Invitation to Vote Opposed–Together

voting-opposedOn September 30th, the semi-annual voting session of General Conference will be held.  Since April 2016, I have voted opposed in six different conferences at the general, stake and ward levels.

The first few experiences were daunting.  Three times it was just me lifting my lonely hand.  Twice there were 2 of us bucking the trend.  At April’s General Conference, three of us called out our opposing votes in the presence of 21,000 others who compliantly raised their sustaining hands .  Fortunately, it no longer gives me pause to obey Christ’s gorgeous Law of Common Consent.

This General Conference, I plan to vote publicly.  Not in the privacy of my home.  Not in a chapel, where almost no one goes to watch these days.  And, not in the conference center.  I requested tickets.  None were granted.  Rather, I will be voting in plain sight….on Facebook Live.

I invite you to join me.  Not necessarily in voting opposed, as I will be.  But, in voting period.  You can participate in 3 ways:

  1. Live at my office.  Address:  8744 Westpark, Houston, TX.  The conference starts at 3:00pm CT.  Feel free to come at 2:00 and we will have a delightful little Talkeria beforehand.
  2.  Join Facebook live on my FB page.  I plan to start broadcasting at 3:00pm when the conference begins.  When the sustainings are conducted, simply record your vote in the comments section.
  3. Add your name to the Common Consent Register–A Record of Those Who Disapprove.  Click HERE for the link.  This has been live for 12 months.  There are now 442 members who have openly cast their vote of disapproval.

Why I’m Voting in Disapproval

  • I have chosen to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Not an easy task.  I love His mandate of Common Consent.  By baptismal and temple covenant, I feel obligated to make the endeavor of following the Law of God.  That includes obeying the Law of Consent.
  • I have chosen to follow the example of Jesus Christ.  Definitely not an easy task.  A hallmark of His ministry was open and blunt expression of His opinion to the leaders of the religious institution of His time.  By the way, Jesus was the founder of this very institution.  As part of the restitution of the gospel, the Lord provided an orderly method for our opinions to be openly given to the leaders of His religious institution in our day.  He called it common consent.
  • I care about the church.  I want it to be better.  There is great wisdom to be found among the rank and file membership.  God knows what He is doing.  He has ordained the procedure by which the leadership is to regularly tap into the safety and insight of those who have been baptized.

My Points of Disapproval

Of course, I don’t oppose the church, the apostles or the prophet.  Rather, I disapprove of various policies and major decisions that have never been presented as the Law of Common Consent dictates.  I use the word disapprove as that’s the phrasing which Jesus used in the revelation found in D&C 124:144.

  1. Disregard for the Law of Common Consent.  This is a law from God, plainly taught in our scriptures, doctrine and pronouncements by prophets and apostles.  Currently, our top leadership is disobeying this commandment.  And they are leading the entire church to follow that same disobedience.
  2. The November 2015 LGBT policy.  If a gay couple gets married, a church court is mandatory.  Yet, forcible rape, sexual abuse, and deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities do not automatically trigger church discipline.  What kind of a message does that send?  Forcible rape…maybe discipline is due.  Legal and lawful gay marriage…you’re out here.
  3. Children of gay couples are excluded from the most important blessings of the church.  Children!!!  No baptism.  No priesthood.  No youth leadership.  No youth temple trips.  NO HOLY GHOST.
  4. Twelve month waiting penalty if marriages don’t take place in the temple.  This penalty only applies in the U.S. and a few other countries.  As a result, much hurt and heartbreak happen as parents suffer the humiliation of being excluded from their children’s  weddings.  In most of the world, marriages are held outside of the temple, allowing all to celebrate this great event.  Then the sealing takes place a few days later in the temple.
  5. The teaching/doctrine that the prophet can’t lead us astray.  I view this as one of the worst and most dangerous elements of our church culture.
  6. Interviews with children, alone, behind closed doors, with an untrained older man about masturbation & other sexual matters without the explicit knowledge and consent of the parents.
  7. Nondisclosure of financial dealings.  Our finances were open for members’ scrutiny until the 1950’s.
  8. Meddling in politics without presenting the issues for a vote of approval.
  9. Keeping secret the policy manuals provided to bishops, stake presidents and seventies.  How can we be expected to approve our own policies if they are hidden from us?  Why is the church governed with secret statutes unavailable to its membership?
  10. Keeping secret the ordinance of the Second Anointing and the fact that it is taking place today in our temples.  What is this ordinance?  How does one qualify for it?  Why is it not open to all?  What does this ordinance mean for those receiving it?
  11. Use of the wording: Sustain or Oppose during the sustaining process.  The words of Christ should be used: Approve or disapprove.

