What Can’t Be Discussed in Church

In a podcast I listened to recently, a man who had left the church described going to sacrament meeting with his still-believing wife and feeling upset at what was said in church. He had come to believe that certain claims that are regularly stated at church were not true, and hearing them was uncomfortable.

Initially, I found this idea strange. Why would it be uncomfortable to simply hear someone say something that you don’t believe to be true?

This made me think of a fast and testimony meeting I attended a year or so ago. Fully half of those who came up to the podium were not members of the Church, let alone members of the ward I was attending. But in spite of this, I didn’t hear anything objectionable and I don’t think other ward members were upset about anything said, even though it wasn’t said the way members would put it.

I don’t think the discrepancy between these two situations had anything to do with the audience. Of course members of the Church are uncomfortable when objectionable things are said in church. I’m aware of wards that are split over things like whether or not Mother in Heaven can be discussed. Part of the ward desperately wants to be closer to Her and as a result they are anxious to discuss her. Another part of the ward feels uncomfortable when She is mentioned, and that discomfort leads them to not even attend certain classes when they believe She will be discussed.

When I think in detail about it, I do understand why hearing uncomfortable ideas causes problems. Some ideas are tied to our emotions—and religious ideas are chief among them because they are close to the core of our beliefs. And when we feel like those core ideas are attacked, its emotionally difficult to not respond, and even more difficult to just sit there and listen. I know I feel that way when I hear something on a subject important to me.

I hear echoes of the gulf over what is ok to discuss in church in the terms that get used. Many members say that they just want to go to church and feel the spirit. They go to church to find refuge from the world; and to find spiritual refreshment. They say that they can’t do that when others bring up ideas they believe are divisive or contentious.

In contrast, others find spirituality in new knowledge, in exploring and understanding more deeply the gospel. If their ideas are non-traditional, they say that they are looking for a “safe place” to express their ideas without being personally attacked.

I don’t think either group is wrong in what they’re seeking. But I also don’t think either group understands the entire situation. I like the saying that church should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” So I suspect that those seeking a “refuge from the world” or a “safe place” are really avoiding the affliction they need. And then I think a little further and I’m not sure they are avoiding anything.

It also doesn’t seem correct to me that merely discussing an alternative or non-traditional view will chase away the spirit. Isn’t the spirit still present in such cases to testify of the truth? I suspect that most of the time what is divisive or contentious is so because of the feelings of those present, not because of the ideas themselves. It’s complicated (and I’m NOT suggesting that those who see other ideas as divisive or contentious can simply turn off their response), but I suspect what chases away the spirit is how we react to an idea as much or more than what the idea is.

Regardless, the question remains what can we discuss at church, and what should we not discuss at church. Is there a place and a way to discuss the controversial? Or ideas that aren’t doctrinal?

I believe that in today’s environment this question is vital. The claim of those who have left the Church is often that when they try to discuss their doubts, no one at church will talk with them. They feel pressured into going along with the majority even if they have evidence that the majority is wrong—and occasionally even though the Church has stated that the majority is wrong!

And among those who are among the majority, I worry that they don’t allow any place for change or insight or revelation—if you aren’t open to different ideas, how can you be open to revelation?

I don’t have a well-developed answer to all this. But I suspect that the gospel answer has to do with loving all of our Father’s children. It may seem simplistic, but if we really love the others in our congregation, we will think about their needs before we speak, and try to find ways of discussing all topics in ways that benefit them, regardless of how well developed their understanding of the gospel is. And I seriously doubt that “calling them to repentance” really serves their needs, simply because verbally attacking others never convinces anyone to change.

Unfortunately, both of the groups I mentioned above are focused on their own needs instead of on the needs of those around them. If the Church is really about the spiritual development of its members—about bringing about their immortality and eternal life—then we have to get serious about focusing on how to help others and worry less about ourselves.

