Last week, we talked generally about having difficult conversations at church with Kurt Francom. This week, we’ll actually have specific conversations. Kurt recently interviewed David Ostler on his podcast about faith crisis research Ostler has done regarding reasons why people quit coming to church. Is there a disconnect between what leaders believe and what these people say?
Kurt: Another question he asked, “The percentage who strongly agree about the contribution of issues in individuals’ faith crisis in regards to questions about church history and then went the other way, right? A lot of a faith crisis members, that was a biggie: more than 85 percent. Gender roles within the church, that was another biggie.
GT: How about the leaders? Did the leaders see that as a problem?
Kurt: The leaders were around 40 percent, but it wasn’t the 80 percent. Right? There’s still a discrepancy.
GT: Yeah, 40 and 80, there’s a big difference.
Kurt: The Church’s LGBT policy, same thing. I mean they almost look identical. Transparency with decision making, same thing, right? And so with this information, I feel like a leader can better approach some of these situations when they have the right statistics, right? The right the right data. So does that make sense?
GT: Yeah. So, the big issues or the real issues I guess we should say are our church history was, was 85 percent, you said?
GT: LGBT was probably second?
Kurt: Yeah, that was just under 80 percent.
GT: Under 80 percent. So Church history….
Kurt: Gender roles was the other one which was about 70 percent.
GT: Seventy percent.
Kurt: Yeah. And to me that doesn’t mean, in my opinion, no doctrine, absolutely zero doctrine has to change. It’s not about getting doctrine to change, it’s about the culture. If we can change the culture and start talking, and having a dialogue about these things, then then I think that’s where we’ll see those pews start to fill up with those that maybe have separated themselves from the church.
He thinks that if more leaders were armed with correct information, they can come up with other ways to make our congregations more friendly to people who are experiencing issues of faith. Do you agree?
This American Life, an NPR podcast, recently discussed LDS bishops asking young teens what some call sexually explicit interviews. Should the LDS Church modify the interviews or ban questions about sex? Kurt Francom of the Leading Saints podcast weighs in and we discuss the pros and cons of bishop’s interviews.
Kurt: The vast majority of bishop interviews or having a total net positive in the lives of youth.
GT: Yeah. I mean we could look at is 87 percent are good, 13 percent are bad.
Kurt: Right. Right. We can’t shut down all the beaches because shark attacks happen every once in a while. There’s so much good that happens in these wards because of bishops interviews, even alone with youth, right? Now, obviously the bishop has to protect themselves and handle this correct, but I guess that’s my main point. Sure, more policy would be good. But there’s so much more we can do without a new policy.
GT: Let me throw this out there because I know this has always been a thing that has bothered me over the years. We have two-deep in scouts although we’re getting rid of scouts, but we have two-deep in Primary. Why do we not have two-deep in bishop’s interviews? Why is it? I mean even if you don’t allow the parent to be there, why not have the Relief Society president there if it’s a girl, or a young men’s president, if it’s a boy, I mean, a lot of people have made these suggestions and you know, it’s not like I’m coming up with something original here. Why isn’t the church, and I know it’s not your pay grade, but some people are saying this is common sense, you know? If you have one percent of the problem, I mean the Boy Scouts was a problem. So we have two-deep leadership. The Primary apparently was some sort of an issue. So we have two-deep. So why is the bishop different?
Find out Kurt’s response! What are your thoughts on sexually explicit Bishop’s interviews? Should the Church modify them?
In November 2015, the Church issued the PoX, or Policy of Exclusion. The Exclusion Policy prevents children of gay parents from being baptized or further ordination in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In our last interview with Kurt Francom, we’ll get his opinions, and my opinions, and you’ll find out they are in disagreement quite a bit. It’s also a wonderful way in which we model that people can disagree but still maintain good friendships, even in Sunday School. So, this is an important conversation, and I hope you check it out.
GT: But at any rate, I mean we make such a big deal about a child being baptized at the age of eight. It’s in the Doctrine and Covenants. I mean it’s scripture. And Jesus said it’s better than a millstone be hanged around the neck than to offend these little ones. Okay. Now the church leaders are, number one, they’re ignoring this apparent Doctrine and Covenants scripture when it comes to children of gay parents. Number two, they seem to be ignoring the second article of faith: we are punished for our own sins, and [not for] Adam’s transgression and some people try to say, “Well, it’s just Adam.” No, I should not be punished for your sins. You should not be punished for my sins. My children should not be punished for my sins. I mean, we all have free agency, right?
GT: If my child can’t get baptized at age 8, because I’m gay or whatever, that’s not right. That just feels wrong to me. And I know that a lot of people say, “Well, when they’re 18, they can do it.” Then why doesn’t everybody get baptized at age 18? If it’s so important that we’ve got a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that they’re supposed to be baptized at age eight, it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal.
GT: And there are people between the age of 8 and 18, even that get baptized and fall away from the church, so why would we think that a kid who doesn’t get baptized at eight is suddenly going to get baptized at 18? Especially given that they have to repudiate their parent’s relationship. That logic doesn’t make any sense to me.
Kurt: Yeah. And, wrestle with it. It breaks my heart when people wrestle with it to the point where they just completely separate themselves. Am I in favor for the policy or against it? I see both sides and I’m just trying to maintain in patience as we figure that out.
GT: I’m trying to be patient too, but it’s hard.
Kurt: Yeah, I know. But we need you there on Sunday. We need you to have influence and keep battling there. And I’m not trying to dodge it. I just, I see the struggle in that question. But at the same time, we just have to step back. And part of the greatest thing about being a leader, being a bishop is you have so much empathy for bishops after that. You have so much empathy for apostles after that, for leaders. These are difficult decisions and is the policy the best answer? Maybe, maybe not. But, they have the keys to direct, and they are directing, doing the best that they can. Whether it is exactly right or exactly wrong, or their lack of action in the bishop interview issue is exactly right, or exactly wrong, they’re doing their best to direct. And I think all things considered. We’re moving in the right way and nobody will ever regret having patience, more and more patience with their leaders, and holding on and in the wrestle.
Kurt: And I love that scripture about Jacob wrestling with the angel or with God. And he got to a point that he refused to let go until God blessed him. And so you must refuse to let go until God blesses us and brings greater light and knowledge and then while doing that realize that these leaders are doing the best they can and they deserve some patience.
What are your thoughts regarding the Policy of Exclusion?