To the Orthodox believer, your Mormonism is so vastly different than mine. I honor your perspective and I know there are many that hold it. I simply can’t. My life experience is so drastically different that the only way I can stay in the Church is to be permitted to hold my space which will include beliefs vastly different from yours. I hope you have it in your heart to grant me that. If you can I want to say thank you for that.
Your likely smart, you likely know your scriptures well, and you may very well understand the correlated teachings of the Church better than most; but that simply doesn’t match my Mormonism. Here is what I mean
While we as a Church teach in our manuals and give off the perception in our conferences that our leaders are all on the same page and that our theology fits really well together. That leaders have been consistent, that doctrine doesn’t change, the reality for me (I am speaking of myself), is that when you take in the a wider, deeper view of what has been taught and what has been said that, you realize it gets really messy….. I mean really messy.
Once one digs into the teachings of the Church in depth one is left with a Church that has changed Doctrine and its History over and over in ways that cripple the ability to say with confidence that we can know all truth or depend on these men to get it right with certainty.
Let me say I am not alone. I have had private conversations with apostles and seventies of the Church who admit we have not been transparent enough and that our history is a whole lot messier than we let on in the three hour block.
We have all 15 prophets, seers, and revelators generation after generation teaching things to be the mind and will of God, things they knew to be true. Only to have today’s leaders disavow such teachings as racist bigotry that was never God’s mind and will. You see, how can I trust my spiritual feelings when the 15 top men struggle to get it right and discern their own prejudiced and false views from what truly is the mind of God. Are we better than them?
A Statement from the First Presidency:
So what are the chances we hold right now, right here, things we cling to as truths that in reality are not? I guarantee we all do. We all hold things we are so certain about that in fact are not true. The question is are we willing to let our guard down and to learn something new? to allow another’s truth to perhaps have more value than our own? Consider Elder Uchtdorf’s words
We too often confuse belief with truth, thinking that because something makes sense or is convenient, it must be true. Conversely, we sometimes don’t believe truth or reject it—because it would require us to change or admit that we were wrong. Often, truth is rejected because it doesn’t appear to be consistent with previous experiences. When the opinions or “truths” of others contradict our own, instead of considering the possibility that there could be information that might be helpful and augment or complement what we know, we often jump to conclusions or make assumptions that the other person is misinformed, mentally challenged, or even intentionally trying to deceive.
Brigham Young is on record, having taught that Adam our first parent was God the Father. He said he knew this by revelation. He convinced 13 of the remaining 14 leaders and they too believed it by revelation and taught it publicly. It was being implemented into the temple discourse at the veil and was taught repeatedly by Brigham and other leaders for years upon years. Luckily for us Orson Pratt stood up and dissented. He was alone and he stood his ground that Brigham Young and those who agreed with him were wrong. Later President Kimball and Elder McConkie disavowed the doctrine as false. Elder McConkie goes so far as to say that the Lord permits the Prophet to teach false Doctrine constantly through the history of the Church (3rd link below).
These are just two issues. There are hundreds more and while they may not matter to you, you must be careful of dismissing them as things that shouldn’t be crucial to others. When people discover this stuff and it doesn’t match what they have been taught or it feels as though it was held back from them, there is a deep loss of trust and feeling of betrayal. Telling people to pray more or read more scripture simply doesn’t work as most of them have been doing those things in deep ways and it has only gotten worse. The Church recognizes this and is working to be more transparent. What does work, is to listen…. to validate that there is solid reason to doubt and to struggle with these questions…. and admit that we don’t have great answers to many of these but that there is room for faith. It is truly to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those in need of comfort, and to withhold the need to solve their problems your way. They also need permission to take it all apart. Take it all the way down to the foundation and be given permission to rebuild it their way. Here are some things I hold and to be frank these are things many in the church hold including scholars and church leaders. You need not agree though I am asking for you to allow me and others space to hold these views. I have tried to support these points with sources for what leaders have said on the subject and what scholars have to say in addition to that.
1.) I don’t think skin color was ever intended by God to be a means for us to judge each other. We inserted God to justify our prejudices and our racism and our bigotry. I think this shows up in the Old Testament, The Book of Mormon, and certainly in our dispensation as well. The Church also seems to have taken a step to disavow all teachings on race as a divine curse or divine disfavor as false and racism. Was the Ban that ended in 78′ from God? We no longer assert assuredly that it was and I personally have abandoned such a position and simply see leaders as flawed do their best but clouded by their prejudices and racism and bigotry.
