The old adage is that it’s impolite to talk about politics and religion at family gatherings. These topics, at least in American culture, are often considered divisive and fraught. But there are other taboo topics in cultures that are even more verboten than these: sex, sexual orientation, racism, marital issues, mental health, and finances. Why are these seen as off limits? For example, it is very common in some cultures to discuss one’s finances and salary openly. A moratorium on discussing how much money we make only benefits employers who can use our shared ignorance to underpay workers and to play favorites.
At Church, a forbidden topic is mistakes made by leaders, whether living or dead (but especially living). It’s simply not allowed in current Mormon Church culture to imply that a leader ever did anything that was not God’s will. In fact, this seems to be a feature from the beginning of the Church when the same Joseph Smith who ironically said “It feels good not to be trammeled,” also used his authority to excommunicate apostles over disagreements rather than finding common ground. The Church has continued through the years to use “personal loyalty tests” as a deciding factor in whether or not someone can remain a member, including as recently as Chad Hardy’s excommunication when he said he would not quit publishing his Mormon missionary beefcake calendars if asked by President Monson personally. (This was a hypothetical posed by his Disciplinary Council, not an actual scenario).
Not all churches run this way. Many are run by councils that require membership approval or voting for changes to policy or doctrine. Most churches, even high demand religions, no longer use the excommunication process because they don’t find it necessary or productive. Only if you are in a very powerful position might you be subject to such scrutiny; it is not applied to the membership at large.
When you look at what is taboo in a given community, what cannot be discussed without penalty from the group, you learn what is feared by that community and the individuals within it.
A few years ago, I wrote a post about a Relief Society meeting in which an older sister commented that she yearned for the Celestial Kingdom where we would no longer have “these races” to divide us. She then listed off every non-white race she could think of, never adding “white” or “caucasian” to her list of races that are apparently divisive by existing.
Last week I stumbled across a fantastic blog by A.R. Moxon called The Reframe. A recent post included an explanation of why some people consider certain topics “polarizing” by using the game of “Smear the Queer” as an analogy for what has long been the norm in our country. In the game, the group agrees that they are all against the one player designated at the “queer,” or the other. Those who chose the hapless target of their aggression are one part of the problem, but so are the ones who simply go along with the game, who don’t say it’s unfair, who allow the other to be targeted. The illusion of “us” against the targeted “other” is shattered when some who were willing to ignore the cruelty or injustice instead begin to insist that everyone’s dignity matters. That feels divisive to those who prefer to ignore the cruelty, who don’t want to face what we have done as a community to those we’ve deemed “others.”
But the strife isn’t polarization. It’s distressing, but it’s not polarization. The strife is the first early sign that we might be willing to stop being polarized by bigotry and injustice.https://www.getrevue.co/profile/juliusgoat/issues/polarization-and-strife-922845?via=twitter-card-webview&client=DesktopWeb&element=issue-card
Trying to avoid “divisiveness” is a particular problem in Mormon culture, and it is often scripturally tied to the Book of Mormon:
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.(3 Nephi 11:29-30)
In avoiding disagreements, we also ignore that some of our unexamined biases, assumptions and actions are wrong, cruel and well, contentious, provided we look at all of God’s children, not just the Mormon ones, and not just the ones in the room. We can’t improve, be more godlike, be good disciples of Christ, without facing the reality of our shortfalls collectively and individually. Unfortunately, the desire to avoid “contention” is nearly pathological in many of our Mormon wards. Nobody can bear correction, and we particularly have no stomach to acknowledge institutional failures that every person on the planet can plainly see exist, particularly the homophobic, racist and sexist assumptions that routinely go unchecked and uncorrected in the name of “unity” in church culture.
Another reason that taboo topics are often avoided is that they reveal status issues between individuals. When there’s a hierarchy associated with having kids or being married, these topics can feel like personal attacks, callously revealing someone’s “lower” status.
In our capitalist culture, differences in financial means can also feel threatening to those who find themselves lower on the rungs of material success; conversely, those who fancy themselves to be higher on that ladder may make little comments to reveal their own higher status from a sense of insecurity or pettiness. The more focused we are on prosperity gospel as a church, the more personal financial information is likely to be used in this way, although it is typically considered gauche in American culture to flaunt one’s wealth.
Political affiliation is another status issue within the Church, exacerbated by the growing gap between the parties. Recent polling that shows that 5% of Republicans would not befriend someone who voted for the opposing candidate and 37% of Democrats would not befriend someone who did. Revealing one’s minoritarian political views in a church setting can lead to ostracization depending on how strongly conservative the ward is . It can be a problem whenever partisan views are shared as an assumption, regardless of which they are, given the negative partisanship in which hatred for the other party is stronger than affiliation with one’s own. Assuming party affiliation can be different than discussing political issues, but it isn’t always. After all, most people aren’t open-minded or curious about other people’s views. They just want to signal which team they are on.
