along a continuum appears to be more common among males than females, with a ratio of at least 3:1.

Cross-Dressing: A person could cross-dress but not experience gender dysphoria; they might cross-dress because the act of cross-dressing is itself sexually arousing.

  • Most cross-dressers either only wear underwear of the other’s sex (about 68% of all who cross-dress) or only wear other sex clothing at home (21%). Essentially, Kinder’s estimate is that only one out of three hundred persons who already cross-dresses would want to transition to the other sex.

Early Onset Male to Female: often a history of social exclusion and harassment with high social anxiety and few social skills.  They often hide their transition history if others aren’t supportive and are more vulnerable to addictions and survival sex work.  This is the more common presentation though it is likely to resolve itself in most people.

Late Onset Male to Female: They grew up with more traditional masculine childhoods and have “fit in” most of their lives.  They often experience great losses of employment, community and family when they transition.

Prevention and Treatment

There are 4 major interventions: i.) Resolution through identifying with birth sex, ii.) watching and waiting, iii.) facilitating identifying with preferred sex and iv.) Puberty Suppression.

1. Resolution of gender dysphoria through intervention to decrease cross gender identification: Emphasis on resolution of Gender Dysphoria by decreasing cross gender behaviors and identification.  The known emotional and social correlates of gender incongruence—issues like family and peer conflict and ostracism, as well as depression, anxiety, school aversion and school drop-out—provide a rationale for intervention. We expect that we can diminish these problems if we are able to speed up the fading of cross gender identity which will typically happen in any case.  There are four major interventions for identifying with birth sex that include:

i.) Behavioral therapy encourages the same-sex parent (or grandparent or mentor) to spend more time and share positive play experiences with their child while also avoiding criticism of the child. The parents are coached to essentially ignore cross-sex-typed behavior if possible and identify strategies to redirect the child to behaviors that reflect more that child’s gender. In following an operant conditioning approach, parents praise the child for any gender-appropriate activities or play.
ii.) Psychodynamic approaches (psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, psychoanalytic psychotherapy) based on object relations, self psychology and other conceptualizations take a developmental perspective, explore identification with the same and opposite sex, and intervene more “within” the child (than through the environment).
iii.) Hybrid or “third way” model: They extend the treatment beyond simple behavioral reinforcement by providing therapy to address a child’s gender incongruence and identity from the “inside out,” while also setting limits and providing education to address gender identity from the “outside in.” Parents are also provided assistance in identifying activities that facilitate a same-gender identification, and there is typically a significant increase in time spent with same-sex peers (milieu protocol) that has been shown in research to be associated with “more typical sex-differentiated behavior.”

iv.) Meyer-Bahlburg Protocol: This is a protocol for intervention to facilitate the resolution of gender dysphoria among biological males. That protocol focuses on the following:

  • Fostering positive relationship with one’s father or male caregiver or role model
  • Fostering positive relationships with one’s male peers
  • Fostering gender-typical habits and skills
  • Facilitating male peer group interactions
  • Facilitating positive feelings about being male
  • To reduce stigmatization, the protocol focuses on services to the parents who work with the child rather than work directly with the child.
  • For example, a National Public Radio report on the topic cited the Portman Clinic’s treatment of 124 children since 1989. The approach taken at the Portman Clinic is to have children live in a way that is consistent with their birth sex. It was reported that 80 percent of the children chose later as adults to maintain a gender identity consistent with their birth sex.
  • However, most children whose dysphoria resolves report that they have a homosexual or bisexual orientation as they enter their teen years. Among those children whose gender dysphoria desisted, a range from 63 percent to 100 percent of biological males and 32 percent to 50 percent of biological females identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual in adulthood.

2. Watchful waiting: Take a neutral approach that allows for cross-gender dress and role adaption while avoiding reinforcement. There is not an a priori assumption in place that functions as a goal for the child’s gender identity.