All my best wishes to everyone who votes in this conference.  Whether you vote in approval or disapproval, I completely support your right and privilege as a member of the church.  Your opinions are important and valid.  Jesus is counting on us to express them honestly and openly.

Additional Resources

Common Consent Scriptures & Doctrine, click HERE.

Do We Love Jesus Enough?  click HERE.

Take Responsibility for Destroying the LDS Church, click HERE.

The Only True Hope for The Only True Church, click HERE.

An Apostle Speaks Up for Common Consent, click HERE.

Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove, click, HERE.

A Mormon Stories Podcast about Common Consent, click HERE.

A Tale of Two Talkerias

TaleofTwoCities

The best of times and the worst of times.

Recently, two Talkerias were held on consecutive nights.  The people who attended were amazing.  Good-hearted.  Smart.  Thoughtful.  Many shed tears as they recounted their narratives.  Some for the very first time.

Two stories came out of them that I’m going to share.  One terrifying.  One terrific.

A Terrifying Tale

One of this weekend’s attendees shared this heart rending story.

Recently, she had accompanied a close friend to pick up her son at the airport.  He had been sent home early from his full-time mission.  Why?  Multiple…suicide…attempts.  The last one was nearly fatal.

Why was this young Elder so distraught?  Masturbation.  He was not able to eradicate it.  Heaps of shame and guilt had brought him to the brink of death.

How tragic.  How long will it take for this kid to overcome the shame that was totally unnecessary?  This natural and normal practice was not the sin.  The sin rests squarely on the hands of the shaming church.

A Terrific Tale

At the end of the next meeting, one of the men said, “Sam, thanks for helping me and my son with Bippity-Bop.”  I asked him to explain.  Later that night, this response showed up.

Growing up, I was a pretty good kid.  I did not curse, I was ‘chaste.’  I was an Eagle Scout.  I genuinely looked for ways to give service.  I was also kind.  I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the under dog.  I have literally never broken the word of wisdom.  I am not saying this to brag.  For this to make sense, I think you need to know who I was.  I mean I had perfect attendance at Seminary and served on the Stake Youth Executive Committee.

And…do you know what I thought of myself?  I was garbageI loathed myself through my teen years and my early adulthood.  I was right up there with the sons of perdition.  My bishop told me that if I could not get my filthy habit under control, I would be excluded from a mission.  And…that no woman would ever want me. 

Anyway, I resolved sometime back, that this would not happen to my sons.  In the last year, my 14yo came to me and was pretty upset.  His oldest bother had been caught in the act by his mother (my ex) and step father.  They threatened to take his bedroom door away and lots of other shamey stuff.  He is teased about it a lot.  The 14yo was upset about how his brother was being treated.  This allowed us to have a conversation about it.  I assured him that it was normal and healthy and what the ground rules were:  do it in private and clean up after yourself. 

I have doubted myself a lot since that conversation and wondered if I was leading my kid to hell.  Your posts gave the assurance and talked through the logic enough that I am glad for him and for the conversations we have been able to have.  Since then, we have had a conversation about this not being anyone else’s business.  If he needs to remind anyone of that, including the bishop, I will back him.

