Feb 9, 2009

Faithful Dissidents: Being The Change You Desire

I'm all for peaceful activism (OK, maybe not the kind shown in the picture), but we all know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a church of activists. At least not in the traditional sense.

I've been thinking about the role of "faithful dissidents" in the Church and whether being one is, in fact, a form of activism -- the only kind that will ever possibly result in the change you desire.

I call myself "The Faithful Dissident" because I'm basically still a "faithful" Mormon in most ways, at least on the outside. I still go to church, pay a full tithe, keep the Word of Wisdom, though many could ask why. My "dissent" is very much on the inside: in my thoughts, feelings, and spirit. It's also a virtually silent dissent -- unless you count blogging. I've only discussed my true thoughts on the subject with half a handful of people face-to-face.

A common struggle that I've observed with other Mormons who think and feel like I do, is the feeling that any faithful perseverance in the Church will simply be in vain; that things never change and we'll always be wrong on everything. Such feelings inevitably give way to apathy, anger, and, in some cases, even bitterness.

But are faithful dissidents underestimating the impact that they have on the Church? Even the angriest and most apathetic of dissidents have to admit that things have and do change in the Church, even if it can sometimes seem to come at a snail's pace. And even the most puritan and orthodox of members have to admit that although God may be the same "yesterday, today, and forever," that's not the case with the Church. Change does come and it comes from within, not from without.

I think about my mother's generation and those before her, where stay-at-home mothers were the norm (at least in the Church). I'm grateful that my mom was always home with us, but I'm more grateful that she chose to be at home with us. (At least I think she did). I think that those who chose to have a career had to endure a lot of guilt from fellow Church members. Now it seems that the majority of RS sisters (at least in the areas where I have been) work outside of the home. Some do it out of financial necessity, while many do it for personal fulfillment. Some mothers find that they have to get out of the house in order to maintain their sanity. And although I think it's a stretch to say that LDS women are able to have a guilt-free career today, I think that leaders have softened their words on the subject over the years and my generation of LDS women has a slightly greater sense of freedom than our mothers' generation.

If faithful LDS women had accepted that birth control was such an evil abomination, as earlier prophets proclaimed, would it be such an acceptable "personal decision" today among Mormon couples? Does God really look at birth control differently now than he did 50 years ago? I doubt it. But the Church sure does. (See "Bored in Vernal's" very interesting "Evolution of Birth Control in the Mormon Church.")

Most of you have probably read descriptions of the earliest garments that covered most of the body. Today, our garments are probably less than half of what early Mormons wore. What we wear today -- even with our garments on -- would have been considered immodest back then. Did God lower his standards on modesty, or did the Church learn to accept a more liberal clothing style among its members that changed with the times?

I often think of earlier black members who had to endure some pretty demeaning teachings about why they were who they were. Amazingly, some still joined the Church. As we see when we look back at history, not even something as powerful and revolutionary as the American black civil right's movement was enough to bring change to the Church's policy on race. It appears that the most powerful catalyst to change in the Church came from within: blacks defying the odds by joining a "white church" and wanting to attend the temple. Were it not for the dilemma of all the Brazilian members who were ineligible to attend the temple that was to be built in their own country simply because of the African blood flowing through their veins, would the priesthood ban have been lifted? Probably not -- at least not then.

If homosexuals had never challenged the sentiment that they were choosing to be gay, or the fact that even just having a same sex attraction was at one time grounds for excommunication (see an excellent LDS gay history timeline on "Dichotomy"), would we see any openly-gay Mormons today, let alone those who attend the temple regularly?

Are all these changes truly founded in revelation? Are they simply coincidence? Or did they come about because of faithful dissidents who remained true to the Gospel, yet weren't afraid to think outside of the box and even push the envelope a bit?