3. Facilitation of the gender identity of the preferred sex in anticipation of an adult identification. Psychosocial facilitation is considered “affirming” insofar as it practices out of several assumptions, including that “being transgender is not a mental illness.” According to Olson et al., “Affirmative approaches actively promote exploration of gender identity and assist adolescents and their families in learning about and engaging in appropriate gender transitioning interventions.”

  • The elements involved in psychosocial facilitation could include “adoption of preferred gender hairstyles, clothing, and play, perhaps adopting a new name.”

4.Puberty Suppression: Intervention to block hormones until a child (now a teen) can decide about gender identity in later adolescence.

  • Children between the ages of ten and thirteen are prevented from entering puberty by receiving injections of hormone blockers that keep the gonads from making estrogen or testosterone. This, in turn, prevents the expected changes at puberty, such as girls developing breasts, starting their menstrual cycle, and so on. Boys will not grow body and facial hair, nor will their voice deepen. The idea is to then allow time for the child to enter into adolescence and for the teen (at around age sixteen) to eventually decide whether to develop a gender identity in accord with their birth sex or with their preferred/psychological/phenomenal sex.
  • At 16 the children are then given the option to take the opposite sex hormones or they can transition back into their biological sex.
  • It is also important to explore whether the dysphoria is a negative response to homosexuality/ same-sex sexuality rather than an actual desire to change one’s sex.

Reversibility of Interventions

  1. Reversible Interventions: The reversible steps include adopting cross-gender hairstyles, clothing and interests, as well as perhaps use of a preferred name.
  2. Partially Reversible Interventions would be cross-gender hormone therapy (testosterone or estrogen depending on the direction of preferred gender identity).
  3. Irreversible Interventions are surgical, of which there are a range, and I will discuss these under treatment of adults. Currently, most surgeons in the United States will not provide surgery until the adolescent turns eighteen.

Outcomes in Adulthood

When we look at outcomes for adult experiences of Gender Dysphoria, Carroll notes four typical outcomes:

  1. Unresolved outcomes: Unresolved outcomes simply reflect that there is a high attrition rate—estimated at up to half of clients who seek service.
  2. Biological sex and gender role acceptance: Others come to accept their biological sex and gender role (path 2). They may feel gender dysphoric, but they live as their birth sex and adopt a lifestyle that reflects that. Psychological resolution appears to be more likely among “a subgroup of cross-dressers with gender dysphoria” who view the problem as a fetish or paraphilia and treat it with CBT interventions.
  3. Engage in cross-gender behavior intermittently: This is the most frequent outcome. According to Carroll, “the majority of these men are heterosexual, often married, usually vocationally stable or successful.”
  4. Adopt cross-gender role through sex reassignment: It is strongly recommended (but not currently required) that a person then undergo a period of psychotherapy. If a person were to reach a point at which they were a candidate for surgery, it is recommended in the Standards of Care that they live for a year in the real-life experience of living full time as the desired gender.

Decision Making Strategies Around Sex Reassignment

  1. Awareness: Characterized by distress related to Gender Dysphoria
  2. Disclosure: Sharing with significant others one’s diagnosis and experience of Gender Dysphoria.
  3. Exploration: Initial exploration of options for one’s identity and identity label along a continuum.
  4. Transition: Further exploration of body modification.
  5. Integration: Synthesis of identity in light of transition.

Sex Reassignment Surgery

  1. Biological Male: Vaginoplasty or the creation of a neovagina (with a penectomy or the removal of the penis and orchiectomy or the re-moval of the testes). Male hair can also be removed, and corrective surgery can be performed on the larynx. Surgery to enhance the breasts (breast aug-mentation) can also be performed.
  2. Biological Female: The breasts, uterus and ovaries can be removed. Some patients will also request phalloplasty or the creation of a neophallus. If the patient has an enlarged clitoris (sometimes as a result of taking male hormones), it may be cut loose in a way that it can be experienced more like a penis (metaidioplasty).

