The Church Should Not Be Your Project

In Latter-day Saint parlance “making somebody your project” is the act of approaching your relationship with them mechanistically; only viewing your relationship with them through your ability to get them from point A to point B spiritually, and generally it’s frowned upon because the friendship is insincere.  

On a similar note, I sense that some people problematically approach their relationship with the Church as a “project.” For the purposes of this analogy, these people are primarily interested in the Church as a potential vector for their personal ideological or political views. Given the influence the Church can have on its members (which I think is less than commonly believed on both the right and the left, but another post for another day), capturing the General Conference pulpit or First Presidency Statement is highly appealing to people who want to vector it towards their own ideological or political ends. 

These people may be members. However, although they may tout things like their pioneer ancestry or mission experiences to show off their cultural bona fides, as a shibboleth to say I’m one of you and gain admittance into the realm of the orthodox, you often get the sense their affiliation is mostly sociocultural or familial rather than stemming from actual belief in the truth claims. 

However, their attempts at reformation are often incredibly paternalistic to the targets. In the same sense that ward council projects often treat people as two dimensional statistics, efforts to change culturally conservative church members often treat them as Footloose caricatures waiting in small towns for enlightenment instead of 3-dimensional, complex human beings with reasons and experiences underlying their beliefs. 

You can see this attitude in regards to the people who lobby for revelation, implicitly treating the process as something stemming from grassroots pressure (which is very different from grassroots inquiry—so don’t @ me about Zelophehad’s daughters or Emma and the Word of Wisdom). They are so desperate for that revelation or statement precisely because it has God’s imprimatur for the orthodox in a way that an article published in Dialogue does not (by multiple orders of magnitude). However, they themselves don’t treat that imprimatur with the seriousness that the orthodox do. They are willing to pocket the potential gains  of lobbying a  very top-down church without actually adhering to the structural premises that make such lobbying so potentially powerful. 

Ironically, the very conservative structural elements such figures fight against such as hierarchy, standardization, respect for authority, and centralization, are the very principles that make the institution and its leadership a tempting target for attempted ideological capture, whereas a Church based on Dialogue and Sunstone articles just wouldn’t have the same kind of institutional traction (“the Book of Mormon is probably a 19th century fabrication, but we need you to commit to 100% ministering this month…”). Whether they intend to or not, what is subtly communicated here is that the simple orthodox members are the rubes that will just “follow the prophet,” while the theological, intellectual thought leaders can convince the leadership to get a revelation, wink wink that will then benefit from the energy of the orthodox to actualize the theology to a particular end. 

Like how an overeager ministering brother might maintain an artificial veneer of friendship for the notch in the belt, so too can Church reformers maintain the veneer of involvement or belief, and act like they’re operating from sincere Latter-day Saint belief, when it’s painfully obvious they’re just prooftexting Latter-day Saint scriptures to drive home a conclusion clearly derived from elsewhere. That’s not to say that external sources can’t ever be used in in-house discussions, but it’s clear when the external influence is the primary thing, and not the gospel. It’s better to be sincere about one’s stance vis-a-vis the theological and historical particulars of the Church and engage in discussion on those grounds than to invoke a genetic or cultural heritage and then try to shape the Church around your alternative faith. 

If one sincerely believes in the Church’s truth claims, which also implies giving credit to its structurally conservative elements such as belief in top-down revelatory authority, then that’s a different, interesting issue of how far God allows fallibility before He would remove the presiding authority, to paraphrase Wilford Woodruff. Presumably the further off-base one believes that prophet is, the harder it is to logically maintain that you are sincere in your belief about the Church. Maybe another post for another day, but generally speaking if you argue that the Church as an institution is doing more harm than good, I have a hard time seeing your claims of affiliation or adherence to the institution as anything more than a rhetorical ploy.

Also, as a non-believer in its religious claims, attempts to reform a religious institution along the lines of what you think it should be is disrespectful to that belief system and its adherents. For example, it would be uncouth for me to try to ingratiate myself with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and try to “reform” them away from their eclectic biblical interpretations because I like aspects of their culture and see a lot of potential in being able to direct their army of pavement pounders into, say, marching for migrant rights. That’s not their main thing that they’re about, and me trying to warp their belief system to vector their social influence into my ends would be completely inappropriate. 

Treating the Church as a project also raises a utilitarian concern about whether it’s worth the opportunity cost relative to other places that energy could be spent. It’s pretty clear that attempts to lobby the Church are usually ineffective at best, and backfire at worst (even with the revocation of the priesthood and temple ban, it’s not clear to what extent grassroot pressure helped), so even granting the correctness of such efforts for the sake of argument, it’s arguable how much bang for the buck such efforts yield.  It’s one category if one is a believing, practicing member and want to raise an issue that is being overlooked (for example, women praying in General Conference), but an entirely different one if you’re essentially theologically outside the premises of the Church and are treating it like any other institution that is ripe for reform and enlightenment. In that case, there are plenty of other institutions that could more effectively use such efforts.  

Finally, we are blessed to live in a rich marketplace of ideas and religions. I would feel more sympathy for people trying to reform the Church if it was the only option, but with so many others out there it seems that such efforts are a bit of a waste. You can exert energy to (try to) make the Church a version of the Episcopalians or Community of Christ, or you can use those efforts and energy to meaningfully help build up those communities that are a better fit for you theologically. Heaven knows they could use a non-believing cultural Mormon with a 100% ministering record. 

 

54 comments for “The Church Should Not Be Your Project

  1. So to sum up: If you want to change the church, just give up and join another church.

    To be honest, I agree with you. My family and I left the church last year. We tried for years to figure out how to make it all work as liberal more nuanced members, and we realized we were unwilling to wait for the church to change. What surprised me is how little the local leaders cared that we left. After decades of dedicated service in callings, they said thanks we will miss you, but no attempt was made to resolve our concerns or talk us out of it. Very few of our former ward members and neighbors have asked about why we have left or seem to care that we have.

    So if you are where we were before leaving, don’t be afraid to walk away.

  2. There were things in the past I wanted the Church to change, but the message I got from the Holy Ghost was, “Hang in there, it’s being worked on.” Many things have changed over time, especially in the past few years. Some I expected, some I didn’t but understand. Some I still anticipate, but I’m not going to get worked up over them, or start or sign any online petitions. For me, it’s a matter of faith that things will eventually work out.

  3. Brian G, I imagine you’ve been on the other side of that fence, and could appreciate that maybe those now-former ward members might just have been afraid to strike up a conversation about it because they don’t know if that would just anger you more. Besides, would you have really seen it as an earnest attempt to resolve concerns, or as a cynical effort to keep you down? And, if any of them are like me, unless they were good friends with you to begin with it seems like such a personal decision that I would not ask why you left – that just isn’t something (I think) one asks in polite conversation!

