Sunday, February 8, 2009

Better Safe Than Sorry

I’ve noticed lately many in the bloggernacle referencing the Word of Wisdom when it states “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints” (D&C 89:3) This has been attributed to many issues which are brought up when there is no other answer. Why take off my earrings? Well, maybe because the weakest of the saints need to learn how to be obedient. If they follow the little things they will be more apt to follow the bigger things. In essence many are saying we must follow every Pharisaical guideline because it's the safest way to ensure we don't do something wrong.

Apparently we cannot be trusted. Better safe than sorry.

Here's the thing: I may be a child of God, but I'm not a child. I'm not someone to be coddled or mistrusted as a human with uncontrollable urges, one who needs to be placed in a padded room to be kept safe from all evil at all costs. We would never do this to our own children. We allow them to learn for themselves. I'll teach them my ways and they'll give or take and I am to accept that because they are individual people. I am to trust in my ability to teach them and in their ability to discern and govern themselves when they become of age.

When it comes to Church, though, we are far too often saved from ourselves, spared the horrors of sin. The problem is that a person loses all ability to trust in themselves and in essence, their agency. Let the Church tell me what to do because I don't know if I should.

No? That’s not how it goes? I might have an Apostle publicly shame me for refusing to remove an earring, but the Church won't tell me what to do? I am not able to choose for myself when it's drink a cup of coffee or be "worthy" for the temple - for most, that's an easy decision. It shouldn't have to be a decision, though. I don't see how the crime fits the punishment anymore.

Just as we allow others, I want to be allowed to worship when, where, and how I may. I want to be able, even encouraged, to doubt and question and debate. If we are not to criticize our leaders, I would hope they would refrain from criticizing me for the very same reasons. If our leaders are fallible, then I shouldn't be encouraged to revere them as if they were because they're not, even when they're behind the pulpit.

Are we not to criticize Elder Mark E. Petersen for his abhorrently racist comments? We reject them now, but what of then? President Kimball for his ridiculous claim that masturbation leads to homosexuality? How about a good bishop who tells a tearful sister that leaving her abusive husband will only result in her being responsible for every bad thing that should befall her children?

Or are we supposed to remain quiet and faithfully bow our heads and say yes? Many do. Better safe than sorry.

Elder Ballard argues that "Discussions focused on questioning, debating, and doubting gospel principles do little to build the kingdom of God" and continues to say that to do so is to show shame in the gospel. Again, and I know there's an overarching theme here through many of my entries, but we should not be so damned concerned with the Church as we should be with the individual! Not every question is rooted in a dark desire to disrupt the Kingdom. I'd say most if not all aren't.

It takes an unbelievable amount of courage to question. Un-be-lievable, and yet we are so quick to shut a person down before they even start because to do so is seen as aggressive. So what does one do when they find the courage to question and discover the insufficient answers? I feel this shouldn't be about "The" church or any church, but about our individual selves and our personal relationship with God. Guidance is fine. Teach me the principles and allow me to govern myself, but for heaven's sake let me govern myself!

We're famous for saying we have agency, but where is the choice? Heaven or hell. The Church or hell-bound Apostasy. A social network or spiritual and emotional exile. You pick. Stay in the ship or jump overboard and drown as Brigham Young alluded. It is tantamount to an ultimatum. I'll theorize most who jump decide their own brand of agnosticism is the only realistic and comfortable alternative and go on to lead successful and happy lives.

While a person may not fit in a congregation or feel at home in a religion, they do fit in with God somewhere, somehow. I trust in that more than I trust in those who may mean well but can't see beyond their fear enough to actually have faith in God and allow me the same. The problem with our church as I see it is that we're not given this. It's all or nothing. Some try to find or forge a middle road but I don't see how it can be done. The road is too narrow for a middle road. It's all or nothing. Black or white. Others have tried to argue otherwise, but I just cannot see it. We preach His way or the highway.

Before you joined this Church you stood on neutral ground. When the gospel was preached good and evil were set before you. You could choose either or neither. There were two opposite masters inviting you to serve them. When you joined this Church you enlisted to serve God. When you did that you left the neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it. Should you forsake the Master you enlisted to serve it will be by the instigation of the evil one, and you will follow his dictation and be his servant.

- Joseph Smith

The Church wrongly places dissent on the same stage as contention and betrayal when contention is bred when dissent is silenced or casually dismissed with quick and easy answers to complicated questions and concerns. Every question one asks of their leader too often comes with an answer rooted in just a sliver of truth. This is enough to make a person second-guess themselves. That's the hook, and if we don't know any better, we're loathe to stay in the ship because we're told we can't swim, that nobody can in the worldly waters infested with ideals ready to eat us alive. Stay in where it's safe, where we'll be saved. Better safe than sorry.

I can't buy that. Not anymore.


Steve M. said...

If Mormonism is in fact destined to become a world religion, at some point the Church and its members will have to come to terms with dissent among the ranks. It's simply untenable to insist that each member fit a specific, exhaustively dictated mold. Imagine if the Catholic Church tried to do it. It just wouldn't work. In fact, it doesn't work. No matter how often the Pope preaches against birth control, most Catholics are going to use it. Once you achieve a certain size, the central authority's capacity to micromanage members' lifestyles significantly diminishes.

This may be happening slowly in American Mormonism. The trend is already quite pronounced among non-American Mormons (except for Canadians in Alberta).

Soxy Pirate said...

