A letter to my daughter’s Mormon seminary teacher

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Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison

A guest post by Mette Harrison

Dear Brother So-And-So,

I know you chose to become a teacher because you must really love teenagers—and the gospel. I am fairly certain that you are trying your best to understand “kids these days,” since it’s been maybe forty years since you were in high school yourself. I know you believe deeply in Christ and in the gospel of loving and repenting, in the goal of Zion, and in the word of God in our scriptures.

That said, I think there are some things I could help you with. My daughter is really struggling right now with the church and I’d like to ask you to think specifically about her as you teach her class and other classes, as well.

  1. My daughter is fiercely protective of LGBT Mormons. This means that any time you say something about that sensitive topic, she is listening carefully and will be making judgments about whether or not you consider her to be a “real” Mormon with that loving, sensitive heart of hers. Many of her generation feel the same way. Their friends are openly LGBT. Their family members are, as well.
  2. Sometimes it feels to my daughter like there is an expectation that taking things on “faith” means she has to turn off her brain. She spends all day in school, exercising her mind and then seminary is a break, right? It’s a place for her to relax and just listen and express herself. Except that for her, thinking isn’t something she stops doing easily. She’s going to ask questions. About everything. About uncomfortable topics. Please tell her that she isn’t bad to ask questions. Please treat her questions with respect, even if you don’t know the answers (I don’t, either).
  3. Seminary teachers know that the teen years are important times for forming identity. I know this, too. As her parent, I worry about how often she is told either implicitly or explicitly that people who are like her don’t belong in the church. I am at peace with her choosing to stay or not to stay, but I’d prefer for her not to be pushed out by being told that she has to be some kind of cookie cutter Mormon or she doesn’t belong.
  4. A mission is a wonderful thing for young men and young women. It is still true that young men are pressured more than young women to serve, but I would prefer that the pressure decrease for both. I encourage my children who feel called to serve and I support them one hundred percent, but I have also seen what pressure to serve does. It makes teens feel unworthy and it makes them stop attending. I don’t want this and I don’t think you do, either. So can you talk about missions with that in mind?
  5. Marriage and family are very important in my life. Having children has been a wonderful source of happiness and purpose for me. I know that the church teaches that families are important to God’s plan of salvation, but is there a place for those who are not sure that they want to have children? Must they be browbeaten to accept that this is the only way that they can make it to heaven? Can we allow them some space to decide if having children is what they want on their own?
  6. Can we do a better job of reaching out to those of other religions? I don’t mean proselytizing them. I mean really understanding their worship, sacred texts, and praxis. I would love to see some of Seminary time spent visiting other churches or having guest lecturers come in to talk about our commonalities. I think this would do wonderful things to our high schools so that students of other religions (particularly in Utah) would feel more understood and perhaps free to speak about their own faith. I’d like to see my daughter with a broader understanding of the place Mormonism holds in religion, beyond our insistence that we are the “one true church.”

Elder Ballard recently spoke about how different it is now to teach teens about the gospel. In the time of the internet, he said, we can no longer imagine that teens will not be exposed to some of the less pleasant historical facts about Mormonism. I look forward to seeing seminary teachers tackling head on the church’s fine Gospel Topics essays about some of these trickier topics. And thanks again for all you do.


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Mette Harrison is a regular guest blogger at Flunking Sainthood and also at the Huffington Post. She is the author of many acclaimed novels, most recently the Linda Wallheim mysteries The Bishop’s Wife and His Right Hand.

  • Briant Cole

    The guest writer need very badly to read an address by Jeffrey Holland given in the April 2003 General conference (and found in text in the May 2003 Ensign) titled “A Prayer for The Children.” Seriously. It’s not cryptic; it’s plain. I detect the sincerity and earnestness in her words, and I have every reason to believe she’s serious loving parent.. However, I’m not sure of her willingness to totally reach for answers.

  • Tommy

    Great letter. Please cc. it to a few of the “hardline” apostles and others occupying the right wing of the Church.

    It is a shame that the Church over my lifetime has become far less tolerant, demanding greater conformity, with little acceptance that the current view of doctrine or policy just might not be correct.

    Conformity is the new “agency”. Debate about doctrines and policies is treated as apostacy. Even local leaders seem to be far more conformist than long ago Now they are micro managed by Handbooks and mid level managers. Even our Chapels have a boring architectural conformity.

    We, as a church, fail to make accommodations of those who are not just like us. The beauty of the answers that Joseph Smith received was the God could accommodate all, even young children and ancestors who died without ordinances or knowledge of the gospel.

