The Longest, Hardest, Calling…

Feedback I received in the hours after I posted this essay made it clear to me that the structure and word choice of the original obscured my intent—namely, to ask how one balances serious reservations about President Nelson and disappointment in the Quorum of the Twelve with a deep and abiding desire to sustain them and the work of God’s Kingdom, which they are called to administer. Ironically, the original post highlighted just how hard it is to strike such a balance… Thankfully, online, PUBLISH isn’t the end of the story.

Also: check out my supplemental post Mystery, If We’ll Have It.

Note to self: spend less time writing at 2am.

Masthead-2018

Yesterday morning, the Church hosted a press event to announce a new First Presidency and President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

I won’t keep you in suspense…

President Eyring remains in the First Presidency, though as Second Counselor (he served as President Monson’s First Counselor). President Uchtdorf has returned to the Quorum of the Twelve (while not unheard of, the last time a counselor was not retained for reasons unrelated to their health, was in 1970, when President Joseph Fielding Smith Jr replaced President Hugh B. Brown with Elder N. Eldon Tanner).

President Oaks retains his title as President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, with Elder M. Russell Ballard called as Acting President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. There are currently two vacancies in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles—one left by the passing of Elder Robert D Hales and the other by the departure of President Nelson to the First Presidency.

These changes are hardly surprising.

Yet, for some in our midst—myself included—they are still disappointing. Before I wander too far down this road, I want to be clear: if you’re hurting or are confused or are troubled because people aren’t rejoicing at Nelson’s call… then I invite you to use that hurt as a springboard for empathy.

Today is an opportunity for you to “lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5). It is, in fact, a chance for you to live up to your baptismal covenants which, in part, are outlined in the Book of Mormon as being  “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; …willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9).

It’s my hope and prayer that this post might be a source of comfort for my friends who are in pain today and that it might be enlightening for those who rejoiced at yesterday’s news—and who, nevertheless, want to better understand those who did not.

Deep Reservations

I cannot speak for others who are saddened, angered, or wholly dispossessed by yesterday’s news, so I will speak only for myself. I find President Nelson’s role with regard to the Policy of Exclusion (POX) deeply upsetting. As President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at a time when the President of the Church was incapacitated, President Nelson bears unique responsibility for the policy and its consequences—intended and otherwise. Moreover, President Nelson has been the Policy’s chief defender (not counting the event—which felt awkward, rushed, and unprofessional—featuring Elder D Todd Christofferson and Michael Otterson, Managing Director of Church Public Affairs), going so far as to imply that the Policy was a “revelation”.

I don’t doubt that President Nelson earnestly believes he’s on the right side of this issue and that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to maintain this course. From my vantage, it would seem that it has never crossed President Nelson’s mind that he might be mistaken, and that is thoroughly heartbreaking. Moreover, his choice for First Counselor has his own, vexing history with the issue.

Church leadership reminds us on a fairly regular basis—including in yesterday’s presser—that they are human beings—flawed, like all of us—on the Lord’s errand, who nevertheless make mistakes. This is as true for President Nelson as it was for President Young. Certainly, some mistakes are more grave than others. I believe the Policy is just such a mistake.

The Sword of Damocles

What do you do… When you look into the face of an Apostle—a man anointed of God to be his special witness—and all you can see are the faces of friends who’ve killed themselves, unable to continue to fight for a place in Body of Christ? Or when you listen to him speak of the Love of God—but struggle to hear him over the hum of past speeches calling your tender feelings of love “counterfeit” or musing that the whole human race would be wiped out in a generation if gay marriage succeeded? When the Church bodies he oversees secretly enact policies which use innocent children as fodder in their continued battle against gay marriage.

And then what do you do when you can’t deny the Spirit you feel when the little blue-haired lady, two pews up—the one that wants to set you up with her nephew—stands and bears her testimony of Jesus Christ and the Restoration? Or the real and miraculous work done by armies of your co-religionists in yellow safety vests? Or the life-changing power of baptism?

And what do you do when you feel called to stay the course?

The Longest, Hardest, Calling…

We often speak of home and visiting teaching as being the calling every adult has. Yet there is one calling that out-shines even those, and that is the calling to sustain. It can be argued—and no doubt has—that part of the baptismal covenant is a covenant to sustain.

I’ve written about what it means to sustain our leaders before, and I stand by my comments:

“In a church that readily—or, perhaps, merely repeatedly—reminds us of the fallibility of our leaders, yet urges us to sustain them, we can’t help but ask ourselves how we sustain those who are mistaken (especially in light of D&C 121:39). Sometimes the mistakes are small or inadvertent. Sometimes they’re howlers. Sometimes they resolve themselves. And sometimes they persist for generations.

I think the problem is born of two errors: a mischaracterization of what it means to sustain our leaders… and a misunderstanding of what our responsibility is to those who might disagree with us.

The principle of sustaining our leaders is often coupled with the principle of obedience. It’s natural for leadership to feel sustained when they observe obedience… but this is an error of perspective. When I raise my hand to the square to sustain someone in their position—regardless of whether it be the President of the Church or the person who prints the ward bulletin—I’m not promising to obey them. I’m promising to sustain them.

The term “sustain” is rich with meaning. Food sustains us. Love sustains us. Unblinking obedience does not sustain us. My sustaining vote is evidenced and manifest when I pray for their success—when I’m rooting for them and helping them to magnify their calling”

“And when we disagree—and we will, it’s inevitable—we’re not called upon to simply succumb to the demands of begrudging obedience, which is a destructive act; we’re called, instead, to the godly and creative act of loving someone despite their failings. This is at the heart of the weighty calling of siblingship.”

