Wheat & Tares welcomes guest poster Bill Reel: Host of “Mormon Discussion Podcast”
There is an epic war of ideology occurring right before our eyes in Mormonism. There are people lining up to take various sides. The trouble is the lines have been blurred and the average onlooker is perhaps not seeing things as they really are.
The question at the heart of this battle is, “Are Doubter’s Welcome?”
This discussion is heightened at this very moment. John Dehlin, Mormon podcaster and creator of of Mormon Stories Podcast and the Open Stories Foundation is being called in by his local leaders for a Disciplinary Council, where his membership may be determined to no longer be in good standing or even possibly finding himself excommunicated. He has been charged with Apostasy and his fate will be determined this Sunday.
I consider John a friend and was interviewed once on his podcast. I can attest that he has in deed helped many Latter Day Saints dig into the deeper history of their faith without feeling alone and having alternative views shared with them to help them reconcile the issues (See the Terryl Givens Interview for example). He has helped many stay in the Church after having had their house of cards come down. At the same time many members have lost faith and have left the Church at least in part to his opening their eyes to the deeper complex history and even perhaps their having unfaithful conclusions imparted to them as the best logical answer using, as John often refers to, Occam’s razor.
With all this stirring in the media, many are making this revolve around asking if the Church makes room for doubters. The framing of this question is whether Mormonism’s theology and leadership welcomes difficult questions and whether Mormonism as an institution will give room for doubters to doubt and still be considered by other members and leaders as safely in the fold as a faithful member in full fellowship.
There are some voices out there suggesting that if John is disciplined the message is clear that Doubters are unwelcome or at least frowned upon. There are other voices out there that suggest these are two different groups and as such must be treated differently. I am one of the latter and I hope you will allow me to explain.
Some background. Personally, I entered my own major faith crisis about 5 years ago while serving as a Bishop in the Church. In some ways I am still deeply in a faith shift or transition at present though I think I see what looks like light ahead. During this faith shift and especially in the midst of my crisis I have been angry, saddened, frustrated, cynical bitter, untrusting, and hurt. I also can attest to the fact that some local leaders have been skeptical of me, have pushed me away, and have kept their distance. It is unfortunate but it is also true. At that same time I have had other leaders welcome my opinions and even at times seek my thoughts out on a particular topic as having more value than others in the room because of my faith shift. I have had some leaders seek out my council on how to help others and I have even had the privilege of doing firesides in places far from my home such as Lafayette, Indiana and Sarnia, Canada where I have, with the blessing and encouragement of local Ward and Stake leaders, been asked to help others build a better foundation, better assumptions, and to more softly handle these faith shifts along with navigating the difficult issues within our History and Doctrine.
This positive and negative interaction is found within Mormonism. Yes, there is leader roulette. Yes, some leaders even at top levels have tried to avoid sharing difficult history. Yes, some local leaders seem to be completely unaware of the room in the tent for unorthodox belief and unorthoprax behavior (beliefs and practices outside the traditional expectations). But in many regards that is what you get when you have an untrained lay ministry from the top down (Yes I know Leaders at the top are paid). And let me be clear, our lay ministry is one of the things I am most honored and proud of. What we have done with a lay ministry is nothing short of miraculous. So, yes, some members are offended, others marginalized; and others yet are treated uncharitably due to some of those leaders not knowing any better and in some cases likely even acting in the wrong intentionally. It is bound to occur. There seems no way around it.
I also go so far as to acknowledge we likely need more direction, resources, and help from the top down directing us how to better navigate the issue of doubt and validating why the doubter would legitimately struggle and how best to help them. We have fallen short at times and hopefully better resources are on the way.
Having said all that to establish a groundwork let me answer the following question
Consider two possible ways to dilineate two groups of people. Those who no longer believe, but who want to remain in the Church, but also want to be able to proclaim publicly their unbelief and absolute defiance that their view is right and the Church is wrong. The other group that has severe doubts but holds out hope. They dissent but do so recognizing they have no more right to proclaim their stance as absolute truth than the Church institution’s stance, but rather offers their perspective as another view to consider. They acknowledging it as an opinion while simultaneously acknowledging that their opinion could be wrong? Is there a difference between how the church treats/should treat these two groups.
