Last Night I Met Jesus

Protect Our Children Flower bedI have never met Jesus.

Last night, I met a man badly shamed in his childhood. He sat in His humble chair.  He honored me as I washed His feet there.   I met Jesus last night.

I have never hugged Jesus.

Last night, I hugged a full grown man.  Wounds of shame from long long ago still fresh on his mind.  He sat in His well-worn chair.  He graced me with the chance to wash His feet there.  I hugged Jesus last night.

I have never seen Jesus.

Last night, I saw a woman with deep trauma from her youth.   She sat in Her nondescript chair.  She allowed me to gently wash Her feet there.  I saw Jesus last night.

I have never been hugged by Jesus.

Last night, a woman hugged me and violently sobbed as she did.  She sat in Her old lawn chair.  She gave me the honor to wash Her feet there.  Last night, Jesus hugged me very tight.

Last night has passed.  Such a sweet peaceful night.  Is Jesus real?  Well….to this much I CAN attest.  I have met Him.  I have hugged Him.  I have seen Her.  She hugged me tight as She sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

Today, I mourn that I can’t meet LeeAnn.  I can’t hug LeeAnn.  Assualted by her bishop at 14, the shame was too great.  Her life was taken by her own hand.  Oh…that She could sit in Her old lawn chair.  Oh…that I could tenderly wash Her feet there.

Today, I mourn that I can’t see Sam.  I can’t be tightly hugged by this innocent young man.  Shamed and bullied he took is own life when merely 14.  Oh…that He could sit in His humble chair.  What an honor it would be to wash His feet there.

 

Temple-side Chat with Jesus

EmptyChairFor 15 nights, I invited the 15 apostles to come to temple square and meet with adults who have been hurt as children.  Over those 15 days, upwards of 800 people, members and former members gathered with anticipation.  Every night their hopes were dashed.  They were greeted by an empty chair.

The apostles are fully aware of the thousands of children who their policies have dreadfully hurt.  They are fully aware that their protocols continue to put our kids in harms way.  They continue to refuse to even recognize their victims.  The apostles remain in their comfy ivory tower and look down with, what appears to be, dismissal and disregard for the masses.

Well, fine.  If that’s the way they want it, I am going over their heads…directly to the master of the universe.  For the last 4 nights at Temple Square, I’ve invited Jesus to join us.  

Will he actually show up?  I don’t have certain confirmation.  However, I’m pretty sure He will not disappoint.  A chair will be awaiting Him.  Not a red velvet throne fit for an apostle.  Nope.  A lowly camp chair.  The same humble seating that the apostles treated with disdain.

Tonight’s Temple-side Chat with Jesus will include 3 significant events.

1) Christ will occupy the empty chair.  I hope.

2) This night will be my Ezekiel evening.

3) A new ritual will be established and continued for the last 4 nights of our Chats.

If you are a victim or survivor of abuse and shame please come. The next 4 Temple-side’s are designed specifically for you.

This is all something completely new to me. I’m a little nervous and also very much looking forward to it.

Of course, you can watch it on FB livestream.

Wednesday 8/15, 7:00pm, South Temple St, SLC

PLEASE SHARE

A Mammoth & Moving Spiritual Experience

primary-program2

Last Sunday I visited my daughter’s ward.  The annual primary program was being presented at Sacrament Meeting.  Three of my precious grandchildren were on the program.

I literally WEPT the entire meeting.  A couple of times my emotions had to be reined in, as I verged on trembling.

Why the cry?  The ward has a huge primary.  60 children were at the front of the congregation.  They sung their songs.  Recited their lines.  Some squirmed.  Some monkeyed.  All were beautiful and cute.  But, my attention was soon diverted by haunting questions.

Tears for the Rainbow

Among these 60 innocent, lovely and dear children…….how many are gay?

Is it 3?  Is it 4?  Or is it more?

What do they face in the coming years in MY church, the church of the gentle Jesus?

What of their coming teenage years?  Will their self-esteem be destroyed?  Only to be recovered after years of pain?  To be reclaimed only after leaving the beloved church of their youth?

Will their family disown them?

Will their friends turn away?

In the past, my church has not been gay friendly.  Even less so this past year.

