Listening to Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson yesterday on Trib Talk, I came to a sudden realization. I think they genuinely don’t understand what is happening to thousands of members of their church. I guess that’s bound to be the case in a church of millions. Yet I can’t help but expect more from someone who holds the title of “apostle.”
They were asked a complex set of questions stemming from multiple online sources about whether members of the church would be disciplined for speaking out about opposing beliefs and supporting groups like Affirmation and Ordain Women. The multiplicity of these questions suggested that this kind of discipline has taken place quite rampantly and many people share a strong fear surrounding this issue.
Elder Christofferson took the first stab at an answer. “It doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders. If that’s a deliberate and a persistent effort and trying to get others to follow, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines. That’s very different for us than someone who feels one way or another on a political stance or a particular action to support a group, Affirmation or any others that you named.”
So apparently you can support say, Ordain Women, so long as you are not attacking church leaders and trying to get people to leave the church. What constitutes attacking leaders? If I think that they are wrong about LGBT issues and women not holding the priesthood and I speak up about that, am I attacking them? Elder Christofferson seems to be suggesting that it’s okay to speak up and to disagree with them. So who’s to be the judge whether your vocal opposition is an attack or not? Oh, right, that’s what we have Judges in Israel for.
According to Elder Oaks, “Questions you ask are not resolved at church headquarters, they’re resolved by prayerful consideration of a bishop who’s been taught the principles of love, and the limits that apply. And I find it quite significant that despite all the worry along the lines that you mentioned I haven’t heard of a discipline case.”
Yes, Elder Oaks, there was a lot of worry in that line of questioning, wasn’t there? Perhaps there’s a reason for that. Perhaps we can look at some real life scenarios for a moment to see how well our bishops have been taught the principles of love. Side note: I don’t remember Christ teaching us about limits that apply to love. I’m pretty sure that true charity is limitless. Since Elder Oaks has not heard of a single discipline case, I will start with mine.
Was I attacking the church? No. Was I telling people to leave? No. Here’s what I was doing. I was faithfully fulfilling my calling as a counselor in the primary presidency, teaching the children that they had a Mother and Father in Heaven who loved them. In the online world I posted about an interfaith fast for equality in religion sponsored by Ordain Women. And when my friends posted anti-ordain women stuff, I defended them. That resulted in multiple meetings with my stake president and bishop, lots of counseling and well, attacking. They attacked my intelligence, my testimony, my faith, my understanding of the gospel. They told me I was on a slippery slope to apostasy, if I wasn’t already there. They told me that there was little chance that I could renew my temple recommend if I continued down this path. All of this they did in a condescending tone. Believe me, love was not a word that I would use to describe the principle my bishop and stake president were acting on. After two and a half hours in a meeting with my stake president and bishop while my kids went crazy in the foyer, I had finally had enough attacking for one day and I walked out.
The next thing I knew, I was being publicly shamed at church. Do you know what happens when your bishop publicly shames you at church? You start to have random visitors at your house calling you to repentance. You are shunned and you become an outcast to your community. And no one will ever know your story because they trust the man in authority, and he has told them his own version of the story. I lost my calling and everything that makes me want to stay at church. So tell me, Elder Oaks and Christofferson, who was it here that was pulling people away from the church? In my case, my bishop and stake president were the offenders.
What’s that you say Elder Christofferson? “They’re in a position, the local leadership to really way what’s going on…they’re in a position to understand what’s really in a person’s heart and where they’re coming from.”
That’s not what I experienced. And I’m not alone. Now that you’ve finally heard of one case of discipline for merely believing differently and being vocal about it, let me tell you about my friends. Many many people have been in meetings with their local leaders like the one I have described. They have been harassed by endless phone calls, emails, and texts. Their faith has been ripped apart by heartless words. They have been coerced to go against their conscience in order to attend a family event in the temple. They have been publicly shamed by someone in authority, mocked, ridiculed, and cast out by their communities. And a few have even faced the full disciplinary process. Tell me who is pulling people out of the church?
I think our leaders genuinely don’t know that this is happening. Perhaps they place too much trust in local leaders. Perhaps they are trying to follow the principle of not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing. But here’s the problem with that. They aren’t a hand, they are the head. And the head should know what the hand is doing. If it doesn’t, then we belong to a rather dysfunctional and volatile body. Like I said before, I guess I just expect more from men who bear the title of apostle. Jesus taught his apostles to walk among the people, to listen to them and understand them. He taught them not just to understand those in the center, but also the people on the margins, the outcasts, the publicans and sinners, the Samaritans. If Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson would do that, I think they would understand the worry behind that interview question. I think they would understand that people are being disciplined simply for following their conscience and speaking out about their differing beliefs.Read More