The BIG LDS picture

Just this week, my friend Jana Riess wrote an article regarding an attack made on Elder Oaks because of his statements on same-sex marriage.  Jana notes that many liberals were disappointed in his strong stance against it in General Conference, but that the vicious letter from a returned missionary was not called for.  Elder Oaks response was also published, wherein he asks the man to see his local leader for guidance on repenting (ostensibly for his belligerence towards an apostle).

Wading through the hundreds of comments, I noted that many defended this angry man, expecting Elder Oaks to apologize, “turn the other cheek”, etc. 

Lost in the shouting there is one key concept taught by Jesus.  No, it is not “turn the other cheek”, as Jesus also determined the destruction of those who crucified him with a Desolation of Abomination – truly a mixed signal if ever one was given!

Whether we talk about SSM, women and priesthood, or a variety of other issues, the concept of the gospel is to prepare us for exaltation.  Life is not for us to enjoy the pleasures and blisses that are occasionally proffered us.  Instead, it is a military academy or a monastery, where we learn to be like Christ by following his path of self-denial.

Jesus fasted 40 days and nights, prior to beginning his ministry.  He ended that ministry suffering through torture, beatings, humiliations, and crucifixion.  What was his call to us?  Take up our crosses and follow Him.

In his day, he condemned the proud and greedy rich, the money changers, religious types that exalted themselves, hypocrites, and those who followed some rules but not the most important ones (straining at gnats and swallowing camels).  Not everyone who said “Lord, Lord” would be recognized as his followers, but those that did His will.  Whether Pharisees 2 millennia ago or today’s intellegentsia that believe they know more than God (and clearly can philosophize better than God’s followers), they are not considered true followers. 

When the young rich man came to Christ, confident in knowing he had kept the Ten Commandments and other laws given by Moses, Jesus focused on the one thing he still lacked: sell everything and take up his cross in following Jesus.  It wasn’t an issue of the man arguing that he had done many good things, but that there was still something left to accomplish before the man was “perfect” or “complete”.  So it was for anyone who shouted “Lord, Lord” and exclaimed they had cast out demons or done some great work. Only in doing the Lord’s will, were they accepted of him.

So, how does that fit in today?  We are called of God not only to live the 10 Commandments, but to live the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, to be a witness of Christ in all times and places, and to willing to sacrifice all things for Christ and his kingdom here on earth.

There are no easy exceptions given.  In fact, ever since Adam was cast out of Eden, God has had a tendency to test his people with the things they cherish.  Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac.  Israel had to give up the fleshpots of Egypt and dwell in exile for 40 years.  Mary was chastised by others for her pre-marriage pregnancy. Joseph had impoverished followers build temples and cities and go to all parts of the world on missions.  Early Saints had to deal with the new law of polygamy*, while later saints had to deal with the end of that law. 

I work helping many with drug and alcohol addictions.  I see how difficult it is for them to abstain from something that has become a part of their nature. I see the painful path they are on. Yet, the Church calls on them to overcome the addiction and return back to the path of exaltation.

Each of these commands of God is a trial for the person having to go through it.  Yet it becomes the Refiner’s Fire that purifies and sanctifies. 

When Elder Oaks or another Church leader calls upon us to change our path, whether it is same-sex behavior or any other sexual behavior not authorized, a sacrifice is being requested of the person.  Yes, it is hard and painful.  But the path to exaltation is one that requires us to carry a cross.  Sadly, there will be many like the rich young man, who will not want to give up the one special desire they have, and will walk away.

Gladly, in the gospel we find there always is repentance and salvation.  Jesus is always ready to accept us into some level of salvation.  But apostles are not focused on just any kind of salvation, but in exaltation.  They show the path to full salvation requires carrying crosses. It is the path our Savior took himself.

And yet, Jesus promises that as we take up our cross, it becomes a yoke that he equally shares with us.  He does make the load lighter, even though the load remains for us to carry.

This is the big picture.  This is why Elder Oaks will stand firm on issues like SSA, traditional marriage, and other sexual issues.  It isn’t because he is a hater, or trying to get young people to commit suicide. Why then? Because he is showing us the path of exaltation as the Lord has revealed it to his prophet and apostles at this time.


* When Brigham Young first heard about polygamy, he left Joseph’s presence and saw a funeral procession passing by. He remarked he wished he could switch places with the dead man.



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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery ( He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

77 thoughts on “The BIG LDS picture

  1. Good points Rame. There is much to learn from Elder Oaks’ response, which makes a few key points: 1)no matter what your concern, don’t be rude 2)definitely don’t be rude to an apostle because by doing so you are breaking temple covenants 3)don’t expect an apostle to change because you think you are smarter/more loving than he is 4)remember that apostles are the earthly mouthpieces for the Lord and, while they are not perfect, you should give them the respect you would give the Savior.

  2. First, this was a great post! You said everything that has been swirling around in my head since I saw that picture of the letters. Thank you for writing this.

  3. Excellent essay. My thoughts exactly. Exaltation is not an easy path. Sometimes I feel like Brigham Young in that last quote. We all carry crosses in this life, most of the time they are heavy and hard to carry, but if we bear them well, we’ll be a better person for it. So sad indeed, that some of us cannot understand the purpose of having prophets and apostles and do not afford them the respect they deserve, with that attitude we are saying we know better than God who called them.

    Someday, we’ll have to stand spiritually naked in front of God and everybody, and admit how wrong and rebelious we were to think ourselves smarter than Him. I wonder how stupid we’ll feel and remorseful that situation will be.

    Joseph Smith said that the first step to apostacy was criticizing the leaders. I think he was correct about that also. Our leaders are not perfect but they are chosen and, for the mantle they carry, we owe them respect and consideration. I think if we have problems with what they say, we should take it to God in prayer, in secret, and the Lord will give us the answer in his due time if we are faithful and patient.

  4. I jumped to the source article and read through most of the comments. For people who claim to be more Christlike than me, they sure come across as a bunch of haters. I may not agree with someone who supports SSA/SSM, but I don’t write letters to them like the letter sent to Elder Oaks. When civility and respect leave the room there can be no discourse. And if you are a church member it makes no sense to single out Elder Oaks. I believe the other apostles and FP would have said the same thing.

  5. A good post, but a couple of corrections are in order.

    1.) The rich man who approached Jesus. I believe if you recheck the text, Jesus goes through the 10 commandments with the young man, kind of like a TR interview. In this case, it’s not He asked about that is important, but what He left out. Jesus didn’t ask about coveting. As a smart, educated, Jew, I’m certain the young man would have noticed that. There was something lacking.

    2.) I really wish (ostensibly) faithful members of the church would stop portraying homosexuality (or any sexual immorality) as pleasurable parts of life that we have to “sacrifice”. We mistakenly buy in to a false viewpoint when we do. RAM kind of pointed at the solution. Exaltation is a great gift of God, one we forfeit when we break His commandments. From my viewpoint, it is no sacrifice to give up the one (any sin) for the other (exaltation). Choosing to go to bed at a reasonable hour, and wake up refreshed is not “sacrificing staying up late” but merely being an intelligent human being and choosing to take care of myself. Obeying the word of wisdom is not “sacrificing the joy of drinking alcohol” but “rejoicing in the health that comes from the word of wisdom.” I got married at 29, and the years that I wasted being upset that others got to “have relations” and viewing that as some sort of Liberal “basic human right” were the unhappiest I had ever been. When I accepted the Lord’s plan, and sacrificed EVERY want for his kingdom, I could be free, and happy. I learned how God’s redeeming power can save the ostensibly faithful (outwardly) who are still begrudging the obedience. That’s why I’m so tired of the Liberal Mormons, they now say that’s (obedience) not even necessary. In Obedience is happiness, not sacrifice… I sacrifice things that I want that are good. In choosing to be obedient, I’m not sacrificing anything but sin. Anyone here going to really explain to God “how much they’ve sacrificed for Him” will have lots to repent for.

  6. h_nu
    You are welcome to your interpretation of Jesus and the rich young man. The key is there was still more for him to change in his life.

    As to sacrifice, it is a very important part of LDS teaching. We actually learn of sacrifice in the temple along with obedience. BOTH are important. But neither of them is the Big Picture. You could obey every single law of God, and without the atonement, you still would end up an angel to the devil, according to the Book of Mormon. The big picture is for each of us to carry our own cross, yoked to Christ, so that he can rescue us from the tragedies of mortality and spiritual death.

  7. Rame, I think your disagreement with h_nu about the emphasis on sacrifice is telling. H_nu rightly recognizes that it is unfair for LDS people to judge Gentiles by our own peculiar standards, if we really think those standards require such intense and uncommon sacrifice, as you describe. How can our righteous insistence that Gentiles are sinning by acting upon their gay instincts, if we believe that such a request is tantamount to the request Jesus gave the rich young man to sell everything he had to the poor?