[Addition–could I ask commenters to focus on the positive? On things that may offer solutions or ways of understanding what we face in Church? I don’t believe that mere complaints, much as they can feel good, will be constructive]

50 comments for “What Can’t Be Discussed in Church

  1. Maybe it’s just my ward at the present moment, but we’re going thru a moment where every couple of months, someone gives a sacrament meeting talk about a faith crisis or pre-church life with really uncomfortable detail, some of which are maybe too detailed, and then they talk about how they came to or back to the church.

    They are amazing talks, but there are one or two moments of shock and cringe.

  2. These are hard questions, I think. I appreciate– and share– the concerns of people who think there isn’t much chance to discuss genuine doubts. I also appreciate– and share– the distress of those who are simply tired of hearing the same discussions year after year. And yet somehow it feels that sacrament meeting talks and second hour lessons are not the place for probing and potentially upsetting theological or historical discussions.

    Some years ago I was asked to teach a high priests quorum lesson (I wasn’t a high priest, but I had gotten too old for elders quorum) and the subject was “what happens to people who die without hearing the Gospel?” The standard pedagogical approach in the quorum was just to go around the room with each person reading a paragraph from the manual. Excruciating. Wanting to make my lesson more stimulating, I had come up with four different and not obviously consistent answers, each of which seemed to have some scriptural support. So we started off with a scripture that suggested answer A, but then I had someone read a different scripture that suggested answer B, and we were getting into answer C when an elderly brother– a very sweet man– raised his hand and said, “The wonderful thing about the Gospel is you don’t have to be a theological technician to understand it.” I realized that he was saying, in a kindly way, “This isn’t what we do here. This isn’t what these lessons are for.” And it seemed to me that he was right, and I was wrong. Most of the brothers were there to be taught and reassured and comforted, not to be provoked and challenged. Not theologically challenged anyway.

    Maybe that was a shortcoming. Maybe in another ward it would be different. Some teachers do have a gift for being uplifting while adding in a little provocation that people can go home and think about. I envy those teachers. For the most part, though, it seems to me that the hard challenging discussions will mostly have to occur off-the-record, i.e., in unofficial settings (like this one, for example).

  3. I think your last comment was especially spot on. The point of coming to church should be about helping others, not necessarily your own preferences. That should be the guiding principle behind what should and should not be discussed at church.

    I, for one, find only one type of discussion objectionable: too much overt political contention. It just doesn’t seem like the right place for it. When members talk about their own spiritual views, that is almost always appropriate, though members should try to avoid using words that attack other members.

    For instance, avoid attacking whether another member can really be a faithful Latter-day Saint and believe X or that the only reason people believe Y is because they are homophobic.

  4. A church and membership that cannot allow & consider new or disconcerting information is dysfunctional and poorly positioned to move forward.

  5. “The point of coming to church should be about helping others…” Which others? The ones who want simplicity, certainty, and being undisturbed by thoughts new to them? or the ones who desperately need a new thought or a new way of considering their faith? Neither choice need have anything to do with “your own preferences.”

  6. ALL others, of course. The only reason that there are distinctions is because their needs are different. As I said in the post, I don’t have a fully fleshed out answer.

  7. The two things that can’t be discussed at church are reasons why you believe that the church isn’t true, or why you think your wife or mother isn’t an angel mother.

  8. It seems to me that our wards and meetings can accommodate both groups (all groups?) with a little forethought and effective communication. I suspect those who want to discuss new ideas or faith crises would not do so in a Gospel Principles type class specifically designated for reassuring doctrines, *if* there is another class (at a different location, or on a different day) that is designated for the discussion they need to have. Similarly, those seeking reassuring doctrines would not object (or attend) to a class so designated for a discussion like SDS describes above, if given fair warning ahead of time and given a time and place to meet their spiritual needs. The problem IMO arises when we only allow for one type of discussion within our meetings.

