Call to Repentance

It is rather presumptuous to call someone to repentance, don’t you think? The act implies at least two things: that the caller knows better than the called, and that the caller has the authority to issue the call to repent.

In a world of increasing moral relativism, many of us are uncomfortable with the idea that one person can or ought to impose his or her standards on another. This discomfort illegitimizes the call for repentance by not only undercutting the moral authority of the caller, but the very standards by which a call may be justified.

But the call for repentance has always been a call away from the world. It is a beacon that returns us to the Lord’s standard, a corrective guide.

In our church today, we accept that our leaders, especially the prophet and apostles, have the authority to call us (and the rest of the world) to repentance. And in part because of the cultural moral relativism mentioned earlier, many of us are content to leave that responsibility to them. We are happy to support them in making that call, and even echo it ourselves, so long as it is clear that we are not the ones leveling judgment.

Interestingly enough, in the scriptures, the call for repentance often comes from outside of the authority of any institution, including that of the church. Over and over, in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon, the church, as well as its people, are called to repentance. After all, the Nephites, whom Samuel the Lamanite called to repentance, were at least culturally members of the church. (See Helaman 13:26 for a nice self-referential statement by Samuel that emphasizes his role as an outsider prophet.)

As direct and harsh as Samuel the Lamanite was, he is no match for Ezekiel, who condemns the leaders of the church as clearly as Abinadi did Noah and his priests (especially at Mosiah 12:25-27).

Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

The diseased have you not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. (Ezekiel 34:2, 4. But read the entire chapter. Zeke did not mince his words.)

Walter’s recent post about forgiving our church leader was a faithful and generous piece that acknowledges the suffering of sheep at the hands of shepherds without issuing a call to repentance to those shepherds. Forgiveness is necessary for personal healing, regardless of the offense. Despite his delicacy, many commenters felt justified in condemning him for the perceived attack on our church leaders.

Can we say that our leaders have wronged us and still sustain them, still be faithful?

If we cannot discuss the pain that leaders or policies have caused us, how can our leaders succor our suffering? How can they serve as they are called to do if we don’t sustain them enough to give them the dignity of being as honest with them as we are with our fellow man?

Perhaps we have forgotten that the everyone needs a call to repentance at some time or another, including our leaders. It is no accident that the story of the lost 116 manuscript pages is included in the Doctrine and Covenants. Our leaders are fallible, and God will let them make mistakes. He does not deprive them of agency any more than he does us. As President Uchtdorf said “And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine” (October 2013).

I believe our leaders are well-intentioned, and act according to their faith and understanding, and strive to fulfill the the great responsibility they have been given. I also believe that they are fallible, acting at times out of fear rather than confidence, and so I forgive and support them in their calling.

As I am not a prophet, I cannot issue a call of repentance anyone, much less to our leaders, but I testify that many of us are either sick or broken or driven away, or we are trying to minister to our loved ones who fall into those categories. If we adopt Walter’s attitude of forgiveness, we may keep the flock together and protect the most vulnerable among us. (I acknowledge that this is insufficient in many cases, and that it is much easier to forgive someone who is not longer actively causing you pain.) I trust that the Lord God will require his flock at the hand of the shepherds (Ezekiel 34:10), and I pray that our shepherds will see our pain and minister to us.

152 comments for “Call to Repentance

  1. Sustaining church leaders means accepting and upholding major doctrines and beliefs they reveal and counsel is with. SSM for example is but one of many instances where are church leaders have counseled about. I personally believe one needs repentance if they continue to uphold SSM whole condemning church leaders at the same time. This is a major doctrine where we must stand together.

    Our shepherd’s are ministering to us, it’s just that some have wandered off, gotten lost, and now we must find them (convince them) that the good shepherd really does know the path.

  2. We must also note that these calls to forgiveness come from outside of the world’s popular culture as well as being calls to retrench, calls to return to a stricter church. The temptation in Samuel the Lamanite’s time was to be too hard; in ours, too soft. It’s not unimaginable that the Lord has raised up a great businessman to chastise the Church, to remind us that our first responsibilities are to our own homes and that mindless charity for worldly accolades is not charity at all. I would even say that is more likely than his raising up prophets to tell us to get with the times and soften our position on sexual sin.

  3. Rob, I don’t have time to really dig into it, but the idea that “sustain” means to accept and uphold is an idiosyncratic definition, at best. I think Rachel describes the issues well, and I don’t think there’s an easy out, but I certainly wouldn’t say my sustaining church leaders, whatever it affirmatively means, necessarily involves accepting everything they say, In fact, such uncritical acceptance strikes me as distinctly un-Mormon.

  4. Despite President Uchtdorf’s statement and D&C 10, most of the church, including much of the leadership, seems to embrace a doctrine that statements from the General Authorities are infallible. If there is a need for a call to repentance or a “turning away from” a harmful practice, the concept of GA infallibility would be my nomination. Turn instead to a reliance on the spirit to confirm teachings from others. If you have a stupor of thought about a statement, don’t automatically assume you are the one who may be wrong.

  5. Just as an aside it’s not necessarily clear just how much of an outsider Samuel actually is. If the Lamanite churches are organized on the pattern of the Nephite ones then he’s an outsider only in the sense of not being from Zarahemlah. But that just makes him an outsider the way Ammon was in his mission to the Lamanites. It’s not clear to me that he’s an outsider quite the way that say Jeremiah or Lehi were – although that’s how it’s portrayed.

    Even Lehi and perhaps Jeremiah are more complex than it appears at first glance if we see the period as one of conflicting visions of the Judaic cult. Especially the degree to which Lehi and Jeremiah are opposing the deuteronomist reforms of Josiah – although how that breaks down is quite controversial still. For one we tend to have a received view of pre-exilic Israel heavily colored by what texts are left after the exile. The one thing most agree upon is that the resultant texts are heavily edited and redacted based upon who the winners were in each group at that time.

    The same thing is happening among the Nephites of course too. After all the only reason the Nephites even mention Samuel (and possibly the only way Mormon learns of him centuries later) is because Christ forces them to include mention of a Lamanite. (3 Ne 23:8-13)

    To your main point about calling people to repentance I agree it’s tricky given our cultural norms. Often just blatantly telling people they’re wrong and need to change doesn’t work anyway. It frequently just makes them dig in their heels. Especially when the cry is coming from someone not of their “group.” Even when it is one of their group you can see it being controversial. (I could list numerous examples from contemporary politics from all sides when a major figure demands personal responsibility)

    Within the church when the prophet calls the church itself to repentance it’s more interesting for a variety of reasons. First we give them an authority that’s different than you see in society as a whole. However it often seems like the warnings are rejected pretty regularly – especially when they can be perceived as more social. This isn’t just people not abiding the call to be better visiting teachers or home teachers. One could look at a long list of things the prophets have warned about and wonder how well the church actually does.

    The problem of calling our leaders to repentance though is that very question of authority. I may see my bishop doing something wrong (although in my case my bishop seems to be doing a frankly great job) but how I deal with that perception of calling to repentance seems problematic. The idea that I can of my own authority set myself up as a prophet to call them to repentance like Samuel seems wrong. But what then is the appropriate way to handle this?

    I’d note that this seems different from the prior post which was about forgiving. I can forgive without considering myself having the authority to publicly call to repentance. Indeed I do that all the time.

  6. What is appropriate is to continue to minister with charity to those in need. We “grow up into” Christ by “speaking the truth in love”.

    Let the Lord look after His Prophets.

    We need not presume to speak evil of our Church leaders.

    Oaks on Criticism

  7. Issuing a call to repentance to our leaders concerning the latest policy is not what being LDS is about. Our leaders guide us and we should heed and uphold their counsel. It is us that need repentance for continuing to discount their cousel as fallacy. I stand with the prophets, who else stands with the prophets? Thats what we should be asking.

  8. To add, I’m not sure we have authority to even call our neighbors to repentance. We can state what we think standards should be. But to go say, “you are sinning in these ways…” seems completely inappropriate. That said, I think when we teach we should always teach with the spirit of repentance. However frankly the best way to do that is to call yourself to repentance. I often when I teach think about what I’m failing at or at least not doing as well as I should. It seems perfectly acceptable to call myself to repentance when teaching say PH and hopefully a few others get a bit of that call if it’s relevant. I’d just never pick an individual out to call to repentance. I just don’t think I have that authority.

    If I can’t do that to my neighbor (and often we criticize those who do as judgmental) then on what theory could we do it to our leaders?

  9. Jim (6), thank you for the link to the talk. There is a lot to think about within it. First it offers two definitions of criticism, one productive, one not. It then goes on to essentially say that it is not appropriate to apply even productive criticism to our church leaders (I am summarizing greatly here, please correct me if I misinterpret).

    Most interestingly, he gives 5 options for church members to address their differences with church leaders (which implicitly acknowledges that there will be differences, but that they may be resolved):

    1. “The first—and most benign—of the procedures is to overlook the difference.” I have personally done this many times, and found that the difference doesn’t matter much if I don’t worry it. That said, some things cannot be overlooked. Oaks knows this, too: he gives 4 more options.

    2. “A second option is to reserve judgment and postpone any action on the difference.” This is a conservative move, and one that I also practice. I do not like to make hasty, rash decisions.

    3. “The third procedure, which should be familiar to every student of the Bible, is to take up our differences privately with the leader involved.” As it is not possible for the average lay member of the church to approach and speak with members of the Q12, this doesn’t really apply to things like the POX. It is good advice for dealing with local leaders on local issues, provided that they are open to conversation and unlikely to retaliate (by withholding or revoking an ecclesiastical endorsement, or some such thing. The assumption that many problems are due to simple misunderstanding is charitable, and if we acted with that belief in mind, and both sides act humbly, it is likely that many could be resolved.

    4. “A fourth option is to communicate with the Church officer who has the power to correct or release the person thought to be in error or transgression.” Again, this only really applies to local leaders.

    5. “There is a fifth remedy. We can pray for the resolution of the problem. We should pray for the leader whom we think to be in error, asking the Lord to correct the circumstance if it needs correction. At the same time, we should pray for ourselves, asking the Lord to correct us if we are in error.” This is where we are. This is where Walter’s forgiveness comes in. It requires humility and long-suffering,

    Oaks continues, “By following these procedures, Church members can work for correction of a leader or for change of a policy. Members who do so in the correct spirit will not grieve the Spirit of the Lord. They will not alienate themselves from their leaders or their brothers and sisters in the Church.”

    Options 1, 2, and 5 do not give our leaders any feedback. That is an injustice to them, and hampers their ability to serve. 3 and 4 are not relevant for issues like the POX.

    So we need an option 6: We love our leaders, and trust that they are doing the best that they can, but we tell them that there are some areas that we need more help from them, or that we ask them to petition the Lord on our behalf. After all, we are told to ask for help, not passively wait for everything to be given us. Remember the story of Zelophehad’s daughters, who raised an injustice in the divinely given law of inheritance. Moses took it to the Lord, and the Lord amended the decree for them (Numbers 27).

  10. “The act implies at least two things: that the caller knows better than the called, and that the caller has the authority to issue the call to repent.”

    Authority, yes. Knowledge, irrelevant.

  11. And yet you call it “the POX.” A cute little name that conjures up not only visions of your presumed moral superiority (because you certainly wouldn’t exclude anybody from anything!) but also invidiously invites others to consider the actions of the leaders of the church to be tantamount to a venereal disease.

  12. POX = Policy Of eXclusion, that thing that was A-OK to do to inbred polygamists in the desert but completely reprehensible to do to our Beautiful Gay Families, because the Church is a great and spacious big tent, not an exclusionary strait and narrow path.

  13. “I also believe that they are fallible, acting at times out of fear rather than confidence, and so I forgive and support them in their calling.”

    Fallibility is not a sin that needs to be forgiven. Nor is acting out of fear.

    Personal unworthiness of their part is about as much as we are allowed to “peer review” as far as their actions are concerned.

  14. Elder Oaks cited talk on criticism, which was edited and re-titled for publication, has been understood to imply that one should accept anything a Church leader says as true, even if it is not.

    Elder Oaks responded to this claim himself in an interview with Helen Whitney for the 2007 PBS special “The Mormons.”

