A Few Thoughts on ‘Believing’ and ‘Doing’

Over at some other blog, in a topic that seems to be winding down, a comment made by Jared really grabbed my attention. He said, “As Nate Oman and others never tire of pointing out, the church mostly cares about what we do rather than what we believe.”

Upfront I have to say I’m not familiar with previous threads or discussions that have touched on this topic. So I’m most likely misunderstanding what Nate and others have been trying to say and what their perspectives are. (Nate’s obviously a very thoughtful fellow and I have no doubt he’s put a lot into his reasoning, as always.)

That said, this notion that the Church cares more about doing than believing is pretty much foreign to my own experience. I’m one who wanders through Mormonism wary of saying precisely what I believe in Church. I don’t want to suggest that my experiences or my perspective are somehow evidence that my paranoia is correct. I’m truly very curious as to what others’ experiences are and if people think my concern about speaking out is without merit.

My experience tells me: If I don’t show up to help someone in Elder’s Quorum move, no one says a word. If I miss my home teaching, no one calls to chastise me. If I don’t sign up to do a cannery assignment, not a word of disapproval is uttered in my direction. I’ve had times in my Church activity where I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) participate all that much. No one talked to me, no one criticized me, no one approached me and asked me what my problem was. I showed up to Church each week and coasted by.

On the occasions I’ve dared venture my beliefs in Church, it hasn’t gone so well. When I introduced the Book of Mormon to my Gospel Doctrine class, I touched very briefly on Joseph’s money digging. I suggested that Joseph used his seeing talents to try and provide for his poor family before realizing that he had a much higher calling and that there were more important ways to use his gift. One woman a week later told me how disturbed she had been at what I said and pointedly told me not to stray from the manual, since that’s all the Brethren had approved. When I mentioned that the Melchizedek Priesthood was probably restored in 1830 and not 1829, two people were so angry I thought after Church they’d be heading to the hardware store to pick up torches and pitchforks.

During a discussion while I worked at Deseret Book, the topic of progression between degrees of glory came up. I mentioned President McKay’s letter that said we don’t know if it is possible, and I also pointed out that some leaders had said it would be possible, while others quite strongly insisted it would not. One man (these were employees chatting in the breakroom – not customers) became very uncomfortable and said he didn’t think it was appropriate to talk about this. Another woman actually began to cry and said this was the reason her brother had left the Church, and why did people like me refuse to believe the truth (in this case, the truth was that you could not progress between kingdoms).

I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say I’m not persuaded that these are just a few anecdotal stories that prove nothing. These kinds of disagreements are hardly over fundamental points of doctrine. So here’s my problem: Given the experiences I’ve had and the experiences I’ve seen others go through, I proceed through Church convinced that if I spoke up, I would not be accepted. Perhaps it isn’t fair to assume how people would act. But I can’t see it being too well received if I said that I didn’t believe the Book of Mormon was a historical record, or if I mentioned my support for gay marriage.

The temple recommend interview, which seems to be the primary criteria for determining worthiness in the Church, seems to be mostly about belief. Yes, many things involve both believing and doing, such as the Word of Wisdom. But I suspect one’s condemnation would be the same regardless of whether they actually broke the Word of Wisdom or whether they said they believed it was ok to break it.

In short, the Mormon community I’ve grown up in and lived seems to have repeatedly demonstrated to me that it’s beliefs that get you in trouble or get you accepted. I’ve seen it as my father’s left the Church, as friends in Sunstone have been looked upon with suspicion, and as I’ve garnered more raised eyebrows than you can count. If you stray from the orthodox perspective, someone will be there to correct you or remind you that you’re wrong. Granted, most people probably won’t say anything. But we don’t pay attention to those who don’t come up to us, while we tend to make a pretty big deal out of the ones that do.

Comments

  1. “I can’t believe that you are really surprised that a few class members were upset you brought up moneydigging in Sunday School.”

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. I thought it was done in a very faithful context – I made it clear Joseph progressed beyond it and used his gifts for more important things. A few people told me they thought it was very interesting, while others didn’t enjoy it. But, maybe I should know better.

  2. “That said, there’s certainly more tolerance of wacky beliefs to the right than to the left.”