There have also been taboos related to the pandemic. We’ve noticed that when individuals we know have posted a lot on social media downplaying the pandemic, spreading misinformation about vaccines, or sharing anti-mask sentiments, and then the person dies, their social circle has a tendency to hide the reason for the death. This is a status related omission.
Have you ever taken a Financial Literacy quiz? (follow the link for a quick 6 question one). There is a chicken-egg problem with some of these “taboo” topics: the less we discuss them, the less people know about them, and the less willing to discuss them people will be because they don’t know what they are talking about. This has been shown to be particularly true about financial topics. The national average for the quiz I linked is 50%, even lower in some states (Georgia only averaged 2.7 out of 6!). In cultures that are open about finances, financial literacy is much higher than in the US. Not understanding finances leads to many problems for people, particularly in lower socio-economic households, and among those just starting adulthood. This is even worse for Americans since our system is designed based on individual choices rather than a social safety net. 1 in 4 Americans have no money whatsoever set aside for retirement.
I discovered another “literacy” problem around a taboo topic when I was a freshman at BYU. A roommate of mine was getting married. When she finally explained her fears, it came out that she didn’t know how sex works. She was completely unaware of her own anatomy for one thing. She was sexually illiterate. In a related note, many men are ignorant of women’s health. In a recent Twitter thread, a woman shared an argument with her ex-husband who told her that all women menstruate at the end of the month. She said that was not true, and he became angry and told her, “This is why I can’t talk to you about feminism!”
In our wards, we create literacy problems when our manuals proof-text the scriptures, when we gloss over thorny history issues, when we outlaw the use of “unapproved” materials that normal curiosity and respect for scholarship would lead us to include. This lack of awareness creates a problem in which people are not equipped to address their knowledge gaps and don’t really engage with anything beyond vague platitudes, instead keeping their understanding superficial and unthreatening. This can lead to boredom, and eventually total disengagement.
- What taboo topics have you encountered in the Church? Have you broken these taboos?
- Have you encountered these root causes (avoiding contention, status issues, or illiteracy problems) when taboo topics are brought up at Church?
 The only Mormon ward I’ve ever been in that leaned Democrat was my home ward, so I think I’m pretty safe in assuming wards lean to the right, some very far to the right.
 This is a correction to my original post. The link to the Axios poll results are here.
It’s a relatively minor example, of a thorny scriptural/doctrinal problem but boy did a few people try to take my head off in Gospel Doctrine once when I suggested that we would all be horrified if I our kids ever followed a prompting from the Spirit to cut off the head of an unconscious person like Nephi did. So many members simply don’t like dealing with the messiness parts of our scriptures and doctrine.
Did you see the SL Trib this morning? Apparently it’s “taboo” to protest on the Y mountain. Reason #99 that my kids would never attend (key fact: my wife and I met at BYU while students).
So you are making the radical suggestion that ignorance is not bliss. That “promote ignorance” should be scratched off the How To Lead The Church management whiteboard somewhere in the COB. That maybe “the glory of God is intelligence” ought to quoted more and made up stuff like “perfect obedience” (as if a well-trained dog is the model for a good Christian life) ought to be thrown out the door along with “Mormon.” Okay, I can go with all that.
One of the biggest taboo topics is anything having to do with sex. Mormons have so many bizarre euphemisms for sex-related stuff: “virtue””moral cleanliness””same-sex attraction”, etc. that make it really difficult to have any kind of actual discussion about anything having to do with sexuality. And the way we teach (or don’t teach) our young people about such things is highly problematic. And so is our stance on homosexuality, abstention, French kissing and all chastity related things. We are terrible at talking about it. I wonder if that’s in part because nobody wants to admit publicly (as in a sacrament meeting talk or in a Sunday school class) that a lot of what Joseph Smith was doing was just fooling around with other people’s wives; polygamy was just an excuse. Perhaps that’s one reason why we’ve got this strange tendency to wrap church-approved married people sex in this bizarre package of virtue, purity and eternity; because we’ve done the same thing with Smith’s behavior. I don’t know. Either way, we clearly have a problem talking about both sexuality and the body in general.
Perhaps the Tabooest of the Taboos is the temple endowment. It’s supposed to be all symbolic and stuff, but it makes it hard to discuss potential meanings when you can’t talk about it. Even more challenging is when you try to bring up problematic aspects of the temple and its distinctly 19th century Masonic origins. And there seems to be this Sargent Schultz like collective amnesia with regards to the older versions of the ceremonies, especially the pre 1990 version.