I believe that I have been exposed to an entirely different branch of Mormonism than the one you mention here, because I'm almost completely unfamiliar with the caricature of Mormon-kind you've described.

I think you should come here to Eastern North Carolina where the Church is true;)

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

Unfortunately, it's not even close to a caricature. It's reality for far too many (though obviously not all), and I don't think that it matters where you live. I've seen it everywhere I've lived, Utah, Canada, Germany, Wisconsin.

There are people who don't believe everything that any general authority says or preaches, but if you don't, you're being a bad Mormon, at least from the standpoint of the general authority.

Soxy Pirate said...

Well, I've been fortunate enough to personally know and meet leaders up to the very top of Church leadership. I've sat 3 feet across from President Hinckley in the Celestial room of the Temple. I've had many general authorities sleep in my house, dine with my family, or join us for a boat trip.

The Mormonism you speak of is a caricature created in your mind. My Mormonism is one in which I choose to act, not to be acted upon. When someone in the Church (or out, for that matter) asks me to do something I don't believe in or that I'm not comfortable with I say no and I carry on with my life.

I suppose I could use those experiences as opportunities to be bitter and make wildly irresponsible extrapolations about Mormonism in general, but I leave that to my closed-minded conservative friends who are unable to differentiate between what "is" and what "ought to be".

I choose not to be the flip side of that coin.

Lisa said...

Steve: Interesting you said that because I had edited out a part of the entry where I discuss how the Church has grown a bit too big for its britches.

It asks its members to blog in an effort to demystify and correct "erroneous reports" regarding its doctrine and whatnot. There's just too much going on for the leaders to keep up with. The problem as I see is that the members often don't know what the Church teaches anymore - doctrine has fused with culture in many instances. I'd even go so far as to suggest some of the leaders don't know what we teach. We're too busy backpeddling and making excuses to the point where we wonder what we used to teach versus what is taught today.

What is it, anyway? And how can I trust in today's revelation when it changes from generation to generation? Especially if it just hits my gut as undeniably wrong and discriminatory - some leaders would have me in a disciplinary counsel for this blog. Others wouldn't. Which is it, then, you know?

Soxy: I've heard the same said about the Church in Philedelphia. Unfortunately it is very much as I describe it where I live -and as I've found, very much this way to far too many members.

It's what I'm taught. It's what I've been taught for the almost ten years I've been a member. It's how I read the talks, interpret the doctrine as it is written and preached over the pulpit. It is my experience, an experience that hasn't changed the entire time I've been around. When I have tried to dissent in opinion, I'm met with shocked faces and challenges to pray to know if President Monson is the "true Prophet."

I would love to have this religion be one in which I act upon it rather than the other way around, but I'm afraid it won't allow that. It has its standards and I must meet them or be accused of having little or no faith...which, if it's put like that, is exactly the case. I just don't think it should be.

You'd think it'd all be different here in liberal California, but alas...

Unfortunately we cannot all move to the East coast ;)

Soxy Pirate said...

I know this is probably neither the time nor place for such a response, but I want to share a scripture and a story with you that my father has often had to share with me during my times of uneasiness with Mormon culture.

In Moroni Chapter 9, Mormon writes to his son Moroni lamenting the awful state of the Nephites as well as the Lamanites who seek to destroy them. At that time, Moroni and his dad were pretty much the only "active members" on the planet, at least in their world. Mormon was worried that the Lamanites would wipe them off the map because they would not repent and were angry with one another (v. 3).

He says:
4 Behold, I am laboring with them (the Nephites) continually; and when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them.
5 For so exceedingly do they anger that it seemeth me that they have no fear of death; and they have lost their love, one towards another; and they thirst after blood and revenge continually.

Needless to say, it was not an easy time to be a follower of Christ.

However, verse 6 reveals the wise Prophet's gentle admonition to his son, who would soon be left to wander the dreary world all alone:

6 And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.

The "they" he's talking about when he says "their hardness" are the MEMBERS! Mormon's council to his son was essentially, "don't let them (the Members!) get you down, they're not why you're here anyway."

This is what I meant when I said that my Mormonism is one where I choose to act rather than to be acted upon.

So my suggestion to you is that when those glaring, judgmental eyes fall upon you and you are ridiculed for your dissent, remember that you're not there for them anyway.

At the risk of ruining a possible heart-touching moment, let me add that it sounds like you need a healthy dose of "who the f**k gives a f**k!" That's essentially the philosophy I'm talking about when I say When someone in the Church (or out, for that matter) asks me to do something I don't believe in or that I'm not comfortable with I say no and I carry on with my life.

I know what I'm supposed to do and who I'm supposed to follow. I welcome suggestions made in the right spirit and I know that I'm imperfect and that I'll likely change my mind about many things, even "church" things in the future. In the meantime, if other members want to help me on my journey then God bless them. If not, who the f**k gives a f**k? At the end of the day, I can't let their hard(headed)ness keep me from doing what I know is right.

If you've ever seen the classic "Office Space" you may recall when the unfortunately named "Michael Bolton" discussed his woeful situation with his co-worker Samir. Samir tells him that there's nothing wrong with his name, to which Bolton replies "there was nothing wrong with it... until I was about 12 years old and that no-talent ass clown became famous and started winning Grammys."

Samir suggests that Michael start going by the name "Mike." Bolton angrily replies:

"No way. Why should I change? He's the one who sucks."

