To my friend who left the Church

You know when you write an email, but don’t really plan on sending it? That’s what this is. This post is a response to two people I know who decided to leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of events in Church history, issues they have with modern revelation in relation to current social trends, or being offended by fellow Mormons. To some, this letter may sound too sarcastic, careless, or even self righteous. I may not be leaving the Church myself but I have my own set of sins to work out. This is just what I felt and thought when I considered my friends’ reasons for rejecting the Church after growing up in it for several decades. I kind of feel like this is a letter to myself for when I forget the ‘why’ behind my membership in the Church.

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The Sermon on the Mount (by Harry Anderson, Lds.org)

Dear Friend,

I’m sorry you’ve been forced to deal with imperfect Mormons. I’m sorry that their mortal short fallings have caused you to question your membership, your baptism, your covenants, your temple marriage, and your very life in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I commend you for leaving a church run by imperfect people that offended you. I commend you for leaving so people would stop judging you for being you. I’m so happy that, now distanced from the church, you can move forward with your life with no fear of judgment, criticism, or offense from anyone ever again. And even if you do happen to confront that again, you can apply the same prescription you did here and just leave and find something else. Something new. Something more exciting.

I’m so thrilled that you have found your ‘fairy tale’ ending, because I was convinced that eternal life, eternal love, eternal progression, and the eternality of the body, mind, and spirit with your spouse, family, and children was a fairy tale. A fairy tale for eternity with no ending. And not merely a fairy tale but a path wrought with real sacrifice and exquisite joy and adventure that points to Godhood. I’m so glad you have found something better that requires nothing of you in return. No submission of will, time, or talents, because you know better and you know best.

I was convinced that a man, named Jesus Christ, was part God and part man, literally the Son of God, and came to this Earth to heal the hurts, the regrets, the emotional and physical pains, and yes pain from offense so that we, the divine children of the Father of Mankind, could learn that He actually truly loves us and loves us so much that He said Himself that His work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. He even said that, “men are that they might have joy”. I’m glad you found something more fulfilling and more enlightening than this.

I was under the impression that being human can be hard, really hard, so hard that it can bring you to your knees and cause you physical or mental anguish you did not think was possible. I’m glad you’ve shown me that it can be made easier by just walking away. I thought that trials were meant to bring us to our Father so that we could be refined and beautifully polished. Sanctified and made holy and glorious through the grace of God to shine as a hopeful light in a troubled world.

I thought that this sanctifying process involved aligning our views with Him and humbling ourselves so that he could then speak to us as His child and hold our hand and lead us to a potential we could never possibly dream of. I thought that the Gospel was about finding our true identity. I thought it was about losing our “old self in order to find the new self” (Neil A. Maxwell). I’m glad you’ve shown us that we, in this momentary mortal frame, can be our own God unto ourselves because only we know what is best for us. I’m so glad you have found a better way. A way that doesn’t make you feel peculiar or different, but more at ease in the world.

But I guess this doesn’t really matter to you because if you have faith in or even a desire to have faith in God or have faith that President Thomas S. Monson was divinely called of God as His prophet to lead the Church, this all sounds utterly ridiculous to you and your newfound ‘freedom’. And it will more than likely offend you, because you have forgotten that you are the child, not the Parent.

Divine Revelation: It’s not a Democracy

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Noah being ridiculed for prophesying. (Source: LDS.org)

The problem with us, with humans, with society, is that we always want immediate answers or explanations for our questions and problems. We’re impatient. A hallmark of humanity. But God has always made it very clear that our realm of understanding is still in an embryonic stage and while we continue to play out our mortality, it will remain so:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

I know someone, as I’m sure you may as well, who has “left” the church because they didn’t have the answer to an important question (to them), and even if the answer was given from the ordained prophet, they rejected it. And that’s what it comes down to really: Oftentimes a deep seated issue they have with the Church, something they can’t quite let go or be patient with, can be traced back to their lack of belief that the Church’s current prophet was truly called to his station by God.

Ironically, some Church members are arguing with or complaining against modern revelation, the very thing that was taken from the Church shortly after the apostles died, because man decided that the Bible was all they needed. THEY shut themselves out from God, so God withdrew the miracle of revelation. In effect, some members are saying “hey, we don’t want modern revelation anymore because we know better. We’re technologically and intellectually advanced enough to be able to lead the Church with our own ideas.”

It is true that there are certain cultural traditions within the Church that aren’t actual doctrine, they were merely perpetuated by the circumstance and time period in which the Church grew. For example, it is not Church doctrine that women wear a dress to Church, however it is recommended that Church goers wear their very best, and traditionally speaking that has been a dress for women and thus the pattern has persisted. If you are ridiculing or complaining against the Church for inconsequential norms like wearing a dress to Church, you need to look deeper within yourself to discover what the real issue is.