In a somewhat humorous twist, he is now hoping he gets asked so he can say, “Dude, what kind of a sicko talks to kids about that?”  However he handles it, I am on his side.  He won’t be getting any shame from this house.  The great thing about not shaming my kid is that we talk about all sorts of things, now that the door is open.  Thank you!

Dear Parents

Will you open the door to a potentially terrifying tale of shame for your child?

Or will you close the shaming door and protect your young ones from a damaged childhood?

It’s up to you.   It’s your call.  It’s your responsibility.

Other Resources

“Talk to Your Kids About Masturbation” …click HERE

“Bippity Bop, A Sin It’s Not” …click HERE

Talk to Your Kids About Masturbation

Parent Child Talk

Disclaimer

If you believe that masturbation is a sin, let me warn you off.  Don’t read any further.  This post is aimed at assistanting parents in the Mormon church who believe it’s a natural and normal part of growing up.

Personally, I have changed my mindset regarding this practice.  It’s not a sin.  You can find my reasoning HERE.  Since I wrote the article, I have spoken with many members who share my point of view.  This includes former bishops, former stake presidents, former stake presidency and bishopric counselors.  And….a current bishopric member.

In order to avoid saying ‘masturbation’ at every stop, I’ll take the pressure off by alternating with ‘bippity-bop.’

How to Talk to Your Kids

Sounds pretty uncomfortable, right?  I’m not an expert.  I have no experience.  That opportunity was missed during my child rearing adventures.  My wife says that she now regrets never having discussed it with our 6 daughters.

Absent any personal experience to share, I simply googled:  “How to talk to your children about bippity-bop.”  Nothing relevant came up.  Then I substituted ‘masturbation’ for ‘bippity.’  Boy, did that ever do the trick.  Up popped many great resources for talking about the bop.

My two favorite:

First:  How to Talk to Kids About Masturbation by Betsy Brown Braun.  Click  HERE.

In her video, Betsy provides a simple & straightforward method for a short discussion with children.  Her approach takes the edge off of a possibly awkward conversation.  My wife really liked this one.

Second:  Tips for Talking with Kids About Masturbation by Melanie Davis.  Click HERE.

Melanie takes the essay approach.  A short one.  But, packed with lots of good information.  Combined with Betsy’s video, both of them would have given me the tools and the confidence to discuss bippity-bop with my kids.

Why Talk to Your Kids?

If you don’t, it’s highly likely that a bishop, bishopric counselor, youth leader, or friend will teach your kids that masturbation is a big fat sin.  Take control.  They are your children.  Don’t let them be scarred by unnecessary guilt and shame being heaped on the during their precious teen-age years.

Listen to this story.  Don’t let it be the story of the adult future of your child.  This is a man in his late 30’s.

Here is one of my biggest problems with the church and why I don’t want my kids in it: guilt and shame.

My childhood should have been great.  On paper, things went well.  But I absolutely abhorred my childhood.  Why?  Because I was a boy who masturbated.  And I was committing a sin second only to murder!  I hated myself and I lived in fear and guilt and self loathing.  I despised me and it tainted my entire adolescence.  And I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that none of my children EVER feel the burden of that unnecessary guilt.

For Good Measure

Yesterday, I had the following conversation with a bishopric counselor…not in my ward.

SAM:  Have your kids been asked about masturbation in the bishop’s interviews?

COUNSELOR:  Nope.

SAM:  How do you know?

COUNSELOR:  Soon after the new bishopric was called, with me as a counselor, the bishop announced that he was going to have special meeting with the young men.   It was to be about masturbation.  I told him that was not an appropriate topic for my 13 year old son.  He said it was.  I told him that it had never been discussed with me in my youth and that it was not in the handbook.  The bishop insisted.  I told him my son would NOT be coming to the meeting.  The bishop said that my boy wouldn’t be able to go to the temple if he masturbated.  I told him that I masturbate, have a temple recommend and am your counselor.  He said that he wasn’t going to take my recommend away for masturbation.  But…the youth couldn’t go to the temple if they engaged in it.  I said that wasn’t right, my son wasn’t coming to the meeting and that I didn’t want this practice brought up in youth interviews.  My son didn’t go to the meeting.  He hasn’t been asked about masturbation in subsequent interviews.  And…he has been given temple recommends for every youth temple trip.  He’s 16 now.

