Coming out of the closet

Andrew S apostasy, Culture, diversity, LDS, liberal, Mormon, Mormons, new order mormon 155 Comments

A while back I was reading an article by Seth Payne (and I blogged about it on my personal blog from a slightly different perspective)…and I guess I was most impressed/shocked by something that Seth had done.

See, while I was already interested in the paper because he tried to analyze the Ex-Mormon exit narrative (I’m just a sucker for that…even if someone gets it wrong [it happens more often than I’d care to admit], but fortunately Seth had a reasonable analysis, I think) what I didn’t expect was in this shift that Seth took. Rather than speaking about how flawed and petty and prideful Ex-Mormons must be or whatever, he notes:

…the narratives themselves seem to be driven by an estrangement process both doctrinal and social. I believe that we, as liberal and intellectual Mormons are partially to blame for perpetuating these feelings of estrangement.

I discussed this a bit on my blog, but I wanted to discuss this again because I hadn’t really quite seen something like it. He continues:

For too long we have been marginal to Mormon culture and have conceived of ourselves as “the other.” In many cases, we have defined ourselves by what we are not and by what we do not believe, rather than as what we are and by what truths we have found. Rather than positively affirm our faith, we have often sought identity through the discovery and adoption of heterodox views. The irony of course, is that the whole notion of orthodoxy is anathema to Mormonism. There is no orthodoxy, but merely the perception thereof.

Regardless of any particular truth claim or its so-called validity, there is one observable and tangible, yet amazingly silent reality. In our midst there are those who struggle and suffer with their faith. There are those who feel alone and isolated and whose world-views are shattering regardless of how much they fast, pray, hold family home evening, or read the Book of Mormon. These saints often feel as if they are alone.

At first glance, Mormonism may give off the appearance of a homogeny of culture and belief, yet, there is a strong undercurrent of lively discussion, debate, belief, and conversation involving a wide-range of Latter-day Saints who may or may not accept all of modern Mormonism’s unique truth claims. I believe that we, who are engaged in this conversation are called to make our faith manifest to kindred spirits – to validate their struggle, to share our experiences, our doubts, and our love. Recently, one first-time attendee of Sunstone West commented on his blog: “Sunstone attendees treated me exactly the way we hope and ask ward members to treat all newcomers.” Let us extend that experience beyond the walls of this symposium. Let us, in our unique and individual way, seek out those who need and want to hear our perspective and our testimony

And then, as opening to his conclusion:

In conclusion, may I suggest that those of us who consider ourselves Mormon liberals or intellectuals come “out of the shadows”, as it were, and assume a pastoral role for those who may become ex-Mormon. By existing and behaving as a sub-culture, rather than as an integral part of the larger Mormon tapestry of experience, we contribute to the myth of Mormon orthodoxy. By this I mean that every Latter-day Saint struggles with their faith, prefers some doctrines over others, and ultimately forms a unique world-view informed, but not strictly defined by LDS theology. Certainly, some of our brothers and sisters will find that they are more comfortable outside the Church. We will miss them. However, many who struggle are seeking a reason to stay; to retain their heritage and develop a faith which is informed by their Mormon roots.

I was reminded by another post or comment somewhere on the bloggernacle: I don’t know if it was here or BCC or wherever else, but someone was lamenting on this unfortunate trend that they saw. They might see one lone black family in their ward, but after a while, the family would leave, feeling they were alone and misunderstood. Soon, there might be another black family in the ward, but since the first had left, they too might feel they were alone in their experience and leave. And the cycle would continue.

I don’t know how many members who would consider themselves “liberal” go here, but from what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t think that MM is opposed to this message of coming out. And while I’m not saying that it would convert me to the gospel or anything, I would say that if church were more like MM or Sunstone, that would be a lot more comfortable to many members.

So, are we all out of the closet? Two separate causes, but the analogy, I think, is apt.

What even works? What doesn’t work?

Comments

comments

Comments 155

  1. I’m only half-way out of the closet. If I felt that it were completely safe to do so, I wouldn’t have any problem with posting my real name and more than half of my face on my blog.

    Before I started blogging, I had come to a point where I felt my religious world was crumbling and I was starting to consider leaving — something I never thought I’d do. This “sub-culture” has played a huge role in my decision to stay. I definitely had to redefine what the Church means to me, and it will never be what it once was when I was a TBM, but I’ve decided that the Church and the Gospel (two very different things for me) still have a relevant place in my life. And although it’s hard for me to say that I have a testimony, I definitely have faith and have decided to invest it in the LDS Church.

    “By existing and behaving as a sub-culture, rather than as an integral part of the larger Mormon tapestry of experience, we contribute to the myth of Mormon orthodoxy.”

    I think this is very true. And since there are many who struggle, largely unaware of this sub-culture, it’s sad that they leave when they can’t fit into the Mormon mold and accept/believe everything that everyone else seems to do. If they were aware of it, some would perhaps stay. But as much as I’d like to see this sub-culture take a more prominent role, I tend to think that if it became more vocal and noticeable, it would have an adverse effect on the membership of the Church, at least in terms of numbers. The orthodox membership is still the core base of the Church and they probably make up more than what intellectuals, scholars, or unorthodox members combined could contribute in terms of membership numbers. Perhaps it’s better that we stay in the closet? I don’t know. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about and I still feel torn.

  2. I’m having a bit of a hard time understanding why one couldn’t consider him or herself “intellectual” or “liberal” and also a TBM.

    Why does it seem that this is always discussed in either or terms. . .or often it seems that way?

  3. Hi Paul,

    In my paper, I use the term “liberal” to refer to those Mormons who do not hold literal views of scripture, Joseph Smith’s visions etc… My assumption is that most TBMs do see these events literal history and that is what makes them TBM. The term, of course, is not without complications. Also, you make a good point about the use of the word: intellectual. I don’t that TBM and intellectual are mutually exclusive and should probably have made this more clear.

    Seth

  4. “Coming out” in this way would probably be as healthy as is suggested, at least in an individual sense. But our culture doesn’t deal very well with bottom-up movements, and there are certainly consequences to be considered. What if your openness about not literally believing some core historical claims were to cause a bishop or stake president to decide you couldn’t baptize your child? (or fill in a dozen other situations where “worthiness” will be subjectively determined by a third party)

    What if expression of your real beliefs leads to a release and a dramatic reduction in your ability to have an influence in places like ward council or PEC?

    There is a lot to consider…

  5. I think of myself as an intellectual TBM. There’s one data point for you. And I do see what you mean. If we intellectual Mormons, whether TB or otherwise, will only have the courage to speak, perhaps others would be emboldened as well and we could have a lively thriving discussion in Sunday School, in which people say what they really feel. I feel certain God didn’t invite us to church in order for us to put up some kind of front for the sake of others.

    Those times in church when the truth peeks out, those are the most precious and sacred of all. I believe we all need to find the courage to be our real selves.

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    re 1:

    I tend to think that if it became more vocal and noticeable, it would have an adverse effect on the membership of the Church, at least in terms of numbers. The orthodox membership is still the core base of the Church and they probably make up more than what intellectuals, scholars, or unorthodox members combined could contribute in terms of membership numbers.

    Why would orthodox members (or however we would call them) leave if liberal members became more visible? It doesn’t seem like a zero sum game, where we are exchanging an exodus of liberal members for an exodus of conservative/orthodox/etc., members.

    re 4:

    I’m trying hard not to fly off the handle, but…to put it lightly…why *should* we acquiesce to such a culture? Why should we stick with an organization where we either 1) hide our real beliefs or 2) suffer from our real beliefs?

    I like what Tatiana said in 5:

    I feel certain God didn’t invite us to church in order for us to put up some kind of front for the sake of others.

  7. IMO the key lies, not in challenging literal views, but in offering the range of alternatives. The church is not intellectual because most people are not, but there can still be room for all types of people. Multiple non-conclusive interpretations is the best way to go.

    For example, I don’t see any problem with mentioning multiple versions of the First Vision and the timelines or asking whether it was a vision or a visit or what was foremost in JS’s mind in praying or whether this was common religious experience. All of those hint at a variety of questions one might have when encoutering this story. What I do think is inappropriate, in church anyway, would be to choose the most confrontational route and try to “debunk” TBM literalist views. But asking mind-opening questions is not only appropriate, it’s how we learn and develop understanding. That’s just one example. That approach works across many topics.

    Frankly, anything but the party line is going to offend your staunchest TBMs, and intellectuals are generally going to be overlooked for leadership positions in the church. I don’t really mind that. There are some staunch TBM who will consider all intellectuals heretics. I think that speaks more about them than about those people they fear.

  8. I have a slightly different view, since, whether some of you believe it or not, many of my views aren’t exactly “conservative” or stereotypical “TBM” – and I have encountered exactly zero resistance whenever I bring up an alternate perspective in church. I do it respectfully and in a way that will not cause pain and discord, and, although I’ve had members disagree with me, I’ve never been chastised or thwarted for it.

    Now, I understand that I don’t talk about ALL of my heterodox views openly in many meetings, but to me that’s just part of the compromise that is society and inter-personal civility. I have come to believe that one’s demeanor and tone are more important generally than one’s words, and adding disclaimers and “softeners” to statements makes all the difference.

    For example, two weeks ago in Sunday School, I had a thought for the first time while reading a verse from the lesson. When I commented on it, I said that. “I’ve never had this thought quite like this before, so please pardon me if I can’t explain it very well, but . . . Does that make sense?” Those who disagreed were free to mutter, “Nope, not at all,” without having to challenge me about it – but it was out there for those who might agree.

    Likewise, I mentioned to some of the stake leadership last night after a meeting how I wonder sometimes why we don’t allow investigators to join the Church unless they are fully committed to living the Word of Wisdom, but we don’t discipline current members for struggling to do so. It wasn’t said in a challenging way – just as an “I wonder” statement. I know it surprised some people, since it was obvious they had never considered it previously, but nobody challenged me or told me I was courting apostasy. They all know I am fully committed to the Church, and that I’m not going to agitate actively and confrontationally to change the baptismal requirements, so they don’t take what I say (especially with how I say it) as a challenge or an affront.

    I think we need to focus less on convincing others and “winning” and more on simply sharing and contemplating. Frankly, I think most of us let that type of pride get in the way of our noble desires too often.

    Finally, I have a post tomorrow that I hope will illustrate how wrong the assumption is that all Church leaders are conservative, stereotypical TBM’s who just don’t get it when it comes to many of the things we discuss here. The experience I talk about in that post surprised even me.

  9. Great post Andrew! (And Seth!) I am glad you are comfortable posting here. It is an important perspective. Personally, as a TBM/Intellectual/Liberal/Pluralist, I occasionally encounter some resistance or angst when I bring up some of my views. Like the other day with a friend when I proposed the idea that The Flood was not necessarily literal, etc. and she said something like “But ADAM, the prophet SAID IT.” So I try hard to soften things when I propose alternative viewpoints, but I am also aware that some people, no matter how softly you propose something, will be bothered. Oh well.

    Ray, I love this: “we need to focus less on convincing others and “winning” and more on simply sharing and contemplating” – We all have in us what is called the “righting reflex” which is basically a reaction to anything we view as incorrect. TBMs do it, ex-mos do it, intellectuals do it, etc. etc. I try really hard to resist this impulse, and focus more on “sharing and contemplating” rather than trying to win arguments.

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    Good points, Hawkgrrrl and Ray. something I definitely need to work on some more is this:

    I think we need to focus less on convincing others and “winning” and more on simply sharing and contemplating. Frankly, I think most of us let that type of pride get in the way of our noble desires too often.

  11. In the past 6 months I have had a lot of experience with this sort of thing as I was “outed” through public speaking and on the front page of a major newspaper. This being the case many more people were exposed to my views than my just my ward community. The thing is my views were expressed in the positive, there was no direct critique or questioning of the Church or doctrine, etc. The results have very positive.