A commenter, Papa D, said something in my last post that really struck a chord with me. He said:

"When I lived in the Deep South, invariably a black investigator would join the Church, face intense pressure from family and friends for joining a "white church", stay active for about 3-6 months then fade into inactivity - sometimes citing the fact that no other black people were joining the Church. Just as invariably, about 3-6 months later another black investigator would be baptized - and the cycle would repeat exactly. After a few years, if those black members would have stayed active, there would have been a thriving black membership in the Church in that area. I'm NOT blaming them for leaving. I actually understand how difficult it is to remain active in an organization when you feel like a token member - especially when you feel like the others in the organization don't really understand you. For many reasons, I get that completely. All I'm saying is that when someone leaves they automatically contribute to the stereotyped self-fulfilling prophecy against which they complain. They also reinforce, unfortunately, the stereotyped view of those who are unlike them - that black members, or liberal members, or gay members, or feminist members ad infinitum never make life-long members. Being a pioneer or Christlike rebel is hard, but leaving only exacerbates the problem at both ends. "Be the change you desire" is great advice, as long as that desire doesn't include bitterness and harsh confrontation and self-righteousness. It's a tricky balance sometimes, and it requires serious humility and meekness, but it's worth it in the end for those who can do it."

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly about how it applies to my good friend Cody (aka Gayldsactor), who is likely facing excommunication in the near future after holding a commitment ceremony with his partner. Cody is active and very much a believer. He holds no malice towards the Church or the laws it has to uphold. He may soon no longer be a Mormon on record, but he will always be one in his heart and intends on living as such in every way that he can -- even if he is excommunicated.

I think that the Church needs more people like Cody. I have no idea what's in store for gay members of the Church in the future. It would seem foolish of me to make any optimistic predictions about any future acceptance of homosexual relationships within the Church. But at the same time, I often have this feeling that something's got to give. The "homosexuality question," I believe, is the issue of my generation in the Church and the story is not over. Members like Cody will be "sacrificed" along the way, but it will not be in vain. Just like all the early black members of the Church who lived and died without being able to hold the priesthood, enter the temple, or receive any of its ordinances, perhaps without having any family members to do their temple work, a way must be paved for all those who remain as faithful as they can if God is truly fair and just.

But the way will not be paved until enough faithful dissidents are committed to paving it, which requires faith, patience, sacrifice, and -- perhaps the most difficult -- a whole lot of humility.


derekstaff said...

For some reason, my feed reader doesn't seem to be working right. I missed your last several posts. I'll have to look back at them.

That is a significant factor in my maintaining activity within the Church. There are certainly plenty of times I've considered bowing out. But if I do, I will only reinforce the stereotype among the mainstream membership that liberalism is another word for apostacy. And for all the flaws of the Church itself, I the core Gospel still rings true. If I grit my teeth and endure some of the most exasperating flaws of the Gospel, and maintain my activity, I believe I can ultimately be a catalyst for change on a local level--and, with you and other like-minded progressive types, on a global level as well. If we all give up on it, those flaws will ossify into eternity.

T.J. Shelby said...

I had a blog with similar goals, which I just shut down because I received similar comments and backlash from family and friends.

The final straw was when my Bishop called me in and rebuked me for my Prop 8 position, especially my outspoken blogs on the issue. I asked him if I were coming in for a temple recommend renewal, based upon my Prop 8 stance, would he sign my recommend? He said no.

I am thankful you have kept your blog going and will continue to read and participate. God bless

Allie said...

I may have said this before here (or elsewhere, I tend to repeat myself), but I used to think that God really controlled all the details of the church.

I don't think that anymore. I think that God works with what he's got, and he has to let us have our agency, which means he lets things play out a lot more than I used to think he would.

I think all of us, even prophets, are influenced by their life experiences and the environment they are raised it, and as we learn more about life and what it means to be human, I think we progress to becoming more loving, and more accepting of differences.

I don't know what that means for homosexuals in the church. But, I'll be patient until Heavenly Father lets me understand why things are the way they are.

derekstaff said...

TJ, I'm sorry you felt you had to shut down your blogs to maintain your standing in the Church. My blog is dedicated to showing how liberalism is consistent with the principles of the Gospel, and I took a very strong stand against anti-homosexual marriage movements. Fortunately, my bishop felt about the same way I do. I'm not sure what I would have done had he forced the decision on me like yours did.

Karene said...

I love reading what you have to say. I'm always flooded with thoughts as I read, but I am reluctant to share them because (as I've said before) I'm not a dissident. I'm a conservative, by-the-books Mormon who is just now coming to consider the "liberal" side of Mormonism. I hesitate to comment because I'm certain that my commentary will seem naive or simplistic. I just haven't spent nearly as much time thinking about all of this as many of you have. But I just want you, FD, and so many of your commenters know that what you have to say is really making me think long and hard about things I have taken for granted so long. And I really appreciate it.

