“For the Body is Not One Member, But Many” – 1 Corinthians 1:14

Aug 22, 12 “For the Body is Not One Member, But Many” – 1 Corinthians 1:14

When I was the young men’s secretary, I approached my previous two young men’s presidents and bishop as well as my current bishop about approaching some of the more “sticky” historical issues regarding our LDS past.   My previous bishop seemed open to the idea, but the two young men’s presidents were either hesitant to approach these issues at church or didn’t answer the question altogether.

About six months ago I was asked by my current bishop to be the young men’s president in my ward.  At that time, he gave me  his blessing to approach some of the more difficult historical issues with our faith that are almost never discussed at church, with the encouragement to teach with the spirit.   Prior to my call, I had sent him a copy of the Open Stories Foundation’s “Why Mormon’s Question” survey.   We spoke about the results of the survey and discussed the risks and benefits of “inoculating” our young men regarding some of these tough issues.  It was a good meeting.

I have had other meetings and interactions with my bishop that have led me to love him for his unique leadership style.  Women are included in important   decision-making discussions in our ward councils;  he leads less like a CEO and more like a Pastor.

I have a dear friend in my ward that sent me this message about a month ago, ” I could easily walk away from the church and feel no guilt or shame in doing that, but I don’t know if that is what I want.”   We spoke that night for an hour or two.  I affirmed  that what he saw as a struggle were legitimate concerns.

Sometime later he spoke with our bishop.  My friend later said the following regarding their meeting: “He expressed to me his love and encouraged me to keep looking for my answers…whatever those answers might be.”  How liberating it was for him to not be treated as a heretic!

Following a recent conversation with my bishop, he told me that he was going to address people’s loss of faith in our upcoming Ward Conference.  I was delighted.

Last Sunday that talk was given.  As I spoke with my afore-mentioned friend and others in my ward that sometimes feel as if they are on the periphery of belief,  they all expressed their love of his talk.   My friend shared his feelings regarding the talk on a closed Facebook group where many disaffected Mormons post comments.  The positive response to excerpts from my bishop’s talk was quite overwhelming.    I was asked to see if our bishop would allow us to post his talk on our blog. He said yes.

The following is the written form of his talk.  In it you will find a rare, loving, inclusive voice that is too rarely expressed over our pulpits.  In it you will see the love of Christ.  In it you will see the big and expansive heart that my bishop has.

“NAY, MUCH MORE THESE MEMBERS OF THE BODY, WHICH SEEM TO BE MORE FEEBLE, ARE NECESSARY”  1 Corinthians 1:22

By Bishop Joshua Wallace, Medford 4th Ward, Central Point Oregon Stake

I want to speak to those that feel like their faith comes easy and is ever increasing, to those that struggle to believe or have faith in what is taught at church or in the scriptures and to everyone in between.

“The Apostle Paul taught that “faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Alma made a similar statement: “If ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21). Faith is a principle of action and power. Whenever we work toward a worthy goal, we exercise faith. We show our hope for something that we cannot yet see.” (lds.org, gospel topics, faith)

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” (2 Nephi 2:11)

So what is the opposite of faith?

“The opposite of faith is fear.” (original author uncertain)

I believe that statement to be true.

  I think faithful inquiry is of the essence of an organic and supple faith.  If you can’t inquire honestly, earnestly, passionately, but humbly, thoughtfully, and be within the fold, then you are either going to end up outside the fold, as a certain number of people are, or your faith is going to be brittle and ostrich-like.  Doubt is not the opposite of faith, but absolute, antiseptic certainty is the opposite of faith. (Phillip Barlow, professor and holder of the Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, Mormon Matters podcast; episode 73, “And the survey Says…!” 1:087)

I also believe that statement to be true.

This is how Alma expresses the same thing:

Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.” (Alma 32: 26)

Having faith is not a have or have not issue. It’s a spectrum that is both long and wide. It ranges from a desire to plant a seed to the tallest redwood in the world. At one end of the spectrum faith begins, when you look at a seed and want it to grow, and doubt at the same time if it will grow. You get off the other end of the faith spectrum, or your  faith becomes dormant, when you pluck the fruit. It may be the end of the spectrum but it’s not the end of the journey because lots of times you put the fruit back on the tree and hop back onto the spectrum and sometimes you go back to holding the seed, looking at it, wondering if you want to plant it again, if it really did grow and produce fruit, what it tasted like, if it was just your imagination, or if it was the Spirit of God filling you with the most exquisite joy!
Whether you are strong or weak in faith, you are important. Wherever you are on the faith spectrum you are important to our ward.

Redwoods

When it comes to faith, we are all over the spectrum. Some of us are seeds, some saplings, some solid and hard 50 footers that don’t budge in the bitterest of all storms, and some giant redwoods. And we all know that in a healthy forest there are a variety of trees from the seed to the biggest and oldest. And it’s beautiful and every single seed and tree is important to the overall health of the forest. Heavenly Father does not find one to be more important or love one more than the other. Just like in a ward. (see Acts 10:34)

I love all types of trees

Some trees look perfect – From a distance they are straight, tall, with evenly spaced branches. But as you get closer you will notice that there may have been some interruption in their growth: a storm that left a mark, a change in the soil or environment, or maybe a drought.

I love climbing trees with their branches that are not too close together but not too far apart.

I love tree house trees, the ones that have a set of big branches not too high off the ground that are strong enough to hold a fort and lots of kids.

I love dinosaur trees, the ones that started to grow straight and then for some reason their trunk takes a weird turn that is parallel to the ground and then it goes up again, almost as if they were looking for better light.

Where do we get faith?

“Faith is a gift from God, but we must nurture our faith to keep it strong.” (lds.org, gospel topics, faith)

Doctrine and Covenants Section 46:8-14

8 Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;

For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.

10 And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

So faith, confidence, belief, trust, hope, longing, desire, etc. are gifts of the spirit and they are ALL for the benefit of the church. The member that “believes” or “hopes” is just as much of a benefit to the church as the member that “knows”.

How do the trees, saplings and seeds interact with one another?  They all support one another. The seeds and saplings will need some shade from the mature trees but cannot be crowded. They will need room to grow and receive light. Let them have space. When there is a storm, and the spirit directs, buoy them up.

Holding a seed in your hand is not a sin, it’s exciting. Think about the potential!

Yesterday (August 18, 2012) Elder Neil L. Andersen of Quorum of the Twelve told us of an experience that he recently had with the 14 other living apostles. They had “an important” issue before them and had tabled it two or three times because of a lack of consensus. They decided that they would dedicate thirty minutes of their next Thursday morning temple meeting to the issue. In the meantime, Elder Andersen spoke with most of the others to find out where they stood on the issue. He found that,  “Some were way off on one side and some way on the other.” Then an amazing thing happened. In the temple powerful spiritual feelings brought them to one spot. Our apostles set the example for us. They can have different opinions,

St. Paul

come from a variety of educational, social and familial backgrounds, and still come together to feel the spirit and be unified. So can we.

I end with Ephesians 2

13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.

I encourage us all to not use just any water to nurture our faith but the water that Christ offers (John 4:14). And I encourage us all to let the light of Christ shine down on our faith. (1 John 1:7)

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Bishop Joshua Wallace

Bishop Wallace is currently serving as the bishop of the Medford 4th Ward, Central Point, Oregon Stake. He is a high school Spanish teacher and is the high school cross country coach.

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70 Comments

  1. m. rees /

    I’m fairly certain I’m one of the aforementioned YM Presidents hesitant to discuss sticky historical issues during classroom time. And this talk affirms my belief even more. What a great explanation of faith, the gospel of Christ, and being Christians. I appreciate the analogy of seed-to-tree and of faith being a constantly shifting continuum.

