Venting, Capping, and Sympathizing

Crossing_the_Mississippi_on_the_Ice_by_C.C.A._ChristensenTwo items came across my news feed yesterday:

The first was a new video by the singer Tyler Glenn. I won’t link to it because most of you would find it offensive (he appears to re-enact part of the endowment ceremony at one point), but I’m sure you can find it if you want to. Rolling Stone describes the video as a “slam” against the Mormon Church. Mr. Glenn’s frustration, as a gay former church member, is palpable in the video.

The second was the audio recording of a recent address by Elder Holland. I won’t link to it because it is against church policy to record and share local addresses by GAs, but I’m sure you can find it if you want to. In a devotional in Tempe, Arizona, Elder Holland described himself as “so furious” with people who leave the church and suggested that their conviction must be on the level of “patty-cake [and] taffy-pull” if they can’t stay unless all of their questions are answered. Elder Holland’s frustration is palpable in his words.

I don’t want to claim a false equivalence–because despite the obvious similarities, these expressions are not the same–but I do find it fascinating to see the frustration on both sides spilling over in public, on the very same day.

I get Glenn’s frustration and fury. I’m no fan of The Policy. While I don’t find his response appropriate or helpful, I do see the pain and anguish in his work, and that bit about mourning with those who mourn and comforting those who stand in need of comfort doesn’t end with “unless you don’t like how they choose to express their mourning and discomfort.”

I also get Elder Holland’s frustration and fury. I’ve seen people in my circle leave the church because they couldn’t quickly find answers to (what I consider to be) low-level issues, and so I’ve felt that frustration. But I don’t think Elder Holland’s rhetorical style is appropriate or helpful: I worry that it might deepen the anguish of the wounded. But it is nonetheless true that the question “have ye spiritually been born of God?” doesn’t end with “and managed to avoid any troubling questions you can’t answer?”

So I agree with the frustration that Tyler Glenn and Elder Holland reflected this week, while I have concerns about how they manifested their frustration. And I’m even more troubled by the vitriolic responses to both of them: people seem to be either completely sympathetic to Mr. Glenn and condemnatory of Elder Holland or vice versa. But it seems to me that the line cuts not between but through. I’m neither a gay saint nor an apostle, but I can try my best to understand both of them, even when I’m uncomfortable with how they’ve expressed themselves.

This is, undoubtedly, a tough moment in the history of the church, and so it’s no surprise that we haven’t refined our public expressions into perfectly coiffed statements. I joked with a friend who had been punched in the gut by the CES Letter that at least she wasn’t crossing the plains on barefoot, frozen, bloodied feet and, in all seriousness, she said she’d rather do that. (And I believe her.) I can’t imagine condemning a pioneer for her indelicate expression of frustration, and so I’m going to try to avoid that now. It seems to me that there is a great need for charity here–for both of them.




112 comments for “Venting, Capping, and Sympathizing

  1. I was going to say amen. But then realized that I would go further because I appreciate even how they expressed themselves. Tyler Glenn’s video is just about perfect as artistic expression. The temple reference? Seemed a false step until I think that the effect of X-ing (multiple meanings as others have pointed out) is exclusion from the temple and for some that is the most painful part of the journey. Elder Holland’s frustrated outburst is angry and honest and all too rare from the powerful who are not so powerful. The sense of attacking those who leave? Seems a false step until I think that it is not the policies, not the issues, that frustrate him, but it’s the people leaving. In a very small way I am one of those (sort of leaving by redefining and a long ago very brief correspondence with Elder Holland) and I’m certain that he’s mad at me (except that I doubt he remembers me). How else to say it?

  2. I hadn’t heard of Holland, but he’s a firecracker with strong opinions.
    Glenn quite frustrated me, as he said (at least, as related by the Trib) “the shock of the announcement led him to spend the bulk of a weekend studying aspects of LDS Church history he had avoided as a practicing member of the faith.”

    There’s not much to go on there, but one wonders what kind of material he spent “the bulk of a weekend” studying, and what aspects he had been avoiding and why. I can guess, certainly. But if I were Holland, and people were making big decisions based on “the bulk of a weekend”, I’d be frustrated too. But it’s a function of our own self-inflicted policies of a simplified and simplistic curriculum, with no depth available on tap. We’ve made people very vulnerable, and the chickens are coming home to roost.

  3. Thank you for this, Julie. I too am trying to empathize with all who hurt, and I appreciate your treatment of both Glenn and Elder Holland’s feelings.

  4. Whoops, hit reply in the wrong place. But you’re right anon(#3): we have created the vulnerability and betrayal that people are feeling now, and it should not be surprising that things are manifesting as they are.

  5. Wondering if Elder Holland is going to make a habit of this … The area conference in Britain last year his talk started out fine and finished up a rant. I appreciate he’s frustrated, but I really don’t think it’s a productive way to address an audience, particularly one of faithful members who have been encouraged to bring friends and investigators…

  6. I don’t know Glenn, but if I had to guess I’d guess his actions have more to do with the “policy” than anything else.

    I’m guessing a lot of the reason people have been leaving since the policy have to do with the policy, and not so much what they discover online about church history. Particularly when those people are gay or are strongly supportive of gays.

    As far as Elder Holland goes, I really like the guy. He’s given some fantastic talks in General Conference, and from what I know of his personal life, he’s a really good guy. However, with the comments he made, if he really meant them, he’s a bit out of touch with what’s going on. The church has made some decisions lately that have really hurt people. Church leadership ignores that aspect at their own peril.

  7. Many years ago (10+) when Elder Holland was visiting our stake, he told a story of his father’s reactivation into the church. His father had been inactive and not observing the Word of Wisdom when ward leadership stopped by the home to visit and extended Holland’s father a calling to teach his son’s Sunday school class, which he ended up accepting. Given this background, I would expect Elder Holland to exhibit more moderation in his comments.

    The example of our Savior was to seek out the lost sheep–those shunned and condemned. For example, I wonder how many of our leaders have attended Affirmation gatherings? I understand they are very busy men, but what an example they might set for all leaders if they prioritized their time to meet with, correspond with and respond to the disaffected and wounded?

    I myself have been struggling over 10 years to maintain contact with the church. It has been a long and lonely, lonely struggle. Please, please we need more Uchtdorf types offering hope and unconditional love rather than minimization of our struggles.

  8. Thank you Julie. That is a good example of how we all struggle with this gift “freedom of expression”. In some countries in the world we have it, and often it is taken away because of abuse. Paul sais it well when he talks about our sharp tongue. If we want to keep Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Conscience, Freedom of Religion, we need to learn to use it wise. Our speech can destroy people, break hearts, divide nations (see the current political arena in the USA). Or our speech can lift up people and help raise understanding. The more intelligent we become in using this gift, the less we focus on our own motives, and the more we take ownership of the consequences of our expressions. There is much to learn.

  9. You don’t want to claim a false equivalency, but you worded your first two paragraphs as similarly as possible. I don’t want to say that you’re a master of paralepsis, but . . . you know.

  10. Nice post, Julie. Respectfully, I’m not certain the goal should be to refine our public expressions into perfectly coiffed statements. Canned and “refined” statements often inhibit, rather than encourage, meaningful dialogue. So does anger, as you point out and in that case, I’d suggest that Elder Holland, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, should probably know better. I understand the frustration on both sides, but it seems to me that diminishing or belittling people’s problems with/questions about the church as Holland does in the recording really won’t gain any traction with the people who have questions in the first place. I think his rhetoric would be more likely to push them closer to the door. There really are legitimate questions about our history, doctrine and the Book of Mormon. Just because he’s resolved those issues for himself (if he ever had them) doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be empathetic to those who still struggle with things.

    I don’t let Tyler Glenn off with a free pass either, but I do understand, and to a point share, his frustration and anger. But the video strikes me as being rather adolescent in its anger. I wish Mr. Glenn the best and I hope that he’s able to become healthy enough that he’s able to overcome his anger and resentment and embrace whatever he finds joy and happiness in.

  11. It doesn’t seem to me, from the short summary in the OP, that Holland is diminishing people’s problems, as many comments seem to read him. Rather, he seems to be frustrated at what appears to him to be a lack of commitment.

    Those are two different things.

  12. Elder H is furious? I just pulled up the recording to make sure he actually said that, and, yep.

    Since when do the men in power, the men crafting the policies and political campaigns that are making it so difficult for our beloved friends and family members to stay in the Church get to be furious? Isn’t this the result they wanted? Didn’t they want to cleanse the church of gay people, feminists, and intellectuals and those with any sympathies toward them? If that wasn’t their purpose, why has it seemed that way for almost as long as I remember, but particularly the past year?

    And if I sound furious myself, it’s because it’s been a hard week as I watched yet another friend leave the Church, when they probably would have hoped for the best and remained to help make things better if it hadn’t been for November 5.

    To all those who are on the edge, please don’t let this be the final straw. We need you. Our gay friends and children need you to stay in the church and help make things better. We need you to counter the knee-jerk homophobic rhetoric we hear in our wards. We need voices of reason and Christian charity. You’re important. Please stay.