  9. Back when I was a student at BYU, our student ward had three Gospel Doctrine classes. My roommate and I taught one of them– we were philosophy minors, with youthful independent tendencies– and we mostly tried to have free-wheeling discussions of various theological and historical topics. The other two classes had higher attendance than ours did, but it seemed that there was a smaller group who really enjoyed the kinds of discussions our class promoted, and who might not have bothered to attend the other classes. (As I probably wouldn’t have.) And I think that, overall, even our class was ultimately faith-promoting. So it all worked out really well: there was a class for every sort of need. That sort of thing was possible in a BYU ward. Maybe it could be done in other wards in solid Mormon country. Unfortunately, I doubt that most of the wards I’ve lived in since then could support three or even two Gospel Doctrine classes; it’s hard enough to maintain one. This is nobody’s fault; that’s just how things are.

  10. True, p, but I think that statement is incomplete. The question is more one of how to broach new or disconcerting information and how to do so without alienating

  11. Ryan, I think there are some wards where the mere presence of a class where new ideas or faith crises are discussed is intolerable to a significant portion of the ward.

  12. In our ward GD classes are limited to no more than 10 people, so we usually have 6 or 8 classes (it’s a large ward). I think that policy would help many wards, and make it possible to have a variety of styles of teaching

  13. Kent, not sure how one negotiates between a sacrament speaker confidently quoting Nephi, and someone in GD class asserting that, actually, the possibility that Nephi didn’t really exist is rather large. These are built-in timebombs the leadership has yet to diffuse. Maybe they’ll get to this as soon as they figure out what a homosexual is. It seems to me that the Church is sliding inexorably into crisis, and that this is reflected by the rigidity and banality one sees at the local level.

  14. I can think of lots of things said at church that would justifiably make someone uncomfortable. Anti-LGBT, sexist, racist statements; testimonies of or teaching about things that are demonstrably factually false (like historical events that, even if you read church materials, simply didn’t happen the way many people tend to say they happened); us-vs-them rhetoric; leader worshippy statements; etc. That type of stuff is uncomfortable for people who don’t necessarily want to rock the boat and be controversial but also feel uncomfortable appearing complicit (this is more true in a class where you might wonder if you should speak up vs. sacrament meeting where obviously you won’t be responding). It can also be uncomfortable / painful to hear people talk about things you once believed but now do not.

    The examples / analysis given above seem to me to misunderstand what this person was likely talking about. I think it’s one thing to have a difference of opinion or have someone believe in something you don’t necessarily believe yourself but are neutral to. I also agree that it’s great to be made uncomfortable at church when you hear something that makes you realize you might need to change something that you don’t want to change. But what I imagine this person was referring to is the discomfort when most everyone who speaks says things you believe to be wrong and even harmful, but speaks as though these are the most obvious and natural things in the world for every Mormon to believe and that anyone who thinks differently is clearly deceived. That’s uncomfortable and if your church experience is dominated week after week by those kinds of discussions, and people around you seem never to talk about core things like the atonement, it can get pretty wearying even if you try to remember that you’re there to worship and to serve others rather than for self-edification.

  15. “In our ward GD classes are limited to no more than 10 people, so we usually have 6 or 8 classes (it’s a large ward). I think that policy would help many wards, and make it possible to have a variety of styles of teaching.”
    That’s great, BUT where would they meet in a small building with overlapping ward schedules, off-limits stake offices, classrooms devoted to technology systems and mothers’ lounge, and primary occupying remaining classrooms. Maybe we can manage two GD classes of 30 each in the RS and YW rooms. But if last time we did that can predict the next attempt, they will not sort themselves by who wants reassurance and who wants real discussion.
    To some extent the sorting has been happening over years of those wanting real discussion ceasing to come.

  16. Sigh. p I can’t disagree. As I said, I don’t have a complete answer. But, as I suggested in the op, it lies in loving everyone. How, I don’t know.

  17. Yes, Elisa, I see that. I’ve seen that for many years now.

    But, do you see that this logic means that you are worrying about what Church does for you instead of what you can do for others at Church?

