Several things I thought were interesting, with no unifying theme:

(1) The debut of the new Relief Society Presidency. It looks like I had the same reaction that most others who have blogged about them have: relief (ha!) that they don’t use the “sweet sister” voice and great pleasure that they discussed substantial doctrinal topics.

(2) The much-anticipated new youth curriculum is now available here.  I’ve just glanced at it, but I am pleased to see no “made-up” stories.  I’m worried that switching Sunday School to topic-based instead of scripture-based lessons will decrease scriptural literacy.  (And, that the kids will perceive the overlap between YW/YM and SS as boring.)  I suspect that divvying up lesson topics might be somewhat cumbersome for YM, YW, and SS teachers.  I note that it will be easy to update the curriculum, since it exists primarily online.  I note lots of women’s voices as authoritative sources.  I wish I had time to analyze the gender messages and gender differences, but not today . . .

(3) Elder Oaks and Elder Cook talk a lot about protecting religious liberty.  I have no idea what they mean because they almost never use concrete examples. (I’ll discuss one exception in a minute.) I did a quick-and-dirty survey of some thinky Saints and found vastly different interpretations as to what they meant:  some people thought it was issues like school prayer, crosses on public lands, etc.  Others thought it was the recent attacks on Muslims’ rights in the US (i.e., the so-called “Ground Zero” mosque).  Others thought it was fall-out from Prop 8, like boycotting LDS businesses.  I wonder if it isn’t a shift in anti-SSM policy: an acknowledgement that that cat is out of the bag and SSM will eventually be permitted, but a focus on protecting the rights of people who do not support SSM marriage for religious reasons (such as:  wedding photographers who don’t want to photograph SS weddings).  Honestly, I have no idea what they mean.

The one example that Elder Cook has used is of a Christian couple in Britain who weren’t allowed to be foster parents because they could not encourage/permit/support/condone homosexuality.  This strikes me as a very difficult situation.  (We were, briefly, foster parents and there is all sorts of awkward when private people, in a private home, are agents of the state.)  If an LDS 9yo in the US ended up in foster care, how would we feel about evangelical foster parents who worked daily to convince the child that she was going to hell if she didn’t renounce Joseph Smith as a false prophet?  Would we go to the mat for their religious liberty to teach a foster child according to their own religious beliefs?

(Having said that, it bothers me deeply on a personal level to dismiss a topic that two apostles speak frequently about, so I’m trying to figure out how to understand and accept their position, not debunk it.)

(4) I’m deeply troubled by most of recent LDS modesty discourse.  So I was equally thrilled for this recent comment by Elder Holland:

 I was invited to speak in a stake single-adult devotional—one of those open-ended “18-and-over” sort of things. As I entered the rear door of the stake center, a 30-something young woman entered the building at about the same time. Even in the crush of people moving toward the chapel, it was hard not to notice her. As I recall, she had a couple of tattoos, a variety of ear and nose rings, spiky hair reflecting all the colors now available in snow cones, a skirt that was too high, and a blouse that was too low.

Three questions leapt to my mind: Was this woman a struggling soul, not of our faith, who had been led—or even better, had been brought by someone—to this devotional under the guidance of the Lord in an effort to help her find the peace and the direction of the gospel that she needed in her life? Another possibility: Was she a member who had strayed a bit maybe from some of the hopes and standards that the Church encourages for its members but who, thank heaven, was still affiliating and had chosen to attend this Church activity that night? Or a third option: Is this the stake Relief Society president? (Somehow I was sure she was not.)  Citation

Note that his reaction to her was to thank heaven she was there.  Not to call her walking pornography or a hypocrite or to shun her, as others recently have.  So thank you Elder Holland.

(5) Our RS recently did the sabbath observance lesson. I was surprised that the overwhelming thrust of comments focused on the “what’s right for OUR family is most important and we should never judge others.”  I thought maybe it was my ward, but I’ve seen other blog comments along those lines.  I am worried about this.  I think our veneration of the family may have led to thinking that the family has more power/authority to define the commandments than it should have.  (Of course, I would have been more ticked by an RS lesson that was judgmental of people for observing the sabbath differently than they do, so there really is just no winning with me.)

