The Salt Lake Tribune published a look back at the first five years of Pres. Nelson’s tenure as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last week. Let’s go through and hit the main points of the article and see if we can understand what’s going on.
Gathering of Israel
The article quotes Nelson as saying in 2018 “these surely are the latter days, and the Lord is hastening his work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty.“
This is a little puzzling. Who exactly is “Israel” in this phrase? Is it baptized members of the Church? That doesn’t make sense, already “gathered” in the sense of joining the Church. Is it living people out there who might accept the gospel and be baptized if the missionaries or a friendly member strike up a Mormonish conversation and they eventually convert? That doesn’t make sense. We already have a very usable phrase for that sort of activity: “missionary work.” Is it doing temple work for those who have passed on? Same thing: we call that “temple work” or “baptisms for the dead.” Unless he’s talking about seeking out the Lost Ten Tribes hiding somewhere under the North or South Pole and transporting them to Utah, it is not really clear what and who he has in mind with this phrase.
Maybe, like so many LDS motivational phrases that come and go, it’s just a shorthand phrase for “pay your tithing, go to church, and accept every calling.” I simply have no idea what the phrase is actually referring to. Imagine you and your faithful spouse knocking on the bishop’s door and saying, “Bishop, here we are, ready to gather Israel as Pres. Nelson has directed. We’re full of energy and determination. What exactly should we do?” I doubt any bishop would be able to give a specific answer.
Personal Responsibility and Revelation
This goes back to the “home-centered, church supported” theme from a couple of years ago, tied to the new Come Follow Me manuals. The most zealous of members seem to have replaced Home Evening (and the Home Evening manual) with doing mini-Sunday School lessons based on CFM once a week with the family. If that’s the ideal, if that’s what was intended, why didn’t they just eliminate Sunday School from the two-hour block and have PH/RS every week? The alternating schedule doesn’t really seem to be working for either Sunday School or PH/RS. Trying to keep half of one and half of the other is hoping for too much. Just jettison Sunday School and just have a “Sunday School enrichment meeting” on the fifth Sunday once every three months instead of whatever random topic usually gets thrown into fifth Sundays.
This might also reflect what might be termed “revelatory inflation.” A lot of things that used to be called decisions are now described as “inspired decisions” or flat out “revelation.” Maybe it empowers and edifies members to have them think “God is telling me to read the New Testament” rather than “I feel like I should read the New Testament this year.” There are zealous members out there who think they get five revelations a day. My sense is that recent overuse and broadening of the term “revelation” has blurred some distinctions and probably removed some of the aura from what were referred to as “revelations” in previous LDS discourse: documents in the D&C and other events or visions presented as or claimed as bona fide revelations.
Is there such a thing as too many LDS temples? As an economist might say, there is an optimal number of LDS temples and it is considerably less than infinity. Has anyone at the COB actually had a meeting to discuss criteria that would allow a determination that a given geographical locality has too many temples, just the right number of temples, or not enough LDS temples? I propose the Goldilocks Initiative, a push within LDS leadership to think hard about what that “just right” number of temples per state or LDS area or foreign country is. That’s in contrast to the current “if we build it, they will come” approach which seems to have no upper bound. You might also think of it as the Oprah approach: A temple for you! And a temple for you! Everybody gets a temple!
Now let’s be fair. Many Latter-day Saints have had deeply personal spiritual experiences in an LDS temple. The goal and symbol of an LDS temple marriage (paired with serving and LDS mission) guides and focuses many LDS youth in a positive way. If you think “get married to someone who loves you and start a family” is a little too traditional in terms of advice for youth in 2023, what’s your alternative plan? Stay single while delivering pizza four nights a week and playing video games in Mom’s basement until you’re 35? A lot of younger guys don’t need a plan and a symbol for that. They’re already living the dream. (And I can guess which regular commenter is going to take this critique and run with it.)
So the role of temples in the whole LDS program isn’t by itself a real negative. We’re talking here about the push to build more and more and more temples, which puts more and more and more pressure on a shrinking pool of active LDS to staff and attend temple services and activities.
Who Are You?
Well, you’re not a “Mormon” anymore, if Pres. Nelson gets his wish. You can boldly proclaim to non-LDS friends or colleagues, “I’m a Saint” or maybe “I’m a Christian.” Like that won’t confuse them. Even “I’m a member of the LDS Church” is too casual or demeaning for the LDS leadership. It’s supposed to be “I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Tell that to the average non-LDS and they’ll either reply “which church is that?” or, if they’re in the know, “so you’re a Mormon, right?”
