Testimony Time, Part II

November 10, 2010

Today’s guest post is by Glenn.

Thanks Adam, for the kind words and the introduction.  Since I have already described the content of my testimony and my immediate reasons for giving it over at Mormon Expression, I want to continue here with Adam’s theme, and focus on the reactions I received from people in the ward after the meeting ended.  If you haven’t read the testimony yet, I suggest you do so before you go on, but be forewarned – I had a lot of reactions from members, and I am naturally loquacious – so this is a pretty long post.

First of all, I don’t want to make too much of this as me being noble or brave or becoming anybody’s hero.  I am sure this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.  I don’t know if this was/is a success or a failure – time will tell – I’ve never been stoned (although I’ve always been a little curious) for my beliefs, so if that happens, I will let you know.  I also don’t think this “proves” any position one way or another, because at the end of the day, my bishop is talking about “questioning” from a position of faith and what I am really talking about is “believing” that things really are or are not what we are told – but that is a whole nother can of worms (or maybe a half nother can of worms – it’s hard to tell with nothers).

So this whole testimony thing is just something that I did, and mainly it came out of years of sitting in frustrated silence, although a small number of people in my ward know that I have been podcasting for the past few months with Mormon Expression, including the 2nd councilor in the bishopric, who is a fan, (not to be confused with the 1st councilor, whose comments provoked me in the first place, and who would not be a fan and would brand it “anti” if he listened).  So, now that I am back in the ward after a three year work assignment in Japan, I figured it was only a matter of time before more people found out (maybe), and I just wanted to get all that out on the table.

But I also wanted people to know who I am right up front so they can choose how they would react to it.  If you recall, I did a guest post with Mormon Matters back in June on Doubt and Faith.  That was a talk I gave in my Tokyo ward which had unexpectedly positive results that, unfortunately, came at the end of our thee years rather than at the beginning.  That experience bolstered my confidence to stand up in this ward and say what I said.  I wanted to attract like-minded people and try to carve out a space to exist, cuz this is where I want to make my home, and I want it to be a comfortable one. For me. So there you go – completely self-serving reasons.  You got me.  Some hero.

Now to the real-life reactions from the real-life people – and I hope that in sharing these with you that I am not betraying anyone’s confidences.  I will be discreet – the initials do not always correspond to the person’s name, and the ages are just my best guess.  But I think these are all beautiful real messages that are worth being shared to give a clearer appreciation of the landscape between – as Adam suggested – the real-life and the internet Mormons, be they faithful, virtual, or gruntled in any way, shape, or forum – at least from my small experience on this one very special day (reach for Kleenex now):

My wife –  I sat down and got some really nice shoulder, back, and hand massages, interspersed with some sporadic head shaking, some bemused looks, and several “wow’s” all throughout the rest of the meeting.  I am seriously considering bearing my testimony in December now as well.

Sis. E – She is in her early 20’s.  She asked me if I am familiar with Sunstone and if I know so-and-so (a name I should know, but didn’t, and can’t remember).  She said he was excommunicated for homosexuality but he is a faithful member who continues to attend church services in the bay area and he has some CDs from a lecture he gave and she wanted to burn a copy for me if I was interested in listening to them because he has been a total inspiration to her and she usually doesn’t approach somebody like this when she doesn’t even know their name but she really liked what I said in my testimony – and yes I know this is a run on sentence but I am telling you she totally said all this without even taking one single breath.  Not that there is anything wrong with that (and no, she does not strike me as an air head AT ALL – not my point – she and her husband also made some comments in a GD a few weeks ago about not needing to read so much into the Old testament prophets to take them out of context that impressed me, and I told them as much, which probably made her comfortable enough to approach me in the first place ).  So I said OK about the CDs.  Another funny (but cool) sidenote – I had been looking at my heretofore ignored home teaching assignment earlier that morning, and when her husband stood up to be introduced in EQ, I recognized the last name, and it turns out that I am their home teacher.  That’s one home teaching assignment that I will actually start doing and will most likely start enjoying.

Bro. K – A convert of over 35 years, born and raised in New England, liberal-minded, divorced (his former wife is also in our ward) and remarried to a non-mormon woman. He frequently comes across a little rough around the edges for most Midwesterners, and he knows it (and I think he likes it).  He told me that he nearly got up and walked out when he heard Bro. B. say what he said over the pulpit. He thanked me for getting up and commended me for the tactful way I said what I said.  He thought he would have just blasted the guy and completely turned everyone off in the process.  His wife has been offended (unintentionally) by people in the ward so many times she always asks him how he can stay a member and he often wonders himself, but the comments I made at the end about Christ really summed it up for him, and he thanked me.