By treating each other as siblings-in-Christ—literally “brother” and “sister”—we feed the Body of Christ by turning us toward rather than away from each other, even when—especially when!—we are aggrieved.

Which brings me to sustaining votes, which seem to conflate consent and sustaining. Is it possible to not consent and still sustain? The answer must be “yes”. I may believe a person unworthy of a calling or ill-suited to a task, but withholding my love—making it conditional—is an abrogation of my duty as a sibling-in-Christ and a child of God. Moreover, while my concerns about any one individual may be well-founded and soundly reasoned, I’m not a heart surgeon; I can’t withhold my love with any sort of precision. In the Body of Christ, we are all connected, so when we don’t sustain one person, we necessarily deny those connected to that person some of the vitality of our sustaining love.

So I choose to sustain.

Sometimes—the best times—I sustain because of my abiding love for the individual I sustain. And sometimes—the lean times, the times when years of aching have brought me low—I sustain because of my abiding love for those caught up with me in the Body of Christ.

“This is the better, harder way of love, called charity—which is long-suffering.”

A Recipe of Sorts

I don’t have the answers. All I have are a few formulas scribbled on my wrist and some cribbed notes stuffed in my pockets by friends in line, as I walk into a test that will last the rest of my life.

Pray for Him

This is the beginning of healing.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Matthew 5: 43–45

By bringing those I struggle with into my conversations with God, I invite the Spirit to help me see them as God does.

See Jared Cook’s excellent The President of the Church & the Prophet to the Church for thoughts on this (and so much more).

Practice Charitable Reading

When someone has wounded me, one of the first casualties is my ability to naturally give them the benefit of the doubt. I see their comments on Facebook or in the news—often bereft of nuance or context—and I give in to my worst opinions. To paraphrase the philosophers on Pinterest, I judge them for their actions while judging myself on my intentions. If we start with the belief—the very Christian belief—that the offender is acting from their best intentions, then we must make space for the softer reading… the kind of reading that remembers context and listens for nuance.

Make Space for Redemption

No one is beyond redemption, including myself. Hearts and minds change. Commit to embracing the change in others, large and small. I need to make space in my conversations for praise and hope and humor.

Speak Plainly

There is only one thing which can be labeled “worst”, and it is—in all honesty—probably not the thing I’m talking about.

Matthew 5, again:

“But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

Fight Ideas, not People

Wrong ideas are wrong forever, so they deserve our energy and our focus… and by focusing on ideas—policies, positions, practices—I avoid the temptation to descend into personal attacks.

I’m not really good at this. Not at all.

When I am wounded, my first instinct is to lash out (you can see this, I imagine, in how this post has unfolded). When I am wounded, I am exhausted by the mere thought of putting more even effort into a relationship that already feels so deeply one-sided. When I am wounded, I feel solidarity with others who are likewise wounded and am easily embroiled in endless and angry conversations as we seek to support one another. Siblingship is necessarily a vulnerable act and when I’m wounded—or my friends are wounded—the last thing I want to be is vulnerable.

I’m not pursuing the aesthetic of Christlike behavior, I’m attempting to master a powerful tool in the fight against entropy—and changing hearts and minds (including my own) is a delicate thing which requires a commitment to the long view.

This is my path. This is my recipe. If you’re weary, if you’re wounded, I am in no place to call you to this path… But I believe that you’re stronger than you think, so if you can, come sit with me; I have a spot saved for you.

Glimmers of Hope

The Weight of the Presidency

Other apostles have assumed the presidency and have been changed by the weight of the mantle. Going from President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles to President of the Church is not a matter of simply changing ones stationery. During the announcement, President Nelson spoke tearfully of how he feels humbled. Looking into his eyes, I felt heartened. He can change; the future is unwritten.

The Same 15 Men

Thirteen… but you get the idea.

While the balance of power has shifted, and style matters, as our friend Matt Bowman reminds us, hope is found in the fact that the leading quorums of the Church still feature the same 15 13 men with the same 15 13 personalities—and our dogged commitment to consensus often has a moderating influence on even the most strident of personalities.

Uchtdorf Pivots

I’m saddened by what Uchtdorf’s removal from the First Presidency may signal, but I’m heartened to think that his leavening influence will be more keenly felt in the Q12—which handles the day-to-day operations of the Kingdom. This, in addition to a well-earned bit of rest, is a good thing. Had he been retained in the First Presidency, his desire and ability to influence the Church for the better might have curbed.

Press Forward, Saints

As hard as this is, and as hard as other trials are, I really do look forward with a sort of guarded optimism. I honestly believe that God is in control and that he directs this work to the extent that we allow him and that God plays a much longer game than any of us can. So I take a deep breath, square my shoulders to the wind, grab the hand of the person standing next to me, and I press forward—proclaiming, with President Eyring, that “the best is yet to come”.

Comments

  1. I am sorry for your pain, and appreciate your optimism and effort to be thoughtful about this matter. It seems that to agree with your argument that President Nelson is the wrong man and did not need to be selected, then one has to accept that the 13 Apostles involved in the process were not doing God’s will in selecting President Nelson. If they were doing God’s will, then President Nelson is the right man. If they were not doing God’s will, then they were not inspired of God — a proposition that undermines foundational doctrine and the Church’s claim to authority and legitimacy. Is there any middle ground between those alternatives?

  2. Thank you.

  3. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    In his spoken remarks and his writings Elder (now President) Nelson has always struck me as distinctly arrogant. (A heart surgeon doesn’t have much business saying “as a doctor, I know this about fetal development,” any more than Sam Brunson has talking about mineral rights law, as I’m sure Sam would agree.) This is an acceptable personality trait for a cardiothoracic surgeon who quite literally holds people’s lives in his hands and needs a commensurate degree of confidence in his abilities, but I doubt he’s cut many chests in the last 40 years. His ex post facto declaration that the POX was divine revelation distilling as the dew from heaven strikes me as the single most dishonest thing ever said over the pulpit by a Church leader in my lifetime when one considers how this “miraculous revelation” was snuck into the Handbook of Instructions like a thief in the night (because we know how fabulously secret doctrines and “milk before meat” have served the Church in the past).

