Jan 16, 2009

Skeletons In The Closet

I stumbled across a site called StayLDS.com. In the blog section, there is an essay called "How To Stay," written by a board member of "Sunstone," which I encourage you all to read when you get a chance. It's geared towards Mormons like me: that is to say, Mormons who are feeling pretty disillusioned about some things within the Church and yet don't see leaving it as the solution. Whoever wrote this essay has a mindset that I appreciate. The tone is relaxed, even humouristic at times, but also seriously addresses the issues that some of us are grappling with. I also appreciate his approach to co-existing -- and even appreciating -- orthodox and dogmatic members.

There is, however, one section of the essay that I want to focus on. I wish to include it here, but hope that those of you reading this will take the time to read the rest of the essay in order to get a more accurate feel for it.

Understanding the brethren's dilemma

"Many disaffected folk expect LDS General Authorities to constantly apologize for all the past errors of the church, and to actively promote awareness of the most controversial aspects of LDS Church history. These are unfair and unrealistic expectations. Let's take a moment to consider the situation of LDS General Authorities:
  • Most of them were raised as devout, multi-generational members of the LDS Church. Doubting and skepticism in general, and with the church in particular, were simply not major components of their formative years.
  • As young men, many of them married soon after their mission, had many children, graduated from college, pursued successful professional careers, and actively served in high church leadership positions. Over time, their overall social status, reputation, and sense of being are directly tied to the church's exclusive truthfulness. They are viewed by all their LDS peers as pillars of the church's "one trueness."
  • This heavy load of responsibilities leaves little, if any time for deep study of controversial LDS Church history. In addition, their positions of responsibility would rarely encourage or allow them to study the types of publications that would candidly discuss such matters (Sunstone, Dialogue, Quinn, etc.). In the end, I am quite convinced that a majority of them are simply not aware of peep stones, polyandry, Adam/God theory, blood atonement, the Danites, etc. Of course they have heard these terms throughout their lives, but they would have no real impetus, and most importantly, no time to study them deeply. They are super-busy men, and in their minds, the church is true -- so why dig much deeper? They are also taught strict obedience to church authority (past and present), and consequently would tolerate little, if any, criticism of early church leaders, even from themselves.
  • In spite of all this, it's fair to say that the LDS First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve once made a sincere attempt at openness and full disclosure of LDS Church history. For those of you who aren't aware, there was a ten-year period of LDS Church history (1972 to 1982), under the leadership of Church Historian Leonard Arrington, where the brethren made an honest attempt at significant candor regarding church history and archives -- only to produce the likes of Michael Quinn as a result (of whom I am a big fan, by the way). In the end, I am convinced that the brethren tried the experiment of historical openness in good faith, and genuinely determined that a full, thorough, comprehensive awareness of factual LDS Church history by its members, more often than not, leads to decreased activity and commitment. As many members today continue to be exposed on the internet to this can of worms opened up in the 1970s, this conclusion seems to be validated. Doesn't that make perfect sense? If the factual, hard-hitting history was good for faith, the brethren would be promoting it like crazy. But because it actually proves to erode faith more often than not, it is not emphasized, and is obfuscated wherever possible. So, in my view, the brethren are acting rationally.
  • If you step back and think about it, this makes perfect sense. If Gordon B. Hinckley were to start saying publicly today, "Joseph and Brigham were wrong on a, b and c, but all of you need to believe and obey x, y and z," it is not difficult to predict the ultimate consequences of such statements. Members will simply say, "Well, if Joseph or Brigham were wrong back then about a, b and c, what makes you so sure that you are right about x, y and z?" For the average member, such overt statements would very quickly weaken the prophetic mantle, and reduce commitment to LDS Church leadership. It makes no sense to expect LDS Church leaders to erode their own basis of power and influence. Humans simply do not function this way.
  • Assuming that the brethren are sincere believers in both the truthfulness of the church, and in its goodness -- it is only reasonable, then, to expect them to govern the church in a way that maximizes commitment and happiness for the greatest number of its members. Consequently, the brethren clearly have had to ask themselves this question: recognizing that the vast majority of members know nothing of the tougher elements of church history, and only a relatively small group of LDS intellectuals do, which is preferable: 1) To lose some of the intellectuals on the margins by not directly confronting the historical issues (at the most 2% of total members -- and would they really be satisfied with apologies anyway?), or 2) To risk losing and weakening the core base of church membership (60%?) by making them all aware of, and then overtly apologizing for the tougher aspects of our history and doctrine?
If you were in their shoes, and the future of the church were riding on your shoulders, would you seriously rock the boat, and risk destroying an organization that you loved, believed in, and knew was an asset to literally millions of families worldwide? In my opinion, to do so would be grossly irresponsible.