    In the following transcript, “HW” is “Helen Whitney” and “DHO” is “Dallin H. Oaks”:

    HW: You used an interesting phrase, “Not everything that’s true is useful.” Could you develop that as someone who’s a scholar and trying to encourage deep searching?

    DHO: The talk where I gave that was a talk on “Reading Church History” — that was the title of the talk. And in the course of the talk I said many things about being skeptical in your reading and looking for bias and looking for context and a lot of things that were in that perspective. But I said two things in it and the newspapers and anybody who ever referred to the talk only referred to [those] two things: one is the one you cite, “Not everything that’s true is useful,” and that [meant] “was useful to say or to publish.” And you tell newspapers any time (media people) [that] they can’t publish something, they’ll strap on their armor and come out to slay you! [Laughs.]

    I also said something else that has excited people: that it’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true, because it diminishes their effectiveness as a servant of the Lord. One can work to correct them by some other means, but don’t go about saying that they misbehaved when they were a youngster or whatever. Well, of course, that sounds like religious censorship also.

    But not everything that’s true is useful. I am a lawyer, and I hear something from a client. It’s true, but I’ll be disciplined professionally if I share it because it’s part of the attorney-client privilege. There’s a husband-wife privilege, there’s a priest-penitent privilege, and so on. That’s an illustration of the fact that not everything that’s true is useful to be shared.

    In relation to history, I was speaking in that talk for the benefit of those that write history. In the course of writing history, I said that people ought to be careful in what they publish because not everything that’s true is useful. See a person in context; don’t depreciate their effectiveness in one area because they have some misbehavior in another area — especially from their youth. I think that’s the spirit of that. I think I’m not talking necessarily just about writing Mormon history; I’m talking about George Washington or any other case. If he had an affair with a girl when he was a teenager, I don’t need to read that when I’m trying to read a biography of the Founding Father of our nation. (See “Elder Oaks Interview Transcript from PBS Documentary” on mormonnewsroom.org)

    It seems that at least by 2007 Elder Oaks’ view of the import of his own 1986 talk was much more limited than some would like to read it and that it leaves much more room for disagreeing with Church leaders than some would like, so long as the disagreement or criticism of an action is still seeing “a person in context” and not attempting to “depreciate their effectiveness in one area because they have some misbehavior [or even mere error] in another…” What do you think?

  15. Jeff, just a pedantic note. But if I accidentally hurt someone doesn’t it still make sense to speak of them forgiving us? That’s certainly how we teach forgiveness to our children where the hurtful actions rarely are intended as such or are fully understood. Of course when something is done willfully we recognize it as more serious. But if people’s intentions are good and they’re trying as best they can, I think we still should forgive. Indeed if anything it’s even more important to forgive in those cases. (Again not saying the brethren are doing wrong which I find a problematic assumption)

    The question of unworthiness is interesting as that’s something we may encounter in a local leader. Again I think there we ought forgive, tell the appropriate authority, hopefully give enough information so they can verify it, and then leave it in their hands.

  16. I have five children, Gen X to Millennials, all raised in the church, three married in the temple. All have left activity. None of them sinned by any definition before they left. Two left because of the the church’s hardline stance toward their LGBTQ friends. One left after being raped and told to repent. She didn’t leave immediately – it was several years and much suffering later. Her sister left while observing this and other offenses against women. Another left after experiencing the dramatic difference in being a married father and a divorced father in his ward.

    There is no coming back for any of them – at this point they are bitter and angry toward the church and I believe all have officially resigned. I am still active because of my husband’s faith and commitment. But I refuse to see my children as at fault in this process, as sinners, or as lost. My children were driven out of the church – it didn’t need to happen.

    Are we as a church really willing to see our own precious children as collateral damage in the cultural wars? Because we – or maybe now I should say “you” – are losing them, have lost them. Doubling down on the condemnation does not fix things. And I guarantee you, they are leaving.

  17. Karla, if you think kids leaving over our hardline stance is bad, watch what happens when churches try to accommodate Babylon.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/opinion/sunday/douthat-can-liberal-christianity-be-saved.html?_r=0
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/the-collapse-of-the-liberal-church/article4443228/
    http://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/al-mohler/a-new-exodus-americans-are-exiting-liberal-churches-1333899.html
    http://thefederalist.com/2014/08/21/how-to-shrink-your-church-in-one-easy-step/
    The culture wars aren’t going to stop if we ignore them, and they for sure aren’t going to stop if we only surrender a little bit. And – for absolute surety – they didn’t override your kids’ agency.

    These are the last days! They are! I’m not prophesying tent cities and call-outs or clearing my calendar for ash-clearing duty in Jackson County, I understand that it’s a much more complicated set of issues, but the key fact of it is that the adversary, be that a powerful demon or demons, the wicked instincts of fallen man, an emergent set of beliefs in prosperous industrial societies, or a combination of that and more, has great power. This could end tomorrow, it could last for a thousand years, but a very good way to make sure WE don’t last is to give in to the world and worship their gods with them.

    We’re not going to save everybody. We are going to lose people to the fiery darts of the enemy. We are not going to lose fewer people by declaring those darts to be progress and those wounds to be healthy.

  18. Is “Mars” your real name? If not, then you’ve chosen a poor pseudonym. It’s a very bad idea to announce yourself as the god of war. Yet it seems appropriate to your comments. All you have to offer is continual engagement in culture wars, and to motivate us you give us fear and a hard heart. (We can’t save everyone, you say. And if we think it’s bad now, just wait until we “surrender.”)

    I’ve never yet met a single person who joined the church because they were thrilled to go to war or loved to live in a bunker.

  19. I feel the need to weigh in on this. The T&S crowd has been instrumental is preserving me during my own personal faith crisis, so I owe a lot to those who carry the standard of compassion & love. Despite my lack of academic background & erudition, I will try to put this as best I can & I thank the T&S regulars for tolerating my ineptitude.

    Karla brings up the exact point that I was going to make. I do NOT believe, nor can I be made to ever believe that God has put some of us here on Earth as pawns to be played in a game of chess. The gospel message extends to ALL people of the earth, yet many within the mainstream Mormon culture can easily bend doctrinal &/or policy waypoints in a manner to justify why it is OK for certain among us to be driven away & cast out of the flock. — That idea hurts my soul.

    I cannot for one second buy into the idea that certain among us were ever put on Earth to simply play the role of the character foil in the unfolding drama of the restored church. One dimensional characters who are consumed & forgotten so that the pious among us can have a convenient cosmology — That idea is poison to my soul.

    I fear that all sides in this debate will have to account for the ways in which they were in error, but none more so than those who take a hard-line stance with no critical thought or searing personal insight into the “WHY” of their beliefs. Those who have followed their course armed with compassion & a heart full of love & empathy will fare the best.

    I don’t have any answers as to why God allows the Church to persist in error on so many occasions, but there is ample proof that He does. As time goes by I see that as less of a “bug” in the plan, and as more of an odd “feature”. A feature that allows us to question “WHY” and to act with our own agency. But like any tool or “feature”, it can be manipulated & turned against the very people it was meant to serve. Ultimately things would be great if we would ALL humbly acknowledge (leaders included) when we are wrong & take steps to mend the fences we had a hand in breaking. But the normal human tendency is to shed freedom & look towards “strong” leaders for a simple answer to life’s complex problems. . . and that’s how societies & organizations get in these kinds of problems.

    My heart truly goes out to those who suffer because of convenient policies & digital classifications.
    My heart breaks for those who have suffered because of the application of polluted doctrine & bad policy.

    I fully believe in Rachel’ option #6 – Forgive our leaders, but tell them of our experiences & why any given policy causes grief, pain, loneliness, frustration, etc. I feel the need for more outrage over the ways that many among us were consumed & tossed aside all so that the mainstream can have a convenient feel-good doctrine. There is more work to be done & much more to discuss before this issue will ever “go away”.

    -nate
    .

  20. Thank you, Nate S. It does not take the erudite or academic to keep me in the Church, though sometimes they help. It does take a community of people who demonstrate and teach humility, compassion and love as you have. It is those people who make it possible for me to see the Church community as “living”, i.e. animated by the Holy Spirit, and as “true” to the ideals taught by Christ.

  21. I’ve met many people, actually, who joined the church because they knew they needed a bunker. One sister described her first Sacrament meeting as, “I felt like I’d entered an air-raid shelter.” I’m not bringing you culture wars. I’m declaring that they are here. The war is on. The breeze you now feel around your liver is not from a regularly scheduled bullet hole. Bunkers are nasty places but they beat the trenches.

    Nate, nobody came to Earth to be one of the Washington Generals. That idea is poisonous to the soul, as poisonous as the idea that if we had only followed the example of the Presbyterian Church USA those people wouldn’t have had to leave.

    I wouldn’t call a pious cosmology convenient, though. After all, the people throwing victory parades in major cities don’t exactly approve of it. Cultural icons tell us their victory is assured, it is irreversible, and it is not their last.

    I am open to the idea of alternative cosmologies. I don’t believe there’s any sin at all in wondering if maybe some spirits do arrive in bodies of different sexes, or if some bodies are animated without any spirit in them at all. I’ve pondered alternative eternal family arrangements. I’ve come out believing the doctrine in Family: A Proclamation.

    If there were to be a change in that doctrine, our direction might come in a variety of forms. It would not come with a trumpet out of Sodom.

    I’m sorry that this is disturbing to anyone. I want us to put away contention and come together in love. What I find, though, is one side always needing to be the one considering alternatives, always needing to give a little, and a little more, and a little more, always needing to just have enough love to know that our enemies are right. That’s not coming together in love. You feel we need more outrage over those tossed aside, but that has to include those tossed aside for the feel-good platitudes of the world, too.

  22. Mars, you are an articulate spokesman for a deluded worldview. It is simply wrong to define our relationship to the world in terms of war. It is not consistent with the restored gospel. The scriptures describe the church not as a bunker in war, but as a broad, sheltering tent. Zion must expand her stakes, not retreat into the ground.

    Yes, there is evil in the world, but as Christians we do not overcome it by mongering fear and preaching about insuperable divisions. The more courageous course is to face the world with optimism and to offer an outstretched hand—not a sword. We must not fear the world. Far more than it contains evil, the world is charged with the ever-changing beauty of God’s creation,. The world is where we find our brothers and sisters, who need us. It has ever been so.

    It is dismaying and disturbing to read your warning about exercising too much love for “our enemies.” Can you not hear yourself rejecting the words of Christ?

  23. I’m not sure this comment is more appropriate here or in the previous thread, but my issue with the concept of forgiveness as it’s been used in both is that it has the capability of being used as a tool of persuasion rather than a godly attribute. Publicly announcing you forgive someone for an act which the other person doesn’t think is wrong to begin with can easily be seen as just an indirect form of calling someone to repentance. It feels a little manipulative, even if it isn’t intended as such, because assumes so much negative about the position of the person who is being forgiven.

  24. Clark 16,

    I’m not buying it.

    1) The very title of the post along with the talk of authority and knowing suggests a situation very different than that.

    2) Jesus’ words offended and hurt lots of people, but this was no reason for him to apologize.

  25. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

    And [Jesus] said, Come.

    Peter thoughtlessly took no pause for critical analysis.

    You must decide now which way you face

  26. You’re correct, the scriptures do not describe the church as a structure that was not yet invented. No bunkers. They do have watchtowers, though, and city walls. And to call my worldview deluded and then say the war metaphor has nothing to do with the gospel – would you like me to bring up, say, Winning the War against Evil, Oct 2008, A Defense and a Refuge, Oct 2006, A Strategy for War, Oct 1995, Be Valiant in the Fight of Faith, Oct 1974, not to mention Philippians 2, 2 Timothy 2, and Ephesians 6? The Lord is a man of war. Onward, Christian soldiers, we are all enlisted, hark listen to the trumpeters.

    I would be hurt more by accusations that I’m breaking Christ’s command to love our enemies if they didn’t include the implication that our enemies get to define what love is. They say you can’t love a person and condemn their actions. Well, they can love me and condemn my homophobia, they say, but I can’t love them and condemn their fornication. Whatever.