To me the answer is yes. Those two groups are treated differently and while both groups may suffer at the hands of leader roulette, only one group is defined by the institution as outside the bounds of it’s policies and accepted pattern to be in full fellowship.
Again don’t get me wrong, I fully validate that there are people in both groups who are treated as unfaithful at times. My argument is while that happens, one group has clearly acted in a way that leads to some of these repercussions. The other is innocent and deserves no such treatment, and I, along with many others including some among top leadership, have at times defended their standing.
Are we allowed to have doubts?
Elder Holland has stated clearly in his conference talk “Lord I Believe” “Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns”
Add to that President Uchtdorf stating in his talk “Come Join With Us” – “Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church”
But where is the line? When does one go from being clearly defined as a faithful member into being a member entering the the space of apostasy?
The First Presidency has stated in an official letter that “We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them”
The line it seems is when you begin advocating that your position is more right than the Church’s. It is one thing to say “have you considered such and such” or “I am struggling to reconcile ABC”, but once you have essentially said “ I am right and you are wrong” or “The Church is not historically true and I know that for certain”, you have entered a different space where being considered a faithful Mormon and being left alone unchallenged in this space is not a given nor your right.
For those who are safely in the fold but who are treated as if you are in the other group, Elder Marlin Jensen addressed this problem when he stated “…often in the church, when someone comes with a bit of a prickly question, he’ll be met with a bishop who number one, doesn’t know the answer. Number two, he snaps and says, ‘Get in line and don’t question the prophet, and get back and do your home teaching.’ And that isn’t helpful in most cases. So, we need to educate our leaders better, I think, to be sympathetic and empathetic and to draw out of these people where they are coming from and what’s brought them to the point they are at. What they have read, what they are thinking is, and try to understand them. Sometimes that alone is enough to help someone through a hard time. But beyond that, I think we really need to figure out a way to live a little bit with people who may never get completely settled”.
For those to whom this has happened, I am sorry and we as a Church must, going forward, become better at responding, at empathizing, at giving you room while also validating you as a faithful member. We also must have room to ask tough questions, room to discuss social issues and various positions and ask ourselves is there anything we can do better. But we can not think we can proclaim disbelief and show others why our disbelieving position is the most intelligent answer to arrive at and expect the Church to consider us still in the fold and in full fellowship.
While the lines are being blurred and many are trying to place both groups in one basket as a way to strengthen their position and garner favor, I say to those who, in spite of their doubts, lead with their faith – you are safely in the fold as far as I am concerned. While we as a Church must be better in how we treat you at times, you are, based on Elder Holland, along with President Uchtdorf, and the letter from the First Presidency, one of us, safely within the fold.
While we have taught that faith and doubt are incompatible, the reality is they both often co-exist. The question that determines which group we fall into is which one we lead with…. our faith or our doubts? Are we helping people deal with the issues while moving safely within the Church or are we escorting people out. John has likely done both, but in some ways we all have in one way or another. What will happen to John, I leave that up to those with that stewardship. I do though wish folks on both sides who are making all the noise might take a step back and consider whether your voice is helping or hurting your cause and the faith of others. Are doubter’s truly welcome? I say yes. Our theology says yes. Many of our Leaders say yes. But in the end it is moments like this and what kind of background noise we create and react within that will tell others if they are welcome or not. This noise will tell us how far we have come and how far we must yet go. My conclusion = The results are mixed and more help, resources, and time are needed.
Bill Reel is the host of Mormon Discussion Podcast. The podcast tries to deal with the tough issues forthrightly while “leading with faith”.
I wish this would be read to all US congregations this next Sunday morning.
It does still bring me back to the fact that the church leadership needs to communicate these lines a bit more as there is such variance with leaders. Something along the line of what you mention here would be a welcome for members and leaders to know where the line is. As it stands now, many keep quiet as they don’t know where the line is. That is emotionally and spiritually damaging. Living “2 lives” is never healthy.
I appreciate the post simply for the attempt to parse out where the lines could or should (or shouldn’t) be legitamately drawn. I think this is helpful, but I’m still worried that excommunication is used at all for this kind of issue (where no crime was committed). Because we’re all at different places with our faith and convictions, all judgement seems to be so subjective. Must I refrain from sharing my convictions with conviction and share my convictions with feigned humility or frame them as questions?