    I do think its odd that in past years there has been something of an emphasis on the negative, people stating what they don’t believe or on various critiques. The key for progressive Mormons is to be in the public sphere, describing in positive terms the theology and religious commitments that make us progressive Mormons. While I don’t agree that “the whole notion of orthodoxy is anathema to Mormonism” (Often I wish this were the case though.) Its true that what Mormon orthodoxy is, is not exactly easy to describe and really the Mormon community is defined by a wide diversity of views even among self described TBMs. Over the past half year I have come to learn that our community is diverse and thriving in ways that one would never know from going to classes on Sunday or listening to Conference.

  12. Ray,

    I’m sure I could improve my delivery by adding “softening” words. When my brother died, I can think of times when I would ask some pointed questions regarding the Proclamation on the Family about children needing to be raised by both a father and mother, and asking why God would take away a father? Most of the ward members seemed a little threatened by the question, as not “faith-promoting.”

    I can also remember referring to the scripture stating that “men are not tempted above that which we are able”, and then stating that I do not have a testimony of that scripture. These sorts of questions seem to frighten TBM’s around me. Perhaps I could have softened it, by “wondering” about the scripture, but even in my previous “wondering” question about the Proclamation, it just seemed like people didn’t want to think about these kinds of questions. It was as if I was being faithless to ask the questions.

    I’ll admit that losing my brother so suddenly rocked my world–I wasn’t in the frame of mind to soften my questions or statements. Ward members, while sympathetic, had no idea what to say. They wanted to be supportive, but had no answers, and didn’t want me polluting their testimony. I’ll admit that when life is all roses, nobody wants to look at the thorns, myself included. But for the ones injured, it’s really tough. I see the love my friends had for me, but it was also very isolating, because they had no idea what I was going through. They wanted to take away my pain, but had no idea how. I started my blog soon after this, and it has been much more therapeutic for me than voicing these types of concerns in church. So I stay in the closet.

    Any time a casual acquaintance of mine experiences the loss of death, I take it very hard. An acquaintance of mine recently died from pancreatic cancer, leaving behind a wife and 2 small children. I wanted to go to the funeral, and did, but emotionally it was really tough for me. My wife and friends recognized how tough it was for me, but it was easier to keep my feelings in the closet than to try to express them. For me, Blogging has been a much more effective way to deal with grief, and difficult mormon history. I’d love to come out of the closet, but it sure doesn’t feel like a safe place to be. Anonymous blogging, however, is much safer. I look forward to the day when I can “come out.”

  13. “Why would orthodox members (or however we would call them) leave if liberal members became more visible?”

    For the same reason why I almost did. When the orthodox view is challenged — perhaps even shattered for some — it’s too much to handle for some members. Suddenly they look at the Church differently, as new facts and ideas are being presented to them, and some find it hard to reconcile it all with their previous belief in the Church. It can be very overwhelming and not everyone has the spiritual stamina to survive it.

  14. #13-

    To be clear thought it should be stated that what you describe is not a problem created by progressive Mormons, its a problem with the dualistic way in which doctrine and beliefs are disseminated within church culture. its often done in an “all or nothing manner” which is problematic on so many levels. It can, and maybe even should be part of the progressive Mormon project to provide the spiritual / theological tools to help members re-conceptualize the church in non-dualistic ways. Staying in the closet is not an option if one wants to have a thriving religious life. Granted I stayed in the closet (can we find a better term please?) for years and now that I am out and people are getting an idea of what to expect from me its leading to wonderful opportunities, including opportunities to speak with Mormon groups to talk about belief, and the different types of faith that Mormons can / should have. The Fowler’s Stage 3 Mormons may have the dominate voice in church culture but they don’t have the best theology or religious experience. I take the lack of “spiritual stamina” that you describe as evidence of this.

  15. I really appreciate hawkgrrl’s and Ray’s comments. I really do. And I think I agree with and do many of the things they suggest. But the fact remains that, for many people, there is something kind of scary, or at least unsettling, about expressing heterodox views at church. Why is that? No doubt, the “fear factor” would dissipate if more people expressed such views openly, but there is just something about the culture that many find stifling of truly open discussion. I say this not out of any angst or bitterness; I feel like it is what it is, and I have kind of found my path through this situation. But I do find it a little curious, and I do wish it were a little different.

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    Re 13: I have to echo what Douglas said in 14 a bit.

    I’m thinking that the entire point for liberal/progressive/whatever members to make themselves known is precisely so that if someone, for whatever reason, has their view shaken, they recognize that there are others who don’t take things so orthodoxically or literally.

    …I’d think more problematic is, as Douglas said, the culture that suggests “all or nothing” with respect to doctrine and beliefs.

    re 14:

    (can we find a better term please?)

    Having made at least one person uncomfortable with the paradigm I presented, I feel like I have done my deed for the day. Stay tuned for more, folks! :p

  17. I think this is an interesting and worthwhile discussion, on many levels. At the same time, do any of you honestly believe that the church as an organization, would condone, even tacitly, let alone embrace such a movement? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the policy in the church to preach a black and white, all or nothing type of gospel, is merely playing to the lowest common denominator, if you will, and not an intentional scheme to discourage critical thought and maintain control over its members. Even if that is the case, it seems to me that the church CANNOT allow the kind of liberal, intellectually stimulating, thought provoking behavior that this thread is contemplating. I think this is the case even if you “soften” the rhetoric, as Ray suggests. The fact is, mormon “intellectuals” are, for whatever reason, often able to digest such questions and difficult facts, and find ways to understand and justify them (I don’t mean that pejoratively). I think we would all concede, though, that a large majority of so-called “TBM”s would have a very difficult time doing the same. Many members of the church are very comfortable within their cocoons and would honestly be thrown into massive turmoil and chaos if the church allowed a trend of enlightenment to pervade, even on a small scale, official church forums.

    Obviously in the past 20-30 years the church has moved AWAY from any kind of intellectual renaissance, has it not? The brethren have actively preached that anything that tends to harm individuals’ testimonies, or even that does not actively promote faith, is to be avoided, regardless of its truthfulness. I think the “coming out of the closet” trend that this thread contemplates clearly falls into that category. These questions and discussions are stimulating and even faith promoting for many people within this forum, but it must be conceded that that would not be the case for many members, even most. I have a very difficult time believing that any kind of ground up movement like this would be allowed, let alone applauded or encouraged by the church. I think the position of the church, and most TBMs, would be that if such behavior was to damage even one person’s testimony, it is not worth the “enlightenment” that it could potentially bring to others. Am I out in left field on this?

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    why would allowing the kind of liberal, intellectually stimulating, thought provoking behavior disallow the behavior that is not any of those things? (not saying that intellectually stimulating or thought provoking is necessarily tied to liberalism to our orthodox members)

    So, it seems like we would not need to convert orthodox TBMs by fire and say, “RECONSIDER OR ELSE!”…so I’m still not seeing the problem.

    What I try to talk about in this post is not something that “harms individual testimonies” or that “does not actively promote faith.” I’m saying that by allowing for more options, by speaking out that liberal members are not alone, it directly STRENGTHENS these individuals and promotes their faith because now, they have a community too.

    is the church a one-size-fits-most suit?

  19. “The brethren have actively preached that anything that tends to harm individuals’ testimonies, or even that does not actively promote faith, is to be avoided, regardless of its truthfulness.” Some have, some have said nothing, others have given messages that encourage pondering (although always assuming a positive conclusion). The brethren are not in lock step on every issue. The church is largely run at the local level (teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves). There’s some evidence to the contrary (correlation committee, CHI), but that’s still not very controlling in matter of fact.

    Here are things that are always allowed:
    – investigators in our meetings who are going to ask questions. One can pose questions in this fashion also. Just because you’re a member doesn’t mean you can’t say “I don’t know about that,” or “that’s something that I’ve always wondered” or “It’s hard for me to understand . . .”
    – personal revelation. You can pin just about anything on “the Spirit” and trump everyone else in a discussion, at least for you personally. This should only be used responsibly, of course.
    – inclusivity. You can always talk about others who have had these types of doubts and phrase things so as to include them. “Some people really struggle with ______, and we should be understanding of that. I can see why someone might think . . .” or “The record is mixed, inconclusive, unclear on . . . Something we can learn from that is . . .”

  20. “I think the position of the church, and most TBMs, would be that if such behavior was to damage even one person’s testimony, it is not worth the “enlightenment” that it could potentially bring to others.”

    There’s a reason why scholarly works like Rough Stone Rolling are not joyfully accepted with open arms by the Church. For the reasons you stated, the potential damage is not worth the “enlightenment” in the eyes of the brethren.

  21. #20 “There’s a reason why scholarly works like Rough Stone Rolling are not joyfully accepted with open arms by the Church. For the reasons you stated, the potential damage is not worth the “enlightenment” in the eyes of the brethren.”

    Not sure what you mean? RSR is sold in church-owned Deseret Book stores. Richard Bushman is invited to speak in Church venues. I have heard nothing but accolades for Bushman in church circles. As hawkgrrrl said, Church leaders are of different opinions when it comes to confronting complex issues. The fact that the Church’s history department is much more open than it has ever been before is certainly a positive sign.

  22. I’m finding this discussion very interesting. I’d classify myself as a TBM but with some very heterodox views in a number of areas.

    One idea that doesn’t get enough emphasis is that the resistance and fear presented by heterodoxy isn’t unique to Mormon culture. It isn’t even unique to non-intellectuals. Next time you are in a room full of PhD’s, pick a heterodox idea that matches the background of the crowd (such as the Selenium theory of Aids treatment when in a group of Aids researchers) and belt it out loud. You’ll get shouted down far faster than in any Mormon congregation.

    Fact is, most people don’t like having their own beliefs messed with. Very few people enjoy having their foundations shaken. I count myself among a small group of people that love challenging even their most essential beliefs just to see where the conversation might lead. WE ARE ABNORMAL. Accept that, and then act with the social grace and public conscience this knowledge requires.

    It is unfair to expect that most people to appreciate you questioning their deeply held beliefs. Especially non-intellectuals (and remember, half of the people in any typical group have below average intelligence).

    While I believe what I have written is correct, it is a bit disingenuous. After all, one of the major actions conducted by LDS missionaries is to question people’s deeply held beliefs (“what do you mean I wasn’t baptized with authority”) and that is how we convert people to the gospel. I suppose the difference is related to the spirit.

    If you can have a conversation, where the Holy Ghost is helping witness truth, while at the same time questioning the various versions of the First Vision, then I guess you could do that constructively in a Sunday School meeting. As a long-standing Gospel Doctrine teacher, I have done exactly this. But in my experience, the spirit seems to avoid getting itself involved in conversations where the outcome will result in reducing one of the participants testimony. But in a room of strong minds and strong testimonies, the spirit will freely flow during even the most controversial discussions.

  23. #22-“It is unfair to expect that most people to appreciate you questioning their deeply held beliefs. Especially non-intellectuals (and remember, half of the people in any typical group have below average intelligence).”

    HEY! I resemble that comment! 🙂 In my “non-intellectual” opinion, just because a person is considered an “intellectual” doesn’t mean they are more spiritually advanced than a person who is considered a non-intellectual. A scripture comes to my mind….. “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”(2 Timothy 3:7) Maybe there is something to “non-intellectuals” not always questioning everything…..just a thought…..

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    :/

    I guess I really don’t know just what I did.

    I’m not suggesting that people go and start trying to shake others’ beliefs. I’m not suggesting that people go and start questioning deeply held beliefs of others.

  25. Fwiw, I think many of you would be shocked to the core at some of the conversations I’ve witnessed in various leadership meetings. Not all politically conservative church leaders fit the stereotype being beaten up here. Of course, there are plenty who do, and of course they guard their flocks zealously from what they perceive to be threats, but I often walk away surprised by what I hear from leaders – even as much as I try not to be surprised. (like the prominent leader who told me last year that he doesn’t like to hear “the one and only true church” – since it carries so many misinterpretations by so many members) I’ve had that type of conversation over and over again through the years, and part of it is because people know I don’t argue about things like that and I am willing to discuss heterodox ideas.

