If It Gets Any Traction, You’ll be Excommunicated

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 Faith Crisis

Last year, a month prior to October 2016 General Conference, I was interviewed for a Mormon Stories episode.  Of course, John Dehlin was the host.  I knew him when he was a young Lad in Houston.  Back then, his father was my business partner.  Thirty years ago, I lost track of him.

We reconnected  quite by accident.  My unexpected and gut-wrenching faith journey was about to begin.  That small boy, now become a tall man, would soon help me in an important quest.

My faith crisis led me out of the church.  Then to Jesus.  Then back to the church in an effort to keep my covenants and…..to stand up for those who are being marginalized and hurt within the Savior’s own earthly kingdom.

All this ultimately brought me to a vital doctrinal discovery…the Law of Common Consent.  A gorgeous commandement given by Jesus through the prophet Joseph Smith.  The Lord ordained this mechanism to help keep His church on track and to correct errors along the way.  But, it’s a concept that hasn’t been taught in classes or from the pulpit for years.

How to share it?  How to get the word out?  Friends pointed me to John Dehlin and his Mormon Stories Podcast.  We talked off and on for months.  I was nervous.  Friends and family continued to leave the church.  I became aware of more and more harm being done by policies never approved by the vote of the church. My apprehension eventually evaporated.  We scheduled the interview.

John Gives A Warning

Months in advance of the recording, I had asked John, “What are the risks of doing this podcast?”

His response, “If common consent gets any traction, you will be excommunicated.

I have more trust in the church than that.  Common Consent is the law of God.  I believe Jesus has our backs when we don’t turn our backs on Him.  Actually, I believe that Jesus always has our backs, no matter what.

Here’s the Mormon Stories interview.  Thanks to my friend, John Dehlin.

To see comments on Episode 649, click HERE.

Other Resources

Common Consent Scriptures & Doctrine, click HERE.
Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove, click, HERE.
Email notifications that can be sent to Bishops and Stake Presidents, click HERE.
Do We Love Jesus Enough?, click HERE.
The Only True Hope for The Only True Church, click HERE.
If I Don’t Dissent…I Consent, click HERE.

Behind Closed Doors–Don’t Let It Happen!

Closed Door

I have a good friend of many years.  He and his family have not been to church in a long time.  Our friendship began a few months after his disaffection, maybe a decade ago.

One time we talked about why he was not active.  “I have some concerns with my bishop.”  He didn’t elaborate.  I didn’t pry.

I hadn’t talked with him in maybe a year.  Out of the blue, he called a few days ago to chat.  How timely.  Later that day I was planning to release my Walrus post.  So, I was feeling really chatty.  A meeting was arranged.  I shared my faith journey.  His eyes were wide with riveted attention.  My experience was totally unexpected and shocking.  But, I believe it was a pleasant shock.

He said, “Sam, I think you can now understand me.  I’m going to tell you why I quit going to church.”

Here’s his story.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

As you  know, I didn’t grow up in the church.  I’m an adult convert.  After my baptism, my wife and I weren’t terribly active.  At some point, we decided that church would be good for the children.  We searched out the local ward.  Made our first visit.  Met the bishop.  Right off the bat, Jeni (his wife) and I were called into the nursery.  I was not excited about taking care of other people’s kids.  Our youngest had just entered the young men’s program.  Never-the-less, we accepted.  

One day Jeff (his youngest) told me that he had an interview scheduled with the bishop.  He was extremely nervous.  I reassured him that I’d be right outside the bishop’s office.  If he became uncomfortable at all, he could just come get me.  Of course, I wasn’t worried in the least.  After all, he was going to have a talk with the spiritual leader of the congregation.

My Jeffie entered.  The door was closed.  I waited.  Within a few minutes the bishop’s door opened.  My flustered son rushed to my side.  “Dad, he asked if I have ever had sex with another boy.  Then he asked if I masturbated.”

I was livid.  No one has a right to interrogate my child in this way.  I confronted the bishop.  Leaned over his desk and shouted, “If you ever ask those questions to my kids again, I’ll beat you to a pulp.”  I walked out the chapel door and never returned.

A Dangerous Culture

Until the past couple of years, I was not aware that this practice had become common—for bishops to ask 12 to 18 year old children about masturbation.  Just envision it.  An untrained older man taking a 12 year old girl, behind closed doors, without the parents’ knowledge or permission and asking, “Do you touch yourself down there?”  Maybe that sounds perfectly natural and acceptable to you.  If it does…good luck with that.

