Not yet

The Policy regarding the children of same-sex couples introduced in November of 2015 and later rescinded in April of 2019 was a watershed moment in modern Mormonism. Many of my friends in the church left over the policy and, strangely enough, its recension did not tempt them back. I didn’t leave, but I was tempted.

I had always told myself that if the church was doing more harm than good in the world, I would leave. I am not entirely sure that isn’t the case right now. But something keeps me embedded, like a tick. I’ve seen and felt things that, if I were to deny them, it would mean that, earlier in my life, I had some sort of psychotic break. I’m not ready to adopt that paradigm, but I can sympathize with the early members who forever were calling Joseph Smith a fallen prophet. To declare it all false is to admit to a very thorough foolishness; easier to accept that what was once compelling no longer moves.

But it does move me. I am deaf to 90% of what I hear or see in Church. It is mostly fried froth, drivel disguised as dessert. But sometimes the truth, the Spirit, the glory, and the grace shine through. I don’t know that it happens more than in other traditions, but it at least happens here more than a little. The truth is the grace, the Spirit, and the divine that I have experienced are tied to the church. Yet, I cannot endorse joining it. Not yet.

The church has not repented of the Nov 2015 policy. It has not repented of the policy that excluded people of African descent from bearing the priesthood. It has not repented of its systematic dismantling of women’s autonomy and reduction to the satellites of some man. It hasn’t repented of building storehouses instead of spreading its wealth, of denigrating the world while turning its back on serious scripture study. It hasn’t repented of polygyny, attempting to bury it’s history rather than reckon with it. I don’t think it is false, because I feel the Spirit in it, but its claims to a unique moral authority simply don’t hold up. A church that sees the dangers in an apostle’s picture with a gay son, but is oblivious to its associations with MLMs and other grifts is not a church that can boast of its clear moral vision. I’m not saying it is blind or unable to do good, but it doesn’t seem any better than other denominations at deciding what is wheat and what is tare. Not yet.

So, I couldn’t leave the church. I won’t, I don’t think. But, sitting in Stake Conference, hearing about how I ought to share the gospel, I just can’t. Not because I don’t believe in the good news of Christ, but because I’m not sure the church does. At least not yet. I’m not who I was before the Nov 2015 policy. The church isn’t what it was either. That we both may make our way to repentance, to the covenant path, and to the good grace of God is my prayer. Amen.

Comments

  1. Pray to God to heal your heart and he will.

  2. John, you incendiary madman. God bless you.

  3. Hi Steve,
    How’re ya doing?

    *insert Jason Mendoza molotov cocktail gif*

  4. Can’t complain, y’know? We’re all doing the best we can.

  5. Hang in there John. The church–warts and all–has the words of eternal life.

  6. bagofsand

    As you say, to whom will we go?

    Everyone has the agency to choose for themselves. Always bemused by my friends looking for a more feminist friendly founder who become Church of England.

  7. “Not Yet” exactly captures my feelings as well. This is a serious road of ambiguity to navigate. Sometimes I feel that the anguishing ambiguity may also be a divinely-intended experience.

  8. Leaving is OK too. If there is a God, She is bigger and more than just the god of our small church.

  9. @ Penndi “Sometimes I feel that the anguishing ambiguity may also be a divinely-intended experience.” Well said. This is my hope and belief as well.

  10. Don’t know what to say other than I feel you brother. Pretty sure in January I’m going to turn in my recommend and ask to be released but I can’t leave completely. I feel sort of like Elder Cunningham in Book of Mormon the Musical who inserts Star Wars into the doctrine. What I believe no longer resembles LDS doctrine.

  11. I found this post wonderfully hopeful. Thanks for writing it. November 2015 broke and then changed my relationship with the church too. I’ve also struggled tremendously with the recent child abuse scandals. “Not yet” is a hopeful way to frame where we are right now, open to the possibility of something truly better in the future.

  12. What if there were a way to honor the spiritual experiences you’ve had, preserve the truth restored, and not have to look to an institution for guidance? Because a church needs priesthood, but priesthood was restored before the church existed.

  13. Bro. Jones says:

    Could’ve written much of this myself. I haven’t left but I have … let go. I don’t deny the miracles I experienced but the institution as currently constituted just has nothing to offer my family but busywork and boredom.

  14. Grateful reader says:

    I walked out of a meeting today. I wasn’t willing to endorse what was being said, and I was glad I hadn’t brought a non-LDS friend bc today I was embarrassed at the nature of the message bc it had nothing to do with the good news I am desperate for. Thank you for writing something that helps me deal with the disappointment today and gets me to stop bludgeoning myself for not being like the others who seem fine without it.

  15. Hi JC, I posted that link here on accident actually, did not mean to spam your OP, admin can remove it. I was trying to post a link to a specific poem that was relevant to the OP, but I can’t seem to get the right one going, sorry, Lona

  16. I have been struggling for many years but haven’t completely left. Recently I have stopped attending meetings, trying to figure out my own “spiritual journey”. I still have a calling but am close to asking to be released. I am just sad about many things I hear. Thank you for posting this and the many comments I have read. I feel like many of you and it is nice to know that I am not alone.

  17. This spoke to my soul. I went through a period of inactivity that lasted almost two years (June 2016-May 2018, with a block of frequent church attendance from May 2017-October 2017) before coming back. There are things I love about this church, but there is so much I struggle with. I feel that the church is where I need to be right now, but it’s hard sometimes.

  18. Navigating LDS life is a journey… but I believe that 99% of covenant-based discipleship has little to do with the Church. Let’s all live good lives! The Church does not have to answer every one of life’s dilemmas or even the majority of them to be vital to our eternal well-being. Indeed the Church (either institutionally or socially) may provide some very real dilemmas in a world so divided ideologically. These dilemmas may be faced by entire classes of people and sometimes for specific individuals. We should recognize that. While Latter-day Saints believe in continuing revelation, history demonstrates it comes slowly and piecemeal.