    I don’t think that is true, unless you mean the political right. (And I’m not sure even there anymore) The religious right tend to be associated with apostate groups and thus gets more worry than someone with say religiously liberal views. I recognize that most liberals don’t believe this. But try this for an experiment. Start wearing old style garments (i.e. one piece to the ankles and wrists) and then talk about how those garments are better than the new style. Next talk about Pres. Benson’s political beliefs and how he was silenced. See how long it is before you get a call to the Bishop’s office.

  3. Sam B.: “I, for example, firmly believe in evolution.”

    I have a dog who, in my opinion, probably deserves to be human someday. I can’t help but wonder if eternal progression isn’t limited to we who are presently human and striving to attain a higher level of being. Why can’t a good and faithful canine be permitted to progress to the point of being human on some other world someday?

  4. As for the “money digging”. JS was not the son of G-d. The belief that he did not have the same weeknesses and failings of man is foolish. He was man first with the calling of Prophet later. So I think he probably did some humanly dumb things in his life because he was (((drum roll))) a man.

    D. Fletcher. If you are the one I think you are I read your continuing story elsewhere and feel you should have played.

  5. But Ryan, how can John (or anyone) predict what will be inspiring? There are lots of things that move me to tears that would leave everybody else in my ward completely cold. But all I can know is what is moving to me. Staying with the example of Joseph’s moneydigging, since it’s convenient–it really might not occur to me many people would not know or have heard about this allegation, and I can also imagine myself thinking that it would be a great application question to wonder about what talents of ours might be used for more noble purposes than we currently imagine. I’d be surprised and hurt if the people in my class took offense at my sincere attempt to share something I found enlightening and inspiring about the process leading up to the discovery of the Book of Mormon, and then took my honest sharing of something that was faith-promoting for me as evidence of my lack of faith!

    The approach you suggest, Ryan, leads too often to NO ONE being inspired and everyone being bored because only certain insights are permitted, and we’re all sharing only whatever is most conventional (and therefore dull and uninspiring) about our spiritual lives. It makes Sunday School (and testimony meeting, sometimes, and Relief Society) into catechism. (It’s worst in RS–catechism with synchronized weeping).

  6. But, Ryan, it’s not a “dissenting view” to say that Joseph was known as a moneydigger in his youth–it’s just a statement of fact. A dissenting view would be if John concluded from that that Joseph was not a prophet–but he doesn’t. I think it’s really important to mention those facts (not dwell on them, but mention them) because otherwise people are so disillusioned when they are confronted with facts they can’t put into their picture of the perfect, infallible Prophet Joseph Smith. Sunday School is a great place (well, maybe not, but it’s the only place) to look at difficult issues in a context of faith. And I think the consequences of not at least acknowledging the issues are serious: the ex-mormon boards are full of people whose testimonies fell apart when they were encountered difficult questions *outside* a context of faith and felt compelled to abandon the “Work and the Glory” version of church history, which they had been taught in Sunday School, and had mistaken for part and parcel of the gospel.

  7. D. Fletcher says:

    Funny you should mention this, John, because I’ve been thinking of a change in venue, too.

    I’ve been thinking of moving to Salt Lake.

    A mistake?

  8. Here’s a generic teaching perspective: University profs encounter some of these same concerns in many disciplines. How difficult or easy, challenging or straightforward, should the course material be? Should class members be confronted with controversial material in lecture or in readings, or not? How much supplementary material (in addition to the text) should be used?

    The problem with Sunday School is that sticking 100% to the manual generally leads to a rather dull and uninteresting class–more like a catechism, as noted by Kristine. Good SS teachers have a feeling for how to go around or outside the manual to improve the class without stepping on toes.

    FWIW, the best SS teacher I ever sat through was released a few months later because of class complaints. The guy was an LDS historian who gave fascinating and informative lessons, just too much firepower for suburban Orem.

