The Hallmark of Monson’s Presidency?

April 7, 2008 | 65 comments
By

“Change for the better can come to all. Over the years we have issued appeals to the less active, the offended, the critic, the transgressor — to come back. ‘Come back and feast at the table of the Lord and taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints.’ In the private sanctuary of one’s own conscience lies that spirit, that determination to cast off the old person and to measure up to the stature of true potential. In this spirit, we again issue that heartfelt invitation. Come back, we reach out to you in the pure love of Christ and express our desire to assist you and to welcome you into full fellowship.

To those who are wounded in spirit or who are struggling and fearful. We say, let us lift you and cheer you and calm your fears. Take literally the Lord’s invitation to “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”… I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours.”

- Thomas S. Monson, April 6, 2008

Although it’s much too early to make any sort of definitive characterization about what President Monson’s tenure as prophet will be like, after reaching out to less-active, struggling and disaffected members in his first General Conference address as prophet this weekend, one has to wonder if this will end up being the hallmark of his presidency. Yesterday’s news report that the Church has agreed to meet with the gay Mormon support group Affirmation for the first time certainly seems to bolster the idea.

Tags:

65 Responses to The Hallmark of Monson’s Presidency?

  1. Matt Rasmussen on April 7, 2008 at 10:10 am

    I agree it’s too early to say what President Monson’s legacy will be but this seems to be President Monson being himself. He always showed compassion and charity to the widows, the destitute, the sick and afflicted. He’s a prime example of how we should treat others. I have much to learn from him.

    At the same time, we have to do better as a collective to keep more members active and not lose them. If you live outside of the Wasatch Front, 50% of the people in a ward are inactive. I think those are the people President Monson are addressing we help.

  2. Mahuph on April 7, 2008 at 10:14 am

    At the very least, you could say this is the hallmark of the first 48 hours following the solemn assembly.

    Too soon for characterizing his tenure? Yeah. Maybe.

  3. Howard on April 7, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Marc,
    As someone who is currently in the process of returning after excommunication and a 35 year absence, I hope you are right.

    But, “to cast off the old person and to measure up to the stature of true potential” sounds a lot different to me than “And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11). Aren’t most in the church working to cast off the old person, the natural man?

    While the appeals by the First Presidency to come back are outwardly welcoming, the actual process of returning through the church’s back door is needlessly time consuming and off-putting. The process even when approached in repentance and with humility is an obstacle course that treats one as a second class citizen.

  4. Target audience on April 7, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I felt as though I might have been part of the target audience for the reaching out to the less active. Unfortunately, I fit in to the \”doctrinal concerns\” category discussed by Elder Wirthlin.

    Elder Wirthlin seemed to invite almost everyone to come back to the church–the poor, the sick, the different, the downtrodden, the discouraged, the sinners–all are welcome back–except those with doctrinal concerns. For those with doctrinal conerns, he just told us that we were foolish.

    I\’m not expecting the church to change any of its positions, teachings, or doctrines (although it would be very welcome in some areas). What I am looking for is the church to be inclusive enough to allow people who don\’t believe all of the doctrines. The leaders fully understand and are tolerant of people in the church don\’t live all the teachings perfectly. It seems that they are less understanding and less tolerant of those that don\’t believe all the doctrines of the church. Why can\’t we just agree to disagree on certain doctrinal things?

    If people with doctrinal concerns felt welcome back at church, maybe we\’d change our positions over time. Maybe the church would change. In the mean time, we\’d be active members of the church, serving at least in some capacity. The invitations to come back, though, didn\’t seem to include people like me.

  5. Frank McIntyre on April 7, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Target,

    I could be wrong, but it seems to me that one can be an active member and still have many doctrinal concerns. One can hold a temple recommend even if one has substantive disagreements with particular doctrines. There are limits on _preaching_ one’s disagreements, but I think if you have a testimony of the Savior and the Restored Gospel you are, with few exceptions, more than welcome to be a member and in good standing.

    So I think the invitation does include you, just not so much those who agitate for changing the doctrine or the Church. In fact, it probably includes many of those people, as long as they are humble enough to accept that they are not in charge.

  6. Marc Bohn on April 7, 2008 at 10:55 am

    #2 – Apparently my “it’s much too early” lead in wasn’t strong enough?

    #3 – In your view, does it have more to do with the process or the support system? I don’t have a great deal of exposure to this, but a family member of my wife’s recently was recently re-baptized after being excommunicated several years ago, and, beyond the humility that it took to choose to come back to a congregation that had witnessed her stumble, it hasn’t seemed like she’s had many problems with the process. Is this something that may vary by stake or region?