Bro B. – Mid 50’s.  This is the 1st Councilor whose words provoked my testimony.  He wanted to make sure I wasn’t upset with him personally.  I assured him that I wasn’t.  And it’s true.  I am not.  He is really a very kind-hearted man, and is responsible for one of the most classic setting apart blessings I have ever heard.  Now, to fully appreciate this, you have to understand that Bro. B speaks with a sort of lisp that often makes people wonder sometimes things that, you know, um… things that maybe people wonder when they hear certain people talk in certain kinds of ways… not that there’s anything wrong with that.  So he was setting apart his son to an office in the priesthood, and he had his hands on his head, and he said something about not playing video games, because the Lord wanted him to be more active and engaged in good works, and then he delivered the most classic line ever, “the Lord does not want woosies.”  You gotta love Brother B!  I don’t expect Bro. B to understand where I am coming from, and I wasn’t prepared to get into it with him.  It didn’t matter.  He needed to know I wasn’t upset with him.  I wasn’t.

Sis. S. – In her 60’s, a former relief society president.  She told me that she usually sits in the back listening to the messages, feeling very alone.  Even in her family she feels alone.  She really appreciated what I had to say and was glad to know there were other like-minded people in the ward.

Bro Q – My former Stake President, in his 60’s.  He approached as if he had something to say, but before he could speak, Sis H (see below) moved in with a big hug.  I at least got a hand shake from him, but that’s it, and it was too bad, because I was really curious to hear what he would have said.  The look on his face was very positive, though.

Sis. H. – Mid-40’s.  Recently divorced.  Her ex-husband is also still in the ward.  they have three children, one with severe disabilities.  She has seen many struggles in life and church has recently been a weight rather than a support for her, although she desperately wants her faith to carry her.  She and her family moved here the same time my family did many years ago, so we have some history.  She gave me a big hug and said, “I woke up this morning and really didn’t want to come to church today.  I prayed that God would give me a message and then I walked in midway through your testimony.  Thank you so much.  That was exactly what I needed to hear.”  (And, as my own personal sidenote, I think perhaps we can all take it as our own faith promoting testimony that God also regulated the traffic or allowed Satan to hide her car keys again just for a few minutes to ensure she wasn’t their for Brother B’s opening remarks, cuz otherwise she may not have stuck around for mine).

Bro. D. – He is Sis H’s father, in his 70’s, and has been in the mental health field for many years, most recently focusing on addictions.  He and his wife have both served missions for the church. They are very liberal minded and very faithful people, and he and I used to play tennis on Saturdays.  He shook my hand and thanked me for my words, and told me that the people that he works with who suffer from addictions are some amazing people and could contribute so much to the church.  But, in his opinion, the thing that keeps them away more than anything else is the general attitude of intolerance and insular thinking that most members of the church have.  He hopes that can change, and my words bolstered that hope.

Bro. P. Early 40’s, a very talented classically trained musician in the music department at IU, also the person Adam mentioned in his post, who stood up after me and validated my testimony.  He also hugged me, which was a bit of a shock, but OK.  It was a very kind and supporting gesture, and his family name is Italian, so maybe I should have expected it.  I think he thinks that I am really really really struggling, and that I need someone to talk to and that he could be a person to answer the questions that I have.  Well, I don’t know, maybe I really really really am.  But I think I am much further along that path than he realizes.  He has since reached out through email to begin a dialogue with me, which I welcome, and have responded to.  We’ll see where it goes.

Bro. M – Early 20’s.  He asked if I could spend some time with him during the 2nd hour, and he felt a little awkward about it since we had never met before, but I said sure, and really appreciated his courage in approaching me.  So we found an empty room and just talked and got to know each other for a while.  He recently graduated from BYU in philosophy and entered the law school at IU and has struggled with some things that his wife just doesn’t understand how to deal with.  When she heard me speaking, she nudged him and said, “you need to be his friend.”  M. and I have some similar views on things – some similar approaches.  We both like to deconstruct common assumptions and don’t necessarily feel threatened being challenged ourselves (or so we say…).  He will totally be my friend.

Bro. W. – The former bishop – our bishop before we left for Japan (who released me as gospel doctrine teacher, told me how talented I was and how much I could contribute to the ward, and then called me as ward employment specialist… fishy).  He just smiled and gave me a high five as I walked past him in the hall.  I’m not really sure what that meant.