  4. Again, the contempt.

    Same as Brian G, I have absolutely no hope the church will ever change in the way I want it to change.

    I would love to know if my suggestions for improvement (I have never demanded anything of the church and likewise don’t associate with anyone that does though I don’t doubt such people exist) are valid. But in order to do so I’ll need to understand your definition of non-believer.

    Are those that believe the Book of Mormon is historical but refused to listen to the Prophet’s admonition to be vaccinated and wear a mask believers? Is there a statistic with respect to your ministering assignment involved in determining the status? How about how frequently you attend the temple? What if you watch rated R movies? Attend BYU? Drink Diet Coke? Served a mission? Wear a blue shirt to church?

    All this to say, it sounds like you just wish I didn’t exist.

  5. @Brian, I was trying to thread a needle and maybe didn’t succeed. The point wasn’t “only stay if the Church is as you want it,” or “how dare you want change in the Church,” but rather a much more narrow “if you fundamentally don’t believe in the Church’s claims, and are only in it in order to change it around your views (i.e. it’s your project), then your efforts would probably be better spent elsewhere.” 
    As mentioned in the OP, the case of the believing member who recognizes the fallibility of the institution is a separate category. To second Adam F, religion is something famously people don’t talk about in polite company, so while it might have been more Christ-like for them to reach out after that major life change, a can see why a lot of people just like to avoid awkward conversation, and the baseline assumption might be that people who leave might prefer it if they’re left alone about their beliefs (I know that would be my assumption towards a neighbor who left the Church). In regards to the bishop, if Brian G’s concerns were something above his paygrade I could also see him not feeling enthusiastic about responding, since it’s not like he could do anything about it anyway even if he wanted to. Whatever the case, I wish you peace in your new journey. 

  6. @Chadwick: What is a non-believer is is a big enough issue to be its own post (and the definition of “project” could be refined as well if I wanted to make it a legal document), but sure, for the purposes of this OP just imagine somebody who clearly does not hold to any of the truth claims by any definition, and is only in the Church to change it around themselves.

  7. There are so many points which are problematic. Here are a few I take issue with…

    You said,

    “However, their attempts at reformation are often incredibly paternalistic to the targets. In the same sense that ward council projects often treat people as two dimensional statistics, efforts to change culturally conservative church members often treat them as Footloose caricatures waiting in small towns for enlightenment instead of 3-dimensional, complex human beings with reasons and experiences underlying their beliefs.”

    Here you have shifted criticism of the church to be criticism of its members. You’ve alluded that a few times in this article. Critical review of the church can be separate from its members.

    You said,

    “Whether they intend to or not, what is subtly communicated here is that the simple orthodox members are the rubes that will just “follow the prophet,” while the theological, intellectual thought leaders can convince the leadership to get a revelation, wink wink that will then benefit from the energy of the orthodox to actualize the theology to a particular end.”

    Again, this excuses the church from any criticism because the you create a situation that to be critical to the church is to offend the orthodox believer. According to you, f a member disagrees with the church and publicly state their disbelief, they are no longer an orthodox believer.

    This further creates a scenario that to be considered an orthodox member, a person must believe everything from the church. This argument in and of itself accuses the orthodox member of being unable to be a thinking individual.

    You said,

    “Like how an overeager ministering brother might maintain an artificial veneer of friendship for the notch in the belt, so too can Church reformers maintain the veneer of involvement or belief, and act like they’re operating from sincere Latter-day Saint belief, when it’s painfully obvious they’re just prooftexting Latter-day Saint scriptures to drive home a conclusion clearly derived from elsewhere.”

    IMO, this is the most egregious part of the article. You maintain that if a member wants change in the church, they are not true believers and they are pretending to be members and accuses them of prooftexting. Basically you are saying a critical member is interpreting scripture and doctrine towards their own biases to advance their personal agendas. This supposes that anybody who reads scripture and comes to a different conclusion as the leaders of the church, that they are wrong and pretending to be true members… or in your words, maintaining a veneer of belief.

    You said,

    “Finally, we are blessed to live in a rich marketplace of ideas and religions. I would feel more sympathy for people trying to reform the Church if it was the only option, but with so many others out there it seems that such efforts are a bit of a waste. You can exert energy to (try to) make the Church a version of the Episcopalians or Community of Christ, or you can use those efforts and energy to meaningfully help build up those communities that are a better fit for you theologically. Heaven knows they could use a non-believing cultural Mormon with a 100% ministering record.”

    This was a very polite way to say that if a member doesn’t like things the church is doing, they should leave and go somewhere else.

    This article plays into the cognitive dissonance that many members are finding themselves in. That being that the leaders and the church are not perfect, but a member must accept what they teach and do as perfect. This does a huge disservice not only to the members, but the leaders as well. If we are to assume that the leaders are not perfect, it only follows that those leaders MUST OPEN THEMSELVES UP TO CRITICAL REVIEW.

    If I had to summarize this article with one sentence, it would be shut-up or get-out.

  8. As a member who is struggling with their faith, I found your blog extremely upsetting.

    I have doubts about the church, but above all else, I find how the church seems to care more about financial gain than charitable works.

    I read your blog, and all I take away is that I am not a good member of the church if I say something and that I would be welcome to leave.

  9. “Attempts” to lobby the Church leaders have had success in several areas. And the efforts of the individuals involved should be highlighted. For example, member and non-members historians were critical in 2 areas: getting the Black ban overturned and in getting Church leaders to own up to Church history. Both of these events have had a major impact on the contemporary Church.

    Member actions during the Civil Rights movement (think George Romney and others here), must have had an impact on Church leaders. Also, the Church’s missionary success in Ghana and Brazil contributed to the 1978 revelation. In the latter country, it was difficult to tell who had African ancestry.

    There is also the example of POX. It was pulled back after 4 years of member objections. And Minerva Teichart’s mural in the Manti Temple was saved because of member objections to its destruction.

    I’m not optimistic about getting the Q15 to listen, but it is possible. In the Internet age, it is easier to lobby the Church leadership than ever before.

  10. Fantastic post.
    It’s not that much different from a marriage; the best thing anyone can do with the relationship is game out the scenario that the other party never changes at all in the future, and make a decision to commit or not based on that hypothetical. The power struggle keeps people so miserable, and it saps creative energy.

  11. Overall I think the parallels of “friendship as project” and “activism as project” produces some potentially enlightening reflection. I think there can be significance in differences between fundamental underlying motives — duty or affirmation of affiliation often drive the former case while values-driven conviction about how people should be treated or suffering/alienation should be alieved often drive the latter — but certainly activists and would-be friendshippers alike could do well to consider the degree to which Paul’s famous words in I Cor 13 apply: no matter how profoundly dutiful we think we’re being or how right we think we are, if we have not *love* for either the object of our friendshipping or for the body we might seek to heal, our words are vain and actions may amount to nothing.

