Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Calderwood's Concerns Should Be The Church's Collective Concerns

"When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser." -Elder Dallin H. Oaks

I fully agree with the above statement by Elder Oaks. Likewise, our Church is the loser when church leaders retaliate and force out church members who voice concerns in public. Despite my holy hope for holy leadership, it would be an egregious error to assume that even good, but fallible LDS leaders, cannot get things "wrong." Too often, despite the great inclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Church excludes people and sends the sad message: "You do not belong here." I believe the Church should be strong enough to allow healthy public dissent. Make no mistake, there is an unjust wrong being done to my friends Marisa Pond Calderwood and Carson Calderwood.

With permission, here are their own words:
This Thursday, May 21st, we will be tried for apostasy in the Mormon church. We have been accused of apostasy because we have publicly discussed difficult, yet true issues about the church's history and changes in doctrine, which have caused us to not believe this is God's one true church. Although we are in a spiritual and emotional place that allows us to deal with excommunication, many people are not because of fear of rejection by family, friends and community. We are choosing to go to the disciplinary council instead of quietly resigning so that we can be a voice for them and point out the problems in excommunicating people for open public discourse and disbelief.

We've seen the cognitive dissonance in ourselves and others when facts that used to be considered anti-Mormon lies are now admitted by the church to be true. It was so painful for us that we want to have these conversations to help mitigate some of the heart ache for those who are suffering like we did. Also, other members look down on those having doubts as less faithful. We want to be vocal so that those who make these judgments can see that the issues are real and legitimate without easy answers. Furthermore, it's better to love and include rather than shame and ostracize. Although individuals are having these traumatic faith crises, the real problem is that the church is going through a truth crisis.

We believe that “the truth will set [us] free” and that “the truth has nothing to fear.” This search for truth isn't fully allowed or practiced in today's church. We understand the desire to keep many of the difficult issues out of the public sphere, but the church simply cannot expect that it's going to work any longer to maintain a whitewashed narrative and keep doubters quiet in the age of information and social media. Mormons believe that before we came to earth, we rejected Satan's plan and instead chose agency. In the church today, we have to allow members to know the complete history, to talk about it openly, and ultimately to decide for themselves what they believe is true.

Although our stake president understands and admires our motives, he feels that this is not how the Brethren want it to be done. From the little they have spoken on the issue, they appear to want members to work on these issues in private and not discuss them in public with others. He believes if God wanted it differently, He would change it from the top down. We disagree because almost all of the major policies and programs in the church started at the grassroots level. Some general authorities have even called for members to create initiatives like ours instead of waiting for the Brethren to tell them what to do (Elder Clayton Christensen, 2009 Boston LDS Education Conference). 
During talks with our Stake President, who is a genuinely loving and caring man, he told us that he has not received any counsel from anyone above him on what to do with us. We've heard through mutual friends that he feels isolated and alone. He said this has been one of the most difficult things he's done as a Stake President. The general authorities are leaving Stake Presidents out to dry by not giving more correct guidelines on how to deal with members talking about difficult church subjects and doubts in public. They are also throwing truth-seeking members under the bus by not helping them deal with these issues in a different way. Finally, and most devastatingly, they are exacerbating emotional trauma by not speaking out more against the shaming of doubt and villainizing of doubters, or changing policies to actively include and accept everyone along their faith journey. Hopefully the church will see that good people who are doing the difficult work of dealing with this truth crisis and helping to alleviate the pain are worthy of praise instead of excommunication. Hopefully the general authorities will be more clear on these issues and how to deal with them in a healthy, public way that encourages love and understanding.

***Update to include the result from last night (and Carson's blog update here):


Sincere Question said...

Is there any acceptable way to voice these concerns and send the message that what the leadership is doing is wrong?

Dave said...

There simply are no acceptable communication avenues to move these concerns up the ladder. Even formal appeals of actual proceedings (such as the upcoming Calderwood event) don't seem to get serious consideration -- in any case, no serious response to the appellant is ever provided, suggesting no serious consideration is ever given.

And if LDS leaders don't take excommunication seriously (at least not seriously enough to give appeals honest consideration) ... why should anyone? If they want people to respect the disciplinary system, they should reform it.

Alan said...

Great point Dave. I doubt there are many local leaders who have gone through a period of doubt. They don't know what it feels like to sincerely question the truth claims and historical issues people like the Calderwoods and Dehlins have gone through. They tend to see the issues of questioning as black and white and cancerous. In my experience, most of my friends and loved ones who have left the church spent a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out a way to stay in it and maintain their integrity. I am saddened by it all.

Paul said...

Do you think any organization should tolerate within its ranks people who do not like it and openly question it? When is it fair for an organization to get rid of disaffected people?

Clean Cut said...

Paul, there's a big difference between those who wish to harm an organization and those who love the organization. If you think the loving thing to do is to never question the organization, than we simply disagree.

I put myself in Carson Calderwood's shoes and say that I have enough love for truth, people, and, yes, even the organization, that I will openly question unjust administration.

I love my country--but questioning the leaders of my country should not put my patriotism or love for my country into question.

Likewise, I love the Church. Questioning those leading the church (whether in Seattle or Salt Lake) does not mean one wishes to cause harm to the organization. It shouldn't put my love or faithfulness into question. It just means that present administration is not always what is best for the church.