The only thing I wanted to say here is that I think that you're absolutely right about "Being the Change You Desire". You ARE making a difference by being faithful, staying put, and raising questions. This comment by Derek really hit home with me:

"There are certainly plenty of times I've considered bowing out. But if I do, I will only reinforce the stereotype among the mainstream membership that liberalism is another word for apostacy."

YES. For a mainstream member like me, I worry that my recent interest in the perspective of the "dissident" will lead me to apostasy. It is so important for me to see people like you who question things and think deeply about things and have crises of faith but remain faithful. I want to be a thinker. I want to be honest with myself about what I believe and why. I don't want to gloss over the ugly spots. But I also fear apostasy. So. Yes, keep it up. You're making a difference.

I was reading another blog tonight and saw a post that seemed right in line with what you're saying. I don't know if you follow this blog, but if not, you'll probably find it interesting.


Mormon Heretic said...


I got called into the Bishop's office for referencing an NIV bible in Gospel Doctrine class. For that reason, I picked the name Mormon Heretic, and started blogging anonymously, because I think that church leadership (bishop and above) would be concerned about my unorthodox views on various scripture.

So, I think some of us need to stay closet dissidents for our own safety. But we can support others who have more liberal wards. Some of us have to be a little lower visibility in our dissent. (I don't plan on being in this ward forever....)

Karene (and others),

You might be interested in lesson 27 in the RS/PH manual. It deals with personal apostasy. I plan on a future post on the topic. I read it, and couldn't help but think that some people will read those quotes and think that people like Derek, FD, and myself are on the road to apostasy. But like you, I have always tried to keep my testimony, regardless of reading liberal blogs and uncomfortable church history.

While I know some people will lose their testimony by reading critical information, I think that some people (like Richard Bushman) can still maintain strong testimonies and be able to deal effectively with critical information. That's the kind of person I want to be.

diogenes said...

I have appreciated this thread. I love the quote from Lowell Bennion when he said his discipleship could be defined as "plain living and high thinking." My take is that while I have lived a life and will continue to live a life of "plain living" and all the behavior that allows me to remain in the covenant/temple recommend; , no faith, no institution and no creed can compel anyone's freedom of thoughts. I can take counsel to not share in church settings certain things but no faith can compel my thoughts. This is the highest tradition taught and practiced by Joseph. A tradition rooted in eternal truth and dignity and agency of eternal intelligences. Meanwhile, just because I do not like all the people or activities on the cruise ship does not mean I am going to jump ship. To do so is to only leave myself untethered and drowning. When we get to the final port, we can part company then--"many mansions" but for now the test is to not jump ship... Ron Madson

Allie said...

Karene- I think for many, it gets to be too much, and it gets easier to leave then to work through issues and stick around.

The thing that has helped me is to do all I can to keep the spirit with me, and times when I'm really struggling, to focus on what I DO know instead of what I don't. They don't cancel each other out.

The Teacher said...

So, Dissident, have you seen this post over at FMH?


I think it approaches the topic you are discussing from a slightly different angle. It is interesting that lots of people mention really participating in your ward as a way to gain acceptance/credibility. It also talks about expressing your views diplomaticallly and respectfully, something you do very well!

The Faithful Dissident said...

Derek, I wonder how many faithful dissidents "bowed out" before seeing some of the changes they may have had a hand in bringing about. Maybe just staying and doing the best we can is "enduring to the end." Sadly, some of them may have been forced out, a few of them perhaps even unjustly.

Allie said: "I used to think that God really controlled all the details of the church. I don't think that anymore. I think that God works with what he's got, and he has to let us have our agency, which means he lets things play out a lot more than I used to think he would."

I feel much the same way. In a way, it's very scary. But on the other hand, it's interesting to think that God has empowered us so much, even if we sometimes really screw up.

