A Confession and an Apology

Please forgive a self-indulgent post.

I have been one of the people who has thought and said that it’s unreasonable for members of the Church to feel betrayed when they discover facts about Church history that they hadn’t encountered in the official curriculum. I’ve thought that such ignorance reflected intellectual laziness for not having done a little bit of homework to learn about our history, and/or emotional immaturity for “flying off the handle” in the face of the belated discovery.

I was wrong and I am sorry.

Having (for once) been smart enough to sit back and watch the reactions to the new essays on polygamy rather than diving into the discussion right away, I think I may have finally understood something that I had managed to miss for a few decades. Despite the Church’s monumental effort and achievement of Correlation, lived Mormonism is largely undomesticated. It changes in both temporal and geographical iteration. The freedom to be “untrammeled” in belief that Mormon liberals like to claim they are being deprived of actually does exist and flourish in Primary, Sunday School, and seminary classes. The gospel I learned in Primary in Los Alamos, New Mexico, with scientists and assorted eggheads as my teachers is related to, but not even close to identical to the one my younger sister learned in a small town outside of Nashville. This is as it should be. The tension between the gorgeous anarchy of personal revelation and the necessary stability of institutional authority gives life to Mormonism–holds it in vividly unstable equilibrium. But it also requires a degree of self-awareness and charity that we are (or at least I am!) hard-pressed to achieve on anything like a regular basis. We all assume that our experience is normal, and since we so often hear “the Church is the same everywhere you go,” we are quick to generalize from our experience of “normal” to a prescription for what should be normative for everyone. When we are wounded by a policy or its ham-handed implementation, we extrapolate the certain wrongness of the policy for all times and all places. When, on the other hand, the Church has helped us to flourish, we readily believe that all good-hearted and right-thinking Saints will flourish similarly.

I was lucky, undeservedly blessed to land in a family and in wards where intellectual inquiry was encouraged and taught and praised. I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have good and wise women and men as Relief Society presidents and bishops and teachers. And because of those gracious gifts, I have not experienced the pain or confusion of others whose experience was different than mine. There’s lots of research to suggest that birth order, family stresses and life events, etc., combine to render the experience of every child in a family unique. Healthy families, it seems to me, find the threads of happy experience that connect them, and celebrate and magnify those joys to create a sense of family identity. And when they hurt each other by misunderstanding, they apologize and try harder to remember the things that they love and can share.

I have misunderstood and judged my sisters and brothers unkindly. Please forgive me.  I will try to do better, for Jesus’ sake. If you are wondering how to work your way through whatever you are learning, I will share my story with you and listen to yours. I trust that we will find things to laugh and cry about together, and that laughter and tears can bind us in joy to one another and to God.


  1. Yes.

  2. A Happy Hubby says:

    Wow. What humility! No matter what side of whatever fence you sit – we should look at this as an example of trying to understand others. The church and the world would be better if we all could adopt what Kristine has expressed. Thank you Kristine for making my day happier as I see hope of reconciliation after reading this.

  3. Yes and amen and thanks, Kristine.

  4. As someone who had not heard of the Mountain Meadows Massacre until age 24 and viewed any source of information not directly published by the church as suspect/antimormon? I accept your apology. It’s interesting how even within one small mormon community in SE Idaho there can be a wide variety of experiences because of local leadership. When you are raised in strict orthodoxy you repeat strict orthodoxy. And judging from my family and associates, most of them are comfortable staying within the confines of strict orthodoxy. I was recently questioned how any benefit can be derived from Adam Smith’s Letters to a Young Mormon, which I was reading, because it wasn’t from a GA.

  5. One step closer to Zion, Kristine! And good heavens, isn’t that music beautiful?

  6. Good heavens, indeed, Jason :)

  7. Thanks Kristine. It’s actually amazing how different one’s experience in the church can be merely by moving to the suburbs within the same metropolitan area.

  8. You are a good soul, Kristine. Thanks for your example.

    Do you think think that there is any threshold of personal responsibility for what the individual knows and how she reacts?

  9. Touching, true and profound. Thanks, Kristine.

    “A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.”

    – Eleanor Roosevelt (It Seems to Me: Selected Letters)

  10. Christian J says:

    Kristine, you’ve softened my heart – a little.

    I still wonder why the priesthood ban, BY polygamy and all the other really difficult but out-in-the-open stuff in the scriptures was totally cool with people, but JS polygamy is crossing the line.

    I think I was a thoughtful boy, but not what I would call “intellectually ambitious”. But, JS polygamy really didn’t throw me for a loop, because I had already been deeply troubled by again – priesthood restrictions based “race” and all that messed up stuff in the OT/BoM/PoGP etc.

  11. J., there probably is, but I’m going to stop trying to decide what it is for anyone except myself.

  12. I think this is a great post, Kristine! There is a part that I have problems with, but I’ll write about it on my own blog so that I don’t derail the congrats and whatnots.

  13. Derail away, Andrew. It’s awkward to be praised for trying to be humble :)

  14. Kristine, your insight about the church being undomesticated is really important. We sort of acknowledge it in talking about “leadership roulette,” but even that framing may be too institutional. I think that Zion is going to require coming to terms with–and learning to love–that kind of unruliness. Your post is a good start on that.

  15. Amen.

    I think this is good for all sides.

  16. Great post. I can see both sides of this. Somehow I knew Joseph was a polygamist when I got to the MTC but was not really shocked when my room mates denied it.

    What I’m hating right now is they way people are using this new development as a weapon: Mormon defenders are disingenuously claiming that the church always taught this, dummy; while, church critics are gleefully decrying Mormon lies and obfuscation.

    For once can we simply deal with things gracefully in this funny old religion of ours?

  17. An unneeded confession, Kristine, but a beautiful and charitable one all the same. Thank you.

  18. Kristine, this is wonderful stuff. I feel similarly lucky.

  19. *Applause*

  20. Appropriate, beautiful, and a model worthy of emulation.

  21. Thanks! This understanding and humility really came across on your PBS interview.

    I had been feeling like a bit of a moron after reading a bunch of tweets from my favorite people/blogs. What was wrong with me? This isn’t newsworthy, they said. The church hadn’t hidden it, they said. Any well read member has known this forever apparently. Was all of this history in plain sight and I didn’t take the time to notice? It’s possible. My intellectual curiosity has never extended to church history. I relied on seminary and institute for that knowledge and let my intellectual pursuits take me elsewhere. I was rereading Dickens, when maybe I should have been reading Bushman. I might only have myself to blame, but it sure doesn’t feel good to have it rubbed in my face.

    Thanks Kristine, your words make a difference.

  22. I was similarly blessed and was similarly critical of people who felt “betrayed”. I think that over the years I have come to understand their perspectives much better and now simply mourn for them and for us at having lost them as a result of this.

    The new essays are a wonderful tool for preventing this kind of reaction of feeling betrayed in the future. I hope that they will be quickly incorporated into the curriculum for teaching the youth so that they form a strong informational foundation from early on that will ground their testimonies for the rest of their lives.

  23. Yay! I love it :)

    Contrast this with some of the exceedingly uncharitable posts in other blogs that shall go unnamed. I think you’ve got the path that will lead toward healing, not more self-righteous bickering and finger pointing.

  24. I really like this point in particular, Kristine:

    “We all assume that our experience is normal, and since we so often hear “the Church is the same everywhere you go,” we are quick to generalize from our experience of “normal” to a prescription for what should be normative for everyone.”

    It seems like a lot of bloggernacle arguments boil down to something like this. One person’s experience is X and another’s is Y, and when both generalize, the results can’t be reconciled.