    I’m not trying to focus on insuperable barriers. They’re not. There is no person who cannot repent, forsake their sins, and come unto Christ. Having a certain sexual orientation will not keep you from Christ. Your parents having a certain sexual orientation will not keep you from Christ. If you are in a gay marriage, you can get out of it, forsake your sins, and come unto Christ. If your parents are, you can prevail on them to break it and allow you to be baptized. It will be a difficult break, it is a difficult sin to forsake, because it is strongly founded on other sins. The great love that often exists in such situations should help in this, if it is combined with the greater love that Christ has for each individual involved.

    Christ stretches his hand out to us but WE MUST TAKE IT. We do not accept Christ’s hand by negotiation. We do not demand Christ ordain women or bless unlawful unions before we take his hand. If there are people who absolutely will not forsake their sins, repent, and come unto Christ until he gets with the times, we cannot accept them into our church. They can attend services. Maybe they’ll come around. He won’t change for them.

    We ought to be fearful! We ought to tremble in recognition of our many, many sins, and crawl on the ground if that’s what it takes to lose that burden! I am encrusted with sin, but I hope in Christ, and I am not fearful of the direction the Brethren guide the church in, because I do not elevate my sins to the status of an identity, I do not demand anyone accept me and them both, and I dearly, dearly want to have them removed.

  27. Some random person on the internet, calling me to repentance is even less effective than the people with the hell fire and damnation signs outside of major public gatherings. When I hear/read them I can’t help but think “What right do you have to even ask that of me? Do you even know if you’re closer to God than I am?”
    If I read someone on the internet saying that I need to repent, and the spirit hits me; sure I’ll let that be a catalyst for repenting, but it’s going to be because of the spirit, not because of the words on the screen.
    We accept that the church leaders can call us to repentance because they probably are closer to God than I am; or even if they aren’t, there’s a chance that since they have stewardship over me, they might receive revelation on my behalf. Though I’ll admit, even if I’m watching General Conference and the President of church stares into the camera and says “You need to repent!”, if the spirit doesn’t confirm it, I’ll think “That must have been for someone else” and let it roll off my back.
    The more effective calls to repentance usually involve something specific that I need to change too. Not some blanket statement of repentance with no idea about what needs to change.
    As for calling repentance to our neighbor I think that that’s what D&C 88:81 is about. Now of course it’s never going to work to go up to someone you wouldn’t even know or care about, if not for the fact that you share a property boundary and say “You need to repent!”. The Lord wants us to be inviting and entice them to repentance by showing how their lives can improve if they do so.
    Yeah, repentance.

  28. Mark (11). I’ve only come across the term POX recently, and I like it for its succinctness. But this dynamic that I’m mulling over doesn’t only apply to the policy change, or even exclusively to the LDS church.

    JR (15) Thank you for the retrospective on Oaks’ talk. That is useful. It is unfortunate that the context that he saw for that talk is absent from it, so when people come across it, they are free to use the words in ways that even he did not feel were appropriate.

    Karla (17) Thank you for sharing your story. I know many people in similar situations. After we got word of the exclusion policy (see Mark? Not as succinct ;) one of our teens was so shaken that it was hard to continue going to church. In addition to that child’s own issues, we have gay family members and neighbors who we love. The policy felt bad. Our child is still going to church, and we are doing all that we can to help them see the good in faith and community, in service and sacrament that can come through our association with each other in the church. And we’ve given them an out: if this child finds something else to do with their time that involves service and spiritual nourishment, such as volunteering, meditation, or joining another faith community, we will support them. But until that point, they need to continue to come with us. Because the kid is not motivated enough to find something else, they come with us, and we have this grace period to continue testifying of the good of the church in our lives. And because there is a choice, the child doesn’t feel forced to continue with our church and doesn’t resent us. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I care more that my children know that I love them and that love is not contingent on their standing in the church.

    Mars (18) I will take compassion for my family and those I love over a “let’em burn” attitude any day.

    Nate S (20) Thank you. My experience with T&S is similar. Some questions we can work out on our own through study and prayer, and for others it is helpful to engage in conversation with other people who are likewise struggling to understand through faith and reason. Many of these questions are not productive in a Sunday School setting, so we need a forum like T&S where the standard assumption is that we are all people of faith and goodwill. And for the most part, the comments live up to that standard.

    Jr (21) is right: community and mutual support are key to membership in the church.

    Mars (22) I think that the main difference between us is that I don’t see the world in a military paradigm. I see competing goods and values, none of which are bad, given different priority by different people. My world is not one of either/or, ally/enemy. While I have come to different conclusions than you have, I do agree that we need to come together in love. Part of that is to mourn with those who mourn. Inasmuch as some of our members are hurt and mourning, we need to mourn with them. This is both a private and public gesture. To ignore those who are hurting among us, or to dismiss them as casualties of war, is cold. I find your last paragraph most interesting. “What I find, though, is one side always needing to be the one considering alternatives, always needing to give a little, and a little more, and a little more, always needing to just have enough love to know that our enemies are right.” This description applies equally well to those who feel rejected or alienated by church policy, especially if you replace the word “enemies” with “leaders.” I don’t want those hurt to think of their leaders as enemies. And if they cannot communicate this pain to them, how will the leaders know about the rift that needs mending?

    Loursat (23) I find you vision of the inclusive, expanding stakes of Zion very appealing. Thank you.

    Jimbob (24) Good point. To say “I forgive you” can be a passive aggressive move that is very much like a loaded question. I sincerely doubt that was Walter’s intention: he seems to be sincerely interested in helping people find peace within themselves. I was less generous: while I explicitly avoided calling the leaders to repent because I lack the authority to issue such a call, I do believe that they have caused harm, and that even acknowledging that would be helpful. That has not been the standard operating procedure of our leadership, even when they have backed away from long established teachings. An apology for the priesthood ban to go along with the gospel topic essay would be refreshing and healing and would help to put those false teachings to bed once and for all. Just a few years ago, my visiting teacher told me she had just learned that the reason blacks didn’t get the priesthood was because of the mark of Cain. We are haunted by ghosts of past prejudices and mistakes until we own them and apologize for them.

    Jeff G (25). Thank you. Jesus certainly was a divisive figure, and he was unapologetic about disrupting the social order of his community and religion.

    Jim (27) Peter came, but it was hard and he faltered. He needed more help, and when he called out for it, Christ extended his hand and helped him. Testimony and commitment are not won and done kinds of things: they are ongoing, through change and struggle. And if we don’t communicate our struggle, we may not get the help we need to stay in the boat.

    Mars (28) You are right; we have lots of war metaphors in church talks, scripture and hymns. You are right that we cannot demand anything of God or our church leaders. We can, however, express our pain, and raise a plea that it be heard and acknowledged. I have more thoughts about repentance that I’ll go into in a future post. I look forward to your comments then. The conflation of sin with identity is particularly interesting to me. King Lamoni’s father offered to give away all his sins to know god, in what I find to be the most moving prayer in scripture. I wonder how much of ourselves are related to the things we choose, our cultivated talents and attitudes, our idiosyncrasies and quirks, our patterns of behavior. We are, more often than not, Kierkegaard’s aesthetic or ethical man; very rarely do any of us have enough confidence to become the knight of faith, to give up all of those things by which we have made ourselves who we are in order to rest transparently before God. It is a hard thing to do, and you acknowledge that. I’m just afraid that it is human nature to kick against the pricks.

    Jader3rd (29) This random internet person thanks you, another random internet person, for you thoughts. :) I agree with you, but I still like the online conversation (I don’t expect that anyone’s repentance will be an outcome of it). This way, it’s not just me writing something and being stuck with it in my own head: I get pushed back by people from all over the spectrum, and I love that that forces me to reconsider and refine my ideas.

  29. As this post takes up the baton of my call for forgiveness I like to weigh in here as well. Forgiveness is a lot of things: balm for our own soul, acknowledgement of our own limited view and love of our neighbor, plus a venue for reparation between me and the other. Indeed, a public call for forgiveness adds some corrective element to that, and I see the discussion on forgiving our leaders also as a soft voice coming from below, urging them to check both their inspiration and the morality of their PoE ruling (PoE would do as well as an acronym). It is part of Rachel’s #6 road, of calling attention, the water streaming upwards in Escher’s art. Rachel’s call for repentance takes it to a next step, which spells out the shift in moral authority: ecclesiastical authority does not automatically involve moral authority, as the first is revelatory, the second is consensual, and in this day and age the first is no longer a sufficient condition for the second.
    In my bout of church leadership I sometimes called upon people to recheck their inspiration for certain proposals, and that is what we would like our leaders do, go back to the Lord, ask again, and do not think one loses face by changing past rulings.
    Though the war metaphor is quite ubiquitous in gospel texts, surely we are not at war with children? And for me that holds for the polygamists children as well. (By the way, in my reading of the quite messy way the PoE got around, the conflating of polygamy and LGTB was one of the thought-mistakes made by the brethren)
    And, again from Europe wich is flooded by refugees, many of them children: Is the SSM really our most important battle front? A world with religious wars, terrorism, more refugees from wars-by-intolerance than ever, run away armament, shootings and random killings, we surely have more urgent and important battles to fight than SSM.

    Walter

  30. Rachel’s and Walter’s are good models for me of the kind of gentle, accepting responses of which I am not (yet?) always capable.

    I may have introduced “POX” here, though I picked it up elsewhere and liked it for its succinctness. It did not occur to me that “pox” is also a term for syphilis among other diseases or conditions. Had disease occurred to me, I would more likely have thought of acne scars.

    At the risk of hijacking the thread (though I doubt anyone will follow this diversion): PoE doesn’t have quite the same ring as POX, but does have the benefit (or burden) of calling to mind Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and its repeated cry “nevermore.” In any event, just as we can sing “Do What is Right” without thinking of “The Old Oaken Bucket” or “Araby’s Daughter”, or “The Time is Far Spent” without thinking of “Krambambuli” or “Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing” without thinking of “Go, Tell Aunt Rhody,” or “O Savior, Thou who Wearest a Crown” without thinking of Paul Simon’s “American Tune” (or Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, or any of the other multiple texts that have used that tune for centuries), we can also use acronyms to communicate in context, without thinking of all their possible meanings. I don’t choose to dwell on syphilis! especially when I know someone is talking about something else. :)

  31. JR, I do think of “Go, Tell Aunt Rhody” and “Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing” together, especially since I had a kid doing Suzuki method on the violin. With “POX” I must admit that I think of the misquote from Mercutio, “A pox on both your houses” with the idea that misunderstandings and pride can cause pain on all sides (but not with the idea that everyone ought to be cursed!) But if it too abrasive, I am happy to drop it. Terms that are so loaded that they hinder discourse aren’t useful to me.

  32. Walter,
    I can assure you that the Brethren are spending very little time addressing SSM in comparison to other problems. They have spoken, they have moved on, now it’s up to us to not spend all of our time debating their counsel, accept the prophets counsel and move on ourselves to more important things.

  33. Jeff (25) I don’t disagree with what you say but I’m not sure that addresses my pedantic point. We can unintentionally cause harm. With Jesus I think his offending was attempting to bring people to the light and thus not unintentional nor problematic. I certainly am not saying any offense is wrong.

    Rachel (30) and Karla (17) I think we have to acknowledge bluntly that there is a huge divide between what is taught as acceptable and what society teaches as acceptable. There’s really no easy way to embrace both. Short of people compartmentalizing (which I’m not sure is healthy) I don’t see any possible resolution. I think we have to be empathetic to those who suffer. What I worry about is that those who are torn don’t see our empathy and love but just a culture battle. They then feel unable to remain. It’s tragic and I pray people will come back. But I don’t see a resolution.

    Mars (various) As I said it’s fine to see an unbridgeable gap. I think those who leave over this issue see it that way too. But if your aim is to convince people to stay, pushing them away is probably the worst way possible. What I worry about is that in our zeal to affirm our standard we don’t simultaneously show an outpouring of love along with it. (And I’m probably guilty of that too at times)

    It would be much easier if we had answers for why it is the way it is or some hope for those who don’t fit our ideals. Thus far we really don’t have any information along those lines which is why these issues are so problematic for people. They see something that to them seems like inherent injustice and are being told to take it purely on faith.

  34. I take issue with your “requirements” to call someone to repentance. I would argue that the most effective call to repentance would come to me from a close friend – someone without any ecclesiastical authority (as it relates to me), or even moral authority over me, but someone who knows me, knows the path I am on, and sincerely cares about my future.

