A Compassionate Caution to My Dear Mormon Friends

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Over the past 2 years, I have seen a particular scenario play out many times. People question.  They study and ponder in silence.  They reach conclusions.  They leave.  Parents, spouse, and siblings are caught unawares.  Family rift and strain sets in.

I would love to share the following message with ALL of my adult friends at church:

Our history, our doctrine, our current policies and especially the stigma and prohibition of even discussing these matters….is coming after your children, your grandchildren, your siblings and your spouse.  The sad part is that you won’t even know it until your loved ones have been eaten up by what WE are so anxious to hide from.  

Now is the time to talk and prepare.  Now is the time to build bridges of safety, trust and understanding.  If we don’t engage the discussion here, INSIDE OUR CHAPELS, our loved ones will KNOW that it’s not safe to discuss at church or with faithful church members.  Instead, they will turn to a community where it IS safe to discuss history, doctrine and policy.  A community where there is no stigma or prohibition.  That community is populated by a small minority of faithful members and a huge majority of people who no longer believe.

I have talked to many members who have not shared their transition with their loved ones.  Especially family.  Only when the transition is complete and irreversible is their story revealed.  Today, that’s pretty much the only safe way to pursue questions and doubts.  It reflects very poorly on the culture of our church.  And that church culture permeates our families.

Gossip

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Anecdote for Friends to Take Note

Brother Fred

Once upon a time, there was a man named Fred.  Decades long, an active member of the Mormon Church.  In his later years, his faith transitioned.  It was a 2 year process, gut-wrenching and excruciating.  Relationships with wife and family were strained.  Eventually, Fred found a way forward.  He placed his faith in the teachings and example of Jesus Christ within the church which bears His name.

A Bishop’s Warning

Fred selected a path in the church which did not coincide with the consensus.  A long discussion was had with the head of his congregation.  The wise bishop issued a perceptive warning.  “Be prepared for push-back from the members.  They won’t understand what you are doing.”  Fred felt strongly that his path was one of love, both for the church and for the souls he saw at its margins.  To him, being of service to the “least” in the church was worth hazarding whatever gossip might arise.  However, there was a consequence coming that Fred had overlooked.

The Love of Fred’s Life

Fred’s wife had witnessed his transition from beginning to end.  She had been frightened, insecure and confused as she watched the pain, anger and confusion experienced by her husband.  Finally, his ire subsided.  A clear path was chosen.  With the passage of many more months, the wife gained confidence that her husband was the very same man she had married.  She came to understand ‘the what’ and ‘the why’ of her husband’s course.  She began to see a path filled with integrity and charity.  She became supportive.

Gossip

Then, the full meaning of the bishop’s warning burst upon the scene.  The love of Fred’s life stopped going to church.  Why?  The ward members were gossiping about her husband. That provided enough discomfort that she didn’t want to face the congregation.  Fred kept going to church.  His completely believing spouse did not.  What an ironic turn of events.  It literally took 6 months before she was willing to brave a ward family full of whispering  gossip behind her husband’s back.

Unfortunately, tale bearing is all too common.  When we engage in it, we are usually oblivious to collateral damage.  Fred’s wife has many good and deep friendships in her congregation.  The gossip didn’t harm Fred.  It harmed his innocent wife.  And none of her friends had a clue.  I hope this post clues them in.

Special Request

I happen to have a lot in common with Brother Fred.  Many people have told me that lots of gossip is going on about my church activities.  Here’s my request:  If you are interested in me, don’t talk behind my back.  Talk to my face.  Behind the back is rude, unChristlike and fraught with collateral damage.  That damage may be to your own family members who have questions in their own minds.  I have spoken with many, many people who don’t trust their families enough to openly discuss their concerns.  That is so sad.  Our current church culture does not foster an atmosphere of safety, honesty and authenticity.

There is nothing positive that comes out of gossip.  Instead, talk about me….with me.  Gossip is easy and takes no guts.  Speaking face to face does take courage.  I won’t bite.  I promise.  I love the church.  I love its leaders.  It saddens me that so many members are fleeing our ranks.  If you want to know where I stand, ask me, send an e-mail, or let me take you to lunch.

