Wednesday, June 3, 2015

If you could ask the First Presidency a question--any question--what would you ask?

"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed."
-J. Reuben Clark

I'm genuinely baffled when I see fellow Latter-day Saints dismiss any effort to ask hard questions, especially when those questions are an honest attempt to find out what "the truth" is. In a church that only requires us to believe "truth", why is the default setting to view such attempts that dig deep to find out "the truth" perceived as "negativity" and a threat?

If one uses a jackhammer to try and separate fact/truth/ideal from the concrete of reality, tradition, and even current teachings assumed to be truth, I think we should be thankful for such work, not marginalize the worker because of the temporary noise.

Assuming we could ask in that spirit and receive a loving answer (as opposed to being given a stone for bread), I'm wondering what you would ask the First Presidency if you had the opportunity to ask any question you wanted?

I have several questions I'd like answered. For example:

*Why are only men ordained to the priesthood?
*When will you be reforming the excommunication process?
*Why in the world did you uphold Kate Kelly's excommunication anyway?  What was learned, if anything, when the Church botched that "sad experience"?

I'm in complete agreement with Lavina Fielding Anderson (who herself was wrongfully excommunicated), who last summer at Sunstone shared the following:
One of my personal insights is support for the order the church has established about the relationship between stewardship and revelation. I have no problem with assigning responsibility for church-wide revelation to the men who hold the office of apostle and prophet, but I can’t describe the pain I feel that those who claim the privilege of revelation seem to refuse the responsibility to seek it. Our church claims continuous revelation, yet it punishes those who implore its leaders to seek it. Some of the most horrifying statements and silences to come out of Kate [Kelly’s] excommunication is the denial that there is anything to pray about or any point on which further revelation should be sought. 
I feel such longing when I read calls from Steve Veazey (prophet and president of the Community of Christ) for the whole church to join in a discernment process. What if our leaders similarly ask its members to pray earnestly about ordaining women to priesthood? About supporting and celebrating our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who want to marry, have families, and participate in congregational life? What if our leaders really accepted Nephi’s assurance and invited us to join with him in the call: Christ "denieth none that come unto Him, black and white, bond and free, male and female...all are alike unto God.” (From Lavina's remarks at minute 10:35-12:16 of Session 324: "Life After Church Discipline.")
Hers is a profound insight and something I too long for. But great is the letdown I feel when I contrast that with the way kangaroo "courts of love" have started popping up in our church like whack-a-mole. Tonight in Sacramento, California, Rock Waterman is being charged with "conduct unbecoming a member of the church" and thus an "apostate" who'll likely be excommunicated. Last month it was the Calderwoods, who perhaps believed too little; today it's Rock Waterman, who believes too much. Joseph Smith once said: “I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief.” Go figure.

***Update 6/4/15: Rock posted the following update to this blog a few hours ago:
A few hours ago I was excommunicated from the church for apostasy.
"What sins am I guilty of?"
"No, apostasy is your judgment. What sins have I committed that make up this apostasy?"
"Apostasy is the sin."
One truth has come home to me with laser clarity: there are two religions operating side by side in the LDS church today, both vying for dominance. The first is the religion founded through Joseph Smith, which emphasizes dependence on Christ. The other religion requires allegiance to Church leaders above all else. If your devotion to Jesus is stronger than your fealty to the Church hierarchy, you are a threat to their system.
It doesn't matter how forcefully you bear testimony of Christ and His gospel; the Brethren-ite religion has but one focus: replace the organic religion with the counterfeit one, all the while convincing followers nothing has changed.
You know what I think is truly "unbecoming"? Modern day witch hunts are unbecoming of the Church of Jesus Christ. Yet they're allowed to take place without much second-guessing, despite the fact we've been reminded the Church has and can make mistakes. One cannot "repent" of the truth, nor from the fact that some people with misguided loyalty/allegiance either don't want to hear the truth or see it as a threat. Our loyalty should be to the truth. Truth is truth, no matter who speaks it. Truth isn't any more "true" whether it's spoken by authorities or academics. We have to be able to discern the truth for ourselves.