I could be wrong, but I think we all want the organization to be better. Reform *is* needed. The Lord will not force it on us. We, the people, must actively try to seek after the Lord's will. And when the scriptures (D&C 121) warn us the default nature and disposition of almost all men leading/in position of power, is to exercise "unrighteous dominion", there ought to be a way to call that unrighteous dominion into question and have legitimate appeals process--not the farce of appeal that currently exists.

The Calderwoods don't deserve the "red button" of ejection:

The gospel is VERY inclusive. The LDS church is acting very exclusive; it’s not living up to the inclusiveness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. See this, for example:

Using discipline to eject people out of the church simply for publicly expressing their beliefs/disbeliefs is not grounds for “repentance" or showing people the door. It's grounds for mutual understanding and compassion!

Using a disciplinary council for this to squelch dissent (rather than for its intended purpose of helping actual grievous sinners repent) is making a farce of the disciplinary system and our Church is poorer because of it.

Sure, dissent can be taken too far and turned into personal attacks. But dissent/disagreement is healthy for an organization. There *is* a place for dissent.

Right now I disagree with the way disciplinary councils are being used like a “red button” and yet there is NO established way/means/channels to even begin to kindly/appropriately express that. It’s as though there is no place for *me* to be anything but a lemming or a robot that goes unquestioningly along with everything as though it were done with the Lord’s stamp of approval. And that view would fly in the face of our true history, and truth.

Clean Cut said...

Carson himself commented on my "Holy Hope for Holy Leadership" post:

"Are we going to excommunicate people for lack of belief? If so, let's ex 90% of the membership. There are things the church teaches that I believe in still, I just don't see it as God's one, single path. I've even admitted I could be wrong.

"The problem is not me, its the members that feel a desire to ex people like me, to ostracize, to isolate, IOW to not love or be Christ-like. The problem is also members that feel like saying anything publicly against the church means you should be exed. Most of the programs in the church were started on the grass roots, not via revelation from God to the prophet. What I'm requesting about doubts and doubters is contrary to many of the statements of many of the leaders and therefore will have to be a grass roots change. Instead of thinking the leaders are perfect and excusing whatever they do, we should join and request they reconsider their position and be more Christ-like...

"The crux of my situation [is the question of what] constitutes apostasy and how much unbelief/sin requires excommunication.

"When people who do terrible things like huge extortion or embezzlement schemes or physical/sexual abuse don't excommunicated, yet others do for unbelief, something seems off to me. That would be a good thing to get dialed in, equalized and explained."

Nadine said...

Excellent. But the stake president doesn't get a pass, even if he is a genuinely loving and caring man. In the absence of clear direction from church leaders to excommunicate outspoken members who are speaking the truth, they should refuse to initiate any church discipline. If they do get clear direction to excommunicate, then they should say so publicly. This practice of having the top leaders hint that something needs to be done about people who speak publicly about actual, factual historical problems, and then allow local leaders to do the dirty work of excommunication while they look the other way is both cowardly and despicable. And stake presidents who participate in this sinister game are no less culpable because they feel bad about it than were Stanley Milgram's experimental subjects who agonized while pushing the buttons.

Clean Cut said...

Even if this direction *did* come from a 70 above the stake president, it's still wrong (and the 70 needs to be corrected) as it is in direct contradiction to this clear counsel of President Dieter Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the Church:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a place for people with all kinds of testimonies. There are some members of the Church whose testimony is sure and burns brightly within them. Others are still striving to know for themselves. The Church is a home for all to come together, regardless of the depth or the height of our testimony. I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, “Your testimony must be this tall to enter.”

The Church is not just for perfect people, but it is for all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” The Church is for people like you and me. The Church is a place of welcoming and nurturing, not of separating or criticizing. It is a place where we reach out to encourage, uplift, and sustain one another as we pursue our individual search for divine truth.

In the end, we are all pilgrims seeking God’s light as we journey on the path of discipleship. We do not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have; rather, we nourish and encourage all light until it grows clear, bright, and true.

Clean Cut said...

There is evidence that in the past leaders have intervened for the better but far too often they intervene for the worse. I'm actually not sure if all 12 apostles are in full agreement with this excellent counsel from President Uchtdorf. Apparently the stake president in Seattle doesn't agree with the message coming from the First Presidency?

"Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us!"

Supporter said...

Love and blessings to you both, Marisa and Carson! Your courage is inspiring. Please know this evening that thousands of us are standing with you, and know that together, we will pioneer a better way in the months and years to come.

If you're local in Seattle tonight, come show some love today before their (likely) excommunication, as they will be facing something very hard (even under the best of circumstances).

Date: Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Time: They arrive at 7:30, official start time is 8pm
Church Address: 26800 236th Pl SE Maple Valley, WA 98038

Afterward, folks will meet at Farrelli's near the church house and stay there late.

26442 Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE, Maple Valley, WA 98038

On a Utah Ward Council said...

My heart is torn between compassion and anger. Compassion for people like you and me and anger that any church excommunicates someone for following the dictates of their conscience and exercising freedom of conscience. Makes the church seem very much like a cult.

Apparently the church that relies on iron rod notions requires an iron fist in moments to defend and reinforce those notions?

Liberated: said...

And they still have the audacity to call these "courts of love" when they're the ones inflicting pain and abuse? Better to call it a "court of control".