    But, then, years ago my wife worked with him quite a bit as a translator/interpreter for General Conference and various official Church functions and said he was a notably kind person. *shrug* Hopefully the problem of the POX barring the baptism before adulthood of custodial children of same-sex couples–children who, at the present time, are with 99% likelihood the product of divorce–will fade over time as the Church stops trying to force homosexuals into heterosexual marriages.

  4. Christian, while my own views about President Nelson and the leadership don’t really track yours here, I want you to know that I really appreciated you laying this out and being willing to discuss it. I know this is a tough topic.

  5. “‘Should the Church continue to function with the Quorum of the Twelve presiding?’ This is an odd proposition…”

    Maybe I’m misreading you, but this exactly what happened for large chunks of early church history. About 4 years of the Twelve presiding after J.S.’s death, and more than a year after the deaths of Presidents Young and Taylor. If memory serves, the Twelve were so concerned with a possible misappropriation of funds/power by George Q. Cannon in John Taylor’s late-life incapacity, that they dealt with that issue for several months, in spite of President Woodruff’s repeated attempts to get them to take a vote on who should be the next president.

  6. Sorry. Just re-read above. You deal with this issue. So in that respect, I think Propositions 1 and 2 are related, where you see the latter as superfluous.

  7. pconnornc says:

    It seems that you ascribe arrogance to President Nelson (and the other 13 brethren – since they all profess unanimity in the new policy) because of their failure to see they are wrong and not aligned with your point of view. Is there any room that perhaps your point of view is incorrect and the policy is correct?

    I also find it interesting that many lament the new policy that impacts families of same-sex marriages, while there was never any outcry for those of polygamous marriages. Though the brethren could be wrong in measuring out Christ-like policies in the face of apostasy – claiming concern for creating conflict in children innocent in those families – at least their argument is consistent in trying to address a legitimate problem. They don’t approve for one group of children because they abhor that sin (polygamy) while crying for the other children because they have more moral latitude.

  8. pconnornc says:

    I am also among many who will miss the additional opportunities to hear Elder Uchtdorf, I wonder if President Nelson felt a bit overwhelmed serving in a First Presidency for the first time as prophet and felt/was inspired bringing President Oaks in as a counselor could better prepare him?

  9. D Christian Harrison says:

    Thank you. Though now I’m terribly curious how our views differ… perhaps another time.

  10. Jakob K. Starkey says:

    The children of polygamous families belong to other Mormon sects. The LDS children of LDS same-sex parents belong to the LDS Church. The difference is obvious, and the argument misprivileges that the two are the same.

  11. Echoing Steve’s thoughts above, thanks for this, Christian.

    To Unknown’s question, I think it’s difficult to see revelation in routine—”it is as it’s always been” seems at odds with the promise and positioning of Mormonism. Still, I can’t rule out the possibility that revelation and prophecy guided the process. (And I don’t think Christian is closing that door either.)

  12. Confidential says:

    It seems that the opening post does exclude the possibility that revelation guided the process unless the author asserts that God would call an “unfit” prophet to lead his Church.

  13. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    It’s hard for me to put my finger on it, pconnornc, but there’s a distinct lack of rhetorical humility in his words that didn’t even come out from someone like Boyd K. Packer. I recall a talk by one of the current Twelve–I want to say it was Holland–in which he related the advice given him by Neal A. Maxwell on the treatment of the Brethren as deity by so many members: “Don’t breathe it in.”

    But, as mentioned in the OP, the gravity of the burden of being President of the Church tends to blunt sharp tongues and crush egos. (Would that it were the case with the presidency of the United States.)

  14. Sheesh. What a sad, miserly post. The vast majority of members love, sustain and will defend our prophet and apostles and will go forward with faith. This church will continue to move on regardless of the few critical and negative members. No amount of complaint will stop this work from progessing and members lacking faith in God’s work will eventually have to decide sooner or later where they stand. And we all hope it’s on the right side because there are wonderful blessings and much joy and optimism ahead. We don’t have time to keep moaning in posts like this, there is work to do. So join us as we roll up our sleeves, engage in service, family history work, feeding the hungry and visiting and ministering to the poor. We have too much work to do and if you talk to most members nowadays, you’ll find that we are getting a bit done with/losing patience/interest in coddling members who don’t want to be in the fold or who constantly complain and try to reshape the church. I’ve heard the Brethren have gotten to a point that in the q&a in stake conferences when people ask questions about what to do apostates, progressives and others, they are starting to simply say that we have too much work to do to worry about these kinds of apostates or dissenters.

  15. Eric Facer says:

    His decisions regarding his counselors are disconcerting.

    Though returning a counselor to the quorum is not without precedent, it happens infrequently. You correctly note that this last occurred almost 50 years ago when J. Fielding Smith replaced Hugh B. Brown with Elder Tanner. There is reason to believe this was done because President Smith did not share Brother Brown’s views on ending the Priesthood Ban and other issues. I fear something similar may have influenced the replacement of Elder Uchtdorf.

    Also, though this will come as a surprise to many, Elder Eyring’s demotion to second counselor is not without significance. When David O. McKay did the same thing to J. Reuben Clark in 1951, Brother Clark was both despondent and mortified, as chronicled in Greg Prince’s excellent biography of the prophet. McKay’s stated reason was that Richards had more seniority in the Quorum, but it was also true that the two of them shared similar views on most issues. Again, I believe something similar may be behind Oaks’ elevation to the first counselor role.