  9. I agree with D–blogs are at least part of the answer. They have the advantage of being (semi) anonymous, so you can vent concerns without fear of retribution or judgment. Blogs also provide basically immediate access to brilliant minds from across the country with a wide diversity of viewpoints. In addition to blogs, websites like FAIR do a pretty good job of answering critics. But the internet does not work for everyone, particularly those without computers and spare time. Symposia are great, but I donÂ’t know how much of a broader group they reach. They also are not readily available, practically speaking, to most members. I donÂ’t know about Education Days. How would you go about doing that? Can you envision this announcement from the podium during Sacrament Meeting: “And finally, a reminder to everyone about Education Days this week, where Brother Evans will talk about all the crazy stuff that Brigham Young said and why itÂ’s no big deal.” Perhaps you could set up a session on how to answer the claims of anti-Mormons. But do you trust the average ward to get this right and not do more harm than good? I suspect most Bishops would prefer to steer clear of that potential minefield.

  10. I think some of the comments to this point have set up a false choice–either (1) controversial lessons that are fascinating to some, but disconcerting to others, perhaps even most, or (2) dull, uninteresting catechisms. I am all in favor of interesting lessons, but it is not necessary to address controversial issues to accomplish this end. The scriptures themselves provide more than enough material for spectacular lessons for any audience.

    I think the best argument to be made for addressing controversial issues in church history/doctrine is the one Kristine raises–that people need a safe place to work out their issues. Frankly, I don’t think that Sunday School is likely to ever be a particularly safe place, regardless of who the teacher is. There is only so much a teacher can do to control comments, particularly on these hot button issues. Further, there is a very real danger of exposing people to issues that they are not ready to address. Finally, addressing controversial issues has the real potential to detract from what is most important. I agree that people need a safe place to work through controversial issues. I just don’t think that Sunday School, as a general rule, is the answer. (I’ll be the first to admit, though, that if the church chose to endorse the path that John, Kristine, and others are advocating, my Sunday School attendance would skyrocket!)

  11. I think the discussion is hung up on the “Sunday School” label. For a variety of reasons, Sunday School is not the place to reform the standard presentation of LDS history. Better places would be the Ensign, Conference talks, or history books published by LDS scholars with the informal approval of LDS leaders. If the leaders move in that direction, the members (and the Sunday School curriculum as well as class discussion) will follow.

    The experience of “The Story of the Latter-day Saints” and “Mormon Enigma” and Quinn suggests leaders aren’t there yet. So, for the time being, those with a historical need to know should stick to the standard liberal forums (Sunstone, online boards and blogs, in the hall rather than in Sunday School class) for historical discussions.

  12. I think these are valid criticisms. Perhaps I’ve spent so much time at Sunstone I’ve lost a bit of touch with the “average” member (whoever that might be).

    However, it does seem to underscore the point that people are more concerned with orthodoxy than with orthopraxy. People felt I was saying something they didn’t agree with, and that was the problem.

    What I suppose troubles me is the assumption of bad faith when some members hear that someone believes something they don’t agree with. the approach isn’t, “Well he’s a good person and I’m glad he’s at Church teaching even though I don’t agree with that.” It’s more like, “What’s wrong with him?”

    If you’ve had a conversation with someone at Church and they learn you’re not all that orthodox, the conversation can very quickly shift from discussing an issue to discussing *you*. You become the problem and the focus. Questions are raised about your righteousness, faithfulness, and testimony. There is no worry or concern over whether or not what you believe is actually true (it disagrees with them, therefore, how could it possibly be true?), but why you would believe such a thing. It’s a frustrating place to be in, believe me.

  13. I think your location is a big factor. Here in the “mission field” wards generally need the labor so badly that they are much more willing to overlook the occaisional *outre* opinion as long as one shows up reliably at least to do one’s regular Church calling.

    However, even where service is much more needed and appreciated, there are limits to how much a community can stretch. We all love the benefits of “community,” but community does have a cost, which includes some respect for the community’s boundaries, which in a religious community include beliefs.

    Now I don’t see most of the issues you mentioned as falling beyond what would be accommodated, at least outside of Utah. However, I think that challenging the historicity of the Book of Mormon is one issue that one can not pursue at church and expect that members are going to just let it go.

    On other issues, I have found that tone makes a huge difference. If our attitude is one of debunking or one-up-man-ship, even innocuous points are going to ruffle feathers. If our tone is open and non-judgemental, and cast in an untlimately faith-affirming way, I have seen even the most difficult points tolerated, if not accepted. In other words, not “B disproves A,” but rather “did you know that there is also B, which may be harmonized with A as ABC, or maybe we’ll just have to wait until the next life — in the meantime we all need to worry most about doing our home and visiting teaching.”

