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NeedleinA

Liberals in the Church

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4 hours ago, anatess2 said:

You can't really love anyone while disparaging them.

Words of wisdom. Applies in family relationships, perhaps as much as or more than anywhere else.

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8 hours ago, MarginOfError said:

I'm probably going to end up kicking up a hornet's nest here, and starting a fight I don't have the will power to finish. But this is an issue that strikes very close to home. 

Let's get some of the basics out up front.  I am what pretty much everyone would consider a "liberal in the Church." I vote liberal politically, and a number of my personal beliefs with respect to our religion fall outside of the orthodox views. I have multiple friends that share many of these views that have left the Church. I also have multiple friends who share my views that have remained in the Church. 

The Personal Experiences (skip if you don't want to read the novel)

The most succinct thing I can say about being a liberal in the Church is that the risk of social ostracism is very high. And the vast majority of my friends who have left the Church have done so more because of the social ostracism than because of a failing testimony.

Perhaps the most keen example of this is a friend of mine who joined the Church as an adult convert while attending MIT. I name-drop the school primarily to give a perspective of this being a person who was intelligent, motivated, and capable. It's important to note that as an adult convert, many of her political opinions and preferences were fairly established before she joined the Church. She met and married her husband while in college, and they went to Utah for his medical residency. While in Utah, she was on the receiving end of a lot of subtle and some not-so-subtle reminders of "the role of women at home." Some people even outright asked her what was the point in her getting her Master's degree. She wasn't going to use it once she had kids anyway (spoiler, she wasn't able to have kids, not that it should matter). In fairness, I suspect the people perpetuating this nonsense were the minority, but it was enough to make participation at church uncomfortable. After about 15 years and a few moves, they ended up settling in New England. Her Relief Society presidency took it upon themselves to cure her of all of her liberal political beliefs.  Their approach: asking her to teach lessons on "the evils of abortion," and "the evils of same sex marriage." They were overt in their intentions that if she would just prepare a lesson on the subject, she would start to see things the Correct Way (TM). She eventually stopped going to church because she was tired of being a target and a pet project.

So let me make this clear: It is a real challenge to attend Church and be spiritually fed when you're wondering when the next attack is going to come.

 

From my own experience, I have been exceptionally lucky. Coming off of a mission and entering college, I was about as straight laced and orthodox as a person can be. Believe it or not, at the time, I would have been considered a biblical literalist. My course of studies led me to start questioning some of the assumptions behind my beliefs. I had incredibly supportive family and bishops that encouraged me to explore and study these questions.  They discussed issues with me. And while they were free with their own opinions--that often differed from the ones I was developing--they never told me that I couldn't disagree with them. 

I was also very lucky to be called into semi-prominent positions of service early on. But that can be a crap shoot for liberal Mormons. In the first ward I attended after finishing college, there was no scout troop. I chose to volunteer with a community based troop because I wanted to do something valuable with all the free time I had come into (I had been studying 12-14 hours a day for months leading up to my thesis defense). About two months later, the bishop of that ward asked me to comment on a plan he was devising to have the young men of three wards in the area meet once a month as a troop, once a month as patrols (in separate buildings) and then the other two weeks would be non-scout oriented activities. I suspect he was trying to ease into calling me to help run the program. Instead, I excoriated his idea, and said if he was going to run a scout troop, he should commit to it. But running half a program wasn't going to be of any benefit to anyone. He hardly ever spoke to me after that (but that vision of a scout program never developed). 

A few months later, he was released. The new bishop chose to retain the same two counselors who had been privy to my review of the scout troop idea.  Apparently, those two had more appreciation for my willingness to offer criticism and honest feedback, and soon after I was called to be the ward clerk. And honestly, that calling as clerk is probably the reason I have been able to remain comfortable in the Church and be as liberal as I am. Because whatever bizzarro, unorthodox, or out-of-the-mainstream ideas I was spitting on any given day, I always had implicit status of "worthy" because I was in that inner leadership circle. I missed church about once a month to go lead scout activities. Any chance I could get to Church, I would, but it usually meant I showed up in grungy -- sometimes smelly -- camping clothes. And while I knew there were people that questioned whether I was keeping the Sabbath holy, no one ever questioned the strength of my testimony or worthiness because I held a semi-prominent position. That's an absurd conclusion, and I won't defend it. But nonetheless, I was challenged less for my unorthodox beliefs because of the leadership position I held.

That changed soon after I was released as the clerk in that ward. The sequence of events occurred as such.  First, I asked to be released so that my spouse could continue to serve as Young Women president after our second child was born. We just couldn't handle both being on the ward council at the time. A few months later, Brother X moved into the ward. And then a few months later, Brother X became Bishop X. Bishop X had no history with me, and was a very different kind of bishop than the one I had clerked for.  At one point, I made a statement about gender discrepant language in the temple ceremonies, trying to illustrate and explain to people why that bothers some people in the Church. I got called in to meet with the bishop where he threatened to take my temple recommend away for violating my covenants to not reveal what happens in the temple. I had to argue with him that nothing I had said violated any sort of covenant, and if he'd be more comfortable understanding why I believed that, perhaps we should go to the temple and have a discussion about it in a setting that he was comfortable discussing it. He didn't accept the invitation. He also didn't pull my temple recommend, but I was very clearly on the outs with him. For the rest of the time he was bishop, Church was hard, because there were regular instances where my commitment to my faith was challenged because of the things I believed. It wasn't just me, either. Most of the liberal leaning members, especially women, would describe discomfort with Church activities because there were consistent swipes at the illegitimacy of liberal beliefs.

