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    • Thank for sharing, Annie. That's exactly the way to view it. We don't believe our prophets are perfect men. At least we shouldn't. We just have to accept that God has called them for our specific time.

      As far as the diversity of the church is concerned, I do feel the church is overall heading in the right direction. These LGBTQ-Mormon alliance firesides I attend for example wouldn't have existed 20 years ago. That kind of progress is happening and it's making a difference, even if it's not happening as quickly as some would like.

    • Yeah, @Chris and I both had a really intersting discussion on Facebook about the LGBTQ policy and the church's relationship as a whole with LGBTQ members. I posted support for LGBTQ members who felt offended by a Dallin H. Oaks talk. I didn't say anything negative about Oaks or the church. Just offered my support to those who felt offended. Little did I know that would open the flood gates to such a passionate discussion. Or maybe I did and I was looking to stir the pot, lol.

      Anyways, I do think that what matters most is that we listen to each other's concerns and make people feel like their feelings and opinions matter even if they differ from ours. As for the church's policy towards LGBTQ famlies, I didn't see much good come from it. It just seemed to drive a further wedge between the church and that community. I should add, I'm saying that as one who sustains the leadership of the church. It's a tricky line to walk as an active member, but I feel it can be done.

    • Hmm. I’m a little confused by the Word of Wisdom data shared here. “Faithfully observe” seems to be equated with “perfectly observe.” It seems the questions were along the lines of “have you ever,” which is very different than “do you currently.”

      A tattoo is a (nearly) permanent reminder of a past decision but mostly we try to be forward thinking people and believe the direction you’re going now is much more important than the wrong turns you may have taken in the past. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding this section but I know plenty of people who faithfully try to observe the word of wisdom but have in the past tried several of the substances mentioned. I don’t think those two are mutually exclusive

    • Re: Word of Wisdom: the footnote says “the NMS question asked about consumption in the last six months.” Riess also points to an article she co-wrote that may have more details for you, “The Word of Wisdom in Contemporary American Mormonism: Perceptions and Practice,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 51, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 39-78.

      Re: tattoos. I have never heard that the church frowns upon tattoos because they make people dwell in the past. I thought the objection was about defacing the body (temple) God bestows upon each person. But I have been away from the church for more than a decade, so maybe new arguments have been made against tattoos since I was active...

    • “Although Millennials are the most racially diverse of all Mormons, with two in ten being nonwhite, they are not as racially diverse as non-Mormons of their generation; among Millennials in the US population generally, more than four in ten are nonwhite.”

      I was going to ask whether all survey respondents lived in the USA. I found the answer, "yes", at this link: https://thenextmormons.org/methodology/ (search for Geography).

      Of all survey respondents:
      - 27% lived in Utah.
      - 73% lived in the USA outside Utah

      Adding up numbers from that link 60% of respondents lived in the western USA.

      Now it's making sense why the issues and viewpoints brought up seem very western-USA to me.


      This is quite limiting as a broad commentary on the church because for over 20 years the church has reported more members outside the USA than inside. And that margin continues to increase. The better question is: How are they (the people in the highest growth areas) going to change the church (once they get leadership positions ... a challenge but an obvious eventuality)?

      This survey/book should be digested with an understanding of that context. It ignores the views of global members and former members (where the church is growing most). It's primarily focused on people in the western USA.

    • Oh that footnote is helpful, thanks!

      I apologize for the confusing comment about tattoos. What I meant is that belief in church teachings doesn’t mean that a person has always perfectly followed them. A tattoo can be a very visible example of this, or it can simply indicate a past that didn’t include activity/belief in the church.

    • Yes, that's quite a fascinating chart and seems to explain most of what I'm seeing. A significant number of my friends and family are former Mormons, and a significant portion are active, happy, believing Mormons.

      I don't know as much about Catholics or Jews, but the impression I get is many of them describe themselves as occasional, whereas Mormons tend to be one or the other — either in or out.

      I'm very lucky here in my section of California to have a congregation that is super welcoming to me whenever I go back for a special service, which I love, and also to feel accepted by former Mormons.

    • I don't know as much about Catholics or Jews, but the impression I get is many of them describe themselves as occasional, whereas Mormons tend to be one or the other — either in or out.

      I can only speak to my personal experience as an ex-Catholic. I think Catholicism was best described by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch when he referred to it as “a cafeteria plan religion.” We’d see some families in church twice a year at Christmas and Easter. There were people who went to weekday mass every evening. There were Sunday mass regulars who practice pre-marital sex, use condoms and believe homosexuality is not a mortal sin.

      Growing up in that wide range of believers in the Church, it was a bit of a shock when I went to college and experienced the black and white orthodoxy of other religions during interfaith bible studies.

      I think it’s easier to stay in the Catholic Church because of that prevalence of people who don’t follow all of the Vatican’s edicts but still consider themselves Catholics.

      I believe outside the US, there are countries where Catholics are predominantly more devout. It opens up the question of whether an American would ever become pope. It’s only been 40 years since the first non-Italian Pope was elected.