Most LDS people I know, when you get their true thoughts on the matter, are either ambivalent or not fully comfortable with the temple, which makes this whole temple building spree all the more baffling.
We don’t like to talk about anything as Mormons, and I think it’s because we don’t want to admit to ourselves that perhaps we are doing life wrong.
For example, no one will talk about the $100B fund, because no one wants to have to face the fact that maybe they didn’t give their hard-earned money away for a good cause. Imagine what that money could do in the hands of another charity, or, for some families, to promote their own well-being if they kept it?
No one wants to talk about the temple because no one wants to have to face the fact that perhaps it was not the best use of their time to redeem dead people when they could have spent that time with the living. No one wants to talk about how garments are horrible because we’ve all just pushed through the pain and have habitualized being chronically uncomfortable.
Even for me, I don’t like thinking too deeply about my mission. I LOVED Hong Kong and loved pretty much all of my companions and the people I met. But it’s cringy to think back about the sales tactics I used to gain leadership’s favor.
No one wants to talk about racism or any other ism in the Church because that would require us to grapple with how the systemic marginalization of minorities has impacted us negatively as individuals.
Sometimes I’m really tempted to buy the t-shirt “I apologize for the things I said as a Mormon” because I am truly remorseful at the judgmental nature I applied to life during my TBM days. Not that distancing myself from Mormonism cured this entirely, but it did help.
Aside from Mormonism, this part resonated with me “A moratorium on discussing how much money we make only benefits employers who can use our shared ignorance to underpay workers and to play favorites.” As a junior partner, I wholeheartedly agree. But getting my senior partners to grasp this has thus far been a waste of time. Either they just don’t get it, or they are great at playing dumb in order to sustain the status quo from which they benefit. I tend to think it’s the latter.
This one is bizarrely disappointing, but there was a Tweet yesterday about Elder Gong being at dinner with his gay son and his gay son’s partner. E. Gong told his gay son not to post the photo on social media so that “people wouldn’t get the wrong idea.” WTF is the wrong idea they are going to get?? I can’t help but remember the Primary song I learned: “Jesus said love everyone. Treat them kindly too.” His son pointed out that those who are waiting for E. Gong to be the progressive port in a storm are waiting in vain. How many of us as church members have gay relatives, gay children? Is this example supposed to be teaching us that we should shun them? Or that we can love them, but only on the down low because they are so terrible that having dinner with them is bad? Or that what our Church leaders think of us in our quest for advancement trumps what is morally right? It’s honestly just sickening.
So there’s another taboo topic, and it goes to the highest levels. We have to pretend that we are all in lock step with the most powerful, most strident voices in leadership, regardless of what our better feelings might be.
Angela: I read Matt Gong’s blog. That part just broke my heart. My wife and I said the same thing: The idea we got is that he ate dinner with his son and his son’s friend. He loves his family. What other idea should I get?
Also on Matt’s blog, he mentioned how he found out his dad was being called as an apostle with the rest of the world, and I think it was hard for him to process this information when he was being flooded with texts from everyone. I think the church secrecy over callings is what CREATES the gossip mill, and not the other way around. They manufacture the problem they propose to solve. Frustrating.
It’s taboo to talk about when you’re obedient and things go wrong. Like you pay your tithing, and still have financial problems. I remember a SS class years ago where the teacher asked us to raise our hands if we personally knew someone who was a full tithe-payer and struggling financially. I was one of the only ones to raise my hand. He then asked me if they were still having financial problems. Well, the financial issues were the husband’s huge medical bills. He’d died and then my friend declared bankruptcy, so technically no, they weren’t still having financial struggles. But a man dying in his early 30s and his widow filing bankruptcy aren’t really tithing blessings. I gave a vague answer and the teacher moved on.
Or if you get a calling and you don’t want it. Then you pray and decide to give it a chance. Then it’s a horrible experience. Having a bad experience in a calling is taboo to talk about.
I second with JLM and Chadwick said about negative experiences with the temple being taboo.
BrotherSky is correct that any realistic discussion of sex is taboo. This taboo is actively hurting people but I don’t see it going away any time soon.
The Church insists abuse is a sin, but it doesn’t define abuse, describe abuse, or explain how enablers perpetuate abuse. It’s all very vague and hand-wavy. I’ve noticed that if you try to talk about abuse in an active LDS family and you want someone actually held accountable, that’s taboo. It’s okay to talk about the victim forgiving and healing. But you can’t ask the enabler for an apology and you can’t suggest the abuser committed an actual sin that should have consequences (unless you got the police involved).