(6) Let’s say that every teaching (scripture, general conference, etc.) of the Church were exactly the same as it is now, but the behavior of the members was positively vile:  people would spit on the homeless on their way into chapels, people would call racial minorities “filth” from the pulpit, etc.  Would you leave that church or still attend it?  (The point is this:  is there a point where the behavior of the members is such that you could no longer in good conscience affiliate?  Does it matter if you have children?)  On the one hand, we say that by their fruits ye shall know them.  On the other hand we say that the church is true even though the members are imperfect.  Let me pre-empt:  no, I am not leaving the Church.  (But, yes, I am completely disgusted by the behavior of some members and, yes, this does have to do with political posts on Facebook.  And bumper stickers in the church parking lot.)

And thank you for reading my brain dump on this fine Monday morning.

51 comments for “Potpourri

  1. anonlds
    October 1, 2012 at 10:29 am

    If we are moving toward an environment where the church teaches correct principles and lets us govern ourselves and stops putting hedges around the law, then I am all for it.

    The law is keep the sabbath day holy. I am all for people deciding for themselves what that means for them. Current cultural standards don’t make logical sense and only push people away who don’t agree with the current cultural understanding. For one person running on sunday may a sin, for another it may be the only time of private introspection they get on a busy Sabbath. You can’t seperate the temporal from the spiritual, they are very interconnected. And if it is a sin to run on sunday, why isn’t it a sin to shower and brush your teeth? Is one type of work to maintain your body more acceptable than other types of work to maintain it? Let people pray and find the answers to these questions themselves without making a one size fits all list of do’s and don’t.

  2. Bears_fan
    October 1, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Regarding your 3 and 4: I also liked Elder Holland’s comment and would have continued to like it had it stopped there. Instead he used it as a platform to dive into the protecting religious liberty vagueness you (and I) are confused about it. So our snap judgment is to be kind, but in the long run… “My young friends, there is a wide variety of beliefs in this world, and there is moral agency for all, but no one is entitled to act as if God is mute on these subjects or as if commandments only matter if there is public agreement over them. In the 21st century we cannot flee any longer. We are going to have to fight for laws and circumstances and environments that allow the free exercise of religion and our franchise in it. That is one way we can tolerate being in Babylon but not of it.

    I know of no more important ability and no greater integrity for us to demonstrate in a world from which we cannot flee than to walk that careful path—taking a moral stand according to what God has declared and the laws He has given, but doing it compassionately and with understanding and great charity. Talk about a hard thing to do—to distinguish perfectly between the sin and the sinner. I know of few distinctions that are harder to make, or at least harder to articulate, but we must lovingly try to do exactly that. Believe me, brothers and sisters, in the world into which we are moving, we are going to have a lot of opportunity to develop such strength, display such courage, and demonstrate such compassion—all at the same time. And I am not speaking now of punk hairdos or rings in your nose.”

  3. October 1, 2012 at 10:41 am

    The problem with Sabbath observance is that, like many other things in the Church, we have directives that don’t seem to emanate from a coherent interpretive principle. Say what you like about traditional Jewish Sabbath rules, but at least they were coherent and consistent. Most of them derive from the fact that construction of the Tabernacle was to cease on the Sabbath, and from those specific actions came the categories of allowed and proscribed actions.

  4. Tim
    October 1, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I get the feeling that 90% of the members of the church in the U.S. understand “religious liberty” to mean “prayers in school” and other violations of the church/state separation. They’ve adopted the religious right’s approach to the issue.

    Elder Oaks obviously doesn’t share this approach, but if the General Authorities want people to understand and fight for REAL religious liberty (allowing people to practice according to their beliefs, whether it be smoking peyote in sacred ceremonies or keeping practicing homosexuals out of their marriage ceremonies) they need to first unteach the “no prayer in public schools is a violation of our religious liberty” nonsense.

  5. Researcher
    October 1, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for the note about the new curriculum. Very impressive.

    It’s so good to see the Young Women and Young Men organizations get rid of the 1950s-70s quotes, stories, and cultural baggage that was frequently irrelevant, often not doctrinal, and in some cases actually offensive to the girls sitting in my Beehive class.

    With the old manuals, often the only way to teach a lesson that was relevant to the girls was to abandon the entire lesson and use the resources listed in the annual resource guide, but from my experience very few teachers were comfortable abandoning the printed lesson plan for the newer recommended material, so it’s good to see these new lessons which follow the resource guide format.

    It’s plenty of material and allows for the lessons to be tailored to the needs of the class.

    I’m looking forward to working with these new materials, and I’ll look forward to a Bloggernacle discussion or two about the curriculum.

  6. Kevin Barney
    October 1, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I think the answer to your question in number 3 is pretty clearly what you articulate at the end of the first paragraph under that number. The Church knows it’s going to lose on the substance of gay rights issues, and is trying to protect its ability as a church to act in contrary ways.

