Welcome to the first blog edition of Rob’s Take. Rob’s Take first started when as a college student and still living at home, I shared a bedroom with my younger brother and would stay up late providing my opinion on various subjects like BYU football, Ross Perot, what girls like, who would in fight anaconda vs crocodile, things like this. These takes were neither super informed or super welcomed, but I had a captive audience and an opinion, just like I do now.
I liked this recent blog post from Rosalynde Welch on LDS patriarchy and the state of female equality in the Church. I like the style of working from within as a faithful LDS, appreciating the good, but also pointing out areas that need change.
I’ve been critical of Tad Callister’s Book of Mormon apologetics recently, but I liked this video and discussed this in a facebook post here. I would like to see a shift in BOM apologetics to move away from focus on historicity and instead a focus on the complexity, doctrinal profundity, and spiritual power of the text.
Elder Ballard, speaking to future mission presidents in the MTC, talked about the problems that are caused by baptizing investigators too early and said.
Church leaders don’t know where these practices began, but “it was never our intention to invite people to be baptized before they had learned something about the gospel, felt the Holy Ghost, and had been properly prepared to accept a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus Christ,”
Some Exmormons on social media are feeling gaslighted over this. Gaslighting is the newest pop psychology term coined from the movie with same title where someone is intentionally made to feel crazy by another who talks and acts in a way that makes them question reality.
This is not gaslighting, in any shape or form. Ballard is 1) not talking to Exmormons, he’s talking to future mission presidents 2) he is not denying that the Church is responsible for the practice, he’s simply stating he doesn’t know where it began, likely to create an ease for his audience that it’s OK to change this policy without a revelation or other formal action. 3) even if he were, it would require a little bit higher threshold to accuse him of gaslighting. Come on, people. No one is trying to make you crazy.
It’s tough for the church to make progress. Any time we change anything, the first question is “why didn’t you have it right earlier? does that mean revelation can’t be trusted?” So, the church has an extremely hard time making any change. These announcements are unfortunately going to be awkward and likely have some elements that feel manipulative. I think it’s important for progressive, faithful members to try to adopt a positive outlook on these not a negative outlook. We want to encourage more change like this, not make it impossible by slamming on the church with claims of gaslighting and manipulation every time they try to change something.
There was an interesting survey on BCC on BOM historicity. Is it theologically necessary for the Book of Mormon to describe actual, objective history for it to be divine in origin? With 696 votes currently, votes for No won 59% to 41%. I would vote yes if by “divine origin” you equate that to traditional views of Joseph as the prophet of God’s one, true church restored from the original. I would vote no if by “divine origin” you can allow that it is a human production but that during the creative process, the author intersected and was influenced by the divine. That describes how I view it.
This blog post from Jeff Lindsay was interesting. Here, he criticizes Robin Jensen and Brian Hauglid for taking too liberal of an approach with Book of Abraham translation apologetics, conceding too much ground to critics. This is a part of a larger dynamic of discussion between conservative LDS scholars who would take a fundamentalistic, literal view and more moderate LDS scholars who take a more modern approach. What I find most interesting and promising for the church’s future, is that 30 years ago the conservatives were fully aligned with the church and the moderates were being labeled apostate and facing excommunication. Things have changed. The moderates here now are representing the Church in official capacity. The conservatives are frustrated with their positions being pushed out into the fringe and with the Church adopting the position of the moderates.
Listened to a lot of the Jared Lusk podcast series with John Dehlin on Mormon Stories. Another great family that left the church. Jared was facing excommunication for some things he’s been posting on facebook. The outcome was that he was disfellowshipped. That’s a new one. Usually these have ended with excommunication or no action. I wish there were no courts and no punishments, but this is a better outcome. The Church gets to mark someone as someone that doesn’t represent the church and the individual is not excommunicated. I saw a rumor that there has been recent leadership training from Salt Lake to stake presidents that that is an intentional direction.
My wife was released after four years as Gospel Doctrine teacher. That was really fun for us.
I’ve now been “out” attaching my real name to my facebook profile for a few months with still no crossover between real life and internet life. I’ve been promising/threatening a podcast for more than six months now. It’s in the works but not ready for prime time yet. I will start out with 10-12 episodes that will be kind of like an audio book of the entire churchistrue paradigm.
