51: The Dynamics of Guilt and Shame

Many people–and Latter-day Saints are no exception–
struggle with feelings of “not being enough,” worthlessness, or that they are unlovable by others, God, and themselves. Those who feel this way are caught up in the throes of toxic shame–a distortion and perversion of natural and healthy feelings of “guilt” over wrong choices or healthy types of shame that help moderate the ways we act in public and in interactions with others. The gospel teaches us of our infinite worth and of our Heavenly Parents’ unconditional love for each of us no matter what mistakes we make. So why do we so easily forget these things or stop believing them? How is it that our aspirations to be better persons so often end up weighing us down and distorting our view of ourselves–and instead of helping, end up hurting our growth?

In this podcast episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Jennifer Rooney White, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, and John Dehlin discuss feelings of guilt (healthy shame) and toxic shame and attempt to lay bare what causes their confusion in general, and within Mormonism, in particular. They also discuss some of the very positive messages and examples within Mormon scriptures and history for coming to a healthy relationship with ourselves–one that fully recognizes our own inherent divinity and worth while also still fully acknowledging our great capacities for sin and error in ways that will not cause us to pull away from God and our ideals or to fall into destructive patterns.

After listening, we invite you to share your thoughts in the blog discussion below.

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SPECIAL NOTE

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife will soon be in Salt Lake City to lead two seminars.

The topic for Friday, September 23rd , is “LDS Women and Sexual Desire.”
The topic for Saturday, September 24th, is “Enhancing Sexual Intimacy for LDS Couples.”

Click here for more information

 

Comments

comments

36 comments for “51: The Dynamics of Guilt and Shame

  1. Tredunohm
    September 14, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I just finished listening to the podcast.  It was wonderful.  I couldn’t help crying at the Packer quote, I’ll just paraphrase that even if you mess up a lot, if you come out at the end that the Lord will tell us “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”  That has given me hope.  And the reframing of the parable of the prodigal son I like very much.  Thanks so much for another wonderful podcast.

  2. Lizanell
    September 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    “Imperfection is a sign of our humanity, not of our worth”  Thank you for this Dr. Finlayson-Fife!  This is a key thing that I need to work on myself.  Loving this podcast so far!

  3. Victoria54cal
    September 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I read somewhere that instead of saying I should have done ….. we can say It would have been better next time I’ll do that.  Elder Oaks said “Remember that the Savior always builds us up and never tears us down.”

  4. September 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    While I really appreciated and agreed with much of what was offered by the panelists regarding psychological health, etc., I have a very hard time reconciling that with Mormonism. As someone who was born and raised in a devout LDS family, I am very familiar with Mormon teaching and I just don’t see how it can co-exist alongside what was being advocated in this podcast.

    A central and inherent part of Mormonism is works based salvation. The only people who make it to the Celestial Kingdom are those who follow all the rules of Mormonism. Everyone else is less than. A
    person’s value is directly related to their worthiness and how well they follow the laws and ordinances of the Mormon gospel. This is a hierarchical structure that inevitably makes people feel pressured and burdened to always be doing more and never feeling good enough. How does one know when they have done enough to merit admission to the CK? The answer is that there’s no way a person can ever know and thus people end up on a never ending treadmill of trying harder and harder to be worthy. Also, people can’t be honest about their
    struggles in this environment because they will be considered unworthy by other members and unable to get a temple recommend.

    This stuff isn’t just “cultural” or simply “interpretation.”  It’s at the core of Mormonism and for anyone wanting to be faithful to what is taught within the church, there’s no way around it. Uncorrelated/NOM/Liberal Mormonism may “work” for many who produce and/or listen to this podcast, but
    those who believe wholeheartedly that the LDS church is exactly what it claims to be will continue to follow the prophet which includes the unfortunate scenario described above.

    John’s last words on the podcast comparing the church to Pleasantville (which is a great film) were very interesting. In his analogy, everyone who has not taken the leap of courage to think for themselves is still
    in black and white and those who takes the leap begin to experience color. I guess it seems to me that any entity which creates, encourages or helps facilitate a black and white existence might not be healthy in the
    first place.

    Jennifer Finlayson-Fife said the following (which I think is both beautiful and true):

    “The unconditionality of God’s love is really at the core of our spiritual movement forward because if we can really trust in God’s love for us and God’s mercy for our humanity and for our profound imperfection, if we can believe that message, which I think is very hard for some of us, then I really think it allows us a space and a place in which to know ourselves, our flawed selves more deeply.”

