Free Doesn’t Always Mean Free

free

January 30, 2017, my wife and I joined Lifetime Fitness (LT).  It was my sweetheart’s idea and her  ideas are usually the best.  It was more expensive than I expected.  One of the closing points was the upcoming 60 Day Challenge.  It would start in 2 weeks.  If we joined before then, our entry would be free.  And….if we won?  A $10,000 prize awaited  I wasn’t holding my breath for any prize.  My wife had already closed the deal when she said she wanted to join.  No more closing needed.

Two weeks came and went pretty fast.  I was going to the gym regularly and seeing noticeable progress in both stregnth and stamina.  I was pumped.  OK, 60 Day Challenge, here I come.

I sat down with a very nice young man to sign up.  He had a long list.  Questions to go through.  Options to select.  Classes offered.  Discounted club products.  Finally the paperwork.  Thirty minutes go by.  I’m getting fidgety.  Then, an unexpected wrinkle.

LT GUY:  All that’s left is the entry fee.  How do you want to take care of it?

SAM:  What entry fee?

LT GUY:  There’s a $45 fee.

SAM:  Oh yeah.  I just joined the gym two weeks ago and they told me the Challenge would be free.

LT GUY:  Sometimes “FREE DOES’T MEAN FREE.”  There’s a $45 fee for anyone who wants to participate.

At this point, my dander was getting up.

SAM:  Let me get this straight.  Free doesn’t me free?  So, they lied to me when I bought my membership?

LT GUY:  Well, you still have to pay if you want to participate.

SAM:  If I can’t trust people here to mean what they say, I’m going to cancel my membership.

Resolved to see the manager and get my money back, I headed to the locker room.  Changed to my street clothes.  Found an isolated spot in the hallway.  Then, called my wife to make sure she was OK with me dropping out.  About 20 minutes had transpired since I’d fled from the Challenge desk.  I’d reached my wife by phone and was explaining the situation, when who should appear, looking flustered and sheepish?  LT GUY.

Good for him.  He had made a beeline to the new member manager to discuss my dismay.  Fortunately, they confirmed that the Challenge was free for recent sign ups.  Unfortunately, they hadn’t communicated this to the Challenge people.  For 20 minutes, LT GUY had been searching high and low to find me. He related the good news.  We kissed and made up.  Well, figuratively kissed.  I’m now formally signed up and weighed in for my first 60 Day Challenge.

At Lifetime, FREE means FREE, after all.  What a happy ending.

Obey Doesn’t Always Mean Obey

How much emphasis at church is placed on obedience?  Like always.  Every Sunday.  Almost every lesson.  Almost every class.  It’s even said that obedience is the first law of heaven.

Like the experience at Lifetime, I’m finding out that Obey doesn’t always mean Obey.  Sometimes it means disregard, dismiss and disobey commandments from Jesus.   That’s not what I signed up for.  At baptism, I promised to keep the commandments.  Every Sunday, I promise again to keep them.  In the temple, I promised to obey the law of God.  Never have I my covenants included the stipulation that I could blatantly disregard & disobey select laws of God.

Yet, that is exactly what we are doing as a church.  “All things in the church MUST be done by common consent.”  That means that the rank and file members are commanded to approve or disapprove callings, revelations, policies, and any other thing that affects the membership.  We are doing the callings all right.  But, nothing else!!!

To me, obey means obey.  And I’m talking about obeying Jesus here.  Like at Lifetime, I could simply threaten to leave the church and talk it over with my wife.  But the big difference is that Lifetime is owned by someone else.  On the other hand, this is MY church.  It’s the Church of Jesus and of the Latter-day Saints.

I have put hundreds of thousands of dollars into it.  Tens of thousands of hours of service.  I’ve even put my blood into it–my wife, children and grandchildren.  I could ask for my money back.  But, why do that when this is MY church?

Nope.  I’m making obey mean obey.  Not disregard, dismiss, and disobey.

