Exasperation with the media

Lee Thomson at the Journal Gazette/Times Courier has an interesting (read: idiotic) answer to the simple question: “Why does the Mormon Church not have crosses in or on their buildings, and why do Mormons not wear cross jewelry?”

It’s not everyday that I read someone’s answer to an LDS-related question that is quite so…. wrong. It is like Lee Thomson wrote this while tripping on acid, watching the Godmakers and reading a “Dummies” guide to comparative religion. It’s not just wrong, it’s poorly written and completely nonsensical. Mattoon and Charleston, Illinois — you deserve better. Any local residents should bombard the newspaper with calls for Thomson’s immediate dismissal; he has no talent whatsoever.

Now, a better question — why shouldn’t we permit a few crosses here and there? Wouldn’t that go a long way towards combating the notion that Mormons aren’t Christians?

Comments

  1. Whoa. That is just…very, very, bad. Like idiotic bad. He even cites an anti-Mormon website. Yikes!

  2. …I’m not sure that this guy is media or an paper evangelist. In the end he hopes and prays for Mormons. Whoa.

  3. My favorite part is how he says his brothers, uncles, cousins, grandfather…etc is Hugh Nibley, therefore he muct know something about this.

  4. I’m just excited to learn that because I don’t believe some of that stuff, I am a-theological. I’ve always wondered.

  5. Wouldn’t that go a long way towards combating the notion that Mormons aren’t Christians?

    Whoops, we’re supposed to be combating that notion? And here I’ve been just criticizing mainstream Christianity instead of trying to assimilate into it. My bad everybody, sorry for causing all the contention.

  6. Wow. Lying for the Lord huh. He even manages to compare us to radical Islam.

    Ditto Ryan for not wanting to be associated in anyway with this ‘mainstream’ christianity. They have such a good name, you know, its a pity people don’t think we are like them.

    This writer is an idiot. You shouldn’t give him such publicity. Besides, hes just repeating what his pastor told him.

  7. Steve Evans says:

    “You shouldn’t give him such publicity”

    There’s a difference between publicity and notoriety. He deserves the latter.

  8. His delivery has alot of spin on it–but let’s be honest his facts about our religion are right on the money. Just be glad he didn’t start talking about visionary boys and golden plates.

    We have a really wierd religion–regardless of what Mitt Romney woould have you believe.

    cje

  9. Steve Evans says:

    “his facts about our religion are right on the money”

    cje, you are wrong. His “facts” are not facts.

  10. Nick Literski says:

    Don’t worry…with all that the church PR department and Correlation has done in the past ten years to make modern LDS-ism look “just like” other “christians,” you’ll have your crosses and such soon enough. The necessary doctrinal changes have taken place already. The things Joseph Smith taught are gradually being tossed aside. As recently as the 1980s, you had an apostle (Elder McConkie) correctly informing BYU students that Mormonism teaches worship of the FAther, and NOT worship of Jesus Christ. Now, you have a church president and PR folks who repeatedly proclaim “we WORSHIP Christ.” It comes down to Hinckley’s mantra: “We don’t want people to think we’re weird!”

  11. Mr./Ms. Thomson has a follow-up column in which he/she blames Mormons for being offended here:

    http://jg-tc.com/articles/2006/11/15/features/religion/religion0002.txt

    This person really is clueless.

  12. My understanding is that is was in vogue for Restorationist movements in the 19th century to eschew the use of crosses as symbols in order to differentiate themselves from established Protestant demominations. Other churches that arose during that time period, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and some of the Churches of Christ, also avoid using crosses.

    Therefore, I think that we don’t use the cross today out of pure force of habit and the various justifications for it (i.e. we don’t think the atoning event occured on the cross, etc.) are simply later rationalizations for the tradition. Changing that policy today would call into question the various rationalizations and perhaps undermine the tradition adopted by the early church leaders (i.e. to break from traditional protestantism) even if that tradition has less meaning today.

    Am I wrong?

  13. Steve Evans says:

    Tom, awesome follow-up. I guess I am another one that “forgot [his] thorough scholarship and good motives.”

  14. uh, so we don’t worship Christ huh? I sorta thought we worshiped both. Maybe its just a semantics thing.

    Sorry McConkie isn’t (and never was) our Prophet. Maybe you should send HF a memo. And I recommend some studious readings of the scriptures along with your copy of Mormon Doctrine.

    Sorry, was that too harsh? Work is putting me in a bad mood.

  15. Okay maybe “facts” should be “believes”- whether they be institutional or apocraphal(sp)

    cje

  16. Steve Evans says:

    Lief, I think you’re right.

  17. MikeInWeHo says:

    I think Nick is right on this one. Crosses are already starting to sneak into LDS publications if you look closely enough. There’s a clear shift in the direction of making the Church look more like other Christian denominations. I don’t expect any big announcement on it though.

  18. Nick, you are simply wrong there. McConkie was the aberration. Prophets since Joseph Smith have repeatedly proclaimed that the Saints worship Jesus Christ.

  19. cje,
    Wrong again. Some of those things can be said to have been taught or believed by some prominent Mormons at some time. But to characterize them unequivocally as LDS beliefs/teachings is misleading.

  20. Mike,

    I must not be looking close enough. Could you please provide some links to what you are referring to.

    Jelly Man

  21. But to characterize them unequivocally as LDS beliefs/teachings is misleading.

    Tom

    I don’t even know how to read some the words you just used–so lets just clear up that you certianly are reading alot more into my comments than they really deserve–which also may be why you have such a problem with the newspaper article–you’re letting it ride up your crack.

    cje

  22. Ok … Wasn’t the question about crosses? Isn’t it somewhat problematic that the response wanders all over the place and never even attempts to try to explain or analyze how all that information answers the question about crosses?

    It doesn’t matter if the information was right or wrong or something inbetween: the poor writing discredits the author.

    As far as cross use goes, it isn’t institutionalized in the church as a whole, but what about privately? Personally, there are other symbols that mean more to me, but I can imagine situations in which the cross would be important to and used in some way by a mormon.

  23. cje,
    Don’t be silly. You stated that the column gets the facts right. Then you said that it gets the beliefs right. I’m just pointing out that you’re wrong and that the article doesn’t get much of anything right. It’s riddled with factual inaccuracies and misleading statements. That’s all I’m saying.

  24. I know this video has been making the rounds regarding “Lying for the Lord”.

  25. Wendy, I fail to see what is so objectionable about that video, other than the obviously antagonistic editing job. Is it wrong for a teacher to advise his students that when answering Gospel questions, “milk” should come before “meat”? That strikes me as a sound pedagogical method.

  26. I was raised Lutheran and I don’t really have a problem with the symbol of the cross.

    I do have a problem with how seldom Christ and the atonement seem to be mentioned in Sacrament Meeting. But I also realize that many other churches don’t have much beyond the atonement. And we do. We have much more to our doctrine than just that.

    All I really remember from my church growing up was Christ died for you, repent and be saved.

    We’re fortunate we have more than the cross to focus on.

  27. What’s objectionable, to me, is the arrogance and lack of a straight answer to a straight question Steve.

    If a general question is asked, by all means give a general answer, but when someone asks you a specific question and you start meandering and beating around the bush, that’s deception.

  28. Steve Evans says:

    Wendy, in matters of theology where complicated explanations are involved, it’s entirely natural to give a full explanation. Short-and-sweet answers are nice, but in many religious contexts they are inaccurate and unhelpful if you want people to really understand the notion at issue.

    I agree that arrogance, meandering and beating about the bush can be objectionable or deceptive. But in the example in that video, where he posits the question, “so you think man can be like God?”, I think it’s probably a disservice to the person making the inquiry to just give a straight yes-or-no.

    I certainly wouldn’t take the hack piece of a video to which you linked as either evidence that mormons “lie for God” or that Robert Millet himself is an arrogant or deceiving person. That strikes me as equally deceptive as the meandering you decry.

  29. cje,

    I just posted over at T&S, noting that the idea of Kolob hasn’t been discussed in 30 years in general conference, and maybe more (around 30 years is as far back as the search function goes). It’s been discussed a total of twice in the Ensign in the past 20 years, neither time by a general authority.

    Given that environment, anyone who says that Kolob is at all relevant to Mormon belief today is either an anti-Mormon or a professional apologist.

    Really, one might just as accurately say that Christianity in general forbids women to speak in church. Or for that matter, that Christianity in general teaches baptism for the dead.

  30. What’s objectionable, to me, is the arrogance and lack of a straight answer to a straight question Steve.

    If a general question is asked, by all means give a general answer, but when someone asks you a specific question and you start meandering and beating around the bush, that’s deception.

    I don’t think that what Brother Millet was suggesting was meandering or beating around the bush. Rather, he is suggesting than on some occasions, answering a question directly is a waste of time because it will not increase the person’s understanding of the gospel. His counsel instead–and it may be edited from that talk but is expressed in the book Sustaining and Defending the Faith–is to answer the question in a way that will teach them the gospel and invite the Spirit to inform the discussion. “Is it not more meaningful to let the Lord answer their questions than for us to do so?” he suggests.

    I have a great deal of respect for Robert L. Millet when it comes to dialogues with other Christians. He was raised in Lousiana, and he did a doctorate in Religion at a state-run university in the heart of the Bible Belt.

    He was very effective in using these approaches in dealing with investigators when I knew him as a bishop and stake counselor in the South, and it never came off as arrogant, but more as being respectful of the person’s time and wanting to address their real concerns, using the guidance of the spirit to get to the core issues that make a difference.

  31. About the cross….I was raised Catholic, and we had crucifixes in every room of the house, every classroom at school, etc. Particularly after I joined the LDS church, I came to be really bothered by them, and I finally figured out why.

    It’s because when we have a friend who has gone through tought times, we don’t like to focus on that. To me, having the crucifix around is like having pictures of a friend on their way to drug detox, or while they are despondent from being unemployed, or whatever. I try not to remember those times, but rather think about the good stuff, and my friends at their best.

