Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Public forum for topics that don't fit into the other categories.
User avatar
richalger
Posts: 117
Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 08:43
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Contact:

Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Post by richalger » 19 Jun 2017, 00:42

What do you think of the Fair Mormon post "Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds"
https://www.fairmormon.org/blog/2017/06 ... -year-olds

My first reaction is that I agree with it.

ydeve
Posts: 184
Joined: 30 May 2016, 21:38

Re: Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Post by ydeve » 19 Jun 2017, 04:40

My take is that very few people use F&T meeting to share a testimony, but Savanna actually was sharing one. The criticism of her writing down her message beforehand makes no sense to me. It's a topic that can be difficult to share about and can bring up lots of past hurt. You want to avoid offending members of the ward. Of course you are going to write it out beforehand.

I also obviously disagree with the claims of "false teachings." Yes, we get the spirit affirming our identity and worth all the time, and yes, it directly contradicts the teachings of the church.

My take is that the SP had a choice between being christlike and letting a 12 year old bear her testimony of her worth as a child of God, and defending the church's teachings on the subject. I also think he didn't see the first option for what it was.

I also think that's a pretty low bar for being christlike. This isn't even affirming her worth, but merely allowing her to bear testimony of it.

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 5168
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Post by DarkJedi » 19 Jun 2017, 05:51

I suppose it would have been nice for you to point out what you agree with specifically, Rich. Frankly, I have a hard time with it and if this is typical of Brother Gordon and he lived in my ward I'd probably tend to avoid him (similar to how I avoid FairMormon). A Google search of his name turns up that Brother Gordon is president of FairMormon and a former bishop.

It's probably inevitable here that we talk about the video/testimony itself. If you haven't seen it, Google it. My personal opinion is that she said nothing wrong or "against the church." Brother Gordon's opinion is clearly different from mine. I also don't agree with the actions of the local leadership in turning off the microphone and asking her to sit down.

In his blog (I think that's what it is) Brother Gordon quotes from the handbook and explains what F&TM is supposed to be, I suppose for those readers he thinks may come from outside the church. Along with the handbook quotes and explaining the purpose of fasting he says this:
These testimonies are not speeches or talks. They are not pre-written. They are not a time of advocacy. They are short, extemporaneously expressed, heartfelt feelings about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how we have been strengthened by it.
Could have fooled me. Seriously, I have heard many speeches and talks over the years. I have experienced advocacy (think Family History or temple work for example) countless times. I have witnessed people giving pre-written testimonies, and while I have not done so myself, I have rehearsed before (including my most recent testimony this month). I have also experienced short heartfelt expressions about the gospel. In my own ward, I'm sorry to say, they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. That said, I think this is a red herring. Frankly, who the heck cares if a 12-year-old wrote down her testimony? She's 12 and was doing something that was clearly difficult for her and as it turns out it was difficult for good reason. I honestly cannot imagine the microphone being turned off and the girl (or anyone) being asked to sit down in my ward - and sometimes I think it ought to happen! (but not in this case)

Brother Gordon doesn't cite his sources about how he knows the background info from the mother or that a friend recorded the testimony, I assume he got it from the reddit he mentions in passing. Poor journalism, but it is only a blog. Nevertheless, he's not done with the red herring.
As this girl’s parents know, Fast and Testimony meeting isn’t a place for giving speeches, which is what she did. She had her speech all written out and read it from the pulpit. I wish her parents had talked with her more about appropriate forums and venues. This isn’t about whether a girl is struggling with her sexuality, or about how a Church leader handled it. This is a clear case of hijacking a meeting, promoting false teachings, and exploiting a child’s inexperience to create a media event. Savannah was likely allowed to say much more from the pulpit than an adult would have been allowed to say.
Again, I don't know that it matters to anyone other than Brother Gordon that she wrote out her testimony. Laying blame on the parents is also a red herring. Were it my daughter I would have supported her as well. I believe her remarks were heartfelt and sincere, and I would much rather hear a testimony such as hers - written or not - than the usual kid's testimony "I know the church is true, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet, I love my Mommy and Daddy...." Contrary to Brother Gordon's opinion, I think this was exactly about this young woman struggling with her sexuality and reaching out to her tribe for acceptance and support. It is not at all about hijacking or false teachings and I'm not sure what he thinks she said was false. And I don't think she was allowed to say more than an adult would have been allowed to say - in a recent stake conference a counselor in the SP was assigned by the AA to give a talk about acceptance of gays and told a heartfelt story very similar to those found on Mormonandgay.org.

