Is It Happening in My Stake?

imageThis afternoon, I sent this e-mail to my Stake President and Bishop.  Both are very good men.

Dear President ______ and Bishop __________,

Tonight, I’m having an interview regarding the petition initiative:  Protect The Children–Stop Mormon Masturbation Interviews.  

I have been saying that I believed these questions were no longer being asked in our stake.  However, I was just sent a copy of a memo from the Seventies.  It gives instructions that “worthiness interviews need to be specific and explicit.”

As a result, I’d like to ask the question again.  Are stake and ward leaders following this instruction to pose “specific and explicit” sexual questions to our children, anywhere in the age range from 11 to 17? 

Tons of people have reported that this is happening all over the church.  Tonight, I’d like to confirm in advance of the interview whether or not it is happening in our stake.

As always, thanks for all you do,

Sam Young

To all who read this:  Join 1,917 Others to Protect our Children

SIGN…THE…PETITION!    Click HERE.

Other Resources

Testimonials of masturbation interviews.  Click HERE.

Testimonials of interviews about orgasm and sexual positions.  Click HERE.

How to talk to your kids about masturbation.  Click HERE.

Is masturbation a sin?  Click HERE.

 

Gossip

gossip

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!

Do We Love Jesus Enough To…..

voting-opposedDo we love Jesus enough to…. stand up for what we believe is right?

Do we love Jesus enough to….stand up for the marginalized in our very midst?

Do we love Jesus enough to….stand up for those in our midst who are in danger?

Do we love Jesus enough to….be honest when Jesus asks for our opinion?

Do we love the church enough to….stand up and protect it as Jesus has designated?

Do we love the church enough to….participate in its governance as Jesus has designated?

Do we love the apostles enough to….be honest when they ask for our opinion?

Finally, do we love Jesus enough to….to follow Him?

General Conference

On Saturday October 1st, a very special event will occur.  At the general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Law of Common Consent will be put into practice.  This is a sacred opportunity for all members of the church to express their “approval” or “disapproval.”  (D&C 124:144)

This divine system of governance in the kingdom of God was declared by the Savior Himself.  In Doctrine & Covenants 28:13, “For ALL things MUST be done in order, and by common consent in the church.”

Can a person hold an office in the church without the consent of the people?

Nope.  “No man can preside in this Church in any capacity without the consent of the people. The Lord has placed upon us the responsibility of sustaining by vote those who are called to various positions of responsibility. No man, should the people decide to the contrary, could preside over any body of Latter-day Saints in this Church.” –LDS Website

Who should nominate the officers of the church?

“It is not the right of the people to nominate, to choose, for that is the right of the priesthood.” –LDS Website

Does Common Consent apply to more than just church officers?

Oh yes, so much more!!!   “This same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints. (see D&C 26:2) LDS Website

And, there is the sticking point.  Today, no policies, no major decisions, not anything that affects the lives of the Saints are being presented nor accepted by common consent.  If we are opposed to any of the above, the only real option seems to be voting opposed to the general leadership.  Someday that will change.  Eventually, the membership will no longer tolerate disobedience of this plain and precious law of God.

If You Support Everything The Church Is Doing…

Please, carefully consider your vote.  A vote to sustain the prophets and apostles is a great way to vote.  I commend & support your action.

If You Generally Support Everything, But Have Concerns…

Please, carefully consider your vote.  Whether you abstain or vote in approval, good for you.  Your opinion is important to the governance of Christ’s church.

If You Have Major Issues with Policies “That affect the Lives of the Saints

Please, carefully consider your vote.  The unanimous votes that are recorded at General, Stake and Ward Conferences are sending a clear signal to SLC and to the general membership that “all is well in Zion.”  However, many feel that all is NOT well in Zion.  That includes me.

