Have you ever heard a fellow church member defend something that you suspected they didn’t really feel that strongly about or that they may have even disliked, but they pretended to like or agree with?
Actually, a good place to see this in action is to watch some of the Black Menace video snippets in which many of the respondents who are being asked questions about feminism, gay rights, racism, polygamy, etc., know the church-approved answer, but also know that it’s not the socially acceptable answer, so they punt. They say things like “Hmmm. That’s a really great question. I haven’t thought much about that. I guess I would have to research it more.” There is literally an entire genre of TikToks of people mimicking these dodgy non-answers in response to what should be obvious questions like “Should gay people have human rights?” and “Should black people be allowed to breathe on campus?” It’s pretty entertaining.
I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite novels of all time, E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. In the novel, our heroine, Lucy Honeychurch, is traveling with her chaperon, Charlotte, who is trying to mentor her in being genteel and socially acceptable as Lucy comes of age. Lucy’s own instincts are to be kind and to tell the truth, to share confidences as she sorts out her feelings, but Charlotte is steadfastly teaching her that “tact” and following social rules are more important than being truthful, and it’s particularly bad to be kind to the “wrong sort” of people. She also learns that Charlotte is more interested in policing her thoughts and desires than in being her loving and supportive confidant. By contrast, Mr. Emerson, a fellow traveler in their pension, is always offending others by simply saying what he thinks. The clergyman Mr. Beebe attempts to intervene on his behalf, while not entirely approving of him.
“He has the merit–if it is one–of saying exactly what he means. . . It is so difficult–at least, I find it difficult–to understand people who speak the truth.”E.M. Forster, A Room with a View
I was recently listening to a Hidden Brain podcast in which they were discussing a specific form of self-censorship that occurs in social groups: preference falsification. This is different than just keeping your mouth shut when a controversial topic is introduced. The stakes are higher. You have to actually pretend you like the thing you don’t like (or to dislike the thing you do like, I suppose).
There are a few examples that readily came to mind. The first was a gospel doctrine class last year in which the teacher asked what the difference was between “blind obedience” and “obedience.” Here’s the dirty little secret we aren’t allowed to say: obedience is not all it’s cracked up to be. We aren’t in the army where obedience is a matter of life and death. If you were to take these congregants out of the pews and put them behind a desk in their workplace, not one of them would be defending the merits of “obedience.” This authoritarian mindset to human church leaders is also not preached by Jesus in the New Testament. It’s a feature of our current church culture to “get in line” and be “church-broke” as leaders joked about behind closed doors. It’s a feature of many conservative churches. As the teacher pointed out, unironically, the difference between blind obedience (bad) and obedience (good) is that with obedience (good) you pause and think before you obey. This is why they don’t serve Diet Cokes at Church, because I would have totally done a spit take in that moment, all over the back of the head of the person sitting in front of me.
Another example of preference falsification that I thought of was a ward friend who chatted me up at a wedding. She sheepishly admitted that she didn’t really like the temple, but she was sure that if she went more often she would like it. I said, “Don’t bet on it.” Why should she assume that doing something she doesn’t like more often is going to change whether she likes it? When I was a kid, eating liver made me gag. Eating more of it would have just made me gag more. I told her that lots of people feel that way, that some love it, and some don’t. Different strokes for different folks. She’s not defective for not liking it. Even David O. McKay said it wasn’t his favorite. I don’t know her personal reasons for not liking it, but I do know that many people admit in private settings that they don’t. You just can’t say that in Relief Society or you’ll be outed as unfaithful. There might be negative social consequences. You must pretend to like it or you are the problem.