    My only suggestion is for us all to treat each other with kindness and compassion. We should extend that kindness to ourselves as well.

  19. Thanks for all your comments, everyone. Even the ones calling me to repentance (because, well, I do need to do a better job of repenting).

  20. Thanks for this. Curious what “A church that sees the dangers in an apostle’s picture with a gay son” is referring to. I must have missed that whole thing somehow.

  21. It’s a reference to an incident Matthew Gong had with his father. Google is your friend.

  22. KL Medina says:

    There are historical corollaries.

    Grandpa, at the time of the 1900 US census, worked at the confluence of the Virgin and Colorado northeast of Las Vegas rivers for the Swiss-born Daniel Bonelli. (When a bell rang, my grandpa said, he and the others would drop their work in Bonelli’s fields or whatnot and rush to help customers cross the Colorado on Bonelli’s ferry service.) Anyway, Grandpa made note of Bonelli’s history of having been once an apostate. How so? Researching this: Per AJ Mcarthur’s UNLV doctoral dissertation, a member of Bonelli’s stake presidency memorialized Bonelli as “Godbeite.” (Wikipedia: “[…W]ant[ing] to reform the LDS Church [through such…] political reform [as] breaking Young’s control over secular matters in the territory[].” Mcarthur: “…launched in October 1869 by William S. Godbe and associates. The main thrust of their policies was that Brigham Young’s economic policies were wrong, and that the Saints should assimilate economically with the East.”) Southern Nevada 1869-1872 was in a Utah geopolitical exclave called Rio Virgen County whose borders didn’t even touch those of Utah proper (the US Congress’s having drawn Utah’s southern border at the 37th parallel instead of along the Colorado River and also having shaved two degrees of longitude off of Utah to add to the Territory of Nevada). So, in 1870 the Nevada Saints had collectively moved back into Utah proper.

    Except for Bro. & Sis. Bonelli, who stayed.

    A period example of his ideas are reflected by a report in boom-and-bust mining community of Austin NV newspaper the Reveille of 21mar1871:“[Bonelli]: ‘While indeed there were not six men on the Muddy who would have had more taxes to pay over in Nevada than two square rods of grape vine would have yielded, or a load of salt hauled to the smelting works would have paid.’ The writer then proceeds to point out the repeated failures of enterprises undertaken at the command of the inspired Priesthood, and finally comes to the conclusion that Brigham Young does not interview God Almighty near as often as he pretends to, else he would not make so many egregious blunders.”

    In any case, by 1880, a decade after the exodus, economic and political collectivism had become greatly lessened and Church leaders encouraged members to return to these areas the LDS had originally pioneered, as they might feel inclined (and – rejoin the Bonelli family). Which many did (including my forebears).

  23. Whenever I see a post like this, I am tempted to reply, “What do you know about the teachings of the Buddha? Would you like to know more?” It’s a joke, and a joke only LDS will recognize, but maybe won’t even find it particularly funny. I figure if anybody would at least find it vaguely amusing, John, it’s you.

  24. It’s a little disturbing to me that someone (looking at the comments, more than one person) with deep spiritual experiences is on the verge of leaving the Church over sociopolitical forces. Speaks to how drastically society has reformulated its concept of religion.

  25. Doctrines of men in all the comments.
    Gay marriage is not compatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ

  26. Stephen Hardy says:

    Yes Jonathon: I all the comments. Including yous

  27. Stephen Hardy says:

    Wow, try again:

    Yes, Jonathan: in all the comments. Including yours.

  28. Nelson – it’s not “socialpolitical forces” causing people to almost leave the Church. It’s the words of leaders and the words and actions of fellow congregants which cause people pain that cause them to leave. Perhaps you should spend more time listening to their stories and finding compassion rather than decrying their lack of faith.

  29. Alma, can you give me an example?

  30. Nelson –

    David Archeleta’s story is good example of someone who wanted to stay, tried to stay, but ultimately couldn’t not because of faith or jesus but because of the church/leadership.

  31. It’s more understandable if you’re LGBTQ. What if you’re not?

  32. Nelson,

    Here’s an example: President Nelson says that God doesn’t love you if you don’t keep the commandments. That can cause/has caused pain to many people and they have since been estranged from the church.

    Here’s an example: In General Conference, a Church leader quasi mocks a woman who is concerned about polygamy in the next life.

    Here’s an example: African missionary companion of mine reads about how black people were less valiant in the pre-mortal life and that’s why his ancestors couldn’t have the priesthood.

    Here’s an example: Member finds out that JS was practicing polygamy even when he said he wasn’t.

    Here’s an example: Member finds out that the temple covenants have been changed and she wonder is hers or either no longer valid or if she’s suddenly under the new one. Either way, they directly affect her and yet she’s told not to discuss them.

    People leave for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with sociopolitics. Or, put another way: sure, everything’s sociopolitical, so it’s not clear what your initial comment was hoping to achieve. But it does read like a dismissal of real concerns people have because they are persuaded by current political trends. As if people didn’t leave before today’s current divisive atmosphere. That may be why you’re getting a little pushback.

  33. Nelson – perhaps finding compassion would help those who are not LGBTQ+, just as it would have helped a fair number of people who did not have “one drop” pre-1978.

  34. Grateful reader says:

    Jonathan, I think I understand what you are saying. If I was more like you, I wouldn’t feel the way I do.
    But I’m not you. I have tried to force myself to think like you because I wanted to fit in and belong with people like you who seemed to have it all figured out. I even married someone like you, hoping it would cure me of being me…until I learned that some really wonderful people in and out of the church love me because I am me, not more like you, and that Father God actually likes me for the way I think deeply about things and find a way to believe.