Rock Waterman is a "threat" in the same way Dorothy pulling back the curtain was a threat to the Wizard of Oz. The question is do we want to see the truth and see reality as it actually is or as we wish it to be? Truth can defend itself--it's not a fragile thing. If people have faith in the truth there is nothing to fear. But if expectations of faith are placed upon a false narrative or on idols, then image must be preserved at all costs. Despite these unjust, unfair, and unChristlike witch hunts, leadership typically remains silent, unless media attention becomes great. It was a rare and welcome exception when the First Presidency issued this statement last summer:
Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.
I, for one, don't oppose the church or its leaders. In fact, I sustain them. But since sustaining them doesn't require that I always agree, I do oppose the harmful messages and teachings that sometimes come out of the church and its faithful leaders. Harmful teachings deserve to be harmed. (If you're not prepared to go down the rabbit hole, don't ask me for specific examples. There are plenty, both in the past and in the present.)

To be clear, don't believe we should ever criticize the leaders themselves. Personal attacks are certainly unbecoming a member of the church. As L. Jackson Newell wrote: "Personal attacks always diminish the dignity of individual and community life and are never appropriate in government, business, or religion. On the other hand, the respectful and constructive criticism of a leader's ideas or judgments is not only acceptable but necessary for healthy organizational life." Thus, I draw an important distinction between the person and the ideas. We should constructively criticize ideas and teachings that are harmful. I'm with Bill Reel on speaking out against harmful and damaging teachings--especially when lives are at stake or the atonement is denied. (Better to come home dead from your mission than to have committed sexual sin?! What about the atonement?!)

I dislike false doctrine as much as the next guy. I especially dislike it when it comes from authorities of my church. Thus, I support the church when it corrects its own false doctrines and false teachings, however long it takes. (Example: Race and the priesthood.) Since the church itself can eventually come around and correct its mistakes (with or without apologies) and receive grace, perhaps we ought to be willing to extend the same hope and grace to individuals to likewise come around eventually and not be so swift to judge them as apostates and excommunicate them.

In light of the First Presidency's reminder that "simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy," I posed my original question ("If you could ask the First Presidency a question--any question--what would you ask?") to fellow Latter-day Saints online. I quickly received many responses, and you'll see from their questions below that they are not afraid to think for themselves and question the status quo. It's quite a sampling:
  • "If the gospel is truly for everyone, what is the church willing to do to change the culture of Mormonism so that everyone will feel they truly have a place here regardless of color, sexual orientation, political affiliation, gender, marital status, social class, etc.. ?"
  • "Why can't we let Jesus be enough? If it's His gospel, why don't teach that more?" 
  • "Why do we need to constantly add in things to the gospel plan? Isn't the atonement good enough?" 
  • "Why are you directing people not to follow the Savior's commandment to ASK, SEEK, KNOCK? Regarding female ordination, what are you afraid of?"
  • "Why can't we be okay as a church admitting there have been lies, white washing, and deliberate half truths in the name of building a church?"
  • "If the Book of Mormon holds the fullness of the gospel, why do we have a very different church now? I am comfortable with modern revelation but we have departed so much from the church described in the Book of Mormon."
  • "What do you mean, 'you KNOW'?"
  • "What do you honestly think about polygamy? Why not just abolish section 132?"
  • "Can we have that long awaited two hour block? Pleaseandthankyou."
  • "Why do you allow yourselves to be put up on pedestals? (I personally think the deification of members of the church serving in "high callings" is a root problem to a lot of the ill's of the church. A hierarchy invalidates a lot of voices.)"
  • "Why is it that in some cases putting leaders on pedestals is actually encouraged or even demanded, and why are general authorities allowed to do it to each other? (The 14 Fundamentals and its inclusion in manuals and reiteration in conference makes top leadership complicit in fostering the idolatrous culture.)"
  • "Why have the 15 apparently decided they should not apologize for wrongs done in the past or today?"
  • "What are we to do with 2 Nephi 5, Alma 3, Abraham 1, Moses 7, and other scriptures in relation to the church's statement: 'Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse'?"
  • "When is the church going to be honest about its history? Why can't we apologize for what happened in the past? Our church clearly hasn't been Christlike in how we treat the LGBT community. And why is the church excommunicating people based on belief, not actions that are detrimental to the gospel?"
Of course, last summers clarification that simply asking questions is not apostasy wasn't necessarily a new definition of apostasy, since the following has long been in the handbook:
Yet the handbook can raise more questions than it answers: Is excommunication truly warranted in cases where one man judges another as "apostate" for believing too much or too little? How can one repent of something that was never sin to begin with?