I was going for Lebron when he joined the Lakers, hoping he could create a super team that could knock off the evil Warriors. But now with the Warriors falling apart and especially if they create their own super team with Kawhi, the Lakers will be back in the villian role where they belong. I’m excited to see how the Jazz will look with all these changes.
I’ve been opting for Audible books instead of Mormon podcasts lately. I’ve always felt lacking in not having read the classics, so I’ve been doing some of those. I loved Steinbeck’s East of Eden last year and just finished Cannery Row. Loved it. I tried Faulkner. That was torture. I might try Hemingway next. Loved Anna Karenina. Loved Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment. Trying The Idiot now and it’s been hard to get started. Any suggestions?
Women’s world cup has been fun to watch. Let’s go beat Netherlands.
The problem is discussed in the Book of Mormon so it is really old.
Paul also ran into it.
It really is safe to say we don’t know when it started.
Hi Rob. Congrats on delving into the classics. I recommend Hemingway’s short stories. I dearly love his Nick Adams stories, which I revisit every couple of years. If you get the complete collection, they can almost be read like a novel.
Elder Ballard’s statement may not be gaslighting, but it is certainly disingenuous. Many of current elderly leaders of the Church are old enough to remember the period when it happened. I served a mission in the mid-1960’s. I saw the disastrous results of quickie (swimming-pool) baptisms. Our leaders know full well who some of the instigators were: Henry D. Moyle and Alvin R. Dyer. And during what period it occurred. After reading hawkgirl’s missionary memoir, I was astonished that Dyer’s ideas were still in circulation in the 1990″s. It seems like there was still a rush to baptism. I’m glad the emphasis on quick baptisms is over, but let’s not have convenient memories about the past.
As for the BoM, in the 1960’s we alleged that the book was a history of the Native Americans. It’s historicity was an important part of our missionary message. So backing off that claim is painful. But it is our leaders who painted us into that corner.
Ballard’s comments might not be gaslighting but I’m with rogerdhansen on this one. Ballard could have simply said, “We would like to end the practice of baptizing people before they have felt the Spirit. Missionaries should not be compelled to issue a baptismal invitation during the first lesson, though in all things they should follow the Spirit.” Nothing more needed to be said. Alleging ignorance on this subject was itself ignorant at best and most likely disingenuous.
I applaud the church for making this change and I applaud the exmormon community’s calling out Elder Ballard for his careless comments.
On the subject of disciplinary councils, OP said “Usually these have ended with excommunication or no action.”
This might be a little nit-picky, but I’m only aware of one well publicized disciplinary council that ended with no action (Gina Colvin), so I don’t think it can be lumped into the “usually” category, but it may be part of the beginning of a trend to non-excommunication. I would be interested to know if there have been other no-action councils.
I find your take it gaslighting ironic.
“Gaslighting is the newest pop psychology term…”
Sounds like you’re trying to discredit the concept of gaslighting by saying it isn’t real, ergo making people question their reality that gaslighting is a thing, whereas Wikipedia cites sources at least as far back as the 80’s. At least you aren’t trying to drive us all insane.
“This is not gaslighting, in any shape or form.”
Wikipedia lists signs of gaslighting, some of which may apply to Ballard’s comment:
-Withholding information from the victim (i.e., that the church knows about Dyer, and others)
-Blocking and diverting the victim’s attention from outside sources (debatably, that members feel they should not look at unapproved sources or sites)
Ok, I actually think that gaslighting is originally intended to describe a more abusive relationship than what Ballard is saying. But to say that Ballard’s quote is not gaslighting “in any form” goes a step too far.
Rockwell. Good point, I probably misspoke saying excommunication and no action were the main outcomes, since I think you’re right that Gina’s is the only one really that I know of that came that way. So, I guess typically they have all been excommunication if they got that far.
On the Ballard gaslighting thing. Sorry, none of these responses are very compelling to me. He’s not gaslighting anyone when he tells mission presidents they want to change a practice that they are not sure when and how started.
Unfortunately, they know damn well exactly when it started: in the early 1960’s. And the Church left a bunch of unprepared 20-yr-olds to deal with the mess. For example, I think that Michael Quinn spent part of his mission time trying to clean up church membership records.
