“Visitors Welcome”

December 2, 2004 | 116 comments
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CBS and NBC have refused to air an ad from the United Church of Christ on grounds that it is “too controversial.” The message of the advertisement is one that I hope we would embrace, but I am not so sanguine about that.

Here is a description of the advertisement:

The debut 30-second commercial features two muscle-bound “bouncers” standing guard outside a fabled, picturesque church and selecting which persons are permitted to attend Sunday services. Written text interrupts the scene, announcing, “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.” A narrator then proclaims the United Church of Christ’s commitment to Jesus’ extravagant welcome: “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

To see the ad, go here. Among the people turned away are a gay couple, members of various minority groups, and a man in a wheelchair. In my view, it is a powerful indictment of religious bigotry. According to the United Church of Christ, however, executives at CBS were not moved:

“Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations,” reads an explanation from CBS, “and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks.”

In my experience, Mormons send a message of exclusion to many people. To some extent, this is inevitable, as our temples are accessible only to recommend holders. They are necessarily exclusive. Our chapels, on the other hand, should be more welcoming. Yes, we have a sign that reads, “Visitors Welcome,” but do we mean it?

  • If an African-American decided to attend Church in my ward, she would feel very out of place. Yes, many of us would say nice things and do our best to show our genuine enthusiasm toward her, but she would be the only African-American in the building.
  • If a gay couple showed up at sacrament meeting, I suspect the reception would be chilly, if not explicitly hostile.
  • One of the most common examples of exclusion in my experience is our reaction to those who appear to be indigent. For all of our talk about helping the poor, we don’t seem to like them very much.

To be honest, I have some work to do here, but it is work worth doing.

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116 Responses to “Visitors Welcome”

  1. Curtis Nordstrom on December 2, 2004 at 1:24 pm

    Say, Gordon, what a terrific post.

    One of the most wonderful church callings I’ve enjoyed was as the YM Prez in an inner-city Boston branch. We had two token white kids, with the rest of the group being of African-American, Latino, Asian, or Haitian descent. We had a grand time… except for at stake activities. I always felt very distinctly that “my kids” weren’t welcomed by many of the youth leaders, and were actually feared by some others.

    Church basketball was a nightmare. Yeah, our kids won a lot, but the reaction from other wards was often more akin to us having fielded a team of Latrell Sprewells and Ron Artests, rather than the future missionaries, military servicemen, and college students many of these kids turned out to be.

    Now that we live in Maine, which may be the most racially homogenous state in This Land of Our’n, my wife and I find ourselves in a much more vanilla branch. It’s almost like Utah with no R’s… and fewer members. Man, how I miss the diversity of ethnicities and language and religious backgrounds that made Boston such a spiritually rich experience.

    Also, I have to add that the experience one of my dearest friends had with church members and leaders in light of his homosexuality was simply vile. I would not wish it on anyone. The church has a long way to go in this regard…

  2. john fowles on December 2, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    Gordon, you might have a point with the gay couple, but I think you are really off with the African-American example. If you are trying to invoke the imagery of the commercial, it doesn’t work at all with that example. If the African-American feels uncomfortable in your ward because there are no other black members in the ward, is that the Church’s fault? Is it a result of metaphorical bouncers keeping them out at the church door? If the African-American woman feels uncomfortable in your ward despite the complete absence of any Church directive disallowing her to be there, then couldn’t we actually say that it is at least partially (if not more than partially) her own fault, perhaps stemming from her own prejudices against the white people who are making up the majority of your ward there (i.e. there must be a reason she doesn’t feel comfortable in a room full of white people and I wonder if you could really attribute that to the white people, especially considering that one of the parameters of your hypo was that those people “would say nice things and do our best to show our genuine enthusiasm toward her”). What is really confusing with your African-American example, in which you are willing to attribute an African-American’s discomfort with being the only black person in the building to some kind of exclusivity of the Church’s, is what in the world good does such an observation/criticism do? Are you suggesting quotas so that this African-American won’t be the only black person in the building when she visits? How does the Church go about getting more blacks in the building so that it can guard against accusations of having metaphorical bouncers outside the door when this African-American woman feels uncomfortable in your ward despite all efforts of the ward members (as you posited in your hypo) to make her feel welcome?

  3. The Only True and Living Nathan on December 2, 2004 at 1:40 pm

    The Baron of Deseret did a thoughtful post on this and other religious advertising a while back:

    http://baronofdeseret.typepad.com/baronblog/2004/09/church_advertis.html

  4. Curtis Nordstrom on December 2, 2004 at 1:45 pm

    John, I don’t think that most people feel completely comfortable being the only one of ANYthing. The only white dude at a Baptist service? The only white passenger on a China Air flight? The only Navy Corpsman at the Marine Corps Ball? The only guy at a party of all women? I’ve been there, and it isn’t super comfortable (well, maybe the party was OK), even when everyone “says nice things and shows genuine enthusiasm” about my presence.

    I think that the Spirit can make people comfortable, regardless of the surroundings, which makes His presence at meetings all the more vital. People DO join the church as minorities, thankfully, and from that one brave soul miracles can occur.

  5. Ana on December 2, 2004 at 1:46 pm

    Those interested in racial diversity and what is often called “self-segregation,” I would highly recommend a book called _Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?_ by Beverly Daniel Tatum.

    We got the book five years ago when we took our new African-American son to an event during Black History month at BYU. A student from the Black Student Union took my husband into the BYU bookstore, placed the book in his hands, and waited while he bought it! It seemed outrageous at the time but we are glad he did it. The author nails down concepts of racial identity in a helpful way and defends the need of people in oppressed ethnic groups to seek out the company of others who share their experience.

    Mostly, Black people aren’t finding that in the Church. It will slowly change, partially because of those courageous enough to overcome historical challenges like the fact that their people were not allowed to hold the priesthood until 26 short years ago. I hope it will change partially because of LDS adoptive families who are not afraid to bring children of color into their homes, their wards and their eternal circles. My family isn’t *about* a social agenda, but I do hope for a more diverse future for individual congregations instead of just the Church as a whole.

    Here in California we have a more diverse group in our ward than in Utah. There are two other families with Black children in our ward–one a monoracial African American family and one a single mom with biracial kids. Of course, we also have lots of Latino families. That’s just the nature of California compared with the east side of Salt Lake, where we lived before. Our ward is also more economically diverse. We have million-dollar homes and trailer parks. That’s a function of living where there is a lower density of members of the Church.

    This ward is not without its issues. I think it’s mostly about the poorer families (like us) feeling inferior to the wealthy families. But I can’t lay the blame on the doorstep of the wealthy families. They have been kind and generous and wonderful in every way. The problem may be more one of covetousness, of failing in gratitude.

    Maybe the poorer families in my ward have more in common with the Black people John is thinking of than I previously thought. Maybe we all just need to have more confidence in God’s desire to see all of us in his house every week, regardless of our insecurities. But I think those who are privileged because of race or class do not have the luxury of making that judgement on those who are not. Those who are privileged always need to take the responsibility to do more for those who do not feel comfortable in church because of the location of their home, the color of their skin.

    No gay couples in my ward. Wouldn’t it be swell if we could find a way to apply what I’ve said above to that situation?

  6. Susan Malmrose on December 2, 2004 at 2:00 pm

    I lived in a Seattle ward that had a lot of minorities (all kinds, and more being baptized all the time, but it was also the designated ward for Spanish-speaking members of the stake), and I assumed when I moved to Southern California there’d be a lot here, too. Not so. I was surprised by it. I assumed maybe this stake has a Spanish-speaking ward as well, but I’m not too sure about that after attending Stake Conference.

    I also lived in a suburban ward near Seattle, with some minorities, but not many, and no blacks, until recently. A black woman moved into the ward, and she was welcomed with lots of big open arms. She was befriended immediately by many people. It always bothered me that there were no African Americans in that ward (there are plenty in the community there), and it really made me happy to see one welcomed so warmly by so many.

    Her teenage son, however, went inactive (before moving to that ward) because he felt so out of place. She told him it was his job to be a pioneer. He did attend that ward, and I’m hopeful he was befriended in the same manner his mother was, but I wasn’t in a position to know.

    As for gays, the Seattle city ward I attended had a very large gay population within it’s borders. But I can only remember one member I assumed was same-sex attracted, and he was an incredible member of the ward. Truly a sweet, talented man. I’m guessing most people didn’t suspect he was gay, because I don’t think many LDS members have the same “gaydar” I do, having lots of gays in my family.

  7. Lamonte John on December 2, 2004 at 2:07 pm

    The message of the commercial is something we should all embrace. Regardless of the behavior of individual wards and branches, Jesus welcomes all into His fold. If they are imperfect when they arrive (who among is anywhere close to perfection even after many years of tutoring) then they will be better off for having entered the doors. Even the most insensative ward member can’t prohibit the spirit from entering a person’s heart.

    In terms of making our building more inviting – I remember years ago when I lived in Salt Lake City, my co-workers and I would sometimes do a walking tour of the city during the lunch hour. I noticed that the Catherdral of the Madeline on South Temple Street was always open to the public and, in fact, there were often homeless people there taking refuge from the cold weather. I contract that with the fact that my suburban church in Virginia is locked up tight when no meetings are being held and even when there are meetings there many of the doors remain locked. It’s not a very inviting image.

  8. danithew on December 2, 2004 at 2:15 pm

    Nice post. I thought I’d add one to the list of people who might feel excluded … those who obviously don’t keep with the word of wisdom. Particularly smokers and those who drink alcoholic beverages. I’ve seen LDS people go into unnatural (and unreal) coughing fits around smokers or roll their eyes and refuse to speak to someone who is drinking a beer.

