More Families Walk Away in the Houston Texas South Stake

couple

I just sent the following email to my good and hard working Stake President.

Dear President___________,

Over the past 3 months, two more solid couples in our stake have left the church.

In addition, yesterday I received this message:

“I wanted to check in to see when the next Talkeria in Sugar Land might be. I just met with someone in the South stake who is navigating a faith crisis.”

I bring these three families to your attention because I know you care about your flock.  Often, when members leave the church, it isn’t noticed.  For example, for over 2 years, you, me and the bishop discussed the possibility of creating a safe space for saints to talk about their questions & doubts.  During that time period,  9 families in the ward stepped away from the church.  When I share this statistic with ward members, they are incredulous.  Never-the-less, the 9 families have left.

The situation with people leaving is not unique to the LDS.  Last night, I came across a fascinating article.  It might be helpful, as you and the bishops continue to wrestle with this issue.

It was written by Rick Brown, the Religion Columnist for the Sugar Land Sun.

He told the story of the doubting apostle, St. Thomas.  And then said, “If you’re in a season of doubt, here’s what you need to know.”

“First, be honest with your doubts.  Thomas was.  When Thomas stepped into a place of honesty about his doubts Jesus stepped into the room.  Being honest with your doubts is a necessary part of faith.”  (My commentary:  It’s hard to be honest with your doubts when you have to keep them to yourself.)

“Second, be with people who aren’t afraid of your doubts.  Find a faith culture that allows for doubts and where leaders themselves are free to express their doubts.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be with people who are not afraid of questions?  They let you ask yours.  They share stories of doubts they’ve had.  When you’re in a period of uncertainty they carry you along until you regain your faith equilibrium.  They don’t get anxious.  They just love you the way Jesus loved Thomas.”  (My commentary:  He is talking about a safe place to discuss.  We need this so badly in the LDS Church.  I’ve reached a faith equilibrium.  But, it was a lonely and painful journey.  It shouldn’t be.)

“Third, a culture that allows questions can help you be aware of what God is doing with your doubts.  Jesus allowed Thomas time to “doubt his doubts” a bit.  Jesus knew what he was doing with Thomas.  He was allowing him time to think through what it was he believed.” (My commentary:  The only place to think through questions and doubts is…NOT in the church.  Rather, it can readily be found among the good and loving people who have already left.  This needs to change.)

Hopefully, something here will be of help.

All my best to you and your family,

Sam

 

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Do We Love Jesus Enough To…..

voting-opposedDo we love Jesus enough to…. stand up for what we believe is right?

Do we love Jesus enough to….stand up for the marginalized in our very midst?

Do we love Jesus enough to….stand up for those in our midst who are in danger?

Do we love Jesus enough to….be honest when Jesus asks for our opinion?

Do we love the church enough to….stand up and protect it as Jesus has designated?

Do we love the church enough to….participate in its governance as Jesus has designated?

Do we love the apostles enough to….be honest when they ask for our opinion?

Finally, do we love Jesus enough to….to follow Him?

General Conference

On Saturday October 1st, a very special event will occur.  At the general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Law of Common Consent will be put into practice.  This is a sacred opportunity for all members of the church to express their “approval” or “disapproval.”  (D&C 124:144)

This divine system of governance in the kingdom of God was declared by the Savior Himself.  In Doctrine & Covenants 28:13, “For ALL things MUST be done in order, and by common consent in the church.”

Can a person hold an office in the church without the consent of the people?

Nope.  “No man can preside in this Church in any capacity without the consent of the people. The Lord has placed upon us the responsibility of sustaining by vote those who are called to various positions of responsibility. No man, should the people decide to the contrary, could preside over any body of Latter-day Saints in this Church.” –LDS Website

Who should nominate the officers of the church?

“It is not the right of the people to nominate, to choose, for that is the right of the priesthood.” –LDS Website

Does Common Consent apply to more than just church officers?

