Last month Mr. T and I attended a meeting led by Terryl and Fiona Givens and Richard Bushman. The topic was on faith crises. (The name "Temple and Observation Society" was explained in that back in the day, there was an observatory set up outside the temple, drawing the parallel that there are those who are observing what is happening in the LDS Church—or something like that.)
There were over 100 people in attendance, each hurt or questioning something. Legitimate hurts, legitimate questions. Our friend, one of the organizers of this meeting, told us that General Authorities knew about these faith crises meetings and approved of them. I find that support heartening, as I did Elder Uchtdorf's recent talk about staying in the Church and Elder Holland's talk last General Conference on having questions.
Here are my garbled notes.
1. Provide a buttress for the morals that you still believe in. When some tenets come crashing down, sometimes it seems easier to just do away with all of them. But hold to the ones that you still agree with. What do you really believe?
2. Marriage can become a victim of the religious change. You may have gone into the marriage with certain expectations of what your Mormon family life would be like, and you may have to renegotiate those expectations.
3. Do not become as adamant and close-minded as the people that you are claiming are adamant and close-minded. You can't fight against everything in the church, so don't get upset if not everyone is fighting for the same thing as you.
4. Keep looking. Be a lifelong investigator of truth.
5. Ask what things actually trouble you. And why. Get to the heart of the issue. Example:
Surface issue: Book of Abraham translation doesn't match the scroll.
Question: Would the Lord allow the prophet to proceed erroneously?
Keep living a moral, upright, and helpful life, with respect to your spouse, child, colleagues, and citizens in general. Be a good human being. If I try to live in a godly way, my life is better.
How can we be more transparent so that people don't feel betrayed with disturbing historical facts?
Recognize that wrestling is good.
We can change the muffling that goes on in church by integrating the historical problems into the bigger story. Not necessarily dwelling on them, but presenting them in the broader historical context.
Make sure your desire for speaking up in church is pure—instead of the desire to shake people up.
Unfortunately, if you have questions or doubts then you are seen as weak and looked down on.
You must ask yourself if Mormonism is a meaningful mythology or a true history. Or some combination.
Mormons like God to be directing everything.
Reframing what the Spirit means
Spiritual immune system and ways it can be compromised
We may misunderstand the nature of God, and our understanding of the Fall, sin, guilt/shame, and perfectionism all follow that.
Searching sometimes means digging through garbage or unneeded things in order to find the thing you're searching for. Treat the scriptures like that: search through the rubble to find God there.
If you don't have a problem with the Old Testament God, you've got a problem. On a really bad day He's genocidal, for crying out loud.
Search out the extracannonical material as well. Good stuff there.
God weeps for our suffering. God also rejoices in our joy. God is vulnerable.
Some questions take a long time to answer. Some questions can't be answered because the question is based on a false paradigm.
Sin is educative and a very important part of our spiritual evolution. Our falling shall not prevent God from loving us.
Guilt and shame is not just our church's problem.
"Be ye therefore perfect" --> perfect in this sense means "lacking nothing," "completeness." It means to fulfill the measure of your creation, not to do everything perfectly.
Time is not essential to the Lord (which makes me wonder why there is such an emphasis, a hurry, a frenzy almost, for Mormon women to bear children). The Gods wait without force until the creation chooses wholeness.
It takes a long time to work through things—be good to others and yourself. Don't thwart your faith journey.
The first converts to the LDS church were Universalists, and there was an understanding that after this life one could "level up" to the next kingdom of glory. This idea began to be smothered by Bruce R. McConkie, who didn't want people to put off their progression until the next life.
If there are only a very few people who actually make it to the Celestial Kingdom, then God is a cataclysmic failure for coming up with a plan where the majority of God's children couldn't live in His [and Her] presence. Expand your portals of truth.
When you feel pushback at church, it's because they are afraid. Love and respect disarms. Remember that we are a lay people. Many of us don't have education or spiritual knowledge or historical knowledge. We are a lay people. Don't yourself expect perfect people in the church.
Margaret Barker talked about how those who burned witches thought that they were doing God a favor.
Does Mother Teresa really have to be baptized?
Too often we think of leaders as the keepers of our conscience, and we turn over to them the responsibility of our lives. Someone once said, "When a leader speaks, the thinking has been done." George Albert Smith refuted that statement.
On the other side of things, we still behave as if our leaders should be perfect; we are angry when they spread false doctrine, and we give them power over our feelings. Where is the perfect leader?
Get your answers from God and no one else.
Inspiration is uneven.
We can be open and appreciative of other churches. We do not have a monopoly on salvation.
Once Brigham Young said some mean things to one of his leaders. When he called him into his office later, Brigham Young said to the leader, "I suppose you are going to apostatize now" and the leader, awesomely, said, "Brother Brigham—that's exactly what I would do if this was your church."
Mother Teresa never heard God's voice.
Doubts don't come (necessarily) from a moral failure.
How we wish bishops would respond when we tell them we have questions:
Validate our concerns.
Not assume that we are moral reprobates.
Recognize that we are coming from a sincere or a faithful place.
Don't make it personal (bishops may feel threatened by your questions)
Focus on the individual, not the body or the corporate structure of the church
Don't freak out
In turn, we can have compassion when bringing up questions because the bishop's ego may be on the line. When we do this, the fear and the threat are defanged.
What are the issues that people are genuinely struggling with right now? (and not because of wickedness or moral failure, etc.)
Feeling betrayed, that the church hides historical issues
Science—rejecting intellectual truth
Civil marriages—having to exclude non-member family from a very important cultural ceremony
Baptizing transgendered folks
The Proclamation on the Family and all the expectations it entails
The Young Women Program
I was able to meet and talk with a lot of great people at this meeting. It's almost funny how scared we are to discuss problems in the church with our ward family, for fear of rejection, but that fear is real and justified. But if we go away, our voices are lost. When we are friendly, confident, and loving, and not try to fix other people, we just might be able to help them be more aware of the hurtful or ignorant things they are saying. Not guaranteed, but at least we make a space for ourselves in a church where we can't agree 100% with what the leadership is saying.
Next post: the craziness that was this last General Conference. We are both reeling.