    I don’t mean to suggest that you don’t have needs that should be addressed. Of course they should be addressed. And yes, the Church doesn’t provide what you need (and yes, I think many people in the Church don’t even believe it should provide you what you need!!!) FWIW, I disagree with any failure to try to help those who are uncomfortable at Church.

    BUT, it is also true that those who are comfortable at Church will object to many changes.

    As I suggested, the answer lies in loving others (although I don’t know the details). I think those who are uncomfortable have the hardest task — loving those who can’t see the problems.

    I don’t have the answers on this.

  18. What we’re doing in our ward may not be possible in many (or even most) other wards. It’s an example of what might be done, not a pattern that everyone should follow.

  19. My own experience has been that theologically conservative members have been self censoring their comments at church to avoid offending the liberal members.

  20. That doesn’t sound optimal. Ideally, wouldn’t it work both ways? And wouldn’t the goal be to reduce self-censoring as both sides learn to love and trust one another?

  21. My experience is that the more liberals members don’t even bother answering questions in SS because the theologically conservative members get upset and report to the Bishop.

  22. @Kent I don’t disagree that we shouldn’t be focusing on what we get out of church. But we are only human. One can only go for so long experiencing church as a spiritual desert before looking elsewhere for nourishment. I’ve seen that happen many times with friends and family.

  23. I’m okay with almost anything if the speaker’s purpose is to build and strengthen faith in Jesus Christ in an edifying and sustaining manner. If the speaker has some other purpose, and I’m able to discern that the speaker has some other purpose, then I might experience some discomfort with that speaker.

    I think a klan supporter speaking at a NAACP gathering might cause some dissonance among the NAACP members, and rightly so. A pro-life supporter speaking at a NOW gathering might similarly cause some dissonance.

    At church, I like messages that build and strengthen faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I like sincere heartfelt testimonies. I generally don’t enjoy academic, intellectual, sophist, or unfaithful treatments of matters of faith in Sunday worship settings.

  24. Nice words, ji. I suppose your ward may be different from those I’ve experienced.
    Where I am the purpose seems more often to be building and strengthening faith in the Church and its leaders than to build or strengthen faith in Christ. In fact when faith is discussed, its object is rarely identified. It’s as if people have forgotten that the first principle of the gospel is not faith [in the Church], but is instead faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
    What is edifying or sustaining to some can be anything but that to others.
    What is perceived as a faithful or unfaithful treatment of matters of faith depends greatly on the preconceived notions of the one judging whether it is faithful or not.
    Is Sunday school a worship setting? What do you mean by worship? Except for some hymns and the sacrament itself, even many sacrament meetings wouldn’t meet some definitions of the word worship.

  25. Kent, you keep saying the answer lies in loving each other. I’m sure everyone would agree in principle, but for 30 or 40 years the core gospel principle has been OBEDIENCE IS THE FIRST LAW OF HEAVEN. I hear this repeated 3 or 4 times a month.

    There is little love in obedience. If you expect you fellow members to express obedience, there is no room for anything but the primary answers. That only allows for discussion of how you can be more obedient, and congratulating ourselves on how obedient we are, compared to those who question, and the wicked world.

    I have been refused a TR for not agreeing that obedience is the first law of heaven.

  26. I lost a teaching calling for talking a little too openly about Eliza R. Snow’s relationship and marriage to JS. I wasn’t bothered by this as I’d figured it would happen eventually (always does). The interesting thing about the situation was that the younger women all loved my lessons (years later, I still have people bring up the Eliza lesson). It was the retirees that objected and complained. I wonder if this divide is common.

    My ward is very conservative. I’ve given up on lessons/talks being helpful to me. I’ve given up on trying to participate by inserting a more liberal (but always kind) thought because if I do, several other people jump all over anything I say (same people every time). I try to see church as a place to serve and then fill my spiritual needs elsewhere, but all that does is make the church seem less and less relevant. Mostly I do my calling, bring something to work on during sacrament, and sit out in the hallway.

