Dear God: Shall I Lament Your Impotence, Defy Your Injustice, or Renounce Your Followers?

By: Andrew S
March 21, 2014

Dear God,

It’s been a long time since we’ve talked…or rather, from my perspective, it’s been a long time since I’ve tried to talk to you, since from my perspective, we have never talked. Maybe I have the wrong number, but from my perspective, every time I call, I don’t get an answering machine, dial tone, or even one of those courtesy, “We’re Sorry! Your call cannot be connected…” messages. Instead, I am well acquainted with silence from the other end. A silence that each time makes me wonder why I was even there in the first place.

Maybe I’m just doing this whole prayer thing wrong. (I mean, I am aware that this sort of letter isn’t quite in line with Matthew, although since I am writing from my room, maybe that counts?) Maybe I’m supposed to figure out that the number is wrong. Maybe this is all just a hoax that my friends and family have been playing on me by continually insisting that I get in contact with you. Because that’s why I’m here, you know. Even now. My upbringing trains me to consider you seriously, even if from my perspective, I don’t have any personal record or recollection of your contact.

I don’t want to sound too bent out of shape over this. But maybe that introduction will help explain what I would like to say next.

The reason it’s been a long time since I’ve tried to talk to you is that, for several years now, I have actually been pulling away (in parts, in pieces) from that training of my upbringing, and seeing what it means to live my life without trying to keep in contact every day. Seeing what it means to live outside of a long distance relationship.

It turns out that I am not alone. I am one of the third in my generational cohort who is a None when it comes to affiliation with religious institutions. I am aware that of that third, we are not all the same, especially in the aspect I will share next — I identify as agnostic and atheist (notwithstanding this letter to you. Or does this letter override my self-labeling?)

Even if most of my fellow millennials who are Religious Nones wouldn’t go so far as to say they are atheist or agnostic, chances are that many of them do happen to see similarly to me when it comes to a particular reason we find so much difficulty with the institutions that claim to be your agents on earth: in addition to being a religious none, in addition to being an agnostic, in addition to being atheist, I am a progressive liberal sort of guy. Maybe this is a personal flaw, maybe this is youth and this is inexperience and this is naiveté, maybe this is something you have put in side me as a challenge to overcome, but nevertheless, I feel that these sentiments run to my core and represent the culmination of many of my life experiences.

Why do I bring this up to you? Well, in your omniscience (if you have that? …your followers often say you do), you probably already know, but I bring this up because I have a problem with the fact that many of your most devout followers — though they may disagree on many theological points and have many religious and denominations — tend to be the staunchest opponents of the progressive liberal causes that arouse my sympathies. Even more, they claim their motivation is following you and your ways.

You know I was raised Mormon, a denomination that even those who might consider it to be insufficiently Christian will still admire and envy for its ability to better instill and inculcate a mature, grounded, lasting faith, and yet here I am, looking from the outside than the inside. What happened?

Well, Mormonism happens to be a good example — but just a microcosm of the same sort of thing that’s happening in many other denominations and religions — of what’s turning many of us liberal progressive young adults off.

I could talk to you about LGBT issues, I could talk about the sense that we must walk on eggshells when talking about our doubts, I could talk about so many things…but for now, the recent issue I will talk about is women in the LDS church.

You know that recently, a group of faithful LDS women, “Ordain Women,” requested tickets to the Priesthood session of the LDS church’s General Conference. You know that they ask for the LDS church leadership to take the matter of ordination for women to you. You know that the church rebuffed them, meeting their request for equality and fellowship with the ordained brethren with a suggestion that they should instead demonstrate in the free speech that have long been established “for those wishing to voice differing viewpoints” — but most commonly the place for anti-Mormons to protest. My coblogger here at Wheat & Tares, Jeff, has already written about this, and indeed, I have already written too, but though this issue relates specifically to Mormonism (although gender role issues are certainly not unique to Mormonism), I wanted to write about this from a more general perspective.

I know you probably get people complaining to you a lot about why you allow injustice in the world. It’s apparently enough of a trope that your followers have developed a response in anticipation of what you would say:
Sometimes I'd like to ask God why he allows poverty and injustice in the world. But then I'm afraid he'd ask me the same question.
But here’s the thing…when folks like the supporters of Ordain Women do what they can to try to “do something about” injustice (and I acknowledge that this “injustice” pales in comparison to much injustice in the world), and whenever liberal progressives of all sorts of stripes try to do what they can about the injustices they see on many issues, I find that many conservative religious adherents will instead say:

There will still be hurt feelings.While this probably will generate more publicity for them, If the Lord wants them to have the Priesthood [or whatever liberal/progressive cause], it will happen in His own way in His own time, maybe never.

Remember, it is THY will be done, not my will. Even Jesus respected that. this is clearly a matter of pride, the wrong kind, IMO.

Clearly a matter of pride, the wrong kind.

Maybe the statistics are outdated or the methodology flawed, but when the basic statistic thrown is that some 90% of LDS women oppose women’s ordination, I wonder what shall I do.