    Time teaching YM is such a finite commodity, I don’t know how I would justify teaching anything other than the topics discussed in this talk.

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    • Mike,

      Ya, you were one of them. I understand your hesitancy – although I disagreed with you then and obviously disagree with you still. Man, I miss you. This debate would be so much more fun face-to-face.

      Let me give you some of the background to the talk. Bishop and I have had many discussions and sent emails regarding whether or not to discuss the problematic historical issues within our LDS faith with our young men sooner than later. It seems that inoculation at an earlier age rather than later is the best approach. I and Bishop Wallace know of at least one friend of mine in the ward that almost left the church over such “sticky” historical issues. My brother has a friend who left the church over issues with the many anachronisms within the Book of Mormon. It ends up becoming less about the issue and more about the sense of betrayal that they never heard about things such as polyandry, seer stones, Mt. Meadow Massacre, Book of Mormon and DNA, The Book of Abraham, etc.

      It’s important to talk about it [difficult LDS historical issues] . Let’s just talk about it. Not make it a subject of shame and silence. Because when we do, we give other people power over us. – power to embarrass us, power to take advantage of us and make us look sometimes duplicitous, fearful, or not forth-right….There is such a hunger to experiment with what I would characterise as a more open approach to difficult matters or authority issues of the LDS past. The cost of not maintaining an open approach to these issues is in the conflict people silently carry internally – feeling isolated by it and the power it gives those who would like to embarrass us.

      With our theology being so attached to actual historical events, it is important that people get the true facts regarding our history. If the history is wrong, the theology (for many) goes quickly too.

      It is a huge problem within the church at large. To quote Elder Marlin Jensen (Church Historian that is being released this October) regarding the mass exodus the brethren are seeing over these historical issues:

      “The fifteen men [First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve] really do know, and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland, we never have had a period of, I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having right now; largely over these [difficult LDS historical] issues. (Elder Marlin K. Jensen, LDS Church Historian, Utah State University, January 18, 2012)

      The church as an organization is just too large and slow to address these issues quickly. With google, the LDS church is much like the Catholic church and the printing press in the 16th century. They, nor the LDS church as an institution, can control the message any longer.

      The church is doing its hardest to make sure its web-sites show up at the top of google searches. However, if people don’t find the answers there to historical problems, they will find the answer somewhere else and most likely it will not be a friendly source. It will take people that know our religion, its history, and can articulate things intelligently, that will slow the tide of people leaving. You cannot just “pray your way” out of these problems. Although our bishop did not address the specific historical issues, his talk was in response to those people that find themselves on the periphery of belief and faith because of these sticky historical issues.

      If we wait for the institution to change, things will be too late. This must be a grass-roots movement.

      “If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know.”
      (C.S. Lewis, essay “Weight of Glory”)

      On a lighter note, we are going to do a North Umpqua again, but just as a day trip. Maybe 30 miles or so and then come home the same day. Let me know if you want to go.

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    • Garrett /

      This issue hits very very close to home for me. I think the take away for me from the talk that bishop gave is that everyone of us is on a faith journey in this life. None of us is on the same spot in the faith spectrum. He indicates that regardless of where our faith may be there is room for us in the church. I struggle with much of the doctrine and find myself in a constant battle with cognitive dissonance. Some of my struggles might have been lessened if I would have been taught many of the stick issues before I got to the age of 32. I can place some of the blame on my own shoulders because I should have dug in and read more. The church also has to take a large portion of the blame for the way that all of its correlated material skips over anything that is sticky or controversial. I think our youth do need to be taught correct information from the beginning. I am grateful to be a part of a ward where there is a bishop that understands the struggles that we all face and welcomes us with open arms. Yes we need to teach the core doctrines as well and the youth need to understand them, but can the church afford to see so any people walk out the back door because of their inability to address the concerns of so many members?

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    • If we don’t talk about it, they will learn from other places… they can do a google search and find maybe one site that is balanced… but they will find hundreds that are very unfriendly and very biased. Where should we have them learn of these things?

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    • Jerilyn /

      Most of my friends that have left the church have left because they encountered history that didn’t sit well with them and they were unable to let it go. Our youth get involved in discussions with nonmembers who are well-armed with some of the more ugly aspects of our history. When we present a sanitized history to our members, we do a huge disservice to them. When people hear that Joseph Smith might have had underage brides, where will they go to get correct facts? Inoculation by education is key.

      Questioning aspects of or even the entire Mormon faith feels like having a dirty secret. It feels inauthentic and isolating. I am grateful for a bishop who understands how important it is to be included, no matter where we are in our faith and I am grateful for men like Brother Barker, who challenge me to learn and understand more than the pretty and easy things the church has to offer.

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      • m. rees /

        Totally agree about Brother Barker. The disucssions we had while mountain biking have had a major impact on my thinking.

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  2. Quinn /

    The “dinosaur trees” are a perfect metaphor. At first we start to grow with our faith, or rather our hope. But then when hope suddenly seems like it isn’t enough or that our faith has hit some speed bumps, we flat line. Just like the dinosaur trees that run parallel to the ground. The trick to recovery is to “look for better light.” to try to find where you were before but in a deeper more profound way so that we can gain knowledge from our lapse in faith. Also, I believe we all must realize that the “hope” or “belief” stage is perfectly fine and necessary. We simply must continue with that hope and belief so that we will find that “better light” in the future. I don’t think that one of us is without our “dinosaur tree” like qualities.

    Gracias, Señor Wallace.

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    • Quinn,

      It’s cool to see what different people get out of this talk. When we were editing it for our blog, told Bishop Wallace that it needed a title. The two that I thought up were the one that is the title now and Matthew 13 “And he spake many things unto them in parables” Bishop Wallace didn’t feel comfortable with the latter as he didn’t want to be compared to Jesus.

      It’s a great, awesome, beautiful parable.

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  3. “Having faith is not a have or have not issue. It’s a spectrum that is both long and wide.” Love it.

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  4. m. rees /

    I don’t disagree that more discussion around the sticky topics would be useful, I’m only questioning what you decide to replace in order to have the discussion. I believe much of our disagreement has to do with the fact that we are talking about what is best for a group of people with individual needs, and we are both thinking, “what would I respond to”.

    When I was 17, the last thing I needed was a discussion about magic stones. I needed the gospel (not the church, but the gospel), I needed to know about a loving Heavenly Father, I needed to know more about the atonement; I think a lot of YM struggle with the fundamentals. Diverting from the basics would have been detrimental to me at that time in my life. I’m guessing you would have needed/wanted very different discussions at that age.

    This reminds me a lot of the sex talks which I’ve currently started with Zach who is 9. The talk needs to happen, but when it happens can be very important. It shouldn’t be avoided, there’s no need to be embarrassed by it, but I’m not going to have the conversation at the dinner table with my 5 year old daughter present.

    There’s a story about Tiger Woods playing a round of golf (before he was Pro) in an attempt to have a professional coach take him as a student. Tiger had a great, great long game, but struggled with his short game (pitching and putting). Long-story-short, the coach took him as a student. But surprisingly the coaches plan was not to improve Tigers short game. Rather he improved his long game even more… to the point his short game didn’t matter. I think we can get to a point where our testimony about the basics is so strong that a lot to the short game stuff doesn’t matter.

    I could likely be convinced about a special Sunday School class, more emphasis in seminary, or classes being offered in an institute class. But I’m unlikely to change my mind that there are more important topics to be preached over the pulpit or during priesthood lesson time.