    Hopefully our Church can once again become a big inclusive tent in word and deed, welcoming all of God’s diverse…

  • A Happy Hubby

    Briant. Maybe this works for you, but when I read that 13 year old conference talk (almost older than this Sister’s daughter) it sounds like you are saying, “If you can’t be 100% in and never say there is anything wrong, then get the hell out. We don’t want your type here.”

    I suggest you might look at the first “related post” at the bottom of the blog. I think an apostle is saying that the older ways of doing things isn’t going to cut it with the newer generation. I am seeing it rather clearly in my area. Those parents that just tell their kids, “don’t worry about that, just have faith” are waiting until they are out of the house and they are gone. They feel the church can’t answer the tough questions or relate to the world they live it.

    I see this sister nudging her daughter’s seminary teacher to look close at what he is saying so her daughter does not become one of the many young adults leaving the church. I see she is showing that she has faith and loves…

  • Elder Anderson

    @Briant

    I read the essay you referenced. Your last sentence “willingness to totally reach for answers” appears to be a vague criticism of how Mette is raising her daughter. Exactly what do you mean? What “answers” do you think Mette is unwilling to reach for? I didn’t get the impression she was asking any questions.

  • Jennifer

    Briant – I just read Holland’s talk. It was given 13 years ago and does not contain any answers pertinent to questions church members & youth have today. In 2003 we did not have gospel topic essays – confessions that our racist past was not of God, that Joseph took upwards of 40 wives (Wikipedia lists 51 possible women) and lied about it, and that the papyri used to translate the Book of Abraham seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with Abraham… the list goes on.

    Rousing, heartfelt but non-specific sermons like Elder Holland’s no longer suffice. Our youth deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and regarded as the intelligent young adults they truly are. Topic side-stepping & a pat on the head with platitudes about loyalty smacks of insult — especially in light of information available today and the utter dismay many of us feel, that the history we trusted from the church turned out to be severely distorted, one-sided, and sometimes even decidedly false.

  • John

    Here is the assumption I make in my family, my 4 daughters range in age from 16 to 8. I tell them that teachers and leaders in the church have agency to believe as they like. They have agency to teach things they believe are true. BUT, remember, they make mistakes, they make bad assumptions, they are uneducated about many topics they talk about. You can believe something different than your teachers and still be a good Mormon. And if someone tells you otherwise let me know and we’ll have a conversation about it.

    However, I also teach them that context matters. When you are in a Seminary Class with other students, this may, or may not, be the correct place to bring up certain questions. When you are in Sunday School, this may or may not be the best either. Is your question better suited for a different audience, or at home? Are you asking for the right reason? To prove your universal love or understanding and expose someone else’s lack of Love or understanding?

  • Irish

    Dear feminist writer;
    This article could easily have been entitled “A letter to my son’s seminary teacher”. EVERYTHING can be switched to ‘boy’ or ‘him’. You make it sound like boys and men are horrible people.
    Typical feminist.

  • Jeremiah

    CES is all about a) getting kids on missions, and b) getting them promptly married with children. I like the letter, but I doubt that it can change CES.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad the article mentioned Elder Ballard’s recent address to CES. I’m happy the church is addressing the problem of internet misinformation about the church.

    However, my advice to the author of this article is to follow the prophet, study the scriptures, and proceed with faith. You are off still base on a few things about the gospel, in my opinion.

    Yes, we learn by study and also by faith. The Lord wants us to use our brains. We should ask questions and keep seeking the answers. But in the end it’s about faith and submitting to the Lord.

  • Elder Anderson

    “I’m happy the church is addressing the problem of internet misinformation about the church.”

    No, the church is addressing the reality that there’s accurate information available that outright contradicts the church’s correlated version. The church is forced to publish essays and discuss these matters in Sunday school because they know kids will find out the truth eventually. As far as “follow the prophet”–that is a 20th century invention. Joseph Smith himself preached against it vehemently.

  • Jennifer

    I love you so much for this.

  • Anonym

    Tommy ~ “Conformity is the new ‘agency’.” Exactly.

    Earlier this week I found myself unexpectedly in an LDS seminary & institute building (non-religious event, a regional music competition, I accompanied some high school musicians.).

    I was almost sickened by what I saw, in terms of posters, quotes, and memes covering classroom and hallway walls. After reading two posters, I made a conscious decision to not read any more. The first said “Loyalty is Royalty!” The second: “If you want to be buff (cartoon rendering of a weightlifter), Be Obedient!”

    I’m hoping against hope these were not accurate representations of the state of CES today.

  • Jeremiah

    Irish,

    This woman is specifically addressing the teacher of her teenage daughter, who is, as you can imagine, not her son. Your response is entirely nonsensical in that regard and cannot be taken either seriously or satirically.

  • Mike

    Great post. I agree with all the concerns Mette has.