    I just want to say that I’m proud to be a second-hand smoker. (j/k)

  9. Matt Evans on December 2, 2004 at 2:21 pm

    We should definitely strive to make people feel welcome among the saints. As for the case of gays, I think the chill Gordon suspects a gay couple would feel would stem more from their being a couple than from their being gay. Two gays who came to church separately would be perceived differently. It’s not unlike the reception of adulterers: adulterers would generally feel welcomed at church, but much less so if they came to church with their girlfriend. Many people would perceive a married man who brings his girlfriend to church as mocking the church’s standards, as though he were wearing a jacket with the words F*** the Church. I think it would be understandable why some people would be “chilly” in such circumstances, even though we have all been commanded to show courtesy and love in all situations.

  10. Kaimi on December 2, 2004 at 2:23 pm

    Matt,

    But if your hypothetical rabble-rouser were wearing a jacket that said F*** the JW’s, he would undoubtedly be welcomed with open arms. Right?

    :P

  11. Matt Evans on December 2, 2004 at 2:25 pm

    Kaimi,

    I’m not sure what you mean. With either jacket, the person wearing it would be perceived to mock the church’s standards.

  12. danithew on December 2, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    My problem with seeing F*** or WTF or anything like that is I don’t say “F-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk” in my mind. I think the word. I guess I have a problem and that’s why I wrote them again! On the other hand, when I see f-word I only think what I’m reading.

    Back to the subject at hand …

    I just was going to say that I wouldn’t object to whiskey being poured on the pulpit if it’s being used as a marinade. On the other hand, if the pulpit is in fact trying to get drunk, then I’m really going to get upset about it.

  13. gst on December 2, 2004 at 3:42 pm

    One possible difficulty welcoming gays into the Church might be casual references to them as “dykes.”

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/wp/wp-comments-popup.php?p=1673&c=1#comment-31178

  14. Kristine on December 2, 2004 at 3:57 pm

    gst–if only that were the unkindest thing that’s been said about gay people around here!

    And Matt, you’re just wrong about two gay people arriving separately–especially if they are at all stereotypically gay in appearance. An effeminate-looking man is going to have a rough time even if he’s straight.

  15. John Mansfield on December 2, 2004 at 4:11 pm

    Susan Malmrose, if you are in LA, then you haven’t encountered many Spanish-speaking saints because the Spanish-speaking wards form the Huntington Park West Stake.

  16. gst on December 2, 2004 at 4:13 pm

    Kristine–I think it’s the first thing I’ve seen at T&S on the subject that I felt ought to be denounced, and I do so as one who opposes gay marriage and believes that homosexuality is proscribed by the Eternal Giver of Laws. But just because I hold those opinions doesn’t mean I should countenance the use of epithets to describe gays. At the very least, it’s impolite.

  17. Gordon Smith on December 2, 2004 at 4:20 pm

    John,

    Let me get this straight: you believe that the absence of African-Americans in (most) LDS wards is primarily because of their “prejudices against the white people who are making up the majority of your ward”? You are a member of a Church that until 1979 expressly discriminated against blacks, and you now claim that the only reasons blacks do not feel welcome is their own prejudice? I have a hard time understanding that view. Perhaps the best I can do is say that we have had very different life experiences.

    At the end, you ask a sensible and important question: “How does the Church go about getting more blacks in the building so that it can guard against accusations of having metaphorical bouncers outside the door when this African-American woman feels uncomfortable in your ward despite all efforts of the ward members (as you posited in your hypo) to make her feel welcome?” Notice that the “all efforts of the ward members” in my hypo were reactive. It posited initial action by the visitor. We can do better than that. We can take the initiative. On a personal level, this means at least making some effort to work with and/or befriend African-Americans. On an institutional level, I would love to see the Church take more steps to reach out to minorities. I will not attempt to dictate specific strategies to Church leaders, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to think of positive steps the Church could take that go beyond our present efforts.

    P.S. What was that bit about quotas? Were you just on rant auto-pilot when some of the points about affirmative action slopped over?

  18. Kaimi on December 2, 2004 at 4:27 pm

    Perhaps the church would have a better reputation among African Americans if more of its members wrote law review articles about slave reparations.

    Get with the program, Nate/Greg/Gordon/Matt/Adam! :)

  19. Gordon Smith on December 2, 2004 at 4:32 pm

    Kaimi, If you could cast those reparations as a venture investment, we might have something to talk about!

  20. Portia on December 2, 2004 at 5:12 pm

    As for the case of gays, I think the chill Gordon suspects a gay couple would feel would stem more from their being a couple than from their being gay.

    Why? Why wouldn’t we prefer a pair of homosexuals who are committed to a single partner rather than sleeping around?

    Would you give a chilly reception to an unmarried, but sexually intimate heterosexual couple who visited the church? And if not, why not? Whatever transgression they have committed — and it is not your place to decide that — is exactly the same.

    How is visiting the church as a couple “mocking the Church?” Could it be that those who are making unwarranted and uncharitable judgments are the ones who are really mocking the teachings of the Church?

    If we’re going to make judgments, perhaps we should start by giving a chilly reception to bigots . . .

  21. Kaimi on December 2, 2004 at 5:21 pm

    Portia,

    Good point. On the issue of how unmarried, sexually active people are viewed, I think there is a division. Non-members or investigators who come to church with a girlfriend or boyfriend are generally thought of as being okay, since they “don’t know any better” and the assumption is that they might eventually get baptized and see the error of their ways.

    Existing members in prohibited situations are often ostracized pretty badly. And they’re gossiped about continually — “did you hear that brother so-and-so has a (gasp!) live in girlfriend?”

    I don’t think either group is treated as harshly as gays, or people with same sex attraction.

  22. Curtis Nordstrom on December 2, 2004 at 5:26 pm

    AMEN.

    Frost the bigots.

  23. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2004 at 5:26 pm

    I’d be happy to write the article, Kaimi, but I suspect you’d not like the conclusion one bit.

    I have a really hard time believing that the Church or its people would turn away minorities, or folks in wheelchairs, or folks with homosexual attraction who didn’t insist on coming as a ‘couple.’ Let’s leave the self-flagellation to the Penitentes.

  24. Frank McIntyre on December 2, 2004 at 5:36 pm

    Curtis,

    Be sure to frost the bigot-haters too…

  25. a random John on December 2, 2004 at 5:40 pm

    Curtis,

    You probably don’t remember me. If you are who I think you are, we moved in a week before you moved to Maine and I brought some boxes to your house in the Fenway for you to use in the move.

    Anyhow, it has certainly been interesting to watch the dynamic in the ward as people of difference races, incomes and ages came together as a ward family. Ward boundaries were recently redrawn in such a way as to cut much of the diversity out of the ward. It has made things easier and worse.

    As for John F’s comments, John, what is the most diverse ward you have lived in outside of your mission? Have you talked to black members about feeling uncomfortable in church that they perceive as a “white church”? Have you been in a lesson in which a member of the ward starts spouting off racist ideas (with a foundation in pre-1978 thinking) in front of most of the black members of the ward? Have you worked with people that feel uncomfortable in church because they feel they don’t fit in because of their poverty? When you did this did you tell them it was their own fault that they felt uncomfortable?

  26. Joel D. on December 2, 2004 at 5:52 pm

    Perhaps we could start with the Tabernacle Choir. I watched last night the PBS documentary “America’s Choir.” I have nothing particularly against the documentary itself, but as I watched and saw nothing but a sea of Caucasian faces in scene after scene, I thought to myself, “We need to do better than this. How can the Tabernacle Choir really ‘represent’ the Church or be ‘America’s Choir’ without any representation of other races, especially when both the Church and America are becoming increasingly populated by non-white races?”

    When I voiced that thought to my wife, she said, “Yes, but look at the demographics of the community from which the choir draws. Utah is much more ‘white’ than the rest of the country or church.” That’s a good point, so I thought about how we could make the Choir more racially diverse.

    My best solution would be to truly make the Choir the “singing missionaries” that they claim to be. Have the Choir leaders audition in major cities where there are established LDS congregations throughout the world to find the best singing talent wherever they may be. Call those people on two-year full-time missions for the Church to come live in Salt Lake and sing in the Choir. Draw on the general church missionary fund to pay for talented Saints without the means to come. This would allow greater racial diversity in the Choir and would have the added benefit of making the Choir a full-time instead of part-time Choir. They could tour and record more frequently and really be a missionary arm of the Church, and this missionary effort would be made more effective by having a racially diverse mix to present a better (and more accurate) “face” to the Church (and to America for that matter). And drawing from a larger population and being full-time would only make them more talented and impressive.

    When they’re not in Choir duties, perhaps they could also work on Temple Square or work in other missionary endeavors in the Salt Lake mission. The more I think about this, the more I like the idea!

    Thoughts?

  27. Gordon Smith on December 2, 2004 at 5:59 pm

    Adam: “I have a really hard time believing that the Church or its people would turn away minorities, or folks in wheelchairs, or folks with homosexual attraction who didn’t insist on coming as a ‘couple.’”

    Of course, no one would turn them away like the bouncers in the ad, but we often turn people away with our attitudes. Or are you contending that this does not happen on a regular basis?

  28. lyle on December 2, 2004 at 6:01 pm

    Joel: I think we can “do better” if we forget race. I guess you would prefer a choir chosen by statistical sampling of various ethnic, religious, sexual, etc…whatever differentiated groups? Some folks “dream” of a color-blind society. I prefer to live in a color-blind society.

  29. Curtis Nordstrom on December 2, 2004 at 6:02 pm

    Frank: Duly frosted.

    Adam: I fear that it is not the actual “turning away” of people (gays, minorities, etc.) so much as it is creating an environment where someone would not feel welcome. I have heard some comments in Gospel Doctrine about gay people that made me have to leave the room.