  14. In quest of a safe place. Hmm, maybe the Sunday School President could set up a special class, Gospel Problems, and invite those who need to talk about doubts and problems. Or perhaps the Bishop will run a monthly “Future Apostates” fireside. Or possibly motivated individuals could form a “Signature Book Club” for their ward if there is enough interest.

    No, I don’t think these are realistic options. I don’t think the “safe place” to raise and discuss troubling historical and doctrinal issues is to be found within the official Church. Either the Church simply doesn’t want members to address such issues or It wants members to do so outside the boundaries of the Church.

    While I’m not fond of the harsh tone one sometimes finds in some of the apologetic stuff at FARMS and FAIR (or other online sites), at least they are a place any Mormon can find their particular problem discussed from an LDS perspective. I think the Church wants apologetics to be done (meaning it wants members to talk about their concerns in an effort to find reassuring answers), but also wants to keep it at arm’s length.

  15. D. Fletcher says:

    John H,

    In reading between the lines of your posts here, I’m perhaps stepping out of bounds in noting your needs coming through. How can we be more supportive of you without making you the focus? You have every right to speak up with what you know to be the truth, even if it is controversial.

    I’m having trouble finishing this post, but I wanted you to know… I’m with you on every point.

  16. John,
    It’s also possible that the people with whom you interacted were working to protect their testimonies, and not censuring you for your belief (or, more likely, doing both).

    I, for example, firmly believe in evolution. There is, to my mind, clear and incontrovertible evidence that every living thing (present company included) evolves. I see no conflict between this idea and the concepts that we are children of God, created in His image, or that He created us (while I admit I have no idea of the process–being a non-science person, I barely grasp the broadest processes of evolution). But I also understand that good, intelligent people cannot simultaneously hold the opinion that we evolved and that Heavenly Father created us. It’s better, I think, that they choose the creationist half. Why? Evolution serves no salvific purpose; frankly, neither does creationism, but if that allows them to believe in an all-powerful Creator, maybe they (and, hopefully, I) can focus on the Atonement. I still think they’re wrong about evolution, but I don’t think their salvation is threatened.

  17. D. Fletcher says:

    John, I once wrote a paper (presented at Sunstone) with a simple premise, that music in Sacrament Meeting should be inspiring to someone there. If the music is presented like a recital, as opposed to an abstract testimony of truth, then I think it’s wrong to present it. But if it is given with sincerity and restraint, as an honest reflection of that person’s personal testimony, then it is appropriate, even if the style of the music may not inspire everyone.

    So, inclusively I suggested that Janice Kapp Perry’s songs are not inappropriate, where Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas might be.

    But if someone, maybe just one person, is inspired, or transformed by the experience, then my feeling is, the music was right.

    I think this is akin to your experience in Sunday School. I don’t believe you need to be hindered in your vocalizing of your innermost spiritual ideas — in fact, I think you need to be encouraged to share them, and often.

  18. John, I think the Church urge for conformity extends to both doctrine (what you believe) and conduct (what you do). In some contexts, what you say or teach really matters and can make some people or leaders very uncomfortable. In other contexts, it’s what you drink, wear, or listen to that provokes anxiety among the faithful.

    That said, there’s certainly more tolerance of wacky beliefs to the right than to the left. And the real concern isn’t with speculative doctrines at all, it’s with historical events or doctrines that are well supported but don’t fit the present LDS matrix. It’s not false doctrine that gets leaders nervous, it’s the true stuff they don’t want to talk about.

    Of course, most “liberal Mormons” or those whose beliefs lean to the left learn that Sunday School just isn’t the place to share those ideas, anymore than voicing reasoned support for capital punishment goes over well in a Unitarian post-sermon discussion. I can’t believe that you are really surprised that a few class members were upset you brought up moneydigging in Sunday School.

  19. John, it also seems to me that the lack of comment on your less-than-ideal behavior may be a case of people in glass houses not throwing stones. And I think Kristine is right on the mark with her comment about *official* sanction. My stake president is familiar with many of my heterodox beliefs, but is much more concerned about my home teaching record.

