“The Time Has Come,” the Walrus Said

Walrus-Carpenter

  • To talk of fewer things.
  • Not of consent or where our friends went.  
  • No voice…nor choice.  
  • Just cabbages and kings.

After a 2 1/2 year faith journey, I’m stepping away from the church.  This morning, with tears in her eyes, my wife said, “Honey, there are other ways to serve Jesus than advocating for his laws and a safe place to discuss them.”  In her wise and kind way, she was giving me permission and support to follow a different path.

It’s time.  It’s consumed me.

I have blogged…as an active, believing church member.  I’ll continue to blog…as a believing member who has stepped away.

Do I support my wife in the church?  Of course.  But, she has not been there much lately.

Do I support my kids and grand kids in the church?  Of course and absolutely.

Do I support my bishop and stake president?  Fine, fine men.  They are doing the best they can within the system they have been dealt.

Do I support my friends who remain active?  If it blesses their lives, that is exactly where they should be.  Good for them.  They have my full encouragement.

Do I support my friends and family who have left the church?  That’s pretty rhetorical at this point.  Whether atheist or Christian..believer of not…we understand and empathize with each other completely.

Acknowledge That People are Leaving

This has been a sticking point over the past 26 months.  It was that long ago, when I first reached out to the local leaders.  I was encouraging them to create a safe space for those with questions.  In that first meeting, I was told that I was the only person who was questioning.

Over the intervening 2 years, many members of our ward have left.  The leaders may be clueless as to who several of them are.  Except for one couple, I have had lengthy and deep communication with all those on the list below.

Family #1:  Two years ago, this bedrock couple was open to outreach.  Today, they are simply gone.

Family #2:  Super active and involved for decades.  Now, gone.  The one family I have not personal spoken to, yet.

Family #3:  Have since moved from the ward.  Few know of their disaffection.  They want it that way.

Family #4:  Struggled in gut wrenching pain and loneliness for months.  Finally, left the church without discussing anything with leadership.

Family #5:  Another family who moved on from the ward and on from the church.  Again, few know and they want to keep it that way.

Family #6:  They contacted me a few weeks ago.  Long discussion.  Not coming back.  Don’t want to discuss with anyone else.

Family #7:  If the ward doesn’t know they are gone, they are not paying attention.

Family #8:  That’s me….my wife would have to speak for herself.

Our ward and stake leadership is not aware of all the names behind these family #’s.  They seem to be in denial.  Never-the-less, they are real.  If this is happening in my own ward, imagine what is happening all around the world.

Hopeful Conversation?

Recently, I had the following conversation in a social channel.

Here are the feeling that I presented.

  1. Nobody cares that people are leaving.
  2. Nobody will discuss reasons why people are leaving. Our heads are deep in the sand.
  3. Nobody knows what the temple covenants mean. We are forbidden from discussing them in the open or in classes.
  4. It’s forbidden to discuss church history and doctrine at church… The essays are not to be brought up.
  5. Local leadership is going to follow whatever the church says… No suggestions from the congregation.

The response:

Perhaps this is the case in your ward or stake, but it’s important to realize that not everyone’s experience in the Church is the same. Where I live, our ward and stake is very concerned about those who are leaving, and is taking steps to try to better understand them, their needs, and how to better serve them.

No one is forbidden from speaking about temple covenants. In fact, it’s part of the temple preparation course. It’s in the manual. Some may feel uncomfortable speaking about it, but there’s no prohibition. Those who think there is one simply need to be better educated. 

I’ve had several discussions on difficult gospel topics at Church. In fact, the new Teaching in the Savior’s Way training is much more open about student questions and discussion.

Input from ward members is certainly a desire. A couple years ago, a seventy visited our stake conference and said that ward councils should be including as many people as we want to include. It isn’t just for leaders, it’s for the ward. If you want to hear anyone’s input on what needs to happen in the ward, invite them. 

This man’s ward and stake is going to be OK.  Their approach is badly needed everywhere.

What Would Bring Me Back?

A voice.  To be treated like a valued adult.  Not as a child.

Now, off to the great adventure of attempting to follow the teachings and example of the babe in the manger.

 

 

 

 

The Man Adam–A Moral Duty to Stand for Truth

 

eyes

In the October 2016 General Conference of the Mormon Church, one man voted opposed in the Conference Center.  You can read his miraculous story here.