  13. Ben S., You’re right, those are two different things, but they may be two sides of the same coin. I’d suggest that if he boils down legitimate issues people may have with the church to a lack of commitment, that is a kid of diminishment. I listened to the audio a few times and it seems to me that’s what he’s doing. YMMV.

  14. “Don’t you dare bail. I’m so furious with people who leave this church. I don’t know whether furious is a good apostolic word. (Crowd laughter). But I am. And I say, what on earth kind of conviction is that? What kind of paddy-cake, taffy-pulled experience is that? As if none of this ever mattered, as if nothing in our contemporary life mattered? As if this is all supposed to be just exactly the way I want it and answered every one of my questions and pursue this and occupy that, decide this, and then maybe I’ll be a Latter-day Saint. Well, there is too much Irish in me for that.”

    That’s what he said. To me it reads like a diminishment of people’s problems.

  15. I appreciate this even-handed post. It mirrors my own thoughts in many ways.

    What I found most disturbing about Elder Holland’s remarks were not just the way he seemed to dismiss people’s concerns and the real depth of hurt and disillusionment behind them, but the his whole framework that you’ve got to “practice, practice, practice” until your nose bleeds, that you’ve got to stay on no matter how painful it gets. I understand that sometimes the life of the saint is difficult, but so often we equate faith with suffering, whereas it seems to me that the whole point of Christ’s atonement is that we don’t have to suffer and bleed — he already paid the price for us. Where is the message of grace?

  16. I heard Scott Gordon of FAIR last year lament that many members that they had talked to that had left or were leaving the Church were not interested in all the information that FAIR had compiled. It was as if logical and decent apologetics that is able to defend and offset the onslaught of “troubling secrets” on the internet was insufficient for those leaving.

    But of course this is the case. I get why Elder Holland and Brother Gordon are frustrated, despite all the resources that are available to help the disillusioned. And yet that is the point. They are disillusioned not by a lack of accurate information but from an existential crisis of trust. The problem is not a doctrinal one, its a psychological one.

    Consider coming home and finding your spouse cheating on you. Also you have five kids and a mortgage, so how you deal with this new revelation affects every aspect of you and your kid’s lives. The hurt and pain is fundamental. Divorce is certainly on the table, if you can restrain yourself from just hanging your spouse for the betrayal. Now imagine going to your Bishop and expressing your heartache. The Bishop responds by citing all the statistics of trauma for children, economic hardship, social and emotional strains during a divorce, etc. The Bishop cites accurate information about the results of divorce, but none of this addresses the existential crisis of trust that the person is going through. In a personal Gethsemane, statistics and apologetics are most often useless.

    I have no doubt some leave the Church for personal reasons dealing with their own baggage. Some find a crisis in faith because what they have recently learned about Church history and/or doctrine is contrary to everything they have been taught and have built up their entire edifice of trust upon. It’s as if you have woken up one morning to find your spouse has cheated on you, metaphysically speaking. The disillusionment that results is not a lack of faith, but a divorce of faith thrust upon one who feels betrayed. The marble clean and comfortable narrative of the Restoration and all those demi-god pioneers crossing the wilderness while singing hymns and having miracles during their struggles is the result of an ego-driven eschatology that, by its very nature, will collapse the moment the ego is shown what the ego does not like.

    Ignoring the issue. Blaming a lack of faith. Proclaiming apologetics. Sticking to the orthodoxy that got you there. And acting as if the Church has done no wrong. Alas, these things do not help the disillusioned.

    You start with an apology. You empathize with their pain. You seek true repentance. And you ask for their help to help you do better. These approaches have existed in the Church, but are very often covered over in the rhetoric of the status quo.

    I am with RMM 11. We need those who are hurt to stay. We need the maturity of the renewed after the betrayal to enter into our culture. And if not, then we need to love those who leave, saying, if not for the grace of God, there go I.

  17. I think I understand Elder Holland’s perspective. The Church of Jesus Christ is so much more than any other club we join — it’s truth claims are profound. If those truth claims are true — Jesus is the Messiah, the savior of the world, and He has put forth His hand in these latter days to restore priesthood, ordinances, teachings, and organize a church, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that church — then little else matters. Safety and salvation are with the good ship Zion, and we need to stay aboard. Continuing with the imagery, yes, it is so very sad when a fellow passenger leaves the ship because a junior officer wore mis-matched socks or a steward gave an incorrect answer to a question. The ship’s officers and crew are good people. I’m with Elder Holland — don’t get angry at fellow Saints in the ship, don’t leave, and don’t cause others to leave. I understand appreciate his plea — it is the feeling that an apostle should have.

  18. Holland is tired frustrated and he seemed to be subconsciously talking about it when he asked if those at the meeting ever wondered if God and/or Jesus weren’t tired and frustrated too. His rant seems to be coming from someone who can’t stop the exodus. Frankly there aren’t any good answers from a church prospective. So, what’s he to do?

  19. “You start with an apology. You empathize with their pain. You seek true repentance. And you ask for their help to help you do better. These approaches have existed in the Church, but are very often covered over in the rhetoric of the status quo.”

    Well stated.

    Elder Holland is clearly tired–at the last conference he got quite emotional speaking to the throngs, thanking them for attending conference. I really think GAs ought to retire after a certain number of years (on a voluntary basis perhaps).

  20. John Lundwall,

    Wise words. I love what you say about apologizing and empathizing. But also, I’ve never understood why FAIR Mormon folks don’t understand the other trust problem. They state up front that they are about providing “faithful answers to critical questions.” That’s like saying, “we’re not objective, but rather biased in a really obvious and blatant way. But trust us.” I don’t mean to be snarky, but to ask anyone to trust an organization that’s so obviously tilted one way is almost laughable. They may provide information that, indeed, could be helpful, or contextualize certain historical questions, for example, but there is more than one kind of trust at issue there. And you’re right. People who are already halfway out the door of course would not be inclined to trust information from FAIR because they don’t trust the church.

  21. Julie, thank you for this very interesting juxtaposition. It’s fascinating to me to consider how both sides are feeling so much frustration (me included). I believe many would love to get to happy place where we could all love and support each other and move forward. Personally, I lean towards where RMM is coming from: the church should expect people to leave with explicit invitations to gays, feminists and intellectuals to do just that. No surprise there.

    ji , could you restate where Tyler Glenn is coming from? I appreciate your thoughts on Elder Holland. I’m curious how you see Tyler’s frustration.

  22. I’ve thought about this a lot. I know what I need to start to rebuild my currently non-existent trust in the church. I need all 15 leaders on their knees, humbly, honestly asking for forgiveness from the members of the church for leading us into this mess over the last 100 years. I want apologies for specifics. Even more, I want them to understand on a deeply personal level why that apology is so incredibly vital. And then I want all of us to rebuild ourselves into a Zion of Christ’s disciples – dealing with the problems in our history/doctrine/religion together.

  23. Speaking as someone who has left the LDS church (at least mentally, I still attend sacrament with my wife and child), I find Glenn’s response entertaining but a bit over-the-top. But Glenn is an artist and doesn’t really have any clout as a thinker in either the believing LDS community or the ex-Mormon community.

    Holland, on the other hand, was a disappointment. I can’t understand why active believing LDS people are furious or frustrated with those who leave. At the end of the day, the LDS church is a voluntary organization and those who leave don’t owe anyone an explanation. Invite them to return, persuade them to believe, but this sort of guilt-tripping, shame-inducing rhetoric comes off as desperate, and hypocritical (since agency and the freedom to choose is a key piece of LDS doctrine).

  24. I don’t think that the leaders want to cleanse the church of gay people, feminists, and intellectuals. They want these people to remain in the church, but to reform and stop seeing themselves as these things.

  25. > “the shock of the announcement led him to spend the bulk of a weekend studying aspects of LDS Church history he had avoided as a practicing member of the faith.”

    Sometimes all it takes is one weekend to awaken you to the innumerable items which you know don’t jibe, but that you have set aside because they are “not important for salvation”, or because you don’t understand how it might be so. You may have some of these. Let me list a few ideas of things that I set aside:

    1. The tower of babel. I know how languages evolve and change over time. I also know that the tower of babel is a myth. For a long time I dismissed Ether as just mistaken men reciting a myth, and it got put into the Book of Mormon.

    2. Genetics and the native americans. I had reviewed enough of the science know that native american populations had no connection to Israel and Egypt. Yet somehow I held out hope for some isolated solution to the problem; it was set aside until it could materialize.

    3. Adam and Eve. This is pretty pivotal to the entire gospel story, and yet completely contrary to science. When you get into the details it just gets worse. In fact, Joseph said that Eden, and thus Adam & Eve were in Jackson County, Missouri. So you have (a) Joseph Smith misleading the church about that (and if that is true, what else did he mislead people about), or (b) Adam & Eve completely out of the line of progeny of Jesus, or (c) the whole thing being a myth, which is what I believe anyway.

    There are many more; you might have set aside the same ones, or different ones.

    The church has had years, even decades of our lives to persuade us, but once you allow yourself to ask different questions, sometimes you can quickly get different answers.