We talk about how Heavenly Fathers knows us personally and answers our prayers—ranging from a lost wedding ring to a miraculous healing, but never mention the 3 million children in the world who die every year from under nutrition.
We have made such a big deal out of the nuclear family that we have no answers for anyone that doesn’t fit into that situation. I am never married. As I see it there are three options for the next life: 1) Polygamy, 2) forever single or 3) monogamously married. The first two make the Celestial Kingdom someplace I don’t want to be. But we have no real answers. Just “don’t worry it will all work out.” Nobody wants to talk about the details. I was shocked when President Oaks made fun of the woman that was the second wife and didn’t know what would become of her in the next life. Wow!
Some taboo topics
• Heavenly Mother
• Mind numbing boredom of church meetings and x 10 the temple ceremony
• Why do we even pay tithing anymore (I don’t in the traditional way and it hasn’t hurt me one bit)
• Why does the church require tithing settlements (I just email my bishop every year with zero negative consequences)
• Local issue (maybe??) why do YM get fun summer super activities while YW go to the same stake YM camp *every single year*. I brought this up to the stake YW president and her head almost exploded.
• Local issue (maybe) our stake president asked a visiting GA to talk about Covid related divisiveness in stake conference but he requested no talks on the subject and instead spoke about missionary work.
As related to why some subjects are taboo in a church setting or construct, I think a few reasons come up in my experience:
1. We are afraid to be wrong or viewed as unwise by discussing things that challenge church culture or doctrines. We become entrenched in things that have defined our lives, even if they are erroneous. I wish our fear of being unloving, inflexible, or merely tribal was a stronger reflex. Thus, it’s taboo because our identity and group respect are at stake.
2. We have overplayed the “sacred” card in too many subjects–temple ceremonies, personal experiences with the divine, human sexual desire, Church spending, etc. Basically, just identify something as being sacred and there’s an expectation of reverence without challenging the idea or claim. Thus, it’s taboo because we may offend holy topics or God.
3. We are very poor at communicating / being open to ideas that counter our religious doctrines or culture. Our communication is often with the intent to “prove” our point later in the conversation. Thus, it’s taboo because we are incapable of having civil or fair discussions.
4. We often rely on religious authorities who have no specialized knowledge on a subject but who have nonetheless weighed in heavily in the name of God. Raising your arm to the square several times a year to sustain these non-expert individuals is problematic later when making an argument for/against doctrine or policy. Thus, it’s taboo because we have deferred authority and final decisions to leaders that never should have been ceded.
5. Some topics should be out of the scope of religious discussion. They are taboo because they seem out of place in church. We have a religion that proclaims it has the answers to every one of life’s questions. We have a Church Handbook of Instruction that goes into tremendous detail on dozens of personal life decisions and what the official policy or viewpoint is on that subject. The Church has become so Pharisaical in dictating these things over decades. How about we have “no official policy and let each member pray to God for their own divine direction.”
Counselor, I feel like when individuals pray for their own divine direction and get an answer that’s different than what’s in the handbook, or what the prophet has said, that’s another one of the taboo subjects. As well as receiving truth from sources other than the standard works and general conference talks. – But just like pretty much all of the taboo subjects listed, we would be better off if we talked about them openly.
This post and comments has put the song “we don’t talk about Bruno …” in my head. And honestly, that song and the whole movie Encanto says quite a bit about Church culture, about pretending to be perfect and so shunning parts of the family / Church family who don’t fit that mold of perfection in ways that ultimately actually destroy the very thing we were trying to protect in the first place.
Ditto the comments on the Gong story. So weird. What “wrong idea”? That you ate dinner together?!? I thought we were way beyond that. Church leaders are Abrahams sacrificing their non-conforming children on the altar of the nuclear family, except there is no ram in the thicket to rescue the children. Because it is the leaders who are supposed to be doing the rescuing – *that* is the test – and they are failing it.
It is definitely taboo to admit a mistake or error in the Church. My Catholic colleagues and friends are quick to criticize their church for its various scandals. They don’t seem to have any taboos (or insecurity) in admitting mistakes made by their church and/or leaders.
We, on the other hand, will go to comical and absurd lengths to defend our Church and leaders. Part of that is rooted in the taboo of just being honest about our Church. Or, a deep insecurity about admitting mistakes or where we could have something better.
As a group, Mormons can accomplish almost anything. And it is often amazing to participate in and see. But, we aren’t perfect and we seem to have a strong taboo against admitting such. It’s really strange.
aporetic1—100% agree. I think that’s a result of what I meant by we have ceded our agency and decisions to “authorities” and our collective conscience and independent reasoning is extinguished. Some would argue we always retain agency to choose however we would like, just not freedom to choose consequences or outcomes of poor choices. Problem with that is most consequences are either manufactured by men and not necessarily God, or based on a framework of eternal punishment/reward that is on shaky foundations to start with (i.e. not keeping WoW = no temple ordinances or loss of blessings = no highest degree of heaven).