Jesus’ system of church governance addresses practical concerns.  Common Consent helps prevent errors, correct errors, provide accountability and put a check on “Unrighteous Dominion.” (D&C 121:39)

Besides practicality there is another side of Common Consent.  To me, this law is one of the most beautiful in our entire canon.  Most commandments are like:  “Do this…Do that…Don’t do this…Don’t do that!”  Oh…but this law is more like:  “Sam, you are of great worth.  I value your opinion.  I value your critical thinking.  I have commanded the apostles, whom I have put in place, to ask for your input.  When they do, please be honest.  I’m trusting and relying on you, Sam.”  When I consider how the Lord Jesus has set up the governance of His church, a tear of joy graces my eye.  He loves, respects and values each of us and our opinions.

If You are Opposed, I Encourage you to Vote Your Opinion

First, I know that many are constrained by fear.  Fear of family, friends, or business repercussions.  Those are legitimate considerations.  It’s an unfortunate element of today’s LDS culture that prevents full participation in the Law of Common Consent.  Your silence is understandable and certainly an honorable path.

Now, to the group in which I find myself:  Those who oppose and are willing to fully engage in the divine process of church voting.

Please, carefully consider casting a vote.  This is general conference (GC) and is the easiest of all the conferences.  The voting session occurs Saturday afternoon.  Here’s how you can effectively vote.

  • Attend GC in Salt Lake City.
  • Watch GC in your stake center or local chapel, if conference is broadcast there.
  • Watch or listen to GC in your home.
  • MOST IMPORTANT:  After the Saturday voting session, send an email to your bishop and Stake President.

Questions and Concerns

Do I have to spend time composing an e-mail?  Not necessarily.  Click here for examples.  Take ideas from it.  Modify it.  Or flat out copy it.

How will anyone know that there are actually members opposing?  Great question.   A Common Consent Register has now been created.  In this document you can record your name as having voted OPPOSED or planning to vote OPPOSED.  For many it is a scary experience…putting their name in full view of the public.  Certainly, it is a worthwhile cause to stand up for what we believe and to speak out for those who can’t speak for themselves.

What are the risks?  There shouldn’t be any risks to obeying a commandment from Jesus Christ in the church of Jesus Christ.  But, the risk is real.  I’ll address that in a blog post coming in the next few days.

Will I be asked to meet with a church leader?  It’s likely that the stake president or bishop will want to discuss with you.  That should be a very good thing.  It gives you the opportunity to explain your position.  In an ideal church, your opinion would be forwarded up the chain.  If a significant number of members engage in common consent, vote tallies will be taken seriously.  In the ‘risks’ posting, I’ll give some ideas for the interview with church leaders.

My Hope & Prayer

I love my church.  The church of my child and adulthood.  The church of my forefathers, my parents, my children, my grandchildren.  It’s a good church.  It’s the church of Jesus Christ.

I pray that good men and women all over the world will raise their hands and express their sincere and true opinions.  Jesus is counting on us.

I wish you Godspeed in this vital voting opportunity.

Nude Sailing

imageChildhood Sailing

As a boy, my dad taught me to sail.  I loved it.  We sailed often.  When I married and started raising a family, our first recreational purchase was a 16′ catamaran.  My children will recall many, many exciting memories of sailing through the surf in the Gulf of Mexico.  With crashing waves and strong wind, catamaran sailing is more thrilling & exhilarating than the most extreme roller coaster.  I still have a 19′ Nacra sitting in the garage.

At the not so advanced age of 63, my days at sea are no longer frequent.  But…..with whispers of nude sailing, my windy, watery sport may be winging its way to new life.

Hearing Restored With Nudity

A few days ago, I was outfitted with hearing aids for the first time.  My doctor is an attractive woman, somewhere in her thirties. She applied the miniature devices to my ears.  A round disc shaped object was hung from my neck.  I was seated in front of another and larger disc.  Wires were strung from both these devices, connecting them to a computer.  Testing, programming and fine tuning began.  The doctor: “Sally sells sea shells on the sea shore. How did that sound?” And so it went.

