We were all abuzz in the bloggernacle last week when Meridian Magazine published Joni Hilton’s “Are You a Liberal Mormon”. Such a fierce and vehement reaction (even from Meridian’s faithful readers) forced Meridian to take the article down before the day was over (although you can still read it HERE.)
Much of the reaction seems to be over the use of the word “liberal”. Mitchell has clarified that she wasn’t talking about political affiliation. I believe her—I think she would have been better served using the words progressive or unorthodox, but that doesn’t make the article she wrote any less horrible. It was judgmental and hateful. And I think there is a lesson we can take away from her article and the reaction to it that is much more important than pointing out all the ways in which she was wrong in that piece – so I’m not going to do that.
I just want to point out that she used a lot of standards that seem to be benchmarks for her idea of righteousness. The Word of Wisdom, Sabbath Day observance, church attendance, callings, dress standards, movie choices, and more were used as weapons against those who didn’t fit her mold.
In his talk, “The Love of God”, Elder Uchtdorf said, “there are so many ’shoulds’ and ’should nots’ that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of ‘good ideas.’ This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious ‘experts’ of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters.”
This is the pharisaical mistake that Hilton made, to a damaging degree. But the problem is much bigger than one author and one article, which is why so many reacted to this article so strongly. Haven’t we all felt that judgment? Haven’t we all been held up to a standard or principle that we failed to meet or excel at? Taking a standard that really works for you and judging everyone else you know by it actually makes very little sense. And this is how we get lost in the labyrinth of good ideas that Ucthdorf speaks of. It is pretty rare that attending church meetings regularly and serving diligently in your callings is going to be seen as a super bad idea. But just because they are good ideas that work for a lot of people doesn’t mean they are hallmarks of righteousness. And they are certainly inappropriate scales used for judging character and faith. The Bible Dictionary entry for Pharisee points out that the Pharisees “were a major obstacle to the reception of Christ and the gospel by the Jewish people.” And this is because they were so hung up on their standards that the standards became their gospel.
Contrast that with Uchtdorf’s message from the talk mentioned above. He tells us that to focus on what really matters, we need to remember the two great commandments. These are, of course, love God and love each other. But what does this really mean? In Luke 10, when the lawyer is asking Christ what to do in order to inherit eternal life, the conversation turns to what it means to love our neighbors. When the lawyer asks, “And who is my neighbor?” the Savior answers with the parable of the good Samaritan.
In his talk, “Doctrine of Inclusion”, Elder Ballard spoke of the parable of the Samaritan. He said, “Every time I read this parable I am impressed with its power and its simplicity. But have you ever wondered why the Savior chose to make the hero of this story a Samaritans at the time of Christ. Under normal circumstances, these two groups avoided association with each other. It would still be a good, instructive parable if the man who fell among thieves had been rescued by a brother Jew. His deliberate use of Jews and Samaritans clearly teaches that we are all neighbors and that we should love, esteem, respect, and serve one another despite our deepest differences—including religious, political, and cultural differences”.
It would be so much better if we remember this approach when seeing the differences among members of our own church. We need less judgment. We need more of an open and accepting environment for all members. Indeed, Joni Hilton wrote an article earlier this year about judgment, and she said, “Church is not an exclusive club. This is not a place to show off, form cliques, or sniff at people you think are inferior. You want the great and spacious building for that. This church is one of open arms, repentance, love, and mercy. This is where we come because we know we are lacking and we cannot get home without Christ’s atonement.” (Not sure what happened to her between then and now, but whatever.) That, truly, is the church I want to belong to. It is time for all of us to set down our weaponized benchmarks of righteousness. Let us allow each other to worship how, when, and what we may, and do as Elder Ballard suggests, and be kind to each other despite our deepest differences. If we are all engaged in the exercise of religion, it is because we all seek to know God better. We should allow that pursuit to draw us together. If it divides us, we’re doing it wrong.
John 13:34-35 – A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love on another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have loved one to another.
Beautiful truths, Leah. Thank you for writing this article.
Thank you Jamie!
This is so great, Leah. The Good Samaritan is my second favorite parable offered by Jesus. It truly sends home the message that we are all to love each other, period. It is easy to love those who love us and those who think like us. The true test of a Christ-like attitude is to love those who are different from we are, or who do not love us simply because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I also love the inclusion of that quote by Elder Uchtdorf. It underscores exactly what was so off-putting about the Meridian article since most of the things she was mentioning were hedges around the law versus actual eternal principles of righteousness. Great job!
“If it divides us, we’re doing it wrong.”
The problem I have with this statement is that it comes from you. It’s hypocritical. My wife has followed you on facebook and via your blog for years and has often shared with me things that you say. You’re constantly and consistently judgmental of conservative Mormons, but when judgment is thrown back at you, you either hide behind the suddenly-convenient notion that “we’re all entitled to our opinions” (though that didn’t seem to cross your mind before your attacks) or worse, you negate your action altogether and play the victim of Church members’ cultural wrath.
I something of a “mixed” Mormon. I have both streaks of conservatism and modern liberalism in my political and spiritual DNA. Can conservative Mormons be judgmental? Absolutely. But you are *exactly* like them. You’re the opposite side of the same coin. In fact, may be worse because you so consistently tell people what to do. But when called out on it, you’re no longer attacking, but simply “stating your opinion, which differs from the norm.” Now suddenly, you’re a victim. If you truly want to get your points across in a constructive way, stop with the attacking. You seem to carry this notion that your progressiveness makes you more open minded and in a sense *better* than those you’re “educating.” So, be that way. Stop attacking and you won’t have to pretend to be so surprised and upset when people attack back. That is, of course, if you don’t get off on upsetting people. Time will tell, I suppose.
