Apostles’ Best Friend by Voting Opposed

Ballroom B&WBallroom dancing is my hobby.  Don’t worry.  It’s not terribly contagious.  But, it is great fun.  Inadvertently and with serendipity, ballroom has also taught me precepts of general living.   Recently, at the beginning of a lesson, my instructor, Lisa, and I had the following interchange:
Lisa:  Today, I’m going act like your best friend.
Sam:  What does that mean?
Lisa:  I’m not going to let you get away with anything.
Sam:  What does that mean?
Lisa:  I’m going to be totally truthful.  We’re working on your style and I want you to get it right.
Sam:  Good.  You know I prefer honest feedback.

Time for Best Friendship

In the LDS Church, the top leaders are called apostles.  For all of my 63 years, I have held them in high esteem.  I’ve attentively and earnestly listened to them, followed them, quoted them, loved them.  However, I was not being a ballroom best friend.  That has changed.  As of last April, I have started acting like the best friend I should be.  Three times, in April and May church conferences, general, stake & ward, I gave my honest opinion by raising my hand when “any opposed?” was pronounced from the pulpit.

Opposition vs. Disapproval

As part of the Mormon Church governance, 4 times every year, the names of the apostles are presented to the membership.  We are given the opportunity to sustain or oppose these men as apostles.  It’s a wonderful part of how the church should to be run.  However, I don’t care for the wording we use.  “Opposed” seems a little harsh.  But, that’s the way it’s done.  This procedure is based on multiple LDS scriptures contained in the book, Doctrine & Covenants.  For example, in D&C 124:144 Christ gives Joseph Smith the commandment to get approval or disapproval of those selected for various callings.  This is done by presenting the names at conferences of the church and asking for a showing of hands.  I much prefer the wording Jesus used:  approve vs. sustain and disapprove vs. oppose.  I’m not opposed to the apostles.  I simply disapprove of some of what they are doing.  Most of their decisions, I do approve of.  But, their is a fly in the ointment that has pushed me to dance onto the stage of disapproval.  It’s time for me to be a best friend.

The Gay Policy

Last November the church leadership announced a new policy.  If members of the church marry someone of the same sex, they are now labeled apostates and excommunicated. Their kids are to be excluded from baby blessings, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, priesthood ordination, & participation in temple worship.  Only when these children reach the age of 18 can they be baptized.  Two conditions are stipulated.  1) Approval of the First Presidency.  2)  Disavowal of the lifestyle of their parents.
The purpose of this post is not to discuss all the reasons for and against such a policy.  At this point, I’m just going to say that it’s disturbing to me on several levels.  I disapprove and have done so in the manner set forth by Jesus and Joseph Smith in our LDS canonized scripture.

MoroniCovenants

Although, I don’t want to discuss details of this edict, I do want to frame the mindset that has resulted in my disapproving conference votes.
The pinnacle of LDS worship is carried out in our temples.  Therein, sacred ordinances are performed.   Serious covenants of exaltation are at the very heart of these holy rituals.  I have made these promises.  I take them seriously.  It’s in consideration of these very covenants that I feel compelled to manifest my best-friendship.  Following are the three covenants in particular that relate to my decision.
  1. Avoid all lightmindedness.  Not sure exactly what this means.  But, at least, I take it that it I should be serious about serious matters.  Jesus tells his leadership to consult me 4 times every year and ask for my opinion.  Should I approach this opportunity with lightmindedness?  If I’m not thoughtful, prayerful, studious about the sustaining process, I now consider it as breaking my covenant.  A former apostle offers some support here, “It is clear that the sustaining vote by the people is not, and is not to be regarded as, a mere matter of form, but on the contrary a matter of the last gravity.”  It’s my opinion that the Savior wants me to be a best friend to His leadership.  It’s a vital part of the church governance that He established.  From here on out, no lightmindedness from this poor dancer.  I’m going to be a best ballroom friend.  Totally truthful.  As my instructor would say, I’m not going to let them get away with anything.
  2. Avoid all evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed.  Again, I’m not sure exactly what this means.  But, let’s take it that the Lord’s anointed are the church leaders. BTW, I don’t agree with the limiting nature of this interpretation.  Never-the-less, let’s go with it here.  Some have said that I’m breaking this covenant by voting opposed.  Obviously, I don’t agree with that assessment.  It just seems silly that Jesus would have them ask my opinion and then say, “Uh, uh, uh!  You just broke your covenant by being honest.”  For me, this covenant implies that I should be concerned about the welfare of the apostles.  I am.  This policy has created lots of evil speaking.  Many have lost respect for the high leadership.  The apostles have lost credibility and influence with many members.  I’ve seen friends and family simply walk away.  With them, the apostles have now lost total influence.  I desire to help in the avoidance of evil speaking.  Voting opposed works towards keeping this covenant.
  3. Avoid all unholy practices.  Once again, I don’t know exactly what this means.  Here’s what I’ve come to:  Jesus tells us to do something…it’s unholy if we do something different.  Jesus tells us not to do something…it’s unholy if we do it.  This is the most important reason I voted opposed.  For me, this exclusionary policy, especially regarding children, is an unholy practice.  A clear and present violation of my temple covenant.