    Incidentally, to anyone reading this thread still, esp those who assumed I must have walked out of the meeting bc of the speaker’s politically conservative viewpoint, that is not at all what happened. It was testimony meeting, which it a wonderful chance for the quiet, not outspoken people to share their faith. But that day, it turned into mayhem, nothing about Christ, feeling saved from the ravages of sin
    and guilt. Just a lot of cultural talk about how we are better than others bc we don’t drink, etc.

    I get it. I am supposed to be patient and see the good. Well, I also need a message of healing on Sundays. I see the good all week. I strive to be the kind of person who can walk into the arms of a God when I die and feel relief, not shame. So on Sunday, I hope for messages that help me feel love and encouragement.

    I walked out bc I knew there was an hour left at another church, where I go when I feel sad and mischaracterized by members of the church who can’t see into my heart, how hard I try to live a clean life. By leaving my ward early, I could make it to a meeting at another church, where they accept everyone, even if they don’t approve of your life choices. They say that is between you and God.

    Every so often I go there to be reminded of how to be the kind of Latter-day Saint that I always wanted to be–a friend with God, a friend to myself, and a friend to people who can see what is harmful in even to the things they love.

  35. Grateful reader says:

    Jonathan, I think I may understand what you are saying. If I was more like you, I wouldn’t feel the way I do.

    But I’m not you. I have tried to force myself to think like you because I wanted to fit in and belong with people like you who seemed to have it all figured out. I even married someone like you, hoping it would cure me of being me…until I learned that some really wonderful people in and out of the church love me because I am me, not more like you, and that God actually likes me for the way I think deeply about things and find a way to believe.

    Incidentally, to anyone reading this thread still, esp. those who assumed I walked out of the meeting bc of a speaker’s politically conservative viewpoint, that is not at all what happened. It was testimony meeting, which is a wonderful chance for the quiet, not outspoken people to share their faith. But that day, it turned into mayhem, nothing about Christ, nothing about the goodness of God. But a lot of cultural talk.

    I get it. I am supposed to be patient and see the good. Well, I also need a message of healing on Sundays. I see the good all week. I strive to be the kind of person who can walk into the arms of God when I die and feel relief, not shame. So on Sunday, I hope for messages that help me feel love and encouragement.

    I walked out bc I knew there was an hour left at another church, where I go on occasion when I feel sad because certain members (like some commenters) see my yearning for depth as a failing . By leaving my ward early, I could make it to a meeting at another church, where they accept everyone, even if they don’t approve of your choices. They say that is between you and God.

    Every so often I go there to be reminded of how to be the Latter-day Saint I want to be–a friend with God, a friend to myself, and a friend to people who can see what is harmful even in things they love.

  36. Brian,
    Sorry, all the examples you provide are indicative of our changing political environment, because those issues have always existed and have not created the fallout it’s creating now. Someone construing Elder Oaks’s comments to be “mockery,” for instance, is just indicative of how millennials and zoomers have been “coddled” (using President Obama’s words). These new generations struggle with tolerating different political views.

    I cringe whenever I hear politically conservative messages at Church, but I don’t make life decisions based on a comment someone made at Church.

  37. Nelson, sorry that you feel that way. Glad that you’re so much more faithful than people who struggle and leave. People left at the time of JS and continued to do so. Perhaps they’re leaving more because they’re so coddled. Perhaps they’re leaving because some are uncharitable towards them. Either way, why people struggle shouldn’t alter how we talk about them or care for them.

  38. Nelson,
    I appreciate what you are saying. It is a good question to ask. Just remember that for some people, the political is personal. As a cis-het, white male, I don’t have the same set of worries when a cop pulls me over that someone else might. If I was a different person, what others consider political, might be a matter of life-and-death. So these issues of racial reconciliation or other areas in which the church (or I) might need to repent are simply a product of political trends or of listening and believing the victimized. Christ’s call, I believe, was for his disciples to serve the marginalized and holding ourselves accountable for past and current harm is a part of that (probably not the most important part, but a necessary one).

  39. * are not simply a product of political trends, but rather a product of listening…

  40. Antonio Parr says:

    There have been times in my life when Church membership has felt far more like a burden than a blessing. What kept me going – and what continues to sustain me – is the sense that there is something very sacred about this movement, and a feeling of assurance that the Church has the capacity to bless the world – and me – in ways that are uniquely transformative.

    Christ-centeredness is at the heart of my personal theology and, in word and deed, I try to do what I can to support the Church by talking of Christ and rejoicing in Him. When I do this, I feel very much at home.

    May God bless us all on our sacred journeys.

  41. It is hard when a person’s thoughts do not align with church authorities. I have had to rethink my stand on several issues. But as I read the Old Testament this year, it reminds me many prophets are not liked in their day. Whether in the past, now or future prophets will not be popular with the majority of the people. I recognize priesthood keys and the blessing it is to have that power on the earth again and choose to follow.

  42. John C –
    Let’s not get into why you’re right about gay, and why the others are wrong or rehash those arguments where you say your piece and others say theirs and you are both convinced of your rightness and the others wrongness.

    I want to understand your thoughts, but to do so I’d like you to understand mine in the context of your reply to:

    How would you specifically act and respond to someone you know is acting contrary to the design of their body and spirt, and contrary to an all-seeing, understanding, knowing, and forgiving Father in Heaven who sees that despite societal and personal assertions to the contrary is worse off if they continue down that path?

    In the same vein as above, how would you act and respond to someone who’s actions you know, and you know that God knows is not only causing themselves mental and physical harm, but also spiritual, and perhaps of equal if not more importance — causing that same real harm at the margin via a social contagion process (to use a less than ideal term that hopefully conveys the thought of the social ramifications at stake).

