Credibility, whether personal or institutional, is one of those things that takes years to build but can be squandered and lost in a matter of days. To whit, one Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packer quarterback who is the reigning MVP of the NFL and who, until last week, was widely regarded as a fairly intelligent guy. He was a serious contender for the new Jeopardy host job and did a guest hosting gig on the show earlier this year. That whole charade unraveled last week after Rodgers tested positive for Covid-19 and was placed on his team’s Covid reserve list. It was disclosed that he would certainly miss the then-upcoming Sunday game with the Kansas City Chiefs and that he would not be eligible to return to activity with the team for ten days — which blatantly signaled that he was not vaccinated, despite his coy comments earlier this season to the contrary. (If he had been vaccinated, he could have returned earlier with two successive negative Covid tests.) In the week since, it has been a media feeding frenzy, fueled in part by Rodgers’ own rambling 45-minute interview/monologue on a sports talk show on Friday, trying to explain his choices and defend his earlier statements.
That sound you heard was the sound of credibility imploding. His credibility would have taken a hit even if he had said nothing, given his earlier misleading (at best) statement implying he had been vaccinated and his rather cavalier behavior over the course of the season (attending press conferences at indoor meeting rooms without a mask, when league Covid protocols clearly required unvaccinated players to wear a mask during such encounters at the team facility). But Friday’s interview really put the nail in the judgment and credibility coffin. This isn’t just me and my slanted opinion. Here, in no particular order, are some of the national media stories that have dropped over the last week:
- At USA Today: “Suspension not expected, but Aaron Rodgers, Packers facing fines for Covid protocol transgressions.”
- At The Atlantic: “Why Aaron Rodgers Felt Free to Mislead People.”
- At WaPo: “Aaron Rodgers said he did the research on covid vaccines. Here’s how he was wrong, according to the experts.”
- At the Guardian: “Anti-vaxxer Aaron Rodgers’ spectacular fall from grace happened in record time.”
- Howard Stern weighed in, suggesting Rodgers should be thrown out of the NFL.
- Terry Bradshaw weighed in: “You lied to everyone.”
- At NBC Sports PFT, reporting that Aaron Rodgers “feels like he’s being crucified” and raising the possibility that Rodgers is so upset by the negative reactions to his Friday interview that he might just retire from football.
The definitive sign that Rodgers the respected and fairly intelligent quarterback is now a national joke was the parody Saturday Night Live cold opening. It wasn’t really very funny. The whole affair is sad, not funny, and it’s not over yet.
So why review all this? Because it’s a ripped-from-the-headlines example of how quickly credibility can be lost. How quickly a good reputation can be squandered. For a corporate example, think Firestone tires from a few years ago. It is amazing how much an unaware person or institution can unwittingly blow their own credibility or reputation by making rash or unwarranted statements or by mismanaging a crisis. Now let’s take a look at the LDS scenario.
Church Leadership Judgment and Credibility
What can we say about LDS institutional credibility? Has it gone up or down lately? Historically, there are some well known 19th-century episodes where LDS credibility took a hit, but the Church muddled on through and, over time, recovered: The Kirtland Bank fiasco. The succession crisis in 1844-45. The public announcement of the practice of LDS plural marriage in 1852. The Mountain Meadows Massacre, accounts of which leaked out in pieces in the years after the event of 1857. Wow, it’s amazing the Church made it to 1900 intact.
But the focus here is on recent years, with the relevant point to carry over from the Aaron Rodgers discussion being just how quickly credibility can evaporate, vanish into thin air. I’m sure loss of credibility varies across individuals, so I’m not ready to make any bold statements based on just my own view of things. Here are a couple of recent events that could, for some people, hurt LDS institutional and leadership credibility.
First, the LDS policy defining being in a gay marriage as “apostasy,” an excommunicable offense, and putting membership restrictions on children of gay-married parents. This was put in place in 2015 (rather secretly, a separate story in itself) then walked back (sort of) in 2019. Here is an NPR article that reviews the whole story and isn’t behind a paywall, but there are plenty of other places to read the story. The 2015 announcement and the strange way it was slipped into the Handbook was off-putting for many LDS. The interview a few days later by Elder Christofferson attempting to defend the policy was painful. Labelling it a “revelation” a couple of months later didn’t seem to solve anything. Then the apparent reversal in 2019 made people even more confused, as if God changed His mind twice in four years. It was a self-inflicted crisis that became a mismanaged crisis, all to little or no benefit to the Church.