To the handful of brave friends who have reached out to me.  THANK YOU!

Marginalized Mormons in “Extreme Slavery”

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At the age of 63, I have finally selected a path that is built on a rock solid foundation.  I’ve decided to place my faith in Jesus Christ, specifically in His teachings and example.  Furthermore, I have also chosen to follow Christ as a member of the Mormon Church.

The Least

One of His most beautiful instructions is that we are to be vitally concerned with “the least of these.”  The marginalized.  The vulnerable.  The undefended, the unguarded, and the unprotected.  Not just concerned.  Rather, Jesus made it clear that entry into heaven will ONLY be granted to those who actively take care of “the least.”

Frequently, we pass them by.  Often, we don’t even see them. Never-the-less, “the least of these” are all around us in society.  For the purpose of this article, they also surround us in our very own LDS Church.

 Who Are the Marginalized Mormons?

To follow Christ’s mandate, it’s certainly appropriate that we start with our own ‘fellow citizens in the household of God.’  We, as Saints, should minister to marginalized members.  Various categories of ‘the least’ are listed below.  Of course, this is not a comprehensive compilation.  It includes those who many of us are concerned about at present.

  1. Those in Extreme Slavery. Details below.
  1. Our LGBT brothers and sisters.
  1. Children of LGBT married couples.
  1. Families headed by single parents, especially by single mothers.
  1. Members with questions, doubts and transitioned faith.

Are LDS Men Marginalized?

Let me ask 2 questions.

Would you consider those in SLAVERY to be marginalized?

Would you consider those in EXTREME SLAVERY to be marginalized?

Hopefully, most would answer YES to both queries.

SLAVERY?  I don’t know anyone in this condition.  But, I would put them squarely in the category of “the least of these.”

SLAVERY in the EXTREME?  What is that?  Who are they?  It turns out that I know many, many men in this unfortunate state.  Today, I view them as marginalized in the EXTREME.

So, who among us are bound by the fetters of EXTREME SLAVERY?

Consider this citation from an early and official church publication—The Millennial Star.  Many ascribe this quote directly to Joseph Smith.

“We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them — even if they knew it was wrong.  But such obedience as this is worse than folly to us.  It is slavery in the extreme.  The man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings until he turns from his folly.  A man of God would despise this idea.”

Do you know anyone in Extreme Slavery?  Members who would do anything their leaders tell them to do—even if they knew it was wrong?

Early church doctrine designated such obedience as degrading.  IT IS!!!

“A man of God would despise this idea.”  I don’t qualify as a ‘man of God.’  But, I do despise the idea of doing anything I am told, even if it’s wrong.  Thus, I claim my rank among intelligent beings.

Based on this early church definition of “slavery in the extreme” there are myriad members who are marginalized by being in this ‘degraded’ condition.

Good Samaritan

Ministering to the Marginalized

The list of “the least of these” within the church continues to grow.  Many of us have been actively speaking and looking out for those in categories 2-5.  Now, I add category #1—those in EXTREME slavery.  Likely the biggest marginalized group that surrounds us at church.  One more parcel of people to stand up for with our votes of disapproval.

Dancing With Jesus—And Twenty-Five Men

day-laborersThis morning my heart prodded me to follow an example I had witnessed almost 40 years ago. Those long years ago, I had marveled at a man dancing with Jesus.

Getting Gas

I stopped to get gas at the corner of Bellaire and the Beltway.  I picked this particular station because it’s attached to a McDonalds.  My plan was to fill up and then drive through.

As the gallons pumped into my tank, I surveyed the sidewalks around the station.  Day laborers were strewn about in various positions of sitting & standing, fidgeting & fretting.  All awaited in uncertain hope that a job might make its appearance.  I wondered…where are they from?  Do jobs come along every day?  What if no truck pulls up?  Do they have children, spouses or parents who are depending on them?

Elections are upon us.  Immigration has remained unsolved for decades.  And…here…THEY…are.  The very men about whom we debate and banter and grandstand.  Human beings.  No different from me…except in circumstance.  Like me, they must have hopes and dreams.  They are hard workers…without work.  They have thinking brains.  But, what are the thinking about?  My stomach growls.  Does their stomach growl?

gift-cardsShould I Dance?