    When I was having surgery at a Catholic hospital, there was a huge crucifix in the waiting room. I didn’t say anything, but my Catholic father sensed my discomfort and he leaned over and assured me that if there was a crucifix in my hospital room, he would ask to have it taken down. There wasn’t, but it was so sweet of him.

  32. Kaimi

    Last time I watched the temple film I think I remember a pretty dramatic scene [edited].

    Kolob? or just silly filmic symbolism or Cylon base ship.

    Maybe only Adama knows the truth.

    I guess when you have a complicated religion you have complicated explanations for doctrine and sometimes that comes off as just plain wierd–I think that’s what the newspaper artcle really highlights.

    As for crosses I love ‘em along with stained glass windows.

    cje

  33. The more weird mainstream Christians become, the more I think that not being considered “Christian” is a positive thing.

  34. so, my husband, who is a convert and, shall we say, not all that interested in religion, laughed so loud it hurt my ears when I read that article to him. Thanks for the link.

    I especially loved the report that “They’re afraid of going to Hell eternally for rejecting Mormonism, or of falling into sinful patterns of behavior in less-restrictive religions, or of losing intimacy with family members” as if that’s scandalous and unusual among organized religion.

  35. His comparison of Mormonism to radical Islam is rich as is the “spirit babies floating throughout the universe” quip, but I honestly don’t know what all the fuss is about on this thread. The article is poorly written and obviously agenda-driven, but (ironically) except for the answer he gives to the original question there really are very few “factual inaccurancies.” The theology of the church is what it is. The doctrine can be made to sound absurd, but that doesn’t mean it can be disowned.

  36. “The theology of the church is what it is.”

    That’s just it, Melissa – he isn’t describing our theology. He’s describing in outlandish terms some of the more folk doctrine parts of the faith, but he is decidedly NOT expressing doctrine itself. And it’s in no event “theology” — a reasoned discourse. (it’s debatable whether there even is a coherent LDS theology, but that’s an issue for the philosophers). The point is that this guy pretends to write for a newspaper, and not some random evangelical rag. We should evaluate him as such, and as such he completely fails.

  37. I’m not sure that I understand why giving someone a “straight” (read: complete) answer to a gospel question is a disservice. It was former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who said that whenever he was asked a question that he thought was difficult or inappropriate, he simply gave the answer to the question that he thought should have been asked. One of our apostles has echoed the same thought over the years. I used to believe that that was very appropriate and very clever. I no longer believe that.

    When we approach a sincere question by dodging the answer, we’re making a judgment about the motives, intelligence, and capacity of the questioner that I believe is not ours to make.

    I have heard too many individuals rationalize that they do not want to “confuse” others with complex answers. Let’s be careful not to sound too much like Don Rumsfeld (what is it with these Defense guys?), who seemed to believe that very few others had the capacity to understand the complex issues he understood.

    I respect Brother Millet (and others of the Brethren, for that matter) and believe they carefully consider questions that come to them. But in some instances in the past, the questions have not been answered honestly in the eyes of some.

  38. The theology of the church is what it is.

    What is it? Is it everything that every prominent Mormon has ever publicly taught?

    The doctrine can be made to sound absurd, but that doesn’t mean it can be disowned.

    It can be disowned if it’s not doctrine. If subsequent leaders don’t teach a certain thing or if they teach things contrary to what others have taught, it can’t rightly be said to be doctrine nor can it be honestly characterized as “LDS belief” or “LDS teaching.”

    Take this one for instance:

    Mormons believe plural marriage (polygamy and polyandry) is God’s perfect plan, but accept U.S. legal prohibitions.

    This is grossly dishonest. It is accurate to say that some people who call themselves Mormons believe that polygamy is the perfect plan (the implication being that monogamy is a lesser arrangement), but it’s absolutely false to claim that this is what the LDS Church teaches or what most Mormons believe.

    Bottom line is this: most of the things Thomson writes are accurate only in that there is probably some documentation of those things being taught and believed by at least some Mormons at some time. The dishonesty (or laziness if we’re giving Thomson the benefit of the doubt and believing that he has good intentions) comes in the characterization of all of those things as current teachings and beliefs of the LDS Church and its members.

  39. I’m not sure that I understand why giving someone a “straight” (read: complete) answer to a gospel question is a disservice.

    Because to give them a truly complete answer to the exact question they asked, it may take a very, very long time to start from the beginning…and the questioner may give up before the entire answer is delivered, thus leaving them with incomplete data. Also, because their question may have an agenda within it that we don’t have to buy into. I guess the classic is, “How long have you been beating your wife?” In my life, an example has been, “So you must not be a feminist?”

    When we approach a sincere question by dodging the answer, we’re making a judgment about the motives, intelligence, and capacity of the questioner that I believe is not ours to make.

    I don’t disagree with you at all on that. The examples that I have seen Dr. Millet give were not actually dodging the answer, but rather skipping the first question and getting more quickly to the heart of the person’s concern and the answers that will bring the Spirit into the conversation. The thing is, this person is Heavenly Father’s child, and we are entitled to know how to answer this person in a way that will bring them to a knowledge of the gospel. I haven’t personally done this with investigators, but I have done it with visiting teaching, and found it an amazing experience.

    Also, I think it is very important that the motivations be considered. When PR spokespeople obfuscate and divert questions, they are trying to push their own agenda. When we seek for the answer to the question that will bring this person closer to an understanding of the Gospel, then we are sincerely seeking the best for them and are just instruments in the Lord’s hands, not acting out of self-interest.

    Let’s be careful not to sound too much like Don Rumsfeld (what is it with these Defense guys?), who seemed to believe that very few others had the capacity to understand the complex issues he understood.

    I am not sure Rumsfeld ever claimed to have divine revelation. But the issue of “capacity to understand” is applicable, although not in that arrogant way.

    But the fact is that without the Spirit, the gospel is never going to make sense. Having that influence is the only way to develop a “capacity to understand.” Adopting a strategy that brings the Spirit into the conversation as soon as possible is the most effective way to truly learn of the gospel.

    Otherwise it all just sounds like silliness, and how could otherwise-intelligent folks possibly believe in such garbage?

  40. For what it’s worth, Lee Thomson, is a woman. My favorite line is “‘spirit babies’ who float throughout the universe”. It would be great to read her explanation why the Churches of Christ doesn’t have crosses on its buildings. What? No one cares about the buildings used by the Churches of Christ?

  41. It’s strange to read all these messages and to hear Mormons debating about what they are supposed to believe. “Well, some Mormons believed this or that but it’s not the Church teaching that” gets tiresome. What is the Church’s standard of truth? As far as I can tell, the Church’s standard of truth is the merely the current practice of the Church. I find this self-serving and duplicitous at best.

  42. I think Thomson should have given a little more credit to Aaron Shafovaloff’s mormonwiki.org (e.g., “Lying for the Lord”). (BTW, Shafovaloff appears to be an avid reader of the Bloggernacle.)

  43. Cassianus,
    So you think we should be bound by every word that every Mormon leader has ever said?

    The standard of truth is the canon and current teaching and practice. It’s a consequence of the natural balancing of our belief in prophetic authority, prophetic fallibility, and ongoing revelation. You can call it self-serving if you want. I don’t know that that’s a charge that has much meaing anyways. As for your charge that it’s dishonest, I simply don’t see how it’s dishonest to refuse to be bound by statements and practices of people who are long dead.

  44. This strikes me as amusing.

    You write,

    “he’s decidely NOT expressing doctrine itself”

    Pray tell, what is the doctrine itself? LDS doctrine is a notoriously hard thing to pin down, my friend. You can’t claim that something isn’t doctrinal without defining what you think doctrine is. Is doctrine determined by canonization? Are doctrines manifest in church policies? Is doctrine whatever is spoken by set apart and sustained prophets, seers, and revelators when they’re speaking to the body of saints in that capacity? Is doctrine about practice, about ontological or historical facts of the matter, about beliefs . . . .?

    I don’t have time this morning to discuss the wide variety of possible theologies, but there’s no reason at all to accept your definition. Suggesting that the church has a systematic theology would be difficult for a number of reasons, but it’s preposterous to say that Mormonism is without theology.

    I’m not sure which elements of the article you’re calling “folk doctrine,” (a problematic category to say the least) so it’s hard to address this concern. Tell me which specific points you find contrary to “doctrine” and then maybe your critique will make more sense.

    Tom, plural marriage is a perfect example of the slipperiness of the category “doctrine.”

    We don’t currently practice plural marriage, but . . .

    There are church policies that seem to indicate it’s ongoing doctrinal relevance.

    No church leader has ever retracted or revised this doctrine.

    D&C 132 remains in our scriptures.

    Many LDS women believe that plural marriage is a live possibility in the celestial kingdom.

  45. I should qualify that last sentence. We are, obviously, bound by statements and practices of some people who are long dead. Our canon is currently comprised exclusively of the work of dead folks. But if something is not canonized and not currently taught by the Church, we’re not bound by it.

  46. Naismith: Thank you for your thoughtful response to #38. I believe wholeheartedly that the Spirit must be our guide as we seek to help others understand our doctrines.

    As I have sought to explain something that truly was a bit complex to someone, especially to one of my children, I have learned to assess quickly upfront the true level and purpose of their interest. Sometimes that means I come right out and ask them if they really want to know what they’re asking, how much time they have, and if they’re open to new ideas. That way, I feel like I’m being as honest as I can be. Less sincere questions, such as leading questions, are easy to just dismiss (“So you must not be a feminist”); but I’m sure you’ve found a way to answer that kind of question in a way that brings more insight to the questioner than they might have expected or wanted, and that they have thus benefited.

    My main concern is that we do not arrogantly rephrase others’ questions to fit our comfort level and that we do not manipulate those who truly have concerns, even about the “hard” or difficult doctrines.