The SL Trib article has some discussion highlighting the difficulties this has created. The most annoying thing is probably the twelve thousand times some lady at church has wagged her finger at some other church-attending member and said, “You know you’re not supposed to use the M-word anymore!” The whole effort has had little or no impact on people outside the Church, most of whom don’t even know about it. Journalists are probably all aware by now, but they work under the constraint that non-LDS readers actually have to understand what the journalist is talking about in a published story. So they pretty much have to use the term “Mormon” to describe the Church or its members in a news story, otherwise many readers just won’t know who they are talking about. Again, like the “gathering of Israel” theme, this one is kind of a head scratcher. It’s not clear what the leadership thinks this is supposed to accomplish or whether it has, in fact, achieved to any degree that secret goal. If this is a solution, what was the problem?
Rooting Out Racism
This seems like the only serious topic on the list, which means I suppose that it’s the only serious thing that has been attempted by the leadership under Pres. Nelson’s tenure. I could say that with more confidence if, say, there were a Conference talk on this topic directed to the membership every six months. You hear a comment or two, and maybe you hear some references to the problem if you’re already tuned in to it, but honestly I’m not sure the leadership has made this a priority to the extent that the average member would recognize it as such.
I mean yes, it would be nice if the leadership did put more emphasis on this. But if they really are trying to put an emphasis on rooting out racism in the Church, I’m not sure the message is getting through to the membership, certainly not as a priority. If you went to church next week and asked ten random members to name three things Pres. Nelson has emphasized in his five years as President of the Church, I doubt a single one of them would list “rooting out racism from the Church” as one of their three. Maybe because to give that answer, you have to acknowledge that racism exists among the membership and is a problem, which few members are willing to do. Racism is always someone else’s problem. The way right-leaning politics is moving lately (and most active LDS are definitely right-leaning and get their news from right-leaning sources) the whole idea that racism is a problem or even a factor in current society or in American history is being contested and, if possible, erased from school and university courses.
So those are the five main themes the article identifies for Pres. Nelson’s first five years.
- Any themes they missed?
- Do any of them strike you as terribly positive or negative? Got a favorite?
- Have you had a conversation with someone where the use or non-use of the term “Mormon” created confusion or offense?
- Look in your crystal ball and guess a theme or two that might emerge over the next couple of years of the Nelson-Oaks presidency.
Doubt not but be believing. There are good reasons for emphasizing all of those themes.
Dave B has hit the nail squarely on the head. But the video games he mentions are much more than just a side note.
For the irrefutable fact is that every change mentioned above is geared toward making it possible for even the most lazy a slothful to be counted as at least nominal members of the Church. The expectations of membership have been lowered to a level even below the lowest common denominator. As Dave B points out, vast hordes of uneducated young men can attend zoom church alone in a basement while playing violent video games and listening to Bon Jovi at the same time.
This goes hand in hand with the obliteration of the word “Mormon.” Instead a community in which ward members were friends who worshiped, served, and played together, the church experienced has been altered so that ward members are no longer a community of friends. They are a conglomerate of isolated individuals whose only association with each other is hitting the “like” button on each other’s social media posts.
If the Church is to prosper, it must expect more of members than the ability to match a pair of crocs. It must expect members to put in the time and effort to know what the Gospel is all about. It must expect them to give up the laziness and sloth of sweatpants fueled YouTube festa and to embrace the sweat of physical labor serving the poor. If this does not happen, the Church will fade into irrelevance.
During these five years the rules were changed for witnesses. Women now serve in the role of witness in baptisms and in the temple.
The temple ceremonies were changed so that women no longer have to promise to hearken to their husbands in the endowment.
Female regional advisors were called to bring a woman’s voice to the 70s.
The Strength of Youth rules were improved to be less prescriptive and controlling towards young women.
Efforts were taken by Elder Soares to soften the meaning of men presiding over women in the Family Proclamation. Talk has continued with the idea that women also hold the priesthood in a sense… (I feel too gaslighted by this one to even try to explain it).
Still, some amount of small progress has been made in the direction of more equal say and participation for women in the church. This makes some sense as President Nelson is the father of many girls.
Gathering Israel is a general term referring to the covenant between God and Abraham to save everyone on earth by adopting them into the covenant. The idea is for everyone to be connected together as God’s family. Every person is of equal value or importance in this plan, whether they are dead, nonmembers, or members. The term gathering of Israel is a broad inclusive term that includes ministering, friendshipping, temple work, genealogy, serving missions, setting a good example and most any efforts to love one another and follow Christ’s example.
