My big hairy list of concerns

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Beefster
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My big hairy list of concerns

Post by Beefster » 04 Mar 2018, 18:46

I've been thinking lately that it would be helpful to write down my top concerns that I need to address before I can make a decision one way or the other. I have good reasons to stay. I have good reasons to leave. But that decision will not be rational until I address the elephant in the room.

This is not intended as a list of criticisms against the church, but rather a call to help me reconcile these issues. Maybe there isn't a way and that's okay. But seeing as I would rather be able to stay in the church for the sake of family support and familiarity of navigation, I would much rather be able to resolve these concerns. I would appreciate resources to be able to deep dive into these issues and try to find a model that allows me to stay active and be authentic in doing so.

No Evidence that the President is a Prophet
Good man? Definitely. Prophet? I can't say. I don't have an issue with the idea of a modern prophet, but I would expect him to, yknow, show actual evidence of it. I don't expect big honking miracles or 50-year-from-now prophecies, but I do expect some unapologetic revelations from time to time. And don't give me any of the garbage like "you have to believe first" or "it's too sacred to talk about" (when referring to whether they have seen Christ) because the former is weak to confirmation bias and the latter is a total copout.

Fundamentally, this is the biggest issue for me. This is the linchpin. Without this belief, it literally makes no sense to me to be a member of the church. I can't go around pretending to believe in a prophet that I don't believe is a prophet. That is the one line I will not cross. I can deal with every other issue. But the thing is, the other issues on my list also show some evidence to the contrary, so this may not be something I can address until other issues have been resolved.

Financial Operations
There is no financial transparency of the church. This is an issue because the scriptures mention in several places that the Lord does not work in darkness. In addition, the church spends a disproportionately small amount of money on humanitarian and welfare efforts (in comparison to things like the City Creek Mall) while sitting on several billion dollars of liquid assets. This is an issue because it appears to go against Jacob 2:17, which condemns having/seeking wealth that you do not use to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and liberate the captive. The history of tithing is sketchy and I am greatly bothered by tithing exemptions in the Q12 starting with Brigham Young.

I noticed on my mission that the vast majority of the active members tended to live in the wealthier parts of the ward boundaries, but this can be for a number of reasons, so I don't find it damning on its own. OTOH, it can be said that the church is very much a church of wealthy people.

The Approach on Chastity and Modesty
While I believe it is important to be careful about the messages you send through what you wear, the church's modesty teachings are counterproductive. They damage women's body confidence and reduce a truly amazing principle down to a list of rules. Condemnation of pornography and masturbation is too strong, which damages men's self worth and makes them more prone to addictive behaviors because of the human psychology that makes people want the forbidden just because it's forbidden. Most of my beef here is from psychological damage done to a certain subset of church membership, including the Elizabeth Smarts and the Scott Cannons of the church.

There's great advice tucked away in chastity standards, but I think it may be a mistake to categorize these issues as next to murder in severity. Scott Cannon's story resonates strongly with me because of how these teachings have affected my self worth. Had I started younger or gotten into more serious porn, I guarantee you my story would look a lot like his.

Homosexuality
My views have shifted more favorably toward gays, especially in the last 6 months. At this point, it feels wrong to me to demand that certain people remain celibate just because they're attractions are "wrong". There is not much of a place for gays in the church and it tears out my heart to say that. I don't believe God works like this. We all deserve to have happy and fulfilling lives, not just good eternities if we live a painful life.

Sexism
Sexism in temple ceremonies has bothered me from the beginning. Women get different covenants and cover their faces during parts of the ceremonies. I once asked why women have a veil and my answer was basically "tradition." I do not think there is malice or misogyny behind this (as many exmos would), but perhaps an over-reliance on tradition. Men and women are different- there's no denying that, but a lot of teachings and practices in the church suggest that women are not equally valuable as men.

Worthiness Standards
Many of the temple worthiness standards have little to do with being a good person and believing the "right" things, and not very much to do with what it means to be a good person. The Word of Wisdom is fantastic advice, but it does not make you a bad person if you do not follow it. So why is it a TR requirement?

Marginalized Singles
The church doesn't seem to have a clue as to what to do to keep singles active. So they try separating them into YSA wards. Okay... Well that sorta works, but it has issues with transience and a shortage of leadership or meaningful callings, depending on where you live. There is a deeper underlying problem here- singles feel out of place in a family-obsessed church and it's a quick hack to give them a social island. There is a serious and widespread issue in the culture of the church where you are not fully considered an adult until you are married. In some cases, people can regress in their "adult" status after a divorce.