    #4 – I’m not sure I took Elder Wirthlin’s talk in the same way. I understood him to be inviting back all, but making a point to underscore that, absent revelation, the Church’s doctrines wouldn’t be changing. Couldn’t you take the fact that the Church is meeting with Affirmation as a sign that the Church is trying to do exactly what you outlined in your comment? As a sidenote, I just read On the Road and, in its later chapters, Richard Bushman seems to yearn for this same sort of inclusiveness of those who may not fit within the Church’s orthodoxy doctrinally on all issues.

  7. Tony on April 7, 2008 at 10:59 am

    I\’m sure there are as many reasons for members leaving or becoming inactive as there are members, but I wonder if one reason member retention is a problem is because we are so preoccupied with finding new members of the flock that we are forgetting to feed those who are already members of the flock. It seems to me missionary work controls too much of the agenda — not that it isn\’t important, because it is, but if members don\’t feel enriched, fulfilled or inspired by church, not only are they not going to come, they\’re not going to care much about encouraging others to become members either.

  8. Daryl on April 7, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Hopefully President Monson will do something to rectify the cheap shots that were taken at children yesterday in one of the conference talks. Someone has posted a \”What Children Know\” rebuttal in response:

    http://mormonmatters.org/2008/04/07/what-children-know-a-childrens-rebuttal-to-elder-ballards-conference-talk/

  9. Mark N. on April 7, 2008 at 11:29 am

    I think there could be a strong upsurge in ear wiggling during Sacrament Meetings.

  10. Target audience on April 7, 2008 at 11:35 am

    #5–One can hold a temple recommend even if one has substantive disagreements with particular doctrines. Can you give some examples of what you mean by this?

    #6–The church meeting with Affirmation is a good sign even though the gay issues isn’t a concern of mine. It will be interesting to see what comes of it. I’ll look at Bushman’s book–thanks.

  11. Howard on April 7, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Marc,
    My Bishop has been very responsive and very supportive. My Stake President is a very busy guy which results in kind of a “don’t call me, I’ll call you” approach. I’m sure this varies from Ward to Ward and Stake to Stake.

    It took 6 months to get the High Council together for a disciplinary council. What if I had died before re-baptism?

    We arrived for my baptism with inactive out-of-town guests to find the baptismal font empty, no programs, no speaker and no music. Why? Apparently when you return through the back door rather than via. the missionaries at the front door, no one know you are coming!

    I have never been introduced in any Ward or Stake meeting. No announcement was made of my re-baptism. The only way people know me is because I stand up and introduce myself with the visitors.

    Attempting to avoid further delays I reminded the SP several times beginning a month in advance that it was time to write the First Presidency for my Restoration of Blessings. That was 2 months ago and it was just announced that the SP will be going to Brazil as legal council for the church and the S Presidency will be dissolved. So, due to their procrastination I guess I will be starting over with another SP in spite of the fact that my Bishop finds me to be Temple worthy!

    When you have been excommunicated you fall outside the time saving “cookie cutter” system that works for the majority of the members. No one seems to know exactly what to do with you. Bishops and SPs are busy men so you end up falling through the cracks. The process needs to be streamlined.

    There are only two reasons for excommunication; to encourage repentance (which in most cases it doesn’t) and to protect the church. I was excommunicated for committing adultery after being sealed, there were no other issues. Thanks to the Spirit I returned to the church fully repentant. Is my SP protecting his congregation or the church at large from me? If so, am I to believe that I am the only sealed adulterer in my State?

    The church is not yet ready for our return. Without the Spirit I would have walked out many months ago.

  12. ungewiss on April 7, 2008 at 11:42 am

    I can relate with Target audience (#4) to some extent. It’s nothing new to have leaders of the church invite people back, so it’s not really “hallmark” material in my mind until it develops into some new behavior. If the Church were to soften its binary worldview a bit and even legitimize members whose disaffection is to do with doctrine and history rather than perpetuating the myth that disaffection stems from sin or offense — now that would be a unique hallmark.

    In the mean time, I sure do enjoy Monson’s storytelling!

  13. brandt on April 7, 2008 at 11:47 am

    I wonder if the diversification of the First Presidency (with Pres. Uchtdorf) will be a factor as well.

    I think for me personally this was one of the most spiritual and hard-hitting Conferences that I’ve experienced, but to say that that statement was the defining moment of Pres. Monson’s “reign” is too early to tell.

    I’d say give him a year, then re-evaluate it

    While Affirmation is a great meeting, I’m more interested to see what happens after the meeting. Would there be more reaching out? Will there be any changes coming? Will there be any other groups or organizations that will want to meet with Pres. Monson?

    Those questions (IMHO) need to be answered before I can make a decision

  14. Adam Greenwood on April 7, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Those questions (IMHO) need to be answered before I can make a decision

    Consider that President Monson may not be the one in the dock. Not sure that you’re putting him there though.