It’s term included in our Articles of Faith. In my opinion it has more spiritual meaning than cutting things up into individual programs. We can gather Israel by setting a good example and be kind to everyone. Our efforts are valuable whether we are doing genealogy, attending the temple or being a friend in or out of the church.
You can dispute what you think Nelson is focusing on if you like, but that is my understanding of the term and how it has been used recently in my local area.
JCS, we haven’t had Zoom church in my area for at least 2 years. When we had it, I had a friend that watched and reactivated.
In my home at least those people who aren’t interested in church didn’t watch it. Those who were interested watched it and went back to church we we resumed meeting together a couple years ago.
Have you been back to church? Your posts seem out of touch with the actual effects of zoom on the church.
People who are into gaming and reject the church were doing so years and years before the pandemic and zoom. You have things connected up that aren’t connected.
When I look back at Russel Nelson’s tenure, I’m mostly disappointed. Yes, he made some interesting changes in the first couple of years of his administration. But what has he really changed? Think of all the good the Church could do if it used its money in a truly Christian way. Think of the love and charity that would abound in our meetinghouses if he shut down the anti-gay rhetoric by his right hand man. You know what would really impress me? A Church president who alters the missionary program from one of missionary indoctrination and virtually no “production” (i.e., baptisms) to one of meaningful Christian service…and by meaningful I mean that this service impact the missionary AND the public beyond loyalty to an institution.
In contrast to the quote used in the story, Nelson’s usual formulation of “gathering Israel” is to append “on both sides of the veil” to it and his meaning is unambiguous. The following appears on the Church website:
I apologize for putting my jaded and antipathetic hat on for a minute, but another recurring theme of Nelson’s tenure is that women may as well be children. At his initial press conference, Peggy Fletcher stack asked the rather open ended question, “what about women” to which Nelson responded along the lines of “We love women.” Nice metaphorical pat on the head there. Let’s see how that turned out.
– In 2019 church decided that women could witness baptisms. Since it was no longer a priesthood function, so could any 8 year old baptized child.
– when the women’s conference was opened up to youth they also invited children eight years and older. Because, hey, what’s the difference?
– priesthood meeting was converted into a general meeting, because now that women can see it it is better to not have a meetings for men at all.
– my mother law was working in the temple at the baptistery prior to allowing girls to witness. Not having a real job to do while her husband manned his station in the baptistery, she handed towels to people as they came out of the font. She confided in me that she really wanted to do meaningful temple work but in her current position she literally be replaced by a shelf. It actually got worse when they allowed women to witness. I haven’t been since then, but I believed that more the young women witness, and my MIL was still just handing out towels, until Covid happened and they quit going.
Until the church frankly and honestly acknowledges past racism in the church, and until the church frankly and honestly acknowledges the pain it caused, and until the church abandons their toxic policy of never apologizing, I cannot take the church seriously when they talk about “rooting out racism.”.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
lws329, those are good points. I thought the Elder Soares talk was excellent.
lastlemming, thanks for that quote, but it only underlines the problem. If I say to the guy next to me in Priesthood meeting, “missionary, temple, and family history work,” he knows what I’m talking about. If I say to the guy, “the gathering of Israel,” he certainly doesn’t think of missionary, temple, and family history work. If that’s what I meant to refer to … well, that’s what I should have said. The way Nelson is using the term seems calculated to confuse listeners, the same way making Mormon unacceptable by LDS speakers makes their speech more confusing to most non-LDS listeners.
We have the 10th article of faith: “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes.” That’s a familiar LDS usage of the phrase “gathering of Israel.” I imagine that’s the first thing that leaps to mind for an LDS listener.
And we have the doctrine of the gathering, which gets plenty of attention in the D&C lesson year, with an actual gathering to Kirtland, then to Missouri, then to Nauvoo, then over the course of the 19th century to Utah. This “gathering of the Saints” would, at first blush, seem to be somehow related to this “gathering of Israel,” you would think.
But according to the quote, Nelson’s seems to be using the phrase in an entirely new way, to just refer to the usual LDS stuff, having nothing to do with gathering and nothing to do with Israel. “Follow the covenant path” sort of refers to the same stuff. We could make up our own phrases. “Serve the living God” = do all the usual LDS stuff. “Practice bold and courageous obedience” = do all the usual LDS stuff. “Honor your ancestors and keep your covenants” = do all the usual stuff. Any slogan will do, the words are irrelevant. These slogans are more like cheering at a football game (where whatever words you use to cheer boil down to “Go team!”) than part of an actual statement or assertion about the real world.