    Sometimes, when extreme tact is needed, I even say something like, “I heard someone say once that they believed (fill in the blank). I know that sounds crazy at first, but when you consider (fill in the blank) I can see where they’re coming from.” Of course, it helps that the leaders in my area know I blog extensively, so I can always fall back on, “In my blogging, I’ve heard a lot of members say . . .” 🙂

    I know I am fortunate right now to live in the ward and stake where I do, but I am convinced we aren’t an isolated anomaly. I think the openness to varying perspectives locally (especially outside the Mormon Corridor) is higher than many people in Utah think. As Cliff says in #22, this is not a Mormon phenomenon, and it doesn’t hold up nearly as well, ime, where we are the small minority. Exclusiveness, unfortunately, breeds conformity. That’s human nature, and it’s sad we don’t do a better job collectively avoiding it, but it is what it is.

  26. “The brethren have actively preached that anything that tends to harm individuals’ testimonies, or even that does not actively promote faith, is to be avoided, regardless of its truthfulness.”

    There is no reason to think that progressive Mormons have any goal other than to promote faith. I sense from several comments that some of the participants here are using an outdated or inaccurate understanding of what it means to be an Intellectual, or liberal or progressive Mormon. It may be that we need a stronger effort to define what it means to be intellectual, liberal, or progressive at this moment. The stereotype of the “liberal” Mormon represent them as something of an academic pot stirrer who raises significant historical problems or critiques doctrine in a way that is considered to be hostile to the official position of the Church, or the church itself. Perhaps the main purposes of this stereotype is to discredit voices of any sort that are not easily synthesized into a traditional narrative of doctrine or history.

    Frankly there is a lot of positive work that can be done by intellectual, liberal or progressive Mormons. As has already been pointed out there are certainly many people who leave the church (liberal and other wise) who would be able to stay if they had been exposed to the thought of progressive Mormons. Further, within the Mormon tradition high quality and inspiring work in areas such as ethics or scriptural exegesis is almost non-existent. There is a real way in which we have an opportunity to “do the theology” behind progressive Mormon thought. This project is not inherently in conflict with the institutional church.

    BTW who says that Rough Stone Rolling isn’t well received in official Church circles?

  27. Rough Stone Rolling seems to me to be embraced by official Church circles, and that’s a very positive sign. You can say “I read in Rough Stone Rolling that…” and it’s perfectly okay for you to bring up an example that shows that prophets are human beings, as well as chosen by God to receive his revelations.

    It’s really heartening to me to understand revelation and church leadership in that way. We’re all people. We all struggle to figure out what God wants us to do. We all have occasions when we’re crystal clear certain that some feeling or impression is from the Spirit, and other times when it’s not so clear. GAs are no different.

    To me this is a grown-up version of religion and of revelation. Everything is not cut-and-dried. We struggle with our own moral choices, taking the teachings of the church into account, but not relinquishing our agency to anyone. We need to be teaching this to one another, not treating each other as children. It’s our responsibility as much as anyone’s to teach correct principles.

  28. Below are three degrees of wards. They each have an expectation of those who walk into the ward house.

    1. A ward that reflects what is said in the spirit of general conference. In this ward the expectation is that when you walk in the door you suspend your disbelief and doubt. Your purpose is to grow in faith and this requires you to exercise your belief and be at your “best”.

    2 A ward that reflects what is said in the spirit of the more conservative side of a Sun Stone gathering. In this ward the expectation is that when you walk in the door you bring in doubt and disbelief, but discreetly express it, if at all. Your purpose is to be yourself without putting forth your best because it is really hypocritical to do otherwise.

    3. A ward that reflects the spirit of what is said and written among the liberal element of Sunstone, Dialogue, and the Bloggernacle. In this ward when you walk in the door the expectation is that you suspend your faith and bring in your doubt, esoteric and controversial ideas. You passionately express your thoughts of doubt about doctrine, keeping the commandments. Speaking ill of local and general church leaders is fair game. After all you are among intellectuals.

    Which one of these wards would you be most comfortable in? Which one would you like to have your children go to? Maybe a mix of the three would be a preferred.

  29. #29 Jen

    Maybe a little, but I think what I am trying to say is that if we’re not careful we can forget that church is a place we go to be lifted. If we come in the door with the expectation of being inspired then I think that can happen nearly every week. However, if we enter the door carrying all the “baggage” that life putd on us, then I think we’re less likely to be inspired or inspiring.

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    interestingly enough, if those were to represent the three degrees of glory (and let’s say they actually did), that would have some interesting implications.

    don’t all the participates of Sunstone, etc., think they are all being uplifted by their comments? What one person considers suspending or muting faith for doubt, another considers to be a strengthening of personal faith.

  31. FWIW, here’s part of a post I wrote on my blog three years ago expressing what to me was teh central conflict of being a “liberal” Mormon:

    So, [my oldest daughter, M, is] a bit of a chip off the old block. She’s learned — and I guess I’m the one who taught her — to think critically and independently. She doesn’t automatically accept everything she hears at church as The Truth. She questions and thinks, and recognizes poor reasoning and illogical thinking.

    And I ask myself, did I do the right thing? Should I have taught her to do those things? I recall this passage from Chaim Potok’s The Gift of Asher Lev, where Asher and his father discuss Asher’s son Avrumel.

    “How can we expect to know everything about God?”

    He looked at me, his eyes narrowing.

    “I call that ambiguity,” I said. “Riddles, puzzles, double meanings, lost possibilities, the dark side to the light, the light side to the darkness, different perspectives on the same things. Nothing in this world has only one side to it. Everything is like a kaleidoscope. That’s what I’m trying to capture in my art. That’s what I mean by ambiguity.”

    “No one can live in a kaleidoscope, Asher. God is not a kaleidoscope. God is not ambiguous. Our faith in Him is not ambiguous. From ambiguity I would not derive the strength to do all the things I must do. Ambiguity is darkness. Certainty is light. Darkness is the world of the Other Side. Tell me something, Asher. Do you think Avrumel will be better off if he learns ambiguity from you or certainty from me?”

    I said nothing.

    And I ask myself if I should have taught M to accept her religion uncritically, if I should have striven to teach certainty rather than ambiguity. And, like Asher Lev, I don’t know what to say.

  32. In my life I have come across many people. I have been most impressed by those who are kind, enthusiastic, and speak the language of faith because they’ve experienced it. It is not a doctrinal theory.

    I have seen these qualities in people who have attain impressive and average educations. I have also seen these qualities in people who have no education whatsoever. The Holy Ghost is no respecter of persons.

  33. #32 kuri-

    From my own personal experience, it seems to me that people who grow up being taught certainty and continue to live in this manner are in general more happy than those who have been taught ambiguity or have relinquished certainty for ambiguity. Of course, this is just from my experience with those close to me and may not be applicable in general.

    #30 Jared-

    Honestly, I was just trying to be funny, and if I am the only one who got a laugh I guess it was still worth it! 🙂

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  35. Jared,
    You press the shift key with the colon key first, then the shift key with the zero key. It will look like a sideways smiley face. It will automatically turn into the smiley yellow guy when you submit your comment…like this….:) Have a great night!

  36. 🙁 It needs to be separated from other punctuation marks (which is why it didn’t work in #43) – and let’s not overuse and abuse these guys.

  37. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙁 :0 😀 🙂 😀 🙂 🙂 😀 😀 🙂 🙁 🙂 😀 😀 🙂

    “and let’s not overuse and abuse these guys.” DEAL RAY! 😀

  38. My husband and I recently “came out” his parents about our “progressive” or “liberal” views on the church. We didn’t really want to but his mom kept pressing him about going to the temple. My experience about coming out about my “liberal” beliefs was not good. There were tears and lots of drama.

  39. “BTW who says that Rough Stone Rolling isn’t well received in official Church circles?”

    I was always under the impression that it got a mixed reception from the Church (at least that’s what I had heard) and that some leaders were not too happy when it was published since it wasn’t “faith-promoting.” I can’t remember where I heard this, but someone told me that Bushman initially tried to get Deseret to publish RSR but they thought it was too negative, another publisher thought it was too positive, so then that’s how he decided on the publisher that he did. And my Utah friends tell me that few Mormons there have even read it. I did, however, hear that Bushman was invited to speak in church at a fireside about RSR not too long ago. So I was pleasantly surprised about that.

  40. I read an interview with Richard Bushman from about six months ago, he was asked this exact question: “what do the General Authorities think about your book (Rough Stone Rolling)”, his response was something to the effect of, some GA’s were glad that finally a book of this sort was published by a faithful member, but also that there were some GA’s who were very displeased with the book. I think Hawkgirl has probably got it right, the GA attitudes span across a broad spectrum of conservative/liberal perspectives.

  41. I’m going to generally disagree with Tatiana as well. Perhaps she is in one of the more liberal, intellectual wards that Jared mentions. I’d love to get percentages from wards 1, 2, and 3. I seem to usually be in ward #1.

    My father-in-law gave RSR to my mother-in-law as a present for Christmas. She read about 100 pages, and quit, because she didn’t want to know all the unpleasant details. She has said on several occasions (as recently as this week) that these unpleasant details of church history shouldn’t be discussed. I know I’m in the land of conservative, red-state mormononism, so maybe my comments are warped that way, but I feel almost like a flaming liberal down here. And yet, I have many people comment about how conservative I am.

    The funny thing about RSR is that when I found out she had a copy, I asked if I could borrow it. I read the whole thing quickly, and talked about some of the church history generally to the family. Apparently, it interested her husband, and after I returned it, he started reading it. My father-in-law is usually pretty quiet, but I have been able to talk to him about church history. As a former bishop, he now holds some more liberal views, but he keeps them to himself, except around me.

    I’ve never once heard someone at church say, “I read in RSR that…..” On the occasions I have heard that phrase, it has never been at church. It has been at book clubs, or on the internet blogs. I would say that it is more of a fringe book, than one accepted by the mainstream members. Yes it is sold out at Deseret Book, but that is because the liberal members are buying it, and they are not talking about it at church. As such, RSR seems to be generally “in the closet” as well, IMO. While it is not excoriated like Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History (which few orthodox members have even heard of), I wouldn’t characterize RSR as holding general acceptance in the church in the same regard as say, Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R McConkie.

  42. Why don’t members read RSR? IMO, it’s the same reason most people don’t read. It’s long, and it’s history. If they came out with a TV movie of it, maybe Mormons would watch that. I’m a big fan of RSR, but I also like to read, and I like history.

    The fact of the matter is that we’re throwing the word “intellectual” around pretty loosely. Just because you read Grant Palmer’s book doesn’t make you (or Palmer, for that matter) a Rhoades scholar. We are talking about different types of people:
    1 – those who are there because they believe we have the best answers, and they are there to learn how to live up to those answers. The majority.
    2 – those who learn and grow by asking provocative questions; they are there to explore and be on a spiritual journey, to become an adult of God.
    3 – those who have conclusive contrarian theories they have come to belief firmly are “the way things are.”

    In reality, we are probably all a mix of these three. Authors of books tend to be group 3. Bushman was probably more of a mix of 2 and 3, but recognized that most members are group 1. 80% of the membership is probably group 1, and that’s a fine way to live your life, too. Group 2 types are not, IMO, a major issue for Group 1 types. It’s when a Group 1 type who is not a very good critical thinker is exposed to a Group 3 type and is ready to trade one set of black and white dogmas for another that you have a real problem. People in all 3 of these groups can in fact be “believers” or have a testimony or have spiritual experiences that confirm for them what they feel to be right.

    There is a vocal self-righteous minority subset of Group 1 types who think anyone not exactly like them is automatically a Group 3 anti-Mormon. There is a vocal self-righteous minority subset of Group 3 types who think anyone who doesn’t agree with their obvious conclusions is a mindless sheep.

