Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Surprising Lesson on Apostasy

So the ill-anticipated lesson arrived today. Most here know I wasn't even sure if I'd attend. Knowing lessons like these tend to give me migraines, I drugged up, made sure I had a pen and paper, and just listened. I had no idea what I'd say, so I chose to say nothing at all and instead wrote some notes, quotes, and impressions to post here. I look forward to everyone's reactions. Some of what the ladies said really surprised me.

Our teacher today, Sister B, readily offered the fact that she was inactive for some years and even went so far as to call herself an apostate. Other women in the room also fessed up, one making sure to tell everyone that though she went inactive, she never renounced the Church, always believed in the "power of the priesthood" and in the "truthfulness" of the Church. When pressed, she said she didn't necessarily consider herself an apostate at that time, even now, though conceded that according to some definitions one could say she was.

Many women were quick to add that the "state of apostasy" rests upon a spectrum, that until or unless one knows the heart of the apostate, we cannot say for sure just how antagonistic one is or why. I appreciated this very much. One woman said, "It's a broad word and we have to be careful how we use it." The consensus lay that not everyone who leaves is antagonistic, and gratefully Sister B refrained from referring to such points to the contrary in the lesson except for one time, but nobody focused on that for very long. Yay!

Onto the quotes. If the responses aren't in quotes, they're paraphrased from what I heard the women say. I thought it would be of interest.

Question: What is apostasy?

1) Turning from the faith of Christ.
2) Relinquishment of faith - President Kimball
3) Fighting against the teachings of Christ.
4) There was some debate whether inactivity = apostasy, which led to the conclusion that apostasy is a matter of attitude/degree and the aforementioned spectrum.

Question: "What are the reasons one would apostatize?"

1) Failure to recognize leaders are fallible and laying fault when they act like human.

2) Failure to recognize the difference between The Church and the Gospel.

This surprised me, though it is closely related to #1. I hadn't heard many members...ever...suggest The Church and The Gospel could possibly be separate things. The people, perhaps, but never "The Church."

3) "A prophet has said the basis of all apostasy starts with sin...Not partaking of the Sacrament is a sin, let's face it."

You know, upon thought there is some truth to this statement. I don't believe this sister was correct, though many agreed. With everything the Church teaches to be sin, it wouldn't be difficult to sin in the eyes of fellow members and leaders, no matter what the offender thinks or how they came to that conclusion. This brought me to the conclusion that, as we all sin, well...we're always in danger of apostatizing. That doesn't mean that it is necessarily the reason every time, but I can see now how some might come to that conclusion.

4) The desire and chase of worldly things versus spiritual things.

5) "I tend to believe people leave when their expectations aren't met" and they start to believe "maybe this isn't true." (someone who's struggling, perhaps? I've never heard anyone utter those four words in church in any context)

6) One told a story of a man who coveted the position of bishop very much; when another man was called, however, and later was accused of having an affair with a temple worker, this man became rather offended and is today excommunicated. (They also said this was an extreme example, but one nevertheless). Everyone agreed with the woman when she concluded that anytime anyone feels they deserve or ought to have a specific calling, they're on their way to apostasy. Many spoke of no calling being "better" or higher than another. I know this is what we teach, but isn't exactly something most really remember. It's hard to.

Eventually one woman spoke of how we must respect the mantle of the calling, remember our leaders are human, and try putting ourselves into their shoes for a moment.

I almost hugged the woman who said, out loud, that we are expected to take everything our leaders say and pray about it. So glad. Not everyone thinks so.

7) "Satan twists everything in your head."

8) Apostasy is not always an immediate thing, but happens inch by inch.

Question: Why do apostates fight against the Church?

This was a question which led to a surprisingly short discussion. Among the answers:

1) "I believe they feel guilty for not going."
2) There was a great consensus that pride was the main reason.

Question: What happens to apostates?

A little attention was given to a likening of apostates to Judas, betrayers of the truth, betrayers of Christ. Sister B read this quote from Joseph Smith: "From apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions. Judas was rebuked and immediately betrayed his Lord into the hands of His enemies, because Satan entered into him. There is a superior intelligence bestowed upon such as obey the Gospel with full purpose of heart, which, if sinned against, the apostate is left naked and destitute of the Spirit of God, and he is, in truth, nigh unto cursing, and his end is to be burned."

The last part of this quote really haunted a few of the women in the room and led to another quote about how those naked and destitute are among the most helpless and hopeless individuals.

One woman said in relation to this, "We can't judge because we don't know what's in their hearts, but they do lose the Spirit. When we're around apostates, we feel their nakedness."

Another woman, one who confessed previous inactivity, said (and I paraphrase) "Many who leave the Church think they're just fine, but they will reach a point where they will look back and see the times when they could have used the Spirit, needed His help and it wasn't there. They'll realize their times of stupidity."

Another simply stated apostates will "Lose understanding and ability to judge" and they stay away from Church because they fear judgment from others. I believe a story was told about one who feared coming because he couldn't give up smoking. He was a great Boy Scout leader - very talented in his calling: loved camping, loved the boys, etc. He had all the boys set up to receive their Eagle. As members couldn't handle his smoking habit, he eventually left. The new scout leader couldn't measure up, and none of the boys received their Eagle. The woman concluded this was God's little consequence, that it happened all because some couldn't handle the fact that the one man couldn't break his smoking habit, and who the hell are we to judge. What matters more, anyway?