  25. Thanks, Kristine. Great stuff.

  26. Emily Jensen’s interview on the BBC raised a really interesting question: How on earth do you begin teaching this stuff to children and youth? It’s one thing to even have it on a public website, it’s another to make it part of the narrative going forward.

  27. How well you express my unvoiced impulses. Also undisciplined. Charity is my daily challenge, which is as it should be. It’s encouraging that Christ’s power can inspire us to move beyond otherwise insurmountable obstacles and come to a place that is closer to zion. I wish that we talked about this more.

    Thanks for this brief, articulate, and spot on post, and so very timely.

  28. Namaste, Kristine. Truly.

  29. Derail away, Andrew.

    Well, at the risk of being banned again from here, I’ll say my piece (especially since my most problematic section was quoted by Ziff as being one he “really liked”):

    We all assume that our experience is normal, and since we so often hear “the Church is the same everywhere you go,” we are quick to generalize from our experience of “normal” to a prescription for what should be normative for everyone. When we are wounded by a policy or its ham-handed implementation, we extrapolate the certain wrongness of the policy for all times and all places. When, on the other hand, the Church has helped us to flourish, we readily believe that all good-hearted and right-thinking Saints will flourish similarly.

    I totally agree with the thrust of this post that the risk of generalization is to dismiss or discount contradicting experiences. I totally agree that it’s a great thing — a thing worth celebrating — when we can understand that others may have different experiences, and more importantly, than one experience doesn’t negate or diminish the other.

    However, what gives me pause (and I don’t know if you’re doing this, but it’s just the caution at the back of my mind) is it seems there is a possibility to say that because there are different experiences, then we can’t speak about what is normative, or modal (if not also “model” Mormon experience.

    Even if Correlation hasn’t (and probably never will, for a variety of reasons) reached down into every stake and ward, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a correlation idea. And though we may disagree on what that ideal looks like, we can at least attempt to speak out how various experiences line up to that ideal.

    So, I think when many disaffected folks speak about “priesthood roulette,” it’s not simply a matter of there being ‘good’ ward experiences and ‘bad’ ward experiences. It’s also about a perception that the stakes (pun fully intended) are biased toward ‘bad’ ward experiences because institutionally, correlation supports the more conservative/orthodox/literal/rigid approaches that the disaffected chafe against. (And of course, the conservative/orthodox response is that this is simply the divine order.)

    I mean, I and many others have said that we would love a BCC ward, a Bloggernacle stake. The Bloggernacle cannot save, but serving and learning and teaching in person with y’all fine bloggers would be something to look forward. (And my vague awareness is that some of you already attend the same wards or stakes?)

    but the issue is not simply that our actual ward experiences are much different…but the sense that those ward experiences we dislike — and not the ward experiences of bloggernaclers that we envy and desire — are normative and modal for Mormonism.

  30. The tension between the gorgeous anarchy of personal revelation and the necessary stability of institutional authority gives life to Mormonism–holds it in vividly unstable equilibrium.

    This. This is what keeps me coming back, and why I stay- the hope and beauty of this “gorgeous anarchy” held in “vividly unstable equilibrium” is what awakened my spirit and called to my heart.

  31. Thank you for this. Most of these kinds of things weren’t talked about when I was growing up–not at church, not at seminary, many of them not on the mission. I even read more church material than most my peers, and yet because I stayed away from the “controversial” stuff, I didn’t encounter these issues until later. I think that’s fairly typical. Most of my Mormon Corridor ward doesn’t know this stuff, even with these essays being available at the church website.

  32. “The tension between the gorgeous anarchy of personal revelation and the necessary stability of institutional authority gives life to Mormonism–holds it in vividly unstable equilibrium.” Amen. Praise God. This is why I am here.

    Thanks for this beautiful post, Kristine. And, as always, the music.

  33. Too bad the church leadership can’t take the same repentant attitude. Instead we get justification and whitewash … which leads to dissaffection and the shocked feeling you discuss.

    Get with it church … learn how to institutionally repent already.

  34. Apology accepted. Before I respond any farther, though, I never saw you as an enemy or judger (I know it’s not a word, I can’t think of the word I want.

    Why your apology is accepted, is because I did think I had studied. I thought I had invested in gaining knowledge. In fact I was so confident that I had performed that study that I believed I could help people overcome their faith crisis with my knowledge. It was true I knew more, I did have more facts, data points, and research references but I didn’t have their hearts. I hadn’t lived their lives. I didn’t understand what choices and practices they had performed with full faith in an outcome that was now crumbled and destroyed. When I finally understood that part of the pain, I realized by info. was woefully wanting to the conversation. I wasn’t helping hands that hang down or mourning with those that mourn. I was just chucking ice chunks at people’s fires. For me the comprehension of pain and really trying to walk in another’s moccasin brought on my crisis or strain. An anger I could not and still can not explain filled me. It is not just information. Information is the 4×4 quilt square that has yet to be sewn, stuffed, tied and incorporated. Peoples quilts were falling apart. Today I spend most LDS experiences in these new moccasins. I keep wrestling trying to use this as purposefully as possible. I haven’t achieved anything yet on that. Your apology today helps me consider an avenue I hadn’t, that is forgiving the people who don’t understand someone else’s pain. Because I had crossed the street, I had forgotten that God’s children are over on the other side, too. If I, who was so knowledgeable, didn’t understand someone else’s pain – than how can they be expected to. Whether they know as much as I did/do or not. It’s the personal pain, that is drawing souls to seek solace away from the LDS faith. Thank you for enlightening me today.

  35. David Fletcher says:

    Thank you for taking the time to post this. I would hope that people will receive it in the spirit in which it is offered. As always, we can all do better, and as we act with prayer and humility (and an extra side of humility for everyone!) we shall, as individuals and as a church, move beyond this test.

  36. Thanks, Kristine. This helps and feels like a true apology. My growing up the oldest son of the oldest son in a very patriarchal, very orthodox Mormon home in very rural Utah, with very orthodox progenitors all the way back for 6 generations, and then being gay and hiding it for 40 years, why, yes, we probably have very different experiences and very different teachers over the years of Primary and Sunday School. Thanks again.

  37. well said, David.

  38. Andrew S–I can’t find anything to disagree with in your comment. There is a strong streak of anti-intellectualism in many places in the Church, created in part by Correlation and the lust for homogeneity that it sometimes spawns. I think we are currently reaping the whirlwind that those attitudes have sown. It will take a while for the Church to find a new balancing point. There’s not much you or I can do about that, but I do think it is possible and necessary to create bonds of love that transcend ideology; I have seen it happen and it is glorious. And it’s both easier and infinitely harder than working and hoping for institutional change.

  39. Could someone link to Kristine’s interview?

  40. I add my thanks as well, Kristine.

    An earlier commenter mentioned your interview with PBS. For those who have not heard it, may I suggest that this is 6 minutes of time well spent: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/releasing-history-mormon-church-grapples-origins-polygamy/

    Andrew S’s comment about correlation and homogeneity brought to my mind a very thoughtful commentary that the church newsroom recently published on Difference and Dignity: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/difference-and-dignity. I must admit that this commentary strikes me as quite foreign from the message I receive in day-to-day church meetings. In fact, for an interesting thought experiment, imagine that you are delivering the commentary word-for-word as a sacrament meeting talk and then note the place in the commentary/talk where you expect the bishop would stop the meeting and ask you to refrain from teaching false doctrine. :)

  41. If we’re counting, though, correlation is winning in a landslide, don’t you think? This is what’s so frustrating about how many young free-thinking LDS leave the church instead of working within it…it’s another score for correlation.

  42. Dave K, the “Difference and Dignity” commentary you referenced floored me. It is indeed quite foreign to the lockstep conformity, the abhorrence of contention, and the disdain for cognitive dissonance that pervades our Sunday meetings. I actually checked twice to see if this was really published by the church newsroom. Perhaps a sign of that the apocalypse is near.