    Anyone can try it on. Apply the principle of Occam’s Razor to the problem. Seriously admit to yourself that the church might not be true, and the Joseph Smith made it up. Once you allow that, and see that it explains everything, why should it even take a whole weekend?

    And even afterwards I spent more than a year trying to make it work because of the community of good people who were trying. I only really left because I knew through experience that people didn’t want to hear my view point, and I felt that I could no longer keep biting my tongue.

  26. > I heard Scott Gordon of FAIR last year lament that many members that they had talked to that had left or were leaving the Church were not interested in all the information that FAIR had compiled. It was as if logical and decent apologetics that is able to defend and offset the onslaught of “troubling secrets” on the internet was insufficient for those leaving.

    The problem is that the apologetics only work if you are looking for any possible explanation. If you allow yourself to shift your view, you recognize most of them don’t fit the evidence, and they don’t meet the baseline of basic science understanding; they are essentially nonsense. In fact, you might begin to recognize the same tactics and tricks across FAIR and other groups which applying apologetic reasoning (anti-vaccination, climate change, etc.), further reducing their utility.

  27. Glenn didn’t leave just because he spent the weekend studying. The weekend studying was the last straw, the last body of information that collapsed his shelf so to speak. He came out of the closet two years ago, tried his darnedest to make it work and the new policy pushed him over the edge. He sought further justification to make the final decision to leave and found it rather easily.

    I think that this idea that people just up and leave the church over a single piece of information that they find online on a weekend to be facile. To wax metaphorically, if we compare the church to a piece of fabric, I decided to leave not because I found a tear or blemish in an otherwise well-stitched fabric. I left because it became increasingly apparent that the fabric was shot through with corroded thread and bad stitching, so much that the only way I could avoid tears was to maneuver with painstaking delicacy and caution. The fabric was unsalvageable and I figured that I was better off discarding it and weaving my own piece of cloth. In my many interactions with the non-believing ex-Mormon community, I have found their experiences to be similar, particularly Jeremy Runnells’, hence the lengthy multi-pointed Letter to a CES Director.

  28. “I heard Scott Gordon of FAIR last year lament that many members that they had talked to that had left or were leaving the Church were not interested in all the information that FAIR had compiled.”

    Maybe some aren’t interested at really looking at what they have to say, in fact they might not even be aware of what they have to say. But if you pop on over to ex-Mormon sites, you see that the ex-Mormon community tends to be highly interested in what they have to say and read through their explanations rather copiously. I’ve heard many an ex-Mormon express that while they were believers they went to FAIR looking for answers to a specific question or doubt and were surprised to find when poking around the apologist websites that lots of information that they thought was based on false rumors was verified by the apologists (i.e., Joseph Smith married a 14-year-old girl, had over 30 wives, the Book of Abraham text doesn’t correspond to the Facsimiles, there are actually multiple accounts of the first vision, Brigham Young did actually say racist things, the Mountain Meadows Massacre really occurred, etc.). The reaction of many ex-Mormons to FAIR explanations is that they are poorly reasoned, imparsimonious, implausible, contradictory, and sometimes just plain dishonest. I personally find the FAIR explanations to be fraught with too much doublethink and too many ad hoc hypotheses to be worthy of serious consideration.

    FAIR often works to keep believing members from leaving because of small doubts not because of the power of the apologists’ arguments, but because it stands as evidence of a group of highly intellectual people who subscribe to the traditional LDS doctrines and who write incredibly long-winded defenses of them. Most believers don’t have much time to spend researching historical issues. So when they hear an offhand remark about some aspect of church history that gives them some cognitive discomfort, they just look to FAIR and figure, “they’re smart, they believe, and they have this really long explanation that I don’t have time to completely read and internalize, so it is alright.” It is like when Brandon Flowers sought to confront Richard Dawkins’ assertion that the Book of Mormon was a fake, he basically said that really smart people were finding evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon. Did he read what they had to say through a critical framework? No. He just knew that they existed. And the existence of believing intellectuals who wrote a lot about the Book of Mormon was enough to convince him that there was more to the story than Dawkins was letting off and that there was no need for him to worry.

  29. I am a lot more OK with imperfect leaders than many on here, also I have a lot higher esteem of Elder Holland. Elder Holland deserves more compassion. Also I think he is a more ideal spirit guide. He inspired me on my mission and his book on the Book of Mormon inspired me to turn to God and his paths when I had my own bout with secularism years ago.

    Glad we still got Low, Brandon Flowers, and the Osmonds (dont laugh, listen to “The Plan.”

  30. Gavin, I think Glenn is like the “many” in John 6:66, and Holland is like Peter in v. 68. I think Ecclesiastes 1:9 applies. I regret today’s tumult, but am sure of our God and his promises to those who chose the path of faith, hope, and charity centered in Jesus Christ. However, I don’t know Glenn well enough to restate his motivation. I hope it is more discouragement than anger — but either way, the balm of Gilead will work for him as it can for all of us. Repentance is an invitation for all.

  31. Yes, I agree it is unlikely and I rather don’t know what to do with that. But writing it made me feel better. E. Holland’s words really struck what is left of my personal wound. I feel like he’s basically saying my wound is my fault. If I had just tried harder… If I had just been more committed… And wow that hurts because (a) it has taken me 10 years to get where I am. There isn’t much I haven’t tried. So basically, he’s telling me I’m just not ‘good enough’ and (b) Where is any sense of responsibility from him for the choices made in the church in getting us here?

    Also, I’ve always thought of him as being a man of empathy and compassion. If it had been E.Bednar, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. So apparently empathy and compassion isn’t even a possibility.

  32. “it is so very sad when a fellow passenger leaves the ship because a junior officer wore mis-matched socks or a steward gave an incorrect answer to a question.” No. Just No.

    People aren’t jumping ship because junior leader is wearing mismatched socks. Please are jumping ship because the crew keeps telling everyone they are in the Caribbean, headed for Florida, and have been for 184 years when clearly the passengers can see icebergs and penguins. If you don’t understand this, you really don’t understand the problem.

  33. RT, I think there’s a fundamental difference of view on what the problem is. One group (typically those leaving) see a mismatch between their beliefs about the gospel and then various aspects of the Church. (As I’ve argued in the past with various numbers, I don’t think this group is anywhere near as large as often portrayed by ex-members) The other group might agree there are differences between the “reality” of the gospel and simplistic views of the gospel some have. Yet they think the fundamental problem is having a testimony and then abandoning it at signs of trouble – signs many see as fairly underwhelming. Thus to this group the issue is commitment to what one does know strongly when things one assumes (and “knew” weakly) turn out to be false.

    I certainly think the tendency towards so-called “Sunday School answers” and not preparing people with complexity that was typically in the Church is the 1950’s onward helped lead to this situation. Although at the time trying to grapple with a very fast growing Church I’m a bit more understanding of why that was done as part of the correlation movement. It seems to me the Church is adjusting. While I think that’s a good thing, my guess is that we’ll find the mismatch is not really the fundamental problem here.

  34. Thanks, ji, for the response. I thInk the sad part (and my own frustration) is that Tyler absolutely wanted to follow the Savior and to continue to walk with the Him. I listened to all 3 hours of his interview with John Dehlin. What a sweet kid! I understand the comparison you are making to those in John 6:66, but consider this: Tyler was willing to accept very hard teachings about how he fit into the kingdom as a gay man. He was a believing gay man and was willing to be so publicly. Think how much courage that takes. Think how much pressure from within and without the church to NOT be that kind of man.

    The sad/frustrating part is that the church basically said with its new policies, “look, we don’t want you to walk with us anymore if you can’t commit to life without love. And we don’t want your kids hanging around either.” I realize the church wouldn’t frame its policies in quite the same way, but I’m sure you can appreciate that is how Tyler could have heard it.

    All of that to say that I don’t think it is fair to brush over a Tyler Glenn with he is someone who didn’t want to walk with the Lord anymore. He wants to! Or at least he really wanted to until he was made to feel so incredibly unwelcomed.

    Thanks again, though, for your thoughts. I agree that I hope Tyler finds peace and hope and healing. I wonder what role the church and its leadership has in providing that healing. I just don’t see the hand of Christ in our current approach. I hope we find a better way forward that could prevent someone as good and as kind as Tyler to feel such pain and such betrayal.

  35. I have a post on all this, but it is interesting comparing this uproar off of Elder Holland’s talk. (It’s interesting hearing him described as a firebrand. I remember back in the 90’s when he was so often described as the most empathetic and understanding of the brethren.) Over at BCC there were posts and comments about wanted the brethren to come out from behind the PR wall of being so careful with speech. Of course when they do and talk from the heart about how they feel, it’s seen as a grave mistake. I’m so glad I’m not one of the brethren. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Say anything that isn’t exactly what certain groups want to hear said exactly how they want to hear it and there’s an uproar.