When many of the adherents of what I see to be a basically unjust system remark that not only is that status quo right, but it is divinely commissioned by God (and wanting things to be different is “clearly a matter of pride”), I wonder what shall I do.

For the faithful LDS proponents of Ordain Women, the answer to this question is to agitate faithfully for priesthood ordination. I totally have respect for them and their efforts.

Ordain Women at General Conference

But for me, and for many folks in my generation, that option doesn’t come up as one of the viable options. Instead, when I ask: what shall I do?, the following possibilities come to mind:

Shall I lament your impotence?

If I still even am willing to entertain that you exist, that this letter is even going anywhere, shall I concede that perhaps the you really can’t convey a message of justice and equality and fairness to those who claim to be his adherents? To be fair, I know many liberal and progressive adherents of religion who suggest just this — especially in the case of Mormonism. That you are a God who weeps because you watch the suffering that we experience with the understanding that unless we can prove that we’re doing it, we can’t have it all.

Shall I defy your injustice?

Shall I recognize that maybe equality is not the Lord’s will? That those sentiments and inclination and desires that so speak to the deepest part of me as an identified liberal progressive are folly at best and a ticket to my damnation at worst? Yet, even if I concede this, will my heart acquiesce? I know what is written, and maybe this is just clearly a matter of pride, the wrong kind, but even if I concede this, I fear that if asked to go for an eternity defying your injustice, I would resign myself to the Sisyphean task.

Shall I renounce your alleged followers?

Perhaps I have been seeing things too narrowly. As I stated earlier, maybe I have the wrong number. Maybe my upbringing in this Mormon religion, my upbringing in a community of conservative religious folks, has been too limiting to my spiritual development.  Maybe that internal sense that there is something better is not a false implant…maybe you do recognize equality (even if I can’t recognize you in my deep yearning for it because of my upbringing) and you do implement it in your own ways, but the Mormon church and other conservative churches just aren’t the places where this work is accomplished.

I am not like all the members of my generational cohort of “nones,” so perhaps what I will say next is premature, but I feel that whenever a person walks away from organized religion (and especially the conservative traditions of his or her upbringing), on his or her own path, that is another person who has confronted the question: what shall I do?

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68 Responses to Dear God: Shall I Lament Your Impotence, Defy Your Injustice, or Renounce Your Followers?

  1. Ken on March 21, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    “what shall I do”

    I realize the progressive view is to not stop until everybody sees things YOUR way, but this is what you should do:

    Worship God (or no one) according to the dictates of your own conscience, but PLEASE allow others that same privilege to worship how where or what they may.

     

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  2. Mormon Heretic on March 21, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    Ken, how far do you go with that? Should we allow Native Americans to smoke weed as part of their religious ceremonies? Should the FLDS be permitted to perform under-age marriages to first cousins? Should we allow Reverend Phelps to picket Mr Rogers and U.S. servicemen’s funerals? Should we allow white supremacists to set up whites only churches?

    After all, these people are worshiping according to the dictates of their own conscience.

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  3. Will on March 21, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Andrew,

    My responses don’t show up when I use my email. Am I still in the dog house?

    MH,

    I agree with Ken, but see your point. I would add this is why we have civil laws.

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  4. Andrew S on March 21, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    re 1

    Ken,

    Maybe I’m not a good progressive then (since I don’t think my response has been to “not stop until everybody sees things my way”), but my response has been to recognize that God (if he exists) is either impotent, unjust, or his followers are wayward and I want little to do with them.

    so, I guess that goes with allowing people the privilege to worship how, where, or what they may?

    Like, in response to Mormon Heretic, we *do* allow folks like Westboro Baptist Church (requiescat in pace, Mr. Phelps, because it seems your life was so far away from peace for whatever reasons) to picket funerals. But we also recognize that they are horrifically wayward and should be renounced and denounced, even as we allow the picketing.

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  5. Will on March 21, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    Andrew,

    Better yet, am I still banished to the “free speech zone”?

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  6. Andrew S on March 21, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    re 3,

    Will,

    It was pretty nice not having comments like “liberalism is a mental disorder.” And since you think the permabloggers have no integrity, I have no idea why you still try to comment here.

    A change of heart?

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  7. Howard on March 21, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Given the contrast between the ease with which Joseph conversed with God and the GREAT DIFFICULTY Spencer W. Kimball et al encountered seeking a simple yes or no answer regarding the ban on blacks it is reasonable to conclude that the church has a very serious communication problem with God. The incongruity that Christ incarnate as Jesus was clearly a progressive who opposed Pharisees and the church is a pharisaical conservative organization that claims to be closely guided by the same Jesus Christ add to the body evidence that the church is out of touch with God. Given the communication break down I believe God wants this agitated conversation between LDS progressives and the brethren, it may encourage them to again break radio silence with him as agitation has in the past.