The nozzle clicks off.  The tank is full.  I survey again and take a count.  Twenty-five men.  Do I just drive away?  Do I just get on with my day?  Or do I take this chance to embrace Jesus and dance?

Oh…the choice.  And what a choice choice it was.  Into McDonalds I walked.  I emerged with 30 gift cards in hand.  The real gift was not given BY me.  It was given TO me.  Twenty-five men.  Apprehensive at first.  Then faces beaming with smiles, light and joy.  We talked in their native tongue.  We laughed.  We joked.  All were from Spanish speaking lands.  El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, & Honduras.  One lone straggler from the isle of Cuba.

I’ll likely never see or hear of these twenty-five men again.  Nor they of me.  But, this morning we broke bread together.  I danced with Jesus.  Those corners spilling over with hopeful laborers will never be viewed the same again.

The Man Who Voted Opposed

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General Conference

Every six months, the LDS (Mormon) Church holds a much anticipated General Conference.  All around the world, members tune in to watch and listen to the pronouncements of their highest leaders.  Tens of thousands travel to Salt Lake City to witness the proceedings in person.

The Conference is composed of 6 two-hour meetings.  A cherished part of the Saturday afternoon session is the Sustaining of Officers.  The names and positions of the General Authorities are presented to the membership.  An up or down vote is called for.  Members may sustain, abstain, or oppose.

Almost always, the voting appears unanimous.  However, this trend is changing.  At the October 2015 and April 2016 conferences, opposed votes were clearly registered in the confines of the Conference Center.  The numbers were few.  But the votes of disapproval were noted by the leadership and all who were viewing.

October 2016

This fall Conference was historic by modern standards.  The sustainings were conducted on Oct 1st. The tally:  sustain–almost all.  Opposed–267!!!   You can see their names HERE.  This is a huge number.  I and my wife were 2 of the 267.

Going against the consensus is NOT easy.  There are hundreds of thousands of members–including many less active members–who would like to vote opposed.  However, there is fear associated with negative voting.  Our current LDS culture stigmatizes honest and open disagreement, especially in a Conference setting.  This must change.  It was Jesus Himself who mandated that “ALL things MUST be done by common consent.”  It’s His church.  Eventually, the stigma against following His directives in His own church is going to disappear.

The Lone Man…Adam

Out of the intrepid 267, only one person actually cast his opposing vote in the Conference Center itself on October 1, 2016.  This article is written to tell his miraculous story.  For the time being, I’ll call him Adam.

Adam is a faithful, believing member.  He currently serves as a counselor in his bishopric.  Like many in the church, he has had concerns in recent years regarding the church’s treatment of LGBT people and its involvement in political contests regarding LGBT issues.  When the November 2015 anti-gay policy came to light, he was mortified.  Vehemently opposed, he discussed it with his Bishop and Stake President.  They counseled him to pray and “gain a testimony” of its divine origin as a revelation, despite the fact that it has never been presented to the membership for ratification as such.

By the time October Conference had arrived, Adam’s own conscience–as well as what he felt to be the promptings of the Holy Ghost–drove him to the decision to vote opposed in person.  He was unsuccessful in obtaining a ticket prior to leaving home.  Undaunted, he hugged and kissed his loving and supportive wife, jumped in his car and drove many hours, crossing multiple state lines to Salt Lake City.  No ticket.  Only hope and a prayer.  During his long drive, Adam prayed.  He asked Heavenly Father that if it were His will that he should follow his conscience and express an opposing vote in the Conference Center,  that an admission ticket would somehow be provided.

Outside the Conference Center, he observed many people asking others if they had spare tickets.  Adam even ventured a few inquiries.  It soon became evident that this method was doomed to failure.  He was directed to the standby line.  Hundreds were ahead of him.  He offered another prayer. “If it’s Thy will that I vote opposed, please provide a way in.”

Time was passing.  Hope was fading.  The long line discouraging.