Low Rates of Regret: A recent study that examined outcomes over a fifty-year period in Sweden (1960–2010) indicated a 2.2 percent rate of regret for both MtF and FtM transsexual persons.

  • Gender: What we know at this point is that those with a female-to-male conversion report adjusting better, on average, than those whose conversion is male-to-female, although again there is great variability.
  • Age: Older persons pursuing reassignment do not report having as favorable outcomes as younger persons.
  • Autogynephilic cases appear to be at greater risk for regretting the decision to pursue sex reassignment.
  • However, most people who experience gender incongruence in adulthood do not undergo surgery. Most cross-dress intermittently either as an expression of their sense of gender identity or they use cross-dressing as a way to manage their dysphoria, among other possible motivations.

Increased Suicide Risk: Although previous research on follow-up of transsexual persons tended to be rather favorable, researchers tended not to follow the person over a long period of time. A more recent study that provided data on long-term follow-up reported increased risks for suicide attempts, death from suicide, and psychiatric inpatient care that are “considerably higher risks” than the general population.

  • This study found substantially higher rates of overall mortality, death from cardiovascular disease and suicide, suicide attempts, and psychiatric hospitalizations in sex-reassigned transsexual individuals compared to a healthy control population. Even though surgery and hormonal therapy alleviates gender dysphoria, it is apparently not sufficient to remedy the high rates of morbidity and mortality found among transsexual persons.

Sex Reassignment as delusional beliefs: It is not obvious how this patient’s feeling that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body differs from the feeling of a patient with anorexia nervosa that she is obese despite her emaciated state. We don’t do liposuction on anorexics.  Why amputate the genitals of these poor men? Surely, the fault is in the mind not the member.

  • The transgendered suffer a disorder of “assumption” like those in other disorders familiar to psychiatrists. With the transgendered, the disordered assumption is that the individual differs from what seems given in nature—namely one’s maleness or femaleness. Other kinds of disordered assumptions are held by those who suffer from anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the assumption that departs from physical reality is the belief by the dangerously thin that they are overweight.

Toward a Christian Response

Narrative Therapy: Narrative approaches are often used with marginalized groups whose “story” has been written by a dominant culture: “On a larger level, entire groups of people could have their story about themselves completely overtaken by a more dominant group story about them.”

  • Mainstream Narrative: Most mainstream, secular narrative approaches to gender dysphoria would posit that it is the sex and gender binary that is oppressive to the person who is gender dysphoric.
  • Scripts: A script is a cultural expectation for behavior and meaning making.

The Transgender Script

  • Gender dysphoria reflects a naturally occurring difference among types of people (transgender rather than cisgender).
  • Your gender dysphoria as gender incongruence suggests who you are (“who I am”) rather than how you are (“how I am”).
  • Gender dysphoria points to a community of others who experience a similar phenomenon (“I am part of the transgender community”).
  • Your gender incongruence points to something at the core of who you are, something that is central to your identity. A person often receives the message that they are born this way.
  • The dysphoria may signal who the person “is”—that is, “I was born in the wrong body; the person I am is inside of me, and I need to express that.” The person has a sense of identity (who I am; I am transgender) and a sense of community: “I am part of the transgender community,” which could mean different things to different people.

The Christian Script

  • This is a spiritual matter; this is sinful.
  • Fulfillment comes from adopting a traditional gender role that corresponds with your biological sex.
  • The failure to find worth and purpose and meaning in traditional gender roles and expressions is a mark of willful disobedience.
  • Cross-gender behaviors and roles are unacceptable as they undermine the truth about who you have been made to be.
  • gender dysphoria itself were a sign of willful disobedience.
  • Ultimately, these messages communicate shame to the person navigating gender identity concerns. Shame is the psychological and emotional experience of believing yourself to be inadequate in ways that lead you to reject yourself. It hides itself from others on the assumption that if others knew this about the person, they too would reject them.