Second, the hundred billion dollar fund. Oops, we didn’t tell you about that? Well of course they didn’t tell us. The Church hasn’t released financial statements publicly since roughly the 1950s, although (and this is truly bizarre) they continue to issue a so-called audit report telling the membership that the financial statements they are not allowed to see do, in fact, fairly state the financial revenue and expenditures, as well as the financial position, of the Church. Perhaps the most telling anecdote I heard in connection with the awkward public disclosure of the size of the huge secret LDS investment fund was that Elder Packer attempted to get information about the fund at one point, but was denied access. So of course you and I didn’t know anything about it. Even Elder Packer didn’t know much. I think LDS leadership credibility and candor took a big hit with this recent revelation. To put it bluntly, if they’ll hide a hundred billion dollars, they’ll hide anything, so what else are they hiding?
Now it’s not at all clear that the general membership of the Church felt any loss of credibility toward the leadership about these or any other issues. That’s part of what I am asking here.
- Did your view of the credibility of the Church as in institution or of the leadership of the Church take a hit over these recent episodes?
- Were there any other recent events that might have had this effect for you?
- Do you think the average active and attending member of the Church had any such reaction to these or other recent events?
- If not, what sort of event could possibly call LDS credibility into question for the average active member?
Let me throw in a quick disclaimer. I’m not suggesting you *should* think the Church has a credibility problem because of these or other events. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. I’m sure there are Green Bay Packer fans who bristle at the widespread reaction that Aaron Rodgers misled or flat out lied to the public, put some members of the public (like journalists in the press room) at risk, or let down his teammates (with Rodgers, his team would most likely have beaten a surprisingly weak Kansas City team on Sunday). And I’m sure there are LDS who see no problem whatsoever with anything the Church does or with anything any LDS leaders have said.
As a final thought, let me add the truly strange observation that the publication of the Gospel Topics Essays probably caused more questioning and heartache among the general membership of the Church than either of the two events I have noted above, or any other event you might raise in the comments (seer stone photo in the Ensign, Book of Abraham “translation,” etc.). For the average Mormon, salting away a hundred billion dollars or scapegoating gays and their children are no problem at all — but making a good faith attempt to set out a more accurate account of LDS history and doctrine on various troubling issues, that’s a big problem. Imagine being a random Seventy who is chatting with an Apostle and hearing this comment: “I’m a little surprised more members weren’t troubled by our Hundred Billion Dollar Fund. Some of them were even proud the Church managed to save up so much money for a rainy day. But wow, those Essays sure stirred up some trouble …”
Individual members are often said to be having a “faith crisis” as more and more learn about these thorny issues over the past decade or so. Less discussed is the “credibility crisis” that the institutional Church has experienced over the same time period. I think that is unfair and backwards.
It is Credibility Crisis the Church is having which erodes trust in our leaders, spurious doctrinal claims, church finances, etc., and has caused the faith crisis of many members. The Church has not done enough to address or modify its practices, doctrines, policies, etc. to stop the trend for member disengagement and in many cases, resignation.
The Church currently does not apologize, it does not admit certain practices were harmful and flat-out wrong, it will not stop pushing the narrative that this is still God’s true church. Therefore, it will continue to lose credibility, and suffer the natural consequences of its action/inaction.
I would add the rehabbing of the conference talk by Elder Poelman, the hasty institutional exit from Boy Scouts, and the origins of the Family Proclamation.
Greatly enjoyed Bishop Bill’s recent post about special witness of Christ – I think we are realizing more and more that they are just random dudes who can unleash their own agenda when called as church president. No better than the bishop’s wife who bullied my wife and daughter or the “most spiritual” guy in the ward who shunned us because my kid was an immoral threat to his kid.
I don’t really follow the NFL or Aaron Rodgers or any of that, and I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, and I don’t think we should ruin people over one mistake … so I was giving him the benefit of the doubt reading about his “carefully researched” immunization protocol until I read the word “ivermectin” and then, wow. Just wow.
I think the two you’ve pointed out are huge & agree that a lot of “faith crises” are really trust / credibility crises.
The Gospel Topics essays and other Church sources were problematic for me not because they revealed problematic Church history (I knew most of that stuff) but because they themselves were so misleading. So that created a credibility crisis.
The Church’s response to sex abuse scandals, such as Joseph Bishop, was a big credibility / trust problem for me.