I think I worry because I legitimately feel the Church is wrong on the women’s ordination issue and the marriage equality issue, and it seems like I have to walk a tight rope of balancing humility within the church and following the dictates of my own conscience, which is usually to speak out in favor of justice and what I feel is right. Maybe I need to add a disclaimer that I have just as much a right to my thoughts and ideas as “the Church” does?
A friend of mine summed it up like this on Facebook: “Based on what is publicly known about the situation (which is a lot considering Dehlin released several of the letters from his Stake President), I’m troubled by the developments. While I disagree with Dehlin on a lot, I’m in favor of “big tent” Mormonism and think excommunication should be very rare, particularly for something like “apostasy.” Where someone is teaching ideas that diverge from Church orthodoxy, I think it would be better to confront the ideas than try and silence the speaker. I can’t see how Dehlin’s excommunication here will serve to help him or his family or protect the Church.”
Clean Cut… yes in journies we are fluid and some days I was definitely in apostasy and am glad others in authority gave me room. That said, in my mind there needs to be a line somewhere. We can debate where but somewhere
Bill, thanks for a great post. I’ve heard rumors that you may be teaching a faith crisis class in my ward in the near future. If so, I’m quite excited.
As for line drawing, I agree that it necessary to have some lines, but our church is structurally handicapped because there is no central authority to set forth such lines, or even just general principles for lines. Sure, some issues are easy – if a man ordains his wife and posts a video of that online I’m quite confident an action would be brought by any local leader. But what about mere advocacy for ordination? Or merely expressing a desire for something more? Or disagreeing with the church on a political issue such as Prop 8 or the state of Utah’s “zion curtain law.” I’ve known several bishops who struggled with the question of whether members who support civil gay marriage can receive temple recommends. These bishops struggled, asked for help from above, and were not given any specific answer. So yes, bishop roulette.
FWIW, I’ve found Armand Mauss’ approach to be very helpful. When asked how he “survived” with his membership intact while others did not, brother Mauss said that he always tried to focus his critiques on factual or objective claims rather than on the doctrines and the people who were making those claims. So he wouldn’t say “the priesthood ban on blacks is wrong.” Instead, he would critique the explanations that the ban began with Joseph, or that no blacks had ever been ordained, or that the scriptures clearly espouse the curse of cain doctrine.
For a modern example, consider a member who disagrees with the church’s stance on tattoos. I’d counsel that member to not criticize the prophet, the church, or the teaching itself. Rather, critique the underlying rationales. When someone says “we don’t put graffiti on our temples,” point out that most everyone who gets tattoos views the mark as personally/spiritually significant – its far from mere graffiti to them (examples include the Maori and military service men and women). Also point out that our temples are covered in symbols – from beehives to sunstones to the little dipper and north star.
I agree, Bill, that there needs to be a line. It’s the establishment and enforcement of a reasonable line that gets tricky. It’s the ability of local leaders to impose their own line that is different than what would be imposed by the top leadership that gets messy. I understand why these decisions tend to be made at the local level, but it is a two-edged sword.
More specifically for this moment, however, there is a grave danger in widening John’s case beyond John. He has done a lot of good for a lot of people over the years – but he has done a lot of bad over the years, as well. Some of the communities he has established have turned into cesspools of negativity and blatant apostasy, and he has given public voice to some harsh critics of the LDS Church and obvious apostates. He has had high-ranking people ask him directly and personally to work with the Church in ways that could be constructive, and he has rebuffed those offers and followed his own vision. Again, that vision has helped many and harmed many.
Recently, he has talked about leading people away from orthodoxy. He has started talking about actively encouraging people to transition *away from* orthodox Mormonism. This hasn’t been limited to those who already are unorthodox but includes the orthodox. Some of his recent statements have been missionary-like in tone and content – much like when Ordain Women published six discussions to convert members to their view.
Many people have expressed concern and disagreement with various things the Church has done and taught, but John has taken it to a different place and has started to fight actively. I like and admire a lot about John, but I also recognize that he has crossed obvious lines and acted in a stereotypically apostate way at multiple times over the years. Recently, that has accelerated. His current situation is not a surprise in any way, and he has brought it on himself.