One of the more amusing stories from that time frame was during the run up to the 2012 election. The ward ran a listserv for members to e-mail play date invitations, or list furniture they were selling/throwing out. One day, an e-mail came across asking for support for a Romney campaign something-or-other. I sent an e-mail to the bishopric expressing my discomfort with political activities taking place over a listserv for the ward. The response was pretty dismissive. They didn't see any problem with it. So I promptly sent an e-mail out over the listserv asking if anyone was interested in purchasing a "Mormons for Obama" bumper sticker. I'd place the order and pay the shipping, and so anyone that wanted one just needed to pay for the sticker. Almost immediately, a notice was put out that political discussions were not appropriate on the listserv.

Antagonizing the bishop like that probably didn't help my cause, but it was totally worth it.  Blessedly, Bishop X wasn't bishop very long. 18 months and then took a job overseas. Although I didn't hold any prominent callings under the new bishop, he was a lot more accepting of divergent viewpoints himself, and it started to be much more comfortable to be at church again.

When I moved to my current ward, a little more than five years ago, I was almost immediately called to be a clerk. I've also taught Gospel Principles and Institute in that time. And again, being in that semi-prominent position has come with the side benefit that very few people question my commitment to my faith, regardless of how crazy any of the things I say are. Again, I've been blessed with great bishops (I'm on my third in this ward) and a good stake president. I've had at least two sets of missionaries complain about some of the things I've taught in Institute*. The bishops and stake president have always been backed me up and said that me offering challenging questions or alternate interpretations isn't a problem if I'm trying to genuinely help the students explore their faith and develop a familiarity with receiving their own revelation.

But here's that catch.  While it has been great the past five years, I get really anxious when a new bishop is being called. Even though I've had bishops that are supportive, I can name a few men in the ward that, if they were to become bishop, would probably make church very uncomfortable for me. Being an election year, we're currently dealing with heightened political feelings, and there have been some instances of members saying "you can't be a member in good standing and support abortion." When you get those kinds of statements coming from people in leadership positions.

And here's the thing: it's completely unnecessary.

* every Institute class I taught started with a disclaimer that I am very much exploring the content, and ideas I spout off on any given night may or may not be good ideas. And anything that I believe today may be something I don't believe five years from now. I've always tried to encourage the ability to safely explore and learn over dictating what I perceive to be true. For the most, it seems to have worked, as my students never seemed to be uncomfortable saying "I disagree with you."

I Guess This is My Thesis (yeah yeah, it should be near the top)

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is apolitical (probably a liberal idea, but I stand by it). The teachings of the Church should likewise be apolitical. Repent of your sins and come unto Christ. There is extremely wide latitude for political and social disagreement within that spectrum. There is extremely wise latitude for disagreement in how we interpret scripture and the guidance from our prophets. I do not consider homogeneity and conformity of thought a virtue in the Church (also probably a liberal idea, but I stand by it). Unity and disagreement are not mutually exclusive. 

And so I try (and sometimes fail) to respect opinions and ideas from members that I disagree with.  More often than not, I want them to feel comfortable saying what the believe, and if possible, why they believe it. I have things to learn from them, and we are a better community when we understand and accept each other, regardless of the things we disagree or agree on.

Regarding Liberals Attempting to Change the Church

I believe firmly that there is room for questioning some of the things we purport to believe. I even more firmly believe that there is room to question some of our practices. But I also believe that those questions should follow a process of study, discussion, and prayer. I would be considered a liberal mormon, because I support the idea of allowing women to hold priesthood. But I don't support that idea because "EQUALITY." I honestly just can't see any reason they don't other than "because we never have." I know there are other arguments, but I don't find them compelling (and I'm not willing to discuss it in this thread**). Importantly though, I have reached this position after years of careful consideration. Changes to the church should not be made simply to fit the popular social issues of the time. So even as a liberal mormon, I hold that conservative approach.

But that doesn't mean the Church can't or shouldn't change. It can and it should. And it will. Sometimes in ways that I favor, and sometimes in ways that I don't.

** I've spent too much time on this subject as it is, and if I don't get two weeks of work done before the end of next week, I won't be able to go to Scout Camp.

Regarding Conservatives Attempting to Change the Church

This is one that we should be wary of as well. As I mentioned before, taking stances like "No one can be a member in good standing and support abortion" is an attempt to change the Church into a homogeneous thought pool. The message that comes across is "Repent or get out." Those kinds of attitudes need to be rooted out in the Church.

It's Genuinely Harder to Be Liberal in the Church That it is to be Conservative

I'm just going to state this as fact. In the 20th century, Mormon culture took a hard conservative turn that intermingled with political conservatism. As political tensions increase, the fact that there are more conservatives in the Church will inherently make it more hostile to liberals in the Church. 

As far as doctrinal conservatism vs doctrinal liberalism, conservatives will typically be more hostile to liberals than liberals will be to conservatives. I'm excluding from this discussion elitist jerks that are convinced that if you don't agree with them, then you're a blithering idiot. But we have to understand that doctrinal liberalism is an existential threat to doctrinal conservatism.  For example, if you are a biblical literalist, evolution is a direct route to atheism.  On the other hand, doctrinal conservatism is merely an annoyance to doctrinal liberalism. Those facing an existential threat will always react more aggressively.

As Liberals Gain More Influence in the Church, They Must Wield Their Influence Responsibly

And this is hard to do. We often want to call into leadership people who agree with us, or who are like minded. But we cannot afford to do that. It would be a tragedy of incomprehensible magnitude for liberals to wield their influence to turn ostracism onto conservatives in the way we have felt it. Church is a place to be uplifted. 

And I struggle with this one. A lot.  There are an unspecified number of individuals in my ward that are very conservative. And when we consider leadership openings, I regularly find myself advocating against calling them. I've often had to take several days to try and sort out if my advocacy is legitimate or born out of my own biases. I've been lucky so far in that any time one of these individuals has come up as a possibility, the bishopric is generally unanimous in choosing not to call them. But I still feel great discomfort at the possibility that I may be excluding people in the way that I felt excluded in times past.