For those of you who are NOT ok with turning children over to an adult male, with no training, to be taken into a private, closed room to be quizzed about sexual matters…starting at 12…please continue reading.

In my growing up years, never once was I asked these types of probing & inappropriate questions by any church leader.  My wife was never asked either.  I served as bishop for over 5 years.  Thankfully, I never asked one single kid about touching his or her privates.  It never entered my mind.  Hopefully, I would have recoiled at the idea if I’d been directed to do so by the higher ups.

Why would it be dangerous for your child to be quizzed about masturbation by an older man, in a private closed room without your authorization?  And remember, he has no training.  Do I really have to elaborate?  Society in general recognizes this as risky, unsafe, and unhealthy.  We should recognize it as…unholy.  Heaven forbid that we have a sexual predator in priesthood leadership.  It’s rare.  But, it has happened many times in the church.  Why risk it?….Don’t!!

There’s another big danger.  This practice grooms children for the sexual predators lurking in the real world.  Our child is trained that it’s OK for a trusted  older man, in a white shirt and tie, to talk to her in private about her private parts.  This is an unnecessary, gross, and hazardous practice.

What To Do

  1. Don’t let your child be interviewed without your permission.
  2. Be present, in the closed door room, during the interview.
  3. Inform your bishop of your conditions for youth interviews.  You are to be present. No discussion about masturbation or other sexual matters.  That is to be between you and your child ONLY.
  4. Inform your child that they are to let you know whenever any church leader requests a meeting with them.
  5. If inappropriate questions are asked, stop the interview immediately.

To My Children

I know that this may sound uncomfortable.  Your children, my grandchildren, are more precious than a little discomfort with church leaders who may not understand.

Stand up for your kids.  They will be in your life for the rest of your life.  The leaders won’t.  Eventually, the bullet points above will be adopted by our church culture, just as they have been adopted by society in general.  Until then, don’t take what appears to be innocent risks.  They are dangerous risks.

P.S.

My good friend gave me permission to share this story.  He read the entire post and approved it.  For various reasons, his name is being shared.  However, he extended this invitation.  “If anyone would like to ask me any questions, send them my way.  I’ll chat with them on the porch over a cold drink.”

I consider this man a real hero of a dad.  Standing up for his child.  Conside this comment I received today:

“Reading that story about your friend made me so angry at the church, but it also made me so happy that the young man in the story had the confidence to walk out to his dad as soon as the interview went in that direction. What a great example of good parenting. The father told his son to come out if he felt uncomfortable, and the young man did just that, even though he was in the presence of an “authoritative” figure. He was clearly raised well. I hope that I can raise my daughter to be confident and wise like that.”

“I Know That You Will Save Lives”

Birthday Candles

After my recent announcement, several friends have asked, “Do you still  plan to travel to SLC and vote opposed at April General Conference?

I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.

Yesterday, I received this message.

I’ve read several of your blog articles and they are deeply moving.

I’m pretty sure you will not change the church, I’m afraid this church is beyond redemption. But I also know that you will save lives. That somewhere a boy or a girl stuck in the church will be able to overcome self-loathing and suicidal thoughts. That somewhere a father will not reject his son. That more and more people will start to question their behavior towards gays. Because of your dissent, and the dissent of people you have inspired. And for this, yes, all your efforts are meaningful, even if the church never changes.

I know it because I was once a gay teenager in this church. Those years were awful years of self-loathing, despair and loneliness. I was constantly reminded that I was broken and evil by everyone around me, and seriously contemplating suicide. It would have meant a lot to me if someone in the church had dissented by voicing his concerns about these ill-teachings, and his support of gay people (or even only by carrying a rainbow ribbon). Nobody did.

So I thank you for your dissent, in the name of the young boy I was, and in the name of all people suffering in silence in this church.

 

“The Time Has Come,” the Walrus Said

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  • To talk of fewer things.
  • Not of consent or where our friends went.  
  • No voice…nor choice.  
  • Just cabbages and kings.

After a 2 1/2 year faith journey, I’m stepping away from the church.  This morning, with tears in her eyes, my wife said, “Honey, there are other ways to serve Jesus than advocating for his laws and a safe place to discuss them.”  In her wise and kind way, she was giving me permission and support to follow a different path.

It’s time.  It’s consumed me.

I have blogged…as an active, believing church member.  I’ll continue to blog…as a believing member who has stepped away.

Do I support my wife in the church?  Of course.  But, she has not been there much lately.