  7. October 1, 2012 at 11:25 am

    #4 Tim, I certainly agree with your conclusion.

    Julie, I enjoyed your popourri. Thanks for the link to the new youth curriculum. Some cool stuff there, though I share your concern about coordination among the groups who will use the material. My ward does a pretty good job of counseling, so hopefully it will go well. (My 16 year old is a vocal critic of everything that moves, so I’m sure we’ll get a report…)

    On sabbath observance, we had a sacrament meeting talk from a youth on sabbath observance and another speaker made reference to it. In the talk the youth talked about a specific choice not to play organized sports on Sunday (the kids lives and breathes sports). The other speaker referred to the great example of this kid, and suggested that if we fail to keep the sabbath we’ve let go of the iron rod.

    The stake president stood up at the end of the meeting and clarified that each person and each family my seek inspiriation to understand how to keep the sabbath holy, and that one person’s interpretation does not necessarily dictate another’s performance.

    I was fascinated by his comment, because it seemed an otherwise pretty boilerplate issue.

  8. Wilfried
    October 1, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Wow, Julie, that would have made six posts…

    (2) Religious liberty: I understand one issue is SSM. The church might be obliged, at least in certain countries where SSM is legal, to accept SSM couples in church: legally married, so church discipline or refusal to give a temple recommend would be considered harassment. Is the church wanting to make sure it can impose its own regulations? But I agree with you the insistence on religious liberty is not very clear because of lack of concrete (and convincing) examples.

    (4) Modesty: finally some hope.

    (6) Conduct of members (even unwitting and seemingly innocent, like hailing right wing politics, gloryfying their own family, stressing utmost obedience…) is a serious problem for many not so strong members. I have seen many give up because of the depression they felt after almost every Sunday experiencing the same. Bishops sometimes seem unsure what to do about it.

  9. Bryan in VA
    October 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    (6) Let’s say that you’re in a church where one of the apostles betrays the Savior of the world, and then the senior apostle denies the Savior of the world three times – all in the same night!! Would you leave that church or still attend it?

  10. @UtMormonDemoGuy
    October 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Elder Holland continues in the lead as my favorite living apostle. As if any of them should care.

  11. @UtMormonDemoGuy
    October 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Also, I was heartened to hear some broader interpretations of what might be meant by “religious liberty” in current Church discourse. From my perspective, I had assumed this was all Prop 8/SSM related. I still think it largely is.

  12. Janell
    October 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Regarding the fifth topic, I don’t think individuals referring to “OUR family” are necessarily declaring the family unit’s trump card on commandments. Instead, it’s an attempt to share a choice strategy on Sabbath day observance without casting justement on OTHER people’s families or choices. And when dealing with kids, you do need rules. A family’s rules may be “no tv on Sunday,” whereas another family may be “only tv related to scriptures on Sunday,” and yet another family may have no stance on tv whatsoever. There isn’t a correct answer on that, so one does not want to promote THEIR family choice as THE answer. However, they do wish to answer the question, “How do you keep the Sabbath day holy?” In OUR family we promte the spirt by… fill the blank.

  13. Steve Smith
    October 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Elder Cook’s recent Ensign article touches on the religious liberty issue and Elder Oaks has hit been hitting on the religious liberty issue for a while. Honestly I’m exactly sure what they mean or where they really see the threat. As far as I can tell, religious liberty is hardly under any sort of grave threat in the US or in the UK for that matter. And compared to the rest of the world, religious liberty appears to be well protected by the courts in much of Europe and the US. To illustrate, consider the fact that the Supreme Court recently ruled 8-1 that the Westboro Baptist Church maintains the right to protest at soldiers’ funerals.

    As for no. 6, we have to bear in mind that the culture and the leadership play off of each other. The church leaders’ attitudes and administration methods (i.e. which doctrines and policies they promote) are a reflection of the culture they grew up in. In turn, the policies and doctrines that they promote very much shape the culture in the pews. Of course not all cultural trends are reflective of church doctrine and policy, but the administration has a responsibility to root out particularly negative trends. So if the members were routinely denouncing ethnic and racial minorities and ridiculing the poor from the stand, I would hope that there would be complaints submitted to local leaders who would then report it to higher authorities and try to root out those trends themselves. I would then hope that the authorities would address the issue and openly condemn certain types of behavior. If these types of attitudes continued I would hold the leadership accountable for not acting on it as they are supposed to and rise in protest. And yes I would have cause to distance myself from the community and more forwardly chastise those who acted callously to the poor and the minorities.