Thus, their dilemma."

Although I personally don't think that General Authorities need to "actively promote awareness of the most controversial aspects of LDS Church history," I have often said that I believe that an acknowledgement -- and in some cases an apology -- for certain errors in the Church's past would help members like me be able to "move on." Many of us have great trouble reconciling fact and faith. Some choose to leave the Church, while others continue to trudge along the Mormon path without the spark they once had.

The author estimates "intellectuals" to make up approximately 2% of the Church's population, whereas the core base of the Church makes up around 60%. He seems to be arguing that the Brethren actually wanted to be more open (citing a period of "openness from 1972-1982 -- which was before my time), but found it to be faith-eroding for the Church's core base.

I can appreciate what he's arguing. Let's assume the Church is true -- which the Brethren are obviously convinced of. (I don't doubt that they believe it's true because how many people would want to make some of the sacrifices they do -- often for the rest of their lives -- for something that doesn't compensate them financially?) Even if there are some big, fat skeletons in our Church closet, why should we let them ruin the party for all the millions of people who are perfectly content in Mormonism, some of whom are totally oblivious to the fact that there are any closets -- let alone skeletons in them? So, as long as these closets are kept shut with double-padded locks, most people will live good Mormon lives from birth to death without being disturbed by these skeletons. That's good, right?

But what about that 2% (and likely growing in this internet age)? That snoopy minority of Church population that not only knows that the closets exist, but want to hear what the skeletons have to say, AND want the Brethren to give a satisfactory answer as to why the skeletons exist and why they had been locked up all these years.

Are we expecting too much from the Brethren? Are they really in a dilemma? Is it really all about sheer numbers (sacrificing 2% in order to save the rest)? Is it possible that those skeletons really are irrelevant to the here and now and will only impede our progress? Or are they going to have to be reckoned with eventually?


wesley's mom said...

I think it really could be a case of leaders believing they are acting in a way that serves "the greater good". Being raised to be obedient and to not question is huge.

Also, I know how deeply entrenched I feel, how many people would be affected if I walked away, or even voiced my doubts, I can't imagine the pressure-if in fact they were to have a doubt-on someone who is in a position of leadership.

There is more I want to say, but I find the secret handshake business so frustrating and complicated that I am having a hard time putting my thoughts into words.

Laura said...

FD - I appreciate the postive tone with which you address your posts. I've been reading them for a while but not commenting.

I'm preparing a talk on "The Glory of God is Intelligence" and came across a talk by Hinckley (The Continuing Search for Truth) Regarding church history, I took comfort in the following quote.

"From a vast amount of information our critics appear to select and write about those items which demean and belittle some men and women of the past who worked so hard in laying the foundation of this great cause. Readers of such writings seem to delight in picking up these unfavorable items. In so doing they are savoring some small morsel, rather than eating a beautiful and satisfying meal of many courses.

"My plea is that as we continue our search for truth, particularly we of the Church, that we look for strength and goodness rather than weakness and failings in those who did so great a work in their time.

"We recognize that our forefathers were human. They doubtless made mistakes. Some of them acknowledged making mistakes. But the mistakes were minor when compared with the marvelous work which they accomplished. To highlight mistakes and cover over the greater good is to draw a caricature. Caricatures are amusing, but they are often ugly and dishonest. A man may have a wart on his cheek and still have a face of beauty and strength, but if the wart is over emphasized in comparison to his other features, the portrait is lacking in integrity.

"There was only one perfect man who ever walked the earth. The Lord has used imperfect people in the process of building his perfect society. If some of them occasionally stumbled, or if their characters may have been slightly flawed in one way or another, the wonder is the greater that they accomplished so much.