    Unrelated- I’m slowly turning into a roadie. We’re riding to the Coast next weekend (110 miles). Maybe one day I’ll buy a tandem recumbent and we can go for a ride (do you remember when we saw that).

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    • Mike, you suck; roadie. You have a valid point regarding what is being replaced with what. The assumption is that something is being replaced. I view that something is being augmented. When we teach about translation of the Book of Mormon, we should do so correctly. When we teach about polygamy, celestial marriage, etc, we should teach the factual truth.

      If someone receives a spiritual confirmation about Joseph’s 1st vision, let’s say, and then finds out there are at least 4 different versions with some major differences, that person starts to wonder if the Holy Ghost is really a valid way of epistemology. Things unravel and then their other “spiritual experiences” start to become re-interpreted. I have listened to hundreds of stories like that. It can be avoided with truth. Like I said, our theology is wrapped up in the historicity of events. Our testimony is wrapped up in historical events; the short game will always matter for Mormons.

      We take our history so literal. Some have a more metaphorical minds in the church and they can work around issues differently. But, when their is such strong emphasis on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, Priesthood restoration, etc. it makes it hard view such things other than that they really occurred. We have to make sure the history is right.

      Now preaching this stuff over the pulpit? I agree with you 100%. It is too tough to control the message. Gospel Doctrine? I tried once. I am not sure if you remember. Things went weird really fast. It has to be a small group I have found. And it has to be done well before people turn 30. The majority of people that leave the church over historical issues are in their mid-30’s. Why? Because they finally have time to read. They are preparing for seminary and Sunday School lessons.

      Teaching this stuff as a separate Sunday School class? I think it might create a sense of elitism among some of the saints. Seminary? It could work, assuming that the Seminary teacher has heard the stuff before. The church needs to change its curriculum. We are way behind the ball and soles are being lost.

      Roadie – you are dead to me now.

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      • Jeremy /

        You mention teaching the factual truth…but all your examples seem to be of ones that don’t have great confirm able facts. Interestingly I recently read an article about Joseph Smith and genetic testing, apparently he had some obvious genetic markers that are not common therefore give high specificity to tests for who might be his progeny the researcher found as many people as had histories and family tradition/journals to attest so and so was a child from polygomous marriage to the prophet…100 percent were not, (genetics were my undergrad emphasis and his methods were legit). Not to say we don’t have any historical issues, it’s just who is writing the history of the events? What is presented as fact maybe pure fiction.
        Sorry a little late to the party here but I was breezing through the popular section tonight.

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  5. m. rees /

    Where should they learn… the first thing that comes to mind is, “At home, with their parents”.

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    • I agree. But most don’t know about this stuff Mike. No one reads. Have you had any conversations with your children about polygamy, changes in the Book of Mormon, Mt. Meadows Massacre?

      Make sure you hit “reply” if you are replying to someone els’s comment. That way they get an email that someone has responded to their comment. I think you were responding to by brother’s

      I can’t believe your wife seduced you into riding a road bike. I’m hurt. Can you tell?

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  6. Jessica F. /

    I can only say that it should be treated as fact. I don’t think it has to replace anything, it simply is what it is. I think that no member should find out about the seer stone from South Park. I think the whole issues could be a non issue in one generation if we just taught the ideas to the children in primary on up. The friend magazine even had the seer stone issue.

    I do NOT think that it is really even that big of an issue and often the historical record is way more interesting to me than the common story, but then again I like the complex. The ideas that bother me is why LIE over COVERUP the stories. Why tell people less than the truth? I think it is that people feel deceived and that is wrong in my opinion.

    I really don’t think most parents even know and that is the issue at hand. The story is coming to the younger generation who have leaders and parents who treat the information as sinful or wrong. I am writing my thesis on how the internet has changed the control of the sacred narrative and how that has effected members. I do think that the problem of inaccurate information could just go away is it was addressed well, but I see so much resistance to it.

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    • Jessica, would you mine posting on here the link to the Friend Magazine article you mentioned?

      Some of these problems are generational. Let me give you an example. When I taught about the DNA problem and the Book of Mormon, I asked the teenagers (it was combined Priests and Laurels that Sunday) if they thought the America’s were empty of people when Lehi’s group showed up. None of them did; not even the girl from the most conservative family in our war. Because of their starting point, the DNA issue became a non-issue.

      It’s always interesting to see how comments become less and less about the post itself. When my bishop gave this talk, my eyes watered up. One of my friends that is going through a faith transition right now said that on the way home he turned to his wife and said, “Wasn’t bishop’s talk great?” (I’m paraphrasing of course). Immediately tears came running down his wife’s cheeks. The bishop had affirmed that her husband still had a place at our ward and church table. What a relief it was for her.

      I told another sister in our ward that we were going to post the bishop’s talk. She asked “When?” I told her Wednesday. She said, “Good. It is a really important talk.” Another women in our ward, during the combined youth meeting on Sunday (it was ward conference) said something to the effect, “Remember that bishop said we all need to have faith.” Not what I , my wife, my friend, my wife’s friend, my other female friend got out of the talk at all. But that interpretation worked for her. One of the titles for this post we were batting around was “And he spake many things unto them in parables…” (Matthew 13:3) It’s obvious why.

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  7. Carson /

    Paul Barker:
    If we don’t talk about it, they will learn from other places… they can do a google search and find maybe one site that is balanced… but they will find hundreds that are very unfriendly and very biased. Where should we have them learn of these things?

    I taught seminary the last couple of years and had a lot of drama between me and some of my leaders over this issue. They also didn’t believe the students should get ANY discussion of the tough issues. The students knew I wanted to discuss them and did occasionally so they came to me in confidence with their questions. They admitted that they couldn’t discuss it with those same seminary leaders who were actually their parents too! That was sad.

    It is like being an ostrich. I couldn’t take not being more open and asked them to reconsider my calling. I take hope in some of the changes I see coming from the top, though slow and small.

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    • A safe balanced environment needs to be provided for questions. In this day in age you just can’t put your head in the sand. Great comment Carson

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    • Carson,

      I’ve heard similar stories with people from CES before. It breaks my heart. When will the institution respond to its seemingly self-inflicted hemorrhaging? Ugh!

      Thanks for swinging by. We usually get a visit from your brother. Please come by again. We do a weekly post that goes over the upcoming Sunday School lesson. It’s usually up by Saturday evening.

      mike

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  8. jeff b /

    m. rees,

    What I got from mikes comments are: we need to make sure we are focasing more on the pearl than the box. Not that the box isn’t good but the pearl is what is most preaciuos.

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    • Jeff – I’m not clear on the metaphor … is the pearl the youth and the box the church?

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    • Garrett /

      Jeff, I understand where you are coming from with your comment. The problem is that many times you cant separate the two of them. The church has tried to focus their teachings and doctrines on the pearl through the correlated system of materials that we have in the church. The church is finding out that in choosing to ignore many of the other issues that members encounter with the church, its teachings, etc that many people are having a faith crisis and are leaving the church. What I love about bishops comments is that he is understanding of the fact that many of us struggle with our testimonies and our beliefs and he expressed to us that we all have a place in the gospel. I dont know if i would classify a lot of the “sticky” issues as part of the box. I think many of them go hand in hand with “the pearl.” Just like a diamond might have some inclusions, or a pearl may have some imperfections, the church also has those inclusions or imperfections that are a part of the church, its history and its teachings/doctrines. Choosing to ignore those imperfections can only do harm

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      • Garrett /

        Paul, my take on the pearl vs the box is that the pearl is the doctrine of the church and the box is the vehicle with which that doctrine is presented to the body of the church. I might be wrong, but that was my take on it.

