Mormon Policies on Politics and Conscience

By: Guest
October 17, 2012

Most of the time, (we will get to Prop 8 – the big exception in a few paragraphs) the LDS church stays out of political

Salt Lake Tribune Mormon Moment is Nowraces and referendums, with only general statements on issues that relate to church doctrine.  Church leaders do not tell members how to vote or ask for them to reveal how they voted.  The only constant doctrine taught about the responsibility of church members consists of asking their members to be active citizens who intelligently vote their conscience.  The official church statements about it come first in the Articles of Faith, and next in the Doctrine and Covenants and other official official church policies, contained in the Official Church handbook, Volume 2, which is now available online. (I will pull out the direct quotes, and the links, so that you can look for additional topics that are of interest to you.)

Articles of Faith 11 and 12 state:

“11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

Doctrine and Covenants 58:19-22 elaborates on the basics in the Article of Faith when it says;

“19 For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land.
20 Let no man think he is ruler; but let God rule him that judgeth, according to the counsel of his own will, or, in other words, him that counseleth or sitteth upon the judgment seat.
21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
22 Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.”

Doctrine and Covenants 98: 7-10 elaborates further when it explains why good political leaders are important, and why being actively involved in choosing good leaders (when living in a place where citizens have the chance to be involved in choosing their leaders) is important, and keeping bad leaders from governing is a sacred responsibility.

“7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.
8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.
9 Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.
10 Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.”

This means that Mormons start with the foundational understanding that as members of the LDS church we all have an obligation to obey, honor and sustain the laws of the land, even when we don’t agree with specific political leader(s) or a particular law.  We recognize many forms of government, not just democracies, as being viable and acceptable in the eyes of God.  We may claim that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true church, but we respect the right of others to believe and worship differently.  We can share our religious belief’s, but every person on the earth has the right to believe or not believe in God.  Every person has the right to worship in ways that are consistent to their beliefs, even if we do not understand, agree or approve of those religious practices.

The Official Church Handbook has several areas that speak about the responsibility of LDS members, in relation to their government, wherever in the world those members live.  This is a sampling of the sections that are important within the framework of the current election.

“21.1.21 Income Taxes

Church members are obligated by the twelfth article of faith to obey the tax laws of the nation where they reside (see also D&C 134:5). Members who disapprove of tax laws may try to have them changed by legislation or constitutional amendment. Members who have well-founded legal objections may challenge tax laws in the courts.

Church members who refuse to file a tax return, pay required income taxes, or comply with a final judgment in a tax case are in direct conflict with the law and with the teachings of the Church. Such members may be ineligible for a temple recommend and should not be called to positions of principal responsibility in the Church. Members who are convicted of willfully violating tax laws are subject to Church discipline to the extent warranted by the circumstances.”

“21.1.23 Laws of the Land

Members should obey, honor, and sustain the laws in any country where they reside or travel (see D&C 58:21–22; Articles of Faith 1:12). This includes laws that prohibit proselyting.

“21.1.29 Political and Civic Activity

As citizens, Church members are encouraged to participate in political and governmental affairs, including involvement in the political party of their choice. Members are also urged to be actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities and make them wholesome places in which to live and rear families.

In accordance with the laws of their respective governments, members are encouraged to register to vote, to study issues and candidates carefully, and to vote for individuals whom they believe will act with integrity and sound judgment. Latter-day Saints have a special obligation to seek out, vote for, and uphold leaders who are honest, good, and wise (see D&C 98:10).

While affirming the right of expression on political and social issues, the Church is neutral regarding political parties, political platforms, and candidates for political office. The Church does not endorse any political party or candidate. Nor does it advise members how to vote. However, in some exceptional instances the Church will take a position on specific legislation, particularly when it concludes that moral issues are involved.

Only the First Presidency can speak for the Church or commit the Church to support or oppose specific legislation or to seek to intervene in judicial matters. Otherwise, stake presidents and other local leaders should not organize members to participate in political matters or attempt to influence how they participate.

Church members are encouraged to consider serving in elected or appointed public offices in local and national government. Candidates for public office should not imply that their candidacy is endorsed by the Church or its leaders. Church leaders and members should also avoid statements or conduct that might be interpreted as Church endorsement of any political party, platform, policy, or candidate.

Members are encouraged to support measures that strengthen the moral fabric of society, particularly those designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Church records, directories, and similar materials may not be used for political purposes.