That’s a great point you bring up, Bill–we’re constantly in flux. There are days where I’ve feel more antagonistic towards the church and there are days where I feel full of love and goodness and I’m able to show as much compassion and tolerance to those inside the church as I do to those outside the church. Some days it’s harder to do. And because we’re never completely all “prideful” or all “humble” 100% of the time, it seems to me that that line, wherever the tent boundaries are staked, needs to give us enough space to work things out rather than cut us off. Or those who will engage the ideas rather than try to just silence the person’s freedom of expression.
I’m grateful for good leaders that listen and love and show tolerance and compassion–my heart goes out to them. But it’s hard to be as tolerant and loving when leaders seek to punish and coerce people into conformity rather than love them and seek to understand where they’re coming from.
That Marlin K. Jensen quote should be required reading for all leaders in the Church.
Doubters are welcome (with the local leadership roulette disclaimer); fighters are not.
A few points.
1. Enjoyed the post.I think you have hit the nail on the head in many aspects.
2. Through our association with John, he has been all over the map in terms of his own faith journey, what he believed, where he was going, his “commercial” enterprises and how it has affected others. The fact that both sides of the equation (those who stayed and those who left) have been affected, tells you less about the material and more about the individuals themselves and their own faith journeys.
However, in his last podcast, where he announces his DC and, through a series of slides, outlines his course of actions, it is clear to me that he has put himself well outside the Church to the point of appearing, in many ways like a classic anti-Mormon.
3. I find that doubt are a good thing for me. I use those doubts to re-consider my beliefs and ultimately decide what I actually believe. But then again, I was NOT indoctrinated from my early days with a specific narrative.
Ray, in my experience, for those who have bad luck in the bishop roulette, the conversation usually goes like this:
Member: I have doubts.
Leader: Let’s discuss them.
Member: I appreciate that. I’m also discussing them with [wife][kids][friends][online].
Leader: You can’t do that. You can only discuss doubts with me and prayer.
Member: I can’t agree to that. I find it helpful to discuss with others too.
Leader: You’ve covenanted to sustain me and therefore do whatever I tell you to do. If you speak publicly about these issues you are choosing to fight me and are therefore in apostasy.
Where the line is drawn has become a point of contention in my family, with some saying I’m destroying members testimonies when I say that Cub Scouts and A Days aren’t equal but they should be. I’ve been called an apostate by family members for posting an article about LDS members’ role in the torture memos and that I’m attacking their Lord and God’s sacred church. I acknowledged that those who don’t have my perspective (the Church and Gospel are two entirely separate things) could see my posts as attacking, but it was a difference of opinion rather than a difference of Faith. Of course, that didn’t go over well.
I’m a public advocate of baby step changes and hoping to make them as members find a way to lovingly disagree with each other. I feel that in general, the church org/PR is making it difficult for that to happen as they continually draw lines in the sand in PR and general conference, especially since the lines they draw are all over the place.
Seriously they have Q12+FP meetings, right? How about they all get on the same page, here.
“Ray, in my experience, for those who have bad luck in the bishop roulette, the conversation usually goes like this:”
Sorry, but I doubt this.
Boundary maintenance as defined by the Lord:
Behold, this is my doctrine whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.
Ray, I do agree that it’s easier to distinguish “fighters” from “doubters”, but I do fear that sometimes those asking hard questions are being mistaken for being a fighter.
I try, but I’m not always the most tactful and sometimes I may come across a little forceful in my opinions rather than meekly raising questions. I don’t always have perfect equanimity or patience.
Gina Colvin recently wrote about “How loving the church can get you hated by the church”
I can foresee times when following your own moral compass and listening to the dictates of your own conscience might put you in conflict over LDS priesthood authorities. Because of my understanding of now things have worked in the past and work in the present, I tend to put more stock in the former than the latter.
The First Presidency has clarified this a bit, but there’s still room for subjective judgement:
“Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.”
