Sep 8, 2009

How Much Do You Value Your Church Membership?

You fellow Mormon bloggers out there have probably had to ask yourselves a certain question:

What if you were "outed" and summoned to a Bishop's court for blogging?

I've asked myself this many times. I'm not naive. I know that I could easily be "outed" and -- depending on how high a tolerance my local leaders have for such -- be subject to discipline for openly discussing my unorthodox and/or heretical opinions on here.

So what would I do if that happened? What would be my options?

Option 1: I would delete my blog and renounce whatever I've said on here that could make me subject to discipline (I'm not saying that I have said anything that would make me subject to discipline, I'm simply saying that I don't know. I think the verdict would vary from place to place and among different local leaders.)

Option 2: I would stand by all that I've written and refuse to delete my blog on the grounds that I need an outlet in order to discuss things that my leaders do not wish or cannot discuss with me. I would not renounce the personal beliefs I currently have, although I would try to be as respectful as possible of our different points of view. I would accept whatever judgment came my way, which would leave me with two post options:
  • Remain a (somewhat) believing and (somewhat) active Mormon by attending Church and keeping these things pretty much to myself outside of the online community. In other words, I would be doing basically what I'm doing now, but would either be disfellowshipped or excommunicated.
  • Stop attending Church and completely withdraw from my local Mormon community. This, however, would probably not eliminate my internal Mormon identity.
Option 3: Willingly resign my Church membership before judgment falls.

I've tried to imagine any one of these scenarios. Option 1, I think, would be very difficult for me. It would eat away at me to put on an act, and yet I've become quite good at keeping these things to myself, though it's not easy to do and it unlikely to be sustainable over a lifetime. My hope is to find a constructive and respectful way to interact with like-minded Mormons without getting myself kicked out.

Option 2 would be heart-wrenching and difficult, for myself and probably for my family as well. So Option 2 is what I fear the most, but it's also the one that seems most realistic if I were to find myself in a disciplinary situation. And to be honest, I'm not sure that I would have the guts to follow through with Option 2 because of what it would do to my family. I know they would continue to love me and never disown me (I'm very fortunate that way), but it was a big enough deal to them when one of my brothers started drinking. I'm not sure how they would handle having a child/sibling being excommunicated. The difficulty of the situation would perhaps make me consider (and perhaps even follow through) with Option 1, but I know I'd probably be equally unhappy with either Option 1 or 2.

Option 3 is understandable. Being subject to a bishop's court must be mentally and emotionally exhausting. I like my Church leaders, but it would be intimidating to plead my case when they can't really understand it and because I'm not the most eloquent speaker, particularly when it's not in my mother tongue. Neither would I have anyone who could witness or vouch for me.

So I guess what it boils down to is how much we all value our Church membership. My impression is that most Mormons view it in a very literal sense. "What is bound on earth is bound in heaven." In other words, what we do here has eternal consequences and losing one's membership in the Kingdom of God here on earth is a HUGE deal -- particularly in terms of what it means for family relationships.

There's no question that I value my membership in the Church. But I'm not sure that I value it in the same literal sense. All these stories of people (gays, feminists, intellectuals, scholars, etc.) getting excommunicated has made me fear it less in the literal sense. There's no question in my mind that many of these were/are people of immense faith, integrity, and being true to their inner light and convictions (even if they may be wrong and even if they deliberately did things that they knew were grounds for excommunication) -- qualities that are highly esteemed in Mormonism -- and so how can I believe that God will literally shut them out in the next phase of life?

So, if I were to lose my membership one day, would I be sad? Yes. Would I dread the unavoidable pain it would cause to my family? Yes. But would I see it as the end? No.

If you found yourself in the hypothetical situation that I outlined above (for some of you, it may not just be hypothetical), what do you think you would do? What would be the consequences?

How much do you value your Church membership? Do you ever fear being disciplined? Why or why not?

51 comments:

Urban Koda said...

I'd definitely go with option 3, although I must admit that there is something inside that is curious as to what charges they would bring against me, and how they would try and justify them.

I don't believe I've shared anything untrue, and I gave my word that I wouldn't reveal temple secrets, which I continue to stand by, however I know of several cases, where a person has been excommunicated purely to keep them quiet.

You're right though, I think many people see their Church Membership as some sort of 'Get into Heaven Free' card. As long as you're clinging to it, the organization has power over your - which I don't like at all.

My membership has become somewhat of a dysfunctional relationship. The organization abused me, lied to me and tried to control me, and in response I have become a despondent, withdrawn, and somewhat vocal critic in situations where I feel safe - Like my online persona. Neither of us wants to end the relationship, because it's all we've known, but if it comes to that, both of us would rather be the one doing the dumping, rather than being dumped - If that makes any sense.

Paul said...