Between adjustments and repeated tests, we small talked.  Until….she said something about sailing.  Rarely, do you run into a fellow sailor.  Once she knew of our mutual hobby, the fitting stopped and she began regaling me of her maritime adventures. They had begun at age 9 on the Chesapeake Bay.  She recounted her sailing history; the lessons, the boats, the storms, the fun, the excitement.  Right up to this past weekend.

Then this: “Last week I was in a NUDE sailing competition with my daughter.” I had been listening with great interest.  Now my attention was riveted.  NUDE SAILING?  What the heck!  She said it so casually that it wasn’t appropriate to drop my jaw.  But, mentally, my jaw dropped completely open.  NUDE SAILING?  A BARE NAKED COMPETITION?

Suddenly, visions were dancing in my head. Not of sugar plums, something else instead.  Naked on a small sailboat?  With others all about?  How do you do that?  What does it look like?  Pulling the rudder, trimming the sails, holding the sheets.  Bending and twisting in the waves and the wind.  Sunscreen?  Tan lines?  Coed?  What??  NUDE SAILING???  And, a competition, to boot?

But, wait, maybe the new devices weren’t working well.  Maybe I just misheard.  Could it have been crude, or prude, or lewd?  Wait a minute.  Now, I’m just thinking of things that might be connected with NUDE.

Not missing a beat, she kept talking.  Then, my thoughts went back 30 years.  My dad, my 3 brothers and I rented a large sailboat in the Caribbean.  For 7 days we sailed from one island to the next.  The little French isle of St. Bart’s held an eye-popping surprise.  We anchored in a small uninhabited cove.  Beautiful water, beach, vegetation.  Another boat pulled into the same protected harbor.  Maybe 50 yards away.

Before long, everybody on our boat had detected something intriguing about their boat. We were clad in swimsuits. They were clad in none. Necked they were.  I didn’t want to stare, with my dad and brothers there.  But….I wanted to stare….just like my dad and brothers, who were there.  So, we all stole furtive glances until sunset.

Finally, my curiosity couldn’t be contained. Timidly, I queried, “The hearing aids might need more adjustment.  I’m sure this can’t be right, but did you say NUDE sailing?”

Her response was a mischievous giggle.  Uh…oh….what now?  I’m just getting hearing aids, right?  I hope?

Chuckling, she replied, “I did say nude sailing. But, that’s N…O…O…D.  It stands for National Offshore One-Design.” We got a good laugh out of the misunderstanding. Now, we both knew that my hearing was crystal clear.

New, but Not NUDE, Couple in the Hood

A few years ago, my wife and I sponsored a get-together for National Night Out.  We distributed flyers, set out chairs & tables, ice cream & treats. Two men walked up our driveway and politely introduced themselves.  They had recently moved into the neighborhood and hadn’t met many neighbors, yet.  They were a delightful COUPLE. That’s right. They were a gay couple. The first one that I’d ever met. And….they had 2 adopted children. Within a few short months they had moved away.

This encounter got me thinking about the Mormon church’s stance on gay people. Would accommodations ever be made to allow room for them in our religion?  My wife and I discussed it.  I don’t know why I spent time considering the issue.  I just did.  Finally, I came to the conclusion that somehow changes would have to be made.  Somehow gay couples would have to be included.  Because….there are children involved!  Jesus made a point to point out that he loves all children. Without the parents, these children would likely remain unreachable.  Children are treasured much more by the Savior than any policy.

Little did I know that the church would soon move in the polar opposite direction.

The New, and NUDE, November Policy

November 2015 held a shocking surprise. A church wide policy was announced.  Gay couples, who have the audacity to engage in legal and lawful marriage, would be declared apostate.  Children of gay parents were to be stripped of their right to baby blessings, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and temple attendance.