    In all events, I will pray for President Nelson and the leadership. They have a terrible responsibility which I shall never envy nor covet.

  16. Wondering says:

    “we are getting a bit done with/losing patience/interest in coddling”

    Well, it’s a good thing Jesus Christ didn’t operate based on your worldview. He left the 99 and went and sought the one. He ate with the publicans and sinners.

    It sounds like you’re saying that not only do you and unnamed, unidentifiable church leaders plan to stay with the 99, you’re also planning to throw rocks at that one lost sheep. Am I reading you correctly?

  17. M: Sounds a whole lot like from your POV, “All is well in Zion.” I applaud your desire to roll up your sleeves and serve others. How about the gay members of the church? Too busy / over it to worry about their lives? Should we just get them out of this church so we can get on with serving the Lord? That’s an interesting perspective. However, God keeps sending gay children to Mormon families. I’m sure it’s easy for you to ignore their plight in your haste to help unnamed others, but they exist and matter.

  18. Ward YM presidencies are not automatically dissolved when the president is released. They remain counselors unless specifically, individually released. I assume this is because of the Bishop’s role as president of the Aaronic Priesthood. He is the real president of the YM in the ward.

  19. ​​
    There are assumptions layered on top of assumptions in this post, but just a couple of points:

    1) While you might see things nearly exclusively through the prism of hot button social issues of the day, I think you might be projecting a bit when you see every move or decision in Church leadership as a response or in support of a single policy, or even interconnected set of policies. The brethren have a lot on their minds, and I’m sure that a policy that affects a fraction of a fraction of the Church contributes many less sleepless nights than branch strength in Kenya. Just because you’re part of a particular sector (liberal Mormons from rich countries) that finds those issues important, more than anything I get the sense that for the supposed culture warriors among the brethren (Oaks and Nelson specifically) those types of things take up 10% of their ecclesiastical efforts, instead of the 2% for everyone else. There are still the other 90% of issues.

    Plus, the more people on the left are frank about their views on that policy, the less it seems to be about specific children (again, you didn’t seem to care when it was the children of Those People), and more seen as a clear line in the sand that the Church really isn’t going to radically rework the law of chastity to fit the style of the day, and that more than anything is what is causing the gnashing of teeth.

    2) I for one welcome (and will pray for) our new conservative overlords.

    ​3) So much LDS Church hierarchy Kremlinology is based on the assumption that Uchtdorf is some closet liberal ready to to turn us into Latter-Day Episcopalians solely based on the fact that 1) he hasn’t ever talked about same-sex marriage, and 2) he has a European accent. You’ve come up with this complex political narrative, but I’m going to be bemused when we get to the other side and find out that the November policy was Uchtdorf’s idea and that President Packer wanted to invite Kate Kelly to the COB.

  20. Goodness, M. Speaking of “miserly,” I’m sensing a distinct lack of compassion from your comment. I’m not sure “those of us who aren’t bothered by anything the church does are tired of your whining” is quite what it means to “mourn with those that mourn.”

  21. Wondering: Everyone knows that the best way to coax a lost sheep back into the fold is to throw rocks at it. Duh.

  22. ” …who, at the present time, are with 99% likelihood the product of divorce–will fade over time as the Church stops trying to force homosexuals into heterosexual marriages.”

    Thank you, Hepta-, someone had to say this, there needs to be at least rudimentary accountability for counsel/pressure/expectation not rooted in inspiration/revelation but sheer ignorance.

    And thank you D Christian for this wise and compassionate piece. I take a much harder line but you’ve at least got me breathing again.

  23. I was thinking about these changes today when I came across your post. When I saw the title I thought staying a member is the longest hardest calling. I have lots of internal conflicts going on. Thanks for being open about yours.

  24. At the end of the news conference yesterday, Elder Oaks made this comment in response to a question about transparency in church leadership:

    It’s a great comfort to me to know that I don’t have to take the statement or actions of one particular leader as expressive of the doctrine and expectations of the church. We don’t believe in infallibility of our leaders. What we believe in is the organization the church has set in place, with multiple prophets, seers and revelators, and with a council system. Here sit the Quorum of the Twelve. [Elder Oaks gestures across the room toward the members of the Q12.] We’ll be working closely with them in the course of our responsibilities, and in council we all in an independent spirit, individually praying for guidance from the Lord, we sit as the Lord’s servants to define the doctrine of the church and the expectations of the church. Under the leadership of the president of the church we meet in council to determine the direction of the church and what are called in the world the policies of the church. Some of those things called policies are doctrine, some of them are practices, some of them are temporary directions like the age of missionary service, but they come out of a council.

    I think that today it’s harder than it has ever been for one man to dominate church leadership. They really do seem to govern by consensus. That concept is so important to Elder Oaks that he went out of his way to explain it yesterday. This means that we have little or no chance of getting the visionary revelations of a Joseph Smith. But the upside is that no one man can break us.

    (I admit that I have always felt uninspired by President Nelson. For me, his personal kindness just doesn’t come across when he’s at the pulpit. On the printed page, his expressions of concern seem pro forma rather than heartfelt. He seems like a real letter-of-the-law kind of guy. I allow that this might be a personality problem for me. Other people probably connect with him much better. On policy issues, I share some of Christian’s concerns. And yet I sustain President Nelson, and I pray for him.)

    Mostly, I have to be patient. Consider this: there is a reasonably good chance that sometime in the next ten years, Jeff Holland and Dieter Uchtdorf will become the two most senior members of the Q15. If that happens, I don’t know whether those two would be great reformers. Realistically, though, significant changes will probably only come a generation after the first reformers in the Q15 plant the seeds of change. That’s how the church’s current council system works.

