Churches are Made for the Ninety and Nine… What About the One?

Clay Whipkey apostasy, christ, christianity, church, Culture, curiosity, depression, Discrimination, diversity, doubt, faith, General Authorities, Happiness, Jesus, Leaders, love, Mormon, obedience, orthodox, parables, questioning, repentance, spiritual progression, surviving, testimony, thought 37 Comments

Believers and non-believers. The faithful and the doubters. Religious conservatives and religious liberals. TBMs and NOMs. These are ways we describe the differences in our faith and activity in our religious tradition. These variations are not unique to Mormonism. The patterns of faith development have been documented across all religions and cultures. How does an institutional church serve and support both groups? How does it care for the ninety and nine, without neglecting the one? Can it go after the one without neglecting the ninety and nine?

For starters, how do you know if you are 99 or a 1?

The Ninety-Nine

In most organized religions, the larger group will be the most faithful, loyal, and active-in-practice. These are the people who lead a productive and often religious life, although not necessarily a personalized spiritual life. The majority of faithful LDS (and of all organized religions) may live their whole lives without really straying too far from the 99 and find great value and happiness. Most people within the 99, whether they have ever strayed or not, view the journey of the one as being dangerous and best to be avoided as a rule.

The One

To be a 1 is most simply to become separated (physically, emotionally, OR spiritually) from the flock enough for a reunion to be a non-trivial effort. Sometimes weakness, immaturity, or rebellion might actually be a reason for straying, but it’s certainly not always the case. Even the word straying is slightly misleading, as sometimes the separation from the flock is not so clearly a choice. Often while the 1 is astray, they feel like the 99 are, well.. sheep. The 99 might be willing to accept that comparison given certain biblical parables, but another aspect of the perspective of the 1 is that the shepherd is not Jesus, as we often think, but only church leaders.

Of course, that is actually true for most Christian churches. It is a common belief that Jesus has entrusted (or called) a number of human beings with the responsibility to “feed His sheep”. When it comes to LDS, although we do have a lay ministry, which means that technically I could be called to be the bishop of my ward (or shepherd of my flock) next week… we are still more like a mega-flock which is made of smaller flocks. The mega-flock is shepherded by General Authorities, and the local shepherds are mostly just extensions of the shepherding philosophies of those above them.

For a shepherd, a successful rescue of the 1 is mostly limited to a complete return to the flock. Reconciliation to the ideas they struggled with is directly connoted with repentance, which also assumes that the separation from the flock is always either a result of poor judgment or else a lack of proper commitment (i.e. the truth has always been there and no one has to be surprised.) Some shepherds prefer to perpetuate that idea, as it helps to dissuade the 99 from wandering too far and hopefully avoiding the thorny paths. Warnings about wandering are constantly given.

“First, in the Church, we don’t criticize; we don’t discipline members for what they think. But if they teach things that are going to lead people astray and to unhappiness, then we sound the alert. We don’t discipline them for their attitudes or their tendencies. We warn people if they go on that path: there are snares there, so stay away from them. It’s just that simple.” – Boyd K. Packer, from his PBS Helen Whitney interview

The Journey Can Be a Part of Growth

Yet, some 1’s find that the journey astray becomes an integral part of their spiritual lives. This idea can sometimes be unfathomable to some of the 99. After all, wickedness never was happiness, and the condition of separation from the flock in and of itself is often directly associated with some degree of wickedness. Of course, separation is usually not happiness, but its not always related to wickedness. There are pitfalls, yes, but a major reason for the severity of those pitfalls is that there is very little support for the 1, unless/until they return to the 99. LDS leaders receive thousands of letters from 1’s and their families which illustrate vividly the pain that is out there, and perhaps that is why there seems to be little acknowledgment of any positive value in the journey itself.

“We encourage people to get all the education they can. We’re not afraid of it. […] But if you get hung up and involved and intellectually lose your way — and some do leave — they’re questioning everything. But their questions don’t have a productive insight. The mind is the source of inspiration, but if you get wandering too far the inspiration will stop. And that’s a bad place to be in life — to be without guidance and help, to be without a conscience, in other words.” – Boyd K. Packer, from his PBS Helen Whitney interview

To be “without a conscience” is not a fair characterization, though. There are many 1’s who experience this separation as a result of following their conscience. However, to be “without guidance and help” is all too often the case, but… are the shepherds without any responsibility?