    Our public answers to at least one “doctrine”, that we can become gods, have in some cases, been nothing less than shameful. We either teach the doctrine or we do not. I have yet to see the Church repudiate the doctrine or remove it from at least one recent Church-produced manual (Presidents of the Church Student Manual, 2003, p. 88,), yet we have failed to explain it officially in any meaningful way to those not of our faith.

    I understand that it is a sensitive subject, and that we choose not to emphasize it; but really it is not much more sensitive than the “only true church” doctrine, which the Brethren have discussed and defended. The only substantive difference is that the “only true church” doctrine is specifically scripturally canonized and the “As God now is, man may be” doctrine is not.

  47. Mormons believe plural marriage (polygamy and polyandry) is God’s perfect plan, but accept U.S. legal prohibitions.
    I can see why a nonmember might make this statement. Many general authorities and even a few prophets stated that polygamy is the higher law, and monogamy is a lesser law. Since Mormons view their prophets as well, prophetic (many Mormons might say infallible) I can see how they might want to assume that we are just quietly waiting things out.

  48. We don’t currently practice plural marriage, but . .

    We also don’t teach it as God’s perfect plan. We don’t teach that God has many wives. We don’t teach that God has sex. We don’t teach that Polygamy will be the standard in heaven.

    It would be honest to say what you say here: There are church policies that seem to indicate its ongoing doctrinal relevance. That polygamy may have ongoing doctrinal relevance is as strong a statement as can be made about the LDS Church’s relationship to polygamy. Some Church practices seem to indicate that there may be such thing as divinely sanctioned polygamy on earth (which can be said of all Bible-believing churches) and/or polygamy in the afterlife (this is LDS-exclusive as far as I know).

    Many LDS women believe that plural marriage is a live possibility in the celestial kingdom.

    And many people believe that cucumbers taste better pickled.

  49. D. Fletcher says:

    I’m not sure I was ever told in Primary that we don’t have crosses because we don’t worship “symbols” or artifacts.

    There is some truth to that, but more importantly, I think we don’t use the cross, because it is a representation of a method of Roman torture and execution. We prefer to remember Jesus as the Messiah, and see him in His resurrected state. We do have a number of paintings that reflect this different visualization of Jesus.

    This is what I would say to someone asking the question.

  50. Mellisa, see here.

  51. Tom,

    That people believe that cucumbers taste better pickled says nothing more than certain people have a preference for pickled cucumbers. It’s not remotely analogous to my example.

    Many Mormon women believe in the live future possibility of polygamy (quite contrary to their preference, incidentally) because there are doctrinal formulations, scriptures, and church policies that seem to suggest it. What people actually believe might be quite salient if one’s definition of doctrine includes widespread belief.

  52. J. Stapley,

    I’ve read your post previously. I agree with much of what you say, but will have to defer a conversation on my points of disagreement to another day.

    M.

  53. I agree with #45 on polygamy. As does Elder Oaks.

    There has been no repudiaton of Polygamy. We simply no longer practice it. (unless your wife dies you remarry and are sealed) Heck, my wifes family was practicing polygamy with Church authorization well into the 1950′s as was Pres. Kimballs in-laws

    We do teach that that we can become gods. See Romans 8, Section 132 etc. We have a new word now. Exhaltation

    God having sex with HM is wild speculation from the turn of the century.

    Its a matter of how you present the doctrines that really matters. The writer presented some LDS ideas in an entirely slanted manner to emphasize the negatives.

  54. we don’t have crosses because we don’t worship “symbols” or artifacts

    When I was on my mission I was a former catholic. He had a statue of Mary in his backyard and when he asked us about it, we encouraged him to get rid of it. We explained that we don’t have things like that in our church because we don’t worship symbols. After he came to church the first time he left extremely angry, because he saw a picture of Moroni atop the temple and said we were all hypocrites. I’ve often regretted the explanation I gave him regarding his statue, or that I ever said anything about it in the first place. The above explanation for not wearing crosses just doesn’t fly. The historical explanation is much more tenable.

  55. Steve Evans says:

    bbell: “my wifes family was practicing polygamy with Church authorization well into the 1950’s as was Pres. Kimballs in-laws”

    bbell, not with authorization from our church, she wasn’t. NO WAY.

  56. D. Fletcher says:

    I’ve always been annoyed by those prominent statues of Moroni, because I think it does suggest we worship him. This is particularly true on the New York Temple, which simply doesn’t say Jesus anywhere.

  57. bbell
    Heck, my wifes family was practicing polygamy with Church authorization well into the 1950’s as was Pres. Kimballs in-laws

    I find this very hard to believe. What do you mean by “authorized”?
    I ask because my own great-grandfather and his wives were excommunicated in the 1930′s for practicing polygamy.
    He was general YM president (or something).

  58. Much of the discussion in this thread is silly.

    I completely agree with Melissa at comments #36 and 45.

    Folks, if you’ve hung out in the Bloggernacle for any length of time (or even if you haven’t, but you’re someone who has spent even a little time thinking about the question of how to define LDS “doctrine”), you know that debates about what is “doctrine”, even among informed Mormons, never seem to end or get resolved. That’s because this can be a notoriously complicated subject. As others have said, in many different places, Mormon doctrine and theology seems to be a moving target much of the time, and that’s one of the primary reasons people go around in circles on questions like these.

    Thus, it is silly to get all hot and bothered when a non-member of the Church tries to describe LDS teachings, and their particular explanations don’t happen to track your preferred notions of what is “doctrine” or “folk doctrine” or currently normative. If I went to Church on Sunday and explained what is and is not “doctrine” and/or “folk doctrine,” and then gave a bunch of examples of both, chances are a good chunk of the ward members would probably disagree with me. And if LDS members can’t sort through these issues and reach agreement, how realistic is it to expect non-LDS to do so? Not very.

    Yes, there are a few factual innacuracies in the article, but I see no reason to believe any of it was written in bad faith.

    If we as Churchmembers (or Church leaders) don’t like the fact that non-members don’t understand how to define our Church’s doctrines, then we have nothing to blame but our own practices and teachings for this misunderstanding. For decades, the Church has been teaching how important it is to follow the Prophet. Non-Mormons tend to take us at our word when we say that what the Prophet says is normative. So they scour the historical record, find things that Prophets have said, and assume that they are normative. Gee! How controversial! How dare they? Can we really expect non-members of the Church to navigate all the hedging we engage in on doctrinal questions, so as to dismiss some historical prophetic teachings, but not others?

    Please.

    Aaron B

  59. Furthermore, they are not allowed to be sealed. That is a pretty clear statement.

  60. J. Reuben Clark of the First Presidency notoriously went after polygamists in the 1930s and beyond. They had become an embarrassment to the Church. I strongly doubt that anyone, at any level in the Church, could have sanctioned a past relationship.

  61. D. Fletcher says:

    I don’t think we should ever get defensive about polygamy — it’s our past, and we should accept it.

    My own great-grandfather was Heber J. Grant, who existed as a polygamist long after the Manifesto. By some coincidence or fate, 2 of his 3 wives died before he became President of the Church, so it seemed to all that he had simply married 1 wife, but it wasn’t true of course.

  62. Guys,

    Its pretty well documented that if you got married prior to 1904 polygamously that the practioners maintained those relationships for decades with the church “authorizing it” 1904 was the drop dead date on Polygamy when they actually finally ended

    So my wifes great grandfather was sealed to second wife around 1902 at around 28 years old in the SL temple by a member of the 12 and they all lived well into their 80′s in houses on the same street in SLC into the 1950′s till they died.

    Pres Kimballs In-laws were in the same boat and time frame. Kimball was in the 12 when his in laws finally died in the 1950′s. Julie Smith please chime in here….

    See this from Wikipedia:

    “National attention in the United States again focused on potential polygamy among the Church in the early 20th century during the House hearings on Representative-elect B. H. Roberts and Senate hearings on Senator-elect Reed Smoot (the Smoot Hearings). This caused Church president Joseph F. Smith to issue his Second Manifesto against polygamy in 1904. This manifesto clarified that all members of the LDS Church were prohibited from performing or entering into polygamous marriages, no matter what the legal status of such unions was in their respective countries of residence. Despite this, it is documented [citation needed] that many Mormon leaders continued to secretly practice post-manifesto polygamy for many years, because the ban on new plural marriage did not nullify existing marriages. Eventually, those involved in such marriages died, but some Latter-day Saints today can remember grandparents and even parents who had married more than one wife during the period prior to the Manifesto.”

  63. D Fletcher.

    You are correct. I think his 2nd wife died in the 1930′s if I remember right and he had another wife die in the 1890′s. It was simply death that prevented him from practicing polygamy into the 1940′s

    You are related to my wife and my kids….

  64. Steve Evans says:

    bbell, maybe it’s just the way you were phrasing things. It’s one thing to say that Church leaders didn’t dissolve pre-Manifesto polygamous marriages, it’s another to say that the Church authorized post-Manifesto polygamous marriages.

  65. It is ironic that Church President Grant was behind President Clark’s strong denunciation of ongoing polygamy after 1933. Many church members do in fact believe that Grant was a monogamist when in fact he had to remain in Europe during the Smoot Hearings to avoid being taken into custody by federal authorities.

    I’m happy to not be defensive at all about polygamy. My ancestors practiced it and I enjoy commenting on it whenever it’s appropriate in gospel doctrine class. I have lamented seeing the practice become demonized in the mountain west.

  66. D. Fletcher says:

    No, my great-grandmother Emily died in 1908. Heber’s first wife Lucy died in 1893. Heber became President of the Church in 1917, with one wife at his side, Augusta. He died in 1945. She died in 1952.

  67. D. Fletcher says:

    Sorry for the typo. Heber became President in 1918.

  68. Steve, bbell clearly didn’t say “the Church authorized post-Manifesto polygamous marriages,” he said people were “practicing polygamy with Church authorization well into the 1950’s.” I think his statement is true, according to the ways words are normally used.

    (And by the way, the church *did* “authorize post-Manifesto polygamous marriages, just not after 1904.)

