How Mormons Building Bridges (et al.) Became a Bridge Distancing Many from their Spiritual Home

Part II. Nehor Rises Again

Jacob Z. Hess

Note: I believe healthy deliberation includes space for strong critique, passionate contestation, and efforts to persuade. I do all of that here without questioning the sincerity, intelligence, or intentions of those with opposing views. Although I believe most people are doing the best they can to love, to help, and to understand, I also believe the patterns outlined in these essays are little considered or understood in the broader discourse.

That’s why I write. These are perilous times for America. In my view, anyone willing to preserve space for thoughtful people to disagree on these and other matters (no matter your actual position) is part of the solution – and helping lay the foundation for our collective future. Anyone contributing to a recession of this same space (no matter your position) is part of the problem – and helping lay the foundation for even greater misunderstanding, hatred and violence than we have yet seen in our country.

Latter-day Saints revere the Book of Mormon for its role in re-establishing truth that was lost, or made dim, by a Biblical interpretation process that confused or omitted certain “plain and precious” parts of God’s message to the world. 

One of the lesser-appreciated truths clarified in the Book of Mormon is the role of anger in subverting the long-term trajectory of both individuals and entire communities, through a variety of means.  For instance, virtually all scriptural references to a people being “stirred up to anger”[1] happen in the Book of Mormon. 

In part I, I summarized the way in which Mormons Building Bridges (and other allied organizations) became a persuasive force that convinced many Latter-day Saints to adopt the larger narrative of the gay rights movement, along with its accompanying anger (and built-in explanations for that anger).        

In that first part, I only began to touch on problems with that larger narrative frame – mostly focusing, instead, on how these new ways of seeing identity and sexuality became a significant wedge for so many people in their faith – effectively distancing so many precious brothers and sisters from their spiritual home, and leaving them wounded in their attachment to anything related to the same.  As one woman told me recently, “I’ve got to stay away from the Church…it’s just too toxic for me!” 

In what follows, I round out the picture, introducing an alternative way to make sense of this movement that has unfolded and overflowed into members’ lives – one that contrasts sharply with the framework outlined in Part I (true-identity discovery in a larger movement about liberation and civil rights that welcomes any allies willing to stand by their bravery). 

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Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 1-7

My post on Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 1-7

Excerpt:”The Gadiantons have attempted to gain power through religious preachings (Korihor), assassination (Kishkumen), war (Amalickiah), secret combinations (Gadianton), and overthrowing the government.  Now they try another tactic: building their own nation into a power so great they threaten the Nephite and Lamanite nations. “The Gadiantons did not immediately attack army against army, but used a hit and run terrorist strategy.  They destroyed small towns on the borders and elsewhere that were not well defended. They probably carried off the women and children.  Their efforts brought chaos and instability, until the Nephites and Lamanites were forced to take up arms against them.”

Keeping Faith At BYU

A few weeks ago Millennial Star contributor Tom S. wrote an essay titled, “The Meaning of the Gay Dating Fiasco at BYU”. This prompted some good discussion among our readers, some of which didn’t believe that there are people who work for and teach at BYU that don’t fully support the church. Tom’s essay was published right about the time a new group called Keeping Faith at BYU was organized. You might have read more about the group over on My Life by GoGoGoff. So far their work has prompted a lot of discussion in the affirmative and in the negative online. But it’s a discussion we need to have about BYU.

As our own J Max Wilson shared on twitter a few days ago, “I had chosen to major in English with my eyes wide open about what I was going to encounter. But I felt bad about the students who were not expecting or prepared for their faith to be attacked at BYU. I came to BYU knowing that there would be apostate professors and students. My father had been at BYU more than a decade beforehand working on his PhD and had often told us about his apostate professors. When my own daughter was accepted to BYU last year we had a good talk about the fact that she could not assume that either her professors or her fellow students would be faithful members of the church. She started BYU knowing that some of her professors and the other students might push apostate ideas and reject the teachings and directions of the prophets and apostles.”

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Beyond the Veil

Pat Chiu, who has been a regular commenter here at M*, passed away this past Wednesday, September 2.

We wrote her obituary in June, when she first learned cancer had been the cause of her recent weight loss and discomfort. She insisted we document the fact that she “never managed a decent loaf of wheat bread.” We listed her profession as “artist,” but she was foremost a mother, with ten children privileged to reach mortality within the umbrella of her covenant with God.

From early June the cancer would often prevent her from eating. But it wasn’t until August 10th that she finally was unable to keep any food down. Like the child of pilgrims and pioneers that she was, she astounded us by continuing day after day thereafter, for the large part clamping her mouth shut whenever we would suggest pain medication.

All her living children traveled to visit her in her final weeks. Immediately after her passing, the daughters in the area gathered to dress her as appropriate for one who had served for decades in the temples of the Lord. We held a wake for family, under a stained glass she had created of the moments before the martyrdom.

If you have beloved parents who remain near, please take a moment and refresh or renew your connection with these who gave you life and who have done so much to form the way you interact with the world.

Pat’s final resting place is at approximately 5th East and 12th North, west of the Veterans Monument and near the Angel Garden. Condolences may be expressed at As the obituary states, “In lieu of flowers, please take yourself out to dinner in memory of Pat or donate to your favorite charity.”

How Mormons Building Bridges (et al.) Became a Bridge Distancing Many from their Spiritual Home

Part I. Stirring Up the Saints

Jacob Z. Hess

Note:  At a time when many are turning to their faith for consolation that brighter days are ahead, others unable to do so. This two-part essay series (see Part II here) examines one force I believe has had a corrosive impact on many people’s faith – and yet, has received only sporadic scrutiny. By considering more forthrightly both the history and nature of this force in some depth, I hope people can find ways to extricate themselves from its influence.

If Latter-day Saints were confused to see students protesting at BYU earlier this year, they should be.

After all, these were active members of the Church of Jesus Christ protesting. How does a committed Latter-day Saint arrive at a place of being willing to shout loud demands in Provo or in front of the Church office building? 

If you were following the story, you likely heard one answer from the 8 or 9 articles about the rallies in the Salt Lake Tribune (if you missed their live stream of the protests). 

Here’s another answer.  

Two kinds of listening. When I started writing about the possibility of a more productive conversation between religious conservatives and the gay community several years ago, I was intrigued to discover a Latter-day Saint-specific Facebook community called “Mormons Building Bridges” that seemed to have similar hopes. “Wonderful,” I thought – “a group in my own faith community working to build bridges on this hardest of disagreements … these are definitely my people!”

So, you can imagine my surprise at the tepid response in the MBB community to a series of essays exploring ways to deepen understanding across these disagreements – met largely with a mixture of annoyance, indifference and sometimes outright contempt. 

By comparison, when someone posted something that began, “You’ll never believe what my Bishop just told me…” or “This guy said the stupidest thing in Sunday School today…” the outpouring was overwhelming – with pages upon pages of indignation and eager elaboration.

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