Should the Shepherd Stay or Should He Go?

It is never simple, though. If the shepherd leaves the 99, what happens to them? I think the focus on the 99 leads many 1’s to feel abandoned or rejected, and sometimes even to judge the shepherds as being too corporate in their treatment of the flock. I think this statement from Elder Packer in a 1993 talk to the correlation committee demonstrates the reasoning.

“Those who are hurting think they are not understood. They are looking for a champion, an advocate, someone with office and influence from whom they can receive comfort. They ask us to speak about their troubles in general conference, to put something in the curriculum, or to provide a special program to support them in their problems or with their activism.

When members are hurting, it is so easy to convince ourselves that we are justified, even duty bound, to use the influence of our appointment or our calling to somehow represent them. We then become their advocates — sympathize with their complaints against the Church, and perhaps even soften the commandments to comfort them. Unwittingly we may turn about and face the wrong way.
[…] If we are not very careful, we will think we are giving comfort to those few who are justified and actually we will be giving license to the many who are not.

The gist of that statement is that the church is essentially made for the 99. In ironic consolation, it does at least acknowledge that the 1 is sometimes justified, but what will the shepherd do for them? The oft-overlooked intention comes later in that talk:

“The comfort they need is better, for the most part, administered individually.”

Here he places the task of going after the 1 at the feet of local shepherds. It makes sense that they know their flock more intimately, and would be better qualified to help. Why then are there so many 1’s who still feel like there is no shepherd looking for them? The shepherds call out for them to come home, but not many go out to meet them where they are. What if the declaration that those who stray are without guidance and help has become self-fulfilling prophecy?

Comments

comments

Comments 37

  1. I think we’re really striking at the core of how our current worship structure is based on nineteenth-century Protestant worship. Religion is essential communal, with additional expectations and responsibilities. Those who do not fit into the community feel unwelcome or estranged. Now, a lot of cultural issues play into this (the administration of EQ and RS in the normal Utah model, for instance), but those whose needs are not met by this look elsewhere of course. The question is, how can we change our own worship/interaction with others to better meet the needs of the 1s we meet? We can’t change the overall culture and structure of the Church, but we can reach out more and interact better, recognizing the cultural limitations of green jello and funeral potatoes.

    That said, I don’t go to Church because it’s interesting (occasionally) or engaging (occasionally). I go because it’s true, and that’s the basic reason. I don’t mean this judgingly, but I doubt that’s sufficient reason for most 1s who have already gone astray.

  2. I have almost always been a one. Whether it was as a teenager, on a mission or now as a married woman, I do not generally fit in or relate to others in a ward setting. I have not let that stop me from attending Church because I know it is here because God wants it here. I know it is administered the way it is because God wants it that way. I have had witness after witness that Christ is there for me, He knows how I feel and the intents of my heart, and that His hand is on the affairs of the Church. I do not expect the Church to fill the role of my Savior in that.

    Although local leaders continually disappoint me, I understand that they are only people doing the best they know how to do. I can forgive them their shortcomings because I so thoroughly see many of my own. It is not their responsibility to work out my salvation, it is mine. In the end, I will not be able answer the question “Why did you not stay faithful?” by pointing a finger and saying “They were mean to me. They never cared about me. They never came after me.”

    In the end, Christ is the shepherd who comes after the one. He leaves His undershepherds to watch over the flock in His absence. Some may do a better job than others. Because it is Christ reaching out to the one, we must do all we can to 1) feel His influence in our hearts and lives, and express gratitude for it and 2) be open to reaching out to others. When we embody Christ’s attempts to reach someone, they are more likely to hear it and we are blessed for being His vessels.

    For those who wander a-purpose, and feel it necessary to their spiritual journey, I can only wish them well. I cannot judge the truth of their statement; they are only answerable to themselves and to God. As one who has made such a journey many times, I can say although there is benefit in it, it is not a benefit I would actively seek. It is true that sin can give one a better understanding of the Atonement, but I have never found it necessary to seek after sin (or separation). It seeks after me with plenty of potency.