"I mention these things because I hope that we will develop an attitude of looking for positive elements which lead to growth and enthusiasm. We are not caught by our history. That history contains the foundation of this work. It sets forth in some detail the circumstances and the events connected with the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the picture is not always complete, or if there are various versions differing somewhat concerning certain events, intellectual honesty would point out that there is nothing new in this. For instance, the New Testament includes four gospels. The tone of each is the same, but the various writers made particular choices of what they wished to emphasize, and only by reading them all and harmonizing them do we get the fullest possible picture of the Son of God who walked the roads of Palestine.

"I do not fear truth. I welcome it. But I wish all of my facts to be in their proper context, with emphasis on those elements which explain the great growth and power of this organization. I have felt the need to say these things because there are those today who are emphasizing the negative and seem to miss entirely the great inspiration of this work.

"This leads me to say a few words on intellectualism. A scholar once expressed the view that the Church is an enemy of intellectualism. If he meant by intellectualism that branch of philosophy which teaches “the doctrine that knowledge is wholly or chiefly derived from pure reason” and “that reason is the final principle of reality,” then, yes, we are opposed to so narrow an interpretation as applicable to religion. (Quotations from the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, p. 738.) Such an interpretation excludes the power of the Holy Spirit in speaking to and through men.

"Of course we believe in the development of the mind, but the intellect is not the only source of knowledge. There is a promise, given under inspiration from the Almighty, set forth in these beautiful words: “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 121:26.)

"The humanists who criticize the Lord’s work, the so-called intellectualists who demean, speak only from ignorance of spiritual manifestation. They have not heard the voice of the Spirit. They have not heard it because they have not sought after it and prepared themselves to be worthy of it. Then, supposing that knowledge comes only of reasoning and of the workings of the mind, they deny that which comes by the power of the Holy Ghost."

Sorry for taking up so much space, but I thought it was worth mentioning on this particular post. I have no doubt that the G.A.s are well aware of all our flaws in church history. I know it doesn't happen very often, but I think Hinckley did a good job here in addressing the inconcistencies in our past.

I appreciated his "don't miss the forest fo the trees" kind of outlook.

colleenita said...

I am so grateful to have found your blog. I am very much a "faithful dissident" and it is great to have found a kindred spirit.

Mormon Heretic said...


I love the quote from President Hinckley. On my blog, I am frequently viewed as being negative, by focusing on the warts of past leaders. Certainly, we need to be more positive, and that is the thing I love most about Pres Hinckley. He was always positive.

While some of us may focus too much on warts, I think there are a vast majority (like the 60% mentioned) which photoshop out the wart completely. They simply don't see the warts at all. Sometimes, pointing out the wart can be viewed as negative, when it should be viewed as more benign.

In the interest of fairness, I going to try to put a link to your comment from my "Be ye perfect" blog post, as I think it is this quote is excellent, and adds some balance to what we were discussing over there.

FD, did John Dehlin write that essay? It sounds very familiar to me.

Mormon Heretic said...

I wonder if the LDS church will follow the catholic model regarding intellectualism. For example, Galileo was roundly persecuted 400 years ago, and the vatican is just now beginning to embrace a man they once despised. Check it out at http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/01/09/from-heretic-to-hero/

Perhaps the kinds of apologies that FD seeks will happen in another 2 centuries?

derekstaff said...

If the faith and dedication of the core base, the 60%, is founded on ignorance, is that a “firm foundation?” If this life is a time to be tested and to be spiritually stretched, cannot and should not part of that stretching come from truths which are challenging? Is it not better to have a smaller base of the Church if that base has the spiritual maturity to integrate difficult truths? How are we (the church) helping prepare people for our post mortal existence if we are deliberately hiding things from them? Is it realistic to expect that we can hide the truth from them anyway? If not, how do we think they will react when they realize they have been intentionally deceived?

(I have an in-law who was devastated as a child when she found out that Santa wasn’t real, and that her parents had lied to her. She then very logically began to question other things her parents had taught her, including the existence of Jesus. She eventually came to believe again, but it presents an example which I believe is relevant.)