    I am not talking about legitimate comments like “Homosexual activity is sinful, and God wants us to avoid it,” but rather, “Gays are plotting to take over the government and they are evil, evil, people.” That particular gem was proffered on a Sunday when one of my best friends, who is gay, was supposed to be in attendance with me at church, but was called in to work instead. If he had been there, I don’t know what I would have done, but I know he would not have felt too welcomed.

    Random John: Alas, I never lived in the Crime-Free-Fenway, but rather the North End, Waltham, and Eastie, so it wasn’t us that you helped out with the boxes. Oh, to have been that close to Fenway Park! But that was mighty cool of you, nonetheless. What ward are you in down there?

  30. Gordon Smith on December 2, 2004 at 6:02 pm

    Joel, That’s pretty creative, but I think that most choir members serve for decades, not two years. I know almost nothing about musical performance, but I suspect that such quick turnover would impair the quality of the Choir.

  31. john fowles on December 2, 2004 at 6:04 pm

    Gordon asked Let me get this straight: you believe that the absence of African-Americans in (most) LDS wards is primarily because of their “prejudices against the white people who are making up the majority of your ward”?

    I assume you couldn’t possibly have meant this as a sincere question. I don’t see what in my comment could lead to this conclusion. I didn’t address the reasons for the absence of blacks in your ward at all. I took issue with the absurd hypothetical that if a black woman showed up at your ward and felt unwelcomed it would be because of metaphorical bouncers standing at the door telling her she is not invited. My point was that there aren’t any metaphorical bouncers standing at the door of your ward (especially with regards to a black woman–I conceded you might have somewhat of a point with the gay couple considering the Church’s official stance on marriage and homosexuality). There is no Church position that holds that the black woman is uninvited or unwelcome. You set the parameters of the hypo yourself: the members of your ward would welcome her with open arms and even voice their enthusiasm. But in spite of that, when she feels unwelcome, you are still willing to blame the Church for being closed to visitors when she feels uncomfortable. You don’t consider that, if everything in your hypo is true, then her feeling of discomfort couldn’t possibly stem from the Church being uninviting or unwelcoming to her (you explicitly stated that it was welcoming and inviting). If that is the case, then I pointed out that there is another source for her discomfort of being in a building full of white people–her own prejudices against white people. How does any of this voice a belief that the reason there aren’t any black people in your ward is because of their prejudices. It just doesn’t follow from the point I was trying to make.

    The bit about quotas was not a random rant. It was a serious question to you of what in the world use could this track (and particularly your hypo) of questioning be? Your underlying premise: the Church is inviting. The proof for that: a hypo that a black woman would feel uncomfortable in your ward despite the effort of your ward to be welcoming and voice their enthusiasm. Result??? This is what I was wondering about. Even if this is an accurate query (I don’t believe it is given the parameters that you set in the hypo) what is the solution? How can we make the black woman feel comfortable if she is uncomfortable despite all welcoming efforts to the contrary? You imply that the solution is that there must be more black people in your ward. Only then will the hypothetical black woman feel comfortable in your ward. Okay, well, then you know what to do: target some black families and go knock on their door (hopefully you will have the missionaries with you). But even this solution for helping the hypothetical black woman feel comfortable neither addresses the reason there are no black people in your ward (and neither did I), nor establishes that the Church is unwelcoming of the black woman (or any other ethnic minority) in the first place.

  32. john fowles on December 2, 2004 at 6:08 pm

    A random John asked Have you been in a lesson in which a member of the ward starts spouting off racist ideas (with a foundation in pre-1978 thinking) in front of most of the black members of the ward? Have you worked with people that feel uncomfortable in church because they feel they don’t fit in because of their poverty? When you did this did you tell them it was their own fault that they felt uncomfortable?

    I was addressing Gordon’s hypo in which he posited none of these things and even affirmatively mentioned that everyone in the ward went out of their way to make her feel comfortable. Still he was willing to lay her miscomfort (despite such givens) at the feet of the big, intolerant Church.

    This will make you mad: even on my mission I didn’t serve in any “diverse” wards. That is because I served in East Germany. Sorry, only white people there.

  33. Matt Evans on December 2, 2004 at 6:17 pm

    Portia, the reason some members would perceive the gay couple differently than two gays arriving independently is because the church doesn’t tolerate “coupling” among classes for whom sexual relations are forbidden. Being a gay or adulterous “couple” is a sin in itself. And committing the sin at church is what some people would perceive as a mockery of the church’s standards.

    People would not respond to an unmarried, sexually-active couple in the same way because being a heterosexual “couple” is not forbidden. Their sin is fornication, and they don’t commit that sin at church (thankfully).

    Kristine, my point about gays coming separately was directed to Gordon’s use of the words “chilly” and “hostile,” which suggest condemnation. Effeminate men might not fit in well at church because people don’t know how to relate to them, but people wouldn’t ‘condemn’ them (be chilly or hostile). Every ward has members who don’t fit in well, probably because people think they’re strange, and we should befriend them and let them know we’re genuinely glad they’re with us. But we fall far short. People who don’t fit in have a hard time.

  34. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2004 at 6:23 pm

    No, I really don’t think so, Gordon. But I admit that by temperament I’m not really keyed to that sort of thing.

  35. Clark on December 2, 2004 at 6:25 pm

    Have you talked to black members about feeling uncomfortable in church that they perceive as a “white church”? Have you been in a lesson in which a member of the ward starts spouting off racist ideas (with a foundation in pre-1978 thinking) in front of most of the black members of the ward? Have you worked with people that feel uncomfortable in church because they feel they don’t fit in because of their poverty? When you did this did you tell them it was their own fault that they felt uncomfortable?

    I have. I think comfort is always a person matter. Labelling it as a “fault” is unnecessary. The difficulty is how to overcome such matters. For instance I can recall bringing black investigators to mostly white wards which included a fair number of older members. Older members tended to say insensitive things. What should we have done? Booted out any member over 50?

    Our solution was to set up a tuesday night activity where we read through the Sunday School lesson, had treats and set up a socializing time. This was always in one of the homes of one of the black members and enabled bringing other black investigators.

    The problem is that since the Church is more or less a hospital run by the infirmed, you’re never going to make it this perfect place where people will come and be totally fulfilled. You just won’t. You can preach against sins, work with the sinners, but you really are somewhat limited in what you can achieve.

    The fact is that often a member who is different from the congregation will feel uncomfortable. While single, I felt tremendously uncomfortable being one of the few single members in the married ward. It made it very easy to skip church or ward hop. But where was the root cause? At some point each of us needs to take responsibility.

    Now I recognize that is limited. All of us, myself included, go through periods of weakness when we sure could use someone giving us a hand. Ideally that ought to be the home teachers. But realistically most members fail there. (Heavens, I’ve been taught maybe 6 times the last 15 years) So yes, it is the church’s fault (meaning the ward membership) But in my more sympathetic times, I realize that many of those members might make similar complaints. At some point the solution is for each of us to stop looking for things to be given and start giving. But as I said, the fact is, that in any ward, that will constitute a fairly small minority. The rest are there looking for things to be given.

    Perhaps that’s overly cynical, but it is unfortunately true I think.

  36. Gordon Smith on December 2, 2004 at 6:26 pm

    John: “There is no Church position that holds that the black woman is uninvited or unwelcome.”

    There was a Church position, and changing that official position is not the same as making people feel welcome. You are the only person here (besides, perhaps, Adam, whose position is still unclear to me) who seems to think the hypothetical “absurd.”

    John: “you are still willing to blame the Church.”

    My original post was not aimed at the Church as an institution, though I can see how you might read it that way. I intended it to be primarily about the members of the Church, though I do believe the institutional Church could do more than it has done with respect to minorities. Just to be clear: my main point is that we members create the metaphorical bouncers by our own lack of charity.

    Finally, the problem with talking about “quotas” is that it implies a population of people who want admission to the club. That is not the issue here at all, and the whole notion of quotas in this context is nonsense.

  37. Clark on December 2, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    One of the most common examples of exclusion in my experience is our reaction to those who appear to be indigent. For all of our talk about helping the poor, we don’t seem to like them very much.

    Just to add, I think the problem with idigent people is the problem of mental illness. I’ve had some very, very bad experiences helping the homeless.

  38. Gordon Smith on December 2, 2004 at 6:30 pm

    I was typing my response to John when Adam posted. Ok, fair enough. It’s an empirical question, but my anecdotal evidence is that we (members of the Church) turn away minorities fairly regularly and strongly.

  39. Matt Evans on December 2, 2004 at 6:42 pm

    Gordon, in what ways do you think members turn minorities away?

  40. Portia on December 2, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Portia, the reason some members would perceive the gay couple differently than two gays arriving independently is because the church doesn’t tolerate “coupling� among classes for whom sexual relations are forbidden.

    As, say, for example: the unmarried heterosexual couple I mentioned before? Their “coupling” is every bit as forbidden. Spencer W. Kimball specifically taught that there is no difference in seriousness between improper homosexual relations and improper heterosexual relations.

    If the two like situations are not treated alike — as you have indicated they would not be — then we are dealing with bigotry, plain and simple — itself a very ugly and potentially damning practice.

    Being a gay or adulterous “couple� is a sin in itself.

    I’ve noticed that certain self-described “orthodox” individuals on this blog are very quick to throw that term “sin” around.

    It’s my understanding that those who congratulate themselves on their “orthodoxy” and ability to recognize others’ sins — in other words, those who thank God that they are not as other men — are the ones who are in some serious spiritual trouble.

    Sin requires knowledge and acceptance of the commandments. Absent such knowledge and acceptance, there can be, by definition, no sin — transgression, yes, but Mormon makes very clear that ignorant or unconscious transgression is freely covered by the Atonement.