Church facilities may not be used for political purposes. However, facilities may be used for voter registration or polling where there is not a reasonable alternative (see 21.2).”

(Emphasis in bold and underlined added to emphasize parts of the church policy that oftentimes are ignored by cultural Mormons.)

The Glaring Exception…Proposition 8

Proposition 8 Yes on 8 Sign

Recently, the very publicly noted exception to these clear guidelines was the California Proposition 8 fight, where the LDS church not only took a stand on the proposed legislation, but encouraged members, over the pulpit, in California and other states to donate time and money to the campaigns to defeat the effort to make same-sex marriages legal in California.

Mormons heeded the call and stepped up to devote huge amounts of time and energy to the efforts.  One of my sisters lived in California at the time, and she spent time holding signs on overpasses and walking with her kids in demonstrations.  Other LDS members donated personal money  and money from their businesses.  Outside of California, some Stakes did fund raising and political phone banks.  There was a lot of focus in Utah and Idaho, as well as Arizona and other western states.  I find no fault with LDS members who followed the call of the prophet, and chose to support Prop 8, in whatever way they chose to do so.

While there were many members who followed the requests of the church, there were also many members who did not.  Barbara Young, wife of Steve Young, was a vocal critic of the LDS church’s involvement of Prop 8.  Many members quietly refused to participate, while others were much more vocal in their opposition to the church’s involvement.  Some members feel that the Prop 8 fight was a mistake.  For other members, and many former members of the church, it was a moment of moral failure.  I don’t pretend to know which choice was right, and especially for members who lived in California, people on all sides felt a huge amount of pressure over the legislation.

At the time, I certainly fell in the camp of those who did not agree with the church leadership’s choice to take a stance in the Prop 8 fight.  I didn’t speak up at church, but outside of church, I was open with my opinions and support for gay rights as civil rights.  For me, gay rights have very little to do with the sex life of gay individuals, which is what the church really has a position on.  For me, gay rights as civil rights come down to making sure that no matter what choices we make in our private relationships, as long as those relationships are not illegal, that we should all have the protections under the law that anyone else has.

I may personally lean more towards the protections offered by civil unions to remedy the current legal inequality of status under the law.  That said, I don’t think that I can tell someone else that their desire to use the word “marriage” to define their committed relationships impacts my legal rights, as a woman in a heterosexual marriage.  I personally don’t feel that using the word marriage is required to have equal protection under the law, but if the word is worth fighting for, I am not going to make villains out of those in our society who want to fight for it.  I just don’t see the need for *me* to take my fight beyond legal protection.

For me, I see any church as having the right to choose who it will accept as members with the full benefits of membership and who it will not.  I do not think that those religious standards MUST be extended into law, and that most religious “laws” should be voluntarily entered into and followed, because a member of that church believes they are obeying God’s laws. I believe that when I obey God’s commandments, I will receive blessings and increased happiness. Consistent with the Articles of Faith, I claim the right to worship and submit to the laws of God, and offer that same choice to all of God’s children.  Churches that interpret gay rights differently than I do fall within the framework of following the “dictates of their own conscience,” and I support their right to do so.  In that way, I believe in having broader definitions for all of society, and more narrowly defined definitions for individual faith communities.

Certainly there will be an overlap between things that the laws of the land say are punishable and things that a particular church would discipline a member for doing.  I believe that the punishment for those things that overlap should come through the laws and courts of the government, for those things that go beyond the laws of the land.  I believe that when an action involves breaking civil laws and religious laws, the religious discipline should only be involved after civil decisions have been made by the courts of a civil government.

For me, the choice to submit to church authority or discipline should come as a choice of the person submitting to it. I believe that a church may say: you need to do *this* or you cannot be a member of our church, but in almost all cases, being cut off from the church, and the blessings and benefits of the church, should be the extent of the punishment meted out.  For those things that are not illegal, but do go against religious laws, the consequences and restrictions that relate to those rules and covenants regarding church discipline, would be a matter for the church that a person belongs to.  I believe that this view is in line with the church policies quoted above.

I have spent a significant amount of time on this post, and have gone through a number of drafts.  I hope that I have been able to clearly delineate between those things that are taught as doctrine of the church, and my personal thoughts or opinions.  Certainly my thoughts are informed by being a member of the LDS church — I was raised in it from birth.  While many of my experiences with church leaders have been difficult, and at times very painful, I accept the authority of the Prophet and Apostles, and try to live my life in ways that follow the teachings of the prophets and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am not perfect.  I have made many mistakes.  I am simply Julia, a woman doing my best to follow the path Christ has laid out.

