Would You Go To A Church?

IMG_0175Would you go to a church where your ideas and opinions are worthless?

Would you go to a church where you are told to keep your worthless ideas and opinions to yourself?

Is there a church that DEMANDS 10% of your income in order to meet God….and…. DOES value your ideas and opinions?

Have all Members Lost their Testimony?

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This post is addressed to:

Members of the LDS church.  The rank-and-file, along with all levels of leadership.

Over the past year, I’ve voted opposed at 5 voting conferences:  2 General, 2 Ward and 1 stake.  Of course, I was outvoted.  So, I sustain, recognize and accept the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles…until the next voting opportunity.  That comes up on April 1st at spring General Conference.

As a result of voting my true opinion this is what people say about me:

  • I’ve lost my faith.
  • I’ve lost my testimony of the restoration.
  • I’ve lost my testimony of Joseph Smith.
  • I don’t qualify to hold a temple recommend.

Well, I’m turning that sentiment on its head.  It’s not me who has lost faith or testimony. It’s you!!!       You have either lost or never had faith or a real testimony in the first place.

Jesus Christ

Where is your faith in Christ?  Why do you pick and choose which of His commandments to keep and which to completely disregard?  It’s you who condones the breaking of His law of consent.  Not me.  I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ.  I am certainly not perfect in following His commandments.  But, no way am I disrespecting, dismissing or discounting His commandment to actively participate in common consent.

The Restoration

I’ve lost my testimony of the restoration?  Nope.  I embrace the restoration.  Consent from the general membership is taught in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  This beautiful principle has now been restored in our glorious dispensation.  What happened to your belief in the restoration?

Joseph Smith & Revelation

Joseph Smith holds claim to many a revelation, several of them involving the Law of Common Consent.  He made sure that the church lived by this law during his lifetime.  A salary for him was even put up for a vote.  It was voted down by his fellow members.  What happened to your testimony of this prophet?  Mine hasn’t withered.

Modern Scripture

We have one book of scripture that contains modern revelation concerning the restoration and the organization of the current church…the Doctrine & Covenants.  What happened to your testimony in the scriptures?  Or are you a cafeteria Mormon, only picking what you like?  What’s the point of a modern canon if you ignore it?  Common Consent is referred to several times in the D&C.  It’s most clearly stated in sections 26 verse 2 and 28 verse 13.

Temple Recommend

Really, I don’t qualify for a recommend because I strive to life the Law of Common Consent?  Nope.  I question whether YOU qualify.  I sustain the apostles.  But, I will vote opposed at the next conference….  opposed that we are not following the law of consent.  One of the qualifying temple questions is this, “Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made?”  In the temple, I made a promise to obey the law of God.  Modern revelation and scripture mandate that common consent is the law of God.  What caused you to lose your resolve to keep your temple covenants?  Isn’t it you who should be forfeiting your recommend?

The Church is True

Today is testimony meeting.  Many of you will stand and bear witness of the truthfulness of the church.  Then why do you scorn its doctrine?  “Policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints” are to be presented for approval or disapproval.  This is taken directly from a doctrinal statement on LDS.ORG.  Why do you ignore this doctrine that was established by Christ?

Modern Prophets

Another witness we will hear over and over again is of Thomas S. Monson being a prophet.  Why don’t you have a testimony of that anymore?  Or do you believe it and just choose to ignore him when he speaks?  Here’s what he taught 5 months ago in October’s General Conference:  “Learn, search and pray.  We need to know God’s laws and live them.”  What new law of God did you learn about?  Not common consent.  What new law of God have you started to live at the direction of President Monson?  Not common consent.  Where is your testimony?

At the same conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, follow up with this:  “Every day that we keep our covenants and help others to do the same, joy will be ours.”  I am actively helping people keep their baptismal and temple covenants to obey the Law of Common Consent.  Oh joy!  Joy will be mine.  Where is your joy in shrugging off a command from Jesus to His restored church?

Rights and Privileges

An apostle, Hugh B. Brown, spoke of our role in common consent as a right and a privilege.  Today, my rights and privileges as a church member have been curtailed.  So have yours.  I care about that.  You should, too.  No longer is the sound doctrine of common consent being practiced.  However, there are 318 of us who want our rights and privileges back.  You should, too.  There are 318 of us who are voting to get our rights and privileges back.  You should, too.  There are 318 of us who desire to keep our covenants.  You should, too.  Start by joining the 318 HERE.