    It’s also interesting that the point I made about social media and a camera always being there was prescient. I didn’t expect a demonstration the same week. Again look at the incentives. Unless the brethren are willing to become like most pre-correlation prophets, the effect will be less forth speaking. (What would all the people complaining have made of Jeremiah, I wonder?) Until recently you could at least count on smaller private meetings to be able to hear these things. I suspect even that will become a thing of the past. And that’s very sad to me.

  36. Low are Mormon? Wow. I didn’t realize that at all. Honestly, given the songs I’ve listened to I’m not terribly surprised by this with the Neon Trees. For that matter I was surprised Brandon Flowers turned around the way he did. It’s an industry that’s hard to stay faithful in.

  37. One thing to keep in mind is that this is hardly new, hardly unique, and what Elder Holland demonstrates he’s feeling can be found in the writings of many prophets. The typical experience of prophets in the scriptures is hardly embrace of the word they are given to give to the people.

  38. I have always loved Elder Holland. But he and the others who are describing this as a “lack of commitment” are missing the point.

    The marriage example has been brought up, and I think it’s apt. When we get married, we agree to stay committed to each other through thick and thin, sickness and health, jobs and unemployment, kids and no kids, stress and personality changes and all the rest. But if one of the spouses is unfaithful to the other or begins hurting them in a serious way, then they have effectively broken their end of the bargain. If that bad behavior is serious enough, then there comes a point where no one–not even the staunchest supporter of the idea of marital commitments–would think that the other spouse is still obligated to stay committed.

    Now, in a marriage, this can happen a variety of ways–repeat infidelity, or verbal or physical abuse, or fundamental dishonesty, or any number of other similar kinds of things. The particulars of what justifies breaking that vow vary case to case. But the point I’m trying to make is that commitments, even the most important of them, require something from both sides. If one side materially breaks their own commitment, then demanding that the other side keep their end of the bargain is fundamentally unfair.

    Most of the disaffecteds or departeds I know feel like the Church hasn’t kept its end of the bargain. In marriage terms, they feel like the Church has been unfaithful to them and in some cases has even intentionally abused them. There are arguments as to why they’re right; there are arguments as to why they’re not (i.e., why the church maybe hasn’t made all the mistakes ascribed to it, or if it has, why they’re not serious enough to warrant departure). But that’s where any honest discussion of this has to be. Simply throwing out the word “commitment” and acting aghast that people are leaving, while at the same time not confronting the very specific charges being made against the church, strikes me as remarkably tone-deaf and off-the-point of what’s actually going on.

    To come back to the marriage idea: if a wife openly accused her husband of cheating on her (and supported it with specific examples of when she thought he had) and also accused him of abusing her (again supported by specific examples), and his response was to get exasperated and shout “you can’t leave! if you do, you’re acting weak! where’s your commitment?”, I think we would all think his response was. umm, lacking. To those of us who are struggling, that’s basically what Elder Holland just did.

  39. RT (15.1),

    As I see it, considering the truth claims of the Church — Jesus is the Messiah, the savior of the world, and He has put forth His hand in these latter days to restore priesthood, ordinances, teachings, and organize a church, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that church — and continuing with the good ship Zion analogy, yes, it seems to me that the reasons people are leaving (if any great number are doing so) are comparable to offense taken or lack of confidence because of a junior officer wearing mis-matched socks. If they would overlook the socks, and forgive or excuse the junior officer (really, a fellow passenger or pilgrim)’s sloppiness (or color blindness?), well, that’s the choice — forgive or leave the ship. I recommend the former, but allow for the latter — if someone chooses the latter, I would hope they would make the decision for themselves without trying to stir up mutiny among fellow passengers. If that does happen, I hope the ship’s officers will encourage loyalty and instill confidence. After all, the good ship Zion is chartered by the one great and good Lord over all the seas.

  40. Elder Holland spoke from his heart. He displays his humanity. He speaks off the cuff. He is frustrated. He questions. He hurts. He wonders why. He searches for meaning, thinking he is among friends.

    And those who believe they have been hurt by church policies pile on like a pack of hyenas. You’d think they would empathize with the similarities between his struggle and their own.

  41. A follow-up to my own comment.

    I am one of those struggling. I’m trying so hard to stay, but it’s getting harder and harder. Before last conference, I found myself praying, desperately praying, that some general authority would stand up and address at least some of the problems head on. I want to hear an apostle stand up and say over the pulpit: “Yes, Joseph married all those women. Here’s what we think it should, and shouldn’t, mean to you.” Or “yes, the church kept blacks from the priesthood and the temple covenants for generations, and we now admit that there wasn’t good reason for it. Here’s what we think this should, and shouldn’t, mean to you.” This would be the equivalent of the husband in my above scenario saying “yes, I can see why you think I was unfaithful or hurtful when [X] happened. But here’s why” either “I wasn’t actually unfaithful or hurtful”, or alternatively, “I was, I’m sorry, but here’s why you should still stay.” But if the spouse doesn’t do that, or if he does it but on really vague, non-specific levels, then that exacerbates the problem, rather than helping solve it.

    Yes, I know, the essays. That’s the church’s response. But they’re still buried on the website, and the long promised revisions to the sunday school curriculum and institute curricula and whatever still haven’t arrived. At the end of the day, though, we all need an explanation or an apology or a whatever commensurate with the alleged harm. Until the church’s response is something that is more official and forthright than the mostly-buried state it is still in, then so many of us out here are going to feel like the spouse whose unfaithful partner is refusing to acknowledge the very real problems.

  42. One more comment: I’m tired of the church hiding behind the essays or the PR department. If a wife accuses a husband of various abuses, and his response is to hand her a letter that his lawyer or spokesperson drafted that purports to answer her concerns, she is likely going to be nonplussed. Him telling her that he has read the letter and agrees with it doesn’t change that.

    For those of us who are struggling, this is personal. The Q15 keep telling us that they are God’s spokesmen. And we have long accepted that. After all, they’re the ones that we all bore testimony of to the whole world while we were serving our missions. Ok, then speak. Whatever the explanation is, we need to hear it from *them*, not mid-level bureaucrats. If Elder Holland has something he wants to say to us about the specific allegations about Joseph, or the Book of Abraham, or whatever, then he needs to be the one to say it. Stop hiding behind others when it comes to the apologetic responses, because that distance itself is hurting too.

    Sorry, I’ll stop now. These issues–and the church’s bizarre way of responding to them all–is just hurting so many of us…so, so much.

  43. I remember reading a statement somewhere from the Community of Christ or RLDS. Something like “We acknowledge our history but do not let it define us.” This is a possible approach for the LDS Church as well. Simply and humbly admit that our history is complex and that some questions cannot be resolved with certainty. Refocus the church on Christ-like charity and service.

  44. I am one who is quite supportive of Elder Holland’s style and expression. I don’t enjoy it, since I hear him angry at me and people like me, but I support and appreciate his openness about his feelings, and it rings true. However, whether intended or not, I ‘hear’ a subtext of “I’ve got nothing–no explanation, no apology, no change in the works, no new revelation–I’ve got no answers and you and I just have to suck it up and get with the program.” Now I don’t know what he really means and really believes, but that’s what gets communicated (to me) and if that subtext is wrong then I think he needs to rework the speech.

  45. It sounds like you have not personally looked into the multitude of issues that life long members of the church like myself are now facing. Multiple 1st vision accounts, BOM translation narrative that is a lie when compared to the actual BOM translation historicity, Book Of Abraham translation of papyri turns out to be completely wrong, Joseph’s polygamy, polyandry, young wives…. All of these “low level” issues have caused me and many others to question our entire life’s belief in the one true gospel. Because now it looks like it was a lie from the beginning….

  46. Anon, apology on the rant there. Your finished contribution didn’t show up on my feed until after I had hit post. You finish your thoughts by stating some obvious issues like the ones I and my wife encountered. Julie is an amazing scholar, and I know her personally, as I and my wife spoke with her as we were trying to make some sense of these issues. The problem I have faced, however, is that I can’t come to grips with these issues that to others like Julie, may feel are “low level” or not worthy of getting my hairs up about. If I could do that, I would still be in the church. Elder Holland is dismissing my concerns and issues to the point of making me feel like I either never had a testimony, or was so weak in testimony, that I couldn’t ignore these red flags.

  47. Life-long member of the church who is on the precipice of “bailing.”

    I don’t have a problem with the history or problematic doctrines. I just no longer get anything out of church like I used to.

    I haven’t had a good friend at church since I was in the singles ward over 15 years ago and it’s bumming me out. Family Ward church just isn’t conducive to friendship. Everyone’s busy with their callings and doing church, and when they’re not doing their callings, their rightfully spending time with their families.

    Making friends with non-members is hard because church gets in the way. Out in Gentile world, people relax on Sundays. They go to the lake, have BBQs, hang out with friends and family. I’ve been invited, but have to pass because I have to spend 3-6 hours doing church on Sunday.

    If the same sociability that exists here will exist in the eternities, man, it’s going to be a slog if it’s anything like Mormon sociability.

    Church is boring. I’ve been hearing the exact same lessons taught by inept teachers for 20 years. Sacrament meeting has devolved to members just doing book reports of General Conference talks. I’ve already both heard and read them, thank you very much.