  69. As much as I know you all don’t want to be misrepresented, I think you should cut other people slack when they give what you consider a caricature of your religion. Describing what your church believes is incredibly, notoriously, outrageously difficult, and it is completely understandable that an evangelical would simply recount all the major, outrageous teachings (that are to him particularly salient and God-dishonoring) that have previously been taught by authoritative figures that have yet to be repudiated.

    I had dinner with a TBM-friend awhile back who insisted that the concept of God having a wife wasn’t doctrinal. If I didn’t have a broader view of Mormonism, experiences like that would be so confusing!

  70. D Fletcher, Thanks for the correction on the dates of death

    I got some good First hand stories of Heber J Grant dressed in overalls entertaining the neighborhood kids with wild piano playing and dancing in his parlor in the 1920′s. Apparently he could neither dance nor play the piano very well but he sure tried.

    Steve,

    That why blogging is an inexact science.

    I get the sense from talking to old relatives that sometimes people in Pre-manifesto polygamous marriages would get in trouble with Church authorities if they were to open about the relationships to the general public. If you contracted a new marriage you were exed as a matter of policy.

    I would be curious to get the rest of the details on MRB’s story

  71. Steve Evans says:

    Aaron S.: “it is completely understandable that an evangelical would simply recount all the major, outrageous teachings (that are to him particularly salient and God-dishonoring) that have previously been taught by authoritative figures that have yet to be repudiated.”

    Aaron, you’d be absolutely right, were we talking about a layman at the dinner table. But I expect that any respectable newspaper would ask its staff to actually research and think about issues before pontificating. His column pretended to be a researched, thorough and thoughtful response to the question posed, and by that standard it was a complete failure.

    ed j.: do you really want to engage in a lawyer’s debate over the “ways words are normally used”? heh.

  72. I concur with everything Melissa has said.

    I just don’t think the article is as terrible as some have insisted. I certainly don’t think it was written in bad faith. Sure, there are some inaccuracies, and certain teachings are presented differently than we would present them. And of course, there’s always the interminable questions about how authoritative certain historical teachings are. But overall, it could have been mucn worse.

    Mormon hypersensitivity is on display here, me thinks.

    Aaron B

  73. Aaron, again the problem is with the context and the speaker. For some evangelical rag, what Thomson said is just fine, sadly typical. But for any legitimate newspaper, it’s abhorrent. Really.

    Mormon hypersensitivity? Well, perhaps in the sense that we’re the only ones who care how mormons are portrayed in the media. But it’s not helpful to just throw out “hypersensitive!” at every turn; sometimes we should hold people accountable for stupid things, and Thomson’s article is one of them.

  74. Steve #26,

    It is a big deal to go into a foreign country asking people to antagonize their friends and families and join an alien religion. The least that we deserve in return is honesty and full disclosure.

  75. I am not sure Rumsfeld ever claimed to have divine revelation. But the issue of “capacity to understand” is applicable, although not in that arrogant way.

    That’s the source of the arrogance. We claim to have priviledged knowledge. Therefore Millet and others feel that they we know better what’s good for people than they know themselves.

    Hence they treat other adults like children and feet them “milk” when they need the “meat” to make an informed decision. Never mind the consequences since they couldn’t possibly be bad.

    If that isn’t paternalism then I don’t know what it is.

  76. Hellmut,
    Honesty is fine and, in my experience, the rule among missionaries.

    But full disclosure? What, in your mind, constitutes full disclosure? Book of Mormon historicity? Polygamy? Calling and election? The Atonement? The various United Orders? Isaiah?On a practical level, you (meaning you, me, the missionaries, whomever) can’t say everything about the Church (or jazz, or whatever) all at once, so we have to prioritize. The missionary program has one set of priorities; they may or may not be the best, but at some point, a foundation has to be laid. After that, people can dig as deep in whatever direction they want.

  77. Sorry, you posted 76 while I was typing. But, if you don’t think the current priorities are the best, what would you recommend? You say it’s treating adults like children; maybe it is, but why isn’t it treating them like college students, giving them a survey and then letting them loose to research for themselves?

  78. bbell: These sources, which you’re likely aware of, offer some additional information:

    Regarding Grant’s activities during the Smoot Hearings, see Kathleen Flake’s “The Politics of American Religious Identity” (University of North Carolina Press, 2004), pps. 53, 200 [n.5], which illuminates the activities surrounding the eventual seating of Smoot and the Church’s efforts to forge a new post-polygamy identity.

    Regarding J. Reuben Clark’s efforts against polygamists, see Mike Quinn’s “Elder Statesman” (Signature Books, 2002), pps. 237-254, which outlines among other things why the Church’s campaign strengthened rather than weakened (for a time) claims of polygamists to a line of authority they believed authorized their marriages.

  79. #78

    You say it’s treating adults like children; maybe it is, but why isn’t it treating them like college students, giving them a survey and then letting them loose to research for themselves?

    Thanks for your response, Sam. I am a little bit puzzled by your question. I am not sure what you mean to say.

    Generally, I am very much in favor of doing one’s own research. Bear in mind, however, that until recently quality information about Mormonism and the LDS Church was not available in most places. All you could get abroad was whatever was provided by the missionaries and anti-Mormon propaganda.

    With respect to curriculum, generally converts get themselves into trouble when they interprete obedience requirements in the military sense. Careers, marriages, and individuals get destroyed quite frequently that way.

    In my opinion, a more factual discussion of early Mormon history would induce converts to exercise more judgment rather than relying on leader’s advice of various quality.

    I agree with you that there is a capacity problem. However, that cannot be an excuse for the ahistorical nature of the seminary church history curriculum.

  80. Just to answer Steve’s original question.

    We can’t put up crosses now or the terrorist, anti-Mo Evango-facists will win.

    We can’t be sending demoralizing signals to our missionary troops in the field.

    The bloggers want to cut-and-run on the Angel Moroni! But we’re going to stay the course.

    Because I’m telling you, this anti-Mormon movement is in its final death throes.

  81. Go Seth. I’ve cried real tears seeing Rummy leave.

  82. Sorry Hellmut, maybe I misunderstood your point. I assumed you were talking about missionaries, and my point was that there is a limited amount of time they have to teach any given person (given that most work, have some sort of social life, and have other things they want to do besides talk about Mormonism), and, in that limited time, missionaries have to prioritize what they say about Mormonism. To me it makes sense to give high-level information so that a person has a foundation against which to evaluate further information they get.

    If you’re talking about historical instruction to existing members (even new members), that may be a different case, although I’m not completely convinced. Even there, though, you run into the problem of a finite amount of time to communicate information, and so the Church has to make choices about what it prioritizes.

  83. Basically, I understand that you want a more factual historical curriculum. But I don’t see any objective reason why we should do that rather than spending more time on the Old Testament so that we can read all of it for Sunday School, rather than the selections we hit every four years.

  84. The reason why a factual historical curriculum is important is because converts base life changing choices on the belief that Church leaders are inspired. That includes the decision to convert and many others. The consequences of these choices are often less than fortuitous.

    Teaching factual history does not need to take more time. There is a whole school year in seminary dedicated to church history that hardly contains any history at all.

    If the quality of church history instruction reached the level of the Old Testament curriculum then a lot would have been achieved.

  85. hardlyperfect says:

    I’m sincerely convinced that somewhere in some dark chamber of an old baptist church probably in southern California, a secret commitee meets. They posess all power and authority to define Christianity for all the world. It was this secret commitee that for instance declared that all true Christians must display plastic Jesus fishes prominently on the family car, just to the immediate right of the Soccer Mom sticker. Also this business of the crosses on the buildings. Obviously we didn’t get the memo.I really wish Salt Lake would have forwarded us the memo allowing Rock bands in Sacrament meeting.

  86. Hellmut, obviously you’re coming at this from a very different perspective from my own, but you seem to be saying that an historical curriculum would show Church leaders are not inspired, or that the decision to convert and its successive consequences are less than fortuitous. I think you will have a hard time convincing any active member of the Church of that. I am probably misreading you — at least for your sake I hope I’m misreading you.

    Now, I fully agree that we need to up the level of our CES history instruction. No argument there.

  87. hardlyperfect, are you talking about the Pentaveret? They meet at a secret resort condominium in Colorado, known as “The Meadows.”

  88. you seem to be saying that an historical curriculum would show Church leaders are not inspired, or that the decision to convert and its successive consequences are less than fortuitous.

    I don’t speak for Hellmut, but I’d say you’re misreading his comment.

    I will cite his post in #75 (for your sake :)

    Steve #26,

    It is a big deal to go into a foreign country asking people to antagonize their friends and families and join an alien religion. The least that we deserve in return is honesty and full disclosure.

    It sounds to me that he’s saying someone who is about to make a life-changing decision ought to be well informed rather than swaddled in a warm, fuzzy blanket of folklore and misinformation, only to be rudely jolted from ignorant bliss the next time a columnist “answers” a question about the new religion.

  89. I am not sure what we mean by inspiration, Steve. Most converts that I know mean that God tells the prophet what’s up, that the prophet will not lead them astray, and that we have an obligation to do whatever the prophet tells us to do. Some converts make their decisions accordingly. Unfortunately, it does not always turn out well.

    A little less certainty would empower a lot of individuals to exercise judgment. That would allow people to adapt more effectively to their circumstances rather than following inspirations that many in this thread denigrate as folklore.

    I am certainly willing to acknowledge that Joseph Smith was inspired in the sense of Beethoven’s inspiration. That should not mean that folks in Europe should live by the words of Utah residents who do not know whether the Rhine flows north, south, east, or west.

    At the worst, I have seen violence against women and children because couples maneuvered themselves into a corner for no reason but the desire to be obedient and proper Mormons.

    That would not have happened if the converts had appreciated the vagaries of inspiration. Had they heard about the three versions of the First Vision, for example, then they may or may not have remained good Mormons. They definitely would have understood the need for intellectual self-reliance better, have fewer children, and budget more responsibly.