Temple changes that weren’t really changes and that we weren’t allowed to talk about.
Local responses to the pandemic.
From where I sit, much of the Church’s credibility crisis is local. I’m usually quick to criticize the senior leaders of the Church for any number of reasons, but I do appreciate how they set the example and publicly got vaccinated, encouraged members to get vaccinated, and emphasized during every session of the last general conference that everyone present (including the choir) was fully vaccinated. However, individual wards and stakes have a patchwork of varying mask requirements, which are largely dependent on the whims and political persuasions of the local leaders rather than common-sense public health measures. In my own ward and stake, I have never once heard a local leader encourage vaccination over the pulpit (my stake president privately told me he is very much in favor of vaccines, as if he wanted to keep that a secret). A few months ago, a member of my ward, whom I will call Steven, died of COVID-related complications. Steven was a wonderful guy and a gentle soul, and he and the bishop were longtime friends and neighbors. Steven was also an avid listener of conservative talk radio and under the influence of some of those ideas. But if the bishop had politely encouraged Steven to follow the prophet and get vaccinated, he would have done it in a heartbeat. But that never happened. Steven finally asked for the vaccination while he was in ICU as his kidneys were shutting down and his lungs were filling with fluid. It was too late for him.
Last month, that same bishop came down with COVID and was admitted to the hospital for a week. It turns out he was never vaccinated either. Though he survived, he came back to Church without the slightest bit of guilt or contrition for his serious leadership failure, and as far as I know, received no punishment from the stake president. Instead, he praised his recovery as a miracle from God. What a crock.
For me, the Church is losing credibility by the day because the local leaders can’t be counted on to do the right thing, and the general leadership isn’t holding them accountable.
The big three recent ones for me:
1. POX. My brother and a lot of other people left the church over this. The concept was bad, the handbook language was poorly written, they had no plan put in place how to handle the reaction to it. Huge mess.
2. Weakness on issues of race. The Republican party is becoming more and more outwardly racist, and although we fortunately do see some pushback on this at General Conference, etc. it’s not nearly enough. Of course the church’s history on this issue is part of the problem.
3. Vaccines/masks. The top level of leadership has done fine here, except that they seem to be turning a blind eye to what’s happening at the local level. A lot of stake and ward leaders aren’t taking COVID seriously, and are ignoring the First Presidency’s August letter on the matter. I’m not sure if top leadership is oblivious to this, if they just don’t care, or if they lack the courage to do what’s needed (ultimatums and release from ward and stake leadership positions, for example).
Another big credibility loser for me was the “I’m a Mormon” / “Victory for Satan” campaign. By then, i was already out of the church, but that episode, including the recent doubling down by Elder Andersen, obliterated the vestiges of LDS leader credibility for me
Jack Hughes: I respectfully disagree with your premise that the Church’s credibility crisis is more local (i.e., ward and stake) than central (i.e., HQ). I acknowledge your point on vaccines and masking, etc. Sometimes wards and stakes really go rogue. But I’m talking about overall credibility.
What I see is a Church that at the local level is full of well-meaning hard working people who are simply trying to do their best. I see bishops and other ward leaders making an effort to run the Church at the local level and follow the Brethren.
What I see at the HQ level is a Church that is literally a large US corporation. They rake in more money than they could ever spend wisely. They spend money on temples that are not needed. They take positions on issues that they know nothing about (LGBTQ, etc.). They require obedience, not to the Gospel, but to the leaders. That’s why temple recommend interviews ask you about sustaining Church leaders but not about your Christianity (service, charity, etc.). And it’s the Christianity stuff that is done at the local level And finally, when it comes to credibility, I see a Church that covers up and spins history and considers its members to not be very smart. In sum, my local leaders and members have a lot of credibility with me but not the folks in SLC.
I disagree too with the old adage that “the Church is perfect but the members are not”. In my view, the members are far closer to perfect than the Church as an institution. My bishop. My EQ president. They have credibility. RMN? No comment.