    While I think that God’s unconditional love is definitely the message of Jesus (who offers completely unmerited salvation), it is not the message I was taught in Mormonism.  Here is a Mormon Matters blog from a few years ago that sums
    up exactly what was taught to me (and countless others I know and have spoken
    to) growing up in the church:

    http://mormonmatters.org/2008/07/13/is-unconditional-love-really-possible/

    Finally, I fully agree with Dan that the point of the prodigal son story is completely missed in Mormonism.  It’s probably my favorite story in the Bible because it reflects my own story and the redemption I have experienced after leaving Mormonism.  It is also the exact opposite of what I experienced while growing up in Mormonism.  For anyone interested in reading an excellent book about this parable, I highly recommend the “The Prodigal God” by Tim Keller:

    http://www.amazon.com/Prodigal-God-Recovering-Heart-Christian/dp/0525950796

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      September 21, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      Hi Wes,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences here! Mormon messages are certainly inconsistent, and I absolutely recognize that the rhetoric you heard growing up and shared here is often conveyed. I’m not sure, however, that this means that the themes you are focusing on define “the core of Mormonism,” for I also find in the LDS gospel the message themes that the panelists and I shared, and I think they are especially present in the scriptures. And, as a result, I refuse to give the ground to those who are seeing less there.

      After many years of simply sitting quiet after hearing God portrayed in ways that are other than loving, that fail to show God as always forgiving, always reaching out to all of us prodigals, I finally learned how to speak up in my wards and other settings to say something like, “Well, yes, that’s one way to interpret that idea, but I one I gravitate toward and find hope in and also feel is more consistent with the overall message of scripture and better matches the God I meet in the life of Jesus Christ is __________.” And every time it’s received well. Everyone recognizes this approach as also a Mormon message, also (or even more so) within the gospel. 

      Mormon theology and scripture is open and rich beyond description. I am often frustrated by the level of discourse in Sunday meetings, as well as some general conference addresses, but I try not to get too down. I’m there learning to love and figure out what it means to be in a community, and the more I work on that, the more I find my voice when something needs sharing (and even occasionally hear my voice being echoed back by those around me, helping me know that I’m not only learning but occasionally teaching as well). The next time you find yourself in a great gospel discussion, I wish similar satisfaction for you. 

      • September 22, 2011 at 5:55 am

        Hey Dan,

        I am glad you speak up and that it’s received well.  It would be great if somehow the collective voices of yourself and others who feel similarly could cause those in power to make some changes.  Unfortunately, I think the likelihood of that happening is very low.  The stuff I mentioned regarding admission into the Celestial Kingdom and works based righteousness is inseparable from Mormon doctrine. Until that changes from the top, people will continue to feel pressured and burdened in ways that are harmful.

  5. Chelle
    September 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Best podcast ever!!!  I totally appreciate the closing remarks by John Dehlin and the discussion in the preceding 20 or 30 minutes.  Over the last year my husband and I have experienced those things you discussed.  And the observations you’ve made are true. 
    I’ve really felt uplifted and validated by listening to this podcast.  Thanks!

  6. Lizanell
    September 15, 2011 at 12:17 am

    And I love that idea of ‘heart space’ Dan!!

  7. Jacob Brown
    September 15, 2011 at 2:06 am

    I remember reading through one of Eckhart Tolle’s books when it finally came to me: GUILT IS NOT TRANSFORMATIVE. Guilt has never made me change who I am. It has never made me a better person. It has never made me feel good about myself. It is the wrong motivation and it is a poor fuel for progression. Guilt and shame can trigger healthy introspection, but if they persist they only degrade the human spirit. Why has it taken me so long to figure this out?

    Another thing that troubles me is the elevated and nearly exclusive esteem given to unconditional love over conditional love. I listened to an audio book by Rabbi Harold Kushner once where he talked about father love and mother love: 

    “Mother love says: Nothing you ever do or fail to do will make me stop loving you. Father love says: I will love you if you earn my love and respect, if you get good grades, if you make the team. [The psychoanalyst and author Erich] Fromm insists that every one of us needs to experience both kinds of loving.”

    Maybe some Mormons beat themselves up for never being good enough because we despise conditional love. We are afraid that complimenting others will poison their drive for constant improvement. Mormons always have to be working on something that is wrong with us. (Just think about how church meetings are focused.) It can be exhausting to never merit father love. I catch myself all the time with my own kids holding back compliments because I don’t want them to be proud or boastful.

    • Chelle
      September 15, 2011 at 3:29 am

      You’re right, there is some thing to be said about conditional love.  It totally exists, in the doctrine of the church and in universe. 
      Speaking doctrinally it’s the difference between salvation and exaltation.  Salvation is for everyone, much like unconditional love, but exaltation is for those who have earned it.
      Speaking politically in free countries people have the right to own property but only those who really work for it can amass wealth.