    The bottom line is that proclaiming the will of God is a big responsibility because someone might act on your words. We better make sure that our words reflect reality. That’s especially true when we demand that people change their lives and sacrifice a substantial share of their income to our cause.

  90. I think crosses are nice, so I wear cross jewelry myself. I’m not LDS, so for me, there’s nothing sinister about the cross.

  91. Adrienne, I’m Mormon and there is nothing sinister about the cross for me either (and the rest of the Mormons I know, for that matter).

    Hellmut, you will find tragedies wherever you look. Taking the counsel of the Prophet as, well, prophetic is a tenant of our Faith. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be exceptions, but the Church teaches the general rule. My experience has been that the vast majority of the Saints understand this and always seek to find God’s will when making serious decisions. That is to say that if you want to the Church to teach that the Prophet is not, in fact, prophetic, you aught to go try to influence some other institution.

  92. “At the worst, I have seen violence against women and children because couples maneuvered themselves into a corner for no reason but the desire to be obedient and proper Mormons.”

    Let’s not blame the religion for such things. I can understand that you don’t buy in to the classic definition of mormon inspiration. But I don’t think you’re advancing a winning argument by saying that women and children end up getting beaten because they choose to be mormon. Try instead blaming the bastards that beat them.

  93. #94

    Let’s not blame the religion for such things. I can understand that you don’t buy in to the classic definition of mormon inspiration. But I don’t think you’re advancing a winning argument by saying that women and children end up getting beaten because they choose to be mormon. Try instead blaming the bastards that beat them.

    If it only were that easy, Steve.

    That “bastard” married the only available temple worthy female. Then the “bastard” followed the prophet having more children then he could afford.

    He might have become a “bastard” but he was an obedient one. Of course, there are a lot of things that he could have done such as looking for a wife with a more compatible personality or having less children. He acted on his faith and got himself into a situation with which he could not deal anymore.

    The “bastard” was a good kid once. It is too simple to pass judgment and put all the blame on him. It is his fault that he did what he was told to do but he did not make up the instructions.

  94. No Hellmut, it’s entirely easy. There’s simply no way to say that being a mormon made a guy beat his wife. Even if he had lots of kids and was poor and miserable, you’re just not able to make a logical causal connection there. Sorry.

  95. p.s. I hope you realize that you’re mischaracterizing what church leaders have advised in terms of raising families and having children. Your arguments in this instance are just far too simplistic an effort to blame the church for the misery of others. Normally I can respect what you’re trying to get at, but this time I don’t think you’re arguing very convincingly.

  96. Taking the counsel of the Prophet as, well, prophetic is a tenant of our Faith. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be exceptions, but the Church teaches the general rule. My experience has been that the vast majority of the Saints understand this and always seek to find God’s will when making serious decisions.

    In my experience this is a large overstatement. I dare say 90% of active Mormons with whom I have spoken with on the subject think that the Prophet speaks for God, period. That 90% have echoed the sentiment that when the Prophet has spoken, God has spoken. I think Mormonism by and large, are unfamiliar with the historical ‘exceptions’ or are unaware that those examples are ‘exceptions’.

  97. I can see where Hellmut is coming from. My brother left the Church larely because at certian things he was taught, which turned out to not be true. Whether or not certain teachings are squarely in the court of church doctrine often times does not matter. If you’re brought up being told such and such is true by your leaders, your actions are going to be governed by those teachings regardless of their official doctrinal status.

  98. Jared, how many Mormon’s do you know that have not prayerfully considered the major decisions of their life?

  99. Hellmut (and apparently Peter),
    I defy you to find anything that we teach that actively encourages someone to antagonize their relatives. That is patently false. Ridiculously so. For that matter, we do not now and have never taught that it is appropriate for a parent to beat their children or a spouse to beat the other. You appear to be engaged in a rather “uninspired” misreading.

  100. The point isn’t whether or not people pray. You must concede that the decisions faithfull latter-day saints make, even after prayer, are heavily influenced by what the Prophet has said on the subject.

    Hasn’t it also been said that if a person receives a revelation which is contrary to the words of the prophets, the revelation is not of God?

  101. Hasn’t it also been said that if a person receives a revelation which is contrary to the words of the prophets, the revelation is not of God?

    Perhaps for the whole Church, Jared. Believe me, if you start busting out New Church Doctrine or tell me it is God’s plan that I move to Missouri, I will run the other way. Quickly.

    They should be influenced by the Prophet if they believe he is the Prophet. But I know plenty of folks that have made decisions by prayer that aren’t particularly obvious. Of course it is the point.

    And as much as Hellmut tries to sound reasonable, the bottom line is that he feels that the church is a malevolent force on earth. That is plain crap.

  102. I agree with you J, the church is not a malevolent force on the earth. I too know many people who have “made decisions by prayer that aren’t particularly obvious”, myself being on of them. But I also know quite a few people who have made very bad discussions, thinking they were doing the will of the Lord, as elucidated by the leaders of the Church.

    I’m not saying that they don’t bear the responsibility for decisions, they do.

  103. #93

    That is to say that if you want to the Church to teach that the Prophet is not, in fact, prophetic, you aught to go try to influence some other institution.

    Your point is well taken, Jeff. The problem would not arise if people like you and me had not shown up on my family’s door one day and fed us milk. I am a product of the Millet system. Therefore I don’t think it is fair or reasonable to shush me away.

    Here is the problem with Millet’s approach:

    When people believe the missionaries, they act on their words. When things go wrong because we taught them assuming that we understand their interests better than they themselves then we share responsibility if they act according to our instructions.

    The way to minimize our personal and institutional responsibility is to present a message that reflects history more accurately and empowers investigators to make an informed choice. That’s not asking for too much.

    Hellmut, you will find tragedies wherever you look.

    That’s no excuse. Neither is it relevant. When partial information motivates irrational behavior then that is something that can and should be remedied. That’s the meaning of responsibility.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have systematic data about the effects of Mormon proselytizing on families and individuals. In light of the bankruptcy data of Utah, however, one cannot dismiss the possibility that Mormonism induces more than its share of tragedies.

    If that were true, that may not be a property of Mormon doctrine but it would not be a stretch to link it to Millet’s pedagogy.

    Having lived in the mission field most of my life, I know of dozens of minor and major tragedies including two fatalities in the Düsseldorf stake. The child abuse case is extreme. Unfortunately, there are others that are not far behind.

    Taking the counsel of the Prophet as, well, prophetic is a tenant of our Faith.

    We can believe as we please. That does not give us the right to manipulate investigators by withholding relevant information.

    Relevant information includes Joseph Smith’s inspirations. Let people see what he claimed to be revelation and then they may decide for themselves whether they want to share the tenants of our faith.

  104. Thomas Parkin says:

    “This doesn’t mean that there won’t be exceptions, but the Church teaches the general rule.”

    Well expressed by Elder Oaks in recent address at, I beleive BYU, in which he states: “Now, brothers and sisters, if you are troubled about something we have just said, please listen very carefully to what I will say now. Perhaps you are … feeling pressured by what I have said … If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesn’t apply to you, please don’t write me a letter … As a General Authority, it is my responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules … Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord…”

    It seems strange to me, but some people seem to want to have it both ways – when the church is explicit, they want the church to butt out and leave individuals room to think for themselves- to not correlate, or whathaveyou; and when the church is vague, they critisize the church for failing to communicate with perfect clarity on every matter.

    In the early days of the church, there was a lot more speculation and working things out in public. I personally do understand that people would miss that. It seems to me that interpretations of mysteries are between individuals and the Lord. I don’t discuss them with just anyone. There are some things I would only discuss in the most cursory way in GD, but would be completely open and forthright with my father whose good faith I’m assued of. Other things I wouldn’t even discuss with him – but that doesn’t mean I don’t search into them, and want to understand badly. Notr does it mean that the Lord fails to reveal things to me on these matters – when I’m ready and it is appropriate. And at times I have been ready. I wouldn’t want to find myself discussing them in a totally public forum like this one.

    This is a somehwat different issue than being forthcoming on historical ‘issues.’ There is a lot of reason to find changes in the culture heartening. The acceptance and even championing of Richard Bushman’s latest history shows a willingness to move significantly in that direction, I think. It doesn’t follow that the church should give play to every notion or interpretation just because someone sincerly holds it or wants to hear it spoken of openly.

    The reason we don’t cast our pearls before swine is not that they are pearls nor that the swine are swine. Rather, that they don’t trample them under their feet and – very significantly – turn again and rend us. Matt 7, eh? Rended describes perfectly how I feel when something I that carries for me a holiness and sacredness is handled glibly, callously, smugly, derisively, or clearly in bad faith, etc. I see no reason to carry on haphazard discussions about any of it, with anyone, just because they bring it up. There is nothing paternal about this – I’m simply protecting what I feel constrained to protect.

    “And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.” It doesn’t follow to me that we never talk about polygamy, or whether or not God has blue eyes. Certainly not that we don’t give an African American convert the straight dope on the church’s history with his race. ETC. But it does mean that far and away our number one priority is to provide information about the tools with which they can search into these things themselves – and I’d say that goes for investigators, converts, and Lord knows, long time memebers of the church. Otherwise, you’ve got a whole congregation swatting at gnats and swallowing camels.

    excuse somewhat more than 2 cents.

    ~

  105. I don’t share you pessimism of the “Millet system.” I don’t think people need to reed Rough Stone Rolling before choosing to be members of this Church. I’m sorry that you had a bad experience with the Church and I believe that we do need to do better with our message, especially abroad. But, please stop trying to blame the Church for abusive relationships. I don’t blame the church for sociopathic anti-Mormon trolls. People do what they will.

    Prayerfully following the counsel of the Prophet will bring happiness, not misery.

  106. #101

    I defy you to find anything that we teach that actively encourages someone to antagonize their relatives.