    The leadership is not infallible (as many like to assume), and we as members should hold them accountable to create order and denounce bad behavior in the church. An organization is not worth belonging to if it doesn’t stand up to disorder and hatred, especially in its own ranks.

  14. Steve Smith
    October 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Bryan in VA, to answer your question; Judas was cast out and suffered punishment for his betrayal. As for Peter, I have heard various interpretations on the three denials, but it seems that he was held accountable by other leaders, especially Paul, to implement order in the community, which, according to the account in Acts, he appears to have done. So in other words, I would be willing to overlook mistakes that are corrected, but I would not be willing to overlook general trends in bad behavior and irresponsibility in the leadership that are not attended to.

  15. October 1, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    In response to the modesty thoughts, I thought you might be interested in what has happened in Saudi Arabia recently. All the women were photoshopped out of the Ikea catalog for Saudi Arabia.


    When I see stuff like sleeves being photo-shopped on little girls for church magazines, I’m wondering if people realize how far their actions have the potential to go.

  16. James Olsen
    October 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Julie, great list. I wish you’d make the last topic a post unto itself. This is a pressing issue for many. There are different poles that structure just what a church is (divine authorization, divine teachings, member’s actions, collective actions, divinely sanctioned ritual or necessary ordinances, etc.) – we cannot be reductive in our analysis. The Lord seems to take member’s overall comportment just as seriously as he takes, e.g., the explicit teachings of leadership when it comes to determining the righteousness/ripeness of the church. Hence, it’s no surprise that overall comportment or culture can be a potentially serious stumbling block.

  17. Laurie B
    October 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I’ve been out of the loop lately. Does the new YW curriculum completely replace the old YW manuals or will it only serve as supplement? I would like to get rid of those manuals for good! The lessons seem to be outlines only, leaving teachers the latitude to teach specifically to the needs of the girls in their class. No more outdated stories, examples etc. It requires much more diligence from the teacher but seems like a program that is much richer in doctrine, scripture focus, and a direct way to strengthen their testimonies.

  18. JrL
    October 1, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Could someone give a little more acbout the curriculum change? The 2013 instructions (https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/language-materials/10594_eng.pdf?lang=eng) still have the old books.

  19. Mike S
    October 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Re: SSM and allowing people into temples:

    We already keep people out of temples for using tobacco, and it’s legal. We already keep people out of temples for drinking alcohol, and it’s legal. We already keep people out of temples for not making appropriate contributions.

    I would expect that there is therefore legal precedent for an organization to decide on the validity of temple recommends independent of the legality of SSM.

  20. Tim
    October 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    #13 Steve Smith–

    Elder Oaks has spoken at length about the decision made by the conservatives on the Supreme Court in Employment Division v. Smith. They made the wrong decision regarding religious liberties (with 3 of the 4 liberals dissenting) and Elder Oaks was both surprised and disappointed with that decision.

    As far as Europe goes, just look at recent laws aimed at Muslims (everything from building requirements to clothing requirements to circumcision) in various countries (Switzerland, Germany, France).

    Quite frankly, I think the church is right to worry about religious freedoms. I do wish Elder Oaks and others would start getting into more specifics, though. Generalities only create confusion.

  21. Julie M. Smith
    October 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Re #17 and #18: If I am reading this right:


    then, this new curriculum replaces all current (now old!) manuals:

    “The following manuals are now obsolete: Aaronic Priesthood Manual 1 (34820), Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2 (34821), Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3 (34822), Young Women Manual 1 (34823), Young Women Manual 2 (34824), Young Women Manual 3 (34825), The Presidents of the Church (31382), and Preparing for Exaltation (31384).”

  22. Tim
    October 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    #19 Mike S.–

    Smokers and drinkers aren’t protected classes. Homosexuals have the very real potential of being a protected class.

    If religious freedoms decrease so that religions can’t discriminate against protected classes (for example, like our church did with blacks until 1978), and homosexuals gain the status of being a protected class, what then?

    I don’t think it will get to that point, but the comparison isn’t equivalent to smokers and drinkers.

  23. BrianKW
    October 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    In response to #5, our stake president recently asked the members of the high council (me, included) to speak this past month on keeping the sabbath day holy. We were instructed to be blunt, bold and specific, due to something he has witnessed in our stake.