    Now, on to more criticism:

    > You can see this attitude in regards to the people who lobby for revelation, implicitly treating the process as something stemming from grassroots pressure (which is very different from grassroots inquiry—so don’t @ me about Zelophehad’s daughters or Emma and the Word of Wisdom). They are so desperate for that revelation or statement precisely because it has God’s imprimatur for the orthodox in a way that an article published in Dialogue does not (by multiple orders of magnitude). However, they themselves don’t treat that imprimatur with the seriousness that the orthodox do.

    I’ve seen plenty of times those bearing the banner of orthodoxy suddenly discover their own surprising capacity for downplaying the “serious imprimatur” of authority and even pronounced revelation. It’s been present in the wake of both official declarations down to recent encouragements to mask and be vaccinated. It may take more work to see, but there is no small degree to which policies and doctrines of the church have always been at least part personal ideological or political views, even allowing for the presence of divine direction too.

    If this is a call for members of the church to reach for something more beyond that full of faith that God has more to offer than our tidy little sandboxes, if this is a call to actually persuade others rather than attempt to compel them by power and authority of priesthood office, I suppose that’s worthwhile and I can get behind it.

    If this is about the pretense that the status quo isn’t also partly drawn from the image of personal ideological or political views, that the prooftexts in our talks and lesson manuals aren’t as often “clearly derived from elsewhere” as those of would-be agents of change are, then I don’t have much time for that, nor would I guess it’s the kind of engagement that helps even the orthodox to productive spiritual practice.

    > Presumably the further off-base one believes that prophet is, the harder it is to logically maintain that you are sincere in your belief about the Church.

    Alternatively, such people might have very different but equally sincere beliefs about *what the church is*.

    It’s certainly frequent to believe that this is the church of the authority of the prophet, that the question of how sincerely one believes is inextricably bound with the degree to which one affirms power and influence can and ought to be maintained by virtue of priesthood office, that revelation flows down but not up.

    It is not the only way of understanding the church. Another is to *actually believe* Paul in I Corinthians 12 when he speaks of the church as a body with need of every part, or believe him when he says in the following chapter that “whether there be prophecies, they shall fail”, to *actually believe* the scriptures when they present prophetic voices not only as long-serving members in a priestly hierarchy but as voices from seemingly nowhere, to *actually believe* D&C 107 when it speaks of larger and larger quorums “equal in authority and power.” In short, to believe that it’s possible that no one knows everything, everyone knows something, and the only way for a whole church full of people who are every last one of them imperfect reflections of the image of God to get to God is together, that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy and that can make prophets of individual members, perhaps even some who lobby for change.

    I don’t envy those whose stewardship is the entire institution any more than I think their office makes them correct by virtue of occupying it. Institutional stewardship is a necessity and can be a form of service with significant burdens as well as privileges. However it regards lobbying or dissent, there needs to be some form of authority not only so that it can be a house of order but so that it can continue to be a house at all.

    But that doesn’t necessarily need to include equating dissent with disbelief… unless one accepts *only* the church-of-the-authority-of-the-prophet model.

    If that’s the central premise of the church then perhaps those who dissent do need to go elsewhere.

    Much has been made of President Nelson’s choice to emphasize the name of the church. Not too long ago I saw Patrick Mason point out some potential significance: it is not even merely titled “The Church of Jesus Christ” but “The Church of Jesus Christ *of Latter-day Saints*” and those last 4 words may actually function as something more than a minor distinction or temptation to indulge economy of expression. They might be reminding us that it is meant to be a body of saints to whom the church belongs, as well as having people that belong to it (and, if we’re lucky, belong within it).

    Some people will belong more fully with the Episcopalians or Community of Christ or somewhere else, I imagine.

    I hope it’s only rarely in moments of weakness that it’s my voice saying to the hand “I have no need of thee.”

    But then again, perhaps my appeals to scripture here are nothing more than motivated prooftexts.

  12. Thank you for the post.

    While I agree with most of what you wrote, I still believe that the scriptures and the Church’s history show that “run of the mill” members can appeal to leaders for changes/revelation…and that this ability to reach/influence the prophets creates a stronger Zion community, than simply deferring to prophetic authority (obviously paraphrasing, wasn’t it Brigham Young who said we shouldn’t just defer to prophetic authority, because it would make us lazy?).

    I would love to see more critical analysis that compares and contrasts not just on Emma’s role in the Word of Wisdom, but on Martin Harris’ role in Joseph’s appeal for the 116 pages. Not just on Zelophehad’s daughters, but also on Israel’s desire for a king instead of a prophet-leader. This ability to influence prophetic leadership has been both good at times, but also disastrous!! Those Israelites who advocated for a change to a king-led government surely died content with their ability to politically influence their religion…whereas their grandchildren were carried away captive by the Assyrians, thanks in large part to that short-sighted decision.

    But on the topic of allowing for petitions or lobbying…my study of the OT this year is reminding me that Jehovah was keenly aware of how the Israelites would respond to prophetic commands (thinking particularly about the Exodus), and He was willing to “meet them halfway” or make concessions to show His people that He WAS listening. Perhaps the bigger key to happiness for lay members is to properly balance faith in counsel with appropriate spiritual curiosity.

    And another element to remember is that the role of the Church is not to be a great charitable organization or even a doctrinal repository for scriptural truth or whatever else WE want the Church to be…rather the Church is primarily to provide the ordinances and covenants of salvation to God’s children (see Elder Christofferson’s talk “Why the Church”). I know I struggle mostly with the Church when I think it should do this or that or take actions that are different than a focus on simply providing the ordinances.

    Finally, there is a certain distinctive element that the Church, its leaders, and other members act as a stumbling block for us, because it is good for us! When some Church leaders get up to speak, I know it will be a struggle for me personally to stay interested. This is a great indication for me that I am not yet where I need to be, in my path to emulate Christ. I also know that I disagree with certain policies, but try to exercise spiritual patience until God’s hand is revealed.

    Long story short, I agree with your points, and my hope is that fellow Saints who are struggling with the Church organization, will exercise patience/faith with it all and stay together with us. We need everyone!!

  13. What shows a total lack of understanding on the authors part about people who may leave the church or heaven forbid disagree with something that leaders do or say is that we really did believe when we were members. We weren’t pretending when we served in callings, paid our tithing, went to church, and served missions. Your “sense” that they are faking those feelings of affiliation, devotion and faith is really wrong. Fundamentally and offensively wrong. I wouldn’t have spent 45 years of my life as a faithful member if I was faking.

