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,
Well said and I wholeheartedly agree. I would live to have meaningful conversations with those at church. Just not sure who will reciprocate and who will run to tell the bishop I am an apostate.
Well written. I have left the church because CHRIST’s name might be on the outside of the building, but His name is rarely spoken inside the building, except to rush through the ending of a vainly repetitious prayer.
I enjoy your blog and have been persuaded by you at time.
My blog is http://www.jstcommentary.blogspot.com
if anyone needs any persuading as to who the one true prophet of the last dispensation is.
That’s it. I’m now officially done with your blog.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
I don’t think it’s an LDS thing to hate speaking with people who disagree. I feel like that attitude permeates all of modern American culture. It makes trying to explain my point of view feel like a living hell. Nobody cares, and they already make a full judgement about what I have to say after hearing 140 characters-worth of speaking.
I think we need to remember that there’s a point where we can lose our credibility through our actions or speech.
Thanks for speaking candidly and for your gracious tone. I believe I will continue to be amazed by individuals who may not appreciate our patience and tolerance, charity and brotherly kindness (2Pet; 1 chat) with one another are requirements to gaining association in the Celestial Kingdom.
Attaining those attributes in balanced proportions is a daily struggle for me. Virtue (my true hearts desire) and knowledge plus faith are just as challenging but I can see their shortfalls more readily in my conduct.
While a young mother I determined to bake great bread. Many bricks emerged from the oven until I found a mentor who allowed me to “feel” the dough through the kneading process. Then some Hitlerite ladies (friends) who were experts shared their recipe and I became to capable I taught classes at RS a d in the community.
Getting familiar with you AB may be a bit like the baking challenge for some people. They may need to examine their eternal heart’s desire about loving you before they will invest in the 2 Pet process. If they don’t invest it will be a loss in what I believe could be a “win-win” relationship.
Thank you for sharing yourself with us, also for sharing your evolving perspectives and life lessons. Love you very much, as I do many of your responders, even the displeased ones. Reading the latter responders adds to my “knowledge”.
Thank you for those very kind words! Your comments are always very inspiring! My to love to you and yours.
Which of us is truly credible? If we choose to make an offender for a word I think we miss out on opportunities to learn. I promise you I’m not always credible. But like you I’m trying to find God. As much as I struggle with the brethren there are plenty of things I learn from them. I don’t see them as true messengers but like all of us I think they have truth. Just wish they saw themselves as regular members and weren’t so set on all they say being scripture.
Like you I served as a Bishop. I’ve also served on High Councils and in a Stake Presidency. I love the Church and owe it an enormous debt of gratitude for all of the great things it has brought into my life. I have no intention of leaving the Church. Unquestionably there are things in Church history that have remained unknown to many members. Their publication on the internet has disturbed many. Yet the advice we are given is not to examine these things and come to terms with the truth but to, “doubt our doubts”. A nice turn of phrase but really quite silly. It’s a bit like saying simply close your eyes and the nasty things will go away.
Conformity at all costs is seen as safety. Don’t make me think, just tell me what to do and give me some person I can plagiarize. Have you noticed how many people have copied that expression used by Pres. Monson at the end of talks when he says, “even Jesus the Christ”. I attended general conference a few times and used to say to my family, “you might see me on TV, I’ll be the one in the dark suit and white shirt”.
Hagiography is common in all religions. Muslim, Buddhist, Christian you name it. From time to time religions have to expunge their hagiography. If not the christian myths of the middle ages would still be with us . We’d still be burning witches and claiming to have acres of wood from the ‘true cross’.
Until we can each of us come to an understanding of the gospel in our lives, and be prepared to accept that others can reach their understanding without feeling threatening, or actually being threatened by our leadership, only then can positive dialogue take place. Only then can there be true harmony, rather than fear of the consequences of honesty.
Are our leaders so scared of us considering what they say and do that they feel they have to impose their will on us. It seems we are to obey them without question – “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others’. Whatever happened to, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves”.
Disappointing article as far as I’m concerned.
All “I and me”.
Not why I visit this blog. Hope this is a one-off.
Concur. Hard questions never come up in my Ward’s Sunday classes. Most don’t have the nerve to say something that would affect the image the others have of them.
Thanks for this post AB. I love the coffee talk picture. I agree that open dialogue is extremely important — and I also agree that there exists a major chilling effect that discourages open communication within the church.