    Blessings cannot be extended to those unworthy of them without invalidating the blessing itself. There are requirements to every blessing which cannot be beneficially removed any more than heat can be removed from fire to allow one to touch it without pain. Pain is a result of sin—not always limited to sin in the one feeling the pain—but Eve realized that pain is an acceptable sacrifice for knowledge. Only by repenting and “coming back to the fold” (which does not mean they have to conform in every detail) through repentance can the benefits from pain and sin truly be realized. We learn only by returning to God, whatever path must be taken to do so, but He always remains to help us back however we are willing.

    Christ’s answer to my fictitious question above would probably be “I came after you. Why did you not answer me?”

  3. Clay, this is one of the most profound posts I have read anywhere at anytime in the Bloggernacle. Elder Packer’s quotes, especially the last two are amazing – and, I believe, spot-on. The care of the 1 really is in the hands of the local membership – where the true “fellowship of the saints” occurs. In many cases, it does need to be a HT or VT, a RS Pres or sister, a Bishop, a HP Group Leader or EQ Pres or brother – someone who can connect individually and powerfully and be a real shepherd.

    I’m going to be thinking about this one for a while. Thanks.

  4. It seems to me that the ones who are the “1” are coalescing on the internet and giving each other support. They might as well do it here. The Church is not going to create a special program for NOM types the way it did for Genesis for the African American members. NOM types have to learn to live as islands within themselves and learn how to live on their own light. They cannot wait for anyone to reach out to them when nobody understands them. I’m not a NOM, but I consider myself an island within myself among TBMs, even though I am fundamentally a TBM.

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    #4: I might point out that the Genesis Group was not created by the Church. It was created by 3 African American church members who did not hold the priesthood (obviously, since it was pre-1978). They approached the church and eventually were given a rare affiliation status (I don’t even think FAIR has that status). So the Genesis Group might be an anomaly in the pattern. A case where a special interest actually did get special church attention. (Ironically, Boyd K. Packer was one of the 3 general authorities who were assigned to be liaisons).

  6. Richard Bushmans Friend – Has the following insights on the one

    “Due to the process of learning, which they have gone through, these [two-minded] LDS often no longer accept the church as the only true one (with the only true priesthood authority and the only valid sacred ordinances), but they see it as a Christian church, in which good, inspired programs are found as well as failure and error. They no longer consider inspiration, spiritual and physical healing, personal and global revelation limited to the LDS church. In this context, these saints may attend other churches, too, where they might have spiritual experiences as well. They interpret their old spiritual experiences differently, understanding them as testimonies from God for them personally, as a result of their search and efforts, but these testimonies don’t necessarily have to be seen as a confirmation that the LDS church is the only true one.

    “Since the social relationships between them and other ward (or stake) members suffer (avoidance, silence, even mobbing) because of their status as heretics, which is usually known via gossip, and since the extent of active involvement and range of possible callings are reduced because of their nonconformity in various areas, there is a risk that they end up leaving the church after all, because they are simply ignored by the majority of the other members.”

  7. Clay,

    Thank you for writing this even handed look at these issues.

    Since usually I’m silent when I agree with you, I thought I’d at least speak up.

    I can appreciate that you are seriously trying to understand the issues involved here. We need more of this.

  8. I love the “should he stay or should he go” part of your post. I think its something leaders struggle with on a daily basis. When I was a quorum president as a young man (teacher or deacon, I don’t remember which) we planned an activity and while in a meeting presented the idea to the Bishop. We thought we had planned a good activity where we thought nearly everyone would be interested in coming and we said this as we presented it. The Bishop shook his head and told us that our activities should be focused on “the one.” He told me specifically “the shotgun approach doesn’t work” and that we should tailor what we plan to helping individual members of our quorums. I understand that this was a very small group but I’ve remembered that principle well into my adult years and I think back on that often when planning or organizing activities or even lessons sometimes. I think if we are functioning properly the goals of the 99 should be united in seeking to help the one. That doesn’t mean everyone goes to see them or whatnot, simply that we are collectively seeking to help the one. In the Church each of the 99 have a resposibility towards “the one” whomever they may be.

  9. An interesting question is if the 99/1 should be 1/99 instead. While I understand the parable in question and the imagery in involved, I’ve often wondered if we take the numbers too seriously.