    Also, I don’t believe for a second that members are shy about asking about religion or discussing matters of faith when it is “missionary” work. Members just don’t want to listen to criticism of the church or try to understand doubts people may have. No one in the comments asked about what they were either. You know the weaknesses in church history and doctrine I guess and don’t need to hear it again.

    I stayed in the church with my family for so long because I loved the church and its people and I was sad to leave. I told my wife after we wept in the car after talking to our bishop that it felt like Adam and Eve leaving the Garden to the telestial world, but I do not regret it. It was the right decision for my children and us, just as it was the right decision for Adam and Eve.

    I wish there was a place in the Church for people with doubts and different beliefs, but as you point out – there probably isn’t.

  14. I have to say, I was thrilled to read about myself in your piece:

    “Also, as a non-believer in its religious claims, attempts to reform a religious institution along the lines of what you think it should be is disrespectful to that belief system and its adherents. For example, it would be uncouth for me to try to ingratiate myself with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and try to “reform” them away from their eclectic biblical interpretations because I like aspects of their culture and see a lot of potential in being able to direct their army of pavement pounders into, say, marching for migrant rights. That’s not their main thing that they’re about, and me trying to warp their belief system to vector their social influence into my ends would be completely inappropriate.”

    I think a crucial difference is that you probably didn’t grow up under the irritating and equally absurd strictures of that particular abuse of human reason and insult to decency and don’t have a deep connection to their culture as a matter of your life history and through no genuine vote of your own. As a proudly resigned former member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ I find myself invigorated by both the scars I bear of its bad ideas and the ways in which its beliefs and culture affect my life where I choose to live.

    So, what can I say, Brother C, your Church is my project! There. It feels good to just get it out. And whatever the reason, you’ve got the opposition you deserve, not the sort you want, it seems.

    The truth is, to borrow a phrase you used in another comment, I really am trying to thread a needle between a wish to show my disrespect of many of the correlated teachings of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ whilst at the same time demonstrating respect for members of the Church. That might not be possible, but it’s an exciting experiment I intend to enthusiastically keep up.

    “It’s one category if one is a believing, practicing member and want to raise an issue that is being overlooked (for example, women praying in General Conference), but an entirely different one if you’re essentially theologically outside the premises of the Church and are treating it like any other institution that is ripe for reform and enlightenment. In that case, there are plenty of other institutions that could more effectively use such efforts.”

    I don’t doubt it! But for my part and preferences, and perhaps a little in the spirit of what goes around comes around, I find myself content in my efforts toward your institution. I’m sorry to say, Brother C, I might very well leave this mortal sphere having left some undone good on the table. It’s true, perhaps I could make a bigger splash somewhere else. C’est la vie!

    “we are blessed to live in a rich marketplace of ideas and religions. I would feel more sympathy for people trying to reform the Church if it was the only option, but with so many others out there it seems that such efforts are a bit of a waste. You can exert energy to (try to) make the Church a version of the Episcopalians or Community of Christ, or you can use those efforts and energy to meaningfully help build up those communities that are a better fit for you theologically. Heaven knows they could use a non-believing cultural Mormon with a 100% ministering record.”

    We are blessed to live in a rich marketplace of ideas and religions! What I like to dwell on is how that vibrant marketplace is sustained. I’m struck by the fact that it’s protected and sustained by an ethic of reciprocal tolerance enshrined in the American democratic experiment and elsewhere since. Though, to my dismay, somewhat in retreat in recent years.

    I genuinely do not want the government to infringe on your liberty to believe what you want and to practice it. You might say, it’s a courtesy I wish to extend you by way of my commitment to the principles that protect free expression and religious liberty. Might I even be so bold as to say I extend it out of respect. Not respect for you as a Latter-day Saint, but as a person. Reciprocally. Always and forever…up to the point you wish not to reciprocate the same.

    And that’s the rub, isn’t it. Tell me this. If the official, correlated, instruction manual teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints turn out to be true, then, in the end, will I be free to live according to my convictions, free from government imposition? Will my queer friends be free to pursue the life they regard as good for themselves? Marriage. Family. Free association. You know, in the end, if you catch my drift. I think the answer is plainly that we will not. And it’s that disgusting rejection of reciprocal tolerance I wish to confront within the limit of the principles of free speech I enjoy, while I’ve still got em! Ammiright!? Which might not be long, after all. The hour is late, and all that. That holy brother of ours might very well be on his way back at this moment to usher in our loving father’s totalitarian regime of afterlife intolerance.

    So, anyway, sorry. I reject your proposal. I’m afraid, It just won’t scratch the itch in quite the same way to spend my time lifting those religions and intuitions that already align with the preservation of reciprocal tolerance, and not merely as an eventually passe system that’s merely instrumental to our future king in planting his ecclesiastical seeds in these latter, modern, cosmopolitan days. No, I think I’d just prefer employing the rights I’ve got right now toward reducing, diminishing, and, god willing, changing the awful correlated teachings of this institution in a direction that, how shall I say, increases the number of children this monstrous god will have to reject if he does in fact intend to subject humanity to his awful plan. My peaceful application of protected discussion and debate might be a futile effort if he really is as powerful and intent on his order as he says he is, but I think the universe will be better off, if he’s real, to have his plan resoundingly rejected by a deafening chorus of his children. I’m proud to have grown our numbers, and shrunk his. And who knows, maybe the stories are propaganda and with a little luck we can overthrow him! For my part, the more people who reject the slavish attitude of slobbering at the feat of this cosmic and monstrous authoritarian, the better. Viva la revolución!

    “Like how an overeager ministering brother might maintain an artificial veneer of friendship for the notch in the belt, so too can Church reformers maintain the veneer of involvement or belief, and act like they’re operating from sincere Latter-day Saint belief, when it’s painfully obvious they’re just prooftexting Latter-day Saint scriptures to drive home a conclusion clearly derived from elsewhere. That’s not to say that external sources can’t ever be used in in-house discussions, but it’s clear when the external influence is the primary thing, and not the gospel. It’s better to be sincere about one’s stance vis-a-vis the theological and historical particulars of the Church and engage in discussion on those grounds than to invoke a genetic or cultural heritage and then try to shape the Church around your alternative faith.”

    Finally, if it makes you feel any better, I definitely do not maintain a veneer of belief, though I am willing to grant correlated beliefs seriously, and I have no pretense of friend-making in my efforts to drive home a conclusion derived from elsewhere, though it seems there are many friends to find. I suppose I have trespassed your rule against the invocation of genetic and cultural heritage, but that’s a charge I’m willing bear.

    To the health of our navels and the freedom of our minds. Cheers!