  35. Clark (35) You are right about the divide. The real problem is that it is always shifting: what was acceptable in a given society one thousand or one hundred years ago is very different from what is acceptable now, and as a global church, we work with people from vastly different cultural backgrounds. I don’t know what the resolution would be either: it is likely to be a continually shifting point of tension.

    Thor (36), I like your move to replace authority with emotional investment. What you have described sounds like caring guidance.

  36. We are called to suffer our leaders as members of the Church. And we truly have suffered in the last half of the twentieth century, bleeding into this first quarter of the twenty-first. But as Elder Oaks said, we can’t criticize them for the harm they’re causing even if the criticism is true. Because it makes their job harder.

    So, Walter’s and Rachel’s call for us to simply forgive them is best. Those of us who want to remain faithful in spite of the wreckage they’re causing can do nothing else except go through the forgiveness process.

    I don’t follow those on this thread, however, who assert that we can’t explain that what has happened has hurt us and others we love, or share our observations that the directives, policies, and actions have pushed people we know and love out of the Church.

  37. Clark – the problem is when people feel pushed away by anything other than enthusiastic acceptance and praise of sinful behavior.

    Walter – we are not at war with children. We are at war with families, though. Or to step down the metaphor, many families have been formed with sandstone foundations that will not be able to hold them up for eternity, and which must be replaced should they desire a temple to be built on them. They may have put tremendous amounts of work and love into that sandstone, but that will not make it strong in eternity. And that’s the real work of the Church, to ensure enduring families throughout eternity; some temporary temporal crisis is pathetically insignificant compared to that. It will take long years of work to tear down the lies now accepted in Europe; more likely they will burn than find their Jonah, but until then we need to do what we can to ensure strong families are built on eternal foundations.

    Rachel – I’m glad you brought up Kierkegaard, because he brings to mind Abraham. I’m not trying to push anyone away who doesn’t want to leave anyway, but I do want to remind everyone that this church is not a game, not a social club, it is the gathering of the seed of Abraham, who was willing to throw away everything he thought was right because he loved God more.

  38. Rob – I very much doubt that the leaders have simply decided and moved on. First, the general issue is a struggle on the power of definition (what is a marriage?) and that is still on the table. The PoE is an aspect of that, plus a ruling that backfired. The internet storm must have taken them by surprise (it was leaked, after all) as their rapid redefinition showed. That must have been a rather new experience for them. Let us see what the next GConf has to offer.

    Mars – yes strong families, and possibly eternal ones, we agree here of course. The problem with the PoE is that the ruling may have aimed at SSM families, but did catch the children in the cross hairs. But I am curious about your mention of European lies (I take it that the debate between Trump and Clinton was an exemple of American veracity …). Two statements are crucial, and I wonder whether these are what you meant: 1. homosexuality is not a choice (that is Trans Atlantic now, and scientific consensus) and 2. The recent history of SSM in Europe, in particular in the Netherlands, shows that it simply does not threaten traditional marriage, as it remains a fringe of 2%. Not more. It simply is not an issue in Dutch society, and surely is not an issue at all for the members of the church. They simply marry traditionally as the great majority of the population. So from our European point of view the PoE simply is not needed, solves nothing and hurts as it zooms in on the children.

    Walter

  39. Mars (39) I think there’s a big middle ground by feeling pushed away by anything but enthusiasm versus feeling pushed away because of punitive action. While, as you know, I give the benefit of the doubt to the Brethren, most of the people upset by this were in a somewhat less upset state prior to last year and the changes of the policy regarding children. Now of course many people were upset by Prop-8 as well. Had the Church retained it’s law of chastity but not engaged in political action many of these people probably wouldn’t have been as upset. Note I’m not saying the Brethren were wrong, just that their actions have fairly predictable effects on people of a particular political stance. A stance that demographically is becoming dominant in the young.

  40. Walter,
    It’s not a complex thing to define “marriage”. The church doesn’t recognize same sex marriages. It’s that simple. The Brethren have moved on. This is generally only a problem by a few fringe Mormon naysayers generally in the SLC area who already had other issues or agendas to begin with- an axe to grind against the church.

  41. You’re wrong Rob. Church leaders have not moved on and this is not only a problem for fringe members. Many straight-up mainstream members who don’t care at all about progressive issues or blogging or equality have expressed dismay and even disgust at the POX. Of course there is no lack of Mormons like you who respond by simply labeling them apostate or having an ax to grind. Some do but this isn’t about ex-mormons or people with axes to grind. Rachel and Walter certainly don’t fit into that category. Neither do 95% of those I know who are deeply troubled by the POX and very sincerely doubt President Nelson’s ad hoc explanation that it was “revelation.”

  42. Rob (42), the PoE addresses much more than the Church’s declining to include SSM in its definition of marriage and, indeed, the Church’s position on SSM was entirely clear before any version of the PoE existed. In the US political struggle over civil SSM, there were a variety of positions taken by members from coast to coast. Most of those I knew favoring granting civil marriage status to SSM were either taking no position on Church recognition of SSM for ecclesiastical purposes or were fully supportive of the Church’s position on marriage as an ecclesiastical matter. Those few I knew who were not were also not in the SLC area. I sometimes struggle to understand how you get to your generalizations.

    In any event, the Church does “recognize” civil SSM as a matter distinct from same-sex committed monogamous cohabitation. Although the PoE (as “clarified”) treats them the same so far as children of one or more of such pairs are concern, but treats them differently so far as disciplinary procedures are concerned. In the case of SSM, a disciplinary council is “mandatory”. In the case of unmarried same-sex cohabitation, a disciplinary council “may be necessary.”

    Your 42 seems to either miss the complexity of the PoE issues or to suggest that the discontent is from those who want ecclesiastical acceptance of SSM. Though there has been significant complaining about the “apostacy” designation, if that was a problem, it existed in principle prior to the PoE. Most of those I know who have complained of the PoE have been focused on the children and not on SSM itself. I remain unable to accept your generalizations or to make any myself about those dissatisfied, unaccepting, or disbelieving the PoE.

    Walter (40), April general conference following President Nelson’s unilateral and still unsupported declaration of revelatory status of some unidentified version of the PoE brought no new comments from the Brethren on the subject. I would not expect any in October either. If there is ever to be any further, formal softening of the PoE as to children, I expect it will require the passage of more time before it happens. No such softening of the PoE should be expected as to the disciplinary council policies, at least in this generation of leaders. Though some clarification might someday happen as to those, such clarification does not historically seem to have happened in general conference.

  43. Rob, I personally know a currently serving Bishop in one ward and counselors in another who have problems with POX. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  44. Clark,

    (I’m on a CPU now instead of my stupid little smartphone)

    My response was actually pointed at a deeper, more subtle point – namely that offense and hurt are not the foundations of good vs evil. Thus, the fact that Jesus’ offense may have been for some greater good is totally beside the point, since offense to humans (rather than God) is itself not a prima facie evil that has any need of justification.

    Now, of course there are some hurtful things that are also sins in need forgiveness…. but it is only our attempts at rationalizing sin that would ever lead us to suspect that the hurtfulness of those actions is itself the reason for their sinfulness. I find zero support for such an assumption in revelation.

    Rather, the attempt to reduce all right/wrong to “pleasure/pain” or “happy/hurt” was actually very late invention and was deeply intertwined with various ideological interests. (My recent post on the Genealogy of Self-Interest was specifically aimed at this point.)

  45. Walter, it does not matter in the slightest whether or not homosexuality is a choice. Not one iota. Not a particle. We are blessed and cursed with various inclinations. I struggle with mine. None of them give me any excuse before the Lord.

    And your passive hand-waving of those doomed 2% of families that won’t ever get to be eternal – sometimes we must leave the ninety-and-eight, Walter. It doesn’t matter if they’re not destroying other families, they’re destroying their own.

    Clark, you will find that many people who felt pushed away would have felt pushed away by something else anyway. That is how departure from the Church works. It doesn’t start with the Church. Often the Lord brake-checks us to see if our seat belts are on. I agree that it may have been a mistake, may have been handled poorly, but those with faith in Christ and the Restored Gospel simply do not leave the church because the leaders made a mistake. They had an opportunity to refine their faith and they did not take it. That’s one of the purposes of fallible leadership, to test faith, because that’s something we’ll be taking with us when we go. And of course they weren’t deliberately trying to shove away youth (who are much less liberal than you might suppose).

  46. “And your passive hand-waving of those doomed 2% of families that won’t ever get to be eternal – sometimes we must leave the ninety-and-eight, Walter. It doesn’t matter if they’re not destroying other families, they’re destroying their own.”

    This is a prime example of what is wrong with our rhetoric in the Church right now surrounding the desire of gay people to live in stable, monogamous relationships that are termed “marriage” — it leads people like Mars to make such shocking and revolting comments as this, not knowing anything about the families at issue but rather referring to them in the aggregate and passing judgment on them as self-destructive. It has created a generation of self-appointed inquisitors who happily condemn without any shred of understanding. Or Christian love and discipleship.

  47. Mars (47) it’s possible that’s true for some. I suspect we’ll know better when the latest ARIS religious survey comes out. My sense is that there’s a enough of a cultural divide between the Church and secular culture especially among the young that you always end up picking one. I have noticed more people being upset at the gay marriage thing though although it may also be signaling for a collection of complaints about how the Church is becoming more and more Republican. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in November as even Mormons voting for Trump don’t like him. And Trump is attempting to usher in a post-religious right that really seems distasteful.

    Jeff (46) Yes, but I agree that hurt isn’t a foundation for good/evil.

    As I said over in the BCC thread, there’s a common stance is contemporary secular ethics that all that matters is the immediate harm I do to others. No harm no foul. (Which is why such things as trigger warnings or microagressions are framed in nearly utilitarian terms)

    The problem is that it’s almost impossible to use this stance to explain Mormon ethics. Consider pre-marital sex. Who gets hurt from a secular perspective? No one outside perhaps of STDs for those with many partners and the small chance (given contemporary technology) of pregnancy. So why is it wrong? Yet it is wrong. So are other things we hold to like the Word of Wisdom. (People keep trying to justify this in terms of utilitarianism however the problem is coffee and tea seem to be beneficial in reasonable quantities and small quantities of alcohol aren’t that bad) Most of the stances we hold can’t be justified in secular terms. Yet we hold them to be wrong whether because we think they’re intrinsically wrong or because we do them due to being asked. (i.e. the many views of the Word of Wisdom which doesn’t see it as intrinsically unethical)

    Rob (42) like the others I think you’re just not characterizing this accurately. Clearly the Church sees SSM as a threat more akin to polygamy even if it accepts the normalization of SSM by SCOTUS. I also believe the Brethren are well aware of the consternation this causes among a significant number of members even if I believe it is a minority. Exactly why they think it’s a threat ultimately isn’t clear.

  48. Trond, if the doctrine that same-sex couples will be unable to continue as families in eternity is shocking, I’m not sure what isn’t new to you. I’m not judging them based on things I don’t know, I’m judging them based on the single thing I do know – that they are not based around male-female dyads. I’ve repeatedly acknowledged that they may be very happy and loving; regardless, the goal of the Church is eternal families and they are not.

    I would note that you happily condemn my love and discipleship with even less knowledge about me. Love coexists with harshness; indeed, that is often the only environment in which it can survive. The Lord’s love of the Israelites was expressed in the chariot-wheels of Babylon, and we are no more righteous than they.

  49. Mars (50), While your view of eternal families is the one most common among Mormons in my experience and is consistent with the current teachings of the Church, I have not been able to find any reported specific revelation on the subject of the existence of same-sex attraction or same-sex familial relationships in the hereafter. Those questions do not appear to have been in the forefront of any reported prophetic mind asking the Lord, or the Lord hasn’t answered them in a way that has been declared to the Church as revelation. It doesn’t help to cite the Proclamation on the Family. After Boyd K. Packer stated in general conference that the proclamation met the definition of revelation, he himself (according to Church PR) edited the statement for publication, demoting the Proclamation from that verbally declared status to “a guide that members of the church would do well to read and to follow.” http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/sltrib/home/50440474-76/packer-church-question-speech.html.csp

    Some wonder whether there will someday be answers to such questions revealed — perhaps when we have senior Church leaders sufficiently open to the possibility of additional revelation on the subject to ask the Lord, rather than assume that we and they already have a complete picture of the plan of salvation as it applies to everyone, and therefore also to those the Lord does not choose to bless with a change from same-sex to hetero-sexual attraction.

