Posts Tagged dissent

Trust, God, and following the Prophets

From time to time there arise some issue or another where some people dislike or disapprove of something said by someone in Church leadership. It doesn’t seem to matter what the issue is, who said it, or what side they are arguing, the arguments tend to be the same:

– Bringing out scripture and/or previous statements
– Declaring the other side as apostate/not Christlike/tares
– Bringing out personal (or worse, someone else’s) anecdotes
– Declaring the other side is “trusting in man, not God”
– Declaring your “personal revelation” concerning the matter
– Being incredulous at what the other side “really means”
– Scoffing at how anyone could believe such a thing in the first place

platitudeThere are many, many variations, and I’m sure I’ve missed some. They get very tiring, very quickly, but are easy enough to throw out when you don’t have the time, energy, or desire to have an actual discussion about something. It’s much like the use of platitudes; you use them and show how wise you are, dismissing or affirming something with just a few words.

Now I have to seriously caveat this. I am not saying that a couple of the above items should never be done, just that they should not be used as arguments. For example, sharing scriptures, personal revelation or anecdotes that have helped form what you believe can be done, just not in the manner of “this is why you’re wrong”.

The best any of us can do is “this is why I believe what I believe”. This can be used to help convince someone to think about something differently, to reexamine or adjust what they believe, but ultimately what we believe is only as strong as the foundation we build it on. The only absolutely sure foundation is God. Anything else, anyone else you build upon has the potential to fail, even people, scriptures, or prophets. But what sort of building can you have if you wait to use only perfect materials? This is where trust comes in.

In Primary (the Church instruction for children under 12), we sing a Folk song from the South-Eastern US that gives a simplistic understanding of this (skipping repeated lines):

The wise man built his house upon the rock,
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down, and the floods came up,
And the house on the rock stood still.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down, and the floods came up,
And the house on the sand washed away.

The “rock”, put simply, is God, our only sure foundation. Anything else is “sand” that will wash away when disaster comes. This beautiful, simplistic teaching can prompt us to deeper examination. While the wise man survived the floods with his house still solidly on the rock, no mention is made of the condition of the house. We’d hope that the house, with all the materials that were put into it, emerged completely unscathed, but it is very plausible that there is at least some damage. Some part of the house failed. Will it be replaced with something similar? Will it be remade into something completely different? What if that fails too? What if something bigger, that effects larger portions of the building, fails?

This is where we can have trust. This is where we have faith, knowing that our Rock, God, will not fail, even if every other part of our building falls. From here, we decide what we can build with, where we will place our trust. This is why Christ is also called the “Chief Cornerstone”. He is the first, most important, most solid stone which is firmly upon the foundation of God. We may choose other cornerstones, scriptures, prophets, our own revelations, the words of others, in building. None of these things are perfect, any more than every brick in a wall is perfect. Some flaws may be unseen. Some flaws will make no difference to your use of them. Will those flaws come to cause the whole building to collapse? Though not impossible, it may be very improbable. That determination is yours to make. God will help you find and use what materials you need.

For others you may recommend or warn in their building, but you cannot assume, get angry, or gloat if you are not heeded. You are not the architect and may have little idea what successes or failures they have had in the past. The best option is to show how you have developed your own structure, how you have repaired damage, how you have demolished some parts and replaced them with others. Help others recover when the rains and floods have caused more damage to them than to you. Encourage their honest efforts.

For me, I know where I have placed my trust. I have faith in the Scriptures and in Prophets, fully knowing that they are flawed and can be used in damaging ways. Ultimately, I am firmly anchored to the Rock. I know Jesus is a solid corner stone I can build on. I believe the Church is true. I know it has the Authority given from God. It has been a dependable material for me in the past (even when I have neglected using it), through many storms that continue to shape, mold, and grow it toward whatever end God has for it. I have faith in it being an imperfect but solid and dependable material for me to work with. I have had many of my own experiences and personal revelations that I use to continue building, as well as supports and materials given by others. Could it all be washed away with the next storm? Possible, but not likely. Even if it does, I know I can stay anchored to the Rock and build again.


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Self selection in Church attendance and membership

Spend any amount of time reading the various Mormon themed blogs and you will see any number of reasons people are dissatisfied with and/or have been hurt by the Church and its members. There have been a few attempts to understand the reasons for these things, but mostly there have been unfeeling lists of simple points, trying to codify “why people leave”. To me, aside from the excommunication or removal of those who have shown themselves to be physically or spiritually dangerous to others in the community, coming to Church and being part of the community are mostly a matter of self selection.

People join the Church and attend their meetings because they feel that they have learned the truth of how this life, the next life, and the previous life fit together, want to learn more on how to progress, and want to join with others who have the same goal. There is both power and safety in numbers, and it helps our own growth to work with others with the same goals. Those who fall away do so because the community is no longer a place of peace, but has become, for one reason or another, a place of pain, confusion, or distaste.

This is where self selection comes in. Ultimately, it is that persons choice to stay or go, no matter how deep the dissatisfaction or pain. The question then becomes, what can we do to help them stay, heal, and grow together with us?

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No, You’re Not Next

There has been quite enough ink (and pixels) spilled on the upcoming disciplinary hearings for Kate Kelly (of Ordain Women) and John Dehlin (of Mormon Stories). Much of it has been with sadness, but some of it with fear. People have been wondering if this is the start of a new “purge”, where anyone who asks questions is likely to be excommunicated. For me, this is certainly sad, but I have no fear. There is a marked difference between what has been done by these individuals and those who have varying beliefs, opinions, and questions about the Church.