That also doesn’t explain why it took 60 years to “officially” disavow the practice. Or why, they are still having to disavow the practice.
Sorry, Elder Ballard et al don’t get a pass from me. He misspoke, he needs to own up to it. And explain why he is still talking about the issue in 2019.
Churchistrue, I’m changing my position a bit. If you think gaslighting has to be intentional, you are probably right, Ballard was not doing it. I still don’t like what he said for a number of reasons adequately covered above by other people, but I can see why you wouldn’t call it gaslighting.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, I still think the exmos that are saying this have a bit of a point, even if their wording is not ideal. I assume this talk must have been published beyond the group of mission presidents, or we wouldn’t be seeing it. Someone (probably not Ballard) is responsible for that. So who is really the intended audience? Is it gaslighting? I’m not going to try to convinced you that it is. But I can see why exmos would feel like church leaders keep saying, “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
I wanted to add, but I keep forgetting, that I like your analysis about why it is hard for the church to make changes. The questions raised about revelation and such are definitely an issue. When the exclusion policy was rescinded, it raised a lot of these questions. It was, in my view, an overwhelmingly positive change, but raised questions about why the policy was changed to bring with.
I do not want to be part of that problem. I don’t want to be part of a group that takes every positive change and says, well, that’s good but if we were really an inspired organization we would have done that sooner. Yet that is often how I feel.
Whether Elder Ballard was disingenuous in his remarks about not knowing how baptizing people too quickly got started, is a good question, because, as has been pointed out, Alvin Dyer and Henry Moyle really DID push the idea of quick Church growth in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Alvin Dyer particularly wanted investigators to be baptized as soon as they received a witness that what the missionaries were teaching them was true. Of course, enthusiastic Mission Presidents and missionaries tried to follow leaders’ counsel 110 percent, and weirdnesses were the result, e.g., the so-called baseball baptisms, and this created a mess that was hard for the Church to clean up.
A story on this subject: while getting my Masters Degree at BYU in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I taught Mandarin Chinese at the MTC. Rumors began to circulate among the MTC staff that the incredibly high baptismal statistics of the Tokyo South Mission were due in large part to extremely high-pressure tactics by missionaries, who were teaching young, impressionable Japanese students all the discussions in one sitting, in missionary apartments, clear through the night, ending in a bathtub baptism. (Please do not hold my recollections of this to too high a standard; this is based on memories from almost 40 years ago, and I will gladly concede any errors that can be pointed out by anyone with better knowledge.) Well, one day, a meeting was called of MTC instructors, at which an irate high-level MTC official chewed us out and told us to stop denigrating what was happening in Tokyo South, that it was wonderful.
Shortly after that, if my memory is right, a Bishop of a ward in the Tokyo South Mission sent a cassette tape to a Japanese instructor at the MTC describing in detail the shenanigans that were taking place; the Japanese instructor passed it on to the Missionary Committee, which promptly brought the whole mess to a screeching halt.
The important thing IMO is that Elder Ballard is trying to rein in and correct a problem that the Church has with its missionary program.
These kind of problems will continue to periodically erupt in a Church that is so very goal-oriented and performance-oriented. I long ago concluded that the Church’s missionary efforts reminded me of Amway conventions from the 1980s. There are strengths in having a lay clergy, but if it is staffed largely by hard-charging business people, then we are going to always have attempts to improve performance with an emphasis on statistics, and the tendency to build empty Potemkin Villages designed to impress high leaders will always be with us.
When I was a missionary in Taiwan, the vast majority of converts promptly went inactive. Yet the Church has been built in Taiwan through the efforts of adult converts who married other adult converts and raised families in the Church, and somehow they built a good foundation. I personally think it is a lousy way to make sausage, and I wish the Church would find a better way to find people and bring them “into the fold,” but our high-pressure methods do find some good people, even as the great majority of the people who get baptized do not stick with it.