I believe that if the Church were more willing to acknowledge the warts, it would be easier to accept and get past the warts. It is the apparent state of denial of the Church (the leaders and the bulk of the membership) which makes those warts become so dominant.

I believe that the intention of the GAs are good, but I believe that their decisions in this matter hinder their ultimate goals.

Lisa said...

I read the essay too and printed it out for my husband to read. We're both in the same boat - two seconds from making ourselves inactive, but I don't want to do anything rash. This is not a decision that merits hastiness.

I'm with derek. It's important to know that there are warts. Many people know they're out there (it's hard to miss them - "The Mormons" on PBS highlighted some of them, polygamy, Moutain Meadows, etc), but they choose to either (a) ignore them or (b) rationalize them.

Some, like you and me, choose to research them. They give the church a humanism we've been taught doesn't exist, or at least something we shouldn't acknowledge. It's refreshing, it's exciting, it's interesting, and unbelievably scary.

The problem, I believe, comes when we bring up these issues to our fellow members or leaders and we're shot down as faithless, prideful, on the road to apostasy, hard hearted, seeking to damage the good name of the Church, etc.

Seldom in my experience and in my observations are one's dissenting thoughts and questions matched with responses made in love and with the benefit of the doubt. We're too quick to defend, too quick to pull the wool back over our eyes. We're convinced all who question are apostates in the making, and the only way to stop that is to call them such instead of answering their concerns.

While at first my questions and concerns were made in good faith, with each dismissal by a leader I've been more apt to turn away. I do have a good bishop now who has shown me kindness and understanding, so we'll see what happens. It's certainly not on his shoulders; my heart is still cracked open. I don't know what's going to happen. I do know the road I'm on, what I believe, and how some of those things just don't jive with core LDS doctrine. Things I find trite but the Church does not. That's hard.

Apologists exist, but sometimes they don't satisfy. We need real dialogue, I think. Faith is nothing if its based on so little, I think.

Mormon Heretic said...

Derek and Lisa give some excellent points. I agree with Derek when he says, If the faith and dedication of the core base, the 60%, is founded on ignorance, is that a “firm foundation?”

Now, not everyone is interested in warts--my wife is one of them. She probably does more good and has a better heart than me, and sometimes I say that things like Mountain Meadows are not really pertinent to my personal salvation. My wife has no interest in MMM, but I do, and it's nice to be able to go to strong members, with a firm foundation, who can properly address these issues, and still maintain a strong testimony. I have never really been inactive, and have always looked at challenging information with a view that it shouldn't stop be from going to church.

The church is a tremendous force for good, and some of the stuff I get into really isn't all that important in the grand scheme of things. Faith, hope, repentance, and love, on the other hand are much more important. Yet I have an interest in warts nonetheless.

The Faithful Dissident said...

MH, I'm not sure who wrote it, as I couldn't find the author's name on the essay itself. I'd be interested to know.

Laura, thanks for reminding me about that quote from Pres. Hinckley. It's a good one. I think, though, that it applies more to the Church's enemies (i.e. ex-Mormons who are bitter and seek to pull more people away from the Church by dredging up past mistakes and focusing only on those, anti-theists who seek to bring down the LDS Church -- or any church for that matter, or people who just plain don't like Mormons and would delight in the Church's downfall). People who focus only on the warts, and those who "occasionally stumbled, or if their characters may have been slightly flawed in one way or another," as Hinckley put it, thereby erasing the good work that they did accomplish.

I think, though, that there is a group of people that President Hinckley didn't really address in that quote, and that's people like me. We're not humanists out to bring the Church down, neither is our aim to belittle Church leaders of the past. We just seek acknowledgement and understanding -- for some of us, our activity in the Church is riding on it -- and get frustrated when Church leaders think that putting a thick bandage over the warts will mean that they're not there, whereas I'd like to know how the warts got there in the first place. I think we're also a bit paranoid about more and more new warts popping up and are constantly on the outlook for them.

Hinckley said:

"I do not fear truth. I welcome it. But I wish all of my facts to be in their proper context, with emphasis on those elements which explain the great growth and power of this organization. I have felt the need to say these things because there are those today who are emphasizing the negative and seem to miss entirely the great inspiration of this work."