It can be made quite simple really: If you have faith that President Monson is the true and living prophet today, then it follows that we should be able to understand that even if there is a doctrine we feel is dated or a historical aspect we don’t approve of, the Church is still true.

Even more, how dare we, as mortal beings, demand a divine or manmade change to Christ’s Church to bring it into submission with current trends? That’s not a Church at all, that’s a child complaining to a parent. If you do have faith that the prophet is called of God, any other “issue” that arises about the Church shouldn’t truly upset your testimony. But if you don’t have a belief in modern revelation then you will certainly be more willing to jump on the latest wave of societal truth.

On the day of the Orlando shooting 3,000 babies were killed. Where is their vigil?

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A vigil held for the Orlando night club shooting victims at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Arts. Orlando, Florida. Photo Credit: Charles King / Orlando Sentinel

This article is not about the Second Amendment. It’s not about the sale of automatic rifles in the United States. It’s not about the people whose precious lives were cut short in an instant and have left family and friends behind. All lives have value. It’s not even about Islamic Radicals or terrorism. Everyone else is already talking about that. This article is about how society reacts to mass murder in our country.

There was an unsettling irony to the 70th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday evening, June 12. The speeches and performances were largely dedicated and called attention to the mass shooting that killed forty-nine people at a nightclub earlier that day in Orlando, Florida.

Did the audience also know that by the time they took their seats in New York City’s Beacon Theatre at 8PM, 3,000 children had been murdered in the last twenty-four hours across the United States of America? Did they know that since the U.S. started collecting abortion data in 1973 that 53 million babies have been ‘legally’ killed in the U.S.? That is equal to the current populations of California and Texas combined. Where is their vigil? What televised awards show dedicated their program to the 1.06 million baby deaths that occurred in 2011, or in U.S. history? (Note: the national abortion rate has slowly declined since 2008. 2011 currently provides the most comprehensive research on abortion statistics. In 2011, 21% of all pregnancies in the U.S. ended in abortion [excluding miscarriages]).

Today the McDonalds along my commute to work lowered their flags (the American flag, State Flag, and McDonalds flag are all there) to half mass in honor of the Orlando victims. But why don’t they do the same in honor of all the babies who were methodically murdered across the nation that day as well? A systematic slaughter where the most common in-clinic method is suction aspiration (Or an ‘aspiration abortion’, a procedure that crushes the head and tears apart the baby so all the limbs can be singly sucked out of the uterus through a tube).

What differentiates shooting to kill as opposed to suction aspiration? Is it because abortion is legal? You can’t shoot someone. That is illegal. Is that what makes it wrong? When did society decide that death by a bullet wound was more important than death by suction?

One of the arguments for abortion is that if all these ‘unwanted’ children were allowed to live, the obligation would be put on society to care for these kids: foster homes, public education–and then what if they become criminals? (side note: so the answer to extra babies and ‘overpopulation’ is murder?) With that same argument you could say that now society also doesn’t have to worry about the forty-nine people that were just murdered in Orlando. They won’t need social security and they will never have the potential to be a burden on society because they are GONE. Wiped from this world by a murderer. The many of the victims were in their early twenties and who knows if they would’ve turned out to be criminals later in life. Even more, the world is overpopulated, which has caused a strain on resources so the less people the better (I don’t agree with this overpopulation theory but that is for another time). That sounds TERRIBLE, right? That mindset is disgraceful and loathsome. It makes me sick to write it! Who in their right mind would ever support such a despicable idea?

About Tyler Glenn: Mormon doctrine isn’t mainstream and that’s the point.

This week, Tyler Glenn of The Neon Trees released a single entitled “Trash”. The focus is Glenn’s disenchantment with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Hereafter referred to as “the Church”). Glenn was a member of the Church and openly gay. Then six months ago the Church released a statement reaffirming it’s stance on LGBT relationships: those in same sex marriages are considered apostates and that children of same sex couples cannot get baptized in the Church until they turn 18. So Glenn left the church, “You have to understand I served a mission, I was raised LDS. I believed it up until six months ago and the church showed me the church was not true.” (KUTV)

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Tyler Glenn in music video “Trash”

I watched the “Trash” music video. I saw pain and confusion. I saw a man working through likely the hardest thing in his life. This is not a review or commentary on his music or the video. I will not for a second act like I know what Glenn is going through. I do not know what it feels like to be gay when your Church condemns practicing that lifestyle. My comments here are not about Glenn and his personal experience nor have I ever met him. This is about former Mormons (or current Mormons or those who are not Mormon) publicly demonstrating frustration and discontent with the Church. Glenn just so happens to be the latest example.