 

 

My Fellow Disconsolate

hands

Are you suffering dreadful heartache? Are you crying inside? Are you shedding tears of grief, sadness and loss?  If you are, you are not alone.  I’m right there with you, my friend.  You, me…we share something in common.  It may not emanate from the same source.  But, if you are in any kind of profound grief, I’m there with you, right now.

I can’t predict when this deep anguish will come over me. But, it has heaped itself with a vengeance today.  I can’t seem to shake this soul crushing gloom.  So, I’m going to share it…in hopes that there might be one other person in our community who needs companionship and empathy at this very moment.

Today, I’ve been at the office. After 2 weeks of huge distractions, my business needs serious attention.  Now, I sit here at a very late lunch.  Chick-fil-A.  Tears just keep streaming.  Oh…the damn loss of what I have dedicated my whole life to.  Literally, my whole life.  Ahead of family.  Ahead of career. A head of everything. And…I KNEW that my priorities were right.  Oh crap!

I was lied to.  I was misled.  I was blind.  Now, I’m not.  I wouldn’t want to undo my sight if I could.  I had friends.  I had purpose.  I had community.  I had standing.  All sacrificed in order to seek and embrace new truth.  But, that damn loss is so damn crushing.  Today, the sledge hammer of bereavement is pounding hard.

So, my struggling friend, I’m taking your hand in mine. I’m squeezing it. Squeezing with understanding, empathy and love. May we both know that sorrow is okay.  May we both know that it will pass.

Perhaps this will be a fitting end for my post.  I just realized that in addition to my eyes, my nose is crying too.  Time to clean up, before I look like a complete baby in the booth.

I love you my friend….whoever you might be.

Hurricane Harvey–Father Denied Access to Missionary Son

IMG_0193.JPG

I am so disappointed in the church.  The leaders say obedience is the first law of heaven.  Then they openly disobey and lead the members to follow them in disobedience.  Bible and Book of Mormon history is playing out all over again in these latter-days.

As a big part of the restoration, Christ detailed important commandments for the governance of the church.  Perhaps the most plain and prominant is the Law of Common Consent.  Scriptural, doctrinal and prophetic descriptions can be found HERE.

A Slap in the Face of a Hurricane

Today, I became aware of a situation in my home town of Houston, Texas.  It involves a father, John O’Conner, and his full time missionary son.

Friday night, around 10pm, the massive hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast.  With all its Category 4 fury.  Dire predictions of catastrophic damage have been a constant drumbeat all over the news.  The National Weather Service has bombarded our cell phones with incessant tornado and flash flood warnings.  This situation can be scarey…even to hurricane veterans.  Especially, when Catetory 4 and tornado are in the same sentence as the word hurricane.

Twelve hours before landfall, this dad contacted the mission president, asking for his son’s phone number.  To me, the ensuing email thread is disturbing.  As you’ll see, it was highly distressing to the dad.  You can read through it HERE.

I don’t know exactly why John wanted so badly to contact his son.  I can only spectulate.  But, it shouldn’t matter.  This is the head of the family.  Aren’t we a family church?  At least, we used to be.

Just so you know, Mr. O’Conner gave his consent to have this email exchange published.  Here is what he had to say:

I’m for complete transparency.  Please share. My goal at this point is to expose the policy as a dangerous one that isolates parents from their children during stressful and dangerous times. The policy is at fault and needs discussion. The MP’s insistence on it at this time is inappropriate, stress-inducing, and incredibly inconsiderate and irresponsible.