Bro J – in his 80’s.  A former stake president and astronomer, been on several missions in recent years.  Should be translated any day now.  He stopped me in the hall on the way into priesthood meeting and thanked me for my words and said something about “questions, oh yes, always questions, so many questions.”  This is the guy who years ago opened a prayer with “oh Lord, we are so humbled that we are the most chosen of all thy people” and, if any of you have heard my Mormon Humor podcast on Mormon Expression, he was the guy who changed his answer about the bishop joke from “not funny’ to “offensive” after first laughing at it and then thinking about it for too long.  But when it comes right down to it, he is just an amazing guy in so many ways (even if he does believe that the Tsunami in Thailand was caused by wickedness because there are so many non-members over there and, well, it just makes you have to scratch your head – oh yeah, I forgot – questions, so many questions).

Bishop T. – I spoke to him before I left the building.  I told him that I hope I hadn’t been too harsh in saying right off the bat that my testimony was that “I don’t know that the church is true” (because, to be honest – and this is just between us, ok? – I felt a little “stupored” at that moment, and some self doubt began to creep in, and it took me a while to get back on track with what I wanted to say).  He reiterated his point about asking questions, and said that he felt that Bro. B’s remarks were a little too harsh – that he just didn’t realize the lines he was drawing in the sand, and that he was glad that I got up and said something.  Our bishop is really cool.

Mr. G – Mr G approached me as I was walking out to the parking lot.  I say “Mr.” because he is not a member of the church (yes, I know, he is still technically our brother).  G is an investigator, and looks to me like he is in his mid to late 50s.  I don’t really know him much at all.  Although the first Sunday I was back in this ward, I was asked to teach Elders Quorum, and I got to pick the lesson topic, so I chose “Peculiar People” and I just held a Q&A and asked all the Elders what distinguished us from other people (aka “what makes us weird”).  And Mr. G was there with the two missionaries, so I addressed him frequently and asked him from his perspective, what he thought was unique about Mormons.  I think he liked it.  So he approached me and told me that he really liked my testimony.  I told him that I hoped it hadn’t come across too harsh.  I wished that I had followed up “I don’t KNOW that the church is true” with more of a qualifying statement on faith or hope, but he said that he thought that came out in the focus on the savior and the emphasis on becoming more charitable and tolerant of others.  As much as I hate to admit it, the young 14 year old boy in me who craves approval felt like I had made a good impression in – dare I say – a missionary moment.  And for as many who would say ‘you have to be careful with the way you speak about the Brethren or the Church’ I say yes.  You do.  Because if you keep lying for the Lord, people will sniff it out, and that is one of many reasons why I think the church has such poor credibility in the eyes of so many people outside the church – the inability and unwillingness to be honestly critical even in respectful ways.  but I think Mr. G saw it and appreciated it.  I better tell him next week not to expect too much of that, ‘cuz it is the rare exception, not the rule (yet – right?).

Sis J&J – Two sisters, actually – truly sisters, and daughters of the soon-to-be-translated Bro J above.  One is married to a non-member who comes to SM every week to support her and totally perked up and appreciated what I said, because he doesn’t feel like he ever has a chance to express his own voice in our church.  And the other sister shared a David O McKay quote about wide stakes and inclusion and how we have that embedded in theory but not in practice and she was glad that I said that, and hopefully it would snowball into some more discussion in other areas of the ward.  Time will tell.  Maybe it will make larger groups of backchatter.

And finally, a certain Brother F. (eh hem…)  Late twenties, tall, works out with a personal trainer, moderately witty in a dry sardonic catch-you-off-guard kind of way.  He thought it was a great testimony meeting, but was mostly freaking out that his internet self and his real life self were intersecting – worlds colliding.  This was revealed much later in the day, however, after Adam and I recorded an interview on Depression that will post on Mormon Expression next Tuesday Nov 16 (plug plug).  Cross pollination for the wheat and tares.

Did the Mormon World change in one single day?  Not even close.  But I think I have made it a little easier for me to stay in this church for a little while longer.  Now I better stop writing and get back to working on this marriage.  Night all.

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44 Responses to Testimony Time, Part II

  1. hawkgrrrl on November 10, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    Glenn – all my heroes are self-serving. I consider selfishness a noble virtue, akin to putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your kid. And if the kid’s arms are too short to reach the oxygen mask, maybe that’s just natural selection.

    Anyway, I really appreciated hearing the breakdown on reactions. Fascinating stuff to crack open the Mormon veneer and see what’s inside. I do find that Mormons are so excited by any kind of fresh, authentic, or unusual approach at church, that you can ascend to rock star status pretty quickly just for speaking your mind and having a quick wit. Of course, you may at the same time be viewed as a threat by those who police orthodoxy, so it’s a fine line. But the non-aspiring lay members see a cool person they relate to and want to validate, not a worldly apostate threat to our very survival.