Personally, I find it hard to believe that the GA's "don't fear truth" at all. If they really did "welcome it," as he said, then I don't think that those of us with questions would hit this brick wall all the time.

I agree with President Hinckley that the "facts (need) to be in their proper context," but what context would be satisfactory? Would Bushman's "Rough Stone Rolling" be in the proper context, which, in my opinion, "explain(ed) the great growth and power of this organization" while still exposing the warts? And yet, some still really objected to have Joseph Smith "exposed" in that way.

The Faithful Dissident said...

MH, it's true that many are not interested in warts. In fact, it's been my observation that the majority aren't. I think that many suspect that they exist, but don't want to remove that bandage in case they spread. :)

I remember Sanford wrote on his blog a while back about how even in UT, few members have actually read "Rough Stone Rolling." Even in my own family, I've been the only one who read it (my mom started, but I think she lost interest). A friend of mine at church wanted to borrow it and she had it for months, but only read a few pages before returning it. I suppose maybe it's for the best because it can send some into a spiritual tailspin, but I read it as fast as I could.

Papa D said...

FD - I hope you enjoy StayLDS. It's having some technical difficulties right now, but it's a great site for those who fit its mission statement.

As to the issue in this post, all I can say is that different people need different things. I am a thinker tinkerer; my wife is a thinker but not a tinkerer. I take things apart; she does not. I LOVE studying history and seeing people from every angle - including their warts; she likes history, but is unconcerned about understanding all the details.

Honestly, I don't want the FP and Q12 spending time defending and defining the past. They have their responsibilities, and I REALLY like the fact that they allow us to work through these things without an "official" stance from on high. If you look at it in that light, this is a great example of how we hold them to impossible, double standards.

We complain when someone like McConkie tries to explain everything and appears to try to "force" us to agree with his interpretation, yet we then turn around and ask our current apostles to mimic him and explain everything. We criticize Brigham Young for his speculation regarding Adam/God or the Priesthood ban, then we turn around and ask our current apostles to speculate and explain why the earlier apostles were wrong - and we won't accept the simple statement, "They were human and made mistakes." It's a no-win situation - damned if they do and damned if they don't.

We now have LOTS of options from which to choose for explanations - seen and written from every imaginable angle, good and bad. If the top leadership started spending time trying to answer all the charges of those who don't like some aspect of our history it would quickly spiral out of control and require a full-time spokesperson. Seriously, why to there, especially when FAIR and FARMS and numerous blogs exist?

I really appreciate people's desire to have answers, but the very people who clamor the most for answers often are those who would analyze and question and reject the very answers they demand - because they (rightly) don't want others telling them what to think and believe.

Sorry for the length, but this is a bit of a soapbox issue with me.

Laura said...

"I believe that if the Church were more willing to acknowledge the warts, it would be easier to accept and get past the warts."

I think you are right. It's important to acknowledge the flaws and move on. I guess I kind of view it the same way I view past transgressions. If my husband had been intimate with someone b/f marriage, I'd want to know - I deserve to know - but spared the details, ya know? It isn't a subject I'd want to revisit trying to find out why it happened. I think it's important to acknowledge the mistakes and move past them instead of letting them consume our thoughts. That may be a bad analogy.

I'm not saying the past doesn't matter. Of course we should reflect on it and learn from it. But sometimes there really isn't a good reason for things and the more we delve, and can't find a reason, the more frustrated we become. Why polygamy? Why couldn't blacks hold the preisthood? Is there really an answer that would satisfy us anyway? It has been my experience that when bad things happen, there usually isn't a good reason. Are we looking for the GA's to give us reasons or apologies?

I'm not being cynical here, just wondering how should the GA's should approach it? Would an apology be enough to dissuade your frustrations with church history? Would an ackowledgement of past mistakes strengthen your testimony?

The Faithful Dissident said...

I understand the dilemma with acknowledgments and apologies. It's sort of an impossible situation and could open a can worms.