  43. Doesn’t the resonance most commenters here feel for Kristine’s expression also tie directly into the fundamental solution to all of the disillusionment? The lives of those who lived and made leadership decisions related to polygamy, MMM, etc etc are not our lives, and the position from which we judge them is not inherently better than theirs. The impulse to judge past church leaders and members as flawed for doing what we now feel was wrong despite horribly deficient documentary evidence and the utter impossibility of knowing what God might have been telling them to do is just another failure to allow for others’ experiences to be different from ours and yet equally “valid”. So call Joseph a pervert all you want, but realize that is no different from me calling you an ignoramus for not knowing more about the defining characteristic (in the eyes of the world) of the religion to which you belong. Luckily the chance that neither is true is high.

    You want continuing revelation to fallen humanity and a personal relationship with the Almighty God of a universe characterized by the cold void of space and relentless, carnivorous violence of nature? Well, you got it.

    How we’ve constructed such a comfortable Gospel is sometimes beyond me.

    I’ll start working on my compassion soon, but four weeks out from a dead baby leaves me with little sympathy for anyone or anything, up to and including fluffy bunnies.

    Psst… Don’t tell, but I just heard Mormons revere prophets who chopped people’s heads and arms off, called down divine fire on their ecumenical brethren from other faith communities, and struck some church members dead for lying about a real estate transaction. Then there’s that dude chasing law-abiding, tax-paying businessmen around with a whip! It’s a marvel they didn’t cover any of that in the missionary discussions. You have to read a freakin’ book with freakin’ thousands of pages to find any of that out!

  44. Bad Mood, I’m not quite willing to go all the way to that level of relativism, but I recognize the danger of asking for or offering cheap forgiveness. If this were a different sort of post, I might try harder to figure out how to be charitable without abandoning the project of moral reasoning altogether.

    And that post would also be worthless in the face of your recent loss. This is where online Church is lousy; no way to wordlessly commiserate, and no casseroles. I’m so, so sorry.

  45. Dave K – I read the Newsroom article, which is excellent. But how do we tolerate diversity and, at the same time, keep the doctrine pure (per President Hinckley)? Our Sunday experiences are, in fact, the places where we should be the most unified in the worship of our Savior. Can we be unique yet “as one” at the same time? Is Christ that much different than the Father?

  46. J. Michaels says:

    This is a beautiful essay and I relate to much of it.

    If I could make one suggestion, though, I would reconsider “like to claim” in this sentence:

    “The freedom to be ‘untrammeled’ in belief that Mormon liberals like to claim they are being deprived of actually does exist and flourish in Primary, Sunday School, and seminary classes.”

    I am glad that you did had such a nice experience, but I certainly felt that otherwise for many years, and this sentence confuses me and makes me feel like I’m being accused of making it all up.

    Thank you for otherwise articulating many of my own thoughts.

  47. Four years ago upon learning all of the nitty gritty myself through online research, yes I felt betrayed. But my search for truth brought me to an understanding of the fallibility of our leaders and a stronger testimony of the God who leads in spite of us all. It’s called a faith transition. It’s not the betrayal that I struggle with, it’s the tunnel vision of family, friends, and acquaintances I’m surrounded with in Rexburg that see me as unfaithful for studying outside material and not focusing solely on scriptures and church produced materials.

    As I attempted to inoculate my own 9 yo from the same path I went through I mentioned how Joseph translated the BoM with a stone in a hat during family scripture study — my husband shut it down and said I have no proof of that rumor, and I had to point him to lds.org. I just sat through four weeks of SS & RS in my new super-orthodox Rexburg ward where I was subjected to 6 of the 8 lessons being about the evil of the world and gay marriage and obeying with exactness and now questions. Walk in my moccasins and quit saying this isn’t news. It’s news they are admitting things that they punished scholars for publicizing the the past. As I see the bloggernacle scoff at everyone’s “overreaction” to the essays, I think – wait, if you’d said this 25 years ago you would have faced serious consequences. Now we just brush it off as old hat?

  48. IDIAT, I’m feeling the same struggle. Unity is one of the church principles that resonates most strongly with me, but so does everything said in that commentary. The best I can offer right now is this: we are commanded to be one in Christ, not simply one. Perhaps we all (members and leaders) need to step back and humbly acknowledge that most of what we think we know about Christ is simply a result of our own desires and believes being hoisted on to his name. Maybe we should retreat back to the basics and hope that those few things we can all agree on as the doctrine of Christ will provide a sufficient foundation on which to continue building a church.

  49. “Emily Jensen’s interview on the BBC raised a really interesting question: How on earth do you begin teaching this stuff to children and youth?”

    Step 1: Get a permission slip from the parents.

  50. “The tension between the gorgeous anarchy of personal revelation and the necessary stability of institutional authority gives life to Mormonism–holds it in vividly unstable equilibrium”

    I wish I could find that anarchy gorgeous. I really do.

  51. J. Michaels, you’re right–that was a little glib. I think I probably should have said that liberals are too quick to perceive everyone to the right of them on the spectrum of belief as monolithically orthodox, and that leads us to bad conclusions. I need to think of how to say it more precisely–thanks for being a good editor!

  52. “Can we be unique yet “as one” at the same time?”

    From Elder Wirthlin’s “Concern for the One” (April 2008 General Conference), and echoed in more than once recent talk from President Uchtdorf:

    “Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.

    Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.”

    We often don’t live up to this ideal, but it is the ideal, nonetheless. Zion is not being exactly alike; that is close to the end result of Lucifer’s plan, but even that plan allowed for existing differences to continue. Zion is unity forged despite differences – sometimes large and important differences, based on the love Kristine mentions in the following sentence:

    “Healthy families, it seems to me, find the threads of happy experience that connect them, and celebrate and magnify those joys to create a sense of family identity.”

    That is true in my own family, with only six kids and my wife and I. It will be true as our kids marry and have kids of their own. I can’t imagine a totally homogenous eternal family of God. To me, as Steven Peck describes in “A Short Stay in Hell”, that would be endless torment, stagnation and the opposite of the Heaven I desire.

  53. Love you so much lady!

  54. IDIAT, I believe the solution, in part, to your dilemma lies is abandoning the illusion of “pure doctrine.” What has been taught as doctrine in the church has varied widely over its short history and will undoubtedly undergo further revisions, deletions and clarifications. Indeed, much of what has been passed off as doctrine by previous apostles and prophets is now considered to be just plain wrong (another little bit of our history that Correlation has conveniently overlooked).

    We are incapable of articulating “pure, eternal doctrine” because, in our mortal state, we cannot fully comprehend the mind and will of God. This doesn’t mean that we have no doctrine; rather, it means that what we teach as doctrine is an approximation of what we think God has tried to communicate to us. As such, it is imperfect. It is impure.

    When you come to this realization, you are forced to conclude that unity of mind is chimerical; only unity of purpose—the shared goal of seeking the truth, what I like to call “unity of the heart”—is attainable. For me, that’s enough.

  55. gst, no as a member of a Bishopric and as a father of six I disagree. If it’s doctrinal we have an obligation to teach it to our children, our youth and our adults. My parents never shied away from the truth at the dinner table, warts and all and I have a healthy attitude toward anything that could possibly be shocking as I encounter it in my faith journey. Of course they also provided a very deep library with every imaginable book concerning Church History including those 7 volumes and encouraged me to understand our history with topics like polygamy because these issues were raised by my Baptist and Evangelical friends.