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  8. anonymous on March 21, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Ken, I find it funny how you characterize progressives, because I feel your statement describes LDS people pretty well, who as a general rule aren’t accepting of diversity of opinion either within the church or without. Maybe if the LDS would learn to apply the 11th article of faith, so many people wouldn’t be in pain from the church and they wouldn’t feel the need to push back to create some space for themselves.

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  9. Nate on March 21, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Personally, I’ve embraced God’s injustice. But I’ve only done that because I have heard the call “come follow me” from what I percieve to be the supernatural realm. But in the absence of that voice, I see no reason to follow an unknown and un-revealed God who behaves in seemingly irrational and unjust ways. But I do believe that often if one seeks Him with all his heart, He does sometimes reveal Himself, although it may not be in ways orthodox believers accept.

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  10. Andrew S on March 21, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    re 9

    Nate,

    I think that’s a fair statement, one that I’ve heard from many believers. However, there is one thing that gets me in your comment:

    But I do believe that often if one seeks Him with all his heart, He does sometimes reveal Himself

    i don’t know if this is more disturbing or less disturbing than what I’ve heard from other believers. Many other believers would instead say that if someone seeks God with all his heart, he *always* reveals Himself (although, as you note, it may not be in ways orthodox believers accept.) And then of course, there are Calvinists who say that some folks just never will recognize God, and God has designed things that way.

    But yeah, that “sometimes” gets me. So, I’m supposed to “seek Him with all [my] heart” only for a “sometimes”?

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  11. symphonyofdissent on March 21, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    I think there’s a fourth option you haven’t considered. It involves acknowledging that our limited earthly perspective of what is just or unjust is wrong or skewed and that God knows best. That option requires a lot of humility, prayer and soul searching, but is ultimately leads to greater faith and a closer relationship with God.

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  12. Ken on March 21, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Andrew/MH,

    I understand and don’t feel some of these things cited by the both of you are worshiping God. Worshiping God is the key phrase. Likewise, taking a plane full of innocent people and running them into the twin towers or blowing yourself up in a crowded restaurant in the name of God is murder, but it is also taking the name of the Lord in vain by using his name to fulfill YOUR purposes.

    This is why Elder Oakes, when discussing these matters, referenced the first commandment.

    Worshiping God means to follow his will. In my faith, it means to follow the Prophet. It means to recognize the Prophet as God’s oracle and accept in due time God will reveal his will to his Prophet.

    I respect people that push for equality, but would suggest they would have the best luck using the Savior revealed approach ‘gentleness, kindness, meekness, persuasion, long suffering….”

    Are these advocates worshipping God, or thier cause?

    Anonymous

    Agreed, some in the church do NOT worship God.

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  13. Andrew S. on March 21, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    Symphonyofdissent,

    I think that is a fair fourth option, but it’s not so much that I haven’t considered this option so much that I’ve considered this option and found it to be soul destroying.

    To say this is to basically say that any personal deeply intuited, experienced sense of morality could simply be deception and that one should instead reject all of these internal cues and sentiments.

    What does it mean to say God knows best when God’s “best” (as claimed by conservative followers) feels intrinsically horrific to me? What is the value of said greater faith? What is the value of generating a closer relationship with someone or something you view as fundamentally evil?

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  14. Andrew S on March 21, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    re 12,

    Ken,

    If I might respond to your post while addressing Symphonyofdissent’s:

    So, if Symphonyofdissent says the fourth perspective is “acknowledging that our limited earthly perspective of what is just or unjust is wrong or skewed and that God knows best,” then my basic issue is I now have utterly no way of saying how those who ran planes into the twin towers are wrong. Maybe they had greater faith in God to transcend the “limitations” of my moral sense about those sorts of things?

    There’s no way, IMO, to separate “worshipping God” and “worshipping a cause”.

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  15. Howard on March 21, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    I do believe that often if one seeks Him with all his heart, He does sometimes reveal Himself vs *always*

    Well we have to be able to receive him. Be still and know that I am God means meditation helps and so does experience and practice.

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  16. Will on March 21, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    I have read the post and comments and they are less engaging since I was excommunicated.

    Think of me as Kate Kelly and the permabloggers as the Church leadership. I just want a ticket to the club?

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  17. Andrew S. on March 21, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    Howard,

    The impression I get is just that type supposed to spend your entire life seeking after God (no matter how repugnant it seems), but at the end of the day, you might have nothing to show for it.

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  18. Andrew S on March 21, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    re 16,

    Will,

    if we were going with this analogy, then I guess the question would be — if you so despise that liberals (whom you believe have a mental illness) of W&T, then why would you be “faithful” to the site (because that’s the thing with Kate Kelly and Ordain Women — this is a group of faithful, active LDS women.)

    I mean, if you thought — in your faith to the site — that this was the “one true blog” and that only here did the comments section have the authority of blog God, then maybe it would make sense. (In the same way, Ordain Women seek equality in the LDS church rather than leaving precisely because they do find value in the church and value in priesthood keys.)

    But we aren’t the one true blog, and it’s not clear you really think of it as such.