Oh yes, so much more!!!   “This same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints. (see D&C 26:2) LDS Website

And, there is the sticking point.  Today, no policies, no major decisions, not anything that affects the lives of the Saints are being presented nor accepted by common consent.  If we are opposed to any of the above, the only real option seems to be voting opposed to the general leadership.  Someday that will change.  Eventually, the membership will no longer tolerate disobedience of this plain and precious law of God.

If You Support Everything The Church Is Doing…

Please, carefully consider your vote.  A vote to sustain the prophets and apostles is a great way to vote.  I commend & support your action.

If You Generally Support Everything, But Have Concerns…

Please, carefully consider your vote.  Whether you abstain or vote in approval, good for you.  Your opinion is important to the governance of Christ’s church.

If You Have Major Issues with Policies “That affect the Lives of the Saints

Please, carefully consider your vote.  The unanimous votes that are recorded at General, Stake and Ward Conferences are sending a clear signal to SLC and to the general membership that “all is well in Zion.”  However, many feel that all is NOT well in Zion.  That includes me.

Jesus’ system of church governance addresses practical concerns.  Common Consent helps prevent errors, correct errors, provide accountability and put a check on “Unrighteous Dominion.” (D&C 121:39)

Besides practicality there is another side of Common Consent.  To me, this law is one of the most beautiful in our entire canon.  Most commandments are like:  “Do this…Do that…Don’t do this…Don’t do that!”  Oh…but this law is more like:  “Sam, you are of great worth.  I value your opinion.  I value your critical thinking.  I have commanded the apostles, whom I have put in place, to ask for your input.  When they do, please be honest.  I’m trusting and relying on you, Sam.”  When I consider how the Lord Jesus has set up the governance of His church, a tear of joy graces my eye.  He loves, respects and values each of us and our opinions.

If You are Opposed, I Encourage you to Vote Your Opinion

First, I know that many are constrained by fear.  Fear of family, friends, or business repercussions.  Those are legitimate considerations.  It’s an unfortunate element of today’s LDS culture that prevents full participation in the Law of Common Consent.  Your silence is understandable and certainly an honorable path.

Now, to the group in which I find myself:  Those who oppose and are willing to fully engage in the divine process of church voting.

Please, carefully consider casting a vote.  This is general conference (GC) and is the easiest of all the conferences.  The voting session occurs Saturday afternoon.  Here’s how you can effectively vote.

  • Attend GC in Salt Lake City.
  • Watch GC in your stake center or local chapel, if conference is broadcast there.
  • Watch or listen to GC in your home.
  • MOST IMPORTANT:  After the Saturday voting session, send an email to your bishop and Stake President.

Questions and Concerns

Do I have to spend time composing an e-mail?  Not necessarily.  Click here for examples.  Take ideas from it.  Modify it.  Or flat out copy it.

How will anyone know that there are actually members opposing?  Great question.   A Common Consent Register has now been created.  In this document you can record your name as having voted OPPOSED or planning to vote OPPOSED.  For many it is a scary experience…putting their name in full view of the public.  Certainly, it is a worthwhile cause to stand up for what we believe and to speak out for those who can’t speak for themselves.

What are the risks?  There shouldn’t be any risks to obeying a commandment from Jesus Christ in the church of Jesus Christ.  But, the risk is real.  I’ll address that in a blog post coming in the next few days.

Will I be asked to meet with a church leader?  It’s likely that the stake president or bishop will want to discuss with you.  That should be a very good thing.  It gives you the opportunity to explain your position.  In an ideal church, your opinion would be forwarded up the chain.  If a significant number of members engage in common consent, vote tallies will be taken seriously.  In the ‘risks’ posting, I’ll give some ideas for the interview with church leaders.

My Hope & Prayer

I love my church.  The church of my child and adulthood.  The church of my forefathers, my parents, my children, my grandchildren.  It’s a good church.  It’s the church of Jesus Christ.