I would whole-heartedly support the Church in making progressive changes to this definition and/or process. In light of the ninth article of faith, I wish the Church would not be so collectively resistant to change. Recently on Radio West, Greg Prince summed it up like this: "We feel very strong about how things are until they change, and then we feel very strong about how they’ve become." And later: "We feel very strongly that we do things the way we do them because we do them that way until we do them differently."

Should we not hope that Seers could see a better way forward in cases where deep and serious sin has not occurred? Is excommunication truly the best solution for these kinds of cases? Do we not see how foolish it is to continue to use excommunication as the red "ejector" button, rather than exclusively for repentance in serious moral and ethical cases? Moreover, isn't it troubling how "conduct unbecoming of church members" is subjective in the extreme, how there's no impartial jury, and that no women are allowed to be part of the council?

No amount of faith will change the stubborn fact that some members are not as lucky as others in the unfortunate reality of ecclesiastical roulette. Perhaps to create more calm and uniformity the First Presidency could require that they themselves must sign off on these kinds of cases rather than let local leaders fumble around and inflict pain on the worldwide church body.

Another question: What of those who hold up a mirror on ecclesiastical abuses in the institutional Church? If we don't like what we see, do we punish the messenger for the message? Are we okay with casting out those who speak out publicly while injustice is swept under the rug to save the reputation of the Church? Are we okay with "disciplining" those who follow the dictates of their conscience? Do we really expect all such displays of ecclesiastical "power" to be automatically and divinely ratified? If the Church is concerned about its reputation, shouldn't it allow people of conscience to become whistle-blowers in order to uncover unrighteous dominion? Does it not create an unsafe environment when the default is to squelch public dissent?

If our ultimate responsibility is to truth, do we not have the right and the responsibility to respectfully oppose teachings we've individually discerned do not represent the mind and will of God? How much faith do we actually have in J. Reuben Clark's statement: "If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed"? Does confirming the truth for one's self only apply to sincere investigators before they're baptized or all throughout their lives? Are we expected to turn a blind eye to history and believe the myth of infallibility, that authorities called of God always speak the truth?

I believe Terryl Givens spoke truth when he said the following:
We believe that it is always our responsibility to confirm through our own study and prayer and responsiveness to the spirit, whether what we’re hearing, is the mind and will of the Lord or not. I think of Orson Pratt who alone of twelve apostles refused to consent to the false doctrine of Adam-God and only many years later was vindicated for his steadfast integrity. So it may be that in the short term we do find ourselves on the margins or ostracized but I think that our devotion always has to be first and foremost to our conscience, before to any institution. (Mormon Stories Podcast episode 496--part 2: Fiona and Terryl Givens and “The Crucible of Doubt”--1 hour 33 minute mark.)
If I had a more sure hope in church leaders always doing the right thing (ie: if I ignored D&C 121:39), then perhaps I wouldn't feel compelled to speak up and voice the concerns of my conscience. But I must place loyalty to conscience over loyalty to any institution, and my conscience tells me something is seriously wrong with the way excommunications for "apostasy" are taking place. As Joseph Smith said:
I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like methodism and not like Latter day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be tramelled. (Joseph Smith, WoJS, 183-84.)
Most of us Latter-day Saints live in a state of privilege; because we ourselves don't feel trammelled we may conclude it's not really a problem for anyone else. But to "try" others because one has judged them as having "erred in doctrine" is trammeling. There are better ways to handle differences of belief than having someone in a position of "a little authority, as they suppose", press the ejector button. The scriptures teach us the "more excellent way" is to love the person and perhaps even seek to understand rather than be so quick to judge. As a matter of fact, judging them prevents us from fulfilling the greater commandment to love them. President Thomas S. Monson confirmed this:
Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun who worked among the poor in India most of her life, spoke this profound truth: "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." The Savior has admonished, "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you." I ask: can we love one another, as the Savior has commanded, if we judge each other? And I answer—with Mother Teresa: no, we cannot.
If this is true on an individual level, would not the same hold true on an institutional level? How are we to reconcile this with our current conception of "judges in Israel"? While I don't claim to know how to answer that, a wise stake president once said: "Being a judge in Israel does not exempt me from the commandment to love one another. It binds me to it. To be a judge in Israel is to help [people] come unto Christ and repent of their sins. It has nothing to do with assigning guilt. There is many a time I know of sin and do nothing. My responsibility kicks in when an individual desires to repent."