A friend of mine is married to the love of her life.  Two women with five children between them.  Their darling family of 7 were active believing members.  In faith, this couple had managed to cope with the church’s stance on being gay.  How much faith does THAT require?  I can only imagine the difficulty.  Never-the-less, their righteous desire was to see their children raised in the church.

November changed all that.  The edict from Salt Lake City crushed their faith. This precious family of 7 no longer attends.  A few days ago, the bishop contacted my friend to schedule their disciplinary council.  Insult added to injury.

This new policy has been dressed up as a pronouncement of love & protection for the little ones with gay parents.  But, when all the rhetoric is stripped away, it’s a just a NAKED program of rejection, exclusion and stigma.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus gently counseled that the pathway to heaven was traveled by reaching out to the “least of these.”  Two thousand years later, we have resorted to casting them out.

Divorce or Disobey?

Hint: Adam and the Mormon Temple say……..DISOBEY.

image

A Tender Text

Today, my youngest daughter sent me this message:

Dear dad,

Thank you so much for putting mom and our family before yourself. Today I met a Mormon couple that is getting divorced because the man has left the church. I talked with them for a while and it was apparent that he just wasn’t willing to make sacrifices for his wife’s happiness. I am so glad to have a father who is able to see the importance of family above everything else.

Love, Emily

BTW, I have not left the LDS church.

Divorce

Over the past couple of years, I have come in contact with many members who have left the church. Their prior faith obliterated by history, doctrine & policies that they had only recently discovered. This includes good friends and family.

Sometimes, married couples depart from the church together. Sometimes, it’s only one spouse whose faith transitions. Unfortunately, I have heard and read many stories of couples divorcing when only one leaves the church. Often, the believing partner is encouraged by bishops and stake presidents, family and friends, to divorce the non-believing spouse. The family is broken. Children confused, scared and heartbroken.

All this over belief & church.  Is marriage less important than belief?  Is family less treasured than church?

Disobedience

For the first time in almost 2 years, I recently attended the temple. I explain here exactly why I decided to go back.  This time, I went with new eyes.  It was fascinating, uplifting, and spiritual.  Lot’s of new understandings.  I have already written about one monumental take-away here.

The temple movie presents a beautiful portrayal of the creation story.  Adam & Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden.  Satan tempts Adam do disobey God.  Our first father will have nothing to do with disobedience.

Eve is Lucifer’s next target for temptation.  She carefully considers the Adversary’s argument. Her rational decision is to disobey God.  Result: Eve was to be cast out of the protected, perfect and paradisiacal Garden of Eden.

Now, it’s her turn to offer the forbidden fruit to Adam. He considers. Refuses.  “I will not disobey Father,” he insists.  Eve persists.  Finally, Adam looks into heaven and weighs the options.  His decision: it’s more important to disobey God than to have their precious union broken-up.

What a tremendous temple statement!  What an amazing example of righteous disobedience!  This, from the very first story in the bible.  The foundational epic of Christianity and Mormondom highlights two “sinful” acts.  Eve disobeyed God in order to bring about the human race.  Adam disobeyed God in order to keep his marriage in good grace.

So, bishops & stake presidents, friends & family, reflect on the temple teachings before you encourage a believer to divorce the non-believer.

1 Corinthians 7:14 “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband.”

Apostles’ Best Friend by Voting Opposed

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

Time for Best Friendship

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

Opposition vs. Disapproval

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

The Gay Policy

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

MoroniCovenants

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

Temple Recommend

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

Questions?

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

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

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

My Choice Choice

ChoicesJune – November 2014

At the tender age of 62, in June of 2014, something jolted my religious attention.  For the next six months, I was consumed with studying LDS church history and doctrine.  Literally, 3 to 5 hours were spent everyday reading, researching and ruminating.  By November, I had reached a shocking conclusion about beliefs held my entire life.  Up to that point, my spiritual knowledge had been rock solid.  It could be described as certainty.  Frequently, I had repeated the phrase “I KNOW that ________ is true.”  In fact, I “knew” that everything was TRUE about the Mormon church.