I pray that good men and women all over the world will raise their hands and express their sincere and true opinions.  Jesus is counting on us.

I wish you Godspeed in this vital voting opportunity.

Whizzing in the Wind

***Warning—Do not read if you are queasy about bodily fluid descriptions***

catamaran

Last week, I took my son-in-law and two young grandkids sailing.  The weather was picture perfect.  The sky was overcast, making for an uncommonly pleasant temperature.  Low humidity.  No rain.  Manageable wind speed…that wouldn’t frighten the little ones…or the big ones.

My son-in-law, Marshall, is determined to master the fine art of sailing.  Most of the day he was at the helm.  Did a great job.  As the captain, he managed everything.  The jib, the tiller, the mainsail, the commands….and even the capsizing.  That’s right, he tipped us over.  Of course, we blamed it on….Benson, our intrepid three year old passenger.  As we joked that it was all his fault, he quickly and proudly claimed the credit.  Tipping a catamaran over can be traumatic to kids with no sailing experience.  But, Benson was totally unfazed.  Bright-eyed and smiling wide, he played in the swells as Dad and Granddad worked to upright the boat.

At one point, we were about an hour away from the beach.  My little three year old grandson said to his dad, “I need to go potty.”  Dad calmly replied in almost a whisper, “Let’s use the stealth method.”  My six kids were all girls.  So, I wasn’t sure what the stealth method was.  I assumed it meant to go into the bushes.  Well, in the middle of Galveston Bay, there are no bushes.  Holding onto the windward shroud, little Benson stood up and started fumbling awkwardly with his clothes.

OK!  Now it was time for the experienced sailor to jump to the rescue.  From sad and comical experience, I know what happens when any fluid is flung into the wind.  Moving air is merciless.  It flings the fluid right back onto you and anyone else behind you.  Marshall and I were both downwind.

Before any unfortunate accident could occur, I moved the little one to the back of the trampoline on the leeward side.  Now, Benson could water the seawater without the captain and his coach being splattered.

Pissing Into the Wind

Yesterday, I met a good friend for lunch.  He’s a member of my ward (Congregation).  I really like this guy.  Have a great deal of respect for him.  He was my very first bishop  when I moved to Houston 40 years ago.

We got talking about the state of my faith and my current activities.  He was very complimentary about the Talkeria.  He feels it is a great example of following Christ’s commandments to reach out in a spirit of love and charity.  Coming from him, it meant the world to me.

But, he also had a caution.  He said this, “Sam, what you are doing, by voting opposed, is just PISSING INTO THE WIND.”  I’m not sure exactly what he meant.  But, I’m a sailor.  To me, “pissing into the wind,” brings a certain image to mind.  Not a pleasant image.  An image of bad stuff coming back at you.

Excommunication?

It turns out that this vision of “pissing into the wind” was pretty apt yesterday.  Two people, whom I love and know well, predicted that I’m going to be excommunicated.  I’d heard comments like this before, but not from anyone close.  It hit a little hard.

Now, I don’t think that I’m doing anything to warrant expulsion.  I love Jesus.  I love my church.  I have great respect for its leaders.  It saddens me that so many of my friends and family are leaving or have already left.

So, I may be “pissing into the wind.”  Unfortunate things might come back and bite me.  Never-the-less, my determination and commitment is to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.  If I were be excommunicated for seeking to obey the Savior’s commandments and to keep my temple covenants…so be it.  After all, Jesus, Himself, was executed for his determination to follow the commandments of His father.

Pissing Into the Wind—The Next Steps

Saturday, October 1st, all members of the Church of Jesus Christ will have a sacred opportunity to serve the Lord and His church.  Once again, He will publicly exhibit His trust in the general church membership.  He has commanded the apostles to ask for our opinion….to ask for our approval or disapproval.  In preparation for that pivotal event, here are four steps I plan to take in the next few days.