Former cultists can attest that the main indicators of mind control is any group that maintains:

*leadership deserves strict, unquestioning obedience

*they alone are unique in teaching truth

*salvation is only possible through association with the group

*dissenters must be strictly shunned

"When your own thoughts are forbidden, when your questions are not allowed and our doubts are punished, when contacts with friendships outside of the organization are censored, we are being abused, for the ends never justify the means. When our heart aches knowing we have made friendships and secret attachments that will be forever forbidden if we leave, we are in danger. When we consider staying in a group because we cannot bear the loss, disappointment and sorrow our leaving will cause for ourselves and those we have come to love, we are in a cult… If there is any lesson to be learned it is that an ideal can never be brought about by fear, abuse, and the threat of retribution. When family and friends are used as a weapon in order to force us to stay in an organization, something has gone terribly wrong."
-Deborah Layton, "Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the People's Temple"

Sam said...

As Greg Prince recently said on a Trib Talk about the Church:

“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.”

Such appears to be the case with the current system of church discipline in need of major modern reforms.

While I think we're all for autonomy in the church, unfortunately the church has created a construct in which the vast majority of members feel some sort of helplessness until Salt Lake says something. By not acting proactively here, the general leaders have created a poor and unfortunate environment for these types of things at the local level.

This example of the Calderwoods excommunication is exactly what happens when there is not adequate direction from Salt Lake. We have amazing places like the leadership in Cambridge, Mass and San Francisco, Ca, and then we have the opposite here.

While I disagree with church "discipline" in general, if they are going to have it there should be clear guidelines on what you disfellowship or excommunicate someone for. Get rid of the leadership roulette as much as possible.

Hannah said...

The church needs to get out of the excommunication business. It's unbecoming of a Christ-centered organization.

MR said...

Pedophiles, kidnappers, murderers and questioners. One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn't belong.

Dave said...

Very sad. I suspect the position of the local leaders is that you are not simply questioning or doubting or weak in the faith, but that you are actively spreading disaffection by sharing those doubts and questions. But the Handbook gives little guidance to local leaders on how to proceed in such a situation -- the details of how and when and with whom you share doubts or questions matters a great deal, but I don't really trust local leaders to make those distinctions. So there is a lot of variation on how such cases get handled. Which seems unfair and counterproductive as a matter of policy, besides being unfair to the particular individuals affected. On the Church's own terms, those who have doubts and questions are supposed to be encouraged to stay, keeping what faith they have, not simply be shown the door.

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this. I appreciate your thoughtfulness as you try to discuss sensitive topics. I would like to share some of my thoughts w/ you so please bear w/ me as I try to articulate this. Being articulate is not my strong point. smile emoticon I thought of an analogy from my professional life that I'd like to share. Please give pause and consideration to this angle of the issue, as I try to say this. Here goes. I work for a very large health care insurance company, publicly traded, even international. About 50k employees. As you can imagine, the task of maintaining a positive branding image in today's day and age as well as political landscape - w/ all the focus on Obamacare and whatnot - is a daunting one. There are many things about health care insurance companies that could be lamented here, but I won't get into that. But I, in fact, disagree w/ a lot of what they do. Their very existence challenges my own morals and ethics. Is there a way for me to express my dissatisfaction? Yes. I participate in the company culture committee, I can go to the political action committee, I talk to my boss, I brainstorm w/ my co-workers - many, many ways to express my opinions and share my ideas. However. I recently went through a "social media" training at work. I have to admit it made me a little angry. The training focused on appropriate do's and don'ts of talking about the company in public spaces. It even went as far as to caution me on how I portrayed myself in social media, as my character was a reflection on the company itself. They have the responsibility and desire to brand themselves in a positive light and deal w/ customer complaints in a respectful, professional manner. If I violate that social media compact, it's grounds for my termination. Is that fair? Not sure. But I voluntarily work there and I submit to the organization's policies and procedures as a condition of my employment there. I realize that comparing the church to a business is not ideal. But the point I'm trying to make is that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to express opinions and concerns about the church. I think the church, in good faith, endeavors to protect the faith of *all* its members. Having been at very tenuous places in my own faith journey, I have discovered that hearing about other members' doubts and concerns in non-faith promoting ways, has been harmful to me. I prefer to discuss these types of super-sensitive topics in Sunday School, in Relief Society, w/ my home teachers, w/ my spouse, w/ my bishop, w/ my Stake President, et al. It allows me the space to openly express my concerns but without damaging the faith of those around me. It's a safe environment and safe way to express myself. Please, please consider that members do not have a "right" to openly express their doubts and concerns in a non-faith promoting way because it damages others around them. While I do not know the specific circumstances of this couple that you know, I could imagine that there may have been others involved. At the end of the day - my heart goes out to them. But I pray they do not abandon the Gospel around something like this. It's just not worth it. I pray that they are able to resolve their concerns on their own faith journey.

Anonymous said...

The church leaders do need to change how some things are done. The Salt Lake leaders do need to get more involved in certain issues, no doubt.

I know I will be attacked for what I will say. It is hard to put in words thoughts and feelings.

When I read what this couple said it sounded like every one else who is getting ready to leave the church, parroting others. I believe there are people looking for a way out of the church so this is the way they do it. No, I do not believe they want to sin, or whatever. They just don't believe and their reasons and reasoning are the way the blame on the church. It happened to people I know. The same mode of operation.....cognitive dissonance, lied to, white wash etc. People who leave other religions say the exact same things and then become agnostic or atheists.