Precisely because no one single mortal can know all the details of ones heart, wouldn't it be better to leave the judgement up to Christ? Last June in her Sunstone presentation, Lavina Fielding Anderson quoted Pope Francis, who just days before had given a homily based on the parable of the mote and the beam and had renounced those who judge others, calling them hypocrites and even comparing them to Satan. He pointed out the scriptural fact that the title of Satan is “the accuser.”

He who judges another puts himself in the role of God, the only judge--and is that not a form of blasphemy? Even with an exclusive claim to priesthood authority, if we see no difference between mortal leaders and God himself, that is idolatry. A man so certain he knows the will of God can be dangerous.
That danger should give us pause, cause us to think deeply, and to be very careful, for whichever judgment we dole out will be the judgement we too will receive. What happens to the brother who judges, as Pope Francis said, is that he ends up "a victim of his own lack of mercy." Speaking on mercy, the Pope went on to say that Jesus "never accuses" but actually does the opposite--he defends. “Jesus will judge, yes, at the end of the world, but in the meantime He intercedes and defends."

God is "the sole judge" and ultimately, said Pope Francis, men who judge “imitate the prince of this world," who waits in the background, ready to accuse. “May the Lord give us the grace to imitate Jesus, the intercessor, advocate, lawyer,” for ourselves and others. We're to imitate Him, not imitate others who judge, for “in the end, it will destroy us." After quoting the Pope, Lavina went on to say:
Meantime, those who judge, who accuse, who bully, who cut off sincere discussion, who silence honest questions, who cast the sufferers out of the community--they claim to speak in the name of God. They may be among those to whom Jesus will say: "Depart from me, I never knew you," or as the Joseph Smith Translation reads "Ye never knew me.” May we cling to Christ, be open to his grace, and have the blessing of being forgiven of our own trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.


Clean Cut said...

It was brought to my attention that many people think my first question about why only men ordained to the priesthood has already been "revealed". I'm aware of many thoughts expressed by various leaders over the years, but no clear revelation.

Many assume Elder Oaks's conference talk on the keys and authority of the Priesthood answered the question of why only men are ordained to the priesthood. The truth is that Elder Oaks explained that women already exercise priesthood power and authority, but do not currently hold priesthood offices or keys.

He didn't provide a reason, footnote, or citation as to why this is the case--just the traditional assumption that the historical patriarchal pattern is divinely decreed. (Historically we also know that some prophets and apostles also had assumed the racial priesthood ban that ended in 1978 had originated with God, yet the Church's recent "Race and the Priesthood" essay correctly places the ban's origins with Brigham Young in the context of the racism of that day and age.)

Elder Oaks did acknowledge, however, that in the temple women perform priesthood ordinances and exercise the priesthood keys of the temple president, though he did not explain why women are banned from performing ordinances outside the temple or why they cannot exercise priesthood keys outside the temple, such as by serving on a stake high council under the direction of or by virtue of the keys of the stake president.

Anonymous said...

I think they've given their answers. Many people (myself included) find those answers unsatisfactory, but I'm not certain that means they haven't given those answers. I'm pretty certain these are the answers:

*Why are only men ordained to the priesthood?

1. Being born with a penis is a clear sign of a divine preordination for a leadership role which is clearly the counterpart to a nurturing motherhood role. (Genitalia are AMAZING revelatory instruments.)

*When will you be reforming the excommunication process?

2. We won't. We are perfectly satisfied with the current system of vaguely stated rules left to the individual judgement of mostly good men with little to no formal training. By shrouding it in secrecy we can avoid transparency while claiming it is for the protection of the individual rather than the institution.

*Why in the world did you uphold Kate Kelly's excommunication anyway?

3. We feel that publicly and repeatedly asking a question, and refusing to accept answer 1 is a threat to our authority so we had to let the action stand. Sure we might occasionally prevaricate on answer 1 in public to avoid looking stupid, but that is meant to give us cover from non-believers, not to give cover to a believer for not accepting the answer just because it seems stupid

Alan said...

Yes. I have found it odd that those we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators would be affronted by requests to prophesy, see, and reveal.