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  2. Bored in Vernal on November 10, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    I enjoyed reading your post over at Mormon Expression, and I’m glad you expanded on it here. I have no idea if there is anyone in my ward who would be open to such a testimony–I suspect not. But I really liked your description of wanting to carve out a space for yourself to exist and make a comfortable home in the ward. I guess if someone (me) is too scared to ever put themselves out there, they will never find out if there are kindred spirits.

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  3. prometheus on November 10, 2010 at 7:55 PM

    Well done, Glenn – it takes courage to do such a thing.

    It has been my experience that sometimes what we might perceive as provocative statements are very often driven by a lack of understanding, caused by lack of genuine communication. I have definitely been both offender and offended in mis-communicating, where the message sent was not the message received.

    It has also been my experience that silence tends to let the injury fester, and a non-confrontational communication lets the other party realize there was an injury. That’s why I think that what you did was so important.

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  4. Mike S on November 10, 2010 at 11:03 PM

    This is why I like sites like this. To me, this is reality in all it’s glorious, imperfect, and non-correlated beauty. This is what helps me realize that we’re all in this struggle together.

    Thank you.

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  5. MH on November 10, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    Glenn, great to hear your side of the story. I definitely don’t have the courage to be as open about my beliefs as you do. I have 2 former bishops in the ward that treat me like your former bishop (“high five as I walked past him in the hall. I’m not really sure what that meant.”) Anyway, it makes me not want to open up at church, which is why I’m much more open here.

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  6. Mr Q&A on November 11, 2010 at 1:52 AM

    Glenn, I’m pleased you had such a positive experience, I’m really surprised by Bro. B’s remarks. If I was in that same situation I would have just sat there getting more & more frustrated 1st with him then with myself for not saying anything.

    Periodically I will speak in testimony meeting and try and hint, that my belief system is slightly different, but I must be using some sort of enigma machine because no one seems to break my code, I’ll keep trying.

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  7. diane on November 11, 2010 at 6:57 AM

    I like this! why because its’ honest.

    Last week I started a class on Judaism and it was interesting because the first part of the discussion was all about believing vrs knowing and how Abraham was the first Jew to question the existence of God. This was okay because Abraham acknowledged his doubts and did something about it. Investigate on his own. In my opinion, I think when you speak with in this framework it would be hard for anyone to take offense because your not only acknowledging your feelings but your actively seeking counsel to find out for yourself. That’s what you are suppose to be doing.

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  8. AdamF on November 11, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    Nice to see that it wasn’t just me who liked the meeting!

    Funny that I also came in late, right after Bro. B sat down and you got up.

    The most amusing part of the whole post to me is: “moderately witty in a dry sardonic catch-you-off-guard kind of way” – amusing because that’s exactly how I would describe you. ;)

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  9. jmb275 on November 11, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    Glenn-
    Thanks so much for sharing. I feel a bit like BiV, not sure if anyone in my ward would be so receptive. And yet, I wonder if you didn’t have the same apprehension. I have not been as bold as you, but in my teaching the YM I have said some things that rattled a few cages. A few weeks later I was featured as an example (in a good way) in the sacrament meeting talk of the 1st counselor in the YM presidency. So perhaps there is room in our Mormon world for us…well, as long as we’re very gentle!!

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  10. Will on November 11, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Glenn,

    If your Bishop had any guts, he would have said would I would have said from the pulpit and that is: It is a Testimony Meeting, not a place to seed doubt. So please bear your testimony. If you don’t have one, please refrain from coming to the pulpit.

    He was wrong in appeasing you.

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  11. Thomas on November 11, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    Will,

    Testimony is the bearing of witness of the truth. It is not “doubt” to state the truth — and nothing but the truth — a person actually has received.

    Neither is it “faith” to go beyond what one truly knows, or to assert more knowledge than one is entitled to assert.

    “Deprived of reason, faith has stressed feeling and experience, and so run the risk of no longer being a universal proposition. It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition.”

    Too many testimonies mingle true personal testimony — the witness of personal experience — with shoddy conclusions piled onto that initial premise. The best testimonies I’ve heard, tend to be simple and direct, with a greater ratio of “this is what I experience” to “and therefore….”

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  12. mh on November 11, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    apparently there is no place for glenn in will’s ward. will, are you saying glenn shouldn’t come to church for fear of infecting everyone with doubt?