I know of 313 other good members who have decided to put life back into Christ’s law of consent.  It takes guts to follow Jesus.  I know many would like to express their true opinions when general voting is called for…but can’t.  And they have good reasons.  Most involve fear.  That’s OK.  But, I also know that there are thousands who would abide by common consent if they were aware of it, knew it was a real option, and knew that there are other members voting in disapproval.

April General Conference is just a month away.  I’m making another appeal to consider following Christ and living the law of common consent.  Jesus has given the members a voice.  We should be using it.  During October 2016 conference, 242 voted opposed all over the world.  A record breaking event.  This April at least 314 have already expressed their intentions to vote disapproval.  It will be another record.

If you are opposed to our disobedience to common consent.  If you are opposed to policies that have never been presented to the body of the church for ratification, consider adding your name to the Common Consent Register HERE.  You are no longer alone.  You can see the names of the intrepid 314 HERE.

In the church, Obey doesn’t mean Obey….yet.  Only we, the membership, can make it so.

My fellow church members…Let’s live by the Law of God…the Law of Common Consent.

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.

 

Finding Easier Ways to Discuss Mormon Quandaries

img_0174

Information access and social connectivity are proliferating as never before in the world’s history. This trend will continue. The consequences are and will be monumental, both for society and for the church. The spread of troubling historical details is having it’s effect within the ranks of membership. Many start to question, doubt, reach conclusions and ultimately face the painful decision to stay or leave the organization that has played such an important role in their life.

This guide is NOT meant to help answer questions about our history, doctrine or current policy.  Discussing all these issues should be acceptable at church, with friends and family, and especially with leadership.  But, there are 3 problems.  1) Our church culture stifles and often penalizes open discussion.  2) Most members have not studied the issues in detail. On the other hand, members with doubts will often have spent 100’s of hours.  3) Dialogue frequently descends into argument, with both sides trying to convince the other. Hard feelings and judgment routinely result.

This guide IS meant to help frame a forum that has real possibilities to build and reinforce friendship, love and trust. The elements summarized below undergird all the chapters that follow.  If you make the attempt to do these four things, productive and satisfying discussions will be the result.

Focus on Common Beliefs

All members of the church actually maintain a set of common beliefs. This includes those who are traditional believers, those with doubts and even those who have left. These common beliefs are at the very core of our religion. We all hold them most dear. Yet, we spend very little time discussing our commonalities—the most important stuff.

“We find we’re not so different if we’re willing to spend as much energy on what we have in common as we do on what we don’t.” That’s not original with me. But, it certainly applies here. We need to spend much more energy on what really counts and what we really agree on.

Create a Safe Space

To most rank and file members, it doesn’t resonate to say that there is no safe space at church to discuss questions and doubts. For those undergoing or have undergone a faith crisis, it quickly becomes clear that our culture effectively inhibits the discussion of troubling issues.

Validate

Receiving validation is a basic human need. Yet, in those rare instances where questions are discussed, validation is totally lacking. It’s absence significantly impairs trust. It often makes the difference between winning friends or creating enemies.

Empathize

At least, try to. This is a tough one. It’s so hard to empathize with the pain and loneliness of a faith crisis unless you have experienced it yourself.  Losing a child has got to be agonizing.  However, I can only imagine it.  I can’t know the detail or depth of it.  But…it helps to simply recognize that the pain is real.

How to Gain a Testimony

img_0173

When a person loses testimony, our traditional response is to tell them to do one or all of the following:

  • Study the scriptures
  • Pray
  • Read General conference talks

By the time a person has reached this point, they have likely already done everything on this list and more.  If we make these recommendations, it’s safe to assume:

  • That…this will be viewed as a trite way of being dismissive of their concerns.
  • That…they are very familiar with the scriptures. As their faith journey progressed, they often returned to them and studied them in more depth than ever before. Many verses now confirm the new conclusions that they have reached. Rereading may only solidify their opinions.
  • That…much prayer has already been offered in painful sincerity. Of course, prayer is always good. Admonishment to pray backfires when one has already poured out their soul in heartfelt and heartsick prayer. Telling them to pray more can come across as a judgmental slap in the face.
  • That…they have diligently studied past and present talks. Often a person in transition will have been fixated on listening to all current conference sessions.  Searching for answers to their questions.  Looking to find validation for their concerns.  Hoping that there might be a place for them in the church.