This request is the ultimate sign of faith and respect. It is a sign that we recognize these men in their callings, and will sustain them in whatever the Lord chooses to reveal through them.

That they see such a request as some kind of rebellion causes me to wonder whether they do not believe themselves to be what they purport.

It is not the requests by sincere members that harm the church, it is the leadership who have proven themselves unwilling to take upon themselves the mantle of the calling that strike at the foundations of the church.

If we can disavow the things Brother Brigham called doctrines and call them theories and say he was speaking as a man when he said he was speaking for the Lord, how are we supposed to trust what you have to say?

Anonymous said...

Why do we not receive our 2nd anointing any more? How are we ever going to be "called up" and become kings and queens, priests and priestess, unto the most high God?

Clean Cut said...

As a mutual friend expressed after learning of Rock Waterman's excommunication, THIS is exactly how I feel:

"Another excommunication for speaking one's mind publicly. So disheartening. It's interesting because Rock Waterman's perspective is often different than mine. And yet he has undoubtedly enhanced my Mormon experience. Isn't that the point to spiritual journeys? That we are going to have different ones? That we are going to learn from one another even when we don't agree? I think Mormonism is a lot bigger than how it's currently acting. I was a young woman and college student in the days of leaders such as Elaine Jack and Chieko Okazaki - where progress was felt every time I heard them speak. I never imagined then that our church would actually take steps backwards instead of forward."

Wisdom from Lavina Fielding Anderson seems applicable:

"God doesn't plant lawns. He plants meadows. But we belong to a church that, currently, values lawns--their sameness, their conformity, the ease with which they can all be cut to the same height, watered on schedule, and replaced by new turf if necessary. (And against which it is easy to spot dandelions.) All organizations are limited in their ability to handle diversity, but our church seems particularly limited right now in it's ability to cherish and nurture individuals as individuals--as wild geraniums, catnip, western coneflowers, or yarrow--not as identical blades of grass in a uniformly green lawn...Patience is hard, but I plan to still be here when the Church stops experimenting with lawns and refocuses on the garden which the Lord hath planted."

Richard Alger said...

One answer might be that in order for us to receive new light, we must be willing to live according to the light we have received. It is possible that you, personally, are living according to the light you have. That you have received a personal confirmation about some new light not available to the church or world generally.

That does not mean that you have the authority to speak for the church. Or even the right to convince the world or Mormons of your new revelation, whether it is actually true or not.

Asking the First Presidency might serve to distract from the most urgent needs of the church generally.

This scripture came to mind
"if ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness; but as ye are not holy, and ye look upon me as a teacher, it must needs be expedient that I teach you the consequences of sin."

Also this,
"We cannot and we must not allow ourselves to get distracted from our sacred duty. We cannot and we must not lose focus on the things that matter most."

Clean Cut said...

Distractions. Yes. Well, that's where the subjectivity comes into play. Because I actually feel these excommunications are an actual distraction to the work of the Lord.

I've certainly never claimed authority to speak for the church. Nor would I want it. I'm comfortable sustaining those in authority to receive revelation for the Church, but it's not happening like it did in the past. If it wasn't for the distraction of tobacco stains and Emma's pleas to a prophet of God, we likely never would have received the revelation found in D&C 89. Thus, perhaps it's the hierarchy itself along with the large cooperate style bureaucratic organization that insulates these good men from many good, thoughtful, and faithful Saints and their voices, that's causing a distraction in the work of the Lord.

I feel keenly what Lavina Fielding Anderson said:

"One of my personal insights is support for the order the church has established about the relationship between stewardship and revelation. I have no problem with assigning responsibility for church-wide revelation to the men who hold the office of apostle and prophet, but I can’t describe the pain I feel that those who claim the privilege of revelation seem to refuse the responsibility to seek it. Our church claims continuous revelation, yet it punishes those who implore its leaders to seek it. Some of the most horrifying statements and silences to come out of Kate [Kelly’s] excommunication is the denial that there is anything to pray about or any point on which further revelation should be sought.

"I feel such longing when I read calls from Steve Veazey (prophet and president of the Community of Christ) for the whole church to join in a discernment process. What if our leaders similarly ask its members to pray earnestly about ordaining women to priesthood? About supporting and celebrating our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who want to marry, have families, and participate in congregational life? What if our leaders really accepted Nephi’s assurance and invited us to join with him in the call: Christ "denieth none that come unto Him, black and white, bond and free, male and female...all are alike unto God.” (From Lavina's remarks at minute 10:35-12:16 of Session 324: "Life After Church Discipline.")