    So yeah, going to need more explanation.

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  19. Will on March 21, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    I have read the comments and posts and they are way less engaging since I was given the boot.

    Think of me as Kate Kelly and the perma bloggers as the church leadership. I just want a seat at the table.

    Yes in change of heart

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  20. Howard on March 21, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    I see your point. I don’t and wouldn’t advocate that. I didn’t do that myself, I ignored him for 30 years and enjoyed the time immensely, then I went on a search for meaning that included health, wellness, diet, stress reduction which led to meditation with led unexpectedly to God! Many profound revelatory experiences since leave me unable to deny his presence or explain it away as either intuition, coincidence or confirmation bias, so I seem to be stuck with God! Much of my experience reaffirms Joseph’s (yes even some of the most of the outlandish stuff) and refutes most of the correlated and canned corporate church hype stuff.

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  21. alice on March 21, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    Another possibility is that HF has been speaking but The Brethren haven’t been listening very well. Maybe HF has had to raise his voice and is using Ordain Women as an earthly voice so that they will finally get the message.

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  22. Will on March 21, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    It was blocking my ip, so it was said twice

    ” Kate Kelly and Ordain Women — this is a group of faithful, active LDS women.)”

    Right.

    So this site is ONLY for faithful liberals

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  23. Andrew S on March 21, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    re 22,

    Will,

    Clearly not. It’s just that if you can’t have the tact not to say that liberals have a mental disorder, then we can’t really help you with these basic social skills. Plenty of other non-liberal folks can still refrain from that. From here on out, let’s take this off the site. I’ll send you an email.

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  24. Mormon Heretic on March 21, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Ken,

    Warren Jeffs, deluded as he may be, absolutely believes he is not only worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience, believes Joseph Smith did the same, etc. Do you support him worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience, as Joseph Smith espoused?

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  25. Will A on March 21, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    I purposely waited for you to post a blog like this to illustrate my point.

    You preach diversity and tolerance and equality and come after the church because they ask people that don’t follow their protocol to express themselves in the free speech zone. I know, as I have seen it with my own eyes, that the ordain women have said far worse things about the church then I did about liberals. Actually, they were not my words but have been repeated daily by Ann Culter.

    Any you wonder why I question integrity?

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  26. Howard on March 21, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    Will,
    Does the church allow progressives the voice W&T provides for you?

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  27. Sebastian Dick on March 21, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    Great post. If you found yourself contemplating another open letter to God at some point, I’m sure it would be appreciated here:
    http://infantsonthrones.com/dear-god-part-1/

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  28. Ken on March 21, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    MH,

    “Warren Jeffs, deluded as he may be, absolutely believes he is not only worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience, believes Joseph Smith did the same, etc”

    Just because he believes he is worshiping God; does not mean that he is in fact worshiping God.  If it were just about polygamy, like the Kody Brown group, I wouldn’t see a problem with him worshiping the way he seems fit.

    When his beliefs become criminal and include committing acts of violence, kidnapping and rape against others then he is no longer worshiping God – he is committing acts of violence, rape and kidnapping and needs to be dealt with as a criminal.

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  29. Will A on March 21, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    Howard,

    I got a boot in the ass from the permanent-bloggers. As far so I know, the OW crowd are still agitating members. Ur…I mean faithful members.

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  30. Andrew S on March 21, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    And yet, here you are, derailing the conversation, not even posting as yourself, but posting as other people. You know, we *can* see IP addresses…

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  31. Jeff Spector on March 21, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    Our human tendency, especially these days is not to be the one at fault. it just be someone or something else causing the issue. I cannot speak to why one does not receive answers to their prayers, if that is the case. In my own case, it is because i have my hearing aids turned down. ( I don’t actually wear them, just for the record it is a figure of speech).

    Howard said: “Given the contrast between the ease with which Joseph conversed with God”

    “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” (D&C 121:1) Doesn’t sound like someone conversing with Ease in this case and I’m sure many others.

    “GREAT DIFFICULTY Spencer W. Kimball et al encountered seeking a simple yes or no answer regarding the ban on blacks it is reasonable to conclude that the church has a very serious communication problem with God.”

    Check Enos 1:2 and Alma 8:10 as two examples for wrestle with god for an answer. it’s much more common that you seem to think.

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  32. Jeff Spector on March 21, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    MH,

    “Warren Jeffs, deluded as he may be, absolutely believes he is not only worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience, ”

    No offense, but you don’t know what he really believes, only how he has acted.

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  33. Mormon Heretic on March 21, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    Will,

    Apparently you are not checking your email. Here is our solution.

    Will, if you would like to participate at this blog, we would like you to refrain from picking fights or DERAILING the conversation (as you are now.) You may submit comments, and these will be edited for subject, tone, and tact. If this is acceptable, then you are welcome to comment here. If you can improve your tone, quit picking fights, and derailing the conversation, then we will take you off moderation completely. If these terms are unacceptable, we encourage you to find another place to blog. We welcome disagreement, but not being disagreeable.