  20. John–it’s time for you to move out of Utah :)

  21. Judy Brooks,
    I agree; however, a lot of people (many I’ve spoken with and many who make a political fuss) can’t make evolution and creation fit together. My point is that, where two things cause you personally (or me personally, or him personally) in irreconciliable cognative dissonance, we probably should choose the truth that can save us.

    I’m not advocating, by any means, ignoring one truth in favor of another seemingly conflicting truth for the sake of comfort. Nonetheless, I understand the reason why a person would do so, and I’m sure there are issues where I’d do the same.

  22. Kristine it seems that the factuality of the issue isn’t in question. The question is the appropriateness of it in Sunday School. I tend to agree with Ryan. You’re going to cause controversy if only because some aren’t familiar with what is or isn’t a fact. (And, contrary to some, I honestly don’t think being immersed in church history is necessary to be a good member anymore than knowing all about ancient Israel is)

    When some in your class will think these facts perhaps aren’t and may misinterpret your words, then it seems like you are failing at communicating your message. Now the danger of avoiding such things is the pabulum of “Sunday School” question and answers. However I think there still is a large area in which one can be challenging and informative without bringing up things that require a familiarity with history to react to properly.

    i.e. part of teaching is knowing your audience.

  23. Kristine’s right. When people say only share what is faith-promoting or inspiring, what they really mean is only share what *I* think is faith-promoting or inspiring.

    Just an example: I’ve heard so many different people stand up and weep as they recount with great drama how *they* personally caused the Savior pain in Gethsemane, how *they* added to his burden, how *their* sins made him bleed a little bit more. I have no doubt that they are deeply moved by this belief, as are others in the audience. Personally, I find the notion to be a bit cold and dreary, and not what Christ wants us to be focusing on. That’s just me (and I’m not bringing it up to have another topic to argue over :) ) and I wouldn’t tell them to not be inspired by it. Yet people certainly feel obligated to tell me what I should be inspired by or offended by.

  24. Kristine, is it factual that Joseph Smith did some money digging? Yes. Is it a fact that he was trying to get rich, or that this was idleness or sin? Is it a fact that he was meddling with the occult or doing all the thousand other things people accused him of in connection with those activities? Those are all issues of serious contention.

    Let’s be honest. Could I make a strained argument that a thousand of my personal pet truths or doctrines are ‘factual.’ Yes, probably. Seems like most of us could. Does that pass the standard for teaching them in Sunday School?

    I propose a rule for Sunday School conversations: teach nothing that is unlikely to be inspiring to the majority in the room. If this limits you because nine tenths of your Sunday School class are cowboys and mothers-of twelve, so be it. Of course such a rule has its limits if you’re in a ward of crazy people that need to be called to repentance, but in the majority of wards, there is a broad enough area of discussion and gospel that can be discussed to inspire everyone. What’s the point of teaching something inspiring to the teacher that will bother everyone else?

  25. Man, I must just be out of touch on this money digging thing!

    See, I find Joseph’s money digging activities to be wonderfully human and wholly inspiring. I love this notion that he develops and realizes there are greater things for him to do. (Of course, this is how I read his activities – others have a different take, including that his activities led to his fraudulent claims of being a prophet. I reject this interpretation.)

    Ryan, I think this is precisely the problem with the attitude that seems to exist that believing is more important than doing. I believe the money digging is inspiring, but others don’t. So do we not talk about it at all? How do we approach these kinds of issues?

  26. Mark,
    I’d settle for my dog’s understanding (and obeying) when I ask him not to bark at other dogs. But Malteses apparently haven’t evolved that far yet.

  27. May I just comment that I agree with those who would say the Joseph Smith money-digging story is out of place in Sunday School?

    I acknowledge D’s point that the prophet wasn’t perfect, and that we would be foolish to expect that of him. Joseph wrote many times about his imperfections, even sins.

    But if I were sitting in Sunday School, and the teacher decided to spend a moment on attributes of the prophet that we now deem unsavory, I would begin to wonder about the teacher’s motives. What is the class gaining by this discussion?

    John, I understand your discomfort with the pressure you feel not to express some of your opinions. But I wonder how it’s any different than the pressure one experiences in any group where his views not accepted. In my years at a very liberal law school I didn’t spend a lot of time talking about how gay marriage threatens our society– and when I did, I expected to be vehemently rebutted. Of course we in the church should seek openness and tolerance of other viewpoints, but again, I wonder if Sunday School is more a time to keep dissenting views to ourselves.