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  9. I actually had a somewhat similar conversation with my (all LDS) book club a few weeks ago. We had read Richard Bushman’s “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling” and several of the women were a bit shell-shocked regarding some aspects of the history they’d never known before. We discussed Alma’s spectrum of faith starting from a “desire to believe” all the way up to “perfect knowledge” and how, even though it’s a cultural expectation that we say “I know” in our testimonies, it’s ok to be anywhere along that spectrum. I wish the faith spectrum were better understood and accepted among more members and leaders in our church.

    We also talked specifically about how to help youth put historical difficulties into a faith-filled context. For example, I grew up knowing that Joseph Smith had plural wives because one of my ancestors was one of them (Melissa Lott), so it was never a testimony-shattering revelation for me – I’d just always known about it and my parents taught it in context. One woman, however, described how her 7th-grader came home from school one day in tears because she’d learned that Mormons practiced polygamy in her history class and that was the *first* she’d ever heard of it. She felt completely hung out to dry – betrayed, even – because her classmates knew she was Mormon and she’d never heard this basic fact about her own church’s history.

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    • Emig,

      Every time I hear some adult not knowing that Joseph Smith had more than one wife, I am truly shocked.

      And, your poor friend’s daughter. Absolutely heart-breaking. Lots of this can be prevented by just small things. An example would be including the other wives of Brigham Young in the time line at the beginning of the B. Young Sunday School manual. Right? Come on!

      Thanks for visiting our little blog. Please come again. We do a weekly post on the upcoming Sunday School lesson and would love any insight you could provide to the discussion. The post is usually up by Saturday afternoon.

      mike

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  10. BTW, great talk, Bishop Wallace. Thank you for sharing it online so we could all benefit from it!

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  11. Lycidia /

    I think what so many people don’t understand when they talk about “sticking to the basics” is that so much of the culture of the church is taught as gospel. Our young women are taught how to date–and that it’s gospel (even though in our area young people don’t “date” like they do in Utah, they “hang out” with groups and slowly pair off that way). We’re told not to drink Coke, or to listen to Glenn Beck, or to donate money to fight against some political issue…over the pulpit.

    None of that is the gospel, and yet it’s taught as though it is. Some of it, in fact, is contrary to the simple truths found in the words of Christ or the Book of Mormon, and yet it’s taught.

    Sunday School teachers tell young people that extra piercings are going to cause them to fall under the “excluded” category when they stand in line for the atonement. Those Sunday School teachers are far more rarely given a stern talking to than someone with the nerve to insist that even Joseph Smith made mistakes, was human, had weaknesses, and may have sometimes allowed them to lead him to places he shouldn’t have gone.

    But the second thought…that even our prophets are human and need the blessing of the atonement…is far more generous, Christlike, and uplifting than the first. It teaches us that we’re not intended to fit into little cookie cutter molds, and that our eternal nature is worth being true to, even if it might lead us in directions other members don’t care to go.

    The Iron Rod is the Word of God, but the Word of God is not an Iron Rod. I was so glad to read this. Such a blessing to know that there are those who lead with love and understanding.

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    • Lycidia,

      Thanks for visiting our little blog.

      I agree with your assessment of “the basics”. That term seems to mean, “whatever I am comfortable speaking about.” Shouldn’t church challenge us instead of just confirming what we want to hear?

      Please come visit us again. We do a weekly post that goes over the upcoming Sunday School Lesson. It is usually up by Saturday afternoon. We would love your insights there as well.

      mike

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  12. Great talk….and great responses. The talk alone is not enough though, unless the issues are being addressed and discussed with the youth…and their parents too. We also need to talk inclusion and respect, and all issues need to work their way to the COB…and quickly accepted and validated so that it can filter back down to all. I still need to see that response…quickly…but expect nothing till after the elections. Not holding my breath…

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    • Gary,

      Good ponts. I feel dumb asking this question. What does COB stand for?

      It seems to me that the church, as an institution, cannot respond adequately to all of the historical issues at hand. It will be a “grass-roots” movement that will bring about the cultural change. Many of the changes that have come to our church have come from “trickle-up” revelation: making the temple garments short-sleeved, young-single adult wards, black receiving priesthood.

      I am encouraged by my bishop’s actions. As young-men’s president, he has given me his OK to approach some of these topics. So far we have discussed DNA and the Book of Mormon, Seer-stones. This Sunday I am tackling those of African ancestry and their being banned from priesthood/temple blessings.

      Please come visit us again. We do a weekly post on the upcoming Gospel Doctrine Lesson. It is usually up by Saturday afternoon. We would love any insight you could provide to the discussion.

      mike

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  13. Thank you Bishop for sharing this! Like I said it is truly beautiful. It was just as good the second time :) thanks Mike for putting it together.

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    • No problem. It was a beautiful talk. So much hope expressed.

      I am going to use it as my home-teaching message this Sunday.

      Come by and visit us this Saturday afternoon again. I will have the Sunday School lesson post up by then.

      mike

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  14. Rochelle /

    I remember hearing about you, Mike, wanting to teach the young men some of these lessons and I was against it. After reading your argument for it, I can see the benefit and your perspective on the situation. I also agree with Mike Reese in his thinking. As a youth I don’t know if I could’ve handled it. I was at the very base of the spectrum of faith, if you will. Which is not bad. I grew up in Houston in Southern Baptist and Born-Again country. Every day some person would come up to me and bash Mormons, every day they would tell me some silly factoid or theory or ask some stupid question (do I have horns, puh-lease). We weren’t allowed in many Christian organizations, etc. I did my best to answer them when they really wanted to know. Defend when it was just an attack, and ignore when it was to be hurtful. It was rough. It was hurtful. I think a discussion of sorts could have been valuable. I was fortunate enough to have a mother and step-father who would talk about these things with me (to the best of their ability). At the same time, I wonder how much it would’ve helped me with my very limited knowledge. Would I have been able to eat the steak when I was still sucking on a bottle? Would it have been too much for me?

    At times, later in life, when I felt my testimony/faith was strong I heard things that I struggled with and it did feel as though I had been deceived. I came to terms with most of them. I think I am guilty of head-in-the-sand thinking. There is a topic that I avoid at all costs because I just don’t know enough about it and I am worried that I won’t know where to find answers or that I won’t like them and then where will I be? At times I find myself just wanting to study the basics, just the doctrine and not necessarily the history or out-there concepts, to avoid any further situations that might cause me discomfort. I know in my heart that I need to grow and push myself. I just don’t know where to get my information in safe and spirit-led way.

    I love Bishop’s talk. Whilst he was speaking I was in a bathroom stall with my potty training 3-year-old. I wanted to hear what he had to say – I heard the first few sentences and was psyched about it. I appreciated the analogies and the message of hope and encouragement. I recently went through a very tough spot physically and spiritually. It wasn’t a historical matter or any such thing. It was a sense of confusion and loss about something that was very important to me that I was pouring myself out in prayer over for a very long time. I did all that I could (at the time, all that I thought I could do) and in the end it didn’t go the way I wanted. No amount of prayer seemed to yield me the comfort or confirmation I sought. It isn’t something that can be patched up with a “better luck next time” it was a life altering thing for me. I almost felt abandoned and therefore abandoned a bit of my hope and faith. The last few months I’ve been realizing I have been going about that wrong and have jumped back on board by picking up the seed and planting it again. This talk gave me hope to see that all is not lost. I haven’t backtracked so far that I’m a person to be shamed or disapproved of. We are all on a spectrum. I think the statement that touched me most was that having faith is not a have or have not issue. I always thought it was. Or not having enough of it to do any good. You know? I don’t understand why things happened the way they did. I don’t understand a lot of things about the gospel The scripture that comes to my mind when I think of these things comes from Nephi, I do not know the meaning of all things, but I know God loveth his children.