    I do the same with the young men and young women when I teach them on Sundays in class or in interviews I hold with them. I did the same when I taught Seminary and Gospel Doctrine. When I stand up in front of the Primary I look for ways to ensure what could be strange in our faith becomes familiar. If a parent has a problem I welcome them to come talk with me and we counsel together. We have a diverse Ward and more than once I’ve had to ask a Seminary teacher or a parent to dial back their personal conservative beliefs because they did not align with the gospel truths as taught by the prophets. Now that probably is my good fortune given our Midwestern Ward’s location outside the Western Mormon enclaves but I think every member who knows the truth has an obligation to warn their neighbor. And yes, that message from D&C 88:81 has equal meaning in helping our fellow members become more converted to their faith as it does to us reaching out to those who do not yet know the message Joseph brought to the world.

    Thank you Kristine, I too have puzzled over this question and come to a closer realization of why so many hurt and have become lost not just because I’ve watched it happen online but also due to discussions I’ve had with young and old converts who are struggling or have fallen away due to what they’ve found online concerning Joseph’s teachings and life.

    I do ponder how to help inoculate new members who join the Church and only know the discussions that come from Preach My Gospel but again I think part of it comes in helping them learn the history. More than once I’ve had missionaries ask me to come help them teach because they have an investigator asking hard questions about history or doctrinal topics that are challenging for them to explain in their limited experience. We certainly encourage the investigator to focus on the personal testimony aspects of knowing the Savior and seeking to understand the Book of Mormon but I also provide an open book approach to questions they ask that might be considered controversial.

  56. Very well said. I converted at 18, mission at 20, all the while reading anti material. I still hit my own roadblock along the way and just when I thought my faith was secure and solid, I found that it had more growing and evolving to do.

  57. gst, the stuff on the website with the Church’s imprimatur is the permission slip. It has to be taught in seminary. Happily, we are studying the Doctrine & Covenants and church history this year. The young people in my class will not be learning about the troubling issues for the first time from the internet ten years from now. I hope that kind of education is taking place in other classes as well.

  58. I have struggled with this same thing, believing that things were common knowledge that weren’t known by most members, then assuming that they were just too stupid or lazy to crack open a book or too gullible to not ask obvious questions. Hedgehog really opened my eyes to the fact that in many places, those uncracked books were (and still are) literally not available, and of course, the internet wasn’t even a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye back then. It was helpful to understand why these things were causing some folks such an issue. Having said that, the issues are themselves inherently problematic, no matter when we know about them.

    I’d rather talk to someone who honestly felt blindsided by the issues (and therefore comprehends them and is asking valuable soul-searching questions) than talk to someone who smugly pretends that the issues are no big deal or that they knew it all along.

  59. Well, done, K. Well done.

  60. I haven’t been following this blog long enough to see an example of what you’re apologising for but it’s still appreciated! The Latter-day Saints I’m around have generally received the essay on plural marriage positively. Generally I’ve found the people who are uncomfortable with it are those already uncomfortable with the era of polygamy. (For some reason CNN picked up on the essay today and had an article on how Joseph Smith had ‘up to 40 wives’ — my housemate, who’s of another faith, asked about it.) I have only ever been to church services in three different chapels, all of them in the UK and 2 of them in the same county. So I haven’t experienced how the church isn’t quite the same everywhere. But I have noticed that every ward seems to have a favourite hymn that no other ward sings!

  61. Thank you Kristine for a well written piece. I applaud your honesty. After reading your work, it seems you are very well educated in all of the Church’s history, both good and bad. Something that I have struggled with for a while now is how intelligent, intellectual individuals can reconcile some of the very troubling aspects of the origins of Mormonism. If you really have studied and seen all of the nitty gritty details, how do you continue to stay in Mormonism? I’m asking this sincerely, not attacking. The more I dug into the details – based on sources from the Church (Journal of Discourses, JS letters, diaries, etc.), there’s no way I could remain a member. It just seems to me there is so much overwhelming evidence to suggest that Joseph Smith made this stuff up to satisfy his need for power, money, etc. How do you do it?

  62. Dan–that’s a big question, and the answer is the story of my life. But, the very, very short version:

    Let’s say you were a singer who loved opera, and I said “how can you stand to sing that music, knowing that Wagner was an anti-Semite?” Where would you start? Or “how can you stand to be an American citizen, knowing that the authors of the Declaration of Independence had slaves?”

    Life is messy; people fail at the goodness they intend; beauty and grace break out anyway, in the unlikeliest of places.

  63. Thank you Kristine, for sparking the conversation above. I grew up in a home that prized intellectual pursuit, except where the gospel was concerned. We did not talk about polygamy, even though it was an integral part of the family history. Years later, as I work with the youth, I’ve taught lessons I knew would inspire the wrath of the kids’ parents. Seek after the truth, and let the consequences follow.

  64. Kristine – thanks for the reply! But, your comparisons about leaders having flaws are not the same. I can totally accept the early prophets as fallible men. But if there’s proof that the religion was started based on fraud, or a hoax… that’s what I can’t reconcile.

  65. Ah. I misunderstood–sorry. We just interpret the evidence differently. I think an assertion of fraud or hoax requires proof of intent that we just don’t have in the case of JS.

  66. Similarly blessed here as well. Such a disproportionate number of us on the blog, it seems. I imagine that’s much of why we’re here and not other places on the internet.

  67. Beautiful, K. Thank you.

  68. Christopher S says:

    Great post. Reminds me that I need to be more charitable in this regard myself.

    One question: Can anyone point me to any blogs/articles/3rd-hand accounts of members who are taking this new “admission” of JS’s polygamy hard? Implicit in a number of blogs that I’ve read over the last few days has been an assumption that the less educated (in terms of Mormon history) among us have had a hard time dealing with the new essay. Personally, I just haven’t seen any of that, and I’m having a hard time imaging that there’s really anyone who feels that way. I would be very interested in understanding more about the people (if they’re out there) who are struggling with the new essay.

  69. Rebecca E. says:

    Beautiful music introducing a thoughtful, authentic apology. I’ve been guilty of similarly judging others, and of countless other ungenerous thoughts and actions. Thank you, Kristine, for your willingness to re-examine your position(s) and for being a fine example of integrity and humility.

  70. Thanks, Kristine, for introducing me to Ola Gjeilo. Sublime setting.

  71. Kristine,

    While I appreciate the apology, personally your post comes across as a bit condescending. You claim that, despite correlation, by and large the Church experience allows us freedom of thought, yet correlation is precisely the tool by which the Church kept information like how many wives Joseph actually had, the fact that he married young teenagers and already married women from the general church membership.

    When you consider the fact that correlation (along with prophet worship) trains Church members to not deviate from lesson manual and other “approved materials,” and not to “sensationalize” discussions like plural marriage, and you then look at the abject paucity of the treatment of Joseph’s polygamy in the Church’s history manuals, it becomes abundantly clear why the recent news has been hard to handle by so many: because the church used correlation to cover it up for all except those who went almost completely out of their way to value “intellectual inquiry” over obedience and deference to authority. Belonging to the former group makes you an outlier, not the other way around.

    Because that’s the way the Church wanted it, and that’s the way the Church structured it

    My biggest fear is my children growing up in a Church that has switched from whitewashing its history to whitewashing its handling of history. I’m seeing it happen before my very eyes.

  72. An Anon Nom says:

    A proposed TODO list (and a brief comment w/ plea):

    1. Understand how non-lazy people didn’t know everything you did. (Done!)
    2. Understand how trapped these people now feel (always felt?) in the faith community they were born into.
    3. Actively advocate for these people to:
    a. Gain access to an open, safe, and noncoercive environment to gather more information and explore their thoughts, questions, and doubts.
    b. Be allowed to disengage without threats of divorce or shunning, without their kids being taught they are bad people, and in general with respect for the good things they do.