    On the flip side, I understand that you try to live that rule– of not being overly vocal around a majority group that mostly disagrees with you. That is a difficult spot to be in. I could simply dismiss my law school classmates as misguided. You have a more difficult task in deciding what to do with a church you believe is true, but who’s people mostly disagree with you. I’m not sure what is the appropriate perspective to take in that circumstance.

  28. Not to belabor my prior post, but I really do feel that tone, or how one frames the comment, makes a huge difference. At least in the context of a Gospel Doctrine class, members have a reasonable expectation that their basic faith is not going to be undermined. Beyond that, I do not think that foisting controversial matters in a controversial manner on one’s fellow Saints in such a setting is really charitable.

    That does not mean that gospel discussions need to be only rehashing the same old pablum. And I don’t think that substantive gospel discussions need be excluded from church. However, I do think we need to respect the boundaries of the community. With regard to potentially controversial intellectual issues, my experience is that the LDS community can absorb discussion of potentially controversial intellectual issues where:

    (1) the material is not presented as challenging fundamental tenets (i.e. debunking)

    (2) the material is presented as tentative rather than conclusive

    (3) if at all possible, the material is presented with one or more suggestions as to how it could be either ultimately faith promoting or at least resolvable, and

    (4) the material is presented as not so fundamental that it can’t wait until the next life for a definitive answer.

    The more controversial the matter, the more we have to apply the forgoing accommodations to the community’s need for some minimal cognitive cohesiveness.

    I find that operating within these parameters, one can bring up topics interesting to us, and more importantly, help our fellow Saints be prepared to encounter such topics from less friendly sources.

    PS, we had a thread at T&S on the SS GD manual. I said there, and I agree with the commentator above, that the text of the scriptures themselves can provide more than enough interesting subject matter for a 40 minute class. If you stay within the week’s assigned scriptural text, almost no one will realize or complain that you are not tracking point for point the same-old same-old discussion frequently found in the manual.

  29. Perhaps some of the difficulties in belief vs action is that belief requires very little evidence.

    That is you can claim to believe anything you like. It is very internal and no one can argue that you believe what you do. Actions are very outward.

    An analogy I’ve used is a math class. If your given a complex algebra problem and the teacher simply asks the class. “who knows how to get the answer and what it is?” Everyone raises their hand, because the teacher never asks them to show their work. He is just asking if they know.

    If he then calls on someone for the answer and they go to the blackboard its not enough to simply write the correct answer. They have to ‘show their work’.

    Actions are an outward expression of who we are. With such a diverse worldwide congregation as the church everyone’s beliefs are bound to be different. We can allow our actions to show what our beliefs are.

    In this sense it is more important to focus on our actions, but just like faith without works is dead. Also, works without faith is dead. Our actions cannot simply be actions, they must be done with the proper frame of mind or they loose some of their importance in the gospel.

  30. Recent talks by Messrs. Holland (April 2003 GC) and Maxwell (October 2003 GC) would tend to support your thesis, John H. Orthodoxy is very important to the PTB. However, someone who is very orthoprax may find that their lack of orthodoxy is not so much an issue at the local level. They don’t care what I think, so long as I keep it to myself and help out at the storehouse twice a month.

  31. Judy Brooks says:

    Sam, why can’t a person believe in God, the creator and, at the same time, believe in evolution. Don’t you think that God woud use a scientific method to create the world? It makes perfect sense to me.

    God used evolution, and when mankind reached the point where God thought he was able to reason, God said, “This is man. I’ve created him in my own image.”

    It’s so simple! Why the fuss?

  32. Seriously, I think the contention that orthopraxis is more important than orthodoxy only goes to the official church–you’re not likely to be sanctioned by the *official* church for expressing the view that Joseph may have had moneydigging talent. Doesn’t mean that your neighbors will be comfortable with you expressing your views. There’s no long list of beliefs one has to assent to in order to be baptized, or a creed one recites every week. However, the list of things Mormons would like you to believe, to keep things *socially* comfortable, is quite long. And writing about one’s unconventional beliefs, of course, does seem to cross the belief/action line, at least as far as the Committee for Strengthening the Membership is concerned.