Proselytizing Methodologies
The church advocates for a pushy approach to sharing the gospel. It resembles sales methodologies more than anything seen in the scriptures and encourages crossing social boundaries that should not be crossed. For every success story of a pushy missionary approach, there are 99 failures, most ending at the front door. For instance, last week in church, the SSP was teaching one of the "Teaching in the Lord's Way" classes. We talked about the part of reaching out to those who don't make it to class (groan). The teacher shared a story from GC or something of a man who reactivated a YSA guy in Hawaii or something by essentially giving him no other choice but to go to church, going so far as to waking him up, throwing him in his car and even following him out to the ocean while he was actively avoiding the bishop (or whoever it was). I was disgusted by the approach and wanted to speak out against that but held my tongue for fear of being accused of lack of faith for arguing with a GA or something like that.
Boys are governed by rules. Men are governed by principles.

Sometimes our journeys take us to unexpected places. That is a truly beautiful thing.

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LookingHard
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Re: My big hairy list of concerns

Post by LookingHard » 04 Mar 2018, 21:15

I found it good to list the issues once my head stopped spinning. I wanted to think about all the issues I found, which ones were the main issues.

I did put in a reminder to do the same again in a year as I think things will change over time.

I share many of your issues, but if I really boil mine down it comes down to the top leaders of the church have totally lost my confidence that they have anything to do with me and God. They have proven to me not to be trustworthy, therefore I no longer trust them.

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SamBee
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Re: My big hairy list of concerns

Post by SamBee » 05 Mar 2018, 01:39

I believe everyone is a prophet to some degree, so that's how I get around the first one.
I noticed on my mission that the vast majority of the active members tended to live in the wealthier parts of the ward boundaries, but this can be for a number of reasons, so I don't find it damning on its own. OTOH, it can be said that the church is very much a church of wealthy people.
Well the church was founded in the USA and the first missions were to Canada and Europe, so it is best established in those places (although the European church was uprooted by emigration to Utah).

However, there are parts of the world with many active members which are not rich. The South Sea islands being the prime example.

In my ward this is certainly not true. The building is certainly in one of the wealthiest parts of town, but many of the members are working class or not well off. Very very few investigators are upper class - I remember once visiting one in a very expensive apartment, but that was quite exceptional. Our local members include people who work in kitchens, cleaners, Uber drivers, long term unemployed, truck drivers, construction workers etc.
Sexism in temple ceremonies has bothered me from the beginning. Women get different covenants and cover their faces during parts of the ceremonies.
On the flipside there is nothing in the temple ceremonies which women do not take part in to some degree. I think it would take only minor adjustments to change what you are talking about. The veiling obviously stems from wedding dresses, but it's not like they can't see what's going on. But it says specifically in that ceremonies that women become "priestesses', something which often escapes the notice of most people.

Apparently in the Second Anointing, women play the prime role but few hear about it.
The Word of Wisdom is fantastic advice, but it does not make you a bad person if you do not follow it. So why is it a TR requirement?
Staying off the things included in it is a good thing IMHO. In fact my non-LDS doctor specifically told me to stay off these things when I was inactive.

All of the things listed are behavior modifying. Have you met people who get cranky because they haven't had their morning coffee or hankering for a cigarette?
Marginalized Singles
Try being a single over thirty. Yet looking over my family, I can see very few who married in their early twenties.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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DarkJedi
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Re: My big hairy list of concerns