    Please respond via email. We do not want you derailing this topic again.

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  34. Mormon Heretic on March 21, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    Ken, I’m glad to see you have a reasonable answer regarding Jeffs, although I note that Kody Brown is breaking the law, so therefore you are a bit inconsistent regarding the legality of it. How about tackling the Weed smoking Navajos?

    Furthermore, if a church wants to discriminate against blacks, or hispanics, or wants to protest military funerals, should we just say, “oh that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with that. Let them worship how, where, or what they may.” As Christians, are we not supposed to speak up when we see injustices? And if we are supposed to speak up, in what ways is speaking up acceptable?

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  35. Howard on March 21, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    Will I enjoy your candid and sometimes extreme point of view and your willingness to defend it, welcome back if you are back. But there is no percentage in insulting the perma’s.

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  36. Howard on March 21, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    Jeff,
    Gezz what a weak argumemt!!! The verse D&C 121:1 may not be a good example of conversing with ease but the rest of the book IS and since it was published what have we added to the canon? OD1 & OD2.

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  37. Ken on March 21, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    Mormon H:

    I think it is legal in some parts, but putting that aside I would also point out that I support the article of faith that supports obeying the law.

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  38. Mormon Heretic on March 21, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    Ken, I find you are equivocating. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young believed in obeying God’s laws, not mans, despite AoF 11. I don’t support Reverend Phelps being a bigot any more than any Mormon that wants to be a bigot, even if they want to claim they are worshiping God and represent his views. I think Jesus would say to both, ‘depart from me, ye that work iniquity.’

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  39. Mormon Heretic on March 21, 2014 at 9:33 PM

    Ken, I just reviewed your previous comment,”I respect people that push for equality, but would suggest they would have the best luck using the Savior revealed approach ‘gentleness, kindness, meekness, persuasion, long suffering….”

    I agree. I think Kate Kelly is using gentleness, kindness, meekness, persuasion, and long suffering. I know you don’t agree, but perhaps that is the eye of the beholder regarding that particular verse.

    On another note, D&C 121 isn’t exactly how the Savior always acted.

    *he turned over tables as he ‘cleansed the temple’, calling them thieves. Kate hasn’t done any name calling, nor has she turned over anyone’s table.

    *Matthew 23:33 “You [the Pharisees] serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” Kate hasn’t said anyone is going to hell, but plenty of people have told her that.

    *John 8:44 “You [the Pharisees] are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”

    So once again, I think Kate is representing D&C 121 quite well, especially in comparison to Jesus.

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  40. Douglas on March 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    #39 – Re: Kate Kelly, OW, and her approach. I don’t agree, I believe that Sister Kelly has crossed the line of legitimate dissent and is working against the Church. However, it’s not so bad that she ought to be run out of the Church. Her respective PH leaders and her peer sisters should employ the gentle persuasion to teach her the ‘error of her ways’. I liked some of the more strident quotes of the Savior. At times, the gloves do have to come off. Not so in the case of Kate Kelly or the OW “ringleaders”. Again, this is a teaching opportunity, and I hope the Church PR doesn’t blow it.

    The Church’s refusal to allow OW on Church property and quietly direct her to the “free speech area” is, IMO, the best approach. Thus far, we don’t have reason to believe that Women and the PH is an “issue” for the membership at large, but rather is being bandied about by a small knot of agitators who appear to not have an understanding of what it is they seek, nor especially about how the Church is guided.

    I perused the OW website and noted that,naturally, to join you must profess that the Church should ordain women to the PH (well…duhh…). It’s interesting how they clamor for “open-mindedness” on the part of Church leaders and the membership at large,but don’t extend that courtesy themselves. Typical.

    A distinction needs to be made between women that feel that their talents and growth are being frustrated by proscription of the PH versus those that have set themselves up to fight against the Church. Just wondering why women can’t receive the PH doesn’t make one an apostate, merely not understanding how the Church is guided via a CURRENT prophet and the others placed under him (who are ALL under ‘Him”). Stereotypical comments about gender roles and characteristics, IMO, fail where the individual is concerned, and miss the point. Many women that I’ve known could serve in roles traditionally reserved for the PH if they were called. I’m sure in Churchill’s two terms as PM that few Britons would have felt a “lady” MP could succeed him. But only twenty-six years after Sir Winston left No. 10 Downing St, enter Margaret Thatcher, who was probably the best PM of the 20th century. NEVER say “Never” (again).