Last fall & winter, I wasn't as spiritual as I normally am. Then came some extreme anxiety into my life that caused me to reflect as the next months went by what I lean on when tough times come. It was the Lord and my faith in the LDS Church. This taught me that someday in the future, if I know that death is imminent, all wordly things will not mean very much anymore, except to take care of my loved ones. Polls on gay marriage, political issues of the times, etc will diminish as our main interests. They are just earthly distractions along the way to get us upset, create contention with others, and test our faith, sometimes in a very negative way. I don't always understand why some Church policies are the way they are, or have been, in the history of our faith. I at one time wrestled with some issues that almost destroyed my faith. I decided to leave those in God's hands for now. Perhaps he will explain them to me one day in the afterlife. Today's LDS Church is a good organization....I can't find a better one out there. People generally live good lives. I might think I'm smart, but who am I to question Church policies? I'll leave them in the Lord's hands.
My wife & her family introduced the Church to me back in 1973 in Mexico. It took me a little more than 2 more years to come to see the "pearl of great price" they offered me. The mother of my kids has always been a shining example of a good Church member. The time and effort she puts into her Stake Primary & Ward Seminary callings is amazing. I work with the YM, and they are a lot better kids on average than the ones I see outside the Church. My son is currently serving a mission in Argentina and has made tremendous sacrifices for Father In Heaven. All these examples are time and effort better spent than walking into gray areas where we probably never will be happy. I know I wasn't when I walked there some years ago.
Nothing is more important than your faith & Church membership. They will be there for you when hard times come into your lives. The other issues will fade as we prepare to leave this life. I can see that now as my father faces perhaps only a few months left in his life, stuck in a hospital room.
As for what it's like in a Bishop's court, I once served in a Bishopric and had one experience with it. I felt great compassion for a person who voluntarily confessed her sin to us. The court was not harsh towards this person, but rather helped her to get back on the right path.
Summing up, if I die today, I do know my heart is in the right place as to my testimony....I can always do better as a person of course. Nothing would please me more than to be with my wife for time and all eternity, and to have all my kids there with us as well. Nothing on this earth is worth more than that.

DMI Dave said...

I understand the underlying concern, but I think you are being overly dramatic, Faithful. Blogging does not make one subject to church discipline. Note that the LDS Newsroom at LDS.org now has its own blog. Blogging is not the problem.

Yes, one can conceivably post material on a blog that is so critical and offensive to Latter-day Saints that it would become an issue, but you really have to try hard to make that happen. I think that anyone who gets to that point generally has other things going on in their public and personal life that becomes the immediate cause of the disciplinary action.

Kate said...

Actually, for a long time I was pretty terrified of this as well. I think I still am concerned, but since I no longer see the church as the ultimate path to God, its not as terrifying. John Remy's excommunication (see: www.mindonfire.com) for things he wrote on his blog is a perfect example of where people DO get excommunicated for blogs - and quickly. Another is the fact that my tracker indicates someone within church headquarters has checked my blog with semi-regularity. It is naive to say that they aren't watching, and its part of the reason I disbanded my blog and recently gave myself an anonymous persona for all of my online "musings".

I would probably go with Option 2a personally. Its not that I would want to make a stink, but on the other hand I believe strongly in the right for personal dissent. I believe that the church is a good church, and in a lot of ways a great church, but our whitewashed "indoctrination" classes and ongoing role in politics make it impossible for intellectuals to NOT question the church's motives in things.

Papa D said...

My response would be that an apostle asked the members to use the "new media" and not let detractors frame the issue; thus, I'm following the prophets by blogging. *grin*

As I've said elsewhere, it's just as much the tone that counts as the words themselves - except in cases where the words themselves are confrontational and derogatory. That's a line I have no intention of crossing, since it isn't part of my purpose for blogging.

Sunflowercalm said...

If one was facing those decisions they would be very hard. When I was a young girl my father was excommunicated (for adultery). The aftermath in my family was extremely difficult. I would sit through primary lessons, hearing about eternal families, and be scared to death about what would happen to mine now. I guess based somewhat on those experiences from my childhood, facing the thought of my own potential excommunication would really give me pause because of what it would cause me husband and children to go through. But I guess it would be hard to know what any of us would do unless we were actually facing that situation!

I've actually thought about starting my own blog on and off over the last several months. But for exactly the reasons you mentioned I keep having second thoughts!

Jeff said...

The scenario you propose is very familiar to me, because I've been through it. My old blog, http://mormon-gnostics.blogspot.com/ was "clipped" by the Strengthening the Members Committee, and mailed to my Stake President and I had to face a bishop's court because of what I wrote about in the blog-- a stack of paper over an inch tall which two members of the bishopric had read in full, with parts highlighted, and sticky notes all over the place. What a process. It ended in a stale-mate, because I would not deny the truth, and they could not find any specific item by which they could charge me for apostasy. By divine providence, the bishopric was soon released and a new Bishop was called, and that settled things.

Later, I was faced with stake disciplinary action, this time for my actions, rather than my beliefs alone. I had only four days to decide what to do from the time I got the notice until the Disciplinary Council was to be held. My wife and I ultimately decided to combine options 2 and 3. We appeared at the disciplinary council, presented written evidence in order to stand our ground but we also turned in letters of resignation, which ended the council immediately.