I guess what I'm looking for most is breathing room for not having to accept all the orthodox beliefs -- such as "the prophet will never lead you astray" -- without being made to feel that doing so automatically makes you an apostate. I guess I feel that an acknowledgment of mistakes would make it pretty clear once and for all that the prophet is NOT infallible (I know that Mormons don't officially believe in prophetic infallibility, but in essence most of them do) and that he CAN and HAS made mistakes. So in other words, perhaps the acknowledgment/apology in itself is not as important to me as what it would mean if such an acknowledgment was made. I think I would feel like I have room to breathe, that I'm not just a bad Mormon with a weak faith and testimony on the road to apostasy.

Not sure whether that made sense. It's almost 1 am here. :)

derekstaff said...

I agree that nobody should be forced to confront the warts if they are not interested. If the Church leadership or broader membership does not want to bring up the warts, fine. I agree that we don’t want them spending all their time dealing with historical minutia. The problem is rather than just letting us look at those things for ourselves, they try to pretend that the warts do not exist, to cover them up, to lie. That is when it becomes a problem for me. When the Church Education instructors are directed to teach falsehoods. When the Church pretends various less flattering things didn’t happen. When they refuse to acknowledge mistakes and apologize for them.

That last one particularly sticks in my craw. We are taught that a necessary element of repentance is to acknowledge mistakes and to try to make recompense to those hurt by our mistakes and seek forgiveness. Shouldn’t the Church follow that same pattern? For example, most evidence I’ve seen suggests that the priesthood ban was a mistake; not divinely inspired, but a decision born of the human flaws of the Church leaders. I could be wrong, certainly. But if I am right, shouldn’t the Church leadership provide us an example of humble contrition by admitting the error of the Church? Isn’t that a big enough issue to come clean on?

The Faithful Dissident said...

Further The Kingdom, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you're Baptist. Your message sounds very familiar. :) I gotta hand it to you, you guys make it sound so easy and that can be very appealing to someone like me at times. I thank you for your comments and respect your belief, as I hope you respect ours.

I'm with Derek on this one. In some instances, I think it's gone beyond just ignoring the warts. Sometimes I feel that the truth is stretched, distorted, even covered up. And the priesthood ban, as you mentioned, is a good example of that. I share your view, Derek, that the priesthood ban was "not divinely inspired, but a decision born of the human flaws of the Church leaders." Of course we can't be absolutely certain of this, but it's the only thing that makes sense to me after a lot of reading and thought on the matter. Mormon Heretic did a great job of compiling a lot of information in this post a while back.

Papa D said...

FD - The "Further the Kingdom" comment is spam associated with an anti-Mormon group in Tennessee that often works with the Mormon Recovery Mission. They are right there with Bill Keller and the Tanners and the most extreme groups that are dedicated almost solely to fight the LDS Church. My blog got hit by the exact same message - that had absolutely NOTHING to do with my post. It's spam, plain and simple.

As to the acknowledgment / apology issue, multiple apostles (and Pres. Hinckley as Prophet) have said that earlier prophets said what they did because that's what they thought at the time in their culture (and that we no longer teach what they said as doctrine, just like Christianity at large does to some of what Paul taught)- which is as close to saying, "They were wrong," as is possible without actually saying it. Elder McConkie said very clearly that the justifications for the Priesthood ban were wrong. Recent statements have taken responsibility at the local church level for the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which is the only thing that can be said for certain.

I agree that more direct and blunt statements would be nice in some cases, but think of what would happen if they had to analyze everything that some people believe was mistaken - and if they had to KEEP repeating things that already have been said, especially in instances when they probably don't know fully whether or not God really was behind something or if it simply was a mistaken idea of the people.

Take Adam/God: We discard and laugh at it now, but we still aren't reconciled fully to whether or not the central concept of generational gods has some merit. "As man is, God once was" isn't taught actively by the Church itself, but it still is believed by lots of members - and, honestly, we have so little understanding of what Godhood really is like that it's impossible to know for sure exactly how we become gods - and if a god became our GOD. Everything related to Godhood blows my mind even before we get inserted into the picture.

That's just a long-winded way of saying that I don't want our modern prophets to have to correct former prophets and apostles - and I don't want them to have to get into speculative discourses like used to occur all the time in the Church. I want them to stick publicly to the "mainstream" and let me venture into the side currents - and let my wife swim right down the middle of the stream without feeling like she is being pulled into the side currents where I like to swim.