The Miracle

Then it happened.  A young woman approached.  Hand extended, she asked, “Would you like a ticket?”  With hundreds waiting in hopes of getting in, the mystery matron picked Adam.  He counted it as an answer to prayer.  A sign that God was sustaining him and his un-sustaining vote.  A Miracle.

The Vote

Adam was seated.  The session was about to start.  This humble and considerate man gently tapped the person in front of him.  He quietly informed all seated around him of his plans to voice an opposing vote.  No one seemed alarmed.  Rather, the advance notice was received with appreciation and kindness.

President Eyring conducted the sustainings.  Adam voted disapproval 3 times:  to the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and to their being sustained as prophets, seers and revelators.  His was the lone voice that echoed throughout the Conference Center.   In front of 22,000 other attendees.  In front of millions, the world over.  As he did so, he felt come over him a great feeling of love for those 15 men and a great feeling of sorrow for the situation that had led to that heartbreaking circumstance.

But Adam was not really alone.  Remotely, 266 others joined him that day. Modern history was made.

Adam, my friend, my hat is off to you.  I commend you for your integrity and courage.

Opposed to What?

Adam–and most of those voting with him–are NOT opposed to the prophet and apostles, per se.  We understand that, just as in other types of elections, once the results are tabulated, every participant–the yeas and the nays–can and do sustain in good faith those who receive the sustaining vote of the people, according to the Law of Common Consent.

Adam is not opposed to the church.  He’s not opposed to the Restoration.  He’s not opposed to the leadership.  In fact, he loves the church with all his heart.  He loves and respects the leadership.  He made an exhausting, weekend-long drive with only a slim hope of being admitted to Conference.  A poignant demonstration of his love and commitment to the church, Jesus, and a marginalized community.

What he IS opposed to–vehemently so–is a policy.  The November 2015 policy labeling gay couples as apostates and excluding their children from Priesthood ordinances.

According to church doctrine and by divine mandate (D&C 28:13), “policies, major decisions and other things that affect the lives of the Saints” must be accepted by the Common Consent of the membership.

In today’s church, NO “policies, major decisions and other things that affect the lives of the Saints” are being presented to the church body for approval or disapproval.  For members committed to living by the Law of Common Consent, the only option appears to be voting opposed to those who control the voting practices.

Consequences

Adam has concerns that actions may be taken against him.  He’s concerned that he may be released from his calling.  It’s ludicrous that any punitive consequences could even be a consideration.  Jesus has commanded the apostles to ask the members for their opinion.  An honest answer deserves commendation not condemnation.  His local leaders’ responsibility is to listen and pass his concerns up the line.  Not to listen,  pass judgment and punish him back in line.

But, Mormon culture may not be there yet.  Our church needs more faithful, serving, believing Saints just like dear Adam.

Are You Opposed?

If you are a member of the LDS church.  If you are opposed to “policies, major decisions and other things that affect the lives of the Saints,” especially, policies that have never seen the light of Common Consent, then consider voting your true opinion and feelings.

Make next April another historic conference.  By then we WILL be more than 267.  Can we be….2,067?  Or….20,067?  Or….?

Common Consent is the Law of God and the Law of the Church. It’s up to you and me, the common members, to make Common Consent the common rule of Christ’s church.

You have a voice.  Please don’t leave without speaking up.  Stand up for what is right. Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Take the step of publicly registering your disapproval on the Register of Common Consent, HERE.

Other Resources

  • Information on LDS.ORG regarding Common Consent, click HERE.  Please take note of this paragraph:  “Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints.”
  • Scriptural information about Common Consent, click HERE.
  • Disturbing membership Trends, click HERE.
  • Do We Love Jesus Enough?, click HERE.
  • The Only True Hope for The Only True Church, click HERE.
  • My personal sadness over my friends and family leaving, click HERE
  • Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove click, HERE.

If I Don’t Dissent…I Consent

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In 1967, I graduated from Central Davis Jr High School.  Life’s next great adventure began 3 months later.  My memorable high school years were about to begin as a proud Layton Lancer.  Like most kids, I was a bit intimidated.  Nervous and super excited.  Of course, I would be reunited with my school friends again.  However, the real draw of those high school years were the girls. I was shy and wouldn’t start dating for good while.  But, that’s a happy story for another time and place.