Obviously, our individual repentance is what matters most. Even our individual discernment of the mind and will of God is ultimately more important than "authority". What's frustrating is how often the "authority" card distracts us from the things that *really* matter. Like loving and embracing our neighbor who happens to be radically different than ourselves.

Jason said...

Anyone that resonates to the idea of honest, thoughtful, theoretical questions posed to the Brethren probably would enjoy the Questions for the Brethren Facebook page.

Anonymous said...

You can tell a lot about people by the type of question they would ask, and how it is asked. I would imagine that most of the members that I know would ask questions like:

How can I make more progress and gain eternal life?
How can I better serve those around me?
How can I better follow Christ?
How can I raise my children in faith and righteousness?

There are also the curious sorts who might ask things like:

When do you think the second coming will be?
When and how will the Holy Ghost get a body?
When will we get the sealed portions of the Book of Mormon?

I am afraid the questions you generated are mostly just criticisms disguised as questions. There also seems to be a tone of knowing what the First Presidency ought to do (and by extension the Lord) better than they do.

I have watched your sad slide down for the last few years. It has been predictable, but sad nonetheless. I have read everything you put up, but have not engaged because I have felt that it would not be effective - like this will not be. I know I am not the right messenger for you, but I think the question that you, and those who generated these questions ought to be asking is, 'Lord, is it I?' Along with myself.

Clean Cut said...

There's absolutely nothing wrong with your questions. It's just that I wouldn't feel the need to ask those of anyone but myself. I feel I could take those to the Lord myself and get answers.

My questions might not be for you, and that's okay. But they are *my* questions. And they are questions that *only* the authorities of my church can answer.

They are authorities of the church, but I am the authority on how to best live the gospel in my own life.

I can't even tell you the difference in the joy I feel when I hear a testimony that the *gospel* is true versus the *church* is true.

Jason B said...

To Anonymous, I respect your questions, and I think they are the most life changing questions possible, but they also could apply to any Christian religion, and add little to nothing exclusively to Mormonism. Many other religions do not claim modern prophecy and revelation, so questions are usually a personal communication solely with God to wrestle with modern day concerns of morality. God is no respecter of persons, God works through patterns and types/shadows, and God works through the weak things of the world. So, if much of the Doctrine and Covenants were individual revelations based on some "nobody" asking the prophet a question, why doesn't that seem to be the case today? If King Benjamin labored with his own hands among the people, then why do we now seem to insulate church leadership from any hard questions?

In our modern times shouldn't there be some prophetic utterances helping us to understand why some people seem to be born inter-sex, gay, or lesbian? Aren't these people also sought by Christ to join his fold? But for what, a life full of hollowness, no intimacy, letting no one in your heart to love? I can't think of anything less conducive to developing Christ-like character than complete abject solitude, forced celibacy, and a lack of an emotional partner.

Where are prophetic utterances on overcoming the selfishness in the world, on whether there is any any extenuating circumstances for medially induced suicide, on living both of the two great commandments (Instead of only the first), on taking care of the homeless and widows (Even if they are gay), on loving the poor more than our materialism? Where is an honest description of the history and requirements of tithing? Why can't we have clarified for us the reasons, intended purpose, and eternal nature of polygamy? Why can't we have clarified from God about whether the King Follett discourse was divine or mere speculation?Will infants truly not grow another cubit in the eternities, as Joseph Smith proclaimed? For all those tens of billions of children who died before the age of 8, who will raise them in the millenium if only celestial people are remaining? Where does the doctrine of excommunication come from, and why does the separation of church membership also nullify our eternal covenants? Is disbelief a sin? And if not, then how can you be excommunicated for it? Everything is becoming whitewashed, with little of practical purpose separating us from Protestant religions, other than our belief in the Book of Mormon.

Instead we get talks attempting to prevent two loving, committed people from being able to be married, when on the list of the things destroying the morality of the world, it is likely zillionth on the list. We get derided for having more than one earring or facial hair, get a stern lecture on following the Brethren, and little else that leads to internal conversion to Christ. For years I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon and of Joseph Smith, but realized only recently that I didn't have a testimony of Jesus Christ. If I have a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, aren't I lost? If I have a testimony of Jesus Christ, but not of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, then aren't I still found?