  43. I’d like to see RSR on the shelves of all the Mormon households who have Mormon Doctrine, Jesus The Christ, The Articles of Faith, and other “Mormon” books. I only read RSR because a non-Mormon friend with an interest in the LDS Church lent me his copy last year. I wasn’t even really familiar with it. I remembered seeing it on the bookshelf (probably when it was brand new) at Barnes and Noble when I was in the US, but back then I figured that any book about Josesph Smith on the shelf of a book store was bound to be unfairly written and wasn’t worth 30 bucks. Now, thanks to that non-member friend, I’m glad I read it and it’s one of my favourite books ever. I recommended it to all my family members (who I guess are fairly liberally-minded by Mormon standards), but not even they have shown a real interest in reading it. My mom started it but only got through a few pages. Same with a friend of mine here who loaned my copy and returned it. Aside from fellow bloggers, I don’t know anyone who has read it.

  44. I’m not surprised that the lay membership hasn’t widely read RSR for the reason I gave above, but to say that it’s not read at all or considered as not good to read is just silly. Certainly anyone who is serious about a Gospel Doctrine or other teaching calling will have read it. I know many members who have read it. Some liked it, some didn’t, but those that didn’t mostly thought it was boring and long and they don’t like reading non-fiction. Some were unfamiliar with the history, but no one considered it unfaithful or unfairly written. It’s quite neutral. I’ve shared stories from it in teaching and referred to it.

    I wonder to some extent if socio-economic factors cause some wards to be intolerant of intellectuals.

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    i’ll try again.

    I’m not saying that everyone needs to read RSR or whatever book, and I’m not saying that we should necessarily promote more of it.

    But if you are someone who has read it and does read these things, is that known? Or do you remain hidden?

    my idea is that there could be others reading these materials but we aren’t coming out and becoming a visible community. So, whatever the true composition of a ward is, we assume that it is “so conservative,” when really, there could be other people thinking the same thing (but not saying anything about it), and there could actually be a sizeable liberal group.

  46. JV, “true believing member/Mormon” – fwiw, I really hate that label.

    Andrew, I mention things I’ve learned no matter the source – RSR, the Pope (ironically, a series of “lectures” about sex and the body – go figure), Buddhist writings, occasionally a Protestant minister or friend, often “on the various Mormon blogs”, etc. No matter where I learn something (or gain a particular insight from a different perspective), I mention the source. People know I read and am exposed to lots of things, so they accept my citations – and quite a few come to me to ask about stuff they read or hear. That’s important to me – that they come to someone who is willing to talk about anything and not someone who will try to shut them down.

    In my post today about bishops, I mentioned explicitly in the conversation that I hear quite a few members on the various Mormon blogs lament how often Christ is not the focus of our Sacrament Meetings. Nobody objected to that, and heads were nodding all around the tables.

  47. Over the past few years some Church leaders have been emphasizing only using official church publications in Sunday lessons. So that’s likely part of the reason we don’t often hear people making reference to RSR or other books. Personally, I wish our leaders would ease up on that rule (if it even is a rule).

  48. I find it interesting how we’re categorizing people in this thread. What about people who enthusiastically read “Massacre at Mountain Meadows”? There’s some disturbing stuff in there. It’s not exactly “faith-promoting.” So would a reader earn the label “liberal Mormon”? But the book was financed and endorsed by the Church itself.

    I think there’s a lot more room for so-called “liberal” thought within the Church than we sometimes acknowledge. At least, that’s becoming more true of late. And I think Andrew S. is right–we make a lot of assumptions about the people we go to church with every week. Undoubtedly many of those assumptions are wrong.

  49. “Over the past few years some Church leaders have been emphasizing only using official church publications in Sunday lessons.” That was recently emphasized in our ward, too. Of course, if you are referring to something off the top of your head or that you have read (vs. having someone read a long quote or passage from a book), that’s not really using unofficial church publications. One’s head is not sectioned off into “official” and “non-official” source material as that might imply. Also, I can’t tell you how many times I was teaching and the controversy was brought in by one of the class members rather than my materials. So, to Andrew’s point – in my ward, at least, people do bring in these questions or raise these points, unless the teacher is someone who seems unprepared to handle it (interesting how participation changes based on the teacher’s level of knowledge and preparation).

  50. Partly in response to this thread I just wrote a longish post on my own blog with a different approach to the topic.

    http://durations.blogspot.com

    #57- If its not a rule its a very strong recommendation, as it is included in the introduction to each of the teachings of the presidents manuals. Although I do think from the language found in the manuals that the concern may be less about using a variety of materials than it is a concern over the focus of lesson shifting away from the words of the presidents of the church, and towards something else. I have no problem using outside materials but I often use and apply them in my prep for teaching a class rather than introducing them as part of class content.

  51. Andrew,

    I get what you’re saying about the idea that there are more liberal mormons out there than meets the eye. I know a guy in my in-laws ward who is a vocal atheist mormon. On the one hand, because he is so vocal, he has attracted some of the liberal mormons in his ward, and my father-in-law does tell me what he says at church occasionally. On the other hand, he’s had some real problems with current and former bishops deciding that he is not worthy to baptize or ordain his children, even though he is a regular church attender, follows the WoW, and is temple worthy (except for the testimony part).

    Most people don’t want to jeopardize losing their temple recommend, losing callings, etc. The ostracism by church leaders isn’t worth being more vocal. The consequences of non-conformity can be a significant challenge to those who support a more liberal scriptural interpretation of various gospel topics. That’s a big reason why people stay in the closet.

  52. “Most people don’t want to jeopardize losing their temple recommend, losing callings, etc. The ostracism by church leaders isn’t worth being more vocal. The consequences of non-conformity can be a significant challenge to those who support a more liberal scriptural interpretation of various gospel topics. That’s a big reason why people stay in the closet.”

    But this fear of ostracism of losing callings or a TR is more often than not misplaced. I can think of a number of very public articulations of theology and belief from individuals that had no negative consequences at all. If one is advancing a positive, liberal, theological message or interpretation of scripture or gospel topics they have little to worry about, they are building the kingdom and offering new understanding, fostering exploration, etc. If one advance a liberal theological view that relies on a criticism of the church or its leaders then watch out.

  53. JV, “true believing member/Mormon” – fwiw, I really hate that label.

    Everywhere else on the web it is a pejorative, which is why I am surprised to how much it is used here.

  54. MH very sorry to hear that; of course using the NIV does send the message that you really want to be an evangelical. Now if you had been using the NRSV . . .

    I do recognize that who one’s local leaders are is of great importance.

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    re 61:

    I feel like I’ve nearly answered this before…like, in an earlier comment here.

    ah, yes, my comment 6, in response to jjackson in 4. Yes, people *don’t* want to jeopardize, but is that really the position they should be taking? Why is standing up for your beliefs “not worth it,” when it could be that your not standing up for your beliefs marginalizes the entire experience of you and those like you (because everyone else also is deciding it’s “not worth it.”)

    Now…I would say too…are these consequences of nonconformity overblown? Because let’s look at the scenario: the guy in your in-laws’ ward is a vocal *atheist* Mormon. So, while I’m certain that the Mormon church isn’t One-size-fits-all, I’m also certain that really, when you have a religion like this one, there’re just some things that have to be there. The theism has to be there. Sure, there’s a cultural Mormonism, but that’s not what’s in the chapel, necessarily. So, think about it: is the atheist really worthy when a critical part of that worthiness is theism, belief and faith in God and Jesus Christ?

    This doesn’t seem like a hard one to decide. If I wanted to go to church, I wouldn’t pretend to try to be going to anyone’s temple or to be doing anyone’s priesthood ordinances. If they get to the belief in God question, I *know* that I fail that qualification, because I do not believe. I’m not going to hide it and lie just to be CONFORMIST and make a mockery of the priesthood.

    …But it doesn’t seem like “progressive Mormon” or “liberal Mormon” is the same as saying “atheist Mormon.” So it seems this kind of treatment would not necessarily represent what most “liberal Mormons” (who *are* believers, after all) would get.

  56. I got the impression for Jeffrey R. Hollands interview with PBS last year during The Mormons broadcast, that he was sending the message to Church members that The Church is willing to accept members of whatever believing stripes they are. This does not allow for open criticism of The Church or it’s leaders, but does mean that those who are not as converted should fear any type of institutional black balling. While this is his sentiment and perhaps that of LDS Corporate, it may take some time before it trickles down into rural Utah.

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    re 64:

    haha, I spoke too soon. you got HOSED.

    I think the question really becomes…if the church is a shirt that is one-size-fits-most…and you can’t tailor it to your needs…how small is this shirt? How narrow is orthodoxy?

    As I said in 66, I don’t think the shirt is so wide as to include atheist Mormons. That shouldn’t have been a wonder.

    And perhaps when you’re in a teaching position (impressionable minds, you know), the shirt’s tighter.

    But I don’t think it’s so tight that people should have to have this conservative mask on all the time or be silent lest they be banished to the corner.

  58. #62 “But this fear of ostracism of losing callings or a TR is more often than not misplaced.”

    I think it varies greatly on a local level. I was honest with my branch president about my doubts and change of view on certain matters and he never released me from my calling as RS counsellor until I requested to be released. As well, he encouraged me to go back to the temple (I had a valid TR), which I’ve decided for personal reasons not to do. On the other hand, I know of at least one person whose bishop denied him a TR because he disagreed with the Church on Prop 8. I knew of a sister who was a counsellor in YW and married a non-member. The YW president had problems with this, as she saw it as a bad example for preaching temple marriage to the YW. I don’t know all the details of how it all happened, but the counsellor was soon after released. Anyways, so, perhaps sometimes the fear is misplaced and sometimes it’s not. I think it depends on how “different” members are received in their local ward or branch by fellow members and bishop.

  59. “But this fear of ostracism of losing callings or a TR is more often than not misplaced.” I agree with FD’s statement that it does depend a lot on local leadership. However, I also believe that most of the perceived or feared “backlash” against heterodox views is fantasy. What’s important to us isn’t always what’s important to other people. Sometimes people feel like an outsider, so they see confirmation all around them of their being ostracized. And yet that’s not really what’s going on at all. It’s just their perception because of their feelings. I’m not saying it’s never been the case, but we look to things like being released from a calling or not called to a calling as evidence of approval or disapproval, but we seldom have direct knowledge of the rationale behind those decisions, whose input was involved, what it was, why they gave that input, etc. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. It is seldom exactly what we think it is, and the majority of people don’t give a hoot about the things that are really important to you personally (not in a mean way, they just have their own life to live).

  60. I agree with FD–it varies locally. Outside the Mormon Corridor, they typically have smaller wards, and are more likely to accept diverse opinions. However, in Utah County, conformity is expected. If you dare try to understand the words of Isaiah, like I was, then there are plenty of people who can read the manual and avoid NIV altogether. And it doesn’t matter to the bishop one bit that Joseph used other versions of the Bible.

  61. #69-

    O.K. sure, But the examples you give should not be considered normative. Two of the three don’t seem to really bare on what we are discussing. For example, the last example you gave is an example of Pharisaism rather than an example of the impact of liberal thought or theology. I can give examples of far more public pronouncements of liberal theology from Mormons that did not lead to negative effects. In my own case I started getting requests to speak to different groups including the BYU law school and at Sunstone West, where I will be giving a presentation tomorrow evening. I was very afraid when I being speaking in public about my views and theological priorities but I have to say that the results have been very positive and I see myself as now being in a position to do missionary work and foster discussion in a way that I never had been previously when I was silent. There is significant power at the margins. Also when and how one speaks and expresses one’s views is of the greatest importance. We can’t just say what ever comes to mind the message needs to be crafted. This is to be expected since the views are at times very different from what other Mormons expect but a well crafted example of liberal theology will be embraced by a variety of different types of Mormons including conservatives and those in leadership positions.

  62. Yes, Douglas, I’m sure you’re right, it is pharisaical. But speaking at Sunstone isn’t the same as Sacrament meeting, or Gospel Doctrine class. I expect that if I lived in California, for example, that I probably would still be teaching a GD class, and they probably wouldn’t be overly concerned with NIV. But since I live in Utah County, it’s harder to express liberal views when even moderate views get shot down quickly. At Sunstone, I’m probably viewed as extremely conservative, not liberal at all. I know that Andrew views me as quite conservative. (My atheist mormon friend feels the same way.)