 

I've definitely lost track of where I was going with all of this. But let me just close by saying that we need to be very careful pitting "liberal" vs. "conservative." We cannot afford to allow ourselves to become opponents. We are on the same team and need to learn to work as a team.

It SHOULD be harder to hold most liberal views in Church than it is to hold most conservative views.  It's also ABSOLUTELY necessary to call it out when seen.  I don't want you asking my children the hard questions to get them to consider alternative views.  I want you to teach them the gospel and teachings of the Prophets.  Period.   

There were two groups of members that made my conversion more difficult than it had to be:  those who loved to sit in class and discuss things they "believed" were true but had zero teachings to support them and those who thought it was cool to be "edgy".  

 

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6 hours ago, Grunt said:

and those who thought it was cool to be "edgy". 

'Modesty', as found in the Gospel Topics states:

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Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit”

I find that most people who live life thinking it is cool to be 'Church Edgy' are:
1. More worried about glorifying themselves
2. More interested in and quick to justify/rationalize their own actions, not only to others but to themselves
3. End up hurting their own testimonies and the testimonies of others rather then strengthening them

Elder James E. Faust:

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After a lifetime of dealing with human affairs, I am persuaded that your future will be beyond your dreams if you observe the following:

  • Do not live on the edge.

  • Avoid, not only evil, but even the appearance of evil...

 

 

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6 hours ago, NeedleinA said:

I find that most people who live life thinking it is cool to be 'Church Edgy' are:
1. More worried about glorifying themselves
2. More interested in and quick to justify/rationalize their own actions, not only to others but to themselves
3. End up hurting their own testimonies and the testimonies of others rather then strengthening them

Elder James E. Faust:

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After a lifetime of dealing with human affairs, I am persuaded that your future will be beyond your dreams if you observe the following:

  • Do not live on the edge.

  • Avoid, not only evil, but even the appearance of evil...

 

Did you just quote a Liberal and a Democrat in this thread (both are the same guy, Elder Faust)?

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14 hours ago, Grunt said:

It SHOULD be harder to hold most liberal views in Church than it is to hold most conservative views.  

I don't think this is a objectively verifiable statement.

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It's also ABSOLUTELY necessary to call it out when seen.  I don't want you asking my children the hard questions to get them to consider alternative views.  

I will agree that there is a time and a place for such discussions. I was willing to do it in Institute, where I was teaching college age adults who were living in an environment that was somewhat hostile to their beliefs. It was a setting where it felt justified to move beyond the basics and introduce them to some of the challenges to their faith that they were likely to encounter at some point anyway.

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I want you to teach them the gospel and teachings of the Prophets.  Period.   

It seems a flawed line of reasoning to think you can't introduce and discuss challenging topics and alternative view points while also teaching the gospel and the teachings of the prophets.

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There were two groups of members that made my conversion more difficult than it had to be:  those who loved to sit in class and discuss things they "believed" were true but had zero teachings to support them and those who thought it was cool to be "edgy".  

And again, choosing your setting is important. I don't go into Gospel Doctrine and make of asking hard questions. The audience is too varied to manage that discussion effectively. I also don't do it in Primary, nor would I do it in Seminary. (with a caveat of if student(s) ask the question themselves). In those settings, about the only time I bring up alternative viewpoints are when someone is pushing that one viewpoint is the only acceptable viewpoint. Usually, it's pushing a conservative viewpoint, but I've had to challenge some more liberal viewpoints as well.

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20 hours ago, Carborendum said:

MOE, I often find your posts to be very thoughtful and thought-provoking.  And this is one of the best.

Much of it is stuff I agree with.  Surprisingly little is stuff I disagree with.  And some things that I really haven't given much thought to before.  I realize you're busy (as you stated) so I don't mind if you don't reply to my response.  But I figured I'd go ahead and share my thoughts with the forum (of which you are an important part).

I can understand this mindset.  But the reality I see behind anyone leaving the Church is that we leave because we believe our own mindset, or comfort, or... whatever... is more important than renewing our covenants with the Lord.  Perhaps it is because we've simply forgotten how important covenants are.  Perhaps we don't even think about it.   But that is exactly the problem.  If we are so focused on 

  • being ostracized
  • having beliefs criticized
  • disagreeing with leadership
  • 1000 other reasons

that we neglect the one indispensable purpose of church attendance -- renewing our covenants -- then that is the real underlying motivation for leaving.  All these things (as valid as they may be) are merely convenient excuses when compared to the importance of the sacrament.  I say this from my own experience (I left the Church for a time) as well as every other person I've personally witnessed leaving the Church.  Yes, they have their reasons.  And from every earthly, temporal, mortal measure, they are very valid and understandable reasons.  And as fallible humans, I can't blame them.  But covenants are more important than that.

The fact is that if you genuinely don't have a testimony, that is a different story.  But in my experience, it is the very small minority that has that as a genuine underlying cause to leave.  That's what they state quite often.  But those whom I've been around as I witnessed their descent... they were blind to all that led up to it.  They only saw the final step, not all the dominoes that led up to it.

It is actually quite honest of these friends of yours to be able to admit that it was because of other causes.

I came to the realization that people join the Church because they develop a testimony. People stay in the Church because of their social connections. We can debate the merits of that ad nauseum, and I'll concede upfront that the covenants are more important than that. But I'm also a realist and a pragmatist. People who become socially disconnected from the Church are the highest risk for leaving the Church. And it takes a remarkably strong testimony to stick with it if you feel no social connection.

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Keep this in mind when I comment below.

I've never had anyone tell me that I couldn't disagree with them.  If they have, I ignored them anyway.

I have had several experiences like this myself.  And life went on for all of us.  I don't know why this needs to be dwelt on.