What surprised me most about this anecdote was the fact that no one belied the man for "allowing himself to be offended." One woman even said something to the fact that we needn't focus so much on other's but more on ourselves.

I cannot tell you all how grateful I was to hear some of what was said today, especially that last bit. All in all, it was a happy lesson and gave me some food for thought.


The Faithful Dissident said...

Lisa, sounds like this lesson went very well. I'm especially glad to read that last bit about the smoking scout leader.

A couple of comments:

Question: "What are the reasons one would apostatize?"

1) Failure to recognize leaders are infallible and laying fault when they act like human.

I'm curious. Did anyone actually use the word "infallible?" Did anyone actually admit to believing that the leaders are infallible in matters relating to the Church?

I disagree about it being a "sin" to not partake of the sacrament. From what I've always been told, we should not partake of the sacrament if we don't feel worthy in order to not bring condemnation upon ourselves. There have been many times in the past couple of years where I haven't taken the sacrament and it never occurred to me that I was sinning as a result. In fact, I wouldn't say that my reasons for not wanting to take the sacrament were the result of any sin. It was during my darkest times of questioning and disillusionment that I did not partake of the sacrament because I felt like I had a major storm going on in my heart and I wasn't sure what I believed in anymore. And so I felt that that was good enough reason to not bring condemnation upon myself by taking the sacrament on days when I was feeling like that.

belledame2 said...

What really bugged me more than anything else were the hystrical historical inaccuracies in the lesson. It's so funny how the manual lessons are so whitewashed.

One woman in the room talked about a missionary who had baptized her long ago and she just made contact with him. He's now in his 50s and living in Utah. He was married when he was 31 and it didn't work out but hasn't remarried since and she made it an example of apostasy. But when she started sauomg how RMs were SUPPOSED to get married right away once they were off their mission nearly sent me through the roof. I wanted to go to a wall and bang my head against it and yell a few choice comments!

That had to be one of the most STUPID examples of the MoCul I've ever run into. And, no, this wasn't in Utah or the MoCor either! This is in the Midwest for your info!

Other than those two things it was a good lesson.

belledame2 said...

saumog should've been saying.

Oh and one more thing. When someone brought up the thing about Thomas B. Marsh and the cream stripping incident, I again wanted to ssay a few choice words but refrained. That story was actually related by George A. Smith on April 6, 1856. JD 3:208-209. Also see

Samantha said...

I believe you meant to use the word "fallible" not "infallible" in number one. No?

Kengo Biddles said...

"I almost hugged the woman who said, out loud, that we are expected to take everything our leaders say and pray about it. So glad. Not everyone thinks so."

You would've wanted to hub me, too. I managed to squeeze that comment in after our resident Extreme-Right-Wing Limbaughnaut pontificated for a bit, and the Stake President Counselor (who was teaching) thanked me for it.

And Faithful Dissident, I agree with you about the sacrament, I mean, what you've said is structurally based, "it being a "sin" to not partake of the sacrament" is crap.

Kengo Biddles said...

And by the way, hubbing is a more pc way of hugging. ... yeah ... that's it. (I hate it when I typo.)

(and my verification word was forcativ. *sigh* I can't win.)

Lisa said...

FD: Ack! Well, first of all, Samantha was right: I meant "fallible" and I cannot remember if the woman used that word specifically, but that was definitely the sentiment.

I thought about the same thing regarding the sacrament (agree with you completely), but her comment still led me to my conclusion. In the eyes of many, sin really would be the foundation of much, if not all, apostasy. Whether or not it actually is is up to interpretation/God.

Belle: See, those were the things I expected to hear in my own lesson. Argh! would be right. I wasn't sure how I'd react if someone said something stupid. I couldn't come up with anything nice ahead of time, so. Erf. Thankfully I really didn't have to. Sorry you had to deal with much stupidity :P

Ugh, the Thomas Marsh story. I just learned about that as well. That's unbelievably irritating.

Samantha: Oy, yes that's what I meant. Thank you.

Steve M. said...

Glad this lesson went smoothly for you.

My ward is a little behind, so we probably won't get the lesson until the second week of March or so (due to ward conference, fast Sunday, etc.). I'll be sure to return and report.

I'm not very familiar with my current ward's Elders Quorum dynamics. I get the feeling that most of the guys are pretty reasonable. I guess the success of these lessons (particularly this one) depends in large part on the teacher and the participants.

In my old ward, where the Elders Quorum President was fond of saying things like "The two biggest enemies to the Church are apostates and inteleckchulls", the lesson might be kind of hard to sit through.

Mojoey said...

I've always thought of the Mormon fixation on Apostasy as akin to though crimes. Why is it that they generate so much fear with this word? Does it help control people?

Stephen said...

The Church and The Gospel could possibly be separate things

That was a core concept that was important to me when I was younger and that I see the truth of all the time.

Glad your teacher caught it.