At a ward level, the elimination of the High Priest group and restructuring of Temple & Family History (TFH) work has changed things considerably for me. (I think most wards have had to adjust to the increased responsibilities of RS & EQ presidents, and had difficulties with the elimination of YM presidencies). I’ve been a consultant for almost 8 years. Previously we were under the control of the ward HP Group Leader, so didn’t have much oversight. All the consultants from the various wards would meet monthly at our stake family history center and compare notes, get the latest news. Now each ward has a TFH leader that must be a priesthood holder. The idea is that gathering on one side of the veil (TFH efforts) should be structured the same as gathering on the other side of the veil (ward mission efforts). We meet as a ward committee monthly with the leader, RS counselor, and EQ counselor, trying to meet ward goals, which are usually about getting ward members to the temple more often. None of the wards talk to each other, consultant training is left to the ward level, and a lot of the guys called as ward TFH leaders frankly don’t have any interest in the family history aspect. We’re struggling getting new people from each ward to help staff the center (replacing staffers who die or are too unwell to work shifts anymore). There’s pros and cons. Ward councils and bishoprics are being forced to at least think about some TFH goals, which can be fantastic if anyone in leadership above the consultant level actually cares. We’ve lost the unity and connections of consultants across the stake, though.
I completely agree with the OP on Nelson’s usage of the term “gathering of Israel”. It’s so vague. As Dave B has pointed out, the gathering of Israel has at least a few different meanings in Mormon parlance, so when Nelson is using the phrase, what does he really mean? I think that the OP nailed it when it pointed out that the majority of bishop’s would be stumped if they were asked by a member in their ward how they could follow the prophet’s counsel to help “gather Israel”. Most people just don’t know what exactly is being referred to here. I’d like to provide a few more reasons that I dislike Nelson’s usage of the term “gathering of Israel”.
I dislike the usage of the term “gathering of Israel” because it has its roots in the idea that in Old Testament times God really only cared about the Israelites. He didn’t care about the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, etc. Only the Israelites mattered to Him. According to the Old Testament, God condoned, or even commanded, genocide against all nations except Israel. If God loves all of humanity, this doesn’t make any sense to me. Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear “gathering of Israel”, I can’t help but think of all of the issues I see with the Israel-centric Bible (what about the “gathering of Egypt, the gathering of Assyria, or even the gathering of China or Madagascar? Did/does God care about those nations at all?). If we changed “gathering of Israel” to “gathering of humanity” or “gathering of the children of God”, I still wouldn’t know exactly what we were talking about (as the OP points out very well), but at least I wouldn’t immediately be turned off by the focus just on the nation of Israel. And yes, I know very well that Mormons believe that every converted Mormon is adopted into the House of Israel, so “Israel” no longer just refers to a small and relatively insignificant nation located in the Middle East. Even so, it still bothers me.
Another reason I don’t like Nelson using the term “gathering of Israel” is because he seems to fancy himself an Old Testament scholar, even though he clearly isn’t, and he has a tendency to publicly teach his literalistic interpretations of the Old Testament as seen through his Mormon lens–interpretations that I personally find to be very questionable. One other example, besides “gathering of Israel”, of Nelson’s literal interpretations of the Old Testament as seen through a Mormon lens are his belief that Mormon temple rituals are “ancient” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/10/becoming-exemplary-latter-day-saints?lang=eng). Elisa has a nice post on Nelson’s literal interpretation of scripture with some other examples here: https://wheatandtares.org/2022/05/19/the-evolution-revolution/. In any case, whenever I hear Nelson quote or use ideas from the Old Testament (or really any ancient scripture), I reflexively brace for the literal interpretation that so often comes with it, and that includes Nelson’s interpretation of the “gathering of Israel”.