Church is True: everyone has different favorites in reading classics, but you might want try to read Jane Austen’s novels, or Charles Dickens, or Wilkie Collins. Collins particularly had strong female characters in his novels, a bit unusual for the mid-1800s. All very readable and exciting authors. I also like Victor Hugo and Dumas; so-called “serious” critics tend to look down on Duma, but he wrote wonderful adventure stories. If you found Faulkner tedious, avoid Henry James. A few years ago, I slogged through War and Peace, and by the time I was done, I was ready to reach through the veil and strangle Tolstoy.
One other thing: Elder Ballard, before he became Acting President of the Q12, visited the Baltimore Mission, met with its missionaries, about 2016 or so , when I lived out there, and one of the things he told them was, we love you, appreciate what you are doing, but you are not baptizing enough. Well, that creates pressure on a young missionary who wants to be obedient, to hurry out and baptize someone. I think our Church leaders personally oscillate between “do more” and “whoa, let’s do it right.” I do do think they are being insincere or disingenuous as they oscillate between the two extremes; they are merely being inconsistent, like all of us.
Sorry: “do not think,” rather than “do do think.” typing this at 1 ayem..
Taiwan, thanks for the background info on the baptism thing. The more I read on this, the less I think Ballard was being deceptive at all, let alone gaslighting. Also, thanks for the input on classic novels. I want to try Jane Austen.
For those still wanting to hang Ballard for this, is this not a likely scenario?
Ballard: We’re going to go ahead and change up the missionary process of inviting to baptism in the first couple . We need to understand how big of a deal this is. Has anyone declared this is the Lord’s way or called it a revelation that we do it this way? I’d rather just kind of brush it to the side and announce a new way instead of being dramatic about reversing a prior policy or revelation.
PR professionals and historical advisors: No, not that we have found.
Ballard: We’ve been doing it this way as long as I can remember, was there a time it was introduced officially?
PR professionals and historical advisors: No, you’re good. Looks like it was in place at least from the 1950’s, maybe earlier.
Ballard: OK great, I’ll just say we don’t know how it started, so no one freaks out that we’re going against a prior prophet.
I feel like this is extremely likely scenario. Critics need to chill on this one. For a couple years during my faith crisis, I was aligned more with you than the faithful LDS side. I want to represent you to my active LDS brothers and sisters when they don’t understand how they’re hurting you. But if you go nuts every time the Church does anything, you make it very difficult to do that.
Rob, let me start by saying that I’m not trying to hang Elder Ballard. I think it’s good the Church is changing the emphasis from baptize anyone who breathes to baptize only those converted. (And I think it’s great that you try to give leaders the benefit of the doubt.)
However I think you (and many of the exmormons offended by Ballard’s comments) are focused too much on the line about church leaders not knowing where the practice started. My complaint isn’t with whether or not church’s leaders know how it started. I couldn’t care less how it started. Church leaders knew it was going on and didn’t discourage it. (Given it is discussed twice in Preach My Gospel, I think you can say the church at least tacitly encouraged inviting on the first discussion.) Now Elder Ballard comes along and says, “This practice isn’t right and here are some reasons it has been done in the past,” but fails to accept any responsibility for encouraging it. Instead, the only reasons he gives behind this past practice are from the missionary’s point of view; why a missionary might have mistakenly thought inviting on the first discussion was desirable. Elder Ballard made no reported mention of the fact that this was encouraged by the Missionary Department.
He could have easily avoided the exmormon backlash if he had simply said, “We would like to end the practice of missionaries inviting unprepared investigators to be baptized,” and left it at that. Or even better since this talk was directed at mission presidents, “In the past many mission presidents have felt pressure from Salt Lake to encourage their missionaries to invite unprepared investigators to be baptized. Effective immediately this is no longer our policy. And we’re changing Preach My Gospel to better reflect this new direction.”
Instead his comments come off as blaming the missionary for this less desirable (but heretofore Church sanctioned) approach.
I actually want to stick up for the Missionary statistics based approach. As someone who’d naturally timid and has pretty serious social anxiety, knowing I had to report out my numbers made me more inclined to talk to people. I learned what others learned, that it gets a lot easier and becomes a non-issue as you do it more and more.
One thing we forget is that in the sales world, if your numbers are not there, you get written up and can lose your job. In the missionary world, you didn’t get written up, just encouraged to try harder. No one was sent home or moved to the office because they didn’t talk to enough people. The statistics and numbers provide a form of accountability.