Did I value membership in the Church? I did at one point. But, when the leadership treated my membership with lightness, rashness, and triviality, giving me only four days to settle several years worth of questions, I quickly realized that my good standing with God was far more important than my records in the earthly Church. In the end, I believe the choice we made under such pressure has led us into better places.

Kate said...

Jeff, can you elaborate a little more about your experience? I am really curious, since it raises concerns I (and many other bloggers, apparently) are really troubled by. Was it the tone or content of your blog posts that made them draw the line in the sand?

Kate said...

Wow, Jeff, after reading your blog and what you and your fmaily were put through, I seriously am tempted to take my blog down!

Jeff said...

Kate, thank you for asking. I suspect that there were all sorts of reasons behind the disciplinary action, but I can only go off of what I was actually told, right? So, first of all, I learned that the STM Committee searches publications including blogs, for discussion by members of the church on certain hot topics. When they find an item, they mail it to the Stake President without any specific instructions. It is the Stake President's decision what he will do with the provided information.

I don't know what topic it was precisely that flagged me, but my reason for blogging was to put all my questions and curiosities out there to see if any others with similar beliefs had anything to add or any suggestions. Because of that, I tended to bring up all sorts of controversies. Right around the time of the Disciplinary Council, however, I had been in the habit of posting photographic evidence of doctrinal teachings out of old church books, and putting them side by side present-day teachings, raising the question regarding which was authoritative. The topics were purely theological. A lot of my material had to do with Elohim, Jehovah, Michael and the Adam-God teachings, and the theological positioning of Jesus Christ.

The members of the bishopric told me that it was the fact that I was "questioning the authority of the prophet" in a "public setting" that was the problem. In my mind, I was not doing this. I was merely trying to evaluate what it means to be a prophet. But, the equation went, Brigham Young said this. Gordon B. Hinckley said this. The ideas are contradictory, and as such, both of them can't be right, therefore, logic would suggest that one of them must be wrong?

I was told that I could not have a Temple Recommend because I did not "sustain the President of the Church." I disagreed with my Bishop on this point, and told him that I did sustain the president, and that he was mistaken about my feelings.

This is what brought us into a stale-mate position. I ceased blogging (with minor exceptions) for quite a while because of what happened. The Bishop forbade me from reading any scriptures except the Book of Mormon, and even then, limited me to the hard copy printed edition, as he did not want me studying it online. He didn't explain this well, and I didn't pursue trying to get an explanation, because I found it to be fairly ridiculous.

(continued next post)

Jeff said...

(continued from previous post)

I think the reason he didn't want me to read online was so that I couldn't use the computer's search functionality to cross-reference things. He felt that the cross-references provided in the Topical Guide and footnotes were already "sanitized" and that I would not be able to get into trouble with them as I did when I found things on my own.

Then, he and his counselors were released. The new Bishop was cool with me, and he asked me a couple simple questions then laid the whole matter aside, saying he didn't really understand nor care what it was all about because it would take too long to research and he wanted to start me off with a clean slate anyway. He also said that as far as he was concerned I could write whatever I wanted on the Internet.

It took two Ward Disciplinary Councils to deal with that. One from the original Bishop which put me on a weird set of restrictions (although, I was never informed whether this was "formal probation" or something else.) And, then, another D.C., this one, very brief, from the new bishopric, to clear my status and return me to good standing.

The later Stake Disciplinary Council was another matter entirely, although it was certainly related to my continued progress and studies. I hope this answered your question adequately. Please let me know if you want more specifics about any particular part of it. Also, you can read my old blog online, you'll have to go back into the archive to see it. 2006-10-11 is the date of the first Disciplinary Council relating to this, after which, I started a series of posts as I began to read through the Book of Mormon --- this was on assignment from the Bishop, for although he didn't want me to study the book online, he did want me to keep blogging (with changes to my technique) and he suggested journalling my Book of Mormon reading as a starting place.

Jeff said...

"Wow, Jeff, after reading your blog and what you and your fmaily were put through, I seriously am tempted to take my blog down!"

Kate, I would hate to see your blog go down. The simple fact is, there needs to be an outlet for people with questions, and the web provides a wonderful place for this sort of thing. If we all buckle under pressure and close-up shop, there won't be anywhere for people to turn who are looking for help on these issues. It is an important fact that I still have my blog up. They never demanded that I "take it down", only counseled me to change the content of my new posts, and I am proud that it is still up and documents this so that others searching may find it. With time, and enough of us blogging who live "on the fringe" in some way or another, maybe it will eventually become something that they won't pursue as though it were a sin.

My advice: Keep blogging, and be true to yourself and to your God.

thefirestillburning said...

Some not so random thoughts:

The founding generation wasn't born Mormon. Most ALL of them had to say "no" to family and friends in one form or another and expose those family and friends to their "scandelous" behavior.

Isn't celestial glory about being valiant in testimony? If you're wrong, you're Korihor talking to Alma; if you're right, you're Abinadi talking to Noah. It's a tough place to be to be forced to the choice, but being valiant requires doing whatever you feel is right. (Being valiant in the defense of something you DON'T believe probably doesn't count.)