    Those who are without the law are judged without the law — and it is not the business of the membership to decide the degree of knowledge to which a couple, of whatever composition, must be held. The Lord is the only one who is in a position to decide whether they are engaged in “sin,” except in the rare instance where a mortal has been delegated the priesthood responsibility to make that judgment.

    For the rest of us — no matter how “orthodox” some of us might think we are — our responsibility is to love them unconditionally, teach them the Gospel, and worry about our own beams instead of worrying about their motes.

  41. Portia on December 2, 2004 at 6:53 pm

    No, I really don’t think so, Gordon. But I admit that by temperament I’m not really keyed to that sort of thing.

    No doubt, but that is precisely the problem.

  42. Clark on December 2, 2004 at 7:01 pm

    Portia, isn’t the issue one of knowledge? I suspect most seeing a man and a woman coming together to church holding hands have no clue whether they are being immoral. I think most seeing two men in the same situation do. Further two men acting that way after knowing the gospel seem unwilling to be making the steps to overcoming the problem. With a hetero couple we don’t have the same indication. So I don’t think we can overlook the meaning of public acts here.

    Now we might well say that sinners are the ones who ought be coming to church the most. I’d tend to agree. However at the same time, I don’t think church ought accept public flaunting of the laws of the community’s morality.

    Probably a better example of my point would be smokers. Someone may come to church, after Frebreezing their clothing and no one would know the better that they are breaking the word of wisdom. Yet if someone came to church and let up in church, it seems that something stronger is being asserted and will be somewhat appropriately met with disdain.

    Sin requires knowledge and acceptance of the commandments

    No it doesn’t. Accountability for the sin does, however. Just because I am ignorant doesn’t mean I’m somehow not sinning. It just affects how God will judge us for the sin. We have to distinguish between sins that are due to acts inherently wrong and sins due to violating a limited commandment to a community. Thus a non-Mormon smoker isn’t sinning, because the command about smoking is limited to a particular community. A non-Mormon adulter however is sinning, because the command is universal.

  43. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    What, minorities feel uncomfortable at church because I don’t go sniffing for racism at the door to every bathroom stall? Pish.

    Also, I think in fairness to our gentile brothers and sisters we have to admit that a great, great many of them have enough spiritual sensitivity to be capable of sin. Indeed, even that fact that a person does realize they’re sinning at all doesn’t mean they’re not sinning. It just means they’re not morally accountable for it.

  44. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2004 at 7:04 pm

    Er, ” . . .that a person does NOT realize they’re sinning at all . . .”

  45. Kristine on December 2, 2004 at 7:09 pm

    It’s a sin for gay people to hold hands?

  46. Clark on December 2, 2004 at 7:23 pm

    Kristine, no gay people holding hands is no more inherently sinful than you holding hands with a man who isn’t your husband.

  47. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2004 at 7:25 pm

    That kinda depends on the motive. Which will often be there.

  48. Matt Evans on December 2, 2004 at 7:42 pm

    Portia,

    I think you thought I was using “coupling” as a euphemism for sexual intercourse, but I wasn’t using it in that sense. I meant it in the sense of a romantic diad. Heterosexuals are allowed to “couple” in that sense, even before they are married. It’s not possible to avoid the PDA of unmarried heterosexual couples at BYU. Among categories for whom sexual relations are never permitted, such as members of the same sex, married persons with someone other than their spouse, and family members, coupling (relating as a romantic diad) is not permitted.

    Kristine,

    It’s moral for a gay man to show the same affection toward another man that he shows toward his grandparents, his parents, his siblings, and his children.

  49. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2004 at 7:58 pm

    Well put, Matt Evans. I shall adopt this explanation in the future.

  50. Joel D. on December 2, 2004 at 7:58 pm

    Lyle,

    No, I’m not suggesting some sort of statistical sampling or quotas, just an effort to make the Choir more representative. If we broaden the base of who participates, we will naturally have a more representative body, even if it isn’t statistically the exact same percentages as the population.

    I’m not sure I follow what you’re trying to get after with your “racially blind� comment. It seems to me that “racial blindness� can mean (1) not treating races differently or it can mean (2) ignoring races all together. Definition (2) seems passively bigoted, since the person denies what is unique about whole segments of society. I’m generally in favor of the first type of racial blindness–I was not suggesting in my earlier post that we give other races preferences to be in the Choir, but that we expand the opportunities for non-whites of sufficient talent to participate. However, I’m not in favor of ignoring the fact that other races have something unique to contribute.

    Gordon: I take your point, but if the Choir members were now full-time, and if they recruited from all over the world, it seems that any loss of institutional experience from longer-term choir members may be offset. It may also be good to lose some long-time members if one thinks that having more people participate will allow many more people to take that experience and increased talent with them to other choirs (including ward and stake choirs) and congregations. This would especially help our Church populations in developing areas.

  51. Portia on December 2, 2004 at 8:02 pm

    Just because I am ignorant doesn’t mean I’m somehow not sinning.

    Beg to differ. I understand your point, but differ on terminology. We distinguish in our theology between sins — for which you are accountable — and transgressions — for which you are not. The former is willful, the latter is ignorant. The former is only atoned for on conditions of repentance; the latter is unconditionally atoned for. You cannot, by definition, repent of ignorant transgression, so the Savior pays for it. See esp. Moroni 8:22

    a great, great many of them have enough spiritual sensitivity to be capable of sin.

    Yes, but only to the degree that they have received and understand the law. And neither I, nor Adam Greenwood, nor Matt Evans has been called to judge how much of the law they have received.

    We have been repeatedly taught that we are in enough trouble for our own violations of the light and knowledge we’ve been given to start worrying about how well someone else is doing. If we don’t walk right over to that gay couple and embrace them as brothers or sisters, the condemnation is on our heads.

    Kristine, no gay people holding hands is no more inherently sinful than you holding hands with a man who isn’t your husband.

    This is manifestly false, as one situation implies covenant breaking, and the other does not.

    Kristine could well be in far more serious trouble because of the promises she’s knowingly made to the Lord; whereas the gay couple has made no covenant to break.

  52. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2004 at 8:05 pm

    Are there limits to the embodied sins that we are supposed to embrace? Are there things that someone could be doing or asserting in Church that should earn our condemnation? Of course there are. Reacting to things that are unlawful is one way that we teach the law.

  53. MDS on December 2, 2004 at 8:16 pm

    Would a member of a minority feel comfortable posting on T & S? Why or why not? How many minorities are there on the masthead? Is that because of the metaphorical blog sentinels? Maybe if the powers that be at T & S are desirous to work change in this area we need more minority perma-bloggers. Just having Wilfried’s European perspective enriches T & S in neat ways. The blog stayed relatively Caucasian with the new additions, though. Maybe Marcus Martins might be a nice addition (or at least a cool 12 Questions candidate).

  54. Clark on December 2, 2004 at 8:28 pm

    Portia, if you look at the scriptures you’ll find that this terminology (which I believe largely was popularized by Joseph Fielding Smith) is not consistently used. Consider Num 15:28 or Mosiah 3:11 among other places.

    Regarding adultery, there is no covenant breaking for non-member adulterers since they made no covenants. Same with Mormons married outside of the temple. So your response doesn’t work.

  55. Portia on December 2, 2004 at 8:29 pm

    Among categories for whom sexual relations are never permitted, such as members of the same sex, married persons with someone other than their spouse, and family members, coupling (relating as a romantic diad) is not permitted.

    Matt Evans: This is nonsense.

    You continue to assume that the homosexual couple knows and accepts your rule about romantic diads (which, as far as I can tell, you just made up without any authority, but let that go). Even assuming that your rule has some (LDS) doctrinal content, the couple visiting the church are not responsible for it — and hence cannot be sinning — until they are taught the rule and understand it to be a gospel requirement.

    And, I repeat again, neither you nor I nor anyone else who has not been called as a common judge in Isreal has any business making judgments about the couple’s culpability for what they may or may not know and understand.

    Do you really think that the homosexual couple, perhaps living as best they know the principle of fidelity — is more spiritually culpable than the Relief Society President gossiping about her neighbor, despite knowing full well the scriptural injunction against such talk? Than the 16 year old priest who went out drinking with his friends Saturday night and then washed his hands and blessed the Sacrament Sunday morning? Than the home teacher who promised his Elders’ Quorum President he’d visit his families this month and watched ESPN instead? Than the woman who read King Benjamin’s sermon this morning and then ignored the panhandler this afternoon?

    Than the supposed disciple of Christ who failed to befriend a homosexual couple, when he could have made a difference in their lives, because he self-righteously decided that they weren’t worthy to come under his roof or sit at his table?

    LDS chapels are full of sinners, Matt Evans. No one has asked you or I to sort out who are the “best” sinners and who are the “worst” sinners, or which ones deserve to be shunned. We only condemn ourselves when we try.

  56. Portia on December 2, 2004 at 8:42 pm

    Regarding adultery, there is no covenant breaking for non-member adulterers since they made no covenants. Same with Mormons married outside of the temple. So your response doesn’t work.

    No, your assumptions about my response don’t work. You’re not thinking carefully.

    Non-member adulterers sin to the extent that they know and understand their the morality actions. The same might be true of a committed homosexual couple. But the heterosexual adulterers are, at a minimum, breaking formal promises that the State currently will not allow a homosexual couple to make.

    Members married outside the temple presumably made covenants at baptism — which is why they are members. They are far more likely to be sinning, since, by virtue of being members, they are not only breaking solemn promises made to the Lord, but more likely to know how the Lord regards adultery.

    Someone who has made covenants not only at baptism, but in the Temple, not only has more than enough knowledge to be willfully sinning, but to know the seriousness of mocking solemn promises made to God. Adultery in a temple marriage is a far, far more serious matter than adultery either in a non-LDS temple setting or among non-members. This is not anything esoteric, it is both Church doctrine and practice.