Which brings us to the crux of why preference falsification works, especially in authoritarian cultures. If you can use the natural human tendency to want the approval of their social group to also get them to promote ideas or practices that you want in that group, you can turn victims into victimizers. This was an interesting twist in the podcast discussion. Authoritarians will deliberately popularize unpopular practices (for example, the invasion of Ukraine) by creating enough social pressure that even those who are hurt by an action will police others’ support of it. In authoritarian regimes, this is done by making a public example of anyone who dissents, either using violence or humiliation. This deters others by triggering their survival instincts. Within the church, excommunication is one method to squelch dissent. Another is leaders speaking out against dissenters, characterizing them as unfaithful, shrill, angry, demanding, agitating, playing the “victim,” political, or any other description that allows their issues to be sidelined. These signals unleash the Kracken of social stigma against those so identified. Rather than be ostracized, people pretend to like what they do not or participate in the conspiracy of silence by tuning out and shutting up. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” Matthew 7:6. Getting to know what we really think about something is reserved for those who are proven trustworthy.
Looking at anonymous survey statistics is always interesting because there is such a code of silence around these “taboo” perspectives in the Church that it’s easy to assume everyone is in lock-step with any idea that the brethren throw out there, even when they secretly are not. For example, it was surprising that less than a third of Millenials support the Word of Wisdom as it is currently taught. That means two out of every three of them disagree, a clear majority, but they probably aren’t saying so openly. While 56% of Church members said that they would follow the brethren against their own conscience, 44% said they would follow “personal revelation.” While it’s troubling a majority would do something they consider wrong just because a leader told them to do it, nearly half of your fellow congregants disagree with this stance. Are they vocally defending obedience to leaders in all cases or wisely keeping their mouths shut, or are they speaking up about their true preference? I don’t know about you, but in my ward, there’s no way nearly half of them would openly say that you can follow your conscience or personal revelation if it contradicts a church leader. I would peg the number of non-cowards at around zero.
“We see even larger differences on the question of whether Mormons are troubled by the church’s culture of obedience. Nearly seven in ten Boomer / Silent Mormons said they were “not at all troubled” by “the Church’s emphasis on obedience and conformity.” In contrast, only 44 percent of Millenials were not at all troubled, a twenty-five point drop. . . Merely believing in God may not be enough to hold these young adults in the fold when they disagree on social issues or feel they do not fit in the culture.”The Next Mormons, Jana Reiss & Benjamin Knolls
As the Next Mormons book makes clear, those with the fewest doubts are those who have very few social connections outside the Church. It’s really only easy to keep up the doubt-free bubble when everyone around you sticks to the party line, reducing your need to defend the indefensible. You don’t have to explain your socially unacceptable positions to a non-believing audience because everyone around you is already in on the conspiracy to avoid talking about it. Only in one-on-one conversations where the masks are put down do we hear about commonly held, but not voiced, positions like not liking the temple, supporting LGBT people, hating or fearing polygamy, and believing past church leaders were racist. But those with their whole lives ahead of them (e.g. Millenials and Zoomers) are less likely to find it appealing to keep up the charade of falsified preferences forever.
- What examples of falsified preferences have you seen among the membership?
- Have you told the truth about your preferences (that went against the “party line”) and experienced social consequences?
- Do you think this is a growth & retention problem the Church needs to deal with?
My wife always refers to this as “the script”. She grew up in an unorthodox household and never learned “the script”. Instead, she learned to always be authentic and to speak truthfully. She feels like she’s always getting in trouble at church and when hanging around church members for not sticking to “the script”. She comes by it honestly though. Most of her friends are not members of the church, partially because of the way that she has been treated by church members. But also because she doesn’t enjoy being around people who always stick to the script.
(She also doesn’t wear make-up or designer clothes, which puts her on the outs with a lot of the women at church. I’ve never been interested in that sort of thing either, so I could never tell… is that part of the preference falsification, or is that a real thing that people are interested in?)
One of the beautiful things about middle age is being less and less concerned about what other people think. I have a personal rule to not be a jerk at church, so I will often be silent during discussions like what you mentioned in Gospel Doctrine. That rule prevents me from openly criticizing or feeling like I need to correct/contradict what others say. However, as I’ve reached middle age I have also developed a strong feeling of not saying anything that isn’t intellectually honest – so I won’t say things in a talk or lesson that I don’t fully agree with or believe.