While you can delete your own blogs, your comments on other blogs are immortal barring something like a collapse of civilization.

God's knowledge of what you've thought and written is immortal, period. Same dilemma about being valiant as above -- God knows what you believe even if you haven't figured it out yet.

That was what finally led me to decide I had to resign my priesthood office for reasons of conscience about 18 months ago. If I could not in good conscience follow the leading quorums fully in the direction they were going, than I should not be in any leadership role.

FireTag

Kate said...

FirTag, you raise a really good point about God knowing everything that all of us has written. The question really comes down to, do I fear men or do I fear God? I don't fear God anymore, because I know he wants me to be happy, and intellectual pursuit brings me happiness. I therefore fear men - specifically the men who may wish to take away my membership in the church, because of the ways it ties me to family and community. And fear of men... well, thats absolutely nothing, eternally speaking.

Thanks for that insight!

zenochio said...

"[T]he LDS or Mormons were created on the idea that revelation and miracles did not cease with the Bible, but should always be a part of the church of Christ. An integral part of this was that every person with a witness of Christ should be a prophet. […] The Mormons no longer publish new revelation from God, nor do they allow ordinary members to be prophets." --Joseph J. Dewey

"The Mormon Church is so different from the way it started. Joseph Smith chewed people out for not thinking for themselves. He said, 'Darkness has fallen over your eyes; why not look upon the spirit? Don’t rely so much on me.' They never quote that statement from him. Now they say, 'Follow the prophet. Once the prophet has made a decision, the thinking is done.' This authority syndrome is very strong in Mormons." --J. J. Dewey

"Groups of Mormons who study doctrines outside of church guidelines will eventually grow too large to excommunicate them all."
--prediction of Joseph J. Dewey, Aug. 2000, beginning to be fulfilled

Yet to be seen:
"There will be no major gathering of saints in Missouri for over 100 years. The LDS church will acquire the temple lot though and build an impressive looking temple on it, but there will be no cloud of glory descend, neither will Jesus show up. It will be some time afterward that the temple lot will shift to the hands of the just.
"The LDS Church will continue as a growing church for many decades to come with no Mighty and Strong one replacing the prophet as some expect. Major change will come from outside the church, not the inside. The change inside the church will be baby steps that head toward liberalization. They will blend more and more with regular Christianity. […]
"There will be false Christs and false Mighty and Strong Ones, but they shall not speak like Jesus, neither will they be mighty or strong. There will also be true prophets and teachers, but none of
significance will be connected to the LDS church. […]
"It will take 1000 years to build Zion and the true beginning is yet to come, several decades hence. 150 years from now enough progress will be made that faith will begin to increase and many will work toward manifesting it. The Constitution will indeed hang by a thread or less. It will eventually seem that the thread is broken and America is no longer America. Not even the elders of the church will step forward to save it, but a new America will be reborn through the gathering of lights, from many belief systems, who believe in the principle of freedom." --J. J. Dewey, Dec. 2007

READ MORE: http://members.cox.net/zenochi/JJ%20Dewey%20on%20Mormonism.pdf

I guarantee you will be hearing the name J. J. Dewey more and more over the coming years, and it will be "had for good and evil." And no, I am not him. I am someone who finds that his words resonate with me much the same way Joseph Smith's do.

Please, let us use our brains and not be afraid to do our own exploring.

Carol Brown said...

This is a very sensitive and difficult question. Years ago I was certain that I would never do anything that EVER jeopardized my Church membership. I was and still am faithful to my temple covenants. My husband was a kind bishop, but also held Church disciplinary councils. Many of those he worked with have returned to the fold, stronger and more faithful than ever. Then my life took an unexpectedly turn.

In the process of helping a friend, a former bishop's wife who lived in an adjacent stake and whose husband was severely abusing her, my husband and I were called into our stake president's office by her stake president. (Her husband was a close friend of a GA, AND the police chief was beating and psychologically abusing her; we had doctor's reports of her injuries and sent them to her stake president and then to the area president, when Church leaders overlooked the abuse.)

We were told that if we lived in my friend's stake, my husband and I would be excommunicated. I was stunned. We had merely tried to help a person who was in danger of her life. Whenever she tried to leave her husband, he tracked her down. She was in fear of her life. We felt that we had done nothing wrong. The GA wrote my husband and said he could no longer give priesthood blessings.

We survived that miserable My friend divorced her husband, and he almost killed her in the process. He is now a high council member in his stake. I believe God will judge him for his choices, but feel sad the Church condoned his horrific (and verifiable) abuse.

Then, my daughter was horrifically tortured and raped by a neighbor. She fell apart spiritually and psychologically. She attempted suicide, acted out sexually a few years later, and has been disfellowshipped. Recently, she asked that her name by removed from Church records. She is a kind, wonderful woman, and I believe God will hold her in His arms and welcome her home when she returns to Him.