    I have a long way to go in understanding these “sticky” situations y’all speak of. To me, saying it even out loud (or on the computer) is a good first step for me. I think that teaching any of them should be treated delicately. Maybe the church doesn’t put it in their curriculum to ensure that when it is taught that it is done correctly? I would appreciate a discussion in a small, trusted group of people (so long as it didn’t get weird) but with a pile of sources and thoughts from those who are in authority.

    Thank you for posting his talk, now I can come back to it as often as I’d like.

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    • Garrett /

      Rochelle, great comment. You are not alone in your thoughts or feelings. Its an interesting journey we are all on.

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    • Rochelle,

      I read your comment twice, and then a third time to Cathy while we were at the dinner table. There is something beautiful about the rawness, pain, and honesty in your comment. It is something that is lacking sorely in our Mormon dialogue; life isn’t a romantic comedy where everything is packaged up nicely and works out in the end. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, painful comment. Love it!

      My brother and I were on a podcast a few weeks ago. On that podcast (and in speaking with our bishop), I used the story in Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with angel from God, to describe my relationship with God, our church, and my faith community. In the story, the angel dislocates Jacob’s hip, leaving him with a permanent limp. I explained that I have wrestled with God and Mormonism, I have pulled them in close to me as I struggle. Ultimately, I have been hurt permanently. I now have a limp. That limp reminds me of the wrestle I had and continue to have. It’s a token of my love for God, Mormonism, my faith community. Their is something intimate about wresting – you pull the thing in close to you as you try to subdue it; you don’t push it away. I wrestle because I love God, our church, the people with whom I sit in the pews. It hurts sometimes. Kylan Rice did a great post for us about wrestling with God. You would enjoy it. Here’s the link: http://rationalfaiths.com/the-day-breaketh-2/

      If you want to listen to the podcast my brother and I were on where I say other crazy stuff (like calling the Nephite prophets racist), here’s the link: http://www.mormonsundayschool.org/002-egd-25-alma-17-22/

      I don’t know what you were/are struggling with. It isn’t important that I know. What is important, is to know that you don’t ever need to feel isolated. Sometimes when someone goes through a faith transition, one worries how it will affect their relationship with their spouse, parents, siblings, etc. , which can further their sense of isolation. Understand that, through personal experience, I have come to know that Bishop Wallace is someone you can just sit and speak with. He often gives no advice – he’ll just listen. Also know that you have people that sit in the pews with you with whom you can speak. We have had a friend in the ward come over, sit on our couch and just talk with us about their difficulties with belief. You are right, there is something cathartic about just saying you are struggling (or writing it). Cathy’s and my door is always open.

      Now, onto inoculation. I have received one complaint from a parent. The kids love it though, especially my priests. My approach is non-appologetic. I just tell them the facts. So far we have discussed DNA and the problem it causes for the Book of Mormon. The Pool’s and Cluff’s oldest daughters were in for that one. Cluff rolled her eyes when I said the Nephites were racist (which they were). Jerilyn Pool told me last Sunday that her daughter loved the lesson.

      In a combined meeting with all the young men (and adult leaders) we spoke of how the Book of Mormon was really revealed (I don’t use the word translated anymore – too many assumptions with that word). The boys eat the stuff up. I have also presented some apologetic lessons as I have discussed what is called “Natural Theology”. Here is a link to one of my very first posts I did on one of the Natural Theology arguments for God’s existence called the “Moral Argument” (it’s a three part post) . My brother drummed up some ex-Mormon atheists and we go at it. I also presented it as a lesson to my priests over several months:
      http://rationalfaiths.com/natural-theology-the-moral-argument-part-i/

      Here’s my best argument for inoculation to tough historical issues. Our theology is wrapped up in the historicity of events – The Resurrection of Jesus, The Restoration of Priesthood, the revelation we call the Book of Mormon, etc. If someone receives a spiritual confirmation of these events, and then find’s out the events were not told to them in an accurate manner, what happens? I can tell you, because I have seen it played out so many times. They second guess their spiritual confirmation. They distrust the church as a source for truth. They look everywhere for answers except the church. Many eventually leave. We can keep them though, if we get our history right.

      Thanks for visiting our blog. We always love it when new people swing by. I can put you on our e-mail list if you want so you get notifications when we have new posts up. Also, if you ever want to do a post, you are welcome to do it on our forum

      Mike

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      • Milk before meat… right? I imagine the kids eat this stuff up because they have been fed milk their whole lives and are ready and smart enough for the meat. I’m tired of milk on Sunday, give me some meat!

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  15. Michele Marsee /

    Thank you so much! This was a great reassurance to me, someone who has had “shameful” questions for so long, but doesn’t want to leave the church I love. I wouldn’t dare ask my questions in church for fear of being marked as apostate somehow, but it has been a long, lonely road. I really just needed to know that there were others out there like me.

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    • Michele,

      So glad you stopped by! You are safe to ask any questions here. Bishop Wallace’s message was inspired.

      I encourage you to visit us again and leave a comment on our weekly blog post that looks at the upcoming Sunday School lesson. It is usually up by Saturday afternoon.

      Look forward to hearing from you again.

      mike

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  16. Brent /

    I agree with most of the bishop’s talk, except for this statement: So faith, confidence, belief, trust, hope, longing, desire, etc. are gifts of the spirit and they are ALL for the benefit of the church. The member that “believes” or “hopes” is just as much of a benefit to the church as the member that “knows”.(end quote) In my opinion, those who claim to “know” (as opposed to those who simply profess belief) have jumped from or fallen out of the “the mighty faith redwood” because, apparently, they now possess enough knowledge that faith is no longer needed or needful as an ongoing operating principle in their lives. This seems problematic since the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are first faith, and so on.
    If such “knowledge” now transcends or supplants faith, then it seems that repentance would no longer be available since any further sin by the “knower” would be a willful and flagrant denial of the Holy Ghost—an unpardonable sin–because the Holy Ghost was the medium that presumably supplied the knowledge that replaced prior faith.

    Taking it a step further, I would assert that it is impossible to truly “know” based upon evidences consisting of (or combinations of) feelings, impressions, sensations, dreams, whisperings, etc. Such evidences are purely subjective and convey no concrete demonstration of the correctness or validity of religious beliefs and doctrines. Thus, the need for faith as a first principle of the gospel. Does this make sense? Is my logic muddled? Do I have it wrong?

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    • Garrett /

      Brent, I think there’s a number of ways to look at your question that you have posed. I think it’s important to look at the different ways “to know” can be interpreted. Webster’s defines to know in the follow ways: to perceive directly or have direct cognition of, to have understanding of, to recognize the nature of, to be acqainted or familiar with, to have experience of, to be aware of the truth or factuality of, to be convinced or certain of, to have a practical understanding of. As I look at these various definitions of “to know” it helps to to realize that there are many different meanings to what someone might be saying when they say they know something to be true. Each person might have a different take on that and apply it differently to their testimony or belief. The great thing is that tas bishop says, there is room in the church for all of us regardless of whether we know, we hope to know, believe, hope to believe, etc.