TJ, thanks for sharing your experiences. I think your story shows just how much things can differ on a local level. If Derek's bishop had been yours, things would have perhaps turned out differently. I chose to be anonymous when I started blogging because it makes it easier to discuss more private and sensitive matters, but in addition to that, I was/am afraid of backlash. For a while, I didn't even want to reveal the fact that I lived in Norway because I knew it would make it easier for someone to track me down if they REALLY wanted to (if someone really had that much time on their hands). It's perhaps only a matter of time before I get "discovered" by someone who recognizes my story, but even if they do, well, what are they going to do about it? I think that if someone actually takes the time to read all my posts and comments, they will realize that I'm not out to bring down the Church. I think of blogging as my lifeline and if my bishop forced me to choose between being able to ask questions and discuss things and my membership in the Church, it would be a toughie. Luckily, I think they would somewhat understand where I'm coming from with all this, but I wouldn't feel as confident with just anyone.

Karene, I really appreciate your honesty and respectful tone. You know, I think that if you are comfortable being a "by-the-book" Mormon, then you should continue to do so. Too often, I think that liberals tend to look down on the more conservative, orthodox members who continue to do things "by-the-book." It shouldn't be that way because there is nothing wrong with it if it works for you. But at the same time, you're not afraid to consider other ideas, as you are now doing, and start asking yourself questions that you never did before. Many don't even do that, which is why they resist change.

Oh, yes, I have sometimes read Beck's blog. It's very interesting and extremely insightful.

MH, I agree with you on Bushman. That's the kind of Mormon I want to be. I don't think anyone on this earth right now "knows" Joseph Smith better than Bushman, warts and all, and yet he apparently has not found it impossible to reconcile truth with his faith.

Diogenes, I love the cruise ship analogy. "This is the highest tradition taught and practiced by Joseph. A tradition rooted in eternal truth and dignity and agency of eternal intelligences." You know, especially after I read Bushman's "Rough Stone Rolling," I remember thinking just how "liberal" a religion Mormonism really is in many ways, even though its practice doesn't always seem to be so.

Teacher, yes, I just read that post at FMH a few minutes ago. I look forward to following the discussion.

Scott said...

Thank you for this post (and thanks for the reference to my Gay Mormon timeline!)

This is mostly the reason my wife and I are staying active (more of a factor with me than with my wife). We've both committed ourselves to helping the local members, at least, better understand and feel empathy toward gay members of the Church.

Then, too, the fact that I came out to my ward in testimony meeting makes it seem all the more important that I stay active. If I had gone inactive before it would have just been "Scott" going inactive. Now it would be "Scott the Gay Man" falling away, and that would leave quite a different impression with most people, I think.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Scott, thanks for your words. I'm sure you know better than most of us what it's really like to be a faithful dissident.

You said: "We've both committed ourselves to helping the local members, at least, better understand and feel empathy toward gay members of the Church."

Let me ask you this. Would you say that your commitment is limited to creating awareness and empathy for gays within the Church? Or do you have any hope that things will gradually change in the Church as more and more people become empathetic and understanding of fellow members like you? Do you ever feel like you're paving the road for future change, or is that being too optimistic?

Scott said...

Let me ask you this. Would you say that your commitment is limited to creating awareness and empathy for gays within the Church? Or do you have any hope that things will gradually change in the Church as more and more people become empathetic and understanding of fellow members like you? Do you ever feel like you're paving the road for future change, or is that being too optimistic?

I outlined some of this in a blog post a week or two ago, but I'd be happy to sum up how I feel specifically about a future change in the Church...

I guess the level of my belief in the possibility of such a change varies from day to day. Sometimes I'm more optimistic than others.

Deep down, though, I think that I've come to a personal conclusion that the Church's current policy re: homosexuality is not inspired, but that it's based on both a misinterpretation of the scriptures (which are themselves based on an incomplete understanding of human sexuality) and the personal biases or opinions of Church leaders in the 60s and 70s. I don't believe that our leaders have earnestly and sincerely sought God's will on the subject, because it has seemed so obvious to them what God's will is that they have seen no need to bother Him with questions that they already know the answers to.