Questioning is sad? said...

Since when did it become "sad" to ask rigorous questions? The only thing I see that is sad is that out leaders reject any voices not from within their own ranks, and expect everyone "below" them to fall in line and not question what they're saying, even when the Spirit has confirmed truth that conflicts with the current direction of the church:

“When it comes to ideas, I’ve always enjoyed Wilson Mizner’s credo. He said, ‘I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.' It’s crucially important to be able to turn a different idea around, examining it three-dimensionally, in the context of your own intellectual field and values system, cataloging the differences and noting the points of contrast, but without bringing them into conflict until the process is complete. Reasonable, healthy, needed change cannot occur if we aren’t willing to go through this process. If we hurry through the process, we may end up junking a very valuable idea without seeing its merit; or we may prematurely decide that our own system is flawed and throw out parts of it that we may later discover were not only the bath water but the baby as well. I sometimes think that we Mormons, because we belong to the true church, sometimes are very dismissive of anything we don’t remember hearing in seminary or Sunday School class. That’s wrong. We should be the most intellectually alive and curious people on earth.”

-Chieko Okazaki, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," pp. 57-58

Christian said...

If Clean Cut is too nice to stick up for himself to a long time reader who accuses him of a "sad slide", then I will, because it bothers me also as a long time reader whose faith journey has likewise brought me from a very programmed faith in Mormon leaders to a recognition that they're not much different/better than the rest of us. They've just got a lot more responsibility on their shoulders. They put their pants on the same as I do and they try seek God's inspiration the same as I do.

It isn't "sad" to see allegiance to men shift to allegiance to God. Sometimes what the brethren say *doesn't* represent the mind and will of God; only their best collective wisdom at the time. God is greater than that and he wants us to keep seeking and asking and striving and using our mind AND heart to follow Him.

What about all the Latter-day Saints who do just that, but God is leading them to different convictions than the 15 men currently tasked with running the church?

The glory of God is not in following mortal leaders as though they have a closer connection to God. The glory of God is intelligence, or light and truth, and THAT is something God gives liberally to all who ask. THAT's what I've seen Clean Cut seeking over the years.

Your questions also say a lot about you as a person. They tell me you're not much different than other lay Mormons who are less interested in vigorous questioning and are content with the answers already provided. If I were to likewise judge you and your testimony I would think you'd rather be a follower of the church than a follower of God. Maybe the church has become your God? Or at least those currently leading the church have become your God?

I appreciate Clean Cut's voice because it represents a Mormon who has awakened, as well as one who tries to be faithful both to intellectual truth and spiritual truth and refuses to see them in opposition to each other.

Richard Bushman is a prime example of an intellectual and also a faithful Mormon, whose loyalty is to truth, not tradition. Clean Cut once quoted him on a post that I find very relevant here:

"The hardest thing for ordinary Mormons to appreciate is the battle intellectuals are called upon to fight to make sense of the world. Their very effectiveness as intellectuals grows out of their commitment to ideas and evidence. Whereas most people want simple, clear conclusions in harmony with their own preconceptions, scholars have to deal with the evidence and hammer out ideas. The advice to "forget it" when they come across a troubling idea is precisely what they cannot do. Their work would be useless if they did not make these pains. Inevitably, there will be misunderstandings. Scholars seem stubborn and proud, whereas laypeople seem complacent and unaware. Even when both parties act with goodwill, it takes time to achieve mutual understanding."

Shannon said...

You can definitely tell a person by their questions. "I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned."
-Richard Feynman

Anonymous said...

Jason B, excellent comment!

Clean Cut, I really appreciate your blog. Thank you for providing such thoughtful, intelligent posts.

Most of my questions have already been asked. I'd only add:

If women have the power and authority of the priesthood (per Elder Oaks), administer priesthood ordinances in the temple, and used to do a lot more with the priesthood (like give blessings), why can't they administer ordinances outside of the temple, be ordained, or give blessings now?

I am asked versions of this question in youth Sunday school practically every time the subject of the priesthood comes up. Telling them we don't know why, but that it's just how it's been done and we can hope for further light and knowledge on the subject, is as unsatisfying for them to hear as it is for me to say.

Jared L.