    My experience is that all churches, including the LDS church, are made up primarily of those indeed of a help, or assistance, or reaching out in some way.

    So we should balance the 99/1 with the realization that the whole have no need of the physician.

  10. “So we should balance the 99/1 with the realization that the whole have no need of the physician.”

    Should have probably read: “So we should balance the concept of the 99/1 with the realization that the whole have no need of the physician.”

  11. The parable of the 99 and the one lost sheep is a parable meant to teach leaders about their stewardship – to save rather than to dismiss those who stray. A parable, however, is a model to teach us how to react to a reality, not an accurate representation of the reality itself. Thus, I think that the dividing of the saints into the 99 faithful and the one stray is misleading. Most of us at sometime in our lives has been the one, at another the 99, and at another a shepherd. In fact, I believe it is possible to be simultaneously the shepherd, the 99, and the one. I know that some have viewed my wife as the most faithful of women, even a Molly Mormon, but I know her struggles and trials. When I practiced criminal law, I had many of the straightest and most active members come to me to secretly ask advice about wayward son or sister or parent. I have seen ex-Bishops excommunicated and full time seminary teachers retire and leave the church. We all struggle with sin, with doubt, with discouragement. We are all fellow travelers in this life with obligations to help each other even as we struggle with our own weaknesses. The church is made for all of us, both as we are strong and as we are weak. If you feel that you are the one and that the others are the ninety nine, it is only because you haven’t yet seen the others.

  12. “Why then are there so many 1’s who still feel like there is no shepherd looking for them? The shepherds call out for them to come home, but not many go out to meet them where they are.”

    The shepherds need to do a much better job of getting out to meet them where they are, but we need a broad definition of shepherds.

    If we wait for the Bishop to visit all of the 1’s, the 1’s are going to be lonely for a long time. The same is true a level below. I’m in an EQ Presidency, and we have about 150 households that we know are 1’s (less active or prospective Elders). To visit those people once a year would require 3 successful visits a week, every week of the year, plus whatever duties we have in relation to our active members (could be 1’s there as well) or welcoming new members. We are making an effort, but we won’t get that far.

    If we really want a shepherd to “go out and meet them where they are,” the front line shepherds are the HTers and VTers. FWIW, I’m a pretty poor HTer, but when you do the math, that’s the only way. The various presidencies and Bishops can’t possibly reach out to everyone, so they need good reconnaissance from the HTers, VTers, and presidencies so they know where to reach out and best use their time.

  13. Clay,

    This nails some of the toughest issues facing the Church on a pastoral level today. You also made Boyd Packer look better than I expected 🙂 Nice job!

    My bishop delegates a lot of stuff to his counselors and clerks. He is a people person who counsels with about 5% of the active membership of our ward on a regular basis. He also spends a great deal of time counseling with non-participators in a welfare capacity. I sought him out in a spiritual direction capacity once but probably won’t do so again. His advice was actually quite good, but there are others who need his time more than me.

    One of the limitations I see in our current Church model (how we don’t serve the ward members who need this counseling individually, or how we don’t serve the 10-15 percent of active members who have concerns about all and sundry) is that only bishops are really allowed to counsel. Everyone else can throw up a flag which the bishop is supposed to take note of, but even the bishop’s counselors conducting a TR interview are supposed to call a halt at some point if things veer from the script.

    For a poor guy with a life outside of the Church, this is a lot to ask. I hope that we can spread the burden a bit in some way in the future…

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  15. Ron: “If you feel that you are the one and that the others are the ninety nine, it is only because you haven’t yet seen the others.” What a great point! Too often, we want to believe we are so unique that we don’t realize that everyone believes they are equally unique. No one thinks they are the 99: they either think they are the shepherd (aspiring to callings?) or the 1. And they think they are the 1 because they think everyone else is a 99.

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    I appreciate the thoughts about all being, in some sense, the one. I think that’s a fair rendering of widely accepted Mormon belief, that we are all a little broken and in need of shepherding. So in that reading of the parable, the 99 becomes a sort of nebulous and metaphorical other, like “The Man”. Yet, it seems that regardless of how people feel inside, there can sometimes be strength in numbers. An extreme example is in the bible when the crowd is about to stone the prostitute and only stop to examine themselves when Jesus says, “He who is without sin…”. When folks gather together, its so easy to start thinking in us and them terms, and it happens with any kind of group. So maybe we are saying that the 99/1 should not exist, that perhaps it should just be the 100. Yet, the parable was given.