    I agree with you, that it is such a sacrifice. But it is not a sacrifice the Savior gave to everyone. They who have not the Law cannot sin, as Paul says. The way is strait and narrow, and few find it. This is a gospel for few. That is how you reconcile h_nu’s views and your own.

  8. Nate, you keep insisting that the laws of God are meant only for Church members, but I find no support for this anywhere in the teachings of modern prophets. You keep repeating this idea over and over and over, and it’s getting tiresome. Wickedness never was happiness, whether you are a member of the Church or not. Sin is sin, whether you are a member of the Church or not.

    I admit that some things, like coffee, are probably as you describe. But the prohibition against gay sex? Sorry, the prophets seem quite insistent that this is wickedness, whether it is done by members or non-members. Fornication? The same. Pornography? The same. Basically, your stance leads us to the position that for all non-members, there is no such thing as sin. That sin only exists for members, and outside this Church of ours, it’s a relativist world of anything goes.

  9. I guess I really just wish you would stop acting like this idea of yours (speaking specifically of the idea that the laws of God — such as chastity — apply to members only and that there is no such thing as sin for non-members) is so obviously true, when it’s simply not so obvious. In many ways, it’s obviously untrue.

  10. LDSP, you make it sound like this is my own private doctrine, but I believe I am trying to articulate one of two major objections among (liberal) members to current LSD attitudes towards gays. The first objection (which I disagree with) is that the church should allow gay marriage within the church. The second, is that the church should not seek to judge, condemn, or legislate the peculiarities of the Law of Chastity outside the church. This objection is not unique to me, and it is the essence of Steve Evan’s views in his recent letter to Elder Oaks. By trying to articulate this view, and by giving you a chance to rebut it, I’m doing you all a favor, challenging yoy to hone your arguments and reasonably communicate with the liberals you recognize as deceived.

    I wanted to point out the fallacy in Rame’s post, which was recognized by h_nu, which is that it is unreasonable to hold as universal, laws which Rame characterized as “a military academy, a monestary, and complete self-denial and surrender to Christ.”

    Either, as h_nu said, these laws are not an extraordinary sacrifice, and thus it is reasonable to apply them to everyone, or else they are an extraordinary, monastic sacrifice, as Rame described them, and it is unreasonable for us to apply them to people who don’t even believe in God.

    This is not my own private doctrine. It is in modern revelation. We are only judged by the light and knowledge individually given to us. Those who don’t know better, cannot sin. That is true doctrine, articulated clearly in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

    Regarding the peculiarities of the Law of Chastity, we can disagree about how much “light and knowledge” the Gentiles have been given by the light of Christ within them or by the good yet apostate cultural institutions among them. Perhaps it is enough to condemn them as sinners if they are gay. But to me, this is not self evident. Rather, I see SSM as an issue that Gentiles view from their own diverse moral perspectives. Their conscience tells them that it is wrong to judge, that it is wrong to be prejudiced against gays, that it is unequal and unfair to withhold equality from them. They feel as much moral indignation as you do, but over the opposite conclusion. Under such a cloud of confusion, I find it better to leave them in the hands of God, without judging. You can disagree, and you can present reasonable evidence why you disagree, not the least of which would be statements from current priesthood leadership. But we are all better served by understanding and acknowledging where our differences lie, and being able to articulate our own views in a reasonable and clear way. I’m just trying to help Rame and h_nu get their argument against liberals straight.

  11. The difference, Nate, is between rejecting the words of God and dwindling in unbelief, when the word of God isn’t available. Ultimately, only God can judge. But there is a strong case that those who choose one of God’s laws (kindness) over another (chastity) are doing so in this generation against light and knowledge they have received. They are rejecting the teachings of their parents and the prophets, and are no more innocent than Laman and Lemuel.

    Technically, it isn’t possible for this generation to dwindle in unbelief, since they have the word of God proclaimed to them.

    Those who are called to preach the truth to the Gentiles (all of us who have been baptized) will be under condemnation if we refuse to proclaim it. The Gentiles will be absolved if they haven’t heard God’s will, but only because we will carry their guilt for failing to teach them.

  12. Good points SR. It is sad that so many people forget your point that we have also been called to preach the truth to the Gentiles.

  13. RAM,
    You misunderstand the gospel.
    If anyone truly kept all of the laws of God on their own (and were redeemed from Adam’s transgression) God would be unjust if He damned them.

    A person who actually kept all of the laws of God wouldn’t need the atonement, completely the opposite of what you wrote.

    However, the beginning assumption is not true, because no one keeps all the laws of God. But if you don’t understand how important obedience is, I’d question your Mormonism…

    As I was trying to write earlier, :
    “It is not a sacrifice to give up Sin.”

    If someone has the temptation to murder, it is not a sacrifice to stop murdering, it is salvation and freedom. If someone has the temptation towards adultery, it is not a sacrifice to keep ones marital vows, it is honesty and exaltation. If someone has p0rnography issues, it is not a sacrifice to stop viewing/reading, it is progress towards a non-addicted and pure mind.

    We yolk an impossible, negativity driven mindset when we view it as “a drag”, “impossible”, and “sacrifice”, when in reality it is an awesome, uplifting, and inspiring, possible experience.

    Repentance is great, no matter how horribly SOME Mormons portray it to be.

  14. nate,

    There is more to sin than judgment. There are also consequences. A child who runs into traffic because they’ve never been warned not to is completely blameless in their actions but might still end up getting hit by a car and spending the rest of their life being fed through a tube.

    A non-member who gets addicted to pornography at a young age might be ‘blameless’ because he was just doing what all his friends were doing. But if he later wants to join the Church he now has a massive addictive barrier standing between him and baptism and temple worthiness.

    A person who grew up in a society that taught him wrong principles may be ‘blameless’ for his actions… but he will also go into his death without the knowledge, ordinances or personal character needed for salvation. He will be in spirit prison, trying to reconcile a life of wrong living with a gospel contrary to everything he was ever taught. He will be utterly dependent on living Church members to discover his name and do his temple work. Who knows how long he will be denied the full blessings of eternity? Who can say how difficult his post-death path towards a Christlike existence will be?

    So even though I agree that non-members aren’t under the exact same strict judgment for their ignorant mistakes that a knowing saint would be I don’t think we can say that this means everything is automatically wonderful for them and that we should just leave them to their own devices in every matter of social change and legislative work. We have a duty to warn them that there will be natural and spiritual consequences to their choices. We have a right to stand up and vote to preserve the national traditions and laws that we think are important in the sight of God and natural law.

    Is this “intolerant”? Yes. But some things are worth being intolerant for. The whole point of having laws is to set up a framework for what things society wants to encourage, merely tolerate, penalize and forbid. There is nothing wrong with taking the stance that we wish to tolerate individuals with a homosexual lifestyle while simultaneously saying that we do not wish to encourage that lifestyle or encode it into law as an equal standard to the traditional family.

  15. h_nu,
    I do not misunderstand the gospel. We are taught that all mankind is fallen from God’s presence, both physically and spiritually. We are incapable of returning back by ourselves, even if we were perfectly able to keep the commandments. King Benjamin said that we are still unworthy servants. Jacob taught that without the atonement and resurrection, all of us would be angels to the devil.

    The teaching does not get any clearer than that. NO Where does it say we can save ourselves. Obedience IS important for us to Become like Christ. But by itself, it is insufficient.

    And Christ condemned the Pharisees of his day for just this. They thought their good works would save them. Jesus stated that those who said “Lord, Lord” we did all kinds of good works, miracles and accomplishments will not be accepted, but only those that do the will of God.

    There is a difference between blind obedience and doing God’s will. Those who are blindly obedient follow “thous shalt not kill” to the letter. Nephi followed it, until the Spirit commanded him to slay Laban.

    God would have us take up our cross and follow Him. We are to sacrifice whatever is necessary to follow Him. As it is, those who truly love God are not obedient because they are commanded, but because they naturally want to be like Him.

  16. Nate, I understand that Gentiles will have a different judgment from God, due to not making the covenants the LDS have made. That said, they are still responsible for the truths they are taught. There is a voice of warning that seeks to help them repent of sin, turn their lives fully to God, take up the cross and follow Jesus. They will be judged according to whether they accept the covenant or not.

    It isn’t for us to judge individuals. It is for us to teach the truths of the gospel as we currently have them.

    There is, at the same time, a dichotomy in the teachings of the gospel. Articles of Faith teaches that we claim the right to worship according to our beliefs, and allow all others to do the same. So, do we legislate our beliefs upon others to enforce the moral code on society, or do we allow them to believe as they will? It isn’t an easy line to draw, as we all do it when it comes to murder, rape, child or animal sex, and other crimes – even though those things may fall under someone else’s belief system.