I’m used to seeing my religion openly scoffed at, derided, and misunderstood (more often deliberately misunderstood). This has been the story since the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, or as historians call it the founding of the Mormon church in 1830. This contempt reached a low point during the Mormon extermination order enacted by Missouri Governor Lillburn Boggs in 1835 that wasn’t rescinded until 1976. Jump forward a century and a half and you have the provoking Broadway hit “The Book of Mormon Musical” that vilifies, disparages, and satirizes the Church’s doctrine, missionaries, values, and people. In it’s now very successful five year run, going on six, no buildings have been blown up nor has anyone been shot. Actually, the LDS church good-naturedly chose to take out ads in the playbill saying “the book is always better” encouraging show goers to give the real thing a try.

Clearly, Glenn is not the first to have a massively public platform to share his ex Mormon feelings about the Church. He will not be the last. Being a born and raised Mormon myself, there comes a certain pride when you see a group like Neon Trees (when they first got big) roll on the scene with a Mormon frontman who shares your same beliefs. He and other talented Mormon artists with that kind of international platform have never given me validation for my religion because all of the sudden it appears ‘mainstream’ merely because someone popular likes it. It made me happy that the world could see that we are ‘normal’, talented, kind, and good, but it never made my religious choices feel validated because somebody popular also thought I was right. Hopefully we’ve left high school behind us.

But back to the Church’s lack of being mainstream–That is the very key right there which is why I don’t quite understand it when individuals and groups rally to make certain practices or doctrines more modern. The Church has never been popular. Mormonism will never be mainstream, it will never be ‘in’, it will never be easy, it will never be ‘what everyone is doing’. That’s the point. Let me say it again: that is the point. Case in point, dressing modest (a principal of how Mormons dress) is never popular unless its a trend. I clearly recall long sleeved dresses coming back in style after Kate Middleton strutted the look on her wedding day in 2011.

I’m writing this not to assure myself that ‘I’m okay’ after seeing a high profile Mormon like Glenn so openly thrash the LDS faith. I’m the biggest supporter of freedom of speech and defend his right to ridicule my faith and his former way of life. I’m writing this to remind people that what he is saying is nothing new. There is nothing new in the feelings he is sharing about the Church. That discontent has always existed for some and if they pursue it, yes it will envelope them and they will leave the Church and through their art, their voice, their talent have a desire to express that angst, that discontent, and even a sense of betrayal like Glenn has.

I had a tidal of de ja vu when I read what he shared in a recent interview. I’d heard this before… The context is this: one week after the church released its November 2015 statement (referred to earlier) he had watched a family member baptize his nephew:

“It pains me to watch my brother get to do something, that because I’m gay I am stripped of. It is not right. It is not right.” –Tyer Glenn (KUTV)

I don’t really have words to express how sad, how lonely, how lost that would make one feel. But let’s pretend for a moment that Glenn is not the one who said this. Who else have you heard say this about a principle or doctrine in the Mormon Church: “its not fair” or “it’s not right” or “I don’t agree with it.” You know where I’ve heard it? People in my community, other religions, ex Mormons, and more importantly people who are Mormon. Then there’s the most important source I’ve heard this from: the Bible and the Book of Mormon. This last one will make people who hate the Church, don’t believe in God, or feel Mormonism is crap click right off this article because if you don’t believe in God, or even kind of hope to believe in God just a little bit, scriptural messages don’t interest you (But hey, to those leaving, thanks for reading while it lasted!)

Here’s the first thing we need to understand about why Mormonism isn’t mainstream. It’s not about you or me. It’s about God and what he can do through you and with you, and how through that relationship you can reach your divine potential and become the phenomenal person he knows you can be. In a society that worships the self (self promotion, self aggrandizement, “If it’s not convenient for me, I’m out”) this is enormously unpopular.

Now to the goods. This is where it’s at. I get revved up when I read these verses because it is Exactly. What. We. See. Today. Here are some verses in holy scripture, among hundreds, I selected to connect to current events.

Helaman 13:20

… “your hearts are not drawn out to unto the Lord, but they do swell with great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities”

Commentary: Here we have the ‘self’ pitted against God again. Scripture reading folks recall that it was Satan in the preexistence who said (and I’m paraphrasing) give the glory and honor to me, then Jehovah stepped in and said ‘no, let the glory be Thine [i.e. God’s].”

1 Peter 1:14-16

“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.

“Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Commentary: Don’t mold yourself, your life after your lusts (what you want, your desires). Being ‘holy’ includes sexual sin and sexual sins consist of same sex relationships.

1 Peter 2:11

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”

Commentary: Notice the imagery war against the soul. That is terrifyingly powerful. Carnal lusts are the downfall of marriages, of relationships, of societies. How much sadness and heartbreak can we attribute to adultery, infidelity, rape, sex slavery.