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  17. Brent /

    Garrett,

    I guess I need to narrow the focus of my comment. It seems a serious claim to allege to “know” something as important and far-reaching as conclusive knowledge about the nature and being of God– and other equally important doctrines. In my opinion, anyone making such claims is obliged to explain exactly what it is he or she “knows” (beyond vague generalities) and, probably more importantly, how that knowledge was acquired. These are epistemological issues (the nature and origin of knowledge) that theologians and philosophers (I’m neither one) have debated and analyzed for centuries. I think, perhaps, that a stated and clear definition of the term “know” would be required when anyone proclaims sure and certain knowledge of religious and/or doctrinal issues because of the implied veracity and truthfulness assigned to such knowledge. As I said in my last post, feelings, impressions, sensations, promptings, etc. do not prove the truthfulness of anything, including religious doctrine.

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    • Brent,

      Good valid points. I am working on my Gospel Doctrine post right now so I won’t totally engage you right now. But I do want to know upon what do you base your epistemology? For you what does it mean to “know”?

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    • “Doubt is not the opposite of faith, but absolute, antiseptic certainty is the opposite of faith.” I absolutely love this quote! I think as members, our community talks in a different language when we get inside the chapel doors. When members say “I know” this is nothing like the experience that the brother of Jared had when he knew. He had faith, the Lord showed himself to him, and “he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.” Faith was gone, because he saw the Lord. Certainty is indeed the opposite of faith as shown in here in Ether 3:19.

      I believe that you can’t prove or disprove there is a God. I can demonstrate the law of gravity and prove that law to my friends. But for God, for me it would be impossible to do the same, unless I can strike them dumb like Alma, (not a good way to keep friends that don’t believe what you do). I choose to believe that there is a God. I have faith and I hope that Jesus is my Savior. Does that sound weaker than “I know” – maybe, but to know is not required of me, only to have faith.

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  18. John Tomlinson /

    I believe Mormons more than ever need to learn their own religion and how it is supposed to work. This is how it works, when you have questions after studying something, you don’t have to posses any certain degree of I.Q., our father makes available to all his children a deeply personal message.

    Moroni 10:4-5
    4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

    Now granted, a sincere heart, real intent,and faith in Christ are for some, formidable milestones. But I can say they are attainable by all, with due diligence. The manifestation of the Holy Ghost is certainly a knowledge, but it does not remove the necessity of faith and belief. And the coolest thing about that experience is that it is so personal you can’t deny that it happened, you can’t give it to someone else, and it can’t be retracted. I shudder to consider the percentage of LDS members who are foreign to this experience. No doubt those who have left the church merely over the humanity traits discovered in LDS history did not have this to sustain them. When you delve into antiquity you find stuff, stuff that may be hard to understand; any true historian, or archaeologist, lives in this reality. Since father Adam, God’s chosen have been men, yes men, and they make mistakes, they are subject to all the weaknesses spoken of in the scripture. It doesn’t rattle me one bit if early church members or leaders had hormones behind some decisions, pride, you name it. If they snuck a night-cap once in a while, battled with tobacco urges. Did some wrong that they believed by some rational was the right thing. I ain’t throw’n the first stone, even if she was, caught in the very act. I’m more like, come on over to my house and I’ll make you a nice bowl of soup, and I’ll share with you some words about the Holy Ghost,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, if you have ears to hear.

    (Nacho Libre quote) “The brothers don’t thing I know a crapload about the Gospel……………..but I dooooooo!”

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    • John,

      Glad you came by. This is a great forum to discuss our religion, isn’t it?

      Bishop’s talk was so full of hope. I loved it.

      Swing by again. I do a weekly post that looks at the upcoming Sunday School lesson. It is usually up by Saturday afternoon. Tell me if you want me to put you on our email list

      mike

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  19. John Tomlinson /

    Michele Marsee,

    There are no shameful questions, just unanswered ones.

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  20. Cynthia /

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderfully inclusive talk. Our family has had tragedy strike which has shaken our previously sure foundation. It is so affirming to hear someone say what we have known ourselves (and been criticized for) that sometimes the faith to keep going through the motions is enough. I would love to hear more folk in leadership positions sharing such a Christ like message. We need to be inclusive of our membership and Judge not a whole lot more.

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    • Cynthia,

      It was a much needed talk. Bishop Wallace is an incredible blessing to our little ward over here in southern Oregon. Like you said, his message was very inclusive – very Uchtdorf-like I thought. For those that understood the message was meant for them, there was not a dry eye. Those for whom the talk was not intended, thought he was just talking about the need to have faith.

      “And he spake many things unto them in parables” Matthew 13:3

      Please come visit us again. We do a weekly Sunday School post that examines the upcoming Sunday school lesson. It is usually up by Saturday afternoon.

      mike

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  21. Carla /

    As a parent and a teacher, I am adamant about telling our children the truth. I have taught teenagers in church for years and years, I am nearly finished with a doctorate of education degree in social and emotional learning, have raised my own five children and taken in a number of teenagers for extended periods of time in our home, and served as a ward YW president. I have never hesitated to answer questions kids raise, or talk about the real issues they face as LDS youth today. My biggest tip for anyone having frank conversations with kids? As part of every conversation I ALWAYS clearly share my convictions about the gospel of Jesus Christ–personal spiritual revelation, strength in scriptures and prayer, and and the absolute requirement we all share of lifting and loving all of God’s children. A wonderful side-effect of adults being honest and real with kids, is that our kids will know that they can talk about anything with said adults, and feel hopeful and loved. No matter the conflict or confusion, there is a safe place to express fears and find answers. The issue has never been the conversation topic; it has always been the ability to leave kids feeling okay about themselves–and normal–as they struggle to understand who they are as individuals and their religion, using the brain God gave them and expects them to use!

    One last thing: My son Brad was the YM president in his Arizona ward when one of his 16-year-old priests committed suicide. In an emergency meeting with the YM/YW leaders and the bishopric, the bishop asked that the leaders NOT discuss how this precious young man died. Brad immediately stepped up and said, “Do you think these kids don’t know how their friend died? The minute I don’t talk to these kids about what happened–openly and honestly–I lose all credibility with them.” THAT is the key: If we want our children (and teenagers are children) to feel confident and safe in talking with us, then we have a moral obligation to be truthful, tell the whole story without projecting our own fears onto them, and rest assured that truth is power; knowledge is liberating.

    Next post: How to help parents know that a questioning child is a thinking, pondering, and empowered child–one who can process information and trust his/her own spiritual awareness.

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    • Wow Carla. I am sure my bishop loves your comment; he teaches high-school Spanish and is the X-country coach.

      I think you should write that little post you spoke of. We are always looking for guest bloggers!!

      We also need a post written on being a Mormon Feminist. Just sayin’. I am working on getting one of my friends to do a post on being a liberal Mormon.

      Please, please, please, come visit again. We could use your sagacious insight on our other topics.

      mike

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    • Carla,

      Two other things:
      1) Where you living these days?
      2) In my conversations with Bishop Wallace, his big concern (and that expressed by my friend Mike Rees) is, shouldn’t this stuff be taught at home? The problem of course is that most Americans don’t read after high-school or college, and so we don’t see many LDS adults aware of our more colorful LDS history. So, what obligation do we have to parents to direct this dialogue that occurs in their children’s classes, when the parent is unaware of things such as seer-stones, polyandry, Blood Atonement, etc.? I have been told of one parent complaint about my lessons and it was over my benign lesson about Joseph Smith Jr. using the seer stone to receive the Book of Mormon revelation. Or, maybe it was my DNA/Book of Mormon lesson; I did call Nephi, Jacob, and Mormon racists after all.