      So are you saying, with the comments in your last paragraph, that if we focused on conditional love more and praised people for making good choices that we’d have more success and happiness in the church?

      • Jacob Brown
        September 16, 2011 at 2:41 am

        I thought about it, and I don’t really think that conditional love is the best label for what I think is often missing. Unconditional love seems like loving someone no matter what. It has nothing to do with the target of that love. On the other end of the spectrum conditional love seems like loving someone only if they do what you like. That’s too manipulative. Hardly sounds like love.

        I think the most healing love is something in between. It is loving someone for who and what they are in the present moment. Borrowing from the Buddhist tradition, you could say that conditional and unconditional love are near enemies of this balanced love. We start from these two extremes and work towards the balance. Other times we wander of to the extremes and get frustrated.

        Maybe this balanced love is like when you get angry at your kids, but then at the same instant you realize how precious they are to you exactly because they drive you crazy. It’s like how your spouse drives you crazy when she snores at night, but you smile when you think how comfortable she is with you. It makes me think of that scene in “Good Will Hunting” where Robin Williams describes all the things he remembers about his wife that passed away. Some of those things are not the typical things we admire. Is it a virtue to love people for what we see as weaknesses and failures?

        Maybe I could call this “love without anxiety of non-perfection” to borrow from Buddhist thought again. The idea reminds me of the theological principle Lehi shared with his son Jacob: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). The good and bad, light and dark, sadness and happiness exist in contrast with each other. Without one, we would not have the other. Why do we want so much to get rid of bad, dark, and sadness? Then we would not have good, light, and happiness. (A mature would probably find these are mostly false dichotomies anyway.)

        I think it was a major theme of the story of Jekyll and Hyde that when you try to take the evil out of someone, you really mess them up. It is the tension between good and evil that makes good possible. We accept the risk and harm of evil, dark, and sad for the chance to have good, light, and happy. (Sounds like the risk we accepted with our first estate.) It seems like a crazy ideology to try and eradicate, purge, and cleanse the human spirit of those things we hate. We are human because of our frailty and failure. It will be a long time before we can become divine. We have to learn to live with ourselves first.

        I don’t have any answers. I just love to ramble! 🙂

        • Chelle
          September 16, 2011 at 3:23 am

          I was thinking some more about what you said regarding mother love and father love.  A friend of mine is fond of saying that the scriptures were written by males for males, they would be very different if they were written by females.  Perhaps our problem with shame arises from the lack of the female perspective.  Just a thought.  🙂

  8. Chelle
    September 15, 2011 at 3:20 am

    I’m relatively new to Mormon Stories & Mormon Matters and I hear you all talking about the stages of faith.  Can some one give me a link to more info about that?  I’d really like to learn more.

  9. September 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Awesome podcast! One of my favorites so far.

  10. Jen White
    September 15, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwtcwQwgdsA&feature=share  A friend share this video with me. I really liked the message and thought it fit with this subject so I’m sharing it. Hope you like it. 🙂

  11. Beatrice
    September 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Great podcast and great discussion.  One thing that I was pondering after the podcast is the idea of inherent worth.  For many religious people the idea that they are offspring of God or created by God is enough to give them a sense of inherent worth.  However, for others the idea that they were created by God is nice, but they need more to gain a sense of inherent worth.  What are some ways that these people can feel a sense of inherent worth?  Perhaps the idea that they have the potential to become like God or the potential to make a difference in the lives of others?

    What about people who don’t believe in God?  How do they create a sense of inherent worth?  Perhaps they feel that all human beings are inherently valuable because they are human?  I don’t really have any answers to these questions, but would love to get the insights of others, particularly those who have clinical experience.

    • Jacob Brown
      September 16, 2011 at 2:49 am

      This is a really tough one I struggle with a lot. What is my sense of worth? Belonging so wholly to the literalist or iron rod segment of Mormonism gives you such a strong feeling of purpose, direction, and value. When your faith fails in this, it is tough beans, my friend.

      I think this is the single biggest reason that people fear secularism, agnosticism, and atheism. Our intuition tells us these lead to nihilism. I do remember reading a fascinating article once where a scientist argued that existentialism is liberating rather than depressing. He said since no one has given meaning to you, you get to come up with it on your own!