    “We all assume that our experience is normal…” Actually, many of us don’t. Many of us know that you and other commenters here are wonderfully intelligent and thoughtfully believing. At the same time, we simply don’t have the religious feelings you have. Unfortunately, our formative (and subsequent) years were spent in an environment unaccepting of anything other than orthodoxy. Can you please help us?

  73. Namaste, indeed. Beautiful.

  74. I went to church every week for 30 years, did 4 years seminary, took 20 credits religion at BYU, did a mission, have had many callings, read many books by LDS authors. At age 30, for the first time, I learned about Mountain Meadows, that Joseph Smith had more than one wife, That the book of abraham came from a scroll that still existed, and that the plates weren’t used in translation / rock in hat.

    How was I to learn about them? From anti mormon sources? From South Park? And if these things are true, but I have to learn about them from non LDS sources, why would I not feel betrayed? I don’t get how that viewpoint is valid. Where are these facts to be learned by a good mormon that avoids anti mormon literature?

  75. I think gst means (re: permission slip from parents) that if you’re talking to young women about how a revered older man married girls their age you are walking into a minefield. How the church curriculum teaches chastity and hetero-normative marital monogamy AND this stuff is going to be one hell of a headache, actually (if they decide to do it).

  76. Wonderful Kristine!

    I am feeling particular concern for our brothers and sisters in non-English speaking countries. Almost none of the material about these subjects that we have access to here in the states exists in even Spanish. The essays weren’t released in Spanish nor are the English essays on the church’s official spanish language site, but apparently the CNN, NYTs and other articles are now hitting all the Spanish news outlets. Non-English speakers don’t have hardly any scholarly or church-friendly resources available to them and I bet there are whole wards and stakes in the South America where there isn’t a single leader or member that knows about say polygamy in any depth. Hopefully the church has prepared a plan to respond.

  77. Love your post Kristine! There’s so much to think about and change my mind about. I was just thinking how Mormonism is so rich. How do we even begin to grasp it?

  78. Jay, Anon Nom,

    I’m dismayed to observe how strong the impulse to defend myself is–how much I want to protest that I’m more informed and less complacent than you suppose (and doggone it! People like me!).


    I’m trying to do better, to just sit with the criticism for a while. Thank you for speaking honestly and directly.

  79. John Mansfield says:

    Well, let’s not to go overboard with this. Three of the four things that Pangwitch wonders where she could have learned of them are found in Church History in the Fulness of Times, a standard manual used by LDS Institute classes for the last twenty-five years. From Chapter 20, “Doctrinal Developments in Nauvoo”:

    Moreover, Joseph Smith and the Church were to accept the principle of plural marriage as part of the restoration of all things (see v. 45). Accustomed to conventional marriage patterns, the Prophet was at first understandably reluctant to engage in this new practice. Due to a lack of historical documentation, we do not know what his early attempts were to comply with the commandment in Ohio. His first recorded plural marriage in Nauvoo was to Louisa Beaman; it was performed by Bishop Joseph B. Noble on 5 April 1841.12 During the next three years Joseph took additional plural wives in accordance with the Lord’s commands.


    In 1967 eleven fragments of the Joseph Smith papyri were rediscovered by Doctor Aziz S. Atiya, in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Studies of them have confirmed that they are mainly ancient Egyptian funerary texts of the sort commonly buried with royalty and nobility and designed to guide them through their eternal journeyings. This has renewed the question about the connection between the records and the book of Abraham. Joseph Smith did not explain the method of translating the book of Abraham, just as he did not explain fully how the Book of Mormon was translated.

    In Chapter 29, “The Utah War,” can be found a short section with the heading “Mountain Meadows Massacre.”

  80. John, so not the point. Yes, much of this information was out there. But whether or not one happened upon it depends on the particular kind of Mormonism one grew up with. It is undeniable that there is a strong strain of anti-intellectualism and paternalism in the way some Church leaders have approached these issues. Read Elder Packer’s talk about the poor little “white birds” at BYU and tell me he would have thought it was OK for a religion professor to discuss polyandry or Fanny Alger in class! Whether or not one is enculturated dominantly in the version of Mormonism that insists on obedience to authority and shuns “alternate voices” or the expansive version of Mormonism that prioritizes a fearless search for truth is not, as far as I can tell, determined by one’s righteousness or diligence.

  81. John, I don’t know when “Church History in the Fulness of Times” was introduced, but I graduated from Institute in 1983, and we certainly didn’t study that manual. I’ve never had any reason to read it, tbh, during many, many years of lesson preparation- the lesson manuals being the core curriculum from which we were told not to divert.

  82. John Mansfield says:

    Kristine, you’ve got your point, and it’s great that you’re sticking to it, but I don’t feel bound by it. Church History in the Fulness of Times is available from the distribution center in seventeen languages, plus English braille. It’s one of the church publications that lesson manuals tell us to stick to for Sunday classes, written in simple and almost overbearingly faithful language. It’s been a cornerstone Institute student manual since before most current Institute students were born. Wondering why someone missed her sore points in it isn’t close to wondering why she hadn’t already learned about Book of Mormon translation in B.H. Roberts’ Comprehensive History of the Church. Your compassion for the unaware is great, and a feeling that official teaching is a bit skimpy on one thing or the other is easy to understand, but a complete, thorough unawareness of many things does rest with the unaware.

    My thirteen-year-old read Bushman’s Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism then he was ten because he wanted to, but I can’t get his older brothers, now fifteen, seventeen, and eighteen to open it. I did however trick them into learning about Mountain Meadows Massacre by getting them to read a short 120-page book, The Wild Colorado: The True Adventures of Fred Dellenbaugh, Age 17, on the Second Powell Expedition into the Grand Canyon. (See “Son, Meet John D. Lee.”)

  83. My opportunities were different from many people’s; I realize that. Two of my high school years, for instance, were spent in Jackson County, Missouri, and my family made weekend visits to many of the sites, multiple times — not that I remember hearing any of these issues at those venues, but being on the ground did create an emotional connection to Church history that led me to look for more. My family also believed in books and library cards — not that Church history or social issues loomed large on our bookshelves, but that friendship with books and Interlibrary Loan meant that when I was interested in Church matters, it didn’t occur to me NOT to turn to books the way I had turned to them for other areas of interest. And so on.

    I’m also very aware that when you have even a little background on a topic, you tend to notice new facts on that topic, which means you have an even greater likelihood of noticing the next relevant fact you come across, even if you’re not hunting for it.

    When I comment on blogs and note that *I* read about polygamy or any other historical issue in the 1970s and ’80s and beyond, it is not intended to be a slur against someone else who did not read the same things. When I note that a fact was available in such-and-such a Church source, it is not intended to mean “so why didn’t YOU notice it.” I report my knowing of these things ONLY as a counter to those people who insist that the Church was actively censoring information, actively trying to keep Church membership ignorant. They were not — or else they did a terribly poor job of it, because I *did* find it despite all their nefarious efforts. That does not mean that I fault you for not finding it — I know that not everybody had my opportunities or interests. It’s entirely understandable if some people read the very same articles and didn’t notice what I noticed, simply because they had different interests from mine.

    I am not happy that my reporting of my experiences is labeled as “smug” — three times on three blogs in one day! (And I don’t think these are three separate opinions “proving” that my reports are in fact smug — I think there is a great deal of mimicking of “accepted” attitudes here, as there often is in blogging.) My personal life experiences, including my having become aware earlier of these issues, should be as valid as the life experiences of those who became aware of the same issues somewhat later. You are not “poorly read” because you did not find the clues; neither am I wrong for having found them. Faulting me for reporting my experiences when asked is as much anti-intellectualism as anything ever was.