The idea of the “gathering of Israel” is also inextricably linked to the second coming of Christ. Nelson has, on numerous occasions, implied that he believes the 2nd coming of Christ is very close, but in order for that to happen we must, of course, first have the gathering of Israel. Nelson never really says how he knows that the second coming of Christ is near, and we, of course, have famous scriptures stating that no one (and that would presumably include Nelson) can know when Christ will return (“Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only”). I guess Mormon prophets can know that the 2nd Coming is close as long as they don’t know the actual date and hour? How close of an estimate are Mormon prophets allowed to give? Weeks? Months? Years? Decades? Centuries? Millenia? Christians have been believing that the 2nd coming was imminent for over 2000 years now. In the days of Joseph and Brigham, Mormons were “gathering Israel” by sending out missionaries to convert people and to then urge the converts to “come to Zion” because they believed that the destruction preceding the 2nd coming was imminent and that Zion (Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo, Utah) was going to be the only safe place for people to be. I personally have serious doubts about whether a literal 2nd coming is ever going to occur, but even if it really is, I don’t think Nelson has any idea of when it will happen. I can easily imagine Mormons talking about “hastening” and “gathering” in 2830 just like they are today (https://wheatandtares.org/2023/01/21/happy-new-year-2830/). I’m on board with doing most of the things that lws329 suggested the “gathering of Israel” means: “ministering, friendshipping, temple work, genealogy, serving missions, setting a good example and most any efforts to love one another and follow Christ’s example”. However, I don’t really appreciate linking these actions to all the baggage associated with the “gathering of Israel” (i.e., the global apocalypse that will supposedly precede the 2nd coming of Christ). Can’t we all be motivated to do good simply because we love God and our fellow human beings instead of being motivated out of the fear of the global destruction of “the World” that will supposedly follow the gathering of Israel and precede the 2nd coming of Christ? Instead of calls to “gather Israel”, could our prophet instead just simply ask us to “love one another” or “develop and practice charity”?
Yes Rockwell. Anyone who thinks things improved for women under the Nelson administration is missing that important point. Don’t forget that men have gotten more air time than women during many of the “women’s sessions” and Heavenly Mother got the boot.
I’m with you, Dave, and mountainclimber479, on “Gathering of Israel.” It seems like a handwavy way to say things that are already being done, but with new phrasing so as to put RMN’s stamp on them or something. I feel the same way about “let God prevail.” It feels no different from when a new boss comes in at your job and changes a bunch of cosmetic things so they can feel like they’re having an impact.
Also, I feel like RMN’s legacy will really be that he firmly moved the Church away from trumpeting its growth in terms of number of members (where the data grow more dismal with each statistical report) to trumpeting its growth in terms of temples. But not even temples built so much as temples announced. RMN won’t live many more years, so he’s not going to have to deal with the fallout, but I wonder whether Oaks or Holland or whoever is up next will continue with announcing new temples by the hundreds while they’re only completed at a glacial pace. Oaks seems to me to be too hard-headed for that. I wonder if he might just cut off the spigot and say something like “We’re going to make concrete plans to complete most of these announced temples before we announce any more.” But if I’m wrong, or if it’s someone else next, will they just continue the trend? Will they just announce temples in 2025 that have a projected completion date of 2075? At some point, won’t members start to notice that the promised temples aren’t being rolled out as quickly as they were announced? But again, it’s not RMN’s problem; he clearly doesn’t care.
Rockwell, thanks for putting into words exactly what I’ve been feeling. It’s like they can’t give anything to women because it might be seen as being influenced from the bottom up, so everything women get, 8-year-olds get too. In the church there are the “men” and then there are the “women and children”. I remember years ago when a new prophet was being sustained, they went through all the priesthood quorums and then the entire rest of the church was lumped into one sustaining unit – so basically women and children. I felt like it was more important that my 12-year-old Deacon (who couldn’t care less) sustained the prophet than it was that I, a full-grown woman serving in the church, sustained the prophet. I noticed the next time there was a new prophet the sustaining was changed, so apparently I wasn’t the only one this bothered.
The church professes women and men are equal, but that’s not what I see. As Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time”.
Some other changes that are meaningful to individuals that have occurred in the past five years:
Women can be witnesses to temple sealings now (not just “any 8-year old child” can do this).
Immediately after he was set apart (like, the next day) a number of archaic rules regarding who could be a temple worker were changed (for example, a person used to have to wait five years from a divorce to be a temple worker– it made no sense).
Many changes to the Handbook, including , but not limited to (1) removing prescriptive language against cremation or getting one’s tubes tied (male and female); (2) social media behavior; (3) (far, far from perfect but yet) improvements on language regarding our LBGTQ community; (4) focusing sacrament meeting on Jesus Christ; (5) allowing temple work for those who died without the gospel to take place after 30 days from death rather than 1 year; (6) allowing sealings to happen anytime after a civil marriage (rather than wait a year, another really stupid legacy rule); (7) placing Relief Society President on the same level as Elders Quorum Presidents in nearly every way; etc.