*For those of you who remember (or want to find out about) the Gay Trees and Gadianton Robbers post, this is the policy that was broken, when I was called about Republican Party activities. Because of this policy, members who are using the ward or stake directory in ways not covered by the policy often try to make another connection that would allow them to still use the directories, without officially breaking the policy. This comes up not just in the political arena, but also in business networking and marketing. Those misuses make this policy one that is referred to often in the LDS church.

“21.1.15 Directories

Stake and ward directories may be published according to the following instructions: Names, addresses, and phone numbers may be included in a directory only if they are listed in a commercial telephone directory or, if they are unlisted, if the member gives permission. E-mail addresses may be included only with the member’s permission.

Stake or ward budget funds are used to pay for directories. Directories may not contain advertising.

Leaders should not distribute directories outside the stake or ward boundaries or permit their use for commercial or political purposes.

The beginning of each directory should include a statement that it is to be used only for Church purposes and should not be copied without permission of the bishop or stake president.”

**For all of you who have asked (or just wondered) about why I always include a statement that I do not speak for the LDS church, when I am blogging about LDS issues, is to be in compliance both in the letter and spirit of the law, so that there is no confusion between the  things that are my opinion and official church doctrine (I am careful to make sure that I include direct quotes from official church sources, along with all of the links so that any reader can check and see if there are areas that are out of line with what the church has said.)

“21.1.22 Personal Internet Use

Members are encouraged to be examples of their faith at all times and in all places, including on the Internet. If they use blogs, social networks, and other Internet technologies, they are encouraged to strengthen others and help them become aware of that which is useful, good, and praiseworthy. When appropriate, members are encouraged to mention the Church and to link to and share approved Church materials.

When members use the Internet for purposes other than Church callings, they should understand that the message they give is personal. They should not give the impression that they represent or are sponsored by the Church.

Additional helps and guidelines are provided by searching for “Internet Usage Helps for Members” on LDS.org.”

In no way is this post meant to be an exhaustive study of the issues related to the LDS church and its policies regarding voting and elections. I am a member of the LDS faith but am not authorized to speak in any capacity for the LDS church.

**This is a guest post from Julia, cross-posted on poetrysansonions.com. This is the 8th post in the Mormon Moment series; the others may be found here at poetrysansonions. This goal of this series it to explain Mormon-y things to those who may be learning who Mormons are for the first time, but the Wheat & Tares editors believe these posts may be of interest to those already well familiar with Mormonism.

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20 Responses to Mormon Policies on Politics and Conscience

  1. FireTag on October 17, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    Very interesting to one “born in apostasy” like me. :D

    This is probably not going to attract the most attention in the thread, but what struck me was the need to obey laws against proselyting. At least until God “tramples all enemies”. :D In practice, although that has to be said publicly, how would that work privately, and why would hostile governments believe it? The Apostle Paul didn’t obey that.

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  2. Julia on October 18, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    Firetag-

    I have two answers, but given their differences, I am going to seperate them.

    You ask why world leaders should trust church members to follow the laws of their country. I think that is a very American question, and comes from the strange heritage of being a church that left the US, so that we could practice polygamy, which was against the laws here. The irony that the church now requires people who live in countries where polygamy is legal, to turn their backs on the families of all but their first wife, if they want to join the church, is an interesting stance. I understand the desire to not have polygamy raised as an issue in the US, ever again, but it is a strange legacy.

    I think that the number of US members who routinely do not follow laws that they do not agree with, is part of why non-members have a hard time believing that members of the church do, or will, follow laws that they don’t agree with. If the members of the church, and church leaders, were to take a stance that it is more important to protect the good name of the church, and its members, rather than the good-old-boy tendency to look the other way, the church would be seen to have moral authority, by the rest of the world.

    When any one decides that being part of a group is more important than following the law, you start down the path to secret combinations. While I think most members don’t see themselves in that light, I know that many times visiting teachers and home teachers are aware of circumstances in a home that are not following state laws regarding the care of children. When those problems or concerns are shared with ward leaders, and then addressed only by the church’s leaders, instead if also reporting it to the local authorities, that can be the beginning of a slippery slope.

    One time I was told point blank by a bishop not to report child abuse that I witnessed happening because he was afraid that the family wouldn’t let visiting teachers or home teachers to come in the future. He said that he would talk to the father and “take care of it.” I made the mistake of not reporting it immediately.