Gym Class

I have one BIG regret that has dogged me all these years. Perhaps, with this post I will finally shake some of my shame.

The unfortunate event, that still brings tears to my eyes, occurred during my 9th grade gym class…in the locker room.  My locker was located in the same row as Rulon’s. There are very few individuals in this world who ALWAYS have a smile lighting up their face.  I don’t recall ever seeing Rulon without his amazing smile brightly beaming.

Rulon was “retarded.”

Today, that’s not a proper way to refer to the mentally disadvantaged.  That’s just the word we used back then.  All of his classes were special education, except for gym. Kids will be kids, boys will be boys and that means constant teasing. Rulon was a constant and convenient target.  A target of pure innocence.  Perhaps he didn’t understand.  I’m afraid he did.  But, somehow his smile remained immutable.

Rulon, I’m So Sorry

Then, one day……..I struggle putting this in writing.  My eyes fill with tears.  I choke back my sobs.

One day……..Oh why did that day have to happen?

One day……..it happened, just a few lockers away.  Two of my friends were teasing, then taunting, then harassing the innocently smiling boy.  They threw him up against the locker wall. I can still hear the dull thudding clank of his body against the metal. My friends roughed him up pretty well.  The evergreen smile disappeared.  Confused and distraught, he couldn’t understand what he had done to deserve such a beating.  A beating……..by friends……..among friends……..witnessed by friends.  At least, he had considered us his friends.

As for me, and several others.  No…I’ll just focus on me.  I sat there and watched. Uncomfortable and frozen.  Repulsed, and passive.  Damnit.

Rulon’s whipping concluded.  He slumped.  Gazed at the floor.  Forlorn and smileless. I sat there.  Then I turned away.  Then I left.

I raised no objection.  I offered no dissent.  I stayed silent and watched.  An innocent happy soul was hurt and harmed.  After the damage was done, couldn’t I have apologized?  Couldn’t I have reached out with words of comfort and love?  I had four years to do it.  I didn’t.

My high school career came and went.  Once in a while, I would see Rulon in the halls. I don’t recall any conversations after that fateful day.  This pure and radiant boy was never the same.  That gym class had changed him.  Skittish.  Jumpy.  Confidence and trust in friends tarnished and tattered.

Many times, I’ve thought of my locker room failure.  I’d like to personally tell him I’m sorry.  But that chance is long gone.  The boy with the ceaseless shining smile is no more.  He died young….decades ago.

Today, I realize that I was complicit with my silence. By not standing for my friend, I gave my consent. By not speaking for my friend, I offered my consent. By just staring at my friend, I granted my consent.

The meek and lowly Rulon was among the “least of these,” of whom Jesus taught us to be mindful.  Failing one of the least, has taught me a mighty lesson. If I don’t dissent…I’m giving my consent.

Today, Rulon, I Stand For You

I’m no longer in high school.  I’m a man, fully grown.  No more consent with silence. Which only gives harm license.  Not in anger or haste.  This time I’ll think & take action.  Not live in disgrace.

I DISSENT, my friend Rulon, I DISSENT.

Where and how am I dissenting?  The answer’s HERE.  267 of us standing together.

If you are a member of the LDS church.  If you oppose policies that have never been approved by the membership.  Consider standing up for those who can’t fight for themselves.

Thomas S. Monson is My Hero

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Every 6 months the Mormon Church holds a general conference.  It’s broadcast to the world.  Featured speakers include the Twelve Apostles and other general authorities.  Words from the current prophet are always the highlight.  Thomas S. Monson fills that role today.

He has a special place in my heart.  When I was just 9 years old, ‘Tommy,’ became an apostle.  He has been an influential figure my entire life.  Many of his conference addresses are remembered with fondness.

During the April & October 2016 conferences I feel like his instructions were directed straight at me.  I…LOVED…THEM!!!

April 2016

President Monson’s talk was entitled “Choices.”  A timely topic indeed.  For the previous 2 years, I had worked to come to terms with troubling new information about my religion.  My choices were finally coalescing.  I describe my journey here.  The prophet’s talk  lasted a short and powerful 5 minutes.  These are the potent words that penetrated my heart.