I’m all for slowing things down with baptisms and making sure the member has a testimony since they are entering in to a covenant that’s meant to be eternal.
MTodd. Let me put this delicately….so what? Why should it bother you that he’s not taking full responsibility for the practice? It’s a positive change. But he sort of bungled the why’s and the how’s of it. Does that hurt you somehow? Why should there be backlash at all? It’s like Exmo’s are expecting there to be this watershed moment when Mormon Church admits wrong doing and everyone wakes up and leaves, but instead it’s just small changes here and there without acknowledging any wrongdoing and the membership is fine with it and the church rolls on. Is that why people are mad?
Andy: “No one was sent home or moved to the office because they didn’t talk to enough people.”
Really? My second senior companion (yes, that’s what they were called back then) told me his first mission president had sent so many people home for other reasons, that when the president said he’d send anyone home who didn’t submit reports showing at least 65 proselyting hours every week, the missionaries believed him and mostly began lying on their reports. My first mission president, successor to the one in the preceding sentence, did in fact move a missionary to the office who had basically done nothing otherwise. One of his junior companions told me that for 3 months they went nowhere but to church, to movies, to the grocery store, and otherwise stayed in the apartment listening to the same one pop music tape over and over. Moving him to the office staff was the best thing that ever happened to that missionary. There he served well and diligently, though he still claimed that his mission was the shortest two hundred years of his life. 🙂
I think I’m naturally hesitant to make any generalization about what happens/happened in the “missionary world.” There is an extraordinarily wide spectrum of experiences as a result of different places, different cultures, different companions, different mission presidents, different missionaries, and different times. It sounds like your experience worked out well; I hope so.
HOLY COW!!! In my mission, you only got sent home for fornication, like serious fornication.
I’m curious how many missions have that practice. I’m speechless!
It’s great that you try your hardest to give church leadership the benefit of the doubt. I think you should also try to give exmormons a little slack too.
Let’s use an example that’s not the church. Say Ballard’s Used Car Dealership engaged in aggressive sales tactics. These were sales tactics developed over 40 years ago by the company owners at the time. Eventually the old guard who had instituted these practices died off but the new leaders continued with and even systematized the aggressive sales practices, writing them into their training program for new salesmen and regularly encouraging middle managers to remind salesmen to use these aggressive sales practices.
Recently it became apparent to the current leadership that these aggressive sales practices result in serious customer dissatisfaction. In fact the customer dissatisfaction is so great it is negatively impacting new sales. So the current leadership calls a meeting of its newest middle managers. At this meeting, the current VP of Sales says, “We don’t know how these aggressive sales practices came to be used. Some salesmen thought this would be in the best interest of their customer. Other salesmen thought this would help generate positive word of mouth about the company. Regardless, it was never our intention to do the things these aggressive sales practices did.”
It’s great that Ballard’s Used Car Dealership is discouraging use of these aggressive sales practices, but try to see it from the viewpoint of former salesmen for the company. They can be both excited for the positive change in sales practices and also be angered that their former company refused to take any responsibility for the previous practices that they many of these former salesmen felt forced to use.
MTodd’s analogy of Ballard Used Cars is clever and well done. I enjoyed reading it. I would like to point out, though, whether in the Church or out, whether in a Gospel environment or at work (whether private sector or government, it is the same), there is almost always a near-total unwillingness and/or inability to confront past mistakes—even when the past mistakes have generated enough momentum to change things to try and do better. Question of, is it right or wrong really does not enter into the matter; this is a basic, and less than appealing, aspect of our universal human condition.