    In the meantime, the issue for some of us is how we should interact with our friends, neighbors, and loved-ones who in fact have families (eternal or not) including a parent in a same-sex marriage or similar relationship. That (and not whether SSM can be eternal) is the subject of the PoE that has caused some significant distress.

  50. Yes – you would do well to read and follow it. If you did, you would encourage the formation of eternal families, or for those who absolutely can not form one, a life of abstinence. That has everything to do with how we interact with those around us. We should not tell them, for example, that the Church might bless their unions if we only get a few apostles open to revelation. We would be right to remind them, as lovingly as we can, perhaps with light touches like a surreptitious manual change, that sexual sin will not be accepted in the body of Christ.

  51. Mars, I suspect that your second person pronouns in your first sentence are not directed to me, as it is not currently my calling to tell anyone how they should be living their lives. Of course, if asked my view by someone considering the possibility of a same sex relationship (which has happened a few times), I think it would be wise to encourage as you say. For me it is also important not to reject people if they do not choose to act on my encouragement. Your last sentence may imply your approval of the disciplinary council portion of the PoE, but I don’t read the PoE as saying that “sexual sin will not be accepted in the body of Christ.” The PoE leaves a significant number of sexual sins for which a disciplinary council is not “mandatory”.

  52. Of course. They were directed at the church in general. It is, in fact, your calling to tell every creature how to live their lives, insofar as that involves forsaking their sins and coming unto Christ. And we don’t get to reject people, either. Same-sex couples can and should attend church. They simply cannot get baptized, and their family structure is so far outside of what is acceptable that they cannot consent to their childrens’ baptism either.

  53. Sometimes a voice crying in the wilderness is a sign that one is on the path to enlightenment. Sometimes it’s just a voice crying in the wilderness.

    I think our increasing pre-occupation with same-sex marriage in the church risks causing us to lose sight of the overall purpose of a Christian community, which is spiritual transformation. For gay people, maybe that means abstinence, I’m not really sure. However, I’m of course willing to defer to the brethren on this point, although while allowing for the reality that we all see through a glass darkly. Regardless, I’m almost certain that for those of us who aren’t gay, spiritual transformation does not come from the type of heroic, Nietzchean, warrior-like righteousness activism that seems to characterize a lot of these discussions. Such posturing is awfully seductive for many Christians, because it feels like we’re doing something that is difficult and unpopular and at odds with how the world defines what it means to flourish. And we might be right about that — it is difficult and unpopular and at odds with the mainstream. But while spiritual transformation often requires us to take unpopular positions, it doesn’t follow that by taking these unpopular positions, we are somehow furthering our own spiritual transformation. Quite the contrary might be true. Since this post is about repentance, here’s my view on the topic: I think that all of us (not just our gay brothers and sisters) need to ask ourselves the hard questions about what aspects of secular modernity we have all adopted, perhaps sub-consciously, and that are at odds with our Christian commitments, and we should work very, very hard to try to overcome those challenges. We need to tend to our own gardens more.

  54. If I am to envision myself discussing how I chose to live this life with the Savior one day, I feel it is much easier for me to explain why I could not follow the prophet on a handful of issues that went against my conscience than explaining to the Savior why I abandoned the heart and mind my Heavenly Father gave me to follow something I don’t understand, and just does not feel right or good. And quite frankly, because I’m not a Bishop or higher, the notion that I will have to do anything about any of this is not real. The real part is how I treat people. If I have to err on a side, I choose kindness. And yes, I fully recognize I could be in error here. But I feel I can defend this potential error to my Savior with confidence.

    These posts have provided me some great perspective. While that quote from Elder Oaks will always be in the back of my mind telling me in a matter-of-fact tone that the Church does not apologize, I think being generous to my leaders will make this messiness easier to navigate, so thank you to both Rachel and Walter for courageously sharing this.

  55. Trond #43,

    The Brethren have moved on, it’s really not an issue. The only issue for them to deal with is how to bring those back into the fold who do not agree.

  56. Brian,

    So you know a bishop eh? I am not sure your angle here. Just because a bishop disagrees doesn’t make it right to also disagree. I live a couple hundred miles from SLC and used to live there myself. I have seen firsthand the large ripple effect of fringe Mormons there and the ripple is quite big, but then as you move further away the ripple gets much much smaller. Obviously, the anti’s are going to be in the same place to get the effect they are looking for. You see this readily in SLC which is becoming more of a Sodom and Gamorah these days with so many there who live immoral lives and flaunt it in the face of the church.

  57. Clark,
    The threat to society is paramount if we acknowledge and support SSM. According to prophecy out entire freedom hangs in the balance. Our first amendment has come under severe attack due to legalizing SSM and it’s myriad of bad baggage that comes trailing in its wake.

  58. zjg, if I’m giving you the impression I’m an ubermensch it is because I feel that, at least on this issue, I am 100% right. It comes across as arrogant, I know, but from my perspective it’s like you’re all taking crazy pills.

  59. Rob, you claim these concerns are only for a few naysayers or people with an axe to grind. That’s my angle in mentioning the Bishop I know. He’s not anywhere near SLC. He’s in New York City. Thos counsilors are in Texas. Complain about SLC all you want, but your general sweeping statements about everyone from church members in general, to those with differing views, to gay people, strongly suggest you have little solid ground to stand on with your claims–as your posts here and on the thread have shown.

    That that you read the warnings in the Family Proc as directly relevant to SSM, which come no where near the magnitude of other factors and situations that break down of the family again show your one-sided, narrow view of these issues. If Would build your credibility if you worked further through your statements before just spilling them all out here.

  60. Brian,

    I am sure there are people who disagree all over the world. But in general, a large portion of the fringe Mormons live in or relatively around SLC.

    The greatest threat to our first amendment has been the Federal courts ruling in favor of SSM. Businesses have been forced out of business who fail to acknowledge and support SSM against their religious beliefs.

  61. JR (51) I think D&C 132 is pretty clear that the only marriages that count are those sealed by the priesthood and that’s only between a man and a woman. Further than’s necessary for exaltation.

  62. “According to prophecy out [sic] entire freedom hangs in the balance.”

    Which prophecy? Please provide a reference, with preference being for prophecy that was read and sustained in General Conference.

  63. D&C 1: 24 “these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language.” It seems likely that at the time of D&C 132 [whatever its other problems may be], the JS’ language did not include the possibility of the words denoting the concept of marriage being extended to include legally contracted committed same-sex unions. So it would not be a bit surprising to me if D&C 132 has nothing to do with such possibilities. Of course, by “count” you mean eternally. That is the current doctrine and practice. I think it is likely right, but some of us believe in continuing revelation, have noted things like JS changing some of the “revelations” after they were first published, developing and changing notions of the identity and nature of God in historical LDS teaching, the inconsistency between Sections 76 and 137, the latter reflecting Joseph’s increased understanding, and have concluded that we should not try to put God into the box of our current understanding.

  64. I suspect he means the Whitehorse prophecy which is usually regarded as fake. Certainly prominent Presidents have rejected it.

  65. JR (65) it’s fine to think a new revelation will trump D&C 132. But I was referring to your claim, “I have not been able to find any reported specific revelation on the subject of the existence of same-sex attraction or same-sex familial relationships in the hereafter.” It seems the nature of D&C 132 invalidates that. (For some reason my comment came out as anonymous) It says that to be exalted a man and a woman have to be sealed together.

    To the issue of attraction I’d agree there’s no revelation. Most people making claims in any direction and making inferences from other claims. The main question ends up being how much of our body is replicated in a resurrected body and how much changes. Our sexuality appears to be primarily biological which presumably would be fairly easy to change for even a highly advanced technological group let alone God. Typically most draw inferences on the basis of D&C 130:2 and Alma 11. However usually the claims on all sides far outstrip what I think those verses can do.

  66. JR, I want you to know that I am perfectly comfortable with the concept of developing revelation. I’m just very, very wary of any idea that is this fashionable with the rich and powerful. I’m very suspicious of any idea that is meant to come from the World as a revelation to the Church.

  67. I suspect it’s an inference from the constitution hanging like a thread. Although I’d be interested in Rob’s reply. When the SCOTUS decision came down many brought up the “hanging by a thread” bit. As I recall it was brought up by some here too.

    Personally regardless of how some view the logic of SCOTUS it seems like it doesn’t compare to rulings like Dred Scott. Further demographic changes by age for views of SSM mean that even if SCOTUS hadn’t ruled within a decade or two the same policy would have come out of the House.

  68. Clark (68), My comment had to do with same-sex familial relationships. It said nothing about exaltation. You did bring up the question of how much changes in a resurrected body. It could be, but for the Family Proclamation, that there is no gender in the hereafter for those not exalted. All the others would be same, ie. no sex! :) I believe there was an earlier Church authority who actually taught that those not exalted would be resurrected without genitals, but I’ve lost the citation. We have few scriptural hints about resurrected bodies, e.g. not even a hair of the head lost, spirit instead of blood (interesting physiological change of many bodily functions), etc.

  69. The prophetic warnings hinge off the Proclamation. The warning-

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

    One of the calamities foretold by modern prophets is the destruction of our religious liberty- our first amendment rights.

  70. JR, I assumed you were talking about those exalted. If you’re talking about other kingdoms we don’t know much. One could easily assume people could associate with those they wish. However we really don’t know. The problem of free association is always the oddity to the Mormon conception of sealing. Presumably celestial beings could visit anyone they wish. Thus the focus on the nature of celestial bodies leading to speculations like you noted. (I think it was Joseph Fielding Smith who popularized that particular speculation in Doctrines of Salvation which if I recall was a collection of his Q/A column in the Improvement Era) I think it fair to note conflicts between conceptions of resurrection, conceptions of sex and conceptions of gender. Lots of inconsistencies in the various speculations over the last 150 years.

  71. re: Mars (47) “. . .you will find that many people who felt pushed away would have felt pushed away by something else anyway. . . but those with faith in Christ and the Restored Gospel simply do not leave the church because the leaders made a mistake.”

    Yeah, in my experience they leave because of people like Mars & Rob Osborn — taking what a fallible leader said & cramming it sideways down their throat.

    If it wasn’t for my own personal & deeply-held feelings about the Book of Mormon & Joseph Smith’s revelations, I would have left the church long ago. But I find myself held to/within the church by the most tenuous of threads, which threaten to snap under the weight of militant & absolutist rhetoric from the “core membership”.

    If Mars & Rob are trying to approach these topics with a compassionately inquisitive nature then they are going about it all wrong. And if they are trying to win people over to their side, then they are doing that wrong too.

    -nate

  72. This has all become far more confrontational than is warranted. The Bloggernacle has become the home of intransigence. I would agree with you, if you were right.

    How unfortunate that we are not a Church of perfect people. (Except me, of course.)

  73. In addition to removing the beam from one’s own eye, one needs to remember that individuals are held accountable for their own sins and mistakes, and not for those of others. The way some talk, President Monson needs to repent for things Brigham Young or Joseph Smith might have done.

  74. See, Nate, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Expressing a rather uncontroversial doctrine that’s run afoul of modernism is militantly shoving it down your throat – but I’m sure sob stories asking me to think of the children are just lived experiences that should be respected. Not only that, but a threat! Oh, my goodness, I might just hurt your tender tender spirit by expressing a rather uncontroversial doctrine that’s run afoul of modernism!

    Who was Abraham, Nate? What was he prepared to do? How far was he willing to go? Are you Abraham’s seed, Nate? Will you call him your father? Is cramming what a fallible leader says sideways down your throat really that much worse than human sacrifice? I’m ready to accept it if the Brethren approve gay marriage tomorrow, because Abraham would.

    I hope you can see the source of my frustration here, with everyone who tells me it’s my responsibility to keep them in the Church by toning down the rhetoric. It’s my responsibility to bear your burdens, and it’s also my responsibility to exhort and expound. It’s nice when you help me bear mine but I won’t cut my connection to Christ if you don’t. I wouldn’t say “if it’s not one thing it’s another” if that weren’t the exact situation I have come across in a wide cross-section of the Church, with all those people that were active and faithful until they met the Silver Salamander, it was just too much for them knowing that the Brethren hid all that from them, and then coincidentally are smoking a cigarette the next week. Because they weren’t Abraham’s seed.