    Now, I realize, you disagree with the framing above — but I’m not asking you to frame your disagreement, but how you would act IF you didn’t merely think the above things, but knew them right down into the marrow of your bones.

    I realize how you think the church ought to respond if the church thinks like you. I’m asking you how the church would respond knowing what the church knows, which, for the purposes of this thought experiment is necessarily more than what you think you know.

  43. Sute, I’m glad you recognize that the framing of your questions is objectionable, but I’m not sure you understand why that is. Of course if we knew God’s will absolutely, it would make things easier, but we don’t. And we can’t just rely on Church leaders to tell us because they have been mistaken in the past. The apostle Franklin Richards told the Willie handcart company that God would cause storms to pass them by and they would arrive in Zion safely. He was wrong and several faithful saints suffered and died as a result. Helmuth Hubener was excommunicated for standing up to Nazis after Church leaders discouraged dissent. Terrible things were said to justify the priesthood ban that are now recognized as wrong. I’m sure some faithful members “knew right down to the marrow of their bones” that the priesthood ban or the Nov. 2015 policy was God’s will, and that certainty caused unnecessary pain and hardship as a result. I am also “not yet” ready to leave and hate when these examples are used as a cudgel to force people out. But they are still helpful in forcing us to grapple with “anguishing ambiguity” that hopefully can result in compassion, humility, and growth. I appreciate this site for providing a venue for digging into questions in what can be (I hope) a productive way.

  44. How would I know someone is acting contrary to the design of their body and spirit? Why would I attempt to intervene in some individual’s relationship with God? How would I judge whether or not something is a social contagion or society changing for the better? I know what the Book of Mormon says (judge by whether it leads to a belief in Christ), but we do not need bigotry, misogyny, or homophobia to believe in Christ. So I don’t see the relevance.

  45. “I know what the Book of Mormon says (judge by whether it leads to a belief in Christ)…”

    I agree–though I’d add the qualifier that true belief will lead us to love and serve God. Of course, there are a myriad of different ways that we might serve him. Even so, the Book of Mormon also makes clear the necessity of receiving the Lord’s servants.

    And so, IMO, if we are to take the BoM as our guide we must be willing to accept the whole of it, including those teachings that may cause some discomfort. Here’s a difficult teaching from 1Nephi 11:

    36 And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

  46. First of all, I disagree that that’s a hard teaching for me or most Mormons. I don’t see myself as fighting against the Apostles. Unless you are arguing that bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, or, I suppose, supply-side economics is necessary to believe in Christ, according to the Apostles. Which certainly isn’t what they teach today.

  47. Our approach to the Savior is not based in — or finally judged by — ethical propositions. It is based in revelation and substantiated by transformation in and through the Holy Ghost. And it is through that medium that we learn to prize all that is good, true, and beautiful.

    And so I don’t judge the apostles first and foremost by whether what they teach aligns with my personal moral compass–and I admit that can be challenging at times. IMO, it’s revelation that must have the final word in determining whether or not they speak the truth. And because I know by personal revelation that they are the Lord’s anointed my default position is to give them the benefit of the doubt–especially when all 15 apostles speak as one.

    That’s not to say that general counsel and personal revelation will never be at odds with each other. I think most faithful members of the church have felt the need to make special modifications to general counsel at one time or another in their personal lives. Even so, as a general principle personal revelation should remain with the persona who receives it–that is, if it is out of lockstep with general counsel.

    Well I’m out in the weeds now–but the point I’m trying to make is that often faithful members are accused of bigotry, misogyny, and homophobia, when all they’re trying to do (in their minds) is live by what they believe to be the revealed word of God.

  48. And the competing point is that faithful members who (in their minds) are living by what they believe to be the revealed word of God, but are in actuality practicing bigotry, misogyny, or homophobia, are not off the hook for being accountable for their mistakes and the pain they cause just because they can point to a conference talk to try and justify their behavior.

  49. While it’s true that some members may behave that way–I think it’s also true that some might be mislabeled as such simply because they believe the church’s teachings on marriage and family to be inspired.

  50. Sorry, Pondering, that wasn’t a very good response to your “competing point” — with which agree, by the way.

  51. Bagofsand,
    I don’t think that mislabelling is that important, because to the one harmed it doesn’t matter if the bully acts with good intent. Abuse from a place of love is still abuse.

  52. John C, perhaps I’m misunderstanding you–but it almost sounds like you’re implying that believing the church’s teachings on marriage and family — in and of itself — is abusive.

  53. Amal Spree says:

    Outside of an institution, if God is currently giving more of his word, how will that word be found?

  54. BagsofSand – That’s an interesting theoretical point. Is it belief that matters? Or is it behavior? The temple recommend interview certainly emphasizes correct beliefs along with (what I’d call) checkbox behaviors. My ward is big on the importance of correct beliefs as taught by the brethren, especially toward the youth. It seems to me that we believe there is power behind a belief in-and-of-itself, otherwise why all the emphasis? And if that is true, the person with the belief (pushing the belief especially) is responsible for the actions/damages perpetuated by that belief.

    As the parent of LGBT youth, I go back to my own kids experience. One kid in particularly got heavily shammed by a quite loving, but deeply hurtful traditional marriage lesson. I’ve never seen my usually happy/confident/argumentative kid so flattened and squashed and silenced as after that lesson. I forgive the teacher, who was doing their best (and asking a random teacher to handle the mess that it is the church’s teachings on LGBT in a room full of other people’s kids would have been unfair. I understand why they taught the lesson the way that they did.). Nice person. Likely well meaning. My young teen kid STILL got shamed at a very vulnerable age/life-situation, which they still talk about today and are unlikely to ever go back to church again.