      Along that line, one of our new ward members and my home-teaching companion is a CES man in his twenties. Here in Medford we actually have enough Mormons for release-time seminary – crazy. Anyways, we were talking about teaching the youth and he related to me that when he was in his training, the curriculum for one of those years was LDS history/Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132 was up and he, in his own words, “Decided just to read through it with the high-school students. I mean, hey, it’s scripture, it should be able to hold up.” Oh the problems some of the kids, especially females had, with that section. Ugh. His pain.

      So, any insight is greatly appreciated on how to tackle this beast.

      mike

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  22. Cody Calderwood /

    Michael Barker,

    “its seemingly self-inflicted hemorrhaging?” Spoken like a true medical professional! I love it Michael. So true of the current situation.

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  23. Cody Calderwood /

    I am the gospel doctrine teacher for our ward right now. Even though I live in an amazing ward right now where many of the members undestand this concept that this post presents, there are still a good number who push back when I begin to discuss some of the sticky issues in my lessons.
    Just a few weeks ago one old man even came and told me I just need to have more faith. He put his arm around me after my lesson and said, “you know, I almost raised my hand to comment during your lesson, almost. I wanted to say that all that education of yours has made you mad.” He then proceeded to say that they answers will only come through faith and prayer.
    He clearly doesn’t understand what faith is as I am still very active and still believe very much in the church. I have a firm belief in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith but recognize some inconsistencies and difficult questions surrounding them.
    I was just trying to provide an avenue for members of my ward to find potential answers outside of the standard “just pray about it”. The questioning and searching for answers has helped me to resolve many of my questions and I currently sit at ease and am comfortable with that which I don’t have an answer for.

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    • Cody,

      I was wondering when you were going to come by. We got to meet your brother; wonderful insight he had.

      The story of the older brother in your ward….it just makes me want to scream!! The change in church culture regarding the issue of speaking openly about the more colorful pieces of our history, I am convinced will start at the grass roots. The quote from Phil Barlow speaks to me:

      “I think faithful inquiry is of the essence of an organic and supple faith. If you can’t inquire honestly, earnestly, passionately, but humbly, thoughtfully, and be within the fold, then you are either going to end up outside the fold, as a certain number of people are, or your faith is going to be brittle and ostrich-like. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, but absolute, antiseptic certainty is the opposite of faith.” (Phillip Barlow, professor and holder of the Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, Mormon Matters podcast; episode 73, “And the survey Says…!” 1:087)

      One more quote from Phillip Barlow:

      “And to bifurcate those, to sunder the mind and the spirit is to be apostate from major thrusts of Joseph’s theology. The point is to look to our own [Mormon]culture, our own tradition, our own scriptures, and find where we are taking the name of the Lord God in vane by trivializing it and sitting in our classes as though they were little scripts waiting to be inacted instead of asking authentic questions that would magnify our callings and ours souls and our minds. ” (Phillip Barlow, professor and holder of the Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, Mormon Matters podcast; episode 73, “And the survey Says…!” 1:15)

      Thanks for sharing your story

      mike

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  24. Carla /

    Michael Barker,

    Mike, I have to be so careful here about what I say, that is hopelessly discouraging. Last year, I had my stake president say to Buzz, “You tell Carla to back off, or I will take her all the way to the First Presidency!” Interestingly enough, I initiated the SLC phone call, and (for lack of a better term), I won. That said, I associate with strong, LDS feminists both in Utah and in California. A dear friend of mine is Carol Lynn Pearson. We have been friends since 1975. One cannot be her friend as a young and impressionable twenty-something mom in the 70s and 80s without having the opportunity to embrace feminism and acceptance in the Church.

    That said, my son Brad says to me (whenever I ask him if I ought to take the risk about putting an observation of mine or an opinion out there for others to read), “Who cares anymore?” At one point 18 months ago, my brother who at the time was a Bishop in his ward in Florida, said to me when I expressed concern over the problem with my local leaders, “Be prepared to hand over your recommend over this.” Meaning that my stake president would “pull rank” and I would have no voice. When I told my brother I didn’t want to miss my nephew’s temple wedding, his response to me was, “It’s one wedding; not worth you backing down.” Thank goodness for that support!

    On my FB page, when I do make comments–however benign–about a church tradition, I know I am one more step removed from being in the “inner circle.” I taught a RS lesson in April (substituted), and was told by the RS president that I did not stick closely enough to the lesson manual–which, by the way, I had three huge posters in the front of the room with headings from said manual that I used throughout the lesson. Sadly, feedback from women in the room to me was clear: Thank you for being real. I can no longer sit through RS; I love Gospel Doctrine and do my best in Sacrament Meeting, appreciating the hymns, the solitude from daily life, and the hopefulness for a compassionate and loving talk. Last week I heard that church members with tattoos or multiple piercings were influenced by the Adversary and not following the prophet. My heart broke for every new member of the church in that chapel with piercings or tattoos, and every person wearing long sleeves to cover tattoos. Where is the kindness?

    So, I would love your Bishop! My doctorate degree in education is in Social-Emotional Learning, and it has been a fascinating journey of discovery and conviction in validating and teaching emotional skills to children. I hope to be completely finished in six months. Then I will be one of those “learned individuals” in the Church who don’t rely enough on faith.

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    • Carol Lynn Pearson!!! Woohoo. The Barkers are huge fans. On my Pioneer Day post, I opened it with one of her poems.

      Last year for Paul’s wife’s b-day I bought her “No More Good-byes”. It really made here think. I jokingly ask her when her book club in Provo is going to read it. She laughs.

      I am sure you are a fan of Mormon Stories, Mormon Matters, Mormon Stories Sunday School, and now A Thoughtful Faith podcasts. The inaugural podcast for A Thoughtful Faith was another interview with Gregory Prince. Apparently when he lived with his grandparents, his and their home teacher was Juanita Brooks’ husband. Gregory tells the story of what Juanita’s father use to tell her. I am paraphrasing now, “Just like when herding cattle, you don’t want to be in the middle, or outside of the church. You want to be on the periphery. That way you can nudge things along.”

      I will keep you in my prayers.

      The offer still stands. We want you to write a post for us.

      God Bless you

      MIke

      p.s. One of our ward friends, Jerilyn (she posted a comment), is the one that hosts the FMH website.

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  25. Carla /

    Michael Barker,

    Buzz and I are still in Manteca. David Crockett is the Stake President. Buzz has been on the High Council for five years (I don’t know how he does it!!), and I cannot tell you how many times I prefaced something I said in my Sunday School classes with “Now don’t go home and tell your parents that Carla doesn’t have a testimony!” LOL. I stood up to the Bishop many times over things I said. At one point, I told the Bishop the kids came first. And that I would not be dishonest or put policy ahead of people. I said, “What do you want me to do?” And Bishop Jones said, “Just fix it.” This was when I was YW President. So I told the YW that I sustained the local leaders, blah, blah, blah. Then I continued to tell the truth. I was a great YW president because I respected and validated the girls’ feelings and questions.

    We can never assume that anything is taught at home–including issues such as protecting kids from abuse or how to resolve conflicts! Many parents don’t have the answers or are stopped by their own fears. I always tell the kids to speak with their parents about what we have talked about. The kids who need more from me, seek me out individually. One YW girl, 17 years old, said to me; “My parents care about what I do; they do not care about me.” So many families view total, unquestioning conformity to parents’ demands/rules as respect. They do not see a child’s expression of his/her own views as anything more than disrespect of authority. It is horrendously destructive on our kids because they learn early on that if they do not agree with mom and dad, they are wrong. Now put THAT in gospel context.