  84. So John, backing up Anne, in the UK, typically institute follows a 4 year cycle, one course per year, for the books of scripture, much like Sunday School or Seminary. The separate church history course would not be known, nor the existence of the manual, though I have one myself. Institute in London differed to the rest of the country, in that it did offer additional shorter courses.
    Also, institute used only be for students, not all YSAs, and for many years most of our youth did not attend university, and would not have attended institute as a result.

  85. Jay: “My biggest fear is my children growing up in a Church that has switched from whitewashing its history to whitewashing its handling of history. I’m seeing it happen before my very eyes.”

    yes, this.

  86. An Anon Nom says:

    Thank you, Kristine. And you’re welcome.

    “I’m trying to do better, to just sit with the criticism for a while.”

    I can’t speak for Jay, but I’m not doling out criticism. I’m genuinely looking for help from a community that appears to have some influence to support another community that is really struggling.

    “I trust that we will find things to laugh and cry about together.”

    That is a great first step. But the logical conclusion of your confession (i.e. restitution as far as I understand LDS theology) has significant implications. Please embrace these implications.

    What I’m trying to say to you (which you already know but may be able to help others understand), to church leaders, and to anyone who can possibly influence LDS culture is this:

    Let my people go. (OK, that was too melodramatic.)

    We may or may not have been lazy. The church (as experienced through our families, wards, communities, and direction from SLC) may or may not have hidden things, discouraged looking at outside sources, or whatever. Those are important questions for discussion but before we can have a real discussion on those issues, we need to set, promote, publicize, and repeat basic grounds rules. I can’t emphasize enough how important the promotion of these ground rules is. I also can’t emphasize enough how much less ill will there will be toward the church when these ground rules are accepted. The ground rules are things like:

    1. You can choose not to participate at any time and we will not threaten* you.
    2. You can ask questions and express concerns or doubts and we will not threaten* you.
    3. We expect and encourage good behavior from our family and community members. We may use our individual beliefs to produce good behavior and may offer the same beliefs to others in our family or community, but they may use different motivations to produce good behavior.

    *Examples of threats include: divorce, shunning, shaming, denigration, excommunication, prohibiting attendance from significant family events, etc.

  87. Ardis says: My personal life experiences, including my having become aware earlier of these issues, should be as valid as the life experiences of those who became aware of the same issues somewhat later. You are not “poorly read” because you did not find the clues; neither am I wrong for having found them. Faulting me for reporting my experiences when asked is as much anti-intellectualism as anything ever was.

    I think this is a valid point for all of us to keep in mind. Those of us who, even in the pre-Internet age, managed to be aware of all of the things that have recently been discussed by the Church in its official releases, aren’t trying to be smug or superior, we just somehow managed to be in the way of the right sources. I have been surprised – ambushed, almost – by the things my brothers and sisters didn’t know, which I took for granted, which I had found in Institute and public libraries as a convert of college age in the mid-1980s. I don’t mean to sound smug in saying that, and offer a sincere apology if I ever have. On the contrary, I’m grateful to be hearing the experiences of so many people as to their upbringings, the information available to them and how it was controlled and channeled, and how one’s geographical location made a difference in what was available.

    I also think, and a couple of commenters have touched on it, that the concept of “inoculation” was important. I think I’ve managed to inoculate my own kids, probably through my own ignorance – I didn’t realize that all that stuff was being hushed up, I guess. Warts in historical figures are, or should be, pretty normal stuff to historians (which is my academic background). We’ve done a vast swath of Latter-day Saints a large disservice by not introducing these things to them at an early age, bit by bit, rather than letting them become a huge, disillusioning lump of castor oil often forced down their gullets by an unsympathetic Internet.

  88. Kristine, I appreciate your tone, and take your message as a call to repentance. I’m puzzled, though, at the bloggernacle’s tight focus on church culture, rather than on American, or youthful, or human culture, as the source of widespread ignorance of church history. In my experience, an awful lot of people both in and out of the Church devote much time and interest to reality TV, pop stars, and consumer products and regard anything that happened more than a year or two ago as lost in the mists of time. Our young people emerge from many years of schooling appallingly ignorant of basic scientific principles, among other deficiencies. It’s pretty hard for even the brightest, most open and engaged and well-informed leaders to combat that in a few hours each Sunday.

  89. Kristine, I am always uplifted and instructed by your posts. Thank you. The key is sitting together and telling each other our stories, knitting our hearts together.

  90. Inspiration says:

    Kristine – You are an inspiration to all of us as#&$&&__; on the bloggernacle to offer up a perfunctory apology so that all of our friends who have also spent years mocking those in a faith-crises can slap us on the back and tell us how humble and great we are. Thank you so much.

  91. Christian J says:

    “Hedgehog really opened my eyes to the fact that in many places, those uncracked books were (and still are) literally not available” – Hawkgrrrl

    What about the scriptures? You don’t need to grow up in a Dialogue family to see some visible tension, in what we teach vs. what we do vs. what was done before us. There are
    boat loads of paradigm shifting details right there in the standard works. And a long list of themes that don’t easily square with contemporary LDS rhetoric. Can you be terribly
    shocked by the details of JS polygamy if you’ve already read that Abraham sold his wife into prostitution?

    I do, however, agree with Kristine that Mormon experience really does vary greatly from family to family and region to region. And her call for humility, compassion and forgiveness
    is well said.

  92. Kristine: Some very good and worthy points. Especially regarding the diversity in experiences and non-normative nature of our various church backgrounds.

    However, there are too many people who are willfully ignorant. They are so very afraid to be tainted by hearing a “discouraging word.” They hear someone like me make a comment in class (esp. when I am the teacher) that strays away from the “faithful” line and they shut down and won’t engage/disagree. If they comment at all it is to encourage the teacher to move on (“we don’t need to hear this”). I have had friends admit as much when they tell me they don’t want to hear my “stuff.” Two have verbally attacked me (during class) for daring to say such things.

    The Church, in this “Reformation” or renaissance it is going through officially, needs to officially teach the members it is ok to think and learn more. Rather, as Jay said earlier, “[the] Church has switched from whitewashing its history to whitewashing its handling of history. I’m seeing it happen before my very eyes.” It will take many, many years to make real progress on this–if it ever truly happens.

    But, I still suffer from PTSD (post truth shock of discovery–of over 30 years) and a very strong feeling of betrayal. So, I am psychologically not yet willing to forget and forgive all these “prophets” lead by God.

  93. I agree with Ardis, and do not see myself as smug in explaining my experiences and those of the youth around me when I was growing up. I lived in several parts of the US where the Church was not very deep or strong, where we traveled several hours to to attend Stake Conferences and where we didn’t have access to Deseret Book just down the street.

    Hedgehog calls out differences in experiences and I can see how he and Anne would have missed the exposure to deeper elements of Church history. Having served in Europe I witnessed that there was often a paucity of resources available, especially in non-English materials, beyond the very basic works and manuals provided by the Church.

    But I disagree with anyone who claims this was due to deliberate whitewashing by the Church to ignore and avoid any discussion of polygamy. There has clearly been a tug of war over the years from historical openness to trying to manage the message at the highest levels of the Church. But did they gloss over it? I would say yes and no. Just consider that there are plenty of other historical moments and principles that were glossed over as well for the sake of focusing the lessons. As Kristine calls out and as I have witnessed it’s clear that exposure to the deeper history of the Church – including the challenging topic of how Joseph practiced polygamy – were dependent on parents, friends, and the teachers in Sunday School, Seminary and Institute.