    Was this abuse? No, because I don’t like over-using that particular word. Was it damaging, hurtful, negatively spiritually impactful, and not-a-fruit-of-Jesus? Absolutely. Should the teacher, lesson-writer, brethren repent of that? That’s between them and Jesus. My job is to protect and raise a mentally, physically, spiritually healthy kid.

  55. @Nelson & @Alma,

    to be perfectly honest I think it is a sociopolitcal, or rather, a socioeconomic+political thing that drives a lot of people to leave the church, and I think the words and rhetoric of the leadership is only a small factor.

    Here’s the thing, and I wonder if others would agree: If the church did, over the next year or so, change its rules to be more progressive friendly, like allowing LGTBQ temple marriages, women having the priesthood, being OK with abortion, etc. Would the church staunch the flow of members who walk away?

    The answer I think is “not really” or “maybe a bit”. People who go very vocal online about why they leave church, usually do so over the church’s stance and rules on the aforementioned social issues and rhetoric of the leadership. But honestly, I think there are more people that leave the church that are indifferent to said social issues. I was recently a youth leader in my ward, we’ve virtually every single youth who becomes an adult go inactive once they move out of their parents’ home, we know them pretty well, and our ward does make an effort for youth leaders to be connected with the youth on social media (I am personally not very comfortable with that). But we can see what they post and what they’re passionate about. And really, none of them are the stereotypical social-media firebrand internet warriors. In fact, I know a couple of former young men in my ward who kind of enthusiastic about the chruch’s homophobia, but they likewise went inactive when going on their own, despite being apparently aligned with the church’s stance on social issues (and they ended up being into ‘manosphere’ Jordan Peterson stuff).

    The same goes for a lot of the older millennial couples (people in their late 30s early 40s), some of them do walk away from the church because of the social issues, but others, again, are seemingly indifferent to that and likewise walk away. They’re just done, and doesn’t appear to be over any particular disagreement with the church leadership on anything in particular.

    I think this just points to the so-called ‘irrelevance’ of organized religion in the the first world. Being involved just increasingly seems like a burden, a waste of time in a world in which time is increasingly scarce. Regular people have to work longer hours for less pay, live in smaller spaces, and the only release you get from the grind is media (movies, TV, gaming, social media etc.), MAYBE if you have the time and/or money, you develop some hobby. But generally people across the board are becoming poorer, more depressed, and tired. And what the church offers doesn’t really seem to help, it just means more busy work, awkward social interactions, and uncompensated labour. It’s just not equipped to tackle today’s problems or provide the kind of community that people look for now.

    TLDR: yes the church is oppressive, and that makes some people leave, but even if it weren’t oppressive, that wouldn’t stop epople from leaving. The church seems to have become irrelevant.

  56. Bagofsand,
    You are correct. You are misunderstanding me

  57. John C, so your intellectual is incapable of putting yourself in the shoes of someone with firm conviction that is the reverse image of your own. Or you’re just unwilling to consider because it might contain a valid point from their perspective.
    Disappointing.

    It seems you are only willing to support those positions that start with your frame of reference and then you claim humility of ignorance, “how would I know…” as a reason why the prophets perspective can’t be considered.

    Weak duck sauce.

    You’re certain about what you believe, but unwilling to grant or even imagine any certainty to those you disagree with, as they must necessarily be uncertain in their perspective as feel it must needs be.

    The questions are not hard ones. If the are accurate, it implies actions such as yours could be harmful in the grand scheme and not helpful. It’s not hard to see the many many innumerable ways what we see as affirming charitable actions are actually detrimental.

    I accept that it’s possible a religiously rigid and certainty based position could be problematic and harmful. I disagree with that supposition, but you seem even unwilling to grant the opposite view any potential correctness. That’s ideologue level mental capture.

  58. John C, sorry for the misunderstanding. I guess we’d need to clarify what we mean by “abuse.” I’m not sure I want to go down that long rabbit hole–but if I may venture just a little: you say, “abuse from a place of love is still abuse.” I agree that this certainly can and has at times unfortunately been the case. Even so, I think it’s also true that some folks have felt abused at times by pure doctrine–even when it’s conveyed to them in a spirit of love. And so maybe the real question has more to do with what may (or may not) be sanctioned by the Holy Spirit in any given moment rather than judging a teaching by how abusive it may feel.

  59. Lehcarjt, I’m sorry for the pain the you and your child have endured. those kinds of experiences can stay with us for a life time. I remember one time 20 years ago I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting on marriage. I raised some concerns to the bishop about the single members in our ward–and while he was undoubtedly concerned for their welfare his simple answer was: yes, but it still needs to be taught.

    Of course, being the social conservative that I am that’s an easy pill for me to swallow with regard to the church’s teachings on marriage and family. Even so, I agree that we should do our best to by as inclusive as possible without compromising the doctrine–or at least the spirit of it.

    Best to you and yours.

  60. This post and related comments mostly discusses “leaving for social/political reasons.” I know many in the GenX age group who leave because of dishonesty over history.

  61. Sute,
    I’m trying to leave the judgement of people’s hearts to God. If you want me to adopt the perspective of folks who willfully ignore “Judge not,” claiming that is what the truly devoted do, I think we fundamentally disagree regarding what it means to be faithful. Heck, last conference was full of talks about how we ought to spend less time finding division, which I took as less judgement.

    I think that, from your last comment, that you are trying to put me in the prophet’s perspective. First, I think it is presumptive of you to pretend to know that perspective. Certainly we have his writings and his talks, but that is hardly the entirety of the man. I cannot say or guess how he would react or judge in a given situation because there are many mitigating factors in making a decision if judgement. And, as we both know, I am no prophet.