    In preparation for this talk, I spoke with a number of family and friends and came to the disappointing conclusion that there are a number of church members who feel anything goes on Sunday as long as you’re together as a family. Many of these activities have been specifically targeted by general conference talks in recent years. At this point, I can’t think of any other commandment whose violation is so frequently rationalized by members of the church.

  24. BrianKW
    October 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Also, I will absolutely judge the actions of others if it impacts my family. We had this discussion last night with our 11 year old. I’m certainly not the only parent who frequently hears “how come we can’t (fill in the blank) on Sunday? Brother and Sister (Blank) do all the time.”

  25. Karen
    October 1, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Regarding the curriculum change, the FAQ page says-
    “Whe?n do I begin using Come, Follow Me?
    Teachers should begin teaching from Come, Follow Me in January 2013. You can begin studying the learning outlines and related materials right now.”

  26. Julie M. Smith
    October 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    “anything goes on Sunday as long as you’re together as a family”

    _That_ is exactly the vibe I got from the lesson that bothered me–thank you for putting it that way.

    Just out of curiosity, what specifics were mentioned in your stake?

  27. Steve Smith
    October 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Tim, indeed there have been some cases in Europe where the religious liberties of Muslims has been infringed upon to a more alarming degree. However, I believe that the US court system has done a much better job of protecting religious liberties to the best of their abilities. And I think for every case that you can point to in which secularism seemingly won over a religious liberty, you can also point another case in which the court stepped in to protect religious liberties, even some practices which are considered extreme and bizarre by many. But looking at the general state of religious liberty, even in Western Europe, religious groups enjoy more freedom now than they ever have in the last few centuries.

    It seems that Elder Oaks and other leaders don’t bring up the issue because of their concern over the protection of the usage of peyote in Native American religious ceremonies. I think that they keep harping on it mainly over their concerns about gay rights and gay marriage and fear that they could face potential legal consequences for refusing to marry gay people. But none of the foremost gay rights groups have threatened action against religions that don’t include gays in their ceremonies. The church never faced legal action for not allowing blacks in temples during the 1960s and 1970s, a period when civil groups were extremely active. I think that church leaders are generally overreacting to something that isn’t really a major threat.

  28. Left Field
    October 1, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I’ve never been able to figure out how Section 134:4 can be interpreted to allow government-mandated prayer in public schools.

  29. Steve Smith
    October 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Also, in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the rights of religious organizations to dismiss employees from ministry positions due to disabilities was upheld. So I don’t see why the LDS church should be so worried about open practicing gays being able to sue for being discriminated against. Here’s what Justice John Roberts had to say regarding the case:

    “By imposing an unwanted minister, the state infringes the Free Exercise Clause, which protects a religious group’s right to shape its own faith and mission through its appointments.”

    I’m just not seeing the threat to religious liberties here in the US.

  30. October 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    I think the threat is non-risible. The necessity of litigating Hosanna-Tabor all the way to the Supremes, Chai Feldblum, the HHS rule mandating Catholic hospitals and charities to offer birth-control insurance policies, and a number of recent incidents where anti-gay discrimination laws have been held to trump believers in their free exercise (e.g., the NM wedding photographer case) suggest that there is a growing constituency for using the law to push back against traditional religious practice in the Anglosphere.

    I suspect that these Apostolic remarks on religious liberties are of a piece with some of President Monson’s recent musings that in prior decades the Church’s sexual morality was fairly mainstream but now it ain’t.

  31. Lisa B
    October 1, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    I have (among others) political bumper stickers on my car. Should I walk to church or park somewhere other than the church parking lot so I don’t offend you, Julie?

  32. Julie M. Smith
    October 1, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Lisa B, normal political bumper stickers don’t bother me. But if you called a politician a moron or an idiot on a bumper sticker, that would bother me–strikes me as a pretty clear violation of the buckets of counsel we’ve gotten recently on the importance of civility in political discourse.

    And I’ll offer a pro forma objection to your use of the word “offended” as playing into a Mormon code that dismisses any concern, no matter how legitimate, by claiming that we should just choose not to be offended. But I doubt it will do any good.

  33. stephen hardy
    October 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    The anger and venom of much of our country’s political discourse is discouraging. Of course, our church leaders have consistently asked for civlity. It also appears that our church, as an organization, has “walked the walk” by its refusal to be offended by the Broadway play “The Book of Mormon”, even going so far as to take out ads in the playbill rather than howling in protest. I like that very much.