Integrated Script

  • Experiences of gender dysphoria are part of my reality (that is, “how I am”).
  • I did not choose to experience gender dysphoria or gender incongruence, and I honestly do not know the cause.
  • Perhaps being transgender is part of my identity; however, I am a complex person and am more than gender dysphoric.
  • I do not know how I came to experience gender dysphoria, but I can consider what it means to me today and where I go from here.
  • There are probably a dozen different directions for any experience of gender dysphoria, and I plan to consider many of them, and may select some of them, considering the least invasive steps when possible.

Mapping Gender Identity

  1. How does the person experience his or her gender identity concerns? This involves gauging a person’s experience of gender incongruence, as well as a person’s sense for how they are managing that incongruence.
  • The gender identity concerns, while important, may not be the greatest concern in this person’s life.
  • A person can identify ways in which gender dysphoria has influenced him or her, as well as how the person has influenced gender identity concerns. Probe for ways the person has managed the dysphoria and ways that the person is exacerbating it.
  • On a scale from 1-10 ask the person how gender incongruent he feels and his current ability to manage it.
  1. Join the Person on an Attributional Search: How does the person make sense of his or her gender incongruence? From an integrity point of view the incongruence reflects the fallen world we live in, from a disability point of view it is a non-moral reality of the fall and from a diversity point of view it is something natural to be celebrated.

Telling Others:  I try to assure them that they are not alone in the sense that I know and will not leave them, and I will work with them on finding others who can provide support.

  • Proscriptive constraints regarding gender identity communicate the following: “Discussions about gender identity are not welcome here.” This message comes from individuals and communities for whom the topic is so threatening that there is no discussion to be had.
  • Prescriptive Constraints communicate the following: “Discussions about gender identity can and should be discussed, but we only discuss it in this certain way.” This can make discussing gender identity concerns difficult because the person who is struggling initially feels welcome to disclose but then is quickly told that there is only one way for them to actually think about their gender identity.
  • Sometimes distinguishing “how you are” from “who you are” may be helpful when sharing experiences of gender dysphoria with another person.
  • Not your fault: I also tell those who experience gender dysphoria that if the person they tell reacts with anger, disbelief, rejection or hurt after they tell them about their experiences, it is not their fault. I usually reiterate that they did not choose to experience gender dysphoria; they found themselves experiencing gender dysphoria, and this is not an issue of blaming but of realizing there may be negative reactions for different reasons.

Critiquing the Christian Response

Correct the Sinner:  Many are simply overwhelmed by something they do not understand or do not wish to investigate outside their religious doctrines. That is, “if you don’t correct the sinner, you’re complicit in the sin.”

Traditional Church model: It has been observed that a traditional evangelical church focuses on behavior first, followed by belief in Christ and a sense of Christian community. It essentially looks like this: BehaveàBelieve àBelong

Missional Church Model: instead belonging comes first and then faith in Christ and then we don’t know what you become.  BelongàBelieve àBecome.

  • Inwardly missional Church: Focuses on clear teachings for those who are within the community. This kind of church places greater emphasis on the integrity framework. It is a church that sees as its mission the communication of a faithful, biblical witness about sexuality and gender to those who reside within. Such a church may risk not being as hospitable to those on the outside.
  • Outwardly Missional Church: Focuses on being missional to the local, broader community in the area surrounding the church itself. The emphasis is on reaching out, inviting in and creating a sense of belonging,

Criteria for Inclusion:  The terms of inclusion from the local church are that a person fit into the male-female binary and experience congruence between biological or birth sex and psychological and emotional experience of gender identity.

  • Are Christians prepared to support transgenders without the condition that the person manages that dysphoria in a way the Christian community would support?
  • One impulse is to convey the integrity framework to the exclusion of the potential benefits seen in the disability or diversity frameworks.

Prevailing Treatment: The prevailing view within the mental health field is to address the dysphoria through cross-gender identification and expression, supported in the context of therapy, and with the possibility of additional steps to facilitate a transition.