Do I support my kids and grand kids in the church?  Of course and absolutely.

Do I support my bishop and stake president?  Fine, fine men.  They are doing the best they can within the system they have been dealt.

Do I support my friends who remain active?  If it blesses their lives, that is exactly where they should be.  Good for them.  They have my full encouragement.

Do I support my friends and family who have left the church?  That’s pretty rhetorical at this point.  Whether atheist or Christian..believer of not…we understand and empathize with each other completely.

Acknowledge That People are Leaving

This has been a sticking point over the past 26 months.  It was that long ago, when I first reached out to the local leaders.  I was encouraging them to create a safe space for those with questions.  In that first meeting, I was told that I was the only person who was questioning.

Over the intervening 2 years, many members of our ward have left.  The leaders may be clueless as to who several of them are.  Except for one couple, I have had lengthy and deep communication with all those on the list below.

Family #1:  Two years ago, this bedrock couple was open to outreach.  Today, they are simply gone.

Family #2:  Super active and involved for decades.  Now, gone.  The one family I have not personal spoken to, yet.

Family #3:  Have since moved from the ward.  Few know of their disaffection.  They want it that way.

Family #4:  Struggled in gut wrenching pain and loneliness for months.  Finally, left the church without discussing anything with leadership.

Family #5:  Another family who moved on from the ward and on from the church.  Again, few know and they want to keep it that way.

Family #6:  They contacted me a few weeks ago.  Long discussion.  Not coming back.  Don’t want to discuss with anyone else.

Family #7:  If the ward doesn’t know they are gone, they are not paying attention.

Family #8:  That’s me….my wife would have to speak for herself.

Our ward and stake leadership is not aware of all the names behind these family #’s.  They seem to be in denial.  Never-the-less, they are real.  If this is happening in my own ward, imagine what is happening all around the world.

Hopeful Conversation?

Recently, I had the following conversation in a social channel.

Here are the feeling that I presented.

  1. Nobody cares that people are leaving.
  2. Nobody will discuss reasons why people are leaving. Our heads are deep in the sand.
  3. Nobody knows what the temple covenants mean. We are forbidden from discussing them in the open or in classes.
  4. It’s forbidden to discuss church history and doctrine at church… The essays are not to be brought up.
  5. Local leadership is going to follow whatever the church says… No suggestions from the congregation.

The response:

Perhaps this is the case in your ward or stake, but it’s important to realize that not everyone’s experience in the Church is the same. Where I live, our ward and stake is very concerned about those who are leaving, and is taking steps to try to better understand them, their needs, and how to better serve them.

No one is forbidden from speaking about temple covenants. In fact, it’s part of the temple preparation course. It’s in the manual. Some may feel uncomfortable speaking about it, but there’s no prohibition. Those who think there is one simply need to be better educated. 

I’ve had several discussions on difficult gospel topics at Church. In fact, the new Teaching in the Savior’s Way training is much more open about student questions and discussion.

Input from ward members is certainly a desire. A couple years ago, a seventy visited our stake conference and said that ward councils should be including as many people as we want to include. It isn’t just for leaders, it’s for the ward. If you want to hear anyone’s input on what needs to happen in the ward, invite them. 

This man’s ward and stake is going to be OK.  Their approach is badly needed everywhere.

What Would Bring Me Back?

A voice.  To be treated like a valued adult.  Not as a child.

Now, off to the great adventure of attempting to follow the teachings and example of the babe in the manger.

 

 

 

 

Suicide Vote

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If I Don’t Dissent….I Consent

Well….I don’t consent.  No way am I going to dismiss the dreadful suicide rates documented by the CDC.  It’s a shame and a stain on my church.

The LGBT policies of the LDS church are, at best, purely temporary.  A modern apostle taught us this fact.  You can find his words detailed HERE.

These policies are not binding on the church until they are presented for a vote and sustained by the majority.  This is a restored principle of the restored church.  The prophet Joseph F. Smith testified before the U.S. Congress that this is the way the church functions.  His testimony is recorded HERE.

A Driving Force Behind Gay Suicides

I have a friend in Utah County who is an ardent advocate and protector of gay kids.  The Provo area can be particularly hard on LGBT as the density of the Mormon faith is so intense there.  He explained something I’d never heard before:

“Gay kids are taught that they have to endure this life in complete celibacy.  When they eventually die, they will be resurrected with the ‘normal and proper’ heterosexual feelings.  In the next world, they will be ‘fixed.’  But…in the meantime, they must endure the next 70 to 80 years with no expression of their gay inclinations.  No hand holding.  No hugging.  No dating.  No kissing.  No romance.  No romantic love.  No intimacy.  No marriage.  No hope for any of this.  The ideation then goes something like this.  ‘If I will be changed to a normal person after I die, why wait 80 years?  Why not end the suffering, the rejection, the hopelessness?  I’ve prayed to be changed.  It hasn’t worked.  But, I know how I can be changed.  I have to die.'”