A timely post. I’m going to go along with Tim’s list and also add another one that the OP and Elisa gesture to: The problem of credibility itself. The many other, legitimate issues about money (it’s way more than 100 billion, folks; that’s just one fund. I’m stunned we don’t talk about that more), the POX, the issues with baked-in misogyny and racism, the alignment with the Republican Party and thinking that a conservative political view is God’s way, etc., are really just symptoms of the one big cause: The church has created a credibility gap by not being honest and by deliberately obfuscating and gaslighting around all of these topics. The number one thing that creates a credibility gap is not telling the truth; and the church has consistently lied about all of the things that folks above have listed. And it is telling that, given the anecdotal evidence of the OP and some of the commenters, that when the church tries to tell the truth, as in the Gospel Topics essays, two things happen: 1) Indoctrinated members freak out because it puts pressure on their preconceived notions of truth (that, ironically, come from the church itself) and 2) More nuanced members get annoyed because they recognize, as Elisa points out, that the essays are misleading because nuanced members are more likely to be acquainted with the church’s actual history.
In terms of the average member, I don’t think anything really bothers them that much. They might have the vague notion that something’s amiss, or they might get a bit troubled reading one of the essays, but the church has been very good at indoctrinating people for a very long time so often, members who end up staying are less of the nuanced type and more of the obedient, separating the wheat from the tares type. I really don’t see many people in my ward up in arms about any of this. They’re much more likely to freak out over something Joe Biden did or said than anything the church has done.
I too have been less than impressed with the Mormons/Victory for Satan because it is not believable as a revelation from God. And the thing that causes me to reject much of what RMN says, is a VERY revealing statement from none other than his wife. The following quote came from Wendy Nelson around November 2018,
“I have seen him changing the last ten months. It’s as though he’s been unleashed,” said Nelson in an interview provided by the Church’s news operation and posted on MormonNewsroom.org.
“He’s free to follow through with things he’s been concerned about but could never do. Now that he’s president, he can do those things,” she added.
Things HE has been concerned about but could never do? Because he wasn’t in charge before outliving his apostle brethren, right? Now that he’s president, HE can do whatever he wants? And it appears that he’s doing just that.
Perhaps I’m just naïve, but I’ve long felt that the Church hit a high-water mark for respectability under President Hinckley. I’m not sure that’s interchangeable with credibility, but I think they are certainly related. President Hinckley gave the impression that the Church was being led by forward-thinking, inspired (or at least inspiring) men. Heck, he was even invited onto Larry King during 9/11. Can you imagine anyone inviting President Nelson onto a similar platform today under similar circumstances. Then you have the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake which were widely hailed as a success and provided a lot of good pub for the Church. Of course, President Hinckley didn’t have to deal with a populace much better armed with smartphones full of facts about Church history nor did a majority of Americans support gay marriage (even Barak Obama during his first campaign would only support civil unions) so maybe President Hinckley wouldn’t look quite so amazing today, but I can’t shake the feeling that that many believing Mormons look back at his presidency as something of a highwater mark.
When I learned of The Strengthening Church Members Committee, which is a committee of general authorities who monitor the publications of its members for possible criticism of general and local church leaders, I was pretty much floored. They’re monitoring and tracking us? For me, that was credibility lost.
Let’s be honest. The church’s credibility has always hung by a thin thread. Joseph Smith’s credibility is hamstrung by treasure digging, polygamy, bad translations, the naked pursuit of power, telling tall tales when necessary (the angel with a flaming sword mention is preposterous). Brigham Young’s iron fist probably kept the church together during troubled times, but he was many things–lousy husband, racist, hypocrite–one does not associate with a man of God. The church could remake their personal histories until the internet–they could avoid mentioning the thousands who came to Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and Utah to serve the church but then found out that the polygamy rumors were true and had to make hard choices–but that doesn’t make the organization credible or ethical.
Credibility is also badly undermined by the tendency, to paraphrase Churchill, to do the right thing after exhausting all other options. Abolitionist movements founded in Christianity gained traction in the early 19th century, but God’s one true church couldn’t negotiate equal treatment for those of African descent until 1978. Seldom if ever have supposed apostles of God stood at the podium during conference and definitively squashed racist gossip like the mark of Cain and the not-valiant-in-pre-earth-life fantasy. Mormonism spawned fundamental offshoots, but the church has been reticent to reach out to communities like Short Creek when so many women and girls were being abused, when so many faithful individuals lived in abject poverty.