      This can be very frightening, and it can be very empowering. It’s liking moving out of your parents house and going it on your own. Some of us couldn’t wait to get out, and others had to be forced out. 🙂

      • Chelle
        September 26, 2011 at 7:00 pm

        I resoundingly, second what you are saying!!
        Since I’ve been struggling with the decision to  continue with the church or not, I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic. 
        My mind keeps going back to the pod cast with  Jared Anderson he made a comment about Holiness.  In regards to the priest and Levite in the story of the Good Samaritain.  He talked about the standard of holiness that they lived by.  According to this standard they could never touch a dead body or they would be unclean – unholy.  And so they never even considered the idea that the man may be alive and in need of help.  Their concern was what if he’s dead, they couldn’t take the risk of being defiled by a dead body.  And while it may seem cruel for some one to operate under such a moral standard he got a great sense of value from it.  He was holy because he kept all the rules.

        Everyone wants to have value – to be valuable.  And like you said being an iron rod mormon is one way of feeling valuable.  You have been given a set of standards to live by and as you live by them you feel like you’re worth something.  And there is no guessing, no risk.  You live by these rules and you’re going to be exalted.

        The problem I see with that system is it really takes away agency.  What?  But isn’t that what it the church is all about?  That’s what they say but think about it, if you don’t live by these rules you cant go to the temple and be exalted.  And in the current dialogue it is either celestial kingdom or hell.  Forget what Joseph Smith said about a more liberal salvation for man.  But I digress….

        As I’ve been contemplating the idea of standing on my own judgment it has been scary but the more and more I’ve learned that I can and do make good judgements, and the more I’ve realized that I am the only one that is responsible for my happiness the more I’ve wanted to be free to may my own decisions and accept the risks that come from the freedom.

        If you have the article you mentioned about the liberation of existentialism I’d be grateful if you could share it.

  12. Earnest Questions!
    September 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Earnest Questions!

    I am a father of a 9 year old boy.  We are a church attending family and my wife is very believing.

    How do I teach my son to avoid pornography and masturbation in a healthy way?

    How can the church approach pornography and masturbation in a more healthy way?

    If I were to give an Elder’s Quorum or Young Men’s lesson on chastity and pornography, what would be a healthy way to approach the topic?

    I accept that my son will most likely be exposed to pornography and masturbation as he matures. 
     
    I defiantly was!  My story:  I was 18 and ½ years old when I was first discovered mild pornography via late night cable TV programming.  Subsequently I discovered masturbation.

    How my 18 year old mind processed this experience:  I thought that masturbation was worse than pornography.  I thought that I had just committed the “sin next to murder”.  I thought that I was unique in committing these sins and that most other young priesthood holders wouldn’t ever commit such sins.  I passionately desired pornography and masturbattion.  I thought that my desires were unnatural.  I thought that I was evil.  I thought that the devil was uniquely tempting and attacking me in order to stop me from going on a mission.  I would weekly pray and fast to overcome my evil desires.  I would go into the woods and pray for hours.  However, I would always backslide.
    I struggled with this for 6 months until my mission interview.  My Stake President asked me if I masturbated and I first said no. I knew that he knew that I was lying. I had learned that stake presidents have “magic decrement”. He asked me again and I confessed.  At the time I thought that I was unique in struggling with this problem. I felt so ashamed and dirty. There was a seminary video in the 90s about confession and godly sorrow. From this video and from all my LDS church lessons, I learned to equate godly sorrow with hating myself. In order to repent, I had to hate myself. Before this experience I had never felt depression or despair. I felt it then. The stake president held back my mission papers and told me that I needed to tell my family that I wasn’t worthy to serve a mission (I had 5 younger siblings).
    My Stake President told me to read “The Miracle of Forgiveness”. I still remember reading things like the following, “There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of the sin. Desire is not sufficient. In other words, it is not real repentance until one has abandoned the error of his ways and started on a new path… the saving power does not extend to him who merely wants to change his life. Trying is not sufficient (p. 163).” Additionally, “Even though forgiveness is so abundantly promised, there is no promise nor indication of forgiveness to any soul who does not totally repent. . . . We can hardly be too forceful in reminding people that they cannot sin and be forgiven and then sin again and again and expect forgiveness (p. 353 & 360).”

    A few months later my when my Stake President pronounced me clean and worthy to submit my mission papers, he quoted to me D&C 82:7 “And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.”
    Eventually, I was able to go on my mission. I had an outstanding mission experience. I never masturbated. As I left my mission I felt so clean and so proud that I had overcome my previous ADDICTION to porn and masturbation.

    Within a year after my return I discovered internet porn (although I didn’t masturbate). I was so disappointed in myself. I quickly developed a cycle of shame (looking at porn, hating myself, confession and repenting, 6 months free from porn and then falling into it again). It was only soft porn, sometimes just a Maxim magazine. I understood that porn was any image that caused feelings of lust and arousal.
    I begged in my prayers to be healed. I had been taught that Jesus can heal anything, and at times I thought I was healed, but I always and eventually fail. I hated myself. I was such an evil and weak person for not being able to overcome this.