It’s not the gay kids that need to change.  It’s the policies, teachings and attitudes of the institution that need to change.  They aren’t even real policies.  Only temporary!!!

Gay kids need sympathetic support.  Not suicidal support.  At April’s General Conference, I will exercise my right, privilege and responsibility to vote opposed.  If it saves one LBGT youth from suicide…the shunning & temple recommend loss that I endure, will all be well worth it.

Over 45 years ago, I witnessed the beating of a poor innocent mentally challenged kid.  Essentially, I consented to his beating by standing on the sidelines and uttering no protest.  I have deep, deep regrets, which are recoreded HERE.  I’m not going to make another dreadful blunder by standing on the sidelines as suicides soar.

To read a fuller analysis of Utah’s teen suicides and their link to the church’s LGBT policies, this is a great SITE.  The author put together the graph above from data provided by the CDC website.

322

Fortunately, I’m not alone.  There are now 322 of us living the law of common consent and voting opposed.

Join us.

You can start HERE.

Other Resources

  • Common Consent Scriptures & Doctrine, click HERE.
  • Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove, click, HERE.
  • Email notifications that can be sent to Bishops and Stake Presidents, click HERE.
  • Do We Love Jesus Enough?, click HERE.
  • The Only True Hope for The Only True Church, click HERE.
  • If I Don’t Dissent…I Consent, click HERE.

Is the Church Worth Saving?

Screen-Shot-2017-03-08-at-12.50.35-PM-300x228Gina Colvin

I’ve never done this before…highlight someone else’s podcast.

This one touched and encouraged me.  It’s from a group called A Thoughtful Faith.  They produce podcasts which appeal to Mormons who are active, want to stay active,  but may have concerns regarding the church.  I was particularly intrigued by the 64 dollar question at the end…”Is the church worth saving?”

The podcast features Gina Colvin interviewing Josh and Ron Madson.

In the comments below, I think you’ll see why I liked this so much.

Links

For the actual podcast click HERE.

For the website click HERE.  It gives details about the participants and about A Thoughtful Faith.

My Comments

Gina, Josh & Ron…Thanks for this wonderful podcast. I listened to it 3 times over!!! It was informative and insightful. Highly validating of what I’ve been thinking. I also found it full of opportunity. The opportunity to step up to the plate of Common Consent. Here’s what I heard. Sorry if I get some of your names wrong.

Josh: “I don’t know if we can change? Moving everything from local to general. Most of the things local members used to have to make changes have been wrested from them.” Sam: They didn’t wrest all things. We are actually the ones who have ceded common consent. But, that we can easily take back. It just waiting for our action.

Ron: “Something must die so that something can live.” Sam: Something must first come to life…common consent, before something will die…our reliance on central control to dictate all policies and practices.

Josh: “Change will have to come from the margins. From the bottom up. It will involve people questioning authority. Until those things are challenged we will always be under the thumb of central rule and we’ll continue to have to take marching orders.” Sam: Doesn’t this just scream common consent? that is the bottom up method that Jesus himself established.

Gina: “It needs people to put on the brake and say, “Whoa…hold on. I didn’t sign up for this kind of corporatized Christianity.” Sam: That’s exactly what common consent expresses. By simply voting to sustain we are saying, “Whoa…hold on…you have my approval to continue to do anything you darn well please.”

Ron: “More than anything the church needs more and more Samuels, people from the margins challenging it. We need Samuels and others from the margins to keep us in check.” Sam: OK…I’m not a Lamanite. But, I am a Samuel. At present, I’m the only one on the wall calling for Common Consent. You are right. We need more & more Samuels on the wall. Come join me. What would happen if Gina, Josh and Ron climbed up on Samuel’s wall and encouraged compliance to the law of Jesus Christ…the law of common consent? Here’s what would happen…a few more Samuels would appear…and then a few more…then a lot more…

Gina: “Wouldn’t it be nice to have Samuel the Lamanite to give us some direction.” Sam: Ditto my comments above. Come be a Samuel on the wall. After all, during my faith transition, YOU, Gina, had a great influence on my decision to stay with the church.