In a poignant and sobering moment, that fateful November day, I realized that I “knew” nothing.  Nothing was certain.  Confusion.  Disappointment.  Sadness.  Anger.  Loneliness.  All these emotions swept though my mind.  Other than continuing to search and study, I didn’t know what to do.  Anger continued to build.  It frightened my wife and family.  For a time, it harmed our relationship.  Of course, that was my fault.  I recognize that and have worked to correct and control the anger.

After a few attempts to discuss issues with church members, it became clear that this was not a good idea.  A loneliness started to creep in.  It appeared that I was the only person in my circle of family and friends who was traveling this path.

January 2015

In January ’15, three meaningful things occurred.
  1. Friends leaving the church.  I discovered a close friend in the ward and a sibling in far away Utah who had both quietly left the church.  They had discovered and studied the same issues.  Their conclusion was to part with Mormonism, never discussing their concerns privately with their bishop or in public with members.
  2. The Bishop encounter.  I met with the bishop.  For all intents and purposes, it did not go well.  I put on a happy face during our discussion.  But, inside I was disappointed, depressed and angry.  In defense of my bishop, he’s a friend and a great guy.  It was the first time that anyone had presented him with serious doubts.  He told me, “Sam, you are the only person who is questioning.”  Of course, by then, I knew that was inaccurate.
  3. Paul, the apostle.  I rediscovered a wonderful scripture.  It would tide me over for the next several months.  1 Corinthians 13.  This is the classic chapter describing the characteristics of charity.  But, it also contained a description of exactly what I was going through.

Paul said, “Whether there be knowledge, it shall pass away.”  Oh my goodness!  That’s just what had happened to me.  My knowledge, my certainty had just passed away.

Paul goes on, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  Oh my goodness!  He was describing my journey from childish “knowledge” to speaking, understanding and THINKING, like a man.

 Paul continues, “For now we see through a glass, darkly.”  Oh my goodness!  I’m following in Paul’s footsteps.  For 62 years, my religion was crystal clear.  Now, clear as mud.

Paul concludes, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”  This was something I could wrap my head around.  For me, certainty no longer was part of my belief system.  Why should I put my trust in ‘knowing’ when Paul teaches it will vanish.  I was determined to put my faith in faith.  My hope in hope.  And strive for charity.  But it would take another year before settling on a comfortable path comprising these three abiding gospel principles.

TempleSummer 2015

I continued to study for hours everyday.  The obsession to find answers was as unrelenting as fly paper.  By the summer of 2015, I’d decided to delve into the pinnacle of Mormonism: The temple.  Not only are the sealing ordinances at the apex of our doctrine, they are also unique in all of Christianity.  The temple experience consists of two beautiful teachings.  First, that we can be ‘sealed’ to our loved ones, with the promise that we will be with them in heaven forever.  Second, that all mankind will have the opportunity to go to heaven regardless of whether or not they had ever been taught of Jesus Christ while on earth.

These blessings are not guaranteed.  Their realization is contingent on keeping the covenants that are made in the temple.  Hence, the temple covenants become the centerpiece of what the temple is all about.  From the pulpit, encouragement to keep these preeminent promises is constantly preached.  Now at age 63, I realized that I didn’t fully understand them.  I had lots and lots of questions.  And, as I pondered, more and more covenant questions kept coming.

Over the next 3 months, I started researching.  I asked, discussed, probed.  No one, and I mean no one, had answers.  Almost without exception, as I continued to ask questions, this response would eventually rear it’s ironic head, “Sam, why do you even care?”  What???  Why do I care about what the temple covenants mean???  Really???  Initially, everybody said they understood their meaning.  With the shallowest interrogation, NOBODY had answers.