  1. Post on my blog a call to seriously consider what each of us is going to do when this holy vote is called for.
  2. Compose an e-mail which will explain to my Stake President and Bishop why I voted the way I did.
  3. Post that e-mail here, so others can access, modify, and use, if they so desire.
  4. Compose a petition of sorts. Not actually a petition, but, more like a register.  If a person chooses to vote in disapproval, they could record it here.  It’s likely that only one name will be recorded on the register…mine.  And…that’s just peachy with me.

 

 

“The Dominant Church Narrative Is Not True”

image

This, according to Dr. Richard Bushman. I have many friends who have left the church because they, also, have found out what Bushman knows. More friends are on the fence. “The dominant church narrative is NOT TRUE.”

Fireside

Dr. Richard Bushman, is a serving LDS patriarch, former stake president, historian, expert on Joseph Smith, and author of Rough Stone Rolling.  At a recent fireside, he was the featured speaker.  During the Q&A, the following exchange took place:

Questioner:  “In your view, do you see room in Mormonism for several narratives of a religious experience or do you think that in order for the Church to remain strong they would have to hold to that dominant [orthodox] narrative?”

Richard Bushman:  “I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative.  The dominant narrative is not true;  it can’t be sustained.  The Church has to absorb all this new information or it will be on very shaky grounds and that’s what it is trying to do, and it will be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially.  But I think it has to change.”

Not True

Thank you, Richard Bushman, for validating what so many of us already know! “The dominant narrative is not true!”

We have been taught, and are still teaching, things that are untrue. Untrue = false. Teaching a known falsehood = lying.  Either way, unwittingly teaching falsehoods or lying, neither should an integral part of the “only true and living church.”

Somehow, our LDS culture has developed to where it’s improper, stigmatized, or outright forbidden to discuss “new information.” As a result, half truths and falsehoods are commonly taught. Openly discussing our history, doctrine and policies is not permitted, at least not in my locale.

It Can’t Be Sustained

So, why are we trying so hard to sustain & control our current curriculum and discussion?

I think many members are totally fine with the falsehoods in the church. For them, the false narrative feels safe. I’m OK with that.

However, there is a large and growing group of members who will not tolerate a narrative saturated with falsity.  I have joined this group.  Feeling betrayed, many have left.  Feeling betrayed, I stay.  Still committed to the church. Still committed to truth.  No longer committed to false narratives.  Life is too short.  Salvation, too precious to embrace what I & Bushman know to be false.

MoroniAll Truth Can Be Circumscribed Into One Great Whole

I now pay very close attention to the covenants and doctrines of the temple. At the end of the endowment ceremony, we are taught that “all truth can be circumscribed into one great whole.” Profound and thought provoking.  The church is violating it’s own temple instruction.  It has circumscribed falsehoods into the “great whole” and consigned much truth into hidden obscurity.

My temple covenants are more sacred to me than circumscribing a narrative that is “not true.”

Driving Members Away

I have been told that we should never discuss our true and complete history and doctrine at church.  It can cause people to lose their testimonies.

What a weird thing to say!  So, it’s better to hide the truth so that a person will continue to believe the “truth” that’s really not true?  I know that there are adults in the church who want to be treated this way.  Not this adult.  In fact, most adults would say this is not adult behavior.  “When I became a man, I put away childish things.”

I now see the other side.  Not discussing our complete history and doctrine at church is causing members to lose their testimony.  It has driven my friends right out of the LDS church. The church whose “dominant narrative is not true.”

Teaching and embracing falsehood is not good…at least, not in my neighborhood.  My church is good, it’s time to get better.

You’re Not Broken—I’m Sorry

Budapest Shoes

Children’s Apology

Last year, my wife and I traveled to the congenial country of Hungary.  We toured The Great Synagogue of Budapest, the largest in Europe.  Hungary is still struggling to come to terms with its treatment of their Jewish population during WWII.  By war’s end, at least 70% had been murdered.