Credibility is also not built on punishing those who say things about the church that are true but uncomfortable. Intellectual dishonesty is strong karma. The organization still owes the late Mike Quinn an apology for basically destroying his professional life. For years the Tanners were maligned as lying Mormon-haters, and it turns out they were right about most of what they published. There is no evidence of BoM characters or their descendants occupying the Yucatan and Central America–nothing archaeological, anthropological, linguistic, genetic, or historical. There is no evidence of Abraham’s actual existence at all, but certainly none of his time in Egypt. There is not another example on the planet of reformed Egyptian, but members are asked to believe that Joseph Smith had access to gold plates on which the language was written. Insisting that so much of the Mayan world has yet to be explored so we may find something when nothing yet has been found is simply to pull the wool over people’s eyes. It is, again, intellectual dishonesty.
I mean, one could go on and on before getting to the POX, modern corporate behavior, stockpiling dollars, the pablum served up during conference, the second-class status of women. How did roughly 16 people with no knowledge of shipbuilding and sailing build a vessel and sail it around the southern tip of Africa, a pretty rough journey? How did previous adventurers create wooden submarines with magic glowing rocks? How did the appearance of the three letters NHM become definitive evidence of the tall tale the BoM tells? How did chiasmus morph into strong evidence of Hebraic influence? Did the Jews influence Dr. Seuss?
The answer to all of it is, basically, God did it. And maybe he did. I can’t say he didn’t, but don’t expect me to find credible your insistence that there is a dragon in the garage when I can’t feel a bit of heat.
Thanks for coming to my Ted Rant.
Counselor – the unleashed statement by Wendy Lady was the final straw for me.
Also, I live in Utah and anymore it feels like wearing BYU gear (as a lifelong football fan) at work on casual Fridays is contrary to corporate goals of diversity and inclusion. Damn muskets !!
Not to be too pessimistic, but how impossible is credibility for everyone right now in the internet and social media age? I’m just wondering. If I think of someone who’s got pretty good credibility, they are basically one scandal away from a huge fall from grace.
What about me? I would probably be the same. If I were to run for office, I’m sure there are dumb things I’ve done, emails I’ve sent, friendships I’ve burned, work projects that could be criticized, former employees that didn’t like me, all of which could undermine my social credibility. Years ago, I made the business decision to close down our operation in a state and a local pastor wrote a negative OP about me in the state paper, that I was a heartless monster for what I did to this community. I’m sure that article is still searchable somewhere online. It doesn’t matter what my intentions were, or that I also offered to retain all high performers in work-from-home jobs, or that there were many business reasons for the decision that weren’t obvious to others. Some people were negatively impacted. Not everyone likes everything I’ve done.
Then again, maybe the Republican approach is working for them. Wear your disgrace like a badge of honor. You get caught paying underage girls for sex? Brazen it out! It’s obvious you caused an insurrection in an attempted (and failed) coup? Bypartisan smears! Fake news! The one thing you can’t be is honest and earnest and reflective. You have to just double down and pretend you did nothing wrong and that your accusers are all the bad guys. That sounds eerily familiar.
I’m still miffed about the City Creek mall and the church getting away with claiming it wasn’t paid for with tithing. It seems like since then, everything I see is through the eyes of a cynic. I didn’t have a faith crisis; I had a trust crisis.
My experience is that the members find a way to make whatever whackadoodle thing we are up to work out for them.
For example, got $100B? Just divide the number by 16M members and now it’s a small number. Nothing to see here. (Though as Brother Sky points out, this is just the cash. What about all the land in FL?)
Denying children baptism if their parents are in a committed same-sex marriage? It’s being done out of love because these poor children would be so confused. (Yet we don’t deny baptism to kids whose parents don’t pay tithing, or drink coffee, or don’t do their home teaching).
You get the picture.
Otherwise I do agree with Not a Cougar and Angela that being a prophet in the smartphone age sounds horrible.
Chadwick: “being a prophet in the smartphone age sounds horrible.” Your wording reminded me of this scripture: “A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” (Mark 6:4) And why is that? Because in your own town (back in the day anyway), that’s where everybody knew your business, your flaws, your whole history, your vulgar relations, your youthful foibles. They can’t see you as a “prophet” because they’ve seen too much! And basically with social media we’ve made the whole world as accessible as small towns used to be 2000 years ago.