@JLM: yes! I wasted HOURS in the temple struggling to understand the signs, but since i went through the temple after the penalties were removed, taken out of context the signs were meaningless. As soon as I read the original ceremony, I understood “place your hand in cupping shape” (and was promptly horrified).
Also, I read the Matt Gong post and was promptly horrified
@MTodd … umm, I thought I pretty much knew everything about the old version of the temple but somehow I hadn’t connected the old penalties with most of the current signs until you just mentioned that. Like you, I spent so much time trying to assign some kind of meaning to those. Like receiving knowledge or something. When in reality. Oh geez. I stopped going a couple of years ago but good grief.
Things they don’t tell you in temple prep.
May I just sound off about the Brethren’s insistence that we use a 411 year old translation of the Bible and the using of Thee, Thy and Thine when we pray? I absolutely love Shakespeare, but in the beginning even I struggled to understand what he was saying. It took a lot of time and effort to become familiar and comfortable with that style of language and to learn how the meanings of so many words have changed over time. So why the big deal about reading the Bible in an incomprehensible language(Early Modern English) for the majority of English speakers as well as the BoM in faux KJV language? When I started reading the BoM in French (and my French is a bit rusty) it was so much easier to understand. At Conference you’ll hear the Q15, 70s and others use the NIV translation, but woe unto anyone who dares to use the NIV, Amplified or any other more easily comprehensible translation of the scriptures and not only will you be censured in SS class, but, depending on how uber orthodox your bishop is, you may end up having a one on one chat with him about using unapproved sources! Oaks used to really drill down on using Thee, Thy and Thine in prayers. Supposedly he thought that these pronouns denoted reverence for Deity. Wrong! You is the proper pronoun of reverence. Thee, Thy and Thine are terms you use with your sweetie or your buddies. Oops! Trying to use unfamiliar language only impedes the ability to truly open one’s heart to God.
We expect everyone to read the scriptures daily, but we then make it as difficult as possible for the regular person to understand what they actually mean. When I worked in a branch of formerly jailed youth offenders who were trying to get their lives back in order I copied sections of my NIV Bible and I also read the same scriptures with the help of the Amplified Version which gives the full meaning of the Greek words that were translated into English. The Greek of the NT is much more descriptive than English is, and you get a fuller sense of what the writers were trying to say in the gospels and epistles. Hebrew, on the other hand, lacks a lot of descriptive words. It’s pretty bare bones writing. The boys in the branch actually enjoyed reading the scriptures together as a group when they could actually understand the language. Naughty me threw in tidbits of info that I gleaned from various study Bibles, scriptural concordances and other books written by spiritual Bible scholars who actually know Greek, Hebrew plus the historical background and geography of the Bible. I am currently studying the Sermon on the Mount in depth because that encompasses Christ’s gospel AND His kingdom manifesto. To me this is the nuts and bolts of living the gospel and following Christ’s example. Not one of my books was published by Deseret Book or CES. I want the meat of the gospel and not the spiritual version of Captain Crunch or Lucky Charms which is all that is taught in the CFM manuals. It might be fine for new members of the church who need the basics. However, there is a serious spiritual famine going on within our church because of the one size fits all mentality at the top. One reason folks are leaving the church is because they come to church to be spiritually fed but come home starving once again. Even talking about spiritual starvation, which the guys at the top blame on us, is a big taboo in our church. If members aren’t being fed during the two hours they spend at church they will eventually find other sources and places that provide the necessary nourishment needed for spiritual growth. So much for the glory of Hod being intelligence!
I meant God in my last sentence!
“Recent polling that shows that only 5% of Republicans would befriend someone who was a Democrat and only 37% of Democrats would befriend a Republican.”
OP – can you provide a source for this?
I searched the topic and found a first page full of articles citing polls, studies, and personal experiences on this topic – nearly all stating results opposite those from your poll. Polls are problematic as there always seems to be one out there that will support any point any person may want to make – no matter how ridiculous. And this creates a bigger problem as people refer to these polls as though they are legitimate and factual inducing others to believe.