Temple Recommend

When I voted NO, I held a current recommend.  I still do.  After the first vote of disapproval, a 2 3/4 hour interview ensued with my stake president and bishop.   I was asked, “How would you feel if you were to lose your temple recommend?”  My response, “I would view it as an egregious example of unrighteous dominion.  Christ has commanded the leadership to ask for my opinion.  If I’m punished for being forthright and honest, that wouldn’t be right.”  My recommend was not pulled.
But, if it had been, I would have been OK with that.  Another apostle, Bruce R. McConkie, speaking of temple covenants, weighed in with this insight,  “The law of sacrifice is that we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for the truth’s sake—our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men.”  I’m OK with that assessment.  Keeping McConkie’s words in mind, I’m certainly willing to sacrifice my temple recommend in order to keep my temple covenants.

Questions?

Do I believe others in the church are violating their temple covenants by supporting our gay policy of exclusion?  Absolutely not.  There is something really divine about these sacred promises.  We don’t understand them when we make them. We never discuss them openly.  And, no one has been able to answer my covenant questions when I queried.  So, I guess it’s up to each one of us to sort out their meaning.  Well, that’s kind-a-cool.  I respect your interpretation of your covenants.  I ask that you do the same for me.

Do I believe others should vote OPPOSED?  Not necessarily.  I’m not encouraging anyone to vote one way or the other.  Common consent is a vital, yet overlooked part, of the governance of the church.  In my opinion, the church would be much better at self-correction if more would consider voting their opinion, if they are truly opposed.  Unfortunately, those who are troubled  about this and other policies often vote with their feet rather than their hands.  That’s OK, too.  If you leave the church, I wish you the very best.  I respect and certainly can understand your decision.  Godspeed and happiness on your journey.  I will remain your friend, probably even better friends than before.

In the meantime, I’ll remain best friends with the apostles by giving them my truthful opinion every time they ask.  My ballroom instructor has taught me well.