    Nobody claimed anything like this, HP. Converting to an outlandish religion will alienate people from indigenous support systems. In many cases that includes their friends and family members. Someone posted an autobiographical report to that effect only a couple of days ago. Surely, you will have witnessed similar episodes on your mission.

    #103 J. Stapley

    And as much as Hellmut tries to sound reasonable, the bottom line is that he feels that the church is a malevolent force on earth. That is plain crap.

    I am sorry that I am frustrating you and regret that the quality of the argument is deteriorating.

    I don’t see how my feelings, whatever they may be, are relevant. My argument is that Millet’s approach is manipulative and condescending and has demonstrably negative consequences. That is a dispute that can be decided on the merits.

  107. Hellmut,
    You fascinate me. Are you honestly claiming that we fail to talk to our potential converts about Joseph Smith? I assume not; I am guessing that you would prefer that we mentioned Joseph’s polygamy (including the manner in which he conducted it), Joseph’s political aspirations, and the headier doctrines of the non-canonized sermons given at various locales about Nauvoo. The problem being that none of these issues are readily explained in a single one-hour session of the type that missionaries often conduct. Another problem being that these items, though interesting, are not the reasons why people need to know about the church; they need to know about the church because it will get them closer to God than other possibilities (at least as far as I understand it or believe it).

    I know we differ on this point, but I might point out that there is a scriptural precedent for this approach. First of all, Paul taught that missionaries ought to teach Christ and him crucified and nothing else. Of course, he also recommended milk before meat, so you may be right to suspect his approach. Second, in the Book of Mormon, the missionaries begin by going through the history of the world as they understood it, leading people through the Fall and explaining the need for the Atonement. The Church helps people experience the Atonement in a real way by means of the Priesthood and that is why they need to know about our church. That is the point necessary for conversion. The goal of missionaries is not and should not be to cause people to run a gauntlet of hard to swallow quasi-doctrines in order to see if they are sufficiently malleable to our overlords’ wills. It is to help people see the need for God in their lives and to offer them the opportunity to find Him through the church. It is a laudable goal. I should hope that whenever one encounters an LDS missionary, it should be an enriching, soul-strengthening experience, whether or not one chooses to convert. I am sorry that it wasn’t so for you and for the many anecdotes that you carry around.

  108. It is a big deal to go into a foreign country asking people to antagonize their friends and families and join an alien religion. The least that we deserve in return is honesty and full disclosure.

    Hellmut,
    I have a very hard time finding any standard English interpretation of the phrase “to go into a foreign country asking people to antagonize their friends and families” that in any way differs from claiming that the church “actively encourages someone to antagonize their relatives”. If I am misreading, it is because you have a very non-standard intention.

  109. Hellmut,
    Furthermore, what merits are you referring to, in terms of judging Bro. Millet’s suggestion?

  110. Hellmut,
    You’re very far from demonstrating a causal relationship between what you call “the Millet system” and “demonstrably negative consequences.” When you see a negative event and Mormonism coinciding you see Mormonism causing the negative event. Hence your obsession with blaming Mormonism for suicides and child and spousal abuse. Reasonable people understand that most negative events have complicated causes and don’t jump to conclusions just because they fit their prejudices. I’m afraid that I can’t consider you a reasonable person. Just one guy’s opinion.

  111. That’s the source of the arrogance. We claim to have priviledged knowledge.

    I can understand this being viewed as arrogance if we were saying, “I know, and you can’t.” Instead, what we are saying is, “This is the way, here is the first step, and if you seek the Spirit, you can know, too.”

    Therefore Millet and others feel that they we know better what’s good for people than they know themselves.

    Rather, they would say that God know’s better what is good for people.

    Hence they treat other adults like children and feet them “milk” when they need the “meat” to make an informed decision.

    They can’t make a truly informed decision if they can’t absorb the meat. A few months ago, I had a conversation with a friend about some current social issue, and I shared what I believed, and we went round and round. Finally, I realized that she just didn’t get it, because the idea of there being a right and wrong as determined by a heavenly being was outside her frame of reference. She views religion as like and ethnic identity and morals humanistically (in terms of how many people get hurt). So the idea of a God really existing and giving commandments was foreign to her. And of course the idea of anyone with a graduate degree believing in God was REALLY outside her frame of reference.

    So, I gave her the meat, and she couldn’t accept it.

    So when we started from the milk and worked forward again, it went smoother. If I’d been more in tune and viewing this as a missionary experience rather than a walk with a friend, I might have caught on sooner and applied the principle of answering the right question and saved us some time.

    The gospel isn’t taught by people. It’s taught by the Spirit and we humans just provide some words to move the process along.

  112. Hellmut,
    I am sorry for picking on you. I am easily frustrated. The reason why our understanding of your feelings seems relevant to us (or at least to me) is because I have yet to encounter a conversation with you wherein you demonstrated anything but a deep suspicion regarding the motivation of the church. It strikes me as an emotional response on your part. If I am misreading, I apologize; if I am not, I still apologize.

  113. #97 Steve

    I hope you realize that you’re mischaracterizing what church leaders have advised in terms of raising families and having children.

    That is a crucial point, Steve. In a round about way, I accept it.

    Notice, what matters is what the husband believed to be doctrine. If those beliefs were the result of milk then the Millet approach contributes to poor decision making. Accordingly, we share responsibility for the resulting problems when we execute the Millet pedagogy.

    Had the husband enjoyed more meat, he could have made better decisions with better information.

  114. J. Stapley says:

    Hellmut, just walk away.

  115. I have a very hard time finding any standard English interpretation of the phrase “to go into a foreign country asking people to antagonize their friends and families” that in any way differs from claiming that the church “actively encourages someone to antagonize their relatives”. If I am misreading, it is because you have a very non-standard intention.

    Sorry, that is sloppy, isn’t it? What I meant to express that there is no reason to assume that converts will be a priori better off. Conversion has consequences. Some are positive. Others are negative.

    When Millet assumes that people will be better off because they join the LDS Church then he is expressing his faith. He has a right to believe what he likes. When recommends to share information selectively to get people to join the LDS Church then he is extending the consequences of his faith to others.

    In light of the fact that bad things may happen to converts, sometimes very bad things, I think that is an inappropriate imposition. Converts should be given the opportunity to get a balanced picture of the relevant features of Mormonism and then decide for themselves if they want to act on faithful or skeptical assumptions.

    If we do not afford this perspective to converts then we share responsibility if their decisions have negative consequences.

    That is all the more the case when partial information motivates choices.

  116. #112 Tom

    You’re very far from demonstrating a causal relationship between what you call “the Millet system” and “demonstrably negative consequences.”

    I am assuming that quality information will lead to better decision making.

    People act on their beliefs. That is especially the case if they consider their beliefs to be divine revelation.

    When people act on incomplete information then that increases the chance of malevolent outcomes.

    Millet argues that it is appropriate to share incomplete information with investigators.

    I am saying that this approach might lead to negative consequences for people other than Millet. Therefore Millet’s approach is irresponsible.

  117. I really think the truth on this one is somewhere in the middle…

  118. Hellmut,
    I do believe that there is reason a priori to assume that converts will be better off if they join the church. It is most of the reason why I am a member. I always expect the positives to outweigh the negatives, while accepting that the negatives can be very negative indeed. To expect committed members of the church to agree that there isn’t an a priori reason to assume that is unreasonable.

    Also, if you expect anyone at any time to use more than partial information to motivate a choice, you expect too much. For that matter, J. was correct in pointing out that bad things happen to people all the time. The questions you raise regarding Mormonism could be raised for any belief system and under your conditions any belief system would be held at least partially responsible. I am not sure that making that leap is the most reasonable approach. We often deliberately act out of accord with our belief systems. Secondly, I believe that the church does teach people how to deal with bad situations and I in my missionary efforts attempted to do the same. I don’t see why I should accept your anecdotal evidence over my life experience and I don’t understand why you seem to expect me to see your evidence (whatever it might be) as standard and mine as aberrant.

    Of course, the above doesn’t excuse deliberate deception, but I don’t see deliberate deception in Millet’s approach. I see Millet sharing the most “relevant” features of Mormonism first. Where we seem to disagree then is on what constitutes relevant material and the priority of relevance.

  119. Had the husband enjoyed more meat, he could have made better decisions with better information.

    Hellmut, how on earth do you know this? I am amazed at the power of your magic 8 ball.

  120. #109 HP

    Lets contrast an imaginary faithful historian, someone like Richard Bushman, with the family that I mentioned. H. knows about the First Vision. He also knows about the earlier accounts of the First Vision.

    H. knows about the Golden Plates and he knows about the Kinderhook Plates.

    H. is a happy Mormon. One reason might be that H. is self-reliant. He has quality information that empowers him to make adult decisions about his obligations to his faith and his leaders.

    My friend only knew about the First Vision. He became a follower, acted on bad information, and ended up in a place where he never intended to go.

    One is a self-reliant adult. The other never had the chance to become a mature Mormon.

    Of course, my friend may have never become a Mormon had he contemplated the First Vision in the context of the Kinderhook Plates. But if he had then he would have made for a better Mormon.

    Either way, chances are that he would have spared a lot of people some grief.

  121. My friend only knew about the First Vision. He became a follower, acted on bad information, and ended up in a place where he never intended to go.

    Hellmut, you are, as Tom said, drawing a causal relationship here that is far from clear. Why is it the church that provided the bad information? For that matter, I don’t see how the church compelled him to abuse his wife and children. Nor can I conceive of a situation wherein one must abuse one’s own wife and children because it is the only way out (short of some sort of terrorist plot). In sum, I find it very, very hard to believe that the church is the reason your anecdote decided to abuse his wife and children. The fact that he was a member of the church and the church encourages marriage within the faith and large families (your only evidence for your argument thus far) are absolutely irrelevant. If the church taught husbands to abuse their spouse and children, then you would have a relevant point (to my mind, at least). But it doesn’t; and you don’t.