    The vilification of our current President, and the profound contempt towards government in general can be frightening to me. Just as frightening are the many church members who not only participate in the disrespectful and even hateful media, but who also appear to believe that such opinions are obviously (to them) within mainstream Mormon culture.

    Thus they forward the bilious material to the likes of me, and many other Mormons who may be really offended. Offended not only at the half-truths, misrepresentations, and ad hominem attacks, but also offended by those who think that all Mormons must think this way. They seem to think that President Obama deserves to be hated by all righteous Mormons.

    My sister-in-law recently had to ask a member of the bishopric in her ward to stop forwarding views that she found to be way over the fringe. When I visited the ward, I couldn’t guess which ward member had been the source of her hated emails. Then,she pointed him out to me. He seemed so normal! And yet his blogging was really hateful and disturbing to her and to other members of the ward. I am sure that he believes that he is only “standing firm” for the truth, and that he is well within the bounds of civility. But that is because so much of our discourse is outside of those bounds. We may have lost track of the boundaries.

  34. Cameron N.
    October 1, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Your ward has bumper stickers calling minorities filth and advocating spitting on the homeless?

  35. Cameron N.
    October 1, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    @ Stephen Hardy (33),

    I think you misinterpret strong disagreement, dissatisfaction, and distrust for hatred. Hatred is a pretty strong word, something that I believe rarely occurs in people.

    Also, the US government was founded upon a distrust for government and an expectation of corruption. Of course, holding the same position as was held for hundreds of years based on the lessons of history is now on the ‘fringe,’ not because that position has changed, but because others have.

  36. Ken
    October 1, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    The comparison to colonial America is revealing, since at that time Americans found their current government so untenable as to resort to armed revolution.

    Anyone who believes that their disagreements with the US’s (democratically elected, fairly centrist) government today are so fundamental that they would also advocate its overthrowal by force, then yes, they are quite obviously among the lunatic fringe and not worth trying to reason with.

  37. Cameron N.
    October 2, 2012 at 1:12 am

    Agreed Ken, but often those with similar views that don’t advocate forcible overthrow are maligned as being nearly equal in their ‘fringe’-ness.

  38. J Town
    October 2, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Thanks for the post, Julie. I enjoyed your thoughts and agree on several points, but especially this one:

    “I think our veneration of the family may have led to thinking that the family has more power/authority to define the commandments than it should have.”

    YES. Extremely yes. Also, it isn’t just defining commandments, but I’m seeing tons of justification of avoiding service, church meetings and fulfilling callings in the name of “family” (which I believe is code for “so I can do what I want.”) This has really gotten out of control in my ward, to the point where it has been advocated from the pulpit that people should take care of their own families and not call upon others for service, such as babysitting (paid babysitting, mind you) or helping others to move. Obviously, this always comes from people who have tons of family who live in their immediate vicinity, which people never seeming to think of the young families in school or the single folks out on their own or any who have no family around to help. It completely boggles my mind.

  39. BrianKW
    October 2, 2012 at 11:23 am

    #26 – Julie,
    There were many activities mentioned, most of which stake members were “proud” to post on their facebook pages. I won’t list them all, but here are some of the more surprising ones – neighborhood pool parties, going out to eat after church, Disneyland, surfing, shopping, hosting Super Bowl parties, sporting events (too many to list), boating, going to the movies, non-essential work, carwash fundraisers for little league baseball, etc.

    Satan clearly has a leg up in the game of rationalization.

  40. Lisa B
    October 2, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Maybe those with truly offensive bumper stickers belong in the same category as the inappropriately attired woman Elder Holland mentioned–deserving of inclusion, suspension of judgement, benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re investigators. Maybe they’re returning after a long absence. Maybe they’re just using the church parking lot to house their extra car. Maybe they’re actually mentally ill. Perhaps they really are hypocrites who do not represent Christ or his gospel in any way shape or form and who will ultimately not find a place among the exalted or the just. But it’s just not our call, eh?

  41. Steve Smith
    October 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Adam G. (30), I believe the necessity of litigating many of these cases in the Supreme Court stems more from the sense of overreaction among religious groups than some secular force ambitiously trying to undermine religious freedoms. I think that the fact that seemingly trivial cases actually enter the public discourse the way they do suggests that religious groups actually have much more influence in the justice system than they portray themselves to have.

  42. prometheus
    October 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    ” I think our veneration of the family may have led to thinking that the family has more power/authority to define the commandments than it should have. ”

    I wonder what happens if we replace the word family with the word church in this sentence. It seems to me that we have become extremely subservient to ecclesiastical leadership.