  15. You can see this attitude in regards to the people who lobby for revelation … They are so desperate for that revelation or statement precisely because it has God’s imprimatur … the theological, intellectual thought leaders can convince the leadership to get a revelation, wink wink …

    Please don’t assume — as this post apparently does — that everyone who asks for revelation does so only to score points against some perceived antagonist in the Church. There is a great gulf between someone who craves revelation for an unanswered question with the sincere intent to accept that revelation, whatever it may be, and someone who seeks revelation only as long as it matches the preferences of the seeker.

    There may be times when revelation comes as a bolt out of the blue, but most often it comes because someone has asked a question. I feel condemned by you merely for asking / seeking / knocking.

  16. First off, if you read the last paragraph out of context it sounds like I’m saying, “well if you don’t like it then you can leave!” when a straightforward reading of the OP clearly shows that that’s not what I’m saying.

    @ Dan: I really like the marriage analogy.

    @ Weston: Oh, I certainly agree that some of the formerly orthodox are less than consistent when the shoe is on the other foot politically (one reason for my statement that I suspect the Church has less influence than we think), but in terms of the “Church as project,” anecdotally I think that is more of a thing on the left, although yes, in theory you might get somebody who is just in the Church so they can influence it in the direction of going full Catholic on the abortion issue, but I just don’t get the sense that as much of a thing.

    Yes, the status quo is also in part formed from political and ideological presuppositions. President Nelson doesn’t wake up every morning with a divinely inscribed list waiting for him; in a face-to-face event a while ago President Eyring was quite open about how he still has to try hard to discern what’s the spirit from his own thoughts. Sometimes we can draw connections between specific policies and specific personal concerns (it’d be fun to get a shirt that says “Make Utah Weird Again” written in the Deseret Alphabet). I suppose much of this is unavoidable precisely because there is no list sitting in the Holy of Holies, He doesn’t make it that simple, and yes, part of that process is being open to grassroots concerns and innovations.

    While President Nelson isn’t synonymous with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the authority of the hierarchy has been part and parcel of the restoration since Hiram Page. For example, I guess in theory somebody might have a testimony of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, that Christ’s priesthood was exclusively restored through Joseph Smith, etc., but also thinks that God wants the Church to have a Presbyterian-like structure where the final word rests with each ward council, but it seems like that’d be a bit of a stretch logically speaking.

    @Thor:

    I very much agree that bottom-up innovations and concerns informing the revelatory process at the top has been part of the Church’s history, and should/will continue to be part of the process in the future.

    @ Brian: The post is not directed to people who were believers and tried to make it work despite disagreements. The post isn’t even about non-believers staying for cultural reasons. The post is about people staying because doing so will help them change the Church.

    @Ardis: All of that is fair, and condemning people for asking/knocking certainly wasn’t the intent of the post. The “You can see this attitude in regards to the people who lobby for revelation” statement was implicitly referring to the people described in the paragraphs above, and I should have been more explicit about that.

  17. I just want to say that I think you’ve constructed a straw man. I doubt very much that any significant number of those hoping for, praying for, or asking for change/revelation are really nonbelievers just pretending in order to change the church. It’s your assumption of insincerity that offends me about this post. I see this from others in the church who apparently agree with every doctrine and policy currently promoted by our leaders. Those who disagree or are distressed by some of these policies are only acting. Wolves in sheep’s clothing, whose professed pain is all an act and whose service within the church is a sham and a strategy to destroy the church from within.

  18. @ E: Oh, I could name fairly prominent names, but once you start naming names things get too incendiary for my taste. Online you definitely get the “I’m staying to change it from within” all over the place from people who you can tell don’t actually buy the truth claims. It’s usually a temporary phase, since it’s not worth the energy, as the OP points out, but it’s definitely a thing.

  19. @Stephen C, I believe you are a data person. Would love your take on the actual active membership numbers. Another great layer would be an attempt to quantify how many of the people who are “active” are PIMO (physically in, mentally out – usually for marital or other family reasons) or otherwise not fully orthodox believers. Based on some other estimates out there, if we assume an activity rate of 30% worldwide, a generous assumption in some countries, you have a little over 5m active members. Then factor out the people who aren’t full all-in believers: those who wish the church was a better, more inclusive place, PIMOs, those who are selective about what assignments or callings they will accept, the people who have a TR but refuse to speak in sacrament meeting, and so on what does it leave you as an active, truly orthodox core of the church? Maybe 2.5m worldwide?

    I think suggesting that people who aren’t all-in should leave the church alone is problematic. But that’s ok. People like me who need to go to their bishopric calling in a few minutes but are secretly PIMO, have set our own boundaries. I have no interest in changing the church. But I hold onto my own personal authority and define my relationship with the church and it’s role in my life. I don’t cede that authority to anyone. As much as I hate about the notion of whether or not someone is worthy, I’ve found use for it by making it a two way street. I decide if the church and it’s leaders are worthy of my time. Worthy of my attention and devotion. LGBTQ members decide if the church is worthy of them, and so on.

    You should speak more charitably towards the less orthodox members. After all, the guy signing your temple recommend might be one of them.

  20. I wouldn’t have wanted to change the church if I didn’t believe. That is exactly my point. You are assuming that anyone that wants change is acting in bad faith. Why assume that?

    When I stopped believing, I left.

  21. I have been on missions for 10 years, married in temple, been a temple worker, been on bishoprics for 20 years. Paid tithing for 40 years, and when a temple was being built contributed more than the block of land my house was on, as asked. I caused my family to live in poverty for 5 years because I obeyed a prophet.

    But since christmas I have not been to church, and when my bishop sent me an email inviting me back to church, I replied that he should invite me again when the church stops discriminating against women and gays, and dissociates its self from right wing politics. This little message is as close to agitating for change as I can get, and it will not get to anyone who can change anything.

    I think I have earned the right to a contribution. Not that I at any stage was able to convey my thoughts, feelings or opinions to anyone who can change anything.

    The last time I was in the presence of one of the 15 was when our temple was dedicated, or perhaps when we went to church at yellowstone, and on neither occasion was there an opportunity for feedback.

    In this technological age it would be possible to have feedback from the members, but no.

    Your essay is built on a false premise. There is no way for a person like me, whether active or not to communicate with/influence the leadership of the church. As for going somewhere else to reform it, I have sunk so much energy into this church. I do not belong to any other lot I have much invested in.

    I would very much like the church to return to following Christ, but they seem set on another course.

  22. I would totally buy a “Make Utah Weird Again” shirt in the Deseret Alphabet by the way. let me know where to send my money to get a men’s medium.

  23. @ Elwood: I have no idea about the numbers; admittedly, in the same vein that Twitter isn’t reality, the sort of online character I’m addressing here (which is not synonymous with simply being heterodox) is probably a small minority.