Resources

PDF Summary

How to be Virtuous – Temperance – Chastity

Chastity is a Christian virtue concerned with sexual purity.  To be chaste is to obey the Law of Chastity.  The Law of Chastity says that we restrict any form of sexual relations to man and wife in marriage.  The Law of Chastity is a law that is concerned with protecting the integrity of families.  It stems from one of he first commandments that God ever gave Adam and Eve. God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage and commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28). The Law of Chastity stipulates the bounds within which this commandment is to be fulfilled.

In the following posts, issues related the law of Chastity will be examined:

  1. Chastity: An Overview
  2. Overcoming Pornography
  3. Abortion
  4. Same-Sex Attraction
  5. Transgender Issues

Justice – Fairness as a Character Trait

According to Psychologists Martin Seligman & Christopher Peterson, fairness means treating everyone the same and not letting one’s own personal feelings or biases override the rules.  To be just is to be fair, impartial and to follow the rule of law. If a leader is not just then he is capricious, partial, corrupt or unfair. An organization needs leaders who are just and who will distribute rewards and opportunities fairly. There are few things that will cause discontent in the organization so much as a belief that things are not fair. When people believe leadership is not fair they lose a sense of control over their lives and will either give up or look elsewhere for better opportunities.

Just leaders also ensure that rewards or dues are not withheld from those deserving of them. If someone is performing much better than another but is not receiving the same rewards, they are likely to feel mistreated. Ensure that compensation matches performance and that there are clear rules that underline how rewards are distributed in the organization. Similarly, just leaders distribute rewards, opportunities and punishers in a proportionate manner.  Even if someone broke a rule, imposing too harsh of a punishment can be unjust as can giving too much of a reward for a minor achievement. People are very sensitive to being treated fairly and expect consistency from their leaders.

One group of researchers from Georgia State University, seeking to understand why this sense of fairness is so central to the human experience, studied a group of primates to find some answers. They gave different groups of monkey’s different rewards for completing the same task and observed the effects. The group of monkeys who received less actually refused to continue doing the task and became irritated. They also did similar studies with other types of animals and found that only species who required group cooperation to survive developed this sense of fairness. The researchers theorized that we have developed an innate sense of fairness because that is what is required for long-term cooperation in a group. Any organization relies upon long-term cooperation of its members and a fundamental threat to that cooperation is to begin distributing rewards unevenly. Like the monkeys who refused to continue working and who became agitated, many people will respond in the same way if injustice begins to permeate the culture.

In summary, there are 6 key behaviors that just leaders engage in:

1. Just leaders give people their proper dues and do not withhold good from those who deserve it.
2. Just leaders do not punish those who do not deserve it.
3. Just leaders apply the rules of the organization equally to everyone and ensure the rule of law.
4. Just leaders do not pervert judgment by taking bribes or other favors.
5. Just leaders implement proportional rewards and consequences.
6.Just leaders base their judgments on an adequate sample of facts.

A fair society is based on the “rule of law” instead of the “whim of a dictator” or an individual’s personal biases.  Fairness is the foundation of criminal justice systems that most societies have.  People value fairness in others, especially in those who hold power. Abuses of power are usually violations of fairness.

Seeing fairness in others is satisfying while witnessing injustice is deeply disturbing.  The Opposite of fairness is injustice, bias and prejudice which are all undesirable.  Those who are not fair discriminate based on irrelevant criteria such as race, gender, wealth, attractiveness etc…Fairness is a rare trait indeed as most people are partial and biased.

One’s capacity to be fair appears to be related to Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Reasoning.  Kohlberg’s model has largely been validated in the research literature.  According to Kohlberg, there are 6 stages of moral reasoning that include:

Preconventional Stages (Stages 1 and 2): Stage 1 involves judging moral good in terms of self‐interest or what avoids punishment and/or earns rewards. These are the egocentric focus stages. Stage 2 of this phase involves a morality of exchange and probability as you help others because they might help your or because you may be punished if you don’t.