  75. Nate,
    I have discussed this issue on countless different blogs, forums, etc. I have used every approach, trust me. I have learned myself many things through the process. What I have learned mostly is that the issue of the new policy and SSM is not a problem amongst the general members of the church, most accept tbe prophets counsel and sustain them on it. It is only by generally the fringe Mormons that have a problem. Folks like John Dehlin, Bill Reel, Kate Kelly, etc, are these fringe Mormons who run websites, podcasts, organisations and support groups (two of these three have been excommunicated) that are driving this movement of dissent and disagreement with church leadership. They are very militant. Trust me, Ive been kicked out of more blogs and discussions you can count on this topic not because Im militant but because so many of the blogs and forums have turned to support these militant folks and are placing blame on church leadership. It used to be that most of the blogs on the archipelego were solid Mormons who debated things like evolution and the effects green jello had on Utahs markets. Those days are gone. Nowdays, people like me who solidly support church leaders and sustain them are considered militant and rude. This is where right has become wrong and wrong has become right.

  76. Please, Apostles. Come and read the comments on this post, in particular Mars and Rob Osborn, and see what you have created. This absolutely cannot have been your intention! Does anyone — anyone at all? — have a relationship with a Q15 and can show them this?

  77. I’m sure the Apostles have better things to do than read blogs. While they’re of interest to us, they reach typically a few thousand people out of a body of millions.

    It does raise an interesting problem. I really think that doctrines inherently are offensive to many people and that stating them really will drive people out. I’m not sure what the solution is. While I think Rob and Mars are giving a stronger twist than warranted, they really are for the most part describing the mainstream doctrine. Further their views probably do represent the majority. Likewise while the views of others in this thread are not likely that of the majority, they are heartfelt and strongly held by a significant number of people. (Calling it fringe I think is misleading depending upon what is meant by that) The question becomes how to reconcile the two.

  78. “I’m ready to accept it if the Brethren approve gay marriage tomorrow, because Abraham would.”

    Mars has no internal moral compass or code. That is a real problem with modern Mormonism. Someone who so vehemently insists that gay marriage is evil will proclaim the exact opposite tomorrow if a church leader says it. This represents a large proportion of the Church today — willing to make such a moral about face with no intent or ability to approach the issue with any nuance or reflection that perhaps things aren’t as certain as they have convinced themselves.

  79. It would be instructive, don’t you think, Clark, for Apostles to see the effect their approach is actually having. Mars, in particular, provides a good case study and they would be well served to see how at least some Mormons are pursuing the Apostles’ agenda.

  80. “Nowdays, people like me who solidly support church leaders and sustain them are considered militant and rude. This is where right has become wrong and wrong has become right.”

    You are militant and rude, Rob. That you think you aren’t and so proudly proclaim that you aren’t merely illustrates your incredible blindspot about yourself.

  81. Clark,
    By “fringe” I am speaking of those who have one foot in the church and one foot in Babylon. Fringe Mormons are those who claim to be Mormon but are generally less active, disagree with leadership on a lot of issues, and tend to side with worldly views over church leadership views. I see fringe Mormons as the greatest threat to the church and its members. John Dehlin was the definition of a “fringe Mormon” and look at what damage he has, and continues, to cause to occur. Fringe Mormons, unless reigned in, always are moving towards apistacy and excommunication and eventually the churches worst enemies.

  82. Trond (82), why do you think the Apostles are ignorant of what’s going on?

    Trond (81) I think your comment relates to what I mentioned in the other thread on epistemology. I take people being willing to change their ethical views as evidence of a kind of humble fallibilism. You take it as the exact opposite – a lack of an internal moral compass. But presumably even if you think the key issue is an internal moral compass you’d acknowledge fallibilism. (At least I’d hope you would) The issue is much more about how willing people are to change. I just find it interesting you’re trying to have it both ways.

    I’ll admit I don’t have strong ‘moral compass’ feelings on the issue. Were I independent of any prophetic statement to be asked what to do I’d probably come up with policies based upon the harm principle even though I’m very skeptical of it as a principle worth anything more than a first order approximation. It’s just that I don’t have good reasons for anything else. However if I believe there is a God and he knows more than I do, I don’t see how it is somehow lacking a moral compass if I acknowledge his wisdom over mine if I have reasons to think that is his will. Indeed acknowledging God’s will seems the central feature of most religion. (At least in the west)

    Rob (84) but it seems to me that the many people struggling with SSM and related LGBT issues typically aren’t less active nor do they disagree over many issues outside of those. Some do of course, but I suspect you’re unfairly generalizing from that group to the whole.

  83. Clark,
    I’m just seeing it from the real world around me. Those whom I run shoulders with every Sunday at church have no problem with the policy. But. Almost every inactive member I run into have an issue with church leadership.

  84. It’s very dangerous to extrapolate from ‘the real world around us’ to the church body in general. Especially if you haven’t discussed these issues with most of the people in depth. i.e. if you’re like me you simply don’t know how many people believe. You just know what they say in Sunday School.

  85. Clark,
    Geez…I guess if they state a belief at church but then say the opposite elsewhere were all screwed.

  86. The issue isn’t people lying but nuances to their belief. My experience as I discuss things with people that their nuanced views are different from what I’d have predicted from their answer in Sunday School. Maybe that’s just me of course. Plus a lot of people don’t chime up in Sunday School much. (I rarely do) Further the makeup of my ward is quite different from others. I have about a dozen BYU professors in my ward for instance, many are chemists, one is an Arabist, my Elder’s Quorum is probably about ? BYU students. So the number of people with college degrees, especially in the sciences, is vastly different than the church as a whole. Likewise we come from a middle class culture different than what I found in most wards I attended on my mission. By what measure is my ward (to the degree I even know what they think) representative of the Church?

    I suspect that while the make up of those you encounter is different than mine that it is equally unrepresentative of American Mormons. If so, then on what basis can we infer generalizations?

  87. “Perhaps we have forgotten that the everyone needs a call to repentance at some time or another, including our leaders.”

    One should note that in the scriptures when prophets have been called to repentance, it’s come from the Lord–not members of the Lord’s church. One is walking on thin ice when they call prophets to repentance.

  88. Clark, thanks for expressing it better than I could. I’d definitely have a problem if the church came out full in favor of SSM this weekend, I’d be glancing around for smitings, waiting for the Lord to come in and do housecleaning, but I wouldn’t write any angry letters. And if time went by, and I found more answers, I would do my best to come to love that doctrine, too. It’s been a long road to loving Joshua, but it’s given me a much better, more eternal perspective.

    Trond, I do have a moral compass. It’s not very good and if I tried to align the universe to it it would look more than a little crooked, so I’m constantly looking to recalibrate it. In fact, the process of bringing one’s moral compass into agreement with the universe’s alignment can be seen as a metaphor of exaltation.

  89. “The greatest threat to our first amendment has been the Federal courts ruling in favor of SSM. Businesses have been forced out of business who fail to acknowledge and support SSM against their religious beliefs.”

    Could you please name one business that has been forced out of business by a federal or state court because the owners do not personally support SSM? I can’t find one. People have the right to boycott businesses. It is not a violation of the business’s right to operate when people boycott it. According to some courts’ interpretations, businesses don’t have the right to discriminate against people because of sexual orientation. But the business owners can think and say what they please about SSM without being forced to close by a federal or state court.

  90. Rob, as someone who also attends church in Eastern Idaho (and in fact, even in the same county as you), I can tell you that the reasons those who you “run (sic) shoulders with every Sunday at church” apparently agree with you on the issue are:

    1. If they disagree, they’re marginalized, and so many tend to keep quite, and
    2. If they vocally disagree and then are marginalized, many leave the church.

    In fact, my last home teaching companion and his entire family left the church because of these kinds of issues. I’m fully confident that he and his family would’ve stayed active had they been in a different ward far away from Eastern Idaho, but the attitude of the members here can be so intolerable that it’s difficult for many to remain.

  91. Let me just echo Nate S (#74). I am coming to a crossroads soon. After the November policy I gave myself a year to decide what to do. One day I think, “I can stay even though I don’t agree with everything. I can figure this out.” The next I think, “Oh hell no!”

    For me, members with attitudes like Rob and Mars make it difficult to stay. I realize (hope?) they are the minority, but they are extremely vocal at Church and on blogs like this. I increasingly feel, “These are not my people,” which I realize is totally unfair to the majority of ward members that are awesome and well-spoken commenters as well… but it’s where I’m at. It doesn’t help that Church leaders (except perhaps Elder Uchtdorf) don’t speak words of comfort to those they hurt with their rhetoric. They just change the question and ignore the pain.

  92. MTodd, despite the often repeated saw that the Church is the same everywhere, it is not. The degree of openness and acceptance of a variety of viewpoints and cultural styles varies widely from one place to another, and in my experience from one ward to another even within a place such as Provo. We don’t always have the option to move into a ward more congenial to our personal style, but doing so was one of the best things that happened to me in Provo years ago. For the most part, I’ve been lucky since then to find some people in my ward(s) with whom I could carry on a non-combative discussion, even if not always in SS or PH meetings. I hope you find such people and are able to tolerate the rest. It is not specific to the November policy issue, but I found this recent talk by Patrick Mason to be both insightful and helpful in my imagining ways to deal with what puts me off at Church: http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2016-fairmormon-conference/courage-convictions. I have also taken an example from Hugh Nibley from when I watched him week after week at Church. He gave every speaker his full attention for a short time, and then either continued to do so or read a book. I hope you find healthy ways to cope and continue to contribute to the community that hopes to become a Zion people, even if not all can agree on what that is or how to get there.

  93. MTodd, it can be easy to assume that my strong opinions on this subject form a rift in our fellowship. I have strong opinions on this subject, in fact I’m rather absolutist because, well, it’s absolute. That’s just here in this thread, though. I honestly just picked “Mars” because it sounds cool, because of the planet.

    What Rob mentioned much earlier, threads on evolution and green jello economics, I’m sure we wouldn’t butt heads as seriously there. I came to this site regularly for the supplementary posts on the weekly Sunday School lessons. Occasionally I find myself navigating here Sunday mornings before realizing they’re over. I don’t have the popularity needed to start a new, successful blog on LDS topics, and I’m really nobody you would ask to write an article for yours, so all I can do is raise my voice where I can. Unfortunately, it feels like most of the posts here not referencing Utah-only subjects (symposia &etc) are soaked with a rhetoric of, I guess Clark would say something like harm ethics, and are frequently directed at rather controversial subjects, and not in a wholly tactful manner toward those who disagree. Not that they’re actively brusque, that’s not the way that style of conversation goes, but they are dismissive to anyone who does not seem to feel their pain (or the pain of the group they are defending) in a way they consider productive.

    I won’t say I’m hurt by that, partly because it’s more disappointing than hurtful and partly because I wouldn’t declare my pain if I had it, it’s just not how I express myself. I do often feel left out, and much more often than not I respond to that by staying out. This is a subject that is important to me – and I want to define that: the subject of the relative sinfulness of homosexuality-related subjects is not very important to me, all things considered. I admit that I have more justifications of the policy than real doctrinal defenses. I try to justify because Church hierarchy is something that is extremely important to me. The thought that some popular belief, some, from my perspective, fad is something so important that the Lord needs to raise a prophet to call Russel M. Nelson to repentance, well, you might see how ridiculous that sounds to me. And if that’s not precisely what the OP meant, well, my words get misinterpreted too. I’m used to it.

    I’m not worried about driving anyone from the Church. I don’t have any more strength to lose souls than Christ has to save them, especially the high-IQ adults that frequent this blog. In my experience much of the harm rhetoric has been disingenuous attempts to show off virtue, a kind of virtual crying in testimony meeting – sometimes genuine, sometimes done for effect, sometimes done because they think it’s the rule. I’m just not the type to cry in testimony meetings.