Making EFY available to many more young people with the new FSY program (my daughter was able to do this last summer, and had a very meaningful experience, and we had a tremendous increase in the number of youth being able to have this experience and also to participate as FSY workers).
It is often hard to see the results of many small changes. The Church is a very large ship and turns slowly. But it seems like President Nelson is turning the ship, at least a little.
Elisa, I agree that the situation with women had not improved in any significant way. We do NOT have the priesthood except for one small place in the temple. Until we can bless babies, bless the sick and baptize, we do NOT have the priesthood.
Also on the topic of half and half SS and RS. I miss the specialness of meeting with my sisters every week. If it must be one or the other, let’s get rid of SS and keep RS every week.
About the name change….. Good grief!!
“Obedience is greater than Love” is the motto for Nelson.
@faith over fear, good call on the temple sealing change. That’s meaningful.
I honestly can’t stand Nelson and think mostly it’s been negative but can’t deny that positive.
@Dave B. I’m glad you wrote this OP. I think we need to put the Nelson administration under the magnifying glass. Most of my comments are criticisms that range from sharp to disappointments. He has done positive work, but I’m going to focus on things I think have not been helpful, have been hurtful, or need to be rethought.
In no particular order of priority:
*Changes to the young men’s program have been a disaster. Dropping the BSA as the official YM’s program was the right move. Dropping young men’s presidencies has created a hole that has not been filled by bishoprics.
*I admire Nelson’s words calling us to root out racism, but without a church curriculum on this subject, his words are hollow. Nearly all experts would agree that being anti-racist is necessary to root out racism and is an acquired skill. We need skills training and education within the church. But it is no where to be found in our church. I can’t believe Nelson is serious about rooting out racism without there being explicit instruction combined with efforts to talk honestly about the church’s racist past. Until this happens, the church will continue to be duplicitous on issues related to race.
*Temple building. The excess of temple building makes no sense to me. There are temples in international locations right now that cannot be staffed or be open unless there is a tranche of U.S. senior missionaries there to staff the temple. I guess this is the right place to insert that I too have no idea what Nelson is talking about when he talks about gathering Israel. It’s a platitude I don’t get, but you can say a lot to create urgency and snap members to attention without really saying anything when you speak in platitudes (see also my comments about his efforts to root our racism).
*The worst parts of Nelsons presidency, in my opinion, have included the retrenchment around silencing gay members. Nelson’s teachings that seek falsely to bifurcate the love of God and your neighbor (e.g., your gay neighbor) should alarm everyone. Oaks, Gilbert and Teh have all promoted this doctrinal perversion as well.
*Policy changes affecting CES employees will haunt the church–and BYU graduates–for years to come. Stripping these employees of confidentiality when disclosing to their bishops is cowardice on the church’s part and offensive to basic religious sensibilities. Dumbing down the college of religion at BYU will also have long term negative ramifications. It matters less that CES commissioner Clark Gilbert is the henchman behind operationalizing these changes, Nelson, as chairman of the board of education, has approved them at best or conceived them at worst.
*The church’s reaction to sexual abuse reporting get’s an F. The church can condemn sexual abuse and violence all it wants to (more speaking in platitudes), but until it puts the welfare of children and women first and Kirkton McConkie second we will continue to see children and women be harmed when they could be made safe.
*I’m glad a commentor brought up the Nelson press conference when the first presidency was reorganized following Thomas Monson’s death. My wife and I watched it live and Nelson’s answer to Peggy Fletcher Stack’s question about women in the church was shocking and embarrassing (or a major cringe moment, as my kids might say). It shows his true underlying attitude about the role and place of women. I think there is a strong argument that the role and certainly the voice of women in the church has been diminished overall under Nelson’s administration despite the changes that have been made to include women as witnesses in baptisms and other changes. Under Nelson, the church continues to prevaricate and gaslight when it comes to the role of women in the church.
*Lastly, Nelson has cheapened the concept of revelation. When everything is a revelation it feels more like authoritarianism than inspiration. Nelson’s assertion that POX was a revelation received by President Monson, who was in the throes of dementia at the time, was absurd. The revocation of POX by Nelson later couched as a revelation was equally embarrassing for Nelson.
