Dear Friend, I’m Offended, Too

Bednar Offended

Recently, I published a blog entitled “Do You Wear the Right Panties?”  It elicited a strong comment from a good friend.

My Friend’s Comment

“Sam, you have crossed the line and finally shown your true colors. To poke fun at something that is sacred to TBM, you have in essence spit on the face of the Church you claim to still be a member of. Why haven’t you left yet? I think it is because you like the title as if it makes your speeches more real if you can add to your rhetoric that you are still a member….a title…worse yet ….pride. I never thought I would see the day when someone I had admired for so long would turn from being so humble to so prideful. It’s the pride cycle in human form. God Bless you my friend. For you and I both, I am glad for forgiveness and the Atonement.”

My Response

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your comment.  Dialogue in the church is so lacking.  Without it, no one can come to really understand one another.  I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts.

I can see how you could be offended by my piece.  Your hurt is valid and I recognize that.  I hear you.  I see you.

In October 2006 General Conference, Elder Bednar made a this statement:

“Believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make.” 

According to Elder Bednar, you have chosen to be offended.  And…I respect your choice.

Now, I’m going to take this opportunity to share how I have chosen to be offended.  Hopefully, this will shed more light on my “True Colors.

  1. For most of my life, I have been taught lies, half-truths and deceptions.  That offends me.  Even the noted Mormon historian Richard Bushman admits that lies have been common fare.  “I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative.  The dominant narrative is not true;  it can’t be sustained.”  The church should openly admit where they were deceptive or simply in error.  And then apologize for it.  Not doing so is the same as the church spitting in my face.
  2. During the 2 years of my full-time mission, I taught a lie that was conveniently provided by the church.  I didn’t find out until 3 years ago that it was a lie.  That offends me.  The church should openly admit that this teaching was a lie and apologize to all those who taught it.  Not doing so is the same as the church spitting in my face.
  3. When I was a kid, we sang songs that encouraged us to think about and follow Jesus.  Today, we indoctrinate our kids to follow the prophet.  The primary songs center around the temple, the scriptures and the prophet.  That really offends me.  It affects my posterity.  They are being taught to make the apostles their God instead of Christ.  Whose face is that spitting at?
  4. The church has changed.  Our focus in now obey, obey, obey.  Yet, the apostles lead out in disobedience to the Law of Common Consent.  Boy, do I ever choose to be offended at this hypocrisy.  The church is spitting on it’s own mandate from Jesus Christ.  We are spitting on the restoration.  The apostles have elevated themselves above the accountability mandated by the Savior.  I’m also disappointed that the general membership continues to be complicit in allowing them to do this.
  5. I…AM…OFFENDED…that my 12 year old daughter was taken behind closed doors, all alone, by the bishop, without my knowledge or consent, and asked if she masturbated.  During her teenage years this was repeated “all the time.”  The church spit in my face by condoning and encouraging this practice behind my back.  They circumvented my parental responsibility.  Yeah…I choose to be offended at these indefensible interviews with MY children.  I am also super disappointed that the good members of the church are not rising up in mass to condemn this practice and call for its immediate cessation.
  6. We hold ourselves out as the quintessential family church.  We constantly hype The Family Proclamation.  Yet, The Proclamation, many teachings from the General Conference pulpit and our own Mormon culture are tearing families apart.  I see it every day.  I hear it everyday.  I read it everyday.  But, the church turns a blind eye to it.  How offensive!   So unfortunate!  And….almost completely preventable!!!  How hypocritical to praise the family out front, and, at the same time, tear them to pieces behind our backs.
  7. I…AM…OFFENDED…that the church leadership counseled a gay man to marry my daughter.  They told him that he would turn straight once he saw my daughter naked.  Outrageously OFFENSIVE!  This was my daughter they were messing with.  Stake Presidents and Bishops gave this counsel for decades.  It has left broken hearts, broken families and soul crushing sadness in its wake.  I have chosen to be super OFFENDED that my church gave such horrible direction.  If I were to spit on anything, this is where my spittle would be directed.  Fortunately, both my daughter and my gay almost-son-in-law did not wed.  Today, they are both married to wonderful men.  But, there was no help from the church, whatsoever.

Of course, I could list many other things that are offensive to me.

No way am I going to turn a blind eye.  I would….if I didn’t care about the Church or my family or the members of the church.  If I didn’t value my temple covenants, I might just sit on my thumbs.  If the teachings and example of Jesus meant nothing to me…I could easily do nothing.

But, I do care about the Church.  I do care about my family in the Church.  I am concerned about the members…especially those who find themselves marginalized.  I value my covenants.  The Savior’s teachings are the foundation of my actions.  His example is the foundation of my choice to be offended.

All my best wishes to you and your family.  May you bask in health, family unity, and God’s love.

Do You Wear the Right Panties?

PantyLine

The Good News

I have discovered a new church that can get you into heaven.

The Catch

You have to wear the right panties!!!

And…you have to regularly report that you have the right panties on.