  • Michael

    I think the letter presumes a caricature of the seminary teacher that may not be accurate (e.g. the teacher is not aware of or sensitive to the challenges his/her students are facing, declares or suggests who is or is not a “real” mormon, asks students to turn their brains off, explicitly or implicitly tells students they do not belong if they are not cookie cutter Mormons, etc).

    Beyond that, I am curious to learn more about the author’s positions on the listed topics.

    1. Do you find the “Family: a Proclamation to the World” to be inconsistent with a loving God?

    2. How does one reconcile a conflict between gospel teachings and intellectual reason?

    3. Does having a church policy of missionary service put too much pressure on the youth? Why does pressure to serve lead to feelings of unworthiness?

  • Jason

    What the author is asking for (compassion, individual consideration, human decency, logical application of purpose, religious allowance, etc…) are very reasonable and considerate of all involved. They are, in my opinion of course, completely at odds with the religion (Mormonism specifically, organized religion generally) and cannot be allowed at an institutional level. Hopefully the people involved can come to a workable understanding together, but what is being asked for simply cannot be given because – there is no space for it. The problem is the premise – belong and participate but be deeply bothered by the foundation purpose and reason (“our way, we make the rules, we exert control”) for its continued existence.

    Best of luck! (I mean this sincerely, no sarcasm or denigration intended)

  • Michael

    4. Is it browbeatting teach that God’s command to multiply and replenish the earth is still in force (and like all of God’s commandments, they are for our own personal happiness) while pointing out as Elder Nelson does that how many children and when to have them is between a couple and God?

    5. Don’t you think (as I’ve found) that interfaith dialogue is much more powerful for the Mormons and members of other faiths alike if it is an individual pursuit rather than an organizationally lead pursuit?

    Thanks for the thoughtful discussion.

  • I would like teachers of adults to hear and do these same things. Church is not particularly comfortable for me these days, and I am long past my teenage years.

  • Michael

    I sincerely find Mormonism to amplify my capacity for compassion, individual consideration, human decency, logical application of purpose, and religious allowance.

  • Maddy

    “but I’d prefer for her not to be pushed out by being told that she has to be some kind of cookie cutter Mormon or she doesn’t belong.”

    Amen

    Sadly, too late for my son. Is it okay for young LDS men to not attend BYU, and to not serve a mission? Apparently some members/leaders don’t think so, and they felt the need to say so. I think many LDS members feel comforted that they conform to the cookie cutter and in doing so, they will be on God’s “side” in the final days. Maybe they are right, what do I know? What I do know is that we are losing some fantastic people and that we can be enriched by opening our hearts and minds beyond the cookie cutter.

  • JustMe

    Dear Mother,
    1. It doesn’t matter how your daughter feels about GLBT people. We have spoken and she needs to beleive as we tell her to and spout the church line as ordered. We don’t want those people or their children in our church. I don’t think we can make it any plainer.
    2. It doesn’t matter what she thinks. What matters is what we tell her (and everyone) to think. If the church says blacks are the bad people you beleive that and when we say the prophet has had a sign and now we can let them hold office, hallelujah! you beleive that. If we change it again, then you’ll believe that without question.
    3. Stop with the self nonsense. She must conform to be an LDS. Cookie cutter Mormons are what we want!
    4. Also stop with the “me” nonsense. We need young people to go to foreign and far away places and survive on next to nothing so we can spread the word. That’s how this church makes its money! We must enlarge the flock because that brings in more money.

  • JustMe

    5. You asked two questions. The answer to the first is yes. The second answer is no. More Mormons mean more tithes. This is simple addition. How your children “feel” about reproducing has nothing to do with this. Stop acting like they’re individuals.
    6. Here we go with the thinking thing again. Would you stop that? You’re not supposed to think for yourself or believe other than what we tell you to! No we’re not going to be inclusive with other faiths! What a notion. Next thing, some of our young people might hear of a more loving, accepting church and poof! They’re gone and their dollars with them.

    Let’s have no more of these ridiculous ideas. Stop with the thinking and individuality stuff and toe the party line, please.
    Sincerely, the LDS.

  • A Happy Hubby

    JustMe – your sarcasm would be a bit more humorous if there was not a few folks that actually agree with some of your points. They are not the majority, but some revel in this stance.

  • garth

    she gave herself away with the one line “I can help you”. First, she sent it to the wrong person – a seminary teacher is not the church. Second, if she believes the church to be guided by God, then she is basically telling God what his position should be. That’s a bit backwards. If she doesn’t believe the church is guided by God, then go find the church that is. If she believes it’s all run by men, then we should set up church polling booths and make up “God’s plan” based on the polls.

    Problem is, if we did, we’d get Donald Trump as the chief priest.