Nelso’s administration has been a self-aggrandizing failure. I think his true legacy will be his role as the first prophet to actively preside over a shrinking church. Certainly he seems to be doing everything in his power to make the church smaller by gutting every social program and destroying the sense of Mormon community, even destroying our ability to call ourselves what we’ve always been. And doubling down on the idea that there’s no discernible difference between Jesus Christ and Russell Nelson is making things substantially worse.
He is emphasizing everything awful about the Church and trying to prop up the illusion of growth with Potemkin temples and desiccated “revelations” that have included an ugly new logo, a “restoration proclamation” that everyone has already forgotten, and a God who can’t decide whether or not he hates the children of gay couples or not. Take your vitamins, everyone! Yippee.
Also, the programmers need to update the JCSBot to include the information that Jon Bon Jovi is fully 60 years old, and no teenager or young adult has listened to his music for roughly three decades.
@Mike Spendlove–Not true about Bon Jovi. I was in high school when Bon Jovi was big, but I was personally never a fan. Believe it or not, my kids (I became an empty nester last fall) loved it when Bon Jovi came on the 80s/90s music stations that I often listened to when driving them around. I always wanted to change the station when “Livin’ on a Prayer” or “You Give Love a Bad Name” came on, but my teens wouldn’t let me. According to them, a lot of kids at their high school really like some of the old Bon Jovi hits (that I hated in the 80s and still hate today), and a Bon Jovi song or two was often played at their high school dances. Maybe JCS is right–kids today really are destined to be losers playing video games listening to Bon Jovi all day and night in their parent’s basements.
“It’s supposed to be ‘I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ Tell that to the average non-LDS and they’ll …”
…break into song.
I’m truly baffled by the Bon Jovi hatred. I mean, when the JCS comments were aiming at Cardi B and Dua Lipa I thought it must have been misogyny, but the fact that Bon Jovi is under fire too? Maybe JCS just thinks listening to music is inherently slothful. In which case, you have my pity, sir.
Back on topic. My wife and I left the church in the summer of 2018 so I barely had any experience as an active member under Nelson’s tenure. The host of people who left a year later over the PoX reversal will have a little more. But I wonder for how many people Nelson’s presidency is the first one seen from the outside. For me personally, his time in office corresponds to my switch to Mormon spectator rather than participant, which drastically alters my opinion of him. I don’t have any memories of whole-heartedly sustaining him. To those of you who left during the Hinckley or Monson years, did your opinion of those men sour on leaving as well?
He shortened the Sunday meetings to two hours! Yeah! He gets an “A” for that one.
I gave up and quit during Nelson’s presidency, which puts me in the same category with Kirkstall – this is the first presidency I’ve watched from the outside. I haven’t guilt-tripped myself about thinking the prophet’s words are boring, trite and out of touch.
This is probably shallow, but the One Thing I Hate the Most about Nelson’s presidency is banning the word Mormon. I was hanging onto this church by my fingernails, and obediently listening to Gen Conf, when he gave his talk about Mormon being a victory for Satan and I cried for the next three hours. It was just such a kick in the teeth. It doesn’t matter how hard I tried, they’d find a way to move the goalposts. What a stupid, dumb, trivial thing to do. I was so relieved for the Bloggernacle’s reaction to it, because I got lectured twice in real life for using the word Mormon. Those were my first experiences with being judged as not good enough (I was remarkably faithful up until I just couldn’t anymore). Personally and emotionally, that’s the thing Nelson has done that’s hit me the hardest.
Also, I like Bon Jovi.
The big thing I appreciate about President Nelson is that he followed the science and medical experts when it came to dealing with Covid and putting people’s health and safety first.
(But I wonder if other leaders are now saying that is the one mistake he made—because if attendance numbers/activity levels have gone it “must be” a result of zoom church.
I’ve had some personal dealings with Nelson through the church in the past and found that for all of his show of piety he is arrogant and mean spirited. A friend of mine was married to one of Nelson’s many daughters but eventually divorced her because, even as a married woman, Nelson demanded her total loyalty to HIM and HIS beliefs above all other relationships. My friend got tired of being in second place throughout the marriage and of the continual bossiness and demands to sublimate his own feelings, thoughts, beliefs and desires to his FIL.