  15. Ray on April 7, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Howard, all I can say is that your example is NOT how it is supposed to happen, and it’s not how I have seen it happen in the cases where I have first-hand knowledge. That might be small comfort, but I hurt when I read stories like yours. That simply is not supposed to be.

    Target, I know MANY members who don’t fully believe and accept every point of doctrine in the Church but still hold a valid temple recommend, attend regularly and hold prominent callings. I have relatively few true “concerns”, but there certainly things I hope to see change in my lifetime. Imho, the key to activity is a desire to be active, and the key to temple attendance is an ability to answer the recommend questions honestly. Nothing more. (For example, my answer to one question for years has been, “I am trying my hardest,” and that has been accepted every time. I hope that would be true for most interviews, and it has been fine for the ones where I have been the one asking the questions.)

    Too many members assume that doctrinal disagreements disqualify them from full fellowship, and that simply doesn’t have to be the case.

  16. Frank McIntyre on April 7, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Target,

    I don’t know, what did you have in mind? There are active members of the Church who believe all sorts of nutty things.

    The temple interview asks a few specific questions related to doctrine (God, the Savior, the Restoration), and then spends most of the time on behavior. There are many people with doctrinal concerns that stay in the Church (just look around at some of our commenters). Probably the best answer would be to talk to your bishop about what qualifies one for a temple rec. His view is probably more important than mine.

  17. Sean on April 7, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    #11 – Two years ago a close friend of mine was re-baptized after being out of the church for 15 years. His re-baptismal date was announced in sacrament meeting. When the day came the whole room was full of well wishers. All members of the stake presidency were present. I was invited to speak on the Holy Ghost. The program was much like any other baptismal program. Whatever you experienced, Howard, must have been unique because the one I attended, and another, were very uplifting.
    As far as restoration of priesthood blessings goes, my same friend had to wait another year and a half before receiving the priesthood again. The Bishop and Stake President were not too busy. But, by virtue of his calling, the Stake President decided to wait until he believed the time was right. In my opinion this is because the temple covenants are so serious and the blessings so great we cannot rush to get or restore them. We must be well prepared. Sometimes we can get casual with the temple are forget how wonderful it is to receive its blessings. When my friend did receive his temple blessings again the news spread fast and everybody wanted to shake his hand in fellowship. We knew the repentance process for him had been long and difficult but he made it.

  18. Jim Cobabe on April 7, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Some of us who live outside or alongside the edges of mainstream membership have hopes and expectations far different from most Church members. We feel continually disappointed that the Church doesn’t break stride and reach out to cater specifically to our needs.

    I am not holding my breath, waiting for some old people to die and be replaced with new leaders who just might sympathize more with my private needs.

    It seems better to seek a niche of my own where I can work out my time, try to prove myself useful. I contribute what I can muster, though it is mostly a pathetic feeble effort. Sometimes I crawl away into the dark, to nurse the hurts and weep in private. But I never expect the Church to remake itself to serve me.

  19. DavidH on April 7, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Howard, I too hope that during President Monson’s presidency the return process is simplified and accelerated. I am sorry about your experience, but glad that the spirit has sustained you while you have followed its promptings to return, notwithstanding the obstacles. May God continue to bless and sustain you, and welcome back.

  20. Howard on April 7, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Ray, Sean & David,
    Thank you for your comments.

  21. lamonte on April 7, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    The comments made by, and in support of , Howard seem to indicate that we were all touched by the tone of President Monson’s message. I am also encouraged by the comments about the church leadership meeting with the folks from Affirmation. I don’t expect to hear an announcement that the church has totally changed its position regarding same sex attraction but I think it is always a good thing to sit down and reason together. I believe those associated with Affirmation have great and sincere love for the church and its teachings. Otherwise, why would they care to join in dialogue together. My hope and prayer is that President Monson and the First Presidency will find a way to bridge the gap that has existed for so long without comprimising the doctrine most of us have accepted. I can’t imagine how they will do that but certainly all things are possible with God.

    Yesterday’s messages of outreaching love and extension of invitations, coupled with the council to love and respect all people of all faiths and cultures was a wonderful start to a new Presidency. I hope that folks like Howard will continue to heed and accept those invitations to return to the fellowship and enjoy the blessings of church membership.

  22. Kalola on April 7, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    When I read the words \”… taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints,\” my DH\’s reaction was \”the fruits I tasted were never sweet; they were bitter.\”

    The few times I have ventured back to church (after having had my name removed from the church membership records), I have not come away with a \”sweet taste\” in my mouth. That\’s pretty sad. Where does one find the \”sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints\”? And what exactly do those words mean? Can someone explain?

  23. Howard on April 7, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Kalola,
    For me the “sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints” come in those moments when the Spirit is felt.

  24. Pikovaya on April 7, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    I hear you, Kalola. It’s been a while since I’ve set foot in a church building, not on account of any disagreement with any individual person, or a doctrinal qualm, or anything specific other than, as your DH put it so well, a bitter taste.

    Ray said:

    Imho, the key to activity is a desire to be active…

    I worry that there’s too much emphasis on the idea that if you don’t want to be at church, clearly there’s something wrong with you. It took me years to realize that, no, there’s nothing wrong with me, and nothing wrong with the church: we’re just not a good match as far as spiritual fulfillment are concerned. To that end, an attempt to reactive the inactive may be good for those who have fallen away for some causes; but for those who don\’t have that desire to be active or that wish or longing to feast at the proverbial table (or, even, who no longer believe that there’s only one table with a feast on it)…not so much.

    This, of course, raises the question of whether there are simply some people for whom the church isn\’t the answer, or — in the alternative — if there\’s a way to expand the feast without straying from the Gospel\’s fundamentally important tenets.

  25. Target audience on April 7, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    #16–OK, lets take a somewhat extreme example that would make other things seem like minor issues.

    Lets suppose that I don’t believe in God. Surely, issues like whether God has a body or not, whether the godhead consists of 3 beings or one, technicalities of priesthood issues, etc. are minor compared to a lack of belief in the existence of God.

    You can still show up at LDS meetings if you don’t believe in God. The question, though, is can you go to the temple? Can you be a full member in good standing?

    The first temple recommend question starts with, “Do you believe in God, the Eternal Father…” Well, I’m open to a belief in God, but I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of his existence. I have faith in God (in the sense that I HOPE there is a God–faith being a hope of things that are not seen). I have a desire to believe in God (in the Alma 32 sense where it talks about if you can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work within you…). I’m willing to believe the testimony of others (in the sense that if someone that I trusted told me that they had a certain witness of the existence of God–more than just a good feeling–I would believe them). But in the end, I’m not really sure if there is a God or not.

    So can openly you hold a position like this and be a member in good standing (including TR) in the Church?

  26. Ray on April 7, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Very, very well said, Pikovaya. Just as there really are cases where divorce is the best option for a couple, a separation from the formal church really might be the best option for some. I certainly know that respecting agency has to include leaving someone alone who really, truly, sincerely wants to be left alone.

    It is interesting that Pres. Monson’s words (come back) were addressed to those with a desire to return, while Elder Wirthlin’s message included the exhortation to love and accept and serve absolutely everyone who **is** (not just appears to be) different.

  27. Ray on April 7, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Target, that’s one for your Bishop and Stake President. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but if you answer honestly (I’m not sure, but I want to believe it and am willing to accept it and the try to live the rest of the temple requirements.), that is up to the authorities in your area. I hope deeply, no matter their answer, that it would be a loving conversation, but I definitely would have the discussion (with both of them, personally) outside of an official recommend interview first.

  28. David B on April 7, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Re: #23
    Kalola,

    It is hard to explain well without some empathy and understanding for the bitterness you’ve felt. But for me it has often come as I have served the Saints or have been lovingly served by them. It has come as I’ve witnessed great examples of faith and devotion often by the humble and downtrodden. It has come as I have marveled at the devotion of many who I know would sacrifice anything for the Lord. It has come as I’ve participated in the sacrament and temple ordinances and felt the Spirit touch my heart and soul.

  29. David B on April 7, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Re: #23
    Kalola,

    It is hard to explain well without some empathy and understanding for the bitterness you’ve felt. But for me it has often come as I have served the Saints or have been lovingly served by them. It has come as I’ve witnessed great examples of faith and devotion often by the humble and downtrodden. It has come as I have marveled at the devotion of many who I know would sacrifice anything for the Lord. It has come as I’ve participated in the sacrament and temple ordinances and felt the Spirit touch my heart and soul.

  30. Geoff B on April 7, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Howard, regarding your #11, I serve on the High Council in an area filled with inactive members where we have real problems getting enough High Priests to serve on the High Council. Still, I have participated in councils where members are in the process of returning. The process is relatively fast — just a few weeks from meeting with the bishop/stake president and High Council. I can testify that all of us on this High Council in my area are extremely interested in helping people come back to the fold. One of the great things about serving in this calling is that you get a strong confirmation from the Spirit that the person you are helping is loved by the Lord and that the Lord is pleased with the repentance process and re-integration into the Church.

    I feel bad for you that your process has not gone well, but please rest assured that there are many of us who really do care for you as you come back and are convinced that there is room for people who have transgressed to be forgiven and accepted back with full fellowship.

  31. Howard on April 7, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Geoff B,
    Thank you for your comment, it helps to compare and nice to know that it can occur in a timely fashion. I have felt welcomed by the members and I have made many new friends. I’m just tired of continuing to warm the bench for no apparent reason.

    Based on this thread, it sounds like my experience is an exception.

  32. Jeff Day on April 7, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Regarding #11 and #30, my situation doesn’t involve excommunication, but rather, a divorce, and pending sealing clearance. I find the situation very similar. I have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting. We’ve been married for 3 years now. I don’t think they’re ever going to submit the paperwork, and even after they do, I hear it’s usually a 1 or 2 year wait at that point. My wife and I have essentially given up on the idea of getting sealed at this point. If it’s important, someone will do it for us after we pass away, or we’ll get around to it whenever the Stake Presidency gets bored and wants something to do.

  33. Bev P on April 7, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    It’s a little troubling to hear bitterness and accusations about the process of coming back into the fellowship of the saints. I’m no naive lifelong goodie, incidentally. Mercy and care for the individual soul are, to the best of my understanding, behind the processes of excommunication and rebaptism and restoration of blessings. Excommunication releases a soul from responsibility for expectations he or she is unable or unwilling to meet. If there is delay in rebaptism or restoration, which I think there probably ought to be – we’re so eager to count new members, we baptize too quickly sometimes – it may well be in the person’s long term interest. It may not be a judgement of unworthiness or unwelcomeness, it may not be because the person is judged to be doing anything wrong. It is a pretty special thing to be a member in full fellowship, not something to be turned on and off, or varied with a dimmer switch at will, and with it come responsibilities and expectations before Christ that maybe weren’t taken quite seriously enough the first time around. It may be that the person just hasn’t been doing the right things with the right attitude long enough to be sure it’s not to their disadvantage to reapply those responsibilities and expectations.

    Cynicism doesn’t sound like the attitude I’d want to hold when I stand before Christ to account for my actions in this life. With reliance on mercy there is also the responsibility of stewardship. Come back, yes, come back, but come back knowing what a privilege it is to be encircled about in the arms of His love. Come back, longing to spend the rest of your life in the circle, serving, giving, not concerned about being served or given to. And we who are His proxies in extending encircling arms don’t need to know whether a baptized member has been excommunicated, has a checkered, or even a remarkably gruesome history, we need only to know that he or she is looking to be part of that community we will have to account for providing – or not. If we know the history, the rejoicing is all the sweeter, but we don’t need to know. But we do need to provide the encircling arms. That we can expect to be asked about.

  34. Kaimi Wenger on April 7, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Target,

    The TR interview asks a set of specific questions. If you can answer them affirmatively, you can get a recommend.

    There are a lot of things that are _not_ asked. For instance, “do you agree with the church’s political stance on same-sex marriage?” It’s not part of the interview. You can believe that the church’s position on same-sex marriage is all wrong, and still answer all of the questions in the affirmative. That should not prevent you from getting a recommend.

    Of course, there are limits on the disagreement. If you disagree about the divinity of Jesus Christ, you’re going to be kept from a recommend by that disagreement.

    But a disagreement on any number of other things — points that aren’t mentioned in the interview — is typically fine.

    (Note that some bishops do freelance sometimes. They are _not_ supposed to do this; but it does happen sometimes. So it’s possible that a disagreement that should not stand in the way of a recommend, will actually have that effect, if your bishop or SP is freelancing.)

  35. Frank McIntyre on April 7, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Target,

    “You can still show up at LDS meetings if you don’t believe in God. The question, though, is can you go to the temple? Can you be a full member in good standing?”

    I think if I out and out did not believe in God I should definitely run into some heavy friction in trying to get a TR. We can all agree on that, right? Of course, if I had _some_ doubts about God’s existence that is not the same thing as atheism, so I should talk to the Bishop (and God!) about that or whatever particular issues I had and just where exactly I fall on the belief spectrum.

    I mean, how can I have a testimony without a belief in God? How could I believe the prophet is a prophet or in the atonement or priesthood authority or believe any of the saving doctrines? Were I in that situation (and wanted to believe more) I would worry less about the Temple and more about gaining some kind of testimony through prayer and fasting. Even absent that, though, one can still come to Church and probably still serve in many callings if all one can do right now is hope.

  36. ned on April 7, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Howard – would love to hear your stake pres’s side of the story. At church – very small group in this country – I have frequently heard criticisms from disaffected, excommunicated, irritated, annoyed, offended, etc., about the local church leaders. Often, the church leaders are my own family members and I know quite well that the criticisms are not well founded. So, there are always two sides to every story and nobody made you get excommunicated in the first place, mate.

  37. Target audience on April 7, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    #34–Assuming that you hold the same-sex political position that you mention, you are OK with the TR question about affiliating or sympathizing with groups whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those of the church?

    That question doesn’t seem to allow for much disagreement. Not only can’t you belong or affiliate with groups that advocate a political position that differs from the church, you can’t even sympathize with such groups.

  38. ned on April 7, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    And another thing, this makes me wonder about the effectiveness of doing missionary work. If UK becomes like US and all you do is end up wondering whether same sex marriage is ok and whether God exists, then I think we’re better off sticking with small branches and our friends showing no interest in joining the church whatsoever. Next time I complain about having 5 callings, I will bite my tongue and be glad of it.

  39. Kaimi Wenger on April 7, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Target,

    It’s my understanding that that question is code for, “are you a polygamist or a professional anti-Mormon (like the Tanners)?” As long as you’re not marrying multiple wives, or handing out “Ex-Mormons for Jesus” pamphlets outside the Tabernacle at General Conference, you’re fine.

    I’m an ACLU member, for instance, and I have been for many years. It’s not a bar for a temple recommend.

  40. manaen on April 7, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Howard, et al
    I was disfellowshipped nearly 15 years ago. My SP told me he felt to disfellowship me instead of excommunicate me because I would need the companionship of the HG for the journey I would have. How true that has been! I’m still awaiting refellowshipment even after two SPs recommended it. I’ve learned patience — that I can enjoy the sweet fruits of the Spirit even in my quasi-membership and find many useful ways to serve others. I’m uneasy about the impatience I sense in your comments. Aside from our creation, testimonies, repentance, loves being undeserved gifts of grace, rebaptism/refellowshipment alone is way more than we have any right to expect. I’ve found peace in gratitude for what I have instead of worrying about what’s not (yet) restored that I flung away.

  41. Target audience on April 7, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    #39–OK, maybe I don’t have anything to worry about then–as long as there isn’t a TR question about disagreeing with how the TR questions are worded.

  42. SilverRain on April 7, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    #18 – Some of us who live outside or alongside the edges of mainstream membership have hopes and expectations far different from most Church members. We feel continually disappointed that the Church doesn’t break stride and reach out to cater specifically to our needs.

    I don’t think this is terribly far from “most” Church members. The only group that is catered to truly is the youth. Like you said, there comes a point when you have to wake up and realize that your needs are in your hands, and they are your responsibility to fill. It does no good to try to put your needs in the Church’s hands. You will continually feel lonely and neglected if you try. It is not (as #31 feels) at all a unique experience among actives, inactives and newbies alike.

    As far as “sweet fruits” go, they came for me when I was able to look at the members of the Church and look at myself and realize in my heart that we were all glorious and imperfect, and that we were compatriots and not combatants in the trenches of life, no matter how it may seem at times. I don’t think the sweet fruits of this true charity can be found except by going where you may not want to go and serving where you may not want to serve, praying all the while for the Lord to root out resentment from your heart and allow the pure love of Christ to grow in its stead.

  43. DavidH on April 7, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Target,

    Jeff Burton’s experiences with a temple recommend and his “faith based” testimony, doubts and all, included correspondence with the First Presidency and his bishop, and is described in his Borderlands article in the April 2006 Sunstone. I apologize for not knowing how to link, but you can get to the article through http://www.sunstonemagazine.com

  44. Marc Bohn on April 7, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Target:

    You may find it helpful to visit the Church website and see the wide latitude the Church grants elected politicians:

    “Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.” (See here)

    Also, on the Church’s website, a quote from Elder Oaks about some who opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment:

    “There are people who oppose a federal Constitutional amendment because they think that the law of family should be made by the states. I can see a legitimate argument there.” (See here)

    Finally, you might find Edward L. Kimball’s book Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball interesting. In it, he explores the decision President Kimball and the First Presidency made to excommunicate Sonia Johnson, the outspoken Mormon proponent of the ERA. At the time, the Church said repeatedly that it was not her support of the ERA which resulted in her excommunication, but how she referred to and denounced the leadership of the Church for its opposition to the amendment. Interestingly, the book mentions how President Kimball wondered after the fact whether he had been too hard on Sonia Johnson.

    I say none of this to encourage opposition to the Church on issues, but simply to set out that the Church grants a good deal of latitude with regards to what members are required to believe. A story relayed in Leonard J. Arrington’s American Moses underscores this. Brigham Young as President of the Church, sometimes had stark differences of opinion with then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Orson Pratt. Young once came to Pratt and told him that certain materials that Pratt was circulating were not doctrinally sound. Pratt responded that he realized it was not his prerogative “to teach publicly that which the President considers to be unsound.” But he asked that Young would “grant me as an individual the privilege of believing my present views” and that he would “not require me to teach others… that which I cannot without more light and knowledge believe in.” Young granted him that; once saying “I do not have it in my heart to disfellowship people who believe differently… I seek merely to correct men in their [improper] views.” With respect to Pratt, he said “I am determined to whip Brother Pratt into it and make him work in the harness…. If Elder Pratt was chopped up in inch pieces, each piece would cry out Mormonism is true.”

  45. East Coast on April 7, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    “the TR question about affiliating or sympathizing with groups whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those of the church?”

    I don’t want to make light of this in any way, but each time I’m asked this question I have to bite my tongue and not say, “I’m a tax paying citizen of the United States and as such I would have to answer yes to this question.”

    I recognize what the question means and answer accordingly. If I needed more clarification or had specific questions as to my personal circumstances, I would counsel with the bishop or stake presidency member.

  46. Marc Bohn on April 7, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    #38 – I’m not sure that’s necessarily the spirit of fellowship that President Monson had in mind when he issued his “heartfelt invitation” yesterday.

  47. Ray on April 7, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    #41 – “as long as there isn’t a TR question about disagreeing with how the TR questions are worded.” I love that!

    The wording has changed a bit over the years specifically to soften the actual question being asked. If I had the authority to alter the wording of one or two of them, I might be tempted (since the connotations of certain words have changed over time – like “sympathize”). However, as I said in an earlier comment, my answer to one tends to be, “I try my hardest” – and my answer to another is, “not anything that is bad enough to keep me from the temple.” (I do sometimes lose patience with my children, and I’m sure that’s not perfectly in harmony with the ideal taught in the Church – but I try my hardest.)

    I answer them honestly. That’s all I can do.

  48. Martin Willey on April 7, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Howard: All I can say is that I feel for you and am sorry your experience has been so difficult. Whatever was going on with your Stake President (legitimate concerns, busy-ness, etc.), you should have always been informed about what was happening and why. And, you should always have been made to feel like a valued and welcomed child our Heavenly Father. Because you are. Your experience has been very insturcive and will help me to be more sensitive and kind.

  49. manaen on April 7, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    44
    …excommunicate Sonia Johnson, the outspoken Mormon proponent of the ERA. At the time, the Church said repeatedly that it was not her support of the ERA which resulted in her excommunication, but how she referred to and denounced the leadership of the Church for its opposition to the amendment.
    .
    Specifically, she was excommunicated for telling non-LDS not to listen to the missionaries and to refuse baptism in an effort to leverage the Church into changing position. Disagreeing with policy is one thing, telling people not to be baptized, etc. — IMHO — does earn you an exit pass.

  50. Howard on April 7, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    ned,
    I would love to hear my SP’s side of the story as well. Maybe he can explain why when my disciplinary council was postponed the entire High Council was informed of the postponement, but I was not! Nope, nobody made me get excommunicated, but it was 33 years ago and I have repented. In addition, it has been 19 months since I returned, how much longer do you think it is appropriate to make restitution for an act that few are excommunicated for today?

    manaen,
    Thank you for sharing part of your journey. My impatience has been fueled by a bumpier than usual ride on reentry. Something interesting about my journey is that contrary to popular belief, excommunication did not end my connection to the Spirit and my return to the church was eventually prompted by the Spirit.

  51. Howard on April 7, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Martin Willey,
    My SP is a spiritual caring man. But, “you should have always been informed about what was happening and why” goes to the very heart of the issue. This is all that was required.

  52. mlu on April 7, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    One of the things I think I’ve learned from the gospel is that desires and feelings can be educated. The question for me often isn’t how do I feel but how ought I to feel.

    This is contrary to modernism’s near worship of the self as the source of value and meaning and it’s hard for people raised more in the world than in the kingdom to fathom. But losing the self, with all its touchy expectations for others, including stake presidents, is part of the way to gaining the self.

    There are any number of jerks and those who drop the ball in the church. That’s part of what makes it a good place to practice Christ’s love.

    As someone who spent decades in “inactivity” an important point for me was when I quit thinking of the church as a place occupied by others reaching out to me, and began thinking of it as a place where I could find people who I might be able to help, in mostly little ways.

    I’m surrounded by people who do all the right things better than I do, but often they too are helped by a smile and a compliment, even from a relative low-life. It’s sort of nice how much power each of us has to give little blessings to those we pass, and I think church is better when we go there with that in mind. I don’t need to be worthy to give love to those I pass.

  53. Howard on April 7, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    mlu,
    You had me with “But losing the self…is part of the way to gaining the self.” but you lost me with “even from a relative low-life”.

  54. Jared on April 7, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    My experience in the Lord’s church has been slightly turbulent. I’ve never had an issue with my membership, but I have experienced pettiness from leaders and members. I think we must all have our own stories about being victims of pettiness, thoughtlessness, and downright rudeness from church leaders and members who should have known better. I’m sure I have offended others without even knowing it.

    One time I was on the receiving end of a church leaders anger over something that was laughable. Later he apologized when he ran into me at a store. Years later he was made an Apostle. He currently is one of my favorite speakers.

    I have made it a rule to quickly forgive and move on. Sometimes that is hard to do, but so far its worked for me.

    As for Howard and others who are coming back after losing their membership I can only guess at how difficult that road is, but I do know something about forgiveness that comes from the Lord–how sweet it is!! The Lord left the 99 and came an brought me back to His church after being inactive for years.

    The parable of the two debtors tells us about how those who have been forgiven know a quality of love for the Lord that is special:

    There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
    And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
    Luke 7:41 – 43

  55. mlu on April 8, 2008 at 1:47 am

    Howard,

    Sorry. I didn’t go back and proofread to see if it stayed coherent. “From a relative low life” was just a reference to myself. I tend to look for ways to offer thanks and appreciation to such types as wayward stake presidents and dingbat bishops, even though I don’t matter.

    It probably does me more good than it does them. It removes barriers between me and them, which are mostly on my side.

    But they seem to appreciate it as well.

  56. Howard on April 8, 2008 at 10:31 am

    mlu,
    Losing the self to find the self is an excellent point, I would simply like to add that you do matter.

  57. annegb on April 8, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Can I just say….I predicted this?

  58. Frank McIntyre on April 8, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Target,

    When in grad school I typically caveated the institutions question by noting that I was a student at Stanford. But I think Kaimi’s ACLU membership has that beat, as they are clearly more evil :).

  59. Howard on April 8, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    annegb,
    Care to…elaborate?

  60. Russell Arben Fox on April 8, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    When in grad school I typically caveated the institutions question by noting that I was a student at Stanford.

    Man, consorting with the organization that sponsors the Hoover Institution and produced Condaleeza Rice. Ouch.

  61. Tatiana on April 10, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    “the TR question about affiliating or sympathizing with groups whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those of the church?”

    I give money to Planned Parenthood, because I think women’s reproductive rights are a fundamental human rights concern, and I believe they do a great job educating women and making birth control available. I would hope abortion would never be necessary, and support all loving efforts to make abortions rare, but I don’t think they should be illegal, and I don’t think the mother should have to go before a judge or her parents to explain why she’s having an abortion. I think the way to reduce abortions is through education, empowerment of girls and women, strong efforts against domestic violence and sexual abuse, family services and adoptive parents giving good care and lots of support to birth moms, etc. I think Planned Parenthood performs a valuable service toward this end.

    I’m also for the ACLU.

    I don’t believe homosexuality is a sin. I think gays don’t choose to whom they are attracted, they simply realize it. I think God made gays the way they are, and it’s part of who they are, and we should love them as they are. I think new revelation will come some day that gives gay people access to the Celestial Kingdom. I pray that it will be soon.

    Because of these things, I don’t feel able to answer the TR question as it is without mentioning my heartfelt differences with church teachings. So I’m waiting to go to the temple until later.

  62. DavidH on April 10, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Tatiana,

    I don’t think Planned Parenthood or the ACLU are among the groups to which the recommend question is directed. With respect to abortion, while the Church believes it is a sin, it does not take a position on proposed legislation or constitutional amendment. Governor Romney was pro-choice before he became pro-life. I do not believe his being pro-choice endangered his eligibility to hold a recommend.

    Similarly, I think many recommend holders (and likely some who conduct recommend interviews) feel the same way you do about homosexuality.

    Some of us feel we can have heartfelt differences with some aspects of Church teachings and practices, and still answer the recommend questions in a qualifying way and partake of the blessings of temple attendance. Prior to 1978, I had heartfelt differences with the Church’s teachings and practices regarding race/lineage and priesthood/temple blessings, but I felt I could answer the questions to serve a mission and to receive a recommend in a qualifying way. Perhaps I was wrong to do so, but I am glad I did.

  63. Ray on April 10, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Tatiana, as gently as I can say this: IF the reasons you are not attending the temple are all represented by the ones you mentioned, you are substituting your own conditions for the Lord’s conditions and keeping yourself out of the temple. Not one thing you mentioned in #61 should keep someone from temple attendance.

    The Church does not prohibit contraception or abortion, and there are card carrying members of the ACLU who have input into calling Temple Presidents. As I said earlier, sometimes, “I try my best,” is good enough.

  64. Marc on April 11, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Tatiana,

    While the Church clearly holds abortion to be a grievous sin, as DavidH has pointed out, the Church has taken no position on whether it should remain legal. From the Church’s website: “The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”

  65. Evaine on May 6, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Good post. You make some great points that most people do not fully understand.

    “Although it’s much too early to make any sort of definitive characterization about what President Monson’s tenure as prophet will be like, after reaching out to less-active, struggling and disaffected members in his first General Conference address as prophet this weekend, one has to wonder if this will end up being the hallmark of his presidency. Yesterday’s news report that the Church has agreed to meet with the gay Mormon support group Affirmation for the first time certainly seems to bolster the idea.”

    I like how you explained that. Very helpful. Thanks.