    Church provides no autonomy and thus saps motivation. I’ve had several leadership callings in the church. I’ve tried implementing ideas to effect some positive change. But I’ve been hamstrung by the whole hierarchal, top-down power structure of the church. Anything I want to to do has to be approved by the bishop or one of his counselors. The answer is usually “no” because it doesn’t follow the “unspoken order of things.” So I’ve given up really doing my callings. What’s the point if I’m just going to be shot down? It’d be nice if leaders would actually trust members to do their callings how they see fit. Treat them as agents instead of cogs in a bureaucratic machine. Allow them to exercise those keys and personal revelation that they’re entitled to.

    One thing that modern psychology has taught us, the key to motivation is autonomy. If you give people plenty of autonomy to do their job, they’ll be motivated to do it. Take away autonomy, and you take away motivation. Correlation provides more control to the church (and in many cases that’s good), but they’ve paid the price in member motivation. What we’re left with is a mediocre, McChurch where everyone does the bare minimum (just like McDonald employees) because they’re just not motivated to serve.

    I know I’m not the only one that feels this way. People have carped to me about the same issues in the five minutes we get to socialize in between church block hours. Granted, it could be an issue that’s just in our stake and ward. We’re based in the southeast, so there aren’t a lot members. I’ve heard my family in Utah talk about church and it sounds awesome and completely different from my experience.

    What’s frustrating is that it appears our leadership is doing nothing about it except telling members that it’s their problem if they’re not getting anything out of it. (See Elder Holland)

    The GAs are primarily from Utah where church might work better due to the amount of members there. People don’t have to serve in more than one calling, home teaching doesn’t require you to trek 20 miles to see a family– you just walk down the street; etc. I know the GAs travel, but I’m pretty sure they’re not getting good feedback when they visit the “mission field.” In my experience, when a GA comes into town, stakes and wards put their best foot forward to show the GA that everything is absolutely awesome. And I’m sure stake presidents and bishops aren’t willing to have some “real talk” with GAs about the systematic problems they’re having in their stake. So GAs might be given the impression that the program works and if it doesn’t work, well, it’s because the members aren’t with the program.

    I’ve tried. For the past 15 years I’ve tried to make it work, and it’s not working. What is it they say about the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the different results. That’s what I feel like church has been for the past 20 or so years.

    Okay. Venting done.

    Hugs and kisses to everyone.

  48. Greg, Grace and the Atonement do not allow us to escape the very real necessity of suffering and trials. For example:

    “[W]e must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.” -Acts 14:22 (Though there are dozens more — in every book of the Standard Works — that teach this same principle).

    Christ’s Atonement doesn’t mean that we don’t have to suffer and bleed — it means that our suffering has meaning, and as we turn our wills and life over to Him, He will make of us what we were always meant to be. But there has never been, nor will there ever be, a comfortable path to God.

  49. ji, this is gross misrepresentation of why many people leave the LDS church. You’re dismissing them all to be easily offended emotional people who make mountains out of molehills. At that rate we could just as easily say that you and others who remain in the LDS church are naive fools who are motivated by groupthink and superstition. Now I don’t believe that per se. I’m willing to accept that many who stay in the LDS church stay in there for valid, deep reasons. But you shouldn’t callously dismiss those who leave as shallow, easily offended ignoramuses. They also have valid, deep reasons for doing so.

  50. @Jonathan Cavender-

    Yes, it’s perfectly true that the atonement doesn’t mean we’ll escape trials and suffering. Faith is indeed supposed to support us in our suffering, not eliminate suffering. But it shouldn’t be a cause of our suffering — it shouldn’t add to our suffering! Elder Holland said that our faith itself should be painful, should tax us until our noses bleed. I don’t find any scriptural support for that notion, in fact, what Christ said is: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

  51. I’m sympathetic to your points — there is truth in all of them. I have never lived in the center place, either. However, I encourage you not to bail — stay with the good ship Zion. Our internal SOPs could be improved, but the officers and crew are good people and the ship will arrive one day. Indeed, the officers and crew are fellow pilgrims — we encourage all passengers to join the crew. I just want to say that I understand all.of your points, but I am very hopeful for the future. Two old songs come to my mind: Standing on the Promises and When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.

    If you do bail, please stay close-by and stay friendly. A re-boarding might be in the future.

  52. I should clarify that I mean our faith shouldn’t be the *source* of our suffering. It may cause suffering in the case of persecutions, but faith should be the way we find comfort and joy in those tribulations and all other kinds. I reject the notion that faith itself should be painful. It is an idea that allows members to put up with all kinds of mediocrity and outright wrongness, under the guise that faith should hurt, and that if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not trying hard enough.

  53. Mark (no. 15.4),

    I think you’re missing and mis-representing my point, maybe purposefully so. But, if the people you’re talking about do indeed have valid, deep reasons for leaving, then maybe they need to leave. It is a choice to stay or not to stay on the good ship Zion — it always has been so. I hope they stay close-by and friendly so they can re-board if an opportunity arises.

  54. I think I can see how Elder Holland is feeling the way he is. The Q12 will frequently say how they feel that they aren’t that special. They’re just men, just like us, who have the same experiences we can have, who just happen to have a special calling. They have also built a special relationship with the Lord, something they believe that we all have done to.
    Then when you think about the gloriousness of the feeling you have, of having the atonement wash away your sins, and lifting your burdens; nothing else really compares. So seeing someone leave over a policy decision, pales in comparison of the importance of the feeling of forgiveness; it’s really confusing.
    And then it’s frustrating with seeing large, public displays of confusing behavior.

  55. the effect will be less forth speaking. Until recently you could at least count on smaller private meetings to be able to hear these things. I suspect even that will become a thing of the past. And that’s very sad to me.

    I am saddened by that as well.

  56. Greg, I believe your understanding of Christ’s quote is mistaken. Rather than examining the history of the phrase, it may be easier to come forward with examples.

    Christ’s yoke was easy and His burden was light on Joseph Smith, even as Joseph suffered in Liberty and Carthage. Joseph’s faith certainly caused that suffering — if he would have only abandoned his faith, he wouldn’t have suffered.

    Christ’s yoke was easy and His burden was light on Stephen, even as Stephen was imprisoned and ultimately stoned to death. Stephen’s faith certainly caused that suffering — if he would have only attacked Christianity rather than following Christ, he wouldn’t have suffered.

    You can make the exact same construction with Peter, Paul, Nephi, Lehi, Abinidi, Moses, Joseph (son of Israel), and on and on and on.

    Not only that, suffering is a necessary component to mortality. We are meant to suffer — not only to suffer, as we are also meant to have joy, but suffering is a necessary part of our human condition. Consider:

    “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Hebrews 12:11

    “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” Romans 5:3

    “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” Psalms 34:19

    “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;” Phillipians 1:29

    “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3

    Or to take the words of Christ Himself:

    “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

    “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27

    Pain and suffering are not enjoyable, and we have no need to seek it out (enough will be given to us), but it is indispensable to our pursuit of discipleship. I would argue that the scriptures are replete with examples that we should pursue our faith until our noses bleed (not in those exact words, of course, but equivalent concepts). We should pursue our faith until our noses bleed and our hearts break and our burdens and cares weigh us down until we reach the point that we lack any capacity to move forward. It is because, in that moment when we have given our all, we find ourselves face to face with Christ. Christ stands ready to love us and help us where we are, of course, and the Atonement and Grace apply in our lives moment to moment. But walking the pathway of discipleship ultimately requires us to determine for ourselves if anything matters more than God — and we often find our answer to that question only when we have reached our very limits and with Christ’s help moved past them.

    Where I believe you have become mistaken is your view that suffering is a bad thing. Whether it be the Lord telling Joseph Smith that all things would work together for his good (while he was suffering through some horrendous situations) or Paul telling us to glory in our tribulations, the truth is that suffering is not something to be hated — it is something to be grateful for.

    On a personal level, I might not have always believed this principle (and I can understand why it might be difficult to accept), but time and experience with suffering has taught me that every tear that I have shed as a consequence of the trials of mortality (regardless of its cause) has, ultimately, been a blessing to me. Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light, even as we may bear a crushing burden placed upon our backs (whatever the source) — because we never carry it alone. And this is true no matter what the source of our suffering.

  57. Greg:

    In answer to your follow up post, our faith should be a “source” of our suffering. I can think of two apparent ways:

    1. As Alma mentioned to his son, Corinaton, calling others to repentance brings pain. Hopefully it is the pain that lead people to repent. If our faith feared causing suffering of any sort, it would not be able to perform this proper function.

    2. We cannot expect anyone to be perfect in either motivation or behavior. Any time we are dealing with imperfect people, suffering is necessary. Our challenge is to be humble in the face of such imperfections. It is not, however, to steady the ark (ask Aaron and Miriam how well that worked for them with Moses).

    3. Growth and comfort rarely occur together. A comfortable Church and a comfortable faith is one that lacks the power to bring about the changes in our nature sufficient for us to take full advantage of the Atonement Christ has prepared for us.