  27. I haven’t read the comments, just the OP. I don’t see anything inherently wrong or selfish with feeling uncomfortable by things that people are saying. It is human to get annoyed by viewpoints that sharply disagree with yours. What can we say in church? Only things that are in agreement with the general sentiment of those in attendance, with maybe some slight nuance and variance. It is not meant to be an environment where we hash out controversial issues and people who attend don’t want it to be that. If I went to church and started talking about how we needed to accept gay marriage as normal, it would cause an outcry. If I went and talked about how Mormons aren’t Christians and needed to repent and accept the true Jesus of the Bible, it would similarly cause an outcry. People would tell me to leave. But if you were once Mormon and migrated mentally away from it to accept ideas that are contrary to what the church teaches, then yes, it would be uncomfortable to attend sit and listen to ideas you thought were completely wrong.

  28. @Elisa, I honor your effort to make it work. I can only add that the culture of the Church needs to change, but that the changes needed will take years if not decades—because cultural changes of this kind always take a long time.

  29. In my experience, the biggest problems come when assumptions are made that everyone in the ward feels the same about a given political issue. So someone makes a comment about school-led prayers in public schools, and someone sits silently, thinking to themselves that they don’t want the government interfering with the religious education of their children, but feels entirely alone in their thoughts because no one else is disagreeing out loud.

    And people who feel alone eventually stop coming, which makes the ward even less diverse.

    I’m in an extremely conservative ward (probably the only still-active person in the ward who voted for President Obama) with quite a few older members. Trump’s come up a couple of times, each time the commenter assuming everyone felt the same way he (and it’s always he) did, and both times the Sunday School teacher (once myself and once another teacher) shut it down extremely fast. If only our EQ teachers did likewise.

    When it’s pure politics, it doesn’t belong in church. When it’s issues that mix politics and religion, like school prayer, it’s important that class members realize that different people in the church can have different opinions, and can still be good members of the church.

  30. I wonder if we misunderstand the purpose of our Sunday worship settings. They are not discussion forums. If we have discussion desires, let’s satisfy those somewhere else. In our worship settings, all I want is to worship the Lord Jesus Christ through prayer, singing, communion, and words of teaching, admonition, counsel, fellowship, and so forth. Really, that’s what I want and that’s why I go. I have no interest in academic, intellectual, sophist, or unfaithful treatments of matters of faith in Sunday worship settings.

    Lorenzo Snow’s polysophical society met in his home, not in his ward building. Internet discussion groups help provide such an outlet now. But I think we err if we try to move these discussions into our Sunday worship settings. I do not want to have these discussions in Sunday worship settings. They aren’t part of worship.

  31. “There is little love in obedience.”

    @ Geoff: Love is the highest motivating force for obedience, and the most fundamental commandment we’re supposed to obey.

    If we obey the commandments out of fear (fear of divine disfavor, fear of disapproval from others) then we might as well be going through the motions. If we obey the commandments because we love God, no commandment will seem too onerous or demanding, even if we don’t understand all the reasons behind them. The first great commandment is to love God with all our hearts, and the second is to love our neighbors.

    Think of the Ten Commandments. If we love God, we won’t put anything else before him, or divert our devotion to other things, or take his name in vain, or dishonor his holy day. If we love our neighbor, we won’t dishonor our parents, murder, engage in unchaste behaviors, steal, spread falsehoods, or want things that belong to someone else. Jesus taught us more than that, but it’s a good place to start.

    Love without obedience is a meaningless sentiment and obedience without love is an empty gesture. You can’t have one without the other.

  32. Eric, There is no gospel principle called obedience. Faith, repentance, baptism, obedience? Think about it.

    If ye love me keep my commandments, later in the same talk the saviour says and the commandment is love your neighbour, but even keeping his commandments is not obedience in general.