2 Peter 2:1-2

V.1 “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

 V.2 “ And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”

Commentary: False prophets and teachers are particularly well hidden these days. They come in the form of (among other things) people trying to rally for a cause to make the church change doctrine. But what I really want to point out is in v.2 where it says that because of a false teachers, truth will be degraded and mocked. This is possibly one of the most frustrating things to a member of the LDS faith, or any religious person for that matter–when something good or a truth, or a revealed doctrine is purposefully changed to serve the ways of those who want to make a buffet out of the word of God.

2 Peter 2:12

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.”

Commentary: Have you ever gone to a movie that you really enjoyed then talk about it with your friend who just tears it apart, then you find out they haven’t even watched it yet? Note to anti Mormon commentators: read the Book of Mormon, watch General Conference, read the stories that people close to Joseph Smith tell about his character, then get back to me. I’m not about to tell you your favorite book is garbage just because of what an online review says. I’ll give you the courtesy of reading it first myself with the intent to understand. And that is key to a book review, if you go into it with an agenda you’ll write the review according to said agenda. You get the point.

Helaman 11:22

“they had peace…save it were a few contentions concerning the points of doctrine that had been laid down by the prophets…

V.23 “And in the seventy and ninth year there began to be much strife. But it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi, and many of their brethren who knew concerning the true points of doctrine, having many revelations daily, therefore, they did preach unto the people, insomuch that they did put an end to their strife in that same year.”

Commentary: This could’ve been written yesterday. Some people within and outside of the Church, always seem to have issue with gospel doctrine, principles, and prophetic statements when they don’t align with how society feels about them. For example: Proclamation on the Family, First Presidency Statements on same sex marriage, General Conference talks that talk about women’s roles or the importance of marriage…pick one). This is not new and the lash out we may see against these statements is in no way related to the goodness and purity of the doctrines taught. If anything, I sense that the amount of vitiriol shown toward certain statements is a measurement of how much we need it in this world.

Helaman 13: 24-29

V.24 “Wo unto this people…that ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them, and do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time.”

Notice: he says olden time, so they too in Book of Mormon times were also reflecting on more ancient times when prophets were scorned. This public scoring of doctrine and principles was nothing new to them either.

On to v. 25, and this is absolutely fascinating because I hear this amongst God fearing people constantly:

“And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.”

Note: I’ve caught myself at times thinking, ‘yeah, if I had witnessed the parting of the red sea with Moses, this whole Mormon thing would be easy because I would know.” About that. Let’s take a look at those same Isralites at the Red Sea parting years later creating golden idols as Moses brought down the Ten Commandments then broke them when he saw the people worshipping false Gods. Miracles don’t convert. Nor does science. The Spirit of God does.

And again. V. 26 “…if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with im, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.”

Let me set before us an example of how we’ve seen this play at:

Random Mormon: “The Church should do this and this and make gays feel more accepted by being more lenient in their stance.” (gay is interchangeable with other things like abortion, women and the priesthood, etc.)

Church: “No. The Church is not a democracy. We don’t let members vote out doctrine or practices based on popular opinion or what is trending in society. It is run by God.”

Random Mormon: “Okay then you are not a true prophet, you don’t receive real revelation so I’m going to go my own way and get support from people who think likeminded and maybe along the way I’ll get enough backing to change the Church. The Church is only right if it aligns with my opinions and let’s anyone participate in sacred covenants, regardless of their lifestyle. The Church is being intolerant and bigoted because they won’t ease up on the LGBT members.”

Now to finish this off with scripture:

v.28 “But behold if a man shall come among you and say….do whatsoever your heart desireth…ye shall receive him, and say that he is a prophet”

v. 29 “Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance…your gold…and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well then ye will not find fault with him.”

Then the final word in v. 38: “…ye have sought happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.”

Commentary: Nobody likes to be called out for something they shouldn’t be doing. Who liked being grounded? We’re human, we like to be told we’re amazing and incredible and if someone tells us to change our lifestyle because it is incorrect, it can hit us hard. How helpful is the mentor that never sets you straight? Whenever the prophet or leaders of the Church say something that is opposite of what mainstream society believes to be ‘right’ the Church is yelled at. Bytheway, what is ‘right’ changes every decade. Hello moral relativity. No wonder we are so confused.

It is a fascinating lesson in human nature to watch Mormons sometimes shake their finger at God when what his prophets say does not align with their personal opinions on what is considered ‘right’.

The point is that if you are a Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and you believe that Joseph Smith restored the Church to the Earth, then it follows that you also believe in modern prophets, revelation, and the Book of Mormon and the Bible all the time, not only when it is convenient. So even if you don’t agree, they aren’t going to change. But when you make it a cause for people to rally to, you’re public display of discontent (like passing around pamphlets to promote your a change in doctrine) may result in excommunication which you may choose to also make a public display of depending on who you are, to make a point to your followers and the Church. Church leadership does not represent it’s 15 million members to God–Church Leadership are representatives of God on Earth.