    In Hawaii, churches are taking a different action than they did in California and Prop 8. Instead of fighting SSM, they are only seeking the new laws to protect religious freedom and not force others’ beliefs upon churches and religious people. Perhaps this is where such a line should be drawn.

    However, the Church has the right to draw a line for its own members. For those who can live with those commandments and rules, and are willing and able to abide such a covenant as they have made, they will have to take up their cross and live it.

    This is not only true of SSA, but for any addiction: tobacco, drugs, sex, etc. We each have a (or several) such weaknesses, and can either fight to keep that part of our self, or we can lose ourselves in Christ, take up the cross, and carry the temptation, desire, and pain thru this life until Jesus heals us completely.

  17. Rameumption, you are right. Most people miss the fact that King Benjamin taught plainly that even little children, who are without sin, would be damned if it were not for the grace of Christ. Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, the only way back to God, whether we sin or not. We could live the most perfect lives, keeping every single commandment and heeding every prompting, and yet be totally dependent on Christ for salvation.

  18. Rame says, “In Hawaii, churches are taking a different action than they did in California and Prop 8. Instead of fighting SSM, they are only seeking the new laws to protect religious freedom and not force others’ beliefs upon churches and religious people. Perhaps this is where such a line should be drawn.”

    I absolutely agree with this statement. We should not try to legislate our beliefs on others, and we should seek protection from those who would legislate their beliefs upon us. I think that our leverage in this regard may be undermined with events like Prop. 8, which give us the appearance of being anti-civil rights. Because we have this reputation, there will be liberal do-gooders who seek to force the LDS church to stop abusing their gay members by not allowing them to marry in the temple. This is not a fight we want to even get near. We can’t afford to be seen as beligerant and meddling in civil rights issues. That will simply draw more fire. The sooner we can completely reorient and focus our strategy upon defending religious freedom, the better.

    JSG, Silverrain and Geoff, thanks for addressing my questions. I think you have all presented valid arguments. We all agree that there are differing degrees of light and knowledge given to all men. JSG’s comments sound simiilar to a speech given by Elder Oaks that talks about the difference between mistakes and sins. Mistakes are actions one makes because one doesn’t know any better. However, there can still be consequences for these mistakes. So while someone might not know any better than to get gay married, you say that we should still proclaim that there are negative consequences for these actions, indeed, we are commanded to warn people about these consequences. That is a valid argument.

    My view is a little different, because I’ve had a number of experiences which have challenged assumptions about the negative consequences of gay marriage. I know quite a few longtime gay couples who are married or who want to get married, and I can’t percieve any negative consequences in their relationships. Even spiritually, some of them seem to have a rich life, as rich as I’ve seen in many Mormons. So when God is blessing these unions with His Spirit, and when positive fruits, true love and devotion, and stability and faithfulness come out of it, I just don’t see what I should be warning them about. Rather, anything I could offer would be monastic in charachter, as described by Rame, a sacrifice on par with the rich young man. This is a sacrifice I believe in. But it is only one I would invite others to practice under careful direction of the Holy Ghost, as trembling missionaries do towards their tender investigators going into that dreaded 4th discussion. It is not something I would loudly proclaim before having even embarked upon the principles of the 1st discussion. I don’t think that is the true spirit of proclaiming the gospel.

  19. Nate,

    I do think that in some ways, you have given yourself over to a private doctrine. Prophets and apostles have, indeed, warned us that embracing same-sex marriage as a society will have severe, negative consequences — and I feel that your perspective (that for non-members, same sex marriage is not really fundamentally different than drinking coffee) is a private doctrine unsupported by the scriptures or the teachings of the prophets. And I do not think that God will grace a same-sex relationship with the Holy Spirit — sin simply cannot lead to happiness. Whatever happiness you’ve observed has not be divine happiness.

  20. RAM,
    We are both talking past one another, but I still think you’re wrong about 1 thing.

    We both agree that 1) If Adam (and mankind) HAD fallen and Jesus would NOT have performed His atonement, even innocent children would be lost.

    Hopefully we both agree that 2) Jesus did perform his atonement, and from that point on, “man is punished for his OWN sins and not for Adam’s transgression.

    Because of that, I believe (and Paul would agree with me), that 3) any other person who is 100% obedient would be saved on their own merits.

    But, 4) since no human being is ever 100% obedient, it doesn’t matter, and everyone needs to Repent for their own sins and accept the Saviors atonement for their own sins only.

    I get the feeling from your post, that you don’t agree with #3. You may not think it matters, but I think it does.

    Hopefully that helps.

  21. Also, you keep framing your perspective as being different from church culture or the beliefs of Church members. But I think you really need to be honest with yourself and others and say that you disagree with the collective, stated perspective of the quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency, all of whom have stated that the family — with a father and a mother — is not a monastic doctrine, but a pragmatic one, and that civil governments have the prerogative and responsibility to incentivize and support it by civil law. That, by definition, makes your perspective private doctrine. Go ahead and believe it, but be honest about the deviation of it from the Church’s official teachings.

  22. IMO, the letter-writer is headed out the door, either by resignation or excommunication. Here’s why:

    Page 156 of “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”:

    I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: that man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. The principle is as correct as the one that Jesus put forth in saying that he who seeketh a sign is an adulterous person; and that principle is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of heaven; for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.

  23. Bookslinger
    That’s exactly the quote I was referring to in my comment above. Thanks for sharing it. I like the part that says: ” that that man is in the high road to apostacy “. I don’t doubt that for a minute.

  24. “Where there is no law, there is no punishment” is not a very safe place to stand when looking at the eternal consequences. To begin with, the light of Christ is available to all. The teachings against just about any of the sins of today are not peculiar to the LDS church. Of course, one can turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the enticings of the spirit and seek with an “itching ear” to find someone that will agree with you. I don’t know that such falls under the “no law provision”.

    God does not give us commandments to make us unhappy. His main concern is our happiness. “Man is that he might have joy.” Our eternal happiness. I wonder if David thinks that obtaining the object of his desires, Bathsheba, was worth it?

    We can be deceived into believing that such is the case, that God loves us and will not punish us for following something that seems so desireable and dear to us in this life. I have a deceased brother who died an alcoholic. Oh, he was happy when he was drinking, and really caused no great immediate problems during his habitual benders. But he left two marriages in ruin. The work has been done for him, but he refused to listen to the gospel message while alive. God is his judge and knows whether he could help himself or not.

    That is where I stand on any of the addictions or problems that beset mankind. It may seem unfair that some seemingly have a cross to bear that is greater than another. God knows and will judge righteously. But it is our responsibility to find out what God wants of us and to act accordingly.

    But God has no choice in the matter. He is bound by the law of justice just as we are. And if we do not do what we have to do, i.e. repent, the law of mercy has no effect on us.


  25. Bookslinger, since the author of the letter has publicly stated that he doesn’t believe in Christ, I would say that he no longer affiliates with the Church to any degree.

    Nate, a clarification: I too believe that those in same-sex relationships will be treated as you describe. Missionaries will love them, teach them, and then approach lesson 4 with trepidation, fearing that hearing what is required of them will lead them to reject the Gospel. I don’t think anybody thinks that missionaries should start off the teaching process with the law of chastity.

    But I don’t see how that helps your case in any way. That doesn’t mean that the law of Chastity is a monastic, rather than a pragmatic doctrine. That doesn’t mean that there are not civil, societal, and familial consequences for neglecting to live the principles of the family. Also, you presume that President Uchtdorf disagrees with his brethren in some substantial ways — but I guarantee you that he sustains, supports, and agrees with Elder Oaks’ and Elder Nelson’s talk, as well as all the messages shared the conference before. It is a common tactic of people with private doctrine to imagine greater disparities between the apostles than there really is — it helps them rationalize their dissent from Church teachings to imagine that their favorite apostle is on their side (and against the rest of the brethren).

  26. “I had problems with a couple of this fall’s General Conference talks, most notably Elder Christofferson’s pedestal-pumping ode to sweet nineteenth-century femininity and Elder Oaks’s painfully black-and-white assessment of the alleged evils of same-sex marriage.” – Jana Riess

    Sounds like to me she’s got another, more significant problem than mere dissatisfaction with a couple of talks.

  27. Michael,
    While Jana is a liberal and personally supports women/priesthood and gays/marriage, she sustains the Brethren. I think if push came to shove, she would follow the prophets. As it is, the prophets are allowing such discourse right now, and she is becoming a middle voice in the discussion. You’ll note that she did not approve of this attack on Elder Oaks, even though she may not agree with him on one or two concepts.

  28. Rameumptom,

    Her statement drips with condescension and arrogance. “Pedestal-pumping ode”, “alleged evils”? Alleged evils? The entire point of General Conference, a primary reason God even sends apostles, is to warn of evil. It’s in their job description.