I publicly support marriage equality. I even openly support female ordination. I respect and sustain my Church leaders, but that doesn’t mean I always agree with them or think they’re infallible. I tend to place more emphasis on my conscience than conformity. I know I won’t be kicked out of the church for this, but depending on the local leader doing my temple recommend interview, one might allow me to renew my recommend renewed while another might deny me my recommend. (My last interview with a stake councilor was ultimately turned out to be a positive and edifying experience, but I did get a little worried as it took an hour of some back and forth clarifications so that I could feel and assure him that I was being authentic and yet faithful).
Bill, in the interest of furthering this conversation, I would love to get your thoughts on Gina’s post, particularly how this might or might not fit into the model you’re suggesting:
“Lets be clear, in the main those who speak out about the church and sometimes criticise either the culture, the actions or the stance of the organisation largely don’t do so because they are apostate, or are anti-Mormon, anti-Christs, or are seeking to lead people astray. In the main, these are people who love the church and ache for it to be better, and standing up against the LDS behemoth can be heart-breaking. Expelling, shunning and villifying those who ache for the church to better fulfil its promise of goodness and kindness, justice and grace, community amidst diversity, inclusivity, tolerance and charity, honesty and transparency – is nothing short of Orwellian.
“Excommunication is a crude and medieval response to heresy and dissidence. The exasperation that thousands and thousands will be feeling as a result of John Dehlin’s imminent expulsion from the church will have few, if any healthy consequences for the church. The spiritual immaturity of an organisation that is unable to respond with understanding to the discontent of its own is profoundly saddening. I eschew church discipline except for the most grotesque of human evils. Church discipline as a consequence of activism, questioning, and critique is futile because it will only lead to an explosion of dissatisfaction and yet another wave of our friends and family choosing to leave.
“I could not have designed a more successful bad publicity campaign for the church myself. A witch hunt that tracks down and silences popular LDS voices who speak up for a better religious experience runs counter to all natural human feeling and in the long run (as has been the case time after time after time) the LDS institution will find themselves on the bad side of history. They will not find themselves heroes, the church won’t be better for having lost those who can think critically, the faith will not be elevated by John’s expulsion or April’s censuring. Rather we will all find ourselves with years and years – even decades of bad public, and agonised internal feeling to manage.
…Is this really how Zion is to be established?”
Does that “blur the lines” between the two groups you speak of here? How should we divide those who speak up?
Hi Bill. Thank you for your thoughtful post. I think you’ve drawn a very careful line between two groups of people. I’m not sure in practice how useful it is though. The line seems hopelessly blurry, and people probably go back and forth across it. I would say that John has certainly spent time in both camps. Is it a question of certainy in your disbelief? Doubts are okay, but conclusions are not? Or is it merely being clear that your opinions are your own and you are not speaking for the church or claiming to have the answers?
Great thoughts and questions, Joel. I’m really appreciating this conversation…
Clean Cut, in terms of Gina’s article. I loved this quote “Yes, you might have the silence and the support of the conforming majority within the church who believe the organisation needs no alteration. But if your calculations are made by measuring the feelings of the internal majority your formula is off. In the case of John Dehlin over 160 media organisations have taken John’s story off the wire in the last few days- some of them major news services – and the church comes off in this affair to millions and millions of people (all potential converts) as little other than petty, fearful, and insecure.”
Which I must parse out. The issue with John Dehlin is a long running and painful issue that in many ways stands on its own. That said what is expressed in this quote is felt by 1000’s of Latter-Day Saints as they navigate their faith. It also is a warning signal to some potential investigators that the Church hopes to win over.
Joel, I agree and believe I even hint at that in the article. There is no definitive line and it is muddied as we in our transitions bounce back and forth at times between extremes
I think that only mute doubters are welcome. There is nothing about church culture or the curriculum that leads me to conclude otherwise.
I really like the post.
The question, in my mind, is where can one voice doubts/concerns about Church history and Doctrine? At least currently, Ellen (above) has a point that “only mute doubters are welcome”. There is a pressure or an unsaid commitment to keep topics that are not directly faith-promoting out of the discussion. The only way I have seen a hard topic “go over well” is if the issue is totally dismissed as a non-issue.
So my question is, can Sunday School or quorum or RS class facilitate the discussion of the hard questions? If so, then do we just need to push to create an accepting culture. If not, then do we facilitate this through creating other classes where members voluntarily choose to attend and where difficult topics are covered. I also do wonder if the hard conversations should be covered outside of the normal Church block. In a way it is happening now online through blogs, forums, and podcasts.