    Second, if God deigned to name me prophet, which, to be clear, ain’t gonna happen, it would because he wanted me, with my background and ideas and understandings, not someone else’s. I would be as empathetic as possible, I hope, but ultimately I would still be me, trying my best to figure out what God wants me to do.

    Finally, while your question may have been trying to have me look at things from the prophets perspective, you did not say that. I certainly don’t have the means or right to judge someone else’s worthiness. I do it sometimes, because I am as sinful as anyone else, but I’m trying to get better. The prophet may have a right, as a judge in Israel, to hold forth on someone’s worthiness or life choices, but I do not. That I do it anyway is probably to my detriment.

    Bagofsand,
    As I grow older, I find the victim’s experience of harm more compelling than the source of harm’s description of intent. If we, as those who cause harm, will not listen to those we’ve harmed, we cannot repent. So, while understanding that the church’s beliefs on marriage, family, race, sex, gender roles, wealth, and poverty are not ill-intended, I feel like pointing out that they are weaponized frequently in a way that is ill-intended, and asking if they should be altered because of the ease with which they are weaponized, is a necessary pursuit. No large human organization can avoid harming others sometimes, even the church. But it is reasonable to advocate for ways to lessen that harm nonetheless.

  62. Thanks for the response, John. I agree–mostly. But that’s only half of the argument. The other half would have to do with folks being offended by the doctrine itself sans any mortal messenger. Certainly, we might parry it back a bit in an effort to soften it. But even so, we can only go so far. There are many folks–perhaps a couple of billion–who might be uncomfortable with the doctrine that the Savior’s name is the only one under heaven by which we can be saved. But what can we do? I suppose it’s possible to excise it from the scriptures and other writings and never speak of it openly again. But then we wouldn’t be preaching what we must practice in order to get on the high road to eternal life. And so, it seems (to me) that the only option we have is to preach the restored gospel (which includes the church’s teachings on marriage and family, IMO) without reservation–but with as much loving kindness as we can muster.

  63. bagofsand – Your arguments would have fit in neatly into the rhetoric around the restrictions on those of African descent in 1977.
    For more than 130 years people were born, lived, and died believing in the Church, not agreeing with the continued lashings from prophets about how it would never happen, why they were inferior by nature, and scripture based lashings of why no one should disagree or complain about it.
    Did people leave in 1978? You betcha. We only hear the faith promoting stories of so many people who “just knew it was right”, not the stories of those who couldn’t stomach the thought or those who decided just days before they had enough bigotry.
    I can hear the argument that what is different now is that people of African descent didn’t have a choice, that LGBTQ+ people now simply have to choose to not act of their feelings. It’s not hard to imagine, even now, someone thinking “we can accept black people now, but only really accept them if they conform to our WASP standards”.
    We are blessed to be in a time where society is getting to be more accepting of LGBTQ+ people, thinking about all those who don’t fit in in one way or another and doing what we can to include them rather than forcing them to change to be more like us.
    LGBTQ+ people have always existed in the Church. There is a long history, couched in terms like “roommates” and “confirmed bachelors”. We even have an instance where a transgender woman was approved by the First Presidency to marry a man in the temple. We know who we are, beloved children of Heavenly Parents, having attributes that cannot be changed without removing a vital part of who we are. Too many could not live with doing so, and we’ll remember them and continue to share their stories.
    The only sociopolitical difference is that society decided we were a threat, not that we are suddenly everywhere.
    For some, even now is too late. But for some, the time is simply “not yet” as we plead to God to help ease our burdens. We will continue to abide with the faith reserves we have, that one day we will also have our burdens lifted.

  64. So instead of being in Gods image, you want God in your image!

  65. Alma, I hope that you (and I) will always abide in the faith. Before all else we are brothers and sisters in Christ–and so I accept you as my eternal sibling regardless of our sociopolitical differences.

    Re: Priesthood Restrictions: I agree that there were various explanations put forth to explain the ban–some of them pretty wacky by today’s standards. But none of them ever carried the full weight of doctrine like the church’s teachings on marriage and family. Surely some of those explanations were treated by some as if they were eternal doctrine. But no where do we find all 15 apostles uniting their voices in a special pronouncement on the subject like we see with the proclamation on the family. That difference, IMO, places those two questions in separate categories.

    Re: Not Yet: I agree that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters don’t simply choose their orientation–or dysphoria as the case may be. And I’m certainly glad that the church has become more informed on these issues–with the hope that the rising generation we’ll be even more accepting and understanding of all LGBTQ people. That said, I’m of the firm opinion that the Law of Chastity will remain unchanged in the church–and that it will continue to be a standard that is “no respecter of persons” outside of its very narrow limits. The vast majority of people both within as well as without the church have been challenged by its stringent requirements–and it will become even more of a challenge to all as time moves on, IMO.

    That may not be very comforting to you and many of our LGBTQ friends–and I’m truly sorry–but I would rather tell the truth (as I see it) than lead you along with false hopes.

  66. Bags of sand-

    Out of a friendly sense of curiosity, what is your goal in this conversation? Especially in regards to LGBT allies/parents?

  67. Jacob, whom are we addressing?

    “ But no where do we find all 15 apostles uniting their voices in a special pronouncement on the subject like we see with the proclamation on the family”

    Bagofsand,
    That is unfortunately inaccurate. Look up the 1969 letter to the church by the apostles and first presidency. The Apostles don’t sign names, but it states they are in agreement with the First Presidency.

    LGBT+ people only violate the law of chastity because the church changed what the law of chastity meant in the wake of Obergefell. Once gay folk could legally and lawfully get married, the definition had to be tweaked so the church could continue to exclude them.