    I go back and I read again the talks by Elder Christofferson and Elder Oaks, and I just can’t — for the very life of me — see anything that isn’t part and parcel of what this Mormon Gospel has been about from the very beginning.

    I can mentally comprehend another person having an “issue” with a general conference talk. But it just continues to be painfully obvious to me that the polarization that we see played out in American cultural and political society right now is turning our church into a bifurcated society.

    It’s interesting that I can listen to Pres. Uchtdorf give a great sermon that liberals supposedly go into orgiastic joy over, and I can agree with every syllable, but I can also have the same experience listening to Elder Oaks or President Packer. I don’t place these men in the “he’s the liberal Apostle” or “he’s that reactionary behemoth from the Ozzy and Harriet show Apostle”.

    But liberal Mormons, apparently, can’t have the same experience I have. I really would like to know why.

  29. In his blog post entitled SUBDIVIDED MORMONISM, middleagedmormonman ( makes a very interesting point about members of the church who label themselves, as Tea-Party Mormon • Liberal Mormon • Conservative Mormon • Progressive Mormon • Orthodox Mormon • Feminist Mormon • Hipster Mormon • Traditional Mormon • Modern Mormon • Libertarian Mormon • Democrat Mormon • Republican Mormon • Independent Mormon • Pro-Gay Marriage Mormon • Anti-Gay Marriage Mormon • Molly Mormon • Vegan Mormon, Carnivorous Mormon, etc. and how all of this labeling is to attract like-minded people, and to stake out their territory.

    He cites Moses 7:18 “And the Lord called His people Zion, because they were of one heart, and one mind; and dwelt in righteousness…” Zion is meant to be a place of unity, he says “I don’t understand how carving out our own piece of philosophical turf, and mingling it with our religion is promoting the cause of Zion. Separation defies unity. Those very modifiers sometimes become part of our identities, and how we portray ourselves to each other and the world. To many, the label has gone from merely an identifier, to a key part of our self-concept.

    He also quotes ‘Joseph Smith, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object.” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 186) How do we accomplish this when the first word – the very adjective that we use to describe ourselves and our relationship to our faith, highlights our differences, rather than our commonalities.’

    He goes on to say “The second concept that deals with the self-labeling affliction is the idea that we only label ourselves when we feel that we are right, or at least more right than the people who don’t wear our label of choice.

    If I say I am a “Label” Mormon, I am claiming my ideological turf, and letting you know that I am different than many of you, and thus, better informed, more enlightened, more charitable, or more educated. etc.

    People simply don’t hyphenate to highlight their inferiority.The problem is that whenever we carve out our own brand of Mormonism, we are actually carving it off- because there is only one brand of Mormonism: The brand defined by Christ himself, unmodified by human adjectives and ideologies. There are countless variants of the gospel out there, but they are not actually THE gospel.

    As Paul said, there is “One Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” (Eph.4:5)

    Is it possible for all of us to just be “Mormon?” Is it possible to lead with a focus on our common faith, rather than leading with our personal ideologies? It is. It has happened before, and I believe it could happen again.”

    I think he’s so right, we have examples of people that did acquire this kind of unity in the faith like the city of Enoch or the Nephites after they saw the resurrected Christ. I am sure there were no liberal-Mormons or pro-gay marriage Mormons, or ordain women to the priesthood-Mormons. This is why they were translated and we are still here struggling to progress to attain that degree of spiritual stature, purification and sanctification. We need to be Zion, a pure people free of strife, doubts and labels who learned to live the law of a Celestial Kingdom.

    We will not do that as long as we are divided and following worldly trends instead of the Lord’s prophets their advise and admonitions. How will we ever see the face of Christ and belong to the Church of the First Born there, if we can’t even a follow the teachings of the Church here.

  30. “People simply don’t hyphenate to highlight their inferiority.”

    Of course not. We make blog posts and comments to prove our superiority.

    But generally I agree. No more -ites. The problem is, so many on the “right” would be very happy to just focus on the teaching of the brethren. But then they/we often feel bound to say, “what are you talking about?” when so many on the left advance ideas which contradict and promote disunity with the teachings of the Lord’s servants.

    It’s not to say the right always gets it right. There are longs of things they’re wrong about. But standing up and pointing out that various “innovations” advanced on the left are not only wrong, but contradict the Lord’s servants.

  31. Ram, in regards to Jana R. Trying to steer a course in the middle of the road is, in essence, “triangulation”. And it is a tactic of incrementalism. Almost a “good cop/bad cop” ploy, wherein the “moderate” attempts to influence people by saying they are not as extreme as “that guy over there”, but their goal or at least their effect is to get people to move in that direction. After they get people to shift in their direction, they re-triangulate, and play middle of the road again. Again saying “look how _reasonable_ I am.”

    The Democrats have played this for at least 50 years, and i’ve personally witnessed it the last 40 years since I started paying attention as a teenager. I know you’re old enough to see that trend in this country. The social programs and federal entitlement benefits of the 60’s, and also the SSI and SSDI of the 70’s were intermediiate steps to slowly condition Americans towards the federalism/socialism/fascism that we have today. Those steps in the 70’s built upon the steps in the 60’s. The steps in the 60’s built upon the 30’s and New Dealism. During the Reagan admins, nothing got repealed. The Clinton years was a small blip in adjusting some of the welfare programs. But then the Bush admin added more steps with Medicare Pard D.

    Teddy Kennedy was a past-master of all this, and he personally took part in it.

    Another example of incrementalism: Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell was merely one step from an outright (though imperfect) ban of homosexuals in the military, to the following step of full and open acceptance. Net effect, 180 degree turn in two steps.

    The Steve Evans post (open letter to Elder Oaks) that Jana seems to admire was pretty weasel-y in my opinion. He started out fawning, saying that he sustains the Brethren, but then challenges him with questions that reveal that he has already made up his mind in disagreement.

    A lot of this harkens back to Michael’s recent “police the borders” post. I think that is what, or part of what, Elder Oaks was doing.

  32. Needless to say, I agree with Bookslinger, and I didn’t realize it when I was pondering over Jana’s statements, but he’s right: it’s triangulation. It’s crass political maneuvering, applied to gospel principles and gospel culture.

    I don’t bear her any ill will, but I think she’s very wrong to dismiss Elder Oak’s and Elder Christensen’s talks so cavalierly. They are two of the brightest men in the Twelve.

  33. Amen Book and MT.

    Anyone who friends Jana Riess is no friend of mine.
    The title of her book and blog, is however, to quote Twain, “Aptly Named.”

  34. Chris,

    No more -ites- is the goal. We as member of the Church of Jesus Christ , should be united, of one mind and heart, but at the same time, until we get there, in the apologetic business even with our own fellow members, which is kind of sad, but it’s a very tight rope we walk, so as to not become prideful doing it. And these days given the things we are witnessing in the church we have a lot of defending to do.

    I like this blog and I have followed it for quite a while, even though I do not usually comment ,
    because most of the contributors have very insightful opinions to share.

    I have to admit that like minded people do get together. For example I agree with Michael’s assessment of Jana’s tone in her blog post, Man I agree with most of his comments, if not all. But I would think it twice before I use the words condescending or arrogance, personally I feel I’d do a lot of harm with those words, they are like deadly missiles to the person they are directed to. Even though that’s what the post felt like.

    But the point is that words are powerful and they can build or destroy. The same way that arrogant and condescending words hurt us, pointing it out hurts too. II have experienced in my life that with kindness so much change can be achieved. We can convince others of their errors using kind words and soft tone, with a spirit of meekness, love and understanding, butI know getting to that point is not easy, it requires a lot of patience, self-control and developing charity or unconditional love for our brothers and sisters. To look at them like Father would. There lies the challenge. Loving that way, it’s the only way to achieve unity.

  35. I’ll put it this way: I enjoyed Rameumpton’s post on this subject on M* a lot more than I enjoyed Jana Reiss’ article, which was, indeed, triangulation.

  36. Christ committed the church to the twelve apostles, not to angels, not to the world but to the apostles and all who came to Him through them. We are founded on the apostles and prophets with Christ the cornerstone.

    If we are not in agreement with the Apostles we put ourselves outside the church. It is that simple.

    Only our ego tells us that we can have communion with Christ without them.

  37. Kareen Lauper,

    My biggest flaw online is that I am, way too often, brutally frank. I do recognize that words can hurt. I’ve made a concerted effort recently to be more careful, something that I’m sure most of us could probably be more aware of.

  38. h_nu, it is sad that you would not have me as a friend, simply because I consider Jana my friend. Would you drive believers out of the Church, after Pres Uchtdorf told us there is room?
    I really like this article by Prof James Faulconer (BYU) on not being heretics:

    He reminds us that we should not be divisive, but seek unity. This is wise counsel, as contention was the first thing Jesus warned the Nephites about (3 Ne 11), prior to explaining that unity is the goal of the Godhead and those who wish to be with God.