Conventional Stages (Stages 3 & 4): The next stages involve judging whether an action conforms to social laws, rules and conventions. Stage 3 involves judging right or wrong at the interpersonal level. Right is seen as that which will nurture relationships and wrong is concerned with what will harm relationships. In Stage 4, right or wrong is based on how a behavior
affects broader social units such as the family or society as a whole.

Post‐Conventional Stages (Stages 5 & 6): The most advanced form of moral reasoning involves using abstract principles of fairness, justice and care to decide what is right. Advanced moral reasoning also involves a balanced consideration of the moral claims of all stakeholders in a given issue based on universal moral principles of justice. In Stage 5 something is seen as right if it conforms with duties we have to society but allows for revision to the system. In stage 6, people adhere to universal principles of justice.

Fairness is often understood in terms of two different ethics: care and justice.  Justice is primarily about weighing principles to determine moral rights and responsibilities. It is objective and “blind” to individual characteristics.  Care is about a compassionate determination on how to meet people’s needs. It takes into account the needs, interests and well‐being of all those involved.  Some research reveals that it is hard to separate the justice from caring ethics and that they are interwoven for most people.

Correlates and Consequences
There are 5 main benefits that developing a sense of justice and fairness confers upon people.

i.) Moral Identity Formation: With advanced moral reasoning abilities comes strong personal moral beliefs and adherence to those beliefs.
ii.) Relational Problem Solving: Advanced moral reasoning leads to exposure to alternative interpretations of reality and an increased ability to solve problems in relationships. This is because you need to be sensitive to relationship problems, assemble facts, make determinations about morality and decide what to do about it.
iii.) Self Esteem: A strong moral identity and acting in concert with it leads to increased self‐esteem.
iv.) Perspective Taking: As you increase in the ability to engage in moral reasoning you increase your ability to place yourself in other people’s shoes and can better understand their needs and perspectives. Those who focus on justice emphasize general role obligations people have while those who focus on care emphasize affective knowing states such as empathy.
v.) Self Reflection: As you come to embrace and understand universal principles of fairness your own self-knowledge increases. As you take other peoples perspectives you become more aware of your own perspectives and are better able to contrast and refine them.

Preconventional moral reasoning is associated with greater delinquency, cheating, dishonesty, risky sexual behavior, drug and alcohol use, bystander apathy and aggression. Work and family values are about pay, hours, promotions and material benefits for families. Family problems are solved through shouting, demands and making concessions.  In one study, increasing moral reasoning abilities led to less post‐release recidivism.

In contrast, Post-conventional moral reasoning is associated with cooperation, whistle blowing, leadership, civil disobedience, altruism and political participation. Work and family values center around social ideals and justice. Family problems are solved through considering other perspectives.

Moral reasoning abilities are enhanced by cognitive development, authoritative parenting styles, peer discourse about conflictual moral issues and participating in caring institutions. Peer discourse called “transactive discussion” involves reasoning about other people’s moral reasoning and attempting to understand and operate on it.

Justice – A Spiritual Perspective

Justice: A Spiritual Perspective

While the above focused on justice as a character trait, Justice can also refer to an abstract spiritual concept.  According to the “True to the Faith” manual: “Justice is the unchanging law that brings consequences for actions. Because of the law of justice, you receive blessings when you obey God’s commandments (see D&C 131:20). The law of justice also demands that a penalty be paid for every sin you commit. It requires that no unclean thing be permitted to dwell with God (1 Nephi 10:21).”

The law of justice determines what blessings we receive.  In D&C 130 :20-21 we learn: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

Justice has also been referred to as the law of the harvest which Paul summarized in Galatians 6:7 which reads: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Justice is often at odds with mercy because mercy is an overruling of justice.  Mercy means absolving a person of the consequences for breaking a law which is, by definition, a form on injustice.  Thus, God balances mercy and justice and warns us that His mercy cannot overrule His justice.  In Alma 42 :11-15, Alma explains this principle to his son Corianton:

11 And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.

12 And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;

13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.