I don't know you and I may have the completely wrong idea about you, but when I read posts like this it saddens me because it sounds like you've decided to change your name...when they're (the members or leaders you mentioned) the ones who suck.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...


If that's been your experience, then fine, but please don't say that mine, or Lisa's (or many, many, MANY) other people's experience in Mormonism is a caricature just because it's been a partly or mostly negative one.

Really, it doesn't matter how many church leaders you've had a boat-ride with, local Mormonism is such that open dissent is very often (probably even most often) met with the kinds of reactions Lisa has aptly described. Certainly there are many Mormons who have a variety of different beliefs, some of them even liberal ones, but if you openly criticise, state a difference of opinion, question or doubt, you're called "apostate", "faithless", "worldly", etc. Rarely is there ever an effort made by anyone to actually address concerns - the church is almost entirely top-down, it is for members to obey, not to question.

That is what the majority of people experience in Mormonism. You, I'm afraid, are the exception. That doesn't make your experience invalid, but I fear you're not really seeing all of Mormonism in a realistic way.

Soxy Pirate said...

If that's been your experience, then fine, but please don't say that mine, or Lisa's (or many, many, MANY) other people's experience in Mormonism is a caricature just because it's been a partly or mostly negative one.

I'm not saying that anyone's experience is a caricature, I'm saying that the broad, sloppy generalization based on an experience (positive or negative) is a caricature.

local Mormonism is such that open dissent is very often (probably even most often) met with the kinds of reactions Lisa has aptly described.

I agree. But who gives a shit? The same reactions may be anticipated in the workplace, at school, at home, or anywhere else. My point was that if we choose to act rather than to be acted upon we'll be able to move past this, rather than becoming the victim.

but if you openly criticise, state a difference of opinion, question or doubt, you're called "apostate", "faithless", "worldly", etc.

But neither you nor I believe that you are actually apostate or faithless simply because of criticisms or doubt (in many cases). I mean, if you come out and say Thomas Monson is a fallen prophet and that fornication is fine, you'll have problems. But if you want to argue with your Sunday school teacher over the actual physical location of the Hill Cummorah from the Book of Moroni, who cares? They may call you a heretic, but I've been called no less for simply voting for Barack Obama. I can still answer all of my temple recommend interview questions appropriately whether I believe in pre-Adamites or not.

Rarely is there ever an effort made by anyone to actually address concerns - the church is almost entirely top-down, it is for members to obey, not to question.

To question what? I asked the Priesthood lesson teacher today why sealing keys had to be restored for baptisms for the dead, and nobody ran me out of church. But as a more general rule of thumb, if council or teachings come down that I don't agree with, I just don't follow. I can see how there would be problems if I decided to mount a movement against it, but I'm at complete liberty to personally follow or not follow anything I please.

Much of the "dissent" problems come when we try to persuade others that our dissent is the way it should be. You're free to obey or not to obey, and in many cases (like with earrings, or long hair, or a beard, or drinking coke) you can maintain a good standing in the church, albeit with a predictable evil glare from church members. But when you start a crusade to convert others, who are just as free as you to obey or not, to listen to your interpretation of said council, yeah...that doesn't work ANYWHERE...not just Church.

That is what the majority of people experience in Mormonism. You, I'm afraid, are the exception.

Based on...???

Yeah. No.

I'm sorry you had a shitty experience. I'm sure you've since sought the comfort of others who've had shitty experiences. Your anecdotes do not amount to data sufficient to make such a statement.

Soxy Pirate said...

You'd think it'd all be different here in liberal California, but alas...

Unfortunately we cannot all move to the East coast ;)

The Church is true:

Abroad > on the East Coast > in "Middle America" > on the West Coast > In Utah, Arizona, and Idaho.

No, I changed my mind, the Church isn't even true in Idaho. ;)

Soxy Pirate said...

Oh! And I almost forgot...

last and certainly least:

>>>>>>>> at BYU.

the narrator said...

I think something that many (including leaders) fail to realize that what it is not principles of the gospel that are being critiqued and questioned, but rather what is being asked and critiques is whether or not a particular thing is in fact a principle of the gospel.

Soxy Pirate said...

LMFAO!!! I read the comment above 15 times and I still don't think I understand it (it's me, not you)!!!

It is way to late on the East Coast for this. ;)

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

Soxy, actually, according to your own stated criteria, I am an apostate, (not to mention atheist). I don't think that Mr. Monson is any sort of prophet, fallen or otherwise, and "fornication", i.e., sex is something I think is completely ok, any way you want to do it.

I guess what you may not be understanding is that we're talking about the problems in the culture/doctrine (to me it's the same thing) that produce an environment where dissent is actively discouraged. Yes, you may technically be free to have different beliefs, but when you express them, even without the intention of convincing anyone else, a person is treated contemptuously by the other members as well as the leadership. That is the problem. I don't think anyone's saying that you can't pick and choose what doctrines and beliefs you want to hold, but that in the culture, you don't have true freedom of expression. It's not a healthy society that can't not only stand, but accept and welcome criticism and doubt.

Lisa, I have a question for you. Since Prop 8, have there been a noticeable difference in the way dissent is being handled? Is it better or worse for those (like you) who disagree with the church on certain issues?

Soxy Pirate said...

I guess what you may not be understanding is that we're talking about the problems in the culture/doctrine (to me it's the same thing) that produce an environment where dissent is actively discouraged.