    Yes, there is a line to be drawn. But it is not in the opinions and beliefs of men and women, but in their behaviors. Someone with SSA, who stays chaste, can be as worthy of a temple recommend as you or I. For every person who states what we would consider a heresy, I’m certain we also have a hidden heresy somewhere. How many of you are against illegal immigration and want it shut down immediately? Are you not going against the Church’s stance on this? How many of us voted for Republicans that brought the nation into unneccessary wars and huge debt, even though such debt is against the Church’s teachings? Can we not say that we are all hypocrites and heretics?
    Do we not realize that even the prophets admit they make mistakes on occasion (I heard it this past Gen Conf)? It isn’t a matter of believing everything they say, but to sustain THEM as prophets of God. Jana does that, and so I sustain her as a member of the Church – even though we do not see eye to eye on all things.
    The letter she addressed in her article shows someone who does not sustain the Brethren, but is on the road to apostasy. Jana states that this man has gone too far in his actions and behaviors. I agree with her on this. You will not see her doing that, because she sustains the prophets and apostles, even if she disagrees with them on some issues.
    Heck, I disagree with them on several issues. I disagreed with Elder McConkie’s (and other GAs) views on evolution, the curse on blacks, on being able to move up through the kingdoms of God, etc. Yet, while I disagree on some issues, I SUSTAIN THEM as prophets, and would defend their witness of Christ and their apostolic charge with my life.

    If we cannot call our brothers and sisters our brothers and sisters, then we through our own contention are becoming the servants of the devil, who is the god of contention. God would have us love Him and our neighbors, even as we hate sin and error.

    I am not of Paul, or Apollos, or of Jana Riess, or Elder Oaks. I am of Christ and embrace all those who seek to do good in this world as my brothers in Christ, and as children of God.

  39. BTW, I do agree that Jana does do triangulation. At the same time, there are a variety of US on M* who also triangulate. Geoff and I do it all the time when it comes to politics. Many Mormons teach and preach that if you are a liberal, you cannot be a Mormon (or at least a good Mormon), which is triangulation at its finest.

    I do not say I approve of everyone’s triangulations, or their methods of preaching “their” version of the gospel. But that is what we tend to do, in order to promote our own views. The Church does this with “I’m a Mormon” campaigns.

    When the Brethren gather for their weekly meetings, they vigorously debate the topics at hand. They do not see eye to eye on all things. But, in the end, they leave the meeting as colleagues and friends. They are one in Christ, even though they may not agree on all things. Imagine the room when Ezra Taft Benson and Hugh B Brown (a liberal) would collide on politics, or Joseph F Smith and James Talmage/John Widstoe would clash on ideas. Yet, they sought to be One in the most important things.
    Politics are nothing in the big scheme of things. Witnessing of Christ and building Zion are truly the important things. And I will welcome my friends on the right, left and anywhere else, who seek to follow Christ in their own way.

  40. Rameumptom, you may delete this comment or find it offensive, but quite frankly, I don’t find this:

    “I had problems with a couple of this fall’s General Conference talks, most notably Elder Christofferson’s pedestal-pumping ode to sweet nineteenth-century femininity and Elder Oaks’s painfully black-and-white assessment of the alleged evils of same-sex marriage.” – Jana Riess

    sustaining them as prophets and apostles. I find it dismissive of their divine calling and their role. It’s saying, “They are God’s spokesmen only so much as they don’t clash with my political sensibilities.” It’s ignoring Elder Hale’s clear instruction to the Saints at the opening of conference to set aside our political preferences and listen and be instructed, to soften our hearts to the teachings of God’s servants.

    These are issues that prophets and apostles have spoken repeatedly, emphatically, and often about, and I don’t think we can dismiss/marginalizing them as a “pedestal thumping ode” and “painfully black and white assessment of the alleged evils” without dismissing wholesale the prophetic calling that is behind these talks. These are NOT issues that prophets and apostles disagree over. These are issues that they are unified on. If we imagine to ourselves that the apostles have any substantial disagreement on the issues of same-sex marriage or the role of woman in the Church, we are inventing a narrative that is just false. The sheer number of talks and sermons about it indicate that they, collectively, see this as an important issue.

    To me, saying that someone who makes this statement “sustains” Elder Anderson and Elder Oaks is quite orwellian — it redefines the words to mean absolutely nothing substantial. Sustaining means the opposite of dismissing/marginalizing/delegitimizing the words of apostles in our public rhetoric.

  41. Rame,

    They way you’ve described how the Twelve (or the Brethren in general) operate is spot-on. They do indeed have vigorous conversations. They don’t see eye to eye on various issues.

    Here is the great difference I see, however, with respect to the analogy. With the Twelve, when the time comes for unity, those who opposed the policy *humble themselves* and *change their views* to align themselves with how the direction is flowing. Oftentimes, this is a spiritual process, involving the Holy Spirit, inspiration, etc. There are accounts of Apostles who were adamant on an issue for years who suddenly change and go along with the eleven others when they feel that it’s time for them to go along with the rest of the quorum.

    The big difference lies in how I perceive the liberal Mormon folks’ response to the Brethren. I see little humility, little sign that they are willing to accept, on faith, that maybe what Elder Oaks is talking about (as an example) is worthy of faith-support. They are not willing to admit the possibility that *they* need to re-evaluate and change.

    Please allow me to say that the first paragraph of your friend Jana *totally turned me off to her message* because her dismissive attitude towards Elder Christofferson overpowered anything else she had to say. Her disrespect toward him and Elder Oaks, just in her opening statement, blinded me to anything else she had to say in her little essay.

  42. Politics are nothing big in the grand scheme of things, but the moment they get us to reject at the outset multiple sermons from General Conference, they become a big deal — they become stumbling blocks that prevent us from inclining our ears to hear God’s word for us today. These are not issues we can be divided on — we need solidarity on these issues. Zion is not some pluralistic society where we can amicably disagree on the big issues. Zion is a society in which we are unified with the will of God on the big issues, and the prophets and apostles have spoken the will of God boldly, emphatically, repeatedly, and unitedly — but we have yet to come onboard the ship of Zion and unify ourselves with them. Zion can’t be built otherwise.

  43. To clarify, we don’t need to be united on every issue, but I would dare say that we need to be united on issues that warrant multiple, bold, declarative talks several conferences in a row. Seriously, folks, this is pretty common sense here.

  44. I understand the concern regarding Jana’s initial statement regarding Elders Oaks and Christofferson. That said, I still think we contend and divide more than we ought (and this includes both conservatives and liberals).

    As for Zion, I see Zion as not just the best and brightest among Mormon, but any individual who will not “lift up his sword to fight, must needs flee to Zion.” (D&C 45) I see Baptists, Catholics, Muslims and Jews moving to Zion, to establish a good place away from the wars and calumnies of the gravest sinners. IOW, I’m not sure everyone will even have to accept Christ as Savior, so long as they accept basic tenets of goodness.

    Christ dined with sinners and forgave them. I think I should too.

  45. I see no problem with dining with sinners. I see no reason why Jana can’t be included and welcomed in the Church as any other. I just see a problem with claiming that all ways of being Mormon are equally good — or that someone who disdainfully rejects the teachings of apostles and prophets also “sustain” them. Christ dined with sinners, but he never relinquished the ability to discern sin while doing so.

  46. “I just see a problem with claiming that all ways of being Mormon are equally good — or that someone who disdainfully rejects the teachings of apostles and prophets also “sustain” them. ”

    — This.

  47. Rame said: “I think if push came to shove, she would follow the prophets.” That is nice of you give Jana the benefit of the doubt, and I would hope you’d extend the same to me.

    If push comes to shove, I’d follow the prophets: but push has not come to shove. Uchtorf preached inclusivity of those who question, doubt and disagree. No one is saying: “choose you this day whether or not actively fight against same-sex marriage in society, or go jump in a lake.” And after Prop 8, when push came to shove in the media, the church publicly stated that people were not commanded to give money, it didn’t effect their church standing, and it was just an invitation extended to those who felt the desire to support. At the same time, the church suddenly announced support for legal rights for same-sex unions. Later a general authority goes out to Oakland, weeps and apologizes vaguely for how things were handled.

    It’s unfortunate that Elder Oaks talk has garnered so much liberal ire, because it was not in any way an escalation of dogmatism on same-sex marriage. On the contrary, it delineated respectful differences between the world’s way, and the Lord’s way, indicating that the church has turned a corner, and will no longer be seeking to influence legislation among the Gentiles on this issue, focusing instead on keeping the church itself true to its own laws, which differ from the world’s. But this message was lost on conservatives, who saw the talk as a validation of their overly apocalyptic views on the topic, and liberals, who get agitated whenever anyone says same-sex marriage is wrong.

