One of the main reasons I started this blog a couple years back was so that I could express my views anonymously and without retribution from the Church. It was at a time where I was struggling and needed to vent.
As most of you know and as I have documented here numerous times, I have issues with the direction the Church seems to be heading. Discovering that the wonderful Church of my youth is flawed and is “not true” to some of its founding principles and doctrines has been at times a very painful experience for me. Expressing why I feel that way and getting your feedback has been therapeutic.
I can’t say, however, I’ve had the same open-mindedness from Church leaders or generally from most Church members. More times than not, even as a bishop, I was told to just be quiet, in some cases, to be more politically correct or sensitive or to repent.
I recall one of my own counselors while I was serving as bishop telling me I needed to be more careful about the things I said and felt. I later found out that he reported me to my file leader for some things I had shared with a friend.
I have always disliked this idea of holding back what we’re really thinking. Now, I understand that care must be taken to share or not share certain things in the presence of children or with those who may not be ready or wanting to contemplate certain ideas, but my experience in the Church is that we simply cannot talk about anything that may be viewed as controversial. Certainly we cannot do so in a civil and loving way.
This has made my Church experience lately even more difficult. I also think it has created a culture in the Church which is antithetical to open dialogue.
And so seeking to more openly vent my thoughts, I began this blog. Here I wanted to be free to openly share whatever ideas I may be having. I certainly can’t share my concerns about the Church’s decision to stay with Boy Scouts, an organization I view as broken and apostate, at Church or with many Church leaders or members. Although I sure tried to as a bishop. In fact, as bishop, I refused to sign the Scout Charter as Charter Head of the Troop and I refused to do Friends of Scouting. This did not go over well with some, and with the wrong stake president, my tenure as bishop would have surely been shortened.
Now, having mentioned that, I was careful how I said what I said to the ward generally. But, I was also very honest when I felt I could be. I did not impose my ideas on others, however. As bishop I could have simply not called a scoutmaster or could have put someone in who hated scouts. But because I knew Scouting was important to many of our ward members, we called the best person for the job and I supported ward members in their desire to have this program, despite the fact that I was opposed to it.
Other topics are taboo at Church as well. Take the Word of Wisdom for example. We had three or more adults addicted to opioids while I was bishop. These were prominent people in the community and they were (likely still are) completely hooked on this awful drug. BUT, as LDS people, especially in Utah, we don’t like to talk about our addictions. And so a bishop who may wish to address such issues is likely to offend people in the ward. And you certainly can’t tell the ward that you favor medical marijuana over opium use, as the Church has made it very clear that Utah will not allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for their patients experiencing chronic pain. If not careful, you will be viewed as out of line with the Brethren on an issue. So the unfortunate reality is silence or consequences from leadership.
And yet, many Mormons are so imbalanced when it comes to the Word of Wisdom. The “world” drinks coffee, Mormons drink Coke and Red Bull and Monster. Which is worse? The world drinks alcohol, Mormons take anti-depressants or eat excessively. (I recognize that non Mormons do this too, but Utah is the capital of anti-depressant use in the world). The world watches rated R movies, while many Mormons struggle with pornography. The list of moral and physical issues goes on and on.
As a bishop, from time to time, I suggested a person or two try to get off their meds (which they told me they and their doctors wanted them to) and to do as their LDS doctor was prescribing–to drink a cup of coffee in the morning to help them feel energy and to get out of bed. In one instance a poor sister all but screamed at me and began to quote things about how blessed she was for “never” having broken the Word of Wisdom. Not even once. “Hidden treasures and running without being weary” etc. Yet, this poor woman was so frail and unhealthy. I did not perceive great wisdom in her, but rather great sadness and darkness. Someone so obsessed with the letter of the law that she would rather die than consider to reason. Mormons are not open minded in general about such things and we surely can’t talk about them.
Why? Because we have a culture of not really “talking” to each other.
Well, it would be my preference–to be able to talk about most things in Church (that are appropriate for that setting) and most things with Mormon associates IN A WAY that is healthy. Healthy dialogue.
Most of you know that I have a sense of humor that often gets the best of me. I post pictures that are at times a little shocking and I bring up controversial topics and share my ideas. While doing so, I make an honest effort to use reason and logic, but I am quick to confess that my ideas are not always valid. I admit that I do a little name calling when referring to certain people. I shouldn’t call Elder McConkie “Bruce Almighty” for example. It’s not nice. But, I don’t do so angrily. I don’t hate Elder McConkie. In fact he was one of my favorite leaders as a young man. I would certainly show respect to him if I was having a conversation with him or was in a Church setting. I employ such titles to be funny, because I despise the unearned and undue reverence we give to the Brethren. Heck, if my name was Bruce (and it might be 😉 – and you called me Bruce Almighty, I would think it was funny, especially if I knew you loved me.
I wish I was more like some of you. I love it when someone replies to my posts with a thoughtful counter argument. Some of you do that so well. So much better than I do. Whether you know it or not, you persuade me. If nothing else, you persuade me to be more like you in your approach. More loving, more kind, more intelligent.
Most of you know that I lean conservative / libertarian. But I have plenty of friends and people who I love who are more liberal in their ideas. It’s true we don’t see eye to eye on some things, but we respect each other. We may even tease each other. But we love each other and try to persuade each other. I love it when these friends of mine are persuaded by some of my ideas and when I am able to perhaps better understand where they’re coming from.
This is what I love about this blogging experience. I feel comfortable bringing up a topic and I love to see the healthy dialogue back and forth. I’m disheartened, however, when someone says something like “Well, AB I thought you were awesome, but after this post, I just wanted to tell you, you’ve lost a reader.” I don’t mind that you won’t read anymore. I don’t mind that you disagree with me. I admit that I’m a nobody just sharing his ideas. BUT, I wish you would try to persuade me. I wish you would share why you think I’m wrong so that I can learn from you. I don’t intend to offend, but you simply prove my point that as Mormons, we can’t discuss anything when you throw in the towel so easily.
I personally don’t like to argue. I took a harsher than normal tone with a commenter the other day who I felt was just mocking. I feel badly and I apologize to that sister. I’d love to hear her thoughts on why she believes allowing girls into Boy Scouts is a good idea. I’d love to hear her reasons for why the Church should or shouldn’t support such an idea. But, to simply laugh at my ideas or to threaten to never come back, robs us all of the opportunity to engage in healthy discussions, that I for one, don’t think exist at Church very often, if ever.
With that, I extend to all of you, my hand of friendship. I know we think differently. I know we are each just trying to figure things out in life. I support you and love you. Even though I don’t know many of you. I thank you for being here and for supporting me as I vent and share. God is good and Christ is our Savior. I am pretty sure that most everyone here will agree with that.
Peace to you all,