Oh, that I could know who the gay children were.  That they might be spared the fate of so many gay children who have gone before.  What problems, what pain, what agonies await?  Yes, I sobbed!

Then I heard the spirit of Jesus whisper, “Sam, keep that rainbow on your lapel.  It will touch my little ones.  Likely, they won’t remember you.  But, they won’t forget the image of the ribbon you wear.  When the time comes, they’ll take comfort that someone in MY church cares.”

Tears for Safety

I thought about their parents.

Which children have parents who are struggling in the lonely silence of questions and doubt?

These innocent children have no concept of the pain their questioning parents will suffer…alone.  The children feel safe at church.  How could they possibly comprehend that their parents could feel unsafe?

Which are the children whose parents will agonize and finally leave?  Making that choice without any consultation with their active member friends?

Which of these little ones will be gone in 6 months?  In a year?  In ten years?

If current trends continue, at least 60% will eventually depart.  60% will be gone?  Why, oh why?  These tender children of today, gone tomorrow.

Oh, that a safe place existed for their parents.  A safe place, before their parents made their fateful choice to pull out and pull out their children with them. Yes, I sobbed!

Then I heard the spirit of Jesus whisper, “Sam, keep pressing forward to make a safe place inside my church.  It’s MY church, Sam.  Soon there WILL BE a safe and loving spot for discussion & deliberation.  My apostles are now openly addressing this in public.  But, sometimes nudges from my sheep are necessary.  You are on the right track.  Please don’t stop working for it.”

This sacrament meeting, filled with the voices of innocent children, will be recorded as one of the most precious spiritual experiences of my 63 year journey through life.

 

I am a Non-Believer?

hiding-catOver the past many months, some members of the LDS Church have called me a non-believer.  Mostly it happens on social media or behind my back as gossip.  Not much opportunity to engage in a heart-to-heart as to what I believe.

Then, yesterday, I had a conversation with a very close friend who is also a member.  As we rambled, he casually referred to me as a non-believer.   It caught me off guard.  It took me aback.  I questioned myself, “I am a non-believer?  How can I possibly be viewed as a non-believer?”

After this friendly interchange, I got in my car to drive away.  I contemplated how others look at me.  Tears began welling.  How can it be that I have faith in Jesus Christ, but am considered a non-believer in the Church of Jesus Christ?  How has it come to this, that faith in Jesus is not enough?  How is it possible that good church members could make this kind of judgment?  It does not feel right.

Jesus Christ.  I believe in His gospel.  I absolutely adore his teachings and example.  They reach into the core of my heart.  So much so, that I’ve decided to place my faith in Him and only in Him.  His way is a true and wonderful way to live a good and fulfilling life.  My goal is to emulate the Savior in word and deed.  Not always an easy task.  ……..So, I am a Non-believer?

The Book of Mormon.  This is a tremendous book of scripture.  It contains teachings of Christ.  It elaborates and elucidates the doctrines of Christ.   It’s another witness of Christ.  It beckons me to follow Him.  The Book of Mormon has blessed my life, my family and the lives of many others.  ….So I’m really just a non-believer?

The Apostolic Leaders of the Church.   I recognize and sustain them as prophets, seers and revelators.  They are good men.  I listen and pay attention to their loving direction.  However, I view them as men, fallible men.  Modern day prophets and apostles can and have led us astray.  That does not invalidate their calling or station.  It validates that they are men.      ….Is it this that makes me a non-believer?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.    I have been a member all my life.  It has served me well.  I have served it diligently and for tens of thousands of hours.  My callings have been full of many treasured experiences.   The church was a vital part of the upbringing of my children.  I love the church.  I am happy that my children and grandchildren still embrace it.   …..Thus, I am a non-believer?

Isolation

Over the past year, I have become acquainted with many active Mormons whose faith has transitioned.  They presently serve in various ward and stake callings.  Yet, they are in hiding.  They suffer or stew in silence.  Some say they are “hanging on by their fingernails.”  Others express that they don’t know how much longer they can take it.  Some have decided to leave when a certain life event occurs.  Still others simply continue in support of a spouse or parent.

So, why don’t these good people broach their concerns and conclusions within their own wards among their own friends?  Why:   IT….IS….NOT….SAFE.