I believe that eventually (and I have no idea whether eventually means 5 years or 50 years or 500 years) as gay people become more accepted by society and therefore more visible it will become increasingly obvious to the Church membership (and leadership) that homosexuality is not the deviant sexual perversion that most currently believe it to be, but rather a natural variation in mankind's expression of love and romantic attraction. Eventually it will become obvious that a loving monogamous committed relationship is good and wholesome and beneficial to its participants and to society as a whole, regardless of the gender of the partners. Eventually, whether due to expediency or compassion, Church leaders will feel it necessary to inquire of the Lord concerning the issue, and gay members of the Church will get their own Official Declaration.

I don't have any particular belief about how homosexuality fits into the Plan of Salvation (at least nothing more than a few vague ideas about how it could). But I do believe in a loving Heavenly Father who will have made provision for people like me when He put everything down on paper. (I haven't conclusively ruled out the possibility that I'll be "fixed" in the next life--that I'll become straight--but the sense of wholeness and completeness that I've felt since coming to terms with being gay leads me to believe that my orientation is something more than some physical glitch akin to nearsightedness that will be wiped away when I'm resurrected.)

So that's what I believe... But you won't catch me trying to convince anyone that I'm right, because that would be apostasy, wouldn't it?

derekstaff said...

FWIW, Scott, that is just about exactly how I see things. I certainly hope it doesn't take five-hundred, or even fifty, years.

Steve M. said...

Great post.

I don't have much to add, except a thought that I read some time ago in the Bloggernacle (I can't remember where). Referring to Orson Pratt (who faced excommunication for opposing Brigham Young's Adam-God theory, but whose view of Adam and Eve is now embraced by the Church), the post said something to the effect that today's heretics are sometimes tomorrow's prophets.

Karene said...

MH, I read over lesson 27 and I will be watching for your post on the subject. I'd like to hear what you have to say about it.

As I read some of you discussing what kind of member you'd like to be (i.e. Richard Bushman), I began to think about what I want to be. I don't think I'll ever be the one raising questions...it's not really in my nature. However I also hate to think that I have in the past been, and may in some ways still be, the one crying "Apostasy!" when a more liberal thinking member expresses his or her differing views. I hope to become one who can be comfortable with my own views, but still be open minded and accepting, even an advocate for those who are trying to express a more liberal viewpoint. Would that make me a "religious moderate"? :)

Alan said...

Scott and Beck are both friends of mine. We correspond frequently and sometimes reference each others' blogs. They are both devoted to finding and spreading truth. It's an honor to be their friend.

Thanks for this great post. It reflects so much of my own thinking as well. I've recently blogged about my own internal debate over this issue.

For now I am staying for many of the reasons mentioned above. I want to be Orson Pratt. I want to be one of the ones in the vanguard who was willing to take the flak until more of my brothers and sisters started to see a better way. I sure hope it doesn't take 50 or 500 years, but I'm not going to just sit around and wail and wait. I'll do what I can.

Because you're right, something's got to give. Gay Mormons face a totally impossible theological situation right now, with the result that the Church's stance is wreaking havoc and tragedy in so many lives like Cody's. I just can't believe God is pleased with that situation. I pray daily that hearts will be softened so that we will all be ready to accept some badly needed new light and knowledge sooner rather than later. Meantime, I blog, speak up, try to influence one heart and mind at a time. Thanks for doing your part too.

Beck said...

I am convinced that the way things have changed in the past, and the way they are continuing to change today, is not inactivity from dissidents, but ACTIVITY - staying faithful and active in the Church, being in callings and serving and giving - showing Christlike love the best we can WITHIN the Church - and allowing ourselves to speak up when appropriate to challenge others to think in slightly different ways.

I've contemplated leaving, but can't think what good that would do. Sure, my personal tactic is slow - one person at a time - but this is how it will be done, not from pressure from WITHOUT.

Thanks for following my blog. Sometimes I wonder who is really out there and what good it really does. I blog for myself, searching for a clear mind and spirit. Unchartered waters aren't easy, and staying active and faithful with all "this" in my head isn't easy either - but for me, it's the only way.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Lots of interesting thoughts here. Thanks, first of all, FD, for your kind thoughts in regard to my situation. I appreciate it.

I don't know what the future holds for homosexuals in the church. I, for one, have never tried to promote an agenda of any kind in regard to the church's policy on gays. I have simply tried to live my life as best I can and make people aware of my issues without trying to influence people that my view is correct.