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  41. Douglas on March 22, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    #2 – You raised some interesting points, all under the question of “what should we ALLOW?”. Who is WE, and what is the nature of this “allowance”? Are we speaking of the marketplace of ideas, or Government? Do remember that the First Amendment is given wide enough latitude to three-point turn a Boeing 747.

    a) Allow Native Americans to employ weed, or more likely peyote, in their shamanistic religions? Answer: Consenting adults shouldn’t have to justify their private use of substances for sake of religion or self-medication, merely ensure that said use doesn’t harm others (e.g., driving while stoned). I doubt that your typical LDS stake will ever put the “high” in the Stake council, though.

    b) FLDS and underage marriages (to first cousins and whoever). As if we’re worried about a Church of web-footed polygamists. I’d say that regardless of marriage that State laws regarding getting a marriage license (where a legal marriage is contemplated) and especially laws regarding age of consent must be observed, else, let the severe consequences fall. It should be obvious that the State has an interest therein,

    c) Picketing of funerals – this do test the First Amendment, but as long as they aren’t disruptive, the odious cretins known as the Westboro Baptist Church (Mr. Phelps has assumed room temperature and no doubt is shifting from one foot to another explaining himself to his Savior), yes. So likewise do Marine veterans and the like have the right to counter-demonstrate to render their protest irrelevant.

    d) White Supremacist and setting up a “white only” Church. Unfortunately, a resounding YES. If they want to assembles themselves as a “whites only” Church, that is their right. AFAIK, there’s nothing in the IRS code 503(c) that prevents a religious body from restricting membership or privileges therein. And we are likewise free to utterly ignore them. Since the Church doesn’t have a “whites only” policy, and I’ve no desire to affiliate with another faith (save Jediism, which I resort to when someone who has no business asking what faith I subscribe to does so anyway), it’s a moot ;point for yours truly.

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  42. Howard on March 22, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    Sister Kelly has crossed the line of legitimate dissent and is working against the Church

    What can the mean in practice Douglas? The church has $30 Billion or so in assets and 5 Million or so who attend. Kate and girls pose a serious threat? In the early days of the restored church it needed protection but today it can stand on it’s own. It isn’t the church that is being threatened it is the church’s questionable doctrine and practice that that feminists like Kate are shining their flashlights on. If the doctrine and practice can’t survive the light of day there’s something wrong there!

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  43. Andrew S on March 22, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    I just want to take this time to point out comments that definitely prove my point:

    re 40:

    I believe that Sister Kelly has crossed the line of legitimate dissent and is working against the Church. However, it’s not so bad that she ought to be run out of the Church. Her respective PH leaders and her peer sisters should employ the gentle persuasion to teach her the ‘error of her ways’.

    This is exactly proving my point. Women’s equality in the priesthood should be a basic issue. And yet, here we discuss whether it is “legitimate dissent” or “working against the church” — as if women’s equality as a concern could ever *not* be legitimate dissent. Literally, in this comment, women’s equality is “working against the church.”

    Well, perhaps it is. But if the church is such an organization where priesthood ordination for women is “against the church,” then it doesn’t matter if they run Kate or others out the church — because they assuredly are running many others out.

    If I’m “wrong” and need to be shown the error of my ways on this, then why would I want to be right?

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  44. Douglas on March 22, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    42 – Sis Kelly doesn’t pose a “threat” at all, save to her own salvation. That’s why I’m hoping the Church handles her and OW with the proverbial “kid gloves”. Since the Church cannot, by definition, budge on the PH issue w/o revelation, it has little choice but to stand firm and not even lend the ‘issue’ the dignity of discussion. I’d rather see her concerns and frustrations by not being ordained to the PH being addressed, I see nothing wrong in how she feels, only in her actions.

    43 – Andrew, the Lord doesn’t have to meet your standard of what constitutes “equality”, or mine. If you believe that Sis Kelly is missing out on something, then your questioning the will of He that confers the PH. If you don’t believe that there’s a “He”, or that “He” has any PH to confer, then the discussion as far as you’re concerned is moot. You’re just looking for excuses to criticize the Church, and in the marketplace of ideas, you perfectly have that right. However, I don’t have to give you audience on the subject. You’re always welcome to start your own Church which will express your values. Since the Lord has said what He’s said, and doesn’t feel the need to justify Himself, I won’t presume to explain on His behalf. (D&C 1:38)

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  45. Andrew S on March 22, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    re 44,

    Douglas,

    Statistically, what’s going to happen is that people will see conservative religions (such as the LDS church) as being out of step with the values they expect from a modern society. The church (and other conservative religions) can care about growth/being relevant OR about ideological purity.

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  46. hawkgrrrl on March 22, 2014 at 9:21 PM

    What about missions? I served a mission. So did Kate Kelly. It is supposed to be a priesthood “obligation” but we did it as volunteers. I had to explain on several occasions why I did something that was unusual for my gender, whereas most men in the church would have to explain if they didn’t go why not. To some people, my going meant there was something wrong with me. Likewise, a man not going would have been taken by some as a sign that there was something wrong with that person.

    Women are effective missionaries, even though it’s a “priesthood obligation.” The more women who serve, the more women who would be ready to also be effective leaders in the church in general. There is some correlation with mission service and spiritual confidence in the church; I am sometimes surprised at how marked a difference I see between some sisters who are returned missionaries and some who never served; I have noticed in teaching RS that the latter are at times very tentative and hesitant in their opinions and in speaking up in general (not everyone, just something I have seen in some women). If it weren’t for this action by the church’s PR to relegate women to the anti-Mormon zone, I would have thought they were paving the way to more fully utilize women in the church by lowering the mission age for women.