      I suspect the exodus of Catholics after the priest scandals has caused a concentration of the more devout. But its been over a decade since I left for good, so I lack intel on what a typical congregation is like today.

    • This is such a relief to me. I’ve been sick about this policy since it was discovered.

      I think @lidja posted stats to the effect that half of active church members supported the policy but few ex members did. I feel that it drove a wedge between former and current members, so hopefully now we can move on with less of that tension.

    • This is big news here in SLC. In fact NPR interviewed a local reporter about it on the national broadcast this afternoon. He said the initial reaction among local members is relief just as you have described. Others are even more angry, though, as it appears the leaders are citing modern revelation as the reason for the change in policy, and have declined to apologize or to acknowledge that a mistake was made.

      The change in policy means that children will be permitted to be baptized, but the church still regards homosexual unions (sexual relationships) as apostate and sinful, even though the church will not label homosexuals per se with those terms.

    • I just wanted to keep the children out of it. It seems like almost no matter which side you’re on about same-sex marriage, not punishing children who had nothing to do with it is a good thing.

    • I totally agree. I think that’s why the “revelation” focused on those innocent children. Weird that Heavenly Father didn’t straighten that out sooner—maybe the priesthood leaders just weren’t listening for FOUR YEARS?!?

    • While I'm very happy for the children and trying to keep them as my focus, I can't help feeling a little sorry for myself because I'm weak.

      The thing is my wife and I had decades-long close church friendships and when the policy towards children came out, I thought it was important to be honest with friends who asked us about it. We said the policy gave us great sorrow.

      It seemed so surreal to say the same things I had taught as Bishop, that the children are innocent, but after the policy change to lose credibility among some of our closest church friends. I don't know what happens now. Will they want to talk about it in this new light or have our friendships been strained forever?

    • IMHO, this is a fundamental question that only they can answer. It cuts to the heart of how they chose between personal comfort and personal integrity—and it gets the the very essence of how they understand the concept of obedience.

      If they feel *threatened* by things outside the church or concepts that stretch or confront the gospel, then they will chose to sacrifice the relationship rather than dwell in an uncomfortable space that continually challenges their beliefs. (Members of my own family have chosen this path. They risk developing a sense of self-righteousness and arrogance that may eventually come back to haunt them, but it is not my place to point that out or make that judgement.)

      If, on the other hand, they value the relationship and are willing to suspend judgement and allow the space for individuality and alternate perspectives, the friendship can flourish for both parties. (My Mom is one who conducts herself this way. She is clear in her beliefs, but she does not feel ithreatened by disbelief. It is also amazing that she doesn’t fall into that trap of covering up a tendency to condemn non-believers with a false sense of compassion: “Oh, if they would only accept my truth their lives would be so much better.”)

      Perhaps she has lived such a long, full life that she has learned not to judge, not to condemn, but just to love. And is that not exactly what the Savior taught? I think He called it the first and second commandments...

    • This is why I love science. You can dissent, explain why you come to a different conclusion about something, and if your view is the one that survives, you get a medal. It seems like with some issues like this among some people, even if you turn out to be right you are wrong.

    • ...and this is why some people are angry that church leaders have not apologized or admitted they made a mistake but instead they are announcing a new revelation. (Is that throwing God under the bus?)

    • This is what I loved about Gordon B. Hinckley. He was willing to take tough questions from the press and give what I thought was a fair answer: "the leaders at that time...but look, we've moved past it."

      When the church was writing the essays, someone came over to my house to read drafts to me to see what I thought. I was very unhappy with the one on blacks and the priesthood because it felt like we were blaming the Lord for changing his mind. I pointed out that I admired the way President Hinckley answered the question. I heard it wasn't me who convinced them to change it, but to their credit they changed it.

      I was and remain very unhappy with the one on plural marriage and did everything I knew how to change it, but failed. Oh well, at least something was written about it and I hold out hope for certain changes in the future.

    • If there’s one lesson to learn from Riess’ book, it’s that there are as many different understandings of the gospel as there are people in the world.

      People have to work these things out for themselves no matter how things are “written up.”

      You have acted in good faith according to what you believe. That is integrity. You are not so arrogant to think everyone must believe as you do. You are pained at the thought of losing friendships. You wish the best for others. It seems to me you are doing your best, living what you believe and yet not condemning others who have alternative perspectives. Humility.

      Integrity and humility. Not a bad combination.

    • there are as many different understandings of the gospel as there are people

      I would have thought there are a few foundational things upon which we can all agree in the church — the innocence of children and the infallibility of the prophet.

      In this case it seemed to me the two were in conflict and it felt like church members were split (Jana's data seems to confirm). I got interested in understanding both points of view. My sample size is small, but here it is: I talked to 9 members who supported the policy and 6 who didn't. The 9 who did were all current or former leaders, 3 of them in ward or stake relief society presidencies. The 6 who didn't were a mix of primary teachers, a choir leader, and a librarian.

      Some of the ones who didn't feared that their standing with the Bishop would be damaged because they had trouble answering the question about supporting their leaders even though they loved and admired them. They just couldn't get comfortable with this policy.