I have dealt with people that insist that they are right and if you disagree you need to repent. It's toxic. It's especially toxic when people with this attitude utilize it within leadership positions.

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If that is an absurd conclusion, is it possible that your perception (of said conclusion) was flawed?  Perhaps some or many of these people saw you as we see you:  A very liberal and somewhat heterodox Saint that is still thoughtful and faithful about how he approaches doctrine and beliefs.

The second sentence there is the important part.  But it seems that you're still holding the first sentence as being the more important.

I'm certain my perception isn't flawed. There are certain positions in Church leadership that give you instant credibility. 

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I'm a conservative who regularly works with one of the very few very liberal fabrication companies in Houston.  I know that if I were to ever talk about politics, they'd probably cancel my contract and never call me again.

A liberal in the church may be challenged and met with suspicion but you're not kicked out because of your positions.

You're right that I've never seen someone just outright be kicked out. The process is much more subtle. It's the "you can't be a good member if...." or "I don't know how anyone that believes [whatever] can hold a temple recommend." It starts with the social bonds at church being poisoned. And when it's too socially uncomfortable to keep going back, exodus isn't far away.  My rambling didn't do a good job of making that clear.

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Bishop Bonehead -- blah blah blah

I'm not going to dwell on much of that. That portion of the post was anecdotal, and the intent was to illustrate how quickly one's comfort level at church can change when leadership changes.  I can tell you that I was not the only person who felt that shift. Perhaps it is an inappropriate swipe, but envision for a minute what going to Church would be like for me if Grunt were called as my bishop, based on his previous response in this thread. 

But tying it back, the reason it matters is that when people become socially disconnected, it becomes much more difficult to maintain their activity.

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I agree, but would use different wording.  It is politically neutral, not "apolitical".  So, why are you so free with declaring political views at church?  Why not simply remind everyone that church is supposed to be politically neutral?  That should shut up most conversations about politics.

I used to do that. It would typically stop the discussion on that day. But then it would end up coming up again. And the ultimate effect was that the conservative viewpoint was getting the last word. Many people interpret the last word as "having won the debate." (another absurd conclusion)

I've found that offering the counter-view, especially when I've been in a position of authority, has done more to suppress the injection of politics into church discussions while making those in disagreement feel a little more comfortable.

Theoretically, you're right.  It should be enough. My pragmatism tends to get the better of me.

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I'm not too far from your position.  I don't "support" it.  I'm agnostic to it.  Because I'm agnostic to it, I just figure if it happens it happens.  Until then, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Do you see it as broken?

That's out of the scope of this thread.  Probably sounds like a dodge.

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The message turning into "repent or get out"... again characterization vs definition.  Are we not all supposed to be constantly repenting?  And if we refuse to repent, are we not going to be cut off from the Lord?  It may only sound like that because the receiver hears it as coming from a human rather than the Lord.  It is akin to Laman and Lemuel saying "it is a hard thing (Lehi) required" of them.  But it was not Lehi.  It was a commandment of the Lord.

I've personally heard people make such statements.  It doesn't usually come along as "repent or get out," but more like, "if you think women should hold priesthood, you should go to another church." It poisons the social waters, which is a dangerous thing. And it shouldn't be tolerated.

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Yes, I'd agree.  But I see it as coming from your attempts to sit on a razor's edge.  You see it as coming from persecution for your beliefs.  Agree to disagree.

Is it that Mormon culture took that turn?  Or is it that political liberalism took a hard turn to go away from God? 

  • How many liberal sources say they want to eliminate God from our public lives?  Not just "separation of Church and State" but outright get rid of religion.  (if you say that "only conseratives say that" I'll give you a list like I did with the "all whites are racist".
  • Abortion is a great evil.  But liberalism came away from the perfectly reasonable conditional abortion position (which was quite liberal when the Church adopted that position) to abortion on demand.  Did the Church change?  Or did liberalism change?
  • Gay marriage is simply a perversion of God-given procreative powers.  There is not amount of political neutrality that is going to soften that simple fact.
  • Liberals want to get rid of the Constitution.  And the Church sees it as divinely inspired.

These are all positions that the Church has been pretty consistent on.  But pop culture, not Church culture, has changed over the years.  Strange that political liberals changed with their politics rather than staying consistent with the Church.

Again, a discussion out of the scope of of this thread. And one I won't engage in on open forums. Nothing (and I mean nothing) has been more toxic to my relationship with the Church than engaging in these topics on public forums on this site. If you really wish to discuss, I welcome you to send private messages.

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One reason doctrinal liberalism is more highly discouraged than doctrinal conservatism is that true religion, by its very nature, will be conservative.  Religion is supposed to be immovable as the world changes around it.  God is an unchanging god.  Therefore, the changes from religion should either be 

  • clearly necessary with overwhelming acceptance due to changing society, technology, information, blah blah blah -- or pandemic lockdowns. :) 
  • Direct Revelation from God that it is time to change something.

Most of the things that doctrinal liberals advocate do NOT abide by either of these criteria.  The great majority of the time, it is because people just think they know better than the Apostles do.   Meanwhile conservatives at least have the security that they are abiding by what they see in scriptures and what we hear from living Oracles.  Even if conservatives are wrong, they at least have that security that they can have a clear conscience before God at judgment day.

A doctrinal liberal, OTOH, if right, no problem.  If wrong, they can only say "I thought I knew better than your chosen Apostles." 

As much as I appreciate liberals as conscientious as you are, such is a rare find.  My personal experience has been that most liberals simply think they know better than the Apostles.  End of story.

On the other hand, I've known plenty of conservatives that will attempt to shut down any conversation with appeals to statements of the Apostles in a way that practically assumes infallibility. 