  17. I agree that in some theoretical sense, we all have elements of “the 1” in us, but I also think that highlighting this weakens the message of shepherds leaving the 99 to FIND the 1. I think there has to be some kind of demarcation to identify that 1 – something that justifies a shepherd leaving everyone else to search exclusively for that 1.

    I think the clearest demarcation is the obvious one: the 1 cannot be found by looking around in the group that is gathered together and can be counted collectively. In practical terms, the 1 really is that member who does not attend our meetings and activities and is “lost” and unknown to the 99. It is the brother or sister whose name gets a blank stare when mentioned. I think one of the mistakes we make is in equating “the 1” with the partially active man or the woman who won’t accept Visiting Teachers. We know them and where they are; we don’t have to “find” or “search for” them.

    Sometimes I wonder how many of the LOST sheep really get found – mostly because I wonder how often we diligently search for them.

  18. Another thought I had when I read this is around the voice of the shepherd. Sometimes we wander because the voice of the shepherd is drowning out the voice of the Shepherd (e.g. through bad example or whatever). At times, a local leader is just not a good shepherd to the 1. The 1 has to leave the fold to be able to hear the voice of the Lord again. This may be because of unrealistic expectations or whatever, but sometimes it’s the only way.

    But just as missionaries are sent out to find more 99s, couldn’t there be individuals within the church who seek for the 1s who are struggling and really do reach them because they know how to do so? Maybe this isn’t something that is a church calling so much as a life calling.

  19. Well put, Hawk. Very well put. I think there are plenty of times that the shepherd gets in the way of the Shepherd, and I know of more than one person who did leave in order to hear the Voice more clearly.

  20. The best discussion of this topic I have ever seen is by the late Raymond E. Brown, a Roman Catholic priest and Biblical Scholar. I was always impressed by his work and his ability to integrate the spiritual and intellectual in analyis of the scriptures. I struggle to do either one rather poorly and marvel and stand all amazed at those that can do both well.
    In his 1984 book “The Churches the Apostles left behind” he discusses how most human organizations cannot operate on the principle of leaving the ninety and nine and seeking after the one. But he says
    “No society can run long in this world on such principles. Yet they exemplify God’s attitudes; and when they are put into practice , at that moment and in that place God’s kingdom has been made a reality. If they are ever put into practice universally “this gospel of the kingdom will have been preached throughout the whole world as a witness to all nations;and the the end will come” MATT 24:14. Therefore ,Christians must keep trying to take these eschatological demands seriously, even if in practice only at times are they able to live up to them. The Church that every so often in its care of the ninety and nine does not stop to worry about the one is not a church attuned to the values of Jesus” p.143 ,The Churches the Apostles left behind.
    May all of us from President Packer on down, do this.

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    “At times, a local leader is just not a good shepherd to the 1.”

    I haven’t personally experienced evidence that LDS church leaders want to acknowledge that point. It seems to me that when there is conflict between those who are anointed to be priesthood leaders and those who are within their stewardship, the responsibility is placed on the non-leader to conform their attitude to respect for the priesthood (i.e. the old “you will be blessed if you obey your leaders even if they are wrong” thing). Even in Elder Packer’s statements in the post, he places a lot of confidence that local leaders will do the best thing for the individual.

    I suppose we could read into Elder Packer’s statement that they just can’t make such a public acknowledgment that a person could be justified to seek the Shepherd by abandoning the shepherds, but I think that interpretation would be uncomfortable for the majority of LDS leaders.

    Does the idea that the Shepherd and the shepherds are sometimes very out of sync have implications on the concepts of The Mantle and priesthood authority?

  22. Clay: “he places a lot of confidence that local leaders will do the best thing for the individual.” I think that’s a confidence that is usually well-placed, but not always. People are fallible, after all. So, if that leader is fine for the 99, but leaves out the 1, wer’re back at square one, right? And what constitutes a local leader? And maybe the 1 just rotates with local leaders?