Follow Jesus by Voting Opposed

The only way that this beautiful part of the restoration will be restored to its rightful place is for us to take it into our own hands.  To lift our hands in opposition to the continued disobedience of the Savior’s Law of Common Consent.

You only have 27 days from today before the next vote is called for.  Now is the time to:

  • Get your house in order.
  • Get your testimony of the restoration in order.
  • Get you testimony of Joseph Smith and his revelations in order.
  • Get your testimony in the scriptures in order.
  • Get your testimony in your covenants in order.
  • Get your testimony in church doctrine in order.
  • Get you testimony of today’s prophets in order.
  • Most of all, Get your faith in Jesus Christ in order.

Then go to conference, in your home, in your chapel, or in SLC, and vote to have our rights and privileges restored.

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.

An Apostle Gets the Gay Policy Right

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I grew up in the era of Hugh B. Brown.  He served in the LDS church both as an apostle and as a member of the First Presidency.  From my childhood, I recall the specifics of very few talks by the apostles.  But…I remember one by Elder Brown.  It was the story of a currant bush growing on his farm in Canada.  I won’t detail it here.  The point is that he was an eloquent speaker who made a positive and lasting impression during my early years.

Hugh B. Brown was also a man ahead of his times.  For example, he favored lifting the priesthood ban on black Africans.  When President David O. McKay died, Brown was not retained as a counselor in the First Presidency.  This had never happened before in the history of the church.  It’s rumored that this unusual occurrence resulted from his support of blacks receiving the priesthood.  Unfortunately, he passed away just 3 years prior to the ban being lifted.

Elder Brown’s Wisdom Lives On

Today’s apostles now condemn our past racist policies, practices and teachings.  Elder Brown got it right…and years before the prophet and other apostles of his time.

So, what would he say about our current LGBT policy that was announced in November 2015.  This policy dictates that lawfully wed gay couples are apostates.  It further decrees that their children are to be banned from church ordinances until 3 things happen.  First, that the reach the age of 18.  Second, that they disavow the lifestyle of their parents.  Third, that the First Presidency formally gives approval for the ordinances to be performed.

Fortunately, we know where the Apostle Brown stood on this new policy:

“Official statements of the First Presidency that have not been submitted to the membership of the church for its approval are matters of temporary policy only. Under present conditions, for example, the First Presidency may say, ‘We recommend this or that.’ But conditions may subsequently change, and when they do the First Presidency may wish to make a statement which may not be in complete harmony with a former statement. We have to keep our theology up to date by submitting everything that is intended to become a permanent part of the gospel to those whose right and privilege it is to so interpret and then by having it sustained by the people as a definite rule of the church so that all things may be done by common consent.” (Hugh B. Brown, An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, ed. Edwin B. Firmage [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999], 124-125).

What a great statement buttressing Christ’s mandate for common consent!!!  According to Brown:

  • The gay policy can only be a temporary policy since it has not been submitted to the membership of the church for approval.
  • The membership has the right and privilege to interpret what is being submitted for change.
  • The membership has the right and privilege to vote on whatever is intended to become a definite rule of the church.
  •  All this so that “all things may be done by common consent.”

I liked Elder Brown as a child.  I love Elder Brown as an adult.  He views the members of the church as adults not as children.  He views us as an indispensable part of church governance.  We have the right and privilege to interpret and form our own opinions about church policy.  Then everything must to be presented to us for an up or down vote.

According to this great apostle, the gay policy is at best temporary.  It must be presented to the us, the members, for approval or disapproval.

Rights and Privileges

Where is Hugh B. Brown when we need him to declare and defend our rights and privileges?

Well, he’s dead.  

What modern apostles are standing up to defend our rights and privileges as members?

So far…none are.

Then who IS going to stand up for our rights and privileges?

At this point it’s up to you and me, the rank and file members, to stand up for ourselves.

To stand up for the law that Jesus revealed as a vital part of the restored church.  

To stand up for our rights and privileges as members of Christ’s church.  

To stand up and for what we know to be right.  

Not to stand against the apostles.  

Rather, to stand with them in our quest to follow the commandments of Jesus Christ.

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.

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

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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

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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