One of the more prevalent teachings I recall hearing as a youth was that the BofM was the keystone of the Church; if the BofM was false, then the whole Church would fall with it. I used to read Nibley voraciously (in hindsight, I was looking for someone else’s testimony of the Church I could borrow) and especially his essays about all the wonderful stuff that was in the BofM that was going unnoticed by those lacking in knowledge of the Middle East and of ancient ways, and so I was able to overlook the lack of positive evidence in favor of the BofM for a long, long time, but one day I came to believe I had been a serious victim of gaslighting about almost everything in the Church for all my life. All of the “you guys were born in the Saturday evening of time and you can pretty much count on being around when the Savior returns” stuff aimed at us back when I was in Seminary was starting to be aimed at my kids instead. Nobody talked about building Zion anymore; Sunday lessons and discussions became horribly repetitive and boring. But there was still the influence of the Holy Ghost, right? The guys in Salt Lake were still getting revelations from God, right? The Spirit of Discernment was alive and well, right? Well, two national elections in which the Electoral College votes of Utah went to Trump disabused me of the revelation stuff for once and for all (actually, the first time it happened was enough; the second time was just additional confirmation). I just couldn’t identify with it (a favorite term of one of my bishops from 40-some years ago) any longer. Had an interview with my bishop at the beginning of 2017 and told him I just didn’t belong here any longer. Nothing that’s happened since then has had any effect in convincing me that I should rethink my position. You can definitely count me in the “credibility is gone” camp. I still read the blogs out of curiosity about what others are saying and feeling, but not as part of any search for gospel truth.
Not a Cougar, for a long time I also thought GBH was pretty great. But he was instrumental in excommunicating the September Six, firing/releasing Leonard Arrington, pretending like everything was fine with Ezra Taft Benson long after it wasn’t, helping form the Strengthening Church Members Committee, and buying and trying to bury the Salamander Letter. He was very good at PR and everyone thought he was a sweet old man. Not so.
Thought-provoking post and comments.
For what it’s worth:
I share many, but not all of the concerns raised. Joseph Smith was not a credible person, to most people, during his lifetime. He still causes some people to foam at the mouth, in our day.
To get right down to it, would Joseph Smith even be welcome in the Church, today? Either by leaders or general membership?
Jesus Christ attracted a devoted band of followers, but the bulk of the people in the Holy Land, when He was on the earth, reacted rather badly to His message. Especially the Pharisees.
I think that most beginnings are less reputable than we would be comfortable in admitting. And remember that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once famously commented that anyone who likes either sausage or the Law should not watch either being made.
After nearly 50 years in the Church, I remain a cynical believer. In good part because Joseph Smith, per Richard Bushman’s biography, stated that he never claimed to be a good man, just called by God. I believe that Joseph Smith did a lot of things inspired by God, but he also carries a lot of baggage that makes me shake my head. God works with strange people!
People will make of Christ and Joseph Smith what they will. But as I approach 70, I am increasingly disinterested in respectability, and I realize (hopefully without associating with alt-right weirdos, flat-earthers, anti-vaxers, Trump fanatics, and Holocaust deniers) that credibility is more subjective than we would like to admit. We are surrounded by kooks (one of my “favorite” examples is Marjorie Taylor Greene associating herself with websites that claim that the California forest fires were started by the Rothschilds).
Heck, even Galileo was considered a heretic:
@jaredsbrother, love the carl sagan / demon haunted world reference. I think everybody needs to read and think carefully about that book.
Dot, totally fair critiques. My point was merely that the Church seemed (at least to me) to command more respect from the rest of the world under his administration than anytime before or since. Whether that respect was well earned is another question.
There are and likely always have been credibility challenges to our history, our theology, the institutional church and our community.
In my opinion, the last few years have challenged most deeply the community, creating ruptures that will take years to heal.
For example, we are racist after the institutional church has worked hard to resolve racism (although more needs to be done institutionally). We are ethnocentric, drawing lines which separate us from our fellow Saints and human beings. We are as politicized as any people after our institutional church leaders have pushed back against social media, incivility and political extremism. We are failing to engage in efforts to fight a pandemic, in spite of a formal letter from the First Presidency.
How much more needs to transpire before we realize that the most problematic credibility problem exists with the membership? We (the members) are in a state of apostasy, Christian in name only, having established an epistemology which cancels the messages of the First Presidency, the scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Zion has become the dream of the elderly and impoverished people clamoring to cross our borders.
The events of 2015 to the present didn’t shake me up because the essays had done it already.
There are many examples, but one I don’t think has been mentioned yet – in the “what else will they hide?” category – is the second anointing. It’s so obvious they don’t want members to know about the special better-than-you people who are chosen for this ordinance. Another loss of credibility for me. I was just angry. Who is more dedicated, faithful, hard-working and sincere than my mom – and she wouldn’t get within a mile of a second anointing.