Ron: “We need a wake up call.” Sam: Exactly right. A wake up to OUR responsibility. It’s OUR responsibility to exercise our god-given right, & privilege of common consent. But, who is going to make that wake up call? How about you 3 along with little ol’ me? At present there are 321 members who have put their names on the register of Common Consent as being opposed to various policies that have yet to be presented for the required vote. What is needed is more members at the forefront leading the charge.

Ron: “I’ve never had a faith crisis. The church has a truth crisis.” Sam: The entire membership is going through a responsibility crisis. No one is stepping up to their duty. “All things MUST be done in the church by common consent.” That’s us. Jesus is talking about our vital responsibility in church governance. We are shirking it very badly.

Finally, Gina posed the ultimate question which goes something like this: ‘Is the church, as it’s currently organized, worth saving?’ Here’s my answer—YES!!! There is so much good in and about the church. However, I would add another question, “Is the church, as it’s currently practiced, worth saving? Nope!!! At least not for me. And…not for the boatloads of members who have left and will continue to leave. The church is organized with common consent as a powerful principle. But, it’s practiced as an essential that has been eviscerated. We need to eviscerate our complacency to this essential law.

So there it is. We have tons of complaints. The solution is embedded in our founding, canonized documents. The key is hidden in plain sight. We all see it. A commandment calling out for our courageous embrace.

Thanks again for this wonderful podcast. Ya’ll are awesome.

Take Responsibility for Destroying the LDS Church

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You are destroying the Mormon church–my church.  That’s right.  I’m pointing a finger directly at you…all of you who continue to vote approval.  You are destroying my church…one member at a time…thousands every month…tens of thousands every year.

Your sustaining vote upholds the violation of Christ’s law of common consent.

Every vote of approval gives license to unrighteous dominion.  Our own scriptures warn us of the certainty of this colossal danger.

Every sustaining vote condemns Christ’s system of checks and balances, converting it into nothing more than a pointless practice.

Condemnation

Our current prophets have condemned 160 years of our racist past.  They have Condemned the racism of our policies, practices, doctrine and teachings.  I don’t blame the prophets for our condemned racist history.  Yeah…they do share big time blame.  But, I place the majority of the blame and shame on the members…you and me.  Our racist past is our fault.  All of our racist doctrine was implemented…without our consent.  We sat by and let it be implemented…without exercising the rights, privileges and responsibilities that Jesus had placed squarely on our shoulders.

Today, we are operating under a whole system of policies and teachings that have never been exposed to the light of common consent.  At best, that makes them temporary policies.  At worst, they are the misguided ideas of men.  According to scripture, doctrine and prophetic pronouncements, they all MUST be put up for a vote of the church body.

Three Hundred and Eighteen

318 brothers and sisters have now broken with the ranks of silence.  We have taken on the responsibility of saving the church.  Actually, we took on this burden when we were baptised and committed to follow the commandments of Jesus.  We further committed in the temple…where we made a covenant to obey the law of God.

On the other hand, those of you who choose to sustain MUST take responsibility for the dire effects that disobedience is wreaking on the church.  Five, ten, twenty years from now, we will condemn and disavow current tenets that were never presented for approval.  That will be on your heads, not on the heads of the 318.

We are taught that there is safety in keeping the commandments.  Well, the church must be in grave danger as it openly defies Christ.  No favors are done for the apostles by simply saluting everytime they ask for a vote.  Rather, we are putting them in danger of the corrupting influence of unfettered power.  Christ has provided the check.  We are dismissing it.

Twenty-four days from now, general conference will be upon us.  You can take the responsibility of contributing to the church’s destruction.  Your sustaining vote will sustain the subversion of common consent.  Or, you can stand on Christ’s side and vote to uphold His law.

For me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Follow Jesus by Voting Opposed

There is only one way that this beautiful part of the restoration will be restored to its rightful place.  It up to us to take it into our hands and to lift them in opposition to the continued disobedience of the Savior’s Law of Common Consent.

Go to conference, in your home, in your chapel, or in SLC, and vote to have our rights and privileges of consent restored.

You can start by registering with 318 other members on the Common Consent Register …HERE.

Other Resources

Common Consent Scriptures & Doctrine, click HERE.
Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove, click, HERE.
Do We Love Jesus Enough?, click HERE.
The Only True Hope for The Only True Church, click HERE.
An Apostle Speaks Up for Common Consent, click HERE.