    So, crunching some numbers here, you’ve got 15 top guys. They kind of check & balance each other a little (e.g. both Packer & Haight on same quorum). For 13 million members, you’ve got about 8500 SPs and about 32,500 bishops. Those numbers could be off (please correct me as you see fit), but as you see, the odds of getting a dud go way up the further you go down the ranks. A well-intentioned dud, but a dud nonetheless. And those 32,500 each turn over every 5 years. That raises the dud potential again.

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    Hawk: I’m definitely not implying surprise that some local leaders can deliver poor results at times. Your points are certainly well-taken in making a case for fallibility and exercising some tolerance and patience and adjusted expectations. The issue I’m getting at is that it often feels like higher-level church leaders don’t want to encourage a lowering of expectations. Usually it feels the opposite.

    Before adopting this kind of nuance you are alluding to, I felt like priesthood authority and especially the idea of a Mantle actually elevated leaders performance beyond their own failings. So it was not so much that I expected people to be infallible, but that I thought the Mantle compensated for that fallibility in real practical ways to mostly keep a dud from messing up the Lord’s work. Was I insane to have thought that?

    It seemed to be a very common and oft-encouraged way to view leaders amongst active Mormons all around me. Lately though, it seems like every time I relate what seemed like a common, faithful and reasonable belief at the time, as a typical Mormon belief… I get told that I have misinterpreted, misrepresented, or distorted the reality. Thus, when those types of beliefs encounter friction with reality it is really my fault for “not getting it”.

  24. “higher-level church leaders don’t want to encourage a lowering of expectations”–I think that’s totally true. I’ve said before that I think the church has a much higher tolerance for heresy than behavioral non-conformity. It’s much easier to diagnose behavior than belief.

    “I thought the Mantle compensated for that fallibility in real practical ways to mostly keep a dud from messing up the Lord’s work.” I thought that until I saw that it wasn’t true always. But the interesting thing is that sometimes we are the “one” but only situationally–we could change wards and be part of the 99. So, is losing one precious soul for a time really “messing up the Lord’s work”? Or is it just collateral damage? Is it a statistic or an equation (a win/loss ratio)? I guess it all depends on how you define success.

    There was a statement from the FP read in church right after Monson took the helm that said members should take issues to local leaders rather than writing to GAs, etc. I remember thinking, “That’s great unless that’s where your issue lies.” I think it’s exceptionally rare that the local leader is a bad egg, but a bad leader or lacking interpersonal skills is totally possible. Local leaders absolutely can drive people out of the church, regardless of whose work this is.

  25. Clay, personally, I think the likelihood of viewing “the mantle” as not “effective” in “covering the failings of otherwise duds” rises in direct proportion to one’s individual experiences. I know that sounds like a cop-out in some ways, but in my 30+ years of life in the Church after being old enough to be aware of it, I have encountered very few true “duds” and very few where I would say there was no observable “mantle boost”. Otoh, I have known hundreds of ordinary people who did extraordinary things with little or no formal training – and many of them did things that were borderline (or beyond borderline) miraculous. The problem is that the ones who really had no practical mantle were so obvious and affected so many people negatively that they often overshadowed the much more numerous ones that did have it and were magnified because of it – as well as the fact that MOST of the examples of being magnified by a mantle were much more private than the mistakes they made.

    I have dealt in the past with exactly this issue. I know a bishop who, in hindsight, was called because the ward he served would need a strong, no nonsense, black-and-white personality to handle more than one serious issue of adult politicking that would have shattered a more “compassionate” leader. In each case, the potentially cancerous situations were handled quietly and behind the scenes, meaning very few members were aware of how inspired the call really was – and how the mantle affected this man’s performance of his calling. Otoh, this man was not good with the youth, so there were issues that developed during his tenure – and these issues were front and center in many members’ eyes. Iow, the general membership was well aware of his shortcomings but unaware of his strengths – relative to the welfare of the ward. I know he was seen as a “dud” by a measurable percent of the members in his ward, but only a handful knew the ward might have fractured and shattered without his leadership.

  26. I think Ray hit the nail on the head. Even if we assume that all high level callings are truly inspired (some are not, mere convenience), if those called fail to rise to the occasion by their own choice, then no amount of mantle can make up for that choice.

    When we are willing to really submit our will to that of the Father, it changes things radically.