11 thoughts on “Apostles’ Best Friend by Voting Opposed

  1. Sam, I have to say that there is much food for thought here and I would hope that every one could read this and make their own decisions on these matters. I have gone back and forth on the recent Gay Policy and truly have mixed feelings on the matter. After a lengthy discussion with a gay friend who left his wife of 34 years to lead the life he always felt was right for him, I thought the decision was terribly wrong. But then I read a psychologists report on what it would do to an 8 year old to go to church and hear that having two mommies or two daddies was a sin and abhorrent to God. I could not imagine how difficult that would be for that child. It would be torture for the ten years he/she lived with that kind of opposition. I served as a foreman on a jury once where the defendant was charged with using and selling drugs. He was a “three strikes” drug dealer and we could, by Texas law at the time, sentenced him to life in prison. He had an adorable 8 year old son, who by all accounts, a good kid. He had some positive role models in his life who were really caring for him. But this dad would come around, high on drugs and mess with the kids mind. So , when we deliberated the sentencing part, we discussed whether we should give him the maximum or the 15 years the attorney suggested. Now we knew that he would only serve 1/4 of that 15…that’s just the way it is. So he would be getting out about the time the boy was becoming a teenager. It was our decision to sentence him to 60 years. This was in hope that the boy would be an adult who had been raised by a Christian grandmother and an aunt in law school. So now I am wondering whether it was in the best interest of the child to join the church and then have to live with the daily pull of whether the church is right or wrong or whether the parents are living in sin. The conflict would just be torturous. That is where I stand at this time and until someone shows me that a child in this situation can thrive and be emotionally sound, I will keep this opinion. As for the blessing of babies, I am opposed to this policy. I can see no harm in the blessing of an infant.
    I want you to know that your covenant questions were, in my opinion, right on. I did not and do not have a clue what the terms mean and read what you wrote with tremendous enlightenment. Your definition sounds good to me.
    I believe that I can sustain the brethren without saying that I agree with everything they say. It is the same with my Bishops whom I have disagreed with several over the years and told them so. I still sustain them in the sense that I love them and pray for them. I stand in awe of all they have to do.
    Thanks for having this safe place to ramble.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks again for your thoughtful and comprehensive comment. I can appreciate your somewhat reluctant support of this policy. I can also see the reasoning and logic behind it. Obviously, I disagree. Differing viewpoints should be OK in the church. But, I’ve found that coming to a different conclusion than the prophets, seers, and revelators is not appreciated by many, if not most, members. My experience has been that mild to moderate shunning follows from many, but, definitely not all. I’m with you on sustaining without agreeing with the leadership on everything. That’s just what I’ve done in the past. But, this policy pushed me too far. It offeded my sensibilities immediately. Over the next few months, my angst grew as I saw friends and family leave the church. As mentioned in my post, my temple covenants were the clincher. I love the church. I hate the policy, but I love the policy makers.

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      1. Thanks so much, Sam, for your honesty, insights and courage. I, too, have a problem with the leadership in my own ward here in northern California. It is time for me to renew my temple recommend and I am delaying or not renewing it because of my disagreement and resentment with the three men who occupy the position of “the bishopric”. Living for over 30 years in the San Francisco Bay Area was a wonderful experience, one where ideas could be discussed among friends in my ward without fear of judgment, insult, hostility, etc. Having moved upon retirement to the Sacramento area, I am finding that there is a very outspoken, staunch conservative atmosphere among church members. I have been a closet Democrat all my life and just a few years ago finally stepped out of the closet and since then have taken enormous verbal abuse from church members here. I am appalled and outright flabbergasted at the blind following of “the rules and regulations” that are present in my ward and stake. My issue is not so much the unfair and ridiculous treatment of our brothers and sisters who happen to be gay, my issues are more politically motivated. However, your comments are right on as far as I am concerned and I root for you and your concerns, thoughts and your total honesty. Thank you for sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I too can appreciate Janice’s defense and I like that it isn’t just a “you should follow the prophets” reaction. My response to that is maybe we shouldn’t be making this the fundamental thing we talk about even if we ignore gay marriage for the moment. When we realize that >50% of our adult membership isn’t married, we are pouring a lot of salt in some wound even before we start talking about

    Growing up in the church as a youth 30-35 years ago, I had a friend that you could tell he was uncomfortable in his own skin. While I was on my mission he hung himself. I have found out only the last few years that he was gay. I have worked with several gay youth and being in the church tears at their souls. Only one out of many has stayed and he struggles every day to reconcile how he feels to what he is told he needs to do. Finding out that my friend that committed suicide has changed me. I can’t stand idly ignoring the pain without feeling like I am ignoring the teaching of the good Samaritan. I feel like I am not being Christ-like.