    Finally, I am reasonably certain that Richard Bushman (and J. Stapley) know far, far more about church history than I do (or than I care to). This doesn’t prevent me from being a self-reliant adult. The degree to which we choose to educate ourselves is always our own choice. There is nothing that the missionaries or local leaders taught your anecdote that should have led him to abuse his wife and children and there is nothing out there about which he could have educated himself regarding the church that would have encouraged him to abuse his wife and children. Again, I don’t find your argumentation particularly reasonable or relevant.

  122. Hellmut,

    I’m sympathetic to the broader idea that statements by church leaders can be terribly harmful.

    But I’m soth J. and others on the specific application. You seem to be saying, “if only he had known about the Kinderhook plates, he wouldn’t have beaten his wife.” Those dots just don’t connect.

    Jerks will be jerks. The fact that someone operates on a more nuanced or less nuanced understanding of doctrine will often have no effect. There are a whole lot of Mormons who have never heard of the Kinderhook plates, and who still manage not to beat their spouse.

  123. I have written a lengthy response to HP regarding the anecdote but reading Thomas Parker’s post, I realized that I misinterpreted Millet’s enterprise at least partially. To avoid confusion, I will get straight to my error. Apologies to HP!

    #106

    The reason we don’t cast our pearls before swine is not that they are pearls nor that the swine are swine. Rather, that they don’t trample them under their feet and – very significantly – turn again and rend us. Matt 7, eh? Rended describes perfectly how I feel when something I that carries for me a holiness and sacredness is handled glibly, callously, smugly, derisively, or clearly in bad faith, etc. I see no reason to carry on haphazard discussions about any of it, with anyone, just because they bring it up. There is nothing paternal about this – I’m simply protecting what I feel constrained to protect.

    That’s an honorable position, Thomas Parker. I respect that.

    You are right, Millet’s example about the question: “So you believe that you will be a God,” (paraphrased) is a case of pearls and swine. May be, I am projecting more on Millet than what he is doing.

    Switching the topic on ridiculers is legitimate. Keeping information from investigators is imposing. If Millet’s point is the former but not the latter then I need to apologize to him.

  124. Jerks will be jerks.

    HP and you may very well be correct that my fellow ward member might have been irredeemable, Kaimi. On the other hand, we do know that financial overextension induces stress and is commonly associated with child and spousal abuse.

    I can tell you that he and his wife never would have been married had they not been Mormon. His wife was a smart, energetic, vivacious, attractive, and popular young woman. There was nothing co-dependent about her. The beaten down part came a lot later.

    Ansolabehere and one of his co-authors write about political communications that personal anecdotes will lead the audience to blame the individuals. Instead, they recommend that one shall talk about problems in systematic terms. I probably made a rhetorical mistake invoking their example. It is supposed to be an existential statement to demonstrate that converts are not necessarily better off.

    Having said that there are many cases of converts in Germany that rose to greater heights and better places because conversion was an experience that provided new horizons.

    Empirically, there is both. Some converts benefit, others suffer. Acknowleging that has ethical implications for the missionary program.

  125. kristine N says:

    “Converts should be given the opportunity to get a balanced picture of the relevant features of Mormonism and then decide for themselves if they want to act on faithful or skeptical assumptions.”

    Hmm, your “balanced” picture isn’t anything like the “fair and balanced” view of politics or global warming presented by a certain portion of the media, is it?

    I would think it unlikely you would even find many missionaries capable of presenting the kind of “meat” you advocate, Hellmut. You know where I learned about Josoph Smith and his translating the BOM from a hat? Southpark. I don’t think there are that many young men and young women out there who could present anything more than the very basics because realistically, that’s all they know. They do the best they can; sometimes they screw up. We all do.

  126. Hellmut,

    I’m happy to move beyong anecdotes and into systemic changes, but I don’t see how your suggestions get us there. Are you really suggesting that if we talk more about the Kinderhook plates, there will be less spousal abuse among members?

    Your ancdote seems highly, highly context specific. Unless I miss your argument you’re saying:

    1. This husband beat his wife;
    2. The couple got married because they were both church members;
    3. He joined the church without knowing about the Kinderhook plates;
    4. If he had known, he would not have joined; therefore
    5. The spousal abuse is the therefore direct result and fault of missionaries not telling our new convert about the Kinderhook Plates.

    That seems like a ridiculously attenuated and case-specific link. Even if it is the background for this case, I don’t see anything there that suggests that we can distill from this couple’s experience a general principle. Are you really saying that more disclosure of Kinderhook will result in less wife-beating, as a prophylactic measure? (“More Kinderhook, Less Wife-Beating!”)

    How about, oh, I don’t know, direct statements like “Don’t beat your wife, asshole.” Aren’t those likely to be a thousand times more effective than some Rube-Goldberg-esque attempt to line up the dominos and intercept potential wife-beaters with a copy of RSR?

    Sorry, I’m trying to take your argument seriously; and I’m quite sympathetic to the idea that there should be more discussion of church history. But I have a really hard time imagining telling friends and loved ones, some of whom have been victims of spousal abuse, “we’re fighting spousal abuse by telling people about Kinderhook.” I just don’t think I could do that with a straight face.

  127. Hellmut,
    I’m not blaming your anecdote because he is an anecdote. I am blaming him because he beat his wife. As a (presumably) rational agent, he can decide to beat his wife or to not beat his wife. Even in a situation where it can be described as compulsive behavior, one’s agency is still (to a greater or lesser degree) at work when one chooses to be abusive.

    That said, I don’t believe him to be irredeemable either. Basically good people make horrible choices all the time, rendering them, to some degree, bad. I happen to believe that the church can do an excellent job in helping bad people become good (as you acknowledged :) ).

    While I still believe that for those that seriously and sincerely apply the gospel the net results of a life lived the gospel way will be positive, I don’t know how to derive an ethical implication from the empirical fact that “some converts benefit, [and] other suffer.” What time frame are we using in making this judgment? What level of conversion? There are many subjective limits on this empirical data and, of course, many different interpretations and reasons therefore. Beyond the improbability of demonstrating your empirical fact, I don’t understand the ethical dilemma involved. If we were teaching that once one became a member that one would no longer know any trials in live, I would agree that the fact that some people in the church suffer would present us with an ethical dilemma regarding how we teach others about the gospel. But we don’t teach that (I remember teaching people that experience had shown that live would get remarkably harder to deal with in the period immediately following baptism). I don’t mean to be setting up straw men; I am just trying to explain why I don’t see that dilemma as being all that much of a dilemma.

  128. Thomas Parkin says:

    Bro Hellmut,

    Thanks, in your comment, for overlooking my poor punctuation, convoluted syntax, dyslexia and double negatives. I don’t have near as much time to do this blog thing as I’d like to have. *g*

    ~

  129. Kaimi,

    I am suggesting that a more sophisticated understanding of inspiration would have empowered that man to make better choices.

    HP

    As a (presumably) rational agent, he can decide to beat his wife or to not beat his wife.

    The rational actor model assumes that people enjoy full information and it requires full disclosure. If that is the model that we want to use then we have to reject the milk approach.

    Notice that I am making a historical argument where one thing leads to another. By the time the guy is abusing his family his ability to make choices has already been compromised by previous decisions.

    The initial decisions were poorly informed because those who claimed to speak for God preferred incomplete information.

    They treated him like a child and when he needed to decide he was not in a position to chose rationally.

    That’s the tragedy of a selective information approach.

    We know that stress leads to more violence. Crowded housing leads to stress. Fiscal problems lead to stress. People who make decisions that lead to monetary problems and crowded housing have to deal with more aggression.

    It is true that some individuals are better at coping with stress than others but to deny the influence of these factors on human behavior is unreasonable.

    The causal linkages between stress and aggression are so basic that I am surprised that people would contest them.

    Beyond the improbability of demonstrating your empirical fact, I don’t understand the ethical dilemma involved.

    Let me share some things that I found out during the last eight months:

    About half the Bishops of three wards in Cologne and Düsseldorf have left the LDS Church. One committed suicide.

    One of my friends from the Wuppertal ward died of cancer because she relied on priesthood blessings and her stake president’s home remedies instead of an oncologist.

    My young men’s group included six super committed individuals. Five served full time missions, one had to be medically exempted. Four of us characterize our mission experience as the worst time of our lifes. Three of us have career issues. Three are already divorced.

    At some level, it’s our own fault. We were too naive, suckers for abuse and exploitation by a bureaucratic machine.

    All of us would have been better off if we had approached the mission experience with a little more skepticism. That would have empowered us to protect ourselves and retain autonomy over our lifes rather than trusting the organization and its leaders.

    Notice, most Rocky Mountain missionaries negotiate these challenges more competently than we did. They have been socialized to deal with the discrepancy between the myth and the Mormon experience.

    If you have to rely exclusively on the resources of the missionary discussion and the Church Education System then you will not develop that capacity.

    All these episodes, except for the initial child and spousal abuse one, occured in one stake. That’s a high frequency.

    I am confident that similar observations can be made everywhere in the German speaking Church.

    The reason why I did not know about any of this earlier was that we did not have the courage to share our experience even with our closest friends. Silence is a powerful feature in the Mormon experience.

    One can speculate if any of us was sufficiently converted. Of course, no one is ever fully converted.

    For myself, I claim to have been as converted as the next person. Lack of conversion was not the problem for most of us. The problem was that we took the gospel too seriously. A little bit of skepticism would have spared us a lot of heartache.

    That’s why milk before meat is a problematic and damaging approach.

    In light of the suffering, one can only hope for compensation in the afterlife. To settle for that would be cavalier given that there is a solution that minimizes suffering right now. Stop treating investigators like children and provide information that reflects the realities of the Mormon experience before converts turn their lifes upside down.

    Of course, that would decrease the number of baptisms. Sometimes one has to choose between numbers and ethics. Much of our numerical success is only a chimera anyways. The real losses might be much less than one might expect.

    People don’t convert for theological reasons anyways. They convert because they value relationships and to find meaning in their life. These are benefits that Mormonism can provide without having to belittle investigators.