    So, if the Church or our faith does something that causes suffering, they may be right or they may be wrong. If they are right, we would do well to take their counsel and use that suffering to repent and change our lives. If they are wrong, we would do well to take the opportunity to seek to humble ourselves.

    In either case, we can certainly be blessed on our path by such suffering, as we are blessed with any suffering we receive if we remain focused on the Savior.

    I’ll close with C. S. Lewis:

    “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

    This is true even if our Church and our faith is the source of that pain. If the way best to reach us is through pain, He will love us enough to reach us through suffering. If the best way to bring about that suffering is through the Church or our faith (rightly or wrongly), He will love us enough to use that method.

  58. I know I’ve heard more than one talk which addressed how other churches need to focus on entertainment to keep people coming, but we have to the truth, so we don’t need entertainment to make up for the lack of truth. We wear our boring church meetings with pride.
    Also, if you have two sets of people, those who need social activity at church, and those that don’t. Once the social-ability of church goes away, those who need that leave. All that’s left in the church are those aren’t good at socializing with others, and don’t particularly care for it themselves. So when someone who does need socializing with church members, comes around, they find everyone lacking.

  59. I live somewhere within the confines of the Utah Orem mission. Today was Stake Conference with a Q70 member and an area 70 and the topic of staying onboard the SS Zion was hit pretty hard.

  60. We need to stop saying the “Good Ship Zion” stuff, not because it’s a bad metaphor but because it sounds irredeemably lame.

  61. I want to apologize if I came off too strongly. I’m usually better at catching myself when I’m having an emotional reaction (and keeping myself from sharing in public until I’ve worked through it). E.Holland’s words felt like being kicked in the heart. I can’t imagine he intended that. I honestly wish him well and wish him peace.

  62. Confusing behavior, yes.
    I have to say, Elder Holland’s remarks about “paddy-cake” and “taffy-pulling” likens people who leave the church to little children/babies.

    Not his best moment.

  63. Anonymous,

    There are problems in every ward, especially in my beloved Utah. I also make friends slowly. And to paraphrase Elder Holland, don’t you dare bail.

  64. “As if this is all supposed to be just exactly the way I want it and answered every one of my questions and pursue this and occupy that, decide this, and then maybe I’ll be a Latter-day Saint.”

    I think this is a great summary of the attitude of many members, especially on the bloggernacle.
    Let’s not act like this comment should somehow outweigh the hundreds of sympathetic, compassionate public speeches he’s given in general conference, to say nothing of a lifetime of private service.

  65. The importance of “truth” and “truths” has been a centerpiece/foundational concept of the church stessed and empasized repeatedly in different ways throughout our lives. The church set a very high standard of truth. Ther should be no surprise then when people, especially former and current missionaries, are going to be shaken when they discover that the “anti-Mormon propoganda” they were warned against actually is true, resulting in a loss of trust and shaken faith. Once trust is lost, though not impossible, it is not easy to regain. Part of the process in overcoming a loss of trust and faith is for the parties involved to acknowledge the wrongs that led to a loss of trust/faith, increased transparency and unwavering patience. I don’t think these are the majority of messages we are hearing from the leaders.

    Frankly, I don’t think there are answers to many questions and we need to be okay to say and hear, we just don’t know. But that is a very different message than we’ve been taught.

    Additionally, once again we are having to adjust our previous characterizations of a minority group (LGBT) within our society–lagging behind instead of leading the way–for granting others different than ourselves a measure of dignity and respect.

  66. There are lots of interesting issues in the church that can all reasonably be chalked up to the principle taught in 2 Nephi chapter 31 verse 3. I don’t think that is such a big deal. A much bigger issue is that by any conventional standard the church doesn’t actually have any members. The church has millions of volunteers and staff alright but no members. Look it up, it is no mystery. An organization with members can actually make course changes that are unimaginable for an organization without them, simply due to the lack of legitimacy of any objective that has yet to reach nearly unanimous approval, and the implied apostasy of anyone who thinks that anything should be other than than what they are. It is a false consensus.

    Without members the church has no way of talking to itself in any way that has any significance. An organization without members doesn’t have a fabric, isn’t neatly knit or woven together, it just has millions of volunteers waiting for orders. Perhaps Protestant congregationalism is a bit over the top, but the opposite extreme isn’t exactly a picture of stability either. The volunteers who aren’t allowed to say anything just stand in the halls, watch from the foyer, and go do something else – perhaps in search of an organization that has members rather than volunteers. One where their feelings, views, and opinions count for anything at all.

  67. Quote: “To all those who are on the edge, please don’t let this be the final straw. We need you. Our gay friends and children need you to stay in the church and help make things better. We need you to counter the knee-jerk homophobic rhetoric we hear in our wards. We need voices of reason and Christian charity. You’re important. Please stay.”

    For years I tried putting a square peg in a round hole, hoping the Church of love, empathy, and critical thinking in Christlike love that I remember from my youth was still there. And then I saw a square hole that didn’t include the LDS church that fits the moral life that I want to live.

    To put it another way, the day I left the church in my heart (truly left the church) was the day I realized everything I loved about the church (and there is a long list of things I love) was NOT unique to the church, and everything that caused me heartache, questions, and dissonance WAS unique to the church.

    Maybe your friends just realized if the church isn’t true, there is no point in trying to fix it or make it something it isn’t.

  68. For the record I did volunteer work with FAIR for a while until time commitments made it impossible. I’ve not hung out with them for quite some time now.

    First FAIR (at least when I was there) doesn’t speak with one voice. There were often responses to inquiries I disagreed with. I’m sure some disagreed with answers I gave.

    Second as others mentioned FAIR can’t always give answers that stand on their own. It matters what you bring to the interpretation. I think at best FAIR can provide reasons which when combined with a testimony show why it’s rational to stay. However if that testimony is not part of the calculus then often the answers will seem less likely. I don’t think anyone at FAIR would disagree. A great example of that are answers for say pre-Columbian horses. The most popular answer is a variation on the traditional Sorenson view that it’s an artifact of translation. (Nephites used a nearest word to describe some phenomena that was similar but different to horses and then that original word gets used in the translation rather than some better English word that would fit what’s going on) However if you are already questioning the very notion of translation because your assumptions about translation have broken down, then explanations about steel or horses will seem very implausible. Put an other way, FAIR really can’t answer critics the way say a similar organization for evolution can answer Creationists. That doesn’t mean the FAIR answers are wrong (although I suspect in some cases they are and we don’t yet have the correct answer). I think it does mean they’re limited in what they can do.

    FAIR to my eyes is very valuable. I think they’ve also been instrumental (at least looking from the outside) of pushing the vaccination model for dealing with these issues. While the Church has a way to go in preparing members so they’re familiar with the history, it seems undeniable they’ve bought into the basic stance FAIR pushed. That’s healthy.

    However if people are expecting FAIR to have a simple explanation that make everything as simple as “Sunday School answers” portrayed it, then they’ll always intrinsically be disappointed. That’s why FAIR and similar minded people want more discussion of all this. The information was always out there, but I suspect many members just didn’t encounter it for various reasons. I’m under no illusions this is a panacea – especially since I think people’s relation to religion is more typical social. But there’s a lot it may help. And that makes it worth it.

  69. “unless all of their questions are answered”

    I haven’t bailed, and I don’t plan to, but I am very careful in looking at all sorts of information—historical, doctrinal, sociological, whatever—and right now I can honestly say that the Church isn’t really answering any of my questions very effectively. Probably the only thing I don’t have questions about right now is the Word of Wisdom, although the no-caffeine-at-BYU policy is embarrassingly hilarious. So, what is the Church to do? Its history is so inseparably connected with its doctrine and its truth claims that it’s really hard to add things up and have them make any sense at all. Spiritual feelings are great, but it’s obvious that Church leaders over time have had the same problem I have had—interpreting spiritual feelings, which means they sometimes turn their interpretations into blanket edicts or policies that eventually have to be disavowed or “clarified.”

  70. Having had no involvement with FAIR, neither as an insider nor critic, I think Clark Goble’s explanation at 14.5 sounds right. That’s how FAIR looks to me.

  71. Thank you for the post and thanks for the thoughtful comments. As an active temple-recommend holder for many decades, the troubling history of Joseph polyandry combined with numerous doctrinal concerns (Adam/God theory, disallowing blacks to hold the priesthood, marginalization of women, gays, etc.) leave me troubled. President Hinckley’s back-pedalling on the man/God/man theory, which is unsubstantiated by the Scriptures, is also perplexing. The essays released by the Church regarding some of these issues raise further concerns with many who realize these essays contains misinformation. If Church leaders continues to expect temple recommend holders to be honest in their dealings, they must show more transparency and authenticity in their dealings as well. Church leaders would gain greater respect and trust if they would apologize for mistakes make and mistruths which they have claimed to be factual. Members deserve to be treated with the same respect that Church leaders expect and require. Until that happens, we will unfortunately see more people leaving the Church.