    When I was at their home two weeks later, and one of the children had a broken arm, but had not been taken to have a cast put on it, I was aghast. I asked the mother why, and she said that her husband would get in trouble if she took her son to the hospital. That time I called DHS and waited outside until the police arrived. The next day I got an angry visit from the bishop. He was mad that I hadn’t let him “take care of the problem.” I told him that if a child needed to have his arm broken while waiting for a problem to be resolved that it was unacceptable to me. He then told me that as a bishop his discussions with me and the father were as confidential as a priest listening to confession. I told him I was glad I would not ever be a bishop in that position.

    When I talked to the detective assigned to the case he told me that the abuse cases in the community, that involved Mormon families, were always worse than most because so many home schooled their children and only had contact with other Mormons. He was surprised when he found out it was a Mormon woman who called in the report. When he learned I grew up somewhere else, he said that it made more sense then.

    I still feel guilty for letting those six children have 16 more days of being abused than they had to be. If I had called after the first time, that child might not have had his arm broken, and the number of bruises on the bodies of the other children might have been lower. I still have dreams when I am haunted by their faces.

    I don’t share this story with church members often, but when I do I am always saddened by how many members think that I made the wrong choice the second time, not the first. Even writing this I still can see the eyes of that 9 years old boy, with his cast on, when he hugged me when I was allowed to visit him and his siblings in foster care. What haunts me is the gratitude in his eyes. He didn’t blame me for not making the first report, his eyes only showed profound gratitude, and I am glad I made the call, even if the last four months we lived in the ward I was a pariah.

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  3. Julia on October 18, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    Firetag-

    Second thought:

    Personally I see this I happening most with the foreign exchange students who lived in my home growing up. They were encouraged to go to church activities with us, and we made it a priority to attend catholic services with the exchange students who were religious. I only remember one interaction about it, when my parents had only my father go to a fireside on “every member a missionary,” and not have the rest of the family or Nono, our exchange student go. My father was in the Bishopbric at the time and felt he should be there, but neither one of my parents wanted there to be any pressure on NoNo.

    I follow “Bridget of Arabia,” a blog written by one of by brother-in-law’s sister’s roommates from college. She and her husband have lived in the Middle East multiple times, and are there now. She occasionally writes about the church in that area of the world, and the strict rules not to share the gospel with the students she and her husband teach.

    I can’t find the exact link I was looking for, but i sent Brudget an email asking if she knows. It may have actually been on her blog about their time in Syria. this is still a fun link about a ward far removed from the US. If members aren’t supposed to talk about the location of their meeting houses and stake boundaries, I am pretty sure following the laws against spreading the gospel are being observed:
    http://myadventuresintucson.blogspot.com/2010/11/being-mormon-in-sharjah.html?m=1

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  4. Hedgehog on October 18, 2012 at 1:26 AM

    Not having experienced the Prop 8 debacle, but only having read about it, just maybe they feel the paragraph below the one you highlighted either covers or excuses their actions:
    “Members are encouraged to support measures that strengthen the moral fabric of society, particularly those designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”
    I’m not saying I’d agree with that, and the differing views on what would or wouldn’t meet those criteria make it tricky too. But it looks like they have allowed themselves wriggle room for ‘encouraging’ members. I’m wondering what else might be fitted into that in the future.

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  5. Julia on October 18, 2012 at 1:53 AM

    Hedgehog-

    I think that depending on which parts of the policy you would personally highlight impacts how you see a many positions of both church leaders and church members.

    My understanding that during Prop 8, the letter from the First Presidency brought the political activities of members, at the time, under this section of the policy.

    “Only the First Presidency can speak for the Church or commit the Church to support or oppose specific legislation or to seek to intervene in judicial matters. Otherwise, stake presidents and other local leaders should not organize members to participate in political matters or attempt to influence how they participate.”

    Members who were vocal about their disagreement usually used the fact that the paragraph above does not say that members who disagree are not allowed to vote their conscience or to speak out, as long as they don’t claim the church does support them, as expressed in this part of the statement:

    “Church leaders and members should also avoid statements or conduct that might be interpreted as Church endorsement of any political party, platform, policy, or candidate.”

    Their stance was/is that since there is nothing in the policy that allows for church discipline for disagreeing with the first presdiency, and they did not claim that the church supported their claim, they were within their rights as a US citizen and a member of the church to express their personal feelings about Prop 8.