  27. Ray, that’s a great example of what I mean about how a dud is really just a dud situationally for the 1 in some cases. A similar observation I had about mission presidents was that they seem to rotate between the squishy nice guy and the Pattonesque hardliner. Perhaps it’s an eternal pattern.

  28. I think we sometimes forget that a perfect God is perfect enough to work with imperfection. God doesn’t always wave a magic wand and transform His servants into perfection. That’s not what “the mantle” does. Even if He did, someone wouldn’t feel their needs were met.

    I have found that usually problems with priesthood authority can be better resolved by looking within and developing a healthy relationship with God than by analyzing and cataloging shortcomings in those who are trying to serve the best they know how.

  29. Hawk,

    My first mission president was a Pattonesque hardliner on doctrinal issues. If you accept evolution, you ought to turn in your temple recommend, that kind of thing. He also set a mission wake-up time 30 minutes earlier than the white handbook’s listed time. But, he was sensitive to the stigma of being sent home early, so as a point of pride he worked with struggling missionaries and kept them on their missions. He also let us wear Doc Martens without blackening the yellow threads and allowed us to ride our bikes without helmets.

    The second president was a squishy guy on the doctrinal stuff, never made any hard pronouncements there, but was a hardliner when it came to sending people home. Those who had been protected by the first mission president found themselves with plane tickets home very quickly. The laxness in dress and safety was also reversed. But missionaries were allowed to sleep in 30 minutes more each day like the handbook suggested.

    So I think the hardliners have their areas of squishiness (even McConkie didn’t wear a tie around the house and preferred slippers) and the squishy ones have their areas of firm discipline (Sterling McMurrin hated the fact that tourists could climb on a replica of a temple baptismal font on Temple Square).

  30. In the April 2004 General Conference, President (then Elder) Eyring said, “When I was a young man, I served as counselor to a wise district president in the Church. He tried to teach me. One of the things I remember wondering about was this advice he gave: “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”’

    I was at a recent LDS Family Services conference where they stated that the church membership is 13 million. In 25 years that number will double and then it will double again.

    The math brings church membership close to 50 million within the next 25 years. The speaker went on to say that 60% of those converts will bring an addiction with them into the church.

    Point being, there is a lot more of the 1’s running around than most of us give credit to. The church has tremendous outreach programs to those that struggle and currently find themself as a 1 instead of a 99. Home teaching could reach many of those that have become disaffected, if we would do our home teaching. The church has great programs in place for those struggling with addiction, which can be found at their Provident Living website.

  31. John N: “the hardliners have their areas of squishiness and the squishy ones have their areas of firm discipline.” As they say, a new broom sweeps clean. Although I like that theory, I’ve also seen that in reality, no matter how great one leader is, the next one does things differently in one way or another and some things are just done better (and you miss other things the old one did). That’s an observation more from life in general and work than from the church, but I think it holds true regardless. I only had one MP, and in some ways it was apparent he was just figuring it out like the rest of us, and I liked him all the more for that.

  32. Why do young adults have to prove to the church or temple that they are worthy of being mormon? Why cant we be mormon because our beliefs are similar? It seems like we put on a fake face to prove to everyone in the church that we are loving our life and we have no problems, when in fact everyone does but being mormon makes us feel like we shouldn’t have ANY problems. Why are we told to prey for all the other religions and hope the find the truth(mormonism). why cant they believe what they think is right. What if they are right?

  33. My older sister was an anti mormon through high school and she was a strong woman. when she got involved with a guy who was mormon she tried to make it work. She changed so much and isn’t even the same person. she had a full scholarship to any local university and she ended up not going. She ended up marrying him at the age of 20. he was 32 with a 12 year old son. (something she would never had done before the mormon religion.) All she does is cook, clean, and take care of the child. She acts as if she has no problems and everything is perfect. the mormon religion destroyed her life and she doesn’t even realize it. she is limited herself to so many great things in life. I personally know 3 other girls who are mormon, who were raped by their brothers and fathers. They try so hard to hide the fact that they have any problems what so ever. all three of those girls are suicidal and 2 of them succeeded. the one survivor still to this day hides her deep scratch marks all the way down her arms and her family doesn’t let her hang out with anyone. her religion destroyed her life. what do you have to say to that?

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