  72. I think it’s completely understandable why some are taken aback by such things. Although I must confess that reading there was polandry made me much more at east with what I saw as the inequity of 19th century polygamy. Admittedly polyandry was never really formalized the way the other was. Almost certainly that’s why Brigham Young attempted to stamp out any remnant of it. This led to some tragic circumstances with my personal hero Zina Huntington. Yet it’s worth noting the strong commitment to the gospel Zina Huntington and others had. So while the events were disturbing, reading the testimony and spiritual power of women like Zina Huntington made me come away with my testimony strengthen not weakened. That, despite the heart breaking circumstances she found herself in. (In my opinion due to well meaning but relatively ignorant attempts at living the revelations by Joseph, Brigham and others)

    Regarding the other issues again I think it easy to see how mistakes happen and get propagated as a kind of unfortunate status quo. That’s why it’s important to have continuing revelation so that such things can be removed. I do wish such revelations came sooner rather than later, but they did come.

    On the other issues, while I think Brigham wrong on the details of Adam/God, it’s not like his position is actually that different from current practice. While I don’t in the least think it represents what he himself thought, by simply treating “Adam” as a name/title and splitting the figures it’s rather easy to reconcile Brigham to the more traditional LDS views of who our father is and events at Adam-ondi-Ahman. Likewise it’s worth noting there was some confusing on these issues around the time of Jesus as well. That might seem like unpersuasive apologetic trying to explain away a real mistake by appeals to non-canonical Jewish and Christian writings. And it’s perhaps true. Yet I think it undeniable that the details of the godhead (and the divine in general) has long been part and parcel of Judaism and Christianity. Given that and my dislike of oversimplified history & exegesis I’m more than willing to cut Brigham a little slack.

    I don’t think being a prophet is necessarily tied to thorough understanding of theology. Rather it’s that special witness and responding to inspiration that God gives. While I love theology, I simultaneously recognize that in practice it’s a rather minor feature of religion often driven by the systematizing tendency intellectuals have. (And I fully admit to having such a tendency myself)

    Regarding transparency and honesty, I think one must simultaneously allow a place for disagreement and fallibilism. I’m not sure apologies are always needed for believing something that was wrong. Maybe it’s just my academic background where thoroughgoing fallibism is (or should be) part of the culture.

  73. Darn it. “At ease” not “at east.” After having my typos critiqued you’d think I’d be more careful. LOL. I should add that I think the reaction is natural. I dislike the notion and probably wouldn’t remarry were my wife ever to die simply because I dislike the notion. But I have a much harder discounting the idea if we allow remarriage while simultaneously having an eternal conception of life after death. What I suspect will change isn’t elimination of polygamy but simply allow such remarriages to remain for both sexes in the hearafter. I say that with absolutely zero knowledge that would be the case I hasten to add. Just that were I to die I’d hope my wife would remarry both for her and the children. Yet if there were strong feelings there, could I expect those feelings to change in the hereafter? I’ve no idea how God will handle such things, but it seems to me any grappling with the issue requires grappling with the very idea of eternal marriage.

  74. “those who believe they have been hurt by church policies”

    Could you please at least allow for the reality that people are the authorities on their own experience? They don’t just “believe” they have been hurt. They actually have been.

  75. Perhaps it’s just me, but that seems like how the Church was handling it. Now I think it’s insufficient to say things are complex but we have to deal with how it is complex. Intrinsically that’ll shift things somewhat from the prime focus of trying to live in the spirit a Christlike life. However to the degree it aids people to not get so distracted by by the shadows that they can better turn to the life then it’ll have been worth it.

  76. To me, it sounds like he’s saying, “Hey, all you thinkers out there, quit thinking so dang much; I don’t think about it much at all, and I’m just fine with it.” As if it’s just that simple.

  77. When an apostle, somebody at the top of the pyramid who is acknowledged by the faithful as being a prophet, seer and revelator, says he’s frustrated and angry about the situation in which so many have decided to bail out of the good ship Zion, and seemingly doesn’t know what to do about it, this brings about something on the level of Nibley’s “terrible questions”: either all this talk of revelation and/or priesthood authority is just so much nonsense, or all this talk of God and Christ and a Plan of Salvation are just so much nonsense, brought into being by a guy who, just like all the reformers before him, was doing the best he could to resolve life’s tough questions based on the writings that had been passed down over the centuries and who figured that giving us some new writings would be an effective buttress against those who doubted his prophetic calling. The first time I heard the “Zelph” story, I took it at face value and believed it. Later on, it started looking like a weak attempt at making something up by a guy who used to be pretty good at doing that kind of thing, but who had eventually lost the ability to tell a plausible story. Once you get to that point, everything is up for grabs, and you start to think that maybe the Nehors and Korihors might just have been on to something (even if they didn’t really exist).

  78. Sincere question Mark (26.3). Why is Elder Holland’s frustration different from the many examples of similar frustration among prophets in the Book of Mormon? (Say Ether 11:13) If we truly believe the gospel is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, why wouldn’t we be frustrated when we see people abandoning their testimony?

    Of course the question is whether, at the point of abandonment, they had not lost their testimony. That is to my eyes the question isn’t why they weren’t true to their testimony but what happened that undermined their testimony. It’s not just the data since of course many people see the same data and come away untouched or with an even stronger testimony. I think we should channel our frustration which doesn’t do much into finding the earlier conditions where testimony was lost. While I know many here disagree with me I think that ultimately is not tied to learning about history or data but is something more fundamental about our relationship with God.

  79. I know this isn’t why you posted this article, but thank you for posting about that talk by Elder Holland. I really, really, needed to hear it, even if it was an illicit recording. He grabs my own fear by the horns, and validates so many things I’ve been feeling.

    When you care so much, of course you’ll be frustrated. On both sides of the fence.

  80. While it may have changed, back then you sort of just volunteer. It’s just that it’s sufficiently time consuming it’s hard to do once you have small kids.

  81. I was not critiquing FAIR. I was simply saying that when a person has one foot out the door very rarely does the information FAIR provides actually help because the problem is rooted in trust issues and world view issues and not in apologetic arguments.

    I like Scott Gordon (don’t really know him personally, but have chatted with him). I just thought his comment was odd as it seemed obvious to me that disillusionment is often tied up in a broad cultural and psychological complex that has deeper roots than arguments and counter-arguments for this or that doctrine or historical episode. I also believe FAIR, for what it is, provides a valuable service for the culture.

  82. John, I certainly don’t disagree. And, like you, I tend to think leaving is far more complex than often discussed. Personally I’m skeptical intellectual issues make as big a difference as some do. I tend to think that’s more often than not confusing the result with the cause. This goes along with my comments on belief not being volitional last week – I think that typically we don’t know what’s going on behind why we believe. The assumption that we, the person with the belief, have special insight to such things seems wrong. I think that’s a view going back at least to Descartes that doesn’t really have a lot of support. The counter view can be found anciently as well going back at least to Plato’s dialog The Alcibiades where others are a mirror to our own soul. That is we can’t see ourselves in a transparent way but have to learn about ourselves indirectly through how others see us.

  83. Elder Holland is the most intelligent and well-read apostle, judging from the virtuosity of his sermons, and I think it is interesting that he is also the most hot-headed regarding apostates and apologetics.

    As a man of extraordinary intelligence, he must subconsciously long to be appreciated for his intelligence, not just by faithful members of the church, but also the intelligent people out in the “world” he quotes so much in his talks. When he was interviewed by the BBC, he became extremely resentful and angrily slashed back that “I’m not a dodo!”

    When he sees people leave the church because of their inability to reconcile LDS absurdities with their own rational beliefs, subconsciously, he may see it as an attack on his own intellect. It suggests to him that others see him as an unscientific, irrational dodo. So he feels misunderstood and undervalued. As the “greatest” apostle, the one with the best, most powerful and intelligent sermons, and an intellect and commitment on par with C. S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it is hard for him to accept the fact that God made his role “the weak things of the world, the unlearned and despised.” There is nothing weak or unlearned about him. There is nothing stupid about being a member. It is plain and obvious, and those who leave are the weak ones with their “patty-cake” commitment.

    So like Peter, who is overzealous in his defence of Christ, cutting off ears and such, Elder Holland is unable to perceive, as Elder Oaks has suggested, that “as far as historicity is concerned” it is “a draw.” Evidence for the Book of Mormon is not a home-run, it is not as self-evident as he suggests. He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword. The more Elder Holland tries to insist that belief is obvious, the less obvious it will become, and the more desperate it will seem.

  84. Good thoughts here. I listened to Elder Holland. While the words he used may have been somewhat incendiary, the manner and context in which they were delivered (note the laughter associated with the words) are important. Elder Holland expressed frustration–noted that his frustration may not be so appropriate for an apostle–and then spoke of the compassion of Christ and the fact that the storm will calm. That can be taken several ways, and everyone’s storm is different. But I don’t think Elder Holland meant to offend. He was just being honest. And then he fulfilled his apostolic responsibility to testify of Christ. And that testimony did not discriminate in the least.

    Let’s give the man a break. It was probably his tenth hour of speaking in less than 24 hours. Hence the wisdom of the church policy that was rightly mentioned in the OP.