Well if you're idea of dissent is saying there is no God, there is no Prophet, and fornication is okay, then I agree that it should be "actively discouraged."

At the same time, I can see no reason why someone who believes such things would actually care whether or not their views are accepted in a community based on principles so antithetical to their own.

we're talking about the problems in the culture/doctrine (to me it's the same thing)

But it's not.

My conservative friends think it is, which is why they view me as a heretic. You're simply the opposite side of that coin, and you're both wrong.

Steve M. said...

I think you should come here to Eastern North Carolina where the Church is true;)

Abroad > on the East Coast > in "Middle America" > on the West Coast > In Utah, Arizona, and Idaho.

I concur that the Church is substantially "truer" in North Carolina than in Utah.

In my own experience, the Church has been its "truest"--i.e., in my definition, at its best--in the tiny branch of Mainland Chinese members in which I spent most of my mission. Everyone was a new member, so it's not like there was this well-established "Mormon way" of doing things (despite the missionaries' attempts to transplant one from Utah). You could pretty much say or believe whatever you wanted; members were more concerned with maintaining a strong community than with enforcing any type of orthodoxy/orthopraxy.

Steve M. said...

I'm not going to try to dive into the thick of this conversation, but I do think it's important to point out that it's not illegitimate for a religious organization to expect some degree of uniformity in belief and practice of its members. What defines a religious community, if not commonality of religious belief? So I don't think it's unreasonable for a church to, say, discourage its people from disbelieving in God.

However, in my own experience (limited and anecdotal as it is), it has seemed that Mormonism often falls too far on the authoritarian side. There is a very real social pressure to conform, and a very real ostracism that often results from dissent, and these trends are reinforced from time to time by General Authority pronouncements and the Church's institutional structure. This should not be underappreciated.

But I think solution may have something to do with more members adopting Soxy's attitude.

Culture is a powerful force, but it's not static. Especially as the Church continues to expand and become more diverse, diversity of both thought and practice will inevitably become more the norm than the exception.

Lisa said...

Wow, a girl goes to sleep for just one night... :) I just woke up, so please consider that if anything I say is a bit "off"

Soxy: I like to think I could say "Screw you guys" to the other members and just move on with my life as a strong member. I'd love to think I could just believe what I want to believe, accept what I accept, and still belong but that's not really how it works.

I don't believe in the Word of Wisdom in its entirety. We're absolutely unable at the moment to pay tithing. Therefore, I'm totally unable to attend the temple. Nevermind that my voting no on 8 may or may not also play a part with my bishop.

Now, attending the temple could completely be a personal decision, but we have to remember my husband still has family yet to marry who may or may not marry in the next year to five years. "Sorry, we can't attend."

I've already experienced the reactions to lesser statements; I really don't look forward to the reaction to that particular one.

My experiences have been shared by many. I've heard very little people share the experience you, Katie, and Natalie give. Much as I covet that, I just haven't experienced it. Not yet. I can only discuss what I've experienced (and I know you know that).

and uh, hahahaha from what I'm told I'm not so sure the Church would be very true in Utah :D

Narrator: Yeah I'm not sure I get that either O_o? Then again I just woke up. Clarification, please?

Okay, so [kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said: Yes, you may technically be free to have different beliefs, but when you express them, even without the intention of convincing anyone else, a person is treated contemptuously by the other members as well as the leadership.

That's what shocked the absolute hell out of me this past summer. If one does go out to convince others (and the argument could certainly be made I have regarding issues such as Prop 8), then there is grounds for excommunication. When I state things such as I don't necessarily believe homosexuals engaging in sex is sinful, I'm asking for disfellowship at the very least.

It's because such doctrine is seen as absolutely fundamental to the Church. I just don't see it that way. I also reject patriarchy, the man being "at the head" of the family alone, something else the Church declares as totally true.

So why would I want to stay if the church feels contrary to myself in fundamental ways? Maybe I do want to stay, and a part of me does. To leave means a loss of the social network/support. I'd be on my own spiritually. I cannot see myself attending another church - been there, done that, don't care to go back.

I really don't feel as if I'm rejecting the Church so much as the Church is rejecting me, something many others have felt as well. I'd like my kids to have somewhat of a spiritual foundation - though I'll admit more and more I don't want my daughter growing up in the Young Women program.

I also struggled for a while with the ideas presented in the upcoming RS/PH lesson on apostasy. Helloooo guilt trip. Satan follower! Judas! If you leave you'll drown! They will hate you more than they hate us!

I mean, c'mon. If I'm not being looked at like I'm growing horns atop my head, I'm hearing official lessons like that in Relief Society, ideas which will only be supported by most if not all sisters in my ward. Ouch.

I mean, on the one hand I have my bishop who is being very good with me right now. He's giving me space. He's a good man. He is also apt to give me standard Sunday School answers (you know, "pray" "get a testimony" "study" - but I've kinda been doing that for years now)

(does that help answer your question, Craig?)

Steve: Haha, my husband has said the same about branches anywhere, that they're much better than most wards.

As for your last comment, I do agree. I do think some who don't believe in God need some sort of spiritual place to gather and be. The Unitarian church offers this for many, but...

The culture is both what repels and hooks its members in. I think you're familiar with the NOM as you referred me to them, but they're the ones who encapsulate this idea. They don't necessarily believe anymore, but they still stay because of family. They will do whatever they do to still attend the temple for their family.

I don't know. There's still a lot to think about.

Katie said...