  94. Rob — In my view, any Mormon business owner who wants to refuse service to a same-sex married couple (unless they run a wedding chapel and would be required to actually officiate the marriage and even then I don’t know) have no business arguing that they’re substantially burdened by a public accommodation law preventing them from discriminating. That actually does seem like a case where the Mormon is using their “religious beliefs” to discriminate. I would have a very big problem if the church itself were not granted exemptions. But is that going to happen? Churches still get broad exemptions for racial discrimination some 50 years after Brown. Could the IRS end our tax exempt status without running afoul of the Constitution? Maybe, but I think it’s unlikely. And if they did, that’s not an existential threat by any means. Any weakening of Free Exercise rights in recent years — it’s actually come from the conservative Catholic wing of the SCOTUS oddly enough, see Employment Division v. Smith — has been quickly corrected, more or less, by the U.S. Congress and by many, although not all, state legislatures. And our Free Exercise rights are way more robust nowadays than they were in Joseph Smith’s day. In other words, the story that you’re trying to tell is not so cut and dry.

  95. The thing that cracks me up when Rob rants about “fringe Mormons” is that he’s just defining “fringe Mormons” to mean “people I disagree with.” Many of his opinions, as I understand them from his online comments, are “fringe-y” enough that they would raise eyebrows in many or most corners of Zion. Get up next month in testimony meeting and announce that Salt Lake City is such a “Sodom and Gamorah (sic)” that your family had to move to the Blackfoot South Stake to find real Mormonism, see how far that gets you.

    My ward happens to have a bishop who has real reservations and pain about some of the church’s policies and rhetoric right now. So does our high councilor and our stake patriarch and our Relief Society president and high priest group leader and Primary president. (Possibly others in leadership too; these are just the ones I’ve had conversations with.) These aren’t conspiring anti-Christs, Rob. They’re good, mainstream Mormons trying to do the right thing, as I think you would immediately see if you dropped by our ward or ward council meetings. I believe we are not unusual in this, or will not be for long. Maybe before 1978, it was easy to say that only a “fringe Mormon” would believe that the church should be moving faster on racial issues, but we know better with hindsight.

    Drawing dividing lines between the saints you judge to be acceptable and those you don’t (“fringe”!!!) is explicitly disallowed by Galatians 3:28.

  96. Thus Kenzo places Rob squarely in the fringe, othering him with mocking rhetoric, even going after his spelling errors, loath as he would be to use those to condemn someone he felt praiseworthy; he attempts to make him feel rustic and outnumbered, then chastises him for drawing dividing lines, completely unaware of the irony. And of course out comes “real pain.” I might be rude but at least I’m consistent. This deal where we hate someone for not being loving enough (“oh, I don’t have hate in my heart but I know from his typed letters that HE does”) just isn’t my thing.

  97. zjb (103): “And our Free Exercise rights are way more robust nowadays than they were in Joseph Smith’s day.”

    Given what happened in Missouri and at Carthage, I certainly hope so. And in further news, civil rights protections are stronger now than they were in 1860.

  98. Thanks, Kenzo. I’m seeing the same thing. There’s nothing “fringe” about the bishops, a Relief Society president, high councilors, a stake president, and many active members I know with deep concerns. They’re most certainly not discussing their concerns at church, or with people like Rob Osborn. And this doesn’t even take into consideration their children and grandchildren, who link the idea of being gay to specific friends and family members, and not to some amorphous threat to society.

  99. Old Man — Yes, you’re right. My point was that this story of the erosion of our religious rights is more complicated than it would at first appear.

  100. Kenzo,
    I’m sorry you live in a ward that has lost some faith. I am not the type of person you think I am. Good day.

  101. Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

  102. Rob,

    You should probably review 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. You seem to take great pleasure in deepening other member’s raw, open wounds. Boasting about getting banned from ‘fringe’ blogs does you no credit. Is your bishop and/or stake president aware of your incessant and pathological need to correct ‘apostates’? I’m curious how they feel about that.

  103. Pete,
    I came into this post in somewhat of a defensive mode because it troubles me that certain LDS members think our prophets need repentance.

    I spoke about getting banned because of the fact we are seeing a trend on the blogs anf forums towards a liberal worldly agenda. More people are leaving the church or having dissent than ever before. My concern is that there needs to be a fair and balanced discussion so that we can perhaps look to our leaders as just that- leaders we support and sustain.. That’s all

  104. zjb (103) while our rights in general are more robustly defended today than in Joseph’s day, I think there are legitimate worries about religious freedom going forward in the future. I have a post coming on that based on Pew’s recent poll.

  105. zjg – So you do believe there are reasons for concerns regarding religious liberty in the long term?

    Kenzo and Need Citation: Is it possible that people speak in ways that please a listener? If you are both known as individuals with concerns about this issue, some may also express concerns to show empathy with your position. They may be overstating their true feelings. I am a high school social studies teacher in Utah and work with teens and their parents every day. I seriously doubt there are even a significant minority (20%) of active LDS teens who possess concerns about this issue. Given that teens tend to be more liberal than their parents, I found this surprising. Last semester I taught a government & politics class in which the entire leadership of the Gay-Straight Alliance was enrolled. I chatted with these youth activists (half of whom were LDS) and they really did not perceive LDS church policy as an issue.

  106. Old Man, note that among Mormons youth are becoming more Republican not less. So while liberal Millennials has been the national trend Mormon youth are going in the other direction.

  107. “Is it possible that people speak in ways that please a listener? If you are both known as individuals with concerns about this issue…”

    I am not known as someone with concerns about this issue. I have never spoken about it with anyone in my ward or stake, or in my extended family. If anything, I’m seen as very orthodox and “same ten people.” Explain that away.

  108. Yup, same here. This is stuff coming up in ward and stake leadership meetings, Sunday school classes, etc., whether I’m there or not, whether I say anything or not. Obviously there’s a geographic factor and your average ward in Orem isn’t seeing the same dynamic. But I know that in a global church, there are likely to be hundreds of wards and stakes like ours.

    Rob Osborn’s go-to response here (anyone who thinks the church fallible or a policy flawed has “lost faith”) doesn’t match the view on the ground here at all. Of course these people haven’t lost faith, they’re still spending hours and hours each week on their busy leadership callings, and building the kingdom. They are your fellow Saints..

  109. Elder Oaks said in 1990 “Most of what I have said here has been addressed to persons who think that repentance is too easy. At the opposite extreme are those who think that repentance is too hard. That group of souls are so tenderhearted and conscientious that they see sin everywhere in their own lives, and they despair of ever being able to be clean. The shot of doctrine that is necessary to penetrate the hard shell of the easygoing group is a massive overdose for the conscientious. What is necessary to encourage reformation for the lax can produce paralyzing discouragement for the conscientious. This is a common problem. We address a diverse audience each time we speak, and we are never free from the reality that a doctrinal underdose for some is an overdose for others.” BYU Dev. Any tips on how to recover from a “massive overdose”?

  110. Rob O, you said in 34, “[The Brethren] have spoken, they have moved on, now it’s up to us to not spend all of our time debating their counsel, accept the prophets counsel and move on ourselves to more important things.”

    Perhaps it’s just the way I read this, but it comes off as dismissive.

    In 42 you said, “It’s not a complex thing to define “marriage”. The church doesn’t recognize same sex marriages. It’s that simple. The Brethren have moved on. This is generally only a problem by a few fringe Mormon naysayers generally in the SLC area who already had other issues or agendas to begin with- an axe to grind against the church.”

    This is clearly dismissive. You have written me off as one on a fringe few (which is perhaps true and part of the problem) in the SLC area (false) who had other issues (which wasn’t true until last Nov but now certainly is).

    When asked, I have no problem saying I sustain the prophet and apostles. I sustain them by telling them when I think they are wrong. The problem is too many other members dismiss me and my fellow concerned Christians as fringe or apostates or sinners. I am a sinner. (Aren’t we all?) But I am not going to let my sin be abdicating my agency by assuming that once the Brethren have spoken I must accept their counsel and move on.

  111. JR (97) I have several friends at Church that I can talk to. In fact since I’ve become more vocal in my concerns about the Church’s positions I’ve had several people reach out to me privately and thank me for standing up or ask me how I deal with all my issues because they’re struggling too. So I know I’m not alone, but bracing myself for the three hour block is tough (and that doesn’t count all the extra administrative meetings..)

    Anyway, thanks for the Hugh Nibley advice. That’s basically what I do except I read on my tablet. Unfortunately people have recently made use of electronic devices taboo because, you know, Sabbath Day and all that. People who use electronics are made to feel less spiritual.

  112. Of course we’ve heard the same electronic device advice here. With the gospel library available on such devices, the advice is silly and often ignored. There might be a real issue as to what one does with the electronic device, however. I did once advise a friend that if she sat slightly further behind the piano I wouldn’t be able to see when she was playing Scrabble! Some of us don’t let others make us “feel less spiritual” but they sometimes succeed in prompting me to feel self-righteously less self-righteous! There is, of course, always the hall class in which to take a break from Sunday School if that class is an intractable problem. Perhaps I am more blessed than some with a bishop who understands and approves of my sometimes leaving class. Maybe he just thinks my leaving is better than some of the other alternatives he knows I’m capable of. :) Blessings to you.

  113. People who use electronics are made to feel less spiritual.

    Huh? My EQ has almost no one with printed manuals or scriptures anymore. I still see them a bit in Sunday School but everyone seems to be using phones and tablets. Why would the put wifi everywhere in the chapels if they don’t want people to use them?

  114. Yeah, we’re flooded with devices in all three meetings here. Our bishop brought it up in a fifth Sunday meeting and all he said was that playing games in the chapel on Sunday was breaking the Sabbath, nothing about reading heretical JoD articles.

  115. Not saying “flooded” is a bad thing, I think G.K. Chesterton is perfect for late Sacrament meeting and the foyer class.

  116. MTod
    You don’t have to accept their counsel, I just think the way most of those who oppose this policy go about their dissent that makes for a hostile environment and not at all in good LDS standing.

  117. Rob O, in your opinion exactly how should I go about expressing my dissent? What would be an appropriate method of opposing the policy?

  118. Thanks MTodd. I even commented in that thread originally. I thought there was a stronger comment. I confess we do use the iPad to keep our kids entertained who struggle at church. The problem is even a good speaker isn’t interesting to the under 10 crowd. I usually try to avoid devices myself although I use them extensively in Sunday School and Priesthood.

  119. Need Citation (117) and Kenzo (118):

    Thank you for your clarifications. They obviously strengthened your arguments.

    Clark (116): You seem to be citing a study. Would have a reference handy?

  120. Mtodd,
    Speaking to all in general who dissent, I would suggest that dialogue begins and ends with a public outpouring of love towards our prophets and what they reveal. In that attitude we can then try to understand a policy we may not readily agree with from a more optimistic approach. Like this thread though shows, dissent is usually in the key of antagonism demanding upon the prophet that they repent and stop hurting God’s children. That’s not right, in fact, it’s not becoming of a sustaining LDS to do such. This isn’t a small policy or a grey area either. This is a major doctrine that is very black and white. SSM is a practice that goes against every principle of our belief- it’s in direct opposition to what we believe. That’s why this is such a problem because it is my personal belief that those who support SSM cannot possibly be upstanding Mormons because it contradicts our entire belief system. This is why dissent becomes so polarized and bitter. SSM allies who are also Mormon, are are generally so staunch in their beliefs that they will readily and easily blame the prophet and demand they change rather than humbly seek understanding in prayer and fasting.

  121. Rob Osborn,

    Brigham Young on following leaders

    “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are being led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give their leaders if they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus Christ that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the way the Lord dictates or not.”

    Also, you didn’t answer my question about Joseph and legal marriage and the law of chastity.

  122. I was called to repentance yesterday.
    One of my coworkers rides his bicycle into work, and is quite the active member of the no-vehicles-to-commute faith. My commute consists of riding my quad line skates to the bus, riding the bus, and then staking to the office. So perhaps he views me kind of like a main stream Christian. Active in my denomination, but not quite a member of the true faith.
    After a meeting yesterday he said that I should ride a bike all the way into work. I declined his direct command/invitation. I’ve thought about why. First of all, I don’t see him has having any stewardship over me (and certainly not over my commute). Secondly, I feel like I am doing a good job of not being a single person car driving heathen.
    It’s possible that in our lives when we call others to repentance, they feel the same way about us.