  • If your daughter gets kicked out of one branch of Mormonism, let her know that the tree has other branches. The Fellowship welcomes questions, and we love all of our neighbors – even the homosexual ones.

  • David B

    Wait a minute—so an offer to help is a declaration that the church isn’t guided by God?? That seems a bit, well, extreme, to say the least.

  • Harry

    Her point #4 about missions was addressed very well by E. Holland on the online “Face 2 Face” a few days ago. I would suggest checking out the stream of it on lds.org to see how the leaders feel about YW being pressured to go on missions as well as how we should treat YM that either come home early or choose not to go…

  • Ben in oakland

    1. I find the “family” proclamation to be inconsistent with loving and compassionate people, intelligent people, reason, facts, logic, and experience. Your results may vary.

    2. If you have to ask whether to choose between “review” information from 200 or 2000 years ago, and facts, logic, and experience, perhaps you should not be using a computer.

  • jack

    Lady … your daughter is a lesbian hiding in the closet.

  • Michael

    Excellent post. I’m in full support of your sentiments.
    -Michael

  • mkriley39

    Jennifer, As we all struggle with a common history that is less than ‘faithful’, I think it is imperative that we accept and reconcile with the truth and nothing less. The problem however is that it’s impossible to know the full truth this long after the events transpired. Making place for the dissenting histories that are being uncovered is a start. For anyone struggling with the dark corners of institutionalized Mormonism, I would recommend reading the book “Planted-belief and belonging in an age of doubt” by Patrick Mason. It helped me move beyond my anger and ponder things I hadn’t before considered. Just a suggestion. And thanks for you post…it is honest and direct.

  • Creamcorn

    We just need two churches: 1) One for true blue believers, where the law is salvation, and the institutional interpretation of the law is gold. And 2) a second church of shoulder shruggers who devote themselves to love and self improvement, social justice, and creating a safe environment for everyone to find their way. Each church demands a different brand of leadership and the members crave a different meal each Sunday. I don’t see a good way to fix it.

  • A Happy Hubby

    Creamcorn – at first I thought you were being a bit cynical (maybe you are), but you do make a point. This thread (and many others like it) show the divide. We can all say that Christ can bridge us, but we all are saying, “Christ is on my side.” I think both sides can say this with honesty.

    And having been quite a bit on one side and now quite a bit on the other side of the scale, I do not see how to reconcile the differences. Maybe 2 would be best. It certainly would be an interesting test to make.

  • JB

    If you want your daughter to exercise her mind, why would you want her teacher to only present comfortable topics in a comforting way? Why create an intellectual “safe space” and take care to consider her emotional sensitivity by catering to her particular view of LDS doctrine, policy, culture, and history? Wouldn’t a more stimulating and worthwhile experience be one where this girl’s preconceptions (likely heavily influenced by her mother’s particular view of Mormonism) are challenged? Wouldn’t she be better prepared for adulthood if she hears answers from her seminary teacher that she doesn’t like, or answers that are delivered in a way that doesn’t smoothly align with her current worldview and bias? Maybe “kids these days” don’t need more coddling. Just a thought and some honest questions.

  • NL

    As an early morning seminary teacher, thank you for your concerns and suggestions. We (me) put a lot of work into our calling, but it very important to remember that we are there to augment and support the parents. I plan to take your letter to my class and have a wonderful discussion of the things you presented.

  • Excellent comment!

    I would add that this guest author ignores her own (and her daughter’s) biased assumptions in addressing her questions. She believes there is such a thing as ‘cookie cutter’ Mormons, which is impossible, as everyone is an individual. Each person is supposed to learn for his or herself, become converted, and that doesn’t happen if assumptions are never challenged. The assumption that anyone who doesn’t act as mother and daughter believe they should is wrong is just the mirror of those they pretend to deride.

    We each must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

  • A Happy Hubby

    I would love having NL as my kids seminary teacher! That is a class that my kids would actually learn more about how to think about things that “get in line.”

    And thank you NL for all the prep time and lack of sleep that your calling requires.

    I still have VERY fond memories of my seminary teacher the last 3 years. He was GREAT and I still keep in contact with him almost 35 years later.

  • Briant Cole

    A fine Utah whine you’ve got brewing there, Jennifer. The pertinent points of his address are MORE relevant than ever. Guess your tent is pitched WAY out on the perimeter, isn’t it? This is your weight to bear.

  • Elder Anderson

    @JB

    I agree. I suggest devoting a whole series of classes to Jeremy Runnell’s “Letter to a CES Director”. You’ll find a number of uncomfortable topics and assumptions to challenge. They are all nicely organized in a single document.

  • EO

    An even better idea: a series of classes on Michael R. Ash’s “Bamboozled by the “CES Letter””.