  57. diogenes on December 2, 2004 at 8:54 pm

    Portia, if you look at the scriptures you’ll find that this terminology (which I believe largely was popularized by Joseph Fielding Smith) is not consistently used. Consider Num 15:28 or Mosiah 3:11 among other places.

    This is interesting — I don’t know offhand where our modern sin/transgression terminology started, but I would say offhand that Mosiah 3:11 looks rather like a parallelism where “transgression of Adam” and “ignorantly sinned” line up — in other words, where transgression is equivalent to ignorant sinning.

    It could almost be the source of the willful sin/transgression nomenclature.

  58. Matt Evans on December 2, 2004 at 8:57 pm

    Portia,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I do, however, believe you are reading more into Moroni 8:22 than is there. The passage says that “little children,” and “all them without the law,” are under no condemnation and “cannot repent.” This suggests to me that those who are “without the law” are those with mental capacities similar to little children, as they are the only people — besides little children — without need of repentance or baptism. Everyone else, because of the light of Christ that shows them good from evil, has sinned and must repent (Mor. 7:16, Rom. 3:23). The reason prophets can walk into any city on earth and cry repentance is because everyone (except those “without the law”) have need to repent.

    I fully agree that we are all sinners and have been commanded to show love to everyone.

  59. a random John on December 2, 2004 at 8:59 pm

    John Fowles,

    Your comment doesn’t make me mad. I was just wondering if you were speaking from experience or not. My experience after living in what was initially a diverse inner city ward is that the problems are deeper and more complex than I had ever imagined despite having lived repeatedly in ethnic theme houses in college (can you say, “multicultural education?”), working with minority youth in East Palo Alto, and going on a mission in a racially diverse area. I am not saying that we have a big intolerant church. I am saying that even if you reach out to someone with love and kindness they might be picking up on things that you aren’t even aware of. I think that the number one thing people need to stay active in the church is a firm testimony. Number two might be thick skin or an ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.

  60. a random John on December 2, 2004 at 9:02 pm

    Curtis,

    So I guess you aren’t the Curtis that moved to Maine just as we moved in. We are in Boston II, and live in Brookline. Fenway is hardly crime free. Two ward members have been robbed there, one had his face slashed. Even in fancy pants Brookline (we live in someone’s attic) our car was vandalized last week.

  61. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2004 at 9:04 pm

    No one here is arguing that its OK for priests to drink and then bless the sacrament or for a Relief Society President to break her marriage vows. Don’t even try and stick that on us.

    So, if a priest walked into the door of the chapel drunk and smirking, or the RS president started chatting with me about how much more fulfilled she felt in her relationship with this guy she met at work, would I fall on their necks and tell them how much I really, really loved them? Nope.

  62. Clark on December 2, 2004 at 9:06 pm

    Portia you forget I don’t buy your conception of sin.

  63. obi-wan on December 2, 2004 at 9:07 pm

    But the heterosexual adulterers are, at a minimum, breaking formal promises that the State currently will not allow a homosexual couple to make.

    Well, most states. I suppose one could potentially find homosexual adultery in Massachusetts right now? And in parts of Canada, or the Netherlands?

  64. a random John on December 2, 2004 at 9:14 pm

    Portia,

    Could you clarify something for me? Do you think that they vast majority of adults in the USA think that there is nothing wrong with adultery? Does the Light of Christ not shine on them? I think there are plenty of things that people (regardless of religion or lack thereof) can rationalize as being ok intellectually while they still know in their heart that it is wrong. I agree that someone breaking temple covenants is going a step further, but people in this culture are well aware that adultery is wrong. I can’t speak of other cultures, but I would think that it holds true elsewhere as well.

  65. Portia on December 2, 2004 at 9:14 pm

    So, if a priest walked into the door of the chapel drunk and smirking, or the RS president started chatting with me about how much more fulfilled she felt in her relationship with this guy she met at work, would I fall on their necks and tell them how much I really, really loved them? Nope.

    Adam Greenwood: I believe you. I am not concerned with what you would do. I am concerned with what a follower of Christ should do, which I am increasingly convinced is a different matter altogether.

  66. Ivan Wolfe on December 2, 2004 at 9:21 pm

    Portia –

    well, the question then is to ask what Christ would do.

    When confronted with sinners, what did he do?

    Well, it was different in nearly every case. In one case, he drove them out of the temple with a whip. In another, he roundly condemned them for their hypocrisy and overt concern with outward appearances. In other cases, he had dinner and went drinking with them.

    I don’t think we can say that a follower of Christ would always do a certain thing when confronted with a sinner.

  67. obi-wan on December 2, 2004 at 9:33 pm

    Matt Evans — Although I’m not sure I entirely agree with Portia, I don’t think your reading of Mormon’s epistle can be right, either. He specifically says that little children can’t repent because they “have no law,” — they can’t sin, because they don’t understand what they are doing. Consequently it makes no sense to baptize them.

    Those who have “no law” certainly would include the mentally incompetent who are in a permanent state of child-like understanding, but at the risk of sounding like Justice Black, “no law” means “no law” — those who haven’t been taught the law would seem to be in the same category. In fact, that’s the exact reason little children aren’t accountable until (at least) age eight; they have to have enough time to learn and understand the law before they can be held responsible for it. Mormon seems to me to be very, very clear that a just God doesn’t hold us accountable for what we couldn’t have known.

    Looking at the other end of your argument, the Light of Christ can’t possibly be a panacea or substitute for knowing the law — little children certainly have the light of Christ, but Mormon says they still aren’t responsible for breaking the law. Does the Light of Christ tell people that they really need to put back a year’s supply or submit a 4 generation sheet to an LDS temple? I think the Light of Christ at best puts people on notice of malum in se, not malum prohibitum.

    “Crying repentance” so far as I can tell ALWAYS starts by a prophet teaching the Gospel — it’s not like people already know it from having followed the Light of Christ. If “just follow the Light of Christ” is all there were to it, we could save a fortune on Church curriculum and instruction manuels.

  68. Gordon Smith on December 2, 2004 at 9:35 pm

    MDS: “Would a member of a minority feel comfortable posting on T & S? Why or why not?”

    Hmm. Good questions. I really don’t know, and since I don’t know most of the people who are posting comments, it could be happening.

    MDS: “How many minorities are there on the masthead? Is that because of the metaphorical blog sentinels? Maybe if the powers that be at T & S are desirous to work change in this area we need more minority perma-bloggers. Just having Wilfried’s European perspective enriches T & S in neat ways.”

    I agree.

    “Maybe Marcus Martins might be a nice addition (or at least a cool 12 Questions candidate).”

    Yes. Thanks for the suggestion.

  69. Gordon Smith on December 2, 2004 at 9:47 pm

    Matt: “Gordon, in what ways do you think members turn minorities away?”

    Sometimes it happens in very nasty ways, such as racist comments, but in my experience those incidents are exceptional. More often it happens in subtle ways. Ignoring a person or treating them differently than whites. Not inviting them to dinner or to participate in other friendship activites outside of Church. Not engaging them in real conversation. In short, not really including them. Dismissing their comments or concerns in Sunday School. Making remarks like, “You must like basketball,” to black males. Of course, no single event is likely to drive any minority away, but a steady accumulation can become very frustrating.

  70. Portia on December 2, 2004 at 9:49 pm

    Well, it was different in nearly every case. In one case, he drove them out of the temple with a whip. In another, he roundly condemned them for their hypocrisy and overt concern with outward appearances. In other cases, he had dinner and went drinking with them.

    It’s all very well to ask “What would Jesus do?” If we had the knowledge of people’s hearts that he had, we might well react in the same way that he would.

    But we don’t. And since we don’t have that knowledge — and typically aren’t entitled to that kind of discernment unless called and set apart to judge — his rather clear instruction to us was not to attempt those kind of condemnatory judgments. The right question is not “What would Jesus do?,” it is “What did Jesus instruct me to do?”

    I think the answer to that, for most of us, is eminently clear. If the Lord’s authorized representatives are inspired to drive homosexual couples out of the chapel, or denounce them for their hypocrisy, that’s a matter between them and the One they’ve been ordained to represent. Ditto for scourging and condemning the drunken priest and the adulterous Relief Society Presidnt. It’s not certainly not my job, nor as far as I know, yours, nor yet Adam Greenwood’s.

  71. Steve Evans on December 2, 2004 at 9:52 pm

    Yay Portia!

  72. John Mansfield on December 2, 2004 at 9:57 pm

    Brother Gordon, black people deserve a little more credit for being able to leave problems of the past in the past. In Baltimore, for example, about half of the saints are black. They expressed the concept from time to time that if they were to constrain themselves based on past racism then they would be shutting themselves out of many more institutions than just the Church, and they didn’t feel like limiting themselves in that way.

    As far as institutional measures go, the missions in the United States put significant labor into minority areas. Going back to the old Baltimore 1st Ward of a decade back, we had twelve pairs of missionaries. The reorganization of cities such as Washington and Detroit into mission districts appears to me an effort grow strong black cores that once well established can spread out. This may be the work of generations, just as building up Utah until Zion could spread from there was.

  73. Gordon Smith on December 2, 2004 at 10:12 pm

    John Mansfield: “black people deserve a little more credit for being able to leave problems of the past in the past.”

    Despite having initiated this thread, I should say that I am very uncomfortable generalizing about blacks, whites, or any other group. I much prefer to treat each person according to their individual wants and needs. Of course it is unfair to suggest that all blacks would react one way or another toward the Church, but for any individual to “leave problems of the past in the past” requires some evidence that the problems are really in the past. I have encountered many, many blacks who are not yet convinced. The point of my original post was to suggest that we members need to do more to show that such problems really are behind us. By the way, I agree that this is the work of generations, and I am very hopeful for the future.