Our tour guide told us of a recent concert she had attended.  It was a singing & dancing group of German high schoolers.  At the beginning of the program, a couple of the children stepped forward.  They apologized for crimes their country had perpetrated during that long-ago war.

The story touched me.  Born years after this horror, these children had had no part in it.  They were not official spokespersons for their country.  Yet, they were willing to apologize to a people who had been wronged.

Here’s my attempt to follow their poignant example.  An official spokesperson for the LDS Church, I’m not.  But, I am the church.  At least part of the church.  At least a single part of the church.  And this little part of the church, along with any who will join in my cry say,  I am Sorry!  We are sorry!

Rainbow Ribbon

To My Gay Friends, Both Known and Un

For all the ways we’ve been wrong—I’m Sorry.

  • When I was young, church & culture tutored that gay was foul and perverted. I wish the prophet had spoken.  You weren’t broken.  We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • You chose to be gay.  So the leaders say.  I wish the prophet had spoken.  You’re not broken.  We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • chairTo some, they tried to shock your gay away.  At the Lord’s college, you were strapped in a chair, electrodes placed down there.  Movies of naked men were turned on.  If you were turned on, an electric shock in turn was turned on.  You wanted the strongest current to be cured.  But, gay doesn’t work in those ways.  You were simply tortured in those days.  An elder from my mission endured this, in submission.  Today, he’s still gay.  From the church, he’s parted ways.  Oh, how I wish the prophet had spoken.  You were not broken.  I went along, although I didn’t know.  Now, I’m so, so, sorry.  Tears blur my eyes.  I just want to cry….I’m sorry. I’m sorry
  • You were told to pray and pray and soon the gay would just go away.  Of course it didn’t.  You became depressed.  Maybe next time pray and pray ALL of the day.  Still gay and more depression came your way.  With no cure, some couldn’t endure.  By their own hand they sent themselves to the heavenly land.  I wish the prophet had spoken.  These precious people were not broken. We were dead wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • “Get married,” your respected leaders said!  You faithfully followed, while full of dread.  Your gay didn’t magically go away.  Now, with children and spouse, heartache and shame, you finally came out, and all suffered pain.  I wish the prophet had spoken.  Now a family’s broken. We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • Finally, something sure, that would result in a cure. You agree to participate in reparative therapy.  Humiliated, disgraced, and degraded again.  You cry because no matter what you can’t win. Now, this procedure is discredited & thrown in the trash bin.  Why couldn’t the prophet have spoken?  You were not broken.  We were wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • With Prop 8, we tried to legislate away, the rights to marry if you were gay.  I don’t know if the prophet had spoken.  What I know is, you are not broken.  This was wrong.  I went along.  I’m sorry.
  • Last November the edict came.  Out of love was the claim.  If the gay marry, throw them away.  Really?  It just sounds wrong.  These are my friends.  I don’t want to follow along.  I’m sorry.
  • November’s policy also contains what I consider to be a stain. Children of parents who are gay, will have God’s choicest blessings taken away.  No baptism at 8, no holy spirit to guide, no priesthood at any rate.  With shame, the policy will make  kids want to run & hide.  Has a prophet really spoken?  The rules are broken.  We are wrong.  This time I will not go along.  I’m sorry.

I wish the prophet had spoken.  You are not broken.  We were wrong.  Next time, I will not just go along.  I love who you are, just as you are.  Of that, I feel very strong.

I’m Sorry.

My Choice Choice

ChoicesJune – November 2014

At the tender age of 62, in June of 2014, something jolted my religious attention.  For the next six months, I was consumed with studying LDS church history and doctrine.  Literally, 3 to 5 hours were spent everyday reading, researching and ruminating.  By November, I had reached a shocking conclusion about beliefs held my entire life.  Up to that point, my spiritual knowledge had been rock solid.  It could be described as certainty.  Frequently, I had repeated the phrase “I KNOW that ________ is true.”  In fact, I “knew” that everything was TRUE about the Mormon church.