2.) I can’t believe in a global flood. Like the flood, I do not feel pressed to take scriptural stories literally, especially in the Old Testament. I see scripture as the “Word” of God and not always the “words” of God. Other LDS leaders have taught me that I have more room then I once thought to see much of scripture as figurative or allegorical and not true in the literal sense. This isn’t Black or White. In other words I feel free to take some stories as literal and others as something else (partially literal,figurative, allegorical, symbolic, poetic, and other ways many do not consider). Through this varied view I still find deep truths and inspiration to help me along. I also freely admit that a local flood has its theological problems as well and that there is not a healthy reasonable answer in sight for me yet I press on in faith hoping God himself finds value in my knowing the story and applying its principles.
3.) I believe our modern Church leaders rarely if ever have direct contact with Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, or ministering angels from beyond the veil. I still sustain them as prophets and hope that if God wants to talk and they are asking the right questions and willing to hear the answers, they can be inspired and even receive revelation. Recently the brethren seem to speaking more about this.
Recently Elder Oaks quote D&C 107:23 – “The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world” and then says “This is not to witness of a personal manifestation. To witness of the name is to witness of the plan, the work, or mission such as the atonement and the authority or priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which an apostle who holds the keys is uniquely responsible to do. Of course apostles are also witnesses of Christ just like all members of the church who have the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
4.) There is no salvific advantage to being LDS in this life. Rather there are other blessings and positives to being LDS that a loving heavenly father has set the Church up for but they do not increase our odds of living with him again. In other words a Muslim who is striving to press forward and making an effort to change who will undoubtedly receive the ordinances on his behalf after this life is just as advantaged as the Latter-day Saint who is striving to press forward and making an effort to change who receives the ordinances in this life.
5.) The Mormonism Elder McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith gave us is dying and that we simply have to acknowledge that while they wrote books giving us all the answers to all the questions, I realize now that God never spoke on most of these issues and their books were full of errors that we once implemented into our doctrine and now have distanced ourself from. Telling me what god thought about the circus, playing cards used in family game of rummy, the Catholic Church, the “Negro”, Quetzalcoatl, and thousands of other terms God had never spoke in many ways set me up for my later faith crisis. President McKay and his counselors found over a thousand errors in the first edition and I likely could twice that many in the last one (It is no longer published).
6.) We do not know by revelation that Jesus was born on April 6th. We have gotten it wrong along with tons of little stuff like this. Leaders can keep repeating such unsubstantiated faith promoting rumors which seems plausible on the surface (I grant these leaders repeating it believe it themselves)but once one knows the history one realized we overreached way too far.
https://mormondiscussions.org/discussion/2014/05/was-jesus-born-on-april-6th/ (an episode from my podcast)
7.) I support same-sex marriage and pray that one day the Church policy and doctrine will change. I think its current stance is causing people especially youth to hurt themselves and even take their lives. I will not demand it change or advocate that it must but I will not hesitate to express my opinion as just that… my opinion.
8.) I believe Joseph intended for women to play a greater role in our faith, that they have a priesthood key (LDS.ORG even says as much), and I pray that they will one day soon be re-given permission to give blessings like they once did in Joseph’s day. I anticipate a day when women are given a more defined role similar to the Priesthood offices the men hold and I pray for as much.
9.) I do not know the Book of Mormon to be historical though I hope it is. I see strong evidence both for and against. I sense that we very strongly over reach the reality of this issue. That said the book has and continues to change my life so I hope on using it as scripture. If I left the Church, I would take the Book of Mormon with me. To me it can be true in a dozen ways, only one of which is historically.
10.) Our Church is only one instrument in the orchestra God is conducting in order to fulfill Moses 1:39. We are the administrators of the ordinances but that other faiths and other people play near, if not just as much of a vital role in the plan. God truly is using more than one people to bring about the salvation and exaltation of his children.
11.) I believe people of other faiths have the same kinds of spiritual experiences and same degree of “the holy Ghost” that we do. That the members of many faiths have testimonies that are just as valid as ours and that many of the things they have testimonies of contradict the things we have testimonies of. For us to say they are wrong and we are right or we have the Gift of the Holy Ghost and they have something lesser, seems to run contray to my lived experience. I don’t know what to make of that but I honor their truth while holding my own that the Gift of the Holy Ghost has some intrinsic value.