I have been very open about my faith and beliefs.  By many, I have been judged as a non-believer.   That does not make me feel safe.

Some of my active & secretive church friends only believe parts of the LDS gospel.  Some have moved all the way to being atheist.  I can only imagine how unsafe they must feel if someone like me is deemed a non-believer.

Why can’t we come out of isolation, hiding and hurt?  Why can’t we all just be members who are attempting to follow the teachings of Christ?  Without the constant, nagging worry that we will bear a judgmental blot of stigma for our beliefs?

Do YOU view me as a non-believer?  Feel free to comment with a yea or nay.

Marginalized Mormons in “Extreme Slavery”

slavery

At the age of 63, I have finally selected a path that is built on a rock solid foundation.  I’ve decided to place my faith in Jesus Christ, specifically in His teachings and example.  Furthermore, I have also chosen to follow Christ as a member of the Mormon Church.

The Least

One of His most beautiful instructions is that we are to be vitally concerned with “the least of these.”  The marginalized.  The vulnerable.  The undefended, the unguarded, and the unprotected.  Not just concerned.  Rather, Jesus made it clear that entry into heaven will ONLY be granted to those who actively take care of “the least.”

Frequently, we pass them by.  Often, we don’t even see them. Never-the-less, “the least of these” are all around us in society.  For the purpose of this article, they also surround us in our very own LDS Church.

 Who Are the Marginalized Mormons?

To follow Christ’s mandate, it’s certainly appropriate that we start with our own ‘fellow citizens in the household of God.’  We, as Saints, should minister to marginalized members.  Various categories of ‘the least’ are listed below.  Of course, this is not a comprehensive compilation.  It includes those who many of us are concerned about at present.

  1. Those in Extreme Slavery. Details below.
  1. Our LGBT brothers and sisters.
  1. Children of LGBT married couples.
  1. Families headed by single parents, especially by single mothers.
  1. Members with questions, doubts and transitioned faith.

Are LDS Men Marginalized?

Let me ask 2 questions.

Would you consider those in SLAVERY to be marginalized?

Would you consider those in EXTREME SLAVERY to be marginalized?

Hopefully, most would answer YES to both queries.

SLAVERY?  I don’t know anyone in this condition.  But, I would put them squarely in the category of “the least of these.”

SLAVERY in the EXTREME?  What is that?  Who are they?  It turns out that I know many, many men in this unfortunate state.  Today, I view them as marginalized in the EXTREME.

So, who among us are bound by the fetters of EXTREME SLAVERY?

Consider this citation from an early and official church publication—The Millennial Star.  Many ascribe this quote directly to Joseph Smith.

“We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them — even if they knew it was wrong.  But such obedience as this is worse than folly to us.  It is slavery in the extreme.  The man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings until he turns from his folly.  A man of God would despise this idea.”

Do you know anyone in Extreme Slavery?  Members who would do anything their leaders tell them to do—even if they knew it was wrong?

Early church doctrine designated such obedience as degrading.  IT IS!!!

“A man of God would despise this idea.”  I don’t qualify as a ‘man of God.’  But, I do despise the idea of doing anything I am told, even if it’s wrong.  Thus, I claim my rank among intelligent beings.

Based on this early church definition of “slavery in the extreme” there are myriad members who are marginalized by being in this ‘degraded’ condition.

Good Samaritan

Ministering to the Marginalized

The list of “the least of these” within the church continues to grow.  Many of us have been actively speaking and looking out for those in categories 2-5.  Now, I add category #1—those in EXTREME slavery.  Likely the biggest marginalized group that surrounds us at church.  One more parcel of people to stand up for with our votes of disapproval.

Dancing With Jesus—And Twenty-Five Men

day-laborersThis morning my heart prodded me to follow an example I had witnessed almost 40 years ago. Those long years ago, I had marveled at a man dancing with Jesus.

Getting Gas

I stopped to get gas at the corner of Bellaire and the Beltway.  I picked this particular station because it’s attached to a McDonalds.  My plan was to fill up and then drive through.