The disfunction around taboo topics is codified in the Handbook of Instructions. I find it interesting how this section starts out with statements about how all are alike unto god and invites all to come unto him, and ends with how to properly disinvite someone from attending church–evidently not *all* are to come unto him. Among the reasons for being disinvited are romantic behavior, dress and grooming, and “precluding” (i.e. prevent from happening, make impossible) political statements and speaking of sexual orientation. Dysfunction is cranked into our religious culture as a primary feature. Although I can’t recall a Sunday when I haven’t heard political statements–always conservative and usually Trumpian in nature–I also can’t recall a time when someone referenced their sexual orientation or spoke of sexual orientations. The former is completely unenforced, normalized and fully accepted, while I’m sure the later would be immediately attacked and punished.
Our Father in Heaven loves His children. “All are alike unto God,” and He invites all “to come unto him and partake of his goodness” (2 Nephi 26:33).
Church leaders and members are often asked who can attend meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who can become Church members, and who can attend a temple.
Attendance at Church Meetings
The Savior taught that His disciples should love their neighbors (see Matthew 22:39). Paul invited new converts to “no more be strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints” (Ephesians 2:19). The Savior also taught that Church members are not to “cast any one out from … public meetings, which are held before the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:3).
All are welcome to attend sacrament meeting, other Sunday meetings, and social events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The presiding officer is responsible to ensure that all who attend are respectful of the sacred setting.
Those who attend should avoid disruptions or distractions contrary to worship or other purposes of the meeting. All age and behavior requirements of different Church meetings and events should be respected. That requires refraining from overt romantic behavior and from dress or grooming that causes distraction. It also precludes making political statements or speaking of sexual orientation or other personal characteristics in a way that detracts from meetings focused on the Savior.
If there is inappropriate behavior, the bishop or stake president gives private counsel in a spirit of love. He encourages those whose behavior is improper for the occasion to focus on helping maintain a sacred space for everyone present with a special emphasis on worshipping Heavenly Father and the Savior.
Church meetinghouses remain private property subject to Church policies. Persons unwilling to follow these guidelines will be asked in a respectful way not to attend Church meetings and events.
Your overall message is spot on. One of the best things one can do is purchase a study bible and/or read a more recent translation. I really like the Oxford Study Bible. I get away with quoting it in Church because 1) Many don’t know the KJV as well as they think they do, and 2) Jeffrey Holland uses it. But there are serious problems with the NIV. NT Wright doesn’t recommend it.
@poor wayfaring stranger –
Totally agree re prayer. It’s so weird to me that DHO has harped on that language as “respectful” when in fact it’s familiar. Like he’s literally wrong about the English language. In Spanish they pray in the familiar rather than formal form and I like it way better – breath of fresh air. Using that old fashioned and clunky language puts distance between us and God IMO and makes prayer less approachable. Besides, since when does DHO (and GBH) get to tell me how to pray (another taboo topic).
On translations, interested in others views. I’ve collected some different translations since I felt like it was silly and stilted to continue to use the KJV, but was surprised to see that Robert Alter (whose Hebrew Bible translation I’m reading) thinks the KJV is the best translation we have of the Old Testament. Obviously that’s just one opinion but certainly he’s got a lot of expertise. His criticism of the others is that they are more explanations than translations. He doesn’t express an opinion on the New Testament.
TC: You are correct. I was misreading the results (honestly, the poll was kind of worded like a double negative, which to quote five-thirty-eight feels like a “bad use of polling” because if I found it confusing, some respondents doubtless did). I’ve corrected it above and also provided a link to the Axios poll in the footnotes. Thanks for catching that!
BigSky: That is frankly appalling. I don’t even know what to say.
Elisa: That particular talk about “thee” and “thy” and “thou” also struck me at the time. My immediate thought was “Why would he choose this topic without doing the five minutes of research needed to not look like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about?” It was pretty arrogant, but that feels like par for the course. “Fame is intoxicating; don’t inhale.”
For those of you who are interested in reading different translations of the Bible you can download the One Bible app for free. There are multiple translations of the Bible to choose from. Instead of reading just the KJV why not read the same verse/chapter from 6-7 different translations. It’s a fascinating experience. You may never look at various scriptures the same way again. Granted, some are better than others. Do check out the Amplified translation which gives a much better, fuller idea of what the English words meant in Greek. You won’t be sorry.
@BigSky, I got a chuckle out of the rule prohibiting romantic behavior in church meetings. I remember sitting in my BYU single adult ward sacrament mtg years ago and counting the couples snuggling and massaging each other during church meetings. That behavior is not an issue once they’ve each got a child to keep track of.