    One night, about three years after my mission, I missed up again with porn, but this time I masturbated. Afterward I felt so much despair. I had not masturbated since prior to my mission.  All my previous sins returned.  This was the first time I ever thought of suicide.

    I cleaned myself up again with confession.  I meet my wife and was married in the temple. I stayed away from porn for years and was very satisfied in my marriage.  However, I slipped again and starting looking at porn and masturbating. I felt horrible. This time I could not confess. I did not want to hurt my wife like all those men in the letters that President Hinckley would read during priesthood sessions.  I held everything in.  I now became a true porn addict.  I sought porn out at every free opportunity. Before this time it was always soft core, but I started looking at harder material. I would fail, try to clean myself up and then fail again. Porn became a stress relief.  It worked as a temporary stress relief, but a little after I would be driven into deeper shame and depression.
    I eventually selected the day and planned the manner of my suicide. I felt like I had lost everything. I wasn’t worthy of my eternal marriage. I would only cause my wife pain. I entirely believed that it would be better if I was dead so my wife could find someone else.  I owned a motorcycle and planned my suicide so that it would appear as an accident.  I thought that I would never be free from porn.  The best word I have found to describe the physical and mental depression, pain, and despair that I felt is “suffocation”.  I felt as that someone was chocking all life out of me.

    A few days before my planned suicide date I had the thought, “what if I just stopped caring about church and its requirements”.  What a revelation! I had spent years of my life trying to repent, multiple confessions, priesthood blessings, begging in my prayers for healing, and nothing ever happened. I would always backslide. I made the decision to stop feeling guilty about porn and masturbation.  Immediately, with this thought I felt as if I could again breathe.

    Afterwards, I indulged in porn in a very addictive manner for a few months. However, after a month or so, I kind of lost interest. There was no shame therefore no compulsion.  Today, four years later, I am porn free.  I don’t feel depression.  I love my life.  No suicide thoughts.
    Looking back, I feel that all the anguish and depression that I experienced for over a decade of my life was artificially manufactured by Salt Lake City.  It wasn’t until recently (via Mormon Stories) that I discovered that most, if not all, struggle with masturbation.  I wasn’t this evil, abnormal human being.  WHAT A JOKE!
    Leaving the Mormon Church is currently not an option for me.
    How do I teach my son to avoid pornography and masturbation in a healthy way?
    How can the church approach pornography and masturbation in a more healthy way?

    I do not think that the following is the answer:  “When you come to the Temple and receive your endowment, and kneel at the altar and be sealed, you can live an ordinary life and be an ordinary soul-struggling against temptation, failing and repenting, and failing again and repenting, but always determined to keep your covenants… Then the day will come when you will receive the benediction: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Packer).”
    I do not see how this statement is anything but a perfect characterization of the Shame Cycle.  What covenants must we be determined to always keep?  I don’t see how we covenant to anything less than perfection (all time, all talents, all processions, sacrifice, obedience and chastity).

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      September 21, 2011 at 8:28 pm

      Thank you, so much, for sharing your story. All my best to you as you continue this process of sorting out the good from the bad, the artificially imposed cultural overlays and unskillful messages that you internalized. I admire your strength and desire to continue this process for yourself and to teach your sons healthy messages about desire and how to view the challenges of maturation and sexuality. My strong sense is that when you find what you’re looking for yourself in terms of coming to terms with these things in your own life, and especially how they relate to God and forgiveness, you’ll know what to do, how to teach. No formula works unless its worked transformatively in our own lives.

      Let me share the following deconstruction of the terrible message you received about what’s going on with D&C 82:7, the verse about “former sins returning” that you were hit over the head with by your stake president. Perhaps it might help not only with this verse, but with helping you see the greater message of God’s love and forgiveness, so that it might really become central in your life (so you can forgive yourself). What I think is that this idea of sins returning has NOTHING to do with God’s forgiveness. That is automatic. If we desire to turn from a path we are on, God is totally there. We are forgiven. On the other hand, “forgiven” does not mean that we have overcome whatever problem we’ve been struggling with. Like the Prodigal, we can be forgiven, but this doesn’t mean we’re at the end of the journey of transformation. Our hearts have stepped into the right space of being open and tender and willing to be guided by God in our growth, but just because we’ve entered this heartspace, does this mean that our character has been finished? Heck no! So what I think is happening with “sins returning” is that if we sin again, we have simply re-ingrained the habit, we have re-opened a gate so the full force of that behavior rushes once more to the fore, threatening to overtake us again. That’s the “return.” (This whole early part of Section 82 is about law–and one of the laws we might think of is the law of inertia: that which is at rest or in motion will stay at rest or in motion until acted upon to change its current state or direction/speed.) When our sins return, it doesn’t mean that God is any less willing to forgive us–and we’re talking an infinite number of times that he forgives–that we’ve got to beg and plead and prove ourselves worthy of his forgiveness. Holy hell, no! What it means is that we have had a setback and it’s going to be that much harder to overcome the bad habit that is now being fed again. That’s all. God will help us not blink from that being the state of affairs with us, but God is also and always willing to be there with us every step of the way.