I told my best friend about my heartbreaking experience with my daughter, and she (a stalwart member-missionary) said, "It's only a piece of paper." I agree. Yes, my membership record and temple recommends are pieces of paper that I treasure, but I believe God loves His children more than many of His Church leaders do. I believe His loves us perfectly, uncondionally, and absolutely, and that, as Hugh B. Brown said, when we get to heaven, we'll be surprised at many of the people we see there.

Jesus loved the sinners and ministered to the outcasts. It was the Pharisees with their holier-than-thou attitudes that He condemned. As Church members, we need to reach out to all those who are disenfranchised, rejected, and forsaken. God loves them just as much as He loves us, and we know that He left the 99 in search of the one.

Carol Brown said...

I meant to say, GA AND the police chief, and was...

Also, "we survived that miserable experience."

Sorry that I didn't proofread more carefully.

Anonymous said...

"[Joseph Smith] said, 'Darkness has fallen over your eyes; why not look upon the spirit? Don’t rely so much on me.' --J. J. Dewey

"Groups of Mormons who study doctrines outside of church guidelines will eventually grow too large to excommunicate them all."
--prediction of Joseph J. Dewey, Aug. 2000"



I have never seen these before. They are stunning!

Equally stunning is observing, as you say, zenochio, that we are watching the second play out.

zenochio said...

@Anonymous:

I think JJ may have been paraphrasing the entry in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 237:
"President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel - said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption in the Jewish church -that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls - applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall - that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds..." (italics mine)

Kaylanamars said...

Wow, great topic and wonderful comments. I really don't worry about losing my membership at this time. My blog is anonymous and what I write isn't all that heretical! But I would never renounce my membership unless I wanted to not because the Church felt it was best, etc.

Andrew S said...

For me, I would never use Option 3 in response to an invitation to a court of love or whatever. I'd go to the church court and deal with it. If I decide to resign, then that would be independently decided.

I would not take my blog down. I mean, that's just...that option doesn't even make sense with what I am doing.

I kinda agree with DMI Dave that some of this is overblown (YES, I understand that people are getting excomm'd over certain things blogged, so I'm not ignorant of any relevant facts). I believe that some of the "overt" things that could excommunicate me, I'm not doing. If I got *any* kind of attention from the stake or ward and it led to disciplinary action, I'd be surprised, but then flattered. However, I just don't think people care. I'm not really doing bold stuff.

THAT BEING SAID, if I were invited, I'd go with an option 2 with the second bullet point. Not to say that I'd leave everything behind in a dramatic fashion...but in the sense...I already am functionally estranged from the institution. My point of contact is through the blogs, not the chapel. So, this wouldn't change.

Mormon Heretic said...

Interesting topic. I don't know how I'd react either, but I sure wouldn't like it.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Carol, I especially want to thank you for sharing such painful personal details. I'm very sorry about what happened to you and your husband and especially your friend and your daughter. I didn't quite understand why you and your husband were threatened with excommunication or that your husband had to stop giving blessings. What was the justification?

Carol Brown said...

FD, the stake president was furious that we had sent information documenting the abuse of our friend to the area president after the SP refused to acknowledge that our friend was being abused and told her she should remain in her abusive marriage.

After the area president contacted the SP, the Stake President felt threatened and told the AP that our friend was NOT being abused and that my husband, by giving our friend blessings (after she had been beaten), was contributing to the break-up of their marriage.

Hence, the AP believed the stake president's input (he was a close friend of the abuser), and asked my husband to not give anymore priesthood blessings to anyone.

Ironically, we moved to a new stake several years ago, and my ex-bishop husband was soon called to be a branch president of a retirement branch. He gave and has given hundreds of priesthood blessings there and elsewhere, and obviously our church records were not tagged so that he could not do so.

Carol Brown said...

The stake president of my friend stake, which neighbored ours, said that if we lived in his stake, he would have excommunicated us for subverting Church authority (because we had sent him and the area president a letter asking them to help our abused friend, documenting her abuse, and stating that she needed help.) Her husband turned all of her ward members, neighbors, and most of her friends against her, saying that she was "crazy" and that she had made up the abuse. This sounds like science fiction, I know, but it is true.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Did you and your husband ever receive an apology once the truth got out? Or do they still deny the abuse of your friend?

thefirestillburning said...

Carol:

It doesn't sound like science fiction. It's the normal inability to believe that a person you trust or idolize could be so different from what you believe him or her to be. It's why politicians, celebrities, or clergy can carry on abuse for years, and the victims never be believed.

Your experience is all too common, and is not confined to the LDS church, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

I expect I'd treat the situation as I treated Prop 8: I was very bitterly opposed to Prop 8 and disagreed entirely with the Church's stance (and actions). As a show of faith, I did not publicly or openly fight against Prop 8, although I did voice anonymous support and made a small donation.

In the hypothetical, if I had been called before a church court because someone heard that I disagreed with the church's teachings, I would say that I did not seek to publicly turn any members to my point of view. I'd even offer to stop my anonymous support. But I would not renounce my beliefs. If that led to excommunication, so be it.