I agree with John.  Transparency in the church it terribly lacking and desperately needed.   I also want to commend this dad for being willing to stand up for his family and for other families that will be affected by this policy in the future.  A good father and a courageous man.

Elder Holland

In last April’s General Conference, Elder Holland gave a beautiful & impassioned plea for “each one of us to stay permanently and faithfully in the choir (the church).”  And then this caveat:  “In short, there is a place for everyone who loves God and honors His commandments.”

So, if we don’t honor His commandments is there no place for us in the choir?  Let that sink in.  Most everybody is dishonoring Jesus Christ’s sacred law of consent.  Maybe it’s time to make a decision.  You either want no part of common consent and you ought to leave.  Or you are ready to take on the right and obligation that the restored gospel places squarely on your shoulders and you start to vote.

John O’Conner found himself facing a troubling policy that has NEVER seen the light of common consent.  PUT….IT….UP….FOR….A….VOTE.  Something like this, “It is proposed that at times of catastophic disaster, parents are to have no contact whatsoever with their children on missions.”  Really?  Who is going to vote for a policy like that?

This dreadful policy doesn’t have John’s consent.  It doesn’t have my consent.  It doesn’t have anybody’s formal consent as mandated by Jesus Christ.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Racism

Black and White
Black and White

First, to my mom and dad:  Thank you for not teaching racism in our home.  I don’t remember any denigrating remarks, whatsoever, regarding other races.  Today, that means the world to me.  It’s one of the many reasons that I love you.  Unfortunately, I was schooled in racism by the LDS Church and its doctrines.  I embraced them fully for 62 years of my life.

Second, to my friends whose gorgeous skin color is not white:  I write this as a confession, in hopes that my mind can be reformed in the last decades of my life.  I hope to not offend any person, or any race.  With tears in my eyes, I know that I’m taking a risk.

Black People & LDS White Supremacy

Until four years ago, the church taught that black people were not valiant in the pre-earth life.  Punishment for their non-committal was the black skin they were born with.  It was a curse.  It was easy to see who was stalwart in the pre-existence.  White—valiant.  Black—nope, they were cursed.  I am a white man.  That meant I was better than black men….going all the way back before we were born.

In December 2013, the church published the essay entitled Race and the Priesthood.   For the first time, our past racist teachings, doctrines, and practices were officially disavowed and condemned!!!  Previous prophets were thrown under the bus.  As they should be.  Many of their words are super offensive.  Super racist.  I’m not going to repeat them here.  Fortunately, they have now been condemned.

But dammit, for 62 years I believed this crap.  I knew without a doubt that it was true.  After all, it had been spoken by the prophets who would never lead me astray.  How do you get your head free from 62 years of indoctrination?

Well…the official condemnation has helped.  Thank you very much.

But…..LDS Church…..you have not atoned for your racist sins, yet.  You are hiding the Race and the Priesthood essay.  Some will say that it is not hidden.  Of course it is.  The General Authority in charge of the church history department even admitted as much.  Most members don’t know it exists.   If one does know, it’s hard to find.  And…you have to know exactly where to look.

I will view my church as The Church of White Supremacy until it makes our condemnation and disavowal in public, where all the members can hear and understand.  That includes General Conference talks by apostles and study in our classes on Sunday.

On August 13, 2017, the Mormon Newsroom released this statement:  “White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful.”   How ironic that we taught white supremacy for at least 170 years.  Seventeen decades of morally wrong and sinful teachings and practices.  If we don’t start condemning our past from the pulpit, we are no better than the pharisees of whited-sepulcher infamy.  Christ called them hypocrites.  What would He be calling to us today?

Brown People and LDS White Supremacy

I can’t speak for anyone but myself.  I don’t purport to represent the feelings of any descendants of Native American peoples.  In my past life, I referred to them collectively as Lamanites.  I don’t do that anymore.