    “I think suggesting that people who aren’t all-in should leave the church alone is problematic”
    You have to really want to read that into the OP to think that that’s what I’m doing here.

    PIMO people who are in for family or cultural reasons is a whole other complex issue. Given that you admit that you’re not in it to change the Church this is not what I’m talking about.

    “But I hold onto my own personal authority and define my relationship with the church and it’s role in my life. I don’t cede that authority to anyone.”

    Good for you.

    @Brian G: As the OP notes, the sincere member who, say, wants to preserve pioneer artwork in the Salt Lake Temple is a different issue. Not everybody who wants change is insincere, but yes, non-believers wanting to change things from within is a thing.

    FWIW, You sound like more of a natural Mormon than I am and probably lasted longer than I would in the absence of belief. Sorry to hear that the life change was painful, but glad that you’re in a good place now.

    I’d probably tire of explaining the Deseret Alphabet punchline, but with a translation that would totally kill at a Mormon Studies Conference.

  24. @Stephen C: “in terms of the ‘Church as project,’ anecdotally I think that is more of a thing on the left, although yes, in theory you might get somebody who is just in the Church so they can influence it in the direction of going full Catholic on the abortion issue, but I just don’t get the sense that as much of a thing.”

    My experience with, say, Bircher/Benson/Skousen fans (or the fruit borne through the Qanon/DezNat/adjacent stuff grafted in) looks enough like church-as-project that I’d disagree that conservative activism is absent. Sincere spiritual belief may be attached, but that could be said equally of nominally progressive causes (eg sincere belief in the divine feminine and the sometimes accompanying conviction that women should exercise divine gifts or even be ordained to administrative offices).

    And it may be conservatives look less like activists and more like supporters blending into the background when for most of living memory they’ve had powerful allies in church leaders with similar social outlook so all they really have to do is show up waving the banner of orthodoxy and God’s authority. How do we distinguish the church’s decades-long vocal heteronormative-only marriage push from an activist project? Is there more to this distinction than whether a project represents a majority investment in related doctrine, or has support in key church officeholders?

    “I suppose much of this is unavoidable precisely because there is no list sitting in the Holy of Holies, He doesn’t make it that simple, and yes, part of that process is being open to grassroots concerns and innovations.”

    I’m glad you and I agree on this.

    “the authority of the hierarchy has been part and parcel of the restoration since Hiram Page. For example, I guess in theory somebody might have a testimony of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, that Christ’s priesthood was exclusively restored through Joseph Smith, etc., but also thinks that God wants the Church to have a Presbyterian-like structure where the final word rests with each ward council, but it seems like that’d be a bit of a stretch logically speaking.”

    It’s become a cultural stretch, one which is out of line with rhetoric and practice in what our tradition has become, but I don’t understand how it’s a *logical* stretch. It’s certainly a practical reality that a ward council full of conviction can (and do) operate a ward in ways that seem right to them, and at every level in any recognized hierarchy, the only real options are achieving compliance by rhetorical force or release and filling the calling with someone who is already persuaded. I think you even recognize this with your statements that the church has less power than we think. It’s not such a stretch to recognize that every member not only still has stewardship over their consecrated actions but perhaps even relevant specialized local rights applicable to their stewardship, not to mention “you have a work that no other can do.”

    The conflict between multiple would-be revelators typified by Hiram Page and Joseph is an inevitable one. Human beings are rarely of one mind about everything, and exercising any revelatory capacity they might possess doesn’t seem to change that. There are a number of things churches can choose to do about that (random lot, put questions to a majority or plurality vote, or consensus in some quorum, or between quorums, etc etc). Joseph presented the church with a revelation placing his authority at the top of a hierarchy, but that doesn’t mean that today’s hierarchy or even any hierachy was the *only* way it could have been handled.

    And indeed, outside a theocratic context, at some level democratic buy-in on D&C 28 was needed to be canonized. After all, if we trust David Whitmer, even for Joseph “Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil.” Those which placed him at the top of the heap as a matter of convention might benefit from a little extra reflection and/or the support of common consent. And whether today’s votes along such lines are treated as a formality or something more, it may be that God takes them more seriously.

    None of this is to say hierarchy is necessarily wrong. I suppose it was a solution for Moses and his captains of 1000, 100, 50, etc for a good reason. But even that story seems to exist more to support the value in *distribution* of authority and attendant problem-solving capacity than to fit everyone with a network of reins held in one prophetic hand.

    If that’s the case, it seems to me orthodoxy can contain the belief one’s voice is part of one’s stewardship and there’s surely a place in earth’s harvest field so wide where each individual can patiently labor both in service and attempted persuasive activism around the merits of one’s vision of Christ’s gospel as God has given it to them.

  25. Brian G:

    I wanted to drop a quick line and thank you for your comments. My journey is in many ways similar and you eloquently summed it up. It’s because I cared that I tried to make church feel safer for people.

    Eleutheria Panta: Beautiful comment. My tribe is Mormonism. Always will be, even if my values no longer perfectly align with the current Mormon flavor. And as you said, let’s just own it without apology.

  26. There’s no question that there are many sincere folks seeking for answers and hoping for further revelation on any number of issues. Even so, the red flags start going up (for me) when we cross the line from hoping (and praying) for positive change to blaming the church’s perceived deficiencies on the moral failings of its leadership–let alone its rank and file membership.

    It should ever be the position of the saints to edify the Kingdom in spite of its weaknesses. There are positive ways to work through problems and make necessary improvements and whatnot. But when we denigrate the Lord’s anointed in order to force change it is tantamount to sabotage–not unlike lobbing a pineapple into our very own tent and damaging the tender hearts and minds of the Lord’s little ones.

  27. Weston: “None of this is to say hierarchy is necessarily wrong. I suppose it was a solution for Moses and his captains of 1000, 100, 50, etc for a good reason. But even that story seems to exist more to support the value in *distribution* of authority and attendant problem-solving capacity than to fit everyone with a network of reins held in one prophetic hand.”

    I’d add that hierarchy is also necessary for the protection and navigation of sacred space. And inasmuch as the word is a living thing–and therefore sacred–it is in need of constant protection in order to thrive within the precincts of the Kingdom.

  28. I will only add a little insight I found in studying the Old Testament this year. I discovered, particularly reading about Abraham and Moses, that prophets not only speak for the Lord to the people, they also represent the people to the Lord. There are numerous times Abraham argues with the Lord for the sake of the people. Moses often used the Lord’s own covenants against his rash decisions to destroy the Israelites. I do not think it is too much to ask that our current prophets do the same. If they are doing so, it would be nice to hear that it is occurring.

  29. I’m totally going to work on a design for that t-shirt. Maybe with the Metaphor: Tree of Life (aka the sudowoodo tree) from the Salt Flats as the image to go with it.