As the gallons pumped into my tank, I surveyed the sidewalks around the station.  Day laborers were strewn about in various positions of sitting & standing, fidgeting & fretting.  All awaited in uncertain hope that a job might make its appearance.  I wondered…where are they from?  Do jobs come along every day?  What if no truck pulls up?  Do they have children, spouses or parents who are depending on them?

Elections are upon us.  Immigration has remained unsolved for decades.  And…here…THEY…are.  The very men about whom we debate and banter and grandstand.  Human beings.  No different from me…except in circumstance.  Like me, they must have hopes and dreams.  They are hard workers…without work.  They have thinking brains.  But, what are the thinking about?  My stomach growls.  Does their stomach growl?

gift-cardsShould I Dance?

The nozzle clicks off.  The tank is full.  I survey again and take a count.  Twenty-five men.  Do I just drive away?  Do I just get on with my day?  Or do I take this chance to embrace Jesus and dance?

Oh…the choice.  And what a choice choice it was.  Into McDonalds I walked.  I emerged with 30 gift cards in hand.  The real gift was not given BY me.  It was given TO me.  Twenty-five men.  Apprehensive at first.  Then faces beaming with smiles, light and joy.  We talked in their native tongue.  We laughed.  We joked.  All were from Spanish speaking lands.  El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, & Honduras.  One lone straggler from the isle of Cuba.

I’ll likely never see or hear of these twenty-five men again.  Nor they of me.  But, this morning we broke bread together.  I danced with Jesus.  Those corners spilling over with hopeful laborers will never be viewed the same again.

The Man Who Voted Opposed

general_conference_crowd_outside

General Conference

Every six months, the LDS (Mormon) Church holds a much anticipated General Conference.  All around the world, members tune in to watch and listen to the pronouncements of their highest leaders.  Tens of thousands travel to Salt Lake City to witness the proceedings in person.

The Conference is composed of 6 two-hour meetings.  A cherished part of the Saturday afternoon session is the Sustaining of Officers.  The names and positions of the General Authorities are presented to the membership.  An up or down vote is called for.  Members may sustain, abstain, or oppose.

Almost always, the voting appears unanimous.  However, this trend is changing.  At the October 2015 and April 2016 conferences, opposed votes were clearly registered in the confines of the Conference Center.  The numbers were few.  But the votes of disapproval were noted by the leadership and all who were viewing.

October 2016

This fall Conference was historic by modern standards.  The sustainings were conducted on Oct 1st. The tally:  sustain–almost all.  Opposed–267!!!   You can see their names HERE.  This is a huge number.  I and my wife were 2 of the 267.

Going against the consensus is NOT easy.  There are hundreds of thousands of members–including many less active members–who would like to vote opposed.  However, there is fear associated with negative voting.  Our current LDS culture stigmatizes honest and open disagreement, especially in a Conference setting.  This must change.  It was Jesus Himself who mandated that “ALL things MUST be done by common consent.”  It’s His church.  Eventually, the stigma against following His directives in His own church is going to disappear.

The Lone Man…Adam

Out of the intrepid 267, only one person actually cast his opposing vote in the Conference Center itself on October 1, 2016.  This article is written to tell his miraculous story.  For the time being, I’ll call him Adam.

Adam is a faithful, believing member.  He currently serves as a counselor in his bishopric.  Like many in the church, he has had concerns in recent years regarding the church’s treatment of LGBT people and its involvement in political contests regarding LGBT issues.  When the November 2015 anti-gay policy came to light, he was mortified.  Vehemently opposed, he discussed it with his Bishop and Stake President.  They counseled him to pray and “gain a testimony” of its divine origin as a revelation, despite the fact that it has never been presented to the membership for ratification as such.

By the time October Conference had arrived, Adam’s own conscience–as well as what he felt to be the promptings of the Holy Ghost–drove him to the decision to vote opposed in person.  He was unsuccessful in obtaining a ticket prior to leaving home.  Undaunted, he hugged and kissed his loving and supportive wife, jumped in his car and drove many hours, crossing multiple state lines to Salt Lake City.  No ticket.  Only hope and a prayer.  During his long drive, Adam prayed.  He asked Heavenly Father that if it were His will that he should follow his conscience and express an opposing vote in the Conference Center,  that an admission ticket would somehow be provided.