Jesus drank real wine and enjoyed it. Pregnant teens. Cosmetic surgery. Infantilization of the congregation. Masonic signs and gauntlet handshakes. Stay-at-home Dads. LDS wealth in the face of LDS poverty. Corruption of some aspects of the temple liturgy. Meat consumption and the Word of Wisdom. J. Reuben Clark’s antisemitism. Brigham Young’s racism. Predetermined courts for Excommunication. Strengthing Church Membership Committee (SCMC) digital surveillence of membership. Failures of the Church Educational System (CES). Eccesiastical nepotism. William Smith as Patriarch. Prescription drug use. Genetically Modified Food. Abuse of power, unrighteous dominion. Honor code: Beards vs. Roman-shaved faces. The mistreatment of Emma Smith. Institutional apostasy.
I read through all the commenters’ lists of taboo topics. All the taboos. So. Many. Taboos. That must not be talked through in any gathering. I don’t even have the energy to think of any that haven’t been mentioned. All I can see is how widespread and systematic is the harm from this. Each of these examples do very real damage to human mortals, and because it simply cannot be discussed, it never gets acknowledged, much less repaired. And thus the delusional parts of how we organize ourselves continue to have an impact in the same old ways, just on more, new, different people. Who aren’t allowed to complain and either suffer in silence or seek relief by fleeing.
This one has really disturbed what peace I have left in my life.
How about the number of marriages that the church deliberately and acts ely pushed people into despite the fact that one of the partners could never be a suitable mate to the other due to an alternate sexual or gender identity? How many families were doomed from the very start? How many kids grew up with distorted or stressful home lives or suffered through broken families or were discouraged from having full relationships with both their parents? What shame or confusion did that inflict on them for large parts of their lives? Who ever talks about it or holds the church accountable?
Endogamy: the practice of marrying within a specific social group, religious denomination, caste, or ethnic group, rejecting those from others as unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships. (Wikipedia)
How many women (men, too, but likely fewer) remained single in this life with a hazy hope of an eternal mate in the eternities? How many women were kept from romantic relationships because of the church teachings rejecting perfectly good men because “they couldn’t take you to the temple”?
As an aside, the either/or judgement of men is pretty shallow. I told my kids they I’d rather they marry a good person out of the temple, than a mediocre (or worse) person in the temple.
It seems so obvious.
Shortly after the 1978 priesthood ban was lifted my husband as EQ president along with myself were teaching temple prep to a mixed race couple. The night before we were to accompany them to the temple we all decided to go see a movie together. It was called Murder By Decree. What we didn’t realize beforehand was that the murders in the movie followed Masonic type ritualistic penalties. My husband and I were horrified because they so closely resembled the described penalties in the temple which were still in effect at that time. On the way down we gently explained as best we could what they could expect in the temple ceremony. Thankfully they didn’t seem to be too fazed!
One time in SS class I suggested that HF’s plan wasn’t working very well because the church isn’t exactly growing, despite all the good efforts of our missionary program. I was fairly new in the ward and I definitely felt a cold chill. Probably taboo to voice such a thing.
I think that church teachings on endogamy (thanks for providing that word!) vary by locale. Brent Barlow taught at BYU about marital issues, but his doctorate is from Florida State, where he studied LDS women who married outside the faith. His conclusion was that it was better for them to marry non-members than remain single because they could often raise a righteous generation, and eventually their sons with the priesthood would become the branch presidents, etc. (which is what happened).
I am sure that pressure is keen in some places, but it is not churchwide.
@naismith, have you lived anywhere where that pressure doesn’t exist? I believe you’ve lived outside the US if I remember your comments so would be curious for experiences elsewhere.
Obviously, that pressure exists in heavily populated Mormon areas like Utah & SoCal (where I’ve lived the most years). But I’ve also lived in DC, Spain, Germany, and West Africa – all as a single adult – and there seemed also to be a strong emphases on marrying within the faith there – even though in some of those areas there were not a lot of options (and especially in Europe, many remained single). I also have friends who’ve lived in many places and I don’t know of a single Mormon friend from *anywhere* who didn’t feel that marrying somewhere who was not LDS would be a second-rate choice that should be avoided if there’s a possibility of a temple marriage. I don’t think that’s a cultural issue, it’s rooted in doctrine and temple sealings, so there’s no escaping it (although some areas may be more shunning than others).
Please feel free to down vote my comment at much as you wish. Having been a grateful follower of this blog for many years and as I former bishop, I just wish to say how heart broken I am at the current state of the Church and the hatred I see in my own local congregation. I simply wish God’s children love each other. That’s all. Please, please, please just try and do the best you can to love one another. That is my great hope for 2022. That is my comment. Please, my brothers and sisters, please try and love each other. I am so tired of the hatred.
At the time I was a teen in the UK the pressure to marry a member was high, and the old quote about any two church members being able to make a successful marriage appeared in the manuals and was often used. The result was, as I think about my particular cohort, by far the majority finished up getting divorced. I believe I mentioned that a few times before.