If one has never experienced the Mormon church as a Christ-centered, non-judgemental, all-are-welcome church, then its really hard to hear things from folks like myself, Soxy, Natalie and know that we aren't actually talking about some branch of Mormonism that only exists in this outer universe known as "the East". :-) From experience, I know that there is a world of difference between the BYU wards and the Philadelphia ones. There is also a world of difference between Philly wards comprised of entirely Utah transplants and those comprised of primarily converts. That said, its hard to envision that the church can be this loving, Gospel-centered, faith-promoting community when all you have been exposed to is minutae. Similarly, I have to imagine that if you were not brought to the Mormon church in an accepting environment such as I (and Soxy and others) have described, its hard to have that "rock of faith" that would anchor someone to the Mormon church when things get tough and questions arise. In other words, its hard to say "f**k off" when you aren't really that strong in your testimony to begin with.

When you come to the bare-bones of our faith, we are talking about the Gospel, which is faith, repentence, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Everything else we know is tangential to these. You add to that the Reformation, and you have Mormonism. Unfortunately, while many, many, many religions may pretty much let folks come and go as they please, there is a real tendency among some (but certainly not all) Mormon wards to "chop dissention at the roots." Some wards, particularly where there are alot of non-Caucasian, non-West, adult converts, allow a certain amount of dissention because conformity is literally impossible and you want to try to help people build their faith, not tear it down. In other wards where people feel they have the fundementals of the Gospel down, we start focusing instead on these little, less-important, and totally not-salvation-necessary teachings like earrings and beards and (my soap box) women working outside the home.

Steve M. said...

The culture is both what repels and hooks its members in. I think you're familiar with the NOM as you referred me to them, but they're the ones who encapsulate this idea. They don't necessarily believe anymore, but they still stay because of family. They will do whatever they do to still attend the temple for their family.

I don't think a church should kick someone out because of nonconformity with a specific set of beliefs, at least so long as that person is not a nuisance to others. There are many reasons (aside from commonality of belief) why someone might wish to participate in a religious community, and I am of the mind that a church should not be hostile to those people who embrace unorthodox beliefs (or who simply don't believe at all) but nonetheless desire to participate, and do so in a respectful and nondisruptive manner.

However, is a church justified in encouraging its members to adopt certain beliefs (e.g., that there is a God)? Absolutely. As I said, that seems to be the core (if not the only) purpose of maintaining a religious organization. And for what it's worth, I also don't think it's illegitimate for a church to condition participation in certain rites (e.g., temple ordinances) on whether someone embraces certain beliefs and/or abides by certain behavioral standards.

However, it's a balancing act. As I mentioned in my last comment, I think that Mormonism often comes out too heavy on the authoritarian side. It could benefit from a little less emphasis on conformity, in my opinion.

Boquinha said...

I'm a recent stalker on here--love your blog (but shhhh, don't tell the readers on my blog, k?). I'm still a bit reserved about my, um, concerns. I'm getting there but not quite yet.

ANYWAY. Great, thought-provoking post. I have so many opinions on this but for now I thought you'd get a kick out of these links (they're from a woman's blog I follow online)--read them in order to fully appreciate the 2nd one. Offbeat but very, VERY cool (especially the 1st one). SO different than our Mormon norm:

Christmas Giving
Tithing Rap

shannon j said...

It sounds like you are dealing with a lot of the same issues that I am too. I wish I could just say “screw you all” like Soxy was saying but the truth is, I can’t. I have two families that are strong, committed members of the church. I feel like I would loose some sense of unity if I totally told them about all of my beliefs.

A couple weeks ago I posted a segment of the church’s “Brand New Year” presentation hoping to poke a little fun at the cheesiness of it. One of my blog readers just couldn’t believe I would even question if this was the right thing to do because of course the church leaders know exactly what the youth would like and need when planning events such as this. I’m not here to argue about that specific program but that is just one small example of how hard it is so speak up about ideas that differ from the church leaders.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that all I need to do is live my life the best I can. Try to be the best person I can be. Treat others kindly and with respect. Serve others. Live a life with purpose, etc. So now I’m going to focus on that, not on trying to be the “perfect” little Mormon.

Boquinha said...

Argh. Wrong great post. Sorry . . . reposting on the tithing post. Ugh.

Soxy Pirate said...

Because several people have mysteriously referenced it, I'd like to point out that I never said that the attitude should be "screw you guys."

"Who cares" or "who the f gives a f" is not exactly the same. In fact, saying "screw you" (literally or not) is what I try to avoid when I ask myself "who gives a s***."

The whole "who cares" philosophy means that I'm so unaffected by their opinions that I forget about it and move on.

The "screw you" philosophy undermines that, I believe.

Tom Rod said...


At the risk of sound patronizing, I wanted to respond to your post.

It's fine to feel that way. It is! We all need to go through a period where we explore our independence, our freedom, and where our personal limits lie.

That being said, and in relation to your comment of being a child of God but not a child, it is up to us whether this period is something akin to a spiritual terrible twos or the terrible teens.

Why do the prophets, apostles, general authorities, and area authorities preach obedience? Well, we know its the first law of heaven, and all blessings (read: salvation, not that promotion or good health) come by obedience.