Outside the Conference Center, he observed many people asking others if they had spare tickets.  Adam even ventured a few inquiries.  It soon became evident that this method was doomed to failure.  He was directed to the standby line.  Hundreds were ahead of him.  He offered another prayer. “If it’s Thy will that I vote opposed, please provide a way in.”

Time was passing.  Hope was fading.  The long line discouraging.

The Miracle

Then it happened.  A young woman approached.  Hand extended, she asked, “Would you like a ticket?”  With hundreds waiting in hopes of getting in, the mystery matron picked Adam.  He counted it as an answer to prayer.  A sign that God was sustaining him and his un-sustaining vote.  A Miracle.

The Vote

Adam was seated.  The session was about to start.  This humble and considerate man gently tapped the person in front of him.  He quietly informed all seated around him of his plans to voice an opposing vote.  No one seemed alarmed.  Rather, the advance notice was received with appreciation and kindness.

President Eyring conducted the sustainings.  Adam voted disapproval 3 times:  to the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and to their being sustained as prophets, seers and revelators.  His was the lone voice that echoed throughout the Conference Center.   In front of 22,000 other attendees.  In front of millions, the world over.  As he did so, he felt come over him a great feeling of love for those 15 men and a great feeling of sorrow for the situation that had led to that heartbreaking circumstance.

But Adam was not really alone.  Remotely, 266 others joined him that day. Modern history was made.

Adam, my friend, my hat is off to you.  I commend you for your integrity and courage.

Opposed to What?

Adam–and most of those voting with him–are NOT opposed to the prophet and apostles, per se.  We understand that, just as in other types of elections, once the results are tabulated, every participant–the yeas and the nays–can and do sustain in good faith those who receive the sustaining vote of the people, according to the Law of Common Consent.

Adam is not opposed to the church.  He’s not opposed to the Restoration.  He’s not opposed to the leadership.  In fact, he loves the church with all his heart.  He loves and respects the leadership.  He made an exhausting, weekend-long drive with only a slim hope of being admitted to Conference.  A poignant demonstration of his love and commitment to the church, Jesus, and a marginalized community.

What he IS opposed to–vehemently so–is a policy.  The November 2015 policy labeling gay couples as apostates and excluding their children from Priesthood ordinances.

According to church doctrine and by divine mandate (D&C 28:13), “policies, major decisions and other things that affect the lives of the Saints” must be accepted by the Common Consent of the membership.

In today’s church, NO “policies, major decisions and other things that affect the lives of the Saints” are being presented to the church body for approval or disapproval.  For members committed to living by the Law of Common Consent, the only option appears to be voting opposed to those who control the voting practices.

Consequences

Adam has concerns that actions may be taken against him.  He’s concerned that he may be released from his calling.  It’s ludicrous that any punitive consequences could even be a consideration.  Jesus has commanded the apostles to ask the members for their opinion.  An honest answer deserves commendation not condemnation.  His local leaders’ responsibility is to listen and pass his concerns up the line.  Not to listen,  pass judgment and punish him back in line.

But, Mormon culture may not be there yet.  Our church needs more faithful, serving, believing Saints just like dear Adam.

Are You Opposed?

If you are a member of the LDS church.  If you are opposed to “policies, major decisions and other things that affect the lives of the Saints,” especially, policies that have never seen the light of Common Consent, then consider voting your true opinion and feelings.

Make next April another historic conference.  By then we WILL be more than 267.  Can we be….2,067?  Or….20,067?  Or….?

Common Consent is the Law of God and the Law of the Church. It’s up to you and me, the common members, to make Common Consent the common rule of Christ’s church.

You have a voice.  Please don’t leave without speaking up.  Stand up for what is right. Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Take the step of publicly registering your disapproval on the Register of Common Consent, HERE.

Other Resources

  • Information on LDS.ORG regarding Common Consent, click HERE.  Please take note of this paragraph:  “Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints.”
  • Scriptural information about Common Consent, click HERE.
  • Disturbing membership Trends, click HERE.
  • Do We Love Jesus Enough?, click HERE.
  • The Only True Hope for The Only True Church, click HERE.
  • My personal sadness over my friends and family leaving, click HERE
  • Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove click, HERE.