  • M. Todd

    My wife’s a seminary teacher. After Obergefell she got together with our neighborhood friends to toast the decision, but teaches the Proclamation as doctrine. She is a walking resolution of paradox and challenges her kids to figure it out for themselves.

    Today, though the seminary manual skipped over Song of Solomon, they spent part of class looking for pickup lines. Tomorrow evening is the annual seminary activity/dance after all.

  • Elder Anderson

    @EO

    Absolutely! Include both sources and let the kids decide for themselves which is more logical and credible.

  • JB

    Interesting thought. On the other hand, I don’t think the Church is obligated to include the heretical writings of an apostate in its teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do you? If so, you likely miss the goal of the Church Education System. They hope to help the youth build testimonies, not lose them due to the well-beaten dead horses of decades-old anti-Mormon literature. Try again.

  • Elder Anderson

    @JB

    Mr. Runnells is a member of the LDS Church and holds a TR, so he’s not an apostate. Also, the whole point of the new CES program is to provide new points of view, not decide ahead of time that this or that source is “heretical”.

    Elder Ballard’s words were “Gone are the days when students were protected from people who attacked the church.”

    In other words, the CES Letter is out there, and kids are going to read it anyway. So, yes, it ought to be discussed in class along with dissenting opinions. That is what Elder Ballard is directing CES teachers to do.

    Judging from a couple of posts on this blog, I am pleased to see that CES teachers are doing just that. Very refreshing to see it.

    Give the kids a little credit for being intelligent enough to decide what’s credible and what’s not. They are going to do it anyway. Old school “correlation” teachers wanting to control the message and protect kids from “anti” material are obsolete. Time to get with…

  • NL

    Thank you, I’ll take all the words of encouragement I can get!

  • Jennifer

    I’m rather baffled by your comment, Briant. You know where my tent is pitched? You know what sermons we need? And you have some kind of magical measuring stick to ascertain our willingness to reach for answers?

    Aren’t you tired, Mr. Cole? Aren’t you tired?

  • MAfromMD

    It seems that this column is a magnet for marginal Mormons, those who feel that their own knowledge and propensities are the “new and improved” product substitution for the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The question I would ask is, “What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ?” To me it means sacrificing your own myopic view of life for the true and everlasting, which requires effort to find and understand. But when you do find it and follow it, then you become a disciple. You have found your life by losing it.

  • “I know you believe deeply in Christ and in the gospel of loving and repenting, in the goal of Zion, and in the word of God in our scriptures.”

    The problems is that your talking about a different Jesus, a gospel that cannot save a person from judgment, and scriptures that contradict the Word of God.

    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/

  • Elder Anderson

    Here’s what Elder Ballard said:

    “Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and the teacher responded, “Don’t worry about it.” Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue.”

    Are you saying that Elder Ballard is a “marginal Mormon” for wanting to introduce controversial topics to students? Are you saying the LDS leadership aren’t true disciples of Christ for publishing essays on these topics? Do think the LDS church is the only choice kids have? Do you realize that 99 out of 100 Christians are *not* Mormon? I think you need to pray and repent for being so judgemental of your brothers and sisters in Christ. All are welcome at His table.

  • Brian Johnson

    Great column. I raised three daughters, now all either in college or in the “real” world (New York, Hawaii, and Colorado). I know the struggle you describe. My children, of dealt with their questions about what they considered inconsistent doctrinal positions of the Mormon Church in the same way. They thought, they observed, they prayed, and they decided. The first stayed orthodox in her behavior and wrestles with her confusion only among those whom she knows will listen. The second is a self-described “big picture member” who is unorthodox in her behavior and cautious in her criticism of what she perceives to be “gospel principle disconnect”. The third has nothing to do with what she calls “the Church” but has never spoke negatively about her experience in the faith. We love each other and strive to love all our spiritual siblings. And we disregard pulpit pronouncements about gays or anything else that don’t square with Jesus as we understand him. I guess we are apostates…

  • David B

    MAfromMD wrote: The question I would ask is, “What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ?” To me it means…

    And that’s kind of the crux of the whole thing right there, innit? To *you* it means. To Jana Riess it may mean something else. To me it probably means something different from either of those. To Elder Ballard it may mean something yet else.

    And isn’t that part of the glory of the gospel? We’re different people with different ideas, and God works with all of us individually.

  • Elder Anderson

    Well, I was going to disagree, but on re-reading Mette’s list, it seems some of the items are what Mette wants, not what her daughter says she wants. So you make a good point.

  • Rusty

    Why not address this letter to church leaders instead? Sound like the seminary teacher is teaching what church leaders have taught and continue to teach to the church members. It seems disingenuous and even cowardly to call out this teacher instead of one of the apostles or Pres of the church. I get the impression you are passive aggressively putting this teacher down.