I recently read a two posts by Rob Smith that had some interesting points about WHY open dialogue is so rare, and so hated by so many people:
Truth and the Spirit of Antichrist:
Windows of Truth
The Church is like Trump. It is best to take it seriously but not literally. The church is also like Trump that it does not respond well to criticism. It takes a person with a certain gift to publicly notice the errors in Zion and get away with it. Of course Nibley was prudent to not specifically attack the brethren. But he was scathing in his critique of the worldliness tolerated by many, including leaders, in Utah Zion. Still, one wonders if a person like him would be tolerated today. No one likes a party-pooper and enjoying the praise of the world is fun. We don’t need rebels showing up saying that monetary success is a false god.
AB, I look forward to reading your blog. I really wish you did a weekly post. I am an active member, but one who is very silent and lonely in church. I’ve been addicted to the history of the church for a decade now, and when I try to break away for mental reasons I always find myself drawn back via podcast, blogs and books. I know I have an unhealthy addiction to the Church. Having said that, I find your blog to be a type of medicine for me. It seems that the same questions and ideas that plaque you do plague me. But you have a forum and an intelligent way of expressing them. Thank you so much!!!! There are so many of us who are thankful for what you write. Again, thanks for easing the loneliness.
Credible: able to be believed; convincing or capable of persuading people that something will happen or be successful.
In some ways we all naturally give each other credibility. The simple title of “Bishop” for some carries a God confirmed credibility, for others there is the credibility of experience that comes with the service. Are all Bishops worthy of the credibility the title gives them? Almost certainly not because of our basic humanity. However imagine yourself as another sees you. Think about the picture you placed on your blog of a grown man dressed up as a sexualized scout—does that add to your credibility? It’s mockery, it’s offensive to even minded people and prejudices them against you. Think about how the parent of a gay child would feel—or the parent of a transgender kid. What if, every time someone mentioned Joseph Smith they put up a picture of him snuggling an underage girl; would that person be the sort that you would think would engage in reasoned conversation?
I love the works of Nibley and have many of his works in my library. But when it came to key issues he did cave in to the brethren. One of the biggies was when the phony revelation was received on ordaining the blacks in to priesthood. Nibley caved in and even expressed his view that Joseph of Egypt married a black women. There are others but this is a big one. Nibley was of the caliber (I think) that he knew better that this was a lie. Today I don’t believe even a Nibley would be tolerated even though he carried the water for the brethren in their apostasy on many issues.
What I like about this blog is that it is refreshing and honest. We all of different opinions about the apostasy of the Church and what should be done about it if anything. At least it refreshing to read others experience and beliefs in this regard.
I take a harder line against the apostasy than most. I see it that if the Lord tells us something is wrong then we need to follow what has been revealed by the true prophets of God. Take for example the fact that the scriptures tell us that homosexuality is sin. I expected the Church to take a stand against and be a bastion against this grave sin. This is apostasy and should not be compromised. The Church compromises on all of the social issues these days which is something I can’t tolerate. So for me it’s stand idly by and watch as the Church descends ever further into apostasy. The scriptures are clear that soon the Lord will correct the current situation and will no longer tolerate the corrupt leaders to lead the Church. That day can’t come quick enough for me.
When the gloomy days of the tribulation come the Lord says this about those who can see the apostasy.
Isaiah 9:1 1. But it shall not be gloomy to those who have been in anguish for her.
Anguish is a good word in this scripture. To see the utter depravity of the Saints is anguish. The blog does a pretty good job of pointing out how far we have descended. Too bad there can be no open dialogue on these issues in the Church today.
It is unfortunate that so many in the church have no sense of humor. As for the Boy Scouts, their recent decision deserved to be mocked and derided, as they go against the very core of why scouting was founded. And while I feel compassion for those parents and children dealing with homosexuality and transgender issues, normalizing it, or pretending these are common place situations when the CDC put the gay population at 2-3% of the population at large, and the transgender population in the tenths, or hundredths of a percent – these are very rare situations, and should be handled like the exceptions they are. The love and support needs to be provided case by case and locally handled and managed (yes, I have gay relatives, so this is from my own experience with the issue at hand). General policies that seek to meet the needs and demands of less than 3% of the population will never work, but they will drive large numbers out of the group that creates and imposes those policies on the vast majority of its members.
Nobody forced you to read, and it is AB’s blog. He can post whatever he wants.
You’re right, we should be able to mock minorities…
I’ve always enjoyed your blog. I wish we were associates so we could really discuss the doctrine and the issues face to face. I have only three other people who I can really discuss “stuff” with. One is my wife, thank goodness!
I teach HP Group once a month and at times find myself getting in trouble by trying to engage some meaningful discussion about a topic some in the Group consider a “mystery”. “Got to stick to the basics.” ya know!