I expect I'd feel similar about a blogging issue. (On a separate and serious note: I'm an avid video gamer, and I'm always afraid that someday they'll announce a ban on video games similar to a ban on R-Rated movies or double earrings in women. So I'll still be able to play them, but I'll become "that weird guy" pariah in the process. :) )

Urban Koda said...

Hey Anonymous, as a word of caution... Don't move to Clinton, UT! I live there up until 2 years ago. A ban on video games was instituted in my ward in 2006 and somehow a viscous rumor started that I supported it. I'm am avid Halo and Ghost Recon player at the time, and still am!

I found out, when I got called as the Executive Secretary, and after I was set apart, the Bishop told me that the call was a reward from God for my obedience to the video game commandment.

There are two instances in the past 5 years which drastically changed my opinion of the Church, and that was the first...

The Faithful Dissident said...

LOL, video games??? You've got to be kidding me. I'll have to let my brothers know about that one. :D

Urban Koda said...

Oh, and there is scriptural backing to that one too....

1 Corinthians 13:11

But that scripture only extends to things the leader in question feels are childish.

Anonymous said...

Don't know how video games are different than face cards. If you can get a bug up your butt about one you can get a bug up your butt about the other. And if you're choice is to be controlling I think it's inevitable that it will eventually get pretty silly.

a different anonymous

Carol Brown said...

FD, we never received an apology because the truth never was heard. Although my friend had doctor's reports showing that she had suffered physical abuse (she said the psychological abuse was worse), no one in the Church has listened to her. Her husband, a man whose violent behavior borders on sociopathic, continues to be a close friend of a prominent GA, and is a powerful man in the Church and in his community, where he is close friends with the mayor, city leaders, and the police chief. Consequently, my friend received NO help when she reported the incidents to the police.

I was stake RS president at the time and had been told that abuse SHOULD be reported to Church authorities. After this experience, I would be hesitant to do so. My friend experienced unspeakable abuse from Church authorities for reporting abuse by her now ex-husband.

My son-in-law in a prominent physician in Salt Lake. He was in college when I was trying to help my friend and observed some of her injuries as did my daughter, who is a nurse. He recently told me that he has a number of patients who are bishops/SP wives and who are being abused. A very active member of the Church, he said we need a hotline in the Church where victims of ecclestiastical abuse can call and where there cases can be investigated. I agree.

What I wish I had done differently: Taken pictures of my friend after she had been beaten; recorded and documented every incident in a journal; suggested that she visit more than one doctor, who could record the abuse; never sent a letter to an area authority.

Urban Koda said...

My little video game interlude seems rather inappropriate right now. My apologies. I hate hearing stories like this, because there are far too many of them out there.

There is a hot-line, but I think it may be reserved for ecclesiastical leaders. How it should work, is that a bishop (or Stake President) on hearing a report of abuse should immediately call. They are connected to someone in LDS Family Services and if it appears that the Church could face legal problems because of the incident or the LDSFS Rep is unsure, they are connected to an attorney immediately.

The Church is paranoid about bad press and cases such as this, and they follow them up rigorously.

The other option a person has, is to send a letter directly to the First Presidency. Which ends up in the same process and is investigated pretty thoroughly.

Of course in both cases you do run the risk of running afoul of corrupt leadership, but I would think if names were listed with specific offenses, they would be taken more seriously, and those people would be excluded from involvement in the investigation.

I don't think the LDS Church breeds abusive people, but I think the controlling nature of the hierarchy attracts those with power-hungry aspirations, and those usually tend to be abusive as well. I had a good friend who married an RM, and when it came out that her husband was beating her, his mother laughed it off and said... Oh that's just what Mormon boys do.

I can honestly say I've never even raised my voice to my wife, and I'm not generally violent, but if I ever found out that my sons were abusing their wives... There would be some serious damage done to them!

Carol Brown said...

There is a hotline but it is only reserved for Church leaders. If they are the abusers, a person has no recourse. My friend wrote a member of the First Presidency after exhausting all other options for help. She received no help; the information was sent back to her corrupt stake president, who abused her further for going above his authority.

Amazingly, she is still active and holds a current temple recommend. However, she has suffered horrifically because of the ecclesiastical abuse, and her children are very angry with her, because they believe she divorced a saintly man.

Anonymous said...

I think a more fundamental question revolves around why there is such a total taboo against frank, open discussion of complicated issues.

Die hard Mormons become angry even over legitimate problems, often defending anything that is faith-promoting, even if it is unverified, hearsay, or simply untrue.

Questioning is treated as heresy, instead of a commendable effort to sincerely engage with faith and be a full participant in spiritual progress.

I'm sick of the gestapo treatment I get from church leaders and family. I'm sick of having to hide my thoughts from the very people best equipped to help me explore them. If it weren't for the fact that I'd likely be disowned, I would have walked away a long time ago.

Urban Koda said...

I think ultimately it's because many testimonies of the Gospel are surrounded by fear.

People have 2 reactions when I speak to them about my personal beliefs. Either they acknowledge them and we have a very open and frank discussion about it, or they instantly become very defensive and start attacking me for heresy and apostasy.