  • Dan Maloy

    This author is quite liberal. I’ve read a few of her articles before. This one is no different. In essence, she says “I’m a Mormon. I believe it.” But then she proceeds to subtly, slyly criticize the Prophet and Apostles. One big clue: her insistence that we as a church not claim that Mormonism is the true church of Jesus Christ restored on the earth today. If we “never” claim that, then what special message do we have to proclaim? What do we have to say that makes us different? And if we are not different in some way, then why not go join the other churches? Sure we can, and should, reach out to other churches, both Christian and non-Christian. But we should NOT keep quiet about the truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The day that Heber C. Kimball prophesied of in which many members of the church in the last days would commit apostasy is upon us. And it’s going to get worse.

  • Alan

    Which means she must remain celibate for this life. Any sex outside of marriage is improper, whether heterosexual or homosexual and as homosexuals cannot marry in the Church, a life of celibacy. This is the bottom line and a lot of Mormons forget this.

  • Terry Kirkpatrick

    Dan Maloy, this is nothing new. In the 1400’s, Galileo was censured by the Church, for communicating the findings he had learned about the true nature of the sun, earth and planets.
    What special message do we have to proclaim? We have the need for God, and the true message of Jesus Christ! We can learn and help those around us to live spiritually alive, instead of materialistically.
    And we can help teach our youth to be close to God and have His presence and comfort with the daily challenges they really deal with in life, instead of just giving them a “list” of items to complete in order to be worthy.

  • Tommy

    MAfromMD
    Whose myopic view are you talking about? Just yours? Do you not believe that some church leaders also have myopic views?
    Nowhere in our doctrine are we taught to follow every word of our leaders. We are taught to follow the prophet when he is speaking as a prophet. All church leaders have opinions. It is not always clear when a church leaders is voicing his or her opinion and when he or she is speaking as the mouth piece of the Lord. So we must all question and seek personal revelation to know how statements of the leaders relate to us.
    We are children of Heavenly Parents, not mindless creatures who merely do what we are told.. We are agents who must think, study, ponder and pray. Simple obedience to hundreds of rules may have been appropriate for Moses’ contemporaries, but that has long since been superceded by something more profound. Thinking, studying and praying are integral to our religion (and our salvation). This may well result in questioning.

  • Tommy

    Dan
    I heard Elder Holland in a training meeting state that all religions teach truth. The biggest difference between our religion and others is that we have ordinances.
    Respecting the truths and worthwhile activities in other religions is evidence of our confidence in our own religion.
    We can be believe the truths of the gospel without arrogantly proclaiming that we are the sole purveyors or owners of all truth ( because we aren’t.)

  • Elder Anderson

    @Tommy

    “biggest difference between our religion and others is that we have ordinances”

    That isn’t correct. All other Christian denominations have ordinances as well. Mormonism has some that others don’t. Google “Mormon ordinances” for more details.

    I’d say there are even bigger differences between Mormonism and mainstream Christian denominations than ordinances, most of a fundamental theological nature. Google “compare Mormon Christian” for more details.

  • Collin

    There may be another interpretation. Perhaps there are some social justice people who are just using it as an excuse because the rules are hard and repentance is hard. I’m not making this a blanket generalization or saying there is not truth to the accusation that some people are too rigid and focused on obedience. But there may be some truth to the fact that some people are trying to find reasons why they don’t have to obey some rules and find a convenient way to shift blame from themselves to the church.

  • Collin

    Agreed. Thank you JB.

  • Collin

    It is hard to communicate about this because we are talking vaguely about a lot of issues. Are we talking about gender theory? Are we talking about the atonement? Are we talking about obedience and its proper place?

    I do want to address one thing: I resent being told that I am ridged, close minded or uncaring if I believe that the church’s doctrine should be followed carefully. It might be, I don’t know, that I really believe that the church’s rules (or a particular rule) will actually lead to long-term happiness even if it is hard or insensitive. I can work on being more sensitive and having more empathy. But it may just be that all of the empathy in the world will not make a sin not a sin.

    I do recognize that asking gays to be celibate for life is a hard thing to ask. And therefore we must give more support, love and encouragement to them. We’ve sinned in not doing so. But we cannot say that gay sex is not immoral unless God gives us revelation telling us that.

  • A Happy Hubby

    Collin – I do think it is true that there are some in the church that find security in rigidity as well as some that look for ways to lay blame so they don’t feel like the rules apply to them.