  30. 1) kudos for using “cultural bona fides” and “shibboleth” in the same sentence.

    2) It isn’t fair to say that the church is purely hierarchical (although it has swung that way over the years.) It actually straddles a paradox of hierarchy and egalitarianism. So, principles like “common consent”, and corroborated witnessing/testimonies/votes should be essential.

    3) I disagree that push-back against a church that we love is necessarily wrong. Case in point, Jesus and his “zealot” apostles who advocated for ecclesiastical and political reform, especially concerning the oppression of Jewish lower classes. As we continue to see the tragic fulfillment of prophesies regarding the world and *all* churches (Mormon 8), why is it wrong to advocate for the truths that buttress against this corruption, especially w/in our fellowship? Frankly, I’m not sure we even deserve to be light-bearers if we shirk our communal duty, knowing full well about this era and delegate it solely to leaders.

  31. Here’s why I want the Church to change it’s priorities. Half it’s members now live in developing countries. Many live in poverty. There are refugees from war, famine, drought, persecution, and corruption across the globe. Poverty is still a global problem. The living need our assistance. I would like to see Church leaders place a much higher priority on the Church’s 4th mission: to help the poor and afflicted.

    The Church has massive financial and human resources. It could make a real difference toward improving world conditions. Instead it is obsessing over the dead and building temples. I would like to see priorities changed. I’m I really wrong for advocating for the poor, the refugee, the persecuted?

  32. Since Stephen C has constructed the straw man of people trying to change the church as having a “veneer” of belief, I will build an equally tenuous man of straw from the other perspective, that is to say mine. Before I continue let me state clearly that my straw man is constructed from the anecdotal evidence of my very limited experience and the statistically invalid sample size of my interactions and observations. Would that Stephen C. would acknowledge the same limitations in his threading of his needle.

    I agree that there is no warrant (with a nod to President Oaks) for any voice in the church that does not comply completely with the proscribed narrative and directives. My experience demonstrates that the reason for this is the incredibly fragile faith and belief of the orthodox, and the attendant fear that an alternate voice would damage the tenuous position of faith and send those orthodox members into spiritual free fall.

  33. People differ so much in how they believe. Some people really need to be all-in and reverential toward the institution and the leaders, while others adopt a see-through-the-glass-darkly approach, which means they can live with more ambiguity. That’s OK–we need all types! I am personally one of the latter variety, but as I have aged I greatly appreciate the importance of the institution in forming human character, and the value of community. It cuts both ways, of course. Humans form institutions to some degree, while institutions form humans, and with church, God’s mind and will is mixed up in all this as well.

    Church history is messy and sometimes troubling, no question, but there’s a lot of good, wisdom and truth there as well. I have a firm belief in Jesus Christ and his love and sacrifice for us. I can live this out by serving in the church and sharing this conviction with others in word and action. I love having a community where I can do this. There are aspects of the church that don’t overly resonate with this larger conviction for me, but they can stay on the back burner.

  34. What if I am a strong orthodox member that believes the leaders are in apostacy? (“. . . even the very elect shall be deceived. . . “). Asking for a friend.

  35. Lily,

    This little video clip helps us to remember a simple yet profoundly important fact about the holy apostleship:

  36. One word change may have made your little essay easier to take. Simply exchange the word “YOUR” for “MY.” You could have written a nice little essay on why you don’t think that the church should be your own project. As it stands: Who died and put you on charge of our church? On what basis do you believe that you have the standing to treat others with such disdain? Every sentence drips with judgment. Intellectuals like you always think that your imagined superiority gives you license to disregard the experiences of others

  37. I agree. That’s why I voted with my feet. In return, I got an extra Saturday and a 10% raise.

  38. Jack, In your video I see men and women, and no suits or exclusion and no one over 40, and the saviour, not RMN. Not sure how you think this applies to the present situation.

    Stephen C. Not getting much support on this concept. Like the one on supporting being pro life politically.

  39. It’s just wrong to say that there are comparable alternatives to the LDS Church out there. If you believe basically *any* LDS truth claims, this is the only option — and I include “Christian” truth claims, given our wildly divergent theology of God, Christ, etc.

    Becoming Episcopalian requires a fundamental metaphysical/theological restructuring; given their Trinitarianism, joining the Community of Christ, the closest alternative, requires the same restructuring. (Unless you were a weird quasi-trinitarian Mormon to begin with.) And none of them have access to temples.

  40. I have struggled mightily to determine the intended audience and purpose of this post. Some of it, notably the title and last paragraph, seem to be addressed to a certain category of members, and the purpose appears to be to encourage them to leave the Church (for example, “you can use those efforts and energy to meaningfully help build up those communities that are a better fit for you theologically”). That is very disappointing. No believing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should ever encourage a fellow member to renounce their covenants, give up the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and withdraw from the community of the Saints. Maybe their faith really is weak and their motives suspect (we all need more faith and purer motives!) but that would cut them off from things that would help them fix those problems. (I second what Sigh said.) Various scriptures about not casting people out and continuing to minister could be quoted here.

    But there are other parts of the post that seem counterproductive to that end, like suggesting those members deceptively exaggerate their level of faith (though their true level of faith is “obvious,” so I guess they’re not very good at being deceptive). Those parts suggest that the intended audience is Church members who aren’t in that category, and the purpose is to warn against “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” At least there’s scriptural precedent for that (including the obvious one) but it’s easy to do more harm than good. The people you intended to target, and some you did not, will feel judged and unwelcome–as we’ve seen in the comments here.

    I really dislike this kind of volunteer boundary maintenance. The people being discussed have bishops and stake presidents who hopefully know them far better than we do, and are definitely entitled to receive revelation concerning them while we are not. If those bishops and stake presidents don’t consider these people a threat to the church that should be removed, believing members of the Church should not second guess them.

  41. Jack: Yes, the 12 are supposed to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ, but since they don’t really do that, I stand by what I said.

  42. Friend,
    I am a (hopefully humble) believing, actively participating, calling-holding member of the church who doesn’t rock boats or write angry letters. (You can ask my bishop if you want verification)

    You refer to individuals as “these people” more than once and as “they” throughout. That’s lumping people together without knowing them as individuals, without having compassionate sessions of listening to them as individuals, without compassion for their concerns as a particular brother or sister.

    “These people” in my ward are my brothers and sisters. I love them. And they know they are welcome and loved by us regardless of their dismay or anger or sense of being betrayed, and they know that though we may not agree, and some of us may be initially shocked and upset, we will always try to remember to listen in order to understand, and be happy to be with them even though we may always see things differently, and even though the sense of hurt or frustration on either side may never completely be eliminated in this life.