I think deep down, the second group of people have doubts, but they're afraid that if they articulate them, that it will give them validity and ultimately end in apostasy. Add to that the fact that I think many fear condemnation from others for not being faithful.

Unfortunately a culture has developed where blind obedience is regarded as the ultimate form of devotion, and questioning as weakness. Ironically, it was the questioning of a young farm boy and seeking for truth that got this whole movement started...

zenochio said...

Urban, I soooo wish every LDS blog reader would read what you just wrote. So well put!

But of course, this topic has already become buried in the tossing waves of the Bloggernacle sea. Really too bad.

tyler said...

Man, I've just got to say: sometimes, I don't know what church y'all attend. I've lived in wards scattered across the U.S. (and, more briefly, Mexico and Argentina), from California to the East Coast and someplaces in between and have simply never seen anything resembling the "gestapo" treatment referred to here.

It is certainly true that different church leaders have a different degree of tolerance for different kinds of behavior, but my experience with well-intentioned and good-hearted church leaders--from local Bishops to members of the 12--leaves me agog and some of the accusations made here. It's not that I don't believe you, exactly, it's just that I feel like you are describing aliens I have never met. Most church leaders I have known, while certainly imperfect, are wonderful people, trying their very best to balance the needs of each individual against the safety of their flocks, all the while helping to shoulder the burdens of those who come to them seeking the help, not to mention the normal demands of family, spouses, and friends.

Robert said...

I wish the Church well, but I think their 1920 court system is going to hold up for another ten years.
Too many blogs,too much academic openness, too many outside questions, etc.

Urban Koda said...

Tyler, I don't think anyone here would disagree that there aren't excellent leaders out there in the greater body of the Church, and those mentioned here may well be more the exception than the rule, but...

I was a lot like you up until about 5 years ago. Since then I have held positions in the ecclesiastical portions of the Church, as well as an employee of the Church. There is a significant problem with abuse (sexual, physical and psychological) and priest craft which you get below the surface. I think there are a few reasons for this...

1 - Some bishops/stake presidents honestly believe that they can help someone with serious problems overcome them through the atonement. Sometimes they can, and sometimes they can't. I could tell you stories about the stuff they think they can fix and they don't that could make you skin crawl.

2 - There are also significant rewards for advancement in leadership, and not just ego and social rewards. The upper leadership get compensated obscenely well for their time. To rise up in those ranks, you need someone above you to pull you up with them and that requires loyalty. It's like an old boys club and they take excellent care of their own - hence the problems Carol Brown described.

3 - Due to various things... Sacredness of parts of the Church, Ecclesiastical privilege, etc. there is a great deal of secrecy in the Church. Much of what goes on that isn't faith promoting is hidden. It's what many of us struggle with when we find out. It unfortunately the nature of the beast.

In many ways I wish I hadn't found out what I have, and experienced the things that I have as well. I'm sure many of those here would agree, but that not being the case, we're left to try and make sense of it all and figure out where we stand.

There's the old saying that you can't judge a man until you have walked 2 miles in his moccasins - that applies more here than most other places.

I was part of an excellent ward in New Zealand some time ago. My wife and I have seriously considered emigrating back over there, just so we can raise our kids with a purer form of the gospel - right now we live in Utah, and I think our stake may indeed be Gestapo central - again, I could tell you stories all day long :-)

Anonymous said...

Tyler, we're not saying that many church leaders aren't doing a wonderful job. I believe my husband was an outstanding bishop and branch president. He was and is compassionate, honest, virtuous, and kind. I know many others leaders who are amazing for their dedication and service.

Unfortunately, in the SLC area, a number of bishops and stake presidents are serving who are abusing their wives and sometimes misusing their priesthood power in other ways. When they have close friends who are general authorities, they can do just about anything they want to do and no one is stopping them.

My deceased relative lived next door to a current apostle. In his calling as a branch president in a remote resort that he owned, he molested (seduced) a number of young women who were his employees and in his congregation. Some of them became pregnant and had children. One of these young women was my best friend (since lst grade.) She confessed to me what had happened to her after my relative's funeral.

She had a child when she was 20, confessed her "sin" to her bishop and was excommunicated for 2 years. When someone finally had the courage to report my relative's years of abuse, he was excommunicated for 9 months. Something is seriously wrong in the Utah.