In a poignant and sobering moment, that fateful November day, I realized that I “knew” nothing.  Nothing was certain.  Confusion.  Disappointment.  Sadness.  Anger.  Loneliness.  All these emotions swept though my mind.  Other than continuing to search and study, I didn’t know what to do.  Anger continued to build.  It frightened my wife and family.  For a time, it harmed our relationship.  Of course, that was my fault.  I recognize that and have worked to correct and control the anger.

After a few attempts to discuss issues with church members, it became clear that this was not a good idea.  A loneliness started to creep in.  It appeared that I was the only person in my circle of family and friends who was traveling this path.

January 2015

In January ’15, three meaningful things occurred.
  1. Friends leaving the church.  I discovered a close friend in the ward and a sibling in far away Utah who had both quietly left the church.  They had discovered and studied the same issues.  Their conclusion was to part with Mormonism, never discussing their concerns privately with their bishop or in public with members.
  2. The Bishop encounter.  I met with the bishop.  For all intents and purposes, it did not go well.  I put on a happy face during our discussion.  But, inside I was disappointed, depressed and angry.  In defense of my bishop, he’s a friend and a great guy.  It was the first time that anyone had presented him with serious doubts.  He told me, “Sam, you are the only person who is questioning.”  Of course, by then, I knew that was inaccurate.
  3. Paul, the apostle.  I rediscovered a wonderful scripture.  It would tide me over for the next several months.  1 Corinthians 13.  This is the classic chapter describing the characteristics of charity.  But, it also contained a description of exactly what I was going through.

Paul said, “Whether there be knowledge, it shall pass away.”  Oh my goodness!  That’s just what had happened to me.  My knowledge, my certainty had just passed away.

Paul goes on, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  Oh my goodness!  He was describing my journey from childish “knowledge” to speaking, understanding and THINKING, like a man.

 Paul continues, “For now we see through a glass, darkly.”  Oh my goodness!  I’m following in Paul’s footsteps.  For 62 years, my religion was crystal clear.  Now, clear as mud.

Paul concludes, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”  This was something I could wrap my head around.  For me, certainty no longer was part of my belief system.  Why should I put my trust in ‘knowing’ when Paul teaches it will vanish.  I was determined to put my faith in faith.  My hope in hope.  And strive for charity.  But it would take another year before settling on a comfortable path comprising these three abiding gospel principles.

TempleSummer 2015

I continued to study for hours everyday.  The obsession to find answers was as unrelenting as fly paper.  By the summer of 2015, I’d decided to delve into the pinnacle of Mormonism: The temple.  Not only are the sealing ordinances at the apex of our doctrine, they are also unique in all of Christianity.  The temple experience consists of two beautiful teachings.  First, that we can be ‘sealed’ to our loved ones, with the promise that we will be with them in heaven forever.  Second, that all mankind will have the opportunity to go to heaven regardless of whether or not they had ever been taught of Jesus Christ while on earth.

These blessings are not guaranteed.  Their realization is contingent on keeping the covenants that are made in the temple.  Hence, the temple covenants become the centerpiece of what the temple is all about.  From the pulpit, encouragement to keep these preeminent promises is constantly preached.  Now at age 63, I realized that I didn’t fully understand them.  I had lots and lots of questions.  And, as I pondered, more and more covenant questions kept coming.

Over the next 3 months, I started researching.  I asked, discussed, probed.  No one, and I mean no one, had answers.  Almost without exception, as I continued to ask questions, this response would eventually rear it’s ironic head, “Sam, why do you even care?”  What???  Why do I care about what the temple covenants mean???  Really???  Initially, everybody said they understood their meaning.  With the shallowest interrogation, NOBODY had answers.