I am just as imperfect as the next guy. Frankly, I don't know what the Lord's will is regarding homosexuals in the church or whether things will change or not. It is interesting to look at how things have changed regarding women or blacks or garments or temple ceremonies or even gays over the years, so who knows what will happen.

What I do know is that I am currently in violation of the commandments as they are currently taught, and so I understand I will have to face the consequences of those choices.

As it is, I feel at peace with this decision and have blogged about it in my latest post.

Thanks for some interesting things to think about, guys.

Papa D said...

FD, I'm glad my comment was part of your contemplation about this post. It's something about which I feel passionate.

My ideal Bishopric or Stake Presidency (or any presidency) would be a Democrat, a Republican and an Independent - a BIC, a convert and someone who had been inactive for a stretch - someone with grown kids, someone with young kids and someone with no kids - etc. I believe the best decisions are the ones that include multiple perspectives - and multiple perspectives can't exist in a monolithic organization where all the "minority members" are either silent or gone.

Please don't be selfish and do that to everyone else. It's not easy (not at all), but it's important.

The Faithful Dissident said...

"Unchartered waters aren't easy, and staying active and faithful with all "this" in my head isn't easy either - but for me, it's the only way."

You got that right, Beck. It's why I blog. Even though I don't personally struggle with homosexuality, the complexities of it all are, I think, sometimes almost as difficult for some of us to deal with as for those of you who are actually dealing with it. Blogging is a great way to say what's in your head without having to actually say it. :) By the way, I very much enjoy your blog even though I haven't commented much.

I encourage you all to read Cody's latest post. As well, read Alan's letter to his mom in the link he posted above. I think the letter really leaves the reader with that "something's got to give" feeling, even though none of us really know what it will be.

Papa D, that's a great thought in regards to your ideal bishopric or stake presidency. The most interesting part would be to see how they manage to work together. :)

ConservativeRepublican said...


Thanks for mentioning Gay LDS Actor's blog. I just read many of the posts on there. What an incredible journey he as been through. I couldn't help but cry while reading it.

Anonymous said...

Hats off to some of you who are as strong as you are having struggled as much as you do. I had a blog that was under a pseudonym, but that I still made "invite only" in order to keep people off my back - I am constantly feeling the outsider, and I find no feeling of "home" in the church - I often wonder how it can possibly be healthy, mentally, physically or emotionally to remain part of a group that would so like to throw me to the dogs, if they percieved my real feelings/beliefs. I just don't see how one can stay where one is obviously not wanted. I'm sure some of you have felt that even more accutely than I have. And like I say, congrats to you.

Yes, FD, I think "faithful dissidents" can make a difference -but you have to agree that they are sacrificing themselves in so doing - and sometimes that means very literally - how many dissenting LDS people have chosen to exit this life, because they couldn't come to a place of peace between their beliefs/actions and those of the rest of the world. Its a depressing, lonely road.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Two quotes I've read recently that somehow felt appropriate to this discussion:

"People who say things that differ from the norm used to get burned at the stake. The more controversial, the more of a nerve you're striking in the established community." - from the book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Daniel G. Amen

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some people get "burned at the stake," so to speak, but sometimes sacrifices are necessary to create awareness and education about difficult subjects. Sometimes trails have to be forged.

Jen said...

It's really quite funny that I stumbled across your blog... I was "googling" for an image of President Benson to post on my blog in regard to the Glen Beck e-mail/MP3 that is circulating.

I however, disagree with you and think you are doing a disservice to both yourself and those who follow your blog.

The ways of the world are not our ways. End of story! The prophet is the mouthpiece of the Lord. End of story! Unfortunately, our minds cannot fully comprehend the will of our Father in Heaven and so doubt creeps in, naturally. This doubt, if left unchecked, breeds corruption and then apostasy.

Perhaps my views are different because I've lived on the other side being a lone adult convert of the church.

When you grow up with something, you just don't have the ability to fully understand the other side of things no matter how far to the left you go and quite often find it difficult to really appreciate what you have/had. Once you have believed, the dissidence you feel, harbor, and breed in others becomes a great tool of the adversary to bring others down.