On the whole, I'd say that very few in the church, conservative or liberal, have much of an idea of how doctrinal development can, will, or should take place.

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Thus,  I hope that you don't gain more influence.  But it may already be too late.

While hypocrisy is a very human failing, the primary difference between political liberals vs conservatives is the level of group think.  This is to the point that if a black man doesn't vote Democrat, you're not really black.  And a white woman is accepted as a black woman just because she wholly buys into the mentality.  

Yet, the variety of thought among conservatives is very broad in comparison.  I could also give you a list.  But the very fact that cancel culture is almost 100% a liberal creation should tell you that it is largely one-sided.

I have read all the background you have offered.  And I get it.  But just looking at statements like this over and over again keeps bringing back to center stage how much mental energy you have spent on judging people in the Church based on politics rather than faith.  Isn't that exactly what you're accusing them of?

You will never, ever hear me claim that I am not a hypocrite. At best, I'm a self aware hypocrite. I actually admit to my hypocrisies somewhat regularly at church, specifically in the hope that others will call me out on them when I get out of line (and there are a handful of people in the ward that do, thankfully). I have a lot of repenting to do. I don't say that to excuse my behavior. I say it because I believe that willingness to admit it strengthens the bonds between myself and my fellow church-goers and makes repentance more likely to happen.

So ultimately, I'll join you in denouncing any liberal who does anything to make a conservative less comfortable at church. It's unacceptable. I denounce my own hypocrisy. At the same time, I will stand in defense of any liberal who is under threat of social ostracism for their beliefs. 

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8 hours ago, NeedleinA said:

'Modesty', as found in the Gospel Topics states:

I find that most people who live life thinking it is cool to be 'Church Edgy' are:
1. More worried about glorifying themselves
2. More interested in and quick to justify/rationalize their own actions, not only to others but to themselves
3. End up hurting their own testimonies and the testimonies of others rather then strengthening them

Elder James E. Faust:

 

 

I don't disagree.  That's probably why it appears liberals are more inclined to leave the Church.

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1 hour ago, MarginOfError said:

 

It seems a flawed line of reasoning to think you can't introduce and discuss challenging topics and alternative view points while also teaching the gospel and the teachings of the prophets.

And again, choosing your setting is important. I don't go into Gospel Doctrine and make of asking hard questions. The audience is too varied to manage that discussion effectively. I also don't do it in Primary, nor would I do it in Seminary. (with a caveat of if student(s) ask the question themselves). In those settings, about the only time I bring up alternative viewpoints are when someone is pushing that one viewpoint is the only acceptable viewpoint. Usually, it's pushing a conservative viewpoint, but I've had to challenge some more liberal viewpoints as well.

Sure, it may seem flawed to you.  You have liberal leanings.  That said, I would say it is flawed logic to assume there is a correct time to hint around topics contrary to Church teachings.   I don't understand why it's so difficult for people to just work on building faith?  What's the big attraction with challenging it?  Why to just stick to teaching what we DO know and what Christ or the Prophets have taught?  Isn't that why they taught it?

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Guest Scott
2 hours ago, JohnsonJones said:

Did you just quote a Liberal and a Democrat in this thread (both are the same guy, Elder Faust)?

Yes, James E Faust was definitely a liberal and a Democrat.   When we lived in Utah he was a prominent member of the same environmental groups that we were in, such as Save Our Canyons.  He was active in those groups until his death.  He also used to be the chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.    

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Guest MormonGator
26 minutes ago, Scott said:

Yes, James E Faust was definitely a liberal and a Democrat.

Democrats back then were a bit of a different breed, in fairness. Not nearly as left wing as they are now. 

26 minutes ago, Scott said:

When we lived in Utah he was a prominent member of the same environmental groups that we were in, such as Save Our Canyons. 

Good. I'm in the Sierra club and several other environmental groups. It's very important we respect the natural world that our Heavenly Father has created for us. 

When I joined the church I told the SP that I was in the ACLU. He said, "Don't worry about it. This isn't about politics." The bishop of my old ward up north was a :: gasp :: democratic congressmen from NH, and he was, by far, the most spiritual man I ever met. So don't worry about about it when people knock "liberals" in the church. They are just trying to enhance their own political agenda by making you (generic) feel guilty about your politics. 

Edited by MormonGator

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3 hours ago, Scott said:

Yes, James E Faust was definitely a liberal and a Democrat.   When we lived in Utah he was a prominent member of the same environmental groups that we were in, such as Save Our Canyons.  He was active in those groups until his death.  He also used to be the chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.    

Towards the end of his life Faust described himself as a fiscal conservative but a liberal on “social and human rights issues” (as defined in the late 1990s).  His activity as party chair was in the mid-1950s, and he was a GA (and mostly out of the political game) by the time Roe v. Wade was decided; two years after Roe he gave a conference talk in which he described himself as an “advocate for the unborn”.

Faust served in the inner circle of Church leadership at a time when the priesthood ban was fully in place, supported the Church’s Indian Placement Program, endorsed the Church’s policy against elective abortion, was aware of the treatment of the September Six, was on the board of BYU when they were experimenting with electroshock therapy on gay people, and was a signatory to the Proclamation on the Family. “The dogma”, as Senator Feinstein would have said, “lived loudly in Faust”.  And under his watch the Church accrued massive financial reserves, a relative fraction of which went for directly humanitarian purposes.  He was an unabashed public admirer of that great liberal boogeyman, Brigham Young.

*I* don’t have any problem with Faust for any of the above issues.  But then, I’m a conservative.  It seems spectacularly revisionist to try to characterize Faust as a “liberal” in the modern sense of the word.  The modern Democratic Party would have very little use for a man like that; he’d have been cancelled long ago.

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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1 hour ago, MarginOfError said:

And it shouldn't be tolerated.