    How often does the average teacher only present the very basic items or choose one particular lesson path that is comfortable for us and unlikely to send the class off into tangents? How often does a lesson become about our own experiences and thoughts rather than delving deeply into core historical principles. For those of us who grew up without a trained CES instructor in Release Time Seminary but instead did individual study or early morning, there were advantages and disadvantages. We had teachers who taught because it was their calling not because it was their job. So training and focus was dependent upon the teacher’s personal abilities and not due to professional preparation. That said, they were also less under the thumb of CES and therefore felt comfortable to explore the doctrine and history according to how the Spirit and the interests of their classes led them. So variability increases.

    I call out Sunday School and Seminary because I recall the topic of Joseph’s practicing of polygamy coming up in both of those classes during my youth (mid 80s) when we were studying the Doctrine and Covenants / Life of the Prophets. If you look into the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teachers Manual you’ll find that the Religion 341-43 (the manual that John Mansfield cites) is regularly referenced in each lesson as additional resources for providing material to study with the lessons.

    Further, if you look into the manuals themselves for youth Sunday School, Gospel Doctrine, and Seminary you find that there was discussion of Joseph’s polygamy. There weren’t deep references but the discussion was there to show that Joseph was sealed to more women than just Emma, that he struggled to understand how to live the principle, and that it was not widely shared as an official doctrine beyond leaders of the Church until we as a people arrived in Utah.

    I used those manuals and the Religion 341-43 manuals as a teacher in Sunday School for youth, Gospel Doctrine for Adults and Seminary for the youth on a regular basis as I prepared my lessons to ensure that I was thoroughly exploring the topics when I could. This was in the mid 90s. So again, the resources were there if teachers sought them out. I call this out to show that correlation might not have put huge emphasis on polygamy but it also didn’t bury how Joseph lived it as some would claim.

    We can cite the articles in the Ensign and the quotes and stories in the manuals but it’s clear that many members still were not exposed either because history was not of interest to them – honestly how many members would read a short biography on one of the earliest Bishops like Edward Partridge in the Liahona and Ensign – or they didn’t have access to those materials. It’s clear as well that even back in the 1970s, during the earlier era of Church History scholarship before they gave Arrington the boot, that we weren’t doing a very good job of exposing the members to understanding the full extent of their history as you read the Q&A with Leonard Arrington, Church Historian, in the July 1975 Ensign you realize that already many were asking questions and hungry to know:

    Ensign: As people study Church history, are there some areas that seem to cause theological problems for them?

    Brother Arrington: There are some questions that come up quite often. As I speak at firesides and seminars, the number one question is nearly always polygamy: What was it like? When did it start? How many were involved? Then they also want to know how the Saints responded over the years to the Word of Wisdom. They want to know if records in the Church Archives are available for the use of scholars and students in preparing papers, and nearly always someone wants to know if the Church would be interested in their grandfather’s diary, even though he wasn’t a General Authority or even a bishop. Other questions involve the history of the black man and the Church, and how accurate the translation of the Book of Abraham is. Young people also want to know why we don’t write more Church history aimed at teenagers.

    Ensign: Is that part of your plans?

    Brother Arrington: It’s true that we don’t have much for teenagers. We usually talk about Church leaders after they become prophets and leaders, but I think it’s important to show them as young people with the problems that young people have. It brings us all closer to the realities of our history. Our series of biographies will include the early stages of some of these leaders’ lives. For instance, Joseph F. Smith was called on a mission to Hawaii when he was 15 and he stayed there for five years. We have much of his correspondence during that time, and now that we’re close to finishing cataloging his papers, we’re thinking about using some of that material.

    It’s worth asking, how might things be different today if the Church had continued down the path of openness that Arrington promoted rather than taking a course shift that they’ve been working to adjust over the last several years? It’s clear that paternalism has hurt the Church and so many members and former members lives have been unnecessarily impacted as a result.

  94. An Anon Nom says:

    fbisti is spot on. And although Inspiration didn’t put it this way, I think the (more diplomatically worded) sentiment expressed is something like:

    Where were you when I needed you most? Since you weren’t there, I’ve now developed a deep suspicion and cynicism that will be very difficult to change.

    I think some solid leadership is in order here. From what I have observed and heard through the grapevine, I think we have at least one such leader. And although he is well placed, I’m not sure how many more like him there are in his peer group.

    So is it going to be:

    I’m sorry, but things will pretty much continue as they were with minor adjustments when they become absolutely necessary (crisis management).


    I’m sorry, now things will really change (visionary leadership).

    Without an unambiguous statement (from the mouth of leadership) and clear direction, I can only conclude the former.

  95. Inspiration–yeah, I know. I hesitated to post because I knew it could read that way. There’s no reason for you to take my word that this was deeply felt. And even though it is sincere, I recognize that it’s also easy and potentially glib. I can only counter that criticism by the way that I act going forward. In the meantime, you probably should feel free to mock.

  96. Anon Nom, if I had any power at all to effect change, I would. But I don’t have even a shred of influence–I don’t know how I can do the things you are asking for.

  97. In my personal experience, I find the difference between me and friends I grew up with “in the shadow of the temple” in Salt Lake comes down to who our seminary teacher was. We had Church History/Doctrine and Covenants in 9th grade. The seminary for our Junior High had two teachers. Those of us who had the teacher I did learned about polygamy, the seerstone in the hat, and many other things from him. Those who had the other teacher have been surprised and felt betrayed when they learned about these things 30+ years later. Two of my best friends growing up have left the Church because they thought these things had been hidden or whitewashed, when I remember clearly some of the seminary classes where those very issues were discussed frankly and openly. Who would have thought that the randomness of the draw over which seminary teacher we had in 9th grade would make such a big difference?

  98. “I am not happy that my reporting of my experiences is labeled as “smug” — three times on three blogs in one day!”

    Yikes! Sorry to hear that happened to you, Ardis! Any Mormon would be lucky to have your ear as to matters of Church history. I am sure that your constant work as a teacher in the Church and in your profession (and, of course, your blogging!) has helped many Mormons to avoid falling into the trap of being ignorant about difficult issues in Church history.

  99. Kristine and Margaret -” I am always uplifted and instructed by your posts. Thank you. The key is sitting together and telling each other our stories, knitting our hearts together.”

    I am in.

    I love people on every side of this strange experience and I am still processing the pain people have, the pain people inflict, etc. most of all I yearn for the Zion Kristine inspired here and the “sitting together, tell…our stories, knitting our hearts.”

  100. If my use of the term smug was misinterpreted, let me clarify. I certainly don’t think an informed scholar like Ardis or many others I could name fit the term.

    I said “I’d rather talk to someone who honestly felt blindsided by the issues (and therefore comprehends them and is asking valuable soul-searching questions) than talk to someone who smugly pretends that the issues are no big deal or that they knew it all along.” The smugness I was referring to is NOT the smugness of the informed but of the members who truly didn’t know or never gave it much thought who claim not to be blind-sided or not to see it as a big deal. True lovers of history have delved into the thorny issues and are very aware of the difficulty of sorting it all out. I don’t call that smug.

    I call it smug when a member who honestly hasn’t given it much thought, who has spouted the party line, who has really never read anything about it before now, pretends that the information was mainstream knowledge all along, telling those who are derailed “nothing to see here; move along.” Yes, I call that smug as well as disingenuous. Unfortunately, it’s a human tendency to overwrite our memories as our beliefs and views change, incorporating our new views onto our old memories.

    Likewise, when people acted like E. Oaks’ talk on priesthood was all old news, not at all innovative, then used that as a slur against wayward feminists, I consider that smug and disingenuous.

  101. This is the most lovely thing I’ve read today. I carry the heavy weight of shame already for not knowing about JS’s polygamy until 4 years ago. I’m a returned missionary, life-long member, former RS, YW and Primary President and was considered “well read” by fellow ward members. My life in the church is over and I’m moving on. There was no way for me to trust anything the church would ever tell me again–and the irony is is that the church essays have been the catalyst of me and my family leaving the church.