The purpose of the Sunday School from Handbook 2 is found below.
Does discussing hard topics and alternate views align with the aims of Sunday school? I could see it either way.
“The Sunday School is an auxiliary to the priesthood. All auxiliaries exist to help Church members grow in their testimonies of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the restored gospel. Through the work of the auxiliaries, members receive instruction, encouragement, and support as they strive to live according to gospel principles.”
Ellen and Matt – I can only speak for the ward and Stake where I live. I express my testimony differently. I raise objections when I hear something taught that while most of the group likely agree, it is likely incorrect. I am always saying the gospel is messier than most of us think. I don’t go out of my way to say “I have severe doubts that Joseph was a prophet” but I do tell people I don’t know though I hope. So yes you can express yourself but just as in life you can’t say every thought that comes in your head, you can’t say in Church every thought that comes in your head.
I suggest you try 5 things and see what happens
1.) bear testimony and change your testimony wording to believe or hope or have faith in. See what happens. As you share genuine testimony at whatever level your at, while some may be made uncomfortable, others will appreciate it.
2.) Show your leaders that despite your doubt you have chosen to be faithful. Be a good HT/VT Help where you feel comfortable (missionary work? or maybe missionary work bothers you, if so choose something else. If you feel you can teach lessons inserting some nuance and helping people think outside the box- then let your leaders know that you would be comfortable teaching
3.) If you feel you have move forward enough that you have resolve to stay, offer your ward and stake leaders to be of help if they come across someone with testimony issues.
4.) Don’t seek to rock the boat but share nuance when appropriate. Two Sundays ago, the lesson was on obedience. The teacher read from the manual how we need to be obedient to get back to Father. I raised my hand. “yes Bill”….. I replied, “Is anyone here perfectly obedient” “Is anyone here loving God with all their heart mind and soul”
No one raised their hand. The teacher uncomfortable said “We just have to do our best”
I interjected again, “Is anyone here doing their best?, raise of hands please” All of a sudden it was obvious that everyone in the room was brought face to face with the nuance of obedience… that none of us were doing our best and hence either we all were failures or God required something else. …… Find moments like that where rather than being a leper you instead are helping them see they you are one of them.
5.) Never validate yourself at the expense of hurting the faith of another. This is key! it shows your heart and integrity when you live this. I have not always done so. But I am getting there.
I will take your answer as needing to change the culture and approach to our current classes.
I do a lot of what you suggest, which is basically be a good ward member AND be authentic (where possible). It is a tight rope, but one worth walking.
I do long for face-to-face conversation with others that have been exposed to and thought about the nuances of the Church and religion itself. A place where one can fully express one’s views and listen to those of another. I think that I witnessed that several months back at a get together with the Givens speaking/presenting. There was so much learning, discussing, soul searching, and authenticity. It was spiritual, uniting, and refreshing. Sunday school is not that place, although I sometimes wish it was.
Thanks for your influence Bill.
Matt, talking to another who has gone through this journey is a crucial need for this group. You may find this helpful
Click to access stages_of_faith.pdf
and the books
Faith Beyond belief – Margaret Placentra Johnston
Faith Shift – by Kathy escobar
Bill – Great post.
Your observation about the 2 types of doubters rings true, but there is also a 3rd type which you did not identify: people who base their “doubts” on actual facts.
I’ll call them “truth tellers,” rather than doubters. If someone believes the earth is round, rather than flat, you don’t call the person a “doubter” – you thank them! There’s nothing to argue about, and no room for credible doubt.
Unfortunately, in the Church, we sometimes teach things that are false. Nobody should ever – ever – be excommunicated for pointing out truth based on demonstrable fact (an “ex-emption” for short). Otherwise, what kind of a Church have we become, where we punish people for pointing out demonstrable truths?
Here are a few candidates for “ex-emptions,” truths that should not be punishable no matter where or how they are declared:
1. Prophets CAN lead us astray. They occasionally did in Biblical times, and have occasionally done so in modern times. For example, the Church no longer claims that Brigham was inspired by God to institute the priesthood ban on blacks. Yet in 1947, the First Presidency argued that such a ban was of God. Now we don’t believe this. Ergo, the First Presidency was mistaken in 1947, or is mistaken now.