      Perhaps just rambling here. Sorry, if so. 

      Again, every good thought and prayer coming to you on your journey. I believe in you, and I am positive my belief isn’t even a small fraction of the belief that God has in you. God sees your divinity and desires nothing more than for you to also see it more and more everyday. 

  13. Tim
    September 16, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Dan, how does your description of the Prodigal Son compare to “The Miracle of Forgiveness”. According to Kimball the Father can’t put that coat on the son UNTIL he’s is free from all of his sin.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      September 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm

      Hi Tim,

      Somewhere along the way, I guess I got rid of my copy of MofF, so I don’t know exactly what it says. From your note, it sounds like we have a difference of opinion. (Or perhaps there’s something he makes of the “putting on the coat” that is different from the father telling his servants to bring the coat? Looking at the scripture, however, it says he tells them to put it on the son.)

      I’ve gained my own interpretation through my own life experiences as a prodigal (as we all are!) working with God on my own journey to feeling at peace with God and myself, as well as through many years of thinking and pondering for myself the parable’s messages. If President Kimball and I disagree, I hope will have a chance to share our views with each other some day. Until then, I have to trust my own experience as a guide. And that experience says to me that “no unclean thing” in God’s presence has nothing to do with God and how God feels about being with us, and everything to do with our own feelings about being in God’s presence. God’s not being able to look upon sin with the least bit of tolerance has nothing to do with God’s feelings and vision of us and everything to do with how our sins reveal our choices to be less than we are–and since everything about true love (such as the kind God has for us) is about being straight up with us, including both how God feels about us as divine beings in the making as well as where we fall short and how we might take good steps, these angles found in scripture makes perfect sense.

  14. Chris
    September 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I enjoy the podcast, I really, really do, but I need to
    offer a criticism for this particular show. 
    About 10 minutes in or so, all the participants of the panel decide to
    agree that people who suffer from OCD or anxiety disorders lack a “correct”
    understanding of the doctrine and therefore that is the reason for the
    suffering.   There seems to be a longing
    among the panel that if a client/patient only knew the “true” doctrine there
    would be no more suffering etc.   As a
    lifelong battler with OCD I can tell you this attitude comes across very
    arrogant, ignorant and a little insulting. 
    It is the same old “blame the victim” rhetoric that does nothing but
    sure up opinion of the one that has not dealt with this problem
    personally. 

     

    I whole-heartedly agree that one suffering from OCD will
    benefit from reframing God, or better yet a complete death of one’s conception
    of God followed by a subsequent resurrection, but to assert that another’s
    interpretation of the doctrine after living a lifetime maturing in the church is
    absolutely erroneous and incredible. 
    Especially for someone suffering OCD! 

     

    First, what is doctrine? 
    It’s not exactly spelled out anywhere and is subject to change at any
    time.  I would argue doctrine is nothing
    more that what the collective conscience of the culture or religion would agree
    on based on their collective experience in the religion.  I mean would it make sense in attempt to
    understand what the true doctrine of any religion is to probe rouge members for
    the truth?  It may offer perspective, but
    I don’t believe you would understand what the religion values as doctrine.  On the other hand, if you read the manuals,
    attend the meetings, and live immersed with the believers then you come to know
    the doctrine of the group.  That
    experience is exactly what serious members of the church, OCD or not, get and
    they not only understand the doctrine, but are also products of that
    doctrine.   So please stop the rhetoric
    that persons raised in the church don’t understand the doctrine of the church,
    OCD or not.   In the great words of the
    philosophers Suicidal Tendencies  “When I went to YOUR schools, When I when to
    YOUR churches, When I went to YOUR institutional learning facilities?  So how can you say I’M CRAZY!”