Nothing you’ve said here is even relevant to this post. You’ve just taken this opportunity to attack my character and say mean things to me. Anonymously. (READ: Cowardly) You assessment of me is not correct. If you knew my heart, you’d know how hurtful the things you’ve said are.
I hope it was worth it to you to get that off your chest, and that you feel pretty good about yourself for making me cry this morning.
Honestly, I didn’t mean to be hurtful. And I *do* recognize that my post doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of article, outside of the last line. My post was written out of frustration. We want some of the same things. Granted, not all. As I said, I’m conservative enough to not feel out of place talking about some issues with my Tea Party friends, but liberal enough to enjoy this website. My point is, if you really want things to change culturally in the Church, you need less venom. Notice, I didn’t say less passion. If you want Church members to cease being judgmental, you can’t do so while seeming holier-than-thou. Treat it as a conversation. I’ll admit, saying you get off on upsetting members was probably unfair. But you have to understand that often you *sound* that way. As though you’re more concerned about getting some type of satisfaction out of one-upping your fellow members than you are of getting your point across.
One of my best friends in my current ward is a pretty hardcore liberal. What makes him such an integral part of our ward is that he understands that other (obviously more conservative members) see his views as controversial. As such, he’s still passionate and firm in his beliefs but he doesn’t confront or attack. We agree on some issues and disagree on others. He’s so cordial that even when we disagree, we’ll still go out to dinner after and not skip a beat.
If I truly did make you cry, I can honestly say I’m sorry. That was the opposite of my intent. I only want you to realize that while you have a lot of valuable points, you’re having a bit of a P.R. problem. I want our liberal members to have a bigger voice in the Church and that can’t happen if you attack those with opposing views. Whether we like it or not, conservatism makes up the lion’s share of Church membership. It’s a bear. You’ve chosen to confront that bear with a blowtorch when honey is more effective. Please choose the honey.
You called me judgmental. You called me hypocritical. You called me venomous. You accused me of playing the victim. You’ve come to this post to personal attack and scold me. You *clearly* think very little of me.
But making me cry was the opposite of your intent?
And I’m the one with a PR problem? Do tell me more. Maybe you could even give me some examples to drive the point home.
Because I will tell you this, I may rail on conservative politics, but I have never personally attacked anyone the way you have here. Anonymously.
I want to introduce you to the idea of a tone argument. Basically, a tone argument implies that a group would be more successful if they would just present themselves in a nicer way. (i.e., blowtorch v honey).
It’s a distraction to the topic at hand. Is she wrong in her assessment? Is Leah missing some point that would make her argument wrong? No– you simply don’t like the *way* she is communicating it. And I hate to break it to you, but you don’t have the right to tell someone how they should discuss topics near and dear to them.
Your comments were harsh, critical and mean. You want to ask others to communicate in a gentler tone, but honestly? Would you have said these things to her face? Would you greet her in the hallway at church and say, “You have a big P.R. problem. You have too much venom.”? Would you want to sit next to someone in a worship service if they had just said this to you?
Your attacks were personal and cruel. They did not discuss the merits of the article at all. You took advantage of an online forum to say something you never would say in person, and in doing so, you criticize a woman because she’s not polite enough.
Looks like it’s perfectly fine for a man to be harsh, direct and rude.
Oohhh Leah. Lucky you having this wonderful righteous man here to call you to repentance when you so clearly need it.
Some people are ridiculous.
It’s amazing to me “Jawke” that you feel like you have such insight into Leah’s heart and mind when you clearly have so little insight into your own PR problem.
You sound like a self righteous jerk.
Perhaps you should spend a little time checking yourself, your intentions, and the image YOU are putting out into the world.
What is it that makes you the authority? What is it that gives you the hubris to speak to someone else like that? What is it that gives you the right?
And in case it isn’t self-evident: The answer is you have NO RIGHT. None of us have the right you granted yourself here this morning.
JAWKE, you appear to be interested in a personal attack rather than a helpful dialogue, so I’m not sure your comments warrant further discussion since you appear to have accomplished your mission. But in the interest of civil dialogue, I’d like to ask if you can provide examples in Leah’s narrative that support your assertion that Leah is “constantly and consistently judgmental of conservative Mormons, but when judgment is thrown back at you, you either hide behind the suddenly-convenient notion that “we’re all entitled to our opinions” (though that didn’t seem to cross your mind before your attacks) or worse, you negate your action altogether and play the victim of Church members’ cultural wrath.” Where in this blog or any others can you point out a place where Leah is passing judgment. Just curious to get a better feel for your perspective.
I also wrote a similar essay/rebut on Joni’s article. What’s even sadder than the fact that she didn’t get how terrible it was to call someone else unChristlike is that that the editorial board didn’t see it for what it was either until it was pointed out to them by the readers. Well done. I enjoyed your take on it too.
Leah, you’re words are beautiful and spot on. I’ve spent the last 3 years sorting my thoughts out about rules vs love. You wrote exactly how I feel. Whomever this JAWKE person is obviously has something personal against you. Don’t let one person’s negativity ruin something that touches so many people. ((hugs))
I’m sad I didn’t see this post earlier! This is a fabulous response to the Meridian article; you’re much kinder to the original author than I was, which was a good way to remind me that I need to practice what I preach. I especially liked that you took the time to find another article by that same woman and point out its positives. Thanks for reminding me, not just in your content but in your tone, that being judgmental and divisive is not the kind of thing I want to do, and it’s not the kind of attitude I want to foster. Lovely post.