  74. John H on December 2, 2004 at 10:13 pm

    I’m sure black investigators who show up with a white girlfriend/boyfriend and learn about Elder McConkie’s comments, still printed in Mormon Doctrine today, that interracial marriage is wrong and that segregation is from God are thrilled.

    But I agree that outward racism is on the decline in the Church. However, to learn how minorities feel, we could find out from the minorities themselves, instead of sitting around as a bunch of white people guessing what they feel like, and assuming that they must feel welcome because the Church is past 1978.

    See, “‘Speak the Truth and Shame the Devil': A Roundtable Discussion on Church, Race, Experience, and Testimony,” Sunstone 127 (May 2003): 28-39. Yes, it’s in Sunstone (oh no!) but all the participants are active, believing African-Americans (and they started out with a spirited discussion of what’s correct – “black” or “African-American”). I think Darron Smith’s work also has some important points, pick up “Black and Mormon” for his perspective.

  75. Ivan Wolfe on December 2, 2004 at 10:14 pm

    Portia –

    I think that’s almost a given. Your “rebuttal” leaves me puzzled as I completely agree with it.

    What I was trying to say was that to say “we should always and in every case without exception do one particular thing in regards to sinners” is the wrong claim to make (and quite dogmatic to boot). We should follow the spirit. As Joseph Smith said (my paraphrase): God said thall shalt not kill, and yet at other times he told the Isrealites to destroy everything living. God governs by revelation geared to the specific sets of circumstances we find ourselves in.

    Of course, I may not alwyas be in tune with the sprit, so its good to have some Christlike behavior to fall back on, but that “default” behavior may still not always and in every case be the correct one.

  76. Clark on December 2, 2004 at 10:22 pm

    I think the problem is Portia two fold. Regarding what Jesus instructed me to do, it was to live in the spirit. Exactly what that results in isn’t always clear. I think you are assuming that it entails a way of accepting sinners that I’m not sure is taught. That’s not to say members couldn’t do better nor is it in the least to justify some of the treatments of visitors. Merely that I think you are pushing things farther than is appropriate.

    How to react to sin is not always obvious. At least to me. It is very easy to say love the sinner, hate the sin. But what that means in practice isn’t always obvious. At what point of trying to love the sinner are we accepting of the sin? And at what point of trying to not accept the sin do we cease loving the sinner? It seems to me that you think there is a straightforward way of doing this by assuming they aren’t sinners and leaving that to judges in Israel. I don’t buy it. I simply don’t.

    The other problem is the second part. None of us fully do. As I said, we are all sinners and the church is a hospital run by the infirmed. We can all do better. Yet if we condemn the church because we don’t always embrace visitors the way we ought, it seems we assume the visitors are the only ones really in need of healing. Yet we are all sinners. We all need to be healed.

    That’s why I asked earlier regarding my experiences on my mission in Louisiana with the racist older members what we should do. Do we cast some out to bring in others?

    Once again I don’t claim to have some straightforward answer. Rather I think we live in the middle of a tension between two poles in which no one will ever be fully satisfied. Our goal ought to be to do our best and try to live by the spirit.

  77. Matt Evans on December 2, 2004 at 10:32 pm

    Obi-wan,

    Because “all have sinned,” it seems to me that either knowledge isn’t required to sin, or that the universal Light of Christ gives a sufficient knowledge to sin. If people who hadn’t been taught the gospel were automatically saved by the blood of Christ, like little children are, then there would be little reason to teach them the gospel. Because of many scriptures that say God “commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30, 3 Nephi 11:32, D&C 133:16), I’ve always assumed this means all men have sins to repent of.

  78. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2004 at 11:31 pm

    I agree with Matt Evans. Moroni says its great wickedness to teach that little children need to be baptized but I don’t think he’d say that its great wickedness to teach that the unbaptized need to be baptized.

  79. Adam Greenwood on December 3, 2004 at 9:25 am

    Though the original Portia was a bit one-sided in who she was merciful and loving to, her hymn to mercy was not misplaced.

    Our model is Christ. As commenters have pointed out, he could be merciful at times and harsh and judgmental at others. I believe that our role as vessels of Christ require us to do the same. We are to witness both his infinite love and his unyielding purity.

    In reply, Portia points out that Christ had perfect judgment. He knew the heart. I think this argument is misplaced. One of the important teachings of Paul is that Christ grew and progressed throughout his life. “Though He were a son, yet he learned obedience . . .” By implication, Christ did not know fully the heart. Though he was undoubtedly blessed with a great many manifestations of the Spirit, I suspect that, as he does us, God sometimes left him to his own judgment. Christ really is our model. Like us he had to make choices in a world of imperfect knowledge, and judgments too.

  80. Kristine on December 3, 2004 at 10:03 am

    So, Adam, you’re arguing that you’re more like Jesus than Portia thinks you are, and that judging others is the right thing to do?

  81. Mathew on December 3, 2004 at 10:09 am

    Adam,

    Accept the fact that you’ve been outclassed. If you want sparring practice stick to someone in your weight division. I would be happy to argue SSM with you if you want.

  82. Adam Greenwood on December 3, 2004 at 10:51 am

    It would be difficult for me to not be more like Jesus than Portia thinks I am. See, e.g., comment #65.

    I regret that Mathew thinks my posts have not been very classy. That substantive judgment is not entirely unjustified, on review. On the other hand, I am surprised that he thought my sparring partners had more in the way of class than I.

  83. Adam Greenwood on December 3, 2004 at 11:03 am

    If anything, I think the relevant gap between Christ and us is that he was in an authoritative position to forgive sins and we are not. But, as with the gap Portia proposes, I think it would be a mistake to take this difference too seriously and not try to model ourselves on Christ in this aspect too.

  84. Mathew on December 3, 2004 at 11:15 am

    Adam,

    I’m using a boxing metaphor–class refers to not to your gentility, but rather your division. You’ve got the heart of a champion, but your footwork is a little clumsy.

  85. Clark on December 3, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    As I mentioned, I think Portia’s basic point is right, although as I mentioned I disagree with her view of sin. The problem, as I mentioned, is the divide between loving the sinner and accepting the sin. I honestly think that is very hard to do. While Christ certainly went among the publicans and prostitutes, he called them from their sins. As the Book of Mormon so eloquently puts it, we are saved from our sins and not in our sins.

  86. Silus Grok on December 3, 2004 at 1:15 pm

    A couple of thoughts…

    On being a gay man in the Church: I have never felt shunned in my ward — and that may simply be because they do not know — so I cannot really say what it’s like on that front. I don’t imagine that it’s because I’m this really butch guy. To the contrary (and much to my enduring surprise), everyone outside of Utah County has nailed the issue before I’ve had a chance to even say “hello”. I doubt that I’d be shunned in any other ward… but that’s mostly because I wouldn’t let folks shun me. I’m funny that way.

    On Joel’s idea vis a vis Motab: what a delightful idea… and we could address Gordon’s concern by having the choir be comprised of two groups: the missionary group, culled from the Church’s global membership; and the lifers, culled from the Wasatch Front.

    On shunning: it’s a fine line between not tolerating sin, and being intolerant of sinners — and none of us is very good at it… my hope would be that members of the Church who are not in a position of judgement (that would be most of us), would leave reprimanding to those in such positions — and that people (regardless of circumstance) would refrain from living out loud. Worship services aren’t the best place for making one’s voice heard. Of course, that raises the question of how one can love the sinner while not approving of the sin.

    Similarly, it’s a fine line between Christ-like concern and gossip.

    And finally: on homosexual “coupling” …

    I’m not sure that the argument against same-sex dating (not same-sex-sex) is as pat as Matt Evans asserts. I am a temple-worthy young man… in looking to the future, I cannot see a time when I would find the woman of my dreams, marry, and raise a family. I cannot even imagine it. But I believe in miracles, so (after a hiatus of a few years) I am contemplating a return to the hetero dating scene (albeit with much trepidation). This change in sentiment has come about as I also consider whether or not I’ll begin dating men.

    I haven’t come to any firm decision, but from where I stand, a “pre-mission” ethic when dating men may be an acceptable alternative to utter celebacy and its attendant loneliness. But like I said: I haven’t come to a firm opinion on the matter.

  87. Adam Greenwood on December 3, 2004 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Silus Grok.
    Yours is an interesting situation. Like you, I haven’t come to a firm decision. I suppose a lot depends on what dating (with a pre-mission ethic) is. Going out to events with men friends, or gay men friends, is at one end of a spectrum, while, say, making out and love poetry read under moonlight is at the other.

    Most of my spare time is with my family now, but when I did have my group of male friends, I remember how physically intimate we were. Arms draped around each other, stuff like that. I’m sorry that such things, that do indeed help to dispel the loneliness, are fraught with tension in your situation. God bless.

  88. Camille on December 3, 2004 at 2:37 pm

    “…it’s a fine line between not tolerating sin, and being intolerant of sinners ”

    I completely agree with this statement. That to me is what is so difficult with this whole question of accepting gay individuals or couples into our congregations. How do we accept the sinner without accepting the sin and without being “judgemental”? If they are openly gay and are openly acting on their gay impulses we are not unrighteously judging them. However, if we are just assuming they are gay or assuming they are acting on those impulses then we are judging unrighteously. If they are openly, willfully, rebelling against God, do we not have a responsibility to stand up for righteousness at all times, in all things, and in all places? What should we do in those circumstances?

  89. Silus Grok on December 3, 2004 at 3:43 pm

    Camille: I would hope that you’d love them regardless and encourage those in a position of authority to handle it — and to handle it any way they and the Lord see fit.

    Of course, your comment once again raises the issue of gay-sociality being somehow a sin — they’re not having sex in the pews, they’re just sitting there as a couple, as close friends, or brothers in adversity — which I wonder at: is this cultural artifact that is not correctly attributed to the Gospel, or is it truly a part of the Gospel? If it is truly part of the Gospel, then I should like it to be a bit better fleshed-out than it is currently.