     

    As far as people with severe OCD trying to live in the
    church, they are going to battle hell every time their “what if” switch is
    turned on.  What if I did do this, or
    didn’t do that or what if I did it, but really meant something else, what if,
    what if,  what if…….  When the switch turns on it takes no time to
    end up paralysied with anxiety, fear and exhaustion.  Unfortunately, the switch is often turned on
    by meetings, lessons and the temple. What the church specifically does that is
    so dangerous to persons with OCD is place severe punishment and shame on
    thoughts and also behaviors that are not based in ethics at all.  In other words we are meant to feel guilty and
    think we face an eternal punishment for which even suicide will not end, for
    something as silly as not wearing underwear “appropriately,” and therefore not,
    “living up to every covenant made in these chapels this day!”  And ending up in the power of Satan.  This is just one example on many.   The concept of being made to feel eternally
    guilty for something that is not based in universal ethics or principles is
    manipulative and dangerous for persons with anxiety and OCD.  Other institutions don’t do this.  There is a focus on reality based ethics
    which doesn’t allow the “what ifs” to go too far into the realm of crazy.  Perhaps these institutions are losing members
    and may eventually die, but I think that type of sacrificial death for the
    individual wellbeing of its members a powerful and familiar metaphor.  One the LDS church hopefully will come to
    know.  In the meantime, the best thing
    for one with severe OCD to do is to let it all go.  Drop all of it.   Not because one has a “wrong interpretation of
    the doctrine,” but because the doctrine itself IS wrong, simply because it isn’t working.  Replace doctrine with ethics and focus on how
    to make the world better. 

    • October 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      As someone who struggles with OCD myself, I think it’s important to note that there is a critical distinction between “blaming the victim” and, as a victim, taking responsibility for your own mental health.

      While the number of rules and regulations in Mormonism can make it a difficult place for OCD sufferers to navigate, OCD is *not* the church’s fault, nor is it the church’s responsibility to manage it for us.  I think there could be better training (read: *any* training) for bishops and other leaders to know how to help scrupulous members, but ultimately, my recovery is up to me. 

      I struggled with scrupulosity for years, and in response I reframed my faith dramatically. I’m glad I did, but because the problem is OCD, not Mormonism, my OCD now attacks me elsewhere when my guard is down.  So while you’re right that the “correct” understanding of gospel principles won’t “cure” OCD, neither is church the only place an OCD sufferer’s “what if” switch can get activated.

  15. Porter Rockwell
    September 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    God’s unconditional love was mentioned several times in this podcast, while I agree with that concept – and it’s the only kind of god I could accept – sadly the message from some lds leaders is the opposite… That God’s love is conditional. A harmful message in my opinion.

    Russel M Nelsson went so far as to say, the message of unconditional love is used by anti-christs… see the following link, and below an excerpt from his talk (From 2003)

    http://lds.org/ensign/2003/02/divine-love?lang=eng

    Understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly “unconditional” can defend us against common fallacies such as these: “Since God’s love is unconditional, He will love me regardless …”; or “Since ‘God is love,’ 35 He will love me unconditionally, regardless …”

    These arguments are used by anti-Christs to woo people with deception. Nehor, for example, promoted himself by teaching falsehoods: He “testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, … for the Lord had created all men, … and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.” 36 Sadly, some of the people believed Nehor’s fallacious and unconditional concepts.

    • SamBaUSA
      October 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      Well, thank you for posting a link to that horrible article by Elder Nelson.   Just when I thought I had seen it all.  Reading the article and knowing it is authored by a man who claims to be a disciple and apostle of Christ is dumbfounding.  Thank you for providing what may well be the final straw on my aching back – which is bent and crippled by the Herculean effort it has taken to try and stay engaged with the Church over the past few years.  Hells bells …that is an awful, soul destroying way to view God’s love!

      I don’t need to be “defended against fallacies” that involve L-O-V-E!  How ridiculous.

      Dan, I’d love to see a response from you or the other panelists about this article.

      Also, knowing the propensity for disillusioned members to turn to agnosticism or aetheism, I would have loved more conversation on the podcast on the role guilt and shame play in the lives of non-believers.

      • dan wood
        October 3, 2011 at 1:37 am

        I’m not a panelist, but can I direct your attention to the part of Elder Nelson’s article where he says, “Does this mean the Lord does not love the sinner? Of course not. Divine love is infinite and universal. The Savior loves both saints and sinners.”  If nothing else, this apparent internal inconsistency should prompt to us to go back and see if there is a hidden nuance in Elder Nelson’s usage of the term “love”.  Or maybe not so hidden.  He explicitly says that when he speaks of God’s love being conditional, he is talking about the “higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us”.  He then cites a number of scriptures that seem to be pretty clear examples of the Lord saying that his love is conditional upon our obedience.  If you can read these scriptural passages and still come out with an intact notion of God’s unconditional love, Elder Nelson’s talk shouldn’t be a problem for you.  
        I agree: I’m more comfortable with saying that God’s love is unconditional.  Perhaps Elder Nelson’s terminology wasn’t ideal.  Still, I don’t see how this should be a problem for you.