It is amazing how “hard hearted” we can become with age. I miss teaching seminary. Youth are much more interested in learning truth.
Please keep on writing. You help me a lot by knowing there are others “out there” who love the gospel but not afraid to look at the Church as an imperfect organization.
A Friend and supporter and a former Bishop as well
Harry, I agree 100% with what you’ve said. The homosexuals mock, deride, file law suits at every turn against Christians. They mock Christianity and seek to destroy it. I wish the Church would take a stand against this grievous sin. But alas they are in apostasy and I don’t expect anything different than what we are seeing today.
Can a church make bold claims of divine authority, new scripture, apostles and prophets, and continuing revelation and still be open to questioning, speculating, imagining, and intellectual experimentation among the ordinary members of the church?
One of the reasons I find the theological aspect of the church so unsatisfying is that my own thoughts and the thoughts of other ordinary folks I have read or listened to are much more plausible, just, loving, and God-worshipful explanations of the mysteries of life than some of the absurd, cruel, and blasphemous ideas put forth by those claiming divine insight and authority.
AB, I cheer your blogging efforts. You are doing much good by opening the discussion of many topics that members and former members wish to consider. I don’t need the anonymity, for I have already left the church; but I use a pseudonym to protect the identity of others who know me. I like reading your posts and the comments of others, which, in their diversity, reflect the open forum you have provided. I enjoy reasoned argumentation, whether it aligns with or counters my views. Sometimes, as a result of things you and others write, I sharpen or strengthen my views; other times I alter my views, realizing I was wrong. Sometimes it takes a long time to realize I was wrong; conversely, I have found that sometimes my assertions have swayed others long after our debates have concluded. This potential for evolution of thinking over time is one reason why I think it is so important for people to reason with each other in good humor and not shut down discussion prematurely.
Thank you Dave! I always enjoy your very intelligent and thoughtful insights!
Brent, I find this blogger to be quite credible. I have known him for many years and can attest that he is one of the kindest, most unselfish, most honorable people I have ever met. He may use this forum to make a general criticism of sins, flaws, social ills, bad policies, ecclesiastical deceptions, and so on; but I assure you that his interactions with all types of people with all types of problems are always humane, sensitive, considerate, and generous. He is great friend and a humble servant to thousands of people. He is a gentle but courageous man who has many times openly spoken truth to power and has even physically defended others and stood up to thugs and criminals. Even so, perhaps unlike you, he is a slightly flawed person whose sense of humor can be more satirical than celestial at times, and he readily confesses it and works to do better. I respect his efforts at repentance and personal improvement, even though I no longer bother to do likewise.
Dave, You’ve written some interesting little posts lately but I keep wondering what theological aspects caused you to leave the Church. I have problems with the apostasy of the Church. Those are theological based I suppose because the scriptures are clear on many things that the Church simply ignores or actively break the commandments of God. I’m just a little curious is all as to your reasons. if you don’t want to answer that’s fine too. Thanks.
I would only offer that his words betray his character.
This is not the ideal spot to delve into it, for it would take us into a long thread of discussion. Maybe on a different post it would be better. I will only tell you a part of my rather informal, nonacademic, theological views here. I do not believe that matter is co-eternal with God. I do not believe that we are co-eternal with God. I do not believe that God emerged through a physical, mortal existence and progressed to become God. I do not believe that we can become Gods. I do not believe in a multiplicity of Gods from an infinite succession of generations, each with separate realms and jurisdictions.
I do believe that God’s nature is ultimately incomprehensible to us mere human beings; that God is the sole eternal being, the only being that is without beginning, cause or antecedent; the being that is the antecedent and cause of matter; who created everything that exists, from the smallest, subatomic unit of matter to the ultimate expanse of the universe or even multiverse. I believe that because we are finite beings we cannot comprehend the infinite God and that we can only barely describe God in vague abstractions such as omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. I believe that we humans have never sufficiently extolled the magnificence of God, nor can we do so, because He is beyond our ability to comprehend, but we should make the best effort we are capable of to contemplate Him and to study and marvel at what He has created.
This view I hold is obviously not capatible with Mormon theology. Even so, I have enough of a background with Mormonism (more than half a century before resigning) to love the beauty of parts of it, and certainly a love for the many delightful Mormon people with whom I have associated.
Though my views bear some similarity to Christian dogma and perhaps theism, they are based only on my own reasoning and perhaps wishful thinking. I believe in elements of Christianity, but I don’t embrace any church, for I think that the ones I have studied and visited are only well-intentioned, unauthoritative, speculative efforts to seek God and explain the unknowable–which I can do on my own.