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    yeah, I have to echo the thought about the Sunstone West.

    The entire issue was…why must there be a Sunstone that is a separate, unofficial thing from the church? Is there not enough room in classroom or the chapel for Sunstone-esque dialogue.

    Because let’s say someone said: “Oh yeah, I love sunstone and I believe in the gospel. But I can’t stand going to church,” …isn’t that strange?

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    wait, no, i’m derailing my message.

    I’m not saying that in the classroom there necessarily must new lessons from new cloth that incorporate RSR, outside materials, NIV translation, etc.,

    But I am saying that it shouldn’t feel like the church, classroom, chapel, whatever is only *for* conservative members and you have to be acquiescent to that majority “or else.”

  65. MH you glossed right over the fact that I spoke at BYU! The point is that I am having positive experiences in speaking from a fundamentally liberal Mormon point of view to a variety of audiences in and out of the church. The positive reception includes liberal Mormons but is not limited to them. Second, you mention sacrament meeting. I spoke in sacrament meeting in December, again the message was very well received across the spectrum. The talk was very personal but structurally, strategically, theologically I was following the model of someone like Walter Brueggemann. The talk is being published by Dialogue but some very conservative members had wonderful comments after that meeting. Finally I am an EQ teacher in my ward, here too my methodology pulls from a variety of different sources such as liberal theologians from other traditions and post structural theory; obviously these sources are rejected by people who work within a TBM paradigm yet my teaching is well received even at the stake level.

    So to Andrew’s point about thinking that Church is only *for* conservative members. I don’t think we should ever work in that mode, its really a form of spiritual death that leads to self censorship (as many comments here attest to.), leads to dissatisfaction with the church experience and to the weakening of testimonies. There is room in the Chapel and classes for a variety of approaches to and ways of speaking about scripture, theology, history, etc. There are only two real cautions: don’t let a liberal or intellectual approach be articulated as, or misunderstood as criticism. Second, those using intellectual paradigms that are outside of the mainstream of Mormon thought need to be really good at crafting the message. Regardless of the approach the goal still needs to be that one is speaking or teaching by the spirit, that the comment/ talk / or lessons invite the spirit and gives other participants the opportunity to think about the topic at hand in productive ways. I think the reason there has to be something like Sunstone is that church is only 3 hours long each week and that time is already pretty full. Sunstone-esque dialogue takes time, trust, and shared understanding. I don’t know about you folks but in my ward there isn’t a tremendous amount of actual dialogue Sunstone-esque or farms-esque, etc. simply for the reason that time is short.

  66. Douglas,

    I would love to invite you to my ward, make you gospel doctrine teacher, and see how long you lasted with my bishop. If only there was a way….

  67. In my ward it is–that’s why I participate in the bloggernacle, why I go to Sunstone, and why I remain relatively anonymous. I’d love to come out of the closet like Andrew suggests.

  68. This has been an interesting post with many interesting comments.

    The bottom line question in my mind is: can the various categorizations of members as discussed in this post have equal access to the gift of the Holy Ghost?

  69. “The bottom line question in my mind is: can the various categorizations of members as discussed in this post have equal access to the gift of the Holy Ghost?”

    Jared, the answer to that question is absolutely! I’ve felt the spirit, in so many ways, stronger than I ever did as a TBM since realizing the church is not everything it purports to be. I think expanding your world view and learning to accept others beliefs as just as valid and meaningful as your own puts you closer to whomever you feel the divine is. I actually feel like that’s one of the traps of Mormonism, because you have spiritual experiences associated with the church, you assume that it’s the only true and correct one. Enlarging your understanding can increase that connectedness to God and thereby provide even more of a feeling of the spirit. Until you’ve made the jump, you don’t realize what you’re missing. There is greater peace on the other side, at least for me.

    Don’t shoot me; it’s just my opinion and probably not worth what you’re paying for it. Oh wait… you’re not paying for it…

  70. I agree in principle, Doug, but . . .

    Until you’ve made the jump, you don’t realize what you’re missing.

    Just for the record [and, well, because I’m me and Doug’s Doug 🙂 ], that jump can be made without leaving the Church.

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  72. Ray,

    We actually do agree to an extent. I haven’t left the church either, so my perception is from that of a NOM instead of someone all the way out. I think this post is about all the different levels of belief in Mormonism and whether those with far more liberal views can and do feel the spirit on a regular basis. There seems to be perception that not being completely orthodox is somehow less spiritual, I haven’t found that to be the case. Again, just my very limited experience…

  73. Jared:

    Who could be the judge on that, it would take a person who has transcended the many categorizations. Even then, they would rarely taken at their word from many of the independent categorizations of members.

  74. #86 Cowboy:

    I agree to a point. The scriptures are our source of what Heavenly Father requires before we can receive the gift of Holy Ghost (the light of Christ is a different discussion).

    To receive the gift of the Holy Ghost the scriptures teach that one needs to do at least the following:

    1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
    2. Repentance (this is a life long requirement)
    3. Receive the ordinance of baptism by authority
    4. Accept that the church was restore by the Lord through the prophet Joseph Smith (this would be part of #1-3)
    5. Sustain church leaders
    6. Acquire a testimony of the Book of Mormon
    7. Diligently seek for the gift of the Holy Ghost (this means many things)
    8. Be faithful in trials
    9. Receive the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (born again, the mighty change, remission of sins, first comforter)
    10 And of course, all of this would need to done “prayerfully”.

    All of these put together in the correct way would constitute offering up a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

    With this brief outline in mind, I ask again: can the various categorizations of members as discussed in this post have equal access to the gift of the Holy Ghost?

  75. I’d better add that the scriptures point out there are exceptions to what I’ve listed above, Alma the younger being one. The sequence of events were different for him, but he still had to fulfill all on this list (and more) to maintain a remission of his sins.

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    I guess this is the question.

    Because it seems that they can and do. You have to be able to accept that there are different ways to, for example, “acquire a testimony of the BoM” or “sustain church leaders” while still qualifying in these ways.

  77. I’m a strong believer in the premise that people’s perceptions become their realities. For some, the ability to feel the spirit requires a long list of prerequisite requirements and therefore, due to their beliefs, they don’t feel it very often. Or the opposite, they get to believe they’re so good at living a certain way with certain beliefs, that God is now bound to send his spirit. (And indeed they believe they have earned it, so they allow themselves to feel it.) Both extremes show the premise of belief becoming reality.

    But consider this, during some of the darkest parts of my life, at times when I was worthy of no such divine help, I have felt some of the strongest feelings. Feelings that have helped me work through those dark times. I think that why I still believe in God despite my very heretical views about the LDS faith. If Jared’s list really was a requirement, then I should have been without it according to 4, 5, 6, and 8. Not sure how you want to explain this, but it’s my perception and therefore my reality…

  78. #90 Doug G. I experienced the same. When I was at my worst I felt the Spirit of the Lord enticing me to give up sin and to keep the commandments. The Lord does leave the ninety and nine to find His lost sheep. I know this by my own experience.

    The list I put together in #87 is what is necessary to acquire the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost doesn’t entice according to Elder McConkie. Enticing (Mosiah 3:19) is done by the “Holy Spirit” or in other words, the Light of Christ.

    I don’t think this doctrinal explanation is appreciated by many members; and in my opinion isn’t important to those who are trying to get their lives in order, as was the case with me. But for those who have their feet firmly planted on the path and are diligently seeking the gift of the Holy Ghost this distinction should be of interest to them.

    #91 Ray–I not sure of your point, but it appears you’re saying that when we’re baptized we receive the gift of he Holy Ghost and a remission of our sins. Many member believe this. If you’re in that camp, we need to talk.

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  80. Cool, Andrew. Thanks.

    Jared, I’m not saying that the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is received at baptism automatically and in all cases. I know of nothing in our records that says that is the case. However, I do believe that the ordinance illuminates (to some degree) ALL for whom it is performed if they are sincere and honest and repentant – and I do believe that there are individuals who literally are baptized by the Spirit upon performance of the ordinance. I believe it can happen suddenly and obviously, and I believe it can occur after a lengthy striving for it. No matter how long it takes, I believe it is a recognizable event when it occurs – but I also believe it is not available to all, as some have not the gift to know. I also believe that receiving the Holy Ghost is not an end result – that it is possible to receive the Holy Ghost and then lose it through denial and pride. I think that is fairly clear in our records.

    Finally, I think we tend to underestimate the influence of the Holy Ghost on those who are sincere and honest and repentant outside the Church (or struggling intellectually inside the Church) – that more people than we tend to believe can “walk in the Spirit” quite regularly without participating in the ordinance or being 100% certain of everything.

    My point is twofold: 1) that it is not perfectly clear to all when someone truly has received the Holy Ghost fully and walks with that member of the Godhead constantly; 2) that the Holy Ghost can enlighten minds, inspire, instruct, provide comfort, etc. in powerful ways even if someone doesn’t walk in constant companionship with it – or even know anything consciously of it.

    I think we tend to underestimate the power of God.

  81. In response to Jared’s question in 80, can the various categorizations of members as discussed in this post have equal access to the gift of the Holy Ghost?

    I found an interesting quote from Richard Bushman at http://pewforum.org/events/?EventID=148

    There is a clue given in a statement recently posted on the church’s newsroom Web page defining the bounds of church doctrine. It says, “Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of church doctrine.”

    The fact is that in Mormondom, the revelation doesn’t come solely to the president of the church, but rather infuses the whole church. Everyone is to receive revelation for their own positions, whether as a father or a bishop or a Sunday school teacher, or whatever it is. And that extends from church doctrine to political statements.

    So, Mormons believe that all of those strong injunctions to follow the prophet are one end of a paradox. The other end, they say, is that they have to decide for themselves whether they believe what the prophet says. So there is legitimacy within the church for taking an independent position, contrary to what the president of the church may say.

  82. In response to Jared’s question in 80, can the various categorizations of members as discussed in this post have equal access to the gift of the Holy Ghost?

    I found an interesting quote from Richard Bushman at the Pew Forum. (Every time I add a hyperlink, it gets deleted, so you’ll have to find it yourself.)

    There is a clue given in a statement recently posted on the church’s newsroom Web page defining the bounds of church doctrine. It says, “Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of church doctrine.”

    The fact is that in Mormondom, the revelation doesn’t come solely to the president of the church, but rather infuses the whole church. Everyone is to receive revelation for their own positions, whether as a father or a bishop or a Sunday school teacher, or whatever it is. And that extends from church doctrine to political statements.

    So, Mormons believe that all of those strong injunctions to follow the prophet are one end of a paradox. The other end, they say, is that they have to decide for themselves whether they believe what the prophet says. So there is legitimacy within the church for taking an independent position, contrary to what the president of the church may say.

  83. Jared, there is no doubt that the list of qualifiers you listed will each be sporadically supported by isolated statements throughout the scriptures and talks from modern leaders. Nevertheless, as you have pointed out there seems to be obvious exceptions to your list. A question for me that arises is, what is meant by “having the Holy Ghost”? Are we referring to the ability of heterodox Mormons to be able to access the “where are my car key’s” types of revelation, or ultimately qualify for The Holy Spirit of Promise. The nature of personal revelation is, almost without exception, a highly subjective experience – which requires that we either accept or reject a persons claims to it’s influence. As for the Holy Spirit of Promise, in the context of Mormonism, that list could have been simplified under “be ye therefore perfect…”, and you shall be saved. Again this must be subjective because I find it hard to believe that a person would intentionally be a non-conformist if they truly felt that it could impede, even damn, their Eternal progress.

  84. Ray,

    “I think we tend to underestimate the influence of the Holy Ghost on those who are sincere and honest and repentant outside the Church (or struggling intellectually inside the Church) – that more people than we tend to believe can “walk in the Spirit” quite regularly without participating in the ordinance or being 100% certain of everything.”