    There is wisdom in the title of the OP. Being a Mormon puts me in it for the long haul. I really have to focus mostly on the people around me. I’m grateful when they sit with me, and I’m grateful when I can sit with them. We all need each other.

  25. Thank you, DCH.

  26. Great post.

    I saw him as a little weird but ok before, but after that one talk he gave about the two girls from the other side of the veil that awakened him. It just seemed so manipulative.

  27. I’m not Mormon and often wish I was, but this authority stuff is beyond my understanding and always has been

  28. Straight Spouse says:

    ” …who, at the present time, are with 99% likelihood the product of divorce–will fade over time as the Church stops trying to force homosexuals into heterosexual marriages.”

    This is not correct–the policy only applies to children who are exclusively the product of a same-sex union through adoption or surrogacy. (I’m the straight ex-spouse of a gay man who is an active church member–if I were to die and if my ex and his husband were to adopt my kids, they could possibly be excluded from baptism). FYI, I’m not defending the policy and I think it’s awful, but it does apply more narrowly than a lot of people think it does.

  29. pconnornc says:

    Here’s another reason for optimism… I had an older member tell me one time that they feared when Joseph Fielding Smith became prophet 1/2 the church would be ex-communicated. Turns out when the mantle fell on him, to my friend a completely different mantle fell on the prophet.

    I have to admit my perception of President Hinckley prior to being sustained as a prophet was that he was rather orthodox and dry. In his calling as the President he showed, at least to me, a very different side of himself.

    President Nelson (or the Lord through him) may surprise all of us!

  30. “…applies to children who are exclusively the product of a same-sex union through adoption or surrogacy.”

    Don’t think so, SS. I’ve seen differently in my own ward.

  31. The best is, truly, yet to come

    That may be, but I am a citizen of the present and right now I am being wounded. Right now my kids are growing up in a church that persecutes their father. Happiness and joy is to be had right now without the general anesthesia you are prescribing here to numb the pain and fear of the present inflicted by the priviledged.

    I am a bit alarmed at this generous viewpoint. I am not finding strength here in this essay. I contrast this with the strength and hope I feel when I read the response from Affirmation’s president and board of directors.

    https://affirmation.org/affirmation-statement-new-lds-first-presidency/

  32. Straight Spouse says:

    “…applies to children who are exclusively the product of a same-sex union through adoption or surrogacy.” was what the Area Authority we consulted said was the intention of the policy. However, looking it up, it looks like the way it was written leaves an unfortunate amount of wiggle room for pedantic local leadership (what does “primary residence” mean, anyway?) Which is why the policy is so tone-deaf about real life and what situations members may find them in. “Gay families” aren’t some group hermetically sealed off from the ‘rest of us’.

    https://www.lds.org/pages/church-handbook-changes?lang=eng

  33. Perhaps God’s reasoning for calling President Nelson and Oaks to step inside the First Presidency is to humble them. Christ makes weak things strong; their weaknesses might lie upon their arrogance. We as members must support them in their new callings. None of us will ever agree one hundred percent on what each apostle teaches. There are certainly times I didn’t agree with Holland, Uctdorf, Eyring, or Monson, etc. But our faith will be tried and tested; this life was meant to have thorns and thistles. How do we overcome this? We continually try our best to do as our newly called First Presidency directs. We rely wholeheartedly upon the Book of Mormon and other divinely appointed sources. We continue to pray, choose the right, and endure to the end. Hopefully one day we can look back and understand their purpose of being called to a position we didn’t all agree they should have entered. Our desire should be on our own conversion, not their callings.

  34. D Christian Harrison says:

    In editing this post, I pulled out some content for a stand-alone post:

    Mystery, if We’ll Have It
    https://bycommonconsent.com/2018/01/18/succession-of-prophet-not-cut-and-dry/

    My apologies for recontexting some of y’alls comments.

  35. BCC Admin says:

    To add some color to Christian’s comment just above:

    This is now the edited version of the original post. A break-out segment of part of the original post is now a new post, at Mystery, if We’ll Have It: https://bycommonconsent.com/2018/01/18/succession-of-prophet-not-cut-and-dry/

    The BCC community appreciates the comment, feedback and revision process.

    The original post is archived here, for reference/transparency sake. https://bycommonconsent.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/original.pdf

  36. Thx for that, Straight Spouse – but it gets worse: families w/ excluded children appealing the ruling up the chain of command (knowing people at the upper end of said chain) and having baptism approved. I’ve seen this. It could be argued that the wriggle room you mention allows for discernment & inspiration, but just as easily it leads to favoritism and corruption.

  37. Christian,

    Thank you for your example of christian charity. I aspire to your compassion and your tenacity. I think few of us straight folk can fathom what it means to be gay and feel called to remain an active member, the pain associated with that path. It must feel, sometimes, so bitterly lonely. Thank you for sharing the truth of this experience with us. Truth can be a hard thing to bear, and I’m sorry for all the heat you’ve had to take for delivering this message. It isn’t right.

    Your courage astonishes. God bless you, dear brother.

  38. I like the new formatted post. Subtle things like the tweaks in font size for the titles have made it a lot clearer for me to follow your line of thinking, Christian. Nice work!

  39. DCH I’m grateful you have chosen to respond to the call you have received to stay and sustain. I also sustain the First Presidency although it looks to me like they have made some devastating mistakes re LGBTQ people in the church. My family is also affected and it is very difficult. I think about and compare it to the African American saints who stayed in the church prior to 1978, and I wonder how they could attempt to raise their children in the church that treated them as less than.