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  47. Hkobeal on March 22, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    If I had a quarter for every time I’ve seen someone refer to the adult women who participate in Ordain Women as “girls,” I’d be a rich woman indeed.

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  48. Howard on March 23, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    Hkobeal,
    Read in context you may see that the term was diliberatly used as a literary technique rather than ignorant chauvinism or deliberate putdown.

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  49. […] …leading to some profound philosophical questions. […]

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  50. Nona on March 23, 2014 at 6:06 PM

    I just wanted to thank you for this post, Andrew. You put into words so many of my feelings.

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  51. […] tried to say it specifically with respect to Ordain Women here on this blog, and I tried to generalize it at Wheat & Tares (but the conversation derailed into 1) a discussion on whether Kate Kelly had “gone too […]

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  52. Roger on March 23, 2014 at 7:27 PM

    The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, offered to the Jew and to the Gentile. If Mormonism is supposed to be the latter-day restoration of primitive Christianity, wouldn’t these gender-based restrictions be eliminated?

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  53. Douglas on March 23, 2014 at 9:47 PM

    #45 – That’s marketing, not revelation or missionary work. Again, start your own Church or similar organization that best expresses your ideas, and see how you fare. If we’re just debating about which club we like best, then it’s useless to assume that our individual preferences can be extrapolated to a larger base. Different strokes for different folks, and with seven billion on this rock and counting, that’s a lot of stroking. If we’re talking about who is “Gawd” (and what is (s)he doing…), then by definition it transcends logic and relies on testimony and personal conviction. Andrew, I can employ “geometric logic”, as did the fictional Captain Queeg from the “Caine Mutiny”, to expound the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and would expect similar results as did the hapless skipper of the Caine when testifying before the court-martial panel at Treasure Island. I’ll skip fiddling with steel ball bearings as well. Logic and debate go only so far.

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  54. Andrew S on March 23, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    re 53,

    Douglas,

    I’m just saying that secularism and religious apathy are documented as increasing nationally and internationally.

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  55. Douglas on March 23, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    #46 – Neither any sister missionary that served or any male that didn’t owes ANYONE an explanation. How sad that any young woman should feel slighted b/c she’s consecrated eighteen months of her life to win souls to Christ. I suppose, at a time where women commonly married very soon after high school (if indeed they graduated HS at all) OR, if at college, was after her “M-R-S” degree. So a 21 y.o. young sister, whom to me (ALMOST 55 and close to the magic milestone of old fogeydom) is little more than child, is an “old maid”? Sheesh. To me, UNLESS a young lady just HAS to get hitched and get a fast start on that football team (with no one playing both sides of the ball) of kids, 21 is barely old enough to even consider marriage. So why are we deeming these sweet kids in a negative light b/c they served a mission? We have a couple of sisters in my ward and either would do fine someday as a daughter-in-law if that were in the cards.
    Hawk, I would disagree about the “relegation” of these agitators to have their demonstration off Church property. I see lowering the age of “elective” service by the sisters to 19 as getting away from the aforementioned social marginalization of young adult women who hadn’t either married or had serious prospects of same at age 21. The one has nothing to do with the other. Regardless of where and/or how a sister or brother has served on a full-time mission, if they openly defy the earthly leaders that the Lord has called, it is tantamount to defying the Lord himself, and they do so at their own spiritual peril. I could argue from my own limited perspective as to why the lowering of missionary age requirements, especially the sisters, but must simply conclude that the Prophet, per recommendation of the Missionary Department, has administrative discretion. If the Lord objected to that path, He’d make it known. Likewise with women and the PH. If and when He wants it, He’ll make His will known. Can the Prophet and the other 14 “Prophets, Seers, and Revelators” fast and pray and inquire same? Certainly. However, I who have never been even a bishop won’t presume to advise them on how to do their jobs.

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  56. Douglas on March 23, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    #54 – From what I can see, even in “Yew-Taah”. But once the Prophet wets his finger and sticks it up to see which way the wind blows, then the Church will have left ME. Not that I expect that to happen. We use the expression that God Himself will always be steadfast, else He ceases to be who He is. His organization is held to no less a standard, regardless of popularity.

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  57. Andrew S on March 23, 2014 at 10:21 PM

    re 55,

    Hence we get back to the three options I’ve presented in my post. What folks are increasingly realizing is that either God is pretty lame at implementing his grand scheme, or maybe he’s just not all that great, or maybe it’s just his followers who are not all that great.

    Regardless of which of these options is the case, none of them give a really inspiring viewpoint for being or staying religious.

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  58. Douglas on March 23, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    #57 – I literally have faith that God will continue to be great and capable of carrying out His will. To the extent that He allows Free Agency supremacy (from “Devil’s Advocate”, it IS a bitch…), that depends on us. As for whether His “followers” are great or not, I can only speak for myself, and I KNOW my limitations (So SFPD Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan. won’t blow me up in a ’72 Ford Torino police car…).