14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.

15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

Since we know that justice requires that a penalty be paid for sin, the only way to appease justice is to pay the penalty.  Jesus Christ is the mediator between us and justice and since he paid for our sins he can extend to us mercy without violating justice.  Thus, God can be both just and merciful because He has personally paid the price for sins.    He sets the conditions through which we obtain this mercy and these conditions are outlined in His Gospel.

President Boyd K. Packer summarized these principles in the following way:

“By eternal law, mercy cannot be extended save there be one who is both willing and able to assume our debt and pay the price and arrange the terms for our redemption.  Unless there is a mediator, unless we have a friend, the full weight of justice untempered, unsympathetic, must, positively must fall on us. The full recompense for every transgression, however minor or however deep, will be exacted from us to the uttermost farthing. But know this: Truth, glorious truth, proclaims there is such a Mediator. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim.2:5)

Through Him mercy can be fully extended to each of us without offending the eternal law of justice. . . .The extension of mercy will not be automatic. It will be through covenant with Him. It will be on His terms, His generous terms, which include, as an absolute essential, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. All mankind can be protected by the law of justice, and at once each of us individually may be extended the redeeming and healing blessing of mercy.” (CR 1977 Apr:80)

Mercy only exists because of the atonement. Without the atonement, there is only Justice.  Bruce R. McConkie explained it this way: “As justice is the child of the fall, so mercy is the offspring of the atonement. “Mercy cometh because of the atonement,” Alma says, “and mercy claimeth the penitent.” If there were no atoning sacrifice there would be no mercy-only justice. (The Promised Messiah, pp. 244-45)

The Gospel has been described as “merciful” and not necessarily fair. Lance B. Wickman taught: “It really isn’t fair that one person should suffer for the sins of others. It isn’t fair that some people can commit horrible crimes and then be completely forgiven and cleansed without having to suffer for them. It isn’t fair that those who labor for only an hour will get the same reward as those who labor all day. (See Matt. 20:16.) No, the gospel sometimes isn’t fair, but that is actually part of the good news. It isn’t fair—it’s merciful, and thank God it is so, for no human being can stand acquitted before the demands of absolute justice.” (Friends again at last- Lance B. Wickman)

While the Gospel is merciful, it still cannot destroy God’s justice.  In his talk: “Love and Law” President Dallin H. Oaks teaches us about how God balances His love and His laws.  President Oaks says: “The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God’s laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love. The same should be true of parental love and rules. (Dallin H. Oaks- Love and Law)

President Oaks continues: “The effect of God’s commandments and laws is not changed to accommodate popular behavior or desires. If anyone thinks that godly or parental love for an individual grants the loved one license to disobey the law, he or she does not understand either love or law. The Lord declared: “That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still” (D&C 88:35).

As D&C 88:35 states, we cannot make up our own laws and reject the laws of the creator.  God has assigned different laws for different kingdoms and whatever law we choose to obey is the kingdom we will receive. We read in modern revelation, “All kingdoms have a law given” (D&C 88:36). For example:

“He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
“And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
“And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory” (D&C 88:22–24).

In other words, the kingdom of glory to which the Final Judgment assigns us is not determined by love but by the law that God has invoked in His plan to qualify us for eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7).

Blessings

Justice means we receive prescribed rewards when we obey the law attached to the reward.  However, it also means that we receive prescribed punishments when we disobey the law attached to the reward.