For Kate Kelly, she has been a good voice in helping organize those who believe ordination is the answer for the problems many women face in the Church. I believe her discipline (having previous to this been put on probation) comes from the organizing of a second protest on Temple Square (even if they didn’t call it a protest) after being asked not to, and the continued expansion of Ordain Women to try and “convert” people to believe as they do. The Church has repeatedly explained that women’s ordination is not how the Church is organized and this cannot be changed by popular opinion. I am truly sad it has come to this.

For John Dehlin, I’ve little opinion. I’m glad some have found more peace in being part of the Church through these podcasts, but for me, what I’ve listened to his podcast seemed to be interested more in placing seeds of doubt than in trying to find answers. In his case, he seems to have more sought out the line where he would be excommunicated, using it to make himself a martyr for his cause. Even his latest request for messages to console his wife and children seems calculated. I’m sad he’s worked himself in the direction he has gone.

Now, for the fear part. First, two data points do not a pattern make. There is no evidence that this is a concerted effort, nor is there anything to show that other prominent voices with questions are also being “quashed”. Your Bishop is not more likely to censure you because of your ideas. These actions are not broadcast as a warning to others by the Church, nor is there any direction given to discipline those who have sympathy for them. The fear does not come from the Church, but from those who sent these notices to others. It is not the Church saying “get in line or you’re next”. This is coming directly from those taking advantage of this to promote fear in others. Unless you’re actively doing one of these things, you have nothing to fear:

– Spending your time telling people they should leave the Church.
– Teaching things that are completely contrary to Church teachings.

Even with these, it takes quite a lot of either for even disfellowshipment to be considered. These recent actions have not been sudden or unexpected by anyone involved. Undesired, certainly, but not unexpected.

No matter what the outcome, I hope that we can all continue to move forward with faith, hope, and charity.


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Boy Scouts, camping, and learning independence

Last Sunday, the Scout leaders in our ward went to the Relief Society and brought out the following factlet – “97% of missionaries who leave their mission early do so because of homesickness”.  I don’t know where they get their data, but the usage of this statistic bothered me because it was used as a rationale to guilt the mothers into sending their scout aged sons to a National Scout Jamboree.  Little details: the trip is three weeks long, takes place in West Virginia, and costs $2500 per boy.  To me, the cost is much too high, but that is beside the point.  The thought seems to be that campouts (and especially things like this extended uber-campout) fosters independence.  We don’t want our boys afraid to leave home, do we?  Send ’em on a three-week trip, completely chaperoned, where they get all of their meals, travel, entertainment, crafts, and housing without any significant effort on their part!

When the local high school marching band had an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl Parade (held on New Years Day in Pasadena, California), the money had to be raised to get them there.  Each student had a significant amount of money they had to come up with to be able to go.  So, they had several fundraisers, one of which was door-to-door sales.  They worked together to raise the funds so that every member of the marching band could go.

The young women in our ward are currently having a fundraiser to pay for the costs they have in going to Girls Camp.  The cost per girls is nowhere near the amount being asked for the Scout camp, and it is likely that the cost of sending just one boy to this camp could pay for several years of Girls Camp.  Maybe I’ve been reading too many feminist blogs, but this doesn’t seem right.

You want to encourage independence?  Have your kid get a job and make decisions on their own as to what to spend their own hard-earned money on.  Help them learn the value of the money they are earning.  Trips and campouts can be fun, but just throwing in money isn’t going to foster independence; quite the opposite, in fact.

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Welcoming the dissenting voice

In my wanderings around various blogs, it has struck me how varied people can be in welcoming, defending, and rejecting comments from people who hold different views on the subjects being posted. Me, I tend to hang about LDS blogs, more specifically feminist or womens issues blogs. The alternatives in LDS blogs tend to be those that spend a lot of time doing deep analysis; where points are made with many obscure book references and arguments that are themselves philosophy student dissertations. I can (and occasionally do) read those kinds of blogs, but dont feel confident enough in my own abilities to articulate my point of view to participate in the discussions. That’s probably why I have this blog, even if it is rarely read.

In any case, back to the subject.

A blog, like a congregation, a town, or any other grouping of people, is filled with people of vast differences in knowledge and opinions. As such, you can get quite a range of comments for and against any part of your posting, especially as the subject you’ve written becomes more controversial. Some lay in wait to demean and debunk any opinion supportive of the LDS Church, some look for points to affirm or deny on their own merit, some read to try and learn more about a subject, and some are on the defensive for anything that might be construed as attacking their choices or beliefs. For moderators, it can be difficult to define a line of what is acceptable and what is not.

My personal preference for comments are those that speak of a persons own experience and opinions, without disparaging or demeaning the experiences and opinions of others. This does not mean that opinions or doctrines cannot be defended, but that it should be done in simplicity, stating belief and leaving it at that. Spending time going back and forth with someone who will not listen is useless. Using insults (no matter how thinly veiled or claiming to only be insulting the rationale of a subject) promotes less dialogue, not more. You’re welcome to take umberage at what is said, but to demean and demand that the person no longer comment is counterproductive. As you restrict the opinions and knowledge of others around you, your own opportunites to learn diminish.

So share, please. For or against, part or all, it matters not. The idea is to learn and grow together, no matter what we bring, no matter what we know.


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