  40. Reading the post and the comments I feel struck by just how little emotion I feel about the makeup of the FP and the Q12. The exclusion policy tore me apart and I almost left the church. After the exclusion policy I think I must have mentally dissociated the church I attend from who leads it in Salt Lake. I didn’t realize that until Pres. Monson passed.

    Thanks for the post and the comments. For those who are struggling, lost, hurt, sad, and angry – I’m truly sorry and I love you. This has been hard for my family too. There is no wrong way to try to follow Christ. Love to all.

  41. I appreciate the thoughtful posts. I love seeing all sides through loving faithful eyes.

  42. I’m glad you rewote your post. The original was…problematic.

    I do think there’s some unintentional irony, especially in the comments though. First off some assume that somehow children of polygamists are somehow in different sects. This is simply not true. I know of people whose parents left the Allred group and who faced the exact same policy. They had to get permission from the First Presidency to go on a mission and so forth. Further, without commenting on the original post too much, I’d just note that when there was controversy over Heber J. Grant becoming President (and there was a lot) most of the polygamists were members. While I recognize most here prefer to see a parallel to 1978, the parallels to the Grant era also seem pronounced.

  43. As the practice for many decades has been to set apart the senior-most apostle in the Q12 as the new prophet / President, I confess I’m a little baffled that some members apparently had their fingers crossed that this time would be different somehow? Seems like unnecessarily setting yourself up for disappointment.

    Also, President Nelson seems pretty spry for a nonagenarian, but the man is still 93 years old. Starting from the foundational assumption that the Lord is in charge of who ends up as prophet, it seems wholly reasonable that President Oaks might be next on tap (as a youthful 85-year old). To that end, it is quite logical for the Lord to want President Oaks to spend some time in the First Presidency prior to a call as prophet. Obviously, time spent in the FP isn’t a prerequisite…but it can’t hurt. President Eyring has spent 11 years now in the First Presidency and can give invaluable advice and direction as to the order of things. The FP reorganization surprised me at first; upon further reflection, the decision seems to make much sense.

    I admit I’m unable to relate much to the hurt expressed in this article. Candidly, I believe some of it is misplaced / misdirected. A comment section in a blog (though a fine blog it is) doesn’t provide enough room for proper explanation – I’ll just close with appreciation for the measured, charitable, compassionate tone of the article (at least this second rendition, as I didn’t see the original). I can’t relate to your suffering, but that doesn’t diminish its reality for you – and for that, I will do my best to mourn with those that mourn.

  44. M. said:

    “I’ve heard the Brethren have gotten to a point that in the q&a in stake conferences when people ask questions about what to do apostates, progressives and others, they are starting to simply say that we have too much work to do to worry about these kinds of apostates or dissenters.”

    If that is true, I feel better about the personal decisions I have made this week,

  45. Christian, I echo Steve’s comment as well. I don’t agree with everything you’ve said here, but I appreciate and respect your honesty.

  46. Oh, and that’s another thing: to the comment that M shared about the Brethren apparently dismissing questions about how to address “fringe” members. That’s the kind of apocryphal story-telling that is A) wholly false, B) ridiculous to assert, and C) a clear departure from Christian discipleship. In a recent stake conference we had with Elder Neil Andersen, a significant portion of his address – almost half – was specifically about those kinds of questions. And a member of the stake presidency used his entire time to speak about how to deal with lost and wandering sheep. Y’know, the ones *in our own flocks.*

    It’s easy to lose patience with those who are different. I submit one of the primary ways TO move the work of the Lord forward is not to eject the struggling, but invite them more wholeheartedly and lovingly to “come and see.” If Zion is not built on love, law and compassion, then it’s not Zion. Only a very tiny percentage of Church membership is asked to worry about the “law” part.

  47. I can’t even imagine how hard this was to write. All I can say is hats off to you sir! I have been really struggling with this change and for a few days I wasn’t sure I could stay. However, reading this post I feel ashamed that it took me so long to rise above my disappointment and pain. Thank you for this lovely testimony of sustaining our leader. This is a very moving tribute and testimony of the Lord’s work existing in this church. It surprises me that more on this board do not see it. I just wanted you to know: I see it. Thanks brother for giving me a lift on the path.

  48. I haven’t been to BCC in a while. Were there people here who expected Elder Uchtdorf to be called as prophet? That’s the only context I can think of in which this post makes any sense.

  49. Jack Hughes says:

    Another concerning fact: The two most senior LDS leaders now (Nelson and Oaks) are men who are each sealed to two women at once. Even if only by example, they are keeping us chained to the doctrine of polygamy, which we should have been able to discard by now. This will also color their views of the eternities, women, the nature of eternal families, and possibly influence temporal policies in ways that could be damaging.

  50. I read the post yesterday about them taking this post down, and I’m glad they put it back up again. We all can use education. I have a couple of issues with your opinion, although I heartily support your right to have it. You say you are dismayed with the current selection for the Presidency of the Church, and I say where is your faith? Not quarreling with you about your opinion mind, just wondering. It is (presumably) the will of Almighty God that this trio holds the positions they do…and an exercise in faith in that process. Look to Isaiah for the answer to that (IMHO): Isaiah 55:8-9 King James Version (KJV)
    8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
    9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    I’m a recent re-activated member. I don’t know squat about deep matters of the Church and I’m a woman, so that’s not my part anyway (again OPINION, this time mine, okay)?

  51. …continued.. When I was in the process of being reconverted, I had a lot of questions such as you present, about why the leadership of the church was doing this or that, and some of them had led to my becoming inactive in the first place. A Sister Missionary provided this simple answer: “Let God worry about that stuff. You worry about what YOU do and let the rest go, because it’s not your job.” I’m not saying that the POX is a good thing, it’s not. That’s horrifying actually. Because we (as a church) should embrace ALL God’s children. And this is where man’s laws and God’s laws quarrel … and to me cause a lot of pain and loss of good people to the world because we refuse them equality. But I lived through the 1970s when certain Persons of Color were finally given equality to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and be equal with their fair skinned brethern. I had family members who almost left the Church over that. All we can do is be as Christ was and love all people equally, and stop looking at the world through OUR eyes and try looking through His. Your post is most interesting and informative and I hope BCC doesn’t take it down again because it enrages some or invites honest debate. Thank you.