    If anyone who was more intimately involved in Prop 8 has another understanding of the two stances, I would be interested in heraing what was being said by members on both sides, at the time.

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  6. Julia on October 18, 2012 at 2:10 AM

    Hedgehog,

    Generally, US members intrepret the entire policy as allowing them to be active in American politics, outside of church time, in any way they choose. They can let people know they are members of the church, they just are not supposed to claim that the church supports something just because some, or many, church members do, in the political sphere.

    What was very different about Prop 8 was that there was a letter from the First Presidency, bishops and stake presidents were involved in calling members of their wards and stakes asking for donations on the Yes on 8 campaign. Announcements about Yes on 8 activities were announced in Sacrament Meeting. Sunday School, RS and Priesthood time was taken to coordinate political activities, and fundraising money for Prop 8 happened on church grounds, during church time. Many church buildings were used as site for phone banks (so members who did not live in california could call California voters and urge them to vote for Prop 8), rallies and marches were held or started at church property, and church directories were used in political organizing in favor of Prop 8.

    While all of these activities were only supposed to be about Prop 8, many Republican candidates were part of those events, held on church property, or at church sponsored political events, which some people saw as the church endorsing Republican candidates, Mormon or not.

    Oregon had a measure a few years earlier in which petitions were circulated at church, and where there was a letter read in sacrament meeting about the church;s stance on the issue, as a moral teaching of the church. No candidates were mentioned in the official church discussion, no political events were held on church property, and no fundraising was done. While members who signed the petitions were often contacted for additional support in one way or another, it was done off of the petitions, and by the group circulating the petition, not by members, calling as members of the church, to pressure viting in one way or another.

    Members in other states were not involved in the campaign, in that case, and it was seen as an Oregon issue, not a church issue. There were a lot of Oregon members who felt pressure to vote on that particular issue, but not from members in other states. Because it wasn’t connected to any other parts of the election or particular candidates, it felt very different from the experiences around Prop 8.

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  7. Hedgehog on October 18, 2012 at 3:06 AM

    Julia #5,6
    Thank you for the additional information. Lots to think about.

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  8. Jon on October 18, 2012 at 8:01 AM

    Interesting post. But I think you missed the definition of the “Law of the Land.” Your proposed definition, whatever current man made laws there are would fly in the face of many great actors in the scriptures.

    Alma the Elder disobeyed the laws of Noah. Meshak et. al. wouldn’t eat the meat. Who was it that prayed even though it was contrary to the man made law? We could go on for quite some time of prominent scriptures figures who have disobeyed man’s laws.

    The “Law of the Land” had a very different interpretation in times past then it does today. I won’t refute the definition you have done since Rock Waterman has already done a very thorough job on it. Basically it goes back to what I call “Natural Law.” Not to be confused with “laws of nature.”

    http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-is-law-of-land.html

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  9. Jon on October 18, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    On support of prop 8. This support is contrary to the story of Alma the elder and King Mosiah found in Mosiah 26. Alma found much moral wickedness in the land and thought King Mosiah should do something about. King Mosiah said, “Not my problem.” So Alma asked God and the answer was to cleanse the church, if they repented they could stay if not they were excommunicated.

    King Mosiah understood that if no one is directly harmed by another’s actions through the initiation of force then the law had no right to interfere with them. Unfortunately modern church members and church leaders don’t understand that principle found in the BoM.

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  10. Julia on October 18, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    Jon-
    I think this is one you are going to have to take up with the First Presidency. You can try to reply your tired argument that essentially comes down to, “I am right if I say I am, and otherwise those laws are just wrong,” but I did not write my own church handbook for this post.

    I have no intention of wasting a lot of time or energy on arguing with you about your pet theory. You have stated it over and over, and you are less convincing every time.

    The sections on income taxes and the laws of the land are clear. You may work to change laws, but you may not disobey them, without putting your church membership at risk.

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  11. Jon on October 18, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Julia,

    You should really read Pure Mormonisms post on this subject if you want a full understanding of the subject.

    So, what I understand you saying is that, the CHI is what is truly what mormon theology is and might as well be scripture. There can be no decent from what the handbook says otherwise you are in danger of hell fire?

    This is not “my” pet theory. This is what the scriptures say. This is what the dictionary says. Just because you believe in the tyranny of the majority doesn’t make it what the true theology of mormonism is. It may be corporate policy but it is not what the gospel of Christ is.