  68. Can't recall screen name says:

    bagsofsand’s goal is 100 percent clear to people who have a stake in the matter. He wants ideological purity so badly that’s he’s fine driving gay people and their families out of the church. It’s a technique he learned well from certain church leaders. My relatives by marriage also have this evangelical religion/Focus on the Family patter down pat. They get fed it through unfortunate publications like LDS Living.

    bagsofsand says, “I would rather tell the truth (as I see it) than lead you along with false hopes.” It sounds like you’re claiming to be one of the apostles. Who are you to give anyone hope, true or false? And why do you think you are telling the truth? Are you quoting the words of Jesus? No? Then please stop. With huge and convoluted opinions like yours I would guess you’re driving members of your own family as well as members of your ward out of the church. From everything you’ve said it sounds like you’re trying to win the world but losing your soul.

  69. lehcarjt,

    I joined the conversation late–so I’m not really on target with the OP. But I think I started off by defending the counsel of living prophets — especially when they speak as one — and then devolved into where I’m at now.

    John C.,

    The question about the ban had to do with comparing its lifting to the possible future lifting of restrictions on gay marriage in the church. But if you’ll notice in the 1969 letter (and in other statements) it is clearly stated that blacks would someday receive all the blessings of the priesthood–the question was just a matter when. And so when the ban was lifted in 1978 it was presented more as a fulfillment of prophecy than a change in doctrine.

    Re: A change in the Law of Chastity: There was no change. Perhaps there was clarification out of a need to inform a changing culture. But it is consistent (today) with how it was understood before the legal definition of marriage was modified.

    Can’t recall screen name says:,

    Dear friend, I only mean to reiterate a position that most latter-day saints hold with respect to marriage and family–and clarify that the primary reason they espouse such teachings is because they believe in the counsel of living prophets. And furthermore, because they believe such counsel to be inspired it places them in the precarious position of defending such teachings without hurting people–especially their own loved ones. The last thing most members want to do is push people out of the church. Even so, I give it to you as my opinion that more people are pulled away from the church than pushed away. And that’s one of the reasons I chime into these discussions–to remind folks who may be feeling those tugs that the church has got it right.

    I think I better bow out before I get into anymore trouble.

  70. Bagofsand,
    1. That statement does say that, after repeating quite a bit of “folklore” that has since been repudiated.
    2. Your statement regarding the law of chastity is not true. But you do you, boo.

  71. We’ll have to agree to disagree on your second point.

    As to your first, a lot more could be said–but that’d put me out in the weeds at this point.

    All the best.

  72. The icy abstraction of words like “sociopolitical” and “pure doctrine” does a lot of work in these comments. For example, “I accept you as my eternal sibling regardless of our sociopolitical differences.” Of course, these differences are not sociopolitical. They are profoundly personal and human.

  73. I suppose if we were having this conversation over dinner in the warmth of my home there’d be less of a chill in my rhetoric. And I’d also probably be able to express my thoughts on being siblings in Christ with greater depth of feeling.

  74. One can choose to exalt principles in a way that overrides human concern. Or one can choose not to. A cozy fireplace won’t change the nature of that choice.

    You’re trying so hard to have it both ways, to claim that you can love people at the same time you condescend to them and condemn them. You’re really not fooling anyone but yourself.

  75. I think it’s necessary and even proper to condemn a culture at times. But I always try to avoid judging individuals. Some will say that you can’t separate the two–but I think we can and that we must. And if I’ve failed to do it with the proper tone then that’s because of weakness on my part–and not necessarily because the message must be wrong.

  76. Beautiful post.

    For years and years, every since talk at every single stake conference was about sharing the gospel. And I always thought, I can’t in good faith invite people to join a homophobic, sexist, racist church. The barrier to me sharing the gospel with my friends is the Church. Or rather – I have plenty of gospel conversations with friends where we talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I cannot confidently tell them that the LDS Church is where that gospel resides.

    Also, while people can believe what they want to believe, the kinds of comments here are why it’s so difficult for many of us to stay in because people are just absolutely unwilling to make space. It’s v aggravating.

  77. Can't recall screen name says:

    My last comment should say Meridian Magazine instead of LDS Living.

  78. James Leslie says:

    Amen

  79. I thought I was done–but CRSNS’s most recent comment evoked another response–

    While I agree that many active members are influenced by conservative elements both in and out of the church–it’s only fair (IMO) to recognize that the most of them would say that revelation plays a part in their commitment to the church’s teachings on marriage and family. And so it isn’t enough to say (or imply) that they’re merely following the latest socially conservative trends–though, indeed, a few at least are probably doing just that.

    And so if revelation is a real quantity in the equation then the primary challenge of members is to do their best to embrace their LGBTQ brothers and sisters (and nonbinaries) with all the lovingkindness they muster without compromising the church’s teachings.

    I think these words of Elder Christofferson are relevant:

    “The social science case for marriage and for families headed by a married man and woman is compelling . . . But our claims for the role of marriage and family rest not on social science but on the truth that they are God’s creation . . . Neither we nor any other mortal can alter this divine order of matrimony. It is not a human invention. Such marriage is indeed ‘from above, from God’ and is as much a part of the plan of happiness as the Fall and the Atonement.”

    There are many like me — perhaps the majority of committed members of the church — who can testify that these words are inspired and that the counsel given by living prophets on the subject is true–especially as codified in the proclamation with the imprimatur of all fifteen apostles. Thus the difficulty of the task laid before us–to be compassionate and understanding even when we may be labelled a bigot for not yielding to views that fall outside the pattern the Lord has revealed through his prophets for marriage and family.

    That said, I’m sorry if I and others like me have not been as empathetic as committed Latter-day saints should be. For my own part, I’ll try to do better in that regard.

  80. @jimothy:
    You act like the USA just became a first world country ten years ago.