My parents generation and older, there was a far more pragmatic approach, such as described by Naismith. However, my observation was that whilst daughters may have been active members, the sons were not. And I have seen locally YSA women marry nonmembers recently, long-standing friends from their time at school (which makes my heart happy). Though not before spending quite a while (maybe far longer than might be considered reasonable) trying and failing to find a decent member.
Plutarch: I can’t imagine why anyone would downvote your comment. I think we all agree that we are exhausted of the partisan hatred that has infiltrated our country and our congregations.
A woman I served with in a relief society presidency told me with her face twisted in contempt that Biden was disgusting and criminal and belonged in jail (this was due to the bungled Afghan withdrawal). I don’t know what the point of that outburst was. I think many if not most democrats and others who voted for him would agree he’s been disappointing, even if that doesn’t drive us into the arms of the current GOP. Democrats are very willing to critique their leaders; conservatives are far less willing, and Trump specifically won’t brook any criticism (which sounds familiar when considering our top church leaders).
She is the same person who told me that the Democrats were trying to install “death panels” that would turn people down for critical care. I fairly lost it when she said this because I was, at that time, literally being denied coverage for the recommended brain surgery I was supposed to undergo. I pointed out that we already had “death panels” run by the insurance companies, and the only reason I’d be able to get the surgery was because I could change insurers without a penalty for a pre-existing condition, thanks to the ACA. At that time, Trump was threatening to kill the pre-existing conditions clause of the ACA. If he had succeeded, my odds of brain damage and or eventual premature death would have been much higher.
In both cases, I did not bring up politics. She was the one bringing it up out of the blue. I don’t believe she had bad intentions, but people say things without pausing and considering the context or the person they are talking to. They don’t take the time to empathize or question their worldview. I do believe, though, that the person with the most understanding in a situation bears the most responsibility for how the interaction goes, and when I interact with her, that appears to be me. Unfortunately, even though politics is widely seen as a “taboo topic” in polite society, and specifically called out as one at church, some people don’t have filters, and if you say something political at church that’s conservative, that seems to be protected as “religious freedom.”
Interesting timing: Subreddit https://www.reddit.com/r/latterdaysaints/ has a survey about common themes in patriarchal blessings. With this comment: “I don’t see how any good can come from this. Our Patriarchal Blessings are sacred. This seems like a wolf in sheep clothing idea.”
The commenter *says* that Patriarchal Blessings are a taboo topic in and of themselves. But I do find myself wondering if the actual taboo topic is that there are themes common to many blessings.
Elisa, yes I have lived outside the US. Most recently, I served a mission in Indonesia. On our island, getting married in the temple was not much of an option. In recent years, the Temple Patron Assistance Fund helps defray the cost of travel to a temple, but the bigger hurdle for many is obtaining a passport (since there is not yet a temple in Indonesia). In our congregation, there was one older couple who had been sealed in the temple because the husband had gone to school elsewhere. There is now another family that was sealed in the temple, because I promised a friend that if they could obtain passports, we would return to travel with them to the temple (mom and dad had never flown an airplane, and it was a long ordeal, multiple flights through various countries). So five months after our mission, we went back at our own expense and took them, in February 2020, as the pandemic was already raging in Southeast Asia. It is a blessing that they were sealed, because one of their children later died. In that congregation, the branch president is a single returned missionary, with counselors including a single adult and recent married convert (neither endowed). The RS president is a single woman. It may be that the dynamic will change if a temple becomes available within the country.
In North Florida where Dr. Barlow did his doctoral research, the first fulltime missionary called was the product of a member mom and non-member dad; that young man went on to become a stake president, serve in the temple presidency when we got a temple. I don’t know if examples like his played a role in why we had enough young men to step up and fulfill priesthood duties, but most of the “petticoat branches” as they were called are now wards with local priesthood leadership (some the sons and grandsons of the first-generation moms). In our town, one non-member dad built a house right across from the church so that his wife and children could easily participate. A stake patriarch had been a non-member when he married his Mormon wife.
We still have a lot of people marrying non-members, mostly women but also some returned male missionaries. I do notice that many of the women are not marrying until in their 30s (perhaps trying first to find a decent member as Hedgehog pointed out). The members serve in callings, speak in sacrament meeting, seem to be accepted in full fellowship.
I can’t really respond to the shunning or pressure, because I don’t pay much attention to that kind of thing. I joined the church as the filthiest of the untouchables: an unwed mother. I knew there was no way that I was going to fit in socially, so I never tried, and never cared what people said about me (which was a lot, but who has time to worry about what stupid people say?) I later married in the temple, which was my choice for myself–but I firmly believe that we all have a unique spiritual journey.