Case in point: because I was born in Germany, and lived there until I was 18, Germany history interests me. I am currently reading a book titled, “Divided Memory,” which analyzes how West Germany and East Germany confronted and dealt with their Nazi past, after the war. The book makes a persuasive case that the East Germans, controlled by the USSR, simple suppressed any attempts to come to terms with the guilt from the Nazi Era, and placed guilty Nazi officials into positions of authority in the new East German government. The Western occupying forces (UK, USA, and France), together with Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s first postwar Chancellor, soon realized that serious attempts to thoroughly account for Nazi Era guilt, would undermine efforts to build a stable, democratic post-war Germany and would tear postwar West Germany apart, because so many people were guilty. So they opted for selective punishment of high-profile Nazis, let the rest slide, and continued with building a new postwar order that eventually became a model for Europe.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda. It is discouraging that Church leaders are reluctant to acknowledge past mistakes, but it is neither realistic nor fair to expect them to be better than the rest of the world, to be better than than our collectively imperfect human condition:
Not so sure it’s unrealistic or unfair to ask of men whose position is specifically spiritual, who make claim to being representatives of Heavenly Father himself, to be held to a different and, in fact, a much higher standard. Execeptionalwould seem to me to be an absolute a priori to be set apart as leadership.
I think Mormons and exMormons alike can appreciate the imperfect nature of humans and show some tolerance. But should it be an ongoing phenomenon to rely on the humanness of leaders to order to justify their leadership?
Meanwhile, apart from the question of woulda, coulda, shoulda, how does information directed at future MPs communicated at the MTC make its way out into the Bloggosphere? It doesn’t seem it was an exMormon who who was first to take offense so is it right to make them the heavies for the fact that the church is, once again, embarrassed.
I hope we will allow the Church to make a change in practice (does anyone object to the change?) without insisting that someone be thrown under the bus; rather, I think it is charitable to allow others to save face. We do it in our families all the time — at least, we did in mine, and that was for good.
I have no problem with the church making this change. I rejoice in it. I also have no problem with Elder Ballard saving face. He could easily have said, “We’re making this change,” and left it at that. I do have a problem with Elder Ballard throwing previous missionaries under the bus. Why did he have to try and guess at reasons missionaries would invite investigators to be baptized on the first discussion? He didn’t have to. But once he started down that road, I would hope he would be honest enough to recognize the main driver for this behavior was the church’s missionary department.
About the article you recommended; I quote “This flawed patriarchal institution, can God transform it into a vehicle of grace?”
Of course. God is omnipotent. Or maybe not or it would have been absolutely perfect in everyone’s eyes from Day One and there would be no Lucifer, no war in heaven, and no evil on Earth right now or at any time in past, present or future. Everything would be perfect and there would be no need for a commandment to become perfect.
You know the saying; if you want something done right, do it yourself. Why should church be any different? Why are you (being whoever is looking) for a vehicle of grace rather than creating such a thing in your own image? You might be looking for a very long time.
That is the message of the First Vision; you’ll be looking for a long time for the “right church” if you wait for an existing church to become a vehicle of grace.
Or you can make it. Those who think it still isn’t made ought to emulate joseph Smith; he did not (near as I can tell) try to reform any of the churches that then existed; he started a new one. Then James Strang started one and so did many others using the Book of Mormon but disaffected with some aspect of church as it then existed.
Ballard continues to gaslight. I could throw out fact after objective fact of his own deceptive tactics. Ballard himself went last year to all the Mission Presidents in Mexico and told them that they are not baptizing enough.He stated :20K baptisms in Mexico are not enough, we need at least 30K per year. That led directly to the Mission President in Mexico City North, telling the missionaries they can not eat lunch until they have 4 meaningful discussions. Then as the physical and emotional abuse happened, some missionaries finally spoke up. When word got back to SL, they blamed and stated “there were a few over zealous District Leaders.” What a deceitful organization.
I could go one for hours and do so about the abuses on my mission. Talk to any missionary and even the TBM’s will admit to problems within the missionary system about the push for numbers and the resultant abuse and problems.
When I heard John Dehlin tell the truth of the lies in Guatemala, I finally felt that someone experienced what I did. Now I realize that thousands endured this abuse and lies.
This missionary system is broken and showed me the truth that Mormonism is not what it declares.
I enjoyed your comment. You are of course correct that that it is NOT unfair to ask for much higher standards from our spiritual leaders. However, I have reluctantly concluded that it IS unrealistic to expect this. I believe that such expectations will lead to a lot of frustration.
I do NOT rely on the human-ness of my leaders to justify their leadership. By today’s standards of behavior, Joseph Smith’s actions would have gotten him a lengthy prison term. Brigham Young did many wonderful things in leading the Saints, but in the process, he damaged lives and even destroyed some. You can take every President of the Church since those two, and find examples of how they did wrong things, and caused damage.
