Stop expecting other Church members to be perfect

This post is aimed at people who have left the Church or are thinking of leaving the Church.

This post is going to be unusual and not what you usually read at Mormon blogs.

Here is my plea:  “Stop expecting other Church members to be perfect.  Nobody is perfect.  No Church member believes he or she is perfect.  We all know that we are ALL imperfect.  And this means that occasionally, for reasons beyond our control, we may say something tactless or mean-spirited or intolerant or judgmental.  And the reason we may do this is that we are not perfect.”

I am asking people who have left the Church or who are thinking of leaving to have charity and love for those of us (yes, that includes me) who are imperfect.  And because we are imperfect, we will not always interact with you the way you would like us to.

I will be frank:  it is a bit unfair of you to expect other people to deal with you perfectly when you know that is an impossibility.  Nobody can read your mind.  And even if we spent hours upon hours in training trying to become more tactful, it is extremely likely that we will still say or do something imperfectly.  And we would probably say something you find offensive, or hurtful or intolerant or judgmental — even if we did not intend to.

Here is the thing about mortality:  the people around us, especially those in the Church, are both A)well-intentioned but B)flawed.  Just about every active member around you *wants* you to stay at church.  If you have ever attended a bishopric meeting or a ward council meeting, one of the primary subjects being discussed is:  how do we help sister or brother so-and-so feel more welcome at church?  So, the point I am making is that people are trying, in their imperfect way, to help you feel more comfortable in the Gospel.

But again I must be frank:  articles like this one seem to miss an important point.  They miss that everybody is accountable for their actions, include those who decide to take offense at something an imperfect person does or says.

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Weinstein: A Parallel

Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Harvey Weinstein attend EIF’s Women’s Cancer Research Fund Honors Melissa Etheridge at SAKS FIFTH AVENUE’s “Unforgettable Evening” at Regent Beverly Wilshire on March 1, 2006 in Beverly Hills, CA. Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Many will have heard about emerging reports that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has raped, molested, and otherwise abused females for decades. Weinstein prominence was such that he had been granted a lifetime membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, by which he had been awarded a best-picture Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in 1999.

Weinstein’s reported modus operandi was distinctive. Weinstein would claim he had an important opportunity to discuss with a female actor. When the woman arrived in his room, Weinstein, inappropriate clad (or unclad), would proceed to demand sexual favors. If the favors were not immediately forthcoming, Weinstein would threaten to destroy the woman’s career and/or take liberties by force. Any attempts made by the women to retaliate were quashed by various means.

One of those decrying Weinstein for the reported abuse is Tom Hanks, who has been a Vice President in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2005.

Now imagine that instead of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences we were talking about the Nauvoo-era Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Instead of Tom Hanks, we have Joseph Smith as a ranking leader in the organization. Instead of Harvey Weinstein as an important member of the leadership, we have Dr. John Bennett.

Scandal Honored Leader Reprobate (per leader)
Hollywood 2017 Tom Hanks Harvey Weinstein
Mormonism 1842 Joseph Smith Dr. Bennett

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Book Review: The Encore: A Memoir in Three Parts

If you have heard nothing about Charity Tilemann Dick and her remarkable story, stop right now and listen to the song below. I promise it is worth it.

Charity truly has an angelic voice and a powerful spirit when she sings. But her story is unlike that of any other opera singer I know of. When Charity was a student at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary, she was diagnosed with Pulminary Hypertension, a rare lung disorder. A few years later, her lungs began to fail and she underwent a double-lung transplant which she miraculously survived. She began the grueling process of relearning to sing. But after a few years her body began to reject her new lungs. She then underwent a second double-lung transplant. She once again learned to sing and the song you listened to was recorded with her third set of lungs.

With that riveting summary I could simply recommend that you check out Charity’s incredible memoir “The Encore: A Memoir in Three Acts.” I could also recommend that you look at all of the incredible press coverage the book has received. But I want to explain why this book was one of the most poignant and life affirming books I have ever read.

Or I should say listened to. Although I am partial to reading, in this case the audiobook may be the superior format for the book. It is read by the author which helps to convey the emotion far more powerfully. But more importantly, each chapter of the audiobook is accompanied by Charity’s incredible singing. For each chapter, Charity has selected music that fits with the story and hearing her sing conveys the miraculous nature of the story in an indelible fashion. The audiobook is worth the price of admission simply for a stunning version of Amazing Grace, inspired by a moment when Charity sang it to a nurse at the Cleveland Clinic while awaiting her second lung transplant. It will bring you to tears.