    But it is a fine line to walk and has risks of falling on the side equivalent of “that person left the church just so they could sin.” Pres. Uchtdorf mentioned that this is not always the case. There can be those that it has nothing to do with sin or laziness, but it seems that there are more pressing issues than exactly what someone does on Sunday or not. I have had serious doubts that I am working on and I am struggling to stay in the church. But during this time I have stopped drinking cold drinks, eating and exercising more, and giving much more service. I still feel no issue with the “obedience” recommend questions, but struggle more with the “belief” questions in relation to the church leaders, but not a belief in Christ and God.

  • Elder Anderson

    “But we cannot say that gay sex is not immoral unless God gives us revelation telling us that.”

    Yes you can. Everybody makes individual decisions about morality every day, so don’t foist your responsibility off onto the prophets. I am sure that not every single moral decision made is in alignment with the LDS church’s revelations. To say otherwise is to claim moral perfection and to claim ability to know the minds of the revelators and their interpretations of their revelations… the fine print, as it were. Along the way, the LDS Church added a rule that individuals must look to the prophets for the “rules”. Why not pray to Jesus Christ and ask Him what to do? I expect Christ would say love everyone, judge no one, mind your own business, and everybody’s happy.

  • collin

    But Christ has taught me that I am my brother’s keeper and has commanded me to preach repentance and raise the voice of warning. He has taught me His commandments through His scriptures and that sexual relations are reserved for a man and a woman within the bounds of marriage. My moral reasoning leads me to believe that God understands His plan better than I do and that His love for His children leads Him to give commandments to them that, if they follow them, will lead to their happiness. I have a moral imperative to teach His commandments, including His law of chastity. I also believe that the law of chastity leads to long term happiness and stable families. This is what my reasoning tells me. Not just my blind obedience.

  • Ben in oakland

    You know, it’s just a lot easier to forget Mormonism, and all antigay and antisex, if not Anti human, religions.

  • Ben in oakland

    Great platitude: all religion teaches truth. But what does it mean?

    What exactly is the truth that each religion teaches, and how do you distinguish it from the obvious corollary: that a great deal of what they teach is not truth.

    Religionists inform us that they know what god’s message is to the world. And yet they disagree on just about everything.

    One would almost believe that they don’t teach capital T truth, or even small T truth.

  • Ben in oakland

    Or you could just recognize reality.

    Following the church’s rules leads to long term happiness for anti gay, so called Christians. It leads to happiness for moralizing busybodies, for homo-hating-homos, for dominionists who use the church to sanctify their own love of power and money.

    But it doesn’t lead to happiness for gay people. I’m sure you can find a couple of self-hating gay people who believe that following the prescriptions and proscriptions of ignorant, bigoted people leads to a Happiness of a sort. But not for gay people who want to live their lives authentically and fully, as they are made.

    And not as some iggerunt yahoo wants desperately to believe they are made.

  • Ben in oakland

    You’re right. If there is a god, he probably does indeed understand far better than you, any minister, any priest, and any church does.

    But that has never stopped any of them from trying to speak for God.

  • Collin

    Engaging with Ben in oakland will not likely lead to productive conversation, but for anyone curious, here’s a link to some gay Mormons who don’t seem to be self-hating.

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcQ-4U_rJPaOgTb8KVxG7LW6UWijF486Q

    Ben, I think you hate me much more than I hate any gay person. Just my perspective though.

  • Elder Anderson

    OK. As long as you are making that choice for yourself and not waiting for a “revelation” to decide for you. I don’t happen to agree with your choice, but it’s your choice to make. I don’t judge nor condemn you for it.

  • Ben in oakland

    Is this the antigay religious person’s response to any dispute with them about antigay theology, and the antigay political action that so often flows from it?

    You are quite right. It is just your perspective. Nothing to do with me. I don’t hate you, because I don’t know you or anything other than what you post here. I disagree with you. I disagree with your church. I disagree that for gay people, following antigay theology leads to happiness or good results.

    If you can find hate in that, then it is simply because you are looking for it.
    As so many right wing and:or antigay religious Christians have told me, disagreement isn’t hate.

    I am absolutely certain that you can find gay Christians who are celibate and avoid all romantic entanglements, and find happiness there. I have no idea if they are self hating or self mollifying, and neither do you. I do know what a lifetime of self hatred does to some gay people.

  • EssEm

    As a former liberal, and with some knowledge of religion in its various forms in history, I can smell a liberal at quite a distance. And Ms Harrison has the perfume.

    It always starts out the same way: some vulnerable little victim or group thereof is “suffering.” In face of the heart-rending story, forms of life that work for millions and millions of people must begin to be unravelled in the name of “sensitivity” or “tolerance” or “inclusion” or “fairness” to this precious wounded minority. Once the accommodations start, there are always demands for more. Why? Because eternal victimhood provides sacrosanct moral capital and is the source of more and more power. And in the end, what was once a particular and living religious community is incorporated into The Borg, while those who show any sympathy for “the old ways” are quickly consigned to the Outer Darkness of “bigots” and “haters.”