What are we to obey? The commandments. Where do the commandments come from? Christ, the executor of the Father. Why do they come from Christ? Because He knows how we can receive salvation, both spiritual and temporal, and gives guidance to the leadership of the church (prophets, mothers, fathers, etc.). He spoke of the way to salvation, to the kingdom of God, as being a strait and narrow way. That sounds hard to us now. But in His time, a road that was straight and narrow was safer from brigands and inclement weather than broader, winding roads where thieves could lie in wait around a corner. Hence you have the allusion to obedience--the path Christ would have us follow is obedience to the commandments (and to the promptings of the Holy Ghost) which is essentially a roadmap. Any other path we take will are broad, and dangerous.

Thus you have the philosophy of obedience.

The things you feel can either belittle or benoble you. Rebelliousness can be a good thing when positive change is incurred. But the change must be true--Lucifer advocated a good thing, surely to our view, in the premortal existence for 1/3 of God's children to follow after it.

All this being said, remember the Church is the hospital for sinners, not the sanctuary for saints (as we often consider ourselves). Are we going to be poisoned spiritually forever because we drink a Nestea, or smoke one joint, or don't pay tithing one week? Of course not.

Then why are we given commandments? D&C 20:7 says something interesting about commandments: they are given to inspire us. Neal A. Maxwell pointed out that inspire comes from the Latin roots of "the Spirit inside."

I remember teaching people on my mission who felt they worshipped better at home because it was quieter than the ward full of tons of little children. And well they may, but they cannot partake of the sacrament by proper priesthood authority at home unless the holder of those keys (the local bishop) delegate priesthood holders to bring the sacrament to them. I also remember a man who, despite losing a foot three decades before, crutched his way to Church every Sunday morning by getting up at the break of dawn, crossing 3 mountains and multiple streams, just to be there to partake of the sacrament. He was too poor to afford any other transportation.

Who will God judge to be more righteous? It's not my place to even consider it--I don't know their hearts and love both of them equally. The man who walked could surely have the missionaries or home teachers bring the sacrament to him (the branch president was more that willing to allow this). The people who choose to worship at home are sweet, kind people. But the way their lives are lived--one happy, the other bitter, gave a striking enough example for me to choose to emulate the man who walked.

Something that keeps me going when I have my periods of dissent is the thought from Brigham Young where he discusses that he prays every day not to apostatize. If he could continue after the beratings Joseph gave him, after the difficulties of planning the logistics to cross the plains, after losing everything multiple times, then I know I finish my day.

Feel the way you feel, but understand that Soxy is right when she speaks of this feeling being a caricature of the Church.

Steve M. said...

Tom Rod,

With all due respect (and I mean that), I don't think you really appreciate what dissent is.

It's not the same as rebellion. Nor is it a simply a phase or period, akin to the "terrible twos" or "terrible teens."

As I recently clarified on my own blog, dissent for dissent's sake isn't meaningful. In my mind, that's more akin to teenage rebellion. But when someone, through careful study and thought, comes to a conclusion that differs from that promulgated by authorities, he or she should be entitled to that opinion. The pressure to conform should not trump freedom of conscience.

Tom Rod said...

Steve M

In those terms, that's fine too. If dissent is simply disagreement in light of missing or incomplete information (my mother likes to claim that we'll all learn more about things we disagree on in the next life) then no harm and no foul. At rebelliousness heart is dissent, however, and if one goes about teaching and claiming authority where there is none to teach their opinion, we are little better than the sectarians in the days of the restoration.

Thus, the only issue with dissent comes when one teaches or publicly supports the opinion against the authorities of the Church. Depending on the severity of the case, disfellowshipment or excommunication can become an expected outcome. Christ counseled the apostles/disciples in the sermon on the mount (surprise, surprise, not the general public) that if the left hand offend thee, cut if off, and similarly plucking out an eye. This wasn't in reference to an actual body, but in teaching the future authorities of the Church (Thomas Wayment is my source for that tidbit of fun information).

And in terms of information being posted on your blog: that's great. Not sure I ever read it before. Whats the address?

Soxy Pirate said...

Tom Rod,
To add to your thoughts, in 3 Nephi 11 after Christ teaches "his doctrine" he also gives the following warning:

39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

It seems clear to me that what Christ is saying is not that we're not allowed to disagree, or even that we're not allowed to have our own opinions (even opinions which contradict "doctrine") and share them with others. No, the only real problem comes when we teach that which contradicts accepted and revealed doctrine AND proclaim it to be doctrine that should be accepted by all.

Oh, and I'm a "he," by the way.

Tom Rod said...


My apologies! I noticed that after I posted my last comment.


Katie said...

Yay, I'm not the only one to incorrectly assume Soxy's gender!

I apologize for miquoting you as saying "f**k you" when you essentially said "who cares," Soxy. My basic premise still stands, though. If you have never been exposed to a "Mormonism" where innocent and healthy questioning is encouraged and not viewed as hostile and "dissenting," its really hard to say "who cares?". In fact, when any and all questioning is viewed as apostacy, its impossible to get answers to your concerns. I've been in a few wards like that, and its a scary place to be.

I guess my question is, which is the "real" Mormon church? The one folks like Lisa have seen and that exist in the Mountainwest USA Book of Mormon belt? Or the one that folks like myself, Natalie, and Soxy have been exposed to? Because clearly both "versions" exist, and it is incorrect to suggest otherwise.

Tom Rod said...


Though counterexamples exist, I believe it exists more in the mind of the individual than in the ward as a whole.

That being said, it really is scary when a person can't discuss what they dissent from. This being said, all parties involved need to be humble (read: teachable) for any progress to be made, regardless of the situation.