To answer your third question, it probably isn’t much of a retention problem at the local level. Most members that I know attend because it’s what they have done their whole lives and not because there is a perceived benefit (increased blessings and spiritually) from attending. But this would be different in wards and stakes where leadership isn’t tolerant of anything but strict obedience.
Another way of describing what you’re talking about is to ask the question: “is it just me?”. So often in my prior Church experience I’ve looked around the room and silently asked that question upon seeing or hearing something that just didn’t sit right. The temple experience is the best one I can think of but there are many others.
During the last few years these WTF moments became more and more common. I began to wonder whether something was wrong with me (very possible) or whether something was very right about my thoughts and feelings.
What I found so interesting was the concept of personal revelation. It was being talked about by the very highest level (RMN) all the way down to the EQ president. And I wondered: if I’m having more and more questions and doubts as time goes on, what does that say about me and/or what does that say about the Church?
What was damaging my testimony wasn’t Mormon Stories, RFM, or Whearsandtares.org. I didn’t even know these existed. What was pushing me out was the Gospel Topics Essays, the temple, and other Church stuff.
I’d look around and wonder if others had similar issues. And when I did speak out I’d almost always have someone comment to me privately “that was a great question” or “thank you so much for addressing that point”. It made me realize I wasn’t alone but that most people are afraid.
For most of my life, I was largely on board with church narratives and practices. As I began to realize that many of the narratives were crafted and not exactly straight-shooting, I very naively brought them up in classes and as a teacher. I was fired as the course 15 SS teacher and my wife had a calling in the primary presidency withdrawn over our views on LGBTQ+ issues.
We then moved to another ward and I kept my mouth shut for a few months. Then one Sunday morning, as I was tying my tie, I realized I couldn’t do that anymore and that was it.
I do admire those of you that can continue to go and “represent”, provide support for the marginalized, and are a force of change in the lives of their good sisters and brothers. I couldn’t – it came at too high of a personal price.
There are plenty of opportunities to do good (and to do no harm) and make a difference outside of the church and, in my experience, they tend to not exact the toll that the church does.
I’ve seen a few of the videos and I tip my hat to the Black Menace crew. But not for the reason most would think. I’m not a fan of “gotcha” videos. Give anyone some time and circumstance and we can make any ideology or group look foolish. But there was a trend here that I noted. It seemed to me that many BYU students were not used to confronting difficult theological, political and philosophical issues that clearly require nuanced analysis and thought, regardless of one’s position. I know the videos are edited to make a point, but there were far too many examples of this for a university setting. We need to reinstate hard, prickly questions into the curriculum at BYU. This is a university, for crying out loud… Some will argue that it would challenge faith. For me and my house, there needs be opposition in all things, and an unchallenged faithful mind cannot flourish.
Ethan, wait until you reach old age, it gets even better. You can take the “get off my lawn” mentality to Elders Quorum and most will just write you off as the crazy old uncle, but you can tell the truth and make lots of people squirm. One of my few joys in going to church!
A couple of examples of falsified preferences that I have seen recently are:
1. Lots of people at church saying how wonderful and what a spiritual feast General Conference was. I have NEVER heard anyone at church say something like, “General Conference was boring or I disagree with something that Elder so-and-so said.” It doesn’t fit with “the script” (thank you aporetic1) to say anything negative about General Conference.
2. Sometimes I have accidentally or purposefully 🙂 used the term Mormon at church. That usually elicits some disapproving looks.
I do think falsified preferences is a growth and retention issue for the church. A millennial aged family member recently stepped away from the church because they felt that they couldn’t speak honestly in lessons in regards to issues like the Temple, Feminism, Joseph Smith, etc.
Great post. I see this all the time. Interestingly, I experience it most when I say something that I think is out-of-the-mainstream Mormon thinking in my testimony or a during a lesson and half a dozen people come up to me later and say something like, “I agree completely with you”. And yet I never hear these folks speak out at church or say anything remotely controversial. They have their own reasons and I’m not judging them, but I’ve always taken that as an indication that more folks than we might expect are being silent for whatever reason about their true feelings regarding church teachings/doctrine.