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  13. AdamF on November 11, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    Will, so you are saying that my bishop made a mistake. Calling him gutless sounds a little off from your usual views on sustaining our leaders who represent the Lord. We all like to sustain our leaders as long as they uphold our views. So-called “orthodox” or “conservative” members seem to do this just as much as the “liberal” or heterodox” members do.

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  14. Will on November 11, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    Thomas/MH,

    I have no problem with someone having doubts; I have doubts for Heaven’s sake. The problem I have is that this is a Testimony meeting – a meeting for bearing testimony. It is not the place to stand up and object to doctrine; and, is certainly not a place to ‘un-bear’ your testimony as Glenn did. The place to express your concerns or doubts is with people you can trust; perhaps, a Bishop in a private office.

    We should have a little respect to the purpose and intent of the meeting.

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  15. mh on November 11, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    will, you said the bishop’s actions were wrong, yet the bishop clearly supported glenn. I don’t see a different outcome based on publicly or privately talking to the bishop.

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  16. Thomas on November 11, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    Will, what I would characterize as “un-bearing” a testimony, would be to stand up and express disbelief in some fundamental doctrine. What Glenn did, as far as I can tell from the admittedly incomplete versions we have, sounds more like “I believe, Lord; help thou my unbelief” or “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”

    As a non-member visitor in my cousin’s interesting ward told him afterwards, may be we “really need to do something about that open-mike policy.” The problem, I think, started off with the non-testimony born by the “Smorgasbord” gentleman. I do have doubts about whether there is ever really a place for such a direct “rebuttal” in testimony meeting, and in Glenn’s place, I might have acted differently. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that confessing to less than perfect knowledge of some religious principle, in a testimony, renders it a non-testimony.

    I absolutely do think there is more non-testimony born on the uphill side — as in, people “testifying” to things which they don’t genuinely have personal knowledge to testify of (objection!), than there is of the “I believe; help thou my unbelief” remarks.

    All that said, I can see your point.

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  17. Will on November 11, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Mh,

    I think it was because the Bishop was afraid of offending Glenn — scaring him away from the Church if you will.

    It reminds me of an experience my Brother had in a ward. He was attending the baby blessing of a friend. During the testimony meeting, a lady stood up and related a story about incest in her family that lived in the Ward. He, and everyone else, was horrified. It took away from the spirit of the meeting. The Bishop just sat there. By your reasoning, does the Bishop’s silence suggest the incest is ok? After all, he did not object. There is a big difference between public and private conversations. The Bishop and the subject act differently. There is a time and place for everything. A testimony meeting is not the place for discontent and objection.

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  18. Will on November 11, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Thomas,

    Glenn Said “I said that my testimony was that I do not know that the church is true”

    That is what he said that he said from the pulpit. Too me, that is un-bearing your testimony.

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  19. Will on November 11, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    AdamF,

    “Will, so you are saying that my bishop made a mistake”

    Yep, he is human. We can still support them when they make mistakes.

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  20. AdamF on November 11, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    Thanks for the clarification. It helps to know your views that we can disagree with a leader and still be supporting them. I think I falsely assumed that you did not hold that view.

    I also got defensive when you called my terrific bishop gutless.

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  21. hawkgrrrl on November 11, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    Will, would you have objected if Glenn had emphasized his words differently, e.g.: “I do not know that the church is true, but I grow closer to Christ as a result of being in this church, and for me, that’s enough.” By focusing on Christ and on his hopes and beliefs rather than “knowledge” he can’t claim, would you find that a “testimony” by your standard?

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  22. Thomas on November 11, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    “Glenn Said “I said that my testimony was that I do not know that the church is true”

    That is what he said that he said from the pulpit. Too me, that is un-bearing your testimony.”

    Yeah, well, neither do I, and neither, I believe, do the vast majority of people who use those words.

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  23. AdamF on November 11, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    GLENN – HOW DID I MISS THIS???

    “released me as gospel doctrine teacher, told me how talented I was and how much I could contribute to the ward, and then called me as ward employment specialist… fishy”

    Ehem. Cough. That is my job right now, thankyouverymuch. Not that I’m biased at all, but come on, who in their right mind is going to say that being a gospel doctrine teacher is more important than helping people gain employment? I’m sorry that employment was below your talents.

    /end sardonic rant.

    :D

    Granted, at a recent employment training one fellow WES did testify that being a WES was the most important calling in the wards. There was a lot of scoffing.

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  24. Will on November 11, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    Hawk/Adam/Thomas:

    Thomas, in our disagreement I think we are in agreement. Let me explain it this way, and In so doing will answer Hawk’s and MH’s questions.

