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  1. If “worthiness” interviews were based off the lyrics in the Hymn “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today”, we’d have an accurate picture of the individuals “worthiness”, in my opinion.

    Also, I’m 29 and can attest to the internalization of guilt as a youth for some of the silliest, smallest of “sins” and plenty of guilt for things I was an accessory to but not responsible for. All this guilt stopped me from going on a mission in 2008. What a shame that I self-selected myself out of an amazing opportunity.

  2. There is a shift in the church to be more accepting of our selves as we are, that the grace of God enables us to be worthy of his love and blessings. I believe we are half way where we need to be on this topic.

    Twenty years ago the church was a lot tougher on its members, still some old timers with those old ideas, but the new generation has this figured out with the new leadership in place thanks to people like Brad Wilcox and President Urchdorf.

  3. I’m a relative newcomer to the podcast but I’m a huge fan. Loved this discussion about worthiness. After years of considering what it meant to be worthy, I concluded that what I had learned about worthiness was a false and harmful concept. If by worthiness we mean meriting or capable of interaction with God or deserving of His love, we are all worthy. If we mean complying with all the rules, worthiness is the wrong word. I’d love to be rid of the word or else change completely the way it is discussed.

    1. Joining this discussion a little late, but you got it right when you equated “worthiness” as it is taught and understood in the church with “compliance”. They are not identical. For example, I had a new bishop who did not even know me or anything about me declare me “unworthy” during a first visit to my home based solely upon perceived lapse in Sunday attendance that was caused my work schedule. What great discernment would qualify someone who does not even know you to declare someone “unworthy”? Non-compliant at that particular point in time, perhaps, and with good reason IMO, but “unworthy”? Much of what gets labeled as worthy/unworthy has more to do with complying with constantly evolving social behavior and standards. Even such things as large or scruffy beards, skirts vs pants, or the color of your shirt can qualify or disqualify you from a worthy label within certain circles in the church (usually by labeling you “rebellious” or perhaps “prideful” or even “disobedient”), but such matters actually have little or nothing to do with actual worthiness. Willing to bet a dollar women can wear slacks in heaven and the color of your shirt isn’t going to earn you any points with the Savior.

  4. I think it’s highly unlikely that the church will allow for sin/misdeed resolution outside of the bishopric, e.g., with YW leaders or Primary leaders or RS leaders. That would add another layer of training and complexity (and thus risk) for a benefit that I doubt the higher-ups could envision. It’s much easier to train and control a smaller group of bishops.

    But I do like the idea because I, having daughters, don’t want them interviewed about intimate details in their lives by a man, though well-meaning he may be.

  5. JRC,

    You are probably right about the likelihood of that happening anytime soon.

    But the training the church currently spends so much effort on is mostly either administrative or related to gospel teaching. There is little in the way of counseling (none?) beyond what you get in the handbook. So I don’t see flattening those duties as a drain on the current system.

  6. Wonderful discussion!

    I was trained as a bishop to withhold the sacrament from someone who repeatedly looked at porn or masturbated or engaged in petting or sex with someone else and that this was to be used to help drive home the seriousness of the offenses and to help inspire them to be clean. The public shaming aspect of this is more acute than Utah Mormons can know. In a ward with dozens of deacons, teachers and priests, very few people will notice if a young man doesn’t pass the sacrament, but when you have 5 Aaronic Priesthood holders in the whole ward, when you are sitting on the bench, everyone knows that you did something immoral. It is demoralizing to the youth and I watched it inspire more than one either not to come during the period of their sacrament abstinence or show up late, just to avoid the public disclosure of what no boy wants to telegraph to the whole ward. Again, in a Utah ward where these standards are devised, the public shame probably extends just to the family members sitting next to the boy and maybe the boy who is passing the sacrament to him.

    Contrast that with what mission presidents do. Mission presidents spend a lot of time counseling missionaries on porn and masturbation. Do the missionaries get benched? Forbidden from teaching, administering ordinances, or anything else other than maybe being a leader or trainer? I’m told that the answer is no in the vast majority of cases.