What Did Christ Say?

In John 17, a pertinent story is recounted about how to gain a testimony.

During the feast of the Tabernacles, “there was much murmuring among the people concerning him (Jesus): for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.”

Today, we face a very similar situation. There is much murmuring about the church’s truth claims and even the divinity of the Savior. Some defend our assertions of truth. Others proclaim that we have been deceived. Out of fear, almost no one speaks openly.

Jesus went to the temple and offered His divine and common sense solution. “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?  Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

What was Christ’s counsel?  He didn’t say go pray.  He didn’t suggest scripture.  He didn’t point to the prophets or their writings.  Amazingly, He didn’t bear testimony. His prescription was to simply follow His doctrine.  That is the effective way to know whether it comes from God or man.  In other words, this is the way Jesus provided for mankind to gain a testimony…a testimony of His teachings and example.

The Savior declared that He is “the way, the truth and the life.” We come to know the truthfulness of His doctrine by living according the way of life that he taught and exemplified.  In the LDS version of the Bible, the chapter heading for John 17 contains these words, “Truth may be known through obedience.”  Exactly what Christ advised.  Truth may be known through obedience to His teachings and example.

Les Miz

In Victor Hugo’s classic novel, a story is told of a catholic priest’s interaction with a recently released prisoner, Jean Valjean. Jean was a lost and broken man with no where to go.  The priest beckoned him to shelter for the night in his parish home.  At first light,  Valjean was gone. He’d pilfered a cup of silver. The law found him and suspected the valuable goblet was stolen. To confirm the crime, he was taken back to the priest.  The compassionate bishop did not speak of theft.  Rather, he brought out candlesticks of silver and said…

“You forgot I gave these also
Would you leave the best behind?
So Monsieurs you may release him
For this man has spoken true
I commend you for your duty
May God’s blessing go with you.”

Of course, there is no comparison between some one leaving the church and a thief. They are simply wonderful members who are choosing a different path.  May they take with them the most valued treasures of our church…the teachings and example of Christ.

Whether a person stays in the church or leaves, all that Christ asks is that we follow the way, the truth and the life. Living in this manner gives us the most important commonality of all…Christ’s way of living.  This is the true path to a testimony of what is most important in life

Today’s Opposed Vote in Ward Conference

One Vote

Today was ward conference.  Names of ward, stake and general church officers were presented for an up or down vote.  I voted in disapproval to both the first presidency and the quorum of twelve apostles.  I care for and am concerned about my church.

If you are interested in why I voted opposed, you can find my reasons in the letter sent to the good leaders of my ward and stake.

Letter to My Leadership Friends

Dear Bishop and President,

Great ward conference today.  Both of your talks were awesome.  This was truly a conference of refreshment and uplift.  Often, I felt like you were talking directly to me….in a good way.

Here are a few examples of what I really liked:

  • The concept of “saddle up.” I had no idea what that meant.
  • Encouragement to love those who dress, look, speak and do things differently than we do.
  • Reminder to exercise our faith in Jesus Christ by keeping sacred covenants.
  • Elder Ballard’s quote: “Just as we should open our arms in a spirit of welcoming new converts, so too should we embrace and support those who have questions and are faltering in their faith.

Conferences now have an added significance for me.  It’s the time that we have the opportunity to follow Christ’s law of common consent.  During the sustainings, the podium blocked my direct view of you both.  The good brother who conducted did not look up from his notes during the request for opposing votes.  So, I don’t know if you are aware that I voted twice in disapproval.  I did.

Although we have discussed my reasons at length in the past, here they are again.

1)  The Law of Common Consent

According to Jesus, “All things MUST be done by common consent.” According to our doctrine: “policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints” are to be put up for a vote of approval or disapproval.  Currently, no policies or any other things that affect the lives of the Saints are being presented for ratification by the Saints.

The divine law of consent puts a sacred obligation on the membership.  It’s our place and duty to study out proposed policies, render an approving or disapproving decision, and then openly and honestly express that decision in conference.  This is one of the great revelations of the restoration.  It reveals to me how much God loves and trusts the rank and file members of His church.