Post by DarkJedi » 05 Mar 2018, 06:53

No Evidence that the President is a Prophet
Me, too. Definitely a good man, although I may disagree with him (which some would consider to be heresy). Prophet? Only if one's definition of what a prophet, seer and revelator is is far different than mine. I can buy that he is the rightful leader of the church because of the order of succession that has been established. I have no problem with his administrator/CEO status, nor that he can be a minister just like the rest of us. This was a big issue for me in the beginning as well and I won't say it's a nonissue now - but my point of view has changed significantly.
Financial Operations
I know this is a biggie for many people, and I do wish the church would be more forthright. I'm not after details, just something in the auditor's report that says something like "The church spent $20 billion on temples, $30 billion on missionary efforts, $25 billion on building and maintaining meeting houses, $1 billion on GA/AA travel," etc. This one is actually quite low on my own list, though.
The Approach on Chastity and Modesty
I do believe in the law of chastity, but I disagree with the way it is portrayed, practiced, and enforced. I agree that the biggest issue is the psychological harm done. The next topic is related to this in my mind, and is one of my bigger issues.
Homosexuality
My issue with the church and homosexuality is that the church admits homosexuality is not a choice or the fault of the individual, yet in light of that enforces unfair sets of rules on homosexuals. I'm not advocating that the church perform temple sealings for homosexuals but I do hope that someday the church will recognize legal gay marriages or unions. It is unfair that I didn't choose to be heterosexual yet I can marry and have sex and homosexuals can't. It's unfair to the children of homosexuals that they can't be baptized based on the beliefs of their parents - and that they have to state that they eschew those beliefs in order to be baptized even as adults. I don't believe that is part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sexism
Yep. The church is getting better but they're still far from "there." The temple ceremonies have changed rather significantly since I was endowed in 1983, I see no reason to continue the sexism in those ceremonies.
Worthiness Standards
I have come to the point where I dislike hearing the word. I agree that the WoW ought not be a TR question, and likewise tithing should be eliminated as a requirement. I'm fine with the belief questions. I have come to strongly dislike the hymn 'In Humility Our Savior" although I like the first verse and the tune. I refuse to sing it, and we sing it about once a month in my ward. What's my beef: Second verse, "Then when we have proven worthy of they sacrifice divine...." We are ALL - every. single. one. of. us. - worthy of that sacrifice divine. Period.
Marginalized Singles
I was 30 when I married. I get it, been there and done that. I wouldn't wish it on my enemies.
Proselytizing Methodologies
I agree that it is a sales mentality and I believe it is almost all numbers focused and has little to do with "saving souls." And the focus is all wrong. Instead of focusing on Christ and His atonement we focus on Joseph Smith and other prophets, gold plates, etc. In The Christ Who Heals Fiona and Terryl Givens eloquently make this point without disparaging missionary work/missionaries like I am. It's a good point. I think it should take longer to become a member of the church and the focus should be more on the pure truths of the gospel and testimony of Jesus Christ. I believe if the process were longer and more focused on what really matters the retention rate would dramatically increase, but the "conversion" rate would radically decrease.

My own big thing right now is related to the last item. I think we stray too far from the core principles of the gospel every Sunday and we ave lost focus on Christ and his atonement. I see that the Brethren recognize this and are making some effort to correct it - but it's a very long row to hoe with the entrenched Old Guard.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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dande48
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Re: My big hairy list of concerns

Post by dande48 » 05 Mar 2018, 07:05

LookingHard wrote:
04 Mar 2018, 21:15
I share many of your issues, but if I really boil mine down it comes down to the top leaders of the church have totally lost my confidence that they have anything to do with me and God. They have proven to me not to be trustworthy, therefore I no longer trust them.
Ditto. I agree on several points you mentioned, Beefster, but they're all things I could reconcile with IF I was confident they came from God. But if you take away the divine mandate and the priesthood authority from the Church, and what do you have?
Financial Operations
-AJ Miller posts all his tax returns, and makes the point of public accounting for every penny he receives in donations. Yet it takes some serious leaks for us to finally figure out the salary of our top leaders. If you hide something, it's because you feel there's a reason to hide it. It makes me feel that the Church leaders are being sneaky and slightly ashamed.

What makes this worse is, if you are working full time (40 hours a week), and you are a full tithe payer, that means you are working 4 hours a week to pay for 3 hours of Church. It's a HUGE financial investment. I want there to be some accountability to where my money is going... even better if I get some say.
Chastity, Modesty, Homosexuality, Sexism, Singles
-The difficulty here, is that we live in a time completely different from any other. Birth Control has made sex cheap, and the physical (not psychological or spiritual) consequences minimal. The "sexual revolution" of the late 60's through the 70's exacerbated this, and the more recent advancements in the internet and personal computing have lead to constant access of porn. Homosexuality is more open and apparent than ever before. We are no longer required to engage in hard, manual labor to make a living, meaning women can perform equally well as a provider as a man. People are getting married later and later, for a variety of reasons; increasing individualism, unrealistic expectations, unlimited choices...

And while many of these advancements have wonderful sides to them, they also have had some tragic consequences. These are issues we have never before faced in the history of mankind. We NEED prophetic guidance. And I don't expect God to see eye-to-eye with the latest trends and political ideologies. But the revelation hasn't come... just echos from the past.
Proselytizing Methodologies
-I actually admire the Church in this area, and am surprised more religions do not take this approach. If an Abrahamic religion's claims were true, it'd be of the absolute and upmost urgency to convert everyone to it. Our eternal salvation is at stake! We have to be over the top proactive, sharing at every opportunity, wading into deep waters... The fact that other Abrahamic religions do not proselytize with such fervor, makes me question if they actually believe what they preach.