    I believe we are here on earth to have joy, until we become joyful, we do that by loving God, and our neighbours, as God does. Be ye therfore perfect even as your father in heaven is perfact, in context, is referring to loving our neigbours. At some point loving our neighbour becomes part of who we are. We become a loving person. Also at some point we have no more disposition to do evil.

    There are some priesthood ordinances, but I think the last of these is being sealed to our eternal partner. (In my case 50 years ago this week.)

    You do not show your love for God by obedience, you do it by loving as he does. There is no need for obedience after a certain point. Perhaps adult understanding of becoming a loving person.

    The comment you quote refers to the fact that if you prioriotise obedience, you can justify all sorts of immoralty, that you could not if love was your priority. You can be a racist obediently, but not lovingly, you can discriminate against gays and women obediently, but not lovingly.

    Another problem with obedience is that you can be perfectly obedient to a principle, without having to understand what the principle was for. So you are obedient but no closer to God.

    You can become an obedient person, but it does not necessarily make you a good or moral person.

    Today in priesthood we had “Be faithful not faithless” as the basis of our lesson.

    “It is possible for young people to be raised in a Latter-day Saint home, attend all the right Church meetings and classes, even participate in ordinances in the temple, and then walk away “into forbidden paths and [become] lost.” Why does this happen? In many cases it is because, while they may have been going through the motions of spirituality, they were not truly converted.”

    Another thing we can not discuss in church is the real reason people leave. After this was read I pointed out that people who had left had been surveyed, and the majority left because the no longer trusted church leadership, because of the things they required, then changed, repeatedly. Not because they weren’t converted in the first place. No discussion, on to the next point.

  33. I think a lot of things posted here that are classified as “cannot discuss” should be “do not discuss”. You can bring up anything you want, but if it’s not in the spirit of love or in such a way so that “all may be edified” what’s the point?

  34. @ji, “I wonder if we misunderstand the purpose of our Sunday worship settings. They are not discussion forums”.

    My understanding is that sacrament meeting is the worship service, whereas Sunday school is the place we go to learn and how to react to social, moral and intellectual issues in a religious framework. I do believe that Sunday school should and is meant to be a discussion form. If not, why do we no longer have instructors but instead people assigned to lead the discussion? I go to sacrament meeting to worship. I go to Sunday school to learn, not reaffirm.

    BTY not all topics and comments are appropriate in Sunday school.

  35. Eric, I missed an important part the scripture that says we can have no more disposition to do evil continues with “but do good continually.”

    An example: we grocery shop at a store called Aldi, which also has one off specials. On Saturday in the checkout queue in front of us was a young muslim woman with a small child, and a flat pack cupboard. When we had deposited our groceries in the car my wife said, the woman in front of us at the checkout will have trouble getting that flat pack cupboard into her car, we can help. We did. Nearly every time we go to Aldi there is someone to help. My wife is much better at this aspect of loving our neighbour than I am.

    I have thought of an example of being obedient without understanding the background principle. Say the purpose of ministering is to teach us to love our neighbour. We do our ministering perfectly, but still to varying degrees, hate muslims, gays, and democrats. We obediently, and in a loving spirit do our ministering, but do not love our neighbours more, or come closer to being Christlike. Obedience does not teach the moral principle.

    I agree with you mark, the class time is the time to share our understanding of the gospel.

  36. Geoff, the idea that obedience is opposed to love is as surely a Satan-inspired idea as anything I’ve seen preached online. Obedience is taught by all the scriptures and by all our prophets. Here, just for example, is one thing that Joseph Smith taught about the principle of obedience:

    “This principle will justly apply to all of God’s dealings with his children. Everything that God gives us is lawful and right, and it is proper that we should enjoy his gifts and blessings, whenever and wherever he is disposed to bestow; but if we should seize upon those same blessings and enjoyments without law, without revelation, without commandment, those blessings and enjoyments would prove cursings and vexations in the end, and we should have to lie down in sorrow and wailings of everlasting regret. But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness, the happiness of all his creatures, he never has, he never will, institue an ordinance, or give a commandment to his people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which he has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances.”
    Source: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-d-1-1-august-1842-1-july-1843/285

    As you mentioned the 4th Article of Faith, don’t forget the 3rd: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

    I’m not sure why something so clear needs to be restated, but there should be no excuse for confusion.