    When the Church published Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts, I noticed these lines that suggest that the sacrament and temple worship can help strengthen the person who is struggling with bad behaviors, https://www.lds.org/bc/content/ldsorg/content/english/family/family-well-being/combatting-pornography/pdf/LetVirtueGarnishThyThoughts.pdf

    “Attending Church meetings and par-
    taking of the sacrament, keeping the
    Sabbath day holy, fasting, and paying
    tithing will help you keep yourself free
    of the darkness of the world (see D&C
    59:9). Appropriate music and uplifting
    visual images will invite the Spirit into
    your life.
    Regular worship and service in the
    temple will also strengthen you.”

    This suggests that we should totally change the historical approach of withholding these powerful life-changing catalysts. The justification for the past practice is that just as baptism is for those who repent, so also is the renewal of our baptismal covenants just for those who repent, but when we formulate it in that way, we forget that repentence is a process. In the moment I say, I wish I hadn’t done that and I’m going to try not to do that again, that is enough for our Heavenly Parents to work with. Ironically, in the moment when I say I wish I hadn’t done that and I’m going to try not to do that again and once I (without any help from the sacrament) have licked this problem, I will be worthy of the atonement again, I am distancing myself from the grace whose purpose and function it is to help me as a struggling sinner.

  7. I sincerely appreciate the discussion surrounding worthiness, although I don’t quite agree with the panelists that we should entirely avoid the term “worthy,” or even “guilt.” I do think we as a people need to be emotionally tougher than that. We shouldn’t avoid the terms because some people misunderstand them or get uncomfortable. Instead, we should discuss them in an appropriate context: for example, we could make sure people understand that serious sins can keep us from the temple (i.e. we’re “unworthy” to enter the temple), or even from taking the sacrament (although I agree with the panelists that for a person striving to follow God, withholding of the sacrament may be counter-productive), we are always worthy to approach our Heavenly Father. This panel did a great job of clearly describing the context in which we are all worthy in the eyes of God.

  8. I love Mormonism, but as a father of 4 young children, this is one of the reasons that we left the church and now attend a church that is clear of the baggage that the Mormon institution has around guilt, shame and a God who is “mocked” when we don’t hold up our part of the bargain.

    I love the discussion here and appreciate the divine good that the leaders on the podcast are doing for the youth to represent a loving father. The way to godliness is transformation by love, not compliance by fear and guilt. His yoke is easy.

    Thanks for the wonderful work you do Dan!

  9. Several years ago, Elder Maynes of the Seventy spoke at our Stake Conference. I will never forget the way he defined worthiness which has been a great and comforting motivator for me. He defined worthiness as “on the path–striving”.

  10. Dan — and everyone one of your guests — this was one of the most wonderful episode you have done! It was so insightful. I love the approach of loving people into seeing that commandments are guides for a more fruitful and bountiful life, and that guilt-tripping generally isn’t a helpful thing. One caveat I have, from personal experience, my wife’s ex (first husband) was a deceiving, adulterous, even sexual predator, who was only slapped on the wrist when finally taken to a church court. He wasn’t excommunicated after several affairs and seem to have been coddled, while his wife at the time was never even consulted or talked to about what was happening. After they eventually were divorced, he continued to treat her demeaning and pejoratively (not seeing any evidence of sorrow, repentance, or change in behavior), continued in church callings, and eventually ended up in federal prison on child molestation charges. Long story short, I think the church (at least in this case and some others I’ve seen), seemed to take his word for everything, pampered him, and never took the action that needed to take place for such serious “crimes,” which they were. So I am all with you, especially on the youth end of this, but also see caution when there are some serious issues going on that need to be addressed. But discerning a deceiver/lier can be a hard thing to do sometimes. Thanks again for a very wonderful program.

  11. I loved this! Thank you for the discussion. The idea of worthiness inspires fear instead of the love of God. I especially think barring anyone from taking the sacrament (including doing it to yourself) is really damaging. It is supposed to be the cleansing and rejuvenation that we need. Instead the sacrament turns into an opportunity for public shaming. An individual might not come to a leader for counsel and help (and risking being told they can’t take the sacrament), so they just endure their own pain alone.