Brother Gordon:
Even mentioning her sexuality, could be seen as appropriate within a testimony given during Fast and Testimony meeting. Next, in an actual testimony, you would expect something about how some life event, has helped her to grow spiritually. But, Savannah doesn’t do that.
"Savannah doesn't do that." Neither do 95% (or more) of the testimonies I hear each F&TM.
In the middle of her speech she says, “I believe God would tell me if I was wrong.”

Well, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we believe he did exactly that. We do not believe she is a “horrible sinner” for being who she is, but you will find our teachings on family and relationships clearly stated in the document titled “The Family, a Proclamation to the World.” This is a fundamental belief of our faith. In essence, she is saying that she doesn’t trust the teachings of Jesus Christ given through our prophets today.
OK, follow the prophet, I get that. I also believe in Elder Oaks two lines of communication. And I believe Pres. Uchtdorf (quoted on Moromonandgay.org):
“God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.
“He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us”
Also from Mormonandgay.org:
As we seek answers and direction for our personal journey, we can trust God and the power inherent in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of the world, He also experienced every pain and affliction any human being might experience.
I think Savannah was expressing just such trust.

Brother Gordon:
While talking about the love of God, which we can all agree with, her speech was calling out the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as false. It follows the pattern of a typical exit narrative which reads, I used to believe the Church is true, but now I find joy and happiness outside of Church teachings. I hope you will give up your false beliefs and follow me. Anyone advocating that from the pulpit should be asked to step down, even if they are twelve years old.
Nowhere did I hear Savannah say she was advocating leaving the church or following her. Additionally, she was stating her own beliefs, perfectly acceptable in a testimony or other meeting, she was not calling out the church.

Fortunately Brother Gordon doesn't speak for the church. I suppose there are many who might say the same about me. Unfortunately, Brother Gordon does have an audience of like thinkers.
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

User avatar
dande48
Posts: 235
Joined: 24 Jan 2016, 16:35

Re: Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Post by dande48 » 19 Jun 2017, 07:33

On the one hand, what she said did expressly go against the counsel, doctrines, and teachings of the Church. Like it or not, it is explicitly against the commandments (according to the Church) to enter into a same-sex relationship, and especially to encourage others to do the same. Had she not advocated for entering into a same-sex relationship, and instead focused on how God loved and accepted her, even though she was gay, I think the SP would've let her finish her testimony.
I wish Savannah the best no matter what her future choices might be. I hope that her parents, step in to de-escalate this event. Every child needs to be allowed to grow. I think of those young people I know who thought they were gay when they were 12 or 13, and are now in happy heterosexual relationships. I care for one of them very much. I would hate to have had her in the headlines while she was deciding which direction her life might go.
I also think this quote brings up a very good point. This is also why I am against hormone-therapy and sex-changes for those under 18. It's a BIG-DEAL, one that requires a lot of sacrifice, and is a very difficult and challenging process. The teenage years are a difficult time, and the worst thing you can do is paint yourself into a corner, only to realize, "oops", I'm not "that way" at all. Now, I can't say I understand who she is or what she is feeling. Whoever she is, however she is feeling, what whatever she decides to do about it, should be respected. She should be loved all the more.