    • SamBaUSA
      October 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      Well, thank you for posting a link to that horrible article by Elder Nelson.   Just when I thought I had seen it all.  Reading the article and knowing it is authored by a man who claims to be a disciple and apostle of Christ is dumbfounding.  Thank you for providing what may well be the final straw on my aching back – which is bent and crippled by the Herculean effort it has taken to try and stay engaged with the Church over the past few years.  Hells bells …that is an awful, soul destroying way to view God’s love!

      I don’t need to be “defended against fallacies” that involve L-O-V-E!  How ridiculous.

      Dan, I’d love to see a response from you or the other panelists about this article.

      Also, knowing the propensity for disillusioned members to turn to agnosticism or aetheism, I would have loved more conversation on the podcast on the role guilt and shame play in the lives of non-believers.

  16. surveyor
    September 21, 2011 at 12:31 am

    this is a topic explored by the following ongoing survey:

    https://stanforduniversity.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_82BTV6wz3ctz3KY

    All LDS or ex-LDS men are invited to respond–responders from a wide variety of LDS experiences are needed.

  17. KC
    September 21, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I appreciate the panelist and discussion but there is a disparity between their views of guilt, shame, God’s love and the Church‘s .teachings, views.  How much of the guilt and shame we feel is due to falling short in living up to church teachings, and the guilt the church culture, leaders, teachings impose on members?  I wished more of this would have been discussed. I felt like John Delin wanted to go there but the others seemed to avoid this discussion. 

    Heavenly Fathers love was mentioned many times. Jen White repeated numerous times about Heavenly Fathers love, he love us no matter what, and so on.  I think that as long as someone in in line with church teachings that is the message you get. But if you stray, the message you will get is, God loves you “but”. 

    God loves you but you cant go to the temple unless you do xyzGod loves you but you cant ordain your son to the priesthood because you don’t have a temple recommendGod loves you but you must wait a year from your civil marriage to be sealed in the templeGod loves you but you should dress more modestlyGod loves you but if you engage in sex before marriage you will be stainedGod loves you but if you look at pornography you can never get rid of those images from your mindGod loves you but have you done your home teaching this monthGod loves you but you must obey your leaders, even if what they say doesn’t make senseGod loves you but you cant attend your daughters temple wedding

    • Jen White
      September 22, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      KC,
      You make some good points. The church teachings and culture can be overwhelming at times. I really believe that our Heaven Parents love us unconditionally. I know I focus on that a lot. It has helped me a lot in my life to know that even when others don’t care or approve, I have them. I think making mistakes can be a good way to learn. I think it is ultimately OK and even divinely anticipated that we will brake laws (thus eliminating toxic guilt); without diminishing the importance of the law itself (thus supporting healthy guilt). Paul spent a good amount of time addressing the balance of mercy and justice.  I have had the experience while doing therapy after hearing of some big mistakes they had made, having this overwhelming feeling  of how strong God’s love is for them.          
      That doesn’t mean things always make sense or that there aren’t consequences.   

  18. Dsc4
    October 29, 2011 at 4:09 am

    There is so much anti-mormon sentiment in these comments that it almost makes me puke.

    • Brett Evans
      January 17, 2012 at 3:58 am

      That, friend, is the power and blessing of free speech at work.

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  20. Frank
    July 22, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Wow, so many comments… sorry am new here but i couldnt help but comment on  some issues even though 10 months down the line, i hope some people might still read this.  My perspective is 1) Elder Nelson’s terminology of conditional love wasnt quite ideal, that gives a picture of a Mean God! , rather i believe that despite divine love being infinite, WE are still accountable 2) scriptures should not be read in isolation and out of context,; thats why we have the footnotes to give us more understanding of a particular scripture; e.g D&C 95 v12 and 1 John 10 v 15 in the footnote, which simply sheds more light on the fact that the sinner who continues sinning may not in time have the light and christlike love attributesof a believer  rather than GOD not loving him or ceasin to love him! Which would contradict the very essence of the atonement; For God so loved the world that he gave his only bgotten son….3) We each must choose, Religion shows the way but should not replace our own ability to reason and find the truth , and no religion is perfect including LDS.  So many more things to say, all in all good podcast, I have taken truths from it and discarded some i think are not relevant!

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