    When I was a young woman I went to my bishop about some “trouble” I got into with my boyfriend. I was told I shouldn’t take the sacrament. The first Sunday I didn’t take the sacrament was my 16th birthday. My parents noticed and my Mom ignored me all day and into the next. My father gave me a lecture about how I wasn’t really a virgin anymore and how I could have maintained that title (???) if I waited until I was married to kiss/pet and of course have sex. There was no celebration that I was born that day. I guess I didn’t deserve it. When my mother finally did talk to me she told me that I needed to feel bad and suffer for the wrong I did. She told me I needed to suffer Godly sorrow, like Christ did. I never went to a bishop or stake president about my “worthiness” again. I figure God knows my heart and mind and can help me through anything. I am sure I have missed out on some really good counsel with several of my bishops, but I just can’t. The bishop used that moment of trust to punish me. Then my parents continued the pain and grief.

  12. Here’s something that says it in a nutshell, I think – from the movie “Chocolat”:

    Père Henri: “I’m not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to speak of the miracle of Our Lord’s divine transformation? Not really, no. I don’t want to talk about His divinity. I’d rather talk about His humanity. I mean, you know, how He lived His life, here on Earth. His *kindness*, His *tolerance*… Listen, here’s what I think. I think that we can’t go around… measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think… we’ve got to measure goodness by what we *embrace*, what we create… and who we include.”

    1. Dan, Sue, everyone… (I love the Chocolat quote, BTW): here’s my question, and this after listening to many of Dan’s podcasts. I consider myself quite tolerant of others, progressive to a limit, and open to many ideas and considerations. I love learning and hearing others ideas. But in regard to tolerance, one person’s tolerance seems to be another person’s annoyance or even discrimination. As example, the situation/discussion around race, the Confederate flag, the environment of discrimination that exists around race is, of course, a bad thing which I hope most of us would agree shouldn’t be tolerated. And to continue down that line, there’s Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and myriads of tyrants and despots that we wouldn’t/shouldn’t “tolerate.” The “Founding Fathers” didn’t tolerate England’s heavy hand. These examples may be the extreme, and there is clear harm involved to others. But some in the cultural war debates sincerely believe that certain trends present harm to society, their children, and the future. So how do we decide what is tolerable and for whom? Abortion is intolerable for the unborn infant. It seems to be a right for the mother. I’m not trying to stigmatize that issue, just to point out that drawing lines of tolerance is done all the time, largely depending on politics, religion, and beliefs. Help me sort this out… please. I know it’s a bit off course with “worthiness,” but it is related to how we view others, and that bears on what we think is worthy about them and ourselves. Thanks to anyone who comments.

      1. I can’t respond broadly to that, but I will pick up on one point, just to illustrate that things are more complicated than they appear. I’m going to pick abortion as an illustration.

        You say it’s intolerable for the unborn infant. Is that as in, physically intolerable or something else? Because it makes no sense to me as a trained biologist to say that an early embryo can find something intolerable before it has consciousness, or even a nervous system. Also, the majority of pregnancies end with spontaneous abortion of the early embryo, often before mothers are even aware of being pregnant. How far do we want to go with this? The comical extreme, of course, which nobody (I hope) is advocating, is Monty Python’s “Every Sperm Is Sacred” sketch.

        Next question: Why do most so-called pro-lifers agonise over human embryos even at the earliest stage of development, and don’t find it unacceptable to kill adult, fully sentient beings so long as they aren’t human – and sometimes, even when they are human? (If they are deemed to have committed a horrific crime, or if they belong to a group deemed “enemies” or “terrorists”, or indeed why do they usually find it acceptable to send those ex-human embryos, when they are fully conscious and grown up and have relationships and meaning in their lives, off to some war where that life is in real peril, by conscription if necessary, to do their “duty”?) …what a moral morass it all is.