    Your statement is fairly middle-way thinking… And I agree… That should scare you!

    Jared,

    Thanks for your comments. I don’t entirely agree with your understanding of the Holy Ghost, but I do understand why you believe the way you do and I respect that.

    When I wrote about my darkest moments, I was referring to the time that I had to be honest with myself and admit that I no-longer had a testimony. The realization brought with it huge implications for my family, friends, and church callings. As I struggled with this overwhelming burden, I spent an inordinate amount of time in meditation and prayer trying figure out what I actually did still believe in. It was during this crisis of faith that I felt such strong feels of love and understanding from God or at least what I’ve always been taught to believe was the spirit. I felt very much at peace with my lack of belief in the restoration and developed a completely different world view about God and how he works with each of us. In the end, I realized that feelings of the spirit are available to anyone who seeks after it. Hence, men have created many religions around these “feelings” for a variety of reasons, some honorable, some not so much. God doesn’t turn off the switch; He seems content that his main message is still getting through. (You know the whole love God and your fellowman thing.) Of course this is just my reality based on my own limited view of things and built on a “feeling”, so not of much worth to anyone else, but it works for me.

    MH’s quote seems appropriate here as it states that we should endeavor to find the truth of things, which means by definition, we may come to a different conclusion. Who’s to say whether your “feeling” is anymore valid than mine…

  85. #99, 100, 101 Brothers MH, Cowboy, Doug G.,

    I see our return to Heavenly Father (because of the fall) as a path. We’re at various places on the path. We see through a glass darkly because of the veil, so we don’t know completely all that has gone on before, or even what is going on now. But I know from my experiences that He is there and based on His laws He responds to us. Because we’re at different places on the path His response comes to us in various ways.

    Speaking for myself, I experience “impressions” of the Spirit to help me find the car keys, as Cowboy said. I also have experienced, on a few occasions, an audible voice speaking to me (ministering of angels). Dreams and visions have been given to me as well. In addition, I find help from the Lord in the form of “packets of help”. I refer to this as serendipitous answers to prayer.

    The reason I am giving this detail is to say that what the Book of Mormon says about the Holy Ghost, gifts of the Spirit, and miracles is true. I know these things are true because I have experienced them. The Lord doesn’t always deal with us in subtle ways, some of the experiences I’ve had are anything but subtle.

    Parenthetically, I believe the Lord provides many blessing to people of other faiths, Christian and Non Christian, and no religion. But the gift of the Holy Ghost is a gift for the LDS.

    Cowboy asked, “what is meant by having the Holy Ghost”. I hope I have shed a little light on the question.

    Doug G says, “I realized that feelings of the spirit are available to anyone who seeks after it”.

    My experience at one point in my life taught me that I was being influenced by an evil spirit and didn’t realize it. How do I know, because I saw him. The Lord made him visible so I could see and hear him. He was swearing and threatening me with vile language and was exercising his power on me until I prayed for help. When I did, he was immediately powerless and walked away. It was painfully apparent to me that I had, by my choices, invited him and his influence to be part of my life.

    This is my experience. What I’ve learned from it is that there are two powers in the universe. God and satan. We are left to chose which we will follow. All of us will receive a kingdom of glory (save the few who become perdition). The only sure way back is to acquire the gift of the Holy Ghost and by so doing break away from the influence of the world and the prince of this world.

    Doug G. & others–you may be angry with me for my thoughts. I’m sensitive to that. The bloggernacle is filled with voices saying many things. I represent a voice that says unashamedly, that God restored His church and authority and it resides in the Mormon church today.

  86. Yes, Jared, I’m quite puzzled by your statement. Are you trying to elevate your spirituality and ability to receive Holy Ghost promptings above others?

  87. Jared,

    I don’t have a problem with your testimony; I guess I opened that door with some of my comments. You are certainly entitled to your feels and impressions just has everyone else is.

    Just a word of caution for future discussions, your inference that some else’s spiritual experience is a product of Satan is fairly offensive. I wouldn’t go down that path in talking about LDS people’s experiences and you probably shouldn’t either. Of course you have your free-agency, but I may get tired of buying popcorn for Andrew S. 🙂

    All the best Jared, I took no offence as I know where you get that from. I think I used to say lots of similar things back in the day…

  88. MH–No, but I do have a desire to increase faith in those I associate with.

    I have a question for you. If you were a running a 5 minute mile and you went to a miler training camp would you be interested in learner from those who were there? How would you feel towards those who were running sub 4 minute miles?

    One of the reason I came to the bloggernacle a year and a half ago was to learn from those who are turning in better times than I am.

  89. Doug G–I appreciate your attitude of understanding. I did infer that satan is a factor in our lives-all of our lives. This generally isn’t brought up because no one (I know) wants to think that is possible.

    Based on my experience, I admit when someone talks about losing their testimony, I suspect that the powers of darkness might be part of it. Is that the same as saying they are evil and no good and so forth. Not in my opinion. If someone is serious about religion then they can’t exclude the reality of satan. Doug G.–it causes me a lot of pain when I learn about lost testimonies. I hope only the best for all of us who are fellow travelers in this veil of tears.

  90. MH–I don’t know what your time is. I would be really pleased if you were faster than me. That would provide me with advantages I don’t have if I’m the fastest. I am here to learn and to help others learn–that’s the bottom line for me.

  91. Jared:

    It sounds like you are suggesting that you are in the instructor class at the four minute mile camp. Something that I have enjoyed about blogs is that I can participate on an even keel with discussions partners without having superiority issues taint the discussion. I might recommend trying to make your points here without trying to alter even relationships.

    Quite frankly Jared, I have read your post and I have also read your statements on a number of posts in the past. A consistent approach for you is to try and drive home with a fairly aggresive list of claims and experiences, all of which has a foot in Mormonism – and yet still feels foreign to the overall culture and norms surrounding the modern members experiences with our Father in Heaven. Suffice it to say, I will not go so far as to say that you are either wrong, or lying, and this because truthfully I don’t know that you are. Even so I have shown my colors here, that I find myself largely unconvinced of your claims.

    Now for some relevance to the issue. I do not know what experiences you have had, and I am not prepared to challenge you on them. Furthermore, I am willing to accept the possibility that your enlightment does in fact exceed the what appears to be the experience of the average member. Given your past comments and personal blog I am also willing to believe that your intentions are for good, and that you probably believe what you are saying. Yet I am still not sure how to reconcile your claims of experiences. It would be unfair for me to accuse you of lying, or to suggest that your are demented, or exaggerating. This is sort of how I feel about your well intentioned accusations that some who lose faith are under the influence of Satan. Could you be right? Sure, but you would never know it. Perhaps it would be best, for the sake of civility, to try and be less personally analytical and just discuss the issues.

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  93. Cowboy said: “I find myself largely unconvinced of your claims”.

    I’m not sure how you would characterize my claims, but I’ll briefly state my claim so as to not be misunderstood. I have been given a witness of the Book of Mormon and I have experienced a number of the things that the Book of Mormon teaches are available to followers of Christ.

    Yes, I have been straight forward and honest in what I’ve said. But no more so than those who are quick to express their claims of loss of faith, doubt, and disbelief (somehow that is acceptable and even encouraged in bloggernacle). I feel it is important to express my testimony as I’ve received it instead of putting it under a bushel. Have I done this perfectly. Probably not, but I don’t make any claims to perfection.

  94. Jared,

    It appears to me you have experienced some pretty cool spiritual experiences. I think what you’ve experienced is fantastic, and part of me is jealous because I haven’t experienced those things you have, and I do yearn for those types of experiences.

    You often speak with veiled references. I suspect you speak in veiled terms to not “cast pearls before swine”. I think this is a wise choice on your part. However, I can’t help but feel a sense of superiority on your part–that you’re somehow more spiritual than others here. Even with veiled references, this still comes through. You can be self-deprecating, when called on it, which is probably a wise thing on your part. But still, it does come across with a touch or arrogance, IMO.

    Maybe it’s that I am spiritually inferior, maybe I’m jealous–maybe it’s me that’s the problem. Still, if I were you, I’d probably be more careful in expressing these personal things. Yes, testimony can be a wonderful thing, but mishandled (by either the giver or receiver), it can be used as a weapon.

    Hopefully, you’ve noted that some of the people who express loss of faith, doubt, and disbelief also are criticized for it, so don’t be surprised when your expressions of faith, hope, and belief are criticized as well. People here come from all spectrums, and we probably all annoy someone who may be on the opposite end of the spectrum when we express our opinions.

  95. Jared:

    In hopes of not being misunderstood, I will add this final comment. I was not intending to challenge your claims or experiences. You are very open on your blog, as well as in your performance here. I am recommending that the courtesy you expect for your claims is a two way street. Suggesting that those who have lost faith are somehow under the influence of Satan (even if that is what you believe) is unfair and unproductive in these conversations. You cannot be certain that that is the case, and you can not prove that it is the case – it just becomes a subjective argument. Disagreement is of course fine, and happens quite frequently and productively without the “holier than thou” treatment.

  96. #115 & 116 M.H. & Cowboy–I’ve had the night to rest up from yesterday. When I read your most recent comments I actually felt relieved because of the kind, but honest sentiments expressed.

    I don’t think in terms of superior and inferior or “holier than thou”, but I can see how others can feel this way from my remarks. I don’t know how to get around this, I don’t think it is completely possible and yet stay on message.

    I am trying to refine the message I have to give in this new media of communication that is call the bloggernacle. The message is really simple: all who have been baptized have access to the gift of the Holy Ghost. But for various reasons this simple message appears to get obscured in the clamor of the bloggernacle.
    Lehi and Nephi’s vision of the tree of life give the best explanation, I know of, as to how this happens.

    I see myself as one who is saying, “Hey, this is the way, I’ve been down that path and it is a dead end, come this way, I’ve traveled this path far enough to know this is the right way.”

    The bloggernacle is frequented by those who are:

    ex-mormons 5%
    new order mormons 5%
    questioning their faith mormons 20%
    intellectual mormons 50%
    do good mormons 18%
    testimony bearing mormons 2%

    Note: Of course these percentage are a guesstimate on my part.

    I’ll define my idea of a “do good mormon”. These well meaning members teach the moral and ethical principles of the gospel, but leave out the Doctrine of Christ. That’s equivalent to having a race car built for speeds of two hundred miles an hour and then putting a 4 horse power lawn mower engine in it.

    Lastly, I’ve recently become aware of a couple of church members who have traveled the path to the end. I am in touch with the family of one of them, he died a few years ago. If I can receive permission from them I would like to write a few things about his life.

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  98. and I think your percentages are wrong – unless by “testimony bearing” you mean “do nothing but bear testimony”. In that case, it might be lower than 2% – and that’s not a bad thing. I think overall it’s probably 10% “got it all figured out Mormons” and 90% “sharing perspectives and trying to understand a little better Mormons” – with the exact percentages changing radically depending on the specific site.

    I believe in bearing testimony, Jared, but I also believe in pursuing a fuller understanding – of contemplating various perspectives to seek intellectual insight I’d not considered previously. I learn things (or see things differently) from some of your comments, but I also have that same thing happen from comments of others who fit all your categories. Doug G, Cowboy, hawkgrrrl, Andrew Ainsworth, kuri, Andrew S, valoel, (sorry everyone else, but I was trying to type examples of very different perspectives) and everyone else here (ALL of them) contribute something here and there that makes my head and spirit snap back a bit and say, “Wow, I’ve never thought of it quite like that before.”

    I believe in the exploration of the universe – mentally, spiritually, physically, scientifically, religiously, etc. I want to feel and know and understand on all levels. That’s the primary purpose of the Bloggernacle, generally speaking – to go beyond the approach that is available at church and explore in more and varied ways. I’m not sure you have come to grips with that primary purpose.