One might expect the recipient of two lung transplants to be depressed or pessimistic. But Charity’s deep faith and incredible optimism are what will stick with you long after the book finishes. Throughout her long ordeal, Charity never relinquishes her deeply rooted testimony that there is a loving Heavenly Father and that he is in charge of her life’s direction. For a book written for a secular and primarily non-LDS audience, this book is also remarkably full of Charity’s testimony of the restored gospel. Throughout the book, Charity intersperses moving prayers to her heavenly father, and her belief in the eternal nature of her family. She does this in a wholly natural fashion. She simply cannot help but share the faith that brought her through her illness. One moment stands out in particular. At one of her darkest moments when she had to decide whether to press forward with her second lung transplant, Charity received a Priesthood blessing promising her that she would live. Her willingness to rely on the promises of the Lord were inspiring and deeply faith promoting

For a book on such a serious subject, The Encore is also remarkably funny. I laughed almost constantly. For instance, at point when first in the hospital, Charity describes the guilty pleasure of sneaking a burrito after dieting and avoiding salty foods for months. And you will never look at Diet Sprite the same way after hearing how she longed for it after her first transplant. And her various travails as she prepared for her wedding hit close to home and was hilarious. You will find yourself laughing far more than you expected.

The book is also a remarkable love story. Charity falls in love with Yonatan Doron, even though the two at first glance have little in common. She at first resists his advances because she is certain she is dying and does not want to burden him. But he stands by her side unrelentingly. Their love is moving and inspiring. I especially loved how the book handled their mixed faith relationship. Charity is LDS (though she comes from a very well known Jewish-American line, as her grandfather was Holocaust survivor and Congressman Tom Lantos), and Yonatan is Jewish. Cultural differences and differences of understanding nearly tear them apart. Yet, despite their various trials, the two overcome their differences and share an eternal and enduring bond.

Finally, this book is not a whitewashed story. Charity describes in vivid detail her own imperfections, doubts, and struggles as well as those around her. For instance, her mother heroically stood by her side for years, but Charity also describes how difficult that process was for her mother and how they vociferously disagreed about the best course of care. Another portion of the book at struck me involved Charity’s relationship with one of her first doctors. That doctor offered her very negative advice and urged her never to sing again. At first, Charity had bitter feelings towards that doctor. In her widely watched TEDMED talk after her first transplant, Charity criticized that doctor’s attitude. But after that doctor soon suffered from her own lung defect. Charity came to know her and realized that the doctor was acting our of a loving over protectiveness rather than pessimism. And in turn Charity gave that doctor hope. That story exemplifies Charity’s growth throughout her story, as she comes to deeply appreciate the love and efforts of others in her care even though they do so imperfectly.

On a personal note, I met Charity in the summer of 2015 as I was living in the Washington D.C. because some of her siblings were in my ward. Even though it was brief, our encounter left a deep impression on me. You cannot interact with Charity for any length of time without coming away edified and strengthened. She is one of those rare individuals with the faith to be healed, and not to be healed. But more importantly, she understands that how we live is much more important than whether we survive. This book will similarly edify you and strengthen your belief in the beauty of life and in God’s power to work miracles in your life. I cannot recommend this book any more highly.

 

Guest Post: Follow Me, Boys! (And Girls!)

Scouts saluting, American flag in background, circa 1960s. (Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images)

On 11 October, the newsroom for the Boy Scouts of America posted something you may have heard of by now:

“Today, the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors unanimously approved to welcome girls into its iconic Cub Scout program and to deliver a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.”

Some bona fides are likely to be demanded of anyone seriously commenting on this, so here are mine. I’m an Eagle Scout. My father is too. My grandfather was too. I’ve got a scout shirt hanging in my closet with adult knots on it. I’m a guy who’s had some experience in the program. That doesn’t make me unique; Mormon boys are also Boy Scouts. It’s how we roll.

With that out of the way, it’s also important at this stage to read the details of the move. Consider, from the press release: Continue reading

How the First Amendment is in danger

Recently, NBC news claimed that problems were occurring in the Trump White House. Trump responded by questioning whether NBC should continue being licensed.

This is not a new story,as threats have been made by Democrats and Republicans over the last 20 years, threatening the media (television, radio talk show hosts, etc), many times.

The problem is, both parties are putting the First Amendment at risk, threatening to delimit it.  The First Amendment guarantees Freedoms of Speech, Religion and the Press. We frequently hear politicians and so-called Americans complain about the First Amendment, wanting to curtail it. We’ve seen several examples in the last few years. Continue reading