I’ve experienced a fair amount of unofficial social/church consequences in my ward for speaking out about things. These aren’t consequences that bother me so much since I’m not that invested in church social circles anyway, but I’ve had a bishop pull me aside and tell me I wasn’t allowed to talk about politics at church because, since I was, according to the bishop, good at employing logic, other folks might start to be persuaded by what I was saying. I’ve never heard of folks in my ward who are conservative being asked to not discuss politics. I’ve had one member say (not to me, to a member of ward leadership) that they’d like to shoot me for some pro-gay marriage comments I made, I haven’t been asked to give a talk in church in the last five or six years, I haven’t been given a calling for the same amount of time, etc. These aren’t earth-shattering consequences; they merely indicate what happens when one speaks out and violates the social/cultural coding that the OP mentions.
I agree with Ethan that falsified preferences aren’t such a big deal at the ward/local level when it comes to retention but, as the work of Reiss and Knolls indicates, there is continuing to be a lot of disconnect from the younger church generations, who are already voting with their feet. There’s simply no reason to belong to an organization that asks (demands?) that all of its members participate in a never-ending game of the emperor’s new clothes.
The Church has suffered from not getting honest feedback from returning missionaries. They all give glowing reports in SMs. When in reality, we know that many come back frustrated for a variety of reasons. This has allowed the missionary program to stagnate and not evolve and into the 21st century. More candor is needed.
I believe one of the biggest drivers of preference falsification is that a disproportionate percentage of the most strident, TBM Mormons end up in positions of authority. The whims of these leaders and the impact of their decisions on the rest of the membership is seldom questioned. So, the reasonable response of most members who want to stay in good standing (for which there are myriad valid reasons) is to lay low and go with the flow.
When my children were young, I really struggled. I did not like taking care of little kids. But I would agreed to babysit other people’s children because you have to trade childcare around. It was okay to sometimes talk about how exhausting motherhood was, but you couldn’t really say that as a mother, you just did not enjoy being around little kids. I’ve been put in the nursery in every Ward I’ve ever been in. I love my kids, but I don’t like taking care of little ones.
When my son came out, I naively thought that I could continue to be the person that made change within the church. I didn’t understand the way people would use me to falsely support the institution’s preferences. If a conference talk targets the LGBTQ community or something else painful happens, my presence at church is used to excuse the talk unless I specifically speak out against the message to everyone that will listen. Speaking out with such honesty and clarity is viewed as hostile behavior. I’ve come to understand that my presence or perceived happiness is a tool the group uses to assuage themselves of uncomfortable feelings. They say to themselves and each other, “they seem happy, I don’t think they were bothered with that message” and then they don’t need to wrestle with the complexity of it. When I was just seen as a progressive member, I got to pick and choose when I wanted to challenge and I could work that around my energy level and my own mental well-being. It was hard, but manageable. I didn’t have an understanding of how this plays out differently for targeted identities and their loved ones in the church. Now, I am caste as a character in other people’s storylines and I have to speak loudly constantly to get the message heard. It is unsustainable.. I’ve had to realize that I’m not the person to make change from the inside anymore and it is directly because the people in the building are working so hard at preference falsification.
The two preference falsifications that came to mind for me have already been mentioned – liking the temple and liking general conference.
What’s funny to me is I can think of plenty of areas where people are willing to complain – scouting, cleaning the church in Saturdays, home teaching … so it’s interesting to me to think about why some areas we are fine to complain and others not.
Also, I watched about 13 minutes of the church-broke video and it made me sick. So much fawning over the “brethren” and declarations of loyalty. Seriously creepy.
Elisa, do you have a link for the church-broke video?
A more light-hearted example of falsified preferences: I do not like funeral potatoes. In my ward growing up and my first YSA ward everyone seemed to rave over funeral potatoes anytime they were served at a potluck, so as a teenager I always ate some and praised how good they were. It was something of a relief when a health issue at age 20 meant I had an excuse not to eat them.