So, for me at least, the question is this: did God use these fallen beings as leaders to accomplish His work? I believe that the answer is that, often, yes, He did. Joseph Smith said that he never claimed to be a good man, just a man who was called by God. The more we learn about him, the more it seems that this is the only way to evaluate his record as a flawed human being who nevertheless blessed us because of his experiences with the divine.
I have been able to stay in the Church, because I became aware early on that I could not expect very much from my leaders, and I adjusted my expectations accordingly. I have been able to balance that disappointment with the realization of the good they do. While that might be unsatisfactory for many people, I have been blessed by realizing that poor behavior exists side-by-side with attempts to do good.
My approach will be unsatisfactory for some. I accept and respect their inability or unwillingness to accept my perspective, but would ask that they accord similar respect to my approach.
I call it the “positive approach of people who have not lobotomized themselves to the problems in the Church.” The so-called TBMs who hyper-ventilate and bristle at any perceived attempt to deal openly with Church issues, are in my opinion much more likely to leave the Church at some future time, than those of us who remain, even with our dissatisfactions and questions.
“For those still wanting to hang Ballard for this, is this not a likely scenario…”
Your question is not directed at me, as I don’t want to hang Ballard, not even as a figure of speech. Your scenario is reasonable.
What I’m saying is I understand why exmos feel this way. I liked MTodd’s analogy.
I also think it’s worth remembering the unique behavior of the Internet. This is a meme being passed and shared in exmo circles on Reddit and probably Facebook. There are well over 100000 members of exmormon Reddit, but it only takes a few OPs on the topic with 200+ upvotes each (perhaps from the most angsty) to fill up the front page of the Reddit group, which trickles in to a few more posts and carries on for a while. This is just the flavor of the month gripe of the people who are already hurting enough that they are checking in with their community that has a shared exmormon status. The viral nature of the meme is not representative of exmorons in general, but of the subset that is always posting to their exmo social network. Most OPs on Facebook or Reddit give little thought to the full context of the quote. People who like or upvote the OP just read the quote and look at the picture, they aren’t thinking about whether this was a message for mission presidents.
I agree that there are side effects; that this kind of meme could discourage positive change in the church. There is little we can do about it. The exmos need their community, and they need to talk about their pain. Would it help to acknowledge their pain? I don’t know, but maybe. Will it help to argue that Ballard wasn’t talking to them? I doubt it.
I do like that you are talking about barriers that keep the church from changing.
Oops. I said “exmorons” at least once. I’m sorry. This is an offensive term, but please understand it was completely unintentional. I would not use that term on purpose, and if I could edit the comment I would.
Faith referred to the John Dehlin missionary experience in Guatemala. I had not remembered that part of Dehlin’s report concerned Elder Ballard. The abuses that followed his then efforts in Guatemala seem to have been supported by the mission president contrary to the policies established by Elder Ballard. Maybe what we see when we take the reports together is a mixture of inconsistent memory, inconsistent and changing policies, sloppy rhetoric, too much ecclesiastical climbing by too many people (from the youngest missionaries through at least mission presidents and general authorities), and perhaps unfortunate attempts to create plausible deniability — all normal human behaviors and not what many expect of our church leaders. But, if willing to look, we can also see many examples of real efforts — also at all ecclesiastical levels — of well-motivated, loving, Christian efforts and leadership. I take the approach suggested by Taiwan Missionary and articulated by TM rather better than I could.
from John Dehlin, February 11, 1992:
“Elder Ballard came down in March of 1989, apparently to stop what was going on. He basically called the missionaries to repentance and established a firm rule that no one was to be baptized until all six discussions had been received. He also established the policy that investigators had to attend church at least twice before they could be baptized. A lot of missionaries felt bad because they had been baptizing people inappropriately, and some of them even repented for what they had done. Unfortunately, the effects soon wore off.
Initially our president supported Elder Ballard, and encouraged the missionaries to obey the rules he established, but as time went on and the number of baptisms began to decrease, slowly the standards were let down. First our president would say, ‘No one can be baptized without meeting the requirements set by Elder Ballard, unless I personally authorize it.’ After a while permission could be granted by the Assistants to the President (AP’s), then the Zone Leaders (ZL’s), then the District Leaders (DL’s), then we were back to normal.”