2. Joseph Smith practiced polygamy.
3. The 1890 Manifesto did not end the practice of polygamy, (several apostles continued to practice polygamy until the early 1900s).
4. Virtually all scientific evidence shows the earth is billions of years old, and that plant and animal species have been living and dying during this time. Thus, statements saying there was no death, anywhere on earth, prior to 4000 BC are incorrect.
I could go on, but my point should be clear. Our commitment to demonstrable truth, if not openly rewarded, should never, ever, ever be punished.
Bill, thanks for the link to the Stages of Faith article. It’s an incredible read and helps me in my own faith transition more than anything I’ve ever read before.
I like where you are going here. Doubt is a severely misconstrued word in the LDS lexicon.
I like Adam Miller’s approach to doubt taken from Bill’s own podcast.
“I think that we need to get a feel for the very positive, constructive role that doubt can play in a spiritual life. You and I, We have a lot of wrong ideas about things. We are attached to a lot of very selfish, very biased perspectives. If we are not brought to the point that we don’t doubt our own stories, if we are not brought to the point where doubt functions as a kind of solvent that loosens my attachment to my own version of things, then God is going to be limited in how he can reach out to me, and help me, save me, change me. God wants to make me into something more than I am, but part of that is going to involve my letting go of things that I don’t need to be hanging onto, because they are wrong, because they are false, because they are selfish. And doubt plays a powerful, important, positive, spiritual role in that story by being the solvent that frees me from what things I have to let go of. If we don’t have any doubts in our lives than we don’t have any room to change.”
-Adam Miller, http://mormondiscussion.podbean.com/2013/09/02/adam-miller-rube-goldberg-machines/, 26:00-27:10
Love the Adam Miller quote. Well said. Without doubt, we have a very infantile faith indeed, one that is as likely just a rehash of our preferences and our own philosophies (mingled with scripture) as anything.
I would say that tactful doubters are welcome, again, subject to local leadership roulette. Two people can make the same point in different ways, and the how is just as important as the what.
I also would add that converters are not welcome.
Finally, we talk too often as if this is unique to the LDS Church – or even to religion. Try vocally opposing the owner or CEO of any company – or the president of a college – or the executive director of a philanthropic foundation – or the coach of a sports team – etc. and see what happens. There are changers, and there are challengers – and the difference is profound.
Finally, to make this very direct, it’s one thing to criticize an organization if you have created other organizations that function better than the one you criticize. John has absolutely zero credibility in that regard. To say implosion and radical instability dominates the landscape is not hyperbole in this case.
Ray, regardless, is it better for the church to expel him or just leave him alone (his preference, and I admit, mine as well)?
The church uses words to tell me I am welcome, but uses its actions tell me that I am not.
If I want to be authentic, and the discussion is focused on a Book of Mormon battle, can I say, “I don’t view the Book of Mormon as a literal record, but what I take away from this story is….?”
To me that is tactful, albeit risky. But for such tactfulness, I could have my recommend taken away?
“It is one thing to say “have you considered such and such” or “I am struggling to reconcile ABC”, but once you have essentially said “ I am right and you are wrong” or “The Church is not historically true and I know that for certain”, you have entered a different space where being considered a faithful Mormon and being left alone unchallenged in this space is not a given nor your right.” While I see the logic in this, it’s also not practical. It’s impossible to be eternally on the fence. If we decide the church is wrong on something (gay rights, feminist treatment, the meaning of “translate”) we can’t say, “well have you considered this? No? Ok, you still must be right” if we disagree. No change would ever happen then and rather dealing with a messy past we’d have an impossible present.
This is a wonderful post! I agree entirely with your delineation. Once I’ve come to a hard conclusion I am no longer a doubter. If my conclusion is that the Democrats need to be the same as the Republicans (or vice versa), and I start actively advocating for such changes, how can I be expected to be welcome in my political party?
While someone is in the process of doubting we should be supportive, kind, empathetic and compassionate. I hope we can create more safe places in the Church where people can voice doubts and concerns without being branded as evil or “less than.” I believe this is the right way to begin helping someone who is going through a faith crisis or even a transition in faith.