@ivy it is in a post Angela linked to but also here: https://youtu.be/z4FPVZH8fIg
Personally, I think that we all must fight the natural tendency to care what others think of us. Not that we should deliberately be rude or confrontational, but we should not try to ingratiate ourselves through pretense. We caution teens against peer pressure, but it’s not like it suddenly disappears when we are adults. Peer pressure / social pressure is a lifelong struggle, and the best thing we can do is to overcome our need for social approval when it comes at the expense of being honest.
@hawkgrrrl, Thank you for introducing the concept of “preference falsification” here. It’s a valuable and enlightening concept. Two thoughts:
We all know that callings are more or less a unique and critical part of the Mormon experience. The callings we are given directly impact our quality of life at church, and contribute to the social capital we accrue within our religious culture. Speaking for my past self, I have engaged in preference falsification because doing so increased my social capital and the prestige of the callings I received. Our religious culture values obedience, conformity, loyalty and soldiering much more than it values insightfulness, growth through inquiry or challenging the conventional wisdom. This is why we see leadership homophily, and the phenomenon grows stronger as you go higher on the leadership ladder. As a church, we suffer from this. Mormonleaks/Truth and Transparency has been in the news lately. I’m reminded of an internal church survey the foundation published several years ago about the political attitudes and preferences among Utah bishops and stake presidents. I was surprised (and delighted) by the variance across political attitudes held by our bishops, but at the stake president level, close to 80% (if my memory holds true) of their political views and attitudes were nearly identical (GOP/conservative). This either speaks to a strong homophily effect, or to be called into the position of a stake president, is it possible those men, who may otherwise have a breadth of critical views, engage in preference falsification. Sadly, I have known some stake presidents who are truly church ambitious much more than they are concerned about expressing their thoughts openly and honestly. This is the weird kind of ethics the church promotes: It’s a much higher virtue to be a yes man than to speak your conscience, regardless of what your inner, moral compass may tell you. This is one reason I have always held a distrust for stake presidents and some bishops (unless I know them personally very well) because I am not sure they value sound, personal judgment more than being a church tool. There shouldn’t be a dichotomy between the two but I think unquestionably there often is. Whose interests are they more concerned with? The parishioner’s? Or the institution’s? Preference falsification, I think, may make it harder to know where your church leader comes down on that question.
I am embarrassed to say the much younger me engaged in preference falsification as I valued the social capital it leveraged and afforded me, as I mentioned above, and it resulted directly in callings that progressed steadily with more authority and responsibility. At some point, my academic studies in philosophy and ethics won back my conscience and I started to become more thoughtful, and outspoken in church on a spectrum of issues. My personal level of preference falsification went down as did my level of cognitive dissonance. My conscience became more clear. I became a more moral person. And as a consequence, I was almost immediately removed from the leadership pipeline. It’s interesting how I have never felt better about who I am as a disciple of Jesus, as a person, and how warily my local leaders now view me. Evidently, I’m one of those intellectual types now and a progmo. Leaders seem to view me as one who generally knows what I’m talking about, but can we really trust him to stay on message despite his saying what many of us often think? (I was told this by a good friend on the HC in my stake.)
Incidentally, Jesus was a moral hero because he was a disruptor, certainly not given to preference falsification and not obedient to the norms of the time. Our church certainly doesn’t value those who are similarly committed to their personal sense or morality. Just ask Sam Young, as one example.
One area of preference falsification that I have been involved with as a teenager, as well as an adult, is girls camp. As a teenager, I attended girls camp every year and professed to all my leaders and the bishop how much I enjoyed the experience. To my mother, in private, I lamented the fact that I wished to do high adventure activities like the boys. I think I felt that as the Laurel class president, I had to be an example of enthusiasm for camp. As an adult, I have been camp director, several years now, for the same kind of boring girls camps that I attended as a kid (thanks stake leaders for squashing all my great plans and relegating me to a camp facilitator rather than director.) All the YW claim to love camp when asked by the bishop or the stake leaders but then complain to me about wanting to do activities like the boys. When I try to intercede, I always get told by bishops and stake leadership, “The girls tell us that they love camp and can’t wait to attend every summer. Why should we change it?”
