Letter to the Stake President

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Tomorrow, I plan to vote my disapproval during General Conference.  I don’t know exactly where.  Maybe in the basement of my mother’s home, in a local chapel, on Temple Square, or even in the Conference Center itself.

Regardless of where I vote, I want it to be counted.  As the apostles now direct at every conference, after my vote, I plan to send the following letter to my Stake President and Bishop.

To any member reading this piece, I encourage you to seriously consider your vote.  It CAN and WILL make a difference.  Other resources about Christ’s gorgeous law of Common Consent are provided below.

My Letter

Dear Stake President and Bishop,

This is my dutiful notification that during the April 2017 General Conference, I voted in disapproval when the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve were presented.

Of course, I don’t oppose the church, the apostles or the prophet. I use the word disapprove as that’s the phrasing that Jesus used in the revelation found in D&C 124:144.

Here are my points of disapproval:

  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.  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.
  3. 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.
  4. The demeaning process for a divorced woman to obtain a Sealing Cancellation.
  5. The inability for divorced men to obtain a Sealing Cancellation.
  6. The teaching/doctrine that the prophet can’t lead us astray.  I don’t even know what this is.  It’s not in the scriptures.  Is it a policy?  Is it revelation?  Is it doctrine?  Are they simply the words of a man who was trying his darnedest to get rid of polygamy?  Whatever this statement is, I view it as one of the worst and most dangerous elements of our church culture.
  7. 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.
  8. Nondisclosure of financial dealings.  Our finances were open for members’ scrutiny until the 1950’s.
  9. Meddling in politics without presenting the issues for a vote of approval.
  10. 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?
  11. 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?
  12. Use of the wording: Sustain or Oppose.  The words of Christ should be used: Approve or disapprove.

None of these policies, procedures, or practices have ever been put up for a vote of approval by the membership….except for the Law of Common Consent. This commandment was presented to the membership in the last century. Of course, it was accepted as a law of God by the ratifying vote of the early church members.

It’s ironic that out of the 12 items on my list, the only one that we know came from Christ and was also ratified by the membership, is the very one we don’t follow. The other 11 policies have never been approved, yet they are deployed and practiced.

Elder Hugh B. Brown taught that policies are to be considered “temporary” until presented for a vote of common consent. President Joseph F. Smith testified that no revelation is binding on the church until it is offered at a conference and confirmed by a simple majority.  Finally, our current doctrine states that all policies, major decisions and anything else that affects the lives of the Saints must be sanctioned by common consent.

I’m voting my disapproval of “temporary” policies that are not “binding” on the church or its members.

Please pass my vote and explanation to the proper authorities tasked with keeping the conference tallies.

Although disapproving votes are rare, they are starting to happen.  At this moment, 375 members have recorded their votes on the Common Consent Register.  If the church leadership is serious about obeying Christ’s laws, and I believe they are, then this really should be done by the church and not by me.

HERE is the link to the Register.  Several on the list reside in our ward and stake boundaries.  The rest are spread around the globe.  You will note that several show up as “anonymous.”    These are real people with names and e-mail addresses behind each “anonymous” entry.  Unfortunately, at this point, they don’t feel safe revealing their names in public.

Over the past couple of years, I have conversed with hundreds of members, many in our ward and stake. What do you think they have to say about the both of you? Let me just say that you are beloved. And I love you, too.

Thanks again for the magnanimous service and care that you render to our friends in this area of the Lord’s vineyard.

I also thank you for your immense patience…with me. It’s been a tough road.  Fortunately, in the end, I have chosen to put my faith in Jesus.  I am trying to follow his teachings and example.  The many hours that ya’ll have spent with me have been a great help in landing me on my feet and within the beautiful bounds of the gospel. We have a good church. I want to see it bettered.

All my best wishes & Godspeed,

Sam Young

Other Resources

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

Punished for Voting Opposed

PunishmentThis is a Message to My Kids

If you ever choose to vote in disapproval and are threatened with punishment, I have your backs and so does Jesus!!!

Today, friends of mine voted opposed in their ward conference.  The immediate response from the bishop was, “I guess I’ll be needing your temple recommends.”

That’s an open threat of punishment.  Stripping them of their rights to participate in the highest order of our church ordinances.  Denying them the blessings of temple service.

This makes me very, very angry.

Obedience is the First Law of Heaven?

Jesus never said that.  His first law is gentle, gorgeous and magnificent:  Love thy neighbor as thyself.

However, obedience is constantly drummed into church messaging.  OK.  If obedience is at the top of the list, why threaten and punish this couple for their obedience?  For expressing their honest opinion in the manner that Christ has ordained?  They are obeying the law of consent.  Jesus himself made this a prominent commandment of the restoration.