    I have not yet objected, but I take courage from Sam’s example. I admire him doing hard soul searching. I know personally it is very hard. I feel that I am going to have to stand before Christ someday and when he asks, “did you follow me?” my defense on some items of “well I followed what the top leaders said to do/think” will be meet with, “That isn’t the question I asked. Those were men that sometimes make mistakes. Did you follow ME and what the spirit was telling you?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Happy Hubby,
      First, let me confirm that my friend, the Grover guy, is a much better man than I. Always had great respect for him. With regards to voting opposed: it was not easy to do. Second thoughts. Gut wrench. Mild shunning in the aftermath. But, I truly feel like this is what Christ wanted me to do. I’m not saying he wants others to do it. But, I felt as strong an impression as I ever have, that is was the right thing to do. Let the consequences follow.

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  3. Excellent! Thoughtful and logical. The “policy” is harsh, hateful and harmful. The LDS church is NOT a safe or welcoming environment for our gay brothers and sisters…now it’s also clearly toxic and exclusionary for the children of these people as well. Actually it’s pretty darn toxic in many of its doctrines and practices and policies. Certainly doesn’t sound “Christian” or “loving” to me…Jesus said, “suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not.” For me, Jesus trumps ALL of the living “leadership” of any church…I can’t twist my mind around enough to even come close to rationalize this policy. BTW I often use the term…”ration lies” when I find myself attempting to rationalize something…usually it’s a sign I’m simply “rationing lies” to myself to justify something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sally,
      It shocks me that you still read my blog after posting “Joseph Smith IS My Hero.” Since your hanging in there, I think my next post will be “Sally IS My Hero.”

      “Jesus trumps ALL of the living leadership of any church.” Very respectfully, and I mean that, I disagree. For me, Jesus trumps ALL living and DEAD leadership. Maybe we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

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  4. Since you mentioned you currently are a temple recommend holder- do you attend the temple? And have you met with the Temple President for answers to your questions regarding temple practices and if so- was he able to answer those questions?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lauren,

      First, thanks for reading my blog. In my book, you are awesome.

      The temple. Oh, the temple. I have not attended since sometime last year. From July to September of 2015, I was on a quest to understand the temple covenants. My journey ended in disappointment, disillusionment, and dismay. As of today, I haven’t resolved these feelings. For example, last week we had a joint priesthood/Relief Society meeting. The topic was temple attendance–why we should go and what prevents us from going more often. During those 45 minutes, I’m thinking, “All this time is spent on encouraging temple attendance. But, not 1 minute, ever, is spent on what those supposedly super important temple covenants mean.”

      With regards to visiting the temple president. No, I have not done it. I fully intended to. Had begun preparing questions. Then, I started thinking along these lines. So far, no active member has been able to answer my queries. They don’t know the covenant meanings and don’t appear to care. That might sound judgmental. But, when they say, “Sam, why do you even care,” what am I to surmise? I finally decided: Why do I care if nobody else does? But, I took it one step further. Why should I go to the temple if the covenant meanings are unknown and apparently unimportant? Why should I pursue further understanding? Why should I spend the time to continue preparing my long list of questions, seek out the temple president, find an agreeable time and make the 2 hour round trip? Nobody else cares, why should I go to all that trouble?

      During this same time, I encountered someone who had managed to meet with a temple president. Guess how many of my questions this good brother could answer. I’ll give you a hint, the number is less than 1. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

      Recently, I spoke with another man who had questions about troubling church history and doctrine. He took them to the bishop…no answers. Then to the stake president…no answers. Finally, the temple president…no answers, again. Only testimony. At that point, this good man resigned his calling as high priest group leader. He then left the church along with his wife and children. All this transpired early this year.

      So, I’ve put temple questions and attendance to the side for the time being. Instead, I’ve moved forward in other areas that make sense to me. Here are some 1) Attempt to actually follow the teachings & example of Jesus. Like concern for the truly marginalized in our midst. 2) Reach out & offer support to the LGBT individuals in the among us. 3) Reach out & offer support to those who question & doubt, both inside and out of the church. 4) Seek out my own meanings for the temple covenants and apply them. That’s what this blog post is all about.

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    2. Lauren,
      Great news. I’ve found out why nobody could answer my covenant questions. I’ve told the whole story in the post “Temple Covenant Breakthrough.” I thought you would be very interested.

      Like

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