  52. D Christian Harrison says:

    @Embeecee… That’s a really thoughtful couple comments. Thank you.

    I generally post and let things unfold as they will in the comments, but you say two things that I think warrants a response:

    “You say you are dismayed with the current selection for the Presidency of the Church, and I say where is your faith”

    Faith only flowers when someone is dismayed. Before doubt, faith is just another word for confidence. My faith is evidenced every day I show up in the pews, in every lesson I teach in Gospel Doctrine and in Elders Quorum, in each passing second I don’t delete my “I’m a Mormon” profile on mormon.org… it’s evidenced every time I raise my hand when asked “who here is Mormon” and every time I answer the phone when the Bishop calls. My faith is legion.

    “It is (presumably) the will of Almighty God that this trio holds the positions they do…”

    I don’t grant the premise. At all. God may or may not be happy with the men who have ascended to the senior quorums of His Church… I’ll leave it to Him to sort that out. However He feels, I have no doubt—NO DOUBT—that He will make the most of it. But my timeline isn’t measured in billions of eons. It’s in measured in years. And that I strive at all against entropy and suffering, towards order and love—that’s proof to me that I am well and truly a Child of God, who is love and loves order.

  53. Eric Facer says:

    Embeecee,

    A question: when you pray to Lord about a certain matter and present him with the decision you propose to make and you get a response which confirms your choice, is the only possible conclusion one can draw is that your choice represents “the will of Almighty God”? Is it not also possible that God may have consented to your request even though he realizes it may not be the best thing for you (and for those you are called to serve) or that he feels he can live with your choice but wished you had come to him with a better one?

    If you can envision these and other possible explanations for the inspiration which you are convinced you have received, then why can’t you imagine something similar when it comes to the Lord answering the prayers of our leaders? Church history suggests that there have been multiple occasions when our leaders have supposedly sought the counsel of the Lord and then, based on the answers they received, proceeded to make decisions that didn’t quite live up to expectations or, in certain instances, turned out to be completely wrong.

  54. Brother Facer: I struggle to know if the Lord has answered my prayer OR if I’m just thinking He did…not all decisions nor prayers are rewarded with that burning in the bosom that gives us confirmation. I think God watches down on us, often bemused by the choices we make, despite His best efforts in guiding us to make a better choice and I realize as well that sometimes He says “No” to the dearest wishes of our human hearts. Of course I believe something similar occurs with the Leaders of the Church, it must or why listen to them, as they are men. That’s where the faith part of my comment comes in (for me)..I have to trust that God is doing the best thing for His children, even when I don’t understand it. A lot of people call that ‘sheeple thinking”, but I know it’s something more. And it’s individual too. Hope this was a coherent enough response?

  55. Brother Harrison: I must disagree that faith only flowers when someone is dismayed. Faith is more a plant (if you will pardon the analogy) that needs constant care and feeding (sacrament covenant and the like). It is something that can bear one up when one is presented with situations that dismay or disappoint or might seem downright wrong to the human eye. I think you must have a wonderful store of faith and courage to write the words you do. So many would rather stand and watch and never voice their concerns and be hollow in their sustaining and sitting in the pew listening, and doing what is asked of them. Maybe our definitions differ, but I suspect we understand things pretty much the same way. My father, a very devout and wise man told me once to look to the Lord for my guidance and stop worrying about what people (any people) do or say so much. Because it’s our one by one relationship with God that matters in the end, not what or who is ‘in charge’.

  56. I haven’t been to BCC in a while. Were there people here who expected Elder Uchtdorf to be called as prophet? That’s the only context I can think of in which this post makes any sense.

    Think harder, maybe?

    Nobody expected DFU to become the prophet. Lots of people see his dismissal from the FP as a signal regarding the future direction of the Church. That likely direction is disappointing to some folks.

    Ta-da! A context!

  57. “He can change; the future is unwritten.”

    There’s a very good chance, the extent to which you’re unwilling to apply that statement about yourself, with regard to your hangups at what you apparently perceive as conservative, traditional bias in the church leadership–is precisely what keeps you from receiving further light on this subject.

    You’ve intentionally closed your mind when you not only assume, but place your hope in the fact, that it’s HE that needs to change.

    Your sorrow and request for understanding and generosity at your public and private disagreement with the church does not free you from responsibility.

    I am very hopeful, however, that someday with more spiritual maturity and experience, you’ll be able to look back and recognize how much you’ve misunderstood and misjudged the Lord’s servants.

    I assume this will get people upset at what I say, but do you for a second really believe that President Uchtdorf disagrees with President Nelson as you do? Or do you know more than him too?

  58. Save the sermon aarp. The history of the Brethren’s understanding of and dealings with the homosexual community is one long unmitigated catastrophe. Questioning, and hope for positive change on this topic alone, is a sign of the spiritual maturity you so blithely reference.

  59. Christian: I love you. I appreciate your work. I celebrate your transparency.
    End comment.

    I have a different take on “sustain” but that debate is so much not the point.
    I seem to have a somewhat different view of President Nelson and the process by which he became President, but I’m finding that the my nuanced understanding combined with my volatile emotions serve nobody any good.
    So as I say, End Comment with the (true and sincere) appreciation.