We need an independent social service professional in the church to whom victims of ecclesiastical abuse can report. I believe if something is not done, our church may eventually have issues like the Catholic church has had. Right now there seems to be a tolerance when lay leadership are abusive in Utah, and those who report the abuse jeopardize their church membership. Just look at what happened to Lavina Fielding Anderson.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Do you all think this problem of ecclesiastical abuse is more of a problem in places like UT where there is such a high Mormon population and there are perhaps more "bands of brothers" behind the scenes who stick up for each other? My personal experience with leaders has been mostly positive in the sense that I think they were always sincere and tried their best to help people, even if they sometimes went about it the wrong way. We had one bishop who put a lot of pressure (you could say guilt) on my brother for not going on a mission. We didn't like how he did this, but we knew that his intentions were good. I can't imagine stuff like what some of you have described happening amongst the leaders where I have lived (I could be wrong, of course), but maybe it's harder to get away with when the Church is smaller and there are fewer brothers to "watch each other's backs." My personal issues with leaders has been more of a tendency to dismiss or repress questions and concerns due to controversial subjects. I remember as a teenager asking my bishop about the blacks and the priesthood and he told me to "forget about it." He was a great guy, but his advice didn't work for me. And more recently, I've been met with either silence, side-stepping, or discouragement about getting into these things. I know they meant well. They're not bad guys. But they just don't get it.

Carol Brown said...

I don't know since my church experience has been limited to Utah. I live in a stake right now where the leaders seem humble and caring. However, my son-in-law has many patients, as I mentioned, who are severely depressed because their SP/BP husbands are abusing them. If it is happening here, I wonder if it may be happening elsewhere. Abusers can be charming and appear spiritual. My friend's husband appears like a spiritual giant, but he uses pornography, has had affairs with several women, and can be vicious and cruel to her. His children think he is a saint. He's a great dad and neighbor, but a terrible husband BEHIND closed doors.

Several factors may contribute (but not justify) abusive behavior. Church leaders have extraordinary stress. They are working, often raising families, and then leading a ward. It is a demanding life, and a few may release their stress on their wives.

Another issue is that of power. D&C 121: 39-40 remind us that "it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence, many are called but few are chosen."

If both a BP and SP exercise unrighteous dominion, or if they are abusive, a member has no recourse. There is no hotline one can call and receive help. When a BP abuses his wife, the SP will often tell her she is either "imagining" it or that she should stay strong and support her husband.

Any wife who is being abused needs to report it to the police (unless, like my friend, her husband is friends with the police chief--they merely exacerbated the situation), report it to a physician, report it to a friend, keep records of it, AND LEAVE, get away to a women's shelter if necessary.

Madam Curie said...

I've never actually lived in Utah, but the "gestapo" treatment described here is alive and well at the STAKE level in our East Coast stake of Zion. However, it should probably be noted that most of the individuals in Stake leadership positions are still considered "Utah residents," despite 15+ years in the "mission field". They still drive cars with Utah plates, their driver's licenses are still registered in Utah, and they have their 6-generation Mormon pedigrees to be proud of. At the Stake level, things are always done the "Utah" way. The city wards that I have been a member of have always been an eyesore for the Stake, since things are done very differently there.

So, these are likely similar people to what one would see in a SLC area.

derekstaff said...

Haven't read the comments yet, so I'm sure I'll have more to say later. But in regards to the question of the Op, I would have to say my highest loyalty is to the Truth. I'm interested in pursuing Truth wherever it leads. If that leads away from the Church, either of my own volition or by compulsion from leaders, I'm fine with that. I'm sure it will cause friction with family, and that will be a challenge, but truth trumps everything else. Period. I would not retract any of my stated beliefs just because of Church or family pressure, only if my pursuit of Truth lead me to conclusions differing from my previous statements. I am not looking to be disciplined for what I've said, but I'm not afraid of it either. I suppose you might say I don't value my membership per se nearly as much as I value being true to myself and whatever light I've found.

thefirestillburning said...

It's not confined to your church, it's not confined to Utah, and it's not even confined to religion. Any source of power will generate the abuse, but when it comes from someone you were taught to be your protector, it is especially vile.

FireTag

Gay LDS Actor said...

I never worried over being excommunicated for anything I wrote in my blog. I believe what I believe and was willing to suffer the consequences.

Actually, although I was always honest with my leaders, it was really some stuff I wrote on Facebook that got the ball rolling towards a Church Disciplinary Council. It wasn't a big secret or anything, but admitting publicly on Facebook that I was gay and in a relationship (stuff I wrote, among many other things, in reponse to the Prop 8 debate) was what probably prompted the court (also, ironically, much of what I said on Facebook was also used by both my Stake President and a neighbor who witnessed on my behalf, to defend me and my devotion towards the LDS Church.

I don't regret anything. I valued my membership a lot, but I also knew I had to be true to myself. I was sad to know I was no longer a member of the Church, but at the same time, I do not feel my life has changed too drastically, and I still attend church. I know I'm happy in my relationship with my husband and in my relationship with God, so although I miss being a member of the LDS Church, I have no regrets.

Urban Koda said...

I don't think you failed to express that, sometimes it just helps to see or hear something from a different perspective - the whole "In the mouth of two or three witnesses..." thing ;-)

The justification I've heard for bow vs. rifle hunting is more to do with the skill involved. Bow hunters have to generally get a lot closer to the animal, requiring greater tracking and stealth type skills. They claim it gives the animal more of a chance.

Still doesn't make it right though. And allowing the animal to suffer is inexcusable.

Urban Koda said...

Oooops! Nevermind, this comment should have gone to the Priciple vs. Profit thread - thanks FD!!

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