  33. Steve IS here, D., but I cannot yet really see. Alas, LASIK was not possible, so I was relegated to the terrestrial form of laser surgery, or PRK. After much gnashing of teeth my vision is beginning to return. A tale to span the ages, indeed.

    In terms of this discussion: I agree with Randy/Kristine that some sort of ‘safe place’ needs to be established to discuss church issues, and that it ain’t Sunday School. So where, then? How’s about the more narrowly tailored symposia (church sponsored or otherwise), or things like Education Days? Those aren’t too shabby, compared to Gospel Doctrine, as places go to work out issues.

  34. D. Fletcher says:

    Steve is here?

    So, can you really SEE now?

    :)

  35. D. Fletcher says:

    Steve, Blame Canada!

    LOL but seriously, I’m really worried now — what happened?

    As far as working out issues within the Church and without, how about blogs?

  36. Thanks for the good comments, all. My Internet keeps going down so I haven’t been able to respond as much as I’d like.

    I think Kristine’s hit the mark – I need a change of venue.

    Actually, I’m curious if so much of this isn’t just my own personality shining through. I talk to other people who share similar unpleasant experiences, yet it seems to roll right off their backs. It strikes me as such a rejection and such a statement that I’m not all that welcome here unless I can believe the right way. Perhaps I’m a bit thin-skinned?

    For reasons I can’t fully explain, I just feel like I’m at a relatively lonely place right now. The thought of somehow not being a Mormon is so foreign to me I don’t even know where to begin. But knowing that my beliefs don’t synch up with “the norm” makes me feel unwelcome. How much of that is the culture and how much of it is me?

  37. There is almost an urban legend nature on some minutia(?). I have gotten in one rather heated talk in EQ about the nature of man. He said man is by nature good and temped by the devil/satan. I said man was by nature selfish and self corrupting and needed no help or tempting to do wrong, or something to blame it all on as an easy out. He seemed insulted like I had said he was evil. So like the nature of man, progression between degrees of glory is based on whos words you hear and like the best.

    As for believing of doing. I feel the church is more on the doing. I know of several people who go to church and have no faith or belief. They go for social/family reasons. So as long as they go, and do not talk out, i feel they will never be approached about their faith. If they get a calling and turn it down then their faith may be called into question, but only because of what they did not do, and that was to take the calling. At that point the Bishop will have a PPI and see how their testimony is, but only because of their lack of action.

    As for thewoman who cried. There are many small details that have never been directly addressed in a “A leads to B leads to C” method. So a lot of self interpritation(?) is required. A lot of religious dogma is individual, and personnal beliefs are the ones they will fight to defend the most. IMHO

  38. Um, D., yes, that would be a mistake. What about Boston? I hear the Lynnfield Ward is rather desperately in need of an organist and they have a choir director who’s just a blast to work with :)

  39. Very thoughtful comments, D.

    I can’t help but wonder if one of the unintended consequences of phenomenal Church growth and correlation is a loss of focus on personal needs. Ryan’s previous posts advocate something the Church is very much already doing – lessons that try and serve the greatest number of people while not trying to offend or upset, manuals that won’t be to daunting for even the most recent convert, etc. These changes are certainly understandable and probably necessary, but there is a potential loss. We lose a lot of our ability to be a church that leaves the 99 to go after the 1. We lose a lot of our pastoring ability, and perhaps our ability to touch a handful of individuals in a class. We try and make up for some of these things with Home Teaching, PPI’s, etc. But it is a sign of a growing organization that you have to make up for losses in one area by creating more programs.

  40. D. Fletcher says:

    Whee! It’s me, D., back from SLC.

    I suppose the practice vs. belief question is somewhat based on context, i.e., every person’s experience will be a little different, depending on the nature of their beliefs, the hard- or soft-heartedness of their leaders, etc.

    I live in NYC. At a time when a lot of brouhaha was placed on Temple activities (because of the building of a Temple here), I didn’t have (or seek) a Temple recommend. This lack of a specific Church practice led my leaders to fire me as an organist for a Church function, which led to my own retaliatory act of not attending at all (for the time being).

    Was it belief or practice which jeopardized my eternal salvation? It’s a gray area.

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