I had questions and doubts. It took over two years of study and research, soul searching, prayer, and lots of work. There are things people like this couple and others like them don't consider, which is unfortunate. Oh they say they do, but when questioned much is revealed that they did not consider, or researched. There is always more to it.

It deeply saddens me when people leave the church.

Brennen said...

I'm very happy that you find joy in the church. Your comment is very understandable given your circumstances. Someone who "knows" that the restored gospel is true, or even believes it to be true, will always heavily rely on Moroni's promise (Moroni 10:3-5) for their testimony. You "know" or believe that God will answer your prayer and so you have no choice but to assume that if someone does not receive an answer to their prayers, it is because they are doing something wrong. You say people who leave the church just "parrot" the reasoning of others, as if that makes the reasoning faulty. Every testimony in every church meeting is the same. Personal stories may be different, but I have never heard more "parroting" than in the LDS church. This is not why I don't believe, but I just wanted to contend you are the one who is misinformed. I would also be interested to hear what every person who has left the church has failed to consider.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, there's no inconsistency between the Oaks quote above and church discipline for certain expressions of views. The quote is talking about the public square, not the private sector of the church, or other private groups. Oaks quote is not saying, for example, that democracy suffers if we ask people to leave our home because of a distasteful thing they've said, nor does democracy suffer if we delete comments from our personal FB status. That separation between public and private is very, very important.

Furthermore, if we say it's really about the "spirit of the statement," Oaks is talking about democracy, one that usually occurs in a pluralistic society. Church is not a democracy; it does function in some ways like one but it is prophet-led, relevation-led.

We are in an are of humanity in many countries can believe how they wish without being withheld civil rights. As easy as it might be to want to draw an equivalance to the morality enforced by law, we must remember that the law does not have the last word.

Individuals and private organisations also have the right to associate how they will. If I don't like your comments in my space, I can ask you to leave. And you can do the same.

It is worrisome for me that there seems to be the implication that "I can say what I want and I have to like how you respond to it." The doctrine of religious separation, is meant to protect us from the state, not dictate in any implicit or explicit way the morality of private individual responses.

In my opinion, we should be nurturing a deeper respect for personal and private opinions, personal and private discretion, and the need of a person or group to form a protective space of their own, according to their own terms.

With those spaces in place, we can engage in a Christlike manner, we can still come together, unbelievers and believers.

This is my opinion, but I do not think Uchtdorf's statements of inclusion are saying we should make baptism a sign of social inclusion. It is not, never was. Our church can be a place of social inclusion, always. Baptism, or membership, is a matter of covenant.

Nathan Whilk said...

This reminds me of the story of the man who publicly declared that his wife was a disgusting liar, and then professed to be shocked and saddened when she filed for divorce.

Clean Cut said...

You know what deeply saddens me? When Mormons act as though we're an autocratic oligarchy fueled by fear and obsessed with saving the world from the threat of dangerous ideologies.

Sad said...

The Church Institution is getting more and more unacceptable to me day by day. I love the people, my ward, the good people say and do. But these excommunications and ongoing exclusions (!) are unacceptable- I say this with anger and disappointment, hoping for a growing ability to transform this into something useful, something good.

Brian said...

Personally I think Stake Presidents and Bishops should be stripped of the authority to excommunicate people. That should be shifted to the Quorum of the 12 for trials and the president of the Church should sign each one. That would mean a lot less kicking people out and a lot more uniformity.

Clean Cut said...

I second that suggestion! Think about it. Names of potential bishops must get First Presidency approval but something as serious as an excommunication for "apostasy" doesn't?

The doubly ironic thing about this is that this action against the Calderwoods will cause more people to doubt that this is Christ's church than they ever could have. (And that wasn't even what they were doing! They were just living according to the dictates of their conscience.)

If people have such fragile testimonies that hearing alternative voices might make them doubt, than I say GOOD. People SHOULD doubt some of the things they hear. Including the status quo.

If the Calderwoods speaking their truth makes others want to investigate the truth deeper for themselves, then that would be a GOOD thing, in my opinion. Because my ultimate loyalty is to the truth over the tradition/the institution.

Christ never excommunicated doubters. This action exposes some problems, one of those problems being that the institution (and those acting on its behalf) are apparently more concerned about the institution than the individual.

And since Christ was more concerned about individuals than religious institutions, this truly speaks volumes, but not about the Calderwood's.

Andrea said...

Who would have thought that God's one true church would excommunicate people for being honest?

Trent said...

A lot of negativity in these posts toward the organization that helped feed my family and keep us in housing during our hardest times. An organization that I have seen bless the lives of many during their hardest times. I don't blame anyone for disagreeing with what we believe. I have two siblings that no longer believe and who left with no hard feelings. I love Carson and Marisa and send them my love and good vibes. We got to know them in Baltimore and they are AWESOME. But I will never get why people don't just leave if they aren't into it anymore. It worked great for my siblings. I totally get that church history is crazy. I totally get that current church practices and doctrine could rub a lot of people the wrong way. What I don't get is the need to do anything other than live and let live and leave if you don't like it. I personally love it and I am a very free thinking, somewhat liberal, well educated person. If you had seen what I have seen and experienced what I have experienced of the amazing good the church does, you would feel the same way. But I know not everyone has my experience and I don't fault them for disagreeing with me. Much love to everyone. Try to respect those of us who still love "drinking the Kool-Aid".