I vote opposed in the expectation that this law will once again become the common law of church governance.  I have made a temple covenant to obey the law of God.  Consequently, I vote opposed in order to keep my sacred promise of obedience.

2)  The Unratified LGBT Policy

The LGBT policy announced in November 2015 has not been presented to the membership for the requisite vote. As such, it has not received the approbation of the membership.  It has not been put through the process of common consent mandated by Christ.  I disapprove of this unapproved policy.

Please pass my disapproval to the appropriate authority.

Today, I was outvoted.  As a result, I once again recognize and sustain the first presidency and apostles in their leadership positions.

Thanks for your wonderful & plentiful service and love.  You both have spent way too much time ministering to me.  Thanks for your care and understanding.

Godspeed in your callings, Sam

Reparative Therapy–STEELS My Resolve to Obey

steel

Twenty Years of Reparative Therapy

I’ve been stewing on that all afternoon.  Finally, decided to blog it.

 T….W….E….N….T….Y     Y….E….E….E….E….E….E….A….R….S

Heart rending  Heart breaking.  Heart sickening.

           T….W….E…N….T….Y     Y….E….E….E….E….E….E….A….R….S

As I pondered what had happened for TWENTY YEARS, my eyes welled up with tears….then outrage.

Lunch with a New Friend

Today, I lunched with a man and his fascinating story.  I won’t recount much of it here, except what struck me in the heart.

He’s gay.  Just a few years younger than me.  Growing up, we were taught that gay people were evil perverts.  They chose to be gay and could be cured.  We completely believed this line, as it came from the church and its leaders.  At 19, he served an honorable mission.  Then married.  Knowing full well that his attraction to men would subsequently go away.  Of course it didn’t.

TWENTY YEARS of reparative therapy followed.  Demeaning, disheartening, debasing, depressing…and now discredited.  How faithful this man must have been to endure twenty years.  How loyal he was to the church and to what it had told him.

My friend survived those TWENTY YEARS.  But, he, his wife and his children still bear the scars of two dehumanizing decades.

Outrage

How can any reasonable, compassionate person look upon this without feeling outrage?  Reparative therapy was supported, sustained and championed by the LDS church. Its leaders referred both children and adults to endure this dreadful ‘cure.’  It didn’t work.  It never worked.  In only harmed.

No one spoke out.  No one spoke up.  We watched and listened.  We trusted whatever came from leadership.  No one terribly interested in what was happening to gay people.  Bad things were happening.  All sanctioned by the church that we believed could not err.  It errs.

I Will Obey

I have been waffling a bit about continuing to obey the Law of Common Consent.  In today’s Mormon culture,  it’s uncomfortable and costly to cast a disapproving vote.  It’s so much easier to take the cafeteria approach to the commandments and just ignore our role in church governance.

Today’s lunchtime horror has steeled my resolve to continue in obedience to the gorgeous Law of Common Consent.

Things have gone so awry that the current apostles have seen fit to condemn and disavow past practices and  teachings.  Good for them!  Doctrines that were in the church for the vast majority of our history have now been denounced.

Jesus, through Joseph Smith, mandated a self-correcting system for governing the church.  If we were to follow and obey Christ, we would get a lot less wrong.  We could correct missteps before centuries passed.

We have hurt so many gay people with our discredited theories and practices.  The church hasn’t yet condemned and disavowed reparative therapy or even worse ‘treatments.’  Well, I do condemn what we have done to our LGBT brothers and sisters in the past.  Especially, after hearing of this man’s TWENTY YEAR subjugation.  What we did was outrageous and wrong.

So…I’ve steeled my resolve to obey the Law of Common Consent.  There are problems in the church.  It’s time that the membership lived up to the responsibility that Jesus has given to us.

                                                                                                                                                                                

 

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.

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.  Consider standing up for what is right.  Consider speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Consider taking the step to publicly register your disapproval on the Register of Common Consent HERE.  I’m not alone in living Christ’s law of consent.  We are now 311 strong.

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.