  37. Geoff, no gospel principle called obedience? Either your ignorance or your dishonesty is showing. I don’t know which, but you ought to fix it, either way. Sorry if you think I’m sounding too strident, but that’s too big of a whopper to dismiss.

    Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Commandments are to be obeyed. Obedience is also something we promise to do in the temple, in case you’ve forgotten.

    Like I said before, obedience without love is a meaningless gesture. As Moroni put it, if we give a gift grudgingly, it’s counted as evil for us, or as though we withheld the gift. Love should be the motive of our obedience. We shouldn’t have to be commanded to do good to others, of course, but claiming that obedience isn’t a gospel principle fundamentally ignores why we have commandments.

  38. Elisa- Thank you for your comments! They are spot on.

    I am near the end of my ability to attend my ward. Too many “jokes” in class about how an example of righteous anger is wanting to punch the drivers you see with a (political candidate) bumper sticker on their car, and the response being hearty amens from other class members. Plus racist jokes from the Stake Patriarch in Stake Conference, constant negative judgements of everyone with a different opinion, etc. Lather, rinse, repeat every week. I try to redirect with gentle, scripture-backed comments when I can, but it never lasts for more than a moment, if I’m lucky enough to not be dismissed immediately.

    I continue to attend to take the sacrament, because it is where I used to feel a connection to my Savior, because I am trying to love my neighbor, because I value my marriage, and because once in a blue moon one of my comments seems to be what someone needed to hear. It’s just getting to the point where I’m no longer sure being dumped on every week is worth the occasional feeling that my presence is welcome. I know they don’t all realize that’s what they are doing, but some do and that hurts just a little, too.

    I no longer expect to get much out of church, but I never expected it to take so much out of me. It’s exhausting.

  39. My experience across diverse cultures within the Church has taught me to sit and listen with real listening ears to each and every brother, sister, or undecided gender. I was in an inner city branch in NY one time when a gal who had been a victim in a war between Ethiopia and Atria got up in a fast and testimony meeting and sang her testimony in shrill Arabic, as was her custom. I didn’t understand a word she said, but I could feel her pain and deep grief. Another brother came naked except for a long trench coat…he missed his AA meeting and had a bad day and we were so happy he came even as he was. :) Ideas range from spot on with what scriptures say to spot off, Deep personal need at wits end comes with impersonal sarcastic crap aimed at hurting someone happens. I suppose through it all I am there because I have been hurt so badly by leaders, including a Prophet who wrote me a letter of apology, and a whole slew of others. Thank goodness for being hurt so badly!!! It helped me find love and patience and compassion and genuine interest in others, no matter what they say or do. Otherwise I would have been content to have someone bless and pass the sacrament too me and then out the door…..

  40. Kathleen O’Meal, Some of us can easily imagine and/or have experienced being hurt by a General Authority including President(s) of the Church, but have no experience or imagination as to an apology from any of them. Is yours something you can share — even in redacted form? If it’s out there on the net, where?
    Thanks for your comment above.

  41. @Just Me – that sounds brutal. I’m so sorry. I have to imagine there are those in your ward who feel the same way as you do? I often comment (gently) not because I expect to change anyone’s minds but because I want to signal to others in the room who might be less comfortable commenting that not everyone thinks the way those who are speaking think and that I’m a safe person if they don’t. But I have never been in a ward that’s as bad as yours sounds. How exhausting.