    I sense your unhappiness at the sentiments and actions of some of our brothers and sisters in response to various church traditions, policies and doctrines. I know that it may be very difficult to watch or read or listen to.

    I believe we are called to love and to listen with love to individuals, regardless of the hurt or sorrow or dismay or even frustration we may feel as we listen to their responses or concerns. I believe that when we lump people together because of something we have heard them say, or read something that they have written that we find frustrating or antagonistic or dismaying, we are failing to see them as God sees them.

    Our calling in our wards, among our fellow members, is not to defend the church. It is not to hope those individuals will go away and stop talking about stuff or insisting on stuff. It is to love and to find ways to create unity in spite of huge differences, prejudices, blind spots, hurt, anger, or resistance to unity on both my part and on the part of the other.

    If the individual is not in my ward, that calling to love and create unity is the calling of the ward members in whose ward they live, and I should let them do that. My getting upset about what they say or write is only going to mess me up with annoyed feelings about something that isn’t my responsibility. I can choose to hand that responsibility to the Lord, and let those members of that ward step up to that stewardship however well or ill they may. I can choose to pray for them as they seek to respond with charity.

    I fully believe that if we we are not seeking, from the Lord, ways to be one in at least some small way with those among us who are unhappy with aspects of our faith, we are not yet His, and that the answer is not to give up, nor to hope others will leave so that things will be easier for us. Charity seeketh not her own. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. And my experience is that, with Christ’s grace, we can continue to welcome, listen, and love in helpful ways instead of showing people we have lumped together to the door.

  43. Late to the party but I agree that this hypothetical non-believer that stays in Church to change it doesn’t exist. Whoever the author has in mind probably has significantly more complexity to both their beliefs and reasons for church participation than this post suggests.

  44. Lily: “Yes, the 12 are supposed to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ, but since they don’t really do that, I stand by what I said.”

    Maybe I misunderstood–I thought you were seeking an answer for a friend who had doubts about the living prophets.

    Even so, I respectfully disagree. I bear my witness that the apostles are the Lord’s anointed–and that they are endowed with the same degree of power and authority as the original apostles.

    Best wishes.

  45. Geoff – Aus: “Jack, In your video I see men and women, and no suits or exclusion and no one over 40, and the saviour, not RMN. Not sure how you think this applies to the present situation.”

    Geoff, the irony is–the video in question was made by the church. And so, whatever one’s take on it may be–my guess is that the church probably believes it has some application to the present situation.

    That said, I think the most salient point to be made about its application to the modern prophets is–just as the Savior sent his original apostles out into the world to bear witness of his name so too are the modern apostles the Lord’s sent ones.

  46. I’ve been thinking about this post because something was not settling well, like mixing cheap Chinese food and carbonation. I couldn’t pinpoint the cause of my spiritual indigestion.

    Then it hit me: as members of the Church we tend to view “authority” as a zero sum game.

    But if we look at “authority” through the lens of supply and demand, we discover something interesting. As yourself: is there short supply or an abundant supply of authority in the Church? Is it held by 15 men? 1 man? 16 million members?

    Brigham Young viewed his kingdom as a “beehive.” Why is a beehive such a good symbol for Deseret? Not because it represents industry, but because it represents hierarchy.

    Bee colonies are composed of a queen and . . . everyone else. If you’re female (but not a queen, sorry), then you’re called a “worker bee.” If you’re male, you’re just a “drone.”

    And guess what? Same thing with ants. An ant colony is structured like a beehive. We’ve got a queen ant, who is the leader of the colony; then there are the female worker ants; and finally, male drone ants.

    Now the point: you guessed it! Our Church is structured like beehives and ant colonies: there are (1) leaders, (2) workers and (3) drones.

    In our economic system, you need at least two things:

    (1) a price that a willing seller and a willing buyer agree upon (“fair market value”); and

    (2) a way to exchange value, like currency.

    The “price” of something is based on the relationship between supply and demand.

    What is the supply of God?

    Infinite.

    What are the resources of God?

    Eternal.

    So why are we pretending that there’s such a paucity of authority? Because we are taught that the apostles and prophets have a MONOPOLY.

    If we don’t like our cable TV service, or cell phone provider, we simply choose another company. We cancel the contract and find better service.

    But what if there were no other choices? What if we believe that only one “company” can deliver the service we want (salvation)?

    Enter the Church, who claims to have a monopoly on God’s authority.

    Hmmmm. Why are monopolies bad? Because they allow companies to:

    (1) fix prices,

    (2) gouge customers,

    (3) offer inferior service and products, and

    (4) drive inflation.

    How can they do all that? Because the customer has no other options. There’s no competition.

    But the worst part of a monopoly is that they are proven to stifle innovation and creativity.

    So why wouldn’t we want a spiritual Sherman Anti-Trust Act to protect us?

  47. Tim, I prefer a model that looks more like a tree than a marketplace. Christ is the vine and we are the branches. And insofar as the Kingdom is concerned the Lord’s anointed are the early branches–so to speak. And rather than monopolizing the anointing they — the apostles — *facilitate* it for the church.

  48. Tim Merrill, sorry to have to point this out, but your understanding of beehives is off. (I’m a beekeeper.)

    Yes, there is only one queen, but she is not the decision maker. She lays eggs and that’s it. She is super, super important and the worker bees care for her and protect her at all costs. They also starve her in order to swarm or kill her if they think she needs to be replaced.

    The worker bees collectively are the decision makers. Colonies have a ‘hive mind,’ and an entire colony of bees are considered a single organism. All of which get interesting in terms of spirituality and the greater picture of the church.

  49. Jack, by pointing out that the apostles are the ones currently sent to bear witness of the Lord, are you suggesting that their other administrative activities should be curtailed?

  50. Kristine,

    No–not any more than the Savior — who is the great Sent One — should curtail his multifaceted mission.

  51. The marriage analogy is really depressing actually. If our relationship with the Church is like a marriage, we are just supposed to be patient and not ask the Church to change while in the meantime the Church expects us to change to conform to its desires.

    That’s an unhealthy marriage.

    And also, we shouldn’t be married to the Church.

  52. This article is an absolute bummer. I sense the general population of TBMs (or whatever the appropriate shorthand is) would be nodding enthusiastically as they read the OP and I cant help but think that church leadership think the org would be better off without all the rabble rousers in the comments. Get in line or get the heck out is a message more and more in my cohort seem to be accepting, but as many here have noted it’s not simple and it’s certainly not painless. Like everyone, I hate it when people assume they know what my motives are so I won’t pretend to know what prompted this article, but for some reason it really stung. I spent my morning today cleaning the church because it’s one of the last ways I know to connect my fellow saints without passing a belief test. This article sort of took the shine off that. Maybe I should find another church to clean….

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