Don't get me wrong, it can be very annoying to be on the receiving end of this. But for a Church that is "true", I don't expect any less. In fact, I feel a little sad when I'm forgotten by the wayside. In the past few wards I've been in, there have been no home teachers, no visiting teachers... no real outreach from the bishopric. I've had a couple of EQ presidents who have taken the time to get to know me, but as a whole I feel unloved.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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DarkJedi
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Re: My big hairy list of concerns

Post by DarkJedi » 05 Mar 2018, 16:00

As I have pondered this a bit more I'd have to say that church culture is very high on my list. This culture is interwoven into some of Beefster's list, but it also includes dogma and pseudo-doctrine as well as judgementalism and Pharisaical behaviors and my favorite all time favorite that we are saved by works (minimizing grace).
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Roy
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Re: My big hairy list of concerns

Post by Roy » 05 Mar 2018, 17:11

Today I am feeling somewhat detached. Which can be a coping mechanism at times. There are many organizations with practices that I might not love. "Live and let live," I say.

Prophet - in this organization they like to call the top administrator "prophet". {{shrugs}} Ok, why not? I actually very much like that the church leader does not make a bunch of revelatory pronouncements. Considering that the last thing billed as revelation was the policy of exclusion, I can live without "Thus saith the Lord" just fine.

Financial transparency - first, it is not my money so knock yourself out. Second, I genuinely trust that there are regular financial audits and that there is no funny business going on. My priorities might not be their priorities, but then again it is not my money.

As I continue on down the list I am reminded of DJ's comment about Mormon culture. I do not agree with many of those church culture elements. Some of those elements are rather annoying - others are damaging. I am comforted in my belief that the more damaging elements are being fixed, or softened, or no longer preached and hopefully forgotten in a generation or two. :shh:
God, grant me the Serenity, to accept the things I can not change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.
Is my detachment serenity? That sure would be nice. Maybe time will tell.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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SamBee
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Re: My big hairy list of concerns

Post by SamBee » 05 Mar 2018, 17:55

I'd like to point there is *some* financial transparency in the church:

* Firstly, some countries require COJCOLDS to make their accounts available. Unfortunately this doesn't happen at source - the USA.

* Secondly, the church does audits at ward/branch level and two people always have to do tithing.

This is too little, but it is something.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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Beefster
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Re: My big hairy list of concerns

Post by Beefster » 05 Mar 2018, 23:28

DarkJedi wrote:
05 Mar 2018, 16:00
As I have pondered this a bit more I'd have to say that church culture is very high on my list. This culture is interwoven into some of Beefster's list, but it also includes dogma and pseudo-doctrine as well as judgementalism and Pharisaical behaviors and my favorite all time favorite that we are saved by works (minimizing grace).
I agree. There are definitely a lot of Pharisaical / Zoramitish behaviors in the church which bother me... But ultimately, those issues don't hold me back. The culture points to some underlying problems, but isn't exactly the problem itself.
Boys are governed by rules. Men are governed by principles.

Sometimes our journeys take us to unexpected places. That is a truly beautiful thing.

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Beefster
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Re: My big hairy list of concerns

Post by Beefster » 05 Mar 2018, 23:43

Roy wrote:
05 Mar 2018, 17:11
Prophet - in this organization they like to call the top administrator "prophet". {{shrugs}} Ok, why not? I actually very much like that the church leader does not make a bunch of revelatory pronouncements. Considering that the last thing billed as revelation was the policy of exclusion, I can live without "Thus saith the Lord" just fine.
I would be fine with that if it weren't for the fact that the term "prophet" comes with a lot of expectations. A prophet should prophesy. A seer should have visions. A revelator should reveal. If they admitted that they were "prophets" in name only, this would be fine. But that sort of involves throwing out most of the truth claims.

Maybe this is my all-or-nothing thinking coming out, but I don't want to have to lie about what I believe to get a TR and I don't really want to be active without a TR. I know it works for some of you, but that just doesn't feel like the kind of thing I can deal with, personally. As a single guy, my value in the LDS dating market is strongly correlated with my temple "worthiness". Without the proper belief or social benefits of a TR, it doesn't seem worthwhile to be a part of the church.

Also, that point about 4 hours of work for 3 hours of church makes tithing just not seem worth it. The church is seriously failing my cost-benefit analysis.
Boys are governed by rules. Men are governed by principles.

Sometimes our journeys take us to unexpected places. That is a truly beautiful thing.

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