Untethered and philosophically liberated for now, I am also aimless … and miserable. If I don’t get my ultimate wish to merely stop existing, I am likely bound for some kind of hell. I do not preach or advocate my views with any degree of confidence, nor do I recommend my path.
Thanks Dave, I understand now where you are coming from even though I perhaps disagree with your theology. We are all searching for the truth of the matter and at times it’s a long road. I wish you all the best
Dave, you express thoughts that I; and I suspect many others would agree with. We simply do not and can not understand God. I think that life may well be aimless but I am not miserable. I’m kept buoyant by a fascination with and amazement at the works of God in all their aspects. In truth the end may well be that we, “sleep that dreamless sleep” – in which case so be it.
You are one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I’ve ever known. Not only do I treasure your friendship, but as I’ve mentioned before, I admire you for being willing to contemplate the eternities including the darkest abyss. Mormonism, I have teased, simply boasts that it has a few more eggs and strips of bacon on the flannel board of salvation. And yet often times a truth seeker is quickly dissatisfied with the arrogance we possess by thinking we have it all figured out. Sadly, as I’ve mentioned before Mormons are one of the few religions that don’t believe in a true hell. I think the good news is that we are in hell. I think the bad news is we need to figure out how to get out of here. BUT those are simply my current thoughts on the subject. I respect your ideas and am guessing that all of us will adjust our ideas as we continue our study. Thanks for sharing brother.
Seeker After Truth,
Yours is a healthy perspective. Thank you for the response. I need to better discipline my mind to see it as positively as you do.
I don’t warrant the praise, my friend. I love the flannel board remark! I always got a kick out of those corny methods of explaining theology to the kiddies. It would fit right into the lovably quirky world of Napoleon Dynamite.
I’ve followed your blog for several years now A. Bishop and have only commented a couple of times. I may represent a great many other people who do the same. I think some folks don’t comment because they feel inadequate in doing so and others are simply happy to observe the dialogue without participating in the conversation. In any case, blogs like yours are hard to come by and extremely helpful for people like me who try to find sources where thoughts and ideas can be expressed from a position of belief and neutrality on the many issues we are currently facing as members of the Mormon church headed into a period of uncertainty. Some topics are by nature easier to engage in while others are controversial and tend to unhinge people with strong opinions. Generally speaking, I find that only people with a shaky foundation are offended easily by opposing viewpoints.
If readers of your blog have happened upon a particular post and felt offended, it is most likely due to the fact that they have not read ALL that you have written and thus are not familiar with the intent and purpose of the project as is often the case with of many writers who publish blogs. Speaking as one who needs to hear all sides of an issue before reaching a conclusion, I can say with certainty that there is nothing you have published which is unfair, biased or altogether out of bounds. Please continue doing what you are doing in the way you have done it, with all the clever humor so that your readership can continue to be inspired and delighted with thought stimulation.
Thank you for this post AB. My favorite part is when you said: “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.” How true!!! I like reading all your posts, and think this is one of the great forums to communicate our thoughts. I’ve tried to express my issues/views at church, but they fall on deaf ears, and then I get called into the Bishop’s office (haha).
I don’t live in Utah; in fact I live in the USA. I think the wards where I live are perhaps more tolerant of slight deviations from what seems to be the stereotypical Salt Lake Mormon attitude. I’ve proposed one or two deviations in classes and never been called into the Bishop’s office; although of course there is a limit to what can be said. I have no solid evidence to back that up, it’s just a gut feeling. I wonder if parts of the USA; other than Salt Lake, might be the same.
I’m in England and we get all kinds of stuff said in sunday school lessons, sacrament talks etc. Different views on tithing, word of wisdom, politics, gay marriage cake baking etc. In the past few years nobody has been called into the bishop’s office on any of these issues.
Absolutely no one.
In my last comment there a typing mistake I should have said in, ” fact I don’t live in the USA”. Sorry for that.
In my ward on the East coast in the 1960s and 70s we had few influences from the western Mormons, so discussions were freer and more colorful. In the 1980s when we started getting a lot more leaders from “out west” or other places where the church was larger and more compliant with the church brand, the ward’s lessons and talks became much more tamed. By the 1990s the thinking and expression was locked down fairly tightly by the true messengers from the west. In the early 2000s the requirement to use only the prescribed materials for talks and lessons made meetings consistent with whatever was being purveyed in other “units of the church,” but also utterly dry and boring. The practice of limiting speakers and hometeachers to the confines of a general authority’s conference talk or a first presidency member’s most recent dispatch nearly killed my interest in and enjoyment of Gospel discourse.