MOE's contributions to this thread (and to the list in general) have been invaluable, and for me, sobering. (See below.) His statement above leads me to wonder what should be tolerated in the kingdom of God. Imperfections, obviously; God does not require perfection of us today, so clearly we should not require it of each other. Wrong beliefs, obviously, since we all have those to some degree. We are all children of and in the kingdom, and thus we all grow from grace to grace. Just as we do not expect a child to have an adult understanding of a life topic, so we should not expect others to have as mature an understanding of a gospel topic as we fancy ourselves to have—nor should we condemn ourselves when we realize that our own understanding of some gospel topic is wanting.

Here is one of my own weaknesses in gospel understanding: I do not see how this is applied evenly, or even how it is supposed to be applied evenly, within the Church. Here is an example: A highly irritating pet peeve is the proclamation I hear today from many in the Church (usually young and mostly "progressive") that the Church has admitted that the Priesthood ban on blacks of African descent was a purely racist action put in place by Brigham Young. This is just plain false. The Church has "admitted" no such thing. Hand in hand with this claim is the statement that the Church has proclaimed as false all the old ideas people of my generation and earlier heard when we were growing up that attempted to explain the reasons for the Priesthood ban. Again, the Church has proclaimed no such thing; this is just plain false.

So should such clearly false and damning statements be tolerated? It is an expression of Christlike love not to point out the falseness of such statements? Do we not do far more damage to the kingdom by remaining silent when such lies and misunderstandings are proclaimed than we do if we speak up and risk bruising the feelings of the one who made the statement?

That is merely one example, probably not the best. I feel like I see this all the time. The default seems to be that any criticism of a "progressive" opinion is somehow off-limits, to the point that e.g. people are welcome to say that President Brigham Young was a racist, but are not welcome to proclaim that the Priesthood ban that was lifted in 1978 was put in place to begin with by God himself.

Apostasies, specifically what older Christian denominations would have termed "heresies", are common in the Church and perhaps getting commoner. There certainly exist the Snufferite-type heresies from what we might call the "right" or "conservative" side, but the vast majority of these heresies seem to me to originate from the "left" or "progressive" part of the Church. I am not tasked to steady the ark, but I am tasked to watch over and build the Church, and bear testimony of the gospel. My efforts to do that include having a willingness to point out such heresies when I see them, to speak up and be a voice of testimony for the gospel and not for someone's misinterpretation of the gospel, derived apparently to fit a certain political philosophy.

Those on the "progressive" side, especially in the Church, are fond of pointing out that yesterday's heresy is today's acceptable alternative view, and that yesterday's alternative view is today's orthodoxy. I have seen this to be true in several areas during my  own lifetime. As a young man, I tended toward that "progressive" view in some areas myself. I believe that God loved me enough to give me some painful and humbling experiences that gently, and occasionally not so gently, taught me how foolish I was. Clinging to the iron rod has been my salvation from the tempest that would otherwise certainly have carried me off. I preach with a mostly conservative and fundamentalist-sounding voice, not because I look down on others with disgust, but because I feel that same voice rescued me from a path that I'm very glad I have not walked.

1 hour ago, MarginOfError said:

Nothing (and I mean nothing) has been more toxic to my relationship with the Church than engaging in these topics on public forums on this site.

I am sorry to hear it, though it explains quite a bit about some of our (MOE's and Vort's) interpersonal experiences. I am who and what I am, and I neither justify myself for it nor apologize for breathing. But I am sobered by what you have written in the quote above. I can only assume that I have personally been responsible for a share of the toxicity you have experienced here over the years. For that, I sincerely apologize. Such has never been my intent. But good intentions pave the road to hell; and if I can honestly say that I have never tried to tear down anyone's relationship with Christ or his kingdom, I can't even claim always to have had good intentions in everything I ever wrote. Consider this as an attempt at a public apology for previous public transgressions. I'll try to keep future transgressions private. (j/k)

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2 hours ago, MarginOfError said:

I came to the realization that people join the Church because they develop a testimony. People stay in the Church because of their social connections. We can debate the merits of that ad nauseum, and I'll concede upfront that the covenants are more important than that. But I'm also a realist and a pragmatist. People who become socially disconnected from the Church are the highest risk for leaving the Church. And it takes a remarkably strong testimony to stick with it if you feel no social connection.

And I don't necessarily disagree here.  I'm just pointing out (as you conceded) that there is something more important than what we fallible mortals tend to focus on.

Quote

I have dealt with people that insist that they are right and if you disagree you need to repent. It's toxic. It's especially toxic when people with this attitude utilize it within leadership positions.

I'm sure there are some like that.  I've just never found anyone like that who wasn't trying to sell something.

Quote

I'm certain my perception isn't flawed. There are certain positions in Church leadership that give you instant credibility. 

Perhaps.

Quote

You're right that I've never seen someone just outright be kicked out. The process is much more subtle. It's the "you can't be a good member if...." or "I don't know how anyone that believes [whatever] can hold a temple recommend." It starts with the social bonds at church being poisoned. And when it's too socially uncomfortable to keep going back, exodus isn't far away.  My rambling didn't do a good job of making that clear.

Not disagreeing or agreeing.  But I have been a part of many wards.  And many of them were very welcoming.  Many of them were very clique-ish.  But I simply didn't care.  I don't know why it tends to bother people so much.  Likewise, if people thought I was "not in good standing" I don't know how that would be much different.

Quote

I'm not going to dwell on much of that. That portion of the post was anecdotal, and the intent was to illustrate how quickly one's comfort level at church can change when leadership changes.  I can tell you that I was not the only person who felt that shift. Perhaps it is an inappropriate swipe, but envision for a minute what going to Church would be like for me if Grunt were called as my bishop, based on his previous response in this thread. 