  48. Michael, “sustain” does not necessarily mean to agree with, but to accept and submit to their authority. Also to “bear with them in their weaknesses with patience” as D&C says. Like if you have a boss you disagree with, but you respect his authority over you.

    It’s true Jana’s comments were not exactly in the spirit of sustaining, but other liberals, like Steve Evans questioned, but seemed to try to do it in a way that still acknowledged a respect for his ultimate authority.

  49. Nate,

    Thank you for your insights and two cents. Now, I’m going to pick apart stuff you said, but I am not attacking you in any way.

    “If push comes to shove, I’d follow the prophets: but push has not come to shove. ”

    I disagree. Every General Conference is an opportunity for us to forsake the world, and our sins, and consecrate ourselves to the Lord’s program. The time for choosing is always now. Given the many talks that have been given over the past several years on the issue of gay marriage, the invitation from the prophets is pretty clear. We are, all of us, liberals and conservatives and whatever, we are all invited to *repent* and get with the program. (And the invitation is urgent. Time is, in fact, short. “Overly apocalyptic” indeed! You do know how apocalyptic the Doctrine and Covenants is, right?)

    “Also to “bear with them in their weaknesses with patience” as D&C says.”

    For the record, the Doctrine and Covenants does not contain this phrase. To which scripture are you referring to?

    “It’s true Jana’s comments were not exactly in the spirit of sustaining, but other liberals, like Steve Evans questioned, but seemed to try to do it in a way that still acknowledged a respect for his ultimate authority.”

    Laman and Lemuel, to use a classic example, also respected Lehi’s ultimate authority. Did they sustain him as the Lord’s prophet?

  50. Nate, the verb “to sustain” does not require private agreement, but I think it does require abstention from public disagreement.

    An employee does not recognize and submit to the boss’s authority by verbally opposing him around other employees or the public.

  51. Michael, I’m in the bad habit of freely adapting the scriptures. I thought it said what I said, but instead D&C says:

    “For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.”

    And the other phrase is God calls “the weak thing of the world, the unlearned and dispised.”

    I thought there was a scripture that said to be patient with Joseph in his weakness, but I guess there isn’t. But there should be! At least I think so.

    You are also of course right that every General Conference presents us with a “choose ye this day” moment, in fact every talk does. But that doesn’t mean that we are given ultimatums. These are invitations. And there are many many invitations to do many many important things. So many we cant possibly be perfect at all of them. Some things we may have to put on the back burner as we struggle with our weaknesses, including the weakness of our own pride and doubts. Bending our will to the prophets could be one of those important things, or it might be less important than an invitation to love and forgive someone. It probably depends on the person. And Elder Oaks talk was less an ultimatum than a statement of doctrine. Those who have issues with his talk are probably already obeying the Law of Chastity themselves, and value it in their own life. They have already chosen “as for me and my house, we will obey the Law of Chastity.” Their hang up is on the perceived unfair judgement the doctrine may impose on others in different circumstances. So it’s not exactly about choosing to obey The Lord, its about how to position oneself in one’s own mind and heart with regards to judging others in and out of the church. It’s about how we are perceived as a church in the world. This is fraught with peril too, but I think someone like Steve Evans or Jana, who have “issues”, but ultimately respect their authority should be lauded for at least trying to stay and sustain. We shouldn’t push them out while they are still holding on, regardless of how weak or uncommitted we might think their grip on the iron rod is.’

    Bookslinger, I think that is a valid definition of “sustain” as well.

  52. Nate, I don’t see that Elder Oaks’ talk indicated any “turning of the corner” of any kind. Particularly when partnered with Elder Nelson’s talk, who explicitly mentioned the role of secular governments in supporting traditional marriage norms, and did so in a General Conference setting, no less. Keep reading that message into it if you want, but I think you are trying to enlist Elder Oaks in support of a worldview I don’t think he’d agree with. Of all the apostles, I think Elder Oaks would be the last to say that the Church has thrown in the towel and that saints should embrace political same-sex marriage as an inevitability.

  53. I’m just tired of you hearing you pleating on and on about this “new message” of the Church — which I honestly think is your own private doctrine — while people like Elder Oaks and Elder Nelson and Elder Perry and President Packer (people with much more authority than you) keep pleading with all of us to defend traditional marriage norms in both society and the Church. The Church’s position hasn’t changed. The Church still supports civil legislation to protect traditional marriage. The Church still warns of the nasty consequences same-sex marriage will bring with it to society. And until the Church says otherwise, please, Nate, stop claiming that the Church has said otherwise. As of now, the Church still encourages its members to actively support legislation to protect traditional marriage norms.

  54. Nate, I do extend this to you, as well.

    I think there has been some changes in how we view homosexuality in the Church. There was a time when “being” homosexual was a sin, even if one stayed chaste. Now we see gays as worthy of the temple, if they are chaste. THAT is a big change. Now, I do not believe gay marriage will ever be accepted of the Church, nor should it. But the Church is still reviewing its stances on things, and refining them.

    I agree there sometimes can be a fine line between having one’s own opinion on certain things and attacking the Brethren. As I’ve stated, I do not always agree with them (evolution, or the old reasons for the priesthood ban), but I do sustain them.

    While I think Steve Evans and others are being somewhat harsh in their discusion, I think it is passable. I have known Steve over the Internet for many years, and I also believe he would follow the prophets in anything, if push came to shove.

    I like how the GAs are handling this. They are allowing a voice to the members, as long as it is generally respectful. It allows for a greater unity and compassion to those who may not have the same level of testimony that you or I may have. Personal experience can cause people to see the same gospel through different lenses. Some see the strict requirement of obedience, while others see the comforting love and forgiveness of the Savior. Both are important, but each individual places each in its own priority.

    While we do not have to accept sin (nor should we), we must learn compassion and love of the sinner. To say we will not grant fellowship to Jana Riess, because of one belief she holds that is different than ours, is to lack compassion and charity. I wonder then, who is the greater sinner?

    Or do we embrace her, and welcome her, because she agrees with us on 99% of the teachings of the gospel?

    It reminds me of an old Star Trek show, where two groups fought to the death, because they each had a different day for worship, and saw the other as a despicable sinner worthy of death. They could not see that all their other beliefs should have united them, instead.

  55. I think no one on earth is hated more than Hitler. That said, Elder George F Richards of the 12 Apostles shared a very interesting dream in General Conference many years ago:
    “The Lord has revealed to me, by dreams, something more than I ever understood or felt before about the love for God and the love for fellow men. I believe in dreams, brethren and sisters. The Lord has given me dreams, which to me, are just as real and as much from God as was the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:1) which was the means of saving a nation from starvation (Gen. 41:1), or the dream of Lehi who through a dream led his colony out of the old country, across the mighty deep to this promised land (1 Ne. 2:1), or any other dreams that we read of in scripture….
    More than forty years ago I had a dream, which I am sure was from the Lord. In this dream I was in the presence of my Savior as he stood in mid-air. He spoke no word to me, but my love for him was such that I have not words to explain. I know that no mortal man can love the Lord as I experienced that love for the Savior unless God reveals it unto him. I would have remained in his presence, but there was a power drawing me away from him, and as a result of that dream I had this feeling, that no matter what might be required at my hands, what the gospel might entail unto me, I would do what I should be asked to do, even to the laying down of my life (John 15:13)….
    Then a few years ago, at the closing of a conference of the St. Johns Stake, we had had a wonderful conference I thought, and I was very happy on retiring. I was sleeping in the home of the president of the stake, Brother Levi Udall, and that night I had a remarkable dream. I have seldom mentioned this to other people, but I do not know why I should not. It seems to me appropriate in talking along this line. I dreamed that I and a group of my own associates found ourselves in a courtyard where, around the outer edge of it, were German soldiers—and Fuhrer Adolph Hitler was there with his group, and they seemed to be sharpening their swords and cleaning their guns, and making preparations for a slaughter of some kind, or an execution. We knew not what, but, evidently we were the objects. But presently a circle was formed and this Fuhrer and his men were all within the circle, and my group and I were circled on the outside, and he was sitting on the inside of the circle with his back to the outside, and when we walked around and I got directly opposite to him, I stepped inside the circle and walked across to where he was sitting, and spoke to him in a manner something like this:

    “I am your brother. You are my brother. In our heavenly home we lived together in love and peace. Why can we not so live here on the earth?”

    And it seemed to me that I felt in myself, welling up in my soul, a love for that man, and I could feel that he was having the same experience, and presently he arose, and we embraced each other and kissed each other, a kiss of affection.

    Then the scene changed so that our group was within the circle, and he and his group were on the outside, and when he came around to where I was standing, he stepped inside the circle and embraced me again, with a kiss of affection.