    Life’s tough. No community can include everybody. Especially the…

  • Elder Anderson

    “those who show any sympathy for “the old ways” are quickly consigned to the Outer Darkness of “bigots” and “haters.”

    Sometimes the “old ways” aren’t so great. That’s why society evolves new ways of doing things. New ways like sensitivity, tolerance, inclusion, and fairness. The kinds of values Jesus Christ preached. The haters wanted to stick with the old ways so badly that they crucified Christ. But Christ was victorious then, and he’ll always remain victorious over the haters.

  • Ben in oakland

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Those pesky black, demanding to drink at the same water fountains.

    Those pesky women, demanding equal pay.

    Those pesky gay people, tired of being sinnerized, mythologized, criminalized, and pathologized when everyone knows they’re just evil and hate God and hate morality.

    Those pesky Jews, imagining they have the right to worship freely, free of photons, holocausts, and exclusivity laws.. who do they think they are, God’s chosen people, or what?

    Your contempt for whole groups of people who have been marginalized and harmed with no benefit to yourself is palpable.

    amazing how you turn yourself into the victim of centuries of bigotry. as a gay man, I have every right to have my life, faith, and family being treated equally before the law. What you believe personally is of no concern to me.

    If you don’t want to be considered a bigot, stop talking and acting like one.

  • Tommy

    Ben

    My perspective is that truth on spiritual issues is often a question of faith, not easily subject to empirical proof. That said, it is a great day when “competing ” religions can recognize the good in their competitors.. There are some of my fellow Mormons who love to denigrate other religions (just as some of those other religions seem to relish denigrating Mormons) and arrogantly proclaim that our church is the sole source of spiritual truth.

    Those same persons (called as cookie cutter Mormons by others, a sentiment with which I agree) seem to love to denigrate other members of the church who are not just like themselves or who have the audacity to question statements of church leaders, church policies and statements of church doctrine. Seems to me that the lot of them could use a dose of humility and respect for other of God’s children.

    On the other hand the, the trolls on this blog could show a sense of respect for others also.

  • EssEm

    QED

  • Elder Anderson

    WTP

  • David B

    The amount of mind-reading being performed on this comment thread is…interesting.

  • Elder Anderson

    Please give examples. We’ll be the judge of whether they are interesting or not.

  • Collin

    Jesus did say, “neither do I condemn thee” but he also said, “go they way and sin no more.”

    He was compassionate, and he helped people live the law. I would like to try to find that balance. Maybe I am too quick to condemn, but Elder Anderson, might it be that you are too quick to say there is no such thing as sin?

  • Elder Anderson

    You know, my mom and dad taught me right from wrong. I am not perfect, but I live every day trying my best to do as many right things as possible and as few wrong things as possible. Since I know the difference, I don’t need to refer to a rule book. That’s how I roll, but I’m not inclined to tell others to do the same. It’s none of my business.

  • Ben in oakland

    “Maybe I am too quick to condemn…”

    Ya think?

    I suspect that Jesus had you in mind when he made comments about tossing stones, specks and beams, whited sepulchers, and judging not.

    If you “want to find that balance”, I would suggest that you do as Jesus clearly bade you, and achieve moral and spiritual perfection yourself BEFORE you find the extra time to inform other people about the status of their relationship to God.

    And BEFORE you accuse them of hatred because they have the temerity to tell you to MYOB?

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  • Collin

    Ben, you called me an “iggerunt yahoo.” Besides, I didn’t call you hateful. I said you had more hate for me than I do for gays. Maybe you don’t hate me, but you’ve treated me worse on this thread than I’ve treated anyone. That’s the point I was making.

    I haven’t called gays any names or said that I am better than any gay person. I never claimed to be morally superior to anybody. I do have my own sins and I believe in a compassionate God. But I also believe that He has standards. Standards I don’t always meet, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that they exist.

  • Memba

    Maddy:

    This happened to my wonderful son too. He is quiet and uncomfortable in many social situations. A mission would have been really hard for him–torture.

    He is now 26. I don’t think he is breaking any commandments that would prevent him from going on a mission, except tithing and attending church.

    Even though I stopped taking him to General Conference Priesthood shortly after he turned 19 (he would have kept going just because he loves me–he is a really good person and kind-hearted son), I felt like there were just too many messages stating his duty to go on a mission–and it was driving him away from the church.

    Sadly, he has been driven away anyhow because he doesn’t feel like he belongs, or that he is really welcome or wanted. He is judged by many immediately because he didn’t go.Parents don’t want their daughters marrying someone not an RM.

    It is my understanding that upwards of 90% of YM who don’t go on missions end up inactive. It is how they…