In talks and lessons, I am trying to be more nuanced. I currently teach GD but have no intention of using the following suggested questions during the upcoming lesson:
What are the blessings of obedience? How do our choices on the Sabbath demonstrate our commitment to Jesus Christ?
I just got the calling and if I still have it in late 2024, I will ask to be released because I cannot honestly be effective in teaching Doctrine and Covenants in my current broken shelf state. The Bible and BOM I can teach like I would Harry Potter or the novels of Michael Connelly (JCS approved?) and look for some relevant takeaways.
Great concept and discussion. I hear this all the time with LGBTQs. Members pretending to “love” LGBTQs but condemning their “life choices.” Sorry, but you’re a homophobe if you are against same-sex marriage, period. You’re a homophobe if you think you are the victim of LGBTQs seeking freedom to be who they really are and equal treatment.
For myself, I think the main example that comes to my mind was a home teaching program instituted by the Elder’s Quorum presidency. Without going into details, I felt the program was destined to fail from the get go, but, as a simple Elder in the quorum, I did not have the whatever is needed to contradict the leadership. I spoke in favor of it and let it go until it ended a couple of months later.
A couple of other comments suggested a different example — Then Elder now Pres Nelson’s push against the Mormon nickname. We all know about the twin talks in 1990 when then Elder Nelson gave a GC talk about not using the Mormon nickname only to have then Pres. Hinckley follow it up with a talk about how the Mormon nickname is not all that bad. While I know that we don’t really know how Elder Nelson spoke about the different ways we embraced “mormon” during the years between 1990 and 2018, there is a lot of speculation that Elder Nelson “went along to get along” (an expression of preference falsification?) until he had achieved enough status for his real preference to be respected.
One thing I see in the Church is that we tend quite strongly defer to leadership — sometimes falsely prefering whatever leadership wants in order to maintain a facade of unity in the Church.
I may have missed this if it was discussed earlier: I started writing this comment a long time ago and came back to it still in draft form.
A huge preference falsification might be when gay members enter into a mixed orientation relationships / marriage in order to have an eternal family. I hope this is less common now, but personally I know multiple families of my generation in this situation, all of which ended in divorce. I have also heard anecdotally that closeted gay members can be the most outspoken in support of the church position in gays. Idk, but it seems legit.
Trans people, merely by living as a gender that feels wrong to them, could be suppressing their preference.
Or there is an example of a recent gay BYU student who was publicly out of the closet and podcasting or blogging about how it is possible or reasonable to be gay and celibate in the church, yet recently revealed that he has secretly and hypocritically been dating men.
Or there is the example of Tom Christofferson who famously ended his long term relationship and returned to church activity for a time. ( I actually don’t know if the end of the relationship was caused by his return to activity or simply preceded it, so I don’t mean to imply causation). He has recently publicly announced he is dating men again.
I think it is safe to say that most gay, lesbian, and trans members are practicing suppression of their true preference. Perhaps bisexual members as well; I really know very little about their experience.
“ She sheepishly admitted that she didn’t really like the temple, but she was sure that if she went more often she would like it”
I’ve had those same thoughts about the temple.
Really, it reminds me of when I was baptized and adults told me how good I would feel. Nope. Didn’t feel any different after baptism and confirmation than I did before.
The temple was also disappointing in that way. I’ve not lived closer than 2 hrs away from a temple so attendance has been infrequent. But each time it is the same.
It feels at times our church more resembles a multi-marketing/pyramid club training environment.
Fine that some have different experiences than me. But clearly, it is not for everyone— and we insist on cramming everyone into the same cookie-cutter, rather than enlarging the tent for a variety of relationships and experiences within the church.
@lois, I’ve seen a lot of references lately to the Church as a pyramid / MLM scheme, and I have to say I agree.