President Boyd K. Packer taught:

“Each of us, without exception, one day will settle that spiritual account. We will, that day, face a judgment for our doings in mortal life and face a foreclosure of sorts.  One thing I know; we will be justly dealt with. Justice, the eternal law of justice, will be the measure against which we settle this account.  Justice is usually pictured holding a set of scales and blindfolded against the possibility that she may be partial or become sympathetic. There is no sympathy in justice alone-only justice. Our lives will be weighed on the scales of justice.The Prophet Alma
declared: “Justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:22)

I commend to you the reading of the 42nd chapter of Alma. It reveals the place of justice and should confirm that the poet spoke the truth when he said, “In the course of justice [only] none of us should see salvation.” (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, IV. i. 199-200) Boyd K. Packer (CR 1977 Apr:78-79)

President Packer has recommended that we all read Alma 42 and understand the principles taught within this great sermon on justice.   Eleven Principles found in this chapter include the following:

Principle 1: Life is a temporary probationary time to repent and to be reconciled with the Laws of Justice by entering into a covenant with God and serving Him.
Principle 2: As we are cut off from the presence of the Lord we are free to act according to our own will.
Principle 3: Mercy can only come about through repentance otherwise it would destroy justice and God would cease to be God.
Principle 4: Repentance implies that we are under condemnation or are suffering punitive consequences for our actions which need to be relieved.
Principle 5: Sin implies that there is a law that has been transgressed. And a Law implies that there are consequences for breaking that law.
Principle 6: The punishment for breaking a just law is remorse of conscience unto man.
Principle 7: If there are no laws that restrain behaviour we must live in fear and lose protection.
Principle 8: Justice only exists where law exists. Justice is the equal application of that law to all who are under its effects.
Principle 9: In reality there are certain laws that when transgressed bring about punishment. Mercy can come upon those who repent and the rest justice claims and executes the punishment otherwise God would cease to be God.
Principle 10: The atonement brings about the resurrection which causes men to be judged by their works according to the law and justice.
Principle 11: Mercy cannot rob justice. If it did, God would cease to be God.

President Dallin H. Oaks has warned us that God’s love will not overrule His justice and that the ultimate fate of those who transgress God’s laws will not be good.  He said:

“Some seem to value God’s love because of their hope that His love is so great and so unconditional that it will mercifully excuse them from obeying His laws. In contrast, those who understand God’s plan for His children know that God’s laws are invariable, which is another great evidence of His love for His children. Mercy cannot rob justice, and those who obtain mercy are “they who have kept the covenant and observed the commandment” (D&C 54:6).

We read again and again in the Bible and in modern scriptures of God’s anger with the wicked and of His acting in His wrath against those who violate His laws. How are anger and wrath evidence of His love? Joseph Smith taught that God “institute[d] laws whereby [the spirits that He would send into the world] could have a privilege to advance like himself.” God’s love is so perfect that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments because He knows that only through obedience to His laws can we become perfect, as He is. For this reason, God’s anger and His wrath are not a contradiction of His love but an evidence of His love. Every parent knows that you can love a child totally and completely while still being creatively angry and disappointed at that child’s self-defeating behavior.

However, some gifts are given to us unconditionally and do not depend upon our obedience to law.  President Oaks taught:

“The love of God is so universal that His perfect plan bestows many gifts on all of His children, even those who disobey His laws. Mortality is one such gift, bestowed on all who qualified in the War in Heaven. Another unconditional gift is the universal resurrection: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Many other mortal gifts are not tied to our personal obedience to law. As Jesus taught, our Heavenly Father “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) (Dallin H. Oaks- Love and Law)

Just as God gives some things unconditionally, we also give some gifts unconditionally as well. For example, parents provide many benefits like housing and food even if their children are not in total harmony with all parental requirements. But, following the example of an all-wise and loving Heavenly Father who has given laws and commandments for the benefit of His children, wise parents condition some parental gifts on obedience.

Antonyms

Sometimes we understand things by contrasting them with their opposites.  Three opposites of justice include:

1. Injustice: violation of the rights of others; unjust or unfair action or treatment.
2. Discrimination: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.
3. Prejudice: an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.