  85. I’m sorry that you are hurting. When we get baptized we show God that we want to go to the celestial kingdom. When we are endowed we tell God we want to be exalted. I think this is where Elder Holland is coming from. We don’t make covenants with the church, we make covenants with God. In the sealing ordinance we don’t promise each other anything, we promise God individually concerning each other. So the question I have is, “Has God kept His end of the bargain?” For me, he always has, as soon as I let him. Your analogy doesn’t work if you accept Elder Holland’s worldview. I hope you can find peace from your struggle.

  86. I agree. I didn’t see anger. Frustration, yes. But I think a lot of what people read as anger is actually simple passion.

    He cares about people who leave, that is obvious. And he truly feels that the best place for people to be is in the Church. His passion is so different from the milquetoast “whatever makes you happy” attitude so prevalent in the world, that many of us think it’s anger.

    But I’ve had my moments when I’ve cared so much about people and the bad choices I see them making, things they think are best for them, but I can see the sorrow they will bring (in no small part because I’ve experienced some of it.) Loving people means you want what is best for them. Sometimes, watching them fumble through trying to figure that out is a challenge.

  87. Yep.

    I’m not sure what kind of math would equate two years missionary service, thousands of hours of church service, and tens of thousands of dollars in tithing to taffy-pull level commitment.

  88. “But I don’t think Elder Holland meant to offend.”

    No, but no one is saying that he intended to do so. His words, “I’m so furious with people who leave this church,” and “I’m not going to leave [the church] and I’m not going to let you leave it” reveal a very controlling personality that prefers manipulative mechanisms, such as shaming designed to effectively trap people whose inclination is to leave in the church, to abiding by what the LDS church teaches, which is the doctrine of agency.

    “He cares about people who leave, that is obvious.”

    When you “care” about someone so much that you feel the need to use heavy shaming tactics to coerce them to stay in a voluntary organization, it is a sign that you don’t care about them as much as you care about your self and your organization.

  89. How you interpret what he said (ie. controlling and manipulative) is largely based on predisposition. Had Elder Holland any real power to control, there might be merit to your point.

    Having actually been controlled and manipulated, I find it easy to discern the difference between that and expressive use of vocabulary in the passion of a moment.

  90. I think what some take as shaming, many (most?) receive as love. And I think it’s love that he intended. I can only assume that the reactions in the room show the entire manner in which the message was intended and received. Much moreso than a website reprint. Can Elder Holland restrain someone from leaving the church in the literal sense? Of course not. But I think he will do everything he can to keep people from leaving and losing the “calm” available within it.

  91. “Can Elder Holland restrain someone from leaving the church in the literal sense?”

    Through mind control and psychological manipulation, yes. Telling a large congregation of believers that he is furious with those who leave and that he won’t let others leave the LDS church makes other members feel justified in coercing people to stay in the church by expressing anger at their decision to believe and trying to control them.

    “Had Elder Holland any real power to control, there might be merit to your point”

    He is using the mind control tactic of excessive shaming. And Holland has a tremendous amount of power and influence in the LDS church. Impressionable members cling to his every word because they regard him as an authority whom god appointed. According to LDS doctrine, the only valid methods of swaying someone to participate in the LDS church and believe in its doctrines are by invitation and persuasion. Anything beyond that inhibits the agency of others.

  92. “Through mind control and psychological manipulation…”

    And with that we’ve jumped the shark.

  93. Clark, I can only imagine that if what Elder Holland said came from a high-ranking leader of a different religion that you and I would be on the same page.

  94. Really we wouldn’t. As soon as you play the “mind control” card for someone venting in a private talk you’re so far over the shark it’s not even funny. I’m not sure you realize how you sound.

  95. OK, Clark. The idea of mind control may be a far-fetched idea in some larger scenarios (such as the idea that the CIA or some government agency can actually program someone’s mind), but it has its merits in explaining why some religious movements (particularly smaller more isolated ones) persist in spite of strong public opposition and disapproval (I don’t know how we could explain the Unification Church, Scientology, and other small, tight-knit religious organizations without the concept of mind control). In fact it is in smaller more private settings where mind control and psychological manipulation occur. Holland’s remarks don’t represent a case of severe control or manipulation, but mild nonetheless. If anything, his remarks give controlling LDS members more justification to exercise psychological control over family members who seek to leave the church.

    You should bear in mind that there are a good number of LDS people who want to leave the church but feel that they can’t (ex-Mormon sites are replete with these types of people). If the LDS church is a voluntary organization, why do they feel this way? Are they crazy? Why do they fear significant social costs for simply decreasing participation? I don’t think that we can answer this without the concepts of psychological manipulation and mind control.

  96. No really it doesn’t have any merits in this case. It’s tin foil hat area. Once you’re in to that level of conspiracy theory you really should do some serious self examination.

  97. Clark, did you even read what I just wrote? At any rate, I just realized that I am being called a paranoid conspiracy theorist by someone who believes in magic stones that enable the translation of ancient texts. Go figure. I’ve had enough of your dishonest antics and mental gymnastics.

  98. Yes I read what you wrote. Do you understand what the term “mind control” means? And I fully acknowledge people find the idea of seer stones and gold plates ludicrous. I’m surprised you don’t see people see the idea of sneaky mind control that way. For those of us living as Mormons to be put into the same category as Scientology is kind of funny. If mind control was there I think home teaching would be done much better.

    Now if you were to say something a little more benign like there’s social pressure you might have a point. But you didn’t do that. (Thus the jumping of the shark) I’d simply note that such pressures are hardly unique to Mormons and can be found in most faiths and even among atheists towards family members thinking of becoming Mormon. And don’t get me started on the silliness and social pressures people put towards politics, race, and so forth. (Statistics on the increasing discomfort of a child marrying someone of a different political party boggle my mind) That you leap to the mind control of what you presumably perceive as cults (I assume that’s why you raise the scientology parallel) rather than these other obvious parallels shows exactly how you are thinking. That you call it mind control shows rhetorically how you see it as well.

    I’m fully open to a discussion of the psychology of in-group and out-group dynamics on a family level especially with group signifiers so tied to self-identity. (Which is rather characteristic of religion) That’s a fairly well studied dynamic. However let’s at least be honest that you aren’t doing that in the least. Instead you’re talking of mind-control. As I said, shark jumped. And with that I’ll bow out of that tangent.

  99. You know, I never comment. But I just have to ask all readers and commenters alike — Were you there? Did you attend this event? Do you even know why it was organized? I was there. For all of it. Did you know that even the longest recording found online is missing the first 15 minutes of the his talk? Did you know that all of his remarks were specifically directed towards the lives and experiences of single members from age 30 to forever? Did you know there were so many who attended that it was necessary to broadcast it to 7 other stake centers? There was no mind control, there was no rage, there was no domineering wailing or excessive use of verbal force. There was, instead, a deeply humble man urgently and passionately addressing the spiritual wounds of those he saw before him. He was healing the wounds, not making them. He was giving those in attendance the hope and strength to continue on – even in the challenging circumstances of prolonged aloneness. He wanted better things for us, and so he spent an hour with us, comforting, assuaging, persuading, blessing us. So, unless you were there, unless you are an older, unmarried member with all the specifically unique experiences that that brings, you really are not in a very good position to interpret an incomplete message that was not specifically directed to you. I was there. It wasn’t like you are describing. It was positive, reaffirming and exceptionally profound..

  100. I am concerned about Elder Holland’s health and wellbeing when there are reports from active missionaries in the field that remind me of the patty-cake talk. Here’s on such claim found at

    …then headed off to go to a big meeting in London where Elder Holland spoke to the London and London South missions!! We didn’t get to shake his hand because our bus driver was sooo slow and arrived late, missed exits, etc etc, so that was sad. The talk was so powerful though and humbling. My favorite quote from it was him saying that if we left the church after our missions he would “hunt you down. I will be scratching on the windows when you sleep. When you take out the garbage I will be there, not in the garbage, but I will be there”. He also told us that an Avon lady he knows is more bold than we are.

    By any means this sounds controlling and even bullying.

    There are also reports such as this claiming he put his hands around missionaries’ necks:

    “”President informed us that Elder Holland received specific information about some missionaries who were being less than obedient, he received specific names that he then proceeded to give to President Harbertson. Insane right hahah. President had interviews with all those missionaries after the conference. (dont worry i wasnt one of them) And yes Elder Holland did literally smack some people in the face and strangle them during the whole mission meeting. It was super cool!”

  101. Emmee is having a hard time discerning that hyperbole and silly theatrics can be used to make a point. She probably would freak out completely if she witnessed one of my family reunions! My children and I do a complete parody… we look more like Laurel and Hardy or the Three Stooges than a loving family, but we are… a loving family. J. Golden Kimball would have put her in shock. He was not the model of political correctness, even for the early 20th century. I have associated with the Holland’s and to put it bluntly, they all can be complete hams. But I have never known a family more dedicated to helping others. Also remember that missionaries are still teenagers and really enjoy clowning around. So do I.

  102. I’m going to close down comments since we have a norm of doing that at about 100 comments or so and, counting the nested comments, we’re well past that. Thanks for the discussion.

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