But on the other hand, I believe that every testimony has the right to be spoken. She should've been allowed to voice her beliefs. Folks don't have to like it; they don't have to agree, they don't have to listen. They don't have to accept her, fellowship her, love her. That's their prerogative. But as Volaire/Evelyn Hall said,
I [might] disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 5168
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Post by DarkJedi » 19 Jun 2017, 08:14

I'm not trying to be argumentative Dande, but where exactly did she advocate for others to enter into same sex relationships? Is it in here somewhere and I'm missing it?
I hope someday to go on dates, go to school dances, to hold hands and to go off to college. I hope to find a partner and have a great job. I hope to get married and have a family.
I know these dreams and wishes are good and right. I know I can have all of these things as a lesbian and be happy. I believe that if God is there, he knows I am perfect, just the way I am and would never ask me to live my life alone or with someone I am not attracted to.
It is against church policy to enter into a same sex relationship and/or marriage, a policy I happen to disagree with. She says she knows she can have those things as a lesbian and be happy. In my observation of people I know who have entered into same sex relationships (which does include church members) she's absolutely right - she can be happy. She may not be a member of the church anymore, and I think she recognizes that, but she can be happy. Excommunication is not a given or automatic, at least not in my neck of the woods (I think Brother Gordon's experiences might be different). I don't see any advocacy there nor do I see any encouragement of anyone else to join her is entering into such relationships - she's only talking about herself and her opinion. Contrary to what some believe, the church does not teach that we have a monopoly on happiness. We all sin, we're all imperfect. "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you do."
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

Ray DeGraw
Site Admin
Posts: 15130
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24
Contact:

Re: Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Post by Ray DeGraw » 19 Jun 2017, 08:33

Honestly, I am torn a bit about this - for two simple reasons.

1) I think she shouldn't have been stopped, since she was stating her sincere beliefs and desires, and because I have heard a lot of stuff over the pulpit in my lifetime that was worse doctrinally than what she actually said. I also have read that she is best friends with the Bishop's daughter and has a great relationship with him - and he didn't stop it.

2) However, I am troubled by her parents filming it, right from the start, and posting it publically. That part feels planned, and it feels like ax-grinding. I have no idea if their intent was to embarrass the Church and advocate against it (or pressure for change) but it feels that way. It feels like a sincere young woman being manipulated and used as a weapon. I would be livid if someone filmed one of my children's testimonies and posted it publically, and I wouldn't dream of doing it myself. Literally, the thought would not cross my mind.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

User avatar
nibbler
Posts: 3008
Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Post by nibbler » 19 Jun 2017, 10:07

My thoughts have already been covered, I'll say the same things but in my own words.

I'm conflicted.

The fact that there were cameras trained on her makes the whole event feel like a setup. It feels like the parties that filmed the event had a good idea of how things would turn out and they wanted to use the event to further an agenda. I'm thinking they got exactly what they wanted. Basically what Ray said at the end of his post.

That said, I wasn't terribly impressed by the fairmormon response...
These testimonies are not speeches or talks. They are not pre-written. They are not a time of advocacy. They are short, extemporaneously expressed, heartfelt feelings about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how we have been strengthened by it. On lds.org it says:

"A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves His children; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior’s true Church on the earth; and that the Church is led by a living prophet today. With this foundation, a testimony grows to include all principles of the gospel.
:think:

If we're going to set precedent for turning the mic off by how well a testimony adheres to this definition we might as well turn F&T meeting into a 70 minute moment of silence for Jesus.

Some may read those guidelines and come away with a testimony being limited to what was listed but that's not what the statement actually says. It says that the foundation of a testimony is based on those things. You can build lots of stuff on a foundation.

I think there's a growing consensus on all sides that being gay ins't a choice and I feel like the subject of homosexuality tends to get people's defenses up and comes with a lot of baggage so I wanted to change the subject matter to a different demographic where there's a consensus that there is no choice. Let's pretend for a moment that being a white male that is past the age of 65 is a huge cultural taboo. Let's take the things the blog entry cited Savannah as having said in this new context. Pretend a 65+ year old white male said the same things during a F&T meeting in this imaginary culture:

No part of me is a mistake.
I do not choose to be this way and it is not a fad.
I know I am not a horrible sinner for being who I am.
I know I can have all of these things as a 66 year old white male and be happy.
I believe that if God is there, he knows I am perfect just the way I am and would never ask me to live my life a different age, gender, and race that I am capable of being.
I believe God would tell me if I was wrong.