  123. Rob (132), You have suggested an outpouring of love toward what our prophets reveal. That could work after there is agreement, or confirmation of the spirit, with respect to their purported revelations. You seem to be ready to assume that whatever any one of them says is revealed by God. Others’ experience is sometimes to the contrary of that assumption. Faithlessness or lack of commitment are not necessarily implied by questioning or even disagreement with what one of the prophets has said. There have been a variety of approaches to the subject among prophets of the restored Church. Here are another couple that might be worth considering:

    “… if He (God) should suffer him (Joseph Smith) to lead the people astray, it would be because they ought to be led astray…it would be because they deserved it…” (Brigham Young, JD 4:297-298)

    “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, and apostle or a president, if you do so, they will fail you at some time or place….” (Elder George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star 53:674).

    Of course, not loving what a prophet says in one case does not exclude loving the prophet or what is revealed through the prophet in another matter.

  124. Rob, (132) you suggest I should express my disagreement with a policy by loving the policy. How exactly would I do that? It’s like when I tell my teenaged son that his curfew is 10 PM and he disagrees. Me telling him the best way to express his dissent for curfew is to show an outpouring of love to me and my curfew edict. Bull! The best way for him to express his dissent is to calmly and rationally tell me why I’m wrong. And for me to listen. After all perhaps I am wrong; perhaps his curfew should be midnight.

  125. MTodd, you have described an ideal bishop. A loving bishop would listen to your dissent, attempt to work through it with you, and should he find that impossible, take the issue to his stake president, and so on. I’m not sure what alternative you’re suggesting – venting on the internet? Samuel the Lamanite? Some sort of Reddit AMA where the most popular issues get upvoted? Get everyone from the last mass resignation together to do it again? We do have a system, it’s not like there’s never been dissent. If many, many members truly do have issues, and talk to their bishops, and their bishops are righteous, the Brethren will soon learn of it, and do their best to deal with the issue, whether it be an explanation or even a policy change.

    If all of the bishops are wicked and do not listen to your (calm and rational) concerns, the Church has much greater issues and a Samuel the Lamanite will be required. Instructions to this Samuel will be delivered in the usual way.

  126. MTodd, I strongly recommend you do not discuss such concerns with your bishop. Your bishop has no answers to these issues, in particular the November policy, because no one does. And there have been many, many examples of members who have chosen to discuss such concerns with their bishop and walked away blacklisted or even disciplined with the removal of temple recommends. There is virtually no scenario in which your concern would move through your bishop to your stake president and on up to a General Authority.

    If people like Mars have persuaded you that it is wrong to discuss your concerns about the POX or other management decisions General Authorities are making on Mormon blogs, then my recommendation would be a letter to a General Authority. Of course, the General Authority’s staff will simply bounce it to your Stake President without even reading it, in all likelihood. But you might get lucky and the General Authority might by fiat randomly select your letter to peruse out of the batch.

    You might consider making your letter anonymous. Unfortunately that is where our culture is now — if you have concerns of this nature you can expect ecclesiastical retribution (e.g. if the General Authority bounces this letter back to your stake president who then formulates the opinion that you’re a “troublemaker” because you care about your gay friends and family and believe in equality in civil society). It’s where we are now.

    The Gospel is true. But we are in a very difficult period in which church culture has deteriorated to such an extent that discussing with local leadership concerns that reveal that you question or disagree with an opinion of a General Authority very likely will alienate you from the community at best and cause you to be considered a pariah or even disciplined for it, at worst.

    This depends, of course, on your local leadership. In most case, I think, this will be the outcome. But in a select few cases, your bishop might be someone who understands that ward members might have very real ethical concerns with the POX and the implicit changes of bedrock doctrine that are a part of it (i.e. surrounding the innocence of children for the sins of their parents and the scriptural mandate that 8 years old is the age of accountability/baptism and that anyone over the age of 8 needs the guidance of the Holy Ghost to live a life of Christian discipleship).

  127. Trond, I don’t think it’s wrong to discuss your concerns. That’s why I’ve been discussing your concerns. I believe it is wrong to HAVE these concerns, that they’re a sign the propaganda of Babylon has seeped through your mental bulkheads. It’s a long shot that anyone who has them will realize that, I understand, but you have been putting words in my mouth since you entered the discussion. Don’t do that. Concerns are fine. They should be worked through. If you feel the proper course is to storm the COB with torches and pitchforks, great. There are probably folks there that deserve it. But if the entire outcome of your concern is to loudly signal how virtuous you are while doing nothing, to get a backpat or something, I’m not sure how productive it could be at the best of times. If that’s your goal, by all means, continue, but you can expect to get backlash on it.

    And the idea that the policy changes fundamental doctrine is absurd. If you’re angry about this, you should be incensed about the treatment of missionaries in the Joseph Smith Swim Club or baseball baptism incidents. So many 8-year-olds that would never have been baptized got the Holy Ghost! Wasn’t that a good thing?

  128. MTodd, you see, people like Mars think it is wrong for you to even have concerns about the POX, the way it was implemented (quietly inserted into a policy manual that is not available to the general membership), and its doctrinal implications (drastic changes, including required reinterpretation of bedrock doctrine such as that children are not accountable for the sins of their parents and requiring people not only to confess and repent of their own sins before being baptized but also to denounce their parents’ sins before they can be baptized if their parents happen to be in a same-sex marriage).

    If your bishop is someone like that, and I suggest that most are because they are only selected as bishops after they’ve been observed making the same kinds of loudly self-righteous judgments that Mars has been making in this discussion, then that person will not receive your concern with charity or understanding or a even a willingness to concede the validity of concerns but rather will condemn you. The fact that you have the concerns is wrong.

    In any event, your bishop does not have any answers to such concerns such as how General Authorities could possibly have done something like the POX or the other things that have happened in the first quarter of this century so far. So why ask him about it? I suggest instead simply working on forgiving church leaders for these actions, as this original post outlines. That is the *only* thing you have control over. As Mars will surely confirm, General Authorities truly do not care what you think about these things — their attitude is you simply have to obey without causing any trouble — and they certainly would not appreciate your insights or considerations about the ethical implications of these actions.

  129. Trond, are you going to address my points? The General Authorities do care about your opinion, far more than I do, and Jesus Christ cares more than they do, but they can’t please everyone. I’m not so deluded as to assume they get a First Vision every day at breakfast but I’m not so faithless as to assume they live their lives in spiritual darkness either (expected Trond response: “I’m sure Mars thinks that anyone who doesn’t step’n’fetchit when a GA walks in is faithless”). And I’m not so naive as to think they HAVEN’T asked God about it, either.

    I said that a good bishop will send it up. You said that means if I were a bishop, I would condemn. How does that follow? How does that have any kind of relationship to the words that I typed?

    How are children not already accountable for the sins of nonmember parents who reject the Gospel, if the policy makes them accountable for member parents who have knowingly and willfully entered condemned practice? Are you going to give your opinion on baseball baptisms? Or are you just going to keep offering MTodd your delusion of what I said?

  130. Mars, it follows because you said that it was wrong to have the concern in the first place. If you were MTodd’s bishop, how is that going to translate into your discussion of it with him? So, now you’re saying you would pass it along to the stake president. I believe you.

  131. Mars, a peace offering — I like your discourse. You have a quick whit that reminds me of a number of my own friends. What you’re saying makes me sick but I see your personality and I like it.

  132. I feel my curfew example above illustrates the issue with our current system. Raising my concerns with my Bishop is not analogous to my son objecting to his curfew; it’s more like my son asking the babysitter if he can be late even though he knows the babysitter has no authority to make such changes. My Bishop has no power to change Church policy. (I talked with mine by the way. Nothing happened. I didn’t even get released unfortunately.)

    Just like my son can post on social media how unfair his curfew is, I can do the same taking to Twitter to express my disgust at the policy. My son can go on a strike and not do his chores; I can boycott Deseret Books (totally doing this one) and perhaps stop paying tithing (still considering this one). My son can move out; I can leave the church.

    And I’m fine with all of this. What bothers me is being dismissed as faithless or somehow less because I don’t agree with the policy.

  133. Thanks, Trond. Likewise. To go into my example, if I were a bishop (and I’m not, my bishop is much more like Clark Goble) and MTodd came into my office, sat down with me, and told me his concerns about the new policy, I imagine I would try to settle it with him first. I’d do a bad job at that due to, to put it shortly, extreme worldview mismatch, but I’d bring up scriptural examples of policies that were hard to bear, the reaction of the Saints introduced to polygamy (and the end of polygamy), trying to address foremost the importance of sticking with your faith even when you disagree with your leaders. The point trying to be that sometimes we get tried through our leaders, sometimes we unknowingly are a trial for them, and that if you just hang on things get better.

    That wouldn’t work, I imagine. He would have concerns about the morality of punishing children (note: I do not support punishing children but I don’t believe the policy does so), the way in which the policy was introduced, the effect this has on those who are afraid to bring it up and the effect it might have on missionary and retention work. I would probably begin to go beyond doctrine and justify the policy from my own wisdom, and if I were a good bishop I would notice that, stop doing it, and commiserate. If I shared his concerns, I might set up a meeting with my stake president to see if he had any insights. No I wouldn’t, I’d send an email, I hate meetings. Anyway, if MTodd were the only member that brought it up to me, I would probably just pray. If many members had concerns that they brought to me, well, mass excommunication. Kidding. I would smile and nod, try to explain a little better every time, bring it up in 5th Sunday and maybe in ward council (haven’t been for a while), and bring it up with my stake president, ask him if he could make a statement.

    If I were in MTodd’s place, if I had serious concerns… no, I do have serious concerns. The new generation of Church films really sucks, even by our standards. We’ve replaced old temple movies with mediocre actors and bad special effects with new temple movies with great special effects and really, really bad actors. Plus the weepy Eve thing; I’m not sure if Eve being absolutely well-informed about the whole dilemma is meant to come as a revelation, but I don’t like it. She doesn’t come across as beguiled. The new Life of Christ movies also have pretty poor acting, but they lather on the sentimentality. These are the movies we show people. Testaments and Prophet of the Restoration are great, they’ve got some bad actors but the Joseph Smith Sr. guy is perfect. Nobody shows investigators Legacy because it’s boring because nobody in it can act. I’d rather show off the much lower budget 90s films like Armor of God and The Mediator.

    Now, if I thought this was a more serious issue, which I probably would if I thought about acting more often, I would bring it to my bishop. He wouldn’t be able to solve it, but I’d ask him to bring it up, as a favor, with his stake president, and maybe ask about how church movies are made, and if local units might find COB support if they wanted to make some of their own. I’d share my concern with other members and ask them to bring it up with the bishop and the stake president whenever they could. Meanwhile I’d be keeping my eyes open for resources to film good church movies with.

    If our bishop were a tyrant, condemning faithful members for voicing any opposition, well… I’d get mad. I’d go over his head. If the stake president were likewise a tyrant, and all of their counselors, well, they’re corrupt. What’s the worst that can happen? Are they going to disfellowship me for voicing concern while not committing any temple-recommend sins?

    And maybe I’m wrong.. Maybe the new church films are meant to train new actors, or to provide spiritual experiences to film crews, or to not have decent acting distract from the message or something. Maybe there’s a reason I don’t yet understand why church films are so bad. So I’m going to simmer down, resist not evil, and do my best with what I can.

    (please argue from the form of my example and not the scale, thank you, I know people are hurt more by not being baptized than by having to watch bad movies [and they really are bad])

  134. Sounds like a good approach.

    Are they going to disfellowship me for voicing concern while not committing any temple-recommend sins?

    Yes, this is happening. It’s more common in Utah County than outside, I think. But it’s definitely a concern for people with concerns. Concerns all around, you see?

  135. Just for concern, right? Just for telling a bishop, “I’ve got a concern about the new baptism policy.” That’s all it was?

  136. I know of people who left such discussions removed from their callings, yes. Do not underestimate what people in Pleasant Grove thinks the Gospel requires.

  137. Thank you all for a lively discussion. Rob and Mars speak boldly for a certain kind of Mormon perspective. We’ve all seen through the course of this conversation how tone can be an impediment to conversation. I hope we all can read each others’ words as charitably as possible, engage with the most generous interpretation of what they have written. It is too easy to get our backs up and draw lines in the sand. That is divisive, not edifying, and not what I feel called to do as a follower of Christ.

    I wish you all the best, and look forward to our next conversation.

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