I've had bishops I've liked and bishops I've disliked.  I even had one, not bishop, but counselor, who seemed to have it out for me.  Life goes on.

Quote

But tying it back, the reason it matters is that when people become socially disconnected, it becomes much more difficult to maintain their activity.

I suppose I can understand that.

Quote

I used to do that. It would typically stop the discussion on that day. But then it would end up coming up again. And the ultimate effect was that the conservative viewpoint was getting the last word. Many people interpret the last word as "having won the debate." (another absurd conclusion)

I've found that offering the counter-view, especially when I've been in a position of authority, has done more to suppress the injection of politics into church discussions while making those in disagreement feel a little more comfortable.

Theoretically, you're right.  It should be enough. My pragmatism tends to get the better of me.

I once had a very liberal bishop.  He was one of the most kind-hearted and beloved bishop's I've ever known. He was bishop over a ward of almost 500 active Saints.  He was not only liberal.  He was a liberal from Canada.  No one knew this but a very few people.

He had to hold a meeting with the priesthood (and a similar one was held with the relief society on the same topic) where we had to make commitments to stop talking about politics at church.  He specifically said,"The assumption is that if you're LDS in Texas, you must be a Republican.  But we're NOT all Republicans."

I hadn't actually heard anyone in the ward talk about politics before that or after.  So, I don't know what that was about.

Quote

That's out of the scope of this thread.  Probably sounds like a dodge.

No problem.  I'm sure it will come up again.

Quote

 Nothing (and I mean nothing) has been more toxic to my relationship with the Church than engaging in these topics on public forums on this site. 

I'm actually surprised to hear this.  I realize we disagree with you a lot.  But I think most of us actually like having you around.  Sorry if I contributed to this.

Quote

On the other hand, I've known plenty of conservatives that will attempt to shut down any conversation with appeals to statements of the Apostles in a way that practically assumes infallibility. 

On the whole, I'd say that very few in the church, conservative or liberal, have much of an idea of how doctrinal development can, will, or should take place.

I'm hesitant to say this in light of the previous statement.  But doesn't that mean I'm right?  Doesn't it mean that you think you know better than the apostles?

Normally, an appeal to authority is considered a logical fallacy.  But in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is considered a source of truth.

I realize they are not infallible as individuals.  But if we listen to their counsel as an overall body of work, we're probably on pretty solid ground.

I can think of several minor items not worth mentioning that I know that some apostles are indeed wrong about.  And the truth is that I've not yet received a testimony that Pres. Nelson is supposed to be the Prophet.  I actually disagree on two or three things he's declared.  But it's simply not worth it to me to dwell on them.  They simply aren't that important.  They don't affect my faith in Christ or the organization that He has established to be the hospital for the sinner that we all need.

Quote

You will never, ever hear me claim that I am not a hypocrite. At best, I'm a self aware hypocrite.

Sometimes I think that's really the best any of us can do.

Edited by Carborendum

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2 hours ago, MarginOfError said:

Nothing (and I mean nothing) has been more toxic to my relationship with the Church than engaging in these topics on public forums on this site.

It may be a harsh reply, but Matthew 5, 29-30 seems to sum it up perfectly for me.

If something you do distances you in any way from the Spirit of the Lord, then you should stop seeing, hearing, saying, or doing that thing. No one wants to see you go, but we need to do what is necessary to keep our fire burning bright. (I'm not insinuating that yours isn't btw) 

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50 minutes ago, Carborendum said:

Sometimes I think that's really the best any of us can do

True, but that doesn't give us a pass to act like jerks.

My concern is that some people (some, and no one here. Again, some) will use that as an excuse to try and justify being rude, nasty, cruel or dismissive of others. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Vort said:

I am sorry to hear it, though it explains quite a bit about some of our (MOE's and Vort's) interpersonal experiences. I am who and what I am, and I neither justify myself for it nor apologize for breathing. But I am sobered by what you have written in the quote above. I can only assume that I have personally been responsible for a share of the toxicity you have experienced here over the years. For that, I sincerely apologize. 

It wasn't just you, but there were moments that if you had been in the same room I might have broken your nose. You've been better since I've returned to the group, as evidenced that I'm actually willing to engage in discussion with you. 

I won't claim I'm perfect, nor will I claim I've never acted with animosity towards others here. I've been learning a lot of patience. Apologies are probably in order toward you as well, and you may consider this my apology. 

50 minutes ago, Carborendum said:

I'm actually surprised to hear this.  I realize we disagree with you a lot.  But I think most of us actually like having you around.  Sorry if I contributed to this.

 

37 minutes ago, scottyg said:

It may be a harsh reply, but Matthew 5, 29-30 seems to sum it up perfectly for me.

If something you do distances you in any way from the Spirit of the Lord, then you should stop seeing, hearing, saying, or doing that thing. No one wants to see you go, but we need to do what is necessary to keep our fire burning bright. (I'm not insinuating that yours isn't btw) 

Replying to Carb and scotty, I actually did take a three year or so hiatus from the forum beginning in 2015. 

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1 minute ago, MarginOfError said:

t if you had been in the same room I might have broken your nose

I would have paid your bail. 😉

(just playing @Vort

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When it comes to labels - I do not know what I am.  Not knowing how I fit into labels often causes we to wonder how it is that others have been able to resolve such things for themselves.  I have had major disagreements with dissenters of our church.  I have also had major disagreements with various stake presidents, bishops and others that were called to give me direction according to the order of the priesthood.   As G-d is my witness I have also had major disagreements with my parents and my beloved wife.  In fact I believe that I can honestly say I have had some disagreements with everybody I know - I have even had some confusion and disagreements with myself.   In my prayers, there are times I have challenged the wisdom of the G-d I worship.  I am trying to figure out all the things I ought to repent of.  This idea of disagreements - is causing me to wonder about disagreeing with disagreeing.  