    Thank you for your kind words, Kristine. I hope all of us can continue to reach out in love to one another.

  102. Anyone who says they understand polygamy AND they don’t find it problematic at all is lying.

  103. Thanks, Kristine.

    Kristine A: ///”I was recently questioned how any benefit can be derived from Adam Miller’s Letters to a Young Mormon, which I was reading, because it wasn’t from a GA.”///

    I guess you don’t need to pay attention to their question, since it didn’t come straight from a GA. ;)

  104. “Anyone who says they understand polygamy AND they don’t find it problematic at all is lying.”

    Show me an actual documented example of someone saying this, and then, and only then, will I start wringing my hands over the fact that anyone could be so unimaginably stupid.

  105. Jay, I know people who understand polygamy and honestly don’t find it problematic. Generally, they are good, sincere, honest, caring people. They certainly aren’t liars. I disagree with them, strongly, but they aren’t liars. Calling them liars is exactly like them calling those who struggle with or reject polygamy ignorant, lazy, apostate, etc. Neither is accurate; neither is charitable; neither accomplishes anything except further divisiveness, confrontation, anger and pain.

  106. Generally, they aren’t stupid, either. We shouldn’t castigate people for sweeping and insulting generalities toward us if we do the exact same thing to them.

  107. I didn’t say they were liars, Ray, I said they were lying. There’s an important distinction. Calling someone a liar is a pejorative meant to discredit. Saying someone is lying may simply mean they are being dishonest about a certain point, whether consciously or not. May are conditioned to, in a way, lie to themselves about the complexity of history in order to spare themselves the pain of ambiguity over certainty.

    I stand by the fact that you absolutely cannot in good conscious look at the mounds of history surrounding Joseph Smith’s polygamy, polyandry and teen brides as well as post-manifesto polygamy and, with integrity, say it’s not at all problematic, in that it raises very serious questions about very serious issues dealing with the LDS standard narrative of prophetic infallibility, revelation, scripture, etc etc.

  108. They aren’t lying. They just view objective morality differently than you do. For them, that stuff is okay because Church leaders were doing it and said it was commanded by God. That might not work for you but it works for plenty of others. Maybe they are uncomfortable about these things but ultimately decide it must have been right (though it certainly seems morally wrong even to them) because Church leaders were commanded by God to do it. You can disagree with that concept and even think that stance is morally questionable, but it doesn’t work to say they’re lying for holding those beliefs.

  109. For the record, my last comment was poking fun at Jay’s absolutes. Sorry. This is an awfully serious discussion and has no place for silliness.

    But honestly, different people have different concerns. It is possible to know about historical issues and how they were taught and not have that be a deal breaker. For example, I know that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, evidently slept with one of his slaves and fathered a number of children with her, but as much as I dislike all of that, I haven’t seen fit to renounce my U.S. citizenship over it. Likewise, my faith and connections to the church are more complex than the history of plural marriage.

    Here’s an example. I might dislike President Benson’s political views, but that doesn’t mean I don’t greatly admire his ministry in Europe after WWII, and when you add to that an experience I had as a youth receiving a strong, unmistakable impression that he was a prophet of God, well, his politics tend to fade in importance. That doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of the history or have grown to like or accept his political views during the Cold War, it just means that I considered it all, weighed it all together, and figured my concerns lie elsewhere, so I will spend my energy and attention elsewhere.

    And yes, I know that different people have different thresholds for what matters and what constitutes a deal breaker.

    But the mythic everyman who is burying his head in the sand or lying or somehow lacking in objective morality? I don’t know that that person actually exists. And if that person does exist, he should be here on BCC expressing that view himself.

  110. Lisa: I hope you find your way back someday. If not, I still wish you the best in your life.

  111. An Anon Nom says:

    I’ve got it! (Sorry, this might be one of those really out of the box, guy in the corner of the meeting that everybody looks at funny types of ideas.) The church should give all you people a new calling. You could be faith counselors or something like that.

    No, seriously, stay with me–the qualifications should be something like 1) know issues related to church history and doctrine, 2) retain beliefs in LDS theology and are comfortable attending LDS services, 3) appreciate the disappointment many are confronting when they discover difficult issues, and 4) maintain strict neutrality about the outcome of faith counseling (not trying to keep people in or drive people out).

    As has been discussed in other venues (very recently in fact), most local LDS leaders only have #2, and for this to work you really need all four. Practically speaking, there is very little chance local leaders will develop the other three fast enough and we may never see them get #4 in my lifetime. I know there are social services people in the church, but I doubt they have #1 or #4 and there may be a stigma going to social services.

    So if someone from COB in SLC is listening, you really should do this. It would be safe, as confidential as the individual wants it to be, and–very importantly–church sanctioned (important because it empowers individuals in the face of potential family pressures for a specific outcome). If people had good experiences with this, it could really do a lot to heal people, families, and communities.

    (Did I just offer a suggestion to help the church weather the current storm? Weird.)

  112. Anon Nom, I think that’s a good idea.

  113. In some ways, Anon Nom’s idea is an extension of the “I’m a Mormon” database where members answer questions and explain doctrines in their own words. And #4 would be essential for both people in the conversation — why it would be necessary for the sake of the questioner is obvious to most people taking part in this conversation; it would also be necessary for the counselor who could easily be devastated that he was not able to keep someone in the Church, if he went into the project with that goal.

  114. (And to clarify, by saying his idea was an extension I don’t mean to suggest that it isn’t original and creative and all that — I merely meant that sometimes it’s easier to gain acceptance of a new idea by pitching it as only a step beyond accepted, trusted practices, rather than as something revolutionary.)

  115. It’s come up before, in one way or another. Way back in 2005(!), and apparently in response to a BCC discussion about polygamy (plus ça change…), I wondered about where and when the right place was for the Church to talk about these things. I didn’t consider a public statement on the webpage, but did conceive of a having a designed knowledgeable person in each locality.

    Even if it never happens officially, it’s already taking place on the ground in some ways.

  116. designated person, not designed person.

  117. Such a beautiful sentence: “The tension between the gorgeous anarchy of personal revelation and the necessary stability of institutional authority gives life to Mormonism–holds it in vividly unstable equilibrium.”

  118. all in all, I hope that members can come together in understanding in love about all of these issues we disagree with. I appreciate the experiences of Ardis who have always been exposed to these items and we shouldn’t in any way minimize their experiences. But can we support those like me, who has always had parents, siblings, extended family, etc. always respond to any of my questions or explorations with “When the prophets have spoken the thinking has been done.” When that attitude is so pervasive questions are dangerous and a direct attack on beloved authority. As the only member of a family that embraced her questions 4 years ago – I am the black sheep; I am borderline apostate because I’m not content to stay as far away from the ledge as possible.

    I know Kristine loves choral music but right now I’m just feeling “Come Together” by the Beatles a little bit more.

  119. Kristine A: “Ubi Caritas” is Latin for “Come Together” (pretty much) ;)

  120. Yet another reason to love you, and all of God’s children really, you really are a generous creature. Thanks Kristine!

  121. When I was 6 years old, an older neighbor kid told me there was no Easter bunny, no Santa, and no God. Guess how I felt about the third when the first two proved true and my parents had “lied” to me about them.

    Twas folly to be too wise: having confronted my parents, they swore me to secrecy (about Santa and the Bunny) and I had to help wrap presents for the younger kids, instead of waking up in delight the next morning. Strangely, they said that only I could know whether there is a God and not listen to the neighbor kid (guess they figured “believe us” wasn’t going to cut it).

    Maybe Ecclesiastes is right that to every thing there is a season. I still really miss Santa.

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