Katie said...

Tom: I think its all in how you define "ward". When a ward is comprised of largely outspoken individuals who blab on in talks about earrings or any other number of small matters, I think this is very different from wards in which talks and speakers focus on salvation-necessary principles. I have been in both environments, and there is a night-and-day difference between wards at BYU and those in Philly.

That said, of course an individual's own perceptions/understandings of the Gospel are going to affect whether or not they perceive a ward as "hostile"; some people have thicker skins than others. But I do think the degree of judging your neighbors that exists among ward members, or at least the bar that is set for "righteousness," differs in different areas of the world. And I do think how much this varies is proportional to the number of new converts are in the ward. People don't typically bother with whether or not a new convert is wearing two pairs of earrings when said convert is still grappling with issues like the Trinity and transubstantiation. Not that the teachings are different, but the focus certainly is.

Tom Rod said...


Too much analysis. Come to North Texas--its way laid back here!

And why are so many people concerned over the two-earrings discussion? That's pretty straightforward. What gets real juicy is when we delve into whether Dr. Pepper is against the Word of Wisdom, for if it is, man oh man I'm not temple-worthy!


Katie said...

Poor Lisa - it always comes back to trying to get her to move :P

Soxy Pirate said...

You bring up an interesting point with you "threadjack"...

There are those of us who can see the humor in the debate over Dr. Pepper, and then there are those who get their panties all in a wad because someone gave them an evil glare when they were seen downing a Dr. Pepper.

They go on ranting and raving about their rights to free thinking and how the church is here to bring us to Jesus and not to tell us what to drink. They begin to look for other examples of the heavy-handedness of the church, and there are many, which are equally as cumbersome to our agency.

Ball rolling, slippery slope, we're all in hell, goodnight. ;)

Honestly people, who cares?

Katie said...

Soxy - I think mostly it comes down to an issue of judging one another. Really, who am I to say whether someone else should drink/smoke/swear/whatever, its not me, I'm not them, and we have different trials/temptations/personal revelations. Its one thing when the questioner has the other's eternal salvation in mind, but more often when people ask these sorts of questions there are just being nosy or wanting a debate.

Your friendly neighborhood Mormon is not your judge in Israel. Your bishop is. Likewise, I am not my neighbor's judge either. End of story.

Soxy Pirate said...


I agree, but out of curiosity, did you think I wouldn't?

The tone seemed like a rebuke, and I'm not exactly sure what I said to merit one:)


Katie said...

Sorry, not a rebuke, merely commentary. Tone doesn't always come across well in type.

Soxy Pirate said...


Lisa said...

Sitting back and reading. Not much to add today. :)

Soxy Pirate said...

We're blowing up your inbox today;)

Katie said...

So much fun to have a virtual conversation. Thanks for setting up this party,

Tom Rod said...


The biggest problem comes into play when authoritativeness is applied without love or commitment to progression of the individual (yes, this is an intentionally nebulous statement). This is a common form of unrighteous dominion whether from a leader or a neighbor (can neighbors have dominion? Sure--think the damage middle school cliques can cause, or that mom who used MySpace to get a neighbor's girl to kill herself).

We know this isn't a new phenomenon--an apostle was excommunicated over spilled milk at one point (Thomas B. Marsh). Was this the right decision? Probably at the time. But we look back now and view it as abnormally harsh for an apostle to get excommunicated for supporting his wife (incidentally, I don't have all the details on this matter. So I leave the debate on that in more qualified hands).

So, back to earrings. Should a faithful latter-day saint have more than one pair? Absolutely, unequivocally not. Should that keep her out of the temple? Absolutely, unequivocally not. The choice about how she chooses to display multiple earrings may be completely uncorrelated with how much she supports the living prophet and apostles.

The problem comes in with what the person shows. If I love Pepsi, and hate Coke, but then buy Coca-cola t-shirts from Wal*Mart to wear, what am I saying to the rest of the world? That I support Coke. Is this the same thing that I say to myself in the mirror? Probably not. But perhaps day after day, I wear my Coke shirt, I eventually will convince myself to try Coke. After all, I have the T-shirt, may not be that bad, right?

Etc ad infinitum.

Soxy Pirate said...

Look, Pepsi was "born" in Eastern North Carolina, just a few minutes from my hometown...

Pepsi sucks. Drink Coke.

Soxy Pirate said...

I'll let Steve or someone else jump all over the earrings stuff. I don't have a dog in that fight;)

Aerin said...

I have been enjoying this blog.

I don't have much to say but that I agree with your post.

Lisa said...

How's this, Soxy.

If you want to get something off your chest about the earrings, go to Piercings, Beards, and other Pharisaical "Encouragements"

It was a rather popular thread.

I love Cherry Coke, but prefer regular pepsi.

The choice about how she chooses to display multiple earrings may be completely uncorrelated with how much she supports the living prophet and apostles.

Actually, it IS seem as correlated. Did you not hear Elder Bednar? See aforementioned link. Elder Bednar sure seems to think it does.

Lisa said...

Thanks, Aerin :)

Katie said...

Perhaps the distinction we are looking for is the difference between being a good Christian and being a good Mormon...

Tom Rod said...

Said latter-day saint may not realize the connection to following the prophet with the earrings, and thus obedience to this particular would not be correlated with following the living prophets.

Further, wasn't Elder Bednar's speech given in a BYU devotional, where earrings are part of the honor code, rather in general conference, where earrings are a simply a cultural phenomenon?