    You may want to close your mind on this. That is your choice but you have not given any argument that contradicts what I have written on the subject that is of any muster. Mormons today would have been Tories during the American revolutionary war with this new ideology.

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  12. Mike S on October 18, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    Jon:

    This is a great post. Please don’t drag it down with your worn-out mishmash with which you have destroyed discussions on so many other posts. People are getting tired of it.

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  13. Jon on October 18, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Mike S,

    Julia presented the current corporate ideas on what we should do to follow the laws. Sure, that is fine. But I would think you would be against the corporate definitions and actions like you are against other ideas that the corporate church espouses.

    What I disagree with Julia is that the actual theology of the topic is different from what she presented. I presented the ideas given in Pure Mormonism blog that actually shows the true theology and not the corporate speak of the current church.

    I don’t understand why you think my points aren’t valid. Especially when you hold the same contra ideas in other areas of current corporate practices.

    The main reason that I’m upset with Julia is the response she gave me. She says she is some great debater, if she was she would have actually given a good argument to the other direction, which she has never done. Also, she used the fallacy of authority. She also says that I won’t listen and change my mind, which is false, what ideas of mine has she listened to of mine that made her change her mind? The same thing she accuses me of she is guilty of. She also makes fun of me by calling “my theory” a “pet theory” which is not true, this idea is embraced by Rock Waterman, a fellow mormon that many of you agree with some of his ideas, so I gave you a different place to go where the argument is given a very thorough overview. She has no ground.

    Julia states:

    I find that the idea of synergy and find joy in the clash of ideas and experiences allows me to engage with people, no matter how different our backgrounds, in a respectful and loving way. It allows me to recognize that perfection isn’t a requirement for joy, and it allows for continual growth and progress, without requiring others to follow the same path. It allows me to see myself, and my fellow travelers, as imperfect and transcendent from birth until death, without requiring me to enforce my choices on others. It also allows me to reach out to others, in love, and challenge them and their ideas, without either of us being deprived of the chance to find joy in the messy process of learning and growing.

    I call bullshit on that. I gave my ideas in a respectful manner explaining why I think the premise of her post is wrong. If she want to disagree with me that is fine. If she wants to ignore me, that is fine. But to treat me like an unworthy child is not fine. She needs to look in the mirror when she reads the comments that she wrote to me.

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  14. FireTag on October 18, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    I do recognize that Prop 8 FEELS different than other issues because it is personally important to many of us. Yet the issue of church participation in politics is not unique to Mormonism or gay marriage. African-American churches, for example, have long “fudged” the line of IRS-defined acceptability for maintaining tax exemption. (In fact, many African-American evangelical churches were pushing the same position as was the Mormon church on Prop 8. They just weren’t as effective because they didn’t have the national infrastructure.)

    But, Jon has a point, too, about Alma. And Julia proves it. If you go into a home where you see a husband abusing his wife for teaching his daughter to read — I think Julia would do something about that. But there are countries where Julia would be the one breaking the law, and the one who could be severely punished.

    I’m just saying that if you know that, and I know that, foreign governments know that, too.

    Community of Christ even makes half-hearted security attempts to keep hostile governments from even having access to pictures of Apostles who might travel to those countries.

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  15. Julia on October 18, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    I have the flu, so I am not going to be commenting a lot until I am feeling better. These are a few short, but incomplete, thoughts.

    Jon- This series is written for nonmembers to understand how the church IS, now, in this Mormon Moment. There are times when we may choose to break a law, consciously, because we believe it is right. If we do that, the church will not come to our rescue, and we are likely to be disciplined for doing so, by the church, if we are found guilty. That is current church policy, and I have seen that play out in the lives of people I know.

    You may argue about what you think the church should do in other places, but this is not a post about what a perfect church should look like, and so I will not engage with you about that here. There are times and places for different discussions. The fact that you use the same language and arguments over and over, with no consideration for the topic or forum does get old and tired.

    I also am not under your command, and so ordering me to read something that you find significant is the height of arrogance. Suggesting reading is one thing, demanding someone engage on your terms, when this is not your post or your blog, that is NOT loving or Christlike. You can call me whatever names you choose, but I WILL NOT engage with a bully who obviously is interested only in winning. I will repeat, you have no authority to command me or anyone else!