From childhood through adulthood, I was taught that the ancestors of the American Indians were wicked.  Since they were bad people, God turned their skin from white to a dark and loathsome color.  Not just dark, but loathsome!  When the brown people started being good, their skin turned white.  When they were bad again, their skin changed back to dark and loathsome.

When I was younger, the Prophet pronounced that believing ‘Lamanite’ children had already turned “several shades lighter” than their unbelieving parents and siblings.

This is all so damned racist.  It makes me cry at the effects that these horribly bigoted beliefs have had….on me.

For what I say next…I ask forgiveness in advance.  If you can’t forgive me, I completely understand.

This morning, I read a Facebook comment made by a friend.  Among other things she said that she had married a Mexican man.  The very….first….thought….that popped into my head was, “She settled for second best.”  Thinking that she had not married a white man.  The thought couldn’t have lasted more than a second.  Then I caught myself.  Then I cried and thought, “Hell, I’m not racist, am I?  I know that my white skin does not make me superior.  Brown skin, black skin, white skin are beautiful manifestations of the glory of God’s diversity.”  Nevertheless, the grotesque notion had crossed my mind.

All my life, I have lived with the Book of Mormon precept that brown skin was a curse from God.  Today, that’s laughable.  Except it’s not.  It’s still lodged in some distant & ugly corner of my brain.

This racist teaching has not been disavowed nor condemned by the Mormon Church….yet.  It should be.

So…today…I publicly disavow and condemn ALL the Mormon teachings regarding skin color being a curse.  Including those contained in the Book of Mormon.

I don’t know if this statement will finally sweep away my hideous cobwebs of racism.  Cobwebs that are mostly hidden even from myself.  Cobwebs that I’m now exposing to the light of day, in hopes that they will be totally burned away.

True Colors

TrueColors

Many years ago, I was at Disney World with the kids.  The lines were long.  The heat was strong.  Fortunately, Disney has designed ways to make the waits tolerable.

We were in line for a production at one of the theaters.  I don’t remember which one.  But, I vividly remember what was showing on the TV screens in the waiting area. Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors.’  The video was bright and colorful and creative.  Images of people around the world.  All shapes and colors.  It stirred my imagination.  The lyrics, the music and the pictures touched my soul.

I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show

A couple of days ago, I flew into Vegas and picked up a rental a car.  As I drove to the hotel, ‘True Colors’ came on the radio.  I was touched again.  Five months ago, I stepped away from the Mormon church.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided to step back in.  My return to church would be next Sunday, August 27, 2017.

Today, I go back home to Houston.  As I drove to the airport, ‘True Colors’ came on again. Wow!  Is a higher power sending me a message?  It pierced my heart again.  This time in a different way.  In the wee hours of this morning, I had decided not to step back in…for now.

The original words no longer resonate.  In my Mormon world, these are the lyrics I hear:

I see your true colors
And that’s why I hate you
So do be afraid to let them show

In the past few days, there have been several communications, both with family and with others.  My True Colors are not bringing out love.  Fear…yes.  Resentment…yes.  Shunning…yes.  Condemnation…yes.  Loss of friends…yes.  Loss of business…yes.

Do my True Colors inflict pain on others?  They sure do.

I see our church causing pain and damage.  I see people in pain and loneliness.  My True Colors have been to care and to reach out.  It turns out that my colors are scary, ugly and repulsive in the very community to which I have invested my all…and all my life.  How ironic that honesty and openness are not valued.

Complete Lyrics

You’ll see why they resonated…..until last night.

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
Its hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
Show me a smile then
Don’t be unhappy, can’t remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there
And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there
And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
True colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

P.S.

I have dropped out of Facebook.  I don’t plan to share this particular blog post there. Openness is punished and I’m not feeling like more castigation right now.

Who knows, I may recover in an hour, or a week, or a year and be willing to show my True Colors again.  In the meantime, thank you for following my journey.  Godspeed in yours.