  60. Beautiful post, Bro. Harrison. I share your view of “sustain”: to give sustenance—to nourish, keep alive, support, etc. God sustains us. We sustain each other, in callings or not, in high- and low-status callings. As you say, “sustain” does NOT equal “obey.” (DC 1:38, particularly “whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same” is always plucked out of its context, which grossly distorts its meaning.) I accept that the offices and callings are divinely ordained—and I will sustain those who occupy those offices and callings—but I do not accept that those men are any more infallible than all the brothers and sisters that I sustain in my ward, or that their free agency and susceptibility to pride and error are rescinded any more than is the case with the rest of us. Even Bruce R. McConkie—of all people!—said to forget everything he or any other church leader had ever said (on the race policy): “We spoke from limited understanding.” We all have limited understanding, including the First Presidency and the Twelve.

  61. I never had any delusions that anyone other than Russell M. Nelson would succeed Pres. Monsen. (The last time any significant chunk of churchmembers believed that was when ultra-conservatives were calling for Ezra Taft Benson to leapfrog over a handful of apostles to succeed David O. McKay in 1970.) I was never looking forward to Nelson as president of the church (though I never bore him any malice). As a lifelong member at 56, I’ve sustained plenty of brothers and sisters for whom I had no more than benign, more-or-less neutral feelings, though I’ve tried—with various degrees of success—to cultivate charity for them. (And I’ve held many, many callings where I know I’ve relied on THEIR sustenance and patience and charity, because I’m as flawed and limited as anyone else). Like you, I will pray for Russell M. Nelson, and wish the best for him.

  62. It’s sad to see gays tie themselves in knots trying to justify a Church that so clearly doesn’t want them. What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation to leave?

    Come to think of it, the policy of exclusion was actually merciful, since it removes any doubt that gays are unwelcome in the Church. The next step will be to excommunicate anyone who is openly gay–you know the Church leadership has to have considered that, and the new leaders are just the ones to do it.

  63. For all your trenchant wisdom, Nepos, we should be following you! What clever, original insight you offer. As you seem unaware of the conundrum, I’ll offer some help.

    Active members in the LDS church are generally active because, at some level, they’ve experienced divinity there. So when decisions come down from Church leadership – from leaders who they respect as prophets, “watchmen on the tower” – that are at odds with some of their personal beliefs, it causes dissonance. And when those decisions affect the most intimate and foundational aspects of perceived identity, it is at times exceedingly difficult to reconcile.

    Your flippant attitude towards legitimate suffering isn’t helpful, mate. Nor are your erroneous conclusions drawn from the Policy. Church leadership over the last few years has bent over backwards to thread perhaps the most difficult needle: emphasizing and maintaining God-given direction on sexual standards will reminding the world that all are invited to come unto Christ, partake in salvific ordinances, and enjoy peace in this crazy life and eternal life in the world to come. To the extent possible, the Church will always represent compassion in its many forms.

    You can choose to believe that those sexual standards are simply antiquated and not really divine. You can choose to believe that personal identity is based on sexual predispositions and not Heavenly origin. Such is your right. But to my knowledge, the point of this blog is to have the discussion, not dismiss it out-of-hand. Show some compassion for the author’s vulnerability here.

  64. Benson, if you belonged to a population the Brethren had tried to “fix” with aversion therapy and/or recommendations to marry a member of the opposite-sex, then decided to exclude from membership the children of those doomed-from-the-start marriages, you’d be negative, too.

  65. p – How do you know I *don’t* belong to the population you’re referencing? Let’s not jump to hasty conclusions, please. And while I don’t want to be confrontational, I think you’ve missed the mark on some key points.

    (1) Aversion therapy has never been recommended or mandated by the Church. Some professional (voluntary) studies were done at BYU in the 70s, but it was never official Church policy. I’m willing to moderate my hard-line if you have any links to legitimate sources of an apostle publicly recommending the approach.

    (2) There have certainly been some misguided and overzealous regional / local leaders trying to “fix” homosexual attraction through recommendations to marry a member of the opposite sex. We certainly agree that such an approach – especially today, with a much more advanced medical understanding of sexual attraction – is wildly inappropriate.

    However, to pretend that any such marriage is “doomed from the start” is patently false and (how to put it delicately?) just plain wrong. Successful marriages are based on so much more than innate sexual attraction, though that is certainly a major component. What about open communication? What about companionship and friendship? What about shared goals and values? What about shared testimony in God’s goodness for His children? Where active, believing LDS are concerned, surely divine intervention can and will help that marriage be successful if the participants want it to be?

    Anyway, I’m sure we won’t agree on much of this, and I suppose that’s ok. I applaud the OP for not spiraling into bitterness but seeking for understanding, and I think that attitude is what I was trying to defend in the first place.

  66. #1 Not just straight-up aversion therapy but reparative/conversion therapy as well. It is disingenuous to suggest that the leadership didn’t know or strongly approve of these methods.

    #2 Your rationales for why these mixed marriages can be positive “… surely divine intervention can and will help that marriage be successful ..” is EXACTLY how the problem began in the first place.

    Dealing with reality as opposed to wishful thinking is a function of leadership. On the topic of homosexuality they still don’t have a clue.

  67. Christian—I remain amazed and humbled by your goodness and charity. I see so much goodness coming to the church in spite of the unkind Exclusion Policy. So many good and lovely people who are in the trenches, in spite of it all. I pray for those same attributes to fall upon me. You make me want to be a better man.

  68. p – Unsurprisingly, I disagree. You have no evidence of “strong approval” and it is disingenuous to pretend as such. And the *numerous* successful mixed-orientation marriages in the Church – I know a few myself, and many, many more have spoken publicly about their situations – are tangible evidence that it can work. It’s obviously not a “catch-all”, but it is just as obviously not impossible.