“May we maintain the courage to defy the consensus.”

The day before this talk, for the first time in my life, I had defied the consensus by voting OPPOSED.  Now….here’s the prophet inspiring me to “maintain the courage to defy.”  Yes!!!  Six months later, I now know just how difficult it is to defy the consensus.  It’s a huge help to have the words of President Monson at my side.

“May we ever chose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.”

For months, I had weighed in my mind…obey my temple covenants…obey the law of God…speak up for “the least of these”…..OR……stay silent.  The prophet was giving me support to choose the “harder right.”  The “wrong” would have been so much easier.

“If we choose Christ, we will have made the correct choice.”

This lodges a tear in my eye.  In February 2016, I made the conscious and fateful decision to put my faith in the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.  Well, I gladly accept the confirmation and validation that Pres. Monson so gently & forcefully pronounced.

October 2016

By the time the prophet spoke in the October 2nd Sunday morning session, I had voted disapproval at ward , stake, and 2 general conferences.  I had also thoroughly examined my temple covenants and the Law of Common Consent.  President Monson’s words resonated with overwhelming confirmation.

“Learn, search and pray.  We need to know God’s laws and live them.”

For months, I had been learning, searching and praying.   My very purpose was to know and understand the law of God.  Now…here’s the prophet giving the injunction to “live” what I have learned.  The Law of Common Consent IS God’s law.  I am determined to live it.

“We are blessed to have the truth.  We have a mandate to share the truth.  Let us live the truth.”

Amazing.  Simply amazing.  THIS…IS…MY… HERO!!!   Just this year, I have discovered the truth of how Jesus wants his church to be governed.  And now, I have a MANDATE to share it!  Oh my gosh!  Six days before President Monson pronounced these words, I had created the Common Consent Register.  Perhaps a clumsy attempt to share Christ’s truth.  Never-the-less, my hero has now given me a “mandate” to share.  Share away I will.

Thank you, President Monson.

Russell M. Nelson

This man is an apostle in the LDS church.  Not just any apostle.  He’s the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve.  As such, he’s in line to replace President Monson at his passing.  Listen to his profound prescription to deploy real joy in our lives.

“Every day that we keep our covenants and help others to do the same, joy will be ours.”

Initially, I was nervous about sharing my understanding of temple covenants, explaining common consent, or openly encouraging others to live it.  If I had known in advance what Elder Nelson was going to say at conference, all my jitters would have evaporated long ago.  Well…they’ve certainly disappeared now.

Thank you Elder Nelson

What Now?

First

Consider the awesome and mounting support for Common Consent.

  • The law of God is on the side of common consent. In fact, it…is…the…Law.
  • The laws of God have the obvious backing of President Monson and Elder Nelson.
  • The prophet and his successor encourage sharing and helping others live the law of God.
  • 259 courageous friends have publicly committed to live the Law of Common Consent.  Note that about 1/3 of the names show up as anonymous.  They are real people with real names.  At present, they have selected the option to not have their names viewable.  Unfortunately, living the Law of Common Consent is not totally safe in our current church culture.  This must and will change.  After all, it was Jesus Himself who mandated that “ALL things MUST be done by common consent in the church.”
  • Even my family is supportive. My sweet wife has joined me in voting disapproval.

Second—And This is HUGE!!!

If you are a member & if you are opposed to policies that have NEVER been put to the vote of common consent….consider voicing your opinion now.

Jesus loves and values your views enough to formally request that you voice them several times every year.  To me, the Law of Common Consent is one of the most gorgeous examples that our Savior respects and treasures our capacity to think and make decisions.  We truly are citizens in the kingdom of God.  We just need to start living the law of citizenry.

There are no more voting conferences in 2016.  In the meantime, you can record your intentions by registering your name HERE on the Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove.

Thank you, my friends.

Links

Information on LDS.ORG regarding Common Consent, click HERE.  Please take note of this paragraph:  “Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints.”

Scriptural information about Common Consent click, HERE.

Disturbing membership Trends, click HERE.

Do We Love Jesus Enough to live Common Consent, click HERE.

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

My personal sadness over my friends and family leaving, click HERE.

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