Have you read your patriarchal blessing lately? What are you warned to avoid, watch out for, as well as do to strengthen and uplift yourself and others? If you truly do believe that the church is true, you will spend more time "reading out of good books", on your knees, and etc. instead of allowing your dissidence to fester inside your soul, which WILL lead to your falling away.

I'm glad you like to ask questions and think for yourself... Just make sure you are doing it all with the right spirit. Maybe not a spirit of dissent but of earnest desire for the truth and maybe to better understand God's will.

Finally, I'd put more faith and trust in what our church leaders say rather than in the shallow words of men and women who seek only to improve their position or further their own personal views and uninspired agenda. Our only agenda should be to follow the counsel of our leaders and figure out how to impliment it into our daily lives.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Jen, I had typed out this long response to you, but I decided to just delete it. After reading your comment several times, I realized I was just wasting my time. Looks like you've already made your judgments about me, my blog, and my readers. If you've taken time to read all my different posts, you might have a slight clue about who I am, how I think, and the purpose of this blog. If you haven't, then it's sad that you managed to conclude from one post that I don't spend enough time reading good books, on my knees, reading my patriarchal blessing (which FYI says nothing about what to avoid or watch out for), and whether or not I really believe the Church is true.

Thanks for keeping an open mind and thanks for coming out.

Jason Steed said...

I didn't read the previous comments very closely, so maybe I'm repeating something here, but I just want to point out the crucial difference between Doctrine and Policy. (I capitalize the words only for emphasis.)

The Doctrine of being modest is unchanging -- it can be stated simply as: We should (or "thou shalt") be modest. But the Policy that directs us how to be modest changes over time -- because modesty is, let's face it, a relative thing.

My point: policies change, but doctrines don't.

Most Mormons fail (utterly) to recognize this distinction. They take Policy as Doctrine, and then they get confused when policies change -- their testimonies are shaken because what they thought was an "eternal truth" turns out to be malleable. Sometimes they can rationalize this by referring to "continuing revelation" -- but this only makes revelation look like a whimsical thing, a fabricated way for the Church to shift with the times.

Rather than dilute revelation in this way, Mormons need to do a better job of distinguishing between Doctrine and Policy. Revelation is usually about Doctrine -- changing, introducing, or restoring it, or correcting error regarding it. Policy changes, by contrast, are simply a matter of directive from Church leadership. Sure, they might involve inspiration -- but they also might be just a tardy attempt to catch up with changes in society.

Regarding homosexuality and gay marriage...I think the Doctrine that homosexuality is immoral stands. It has always been thus, and likely always will be.

But taking a political stance vis-a-vis gay marriage in California is a Policy -- one enacted by Church leaders and followed by most Church members, but a position that really shouldn't be seen as anything more than current Policy.

It is much easier to take issue with Policy than with Doctrine -- and it should be much more widely accepted to do so. The only reason it isn't, I think, is that people fail to make the distinction.

Alan said...

@Jason Steed:

Agreed wholeheartedly on the distinction between doctrine and policy and the problems that often arise when Mormons fail to make it.

Disagree that "modesty is a doctrine." No such statement appears in the Scriptures. You are absolutely correct that it is a purely cultural and contextual construct.

Flatly disagree that there is a "doctrine" that "homosexuality is immoral." Again, no such statement appears anywhere in the Scriptures, which are the ONLY binding benchmark for what Mormons are obligated to accept as doctrinal. The Church itself has changed its "doctrine" on this point, having once said this very thing, it no longer does, and acknowledges that homosexuality may be a hard-wired feature for many people that will never change.

"Doctrine" itself changes and we must expect it to change again. The 132nd Section of the Doc. & Cov. was a HUGE change in doctrine as understood up to that point. The 9th Article of Faith makes it clear that we should expect more of such.

Anonymous said...

Alan you said:

'Flatly disagree that there is a "doctrine" that "homosexuality is immoral." Again, no such statement appears anywhere in the Scriptures, which are the ONLY binding benchmark for what Mormons are obligated to accept as doctrinal.'

I don't know where you get that from:

Lev. 20 :13
13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Jude 1:
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Romans 1:
26 For this cause God agave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

1 Cor. 6:
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

2 Timothy 3:
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

Why hasn't anyone corrected you sooner??