This experience was highly disappointing.  Especially, the attitude that temple covenants are not to be discussed outside of the temple.  If you have questions, you should set an appointment with the temple president.  He’ll give you the answers inside his temple office.

My observation & conclusion:  Before we make the covenants, we can’t discuss them.  We  don’t understand them when we actually make them.  After the promises are made, we can’t discuss them.  And, finally, NOBODY knows what they really mean.  If keeping our temple covenants is so vital to eternal salvation, you’d think we could & would devote tons of time to understand exactly what the heck they mean.

Fall 2015

Frustrated with my temple covenant quest, I decided to take a look at Christianity in general.  I bought books, studied online, listened to debates, and watched videos.  I LOVED much of what I heard.  Also, I was turned off by much.

Soon, it became apparent that Christian history & doctrine, along with New & Old Testament history & doctrine, contained holes, inconsistencies and unsavory elements similar to our Mormon history & doctrine.  No longer did I look down on atheists.  They had good reason to believe what they believe.

Decision Time

Through January 2016,  I was still consumed with reading, listening, and now writing.  But, my gut (my turning stomach) was telling me that enough effort had now been spent on gathering my thoughts.  It was time to trim the sail, adjust the rudder and start sailing a purposefully chosen course.

Leave the church.  Do nothing.  Stay in. Stay silent.  Embrace Christianity.  Embrace atheism.  In hindsight, I think that I already knew what I was going to choose.  But, it took another month for a clear path to emerge from the fog.

Good SamaritanThe Choice Choice Arrives

I was raised Mormon, just a few miles north of Salt Lake City.  The church, prophets, priesthood, temple, Book of Mormon and  plan of salvation had always been taken for granted as true.  I ‘knew’ they were true.  Now, I ‘knew’ nothing.  Never, ever had I considered that faith could be a choice.

It was February 2016, at the tender age of 63, when the choice opportunity had presented itself.  The choice chance to choose for myself.  I was free to think as an adult.  Finally, as a rational man, I had put away childish things.

My decision:  Follow Jesus Christ, both his teachings and example.  How could I not select this path?  To me, it has divine appeal.
  • The Good Samaritan.
  • The Golden Rule.
  • Leave the 99 for the 1.
  • When you have done it unto the least of these.
  • The Prodigal Son.
  • Reaching out to the marginalized, the hopeless, the helpless.
  • Standing up to the proud & powerful, including the church leaders of his time.
  • Standing up for the poor, the sick, the weak, including those rejected by the church leaders of his time.
  • Finally, He had paid the infinite price necessary to bring EVERYBODY home.

My choice choice is to follow the lowly son of a carpenter.  The humble & homeless teacher, who had nowhere to lay his head.  He came from and lived at the margins of society.  His focus was ministering to the marginalized.

I have chosen to follow Jesus in the Church of Jesus Christ.  The church that has been my home for 63 years.  The institution to which I have dedicated much blood, sweat, tears, time & treasure.  The church is not perfect.  Far from it.  But, I and my family have derived significant benefit from our membership.  I love the church.  I love Jesus more.

Change???

This may not sound like a faith transition.  For me, it is a cataclysmic change.  I have chosen to follow Jesus.  Although, I am a member of the church, I recognize that the institution is not my salvation.  I listen to the prophets.  They are good men.  Men selected by my Savior. But, they are men.  My Lord has instructed me to not put my trust in the arm of flesh.  In my past life, I had fallen victim to worshiping the prophets.  I hung on their every word, willing to believe and obey all directions flowing from their lips.  Today, I put my trust in Christ, willing to follow the church leaders when they align with the directions flowing from Him.

It turns out, this path is more difficult than expected.  I’ve encountered unexpected push-back. That’s OK, because this path is working for me.

Does Jesus really exist?  I don’t know.  ‘Certainty’ is no longer important to me.  I don’t view it as a principle of His gospel.  Rather,  His touching teachings and eloquent example beckon me to follow.