    I think the Lord gave me that dream. Why should I dream of this man, one of the greatest enemies of mankind, and one of the wickedest, but that the Lord should teach me that I must love my enemies (Matt. 5:44), and I must love the wicked as well as the good? ”

    Clearly there are more important issues at hand when it comes to ordaining women or gay marriage than in condemning the “sinners” and being right. I will be pondering Elder Richards’ discourse and dream quite some time to learn what it is the Lord would have me know and understand. As it is, I’m not sure I’m ready to give Hitler an embrace and kiss. But I know I need to get to that point someday where I can.

  56. To say we will not grant fellowship to Jana Riess, because of one belief she holds that is different than ours, is to lack compassion and charity. I wonder then, who is the greater sinner? Or do we embrace her, and welcome her, because she agrees with us on 99% of the teachings of the gospel?

    I don’t think anyone here has suggested that we reject her. I think we all want her in this Church. But we reject her rhetoric, and which to call it what it is. We can include all sinners in the Church without claiming that all lifestyles are equally good. We can include all sinners in the Church while still calling sin sin. We can include dissenters and apostates in the Church while still preaching the importance of obedience to prophetic teachings.

    To even imply that we think that Jana should be rejected shows that you have equally misunderstood us. Jana is not sustaining the Church leaders in her comments, but I still sustain her membership. So stop implying otherwise.

  57. This is just another example of the great imbalance in public discourse: Jana Reiss can publicly imply that Elder Christofferson and Elder Oaks are misleading the Church and teaching falsehoods, but if we publicly comment her her behavior, we’re being uncharitable. That’s not preaching charity: that’s using charity to privilege a certain kind of discourse. In the name of charity, we must never publicly call into question the public commentary of dissenters, while they must always be permitted to publicly comment on or disrespect Church leaders. Why do they get immunity from criticism, even while they get to criticize the Church’s leaders?

    If we must give the public forums to dissenters in the name of being charitable, why cannot we also use those same public forums to respond to them?

  58. Another thought: You claim that she sustains these people as apostles even while she publicly criticizes them. Why can’t you also believe that we sustain her membership even while we also publicly criticize her remarks?

  59. LDSP, it may be that you sustain her membership. However, h_nu said here:

    “Anyone who friends Jana Riess is no friend of mine.
    The title of her book and blog, is however, to quote Twain, “Aptly Named.””

    He clearly states that anyone who friends her is not his friend. Yet, the gospel commands we extend the hand of fellowship.

    I’m not saying members need to agree with her statements or her position on this issue. My point is we need to recognize and focus on the things we all agree upon, and create a Zion community in doing so. Divisions on both sides are going to tear the Church apart, even as it did in Book of Mormon times.

  60. Divisions on both sides are going to tear the Church apart, even as it did in Book of Mormon times.

    Agreed. But at one point, we must ask, who is the one dividing and dissenting? People (let’s move on from Jana, and say, someone like Dehlin) can publicly dissent from Church teachings and even gather a large following to his beliefs. But if we try and correct, instruct, or criticize their approach, we’re the one accused of jeopardizing Church unity. Dissent becomes a protected class, immune from criticism, in the name of preserving unity. In that way, we get held hostage.

    At some point, resulting divisions are the fault of the dissenting group, not of faithful saints who defend and teach true doctrine.

  61. Dear RAM, you are free to associate with whomever you want. As am I. You are also free to interpret Elder Uchtdorf’s counsel as you wish, as am I.

    I must have missed the general conference we were instructed we are only to withhold our presence to those whose behaviors are wrong, and not their opinions. In fact, I think I missed the “thoughts don’t sow actions” talk you seem to be referring to, do you have a reference for it?

    Also, I think you are misinterpreting me and my intentions. I think there is a difference between someone with SSA and someone who thinks a) there’s nothing wrong with SSA (as in against the way things should be, e.i. Cancer) and that everyone should act on it ( a la Jana). I have no problem with those who struggle with SSA, those who struggle with alcoholism or tobacco addictions. I DO have problems with those who say there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality, and encourage others to engage in it, with those who say there’s nothing wrong with
    alcohol, tobacco, or porn and actively encourage it.

    I’m not saying that I don’t have hidden heresies… but quite frankly I respect every one’s right to dislike me for them, instead of pulling out a “you have to be friends with everyone” tripe.

    On a different note: No where in the handbook is it stated that one must agree with the churches policy statements or else they’re heretical. That is a false doctrine invented here at M* by J. Max and you (if you disagree, instead of deleting my post, show me in the handbook where your viewpoint is found). So everyone is allowed to agree or disagree with the church’s “policies” on immigration or even Same-Sex-marriage laws, but they WOULD be heretical to claim that there’s nothing wrong with homosexual activity (Law of Chastity) or (for instance) murdering illegal immigrants simply because they are illegal immigrants. Hopefully you can see the difference between policy and doctrine.

    In my short years of earth I have learned the following things.
    1.) Mental unhealth is a communicable disease.
    2.) Spiritual unhealth is a communicable disease.
    3.) Many physical maladies are due to communicable diseases.
    One understanding of the Word of Wisdom is this, “Take Care of Yourself.” Just as I wouldn’t walk into a level IV biohazard room without a bio-suit, nor do I keep “friendship” with those seeking to perform the devil’s handwork. I am united with Christ and His disciples. That Venn diagram should, but does not, include everyone who has been baptized, or even those that self-identify as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I read the works of the members of the Church of the first-born. IRL, if associating with apostates will not harm me, I MAY engage in it. But, online, only harm will come by associating with apostates. When I read Snuffer’s work, it’s with an eye critical of “how to avoid the seeds of Mormon apostasy.” When I read Jana’s work, it’s with an eye critical of “how to avoid the emotional stupidities that lead to Mormon apostasy.” Satan himself told Eve he was her brother. My own brothers beat the crap out of me when they were high on drugs. My mother threatened me into silence. Does that mean that I stupidly trust them as friends, or do I use my brain to protect myself? When others are out to do you harm (even if they don’t “know” it), should you use your brain, or stupidly assume “they’re my brother, I have to harm myself by associating with them.” I consider your viewpoints extremely naive, and spiritually destructive. Hence, why I wouldn’t associate with you or be your friend. I can be united with Christ without uniting myself to apostates. And whomever Christ chooses to be united with is His business, not mine. I don’t go around telling Him whom He can or cannot have dinner with. But we have a good enough relationship that He doesn’t ask me to go around spiritually scary folks.

    And RAM, you can go have some love-fest with Hitler and any apostate you choose to. Just recognize that the rest of us have our agency, our intelligence, and we may just disagree with you. As I’ve made no covenant to tolerance or acceptance or diversity, I feel no obligation to do so. But as you seem to believe in the false god of tolerance, perhaps you can tolerate my intolerance.

  62. LDSP says, “Nate, I don’t see that Elder Oaks’ talk indicated any “turning of the corner” of any kind.”

    Well, it’s kind of subtle. But here is what I found in the talk: Throughout the talk, Elder Oaks makes clear “us versus them” distinctions between the church and the outside world: He says, “FOR LATTER-DAY SAINTS, God’s commandments are based on…” “… this gives Latter-day Saints A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE…” “We remain UNDER COVENTANT to keep commandments…even if they become (unpopular) in our particular time and place.” “OUR BELIEFS COMPEL us to some different choices and behaviors than theirs.”

    The emphasis on our “unique perspectives,” our “covenants” and “beliefs which compel” us to be different, reorients the dialogue into a new space of respectful and non-judgmental disagreement with Gentiles, very different to the traditional “proclamation to the world” tone, warning of calamities, and emphasizing universality, which still dominates the rhetoric other apostles use when addressing the subject. In this regard, Elder Oaks’ address was one of the more progressive talks on the subject we’ve had.

    Maybe this doesn’t mean much. But I think we will see in the near future, that there will in fact be a reorientation towards a more defensive posture towards protecting our values, rather than an offensive posture of trying to legislate them.

    This is the true heritage of Mormonism from it’s earliest days, when it was always a smaller minority, defending it’s right to have strange beliefs and practices like polygamy. In the last 100 years, we’ve been lulled into thinking that our values mirror Judeo-Christian values, but now the scales of our eyes are falling away, and we are seeing that our Gentile neighbors are no different than they were 150 years ago, when they were sending troops out to Utah to jail all of our leaders. Pretty soon they will be coming into our temples trying to force us to gay marry people because we are such intolerant homophobes. That’s what we are dealing with. They’ve always been the same, these Gentiles. They don’t have prophets, they don’t have the Holy Ghost. All they have is “every wind of doctrine,” and just because the winds have blown easy for one hundred years doesn’t mean that we shared something in common with them. We’ve always been different, and we shouldn’t have ever been so arrogant as to think that we shared “majority” values with them. We are a minority. We always have been, and we always will. Our responsibility is to defend ourselves and our values against the winds of doctrine of the outside world, not to try and redirect those winds ourselves. That, I believe, was the spirit of Elder Oak’s talk.