When Monson died I told my husband that I didn’t think that I could sustain Nelson to be the prophet but that I’d at least give it a good try before deciding to take action (which was to no longer participate in the ward in my case). Like Janey, the “don’t say Mormon” thing was the deal breaker for this lifetime Mormon. His focus on petty topics and his twisting of God’s unconditional love into Sad Heaven along with trying to undo the two great commandments-loving God and loving others more than ourselves and substitute them with leader worship and checking off the boxes on huge lists of “must do” items that he and DHO think are extremely important (they are kindred spirits to the Pharisees of old) but that aren’t found in the REAL gospel of Jesus Christ finally made me realize that the church was no longer a place where I felt loved and welcomed and that had tried to follow the Savior’s teachings and personal example. That church I had loved is no longer anywhere to be found, at least where I currently am living.
Kirkstall, fair question.
My opinion of Hinckley has soured some, but my overall feeling about him is still overwhelmingly warm. I still remember stories he told or quotes from him quite fondly and I can listen to his voice without getting triggered.
I never much cared for Monson. Too cheesy.
I have never liked Nelson ever. In fact it was his ascension to the throne that accelerated my faith transition so not liking him was more of a cause of me distancing myself from the Church and not a result of it.
Late to the party again. Despite all the so called progress that has occurred on Nelson’s watch his tenure has been a big fail for me because he hasn’t managed to keep me in or draw me back. I think the only positive thing I can count is 2 hour church. Everything else has come across as disingenuous while throwing out a few paltry crumbs to women and even less to LGBTQ+ . Sad heaven and leader worship has ramped up under his watch. Some days I’m sad for what I’ve lost but mostly glad for what I’ve gained.
I’m reading the book on David O McKay at the moment and it’s a good insight to the fact that the men at the top are just that – men. I don’t believe they have a pipeline to God at all, despite some good intentions.
What is the recommended cooking time for Irish nachos?
Back on topic. The “unleashed” comments from the 2nd wife of RMN made our prophet sound like a new CEO eager to implement his agenda.
I listened to the SLTib’s MormonLand podcast on the article and hurt my eyeballs as they violently rolled in my head. Patrick Mason pitched a glowing review of RMN, citing the many things that RMN legitimately deserves props for spearheading (rooting out racism, a physician standing behind science during covid, etc.) But, the interviewer, a woman, kept asking the pesky question “what about women?” and despite the positives mentioned above by lws329, band-aids to gaping wounds, the overwhelming dings women and LGBT persons have taken (as mentioned above by Rockwell) couldn’t be swept under the carpet despite Patrick Mason’s best efforts to keep the tone positive. (His promotion of spiritual polygamy, removal of the women’s conference, and prominent female excommunications are among a few concerns that have’s yet been mentioned..) I thought journalists and scholars were supposed to be more objective. D’oh. I wish Peggy Fletcher Stack had done the review, she would have been more comprehensive.
It was RMN who, as an apostle (not yet prophet), declared the POX a “revelation” while Monson (or the combined decision of the Q15 as he was likely incapacitated at that time) insisted it was only a policy. RMN did quietly remove the POX several years later, (when it could be done quietly) after a major backlash. Our LGBT and women’s policies and culture continue to alienate us from millennials and youth, negatively define us, and stall our millennial and “gathering” ambitions, as over half the saints (women and LGBT) are wounded, their true divine nature is unacknowledged, and their talents- underutilized. We’re not going to meet the challenges of our day, or make progress in our massively idealistic- and beautifully hopeful millennial ambitions, unless we unshackle ourselves from the false traditions of our fathers (sexism, racism, and anti-LGBT hatred/fear) and empower all to bless and change.
*As a side note, it would be interesting to know how many negative RMN reviewers were anti-vax and red, and how many have been pro-vax/science and blue. In all fairness, RMN took a black eye for his leadership during COvid, but any leader would have done so- as our world is so fractured.I wonder how much that is an underlying bias in our overall reviews. Disclaimer: I’m pro-vax, appreciated his example and scientific stand. That being said- Im female and have been banging my head about women’s issues this whole time.
Yeah @mortimer, I understand what Mason is trying to do (I think he’s using good examples to try to nudge for more good changes, which may very well be the only effective approach with the Q15), but I can’t really listen to his apologetics anymore. Good guy, sincere, smart, doing good work in his corner of the universe and creating some useful bridges with orthodox members … but not for me. Which is fine. He doesn’t need to make everybody happy.
In spite of RMN making it so we can’t call ourselves Mormon and building a lot of temples, I think his biggest legacy will be letting the church slip away from itself. There may have been a couple of statements about racism but nothing done to promote social justice or call out the hate of the right wing politics that is so prevalent in some LDS Circles and with many LDS politicians. More people in the church get their direction from the republican party than the prophet.