12.) While you likely pay tithing on your gross income I find that the more accurate both Historically and Theologically to pay tithing on my Surplus income. The Church has never made you or me comfortable doing so, I validate that. That said I hope if you disagree with my view you will take time to read the sources I share which lay out the historical and theological evidence that Surplus or something close to it may be what the Lord intended and that you have the right to discern such for yourself. I am not advocating all do this but rather sharing with you my truth for me. I absolutely encourage all to do as the Brethren say and get their own answer and pay it accordingly. That is what I did. I took it to the Lord and conversated about my situation and asked for his support on my decision and I paid it accordingly.
13.) I have so much doubt that section 132 of the D&C came from a loving Heavenly Father. I see Joseph’s marriages to teenagers and to other men’s wives, angels using strong-handed manipulation, and threats of destroying those who do not comply as outside the bounds of the God I worship (Again I am not held to a literal view of the viscous old testament God). I will not say it is NOT from God but also do not expect me to support any abuse in the here and now using that abuse from the past to substantiate and support it.
14.) While I have little issue with the Book of Abraham as scripture (Accepted writings of my faith community that inspire me) I recognize that Joseph was inaccurate saying that it was related to the Egyptian papyri. It definitely was not the writings of Abraham written by his own hand as Joseph imposed. He was also dead wrong on his translation of the facsimiles. When you consider all that was assumed and held as true and what the Book of Abraham actually is, it becomes easy to see why this issue may have been the crux of more members faith crises over history in the last 70 years than any other.
15.) To me the ‘garden story’ is completely figurative and allegorical of the pre-mortal life and that Evolution is certainly within the bounds of how God brought animal and plant life as we know it into existence. And yes I still believe in a literal Adam and Eve as our first parents. That while you may find those two ideas as contradictory I have a perfectly cohesive way of making that fit, feel free to email me and ask some time. We need to grapple with the point that the Church has no official position on evolution. It simply is not a line being drawn in the sand. Also when one reads the sources linked one sees that at least some level we are free to see stories as non-literal that have a history of being seen as literal.
http://www.wheatandtares.org/17487/figurative-literalness/ (I am the author this article)
Again there are hundreds of these. You need not agree. I was not trying to convince you I was right. Rather my point is on many of these issues the Church has no official position and we as members may be diversified in our beliefs and opinions. That in essence I truly have a right to hold such ground and still be faithful, worthy, and in full fellowship in the highest sense of those words. Members have way more space and leeway to disagree than one would think. But it is imperative that you sense the differences we Latter-day Saints can hold without being in conflict with the church. That there is way more room for difference in belief and testimony than most orthodox members grasp. It can be historically defended that leaders have contradicted themselves on many of these issues and others. It can be historically defended that we have changed Doctrines that we once said was unchangeable. And that while certain approaches that have been helpful to you may in fact actually hurt others by your imposing on them that your way is the way. If individuals like me are not honored for such views above then we will leave and many are doing just that.
I pray your understanding on all I have written though I neither need nor expect you to agree but I do expect you to allow me space for my Mormonism.
Your friend in Christ
Thank you, as always, for your honesty, Bill. I am also trying each day to be a more genuine, more authentic person. I truly hope Church leadership and its membership support a bigger tent Mormonism in the future; however, it will never happen if we keep our minds and our mouths closed.
Well said. There is no one “reality” that exists outside of our individual personal reality — a reality that is unique to each of us. Thus, “the Church” only exists within each of our realities, and is unique to each of us. My reality is just as valid as your reality, even though our realities differ. To say that the Church is “true” is to say that the Church is true in my personal reality, but there is no Church “out there” that is true, which we can each objectively experience and agree upon. All of our experiences are subjective, unique to us, and are going to differ. What is important is that we acknowledge these individual differences and allow them equal value, to the person having them, to our own.
Great article, and thank you Bill Reel. You are the main reason why I choose to stay in the church. I used to think very binary on it, but now I realize that it does not need to be so binary. I love the middle way now.
What a great way for you to have expressed your opinions; I could agree more!
I loved what TomD had to say.
Thank you, Bill…you have been my lifeline.
Deborah Andrews Cambridge, says:
What a great way for you to have expressed your opinions; I couldn’t agree more!
I loved what TomD had to say.
Thank you, Bill…you have been my lifeline.
What happenned to leading with faith.
what says I am not. The facts are the facts, the conclusions are more varied but certainly we should be chasing truth down and giving the most reasonable coclusions the most weight and having done that and knowing this is way messier than any of thought I am still here and encourage others to be here as well.
What do you suggests one do with the mess that is Mormonism? How do you balanc logic, reason, truth seeking, vulnerability, and faithfulness?
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