Phil said...

Just take a minute and reverse the questions from them to the church. Why can't they just live and let live? What are they so afraid of that they don't allow questioning?

Mat said...

You are correct that many businesses, if not all, would kick out those that display negativity. The LDS Church is NOT supposed to be a business. It is NOT supposed to be a charity. It IS supposed to be a religion. A church. A welcoming mat for all. Should they accept the sinner? the homeless? The criminal? The legally same sex married couple? The destitute? The person (allegedly) that they named their church after would have welcomed them all. But for some reason, there is a stigma that above all else, and all other reasons, the doubter and dissenter is not welcome. I work at a prison, and I see thousands of LDS volunteers go out of there way to fulfill their callings by preaching the church teachings to murderers and sex offenders; hoping to one day welcome them back. But someone has an issue with actual truth that the church won't even admit, and they get banished for their desire for the truth. Explain how that is, 'not being able to leave the church alone'. Even you said you like certain parts but not others. How is their situation any different?

Anonymous said...

Far too many people think that being a member of the church is an "all or nothing" proposition, and that black and white thinking is harmful.

Some truly want to stay for some reasons, even while opposing others. For example, John Dehlin and Kate Kelly. They were exed because they stood up for their convictions; both of whom have done nothing but speak factual truths about the church. No slander. No lies. Just their hearts on their sleeves, and truth. There is no other reason.

Sure, the Church can say they apostatized. But they didn't. They publicized the reality of the church that they try to keep hidden. If it wasn't for people like them, and the internet, do you think the church would be honest about it's teachings?

So is it right to publicly shame someone for telling the truth? And if you think there is really an open space for critical thinking and honest questioning in the church, then I would invite you to stock around and read the hundreds and thousands of stories of families torn apart because of open, honest questions. Perhaps you have been lucky to not be a part of that, but that is an outlier in a sea of thousands.

Anonymous said...

I think Carson and Marisa were so brave to take this on and be a voice for those of us who are still walking on eggshells for fear of being estranged from TBM spouses/children/parents/siblings etc.

The Church needs to know that this bullying called excommunication is barbaric and needs to stop. The church needs to stop demonizing doubters, who are doubting very real problematic parts of our past. Legitimate issues and concerns exist and not many dare stand up to the institution and/or pull back the curtain on the "Wizard of Oz."

Anonymous said...

Clean Cut, you seem to be using "having doubts" as a euphemism for no longer believing. You posted their account where they say they no longer believe. Those are not the same thing, are they?

"Feels so good not to be tramelled" said...

It's not the good and moral people who weigh the good against the bad for themselves that hurt the Church. The Church is hurting itself by its own actions and behavior.

The institutional Church has proven that the institution is "judgmental, angry, self-serving, smug, boring, and old" along with other "Christian" institutions that think they can hold God hostage.

It's that unique after all:

"5 Ways Churches Are Hurting Themselves"

Clean Cut said...


I agree. There's a difference between "having doubts" and "not believing", but the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive either. You can have doubts and still be a believer in many core things but disbelieve other things (even things others might believe are "core things".)

I think doubt can be useful if it leads us to dig deeper to find out the truth for ourselves. Doubting can lead to belief in some things but disbelief in others. Doubting traditional narratives led me to dig deeper to find out the truth for myself.

I've found that many people aren't actually interested in finding out the "truth" for themselves as much as they're interested in having their existing beliefs reinforced as "true."

I can't speak for the Calderwood's, but while there is much in the Church they no longer believe in or support, there are still some things they *do* believe in and support. And that makes me much like them. I can say the same for myself. I'm not going to label someone an "unbeliever" just because they don't believe the exact same things as me.

At what point does it just become about semantics? I can say that there are many things I no longer "doubt", but I've earned the right to claim belief that they're *not* true. Does that make me a believer or an unbeliever?

In my lifetime I have heard many glorious truths preached over the LDS pulpit, including general conference, stake conference, and the pulpit in my own ward. In all three places I've also heard false teachings preached. Not all were corrected. But I take comfort in something Henry Eyring Sr. once said: "In this church you only need to believe the truth, find out what the truth is."

I sincerely try to follow the dictates of my own conscience. That naturally involves discerning which counsel applies to me as an individual "free agent" and also discerning between truth and error. I don't take that responsibility lightly, but because there exists no infallible standard to rely on (including the prophets and even scripture), ultimately the buck stops with each individual's individual discernment. :)

That's the way it has always been and always will be. The stubborn fact is that even objective "Truth" is always evaluated subjectively.

As Terryl Givens has said:

“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.”
1 hour 33 minute mark on part 2

Jared said...

As usual, as I read through the post and the comments, I didn't see reasoning from the scriptures.

The bloggernacle is filled with church members of all stripes who rely on the reasoning of the world and virtually ignore the scriptures.

It appears that many in the church who, for one reason or another, never acquired the depth of testimony they could have, when a trial of their faith comes along, they lose what faith they do have.

They can be the nicest people imaginable, but when they take a course that qualifies them for excommunication, then we have post that cry foul.

Following is the standard the Lord gave for the church to use in cases like the Calderwood's. Mosiah 26:14 - 39.

Note: I cut some the verses out for to keep it brief.

14 And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying:

18 Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine.