At this point, he still prefers to remain anonymous.  So, I have been referring to him as ‘The man Adam.’  He is an active, faithful member of the church.  Adam currently serves in a calling that requires high council approval and is extended by the stake president.  Today he sent me this excellent essay and gave me permission to publish it on my blog.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Blind Obedience vs. Open-eyed Servants of Jesus Christ

I had an interesting experience in Sunday School the other week. For years, I have heard on occasion the question raised of whether Mormons are guilty of just blindly following our leaders, i.e. if we practice blind obedience. On every occasion, the answer was no. We don’t believe in blind obedience. We believe in obtaining a witness for ourselves of the principle in question. After all, Joseph Smith, Jr. once said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” (John Taylor, “The Organization of the Church,” Millennial Star, Nov. 15, 1851, p. 339). But I was very surprised on a recent Sunday when the question of blind obedience came up, and the group agreed—without argument to the contrary—that we do indeed believe in blind obedience.

It seems the controversy over the November 2015 anti-gay policies has got many of us thinking. Some of us do not take an interest in such issues and are pretty much unaware of the details of the policies and their potential sticking points. Others have read the policies and find them to be consistent with church doctrine. Still others have familiarized themselves with the policies and identified some issues, but have chosen—or felt guided by the Spirit—to put those concerns on a mental/spiritual shelf and follow blindly. I have actually had many people tell me things like, “just be patient” and “just put it on a shelf and decide not to worry about it.” But there are others of us—a fourth group—who feel compelled by the Spirit to object. We feel a moral duty to stand for truth.

To many, the moral duty to stand for truth is equivalent to standing with the prophet and the other apostles on the issue of traditional marriage. But to some, the moral duty to stand for truth means to stand in opposition to policies that we clearly see are harmful, unnecessary and against the scriptures. We are not—as many, including Dallin Oaks, have suggested—following after false gods in the wilderness (“No Other Gods,” General Conference, October 2013). Our motivation is not a desire to follow the trends of the world or to seek the world’s approval. Rather, we seek to be true to our understanding of God’s nature, Jesus’ teachings and our commitment to be his servants—not blind servants of the church or its leaders, but open-eyed servants of Jesus Christ.

It used to bother me a lot when I would encounter people of other faiths who did not affirm the teachings of their leaders. For example, I know many Catholics who consider themselves to be fully practicing and in good standing in their church, but who also reject many core teachings of the church that are affirmed by the Pope. These include teachings on birth control, divorce, etc. I feel that now that I have had the experience myself of disagreeing with my church’s leaders, I have a clearer, more mature understanding of the dynamic that exists between church leadership and church members, and that the seemingly simple answer of “just accept and follow” simply cannot work in every case.

As I have learned about LDS church history, I have encountered similar problematic situations where people objected and often separated from the church due to disagreements. I read with dismay how David Whitmer—whose testimony of the Book of Mormon was unshakeable—was driven out of the church, because he objected to issues such as the manner of church governance, the publishing of revelations, and the office of High Priest. I wondered at how so many church members, including the prophet Joseph’s own wife and children, could choose to reject Brigham Young and his version of Mormonism that held polygamy as a central tenet and a practice necessary for exaltation in the highest degree of heaven.

As I learned about other Latter Day Saint tradition groups, I found similar issues. I was again dismayed as I learned about how so many people left the RLDS church in the 1980’s and 1990’s over issues such as the ordination of women to the Priesthood, the building of the temple in Independence, MO, the move away from the President of the church being a direct descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr., and the change ofthe RLDS church’s name to Community of Christ. Interestingly, I even have a Community of Christ friend who left her church due to its being overly liberal and accepting gay people in its congregations and ordaining them to the Priesthood. This is the exact opposite of my own situation as a member of the LDS church. So, why can’t all these people just suck it up, listen to their leaders and get with the program? Well, it’s just not that easy. We feel our consciences, and even the very Spirit of the Lord, instructing us to stand for the truth we clearly see.

So many have left the LDS church in recent years over the issues of the church’s anti-gay agenda, as well as problems of history and truth claims. And yet, people like Sam Young, myself and many others are staying. I wish to assert again very strongly that we are not motivated by a desire to follow the trends of the world or to find the approval of the world. This is simply a false assumption. What we are trying to do is pull off something that many—as referred to above—have failed to do. We are trying to remain in our faith tradition while being faithful to the truth we clearly see. We are trying to manage complex conflicts between our commitments to an institutional church, an historical church, our fellow saints, our own selves, and the Lord himself. The advice to just put these conflicts on a shelf and follow along in blind obedience simply will not work in all cases. And so the question is, is there room in God’s church for the likes of us? I really, sincerely hope so.