  42. Kathleen O’Neal-That sounds wonderful! One of my favorite testimonies was someone with debilitating shyness who just sat down at the piano and played for us. No words necessary, and incredibly moving.

    I am trying very hard to see everyone in my ward as individuals, to understand why they are who they are and love them for it. It has been difficult at times. A friend was trying to be more active in the ward, and often came to church in pants because it’s what she had. Another sister insisted on taking her shopping so she could be “dressed appropriately” to take the Sacrament. While grateful, my friend also felt horribly embarrassed about having done something wrong. It’s not that they don’t want to help, they just can’t seem to do it without trying to shame people into gratitude. I struggle to let go of the frustration sometimes.

    Elisa- We do have one ward in the Stake that has a half dozen or so couples who are vocal about having a different political perspective. Their last ward conference, the Stake President ‘s talk was about leaving your politics at the door when you come to church. I can’t decide if it would be better or worse to be in that ward. On the one hand, I wouldn’t be the only one, but on the other hand I’ve been told it has gotten a bit ugly on occasion.

    My attempted redirects are trying to get the discussion away from politics and back to the gospel, or away from “we’re so much better than the evil world” and back to “we all need to try to be more Christlike”. I try really hard to avoid anything controversial.

    I know three people in my ward who also get uncomfortable with some of it, so they volunteer in the nursery or in Primary, hang out in the library or foyer, or have stopped trying to get their employer to give them Sundays off. Others have just sort of faded away over the years as they decided there was no place for different perspectives. Then we get discussions about how “some people” choose to be be offended over nothing. Sigh.

  43. JI – these days they are literally supposed to be discussions rather than pedagogical lessons. So, there’s that. Overall I think a very positive move.

  44. C Nielsen, Actually we are still instructed to base teacher councils on “Teaching in the Savior’s Way” which says, “A robust discussion is not your primary goal as a teacher, but it can support that goal—to help learners increase their faith in Jesus Christ and become more like Him.”

    And “Come, Follow Me for Sunday School 2020” explicitly instructs that “AS PART OF [i.e. not all of] every class, invite class members to share insights and experiences they had during the previous week as they studied the scriptures…”

    I haven’t grasped why it is that some in my ward keep insisting that the whole class period is to be discussion.

  45. Kent, “I think there are some wards where the mere presence of a class where new ideas or faith crises are discussed is intolerable to a significant portion of the ward.”

    Intolerable? I highly doubt that. Uncomfortable, sure, but I’m confident they could adapt, particularly with the proper framing and context.

  46. I think we can look to seminary as a good example of what topics will be up for discussion in future years. I substituted our early morning class for two days last year and my two lessons, from the manual, were Mountain Meadow Massacre and official declaration 2.

  47. Reminds me of a young women lesson about the family proclamation to the world in which I stated views on abortion and then regretted it. I wonder what I should have done. the lesson was about how the ideas in the proclamation are being challenged today, etc.

  48. YW Jess, you are right to wonder. And I hope you will try again to express your views in a way that will be recognized and acknowledged by those in the class, even if they don’t agree with you. All of us need to keep trying to express our understanding while being open to the truth that others can give us.

    The best case is if you have a discussion that allows everyone to honestly say how they see things and leads each one closer to God and to a better understanding of the gospel.

  49. No “Wondering”, I would never scan/copy this. Too many anti’s just looking for an excuse to hurt a former LDS Prophet. The examples set by these men taught me what REAL MEN do when they take responsibility for a misplaced comment….about what I wearing….when I wrote his secretary explaining the circumstances as to why i was not properly attired for the sacred event he must have felt very badly…because he signed it in front of the First Presidency and they signed to the effect. :) I read it once carefully and felt the Lord’s Spirit so strongly, cried my eyes out, and rather than tuck it inside my journal, I shredded it so no one could twist this to hurt my Prophet. I cant think of anyone else in my life who has ever thought about my feelings getting hurt before. It was a revelation to me and testimony that THE LORD HIMSELF is mindful of me.

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