  81. Bagofsand,
    Honestly, you are already probably doing as well as possible. I doubt you are gay-bashing anyone or that you regularly use the “f-word.” You don’t sound like you are on the QAnon train, so I imagine you think all this talk of “grooming” is the nonsense it is. The issue is that the Church’s policy is at fault and no amount of empathetic behaviour mitigates the harm it causes. When you tell someone that the most heartfelt, personal emotions they have about who they are and whom they love are an aberration that lead only to sin and then offer the consolation this impediment to happiness will gone when they are dead (if they are faithful). I get that the church is trying to thread a needle here, but I’m skeptical that there is a difference between “being queer is bad” and “being gay is fine, but acting like who you are is sinful” for the queer member on the ground. The effect is the same, the difference only works to absolve the guilt of people who tell queer folk their lives are an eternal mistake.

    Just to be clear, the church’s teachings on marriage and family, as they stand today, are not universally abusive. Males are, generally speaking, only harmed in the sense that they don’t know how to interact with the opposite sex like non-crazy people. But they are definitively abusive to queer folk. No matter the intention or the empathy behind your decision to uphold them as inspired of God, the effect is harmful to queer folk, precisely because it encourages them to avoid Christ.

  82. *(if they are faithful), it doesn’t result in good things.

  83. At the heart of this discussion seems to be that for many church members, the law (prophetic counsel to agree with and obey the law) is the element of lds life that is of most import. That the law outweighs the importance of real people’s development as children of God.

    I’m not convinced. Paul teaches (thank you Adam Miller), that grace comes first. The law is *secondary* to grace. Jesus taught that the law hangs from the first two commandments. Not the other way around.

  84. (Cobtinued because Hit post accidentally)

    At the point where the law is causing sustained, clear, measurable, repeatable harm to a group of people who are trying to live as disciples, it’s time for the world-wide church (all of us!) to put our efforts into asking God for help about the law itself.

  85. I’ve always hated multiple choice opinion questions.

    For example, such a multiple choice question might be, Choose one which most reflects your thinking. “People who say sex ed is grooming are right.” “People who say sex ed is grooming are wrong.”

    I rarely see polarized Either-Or’s but only gradations.

    For example, my having taken in, as a teenager or adult, the time span endpoints of both 1970 and 2020, I certainly would never contend that there hadn’t been a significant amount of so-called groomings which did certainly occur, during the ferment of the free love movement. Yet, as those who’d championed the sexual revolution aged, what became normalized as enlightened propriety was that sexual expressions are OK between (usually two) MINORS OF CLOSE-TO-EQUAL AGE or between CONSENTING ADULTS.

    But this came about involving a sort of spectrum of such acceptances that came to the fore, one by the other, like layers of onion, I suppose. Acceptance of consensual sex that’s boy-girl (complemtarianly androgynophile). That of girl-girl (intergynophile). That of boy-boy (interandrophile). Alas, though, advocates of consensual [sic] paedophilia … who were few and far between. Remember, for example, the North American Man/Boy Association? … were left in the lurch, their professed ideals became generally adjudged, “even” by Progressives, as advocations of abuse.

    As for “social contagion”—– My looking up the 1st line of the Wikipedia’s article under its heading, if useful (“social contagion involves behaviour, emotions, or conditions spreading spontaneously through a group or network.” ……. But, hmmm — this sounds universal. Religious ideas/practice/other social mores certainly fall under such a rubric.

    Well, there are also the competing universals, I suppose, encapsulated in the proverb “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” as well as in the inspirational moral tale of Daniel, who didn’t follow Babylonian ways: necessitating an iconic visit with his companions to the lion’s den. But in other cases, competing considerations become less dramatically thrashed out, however — some more-so balance/stasis coming into play that can hold the peace, at least for a time. (For example, perhaps, a 24 oct 2022 Bloomberg headline references, I believe, an certain alleged carve out(?) from federal ‘equality’ enforcements sought by Yeshiva Univerisity: “Yeshiva University Allows LGBTQ Club as Court Fight Drags On”.)

  86. @John C.:
    (This is Nelson. WP won’t let me use my other email anymore for some reason.)
    I can see how the political would be personal. For example, 20 years ago, an African-American member whose life has been impacted by police brutality would go to church and everyone would largely keep their politics to themselves. Today, he logs onto Facebook and sees some member of the Church, or even his ward, start spouting some MAGA nonsense, feels alienated, and feels that a Latter-day Saint supporting the pussy-grabbing president smacks of hypocrisy, and his faith gets shaken. Those incidents are highly unfortunate.

    A formal apology by the Church for past history should be on the table, but remember that the NAACP’s religious director, Amos Brown, said that we were doing better than some other churches at reconciliation and a formal apology isn’t necessary.

    All the replies to my OP pretty much reinforce the exaltation of the political . I am on the tail end of Gen-X; I have progressive views on almost everything, but I don’t make politics my religion.

    Today evolutionary biologists are feeling the heat from social justice advocates the same way they are from creationists earlier, indicating that a large segment of society has already crowned a new religion.

  87. Thanks, John. And no–I wouldn’t touch QAnon with a 39 1/2 foot pole.

    There are still some lingering questions in my mind–but I think I’ve done enough damage for now.

    Best to you.

  88. Medford Smith says:

    “Many of my friends in the church left over the policy and, strangely enough, its recension did not tempt them back. I didn’t leave, but I was tempted.”

    This completely underscores the argument that if the church changes its policy on [fill in the blank] then people will stop leaving the church and/or come back to the fold. It solidifies that argument that the church should hold fast to its standards and doctrine and let people sift themselves in or out of the church. I’ll hold fast, no matter what.

  89. Thank you for your post, John. It is comforting to see that we’re not the only ones to feel that way. Sometimes though I wonder how long that situation can last : talks and lessons saying over and over the same words, preaching obedience and ordinances, and people feeling less and less part of it.

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