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  59. Agitating for Change | Wheat and Tares on March 24, 2014 at 1:17 AM

    […] finally, with regards to agitation, what’s wrong with it? I enjoyed Andrew’s post on a progressive atheist’s perspective, but let’s also see what a protestant who graduated from BYU thinks about this issue. […]

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  60. Agitating for Change | Mormon Heretic on March 24, 2014 at 1:18 AM

    […] finally, with regards to agitation, what’s wrong with it? I enjoyed Andrew’s post on a progressive atheist’s perspective, but let’s also see what a protestant who graduated from BYU thinks about this issue.  […]

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  61. Andrew S on March 24, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    If you think God’s will does not include equality, then that seals the deal on whether God is good.

    If you think God’s will includes such, but his followers in their ‘free will’ can’t implement it, that seals the deal on those followers.

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  62. Douglas on March 24, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    “If you think God’s will does not include equality, then that seals the deal on whether God is good.” – Christians, both in the meridian of time and today, and Stoics (believed to have influenced Christian thought), would consider that as an example of hubris. At least in defining “Gawd’s” goodness in terms of what you consider to be equality. Andrew, unless you consider yourself in the same class of being as God (assuming that you’re even acknowledging His existence), you have no ability or standing to judge God, nor do I. All you can say is that what appears to be “Gawd’s” behavior regarding “equality” doesn’t work for you. At least you’re honest in discussing it. How many pontificating hypocrites are out there, of whom the Savior would lament, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

    Followers “can’t” implement their Lord’s will, or WON’T? (I Nephi 3:7). That’s why some blarney about why pre-1978 black males weren’t conferred the PH is to the effect that the Lord desired that they would have had it, but the Church rank-and-file weren’t “ready”. The Lord that I know would say, “well, I’M ready!”.

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  63. Andrew S on March 24, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    Douglas,

    So many theists I know try to tell me that morality comes from God, and that one’s internal sense of morality (his internal compass, the light of Christ, whatever they may call it) comes from God.

    But what I’m saying is that my sense of the morality of equality is deep-seated. If you want to say it comes from God, then you can’t also call it hubris. If you want to nevertheless call it hubris, then you have to come to a different accounting of morality.

    When you say:

    All you can say is that what appears to be “Gawd’s” behavior regarding “equality” doesn’t work for you.

    This is only one option I have described.

    But ultimately, we can’t even say what we are witnessing is God’s behavior. We could instead say that God has nothing to do with any of this, and it is instead the behavior of those who claim to be his followers which is off-track. The question is: is God the sort of being that would allow his followers to get so far off-track in his name. The free will/free agency defense suggests yes. You seem to not be able to decide whether you want to go with this free agency argument or call it “blarney”

    Basically, we have a mismatch — we can’t tell what it is the Lord says and what it is his followers have relayed as his saying.

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  64. Douglas on March 24, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Answer: “Gawd” is patient with the free agency of His followers (that’s how they learn and grow, and it is a “bitch” to deal with, ask ANY parent…). He intervenes, or “reveals”, when the deviance is too far off-course.

    Andrew, we each CAN tell, and contrary to what’s been said, when the Prophet speaks, the thinking HASN’T been done (if nothing else, we ARE trying to bring in newcomers AFTER the Prophet spoke, and they have to assimilate the info, right?). It’s called the gift of the Holy Ghost. Else, there is no way, with some of the insufferable knuckleheads that have darkened the door of an LDS chapel (being one of them, I should know) that this Church would have held together as long as it has and became what it is. I’ve seen it quadruple in membership just in the 35 years I’ve been affiliated. From twenty temples, erected and/or in the process, to over an hundred and fifty. And none of that is “good enuff”, HE wants “more”. The boys in Salt Lake must know something.

    My apologies for mine own inadequacy in conveying the message.

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  65. Andrew S on March 24, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    Douglas,

    Organizational growth doesn’t require the gift of the Holy Ghost — unless we want to implicate God in the rises and falls of pretty much any corporation on the planet.

    I won’t deny that in your lifetime, you’ve probably seen the church quadruple in membership. But what I see is that the membership numbers actually tell a picture of an organization that can…at most…get 33-40% of its members in pews regularly (and regularly effectively means “once a quarter”).

    One thing that is true of both organizations that don’t claim to be divinely led (e.g., your standard corporation) and organizations that do (e.g., churches) — if you’re betting future successes on past performance, then prepare to be out-innovated, superseded, and left behind in the dust.

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  66. vajra2 on March 24, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    “Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” from Atheism: Jonathan Miller’s Brief History of Disbelief

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  67. Andrew S on March 24, 2014 at 6:50 PM

    that is a pretty vintage statement…

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  68. vajra2 on March 24, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    True. But I like the logic, even if Epicurus didn’t say it.

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