So the first anointing which, for me, was all about potential is now rendered nearly meaningless. I see behind the curtain and it’s very disappointing.
As it relates to the Church, I think the most challenging credibility gap is not necessarily individual or institutional, but, rather, the credibility of the offices of prophet and apostle (the foundation of the Church if our understanding of St. Paul to the Ephesians is correct). I was first introduced to this years ago when I learned that Elder McConkie was wrong that Evolution was a deadly heresy. He also acknowledged that he and others had been wrong (or “saw with limited light”) about issues related to race and the priesthood. In fall of 2019, Pres. Nelson claimed that prophets and apostles “always” (Pres. Nelson’s word) speak truth, but it is a near trivial exercise to find examples (like those already mentioned) where prophets and apostles did not speak truth. If past prophets and apostles spoke in error (or with limited understanding), are the apostolic declarations of the current cadre of apostles and prophets reliable?
Plenty of examples to cite, but one recent example illustrates the double standards from the top. We hear often enough about poor people who face the Hobbes’s choice between paying rent, buying food or paying tithing. In every instance from the pulpit at GC, people are taught to pay tithing first. Priesthood leaders dutifully take their ques and repeat that financial formula to poor people in wards and stakes throughout the Church.
What about when the roles are reversed and, for example, an apostle of the (name) of Jesus Christ is asked to serve on the Board of a company b/c he was a founder and his participation on the Board will only benefit the apostle personally and the company on whose board he will serve? In other words, the apostle will have to take a voluntary break from his apostolic charge to pursue purely private interests and gain. Or, he can put the church first and pass on the fantastic personal opportunity and continue to serve the Lord, the Church and it’s members. Elder Stevenson gets a special exemption to serve on the Board for purely personal interests.
Does the church give poor people an exemption from tithing to pay rent or buy food? Does the church allow mission presidents or their wives to continue with their pre-mission careers/business on a part time basis while serving as an MP? We know the answer, but it seems Elder Stevenson and the Q15 play by a different set of rules.
I don’t begrudge Stevenson collecting the several hundred million dollars in stock options. He helped create a product or company that people are willing to pay those sums of money for. Plus, collecting and depositing the money doesn’t come at the expense of Stevenson carrying out his apostolic duties: his time and attention. Serving on the Board, however, is a very different matter. It is, unless I’m mistaken, discretionary and will come at the expense his time and attention to focus on his apostolic duties.
He and the Q15 had a tough choice to make and made the choice that ran to the personal benefit of Stevenson. It only cost a little credibility for the next time the Church asks a member to make a difficult personal choice.
^ Unfortunately, the precedent for that was set a long time ago by letting Reed Smoot serve in the US Senate and letting Ezra Taft Benson serve in the Eisenhower Administration. If those aren’t time-consuming occupations that take you away from the ministry, I don’t know what are. Gary Stevenson remaining on the board of his treadmill company is small potatoes by comparison.
Sorry, my previous comment missed the point of the comment it was responding to, which was mainly about personal gain, less about time spent away from the ministry. The arguments in favor of Smoot and Benson are that those were public offices that aren’t about personal gain, per se.
re: Benson and Smoot, there is an easy argument to make serving in those positions strongly benefited the Church and even the membership. The access to power those positions provided could have opened doors for missionary work or government benefits for the Church and members of the Church. And, they were public offices subject to public scrutiny and accountability. None of those considerations apply to Stevenson. It’s all private (as is the company’s right and a best practice) and the benefits accrue to Stevenson and not the Church or it members (maybe Ensign Peak?). Finally, Stevenson’s work with the Board subtracts from his focus, time and effort as an apostle. God bless him and his work and the opportunities his talent have provided. When he had to choose between supporting the church in a way his calling required at some personal expense, he opted not to pay the personal price. He got his cake and ate it too. The next time I’m asked to make a similar scale sacrifice for the Church, I will think twice about its impact to me and my family and, perhaps (more likely), follow the example of Stevenson and take a special exemption. That’s what happens when credibility is lost or we don’t apparently have the same skin in the game. I do feel for all the people who paid tithing instead of food or rent and went hungry or had to move.
“so-called audit report”
Do you think the rotating big 4 public accounting firms are BSing the audits?
Because that would be an Enron-sized scandal.
@jpv the audits are BS because the Church gets to set the rules. It’s a private institution not a public company. So they set all the rules and all the audit does it say, “ok you set followed the rules you set for yourself.”