It seems silly... except to a culture that doesn't feel comfortable around 65+ year old white males. They might be tempted to turn his mic off.
In the middle of her speech she says, “I believe God would tell me if I was wrong.”

Well, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we believe he did exactly that. We do not believe she is a “horrible sinner” for being who she is, but you will find our teachings on family and relationships clearly stated in the document titled “The Family, a Proclamation to the World.” This is a fundamental belief of our faith. In essence, she is saying that she doesn’t trust the teachings of Jesus Christ given through our prophets today.
This portion of the blog stood out.

Well, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I don't believe he did... am I in error? Am I no longer considered a part of "we" because of my belief?

Plus, "she is saying that she doesn’t trust the teachings of Jesus Christ given through our prophets today." is putting a lot of words into her mouth.
I hereby place an order for one cheese pizza. -nibbler

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 5168
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Post by DarkJedi » 19 Jun 2017, 10:18

Ray DeGraw wrote:
19 Jun 2017, 08:33
Honestly, I am torn a bit about this - for two simple reasons.

1) I think she shouldn't have been stopped, since she was stating her sincere beliefs and desires, and because I have heard a lot of stuff over the pulpit in my lifetime that was worse doctrinally than what she actually said. I also have read that she is best friends with the Bishop's daughter and has a great relationship with him - and he didn't stop it.

However, I am troubled by her parents filming it, right from the start, and posting it publically. That part feels planned, and it feels like ax-grinding. I have no idea if their intent was to embarrass the Church and advocate against it (or pressure for change) but it feels that way. It feels like a sincere young woman being manipulated and used as a weapon. I would be livid if someone filmed one of my children's testimonies and posted it publically, and I wouldn't dream of doing it myself. Literally, the thought would not cross my mind.
I don't know for sure who recorded it. The blog indicates it was a friend, but judging by the angle it seems like the person doing it knew she or he shouldn't have been - they weren't holding it up to get a good view without the people in the way (and it is apparently a Utah ward where most are probably aware of the rules). Either way, I do agree that part does seem planned. Perhaps the original idea was just to have it for her. I know people who record their talks (audio, not video, and there is a distinction in the handbook). On the other hand, it could have been recorded for exactly what happened. According to what I read about her parents here http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 95746.html they didn't want her to do it. But that could be just part of the stunt.
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

ydeve
Posts: 184
Joined: 30 May 2016, 21:38

Re: Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Post by ydeve » 19 Jun 2017, 10:18

dande48 wrote:
19 Jun 2017, 07:33
I also think this quote brings up a very good point. This is also why I am against hormone-therapy and sex-changes for those under 18. It's a BIG-DEAL, one that requires a lot of sacrifice, and is a very difficult and challenging process. The teenage years are a difficult time, and the worst thing you can do is paint yourself into a corner, only to realize, "oops", I'm not "that way" at all.
This is off topic, but fyi, transition for pre-puberty trans kids is social, not hormonal or surgical. Also, the first step for teens isn't hormone replacement therapy, but puberty blockers, for exactly the reason you described. You don't want to paint the kid into a corner by forcing them to go through the wrong puberty.

I have no comment on thinking kids should wait until 18 before undergoing HRT.

ydeve
Posts: 184
Joined: 30 May 2016, 21:38

Re: Of Testimonies and Twelve Year Olds

Post by ydeve » 19 Jun 2017, 10:29

DarkJedi wrote:
19 Jun 2017, 10:18
On the other hand, it could have been recorded for exactly what happened.
I think it's possible that it was for both reasons. If it turned out well, there's something for Samantha to have to remember. If it turns out poorly, there's something that can be used to raise awareness of how queer kids are treated in the lds church. Either way, something good comes out of it.

I do find it strange that it took so long for the news to explode. If I remember correctly, the incident happened 3 to 4 weeks ago. Yet NewNameNoah only posted the video more recently. Imo, that's a point in favor of the filming not being originally intended to bring bad publicity to the church. It looks like NNN heard about what happened and then reached out to the family, instead of it being pre-planned.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot]