Shunning the Unbelievers

September 4, 2011 | 110 comments
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I didn’t see anyone suggest “shunning” — or being rude or unkind — as being appropriate. But I do keep seeing repeated claims that it’s wrong. It seems a straw man that keeps being beaten down.
First, yes, I have gay friends. Most of them were childhood friends, most of them former LDS. The rest are from my experience in performing arts (stereotypical, but true) or clients. I simply don’t run across a lot of gay folks at church or in homeschool groups or in playgroups, which is where I spend most of my public time.
The “dilemma” some have, I believe, has more to it than has been suggested.
First, I actually think there is some VALUE to having unacceptable behaviors stigmatized by a culture. Does homosexuality rise to that level? Does out of wedlock pregnancy? I don’t know, but culture certainly can impact how readily someone gets involved in a particular behavior.
Do I ever “shun” someone based on their behavior? Sure.
I have two former friends who are convicted felons. One is on the sex offender registry for arranging sex with a decoy acting as a 13-year-old. My husband still played basketball with the guy after he was released from prison. But my kids were not allowed to play at their house while we lived there (they did come to our house many times).
The other friend is now in prison bilking millions and millions from people in a ponzi scheme. Back in 1998 — when he tried unsuccessfully (after YEARS of “friendship”) to cheat us in business — we cut off ties with him. Although we have always remained friends with his now ex-wife.
Both of these guys engaged in behavior that we find intolerable. Your line may be different, but you all have a line.
In 24 years of parenting 6 kids, I’ve also “shunned” a couple of playmates. Two kids who were incessantly rude, destructive, and/or hurtful to my kids were not ever invited back.
The point is that the idea that we can’t ever appropriately discern with whom we associate isn’t accurate. We do it all the time — and usually based on things much less significant than openly sinful behavior.
Second, yes, everyone is a sinner, but there ARE different levels of sin. There are those that can get you excommunicated and those that can remove you from the ability to obtain saving ordinances, and those that can’t. Engaging in homosexual behavior is the former.
Third, homosexuality only becomes an issue if it’s a KNOWN issue. My next door neighbor might not pay his tithing, but I won’t know about that unless he tells me. If my next door neighbor is living with his husband and they kiss each other goodbye and hold hands — in other words, if they act like regular, civilized couples — it’s a KNOWN issue.
Fourth, how we respond when we KNOW a person is committing a major sin impacts our children and how they view the sins. (And, I suppose, others as well, but I’m more concerned about my kids.) There is a huge difference between how kids these days see out of wedlock pregnancy and homosexual behavior compared to my generation. Every one of my high school and older kids has had gay friends. And the struggle LDS kids have with the standard vs. the culture is real.
One of the cool places to visit in Florida is Miami Beach. The retro architecture is fun and the beach is great. But there’s a lot of PDA going on. LOTS. And lots of it is gay PDA. So, yes, I dislike it when a heterosexual couple it rabidly making out in public. It’s stupid. But, according to LDS doctrine, a homosexual couple who is rabidly making out in public isn’t just stupid, it’s immoral.
So do you behave differently when you (and your kids) witness immature behavior than when you witness immoral behavior?

Julie’s post “In Which My Opinion of Mitch Mayne Improves,” brought an onslaught of arguments against “shunning” homosexuals. I didn’t see anyone suggest shunning — or being rude or unkind or spitting on or flogging or tarring and feathering —  homosexuals was a great idea. It seemed a straw man that kept being beaten down.

With that in mind, I’d like to discuss the efficacy of the position that “…we ought to be kind to everyone, for that is right you see.”

Last week in Gospel Doctrine, my class discussed at some length how contention was never acceptable from God’s people. I kept wondering if they’d missed all the wars and conflicts God had commanded. I mean if you can chop off someone’s head justifiably, isn’t it possible that you can strongly assert a position once in a while and still be on God’s good side?

So if we don’t have to be friendly to everyone, all the time, no matter what, and we can even strongly disagree — a position I’m assuming here — then what methods of non-acceptance are morally acceptable?

To be clear, I’m not just talking about non-acceptance of homosexual behavior, but of any behavior deemed problematic or sinful by the church or culture. That point is particularly important because when we discuss homosexuality, we seem to get lost in a sea of agendas. Rather than focusing on principle, homosexuality becomes a special case to which none of the rules apply. I want to discuss the rules.

In Julie’s post, some commenters brought up the dilemma of how to deal with those who commit sinful behavior. Here are some other parts of that dilemma that may impact the discussion.

  1. There may be cultural value in stigmatizing unacceptable behavior.
  2. We all have boundaries with regard to whom we do and do not associate — and many of those boundaries are far less significant that sinful behavior.
  3. Everyone is a sinner.
  4. There are different levels of sin. There are those that can get you excommunicated and those that can remove you from the ability to obtain saving ordinances, and those that can’t.
  5. Many sins only become an association dilemma if they are known issues. My next door neighbor might not pay his tithing, but I won’t know about that unless he tells me. If my next door neighbor is living with his husband and they kiss each other goodbye and hold hands — in other words, if they act like regular, civilized couples — it’s a known issue. A high school kid might be screwing around, but many won’t know about it. If a girl in high school becomes pregnant, you at least know she had sex.
  6. Refusing to condemn bad behavior has real victims.
  7. How we respond to obnoxious, disrespectful, harmful, and/or sinful behavior does impact our children and how they view the behavior. (It influences adults as well.)

Please discuss how you determine including and/or excluding people in various parts of you life. If you choose to exclude anyone (and you do!), what does that exclusion look like?

110 Responses to Shunning the Unbelievers

  1. Whitney on September 4, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Maybe we should have a rule 4a or 6a that would discuss the distinction between “victimless” sins and victimizing sins. Homosexuality appears to be a victimless sins. The post linked in rule 6 is clearly an example of a victimizing sins. Some sins are more ambiguous; some argue that drug use is a victimless crime, but if the user’s friends start using because of his influence and then become addicts, or if the user begins stealing from or hurting his friends and family, then it becomes a victimizing sin.

  2. Jax on September 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    We have a homosexual man in our branch who comes fairly regularly. He is a great guy who I love talking with. He spent 40 years as a railroad hobo by choice and has some interesting stories. I give him a big handshake every time I see him. He didn’t have LDS versions of the scriptures and always asked lots of questions in Sunday School that were often answered by the cross-referencing he was lacking. So we bought him a Quad as a gift. He is just another friend at church to my wife and I. Our kids don’t know he is gay. Not many in the branch do. I’m not sure what I’ll tell my kids if and when they find out.

    The only people I consciously reject association with are those who openly, unapologetically practice those sins that can get you excommunicated – and I do that regardless of their membership.

    I’ve been trying hard to exclude my mother-in-law due to the disaster that was her last visit. The personal insults came on thick and frequent – I’m a lazy, lying, good for nothing moocher who wasn’t ‘really’ injured in the military….blah blah blah. But since she is family, and someone my wife loves and wants a relationship with, it’s been hard to exclude her without creating even less desirable consequences at home than if I didn’t. So I am polite when I answer the phone, and try to ask how they are doing before passing the phone to my wife. No idea how things will go during their next trip to our time zone for our upcoming baby blessing. I’m not sure what that will look like.

  3. SusanS on September 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    This reminds me of a dilemma a friend of mine once had. Her father had left the church, divorced his wife and moved away to a new city in a different state. My friend at this point was married and had her own family. In the meantime, her father had moved in with a woman and now wanted to come visit her family where they now lived. It was a problem for her as her small family lived in a one bedroom apartment with only a futon for guests and her father wanted to share his bed with his girlfriend while he visited. My friend had to lay down the line and say that while he visited, his girlfriend would have to sleep in the other room. She wasn’t so much concerned about them having sex while they visited, but she didn’t want to communicate to her children that grandpa sleeping in the same bed as his “friend” was okay. Naturally, it was an awkward weekend for the adults involved, but for her it allowed her to express her disapproval of her father’s life choices while not rejecting him in his role as her father.

  4. SusanS on September 4, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    If I could contend with Whitney’s point about “victimless” sins v. “victimizing” sins, I would posit that there is no such thing as a “victimless” sin for the person who commits the sin is the victim. This is implicit in Paul’s description of practicing homosexuals as being “abusers of themselves.” (1 Cor. 5:9)

  5. Whitney on September 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    @ SusanS,
    Yes, I’m familiar with that argument; that’s why I initially put “victimless” in quotes. By “victimless,” I mean a sin or crime that does not injure/victimize others; a sin for which its negative consequences are borne exclusively by the doer of the deed.

    So if I smoke pot, for example, I’m hurting my own body and cutting myself off from the Spirit’s influence. But (some would argue), I’m not hurting anyone else.

  6. Ray on September 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    I honestly can’t think of any type of person I would exclude, IF I was sure the situation wasn’t dangerous. For example, I would have no problem being in close proximity to Jeffrey Dahmer, as long as there was no way for him to harm me.

    That’s the central issue, imo – how we define danger that is worth excluding others to avoid. There are people who value safety so highly that they are adverse to any hint of risk – and prone to see risk where none really exists. (“settlers”) There are others who value adventure and exploration so highly that they are willing to include people others see as dangerous. It’s hard for each extreme to value the other – especially when it comes to perspectives on love and accepance.

    I think that lies at the heart of more of the difference of opinion in the Bloggernacle than we often realize. More highly active commenters and writers are explorers, while more members who aren’t highly active or even aware are settlers – and when someone with a settler mentality starts commenting in a thread that is dominated by explorers . . .

  7. Jax on September 4, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Ray,

    When you say ‘dangerous’ I assume you mean physically safety. I’m not so concerned with that as I am with children, especially my own, seeing people not ‘condemning bad behavior’ and thereby thinkging that that behavior is therefore acceptable. Example: If I am engaging in a social conversation with someone my kids to know is an adulterer, and they see me smiling, laughing and treating him like an old friend, then they think to themselves, “Well, even though Dad has told me to keep myself sexually clean, he obviously still has respect for so-and-so. I guess it is no big deal if I don’t.”

    Or think of it this way. What if Pres. Monson came out and told us in Gen. Conf. that he and his wife had premarital sex, and he can relate to those who suffer from sexual sin and the costs of repentence for it. How many people, especially youth, would think to themselves, “See, we can mess around and still be worthy to be the prophet.” It is poor reasoning, but that is what people do when they want to justify themselves in sin. They will look at people in authority, who are trying to show people that they can relate to their problems, but will see that they were able to commit sin and still become clean anyway and will think that they can do the same.

  8. Jonathan Green on September 4, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    So, Alison, I think this is a really bad idea.

    You haven’t defined what you mean by shunning. Do you mean refusing to greet, speak with, and even acknowledge the existence of someone? That’s what shunning has meant in some other faith traditions.

    You’re also not clear on what context you’re talking about. A fellow ward member? During church or not? A non-LDS neighbor down the street? A random stranger? Those are very different contexts. There’s a huge difference between not wanting to hang out at the neighbor’s meth lab, and refusing to talk to a pregnant girl at church who in your opinion hasn’t suffered quite enough yet for her wickedness, and refusing service to a couple who in your view are living in sin.

    Whatever may have happened once in some ward somewhere, we don’t have a Mormon tradition of shunning, and we certainly don’t have a Mormon doctrine of shunning. So if you’re going to shun someone, you’ll have to invent your own doctrine and practice without any guidance, which is all but guaranteed to end badly. The faith traditions that practiced shunning at least had a congregational structure for what form it should take and when it should end.

    You’re correct that all of us have people whom we avoid, at church and elsewhere. But that’s not the kind of thing one should be proud of. It’s like announcing your sins for all to hear. Actually, that’s exactly what it is.

    If you’re concerned that someone will get the idea that sin is OK, then teach your children and anyone else you have responsibility for that the choices made by X are not OK. Appointing yourself the instrument of the Lord’s wrath to heighten the misery of X is a horrible idea.

  9. MMM on September 4, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I have a hard time with the idea of “victimless sins”. Even the pot smoking example doesn’t work for me. If I participate in something sinful, and the Spirit is driven away from me. It impact me – but not me alone. It also creates a home environment where the family is being led by a spirit-less father. The decisions I make in my life will not be validated by the Spirit. I will not be entitled to the spiritual gifts that I need to care for my family in day-to-day life, or during emergency that require priesthood power.

    No man is an island. None of us live in a vacuum.

  10. Horse Wrangler on September 4, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    What about Matthew 25:40? Christ does not appear to set context up as a factor, muchless a deciding one. A bishop I knew who once presided over the San Francisco Ward where Mitch Mayne is the Executive Secretary, decided that during his bishopric he would “reach out” to all gay members, active or not. When I asked him why, he said, “If they are coming to Church I want them to keep coming so that we can be there to help them maintain and develop their spirituality. If they are inactive, I want to keep the lines of communication to them open in the hope that they will rejoin us in our worship and community. But if we anathematize them then we cannot help them to continue to grow in the Gospel and spirituality. Remember, on the day of Judgement I will have to answer for my stewardship over them all. I want to be able to stand before our Father in Heaven and the Saviour and say, “We did all we could to minister to their spiritual and temporal needs. But their response to our efforts should be their responsibility. We did our very best.” We need to go after the 1 if the 99 are already safe. But these days the ratio is closer to the 58 versus the 42 that are safe. Our youth are taking a very dim view of this latter day Phairisee-ism and are leaving the Church in significant numbers. So this attitude is costing us both the straight and the gay members.

    Susan S; The Scripture you cite is what was generally used on all us males for the evils of masturbation. I’d like to have a dollar for every married man in the Church who was a “victim” of “self abuse” but has now managed to redeem themselves from this heinous sin.

  11. Ray on September 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    #7 – “When you say ‘dangerous’ I assume you mean physically safety.”

    Nope, I didn’t mention any limitations, so I didn’t mean any limitations.

    Your example is exactly on point with my comment. You appear to attach danger to talking with an adulterer; I don’t. I can have the proper conversation with my children to avoid the danger you fear. I don’t need to avoid someone to teach the lesson that what they do is not right in my sight. I don’t have to ignore an adulterer to teach my children to abhor adultery – or to feel confident that they will not accept adultery simply because I refuse to ignore an adulterer. I personally have no fear of that outcome (my children embracing adultery), since I have tried to teach my children all their lives that we are supposed to try to love everyone – even as we are aware of their shortcomings and avoid situations of actual danger.

    I wouldn’t want my daughters to go to a bar just to avoid avoiding someone. That would be silly. However, I also don’t want my children to avoid the modern publicans, sinners, lepers, adulterers, etc. whom Jesus spent his ministry serving. I certainly don’t want to teach them to avoid others simply because they are “unbelievers” of what I believe.

    People who are living according to the dictates of their own consciences can live and interact with others who are living differently according to the dictates of their own consciences – and I believe the limits to how they can do so often are a direct result of the sense of danger felt by one or the other, no matter the nature of that danger.

  12. Bob on September 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Hmmm, if it’s not shunning I wonder what one calls it when we so often stop our “friendships” and acquantanceships with less actives after they stop coming to church? It’s just too much trouble to be their friends because there isn’t that usual Sunday fellowshipping time. Many inactives are essentially shunned because of the inconvenience (and discomfort) of remaining their friends after they have become disaffected with the church. Seems to me.

  13. Sonny on September 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Well said, Ray. What you said pretty much mirrors my thinking as well.

  14. Whitney on September 4, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    MMM: It’s true that no one is an island, and that even so-called victimless crimes can have unexpected effects–I think that’s an important part of the discussion, which is why I brought it up. But I still think it’s worth distinguishing between sins that primarily affect the person doing them, and those that obviously have victims, and those that are somewhat ambiguous or the victimizing effects depend on the situation. I think which category the sinful behavior falls in should influence what we decide to do with the people who are engaging in that behavior. Should I hang out with the guy who smokes pot recreationally? Maybe, if he’s not high as a kite when we’re hanging out. What if he IS high? Then that puts me at some risk, so maybe I should avoid him. What if he’s encouraging people prone to addiction to toke up, or blowing second-hand pot smoke in people’s faces? Then maybe other people should avoid him, too, as he’s starting to victimize others.

  15. Alison Moore Smith on September 4, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Many good comments. Thank you. I will respond more later, but I’d like to ask Ray for a clarification.

    Ray, you said you can’t think of any person you would exclude. But you DO exclude people. You approach certain people and not others (you can’t approach EVERYONE). You invite certain people, but not others. You have some kids who live with you, but not every kid (or every homeless kid) does.

    So my question is, why do you INCLUDE those you do include and EXCLUDE others? And when you exclude others, what does that mean?

    Let me know how your tête à tête with Dahmer goes. (BTW, how many serial murderers have you visited?)

    Jonathan (#8), it won’t be the first time I had a bad idea. But, for the record, I didn’t encourage shunning.

  16. Tim on September 4, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I hope my children see me befriending adulterers, drunks, and even tax collectors.

    A child who is taught to not befriend sinners will make an absolutely horrible missionary, and a horrific church leader. They will also struggle out in the real world, where most of their co-workers or fellow students don’t follow our law of chastity or the word of wisdom. If the child attends a typical university, most of the child’s classmates will either sleep around or have a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend. Most will get drunk on a fairly regular basis. My law school experience would have been incredibly lonely had I not made friends with those people. And they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to become friends with a member of the church.

  17. Tim on September 4, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Ray’s comment on 7 was right on.

    Alison, I can’t speak for Ray, but I can tell you that the people I approach are the ones I feel I might have something in common with or get along with. But for us to be a part of the real world (which we need to be in order to be member missionaries or even, in some cases, to have friends outside of church) we need to befriend the same kind of people Jesus befriended–those who aren’t living the gospel.

    If you’re the type who doesn’t have the ability to befriend those who aren’t living the gospel, you’re not living the gospel.

  18. Alison Moore Smith on September 4, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Tim #17:

    …the people I approach are the ones I feel I might have something in common with or get along with…

    So you don’t have to approach people you don’t have many things in common with (or might not get along with), but you do have to approach people who are blatantly sinning?

  19. Alison Moore Smith on September 4, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    As to my questions, I’ll give examples of people I’ve excluded from my life. I’m not proposing these decision as being correct or good or right or better. Just real examples. Feel free to scrutinize them or give alternatives.

    The husband of a friend of mine spent time in jail (and is on the sex offender registry) for arranging sex with a decoy acting as a 13-year-old. My husband still played basketball with the guy after he was released from prison. But my kids were not allowed to play at their house while we lived there (they did come to our house many times).

    He didn’t pose any physical danger to my husband, but I would never trust him around my children. And when they were invited, we declined. (His wife was kind/wise enough to realize the situation and when she invited my kids, she said she would completely understand if we weren’t comfortable with it. We weren’t but invited them over instead and they came.)

    In 1998 we flew a very dear college friend to Florida for a business meeting. He stayed in our home. Within the course of the ensuing business deal he tried, unsuccessfully, to defraud us. We cut off the business deal and have not talked to him since. We are still friends with his wife (now ex-wife). He was recently imprisoned for stealing millions from others in a ponzi scheme.

    He does not pose a threat to us, since we don’t trust him and wouldn’t consider doing business with im again. (OK, he is being investigated for having paid for the murder of two witnesses, but we disassociated before he showed potential to hire hits on people he doesn’t like.)

    So why disassociate? I supposed it’s opportunity cost. I know lots of interesting people who are fun to be around, who are smart and good and decent, and who I’d trust implicitly. I can’t figure out why I’d spend time with a guy who will steal life savings from old couples to buy cars, who will commit bigamy (with a wife and five kids at home — oh, and a temple marriage), who will create stories that defame other people to make himself look good. Why would I EXCLUDE all those great people (and I would! — opportunity cost) so I could spend time with him?

    In 24 years of parenting 6 kids, I’ve also excluded a couple of playmates. Two kids who were incessantly rude, destructive, and/or hurtful to my kids were not ever invited back.

    Years ago I was in a ward and another social group with a particular woman. We got to know each other very well. She had a pretty normal life as far as health, finances, relationships, etc. Every single time she called me or I called her, and I asked how she was doing, her answer was among the following:

    1. I’m just getting by.
    2. I’m just hanging on.
    3. Just taking it a day at a time.

    Other times there was a tale of the last terrible thing that happened to her. She was NEVER “fine” and certainly never good or happy or anything positive. She wasn’t clinically depressed, she just always looked at the negative in everything. Nothing any of us tried to do helped. And she had a habit of creating drama — over things like a Primary teacher asking her daughter to stop talking.

    After about five years trying to “help” I was exhausted. And — opportunity cost again — the excessive time I spent just maintaining this relationship took me away from so many other good things. Finally, I decided I just needed to disconnect from the drama — since I wasn’t helping anyway — and do something useful with my time.

    The manifestation of that decision was that when she wanted to get together I was usually unable to do so (although she was still invited to events with a larger group of women) and when she called, I had to cut the calls relatively short.

    It might have been better to just tell her outright why I wanted to spend my time elsewhere, but given her personality, I’m not sure that’s true. It would likely have turned into yet another “I’m leaving the church because someone said X or did X or might have done X.” As it was, nothing really overtly happened. The relationship just kind of faded and we both moved to different friends — and then I moved and then she moved. Her (now ex-)husband just friended me on FB a couple of week ago.

    To be clear, I don’t place value only in relationships where I’m entertained and having a laugh a minute. There is great value in serving, helping, and in meeting all kinds of people. There is tremendous value in being there for people who need help or need a life or need love. There is value in loyalty and sticking with people in tough times. But I also value my limited time and if a relationship is harmful — or just isn’t doing anything good — I’ll try to find a better use for my time.

  20. Sonny on September 4, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Are we talking about shunning someone as a matter of principle because of their sins (real or perceived), or just not spending our limited time with someone because of other reasons related more to must not having the time or inclination? I think they are two different issues.

  21. BevP on September 4, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Somehow there is a voyeuristic feel to some of this. If we don’t think about the private sexual lives of some people among our friends, why do we think about the private sexual lives of others? Do you reckon they spend much time thinking about ours? It’s ever so easy to become obsessed with sin by trying to avoid it, or its effects on ourselves or those we love. I’m not saying we shouldn’t protect ourselves or our loved ones from sin or hurt, only that, by analogy, we might get caught up in the classic challenge to toddlers: Don’t EVER, EVER even THINK ABOUT putting that screwdriver into the electrical socket! How about becoming obsessed instead with finding what it is that Christ loves about others that He was willing to die for them?

  22. Ray on September 4, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Alison, I stand by my first statement, your assertions notwithstanding. The question wasn’t, “With whom do you choose to spend the most time?” It was, “If you choose to exclude anyone (and you do!), what does that exclusion look like?”

    I answered that question very directly. I exclude those people whom I believe pose a danger – and I can’t think of anyone or any “type” of person I would exclude if I didn’t feel they posed a danger in the situation under consideration.

    If the question was, “With whom do you choose to spend very little if any of your time?”, my answer would be very different.

    For example, I choose to spend my blogging time on certain sites and not on others because I have to do so given the limited amount of time I have. I participate where I believe I can benefit and provide benefit to the greatest degree – which is a balancing act. I write a post or link to a thought-provoking post every day except Sunday on my personal blog. I comment here and at BCC, Wheat & Tares, Mormanity, Keepapitchinin, and a couple of others regularly; I comment on Mormon Mommy Wars, Dandelion Mama, Clean Cut, The Rains Came Down, and a couple of others occasionally; I now read but don’t comment on others where I used to comment; I stopped reading some completely. I stopped reading those almost solely because I didn’t like the discussions and the tone of those discussions – which translated for me into being a “danger” of a sort, since reading them robbed me of time I could spend reading and commenting on others that were more uplifting to me.

    If you are talking simply about how we prioritize our time and resources and who gets excluded as a de facto result, I exclude many of my current ward family more than ever before in my life strictly because of my job time requirements and our financial situation – since we live 25 miles from the meetinghouse. I didn’t read your post as asking that, so, once again, I stand by my initial comment about whom I actively, consciously “choose to” exclude. I exclude those whom I perceive to be a danger (or, more accurately, those in situations I perceive to be dangerous) – and your examples essentially say the same thing I said.

  23. Ray on September 4, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    #15 – “Let me know how your tête à tête with Dahmer goes. (BTW, how many serial murderers have you visited?)”

    Alison, the sarcasm isn’t appreciated. Mocking a perfectly good example within the context of a sincere comment is one of the reasons I stopped reading and commenting on a couple of sites, fwiw. It happens regularly on group sites, unfortunately, but it ought to be recognized for what it is, at least, even when it’s done by a perma and post author.

  24. Roberto on September 4, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    There was our home teacher in the late 60′s who was a gay man, hairdresser, who did all the ladies hair in the ward. He was thoughtful, kind, considerate and liked and loved by the members of the ward. He was never shunned, or taken to task for his “choices”. Quietly lived his life. He died a horrible death from the effects of AIDS, comforted by many visits from friends and members of the relief society who had known him and his mom. All of our lives continued. He is missed by those of us who remember him. He was a valued part of our ward and community. A son of God.

  25. 0t on September 4, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Referring to Alison’s later comment, I think there are some people that we just need to exclude from our lives. I have had friends that have either been too competitive or just dominate the friendship. I take part in such friendships with caution–in younger days I’ve regretted some things I’ve taken part in with some of those friends, not truly bad things, but not appropriate behavior or in harmony with the person I desire to be.
    Additionally, I’m thinking of the principal of least concern–that the person with the least at stake controls any relationship: be it a friendship, a relationship, or whatever. This is related to becoming an enabler of someone’s bad behavior. I firmly believe that there are times when we need to intervene, or need to show tough love with hard advice or specific ground rules, and there are times when we need to get such destructive people out of our lives. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a person is to say, “hey, if you insist on engaging in that sinful/destructive behavior, then you have to do it on your own and get out of my life”. This can apply spouses, friends, even sometimes (adult) children. At times when I’ve been faced with such, it is a hard but necessary recognition that you can’t stand in the way of some people’s behavior, and in the long run, you aren’t helping by tolerating such behavior. Once you step out, they have to face their own consequences, and that for many people, is the only way that they may be able to save themselves. This is an oversimplification of the grossest proportions–but those who’ve had to deal with family or close friends who are dealing with addiction or other destructive behavior will have some inkling of what I’m trying to express.

  26. Alison Moore Smith on September 5, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Sonny #20:

    Are we talking about shunning someone as a matter of principle because of their sins (real or perceived), or just not spending our limited time with someone because of other reasons related more to must not having the time or inclination? I think they are two different issues.

    We aren’t really talking about shunning at all. The term came from comments in Julie’s post. :)

    I think they can be two separate issues, but only in the sense that there are people in, say, Brazil, whom you will never meet because you aren’t IN Brazil. But very often, almost daily for most people, we make CHOICES (like which people in the ward to approach, which people at work to invite to dinner, which girl/guy to ask on a date) that somehow are plunked down in the realm of “being Christlike and loving everyone” and so we PRETEND we aren’t really making such choices — and discriminating against people — all the time.

    To have a real discussion, we must at least be wiling to acknowledge the CHOICES for what they are.

    For example, you say “reasons related more to not having the…inclination.” So is it OK to choose not to associate with people you aren’t “inclined” to associate with, but wrong to choose not to associate with people who commit particular sins you don’t want to deal with?

    BevP #21:

    …why do we think about the private sexual lives of others?

    As I said in the OP, BevP, I’m not talking specifically about homo- (or any other) sexuality. Still, the issue of homosexuality within the church is a SEXUAL one. Since it’s the SEXUAL behavior of homosexuals that the church considers problematic, when you deal with someone telling you they are homosexual, it’s a distinction only because of sexual behavior.

  27. Chino Blanco on September 5, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Whatever may have happened once in some ward somewhere, we don’t have a Mormon tradition of shunning, and we certainly don’t have a Mormon doctrine of shunning.

    How many Mormon kids are currently pretending to believe so that Mom and Dad will pay for this semester of college? Or let them keep living at home? Having been cut off from my family for two years and having donned cap and gown alone because I decided to transfer out of BYU, I can understand why so many keep quiet. Shunning isn’t something that happens once in a blue moon over yonder, it happened to me and it’s happening right now anywhere you find Mormons.

  28. Alison Moore Smith on September 5, 2011 at 1:30 am

    Ray #22:

    I exclude those people whom I believe pose a danger – and I can’t think of anyone or any “type” of person I would exclude if I didn’t feel they posed a danger in the situation under consideration.

    There may not be a consistent “type” of people you exclude. But you do exclude people by choice.

    If the question was, “With whom do you choose to spend very little if any of your time?”, my answer would be very different.

    Ray, those you **choose to spend very little if any time with** ARE excluded. And I’m darn positive that you don’t hang out with everyone you know who isn’t dangerous. You make choices about who to include in your life and activities, just as you choose which blogs to include in your life.

    If you are talking simply about how we prioritize our time and resources and who gets excluded as a de facto result

    Does anyone get excluded as a “de facto result” or priorities? Or do they get excluded by the CHOICES we make as we prioritize? Understand, I’m not claiming that making priorities is wrong. I’m saying we need to take responsibility for those priorities — and admit that we are choosing to exclude people, events, activities, etc. by making them — rather than pretending that those choices aren’t really choices, they just happen out of our control.

    If we acknowledge the choices, we can manage them. If we pretend we are out of the loop, we can’t/won’t.

    For example, you seem to think it’s OK to exclude some people because of job obligations and some because they aren’t uplifting in blog tone? Is that right? But it’s not OK to exclude someone because they are not uplifting morally?

    P.S. You know full well that if you hang out with me, sarcasm will be involved. Make those choices wisely. ;)

    P.P.S. If you’d be happy to hang out with a serial murderer who has cannibalism, rape, and necrophilia on his entertainment top 10, more power to you. But I don’t have to go along to that party.

  29. Alison Moore Smith on September 5, 2011 at 3:10 am

    0t (#25) thanks for the great examples. That’s the kind of thing I’m referring to. We all make choices about who we spend time with (and who we don’t) based on all sorts of criteria.

    Given that fact, is behavior — particularly sinful behavior — allowed to be among the criteria that sometimes excludes others from our lives?

  30. john f. on September 5, 2011 at 6:11 am

    Excellent comments Jonathan (#8) and Tim (#16). A lot of wisdom, good sense and virtue in both of them. If every Latter-day Saint had the simple perspective of the second paragraph of Tim’s #16, we’d be much more Christ-like (Christian?) as a people.

  31. Peter LLC on September 5, 2011 at 6:34 am

    If you choose to exclude anyone (and you do!), what does that exclusion look like?

    I exclude the idle rich and the working poor. The former because they violate God’s command to eat by the sweat of their faces (this includes all those who generate incoming using referral links–truly a modern-day plague of free riders on a hard-working country). The latter because they can’t be working that hard if their harvest is so meager.

    I’ve also been known to ask new move-ins for a copy of their credit report. If they balk, they have something to hide and are automatically excluded. The rest are subject to my approval, but I’ve noticed a declining rate of those who meet my standards as Obama’s economy-busting policies continue to wreak havoc on this Nation of Yeomen.

    Meanwhile, back in reality, Jonathan, Tim and john f. are right–those who would follow Christ’s example are better off reflecting on less exclusive criteria: “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”

  32. Velska on September 5, 2011 at 6:42 am

    I do try not to exclude anyone (viz. any person) from my life/contacts, unless they become a real nuisance that is seriously bogging me down.

    However, there are some behaviours, which by default cause me to temporarily exclude the people engaging in them. Such are, for example, substance abuse, that is to say, someone who is intoxicated. Drunken people are such a nuisance, and they always harp about the same stuff; people on uppers are dangerous, people on downers are depressing (this sounds crassly selfish, but if I gave a longer explanation with the exceptions and disclaimers, it would sound better). Another example might be someone I know to be coming to my home just to check around and then reporting to the scandal-hungry anything they can twist into something negative (such things have happened to me).

    These examples are by way of an illustration, to show that it isn’t the sinfulness of the behaviour, but how it may affect me if I am sucked into it somehow. I don’t mean that I see myself in danger of falling off the wagon, if I spend time with i.e. a drunk, but that there is a more immediate danger.

    You see, I have known people who’ve been convicted of manslaughter, and have found they are no risk to me. If I believe I have something good to offer, why shouldn’t I try to do that?

    To reiterate, I don’t think a sinful act that I happen to know about per se should make me “shun” a person who has commited such act(s). I believe we should still love the sinner, even if we didn’t wish to condone the sin. Few people whose sins are public, need another reminder of their sinfulness in me. If they hadn’t known it to begin with, someone would’ve “englightened” them, and should I be the first one to find out, I’d probably be the Bishop.

  33. Velska on September 5, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Just noticed that I forgot to add “or my family” to “…they are no risk to me.”

    In light of the linked post, it is important to remember that we have a responsibility to protect our nearest from harm, if we can. The mother, as described in the post–and all too many real-life accounts I know of–did not act responsibly by keeping the man whom she knew to have already molested her daughter.

    That daughter has a mountain to climb to forgive.

  34. Ray on September 5, 2011 at 8:55 am

    #28 – Alison, I answered the question explicitly and directly, and I then expanded my answer even more. I said CLEARLY that I exclude some people – but that I do so consciously only if I believe they pose some kind of threat or danger, and that I don’t exclude a “type” of person automatically. I also said I do so unconsciously AND consciously as a result of simple time and resource prioritization – and, right now, that includes fellow church members more than at any other time in my life.

    I’m not going to defend what I haven’t said, and you’re very, very good at twisting things people say into things they don’t say – and taking minor molehills and making mountains out of them. For example, you said, “But it’s not OK to exclude someone because they are not uplifting morally?” I never said that. Also, you said, “If you’d be happy to hang out with a serial murderer who has cannibalism, rape, and necrophilia on his entertainment top 10, more power to you. But I don’t have to go along to that party.” I never said that, either.

    I’m not playing that game in this thread.

  35. Al on September 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

    1 Cor. 5:10-13 is such a minuscule passage of scripture. We really ought to be more accepting of people who flaunt their sins. And if course we should quit being judgmental at all if someone denies that his/her behavior is sinful. After all, isn’t an individual the only person who can say whether his behavior is sinful? In fact the whole concept of sin is so fraught with judgmentalism and absolutism that we ought to drop it altogether. (Of course practicality requires that we condemn and shun those who will not recycle, or who eat meat or partake of gluten, peanuts or lactose in any form.)

  36. Eric on September 5, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Jax said:

    What if Pres. Monson came out and told us in Gen. Conf. that he and his wife had premarital sex, and he can relate to those who suffer from sexual sin and the costs of repentence for it. … [Youth] will see that they were able to commit sin and still become clean anyway and will think that they can do the same.

    Actually, I think that President Monson saying such a thing (if it were true, which I assume it isn’t) would be great. What better way could there be to teach about the power of the Atonement? Isn’t the message we teach that we can become clean even after we sin, thanks to the suffering and death of Christ?

    To teach that once you sin there’s no possibility of forgiveness — that’s the teaching of Satan, not Jesus Christ.

  37. Peter LLC on September 5, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Speaking of Jax, I would like to note that the sentiment he expressed here,

    “See, we can mess around and still be worthy to be the prophet.”

    neatly captures an important truth–not even the prophets are infallible.

  38. natebergin on September 5, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for bringing this up as a topic Allison, and difficult and fraught with peril as it is. I don’t think your personal intent was to justify shunning in most all cases, but only in extreme cases like sending your children over to the home of the pedophile.

    I don’t think we shun (or shouldn’t) people in the Mormon church like they do in Jehovah’s Witnesses, unless these people pose a threat to the church. But I think we do suffer from some prejudice and incorrect assumptions.

    For example, I witnessed one sister with a precocious little boy, who was playing the organ in Sacrament Meeting, and the little boy toddled over onto the lap of a new convert, who was a bit of a weirdo, but harmless in my estimation. The mother swooped off the stand and rescued the child.

    I understand the mother’s protectionism. But can we really accurately judge who are the potential dangers in the ward? Are they the new converts, who act a bit strange? Aren’t the potential pedophiles just as likely to be someone you might least expect, perhaps a father in a leadership role, or one of the very active teenage youth? This poor man additionally has to live with the fact that people consider him a creep.

    It’s true we live in a sometimes cruel and unpredictable world. But I would hope that we try as much as we can within reason, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to look beyond the sin and love the sinner, and to accept people who don’t fit in, who are different, without making unfair assumptions about them.

    And if you are dealing with a known pedophile, the kindest and most loving thing would be to keep your children away. It’s a cruel temptation to inflict upon a pedophile to let them hold your child. They struggle with terrible afflictions, and it’s unkind to let them indulge the monster within. So, “shunning” in that particular case, is charity and compassion.

    But as adults, we love the pedophile, we include them in every way we can that doesn’t involve children. (By talking so much about pedophiles, I don’t mean in any way to associate homosexuals with pedophelia, which I believe are completely unrelated, since this was originally regarding Mitch Mayne.)

  39. Bob on September 5, 2011 at 11:17 am

    “I don’t think we shun (or shouldn’t) people….. unless these people pose a threat to the church”
    That sounds like an opening to “shun” anyone you want?

  40. Sonny on September 5, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Alison,

    “I think they can be two separate issues, but only in the sense that there are people in, say, Brazil, whom you will never meet because you aren’t IN Brazil”

    I disagree. Excluding someone solely based on whether I believe that person has sinned IS different from excluding him/her because I do not have the time or inclination at the moment.

    Look, I can see what you are trying to drive home here. Correct me if I’m wrong. You are saying we all make choices, consciously or not, as we interact with people, and that discrimination is a part of those choices. So all of you people that SAY you are being loving and kind to sinners are PRETENDING (your word) that you don’t discriminate, so HA!

    My answer is the same. Setting a black-and-white, up-front exclusionary rule that says I will not associate with a person that has had an affair, is in a homosexual relationship, has become addicted to drugs/alcohol (fill in the blank), is different from NOT having such a rule and exercising discretion in how we manage our limited time in regards to who we choose to interact with and for how long.

    I’m not saying discrimination of sin CANNOT, at some level, be a part of the latter. I AM saying that it is different from a blanket rule.

  41. Alison Moore Smith on September 5, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    One of the basic business concepts is “opportunity cost.” In a nutshell it means that if you use a dollar (or other resource) for something, you are CHOOSING not to use that dollar (or resource) for every other possible use. So the measure of the activity is made in terms of the NEXT BEST ALTERNATIVE.

    The reason this seemingly obvious concept is taught early and often is so that business owners stop thinking the things decided against are “de facto” losses — and they start thinking, every time a resource is used, if there is a better use.

    It’s the same thing we try to teach our kids when they earn money and we remind them that if they buy the candy bar, they can’t save for the choir tour.

    Given our limited resources (time, energy, money, etc.) we all choose to include some people and exclude some people from our lives. Each of us has a different standard.

    Within the context of “being Christlike” it’s easy to vilify how others chose to exclude people while not even recognizing (1) that ALL of us exclude people and (2) that our own process of exclusion may not be more justifiable than the person we are vilifying.

    There are 137 references on LDS.org to this phrase, “choose your friends wisely.” Choosing wisely obviously allows for EXCLUSION as well. Realizing that we not only do this, but are counseled to do it, makes it imperative that we use care in how we do it.

    Velsak #32, thank you for taking the time for a great response. Great concise statement:

    These examples are by way of an illustration, to show that it isn’t the sinfulness of the behaviour, but how it may affect me if I am sucked into it somehow.

    Yes, Ray, you’ve identified “danger” but been careful not to specify what that means, except that it “has no limitations.” You’ve said you won’t exclude any “type” of person, but avoid the question, which wasn’t about classes of people you’d exclude, but simply how you decide when excluding and what it means to you when you exclude someone. You say that “who you spend your time with” is an entirely different question — that would give a “very different” answer — even though who you do and do not spend your time with IS a decision of inclusion and exclusion. You present exclusion as “de facto,” even though it’s an explicit choice.

    The helpful answers actually come when you seem to believe you are answering a different question. You exclude blogs (and obviously bloggers) that you don’t find uplifting in tone, you exclude ward members based who you don’t have time for, based on career choices and travel distance.

    So, if I read correctly, you think lack of an uplifting tone and working for pay are two acceptable reasons for not including more people in your life. Did I correctly interpret that?

    You added that you’d “have no problem” being with Jeffrey Dahmer. I’m not sure the point of that except to say, “See! I’ll accept ANYONE!”

    My problem with Dahmer is that if I have free time to spend with someone, I have about 6.7 billion other people who I’d rather spend time with — opportunity cost. If I were an investigator trying to solve serial killings, or a psychologist dealing with the criminally insane, it might be different.

  42. Alison Moore Smith on September 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Al #25:

    And if course we should quit being judgmental at all if someone denies that his/her behavior is sinful.

    My neighbor who was convicted of soliciting sex from a 13-year-old didn’t think he did anything sinful, because he didn’t actually have sex with her. Because “she” was really a police decoy. I’m still not letting my kids go over there.

    In fact the whole concept of sin is so fraught with judgmentalism and absolutism that we ought to drop it altogether.

    Now there’s a novel idea. Sin is old fashioned. No more sin! (Where have I heard that before?)

    Of course practicality requires that we condemn and shun those who will not recycle, or who eat meat or partake of gluten, peanuts or lactose in any form.

    Heh heh. Or have an enormous carbon footprint. Unless, of course, they fly around on a private jet to tell other people not to have a carbon footprint. And unless they own a company from which they and other stups can purchase carbon credits — which can be further used to fuel more private jets to tell more people not to drive to work and such.

  43. Alison Moore Smith on September 5, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Eric #36:

    Actually, I think that President Monson saying such a thing (if it were true, which I assume it isn’t) would be great. What better way could there be to teach about the power of the Atonement? Isn’t the message we teach that we can become clean even after we sin, thanks to the suffering and death of Christ?

    Eric, I don’t have any stats on this, just anecdotal experience. But on this issue I think Jax’s point is valid. It might “be great” for those who have had premarital sex and are honestly trying to repent. But probably for few others.

    Every single person I know who “had to get married,” has kids who either got pregnant as teens or screwed around as teens. In every single case, the parents were active church goers who taught their kids about chastity, admit that they messed up, and taught their kids that they should not repeat their sin. In the handful of cases where I specifically know the kids’ reactions, they DID say, “It worked out fine for my parents, it’s not such a big deal.”

    Same experience with years and years working in YW and having kids note that their parents didn’t get married in the temple, and it “worked out fine” for them. No big deal. Kids whose parents were married in the temple are, in my experience, far far more likely to do the same than kids who’s parents married civilly. Kids who’s parents are mixed nonmember/member were far more likely to marry nonmembers than parents who were married to members.

    Actions do speak louder than words and actions of parents speak volumes. And words of the prophets are extremely powerful.

    Although none of our general leaders are perfect, you will almost NEVER hear them confess a sin from the pulpit. There is probably a reason for that.

    Sister Hinckley’s book tells a story about her husband saying “the N word” — when he was a very young child (as in prebaptism age), and getting his mouth washed out with soap. Yea, it made me happy that he had AT LEAST said something bad, once. But that kind of story is quite an anomaly. :)

    At very least public confession of sin should be done carefully, keeping in mind how it affects others.

  44. Jax on September 5, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Actually, I think that President Monson saying such a thing (if it were true, which I assume it isn’t) would be great. What better way could there be to teach about the power of the Atonement? Isn’t the message we teach that we can become clean even after we sin, thanks to the suffering and death of Christ?

    To teach that once you sin there’s no possibility of forgiveness — that’s the teaching of Satan, not Jesus Christ.

    It would be a testimony of the Atonement, but I can guarantee you that YM everywhere will be whispering it the ears of the YM that even the Prophet did it, or that they can do everything up to that and be better than the prophet….etc.

    The basic instruction given in the Ensign several time is this, “We should avoid discussing our faults and sins and the weaknesses and sins of others. (This I Know, circa 1993?) It seems the prophet and apostles, whom I never hear make any confession of any sin (especially serious sin) think that it is more important to be an example of how to be, rather than how not to be. Shouldn’t we be the same?

    Speaking of Jax, I would like to note that the sentiment he expressed here,

    “See, we can mess around and still be worthy to be the prophet.”

    neatly captures an important truth–not even the prophets are infallible.

    They are not infallible at all, but they don’t parade mistakes in order to teach lessons. Everyone of them has committed sin, some of them maybe even committed serious sin, but I have never heard a single one of them tell about it, ever. I heard a rumor that Pres. Kimball had a shotgun wedding, which I have no information about except that a friend had told me (if someone can confirm or deny that would be great!). The most I ever hear is something like this, “I have a confession to make. I forgot to kiss my wife goodbye this morning” or something so ridiculously small it only ever is used as a point of comedy.

    Anybody have any references to any apostles in recent times making any public confession?

  45. Alison Moore Smith on September 5, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    natebergin, thanks for your input. :)

    Sonny #40:

    Setting a black-and-white, up-front exclusionary rule that says I will not associate with a person that has had an affair, is in a homosexual relationship, has become addicted to drugs/alcohol (fill in the blank), is different from NOT having such a rule and exercising discretion in how we manage our limited time in regards to who we choose to interact with and for how long.

    Absolutely. I haven’t said that there should be any such rule (black and white or not) about excluding particular kinds of sinners from our interaction. I’m simply pointing out that we ALL have ways in which we determine who is included and excluded from our lives. For most of us, it’s on a rather individual basis, case by case.

    I admit that I don’t knowingly have any adulterous friends. If I have a friend who commits adultery, I’ll probably stay closer to the spouse of that friend, rather than the other. I haven’t thought a lot about that choice, it just seems natural to support the victim.

    I have gay friends. The ones I associate with most are those with whom I share common interests and memories. The one I associate with least is one whose life (at least the part that is presented to me) centers on two things, his career (he’s an absolute genius at what he does and it’s fascinating) and his gay lifestyle (which is gay choirs, gay parades, topless contra dancing, explicit gay blogging, commenting among his friends about hotness factors, photos that, nevermind). It’s not about them living homosexual lifestyles (all do), but the latter does make me more uncomfortable and has a focus that I don’t want to be involved in. I’m still in contact with him, but we aren’t what you’d call “close.”

    As for substance abuse issues, I’ve probably had surprisingly little exposure to them. I’ve had friends who have tried drugs and a few of my kids friends have tried drugs, but I’ve never really had to make such a decision. If I did, it would probably be along the lines of Velska’s process.

    I’m not saying discrimination of sin CANNOT, at some level, be a part of the latter. I AM saying that it is different from a blanket rule.

    I agree completely. I think we too readily claim that we can’t “judge a sinner,” thinking this is a mighty pious answer. But when we exclude people based on hobbies or tone or some other rather insignificant issue, it makes no sense that it’s somehow wrong to exclude people based on a significant issue, like serious sin. Or serial killings. ;)

  46. Velska on September 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I think we have created an unfortunate case of unreasonable expectations, if we think that a person should have lead a completely sinless life to be a prophet. I can imagine what chance Moses would have against members, let alone Evangelicals, today. “A Murderer!” they would cry (Note the capital M they’d use in print to underline, that he’s unique, an evil in his own class). And that’s not all…

    Anyway, Atonement is for everyone. We’ve been told again and again, that there is nothing that it doesn’t cover (with the exception of “innocent blood” but that is still a proposition that isn’t really clear; as I understand, there are few who make that distinction). In any case, the Atonement surely is for sincerely repentant adulterers, at least as far as the Church is concerned.

    Adultery is probably a serious sin, when any sin can’t be anything but serious.

    BTW, I did hear that pres. Hunter didn’t pay tithing until he got married. I guess that is quite extreme, as prophets go, at least for a hundred years?

  47. Peter LLC on September 5, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    They are not infallible at all, but they don’t parade mistakes in order to teach lessons.

    Well, not their own anyway. Which is perfectly understandable since one presumes they have fully repented. Plus, it would be unseemly of anyone to wallow in personal transgressions in the context of General Conference. Still, the absence of public confession shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that General Authorities are somehow above the rest of us when it comes to mortal failings, or that the atonement can only go so far for the rest of us. (Cf. “They will look at people in authority [and] see that they were able to commit sin and still become clean anyway and will think that they can do the same.” Of course they can.)

  48. Velska on September 5, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Anyway, I don’t think public confession is a good idea.

  49. Alison Moore Smith on September 5, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Velaska, of course you are correct. I don’t think it’s the expectation that anyone (even the prophet) be sinless. But the example (along with Jax’s quotes) show a pattern of leaders not using examples of personal sin in public forums.

    Peter LLC, I didn’t read Jax’s statement (“They will look at people in authority, who are trying to show people that they can relate to their problems, but will see that they were able to commit sin and still become clean anyway and will think that they can do the same.”) as you did.

    Yes, they can become clean (whether a GA committed a sin or not). But they can — and in my experience, DO — look at people who have committed serious sin and look at a positive outcome as not only being possible, but probable and even EASY.

    The truth is, repenting of serious sin and changing one’s ways are painful and difficult. And many, many never get that far. Even when GAs use examples of others’ sins, they don’t ever minimize the seriousness of sin and difficulty of repentance.

    President Kimball said that if you marry a nonmember you are statistically much more likely to become inactive than you are to have your spouse join the church and be sealed. Yet every relatively faithful LDS person I know who married outside the temple was very hopeful — and most quite sure — that they would be sealed to their family one day. THEY would be the exception. And almost all of them cited a couple they knew who “proved” that.

    Dear, dear friends of ours — who just returned from a mission — married (2nd marriage for both. many kids involved) NINE DAYS after they met. They are very happy, a perfect match, and some of the most pious people I know. But (when he was our bishop) I told them I’d never forgive them if they told my kids the story of how they married! :) We did, in fact, have at least one super young couple get married quickly who used their example as why it would work out fine.

  50. sterileabraham on September 5, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I remember being told over and over again as a youth that I should only choose friends who share my same values. I understand why leaders would say that. But I think that it’s a very damaging instruction. I know that the instruction given to me and my peers in TM/YW and seminary made life a lot more difficult for some really good kids who didn’t happen to be LDS. And I’m sure that it also soured some of them who might have otherwise accepted the gospel.

    I’m very happy to claim friends with a variety of standards. I know and respect their standards. They know and respect mine.

  51. Ray on September 5, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Fwiw, the following posted on my personal blog today, totally independent of this topic:

    “Most Christians Would Reject Jesus as Christ if He Lived Now” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/09/most-christians-would-reject-jesus-as.html)

  52. Jax on September 5, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Still, the absence of public confession shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that General Authorities are somehow above the rest of us when it comes to mortal failings, or that the atonement can only go so far for the rest of us.

    Of that I think we can all agree. The point being though, not that they are above us, but that we should follow their example in avoiding public confession.

    To the point of the OP,
    I realized today that I exclude/avoid people who mumble. I typically love talking to people and hearing ‘their story’ and ideas. But listening to people who mumble drive me nuts. While mowing the lawn I was thinking about why I choose to talk to whom I talk to during church, and I was trying to come up with a reason I didn’t talk to Bro. X more. He is really nice and always seems interested in me and my kids. But he mumbles and I have a hard time understanding what it is he is saying. He has a beard full beard that stops me from looking at his lips/mouth for help. Well, rather than continue to keep smiling and nod while he talks, I’ve stopped talking to him without a need.

  53. Chino Blanco on September 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    The title of this post makes no sense. It refers to *belief* but everything that follows is all about *behavior*. Conflating these is the kind of petty authoritarian two-step that makes it OK to confiscate your kid’s car keys when he questions the historicity of the BOM, tell him he needs to find new digs when he confesses he can’t believe, and write him out of your will when he embarrasses you by not serving a mission. If I’m wrong, if this post is not *really* about asking readers to write you a permission slip to shun your own kin for believing differently than you, please explain the story behind the choice of title.

  54. Kristine on September 5, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    CB, I think it’s actually much simpler than that. The permission being sought is to shun openly gay people–that darn orientation/behavior distiction gets so complicated! That it’s possible to circumlocute the issue for 50+ comments bodes well for the capacity to do the mental gymnastics necessary for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” sort of approach, though.

  55. Chino Blanco on September 5, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I’m sure you’re right, Kristine, but my reading allows me to blather on about how it’s *my* (unbelieving) ox being gored here.

  56. Kaimi Wenger on September 5, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    This discussion would not be complete without a mention that science fiction author William Shunn was raised LDS (though he is no longer a member), and he has written a very funny account of his arrest for threatening to blow up an airplane in order to prevent his missionary companion from leaving mission boundaries. Really! (http://www.shunn.net/terror/) Talk about your Mormon Shunning . . .

  57. Chino Blanco on September 5, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    By the way, did anybody else here catch that SLC is now ?No. 3 among U.S. mid-sized cities (under Berkeley, but on top of Cambridge) for… same-sex couples?

    Last couple o’ questions: Isn’t Alison’s #1 (There may be cultural value in stigmatizing unacceptable behavior) what’s happening when folks say Anti-gay is the new gay? Does Alison really not get that the anti-gay stigma attached to the LDS church is why this current batch of Mormon kids is gonna defund the religion if something doesn’t give?

  58. Alison Moore Smith on September 6, 2011 at 2:25 am

    sterileabraham #50, that’s still church counsel to youth, for better or worse. I think it’s pretty clear why that is.

    In my high school, the counsel didn’t generally make it more difficult for really good non-LDS kids. Even in a 90% LDS school. Some of the most popular kids weren’t LDS. But they were decent, honest, moral kids. That WAS the “same standard” as far as we were concerned. At least a couple that I knew took seminary, too, just because their friends did. One was baptized by the time we had our fifth reunion.

    I’m very happy to claim friends with a variety of standards. I know and respect their standards. They know and respect mine.

    As far as consequential standards go, why would it be a positive thing to have such “standards diversity”? Ultimately, don’t we hope to have the SAME standard, as far as moral issues go? I mean, are you looking for a handful of thieves and a couple of arsonists with a rapist thrown in for good measure? Or are you just talking about “variety of standards” that still fit within a definition of “good people”? Which is pretty much what the church counsels anyway.

    Jax (#52), it’s funny you bring that up. When we lived in Boca about a third of our ward was Haitian, about a third various Hispanic, and about a third Europeanish. (For some time, each meeting was translated into Spanish, Portuguese, French-Creole, and ASL. Woot!)

    There were two women I started avoiding and asking my friend to communicate with them, without really thinking about it. When she finally asked my why, I had to think about why I’d used her for a go-between. The two had REALLY thick accents and I had a very hard time understanding them. Every time we spoke I had to ask them over and over to repeat themselves. I was sure it was embarrassing to them and so I avoided talking to them.

    My friend, who spoke fluent Spanish, told me it wouldn’t bother them at all if they had to repeat themselves, they were used to it, and even joked around about it. After that I didn’t avoid them because that concern was mostly removed. Over time I did get a little better at understanding them, but at least I knew I wasn’t offending them. One of them became a good friend who I’m still in contact with.

    Sometimes we exclude people without thinking and for reasons that aren’t really that important.

  59. Alison Moore Smith on September 6, 2011 at 2:48 am

    Kristine (#54), no one needs permission to choose with whom they associate. As has been repeatedly addressed, it’s not about shunning in the classic sense of the word. And it’s not about gays in particular, as was also said, although the claims made in Julie’s post and elsewhere were catalysts for the questions — because they seem nonsensical to me.

    People choose to include/exclude others every day. The reasons vary from intelligence, education, appearance, wealth, hobbies, athleticism, location, language, gender, race, attitude, civility, odor, weight, popularity, friendliness, similarity, values, character, hair color, height, health…the list goes on and on.

    Given that people are excluded every day (by all of us) for trivialities, annoyances, convenience, etc., it seems a very odd hard line to claim that it’s vile and hateful to exclude someone based on their beliefs or their behavior. Particularly when beliefs and behaviors are so much more significant than many of the other things no one is balking about.

    Rather than “mental gymnastics,” it’s an exercise in consistency. If you believe it’s immoral to exclude someone for engaging in immoral behavior (by whatever definition you use for “immoral”), then how/why do you justify excluding all the people YOU exclude, for the reasons you exclude them?

    Why is it OK to say, “I just don’t have time to visit the widow next door, I just have to post some more blog comments!” but it’s wrong to say, “I’m going to visit the widow next door and not the bank robber down the street”?

  60. Thomas Parkin on September 6, 2011 at 3:26 am

    “I realized today that I exclude/avoid people who mumble.”

    Please refrain from public confession of sin.

    In is interesting to me: the one place I know, in the scriptures, where it says that you can “grieve” the Spirit and cause it to withdraw is sec 121. Among those things that you can do to grieve the Spirit is to “cover your sins.” I don’t think that means that we have to be constantly publicly confessing our sins, but it does mean that we can’t be involved in a cover-up. LDS activity provides so many ways to cover up – perhaps especially from ourselves. Being seen in “good” company being one of them. One of the reasons so many of my friends are non-LDS, even since I returned to the church, is that there is so much less pressure with them to involve myself in a cover-up. As Leonard Cohen sings, “here’s to the few who forgive what you do, and the fewer who don’t even care…” I personally would tend to exclude people who seem to be concerned with other people’s sins, as we’ve seen here. Such people produce discomfort everywhere they go. I know it is probably a mistake on my part to not being more generous with my time, but one does have to pick and choose. Time spent with such members reduces my opportunity to spend time with members less likely to be straining at my motes, or my beams.

    “But when we exclude people based on hobbies or tone or some other rather insignificant issue, it makes no sense that it’s somehow wrong to exclude people based on a significant issue, like serious sin.”

    I think this has got it backwards. We do not exclude people because of their hobbies, but include people who share our interests. The difference with how we treat people at church is this: we do not choose who shows up at church. It may well be that no one in a given ward would be a person I would choose to spend my time with. They are, nevertheless, my brothers and sisters in the church.

  61. Chadwick on September 6, 2011 at 3:32 am

    Answering all sorts of things in the comments here, I remember when President Hunter became the Prophet. And I also recall it seemed like a big deal was made out of it, because he was the first latter-day prophet that did not serve a mission. I guess that could be seen as a prophet not completely toeing the line? What say you? I understand it was different then, but still. A moderate-sized to do was made of it.

    In regards to the prophets and apostles, do we have to take everything to the extreme? Why couldn’t we simply say the current prophet came to the pulpit, gave a talk on staying out of debt, and shared a personal experience wherein some bad decisions with said debt ruined his life, followed by the “yes, I overcame, but it sure would have been easier to have never gone there.” Would this really be so bad, in terms or relating to the Prophet as a human being?

    Or to have the President of the Seventy speak on Christlike love and share an experience where he bullied someone when he was like 13 and how he still regrets that action? Or is any of this kind of “past transgressions” talk not appropriate?

    Going back to the main discussion at hand, for me I suppose I have made a decision, on some level, to shun (your word) people that do not make me feel good about myself. I remember at BYU my ward had two EQ presidencies and 3 RS presidencies to give more callings to the masses. The other EQ President lived above me and for some reason he made me really uncomfortable (I was the other other EQ President). He was a nice guy, son of a Seventy, but for some reason I didn’t like the way I saw him talk down to the women in the ward (in my estimation) so I distanced myself from him when I could. Obviously it was an issue with me as the females of the ward loved him to pieces.

    Here, years later, I see his picture in the Gospel Principles book (canned MTC picture of missionaries in suits in Provo in front of all those flags) and it still made me cringe.

    Not sure if this is the angle you’re going for, Allison, but it is what it is.

    With regards to the potential pedophile next door (theoretical in this instance), I personally would have no problem talking to him or her and being a neighbor, but would probably be weary of my children doing so. Double standard? You tell me.

  62. Alison Moore Smith on September 6, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Chadwick, thanks for the comment.

    When I was the RS president I was told to bear my testimony of every lesson to close the meeting. That required, to be honest, that often as not I said, “I haven’t been very good about this, but I’m going to try to do better.” Or “I used to struggle with this, but as I’ve worked on it, I can see how it’s made my life better.” Or something like that.

    I was sure women in the ward would be horrified and disappointed — and probably some were — but the reactions I heard surprised me. It was usually, “I thought I was the only one!” or “I’m so glad someone else has a problem with that!”

    It’s probably true that my comments were serving a particular subset of women and a problem for others. But I can really see both sides.

    That said, our leaders simply don’t share personal failings in their talks. Make of that what you will.

    For the record, not only were missions not nearly so strongly stressed in Hunter’s day, but it was unusual for depression era young men to serve missions, although I think he preceded that a bit.

    Yes, that’s what I’m interested in. Thanks for adding your example.

    As a kid there was a guy in my ward whom I adored. He is 11 years older than I am. He was my Sunday School teacher. He went to great lengths to help me feel accepted at a time when I really hated church due to some of the other kids. He was also a dear friend to my older brother and made a huge positive impact on him.

    Today he’s on the sex offender registry for “transportation of minors for sexual activity.” When I found out — quite by accident a few years ago — I was heartbroken. Since then, we have reconnected when he friended me on Facebook. We haven’t talked about the issue and I’m sure we never will.

    I still have great gratitude for his goodness and wish him the best as he moves on with his life. I wouldn’t have my kids near him either, but I still associate with him online.

  63. Alison Moore Smith on September 6, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Thomas Parkin (#60), I don’t know why your comments were moderated. I just found all of them and released the first one. :)

    I think this has got it backwards. We do not exclude people because of their hobbies, but include people who share our interests.

    That’s why I explained opportunity cost. The principle states that the act of including one thing is, in fact, excluding all the alternatives.

    If you choose to hang out with someone who shares your interests, you simultaneously choose NOT to hang out with someone who does NOT share your interests. If you choose to hang out with jocks, you choose NOT to hang out with preps. :)

    I’m not saying that choosing to hang out with people with similar interests is wrong. But I’m saying that you should be MINDFUL of the choices you’re MISSING when you do so.

    For example, tonight I’ve been choosing to respond to comments and simultaneously choosing not to sleep. Probably not the best plan. :)

  64. Peter LLC on September 6, 2011 at 5:24 am

    Given that people are excluded every day (by all of us) for trivialities, annoyances, convenience, etc., it seems a very odd hard line to claim that it’s vile and hateful to exclude someone based on their beliefs or their behavior.

    Are you saying that because we tend to be shallow and cruel in our associations, it is not vile and hateful to exclude people based on their beliefs/behavior?

    If reflecting on the reasons we exclude others is to have any sort of salutary effect on our interpersonal relations, it seems the lesson we should be drawing would be along the lines of “Wow, I can’t believe I exclude others for such trivial reasons. I’m going to try harder to be more inclusive” and not “I feel okay about excluding others for trivial reasons and all the more so when I do so based on their beliefs!”

  65. Thomas Parkin on September 6, 2011 at 8:53 am

    “The principle states that the act of including one thing is, in fact, excluding all the alternatives.”

    I get that, honest. :)

    There is still a difference between actively excluding someone and actively including someone. Here’s an example. Say I want to have several people over to watch a hockey game. I invite all the people I can think of who might want to watch hockey with me. Was the bulk of people in my neighborhood excluded? Sure – I’m no Canadian – but my primary purpose was to include and the only reason I may have excluded was a lack of time or space. Now let’s say same party, but there is one neighbor who I think might want to watch a hockey game – but he happens to be gay. And so I intentionally, with purpose, don’t invite him. This is much closer to the situation we are talking about in church. It is even more intentional when we exclude in church, since those who show up have chosen to be there.

  66. Jax on September 6, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Thomas Parkin quoted me and then added:

    “I realized today that I exclude/avoid people who mumble.”

    Please refrain from public confession of sin.

    Which got a chuckle out of me, I thought it a good response. I hope you didn’t get this moderated because it was insulting, because I ran into that for something just as silly.

    But is excluding people, or avoiding them for whatever reason, a sin? I can’t come up with a reason it would be, but feel free to expound if you wish. We all do it, even Christ excluded people, so be careful when coming up with your reasoning behind it being a sin.

    My thoughtfulness while mowing the lawn led to a feeling described quite well by Peter LLC

    “Wow, I can’t believe I exclude others for such trivial reasons. I’m going to try harder to be more inclusive” and not “I feel okay about excluding others for trivial reasons and all the more so when I do so based on their beliefs!”

    Chadwick said:

    Why couldn’t we simply say the current prophet came to the pulpit, gave a talk on staying out of debt, and shared a personal experience wherein some bad decisions with said debt ruined his life, followed by the “yes, I overcame, but it sure would have been easier to have never gone there.” Would this really be so bad, in terms or relating to the Prophet as a human being?

    It wouldn’t be bad in terms of relating to him as a human, but many would justify their acquiring more debt because of it. “even the prophet did it” would be heard in many homes. There would be some good and some bad out of such a confession, and I think it’s obvious that the church leadership thinks the negatives far outweigh the positives. I think I do remember hearing a seventy tell about stealing a candy bar once as a child and his dad taking him back to the store, but I can’t guarantee it was a first person story.

    They follow the same principle with miracles they’ve seen. You just don’t hear them tell many stories about it. Elder Oaks described why by saying that while for some it prove to strengthen their faith, for others it would be inappropriate sign-seeking. Again they choose to avoid the negative aspects even though they avoid the possible positive as well.

  67. Sonny on September 6, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Thomas Parkin,

    “I personally would tend to exclude people who seem to be concerned with other people’s sins, as we’ve seen here. Such people produce discomfort everywhere they go. I know it is probably a mistake on my part to not being more generous with my time, but one does have to pick and choose. Time spent with such members reduces my opportunity to spend time with members less likely to be straining at my motes, or my beams.”

    FTW

  68. sterileabraham on September 6, 2011 at 9:46 am

    @#58

    In my high school there were also plenty of popular non-LDS people, but they were generally ones who kowtowed to pretty much every standard of behavior the Mormon Church teaches. They might be able to get get away with a coffee. But if they admitted to drinking a beer, it could very well lose them respect of their Mormon peers. No matter what they believed about swearing, they stood to lose a lot of friends if they decided to say “damn” with any regularity and if they dropped the s- or f-bombs, they could be ostracized.

    Those who, despite being good people, did not decide to comply with such standards were never very popular at all.

    And of course I didn’t mean to imply that I have a bunch of close friends who are felons. There are plenty of good people who have standards that are vastly different than our own. In my opinion, swearing has nothing to do with morality. Many of my friends swear dozens if not hundreds of times a day. Consuming alcohol, coffee, etc… certainly have nothing to do with standards of good behavior (unless you’re Mormon). And engaging in consensual sex does not make you a bad person either. Almost all of my non-Mormon friends have slept with someone to whom they were not married.

    Perhaps there is no problem with the Church’s counsel for us (especially youth) to choose friends who share high moral standards. But if we are to do so, it should be much more clear to the youth that not everything that we think of as a moral standard should be applied to others. It’s still okay to hang out with Eileen even if she had sex with her boyfriend last week. Walt says the f-word sometimes? If it bothers you that much, ask him to say it less (and assuming he’s a good person, he probably will). But don’t shun him for such a silly and arbitrary reason, especially if he’s making efforts to accommodate you. If Lewis drinks a beer every once in a while, it’s because he enjoys it. Tell him that you don’t want him to pressure you into doing the same.

    The way I see it, the Church should spend more effort teaching kids how to resist people’s attempts to get them to compromise their standards. It should teach youth that, no matter what their friends’ standards are, friends never ask friends to compromise their standards to stay friends. Is it any morally better for a Mormon to shun a kid in need of help because he’s sexually active than it is for a kid to shun a Mormon because she won’t drink a coffee?

  69. Alison Moore Smith on September 6, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Peter LLC #64:

    Are you saying that because we tend to be shallow and cruel in our associations, it is not vile and hateful to exclude people based on their beliefs/behavior?

    No. I’m not making a judgment call either way. I’m asking you to notice that since you exclude people, you should be conscious of how you do it. And I’m pointing out that excluding people for trivial reasons while castigating those who exclude for non-trivial reasons is a hard position to defend.

    But I disagree with the implication that excluding people is inherently “shallow and cruel,” unless you mean to say that it’s an absolutely necessary shallow and cruel activity. You have limited time. You simply cannot include everyone on earth in your life.

    “Wow, I can’t believe I exclude others for such trivial reasons. I’m going to try harder to be more inclusive” and not “I feel okay about excluding others for trivial reasons and all the more so when I do so based on their beliefs!”

    Absolutely! That’s what I hope we can do. Here’s the challenge, however. If you don’t exclude people based on trivial reasons and you don’t exclude them based on non-trivial reasons, how do you do the functionally necessary act of deciding which people you include and which you don’t?

    In Florida, two of my friends and I were excluded from a homeschool group we had served in for years. Not just randomly or accidentally excluded, but a new statement of faith was written specifically to exclude Mormons.

    Was I happy about it? No. It stunk. But the bottom line was that the other people in this huge group, didn’t want their kids influenced by Mormons. And that was their prerogative. They chose to associate with people who had the same fundamental concepts of God.

    Is that reasonable? Well, I don’t require my associates to have the same fundamental concepts of God that I do, but that criteria is probably as reasonable as any I have. In other words, I can’t really defend MY choices as being correct or superior to their choices. So I don’t try.

  70. Alison Moore Smith on September 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    sterileabraham (#68) you ask some great questions. That could be a great post all on it’s own. Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts.

    We had a similar, lively discussion in RS in Boca a few years ago. Who should you be friends with? Who should you stay away from? Should you stay away from anyone? What about kids, are they different? Is it because they are easily influenced? Are you easily influenced?

    I don’t have any great answers, except that I think it’s a PERSONAL decision. I have lots of nonmormon friends, but if my former evangelical homeschool friends didn’t want to hang out with Mormons, I have to leave that decision to them. And, I think, I have to be OK with letting them decide to exclude me based on what they feel is right for THEM.

    I don’t hate them for the decision and I don’t claim they are vile and evil. They are just making the best decisions they can with what they know.

    One of my kids had a friend in high school who was into drugs. Mostly pot and LSD and was experimenting. The only way he could stay clean was to completely, utterly, stay away from anybody who used any drugs at all. Ever. In other words, he completely excluded anyone who did drugs. That’s what was right for him.

    My daughter, was around this kid every day, even when he was using. She didn’t exclude him from her life and he was at our home quite a bit. He didn’t persuade her to use drugs. But she did tell him he was being stupid for doing destructive things. And he listened to her, at least for a period of time. She/we did not see a reason, under the circumstances, to exclude him.

    Different choices about excluding drug users that seem appropriate to the various circumstances. In my estimation, they were both good decisions.

    Over the past couple of years, I finally decided to write about the concerns I’ve had (since I was four!) about women in the church. Some people like it, some people hate it. Some people aren’t comfortable around me due to my statements and questions. Others call me and email me to talk about the issues that concern them and to feel understood.

    Who is right?

    I’m not remotely angry with those who don’t want to hang out with me because I question certain aspects of how women in the church are treated. They are doing what is best for them. They are choosing to be around people who are better for them. As it should be.

    If someone decides they want to stay away from people who are incessant gossips, I think that’s their prerogative. If they want to stay away from people who have eye-watering body odor, I think that’s their prerogative. If they want to stay away from people who drink alcohol, I think that’s their prerogative. If they want to stay away from people who cheat on his spouses, I think that’s their prerogative.

    I’m happy to tolerate different choices about associations. :)

  71. David H on September 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    “Example: If I am engaging in a social conversation with someone my kids to know is an adulterer, and they see me smiling, laughing and treating him like an old friend, then they think to themselves, ‘Well, even though Dad has told me to keep myself sexually clean, he obviously still has respect for so-and-so. I guess it is no big deal if I don’t.’”

    This is the same analysis, I am sure, used by critics of the Son of God who spent his time associating with those who committed grievous sins, including even those who violated the law of chastity.

    Perhaps Jesus’ critics were correct. Moreover, perhaps His association and friendship with and for sinners ought to be deemphasized. Is that why Amazing Grace is not in our hymnal? Or why we sing the words In Humility Our Savior” rather than “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners,” a great Protestant hymn. http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/j/e/jesuswaf.htm

    There have been, and even now are, couples in my ward who openly live together but are not married and who attend Church regularly. In my experience, they are treated no differently from anyone else. There are a fair number of people who investigate Mormonism who also openly live together without marriage, and they too are treated no differently from investigators who are abiding the law of chastity. I regret that I do not know of any openly GLBTQ individuals attending our ward, but if they were, I would be surprised if they were treated differently.

    Many of those individuals, while attending Church, decided to marry, and where a spouse was not already a member, to be baptized. And many have gone on to fill prominent positions in the ward.

    Is it true that because they violated the law of chastity that, although they repented, one or more of their children will also violate the law of chastity? Perhaps. But I know a fair number of people who violated the law of chastity even though their parents did not have premarital sex.

    In my ward, there are also a fair number of ex-felons who have done time in prison. I know this not because it is widely advertised, but because I learned it from them as I have developed friendships with these good brothers, who are among the most devoted and devout people I know. One asked me once if I wanted to know the crime for which he had been sent away for more than a decade–I told him it didn’t matter to me, that I didn’t particularly want to know, but that if he felt it would somehow be of benefit to himself, he could share.

    Alison raises good points about selecting friends. If I still had young children at home, I might have asked this good brother if he were a registered sex offender before inviting him to dinner.

    I also agree that for some of us, there may be friendships that can be harmful. I have served for many years in the addiction recovery program of the Church and in the community, and for most recovering addicts a disassociation with past links to their addiction, including some friendships, may be very important.

  72. Kristine on September 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Really?? There’s NO moral content involved in judgments about who to spend time with? All choices are equally (in)defensible?

    That is a startling position for someone who (presumably) believes the underlying moral of the parable of the Good Samaritan, Matthew 25, etc., or say, the injunction to be hospitable to strangers that runs through Old and New Testaments…

    It’s true that you can’t include everyone, but it seems to me that there is some imperative to try to include as many as you can, and particularly to reach out to those you might find distasteful.

  73. Velska on September 6, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    (I don’t use a spellchecker, so this may still include spilling mistakes. Hah! Old joke!)

    Again and again I’ll say that Jesus was a Friend of the sinners. He was criticised for dining with Pharisees; he was jeered for associating with tax collectors; he was reviled for having social intercourse with adulterers. All through that he did not revile the revilers. What an example! And he has been a real Friend to me.

    I had to go through a painful healing, because I was raised in a poisonous atmosphere, but one of the worst was seeing how my mother lied when she tried to show me a perfect picture of herself. For her, people were either totally good or totally evil. No grey area. So naturally my own weaknesses made me feel like I’m a complete failure.

    I’ve told my kids about my pre-LDS alcoholism and my relapse after years of sobriety. They saw me climb over that relapse and come out stronger. As far as I know, only one of our kids have been trying booze, and none smoke. If they did not have the best possible background, it was because of my shortcomings as a father when I was incapacitated by illness, not because they know I’ve had major challenges in personal life.

    We’re told in the BofM that Jesus experienced human weakness in order to know how to succor his people. I wonder if he ever had some repentance to do? I’d bet he did. At least he knew guilt. The Atonement could only be infinite, if the act didn’t require overcoming guilt. I could imagine the physical pain being less.

    I still think the only reason to exclude anyone from my circle is if they are a real threat to me and my family in an immediate way. Naturally we cannot include everyone, but if we acknowlege only the “perfect” people around us (as if there were any!), we create an atmosphere of hypocrisy. It’ll be obvious to anyone, that we’re in denial at least, if not outright hypocrites.

    I’m happy to say that even fairly “down-and-out” people come to our meetings, I guess because we’re friendly to them. But we could never create the illusion of perfection in our little Mission Branch, that would have made them feel inferior. I regularly talk to a homeless guy who begs on the streets. I give him the bus fare to get his shot (from the psych clinic), and talk with him a while and wait for the bus with him. It costs me very little time and money, but he’s especially happy to be recognised as a human being, not some lower animal. This probably doesn’t happen nearly often enough to make a real diffenence, but it’s taught me that everyone has something to contribute.

    I don’t think that “love thy neighbour as thyself” allows any exclusions based on our “moral” judgment. According to KJV, Christ told us not to judge, and JST changes that to “judge righteous judgment”. Now, I would really tip my hat to any human who’s capable of that. Here, the Apostles (nb! not everyone) were told to judge righteously in conflicts between members and whatnot. That was their job, and he set the bar high.

  74. Sonny on September 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Thomas again expressed what I have been able to do well, and that is making the distinction between actively excluding vs. actively including.

    As for our choice of interacting or not based solely on opportunity cost, let’s speculate for a minute. What might have been the Savior’s opportunity cost by spending a hefty amount of his time among sinners and those that were despised at the time? When I was on my mission, there were times when we would take the time to peddle our way out to a somewhat remote (by bike) group of houses to tract. What were the opportunity cost during those times? I wanted to give those that lived in those houses a chance to hear the message of the Gospel who otherwise may not have if I had decided to base my decision strictly on opportunity cost.

    Alison, I think the reason you hear people get worked up here when there is talk of ‘actively’ excluding some others because they may not currently be living the standards of the church as one sees them is because this type of exclusion goes on FAR too much already, and at least for me, I feel a need to reach out to those that are excluded in this manner. I feel strongly about it.

    There was a comment earlier:

    “The only people I consciously reject association with are those who openly, unapologetically practice those sins that can get you excommunicated – and I do that regardless of their membership.”

    Yet, you have not taken issue with this type of ‘active’ exclusion.

  75. Sonny on September 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    75)

    What I have *NOT* been able to do well.

    Sorry

  76. Alison Moore Smith on September 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    David H, thanks for your input and experiences. Lots to think about.

    Kristine #73:

    Really?? There’s NO moral content involved in judgments about who to spend time with? All choices are equally (in)defensible?

    I’m not sure what you are referring to. Could you clarify?

    I’ll take a stab at answering. I think there’s lots of moral content involved in such judgments. But there are two important points:

    (1) I’m not specifically trying to discuss those moral points in this post.

    (2) Speculating at the “moral points” of a specific, individual decision is fraught with problems.

    (3) Given that I don’t have to live another’s life, I’m generally fine being tolerant of the choices others make with regard to whom they associate with.

    For example, read my example of the kid on drugs (#70). I can think of lots of reasons, depending on the circumstances, why it would be WISE and GOOD to disassociate with someone who uses drugs. On the other hand, I can think of lots of reasons, depending on the circumstances, why it would be WISE and GOOD to continue that association. But I can’t imagine insisting that someone else choose either path.

    Similarly, I think most such decisions have many factors and declaring any of the outright wrong, NO MATTER the circumstances, isn’t reasonable.

    It’s true that you can’t include everyone, but it seems to me that there is some imperative to try to include as many as you can, and particularly to reach out to those you might find distasteful.

    I have to think about that first part. I don’t know if I think that’s imperative or not.

    “As many as you can” would mean not doing a lot of things that are also good. Don’t read a book, instead go out and meet people! :) Also, I love to be with people, to host parties, to attend events. But there are lots of people for whom “meeting as many people as they can” is terribly stressful.

    I think people can be engaged in lots of good works that don’t involve a requirement to include as many people in their lives as they can. In fact, some people are much better served by having a few very close friends (on both sides of the equation).

    As for reaching out to those you find distasteful, that’s an interesting topic.

    When I was 14 I read Catcher in the Rye. I LOVED it. And I LOVED that it was filled (compared to my experience at the time) with cursing. It was edgy. And it might bug my parents. And since I got it from THEIR bookshelf, they couldn’t really object. heh heh

    Finally, I made sure my mom knew I was reading it and asked what she thought. She just said, “I always figured that if I hadn’t read all the great books that aren’t filled with garbage, I probably don’t have time to read books filled with garbage.”

    I’ve thought about that for years and think it has an application to people as well. If there are really decent, uplifting, inspiring people around that I don’t have time for, do I have time for “distasteful” people? There are alway good, kind people who are lonely and need friends. Why not seek them out?

    OTOH, however, I see value in your position. I have a long-standing goal that every month I do an act of anonymous service for someone who I have a problem with or who said something unkind to me or someone who I don’t think I have anything in common with or who annoys me or…you get the picture. In other words, I’m not doing something for my best friends or people I adore or admire.

    I’ve been doing that semi-consistently for about two decades. The results have been very interesting. And almost always *I* come away thinking better of the person (which often has a domino affect). So I certainly think there is great value in reaching (way) beyond your comfort zone and beyond the associations you are inclined toward.

    Thanks for the input.

  77. Raymond Takashi Swenson on September 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    There is a difference between the people we associate with in the context of structured activities like work, education, and even public service, and the people we hang out with in our leisure time. There are plenty of people who are aggressive about their own views on morality and behavior, and if your give them your time, they will demand that you agree with them. That includes people who are ultra-self-righteous within our church or another church, and people who are pointedly anti-religious. Especially when we are concerned about the character formation of our children and grandchildren, we want the influences on their lives to reinforce morality and the ability to perceive spiritual influences.

    Among my siblings, two of the five of us had circles of friends that took them right out of the Church and, in one case, into criminal behavior. That brother is now in his 50s and is still a burden on everyone he associates with, including his ex-wives and his children. So based on my personal experiences and observations, I think there are very good reasons to be selective in the people one chooses to live with. And I can affirm that people like my brother are not anxious to spend time with people like me, either.

    It is not a kindness to self-destructive people to facilitate and enable them in their behaviors. I don’t go out of my way to denounce my brother or similar individuals. I have gone out of my way to help his family members, who have been victimized by him. And in both my personal experiences and my professional work in the criminal justice system, I have learned to have a healthy dose of skepticism about the self-justifying statements that many people offer for why they are being punished by society.

    I frankly think that some of the evil that injures good people is because they think the commandment to love our neighbors and enemies means we must trust what people like my brother tell us, even when it places our family members at risk. There are sadly many bishops and high council members who have so little experience of real evil that they have trouble even conceiving of it in the people they interview or whose cases they review in Church Disciplinary Councils (again, based on my own experience), and want to believe professions of repentance and reform even about serious sins (like pedophilia).

  78. Sonny on September 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Raymond,

    “I frankly think that some of the evil that injures good people is because they think the commandment to love our neighbors and enemies means we must trust what people like my brother tell us, even when it places our family members at risk.”

    I don’t have that misunderstanding at all (conflating trusting and loving others). Perhaps that is because I work with parolees.

  79. Jax on September 6, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    As the one who stated that I actively exclude people who are open and unapologetic about behavior that leads to excommunication, please let me “take issue”.

    2 Thes 3:6

    6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

    2 Tim 3:1-5

    1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

    2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

    3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

    4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

    5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 96.

    “Men who have no principle of righteousness in
    themselves, and whose hearts are full of
    iniquity, and have no desire for the principles of
    truth, do not understand the word of truth when
    they hear it. The devil taketh away the word of
    truth out of their hearts, because there is no
    desire for righteousness in them.” There are
    those who are evil people, and we should be able
    to discern such for the protection of the
    righteous.

    I don’t turn away people who aren’t open about serious sin, because obviously I don’t know about it. Nor do I avoid people who have made mistakes but are trying to overcome them (i.e., anyone willing to come to church). I don’t expect non-members to keep our WofW, or law of chastity, etc. I can’t condemn them for doing things that they haven’t covenanted NOT to do. But anyone who comes to my house knows that there will be no smoking/drinking within sight of my house, and that will continue as long as I have young children at home (under 10-12). After that age I might loosen up.

    I don’t and probably never will socialize with adulterers. I will be happy be nice to them at church, will home teach them if assigned, and will say hello to them at the store, but they won’t be invited over. If they were willing to lie and cheat to a spouse, they are going to lie to me or cheat me as well, and I don’t need that in my life. There are plenty of people for me to socialize with whom I can trust, I don’t need to spend my time with the ones I can’t.

    When my family situation changes, my standards of association will change as well I suspect. If you are in a situation where you don’t have concerns about the influences in your children’s lives, then please reach out to and comfort those that need it, but that I can’t.

  80. Kristine on September 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    There’s a world of difference between saying that one is not capable, for whatever reason (fighting drug addiction, protecting children, etc.) of showing the sort of hospitality that the Savior commanded and modeled, and seeking to declare one’s weakness a virtue and be _proud_ of the unwillingness or inability to associate with lepers, prostitutes, adulterers, and the other sorts of people who made up Jesus’ most frequent associates.

  81. Sonny on September 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Jax,

    So if I understand your clarification correctly, the main reason for the minimal and limited interaction with those that have sinned the sins you describe is because you view it the will of the Lord for us to do so and not so much as simply an opportunity cost as Alison describes?

  82. sterileabraham on September 6, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    I’m not a particularly pleasant person. I have a very hard time keeping friends (especially Mormon friends) who have any interest in spending time with me or conversing with me given the choice of just about any other person. So maybe that’s why I react this way to anyone saying that it’s okay to categorically reject people based on this criterion or that.

    If there’s nothing morally questionable about choosing not to care about this person or that, what happens to people who are less appealing friends than others?

    One could argue that ostracism of racial minorities (so long as it is not reinforced by written policy or law) is perfectly acceptable if choosing friends is truly a personal decision that should never be questioned by another as suggested in #70. I don’t think it is, and I imagine that no one here thinks it is either. People make decisions for dumb reasons. And when people act based on flawed logic or flawed standards, I believe it is appropriate to point out the flaws.

  83. Jax on September 6, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    I would say it is a mixture of both Sonny. With those who have covenanted to live higher laws, but willingly and unrepetantly break them I think it is the Lord’s commandments that we “turn away” or “withdraw” ourselves from. For those who have done the misdeed, but want to turn from it I believe the hand of fellowship and forgiveness has and should be extended. This is very, very rare in my life.

    Usually it is a cost analysis like Alison is pointing out, just not real calculated as such. I only have so much time, and so I spend it as wisely as I can. The time I apportion to leisure/amusement I choose not to fill up in the company that make me mad/uncomfortable/sad/etc. Not all of the “free” time I choose to dedicate to leisure though. Large portions of my free time I dedicate to church type stuff; reading/study, calling people who weren’t at church to see if they are alright, geneology/temple, going out with our missionaries, etc. So when I admit that I avoid people that mumble (which is a new realization for me) it isn’t malicious. I still spend that time talking to ward members and visitors, I just don’t talk to that one individual (as much as I should). Others who have a better ability to understand him do talk with him. If I noticed that nobody ever talked to him I would make a point of speaking to him.

  84. Chino Blanco on September 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    With those who have covenanted to live higher laws, but willingly and unrepentantly break them I think it is the Lord’s commandments that we “turn away” or “withdraw” ourselves from.

    So, if your RM son stops paying tithing, it’s your job to cut him off from his family. Sounds like the Mormon church I know. Gotta love the respect for voluntary association. Oh well, fits right in with the muddle-headed defense of mindless majoritarianism that is this post.

  85. Ray on September 6, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    I am speaking Sunday about the question in Alma 5 about making a mock of others and about serving those we naturally would not serve.

    It’s an interesting assignment, given what I have read in this thread.

  86. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Raymond #78:

    I frankly think that some of the evil that injures good people is because they think the commandment to love our neighbors and enemies means we must trust what people like my brother tell us, even when it places our family members at risk.

    I absolutely agree. And not just trusting those that don’t deserve trust, but “being nice” when someone is engaging in something evil. When the women (from the story I linked to) brought her husband back into her home — WITH her 13-year-old the man had sexually abused, contrary to the law, with a restraining order in place — NO ONE stood up and said, “Hey, get the creep out of your house and away from your daughter or I’m calling the cops.” Instead, they were nice and friendly and smiley. While the girl was, again, raped by her stepfather.

    And then, when he molested the girl again and killed himself, they rewarded the enabler by redecorating her house. Wow, how NICE of them!

    There are sadly many bishops and high council members who have so little experience of real evil that they have trouble even conceiving of it in the people

    This is so, so, so true. But I understand it. It wasn’t until I was in my late 30s that I had actual, personal experience with really evil people. Honestly, my husband and I were both totally blown away. We had always really believed that most people are good and most people will do what’s right when it’s important.

    Now, we honestly believe that people are pretty good when it’s easy and there is no personal consequence. They act out of expedience. Many will do the most horrendous things and most others will simply sit by and let them happen.

    Experience has utterly changed our worldview. We see corruption for what it is. When the politics in Eagle Mountain were thick with cronyism and payoffs and favors (and arrests and scandal and indictments) most of our good neighbors seemed shocked. We could see it coming a mile away, because all the signs were readily apparent.

    I think our view is more accurate now, but it was a much more pleasant view when we were less experienced.

  87. Velska on September 7, 2011 at 11:35 am

    I’m so sad, that Chino‘s comment about “the Church [he] know[s]” can be true in some instances.

    I’m so happy that I had understanding priesthood leaders and family members, who supported my repentance. But even unrepentance should not condemn and shun someone. If they are not in reality a threat to us, we can be loving neighbours, and let them know that the door is always open.

    According to Joseph Smith, to become a “son of Perdition” is something quite different than having been dealt a crappy hand and walking away from the table because of that. (I hope the metaphor is understandable?) Few people in the end will choose Satan’s side with full knowlege. That’s what it would take, as I understand it. (This is the only way our judgment can be just as well as merciful.)

    Oh, well. I apologise in behalf of those, who have not been the loving neighbours they should have been. I’m so sorry that people need to suffer from others’ mistakes, but I don’t know how we could avoid it.

  88. Mary B. on September 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    “Many will do the most horrendous things and most others will simply sit by and let them happen.”

    Thanks for saying that. An older man in our ward has for years been very friendly with the women and young women in a “hugging, touching, arm-grabbing, sexual comments, winks” kind of way. He was in a different ward from me prior to a realignment in ward boundaries. I was shocked by his behavior and surprised at how ward members excused it. After experiencing his behaviors personally (he seemed to focus on me in particular, staring, etc), and towards my daughters, I went to the Bishop and told him that it is harrassment and needs to stop. The Bishop chastized him privately. The man has since stopped coming to church. I have put myself through a lot of soul-searching as if I drove him away. I generally conclude that he alone is responsible for his actions, but this concept of “being nice to everyone” can be powerful.

  89. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Kristine (#81) I didn’t see anyone claiming to be “proud” of being unwilling to hang out with certain people. Instead I’ve seen people making reasoned decisions about how they spend their time and energy.

    sterileabraham #83:

    So maybe that’s why I react this way to anyone saying that it’s okay to categorically reject people based on this criterion or that.

    I appreciate what you share, sterileabraham (and, yes, your moniker makes me wonder!). Mostly I simply feel completely unqualified to tell anyone else with whom they should spend their limited time. How could I possibly have the information to insist upon such a thing? More to the point, what would it look like? “Hey, you, I want you to be friends with her. NOW!”

    If someone, like my daughter’s friend, needed to stay away from ANYONE who had ANYTHING to do with drugs, then let him decide. If someone needs to stay away from anyone who messes around to stay morally clean, let them decide. If someone has had their reputation damaged by a gossip, let them decide if they are willing to risk being around gossips again.

    If there’s nothing morally questionable about choosing not to care about this person or that, what happens to people who are less appealing friends than others?

    It hasn’t been suggested (at least not by me, I haven’t read all the responses) that we should “not care about” particular people. We are commanded to “love” everyone. But we aren’t commanded to spend time with everyone, to include everyone in our lives, to hang out with everyone. We can’t and we don’t.

    So, the short answer is: the people who are less appealing friends have fewer friends unless/until they become more appealing friends or have something to offer in the way of friendship.

    One could argue that ostracism of racial minorities (so long as it is not reinforced by written policy or law) is perfectly acceptable if choosing friends is truly a personal decision that should never be questioned by another as suggested in #70.

    I wouldn’t say I suggested decisions should “never be questioned,” but the venue for doing such is important, and the stewardship.

    If I had a child who was excluding a particular kid from church or school, I would ask them why and see if it was reasonable. (I don’t force my kids to hang out with people who bully them or belittle others, etc.)

    When my kids have birthday parties and such, we make sure we include ALL the kids from whatever segment are being invited. One boy in our neighborhood calls my son his “best buddy” simply because we always invite him to things, even though my boy doesn’t ever see him at church, rarely at scouts, and not at school. I would never invite an entire scout troop or class, excluding only one or two, or something like that.

    If I had a neighbor who was excluding minorities, I wouldn’t march over tell them they should do otherwise. As if insisting that they start socializing with, say, blacks would do any good. If they displayed language or behavior that was racist, I would speak up against it, BECAUSE I find it repugnant. Once I spoke up and took my kids and left a party where racist epithets were being used.

    That’s interesting in the course of this discussion. Unless I addressed this particularly, I don’t think anyone here would have been angry at me for speaking up against racist behavior. But if will change the word “racist behavior” for a host of other behaviors that only SOME admit to finding morally repugnant, they’d be castigated and name-called for doing the same thing.

    I guess that’s exactly why I think these decisions are best left to the individuals

    I spoke up and then left a party BECAUSE I did not want to tolerate racist behavior and I did not want my kids to see it and I did not want them to think it was acceptable.

    If someone else wants to leave a party because they don’t want to tolerate a behavior THEY find morally objectionable, I accept their decision.

  90. Chino Blanco on September 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    If someone else wants to leave a party because they don’t want to tolerate a behavior THEY find morally objectionable, I accept their decision.

    This last bit is why it’s impossible to take you seriously, Alison. Your fallback position seems to be that as long as someone, somewhere is taking moral umbrage at something, you’re cool with whatever transpires as a result.

    I mean, if your kid was at a party and started showing off his CTR ring to his classmates, you’d be OK if your fundie neighbors grabbed their kids and high-tailed it for the exits?

  91. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Chino, I have a long-held policy of allowing anyone and everyone to comment without censorship. I appreciate various points of view and input from all sides. I believe there is value in giving people a venue to discuss issues, problems, etc. In eight years of blogging, I have banned ONE person from Mormon Momma, bleeped a handful of curse words, and never even threatened as much on T&S or any other place I’ve blogged.

    I know you have a truckload of chips on your shoulders about the church. I get it. Authors and readers here have been excessively tolerant. In spite of the trollish crap you dish, I’ve ignored it and let it ride. I’m done.

    If you want to contribute in a sincere, civil, and decent manner, I welcome it. If not, find another venue. If your future comments on my posts have even a hint of snark, they’ll be deleted without comment.

    Happy trails.

  92. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Chino #91:

    I mean, if your kid was at a party and started showing off his CTR ring to his classmates, you’d be OK if your fundie neighbors grabbed their kids and high-tailed it for the exits?

    YES, I’d be Ok with it. It’s happened. Maybe you should READ before you write. I’ve already addressed that.

    There’s a difference between LIKING a result and HOPING for a result and being TOLERANT of the results that come from allowing others the same freedom I want.

    I’m sure as heck not going to get my knickers in a twist insisting that my neighbors hang out with me, even if they don’t LIKE me. Even if it’s because of a CTR ring.

    Chino, it seems to me you’re pretty big on tolerance — for your own positions, at least.

  93. Chino Blanco on September 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Alison- I trust you’ll at least allow me to respond to your #93.

    The reality is that my objection to your being OK with such obnoxious behavior has nothing to do with whatever chips might be on my shoulder.

    The conundrum I’d invite you to ponder is how progress can ever be made as long as we’re all OK with every eventuality. For example, I’d really like to see sharp gals like yourself treated better by organizations that rely on your involvement. But here you are suggesting that whatever treatment comes down the pike is just something to be tolerated. I’d humbly suggest that the first step in making things get better involves having some critical reaction to what others deem OK. If progress is to be made, it can’t always be OK. At some point, somebody has to put a foot down and say, that’s NOT OK.

    Capiche?

  94. KLC on September 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    “At some point, somebody has to put a foot down and say, that’s NOT OK.”

    CB for a good example of this see comment #92.

  95. Jax on September 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Chino,

    in response to #85, my answer that you quote relates to my saying I avoid people who unrepentantly commit sins that would get you excommunicated. Anyone you know ever been exed for not paying tithing?
    Even if my RM son came home and got some girl pregnant, if he showed some real remorse and acknowledged his mistake then I still wouldn’t “cut him off” from the family.

    However, if he came home and started sleeping with girls and didn’t show remorse, but tried to justify it or tell me I was ‘old fashioned’ …etc, then yes I would cut him off until all of my other children were grown and gone. I wouldn’t want him in the house telling his siblings why he thinks his actions are okay, because one of them might just believe him despite anything I could say. I’m more worried about the negative effect of example he might have on someone innocent, then the negative effect of rejection on he who is guilty.

  96. Mommie Dearest on September 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Chino, consider yourself normal, like everyone else who’s blind to their own bad behavior. I’ve been dismayed while reading this thread for some of the same reasons you are, but from my own perspective. I just haven’t found the time to write a comment that isn’t just me shooting from the hip, fueled by my own hurt feelings.

    I think we have a huge problem with exclusionary behavior in church culture. Because we have all been taught that “Jesus said love everyone” it’s quite common for some to go to great lengths to justify, obfuscate, and outright deny that we behave contrary to what we’ve been taught. Truth be told, it’s very natural. I think it’s ingrained in the human psyche, it’s part of social behavior in all cultures, and it’s inherently moral, meaning that it has meaning in a moral sense, and also that there are different moral consequences for all the choices (about including and excluding) people are faced with, regardless of which ones they choose. I think fondly of our Heavenly parents when contemplating the design of such a system.

    And most of the time, I believe we decide to include or exclude people based on how much we love them. I know I do. I went through some internal turmoil when a dear friend decided to get married to his boyfriend in California right before Prop 8 passed. Long story short, I decided that there was no instruction that gave me permission to add to his cumulative pain, and plenty that forbade me from it, so I went to the festivities and was happy to give a gift. The point is, because I loved him, I felt bad about causing him pain. Because I love me, I excuse a lot of my rationalizing. What’s the real answer? I haven’t reached many conclusions so far, but I think the Lord wants to see us experiencing this learning process.

    Thus I am sympathetic to Alison when she says that she accepts everyone’s agency to decide how they will approach their own including/excluding of others. We’re all somewhere on this learning curve, more or less together.

    Having said that, the fact remains that we have a huge problem with exclusionary behavior in the church.

  97. Chino Blanco on September 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    You know, Mommie Dearest, you sound sincere, so rather than the snarky reply I gave Jax, I’m gonna lay some truth on you: I ran away to do good. After two years alone in New York with no contact from my family, I shared the graduation platform with this guy. He’s at CUNY explaining why folks like me fail to recognize the conservative fascination with purity, respect for authority, and loyalty to the ingroup… and I’m here talking to you. Jesse headed to the University of Chicago and I checked out and bought a ticket out of the country to build a life in Asia from nothing because I wanted to prove I could truly start from nothing after losing my Mormon family for no other reason than who I am. No regrets, I’ve landed on my feet, and my little family is the bomb, but I wonder how many other otherwise good kids wound up faring much worse because somebody told them their lack of belief wasn’t welcome back home.

  98. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Chino #94:

    The reality is that my objection to your being OK with such obnoxious behavior has nothing to do with whatever chips might be on my shoulder.

    The reality is that I don’t have objections to objections — or even periodic sarcasm or hyperbole — it’s the incessant snark.

    The conundrum I’d invite you to ponder is how progress can ever be made as long as we’re all OK with every eventuality.

    You’re equivocating. I made clear that being “OK” with something, in the way I used it, didn’t mean I liked it or wanted it to happen. It meant I could ACCEPT the fact that others had made the decisions they did — even if they personally hurt me.

    How can progress be made? In specifics, it’s difficult. Like I said, trying to insist that a racist neighbor start hanging out with blacks isn’t going to be helpful.

    In general, however, given an appropriate opportunity, however, I might be able to DISCUSS racism and help him/her understand the problem. Maybe it will change something. I could use more public forums to address what I see as a problem. I can teach my children not to be racist. I can show, by example, that skin color should be meaningless.

    With regard to having Mormons intentionally written out of the group, I didn’t scream and have a fit. I didn’t tell them they were bigots and Mormonophobes. I joined up with some others to do homeschool events (mostly Jews and UUs, etc.). When given the chance, I still associated with the (mostly) evangelicals who “shunned” us. Tried to be civil, polite, decent. That’s about it.

    Some of them were “won over.” (I’m still friends with two of the families.) Some weren’t. C’est la vie.

    I’d humbly suggest that the first step in making things get better involves having some critical reaction to what others deem OK. If progress is to be made, it can’t always be OK. At some point, somebody has to put a foot down and say, that’s NOT OK.

    I agree. But you must first actually be OPEN to the debate itself. You can’t just ASSUME your position and demand that others fall in line. If I decide (and I haven’t) that EVERYONE absolutely MUST hang out with MORMONS, then I’ve got to hear the possible objections, consider them, and then adjust when necessary.

    For example, I’m not thrilled with the position of women in the LDS church — although I’m an active LDS woman. But I haven’t demanded that I be ordained or that we get a prophetess. I’m actually OPEN to the idea that God has determined that women aren’t included in that at this point. I hope it’s different, but I’m not coming into the discussion entrenched in what I want.

    So, let me address that same issue with homosexuals. Chino, I have homosexual friends. (Cliche or not, I’ve been a performer since I was a teenager and some of my kids are performers…) Some of my gay friends are friends I’ve had since junior high and some I’ve been through the adolescent struggles of figuring out who they were.

    Although I’m not gay and don’t have any close family members who are — so I’m not claiming some really intimate understanding of the issues involved — I do have empathy for what I have seen and understand. As I’ve said many times before, *personally* I would welcome a change in church policy that accepted homosexual relationships. I’m not saying that to be PC, I sincerely feel that way and have since one of my very good high school friends went through years of trying to be the good Mormon kid (including going to BYU and going on a mission and dating girls) before he just gave up and left the church…and found a man he loves.

    My feelings aside, I already accept the idea that God decides what is moral and what is immoral, not my preferences. Therefore, I am OPEN to the idea that the proscription against homosexuality is not just a cultural artifact. I’m OPEN to the idea that he actually could declare man/woman/married sex as the ONLY appropriate sex. I’m OPEN to the idea that our feelings and desires can’t always be the highest indicator of what SHOULD happen.

    I realize I don’t have much skin in the game when it comes to decisions about homosexuality. But I do with regards to women in the church and lots of other issues. I try to be consistent in the approach I think is moral, even when it’s to my disadvantage.

  99. Velska on September 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I probably shouldn’t say this now (lots of hot air already).

    However, there is an irony when people, whose main call is for tolerance (often with good reason), are condemning people who do not condemn a certain kind of behavior strongly enough out of hand. Now, talking about pedophiles, for example–there would be a “class” of people (if one could possibly to simply classify them as such, which usually isn’t possible for anyone closely familiar) one wouldn’t like to have around one’s children w/o some surveillance.

    There usually are no personal traits/properties that could be used to create a simple class of people like “child molesters”. They’re not all rich or poor, black or yellow, Dems or Repubs, short or tall. Whatever they have in common is between their ears; nothing besides behavior sets them apart, and that is demonstrable only after the fact. And then we overreact by forbidding them to reside practically anywhere.

    Still I must confess that I refuse to believe that it is violence against gay people to not allow them the legal status of marriage, if there is a civil union that is equal to marriage in everything but the name. At least, any more than it is violence to make people of faith swallow the decision dictated by a vocal minority. (Of course most “regular” people will say it’s okay with them rather than spend their time defending themselves against personal attacks).

    “What’s in a name?” could be asked of anyone involved–myself I don’t care if we call it marriage. I will still have my faith, and I guess it won’t be so difficult for kids to figure out that there’s something different in their friends who have two mommies/daddies, regardless of what they call it.

    The parliaments/congresses of the world hardly can compel people’s faith, try as they might. Faith should not, can not be legislated by fiat. So my response would ultimately be, “who cares?” Everyone involved would know what’s happening, regardless.

    The pot can call the kettle black as much as it wants. They’ll still look the same colour to the cook.

    P.S. In Italy, people in Parma/Reggio Emilia area forced through a legislation in Italian Parliament and European Commission forbidding anyone to call their cheese Parmiggiano (AKA Parmesan), unless they are “local” enough. This was seen as a smart marketing move. People, who had called and sold their cheese for generations as Parmiggiano/Reggiano could not do it any more. A win – lose proposition is always a loss for either one–or both.

  100. Chino Blanco on September 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Alison, you’re deleting my comments. Offer me an assurance that you’ll stop that behavior and I’ll reply to your comment.

  101. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Chino, please read comment #92 for clarification.

  102. Chino Blanco on September 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Just for clarification’s sake, I think you meant #92.

  103. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Yes, I did. Thank you. Corrected.

  104. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    KLC (#95), spot on.

    Mommie Dearest #97:

    Because we have all been taught that “Jesus said love everyone” it’s quite common for some to go to great lengths to justify, obfuscate, and outright deny that we behave contrary to what we’ve been taught.

    I think you’re right. I’d rather openly discuss what we actually do, which is why I wrote this post.

    That said, I think the implication that the church expects or demands that we put on the “be nice” with everyone, no matter what, is untrue. Try standing and yelling in General Conference and see if the prophet nods and smiles happily at you. :)

    I really love your thoughtful response. Thank you for the great contribution.

    And most of the time, I believe we decide to include or exclude people based on how much we love them.

    Very insightful. Often, that is very completely true — if selfish, at the core.

    I have seen situations, like the stereotypical movie plot, that involves someone convincing someone they love desperately to leave, because they believe it’s better for the other person. I’ve seen people disassociate with the only people they think care about them, in order to try to start a new life. (Think gang kids trying to change the situation.)

    I haven’t reached many conclusions so far, but I think the Lord wants to see us experiencing this learning process.

    Amen.

  105. simplysarah on September 7, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Re #3 – “She wasn’t so much concerned about them having sex while they visited, but she didn’t want to communicate to her children that grandpa sleeping in the same bed as his “friend” was okay. Naturally, it was an awkward weekend for the adults involved, but for her it allowed her to express her disapproval of her father’s life choices while not rejecting him in his role as her father.”

    How incredibly manipulative. I can’t think of a better way to teach children that your love for them is most likely also conditional.

    When I moved in with my boyfriend (I am a 30 y/o ex-mormon), my favorite brother-in-law called to tell me he wouldn’t help me even if I asked him to (I hadn’t), because he disapproved my choice. His opinion didn’t affect my decision in the slightest; it did, however, affect my respect for him and it also successfully diminished the comfort and pleasure of being in one another’s presence at every family gathering.

    Meanwhile, my father (who has served as a stake and mission president) somehow found it in his heart to *volunteer* to help me move.

    Which one strikes you as more Christian?

  106. Sonny on September 7, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    #106)
    simplysarah,

    “Which one strikes you as more Christian?”

    I think you question nails what is at the core of all the back and forth on this thread.

  107. Sonny on September 7, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    *your question*, not *you question*

    My proofreading is horrible.

  108. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    When I was 15 I told my parents I was going to inject heroin, whether they approved or not. Since they couldn’t follow me 24/7, they knew I’d do it.

    My parents told me they wouldn’t help me shoot up even if I asked them to (I hadn’t), because he disapproved of my choice.

    Meanwhile, my best friend somehow found it in her heart to *volunteer* to get me the drugs and supplies — and a cool crack house to boot.

    Which one strikes you as more Christian?

    If you’re a heroine lover, replace shoot up with “jump off a cliff” or “stick my head in a vat of boiling oil” or “rob a bank” or “burn down a building” or “abuse a child” and add appropriate details.

    The implication that “unconditional love” — or Christianity — requires people to do what you want them to do — including actively and tenderly participating in helping you do things they believe to be harmful/immoral/sinful — is the manipulative part.

  109. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Everyone, since we’re past the 100 mark and I won’t have time in the next day or two to keep up with commenting, I’m going to close down the post comments.

    Thank you for the thoughtful comments and insights. Much appreciated.