This experience was highly disappointing.  Especially, the attitude that temple covenants are not to be discussed outside of the temple.  If you have questions, you should set an appointment with the temple president.  He’ll give you the answers inside his temple office.

My observation & conclusion:  Before we make the covenants, we can’t discuss them.  We  don’t understand them when we actually make them.  After the promises are made, we can’t discuss them.  And, finally, NOBODY knows what they really mean.  If keeping our temple covenants is so vital to eternal salvation, you’d think we could & would devote tons of time to understand exactly what the heck they mean.

Fall 2015

Frustrated with my temple covenant quest, I decided to take a look at Christianity in general.  I bought books, studied online, listened to debates, and watched videos.  I LOVED much of what I heard.  Also, I was turned off by much.

Soon, it became apparent that Christian history & doctrine, along with New & Old Testament history & doctrine, contained holes, inconsistencies and unsavory elements similar to our Mormon history & doctrine.  No longer did I look down on atheists.  They had good reason to believe what they believe.

Decision Time

Through January 2016,  I was still consumed with reading, listening, and now writing.  But, my gut (my turning stomach) was telling me that enough effort had now been spent on gathering my thoughts.  It was time to trim the sail, adjust the rudder and start sailing a purposefully chosen course.

Leave the church.  Do nothing.  Stay in. Stay silent.  Embrace Christianity.  Embrace atheism.  In hindsight, I think that I already knew what I was going to choose.  But, it took another month for a clear path to emerge from the fog.

Good SamaritanThe Choice Choice Arrives

I was raised Mormon, just a few miles north of Salt Lake City.  The church, prophets, priesthood, temple, Book of Mormon and  plan of salvation had always been taken for granted as true.  I ‘knew’ they were true.  Now, I ‘knew’ nothing.  Never, ever had I considered that faith could be a choice.

It was February 2016, at the tender age of 63, when the choice opportunity had presented itself.  The choice chance to choose for myself.  I was free to think as an adult.  Finally, as a rational man, I had put away childish things.

My decision:  Follow Jesus Christ, both his teachings and example.  How could I not select this path?  To me, it has divine appeal.
  • The Good Samaritan.
  • The Golden Rule.
  • Leave the 99 for the 1.
  • When you have done it unto the least of these.
  • The Prodigal Son.
  • Reaching out to the marginalized, the hopeless, the helpless.
  • Standing up to the proud & powerful, including the church leaders of his time.
  • Standing up for the poor, the sick, the weak, including those rejected by the church leaders of his time.
  • Finally, He had paid the infinite price necessary to bring EVERYBODY home.

My choice choice is to follow the lowly son of a carpenter.  The humble & homeless teacher, who had nowhere to lay his head.  He came from and lived at the margins of society.  His focus was ministering to the marginalized.

I have chosen to follow Jesus in the Church of Jesus Christ.  The church that has been my home for 63 years.  The institution to which I have dedicated much blood, sweat, tears, time & treasure.  The church is not perfect.  Far from it.  But, I and my family have derived significant benefit from our membership.  I love the church.  I love Jesus more.

Change???

This may not sound like a faith transition.  For me, it is a cataclysmic change.  I have chosen to follow Jesus.  Although, I am a member of the church, I recognize that the institution is not my salvation.  I listen to the prophets.  They are good men.  Men selected by my Savior. But, they are men.  My Lord has instructed me to not put my trust in the arm of flesh.  In my past life, I had fallen victim to worshiping the prophets.  I hung on their every word, willing to believe and obey all directions flowing from their lips.  Today, I put my trust in Christ, willing to follow the church leaders when they align with the directions flowing from Him.

It turns out, this path is more difficult than expected.  I’ve encountered unexpected push-back. That’s OK, because this path is working for me.

Does Jesus really exist?  I don’t know.  ‘Certainty’ is no longer important to me.  I don’t view it as a principle of His gospel.  Rather,  His touching teachings and eloquent example beckon me to follow.