Papa D said...

Oh, and "cover-up" and "ignore" are VERY different things - and I have little problem with ignoring things that simply aren't taught or believed or emphasized any more.

We do it all the time in every aspect of education. We no longer teach lots of things that have become obsolete - not because we are trying to "cover them up" but simply because we don't have time to teach what used to be AND what now is. When I was a teacher, if I had to choose to spend valuable time teaching my students what once was considered important or what now is considered important, I chose to teach what now is - and with the limited time available for the vast majority of world-wide members to study these things, I don't fault the Church at all for not addressing them. It's all available to those who want to know, but ignoring it institutionally allows many members who don't give a rat's hindquarters to ignore it also.

I'm fine with that.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Papa D, thanks for the heads-up about "Further the Kingdom." I thought I'd delete the comment, but I'll keep it up there just so that others will recognize when they encounter it AGAIN, as they no doubt will. :)

I acknowledge that certain individuals, such as Bruce R. McConkie, have apologized. Why, then, has the message not gotten through to all of the members? I'm not that old and I remember hearing in Sunday School that races shouldn't intermarry. Even now, whenever the priesthood ban is brought up at church -- which is quite rare, I've found -- it's always spoken about as if it was inspired doctrine. That's certainly the official stance, at least in my observations. It wouldn't surprise me if some members are still hanging into those old "less valiant" and "seed of Cain" myths.

I get what you're saying about ignoring vs. cover-up. Yes, there is a difference, but are they not closely linked?

Take for instance polygamy. Going by Church manuals, it's easy to assume that Emma was Joseph's only wife. She is usually the only one that is ever mentioned. When we got the JS manual in RS last year, I was curious how much it would say about polygamy. I found nothing. If it's in there somewhere, it's hard to find. One can also assume that Joseph and Emma were a match made in heaven and that their marriage was one that we should all emulate. In fact, I never really believed that Joseph really engaged in polygamy because either it was never talked about, or we assumed it started with Brigham Young, which is a common belief among a lot of members, I think. (Poor Brigham gets blamed for most of the wacky stuff about Mormonism that troubles us, perhaps sometimes a little unfairly. :)

The last time I had a serious talk with my branch president about my concerns, I mentioned how I was more troubled about polygamy now that I knew more about it. I was particularly disturbed that some of Joseph's wives were young girls (16 or 17 years old) and that he at times kept it hidden from Emma. My branch president insisted that, "No, he didn't." Now, I love my branch president and I wasn't going to sit and argue with him about it. I'm sure he hasn't read RSR or any other non Church-approved materials, so how could I fault him for his answer? He may not have been intentionally lying, but he was giving me false information based on misinformation -- or rather lack of information -- that he had himself received.

This is just an example of why ignoring things can lead to false information being given, which leads to it being seen as a big lie and cover-up when people do discover the truth, which leads to some leaving the Church and setting out to bring it down. I just think it's unfortunate that it has to be that way. Yes, some people are just bitter and there is nothing we will ever be able to do to rectify that. But then I think about members like Lisa, who feels like she's hanging by a thread because of the frustration from trying to make sense of it all.

That being said, I myself am guilty about ignoring things, perhaps even covering them up. For instance, for years I worried about the day that my husband would find out about the priesthood ban. I knew he would eventually find out, but I did everything I could to make sure that it could be procrastinated as long as possible -- until my dad inadvertently let the cat out of the bag one day. :) He thought it was terrible, but he didn't dwell on it. I think he just added it to his list of reasons for not wanting to delve further into Mormonism. And I can't say that I blame him because it's a big enough hurdle for some of us within the Church. In the end, I have to say that once the cat was finally let out of the bag, it was a relief.

mfranti said...

If you were to die right now, would you qualify for the celestial kingdom?

..and the million dollar answer?

i don't care. seriously.

Mormon Heretic said...


I'd delete the "Further the Kingdom" comment. He/she spammed my blog, and I have seen the exact same word-for-word spam on other mormon blogs. Besides, the person doesn't even relate to the topic. (I deleted it off my blog already.)