    I respect your perspective greatly; I just realize that it comes across sometimes as a value judgment based on your characterizations/categories – like you’re trying to extend church-building-based lessons into these discussions without honoring the different motivations for each. You’ve just said you aren’t trying to do that, and I believe you, but (as one “deeply believing” Mormon to another) I simply encourage you to consider how to “bear your testimony” in a way that doesn’t come across to others as wielding a hammer and devaluing their own experiences – in a way that furthers the intellectual discussions occurring. There is a place for testimony bearing in the Bloggernacle, but there is a place for NOT bearing testimony – and they are pretty clearly defined when you step back a bit and look at both as legitimate forms of exploration.

    I hope that makes sense to you, since I really do respect you and your sincerity.

  99. Hi Ray–

    I appreciate your “epistle”, it’s revealing of your inner qualities and sagacity.

    First, my off the cuff statistical analysis of the various personalities in the bloggernacle is a little serious and a little tongue in cheek. The main point I sought to make is that the Doctrine of Christ makes an anemic showing even among those who are TBM. I wonder if there isn’t an over emphasis on exploring the ethic and moral principles; and possibly some confusion that the two are of equal importance (my race car analogy).

    Second, I used the phrase, “testimony bearing mormons” to mean those who have TBM testimony that is evident in their writing; not that they are actually bearing testimony–though it is refreshing when they do.

    Third, I agree that one of the joys of the bloggernacle is having a “makes my head and spirit snap back a bit” moment. I feel that going beyond church house exploration of “gospel” subject is a contribution uniquely suited to the bloggernacle. It’s how it is done that I am coming to grips with. I feel that all subjects should be present and accounted for. On this thread (#103) I floated the idea that satan is a factor in all our lives; I used myself as an example–that really created some hostility. After making that comment I was on the receiving end of hammer wielding censure. I am finding that even among TBM there seems to be a consensus that not all subjects are welcome, even those found in the pages of the Book of Mormon. That is what I’m having trouble coming to grips with. Our doctrine concerning satan influence being but one example.

    Lastly, I sense you are primarily interested in cautioning me about sharing sacred experiences, but didn’t want to do it head on. When I’ve shared sacred experiences it has not been done with the idea of bearing a testimony like is done at church. The rationale I have used to do this is two fold: 1) to confront those who disparage “impressions of the Spirit”. When I first came to the bloggernacle there were those who kept saying that testimonies originate from feeling and impressions, and then went on to say that they can’t be trusted. There were many post saying that “certainty” is foolish. That is went I decided to share my experiences of certainty based on how I came to be certain. Impressions of the Spirit are the primary way the Lord guides us in our day, but not always, as I have tried to point out, 2) This comes under the heading of “where much is given, much is required”. All TBM, and even some not so TB, have gifts given to them that they need to develop and properly use to build up the kingdom. I know what I’ve been given and I am want to please the Lord by helping others, building faith in some, and creating doubt in the doubters. Have I been successful? The answer is, yes and no. Alma the younger is an example to me. I relate to him. He was quick to talk about his experiences with believers and unbelievers. I’m not Alma, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t learn from him. There is nothing that would bring me more joy than to have just one soul catch fire because of something I’ve related and then went the Lord in mighty prayer and received experiences as I have. My prayer is that there will be others who will be second witnesses to what I have been saying. And that is: TBM’s make it a priority to obtain the fullness of the Holy Ghost.

    This is getting long I’ll stop here. Thanks again, Ray.

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  101. Jared,
    You’ll forgive me brother, but this comment is confusing to me.

    “When I first came to the bloggernacle there were those who kept saying that testimonies originate from feeling and impressions, and then went on to say that they can’t be trusted. There were many post saying that “certainty” is foolish.”

    If this was pointed at my story then you didn’t read my post very carefully. I think any good shrink will tell you that having a spiritual side is as necessary to good mental health as any of the other areas in one’s life. Well balanced people understand that need and cultivate spiritual feelings for others and something greater than themselves. Because feelings are important, no one should try and mitigate there need. I personally believe spiritual feelings come from God, but they certainly don’t have to. I recognize that my feelings are no more valid than yours in determining truth. Therefore, I have beliefs that are real for me, but not for you. (Kind-of deep, I know)

    If you go back and read my posts on this thread, I’ll see that I’m very careful not to insist that my reality of “God” is any more valid than anyone else’s. You believe your feelings and experiences justify your perception of “God” for yourself and everyone else. If we’re being fair and objective, there is no-way for you to know what kind of feelings I’ve experienced and no-way for me to know what you have felt. Therefore, feelings are subjective and not very useful in determining truth.

    This is why I can tell you that I’m at peace with my beliefs and confident that my spiritual side is in balance. (I wasn’t always so confident and some of that can be seen in posts I wrote here over a year ago.) Because my truth conflicts with your truth, you state that my peace must come from the devil. I could say the same for your experiences, but I don’t.

    Now if you want to talk about temporal things that don’t require “feelings” to figure out, then I’m all for the discussion. For example, if the Book of Abraham is a literal translation of the papyri, then we should be able to validate that claim without needing to rely on “feelings”. If you want to discuss whether God is real or not, then feelings are a very valid way to approach the subject. Why? Because that’s all we have to go on and everyone is entitled to their view based on their “feelings” and experiences.

    So what’s the long and the short of this? I completely understand why you believe what you do and why. I respect that belief and even agree that you have a perfectly good reason to be so convinced. (Now here’s the hard part for you.) You in turn should understand why I believe what I do and respect that as well.

    God Bless

  102. Doug G.– I’m pleased to hear from you.

    First off, I don’t know your whole story. My remarks were not pointed at you. Actually, my remarks weren’t point at anyone in particular. My remarks are pointed at a concepts, philosophies, or what the Book of Mormon refers to as the “precepts of men”.

    The Lord taught Joseph Smith:

    But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, cconsidering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils. D&C 46:7

    My remarks are almost always directed at “precepts”. I am not attempting to put anyone down, or trying to lift anyone up.

    You said, “I recognize that my feelings are no more valid than yours in determining truth. Therefore, I have beliefs that are real for me, but not for you.”

    I agree with this to a point. The problem with feelings is that they are subject to God, satan, and man as the scripture above teaches. So the questions becomes, how do we sort out all of the feelings we experience? This question is answered in the scriptures and it always comes down to one thing, gain and keep the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Those who have acquire a witness that helps them avoid deception.

    You said, “Because my truth conflicts with your truth, you state that my peace must come from the devil. I could say the same for your experiences, but I don’t.”

    I never said that. The scriptures don’t give me the authority to tell someone that (common sense either). As a follower of Christ I do have the responsibility to say that we all need to be on guard against the fiery darts of the adversary. That is what I was attempting to say.

    I use the scriptures as my criteria, and seek the Holy Ghost to be my guide. This certainly doesn’t make me infallible–not even the Lord’s prophet is, but it gives me and anyone else who puts their foot on the path to follow Christ, a clear advantage. This is why I comment the way I do. I am using the scriptures as my criteria. Those who follow Christ are obligated to do so. I am reminding those who would follow Christ to stick with one measuring device/criteria. When one does they will be less likely to be confused by the doctrines of men and devils.

    You said, “You in turn should understand why I believe what I do and respect that as well.”

    As I said before, I see myself as one who is saying, “Hey, this is the way, I’ve been down that path and it is a dead end, come this way, I’ve traveled this path far enough to know this is the right way.”

    We are free to choose our path, but we are not free to choose the results of our choices. Please don’t think I disrespect your choice of paths. We came here to make those choices. The Lord gave us our agency and He also said:

    And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness. D&C 38:41

    This is what I am trying to do. I apparently missed the mark. But maybe what I’ve said here will help remedy that some.

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    What if everyone sees themselves as ones who are saying, “Hey, this is the way, I’ve been down that path and it is a dead end; come this way; I’ve traveled this path far enough to know this is the right way.” And then…it turns out that everyone thinks they have it and everyone thinks they have confirmation, but they are all saying different things? And everyone recognizes that they will accept the consequences of their choices, but they feel that since they are on the right path, they will have right consequences.

  104. Andrew S.–

    Good question. This brings us to the Doctrine of Christ. The first step is baptism. Next the follower of Christ needs to focus, even rivet their attention on obtaining the promised gift of the Holy Ghost. From my observation and my experience members rarely pursue this gift as they should. In my case, I wandered away from the church and was lost. For reason not entirely clear to me, the Lord, responded to my prayer and desire to know if the Book of Mormon was true. I told Him I would read it. Before I had time to even obtain a copy I found myself in the presence of an evil spirit and it was only through prayer that I was delivered. I can’t put into words what it is like be given that kind of experience. There is nothing subtle about it. Its like being assaulted by a would be killer. I was left knowing with a certainty that there are evil spirits and that God hears prayers.

    I did what I could to put my life in order. About six years later I found myself in a crisis. I plead with the Lord for help. I asked the Lord to forgive me of my sins. I found myself praying in a way that I knew was something special. I was given the gift of prayer. After struggling in mighty prayer the Lord forgave me of my sins. This was manifest to me by fire and the Holy Ghost. This is not a subtle experience. It can’t be explained away by those who receive it. All doubt is replaced by certainty.

    All of us need to receive the baptism of the Spirit in order to have a complete baptism. Baptism by water is half a baptism. When a follower of Christ reaches this point on the path he is very different than he was before. The mighty change allows one to have greater access to the Lord. This is the message of the Book of Mormon.

    Andrew, I know as well as any of the writers in the Book of Mormon what path I am on. I hope I can be faithful and fulfill the next part of my journey and that is to receive the 2nd Comforter. I am a witness to these things and I am trying in mildness and meekness to relate these things to others.

    I would say that there are many members in the bloggernacle who are on the path to receiving a remission of their sins and thereby obtaining the gift of the Holy Ghost. I hope to encourage them on. I saw a labyrinth recently that was a real work of art in its intricacy. It reminded of the bloggernacle and the challenges facing church members of our day.

    I’ve attempted to answer your question by saying the path is found in the Book of Mormon. Become an expert on this book and, the words of those the Lord has called to lead His church. Learn and understand the Doctrine of Christ. Spend the bulk of your time in that effort. Spending too much time trying to figure out the problems in church history and other subjects of the same ilk will keep you wandering in the labyrinth longer than necessary. If a crisis develops in your life call upon the Lord and trust in Him and lean not unto your own understanding. Listen to the voices of those who are on the path that call upon you to hold to the iron rod. Those who are caught up in the labyrinth of the great and spacious building are not on the correct path. You will know those who are on the correct path by what their spending their time on and what their saying. Their message will be Christ centered. Some of the most difficult parts of the labyrinth to master are where TBM are teaching doctrines that will land you in the Terrestrial Kingdom. I’ll end it here.

  105. I hate it when people say, “I use the scriptures as my criteria”.

    Everybody thinks their own interpretation of scriptures is the correct interpretation, yet there are thousands of religious denominations that “use the scriptures as [their] criteria.” Apparently the scriptures aren’t so cut and dried. If they were, we’d all agree.

  106. Quote 1)”…and, the words of those the Lord has called to lead His church.”

    Quote 2)”Spending too much time trying to figure out the problems in church history and other subjects of the same ilk will keep you wandering in the labyrinth longer than necessary.”

    Jared, how do you reconcile these two injunctions? Should we study the words of those The Lord has called to lead his Church, and still not waste our time in studying the past. Much of what constitutes Church history, particularly where there is controversy, lies wholly in the words of those in whom The Lord at one time called to lead his Church. Today the leaders say very little with absolute certainty, and nothing which is unique from mainstream conservative Christianity.

  107. “Today the leaders say very little with absolute certainty, and nothing which is unique from mainstream conservative Christianity.”

    The first part, yes – and I am glad; the second part, no – and I am glad. 😉

  108. #131 Hi MH–I think this is an excellent point.

    This is where Joseph Smith was when the Lord called him to be the prophet of the restoration. With additional scripture, prophets, and authority the LDS church has the answer we need to travel the labyrinth of mortality.