    Not everyone has a testimony the church is true. I agree, there are probably quite a few that can say that will full sincerity and knowledge. Along these lines, those who express this expression in dishonestly do so to their peril and to the peril of those in the audience. I would say with some degree of confidence that everyone in the audience, with the exception of a few dragged their by their parents, have a testimony. They have a testimony of something that is true and uplifting or they wouldn’t be in the audience. They find merit with the church in some measure or they wouldn’t be in the audience. The purpose of the testimony meeting is to express their testimony. It is uplifting. It is intended to inspire others. It is intended to encourage others to come to Christ. It is intended to encourage others to change their lives for the good.
    Let’s take you for instance, Thomas. You have a testimony of the Law of Chastity as expressed on this blog. I don’t remember your words exactly, but I do remember being impressed by your comment. It was inspiring and uplifting. With the knowledge you are the sole provider in your family in a very expensive part of the Country, It is fair to assume you are fairly successful. You are looked up to by people in your Ward – perhaps by the Youth. If you were to bear your testimony on the Law of Chastity it would inspire others. It would encourage others to do good. After encouraging them with your testimony, would it serve any purpose to then express your doubts? No. I maintain it would do the opposite. Youth in the ward would use this as a rationalization. Along these lines, Hawk, in your example couldn’t he just express his love for Christ? Is expressing doubt in a testimony meeting inspire others?

    In short, there is a time and place to express concern and doubt – a Testimony meeting is not that place. It is after all, a Testimony meeting.

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  25. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 11, 2010 at 6:15 PM

    I did that for a while (ward employment specialist), after doing it unofficially for a while. It is neat to make dramatic changes in people’s lives.

    I remember one brother, who got upset with me about the example I was using of another brother who succeeded. “But I’m so much more qualified than that!” “Well?” I said. Suddenly he got the point. Last time we talked he had gone from career stagnation as a flunky to being in charge of a 70+ building network.

    There is so much incredible good you can do sometimes. Real, tangible, life changing good.

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  26. Glenn on November 11, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    Wow — I think there were 9 comments when I left work and now BOOM — 23. Thanks Will! That is a nice weird little ego boost. A few sincere questions for you and maybe a moderatly witty comment or two:

    1. How can you “un-bear” something? I’m confused. (I thought I was honestly bearing my testimony that I did not know that the church was true — and I quite like the way that Hawk restated it) and was asking if there was a place for me in the ward after our 1st councilors statements.

    I just get so tired of TBM-types (sorry label-haters) talking about doubters as if we are not sitting right there in the room. I had to stand up and say “here I am — I love this church too — I want to be here too.” I may not have mentioned the “love” part in the post, but I did say it.

    2. You seem to like the word “un-bear” — you have used it several times. Why do you like it so much?

    3. You seemed to miss (or at least “dismiss”) my testimony as stated in the original post, so please allow me to clarify it for you here: “There is so much that we don’t understand, and we have this traditional belief in Jesus and the atonement – this example of a God who so loved the world that he sent His only begotten son to die for our sins. That should be enough. That should be a message of hope to free us of our nitpicking and worrying, and allow us to just be more kind and charitable towards each other. And that is where my testimony is, where my hope and faith is, and that is what I want my church experience to be. And those things I said in he name of Jesus Christ, amen.” I will add to that my thankfulness that my bishop did not miss (or dismiss) this as my testimony.

    4. Adam, I don’t know how you missed the bit about the Ward Employment specialist. Rest assured, I did not intend to rank callings by importance — I can see how I worded that poorly. I only meant that given my talents and abilities, I think GD teacher is a better fit than WES, although I am proud (sorry pres. Benson) to admit that I did help three ward members find gainful employment that they are still enjoying after more than five years, including through a major global economic crisis, so… beat that ;)

    5. And finally, sorry Adam, but Will is absolutely right about Bishop being gutless. He is actually in tremendous shape, don’t you think? I on the other hand… well… I have plenty of gut to go around. I fervently pray that Will can help me find a way to un-bear that.

    (Tag — you’re it.)

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  27. Glenn on November 11, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    #24 peril schmeril — believe what you want Will. I’m going to be honest about my testimony and be as active and vocal in the church as I can be, because I want to. And when and if I decide that I don’t, then I won’t. thank you for your concern. peril.

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  28. Mike S on November 11, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    Will, I disagree. I get much more from people who honestly talk about their struggles, their doubts, their issues, and how they are working through them, than from people who always smile and talk about sunshine.