It seems like all we ever hear anymore is how important it is to get our friends and family to Church.
But why? So that they can be told to get their friends and family to Church?
Like, what is the actual content or substance being delivered? Very little, it seems to me.
I wasn’t raised in the church, and I don’t live in the intermountain west, so that may influence my experience and thus my outlook. I have never felt pressure to “fit in” the way that some do.. I think of the church as a mosaic or stained glass window, in which everyone keeps their own unique color but comes together for the greater good. Through the years, I have been given some church assignments that were weird and a lot of people could not or would not want to do do, such as writing a history of the stake.
When I was a member for about 8 years and married for 6, one Sunday my husband made a comment in Sunday School and I disagreed. The teacher allowed us to go back and forth for a bit, each making legit points. I don’t remember the topic, but I do remember that a few weeks later a sister came up to me and told me how amazed she was that I seemed so comfortable disagreeing with my husband, and that he seemed fine with it. She seemed to think we should always support our husbands. I was surprised that she said that, but I didn’t feel compelled to change.
If we truly believe in divine inspiration and stewardship, we should have no fear of what others think, nor worry about others who make different choices.
“ I wasn’t raised in the church, and I don’t live in the intermountain west, so that may influence my experience and thus my outlook. I have never felt pressure to “fit in” the way that some do..”
I’ve shared this before:
Having lived most of my adult life and raised my children outside UT, I’ve found that congregations and leadership can vary somewhat—but by far, conservative/authoritarian types dominate. I’ve also noticed that females don’t always come under as much attention and scrutiny as males do primarily because men are being groomed for various roles/offices within the church.
My youngest (and I) encountered a lot of negative judgment from ward members when he chose not to attend BYU. Then, when he went away to school, he had more negative experiences after he became involved in the LDS institute (he wasn’t going on a mission and was dating a nonmember). That was the end of any relationship with the church for him. To him, church was an emotionally damaging experience for him.
As for relying on inspiration, why do some people read, pray etc and never feel they’ve received inspiration while others constantly/often do?
(Btw. I’ve been active in the church my entire life.
A couple of times later in my life when I dared express that the older I get the more questions I have—but I choose to have faith—I’ve gotten major pushback-including someone suggesting I need to figure out what is wrong with me).
1. “Should gay people have human rights?” and 2 “Should black people be allowed to breathe on campus?”
The word “should” is part of a condition, often implicit: IF you want X you should Y OR if you don’t want X you should not Y.
It is not clear from these questions what is the condition that governs the “should” and what rights *exactly* a happy and carefree person should have to accomplish some unstated goal.
RIGHTS are social agreements. Where agreement does not exist, neither does the right.
As defined by the United Nations, “human rights” should not exist for anyone simply because autonomy; human rights compels others to your service but does not compel you to their service:
“the right to social protection, to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental well-being; the right to education and the enjoyment of benefits of cultural freedom and scientific progress.” https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/human-rights No mention is made by the United Nations where and how these “rights” come into existence; they are just sort of “out there”. The list is Marxist in orientation and is very similar to the 1936 Soviet Union constitution.
“As for relying on inspiration, why do some people read, pray etc and never feel they’ve received inspiration while others constantly/often do?”
I have no idea; but not for lack of wrestling with that exact question. In my own life I have noticed that at times, or for certain topics, it is easy to get revelation or inspiration; but for other things, nothing. I conclude from it that where there is no discernable direction I am free to choose and the ultimate goal of human life is to choose behaviors and be compelled to nothing.
Implicit in the concept of fore-ordination, or that God knows spirits before they are born as humans, some are apparently chosen or ordained to something relatively specific and others are not. I would tell a story of a girl stillborn, who presented herself in the temple to her parents, comforting them and saying, “I only needed a body, thank you”. My daughter, near as I can tell, has no mission to perform in this life. She needs only to exist and by that existence something that needs to happen, will happen. Her spirit is strong (and rebellious), forces existed to prevent her from being born, but other forces existed to ensure she was born. She chose her name and told it to me before she was born and so it is.