The Faithful Dissident said...

I got rid of it now. So if anyone else gets one, you know what it is. :)

Clint said...

"In addition, their positions of responsibility would rarely encourage or allow them to study the types of publications that would candidly discuss such matters (Sunstone, Dialogue, Quinn, etc.)."

I don't think the Brethren live in a bubble quite as described in the quotation. An acquaintance of mine remarked on how he saw an issue of Sunstone on the desk of an Apostle he was meeting with. He may not have studied it closely or even been able to relate to it at all, but he certainly was aware of its existence.

There have been talks (especially the last two by Elder Wirthlin) where I had a distinct feeling that the speaker did know what it was like to go through significant trials - possibly even faith related trials. I think that, for better or worse, they chose to focus on other things.

Like everyone else, these men are influenced by their surroundings, not controlled by them.

Clint said...

Oh, and I see you are at Times and Seasons now as well. Doing quite the sweet of the blogosphere aren't we? :-)

Clint said...

Ahem...I mean Mormon Matters...

The Faithful Dissident said...

Clint, when I started blogging, I thought I'd be writing mostly just to myself. :)

I agree with you that the GA's are probably not living in a bubble. Most of them are very well-read and educated men. I would think that they'd at least be curious about what the "alternative voices" are saying -- isn't that the term that BKP used a while back?

Lisa said...

Oy! I swear, you'd think I was 100 with the memory I have. I completely forgot I was part of this discussion.

That said: Derek, I LOVE the points you make. I'm specifically referencing your comment regarding the church following the very pattern of repentance it preaches to its members.

Fabulous point. You'll forgive me if I bring that up in a future post? I'll hat tip complete with link, if you like.

FD: "That being said, I myself am guilty about ignoring things, perhaps even covering them up."

FWIW, you're not alone here. I've been just as guilty of this. When I took my mom to the Sacramento, CA temple opening I was forced to answer a question I tried very hard to ignore and tuck away (about celestial polygamy). I think that added another *#$&@!!! to my "thread" - you find quickly that you can run, but you can't hide.

And that's where it becomes a problem, when we tire of shooing the uncomfortable things away. We're taught to be unashamed of Christ and his gospel - so what the hell? Why don't we approach such "divine" things with an unabashed eye, ear, and heart?

And congratulations for the MM invite -- that's a great blog (I wish I would frequent it more). They're very smart to snag you :)

derekstaff said...

Thanks for the love, Lisa. Feel free to use the concept in your own writings. I don't really care about attribution. I doubt I'm the first to have thought of it.

Allie said...

More recent editions of Mormon Doctrine have the disclaimer that the book is a product of the time and culture.

I think that's true for all of us, and does a lot to explain the skeletons. I also think that God allows all of us, even prophets, to make mistakes, because we wouldn't learn otherwise. Some mistakes are minor and some are huge, and take generations to fix, but God doesn't care so much about timetables.

As for the 60% having their faith based on ignorance, I think that's a little unfair to the 60%. Their faith is probably based on their personal experiences. To say it's based on ignorance negates everything that has happened in their lives to create their testimony.

I would like to see more people aware of the warts, so that when they get brought up local leaders can do more than deny them. (I do think that when that happens, it's because the local leader just has no idea what you're talking about and doesn't know what to say.)

Anonymous said...

Some of the things that the church does can be very deceiving. For examp, portraying Joseph Smith and Brigham in videos as saints, depicting how the bom was translated in a way that isn't true, and making only faith promoting people and events on lds.org(for exanple, try finding anything about William c law on an lds.org search). I think it is down right dishonest and even if it helps a 60%, it is just going to be felt in the future, although I don't necessarily blame the brethren either for not saying anything, because I probably wouldnt. A question I have that is more deep is if the church is false, to what authority do we as humans go for moral guidance in general. I believe that we as humans NEED something, right? I love the commandments the church teaches and have no intent of breaking them, but if I were to leave, then what happens to morality in general, and how would I as an average 20 year old, have any authority or way to cite my efforts to help the world? Am I degraded to just using human philosophy and science? That hasn't worked very well, we humans are stupider then we think, so to use the words of elder ballard "to whom will I turn"?