    I personally don’t get anything out of “IdliketobearmytestimonythatIknowthisChurchistrueandthatJosephSmithwasaprophetofGodandThomasSMonsonisaprophetnowandImthankfulforthemissionariesandImthankfulforthelastGeneralConferenceanditwasthebestconferenceIhaveeverheardandIsaythesethingsin…”

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  29. Thomas on November 11, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    Will, those are good points. Let me put it in a professional context. Sometimes, it actually strengthens your advocacy of a point, when you call attention to its weakest points. When your argumentation is too strong, or too one-sided, your hearers may wonder whether you’re not glossing over something. When you put at least a “something” or two up front and center, the hearers get the impression that you’re telling the whole story, and credit you that much more.

    (The oldest trick in the book, of course, is to toss out two or three of the least damaging weak points — and elide over the biggest one. Of course, this only works if you have an absolute klutz on the other side; if he’s halfway competent, you wind up looking even worse than before, because you’ve just gotten actually caught playing hide-the-ball.)

    I know I have been more profoundly affected by humble, even partial testimonies — even some with a doubt or two hinted at — than what could be caricatured as the “every fiber of my being” across-the-board testimony.

    Of course the key is “hinted at.” I think you’re right to be careful here, so that the little seasoning note of skepticism doesn’t overpower what’s supposed to be the main dish of faith. (You don’t want too much oregano in the spaghetti sauce.)

    I’m reminded of a scene in the movie Gods and Generals, where in a battle, a stricken-looking officer runs nervously up to Stonewall Jackson and says “the day is going against us.” The general glowers at him and says “If you think so, Sir, you had best keep it to yourself.” There is a time and place for all things, I suppose.

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  30. diane on November 11, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    Here’s the thing, I don’t think he was being contentious. It would be one thing if he was displaying a rude, condescending attitude, but he wasn’t. So, its’ perfectly okay to say what he had to say. Abraham taught us that it was okay to be doubtful, and to question to develop one’s own personal relationship, this is what Glenn was doing

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  31. Lauren on November 11, 2010 at 8:27 PM

    I’m confused by Will’s assertions. I certainly would have left SM with a kick in my step, finally, FINALLY having felt that my voice and the voices of those like me weren’t being marginalized. Every single week (especially since moving to Utah) I find myself bombarded with people like Bro. B who think that it’s fine to make blanket statements about the membership of the Church; doubts that, in all honesty Will, cast doubts in believing faithful members who happen to think differently than people like Bro. B.

    Perhaps more confusing is that Will’s reaction comes as a comment to a post whose purpose was literally to show the positive impact of his testimony on members (and non-members) of the ward.

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  32. Mr Q&A on November 12, 2010 at 1:32 AM

    Will,

    I would like you to be genuine, do you believe Bro. B was right and correct in what he said?

    Glenn’s initial comment was based as a question to Bro. B’s remarks, for the Bishop to react any differently would have shown he was disconnected and lacked the spirit, I believe any Bishop who is asked “is there a place for me?” who respond in like manner.

    For calling the Bishop gutless over somthing you have no mesure of inspiration over, is weak.

    Can I also examine your example of Thomas and Chastity (Thomas has a huge problem with the by the way, he goes bright red every time a deacon reads it out from the strength of youth) from what I can gain from the account, This was the 1st time Glenn had born his testimony in some time, therefore no ones testimony was relying on his, you example does not fit the circumstances.

    Will if you sincerely feel this strongly, go an pray about it, gain your own testimony of the positive effect of sharing honest (non-gloss magazine) testimony.

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  33. Glenn on November 12, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    BTW — I just recalled a comment made by my bishop during our discussion in the foyer that is really super cool. We were talking about what it means to “sustain” the brethren, and I said that it doesn’t mean that I have to agree with everything that they say. He agreed and said that he thinks that it means that we hope that eventaully they get it right. Now that is a definition of “sustain” that I can get behind 100%

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  34. Erica on November 13, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    Being Sis. E in this post, I thought I’d share a few thoughts. Glenn’s testimony was not an un-testimony. He stated the things he believed in, and he was honest enough to share the things he didn’t “know without a doubt.” Many people feel that they don’t belong because they have doubts. Our Bishop said exactly what he should have; that the church is an INCLUSIVE one, not an exclusive one. Would you disagree, poster No. 10? Doesn’t Christ welcome everyone who would follow him into the fold?

    Many, including myself, have questions and doubts about the LDS church’s political and social stances in current news, as well as their stances in the past. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t believe and have faith in many other key aspects of the church. I’m glad Glenn shared his beliefs and his doubts. It makes it so that members feel more comfortable sharing their own beliefs and doubts so we can actually discuss them and progress.

