In response to recent disciplinary actions by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supporters of those being disciplined have complained that the charge of apostasy is inaccurate because, they assert, the individuals and the organizations created by them have not taught any false doctrines or acted in opposition to the prophet or the Church.
They insist that all they are doing is asking questions. So, what false doctrine can they possibly be teaching?
This is my attempt to answer that important question.
At the outset, let’s immediately dispense with the notion that “asking questions” is always unambiguously innocent and unassuming.
I want to address those members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are among the groups of dissenters, critics, and agitators in the Church who suddenly find themselves in an uneasy association with people who increasingly are openly hostile to the Church, its leaders, and its teachings.
I know that some of you are uncomfortable with the direction in which your associates have gone. Uneasy with the comments and conversations on the websites you frequent. Some of you quietly feel misgivings and twinges of conscience about the blatant public denigration of the Church and the Apostles by the people with whom you identify and with whom you have built friendships. You were seeking answers to your questions and resolution for your doubts, but now all you see is increased doubt, questioning, and strife.
Some of you are asking yourselves “How did this happen? I’m a good member of the Church. Why do other members call me or the group with which I participate apostate? How did I get here?”
Let me reassure you that there is a place for you in the Church. We want you here. And yes, we want you with all your doubts, questions, and complaints.
The misgivings you feel about where you suddenly find yourself are valid. Don’t reject them. Listen to them.
It doesn’t matter how you got to where you are as much as it matters that there is a way back.
I’m seen the accusation all over LDS blogs and from people on Facebook that the church is lying in its statement yesterday that decisions regarding discipline “are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.”
They point to the fact that Brother Dehlin and Sister Kelly were summoned to disciplinary councils nearly simultaneously as evidence that church headquarters is in fact coordinating the discipline and therefore lying when they say otherwise.
Unlike many, I don’t believe that a patriarchal priesthood creates a power imbalance that leads to gendered injustices, such as domestic violence. I don’t think it is necessary to give women the priesthood or adopt identical family roles. Yet, though I don’t believe they are cause-and-effect, these things do play into a power dynamic that exists independently. I believe this power dynamic can be changed if we are willing. I realize that in a few short sentences, I have managed to alienate both sides of the divide. But I think my perspective, as a woman faithful in the Church and a survivor of domestic violence, has something to add to the conversation.
My husband was not a member of the Church when I met him. I was a freshly-returned missionary, he was separated from his wife. We both worked at the same retail store. At some point, I invited him to hear the discussions in my parents’ home. During the course of his investigation, he confessed to me many problems in his past and present. Still stuck somewhat in the role of missionary, it was easy to forgive things that I would not have, had I been looking at him as a potential future mate. I think that’s why he was able to get to me.
I have spent countless hours mulling over the loss of my marriage covenant, what went wrong, what mistakes I made, and what meaning my experiences have for the larger picture of life. I believe I have gleaned yet another lesson by comparing marriage to the contract of citizenship.
Growing up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with parents who have a strong marriage, I was taught what a marriage entails. There are many explicit agreements, including a wife listening to her husband when he listens to the Lord and the covenant to remain together throughout eternity. Even as a teenager and before I had a husband, I took the marriage covenant seriously enough to study it and to shape my life around its expectations. In doing so, I adopted several implicit obligations in a covenant marriage, including the expectation to grow together, to be patient and forgiving of my spouse’s faults, to give everything I had.
Under the government, in one sense my life and my liberty are theoretically unalienable, which means that even I do not have the right to sell them or trade them. I cannot put myself into indentured servitude or slavery, request a doctor to end my life to donate organs to save another, nor legally volunteer to be executed or incarcerated on another’s behalf.
But like everything, there are shades of grey. I can accept employment which pays me far less than the work is worth, or risk my life to donate organs to save another, so long as death is not guaranteed. I can sacrifice my time, talents, and even my personality for another. I can be raised or manipulated to believe I have no other choice. So these so-called unalienable rights are not as unalienable as we sometimes think. There is not really any such thing as an unalienable right in reality, only in the world of legality. And many people, as I claimed in the last post, confuse the difference between reality and legal rights.