    Children and teens deserve to be heard and to be participants in healthy conversations with adults. If the parents can’t or won’t do that, I will. I have had flack for it. But I never undermine the parents’ authority; I only effectively give information, and believe it or not, I follow the spirit a lot of the time when doing so. The whole Law of Adoption thing from the early days of the church hasn’t been a topic of discussion! :) But if young person, I would answer and give the references/citations from church historians.

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    • Great insight and advice. Thanks

      One favor now. Paul and I have been speaking about approaching Sister Carol Lynn Pearson about doing a blog post for us. Of course it would be around the issue of homo-sexuality in the church and how we can improve things at a grass-roots level. However, until now, we have had not connection to her. So….do yo think that she would write something for such a little blog like this one?

      Just an FYI this blog post has been our #1 post to date. We estimate it has gotten over 500 views so far. Paul’s post on black’s & priesthood has gotten the #2 spot and my post on Natural Theology (the Moral argument) has gotten #3.

      mike

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    • I heart Carla.

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  26. m. rees /

    I wish people would get this passionate about teaching our youth (LDS Youth) about the gospel of Christ. And not just a passion for teaching, but a genuine feeling of responsibility that our youth better understand the atonement. Perhaps it’s not as interesting as LDS history, but I would be greatly comforted if I saw the youth advisors fanatical about helping the youth gain a relationship with Heavenly Father.

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    • Garrett /

      Michael, I would argue that the youth are receiving excellent instruction and teaching. The topic of the atonement and other basic principles of the gospel has been taught time and time again and is reiterated on a regular basis.

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  27. Carla /

    Michael Barker,
    Michael~

    I am happy to contact Carol Lynn. I will email or call her in the next couple of days. She is usually very willing to participate and share her voice in forums that further awareness, inclusion, and compassion for all. I will give her the link to your blog so that she can take a look at it. Then, if she is interested, I will give her your name so that she can expect to hear from you. Does that sound okay?

    Also, her latest book, No More Goodbyes, has been given by me to many people. Sadly, one father in our ward to whom I gave the book a couple of years ago, and whose 23 year-old son is gay, “doesn’t know where it is” and hasn’t read it. But others have read it and have had significant changes in attitude. It is impossible to read it and not feel differently about our LGBT loved ones! A book club discussion would be so worthwhile!

    Also, I will message you something on FB this week when I get time. Your blog is a bit too public for it!

    Paul~ I so heart you!!

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  28. I am so glad you posted a copy of Bishop Wallace’s Talk. I really wanted a copy of it. My Mom, Sister Henderson was there and said it was the best talk she has heard in a long time…. I am thankful for the inspired, well thought out talk. Thanks Erin Riordan

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    • Erin,

      Thanks so much for checking out our blog! We are glad too that Bishop Wallace allowed us to post his talk; it is so hopeful. What is really neat is that the majority of people that have posted comments are people that Cathy, my brothers, nor I know; super awesome.

      Please swing by again and read some of our other posts. We do a weekly Gospel Doctrine post that looks at the upcoming Book of Mormon lesson. This Sunday’s lesson is already up.

      We have an email list that we send out whenever we have a new post. Let us know if you want to be added to that list.

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  29. Michael Barker,
    Mike, First I want to say your Bishops inspired talk gives me hope. Above that you give me hope. I can feel your passion for the “Pearl and the Box”. I have been so moved by your honesty and Love for the youth and the future of the Church. If one mans voice can turn things around I feel it in yours. A little about myself..I am 53 born in the church. I live in KY. I have a bi-racial family. White and Black American. On April the 27th at 11:30p.m. I stumbled on Mormonthink.com with-in the hour everything that I had known to be true and loved became a lie. At first I felt a burden and gloom that had lingered with me for the whole of my life as far back as I can remember about the age of 7 lifted. Then I cried, and I cried and I cried. Thankfully I have a home teacher that loves me as much as he loves the Gospel and he has not missed a month. Brother Sam. I do not share much of what I have learned for respect of our relationship. I believe it is the GA responsibility to become transparent with the issues. I have 6 daughters and 2 sons. I want to share with you my sons. The oldest is a black and white thinker, judge mental and less tolerant to others who are not like him even his own siblings. He can come across cold and unreachable. He is a Marine. He is a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. YM’s President. My younger son is warm, kind, non judge mental. He is covered in tattoos. Is a tattoo artist. Was never baptized. Did not believe in God as hard as I tried, until the birth of his first child. He came to me Mothers Day and said; Mom we are thinking about going to church I see the Missionaries in our neighborhood and I want to ask them over. (This was just a month after that fateful night and he did not know). I said; no son not the Mormon Church, he was shocked and asked why? I said Brigham Young was the most racist man I have ever heard of. He put his arm around me and said “Mom they were all racist back then.” It was those words from my Bi-racial son that melted my heart and lit a spark in my heart and mind that I owed it to myself and my family to look at this journey again. Allow the hope to be there my “seed” that maybe, just maybe, I can work through this have the facts and faith walk in harmony and be able to seal my testimony in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Like a “Red Wood Tree”. I hope that you will post your lesson on Blood Atonement, and the Race issues. I am afraid that my oldest’s Son will get his heart broken far greater than myself if he ever finds out. I want to be able to help him through it. I want to be able to be as forgiving as my youngest son. Thank You, Much Love a sister in Christ.

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    • Lawona – Thanks for your honest sincere comment, very beautiful. Have you read our post we did on blacks and priesthood? Here is a link: http://rationalfaiths.com/revelation-bias-fair-balanced-part-4-blacks-priesthood/ We wish you the best in your faith journey!

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    • Lawona,

      Wow! You made me cry.

      Tonight we had a presidency meeting. One of my counselors was very concerned about my approach to “inoculation”. We had a very lively discussion. At the beginning of the meeting, I was to give the spiritual thought. After reading your comment, I changed my mind, and read what you wrote as the spiritual thought to begin our presidency meeting; my bishop was there too and heard what you had written. He hadn’t read it yet.

      What our presidency came up with is quite unique. We decided that we are going to have a meeting with all the parents of the young men. In that meeting we are going to introduce the idea of “inoculation” and the concern we have over the huge amounts of people, usually in their 30s, that are leaving the church over historical issues. We will then get their consent to talk to their boys about some of these stickier issues. As I teach a lesson on some of the more difficult historical problems with LDS history (which will only occur about every 3months), we will invite the parents to come join us. Pretty cool, huh? Man, God was there with us tonight. Such a feeling of peace that I had.

      I am so glad you found our blog. I am so glad you shared your story with us. I second what my brother Paul recommended – that you should read the post he wrote on blacks and priesthood. Oh, before I forget, how did yo find us?

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  30. Jonathan /

    Bishop Wallace, great thoughts. I loved reading this. Thank you for being willing to share.

    I have lots of thoughts on the comments, but for now, I’d like to share just two thoughts directly on the talk-

    1. On the idea that the opposite of faith is fear: When my loved ones are concerned about me “losing faith” because of my interest in confronting the “sticky” issues, I hope that they can eventually understand that although I likely don’t fit into the nicely defined parameters of what it means to be a faithful Mormon, it is important to remember that I am not faithless, because I am not fearful. I am just a prematurely dinosaure-ed, weathered, lonesome sapling. :)

    2. My parents, who are what you might call “orthodox” Mormons, often like to speak in generalities about how “isn’t it great the the Brethren can come from so many perspectives and still come to a consensus?” This is said not because they have studied in depth any instances where the 12 have disagreed, but because of general allusions to the point that the 12 can disagree, said by the 12. I have spent a bit of time studying some of those instances, and I enjoy that both myself and my parents can get a lot out of the notion that the 12 aren’t always in complete harmony, even if we have totally different perspectives of the matter.

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