        Next issue: Human population growth. Most religions, Catholicism being a notable exception (and there, >95% of the congregations ignore the official line anyway), have no longer got any moral scruples over family planning and contraception. IUDs, by the way, don’t prevent fertilisation, just implantation – and some pills, including the morning-after pill, also work like this, yet as long as people don’t know a fertilisation has occurred, they generally don’t worry about it. It seems to be about someone *knowing* there is an early embryo, rather than there being one.

        Also, why the “You just killed Beethoven” line – why not “You just killed Stalin”? Either is absurd, and that line logically follows back to “Every Sperm Is Sacred” and having a moral obligation not to prevent potential Beethovens (we won’t mention the Stalins, or ordinary Joe Bloggses).

        Meanwhile, on Planet Earth, ecology decrees that each time we add to the human population above replacement rate, there are literally thousands and thousands of organisms who will die as a result, for that one additional person – not just because we have to eat, but because human expansion means inevitable habitat destruction – removal of non-human biota to make way for more housing and more agriculture. Again, most people aren’t aware of it, and don’t worry about that.

        But I know about it, and I find that really disconcerting. I find all life sacred, not just human life, and I know enough about the laws of ecology to know that death per se is inevitable, just because of how food chains and mortality work. So I personally raise beef cattle for eventual slaughter and human consumption, because people need to eat, and because in nature, herbivore numbers are kept in check by predation, disease, competition etc and this is no prettier – in some ways less so. But don’t think it doesn’t grieve me when we send our steers to the market, and that I can’t see in a very real way that their end is far less cushioned and stress-free than the death of an early embryo, human or otherwise, and whether by spontaneous abortion or deliberate abortion.

        Most people these days live in these sort of rarefied bubbles, and quite divorced from nature, and don’t look beyond the surface of issues like that, simply because they’ve not plumbed these depths (and many probably don’t want to – also, many who happily pick up anonymous meat trays from the supermarket will say how “cruel” it is when they see footage from inside an abattoir etc – well, walk the talk then, I say, or at least start seriously *thinking* about stuff like this).

        Easy answers? I think not. I don’t allocate the same exclusive status to humans that most people seem to. And even to those who do, I say, “What sort of world do you want your great-grandchildren to live in?” …Blade Runner? …Idiocracy? … or a world at least as good as the earth was when you were growing up?

        1. Thanks, Sue, for your indepth response. However, I wasn’t asking your opinion or trying to make this about abortion, although with recent matters about Planned Parenthood, I do think that a line has been crossed there; and, no, I don’t think war is good almost anytime; and, I also farm so don’t need a lecture on animals. My original question to anyone who would like to contribute, is what sort of process can we employ to determine what is “lovely, praiseworthy, or of good report,” or is it merely a matter of personal taste, or what the prophet says? The latter would appeal to many TBMs. I tend to throw a broader net and read quite widely and listen to a great many perspectives. I think what I have learned from Dan and his many great podcasts is that we all have to come to that place of peace through our own spiritual journey where we are grounded deep in ourselves and personal revelatory experiences. I agree. That said, what is the next step in coming to a “community agreement” of “praiseworthy” and common understanding? Or is that even possible in a world so diverse? And is it possible in a church that is top down when the bottom up has different views?

  13. Well, Brent, you did say “thank you to anyone who comments” and “…Sue…here’s my question” and though I couldn’t give you a broad treatment of your question, I took the time to illustrate why that was so by showing just how complicated one particular area (abortion) was, to which you had referred in such a closed-book manner. I didn’t give you a “lecture” on farm animals either: I simply shared what I had learnt from my own experiences. I must say I am hardly encouraged to attempt to engage any further with you on these matters, and will simply say: Instead of asking others for how to solve a particular dilemma (and then giving all this negative treatment when someone actually responds in a partial way), maybe you might just have to think through that one yourself instead…and my closing thought is, if you’re looking for anything black-and-white and concrete, you’ll probably be disappointed – reality is pretty complex.