Here are some thoughts which can spark more disagreements:

#1. I am tempted to dislike anyone with whom I disagree - but worse --- I am more tempted to dislike anyone that disagrees with me.  I wish I could just apologize and move on but I have discovered that often my critics will disagree with my apology.  I am sure it is for the same reason that I disagree with certain others insincere apologizes.  

#2. I am convinced that most disagreements are the result of misunderstandings.

#3.  I tend to believe that the overwhelming causes of misunderstandings are the other person's fault.

#4. I believe a lot of disagreements are the result differing points of view or perspectives.  This creates arguments where no one know what is going on in the disagreements.  These kind of disagreements can be humorous for anyone on the outside and quite bitter for those on the inside. 

#5. On extremely rare occasions there are disagreements where two people understand each other and actually disagree.

 

For myself - I can best mitigate a disagreement I have with someone if they will explain their logic by which they came to their conclusion.   But this is most difficult because it seems that very few that disagree with me care why.  In religious disagreements often "Faith" is played like a trump card such that those that do not so think are evil and lack faith in G-d and that any attempts to employ logic or sense; is the natural man that should be cast off.  I wonder if such is more emotional than intelligent light of truth or spiritual.  But what worries me the most is that because we are fallen - we are in a state outside of G-d's justice, grace, his light and and his understanding --- Which means that in all disagreements - I have fault and need repentance.  How can I repent when I am sure I am right?  I find part of the answer in realizing that repenting is seeing from a different point of view.

 

The Traveler

Edited by Traveler

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52 minutes ago, MarginOfError said:

It wasn't just you, but there were moments that if you had been in the same room I might have broken your nose. You've been better since I've returned to the group, as evidenced that I'm actually willing to engage in discussion with you. 

I won't claim I'm perfect, nor will I claim I've never acted with animosity towards others here. I've been learning a lot of patience. Apologies are probably in order toward you as well, and you may consider this my apology. 

Replying to Carb and scotty, I actually did take a three year or so hiatus from the forum beginning in 2015. 

I took a break from the forum and re-assessed a lot of things.  One of those things to reassess was how I treated others with whom I disagreed.  I'm glad you approve of the change.

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4 hours ago, Just_A_Guy said:

Towards the end of his life Faust described himself as a fiscal conservative but a liberal on “social and human rights issues” (as defined in the late 1990s).  His activity as party chair was in the mid-1950s, and he was a GA (and mostly out of the political game) by the time Roe v. Wade was decided; two years after Roe he gave a conference talk in which he described himself as an “advocate for the unborn”.

Faust served in the inner circle of Church leadership at a time when the priesthood ban was fully in place, supported the Church’s Indian Placement Program, endorsed the Church’s policy against elective abortion, was aware of the treatment of the September Six, was on the board of BYU when they were experimenting with electroshock therapy on gay people, and was a signatory to the Proclamation on the Family. “The dogma”, as Senator Feinstein would have said, “lived loudly in Faust”.  And under his watch the Church accrued massive financial reserves, a relative fraction of which went for directly humanitarian purposes.  He was an unabashed public admirer of that great liberal boogeyman, Brigham Young.

*I* don’t have any problem with Faust for any of the above issues.  But then, I’m a conservative.  It seems spectacularly revisionist to try to characterize Faust as a “liberal” in the modern sense of the word.  The modern Democratic Party would have very little use for a man like that; he’d have been cancelled long ago.

I'm not actually as Liberal as Faust was...but I DO appear to be politically liberal compared to many here.

The IRONY I see though...

is that in comparison to Many here, I'd put me AND Faust as Religiously (in regards to the Church) CONSERVATIVE in comparison to many here.

It is interesting that BOTH viewpoints are normally unpopular.

Conservative in this instance refers to someone who tends more towards the older ideas and beliefs (as were taught when I joined the church) rather than some of the newer and modern ideas that are popular today.

A prime example is interpretation of Blacks and the Priesthood.  The popular ideas today is to discredit the older prophets who said such things were doctrine (and this idea is even backed up by Church essays, which ignore that the things they said were not considered opinion and were actually declared as doctrine on several occasions).  I on the otherhand see their declarations as part of their roles as a prophet and understanding the WHY's of those declarations actually helps explain a LOT about the pre-existence, our roles here, and why things in this life are actually completely justified and even merciful when seen as the whole picture rather than the injustice that many point out this mere temporary existence seems to exude.  In that, I see the Blacks receiving the priesthood more as a fulfillment of prophecy and revelation, rather than a correction of racism for which the church needs to apologize (a popular thing I've seen these days from some young people who accept that the reason they were barred was simply due to racism...which...if it was...they may actually be correct in regards to apologies and reparations).

My slant on these things are DEFINATELY unpopular though, but it is a far more conservative slant than the standard view...which is one reason I'd say I'm religiously conservative, even if politically more liberal than many here.

Edited by JohnsonJones
clarity

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35 minutes ago, JohnsonJones said:

I'm not actually as Liberal as Faust was...but I DO appear to be politically liberal compared to many here.

The IRONY I see though...

is that in comparison to Many here, I'd put me AND Faust as Religiously (in regards to the Church) CONSERVATIVE in comparison to many here.

Ahhhhmm.... I wouldn't say that... your views on the Plan of Salvation, a foundational tenet of the restored gospel, is quite liberal* against the teachings of the Church.

 

*see my post on what liberal means above.

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25 minutes ago, JohnsonJones said:

I DO appear to be politically liberal compared to many here.

It's all about comparison and perception. In college I was a right wing Nazi because I believed in gun rights and didn't think George W Bush was the incarnate of Satan. In conservative circles I'm pure evil (yes I've been called that by conservatives. Badge of honor) because I don't think gays should be shot on sight and I believe that global warming is real. 

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