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  35. AdamF on November 13, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    Erica – I think I may know your husband… Anyway, thanks for coming on here! I’m starting to feel okay with this whole online and real-life worlds colliding.

    The bay-area member you mentioned to Glenn is one of many I think, a lot of whom have stuff online. I am interested in these talks that you were going to give Glen…

    Also, you read Sunstone? I love our ward!!!!!!

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  36. diane on November 13, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    Given this post and your responses to other peoples’ post I know know not to engage you in conversation.

    This is just so sad and disturbing on so many levels

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  37. diane on November 13, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Glenn

    I am sorry please disregard my last post. I thought I was on Wills’ blog.

    Again, I’m sorry.

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  38. Glenn on November 13, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    Thanks Erica, you Rick. And I was mistaken about the Bat Area. It was John D Gustaf from Minnesota, and I got the talks from Erica yesterday. Either she or I can get them to you soon Adam.

    And Diane, no worries, we all make mistakes, and if we are really forgiven as we forgive others than I want to give everyone the biggest benefit of the doubt that I can (see… value in doubt). And at the risk of sounding flippant, it is one of the reasons I avoid saying “I know” about pretty much everything cuz I could almost always be wrong about anything. :)

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  39. AdamF on November 13, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    Oh, yeah I was wondering if that’s who it was. It sounded like him but I was thrown off by the “bat area.” I’ve read his blog a little…

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  40. Tom on November 13, 2010 at 8:53 PM

    Glenn,

    Not sure if I missed it somewhere, but I believe you mentioned that you don’t necessarily buy the “gospel is not a buffet from which you can pick and choose” argument.

    A) Is that a true representation?

    And, if so,

    B) Can you share with me your rationale on that line of thinking?

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  41. Glenn on November 14, 2010 at 6:48 AM

    Ok Adam, you got me — big thumbs, little iPhone keys. I meant to say “bat cave.” But if it makes me feel any better, I am in Tokyo right now, and you are not. If I find a coco curry house, I’ll grab a menu for you or something. ;)

    Tom — Hmmmm… I wonder where you got that impression. Now I am a little paranoid. No, I think I actually self-identified at the opening of my testimony as what my first councilor called a “smorgasbord” mormon. My rationale on that is that I take personal responsibility for what I choose to believe and choose to doubt (and all gray areas in between), as well as for when I am right and for when I am wrong. And I trust that when/if I stand before the judgment bar of God, he will look at my heart and know that I was honest in my inquiries and motivated by a desire to be fair to others outside of the teeny tiny faith tradition I happened to have been born into, while still respecting as much as possible the wonderful traditions of my fathers (but only the wonderful ones). I don’t feel that I have to answer to any authority figure or justify my belief choices to anyone else, but I’m always happy to discuss it and I have changed my mind before, I can always change my mind again.

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  42. AdamF on November 14, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    If you find a coco ichiban, you need to bring me some curry. They sell it in packets. I’m serious. I’ll pay whatever you ask… Well, almost whatever you ask.

    Also, any references to batman are awesome, never mind any typos.

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  43. Andrea on November 14, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    Well Glenn, you’ve made me good and homesick for that ward!

    Thanks for sharing your testimony and reactions of ward members. And I can’t wait for the new podcast.

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  44. Tom on November 22, 2010 at 8:15 PM

    Thanks for the clarification and very well said.

    And I trust that when/if I stand before the judgment bar of God, he will look at my heart and know that I was honest in my inquiries and motivated by a desire to be fair to others outside of the teeny tiny faith tradition I happened to have been born into, while still respecting as much as possible the wonderful traditions of my fathers (but only the wonderful ones). I don’t feel that I have to answer to any authority figure or justify my belief choices to anyone else, but I’m always happy to discuss it and I have changed my mind before, I can always change my mind again.

    That is a good way to phrase it and generally how I see the world these days. My wife (and extended family, generally) fully admit how this belief system is “apostate” in more than one way, but I can’t yet reconcile my ever-changing beliefs with the dogmatic family structure I was both raised in and created myself during the initial years of my marriage. Now, 10 years later I’m changing in ways that are all too uncomfortable for some of my closest family members.

    As such, my more “progressive” views (progressive only in how my family sees them – and really, any book or article that wasn’t or isn’t penned by a current member of the First Presidency of Qof12 is considered progressive) produce a good deal of strain where I’d rather they not be. That’s the reason why I originally asked the question. I see myself in situations which need to answer some of these questions in a thoughtful way and always appreciate the insight others share.

    So, my thanks to you.

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