    There are also people who benefited from conversion. I know of two men, for example, who took the occassion of their conversion or callings to overcome class barriers. Taking advantage of adult education they switched from artisan to professional careers requiring advanced academic degrees. One is a top notch sound engineer, the other a physician.

    Of course, they might have done that without a Mormon context but I doubt it. It would have taken some equivalent event. They benefitted from an event in their lifes that got them out of the rut.

    That’s what conversion does. It shakes you up. It’s a precarious situation full of risks and opportunities. Surely, it does not contradict faith to acknowledge that.

    A rose colored view of the Mormon experience compromises the ability of converts to negotiate these vagaries. That is a problem that can be fixed if we have the courage, or the faith, to share the truth. The foundations of LDS theology remain untouched.

  130. Steve Evans says:

    OK, Hellmut. So now instead of “mormonism makes men beat their wives,” your argument is now “mormonism makes German men beat their wives? Give it up, man! Stick with the strong points of your argument instead: that knowledge can help lead to better choices. But really, give it up on the wife-beating claims. You may have given up on the Church (in Germany in any event), but don’t give up on logic, at least.

  131. Nobody ever said that Mormonism makes men beat up their wives, Steve.

  132. Steve Evans says:

    LOL Hellmut, that has essentially been your argument this entire thread! That mormonism leads to stress, fear leads to anger, anger leads to beating wives or whatever. I’m just condensing the tenuousness of your causal chain. I know that you didn’t say “he beat his wife because he was mormon,” but that’s clearly the kind of message you’re trying to get across — I am simply highlighting the ridiculousness of the position.

  133. Nick Literski says:

    This is an interesting thread, to say the least. It doesn’t seem for a moment to me that Hellmut is claiming the church’s actions force men to beat their wives, German or otherwise. Rather, I think Hellmut is trying to say that the church pushes a very strong message to the effect that obedience to the church president’s “counsel” is 99.999999% of the time going to be the only path to happiness and salvation. When church members absorb this message, they can sometimes misapply that counsel to their own circumstances. This misapplication can have disastrous effects, and yes, the constant mantra of “follow the prophet” must bear some degree of responsibility for creating that situation.

    There are better examples than spousal physical abuse, however. Over and over again in the LDS church, gay men are marrying straight women, because they believe it’s what deity insists they do. These men are doing all they can to be obedient. They qualify for temple recommends, and marry “for time and all eternity” in LDS temples. They are promised that if they just keep doing what the church says deity expects, and if they pray, fast, and read their scriptures enough, a “miracle” will happen (Elder Wickman’s words) and they will find themselves straight. Sometimes these men tell their fiancee’s, sometimes they don’t. They marry in good faith, believing that since they’re doing what the church says deity commands, everything will work out fine.

    The problem is it doesn’t work out fine. One such couple has made a bit of a show in the media of late, but they’ve only been married four years. I’d love to see a follow-up on that couple ten years from now, because I’ve met countless men who followed this path, only to end up reaching a point where they could no longer deny their own experience of reality. After several years and several children, they end up divorcing and seeking to live true to their own feelings. In the meantime, the poor wife and kids are left behind, with their dreams of a “forever family” shattered.

    Now, I’m sure the “faithful” response is that these men should have just hung in there a little longer, prayed a little more, had a little more faith. Surely their wicked lack of faith led them to fall “just before” deity was willing to perform the expected “miracle,” right?

    Now, in fairness, the church is beginning to discourage priesthood leaders from urging gay men to marry. This will help, where these men actually go to their local leaders, reveal their feelings and desires, and ask for such counsel. The majority, though, will never do that. They’ll be like me—vice president of the local school board, stake executive secretary, model citizen, who one day takes the community by complete surprise, and is instantly transformed into a parriah. Did I make my own choices? Do other gay LDS men make their own choices? Certainly! For some, though, it’s eventually either leave, or one day find yourself eating the business end of a handgun. THAT, my friends, is where “follow the prophet” can lead someone, when it’s constantly taught as the only right way.

  134. Steve Evans says:

    “They are promised that if they just keep doing what the church says deity expects, and if they pray, fast, and read their scriptures enough, a “miracle” will happen (Elder Wickman’s words) and they will find themselves straight.”

    This is ridiculous, Nick. Church leaders do NOT teach or promise that. Maybe in the past; certainly not recently. Following the prophet did not turn you into a pariah; consistently deceiving others, then utterly abandoning previously held positions of trust did.

  135. Nick Literski says:

    Actually, Steve, the statement from Elder Lance Wickman was from a story on Nightline, from about two months ago. I think that qualifies as “recent,” and it comes from one of two general authorities who seem to be the designated spokesmen on the topic (Elder Oaks being the other).

    As for “constantly deceiving others,” you bet I did. I did it so well that for a time, I even managed to deceive myself. It wasn’t until I put an end to the deception, that I ever realized just how much energy I had put into it—and I find that is a rather common experience.

    I don’t think you can smugly say this had nothing to do with “following the prophet,” though. For eighteen years of marriage, Steve, I tried to “follow the prophet.” The only way I could do that WAS, in fact, to carry on what amounted to a deception–even if I didn’t fully recognize it as such at the time. Heck, I even remember being present at the Tabernacle when Ezra Taft Benson gave his “Arise from the dust, and be men” speech, urging young LDS men to hurry up and get married and raise families. I was already doing exactly what the prophet was teaching, and even good-naturedly teased my single friend who was there with me!

    Yes, I “followed the prophet,” Steve, and it got me nearly 18 years of pain and anguish, until I was willing to realize it wasn’t working.

  136. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, I’m genuinely sorry for the pain you’ve experienced, but you’re just wrong to blame the Church. Nobody asked you to lie to others about being homosexual. I agree that you were faced with pretty lousy prospects as a homosexual man in the Church, but that doesn’t give you license to deceive anyone else.

    The Prophet tells LDS men to hurry up and get married and have families — for you to bury your homosexuality and lie to your spouse, children (?) and neighbors for 18 years, however, is definitely not included in Pres. Benson’s injunction.

    And as for the Elder Wickman “quote,” well, if you show me where he said anything of the sort, then I’ll believe you, but from what I’ve read of both Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman, you’re grossly misinterpreting.

  137. Nick Literski says:

    Steve, I’m not saying I “blame the church” really. What I am saying is that the whole “follow the prophet” mantra is very much an insistance that “one size fits all.” Yes, we hear occasional statements about how members should prayerfully consider how counsel applies to them, but if we’re honest about it, we both know how far a member gets with “Well, I prayed about what President Hinckley said, and given my circumstances, I don’t feel it applies to me at this time.” Such a response isn’t taken as wisdom in the church; it’s taken as disobedience and rebellion.

    As to Elder Wickman, I’m afraid I have to correct myself. It was actually Elder Marlin Jensen–my apologies. The story can be found here: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=2051422&page=3

  138. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, you were misquoting Elder Jensen, too. Per the story you quote:

    Elder Jenson, however, says that “miracles can occur” that can transform lives. He adds that the real reward is in the afterlife, where “many of the unfulfilled dreams and the ambitions that we have will be fulfilled there.”

    Nowhere does he say that this means God will miraculously transform gays into straights!

  139. Steve Evans says:

    …on the other hand I read you about how prayerful consideration is often disregarded or maligned. Good point.

  140. Nick Literski says:

    If you view the context before and after, Steve (and especially if you’d seen the video version of the story), the “miracles” which Elder Jenson said “can occur” refer to changing one’s sexual orientation from gay to straight.

    There is always the possibility that the story was edited to make it appear Elder Jenson was saying something he wasn’t, but absent any protest on his part, I think his intent was clear.

  141. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, maybe we’re both seeing what we want to see, then — I think you are definitely misinterpreting him.

  142. Nick Literski says:

    I don’t mean to be belligerent, Steve, but what other “miracles” do you think Elder Jenson is referring to? Becoming straight after death?

  143. D. Fletcher says:

    I agree with Nick on a very centrally important premise. The Church doesn’t know what to do with the (3-10)% of members that simply cannot conform because it’s not in their DNA. It’s not about not sinning, it’s about overcoming some natural obstacle. No wonder Elder Jensen had to speak of “miracles.”

    There’s a percentage of humans that cannot, or perhaps “should” not ever marry, and plenty of blessings are denied these individuals, and plenty of simple happiness too (if we’re talking about Church members).

    The Church, meaning, congregations and leaders, doesn’t know what to do with these people. They don’t know how to act, what to say, except “all will work out in the next life.” But even though they don’t know what to say, they continue to say “conform, even if you can’t. If you don’t conform, it won’t work out for you in the next life.”

    It’s a terrible conundrum for everybody.

  144. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, there is more than just sexual orientation that can transform lives! The utter focus on sexuality bewilders me.

  145. Steve Evans says:

    D., I agree with you totally. And may I say, for the record, how much it makes me laugh that this turned into a homosexuality debate.

  146. D. Fletcher says:

    Steve, could that be because society doesn’t focus on your sexuality as being aberrant?

  147. Nick Literski says:

    Ummm…yeah…how silly to think he might be talking about sexual orientation in a story about gay Mormons, and what the church expects from them.

  148. D. Fletcher says:

    My post here wasn’t about homosexuality. It was about conforming vs. not being able to conform, even if one really wants to.

    I’d sure be unhappy if the Church said only tall people get exalted. But no matter how hard I tried, I’ll never be tall. Yes, I can wear lifts in my shoes and deceive some people into thinking I’m tall enough for exaltation.

  149. Steve Evans says:

    no, Nick — you’re just not seeing it. You think that if a church leader refers to a miracle that can transform lives in the context of talking about gay mormons, that he must mean changing that person straight. That’s utterly blind — he is talking about the ATONEMENT, Nick. The only power the Church has to transform our lives rests in a knowledge of Christ and His Atonement. The fact that you cannot see this meaning in what Elder Jensen said speaks volumes.

  150. Steve Evans says:

    On that note, I’m done. Thread closed.

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