    One of the presidents of the United States asked Joseph Smith what was the difference between the Mormons and other churches. Joseph responded, we have the Holy Ghost.

    With the Holy Ghost’s help the scriptures can be understood as the Lord gave them.

  109. #132 Cowboy–

    That is a paradox. The way I resolved it was by calling on the Lord. As I said many times, because of the experiences I’ve been given they trump the challenges posed by church history and like things. There’s no contest.

    Church leaders, today, and throughout sacred history have shown they are not infallible.

    We live in a fallen world. That means we’re spiritually dead and the only way back is through the doctrine of Christ.

    #133 Ray– do you think President Monson knows with certainty that the Lord’s lives and that He restored the church through the prophet Joseph Smith? If the answer is yes, as I would expect, then his live is a testimony of certainty.

  110. Short of Temple ordinaces, Priesthood, and The Godhead, ie The Restoration (which I will concede are all core beliefs) very little of what you will hear tomorrow at conference this weekend will be all that different from what could be heard at a conservative Christian Church (excluding the radical televangelist types).

  111. Jared:

    I think we have made our points. I don’t feel that there is anything I can add to the conservation that won’t take us back to place we have already been. Thanks for the dialogue.

  112. Jared

    RE: #130

    I recently started reading a book titled “Nine O’Clock in the Morning”. It’s about an episcopal priest and his experience with the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. His description of what he felt is nearly identical to what you describe.

    Secondly, my feeling about the Book of Mormon is the opposite of yours. It started with reading it out loud with my children. We read through it twice but it only seemed to confirm my feelings about it. I read it again as a response to President Hinckley’s challenge but the result was the same and when out of the country last year I tried one more time and only got as far as the passages about horses, etc.

    My question is why are your experiences different and why do they lead you to the conclusions you’ve come to.

  113. Going back to the part of the original discussion on this thread. It seems that the discussion regarding whether or not to “come out” regarding ones liberal mormon views is being discussed partially in an all or nothing fashion.

    I agree that for some being more vocal in certain #1 ward cultures can create a negative backlash. In addition, one shouldn’t feel forced to put up a negative front and hide their true beliefs. I also believe that there are social niceties and contextual/environmental considerations to be made when prioritizing what to share when.

    I disagree with the view that one should jump into disclosing ones LM perspectives in a radical fashion. Rather the idea of mindful and continual slow spreading and blossoming of LM perspectives is more warranted.

    Like the quote by George Albert Smith I believe (Paraphrasing) “I believe you can get someone to do anything…if you can get them to do it at all, by loving them into doing it.”

    Often too fast and too soon creates resistance.

  114. #141 GB Smith–

    I’ll have to read “Nine O’Clock in the Morning”. Thanks for mentioning it.

    I can’t speak for anyone else but myself. If the Lord chooses to give a minister a blessing that is up to Him. The Book of Mormon relates experiences that are compatible with what happened to the minister. Laman and Lemuel experienced many manifestation of things spiritual even though they didn’t appear to be “worthy” of it. They saw an angel, heard the voice of the Lord, and were witness to many miracles. In the Book of Helaman the Lord gave a powerful manifestation to men who were ready to kill the prophets Lehi and Nephi.

    I’ve known many people who have read the Book of Mormon and relate the same experience as you do. I don’t know the answer for sure. I suspect it has to do with the way we approach the Lord. He tells us to diligently seek. To diligently seek means more than to merely seek. When the word diligently is used to emphasize the kind of seeking the Lord requires before a desired blessing can be obtained, it’s telling us it won’t be easy. Obtainable, yes, but the Lord will make the judgment when we have risen to the level of “diligently seeking”. Then, and only then, will a blessing be granted. As every missionary knows, not everyone who seeks-obtains. In you account of reading the Book of Mormon numerous times without results you didn’t indicate anything about prayer or fasting.

    GB Smith asked: “My question is why are your experiences different and why do they lead you to the conclusions you’ve come to.”

    Once again, I can’t say for sure why the Lord gave me the experiences He did. He tells us, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” This not only instructs each of us to forgive one another, but it also tells us something about the Lord. He is in charge, but at the same time we know he is perfect so we don’t need to worry about how He fulfills His word.

    Regarding the conclusions I’ve reached: I would say that any rational being whose experienced what I have couldn’t reach any other conclusion.

    I’m aware of the challenges church history and doctrine give to those who are inclined to study. I’m likewise inclined. I’ve studied it all and can understand the power of disbelief that it can present. However, the Lord will help us deal with all of this if we seek His help. There is abundant testimony to this help from many church members who spend their lives studying church history and doctrine.

    I believe if those who are surrounding themselves with reasons to disbelieve, would give as much energy to seeking a testimony of the Book of Mormon in the Lord’s way, they would acquire a testimony from the Holy Ghost and their disbelief would be healed.

    You didn’t say how your son felt about the Book of Mormon after reading it with you.

  115. “I believe if those who are surrounding themselves with reasons to disbelieve, would give as much energy to seeking a testimony of the Book of Mormon in the Lord’s way, they would acquire a testimony from the Holy Ghost and their disbelief would be healed.”

    Jared:

    If it is okay I would like to jump back in here, and echo the sentiments of some comments on the Fair Blogsite from some time ago.

    Why would it be, in your opinion, more virtuous for someone to approach The Book of Mormon from the position of trying to gain a testimony, than it is to study it’s history?

    More to the point, do you also believe we must study out the tenets and literature of any other faith in order to gain a testimony of that religion?
    If not, then why should one begin with the intent of believing in Mormonism rather than other faiths?
    In other words, could it be reasonably argued that the reason I am not a Muslim is because I have not studied it with the intent of getting a testimony of Islam?

    Why should a testimony be desirous prior to acquiring it.
    Could not this desire, be seen as a questionable factor towards confirmation bias?

  116. Cowboy–

    Of course it’s OK.

    Cowboy said: “Why would it be, in your opinion, more virtuous for someone to approach The Book of Mormon from the position of trying to gain a testimony, than it is to study it’s history.”

    In my opinion, a person could study the Book of Mormon for whatever reason brought them to the task. Some read it– to disprove it –so that a loved one won’t join the church. Others, are just curious. I’d imagine there are scores of reason people read the book. However, if they are wanting to obtain a manifestation from the Holy Ghost then they need to do it in the Lord’s way.

    Cowboy said: “Could not this desire, be seen as a questionable factor towards confirmation bias?”

    Yes, I think someone can make an argument that if we read the BoM for a testimony then that will set the stage for one and make it a self fulfilling event. I’m sure this kind of thing happens. But how long will that kind of experience last? This could account for the reason people leave the church shortly after joining.

    On the other side of this issue are those who do receive an authentic testimony from the Holy Ghost. Their membership in the church is not fragile. They’ve had a conversion experience. A few years ago I read a book by Eugene England, “Converted to the Christ Through the Book of Mormon”. This gives the reader a feel for what a true experience with the Holy Ghost is like.

    Cowboy said: “do you also believe we must study out the tenets and literature of any other faith in order to gain a testimony. If not, then why should one begin with the intent of believing in Mormonism rather than other faiths. In other words, could it be reasonably argued that the reason I am not a Muslim is because I have not studied it with the intent of getting a testimony.”

    In my opinion, birth into this world is not an accident. I believe every birth has the Lord’s hand in it. The Lord tells us His house is a house of order. This being the case, then I would assume the family, country, religion, and culture we’re born into was part of the plan for those thus born. I also believe that the Lord “plants” those who are receptive to the restored church in every country and circumstance. In other words, the Lord gives us opportunities based on our birth but that doesn’t mean we’ll all embrace His gifts. I believe it is a great blessing to be born with exposure to the Mormon church. I accept it has the Lord’s restored church. But that doesn’t mean the Lord doesn’t set the stage for people to become members of a wide variety of churches. Obviously, He knows someone born into a Muslim county is going be drawn to the faith of their culture. Not everyone is supposed to be a Mormon. We’re all at different places on the path to eternal life and I believe the Lord uses many churches to accomplish His purposes. Temple work is His blessing to all mankind to become members of His church–The Church of the First Born.

    The doctrine of multiple glories is not restricted to the next life.

  117. #148 Ray–isn’t that the truth. Blind spots are a real nuisance. They only become visible to your wife after marriage and when you suffer the consequences of stepping into them.

  118. Jared, thank you for your thoughtful response. My son was about 10 at the time and he and his 3 sisters I think were happy to read it since it was a family thing but there hasn’t been any long lasting effect in terms of spirituality. As for me I started reading the Book of Mormon as a missionary with the mindset that it was true and that continued for many years. I wasn’t until I read and heard it read audibly from cover to cover twice that my feelings changed.

    I am curious about your statement:

    “In my opinion, birth into this world is not an accident. I believe every birth has the Lord’s hand in it.”

    That would seem to indicate that people born into desperate circumstances such as famine, war, disease are at God’s will. I know this post has nothing to do with evil and suffering but maybe you could address it another time.

    Lastly, on thread, having these sorts of opinions means for me being quiet and not saying much in church. As a nephew in law of mine said once, Sunday school is catechism, not a discussion.

  119. Jared:

    150 – There is something that we can entirely agree upon.

    149 – “Not everyone is supposed to be a Mormon. We’re all at different places on the path to eternal life and I believe the Lord uses many churches to accomplish His purposes. Temple work is His blessing to all mankind to become members of His church–The Church of the First Born.”

    That is an interesting perspective. Obviously Mormons would be out of touch if we believed that everybody was supposed to be born into a condition which would lead them to join the Church. That is sort of where our unique doctrines surrounding Salvation for the dead come into play. Even still, your assertion that God desires that many of the people who are born into the various cultures are intended to be driven to various forms of apostate Christianity is unique. How do you reconcile the notion that early Mormon Rhetoric, JS History for example, is laden with examples where the numerous iterations of Christianity were far removed from The Lord, with your argument that The Lord uses these Churches to bring about his righteous purposes by drawing souls to, what one Apostle said was The Whore of all The Earth? Particularly when LDS scriptures conclude that these various Churches corrupted the Lords gospel by removing many of it’s “plain and precious parts”, and that Satan is their author.

    Your statement seems almost universalist, though it bears an obvious semblance to the Church’s more contemporary interfaith public relations effort, which tend to demphasize the apostate nature of all other Churches and rather emphasize our Church as a fullness of truth in a religious sea of partial/incomplete truths. This notwithstanding, if you believe that God will drive souls unto other Churches, what gives you your assurance that the LDS Church is the actual “True” Church, and not just the Church you are being guided to in light of the culture you are in?

  120. #151 GB Smith–thanks to you.

    #152 Cowboy said: “How do you reconcile the notion that early Mormon Rhetoric, JS History for example, is laden with examples where the numerous iterations of Christianity were far removed from The Lord, with your argument that The Lord uses these Churches to bring about his righteous purposes by drawing souls to, what one Apostle said was The Whore of all The Earth? Particularly when LDS scriptures conclude that these various Churches corrupted the Lords gospel by removing many of it’s “plain and precious parts”, and that Satan is their author.”

    I think it has to do with perspective. Your assignment can paint you into a box. I think the apostles and prophets are in a box and are required by their assignment to speak and advocate within the restraints of their calling. They can think outside of the box, and they do, but when they speak they are obligated to be restrained. This really isn’t unusual it can be seen in nearly every profession. The Bloggernacle is a counter example of what I am saying, it’s like the wild west, we have few restraints.

    Elder McConkie spoke from the position of an LDS apostle and when comparing the restored church to any other he was blunt. He didn’t say an untruth, but he didn’t cover all the bases either. I think apostles from Joseph Smith’s day to our own would say that there are many wonderful people in other religions and that their training in their respective churches helped them become that way.

    There is another aspect to your question that doesn’t get talked about often and that is the Lord sends some of His children into this world to very difficult circumstances. We see this with some of the diseases children get. It appears to be the same for the kind of political system, religion, and culture we may be born into. This kinds of experiences are not wasted. The Lord uses dreadful experience to are advantage.

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