  90. The Only True and Living Nathan on December 3, 2004 at 4:23 pm

    Not inviting them to dinner or to participate in other friendship activites outside of Church. Not engaging them in real conversation. In short, not really including them. Dismissing their comments or concerns in Sunday School. Making remarks like, “You must like basketball.�

    All of which I’ve experienced from time to time.

    Unfortunately, I’m a white guy, and all of that treatment also came from white folks. Would a change in the color of my skin force me to reinterpret all of those occurences and see them through the lens of racism?

    (And I’m not even very tall…)

  91. Adam Greenwood on December 3, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    Are you in a wheelchair? Are you a gay romantic diad?

  92. Kristine on December 3, 2004 at 4:44 pm

    “But I believe in miracles, so (after a hiatus of a few years) I am contemplating a return to the hetero dating scene (albeit with much trepidation). This change in sentiment has come about as I also consider whether or not I’ll begin dating men.”

    Can I just ask, ever so gently, if you think it’s fair to involve (presumably heterosexual) women in your quest for a miracle?

    It’s none of my business, and you don’t need to reply, but I think it’s not as uncommon as it should be in the church to think that “saving” a Melchizidek priesthood holder is worth sacrificing a woman for.

  93. Silus Grok on December 3, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    Don’t sweat it, Kristine.

    Some might say that any time two folks fall in love, it’s a miracle — and seeing some of the guys I know hook-up at all, I _know_ it’s a miracle.

    : )

    But that’s not what you mean… No: I have no problem involving women in my quest for a miracle. No one dates for altruistic reasons, so having my own agenda doesn’t really bother me. The issue of fairness really only comes up if I were planning on not telling them about my condition until _after_ we were married — which isn’t the case.

    I hope that clears things up, Kristine. Feel free to ask any follow-ups you may have.

    Adam: Huh?

  94. Adam Greenwood on December 3, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    That was too Mr. T.L. Nathan, Silus. Don’t worry, nothing to see here.

  95. Gilgamesh on December 3, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    obi-wan wrote
    “Those who have “no lawâ€? certainly would include the mentally incompetent who are in a permanent state of child-like understanding, but at the risk of sounding like Justice Black, “no lawâ€? means “no lawâ€? – those who haven’t been taught the law would seem to be in the same category. ”

    Is it possible that this could be a part of Satan’s plan. My assumption is that after we become accountable, our understanding of the law is taught by the community. We are fast becomming an invidualistic society where all behavior is relative and cannot, therefore, be judged. According to Portia – we can only be under the law if it has been taught to us – and the only people teaching the law, since societal morlas are relative, would be the church. This limits the number of people that can be held acountable, because they are all too ignorant to know better and we haven’t had the time to tell them yet. If God cannot judge us or, for lack of a better word, punish us, for our sins because we are all “ignorant” we have no need for a savior, because we haven’t sinned. It would seem the answer to surviving this life is to not learn about the gospel or God’s truth – this would give us all salvation in the end, which seems pretty similar to Satan’s original plan in the first place.

    I hope that made sense.

    By the way, my home ward had a lesbian couple attenting for a number of years. They were both longtime members and after each divorced, meteach other and became a couple. They attended regularly, with the bishop’s blessing. They were counseled however, to not openly display affection – i.e. hand holding, arms around each other in sacrament meeting, or kissing.

  96. Kristine on December 3, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    “No one dates for altruistic reasons”

    True enough!!

  97. obi-wan on December 3, 2004 at 5:24 pm

    Gilgamesh writes: This limits the number of people that can be held acountable, because they are all too ignorant to know better and we haven’t had the time to tell them yet. If God cannot judge us or, for lack of a better word, punish us, for our sins because we are all “ignorant� we have no need for a savior, because we haven’t sinned.

    I apologize that I have to work for a living and can’t keep up with the speed at which this thread (and everything else on T&S) seems to move. But I think this calls for a response.

    I disagree with Gilgamesh’s logic for two reasons: first, even if we aren’t accountable for ignorant sins or transgessions or whatever we’re calling them, Justice still has to be paid, making a Savior critically important. According to Moroni 8:22 and Mosiah 3:11, which have already been mentioned in this discussion, that is a large part of the purpose of the Atonement: to pay for those sins/transgressions.

    Second, at some point, (nearly) everyone becomes accountable; either by hearing the Gospel in this life or hearing it in the next. If they reject it, they pay for their own sins, but if they accept it, they have to repent preparatory for baptism, and that again requires a Savior. The exception to this seems to be those children who die before accountability, they automatically inherit the Celestial Kingdom, presumably because they didn’t get or didn’t need a probationary period to prepare.

    Consequently, I don’t think it follows that the requirement of scienter for accountability has anything to do with Satan’s plan.

  98. obi-wan on December 3, 2004 at 5:50 pm

    Obi-wan, Because “all have sinned,� it seems to me that either knowledge isn’t required to sin, or that the universal Light of Christ gives a sufficient knowledge to sin. If people who hadn’t been taught the gospel were automatically saved by the blood of Christ, like little children are, then there would be little reason to teach them the gospel. Because of many scriptures that say God “commandeth all men everywhere to repent� (Acts 17:30, 3 Nephi 11:32, D&C 133:16), I’ve always assumed this means all men have sins to repent of.

    Matt —

    I have always understood the injunction for all men to repent, everywhere, to have as its predicate that all men everywhere hear the Gospel. Repentance is not the first principle of the Gospel, either cardinally or ordinally; it comes after you know enough about Jesus Christ to have faith.

    I think that your reading of the scriptures regarding all as having “sinned” is prey to the problem that someone — Clark I think — pointed out earlier, that the terminology is not consistent, possibly due to translation choices.

    In the broadest sense, it’s clear that all have sinned — Justice doesn’t care whether you sinned ignorantly or knowingly; you fall short of the glory of God and you can’t live in his presence. Period. Go straight to endless misery.

    Mercy, on the other hand, does care whether there is scienter or not — as Mormon points out, you can only repent of transgressions you are aware of (remember the first “R” in the primary repentance lesson: Recognize). The repentance process is intended to help you change so that you can live in His presence.

    But in the course of whatever you and I have done today, we have sinned or transgressed or whatever you want to call it, probably hundreds of times. That’s just part of mortality. Some of those mistakes we are aware of, and can repent of, but most of them we didn’t even notice. They’re still there, though, and if the Atonement doesn’t take care of those unconscious transgressions, we’re all sunk; nobody’s getting back to Father’s presence.

    It seems to me that the vast majority of sins/transgressions — all those that are committed before age eight, all those committed by those who are mentally incompetent, all those committed unknowingly by those who haven’t been taught the law, all those committed unknowingly by those who have been taught the law — have to be covered gratis by the Atonement. It’s only a very small fraction of our sins that we have the time, knowledge, and awareness to work out through the repentance process. We’re save by grace after all we can do, and when it comes right down to it we really can’t do all that much.

  99. Gilgamesh on December 3, 2004 at 6:01 pm

    I guess I would have to agree with you obi-wan. I don’t agree with my logic either, it was offered more tongue-in-cheek. I do feel there is too much emphasis on the fact that if we are ignorant we cannot be accountable. As a society, we have lost the sense of personal responsibility to learn and understand on our own. Some of the earlier arguments in this thread seemed to justify behavior that would not lead to eternal salvation merely because the individuals involved had not been taught by others that it was wrong. The fact that society is shifting it’s moral values does not mean that the Lord instantly allows more to slide.

    That said, I feel that the Lord offers unlimited love and multiple opportunities for us to change and follow the gospel plan both in this life and the next. My fear is that many will be convinced that they did no wrong, claiming ignorance, and will therefore be unwilling to accept the atonement and change their lives.

  100. The Only True and Living Nathan on December 3, 2004 at 6:10 pm

    Are you in a wheelchair? Are you a gay romantic diad?

    No, but I can be awfully annoying.

  101. Adam Greenwood on December 3, 2004 at 6:20 pm

    That’s OK. I love you, man.

  102. Keith on December 3, 2004 at 6:38 pm

    “I have always understood the injunction for all men to repent, everywhere, to have as its predicate that all men everywhere hear the Gospel. Repentance is not the first principle of the Gospel, either cardinally or ordinally; it comes after you know enough about Jesus Christ to have faith.”

    It might be that you are right here, but I do think it could be seen in a way similar to what Matt hints at. All have something of the light of Christ (not simply their own conscience, but light from Christ). To the degree that they have this, it brings its own call to repentence and a call to follow (all relative to how much they are given). A person’s divine given feeling that he should stop stealing, or treating a neighbor poorly, are calls to repentance at some level. And even one who does not know the name of Christ may have something of faith in God (Christ) by having faith in and following what God has revealed of himself through the light of Christ.

    D&C 84 seems to say that one who follows the light of Christ will eventually be lead to the Father and the covenant. One has been following the voice all the way along and now it comes more clearly. None of this denies that there isn’t a major step up when the fulness of the Gospel is taught and recieved. My wife talks of this difference as moving from something like a bullet train to warp speed.

  103. Clark on December 3, 2004 at 6:55 pm

    Romans 2 is probably appropriate here.

    All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

  104. Clark on December 3, 2004 at 7:00 pm

    Whoops – hit enter too soon.

    Allow me to comment on Paul. I think he is arguing that by nature the gentiles have via conscience something like the law. Further even those apart from the law can sin, as the earlier verse points out. The ultimate point is that what counts is obeying the law. Of course all of us fail in that regard, but hearing the law be aware of our failure situates us in a certain relationship with Jesus and allows us to turn to him. But ignorance doesn’t somehow mean that sinful acts aren’t sinful nor that we are necessarily as ignorant as we might like to think.