Soxy Pirate said...

Why people? Why???? [/drama]

You have to understand that I live at the epicenter of Pepsi hell. EVERYTHING here in ENC is Pepsi, especially in Greenville...home of the Minges Bottling Group.

I refuse to give in. I will fight on.

Waitress: What can I get you to drink?

Me: Do you have Pepsi or Coke?

Waitress: Pepsi.

Me: Water.

Tom Rod said...


I say it again--come to the promised land of North Texas!

Seeing the Sox play on a big screen is better than being there in person anyway.

/end all_threadjacks

Katie said...

Its ok, Soxy. I strongly prefer Coke to Pepsi. Pepsi is too sacchriny. However, if I am in a need for caffeine and there are only Pepsi products available, I will usually still get the Pepsi, rather than water.

For medicinal purposes, you see :-) Pepsi is useless otherwise.

Lisa said...

Actually the post itself was about how we're being coddled in the name of being kept safe from our own natural (yea, uncontrollable) inclinations toward sin because it's "better safe than sorry." We're scared into obedience by being told that criticizing a leader is to have the spirit of apostasy (and yet, how can we not criticize some of these things?) and then we're told of the horrors that await the apostates. Though it's not true for all, it's best to just stay where it's warm and cozy. Take off your earrings, stay a while.

Better safe than sorry.

Anyway, yes it was but it was reposted in the Ensign. I could've sworn I've heard that talk in GC though. Hmmm... I did hear it somewhere. I distinctly remember wanting to scream.

Anyway, I have to take the kids to the library and stuff, so I won't be around for a while. Discuss, disuss :)

Soxy Pirate said...

I almost applied to Texas Tech for law school, but I refused after they wouldn't grant me an application fee waiver;)

I might end up in PA with Katie (at PSU), which is much closer to Boston, and apparently a Coke haven.

BTW, I was on my honeymoon in Boston and at Fenway the night "Lestah" threw his no-hitter last season. It was a wonderful day, plus there's a huge Coke sign hovering above Fenway.

Katie said...

Actually, Philly is about 3 h from Penn State, but the branch there is pretty awesome, too. I considered PSU for grad school, but preferred the program at U Penn. Plus, the students seemed happier there.

Soxy Pirate said...

I know I know...

Katie, do you know the Babbel family?

Katie said...

Yes, I know the Babbels, I was fairly good friends with Tara Babbel before she married and moved abroad. I believe the Babbel seniors are serving a mission now, or he is a mission president or some such thing. The Babbel family is in our stake. They are pretty wealthy, and so they live in the nicer part of the stake, tho :-)

Steve M. said...

I think the Thomas B. Marsh story is that he allegedly apostatized on account of spilled milk. From what I understand, things were much more complicated than that, but it sure makes for a good story to tell in Sunday School.

And Coke is about 900 times better than Pepsi. But it has to be real Coke. Diet just won't do.

Katie Rod said...

Steve M

Do you keep up with Real Life Comics? They would politely (rabidly) disagree.

How come one would apostasize over cream? My since-high school disused journalism gut tells me there's a bigger story here. Possibly.

Steve M. said...

Katie Rod,

From what I understand (and as Wikipedia seems to confirm) there was much more to Thomas B. Marsh's story than milk.

Sunday School teachers like to say that Marsh left the Church over milk strippings, to show how petty apostates are. But I think you're exactly right--there is a "bigger story."

Shannon said...

Hey Lisa,

I just found your blog yesterday, and I think I'm in love. :) I've read some of your previous posts, and I plan to read more when I get the time. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

It was my unfortunate duty to teach the J.S. lesson about apostacy this last Sunday. When I started reading through it, I agonized over the content--apparently apostacy is entirely based on criticism of the brethren. If Christ and His gospel were mentioned in the lesson, it was in passing. It made me sick. I told my husband about it, and he suggested it was my duty to denounce the main thrust of the lesson right there in front of the old white-haired ladies in my relief society. He is far braver than I; I couldn't do it. Instead I made a brief mention of the idea and moved on to personal convictions and what our actions might look like if we are true followers of Christ who are firm in the gospel rather than the brethren-worshipping culture.

Unfortunately, the white-hairs wanted to stick to the brethren worshipping. Comment after comment focused on stories of people they knew who went against the brethren and then left the church. It was not a faith-promoting lesson.

After it was over (I hated every minute of that lesson), I felt as though I had not been true enough to my own convictions. I felt as though I had added to the ominous voice of warning that was so prevalent in the lesson (I mean for hell's sake, the title of the lesson was "Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostacy." Doesn't that sound like something the Ghost of Christmas Past should be saying to a scared-out-of-his-nightshirt Scrooge--not a faith inspiring message spread to uplift the followers of Christ).

I haven't yet come to terms with it all. I feel like I need to speak my truth more frequently and parrot the brethren less--if at all.

By the way, it's funny that you mention earrings. My husband begged me to wear two pairs for my lesson. I didn't, but I do wear two pairs from time to time. I was, however, wearing my belly button ring. If those white-haired ladies only knew . . .

Lisa said...

Steve: I never even thought to research Thomas Marsh's story. Thanks for the link.

Shannon: Thank you for that (really). I have my moments where I'm unsure if I want to keep up with this anymore, and last night was one of them. Welcome - I hope you'll stick around. Feel free to comment anytime, ok?