Dancing with Jesus

Tango Dancers

Thirty-nine years ago, I accomplished the impossible:  I graduated as a single male from BYU.  Very rare back in 1977.  Relatively common today.

I moved to Houston with no wife in tow.  Young LDS singles being sparse, I was constantly on the look-out for a future spouse.  City wide dances were held every couple of months. Prime occasions to meet someone cute and available.  I don’t think I ever missed a dance. Within 1 1/2 years, I was married to my sweetheart. Singles dances faded into the distant past.

Odd Behavior

During those long-ago dances, I observed a rather interesting ritual.  There was a particular single man who attended regularly.  I’ll call him John.  He always brought a date.  The very same date.  I think they were engaged.

John followed a predictable pattern.  As the evening progressed he would only dance a couple of times with his delightful & dependable companion.  However, he danced every song…..with a different girl!  He was pretty picky and chose carefully who he asked.  You see, back then, there were girls who could count on dancing all night.  And….then, there were girls who could only hope.  Of course, these women were not deficient….in any way!  They may have been a bit different, but not deficient, defective, or discardable.  Never-the-less, there they were, lining the walls, filling a chair.  These are the women with whom John chose exclusively to dance the night away.

A Parable

Fast forward almost 40 years.  I didn’t see it at the time.  Maybe John didn’t either.  But, I see now that he was…..Dancing with Jesus.

One of my favorite spiritual teachings is found in Matthew 25.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least, ye have done it unto me.”  What a drop-dead gorgeous, tear-in-the-eye, teaching!  One of the mainstays for me choosing to follow Christ.

Back to John.  The women he chose to dance with certainly were not the “least” in most situations.  But, for some reason, that evening, they were the “least” in the cultural hall. Literally, they were at the margins.  Isn’t that the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry?  Reaching out to those marginalized by society?   John was Dancing with Jesus.

Over the years, I have often thought about the concept of the “least of these.” Occasionally, I’ve attempted to implement it.  At this point, I’d like to Dance with Jesus way more often.

The Least

So, who are the “least” around us, today?  Who are the modern lepers?  There are two groups that I think fit this category and that I want to actively reach out to.  They are not deficient or defective in any way!  They may be different.

Rainbow Ribbon

Group 1:  LGBT

For most of my life, society and the Mormon church have viewed gay people in much the same way as lepers were viewed in Christ’s time. They have been the poster child of marginalization.  Fortunately, our society is progressing.  Perceptions and understandings are changing for the better.  However, gay adults and children still face a very difficult road in the LDS community.  Parents and siblings also face daunting challenges.

I’ve decided to Dance with Jesus through my beloved gay brothers and sisters.  You are my friends.  I have your back.  I love you.

ThinkingGroup 2:  Faith Transitioned Mormons

Until the past couple of years, I would have never considered this a marginalized group.  I didn’t even know they existed.  Naive and sheltered was I.  No more.  I have personally witnessed the pain, anguish, and alienation of many members whose faith has been challenged by history and doctrine that seem to have been hidden and obfuscated by the very top church leaders.

Questioning, transitioning or transitioned members have no safe place within the church to discuss and work through their issues.  Rather, they are frequently judged as prideful, lazy, sinful or desiring to sin.  Often they FEEL alone and shunned.  Often they ARE alone and shunned.

So, I am now Dancing with Jesus through my good transitioning brothers and sisters.  You are dear friends.  I have your back.  I love you, no matter what path you choose.

Clueless?

Do I know exactly what I’m doing or how to do it?  Nope.  Will I stub my toes?  Will I step on someone’s feet?  Yep.  When I first started my ballroom hobby, I had 2 left feet.  After lots of work, I’ve advanced to: ½ right foot and 1 ½ left.  Progress!  In this new dance, I’m pretty sure I can count 3 left feet.  But, I’m Dancing with Jesus.  He led the leper.  He’ll lead me.

Now, on to Dancing with Jesus.