    1. Sue, thanks again for your engagement. Sorry to have stepped on a hot button for you, and misreading your tone (difficult to discern at times over the internet), which I interpreted as a lecture on abortion. That was obviously not your intent, so I apologize if my response was less than greeting. Yes, life is complex. That is what my question is about. In such a complex world, is it possible to come to agreement on what is “worthy” or “tolerable”? Nuance and situational context is always important in so many considerations. I’m simply seeking input on how others approach the issue… is it live and let live? Do they have a gut feeling about where lines are? Is it about education and exposure to ideas? Is it an inner directive/voice? Can this be extended beyond an individual?

  14. Brothers and Sisters:

    In my mormon experience, “worthiness” is almost all about masturbation/sex/unclean thoughts — a mormon euphemism for Sexual Purity.

    Outside of Sexual stuff… I don’t think many men (or women) get ulcers worrying about gross/net… or serving/magnifying

    And as a quick aside, I don’t think mentioning the popular sins of Robbing a Bank, stealing a candy bar, or raising their voice while in a car, advance this topic one bit.

    So back to “Worthiness”,

    70% of the men on my mission struggled with masturbation (Source: Mission President Statement after my confession)
    80% of the BYU Idaho male student body (informal study)
    99% of men who are honest.
    AND 100% of the men who never went on a mission, never joined the church, or who had to wait 6 months before they were worthy to go to a church school.

    One of those moments that led me out of activity in the church… was when I have sat alone (or worse with friends) in church envisioning Jesus Christ coming to me personally with open hands offering his MERCY and GRACE… and then make a public display in front of a 12 year old boy… that I reject that offer.

    It became a weekly communion of isolation & rejection… a sacrament of unworthiness and shame.

    A quick closing prayer:

    Please help those people whose little factories didn’t ship any product this week, that they may be able to do so over the midnight shift this week. (and please help them sleep very soundly, so they don’t wake up.)

  15. This podcast was hard to listen to, in fact I turned it off.

    The approach of being cool rock climbing/snowboarding mountain man bishop and then getting in with the youth is silly. Even the most chill bishop has to saddle himself the “mantle” once it comes time for the worthiness interview. We’ve all seen it before. The fun friendly guy known as bishop, all-of-the-sudden starts the interview and the fun conversation and caring eyes stop, and the pseudo-piercing eyes flicker and channel Richard Scott’s conference voice of intimidation and shame. It isn’t an interview at that point, its an INTERROGATION. The guilty youth is set before the judge in Israel to offer his confession and feel guilty for many issues that were never right or wrong or moral or immoral to begin with (word of wisdom and chastity).

    The main problem with worthiness in the church today, is that ultimately, all modern commandments point to obedience to the institution and the consequences of breaking them end up being more harsh institutionally than they would be naturally (think missions, temple marriage, participating in family rituals etc. that one foregoes for chastity and word of wisdom violations vs. what would be the natural outcomes). What we have done is set up a scenario of moral relativism dictated by the whims of current leadership. This is scary because we can be made to feel guilty for anything that goes against the organization, which are not necessarily those issues that are grounded in universal ethics and morals. This leads us open to manipulation.

    We need to love the youth for who they are and where they are and then they will become who they are to become. We need to stop interviewing them on a formal basis and flush the worthiness interview down the toilet. As their leaders and guides we can’t have goals for them that we’ve synthesized and fabricated even if they come from our best intentions. Once we set goals for people, we’ve objectified them and taken away their humanity and little of their soul. Lets love the youth regardless of where they are and let them know we are always here and they are always welcome to come to the church, activities, the temple etc, regardless of the last time they had sex with their girlfriend/boyfriend or shot up heroin.

    That’s all.

  16. Dan, Thank you so much for what you do, having found your podcasts has quite literally changed my life, and I am still wandering down a long and difficult path. Worthiness has always been a very difficult topic for me. I don’t think I have every thought of it as not being worthy of God’s love, but very much thought of it as not being worthy of help, or of blessings. If every blessing is tied to obedience, (obviously not a direct quote) then I will quite certainly always fall short and not be worthy of help or blessings. Now, I know that just being alive is a blessing, etc. but with the struggles that I have, I don’t really ever see being worthy of help or blessings. I don’t know how to get by this, hopefully you, or your great audience has some words of wisdom.

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