  105. Ivan Wolfe on December 3, 2004 at 10:04 pm

    Here’s an article that provides an interesting context to the ad that spurred this discussion:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/148/41.0.html

    small excerpt:
    Go watch the ad and see if it’s a commercial about homosexuality and gay marriage. Who’s gay? Those two women sitting next to each other? Those two guys trying to enter a church at the same time? Gee, under that criteria, even hatemonger Fred Phelps’s Westboro Baptist cult is quite the “affirming congregation,” what with its allowing people of the same gender to interact and even develop friendships.

    But apparently the UCC is quite concerned about churches that require boy-girl-boy-girl seating. But even more so, the UCC opposes all those congregations out there that ban non-whites from attending. Because the message of this ad isn’t that the UCC welcomes minorities—it’s that all the other churches out there hate you.

    The ad shows some bouncers at the front of a church, refusing to let anyone but boy-girl pairs through the door. There’s the two guys, but the others are a black woman and a young man who may be Latino or Asian. “No way,” they say.

    The gay stuff, if it’s there, is way too subtle to be noticed by Joe Couch Potato. But the accusation of racism is none too subtle. And actually, that’s the reason that NBC said “no way” to the ad. The ad ends with the line, “Jesus didn’t turn people away, neither do we,” NBC’s Alan Wurtzel explained to The New York Times. “That message clearly implies that other people do.”

    In fact, when evangelical Christian leaders saw the ad last spring, Faith and Values CEO Edward J. Murray told the Times, it wasn’t the shots of two men and two women that had them concerned. It was the implication that their churches excluded people.

    Ah, but grief they’ve gotten, as UCC leaders and pastors are claiming censorship, and that George Bush is behind the whole thing. The San Francisco Chronicle reports, “The Rev. Kyle Lovett, pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ in San Francisco, proposed [that on] the eve of President Bush’s second term, she said, the networks ‘can’t afford to go against the administration’s version of Christianity and what counts as moral values and what doesn’t count as moral values.'”

    Those networks sure are forward-looking. Back in March, when the networks rejected these ads, John Edwards was still running against John Kerry. Weblog doesn’t remember seeing the UCC raise a fuss back then, by the way.

    It’s worth noting that the UCC may not be turning people away, but its members are fleeing in droves. The denomination has lost 23 percent of its membership in the past 15 years, reports the Associated Press. This is not a denomination that needs crowd control.

    . . .

    But in this case, the UCC has turned this discussion on its head. This is not an evangelistic ad in the usual sense. This is not “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life” or “Steps to peace with God.” The message is “We’re the only ones that accept you. Other churches are full of hate.”
    . . .
    In the ad, it wrestles against flesh and blood—the church down the street that hates minorities.

    Only that church doesn’t really exist. Evangelistically minded churches want everybody to attend, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or manner in which they most frequently sin. Like Jesus, they do accept everybody. And like Jesus, then they meet people’s needs—which often includes Jesus’ command, “Go, and sin no more.”

  106. Matt Evans on December 3, 2004 at 10:52 pm

    Obi-wan,

    Thanks for your comments, I pretty much agree with you (and don’t have time to explain my differences). The start-point for this tangent had been Portia’s claim that people who do not have a strong comprehension of the law are not sinning. My point had been that “sin” is not dependent on knowledge, or that Light of Christ is sufficient knowledge, and that everyone is a sinner, everyone must change, except for little children and those who, like them, lack capacity to sin. Little children cannot repent because they have nothing to repent of — they are saved as they are and have no need to change. Adults, on the other hand, must repent, must believe, must have faith, must change, to be saved. On this point, the crux of the tangent, you and I appear to be in complete agreement.

  107. Lisa on December 4, 2004 at 1:18 am

    I haven’t had time to read though all of the comments . . . and it’s late but I did want to say that one of the most uncomfortable moments I’ve ever had in church was when my best friend came here (Idaho) and went to church with me. She’s a member, has been for a more than a decade but when she walked into the chapel with her white husband and my family everyone stared, and stared and stared. We sat in the back and people kept turning around and staring. It was crazy uncomfortable but she’s used to it I guess. I wasn’t and I wanted to run away screaming. I know this is just human nature and not the fault of the church but it does illustrate some of the problems.

    If I had to face that at church . . . wow. It takes a killer testimony to overcome that sort of thing on a regular basis and that something that we white folks just take for granted. I have white privilege plain and simple.

    And it more than that too, as activities director in the past she would ask to do multicultural activities and be regularly rejected. Her efforts to have any recognition of MLK day or talks about black church history (even positive things) integrated into sacrament meetings during February, all rejected. As a missionary in Washington DC she had to watch 19 year old white boys from Idaho lecture all-black branches on the proper (white) way to sing hymns.

    There is no openness to the types of cultural changes that would make the church more appealing to people who would feel uncomfortable and out-of-place. Yes testimony will keep those with strong ones coming back to church, but being so uncomfortable and unacknowledged isn’t doing much to bring in those who have weak testimonies or who are simply seeking for truth and a good place to be. And IMO opinion that is just wrong.

  108. Rosalynde on December 4, 2004 at 9:30 am

    Lisa, I don’t doubt that your friend’s experience was painful. I wonder if the prejudice she faced in a bi-ethnic family (have I got the situation right?) was more regional than religious. We have numerous biracial families in the ward we’re in now and the ward I was last in–families with adopted African-America chidlden, black-white marriages, and many asian-white marriages and latino-white marriages. I think this is probably more a function of the demographics in San Diego and St. Louis than any special invitation or virtue on our part.

  109. Gordon Smith on December 4, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Compare the comment by the Only True and Living Nathan (#91) with the experience related by Lisa (#108). Sure, Nathan, we have all felt left out of the in crowd from time to time, but these experiences are not even close to comparable.

    Ivan, I am sure that there are many intelligent things written about the ad, but that (#106) isn’t one of them. The writer is attempting to deny that the ad portrays same-sex couples (the men at the beginning and a lesbian couple later)? That is just silly.

    Finally, Rosalynde asks whether prejudice is more regional than religious. To be sure, levels of prejudice will vary from place to place, but I think the reaction to Lisa’s friend is pretty typical of what she could expect to encounter in many wards around the U.S. Indeed, most of the 10-15 wards in which I have been a member. I think that is a problem.

  110. Ivan Wolfe on December 4, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    Gordon –
    I went and viewed the ad, and the commentary in #106 seems right on. If the furor over the “same sex couple” hadn’t exploded all over the media, the gay theme would have gone right over my head. It does seem the ad is more about racism.

  111. Gordon Smith on December 4, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    Ivan, This is a point probably not worth belaboring, but the ad is pretty explicit: the two men are holding hands as they approach the bouncers! Use the stop frame if it is too fast. But trying to say this is just about buddies going to Church is ridiculous.

  112. john fowles on December 4, 2004 at 3:44 pm

    Well, if what Gordon and Lisa are saying is true, then my black cousins, who have white parents, will certainly be in trouble in central Utah. Couldn’t have something more backwards (and all white) than that, now could we?

  113. Adam Greenwood on December 4, 2004 at 6:13 pm

    I guess this is just a difference in experience. Unlike Gordon Smith, I doubt most of the wards I’ve been in would have reacted that way. Seems like an outlier to me. I hope I’m right.

  114. Clark on December 4, 2004 at 11:15 pm

    I think its always dangerous to extrapolate from a few anecdotes. But I believe there are many people who don’t socially feel welcome, whether justified or not, and whether it is the ward’s fault or not. I can think of many wards I’ve been in where I felt like an outsider. And that’s me. I can imagine how someone with different expectations might even feel worse. Further I’d stick around despite my feelings. Many others may very well not.

  115. Rosalynde Welch on December 4, 2004 at 11:23 pm

    You’re right, Clark, it’s difficult to draw conclusions about social aspects of “the Church” based on one’s own experience, although in almost every case that’s the only form of evidence available.

    But Gordon has a lot more adult experience in the church than I have, and has participated in many more wards than I have, so I’ll defer to him on this point, while blessing my lucky stars that I’ve landed in such unusual (though certainly imperfect) wards.

  116. Lisa on December 5, 2004 at 4:36 am

    Yes, much of it is a regional issue, and also just a human issue, people are curious about things they don’t usually see. It isn’t the fault of the Gospel that members of my ward couldn’t seem to stop staring, but whatever the reasons are, the fact remains that it is a heavy burden to be a black person, or a gay person in most Wards in most places. And it is a burden I don’t have to think about often because I’m a white straight person. I can be comfortable, no one will stare at me when I walk in the door, I blend, no burden.

    I don’t know how this problem would be solved. I’ve followed TS into places where I was the only white face, where I was an oddity, it was uncomfortable at first. We all experience that to varying degrees in places, at times. But the difference is that TS has to face that pretty much all the time, there is no rest from it for her. As long as she lives in Utah and remains a Mormon she will be stared at, she will be singled out, she will carry that burden. Even when she goes to places where she blends racially, she’s a Mormon, and that is just plain-old weird.

    Like I said, I don’t know what the solution would be, but I think the first step would be the recognition that there is a problem. It’s got to be hard to feel the spirit when half the people are staring and the other half asking probing questions trying to figure out how you ended up in such an unlikely place, and the other half explaining to you why your cultural preferences are less important or incorrect, and the whole half has no idea that any of this is a problem.

    It’s difficult enough for me to drag my butt to church every week with three toddlers and a primary lesson. If I had to do it with three toddlers, a primary lesson, and the burden of being stared at by every new member of the ward, or answering every question (gospel or otherwise) vaguely connected to race, or even the (and this is going to sound terrible) annoying responsibility of being every white person’s only black friend. I’m not sure if I’m that tough.