And…women report to multiple men about their panty wearing habits.

And….you have to wear them all day and all night.

And…not just any pair of panties.

Panties from Penny’s?  Not allowed.

Victoria’s Secret?  No way.

So….where do you find the only panties that can get you into heaven?   The answer is so beautifully simple.  You just buy them from the only church that can get you into heaven.

Sound Crazy?

Of course, there are other conditions to enter Deity’s dwelling.  But, the panty prerequisite is one of the standouts.

Naked From the Waist Up

BookshelvesOver my lifetime, I have had at least 4 dreams that turned out to have profound significance.  For two of them, it took decades of recurrence before their meanings were manifest.   For the other two, their message was clear as a bell at the get-go.

Tonight, I’m going to share the most recent one.  It came sometime in the fall of 2016.

In the dream, I was on a sales call with my top sales person.  As this was a highly important potential customer, he’d asked me to come along.  We walked in the front door and up to a counter.   Two people were behind it.  The counter was chest high.  I rested my arms on it as my companion made the introductions.

It was then that I noticed a huge and embarrassing problem.  My sales person was dressed in appropriate business attire.  Be me?  His boss?  There I was, perched on the front counter…..without a shirt on my back.  Oh man, was I ever rattled by that sudden realization.  How the hell did this happen?  How am I going to hide my nakedness from the prospect?

But….no one was staring.  That was odd.  Three others in the lobby.  None were casting furtive glances at my naked torso.  Were they just being super polite?

My embarrassment heightened, as I considered the ramifications of ruining this prime opportunity.  My stupid and disrespectful appearance was certain to get me kicked out of the executive’s office.

Shortly, we were escorted into the room where the meeting was to occur.  The head man was not there…yet.  Several of his employees were.  They presented a full array of gender & ethnicity.  All appeared to be young.  In their 20s or early 30s.  The office had the appearance of a crowded library.  All four walls lined with bookcases filled to the brim.  The books were are varied as the people.  Their spines colorful.  Some small.  Some tall.  Most having a classic, antique look about them.

A drafting table and accompanying lamp were pushed up against one set of bookcases.  In front of it, an elevated drafting chair.  It’s occupant was turned to look directly at me and my shirtless body.  The other people were seated behind antique leather-topped desks.  Or standing with an open book in their hand.  Me and my sales person were also seated in elevated drafting chairs.  There was nothing in front of us.  Nothing to block what I was so anxious to hide….me.

We small talked.  I’m usually pretty good at that.  But, there was something in the air.  Part discomfort.  Part anticipation.  And a little bit of electricity.  I could sense it…but couldn’t quite put my finger on what I was feeling.

After talking to one person, I turned towards another.  What the hell!  He doesn’t have a shirt on anymore!  When did he take it off?  Why did he take it off?  No way was I going to ask.  I acted as if I didn’t notice.  After all, everybody else seemed to be pretending not to notice MY toplessness.

I turned around again.  Another person was now naked from the waist up.  This time a young woman.  In the dream I could see that she had taken her shirt off.  But, I didn’t snap to fact that she was bare breasted.  Somehow I didn’t notice that.  Only that her shirt was gone.  More electricity in the air.  A feeling of huge anticipation.  Something important was about to happen.

The door opened.  In walked the boss.  Immediately, I knew exactly who he was….Mark Zuckerberg.   Facebook’s founder.  The electricity evaporated.  The anticipation dissolved.  I was screwed.  Somehow my sales person had landed an appointment with a billionaire and I showed up in my birthday suit, from my belly button up.

Then…. it slowly dawns on me.   He doesn’t seem to notice my nakedness.  He pays no attention to his two employees who are also shirtless.  I look around the room.  What the heck is going on?

Mr. Zuckerberg sits down on the lone remaining drafting chair.  He leans back and rests his elbow on the bookshelf behind him.  He appears casual and comfortable and intensely interested….in something.  I turn my eyes away from him to the opposite corner of the library.  What!!!  Another employee has shed his shirt….with his boss sitting right there in the same room.

I turn my head back to face the dominant figure who is still framed by the colorful & magnificent books behind him.  And there he was….leaning back….elbow resting on the shelf….and….naked from the waist up.  For some reason, his shirt is now gone.  Scanning the room again, no one had anything on above their belt.

Immediately, the beautiful interpretation of my dream burst open.  My nakedness represented being open and vulnerable.  When others took their shirts off, it meant they had recognized that they were in a safe place.  They could now reveal who they really were.  Even the billionaire responded with naked openness.  A blaze of lively and heartfelt conversation spontaneously erupted.

I don’t remember what was shared in that room that day.  What I do know is that the electricity in the air was the wonderful anticipation of the possibility of being who we really were, out in the open, with no fear of  judgment.  Judgment, that we so often conceal our true selves from.

Honesty.  Openness.  Vulnerability.  Empathy.  Authenticity.  I have a new found love for these gorgeous ideals.  Today, I go naked from the waist up, as often as its safe.

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 (Hurricane Harvey), 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. Ahead 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.