  63. If I may jump late into this thread, I think it is insightful and relevant to observe how Christ managed enmity and accusations heaped upon Him. It is important to note that although He had numerous enemies, he did not cause the enmity. His enemies chose to antagonize Him, not the other way around. At one point, Peter says, “Lord knowest thou the Pharisees were offended after they heard [your] saying.” Then Christ answers, “Leave them alone. They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

    So if our brothers and sisters–members or non-members–choose to publicly make claims/accusations against our leaders, shouldn’t we leave them alone to their opinions and devices? And if we do, are we being passive followers instead of defenders of the faith? What is our motive for calling out what we suppose, as guided by the Spirit of truth, are errors in their opinions and rhetoric? Can we respond in a way that is truly charitable and free of vituperation? And when we respond publicly–whether by gentle correction, instruction, or criticism–are we not inviting further argumentation and division?

    Christ called out the hypocrites, but he also spake as one with authority, which was widely recognized and accepted by the Jews. As one with authority, Elder Oaks’ response was a call to repentance, while expressing sadness at the letter-writer’s antagonism. This was generally reviled and viewed as condescending. Regardless, what will be remembered is probably not Oaks’ brief response, but the letter-writer’s disrespectful and attacking attitude that shone loud and clear. Such correspondence reflects poorly on him, not the Church, and, unless he repents as Oaks suggested, he will be held accountable for his words to an authorized servant of the Lord.

    The sacrifice required of us is not merely to forsake our evil natures, but to offer up a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Should we not incorporate this attitude in our interactions with our fellow men? Would not this approach of meekness and charity ultimately bring us closer to Zion and engender further unity?

  64. @h_nu: Over the years, I’ve read much of Ram’s writing on his own blogs/web sites, his guest posts on other blogs, and his comments on various blogs of the ‘nacle. I’ve been in a CES Institute class where he was a substitute teacher.

    I think Ram has pretty well established his orthodox bona fides. He’s pretty True Blue.

    Echoing what he and others have said, I can fully accept his claim to be Jana’s friend while not endorsing all of her views or her public statements.

    My take of him, based on his many online writings and that one class presentation, is that he is being non-judgemental and charitable towards Jana and is parsing her words in a charitable way. I’m very confident that he does not share her criticisms of the Brethren, and I’m very confident he is in no way what orthodox members would call liberal or dissenting or unorthodox.

    @LDSP: Thank you for pointing out the hypocrisy of the liberal wing. (They claim the right to criticize but want to be immune from criticism themselves.) Just like political liberals, ain’t it?

    @Ram, I disagree that the right/orthodox practices triangulation as the left does. I don’t have time now for an explication.

  65. h_nu, yes we are all free to associate with whom we will. That was not the point. The point was what the Savior has taught through the scriptures and his prophets. We are to become a Zion people. A contentious stance forces a person to be apart from Zion. It doesn’t matter that you agree with 99.99% of all things, if you contend on one issue that separates you from the rest.
    That “love-fest” you describe was a teaching from an apostle of God. He was explaining to us that perhaps we hold stances that will need to change drastically, before we are able to stand in God’s presence. D&C tells us that we must forgive all people, and in all the scriptures Jesus teaches us to love all people. So, this “love-fest” is a divinely driven mandate.
    That said, I must admit I am still trying to love my neighbor, and would struggle embracing Hitler. I hope to someday understand that form of Christ-like love, which so far escapes me. Still, it is a stark commandment that I will not close my eyes nor mind to.

    Tiger, nate and Bookslinger, thanks for your good thoughts on this topic. Oh, Bookslinger, let me know when you want to do lunch. I work near downtown, and we can find a fast food place where you can explain where the far right does not triangulate….

  66. “And RAM, you can go have some love-fest with Hitler and any apostate you choose to. Just recognize that the rest of us have our agency, our intelligence, and we may just disagree with you. As I’ve made no covenant to tolerance or acceptance or diversity, I feel no obligation to do so. But as you seem to believe in the false god of tolerance, perhaps you can tolerate my intolerance.”

    Dear h_nu take it down a notch, Jesus said: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

    Tolerance is part of being meek and merciful and a peacemaker, all wonderful attributes the Lord has and wants us to develop. Be cool no need to get all worked out over this. You are indeed a very smart and insightful person, but be nice.

  67. @RaM As I mentioned earlier. The viewpoints expressed here sound spiritually and emotionally naive. I don’t trust people who give out advice that I consider naive.

    I have read M* for the last 5 years. I also know that people change. I’ve watched members of the church drift in and out of faithfulness for the last 20 some odd years. One’s past performance, attitude and pitch is not nearly as important as one’s current attitude performance and pitch. But I am not responsible for your well being, Book. You are. In the end, I am not the one responsible for your staying a member of the church. I am also not accountable to those who mindlessly accept Jana because of the endorsement from RAM. Especially since I’ve raised my own warning voice. Some people would consider it downright immoral to not warm people about the burning building they’re filing into.

  68. h_nu, I never said I endorse the things Jana was saying. I said I sustain her as a member, in which we probably agree on 98% of all things in the gospel. That said, I also probably agree with you on 98% of all things in the gospel!

    I did say that some people are getting the gospel wrong, as in the person who wrote the mean letter to Elder Oaks. We are not here to be self-justified, but to learn to carry the cross the Lord has given us to bear.

    Your posts seem to have completely missed that point, instead focusing on some entirely different issue altogether.

    I have lifted the warning voice on many occasions, myself. As it is, I have changed over the last 5 years. I have sought to find the deepest meanings of the gospel, which include the meekness, humility, forgiveness and love that Karen and others have mentioned here. Yes, homosexual behavior is a sin. But there are greater sins. The Lord has told us that the person who refuses to forgive someone has the greater sin. Where does that place us, if we set ourselves up to be the nit-picky judges of others?

    How can I help others turn to Christ, if I make them my enemy? Instead, reaching out to others in meekness and humility is the path I’ve found most rewarding and correct. Alma told his son to use “boldness, but not overbearing”.

    Finally, how am I to know where sin begins and ends? I have plenty of my own weaknesses that I need to work on, pulling the many beams out of my own eyes, before I begin to pull the mote out of other individuals’ eyes.

    The Lord has called on us to hate sin in general, but not necessarily attack individuals. We are to cautiously judge, if at all, each individual. It must be done in meekness, so we do not end up with the greater sin of pride and enmity. Of all sins, I believe contention to be the greatest, as it is Satan’s main plan to divide and conquer, causing us to depart from Christ’s vision of unity and Zion.

    President Uchtdorf’s message in General Conference seems to reflect the things I’ve said here. We do not accept sin. We do accept the sinner, and invite them lovingly into our arms, so that (along with the rest of us sinners), they may learn to repent and follow Christ.

  69. h_nu says, “perhaps you can tolerate my intolerance.”

    This is a great phrase. I think this is the ultimate liberal ideal, to be able to tolerate intolerance. But many people who call themselves liberal are just as intolerant as any conservatives I know. That is the problem with Mormon liberals. They claim tolerance, but that means they are intolerant of conservative views.

    They don’t recognize that the church is a minority tribe whose unique and perhaps unconventionally conservative views must be defended, just as an Indian tribe must be defended as they seek to protect their unique identity from the onslaught of Western Culture and its ever shifting values. The church is trying to defend itself against powerful forces in the outside world which would efface its identity. To defend itself, the church must be intolerant of those forces. So intolerance becomes a liberal ideal, at least when applied to protecting a minority against the tyranny of the majority. As long as Mormons don’t seek to take away the rights and freedoms of other minority groups outside of their covenant, their right to be as conservative and intolerant as they want, should be protected and defended by liberals.

  70. There’s a sidebar link here at M* to the Matt Walsh blog, about his article on abstinence in response to a high school student who asked him how to deal with a Health class teacher who encouraged sexual activity among teens.

    Very interesting reading. I recommend it to parents who want some good sound-bites and medical-based reasoning to counter current trends of sexual activity among teens (or anyone who is not married.)

    One of the comments there links to a talk given by an American psychiatrist (an MD) speaking in New Zealand, Dr. Miriam Grossman. It gives a lot of science-based reasons why pre-marital sex is bad for everyone. She’s also written two popular books (available at Amazon as ebooks, and inexpensive used books from 3rd parties.)

    I put the links (to Matt, to the video/lecture, and to the books at Amazon) in a blog post over at JrGanymede. com

    I really encourage parents of teens and pre-teens to read Matt’s article and view Dr. Grossman’s lecture. You may want your teens to read and view too. But the lecture gets VERY technical about… ummm….. “non standard” sexual practices, so you should view it to decide if you want your teen to see it.

    One of the perma-bloggers may even want to do up a post here at M* listing the main points of Matt Walsh and Dr. Grossman, and give direct links in the post, which will also help boost those link-targets.

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