    Firetag-
    For this post, Prop 8 was/is different not just because it was personal to members, but because so many nonmembers saw it as a personal attack from the church. Understanding what was different about it organizationally, within the church, is important for nonmembers to look behind the curtain and understand why a church that is usually fairly disengaged from specific political involvement, did what it did during Prop 8.

    I guess I want to go back and remind EVERYONE that this series was created as a place to start discussions, primarily with those not very familiar with the church, about topics that are coming up during the current election. Much of what is written about those topics comes from former members who may or may not have understood very much about the church when they were members, or media sources who don’t always know where to find accurate information.

    I am very careful to make sure to include the disclaimer that I am not speaking for the church, and anytime I quote something about the church’s position, to give the direct citations, and full quotes, from the source material. The editors asked to share them here, but Wheat and Tares is not the audience that it was written for.

    In its original intent it has been mildly successful. I have had several journalists email me and ask for additional resources. I have not taken the opportunity to be interviewed for stories because I do not speak for the church. I have suggested people with direct experience, with that person’s prior permission, when a reporter is looking for specific view points.

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  16. Jon on October 18, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    Julia,

    My intent wasn’t to say that you have to do anything. My intent was that a full understanding of the subject would need a broader reading of material relating to the subject.

    I was pointing out that what the church says and what the actual theology according to scripture is different. In the OP church policy and actual theology are conflated to mean the same thing. Writing on this topic is then a difficult thing if you are trying to share it with others outside (or even inside) the church since what the theology teaches and what the church teaches are different. So, maybe not including scripture that has different meaning than what you were trying to point out would have been wise.

    So how do you explain to others this predicament. On this very blog, others have complained about the church doing one thing while doctrine teaches another.

    That is my point. You need not reply if you don’t want to engage. But please don’t lift yourself up as being superior. I shouldn’t either. I shouldn’t have reacted so forcefully but since I get the short stick around here sometimes it gets frustrating, especially when you present yourself as being open to new and different ideas.

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  17. Julia on October 18, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    Jon-

    I don’t know if you have your own blog, but it sounds like writing a series on where you see the doctrine and policies of the church conflicting might be a way for you to start a conversation on the terms that make most sense to you.

    Something that helps me a lot, when I write something that starts out as something that I think will fit into one series, and then realize that it doesn’t, is asking myself if it just needs to be edited to fit, or if I really need a new category to put something in. On my blog, each Mormon Moment post starts out with the purpose of the series, to look at topics that other bloggers are addressing, to find a balanced view, and to explain.

    I have had a lot if writing that didn’t fit into that rubric, and I finally realized that I needed a different series, one that I expect to be much longer lasting, that addresses real stories and experiences, and laid out what make a post fit into the “My Mormon Perspective” series of posts. (You can see it here if you are interested. http://www.poetrysansonions.com/p/there-are-number-of-stories-and-essays.html?m=0 )

    I think that without having your own place, where you can say what you mean, and allow yourself and your readers, to get a complete view of your perspective, you will continue to feel attacked and without a fair playing field. All writers must limit what they can say in a single post, and most bloggers who want to look at a subject create a category, or series, of posts that each take a small bite of an idea, but within the category form part of a whole. Doing that on someone else’s blog, within the comments is very hard.

    ** I am going back to sleep now, and will check in whenever I wake up again.

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  18. Jon on October 18, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    I do think that writing helps us refine our ideas. That is what I do in the comments here – I used to try to do it to convince others of my ideas, now it is more of an exercise to understand my ideas better and refine/change them.

    But I question why I need to repeat the work of others. My ideas might not be exactly the same as others I point to but they do reflect many of my ideas fairly well. That is why I link to other articles.

    So, in summary, I think the point of having a blog is to refine one’s ideas and remove inconsistencies, like John Taylor Gatto and others do. My ideas are reflected in others works who have already written the ideas in a much more intelligible manner than I could ever write, so, if others are truly interested in understanding, one would have to follow the links people write.

    I will start writing more on my blog. I used to write on a family spiritual blog, but they always like positive non-questioning religion (i.e., “spiritually uplifting”) which is contrary to what I care about, I want truth, if it takes me away or brings me to my faith then that is fine.

    Anyways, I’m rambling.

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  19. dba.brotherp on October 18, 2012 at 8:41 PM

    This is an interesting post but the way people have responded to each other is sad. I hope that we all would be more charitable towards each other in our replies.

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  20. [...] course the real topic this week was the US presidential (and vice presidential) debates, and especially the meme Romney started about “binders full [...]

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