    All the law is encapsulated in the two commandments to love God and to love each other. I am not sure what more needs to be added to that.

    I look at the power that the church has, politically, financially, and in the lives of its members and I am frightened. We teach our children to follow the prophet, and the scriptures teach us to not put our trust in the arm of flesh. Jesus didn’t say come unto the church, he said come unto me. In fact, Jesus didn’t establish a church in Judea, nor did he establish a church in the Book of Mormon. He authorized a certain number of people to perform ordinances and to minister to other believers. That’s all.

    What exactly is the purpose of the huge administrative body, the business interests, and all the other non-ordinance related work? Is it necessary? Is it helpful?

    I am becoming more and more convinced that what we need is less church and more relationships. What do we do when the church outgrows its roots and starts producing bad fruit? (To borrow an analogy.)

    What would happen if all the property and money controlled by the church vanished tomorrow? What would that mean for the administration of the church, and what does it mean that most of what the church does is based on those material goods?

  43. Naismith
    October 3, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Thanks for this. I had not idea about much of it.

  44. palerobber
    October 3, 2012 at 10:25 am

    i like Holland, and his response could certainly have been worse, but it’s still disappointing that he would see non-conservative dress and grooming in a non-LDS person as a sign of a “struggling soul.”

  45. palerobber
    October 3, 2012 at 10:46 am

    regarding religious liberty, if Oaks didn’t give specific examples i think it’s safe to assume that he’s still refering to the specific cases he’s raised in the past (echoing anti-gay activist groups) such as the Ocean Grove Methodist case in NJ, and the Wirthlin school book case in MA.

    (incidentally, niether of these involved a restriction of free exercise, the former being about property tax law and the latter about control of school circiculum.)

  46. palerobber
    October 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

    @Tim (4)

    I get the feeling that 90% of the members of the church in the U.S. understand “religious liberty” to mean “prayers in school” […]

    i’ve never gotten this impression from members of the church, but maybe this is a Utah Mormon vs Mission Field Mormon type thing. recall that a mormon was one of the plaintiffs in the 2000 Texas high school football prayer case.

  47. stephen hardy
    October 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    I must say that I have never, and I mean never, heard anyone in my wards complain about not being able to pray in school. I don’t live in Utah, so it might be obvious to members here that if we had prayers in school they wouldn’t be Mormon prayers. So maybe it isn’t much of an issue outside of Zion.

    Furthermore, I can’t recall an Ensign article, GC talk, etc that specifically wished for, advocated for, or promoted public prayer in school. Obviously plenty of praying goes on at BYU, and we have been encouraged to “pray always.” But I have never seen our Mormon faith willing to “go to the mat” for public school prayers.

    I am really good an being clueless, so maybe I have been missing a lot. When I am on an airplane, unable to sleep, I often wish for GC tapes. Those never fail to put me into a near comatose state. So I could have missed a lot.

    Thus, I see religious liberty more along the lines of “don’t force us perform gay marriages in the temple” and “don’t hate us if we won’t do them.”

  48. Kirsten
    October 6, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    On the sabbath issue: I recently taught a Primary sharing time on the topic and made a point of emphasizing that families choose to honor the Sabbath differently and rightly. I had the children help me name some things that could celebrate the sabbath but intentionally did not make a similar list of verboten activities.

    I grew up in a family with a very strict interpretation of the sabbath. I don’t have bad memories but must say that I remember mostly the things that were off limits. I am married to a man whose journalism career often requires him to work on Sundays, and whose extended family is not LDS, with Sunday sometimes the only day that is available for gatherings of various sorts. We have found that we are able to honor the Sabbath in our own way not by rationalizing, but by focusing on celebrating it.

    I shared that emphasis with the children, including an experience I had years ago with a Jewish friend who invited me to share a Sabbath meal with her and her children. As a single mother in graduate school with two very young sons, she was often nearly overwhelmed with the duties of daily life. Yet she knew that the time she set aside each week to celebrate the Sabbath with her boys renewed her spirit as nothing else could. (I loved that she used the joyful verb celebrate!) With my friend I too felt rejuvenated as I watched her light two candles—one that exhorts to remember, the other to keep the Sabbath, then watched her lift a cup, wine trembling at its rim in symbolism of the fullness of joy that comes from God’s blessings to His people, cover her head in humility, and recite the Kiddush:

    Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha-olam
    Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe
    who sanctifies us with his commandments, and has been pleased with us
    You have lovingly and willingly given us Your holy Shabbat as an inheritance,
    in memory of creation …
    Blessed are You, who sanctifies Shabbat.
    Barukh atah Adonai m’kadeish hashabat.