Trailblazing–Talkeria #23

voting-opposed

Trailblazer

Thursday, February 9, 2017, 7:00pm.  Location:  James Coney Island, 11940 S.W. Frwy., Stafford, TX.

Why a Trailblazer Talkeria?  A special visitor will join us…Donald Braegger.  He participated in the “Any Opposed” group that voted opposed at the April 2015 General Conference.  In the photo above, he’s the man on the left.  This was the first time in many years that opposing votes were raised at General Conference.  A courageous act.  He has a fascinating and heart rending story.

Many of the problems facing the church today stem from our open disobedience to the law God set in place to govern His church…the Law of Common Consent.  You can read about it HERE.  Two years ago, Don blazed a trail for others to follow.  A trail of following the founding principles of the restored church.  A trail of standing up for Christ’s commandments.  A trail of standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  A trail to restore the voice that Christ gave to every rank and file member in HIS church.

What Don did was darn difficult.  It shouldn’t be.  Rather, it should be standard operating procedure.  Someday it will be.   More and more will follow his example of watching out for the church and his love for his ‘fellow citizens.’  Otherwise, more and more will continue to leave the church.  Voiceless and disillusioned.

What’s the Talkeria All About

Our purpose is to provide a safe, judgment free place to talk about ANY Mormon issues you’d like to discuss.  Especially, those you are afraid to bring up at church.  Here are some of the reasons people have come to a Talkeria meeting.

  • You want to share the story of your faith crisis/journey/transition.
  • LDS history and doctrine are troubling you, family members or friends.
  • You have left the church, but still have Mormon issues to discuss.
  • You have a child who is doubting or has left the church.
  • You have a parent, sibling or friend who is doubting or has left the church.
  • Your faith has changed, and you are having difficulty interacting with family or friends
.
  • Your faith has changed and are having difficulty navigating a mixed faith marriage.
  • The faith of your spouse has changed.
  • You are LGBT, in or out of the closet.
  • You have an LGBT child, sibling or friend.
  • You have left the church, but still want to maintain contact with Mormons.

For the history of the Mormon Talkeria click HERE.

My Pastor Passed Away

img_0172

Pastor David L. Fisher Sr, 1942-2017

Historic St. John Missionary Baptist Church

Founded 1869

The pastor of my baptist church died last week. 75 years old.  Funeral yesterday.  This morning, I’m sitting in my beloved little church.  The attendance is 7 members strong.  One white face.  Six beautiful and glorious black brothers and sisters.  They are all dear and very close friends.

As part of black history month, we sang The Negro National Anthem.  A gorgeous and touching hymn that brings tears.  I realize that the civil rights struggle also won a great freedom for me.  The liberty to associate with, love and be loved by people of all colors.  It freed me to realize that I am no better than any. We are equal.

My faith transition has also won me a great freedom. The liberty to associate with, love and be loved by people of all Mormon stripes, including resigned, excommunicated, atheist, etc.  It freed me to realize that I’m no better than any. We are equal.

Funeral

It’s been over 3 years since I’ve been asked to give a talk, lesson or prayer in my Mormon church.  So, I’m out of practice and maybe a bit unprepared for what happened below.

Over 300 people attended my pastor’s funeral yesterday. There might have been 30 who I had met before.  Of course, a baptist service is much different from a Mormon one.  Two hours long.  About one hour in, I was sitting there enjoying the lively music, the the loud and forceful preaching.  Minding my own business.   Then a startling announcement. “Brother Sam Young has been asked by the family to share ‘expressions and reflections’ at this time.”  Startled and taken aback….but not nervous.  Although, I haven’t given a talk in years, I knew just what to say.  This Baptist pastor was my friend, a good friend, a very good man.  For a brief and shining moment, a white Mormon face stood before a sea of black baptist faces.  We laughed and cried together.  We honored our mutual friend.  Nothing between us but a feeling of love and unity.

Community is so beautiful.  I love…

  • My Baptist community
  • My Mormon community
  • My exMormon community
  • My atheist community
  • My work community
  • And of course, I love the most important community– my family.

Thank you to all my good and kind friends.  You are dear.