19 And because thou hast inquired of me concerning the transgressor, thou art blessed.

29 Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.

30 Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.

31 And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor's trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation.

32 Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward.

33 And it came to pass when Alma had heard these words he wrote them down that he might have them, and that he might judge the people of that church according to the commandments of God.

34 And it came to pass that Alma went and judged those that had been taken in iniquity, according to the word of the Lord.

35 And whosoever repented of their sins and did confess them, them he did number among the people of the church;

36 And those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the people of the church, and their names were blotted out.

37 And it came to pass that Alma did regulate all the affairs of the church; and they began again to have peace and to prosper exceedingly in the affairs of the church, walking circumspectly before God, receiving many, and baptizing many.

Lori said...

There's nothing scriptural about the Church's definition of "apostasy" either.

I don't know the Calderwood's, but they are in my thoughts. I am so sorry.

The human organization may have failed you, but Christ is still with you. He will never excommunicate you.

Steve said...

Hold it. Aren't millions of members nonbelievers? They're still on the rolls. So this couple must have been publicly disagreeing with core elements of the LDS Church. Excommunication is a natural, understandable result. I'd expect to be ex'd under the circumstances, and I'd probably want it, to keep the rolls clean and to avoid cog dis.

Let's say I got into ultra-running, which has its religious aspects. (I know it's distinguishable, and that the analogy fails ultimately, but parts of it are valid.) I joined an ultra-club. Then I decided it was bad to run long distances, bad for health, bad for life. So if I didn't care and say anything to anyone, they'd probably leave me as a member (inactive) of the club. That's the millions of nonbelieving Mormons who are still members. But if I started publicly talking against ultra-running, and they found out about it, they'd kick me out. And if I were a reasonable fellow, I'd say, of course. I think they should.

Clean Cut said...

Steve, it's more like the ultra-runner who still loves running and his fellow runners but who has legitimate grievances with the way the board members have misled runners into paths that have been harmful and then abused/penalized individual runners for speaking out about those concerns.

Carson has said: "We feel like the church does some very damaging things, in a bullying kind of way. Those that get bullied can't stand up for themselves, usually because of family/spouse pressure. We want to stand up against this since we can and don't care what happens to us."

Clean Cut said...

And I should add, these were not personal attacks on the board members themselves, but a criticism of some of their actions and policies that actually hurt others.

James said...

Elder Uchtdorf be like, "There is room for you, regardless of your level of your level of faith."

Members be like, "There's no room for you. Get the crap outta here."

But then members be like, ""Elder Uchtdorf is a true apostle of Christ."

Pat said...

Elder Oaks: "When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser"

Seems like this is exactly what the church does when it requires people to "not discuss differences of belief" or that they have to "change their thinking" even if they keep it to themselves.

It's not me with the problem, it's the church said...

If ecclesiastical leaders want intellectual members to publicly renounce and apologize for publicly speaking truths that the Church would rather have us "conceal, don't feel, put on a show" then I say the same should hold for church leaders and their widespread dishonesty regarding blacks and the priesthood, blood atonement, the cover-up of Joseph Smith's sexual perversions within polygamy and polyandry, the stone and the hat, and countless other things. Fair is fair, right? It seems to me that the word fair, thoughtful, or loving is not in play in our church leadership anymore. Where is the gospel of Jesus Christ in all of this institutional control/"administration" in the human organization of the church?

Johnny said...

Some Relevant Quotes:

"Now there was no law against a man's belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds." Alma 30:7

"...if a man rejects a message that I may give to him but is still moral and believes in the main principles of the gospel and desires to continue in his membership in the Church, he is permitted to remain...But so long as a man believe in God and has a little faith in the Church organization, we nurture and aid that person to continue faithfully as a member of the Church though he may not believe all that is revealed." - President Joseph F. Smith ("Reed Smoot Hearings Record," US Congress, 1903-1907, pp 97-98)

“The body of Christ needs it’s full compliment of members – the devout, the wayward, the uncomfortable, the struggling.”
- Terryl & Fiona Givens, The Crucible of Doubt

“Doubt, if not suppressed or repressed, can be a fruitful catalyst to spiritual growth and discovery. To vilify doubt in all its forms has pernicious consequences. It can forestall progress, create testimonies of glass, and breed resentment. First, because it characterizes as sinful what is in many cases a fully legitimate and honorable response to the normal vicissitudes of our own spiritual equilibrium or to the inevitable eruptions of cognitive dissonance.”
- Givens

"Doubt is neither good not bad, it’s value depends on what you do with it. You can doubt what’s real in order to stay asleep or you can doubt your day dreams in order to wake up. You can use doubt to protect you from the truth or you can use doubt to leave you vulnerable to it. You’ll have doubt regardless.”
- Adam Miller, Letters to a Young Mormon

“He who has never doubted, has never thought.” –Hugh B. Brown

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a place for people with all kinds of testimonies. There are some members of the Church whose testimony is sure and burns brightly within them. Others are still striving to know for themselves. The Church is a home for all to come together, regardless of the depth or the height of our testimony. I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, “Your testimony must be this tall to enter.”

The Church is not just for perfect people, but it is for all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.”15 The Church is for people like you and me. The Church is a place of welcoming and nurturing, not of separating or criticizing. It is a place where we reach out to encourage, uplift, and sustain one another as we pursue our individual search for divine truth.