But…the church is disobeying its own law of governance.  And then…threatening those who chose to obey.  What irony!  What hypocrisy!

Yeah…I’m Angry

So, should sustainings be announced with the following threat?

“Any opposed by the same sign. And if you give that same sign at this time, you will be punished. Your temple recommend will be confiscated, you will be denied access to the temple, banned from its privileges and blessings, and you will be treated as a pariah in our midst.”

This makes me so angry. It’s throwing Christ’s law right back into His face. Why don’t we just open the scriptures to D&C 28:13 and spit on it. Then D&C 26:2, spit on it. Then D&C 124:144, spit on it. Then D&C 121:39, spit on it twice, rip it out, burn it and fling the ashes to the wind.

Something is Very Rotten In Denmark

Sorry, Denmark.  Blame it on Shakespeare.  Something is rotten in the church administration.

To Church Leaders

  1. Resist unrighteous dominion.  The scriptures warn us that this will be an always-present temptation for you.  Common Consent is meant to help control it.  Our obedience to this law is meant to help and support you.
  2. Don’t make threats when we follow Jesus.

 

Opposition-Nope. Disapproval-Yes!

Votes of Disapproval

In LDS voting conferences, we are asked to Sustain or Oppose.  This wording is not found in the Doctrine and Covenants in connection with common consent.  Jesus used very specific words when he instructed Joseph Smith.  In D&C 124:144, the Savior gives a commandment to have the general conference Approve or Disapprove of the matters presented.

Somehow, opposition has become the operative word during sustainings.  My daughter says it’s a loaded word.  I agree.  It’s loaded with a negative connotation that can be easily be interpreted as being against the church, in defiance, in rebellion or even an enemy.

Christ’s words are so much better.  A simple approve or disapprove.  There is a huge difference.  I stand with the church.  But, disapprove of some of it’s policies, practices, major decisions, and teachings.  Expressing disapproval is a right, privilege and responsibility that Christ’s law of common consent bestows upon all members.

I don’t oppose.  I disapprove.  I don’t stand against the church.  I stand with it.

Points of Disapproval

  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.  Children of gay couples, married or not, 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.
  3. 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 hearbreak and hurt happens as parents suffer the humiliation of by 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.
  4. The humiliating process for a divorced woman to obtain a Sealing Cancellation.
  5. The inability for divorced men to obtain a sealing cancellation.
  6. The teaching/doctrine that the prophet can’t lead us astray.  I don’t even know what this is.  It’s not in the scriptures.  Is it a policy?  Is it revelation?  Is it doctrine?  Are they simply the words of a man who was trying his darndest to get rid of polygamy?  Whatever this statement is, I view it as one of the worst and most dangerous elements of our church culture.
  7. 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.
  8. Nondisclosure of Financial dealings.  Our finances were open for members’ scrutiny until the 1950’s.
  9. Meddling in politics without presenting the issues for a vote of approval.
  10. 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?
  11. Keeping secret the ordinance of the Second Anointing and 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?
  12. The use of the wording: Sustain or Oppose.  The words of Christ should be used: Approve or disapprove.

Consider Voting in Disapproval April 1st

  1. When the disapproval vote is called for, raise your hand…in your home, in the church or at conference.
  2. Send an e-mail to your bishop and stake president informing them of your vote.
  3. If so inclined, record your name on the Common Consent Register.  At this moment, 330 members have publicly registered their disapproval.

It’s that simple.

Final Thoughts

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

If not me, who?  If not now, when?

Important Resources

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

*Acknowledgement.  The picture shows three members who voted Disapproval in the November 2015 General Conference.

If It Gets Any Traction, You’ll be Excommunicated

IMG_0179

 Faith Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

John Gives A Warning

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

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

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

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

To see comments on Episode 649, click HERE.

Other Resources

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

Behind Closed Doors–Don’t Let It Happen!

Closed Door

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dangerous Culture

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

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

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

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

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

What To Do

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

To My Children

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

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

P.S.

My good friend gave me permission to share this story.  He read the entire post and approved it.  For various reasons, his name is not being shared.  However, he extended this invitation.  “If anyone would like to ask me any questions, send them my way.  I’ll chat with them on the porch over a cold drink.”

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

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

“I Know That You Will Save Lives”

Birthday Candles

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

I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.

Yesterday, I received this message.

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

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

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

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

 

“The Time Has Come,” the Walrus Said

Walrus-Carpenter

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

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

It’s time.  It’s consumed me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acknowledge That People are Leaving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopeful Conversation?

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

Here are the feeling that I presented.

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

The response:

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

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

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

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

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

What Would Bring Me Back?

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

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