I agree that Elder Ballard may not of known the exact details of how exactly the practice started (unless he used his seer stone), so he arguably was not technically lying. However, what of the mission presidents who uncomfortably obediently followed the earlier priesthood counsel to invite people to be baptized on the first lesson and were seen by some local leaders and missionaries as being unrighteously over zealous to look good? Many people who felt pressured into doing this now disavowed practice and even felt guilty for years after it, get kicked again! Instead of getting acknowledgment from Elder Ballard that this practice was often taught over the years, it makes it sound like those mission presidents who did obey the prior teaching really were uninspired thus confirming the accusations of the varios missionaries and local leaders who suffered from the presidents directive. Would be nice for then to be some how vindicated for obeying instead of further incriminated.
Church leaders, as well as corporate leaders in the private sector, and government officials who have managerial responsibilities, are very often unhappy with how their subordinates try to implement their guidelines. It seems to be part of the human condition, for leaders to be dissatisfied.
Case in point with Elder Ballard: it was in 2001 or 2002 that he announced in General Conference Priesthood Session that the Church was “raising the bar” on standards for receiving missionary calls. No longer could missionaries sow wild oats up to the age of 18 and 1/2, then go into the Bishop, repent, get one’s mission call, and head off at age 19. Repeated serious offenses would be disqualifying. During his talk, he acknowledged that the new, stricter standards might well result in a drop in missionary numbers, and that the Church was willing to accept that trade-off , to get more qualified missionaries.
A few years later, Elder Ballard spoke again in G.C., and complained that the decline in missionary numbers was far greater than Church leaders had anticipated! I am surprised that he was surprised.
Leaders (Church, business, government) tend to under-estimate the negative consequences of their policy decisions. I have lived long enough to realize that every good decision will also contain negative consequences. Subordinate leaders over-implement policy changes (the M.P. In Mexico making lunch conditional on teaching, as an appalling example).
Although Elder Ballard has been singled out prominently in this back-and-forth discussion, I believe you could find similar case studies for almost all our leaders, where their guidance is followed over-zealously. This is always going to be a problem in a Church whose members believe it to be uniquely true.
And our Church leaders are going to continue to be inconsistent. Here, they merely follow the example of Jesus Christ, who in the Gospels was loving and gentle one moment, and harsh and apocalyptic the next. If Jesus can be that way, his Church’s leaders are only following Hus example.
When I served as a Temple worker, we periodically viewed training films. The films contained the following sentence: “please do not over-interpret what you see and hear in this film.”
That would not have been included, unless over-interpretation was indeed a problem.
If they would stop tracking numbers, stop promoting mission presidents to be general authorities based on their numbers and stop acting like a corporation and act like christ, they would avoid these issues.
But they insist on tracking numbers and not just let the gospel speak for its self.
But it is a sick institution since it can not learn how to serve and instead focus on obidience
Faith writes “But it is a sick institution since it can not learn how to serve and instead focus on obidience”
I presume you aren’t actually affected by its sickness. Next week: The sickness of the Scientologists! I am not affected, not being one, but I’ll admit it is risky fun to discuss Xenu.
MIchael 2……..what is your problem. ?
Yes, I have been personally and deeply affected, along with harmed by the sickness and the hypocrisy of the LDS institution. I will not throw my pearls before swines and tell you the facts and details.
But if you learned some compassion and empathy, you would not be trolling this site trying to create chaos and hurt feelings. If you want to chill out and stop re-quoting everyone, you might learn something. LEARN to listen and understand others. If not, get in your antiquated time machine and travel back to 1885 and let us know when you are ready to join the 21st Century.
You definitely need to learn respect and how to honor others who have experienced other life circumstances outside the Mormon cookie cutter dreamscape.
Rob – The Idiot is one of Dostoyevsky’s “lighter” novels. I think the lesson contained in it is also potent.
If you are looking for a light yet profound book I would go for The Art of Racing in the Rain. If you are looking for something religiously profound, I would read Silence. The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is fantastic as well.