In the end, we are all pilgrims seeking God’s light as we journey on the path of discipleship. We do not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have; rather, we nourish and encourage all light until it grows clear, bright, and true." –Pres. Uchtdorf

Johnny said...

More relevant quotes:

"As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions...don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this same thing in another way. When he was asked how he governed such a diverse group of Saints, he said, 'I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.'"
(Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, June 2006)

“We who are General Authorities and general officers are called to teach His general rules. You and we then lead specific lives and must seek the Lord’s guidance regarding specific circumstances.”
(Jeffrey Holland, “General Patterns and Specific Lives,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Feb 2008)

"... we need to develop the capacity to form judgments of our own about the value of ideas, opportunities, or people who may come into our lives. We won’t always have the security of knowing whether a certain idea is 'Church approved,' because new ideas just don’t always come along with little tags attached to them saying whether the Church has given them the stamp of approval. Whether in the form of music, books, friends, or opportunities to serve, there is much that is lovely, of good report and praiseworthy, that is not the subject of detailed discussion in Church manuals or courses of instruction. Those who will not risk exposure to experiences that are not obviously related to some Church word or program will, I believe, live less abundant and meaningful lives than the Lord intends."
(Bruce Hafen, Ensign, August 1979)

Intellect and Spirit

"Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit..."

"Each of us must accommodate the mixture of reason and revelation in our lives. The gospel not only permits but requires it. An individual who concentrates on either side solely and alone will lose both balance and perspective."
(Boyd K. Packer, February 12, 1991, "I Say unto You, Be One")

Johnny said...

Compelled doctrinal unity?

"Elder Pelatiah Brown...has been preaching concerning the beast which was full of eyes before and behind; and for this he was hauled up for trial before the High Council. I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine. The High Council undertook to censure and correct Elder Brown, because of his teachings in relation to the beasts. Whether they actually corrected him or not, I am a little doubtful, but don't care."
(Joseph Smith, April 8, 1843, DHC 5:340)

“I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further;’ which I cannot subscribe to."
(Joseph Smith, Discourse to Saints, October 1843; DHC 6:57)

“...I stated that the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter-day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived its members the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter-day Saints … are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time…” (Joseph Smith, January 1843, History of the Church, 5:215; from “History of the Church” (manuscript), book D-1, p. 1433, Church Archives).

"If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:498–99).

"Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive."
-Joseph Smith

Honest inquiry encouraged

“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
(D. Michael Quinn, The Church Years, p 24, BYU Press)

"If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak."
(George Albert Smith, Journal of Discourses, Volume 14, Page 216)

"If we are not willing to grapple with the frustration that comes from facing bravely the uncertainties we encounter, we may never develop the kind of spiritual maturity that is necessary for our ultimate preparations."
(Bruce Hafen, Ensign, August 1979)

“We should be scientific – that is, open-minded, approaching new problems without prejudice, deferring a decision until all the facts are in...I admire men and women...who are unafraid of new ideas...we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed...Only error fears freedom of expression.”
(Apostle Hugh B. Brown, “A Final Testimony,” from An Abundant Life, 1999)

"I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation."
(Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v 20, p 264)

"...there is no foundation on which you can really be secure unless it's the whole truth..." -Richard L. Bushman

Scott said...

It's both frustrating and sad to me that Church leadership has such little faith in the strength of its members' testimonies that they don't want doubters to air their grievances publicly. They fear they will lose in the marketplace of ideas.

Clean Cut said...

A poignant thought, Scott.

Makes me long for the days of President Hugh B. Brown. On second thought, I wonder how well received Elder Brown would be in today's church:

"I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissent if you are informed. Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth will emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression. Seek the truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least three virtues: courage, zest and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, 'From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half-truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth – O God of truth, deliver us'."
-Hugh B. Brown (speech given at BYU, 1958)

Ken said...

Johnny, the story of Korihor in Alma 30 is very funny and contradictory. A few verses later, he is bound, questioned, exiled, rearrested and questioned by both ecclesiastical and civil authority for preaching against the high priests' will, then loses everything. Just like today, believe what you will, just don't vocalize those thoughts.

I wonder if we project our hopes and desires into the the comments made by GAs and hear what we want to hear and thus completely miss their message. Perhaps the tone is softer and uses inclusive language (especially Elder Uchtdorf), but the message is the same: there are appropriate questions and inappropriate questions. The right ones which lead to only church approved answers are welcome, any other questions are not.

Elder Bednar in his recent talk with the youth made doubt a bad word and something to be avoided. Questions that can have a negative answer and do not promote faith in the church are not to be asked. This seems to be the message leadership promoting in all recent talks. A weak testimony is ok, if you are doing what you can to build it up. Questions that will further weaken it are not welcomed, please keep those to yourself.

Clean Cut said...

Truth from New Zealand:

"With every excommunication there is loss. With every expulsion and punitive action against thoughtful people an organisation loses its power to grow in spirit and to be better as a community. It loses its capacity to dialogue and to work out difficult theological and religious dilemmas. It loses its moral authority to create positive social change and to influence the world to take on hard issues with spiritual insight. With every excommunication the capacity for deeper and more meaningful engagements with questions of the spirit, and who Jesus was, and what our role as a community who loves God is lost.

"With every single excommunication you excommunicate in spirit thousands of people who yesterday wondered if they belonged, and this morning have accepted that they probably don’t."