    Since then I have sometimes pictured the boy Jesus celebrating Shabbat, listening to Mary recite the Kiddush as my friend did, or celebrating Shabbat later with his disciples. And my own Sabbath observances have carried for me, since then, far deeper meaning as I seek to celebrate a Sabbath that is both sanctified and joyous. I hope I was able to convey that to the children.

  49. Interested Observer
    October 10, 2012 at 4:13 am

    I don’t think that we will ever see the day when gay couples of either gender are pounding on the doors of our Temples demanding to be sealed to each other. That is simply a non-issue. One has to have the faith sufficient to imbue those ordinances with the sacredness needed to take them seriously. Therefore the idea of sealing to a same sex partner in the Temple would only appeal to gay believing LDS Saints. They, of course, would already be well aware of the Church’s position on such sealings. It would take a revelation of the same magnitude as that which ended plural marriage for such sealings to take place and then the Brethren would have to confront the mass exodus from the Church of many Saints. Such a revelation would tear the Church apart and would be a self-inflicted wound from which it might not ever recover. Most modern LDS people simply do not possess the depth of spirituality or commitment to accept such a change. As for the gay Gentiles, or to be more PC, ‘non-members’, they have absolutely no interest in the Church, its doctrines or its ordinances whatsoever. The current popular musical with it’s vulgar, obscene, and blasphemous lyrics regarding Deity and the Church actually reflect most gay people’s views of Mormonism in general. (Do you doubt that? Well, consider the fact that these same folks have been fast with their effusive praise for this ‘musical’ and virtually silent in voicing their concerns for the sensitivity of the LDS people in having their Faith portrayed in such a reprehensible manner.)Thus there is no reason to lose any sleep over the idea that the gays will be storming the Temples any time soon demanding sealings to their partners. You have a far better chance of seeing the Second Coming.

  50. Cameron N
    October 11, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    It may be a non-issue, IO (49), but I’d like it if we didn’t have to separate civil and temple ceremonies like they do in other countries. Also, let’s not forget that 3 Nephi 1 is a type for the second coming.

  51. October 12, 2012 at 5:04 am

    50- I think there are a lot of people would be thrilled with a de-coupling, and are totally opposed to SSM or Domestic Partnerships. For part-member families, brides and grooms with lots of younger siblings, or who closest friends are not church members, the exclusion of some or all of he family members from the wedding can be painful. If I had realized it was an option, I would have strongly suggested it to a couple I know well. They joined the church about five months into their engagement and planned to get married in a destination wedding in Hawaii.

    Since he was in the military, their wedding date was still 14 months out when they were baptized, and they were strongly counseled to marry in the temple. Because he was deployed, communication was difficult between the two families, and the different religious practices were baffling to all the parents concerned. When he was home four a three week leave, both families got together to go through the wedding plan. The discussion about the dress being altered to fit temple standards, was the beginning of a huge and painful yelling match. All the parents were furious that they would be excluded. Her father left to get drunk when he heard he would not be walking his only daughter down the isle, and he refused to make the last payments for the wedding venue, catering etc. the groom was an only child, and his parents just kept asking why they should even come to Hawaii if they couldn’t be there for the wedding.

    In the end all four parents were in Hawaii for the reception, but there were very few guests because of the deep rips and wounds. Instead of a joyful wedding niht they both fell asleep still in clothes, worn out from crying. My friend had counseled with her bishop many times during the 14 months leading up to her wedding, desperate to find a solution to make it a happy day for all involved. Her bishop never told her that choosing another location, outside the US for their destination wedding would have made the simple outdoor ceremony both parents wanted, as well as a sealing ceremony the next day, a possibility. She didn’t learn about that option until almost five years after they were married, and her hurt and anger about it hasn’t fully healed, in part because the relationships with their family haven’t healed. When she learned that early church members had public weddings, and were then sealed soon after, it brought another faith crisis into her life.

    If we, as a church community, desire family love and unity, in an eternal family structure, here on earth seems like a good place to start. Decoupling the ceremonies would not take anything away from a sealing, indeed many people have told me that being sealed a day or two later made it special because all the wedding nerves had calmed down. For couples who want very little from their civil ceremony, there is always city hall or tge bishop’s office. For those who want to include non-temple recommend holders, they could have a larger celebration. I really don’t see that as a slippery slope to gay marriage.

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