We don’t actually know what the rules are. They could be “this year we shall spend $1B of tithing money on cars for the apostles.” Obviously I don’t think that’s real rule. But if that were a rule, and they did that, the auditor would say “great, everything was in accordance with the rules, you pass the audit.”
I don’t actually think people think the auditors are *lying* just that the audit is kinda meaningless because there’s no transparency with what the rules are (unlike Enron, a publicly-traded company that had to follow public rules).
@jov, the big public accounting firms were auditing Enron right up to the very end and somehow missed all of Mr. Fastow’s fraud and self dealing. It wasn’t the big public accounting firms that led to Enron’s downfall; it was a skeptical press who kept pushing and asking basic questions about Enron reports that somehow eluded the big public accounting firms. Throw in the examples of Theranos and WeWork, to name a few, and yes one would be right to be skeptical of “audits” of secretive organizations even when big public accounting firms are involved.
That does not mean the Church is engaging in fraud or mishandling money; only that their GC “audit reports” are evidence of exactly nothing substantive and mere window dressing. Even Enron was not brazen enough to try the stunt the Church pulls off during its GC audit announcements and Enron was pretty brazen with audit reports.
I will take me for either a coward or a flatterer—in either case, my credibility stands on slippery ground. I will have been edu∣cated in the knowledge of, from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which could be no other than the scriptures of the Old Testament.
For me, the Gospel Topics Essays got me studying. My conclusion was that some of the Essay content could be described as “putting on the best face”. Other bits were disingenuous, and some were outright lies. The Saints books – pretty much the same.
Oh, the POX. A gut punch. Now I’m asking God about about the credibility of the leaders. By the time the reversal came I had already decided that the church was no longer a net positive for me.
Were they 100% honest, had they come clean on their obfuscation, and offered sincere apologies to the members for the hurt they had done (instead of “there’s nothing to see here”), I probably would have found a way to stay.
But the organization is built on “loving us means we never have to say I’m sorry” and we’ll just keep on lying for the Lord. I wouldn’t want a marriage relationship like that. I would not do business with a person or company like that. I hope I’m better than that.
Why would I trust my relationship with the Almighty to the morally weak organization that they have become.
New bishopric today, thumbs down to outgoing counselor who took a potshot “final testimony for those struggling with their faith” – some garbage about glass darkly blah blah blah
C is for Chet – owning prior comment…
^^stuck in moderation: does a faith crisis exist just because we see through a glass darkly? That’s what was uttered from the pulpit yesterday.
Tim-I agree with all of your comments except what you said about the Republican Party being increasingly racist. If you’re referring to the recent critical race theory debate going on, then I would posit that it’s the other party that is spinning the concerns about CRT as a racist thing when in reality the concerns are largely about why children are starting to be taught that they are victims or oppressors based on their skin color. I think there are racists in fairly equal numbers in both parties-both in the electorate and in the party leadership. Many of the policies of the Democratic Party have deleterious consequences for minority groups. We saw the outsized influence that they allowed teachers’ unions to have on keeping schools closed and the Democratic Party by and large allowed it to happen. (Former Gov Raimondo of RI is a rare exception since she actually knows how to do math and conduct a proper risk/benefit calculation-she largely kept schools open.) I used to think that yes, the Democratic Party cared about improving the outcomes of racial minority groups. But their insistence on keeping schools closed for nearly A YEAR in some places has opened my eyes to what I now recognize as a bunch of woke word salad with their performance virtue signaling about diversity, equity , and inclusion. If they TRULY cared about improving outcomes for disadvantaged students -where minorities are over represented-they would have done EVERYTHING in their power to keep schools open since education is the great equalizer. But they didn’t. So, yeah, they lost credibility with me. I feel like their only weapon is to point fingers at the Republicans and yell “racist” just so nobody will start to question how their own policies are not helping improve the situation.
(Some context-I am an independent, fully vaxxed, mostly okay with masks-where they make sense, and I’m totally okay with doing a better job in schools so tracing the painful parts of our nation’s racist past. I’ve read Kendi (didn’t love his book but I see where he’s coming from), was appalled and shocked with what I learned in “Just Mercy” and “The New Jim Crow” (and it made me want to go to law school just to do work with Bryan Stevenson).
(Now if your comment was referring to Trump’s. racist comments, then I can see your point to some degree, but then again I think that as Trump fades away (I hope) , we’ll see less of that.)