Gina Colvin, you have spoken for so many of us. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

That should be obvious. Or is it really a fraternal organization?

Allison said...

Damn the church seems to be more guided by obedience and absolute loyalty to SLC, fear of what others might think, fear of members discovering/hearing the messy stuff instead of true unconditional love, truth, respect, honest inquiry, meaningful deep discussion and relationships and vulnerability.

They are currently behaving like a wrecking ball. Its disappointing and embarrassing to watch.

Kent said...

For me one of the most frustrating aspects of this new excommunication purge is that those getting the boot are told that they are preaching apostasy--an apostasy so dangerous to other struggling disciples that the leaders feel they have to remove these apostates from the body of the Saints.

Yet, exactly what it is that these apostates are preaching that is so dangerous is NEVER pointed out. One would think the leaders would tell the members exactly what deadly heresies these vile apostates are advocating, but you would be wrong. Upon closer examination, the apostates usually are only guilty of not submitting to church authority--i.e. they didn't shut up when they were ordered to shut up.

If only Brother Joseph were here to see what has happened to the church he was called to restore.

Jared said...

I feel sorrow and sadness at many of thoughts expressed here.

I think the Nephites church members must have felt the same way at what happened in their day.

33 And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God— Helaman 3:33

What church members did then and what they are doing now has consequences for all of us.

Consider the following verses:

1 AND it came to pass in the fifty and fourth year there were many dissensions in the church, and there was also a contention among the people, insomuch that there was much bloodshed. Helaman 4:1

A war with the Lamanites followed. There was much bloodshed. The Book of Mormon teaches an important principles in the following verse:

11 Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God. Helaman 4:11

The dissensions in the church in this day are in the early stages. This post and the many of the comments are mild forms of dissent. Mentally stoning the prophets for now. If it continues, could it becomes more serious? Could it grow into confrontations, such as interrupting meetings, and advocating violence against church leaders and members?

Clean Cut said...

Well, Jared, many of us feel sorrow and sadness for what has happened, here. Please don't conflate the gospel and the church. I have to separate those two things now.

I LOVE the gospel. But I have an up and down relationship now with how I feel about the church. I see so much of goodness and greatness. But I see so much wrong and mistakes in the human organization too, and when that all gets wrapped up into "truth claims" we do not have a very healthy environment for different perspectives. Do you think we must all share the same perspective?

And please stop quoting scripture as though it's self-interpreting.

Jared said...

Clean Cut-I remember a time, not many years ago, when you were comfort discussing the scriptures. An easy going follower of Christ. At least that is how I felt about you.

It appears you've changed. You love the gospel, but are troubled by the church and even the scriptures.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I support the Calderwoods in honestly asking questions. There needs to be a place in the LDS church for these kind of discussions. If people seeking the truth are punished, how can it be the "true" Church?

Steve said...

Pretty simple, really. Calderwoods want to belong to a different church. They chose to leave; they wanted it.

Kevin said...

Clean Cut - I have to agree with Jared. His use of those scriptures is exactly why they were written and exactly why we have them.

I've grown concerned over the years why is it so many rebuff admonishment these days?

It is important for any latter-day Saint to remember. The devil wants YOU. He is doing anything he possibly can to remove you from the faith of your fathers. He will use any means necessary.

Anyone who has received the covenant of baptism and temple ordinances and turns from the church, and kingdom of God will do so only by the instigation of the devil. Nothing else.

I keep asking myself why does this kind of talk offend so many? It's because it's true. And "the wicked taketh the truth to be hard." (Nephi left those words for the same purpose, to admonish us, each of us.)

The church is true. The gospel is true. The scriptures are inspired. There is a prophet at the head. It's time to decide, each of us, to decide which way we face. "I would that ye were hot or cold" says the Lord. (that was left in Revelation for times like these as well)

Clean Cut said...

Kevin/Jared and others:

I have nothing against using the scriptures--just using them without giving interpretation. I think in this case you're selectively using them to single out individuals. But the scriptures hold the church to a higher standard too. It's clear that while the gospel cannot be under condemnation, the church sure can.

In Mormon 8, Moroni says he speaks to us as if we're present. Then he proceeds to tell us that we've polluted the holy church of God. The worst form of pollution I see is how "Christlike" members have treated each other over faithful differences and points of concern. There has been too much of shunning, judgment, and accusations, and not enough listening, understanding, compassion, and love. Carson was practically superhuman to make the church work for as long as he did with the way he was marginalized by church members who couldn't bring themselves to see that he was correct with his assessments until the Church published the essays and confirmed that much of the "anti-Mormon" they accused him of reading was actually TRUE.

The Calderwood's aren't unique here--there are people like them in practically every ward in the Church who feel torn between the truth they've discovered and the cover-up and marginalization that keeps happening because some aren't strong enough to handle it. We've collectively failed our best and brightest members by blaming THEM when they tried to hold a mirror up to our collective past and we didn't like want we saw. So we find it easier to blame the messenger so we can continue to hold onto the false messages/narratives that have comforted us in the past.

We've polluted the holy church of God. The fruit is seen in the way these disciplinary councils are being used and discussed. I don't think the Lord is pleased with his church right now. The Calderwood's and others deserve/deserved so much better.

Clean Cut said...

Rock Waterman's up next. These modern day witch hunts are one big train wreck--and completely unbecoming of the Church of Jesus Christ: