Expressing Dissent: When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up?

There’s a brouhaha going on in my town over early morning seminary.  I’ll get to the details in a minute, but I want to first raise the question: why isn’t it okay for members to disagree with their leaders? In the early days clearly there was lots of discussion, much of it heated, about all sorts of things. But it feels almost taboo to publicly disagree with one’s leaders. I’m not advocating mutiny or a ward coup, but it seems to me that if a policy makes no sense or worse, is harmful, I should be allowed to say, “Why are we doing this?” or even, “I don’t like this” without being labeled a heretic or dissenter.

Here’s the scoop. For years seminary has been held at a member’s home that lives across the street from the high school. As the church building is in the opposite direction and all kids who attend seminary also attend the high school across the street, it made sense for parents to do one drop off and the kids simply walk across the street after. It’s worked well. I’ve substitute taught seminary a few times and can testify to this.  There is a good spirit in the home. The kids seem happy there (as happy as kids can be at 6:30am) and enjoy walking to school after as a group.

Then, this fall, we began to hear rumors that the stake president wanted to move it to the high school. No reasons given. The kids collectively protested. The kids’ argument is that they already spend 7 hours at hard desks in an institutional environment, why take away their brief early morning respite? On girl (a favorite YW of mine) started a petition but when the Stake Presidency got wind of it, they sent stern emails to the YM and YW leaders to SHUT IT DOWN.

When the parents found out that we’d have to pay significantly for the new space, we began to scratch our heads. Our town may have lots of rich folks, but many of us have been kicked in the butt by the recession and are making tough choices like,  “Do I pay my tithing or my student loan this month?” It rankles to imagine that sacrifice going to pay the high school for such an unnecessary expense.

So Monday night, hopped up on candy and cider, I made a few peeved phone calls and another mom wrote an email to all the parents and the stake presidency voicing her displeasure at the change and the way it was executed.  This morning my inbox was flooded with the opinions of a dozen other parents, voicing concerns, seeking answers. It felt ridiculously dangerous and liberating to have all these opinions freely shared. A couple emails from Higher Ups were also sent, trying desperately to shut down the dialogue by using phrases like “support the priesthood” and putting the word “revelation” in bold. Twice. I was so proud of my little community of faithful Saints who knows that you can support people even while disagreeing them.

As for seminary, will anything change? I doubt it. I dropped my kid off at the high school Tuesday morning murmuring under my breath. But I still did it. Ultimately I don’t have to have my way, but I DO have to have my say.

When have you disagreed with a church leader?  What prompted you to voice your opinion? What happened?  When should we suck it up and when should we speak up?

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81 Responses

  1. christer1979 says:

    Generally I try to balance the good that can be accomplished versus the damage that is being done. If my speaking up will actually have any effect, then I sometimes try. (One case when I didn’t try was when, during my first or second Sunday in a new ward, a senior couple reported in their service mission to Africa during the third hour [so it was more of a discussion]. The sister meant SO well but talked about how many Africans are lacking materially because of how their social / economic system is lacking, along the lines of “if only they had the freedoms we have here!” She loved those people; you could tell she only wanted to help. So I refrained from commenting that African systems of economy and interdependence were likely absolutely fine and dandy before white colonials came along and shoved foreign mercantilism down their throat. My attempts to broaden the minds and cultural perceptions of some sheltered church-goers wouldn’t have worked very well, and it would have taken away from the main point of the presentation.)

    Once I did try, during a horrific RS lesson (for the record, the only RS lesson in my life I’ve ever been truly uncomfortable in) that veered from Christlike traditions in the home towards how the family is under attack from… not porn, not “the gays,” but by families (i.e. career driven women) who choose not to have kids. The case studies thrown out were so extreme (Really? Your over-25 nephew couldn’t get married at BYU-I-do because the girls there are too focused on careers? WHATEVER) that I finally just raised my hand and said something mild-mannered and way too bland about how we need to pray at each stage of our lives to be directed towards what we and our families need. It wasn’t too groundbreaking, but I always fear that if I am too strident, hackles will get raised and no one will actually listen or ponder.

  2. Libby says:

    Yikes! The things I miss because my kids are little….

    If my children had to pay to attend early morning seminary — when the system was working just fine before, thank you very much — they wouldn’t be attending.

  3. Travis Benjamin Howard says:

    Look at what a person experiences from childhood on up, raised in this church. Its about the closest thing to “Satan’s Plan” that could be implemented on earth. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. You don’t have to feel bad about expressing dissent. Express dissent.

    • Anne says:

      What on earth are you talking about? Lol “Satan’s Plan”….. You might need to expound on that. I was raised in the Church and went to four years of seminary and you’re comment is ridiculous. I’m positive it is not Satan’s Plan for teenagers to discuss Christ and his gospel for an hour every day before going to school. Kind of contrary to his plan if you ask me.

      • NoCoolName_Tom says:

        I think the comparison is based off of the old comparisons of 1960s and 1970s Communism to Satan’s plan: the idea that Satan’s plan would be analogous to a regime that forcibly denied the rights of assembly or disent without dire consequences and thus curtailed individual freedoms. From this perspective the Church’s caution about independent study groups and its sometimes heavy-handed responses to public dissent are analogous to these aspects of old Communist regimes and thus are also somewhat analogous to the old comparisons that Church leaders used to make (and that many old-timers in the Church still make about scary “socialism”).

    • Janna says:

      I think Travis is trying to express that Mormons tend to just follow, as if we have no choice (e.g., “Satan’s Plan”). Am I correct?

  4. Jeanne Jusevic says:

    There is the rub. We believe in revelation but when something clearly defies common sense, the priesthood bandies that word about as if it is the final word on the subject. I have to wonder, since seminary is a voluntary program, why not sit the kids out of seminary until the Stake President gets the message?

    After years of sitting in Church listening to the drek that comes out of members mouths, I just say what is on my mind. Want to make us vs them comments in SS or RS , then be prepared to recognize and attempt to back up what you are saying, what to attack the gay community be prepared for me to say something.

    I guess I am tired of not hearing the variety of voices in the Church.

    Jeanne

  5. Diane says:

    I don’t think I really need to rehash the what and the why’s in the ways that I have gone against the grain of leadership at church. But, a SP is just that a SP and if you are not getting a reasonable response from him(if any at all, which I never did) than why not go over his head and go to an Area 70. I say absolutely use your chain of command the way we are taught to do

    As far as your question as to when do you speak up and out? Here’s my response. You speak up when you are being bullied by leaders because you have a mental health condition which is completely controlled while on your meds and your HT tells you that you have spiritual and emotional problems that needs to be addressed and he’s allowed to say that because he was once a BP, and the only reason why he is saying this is because you asked him to stop doing something.. NO ONE in church has the right to make any one feel less than at church. They certainly don’t have the right to use scripture to back them up.

    Heather, I am with you we are not even allowed to disagree nicely. This is the exact reason why people who are not members think we are a cult. Cult leaders practice this kind of allegiance to end and its really disturbing to me at times when I hear about situations like this. Ps, I know we are not a cult so any one reading this please don’t lambast me for this opinion

    • justme says:

      Diane, I hope you understand what I ment to say in my sentence. I agree with almost all of what you said. I just believe we need to remember that we are all imperfect and subject to our natural man(or woman). We need to feel like we can voice our opinions and be heard. We can, even as a SP might alow himself to make some bad decccisions or present something in the wrong way we can take things in the wrong way. We all, Stake Pres, Bishops, and Sunday School teachers like myself need to be more willing to listen to the spirit and seek the spirit rather than let our egos speek for us. We all do it to verying degrees. We need to put our egos aside when we listen as well as when we lead. No I have never realy been in any higher possition than an EQ councelor. However in the past 10 years I have learned much about the constant companionship of the spirit and its ability to solve all problems in peace. I love you and I love all people. Charity NEVER faileth. ( as you can see I am still terrable at spelling though)

      • Diane says:

        just me

        No worries on the spelling, I, was an English Major in college and you would never know it, I’m terrible at spelling and grammar. But, I figure on this site I’m not being graded on so, I don’t care

  6. April says:

    It drives me nuts when leaders’ egos are so huge they can’t handle someone disagreeing with them. Especially in a system where even if someone out there disagrees and says so out loud, the leader always gets his way, so what is he so worried about? That said, I have a philosophy of choosing battles. For the sake of my own sanity, I limit the battles I fight to one at a time.

    • G says:

      I agree April. I think it shows such insecurity. Don’t they know they are going to get their way? What does it cost them to try a little persuasion, and a bit of patience (eg. long-suffering)?

    • justme says:

      We are all imperfect and subject to our egos. It is the person that can successfully put their own ego aside and seek personal revelation that truely finds the truth and a way to make a difference.

      • Diane says:

        I don’t think anyone here would argue with your sentence, however, we clearly are dealing with someone who does not wish receive revelation. He does not want to take imput from parents. Its’ his way or the highway and that is what’s upsetting the parents and students and rightly so.. This attitude drives me crazy

  7. G says:

    A very wise man once said… No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned

  8. The SP definetly should have handled this better, giving explanation of why this change was happening. There could be any number of reasons, Church policy, space concerns, fire codes, insurance, etc.. Unless the SP had an angelic visitation, the reason of the Priesthood “because I said so” should not be invoked. It is also possible that the movement happened at all because there were complaints sent up to the SP.

    And who added fuel to the fire by throwing out the fact that the new space would cost money? I’d think it’d be obvious that any space not a persons home would cost money (to the church, not to the students), but the SP and the Facilities Management department for your region would have looked at a number of options before settling on the one they had. Come to think of it, this may be more a move by CES or Facilities Management than by the SP. It’s he didn’t know about the change until he was informed there needed to be one.

    Writing the area authority would certainly be a good next step.

    • Jessawhy says:

      I wondered if there was a problem with the home that seminary was being held in. Perhaps there is family stress there, or abuse, or (gasp) someone has a porn problem, and the church leadership no longer sees it as an ideal location.

      Also, my in-laws had seminary at their house for years for similar reasons and I think they were glad when the time came to an end.

  9. Anne says:

    I’ve never considered the council to support priesthood leaders as a command to never question them. There’s nothing wrong with trying to understand what they implement and even disagreeing if you feel it necessary. It’s how you go about doing it.
    This situation for example could have several good reasons behind it…
    -maybe it was becoming burdensome for the family whose home was being used.
    -maybe the kids out grew the space available.
    -maybe they were falling asleep on the comfortable couches.
    There are a number of plausible reasons and maybe they didn’t want to make anyone feel put out. Many of the leaders of the Church are inspired for the members under their stewardship. That doesn’t mean they are never wrong or that a lack of understanding of a situation can result in unwise council or action. We all need to work and council together and not against each other.

  10. Fran says:

    Ohhhhh, I so want to comment, but I gotta run right now. I’ll be back. I’ve got some spicy stories on this topic, I think. In short, I think the most frustrating part of about disagreeing is that it usually still changes nothing. It just makes you look like the bad guy. Why on earth we’re so unable to have dialogue is a mystery to me, but I’d think people who make decisions like to think they’re inspired. And anyone posing questions is thus questioning their spirituality – and that’s just not cool. I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me, and I find it rather vomit inducing when we just say “amen” to everything, and go along like non-thinking, non-feeling robots. Urgh.

    Ok, more later.

  11. Lona Simon says:

    What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but all be fullfilled, WHETHER BY MINE VOICE OR BY THE VOICE OF MY SERVANTS, IT IS THE SAME. D&C 1:38

    • Libby says:

      Lona, if you go back and read that passage in context, it truly doesn’t mean what you think it means.

    • Maggie says:

      Yes, but are we not ALL his servants. I don’t think that this passage advocates that we blindly follow our church leaders but that we seek out opportunities to act and speak for the savior. And that we recognize the words and actions of Christ in others.

    • April says:

      Really? You really think a stake president declaring the location of a seminary class is the same as God delivering the ten commandments to Moses? In my experience, God lets leaders use their agency and make flawed decisions occasionally.

      (Warning: Blatant Snarkiness) Of course, as a woman, my leadership experience at Church is quite weak, so maybe I don’t know what I am talking about. Gentlemen, as you have served in the Church, did God directly channel you all the time on every little issue such that you could be confident that every little move you made was God’s own will and no one could ever reasonably object to your–excuse me, His–ideas without figuratively spitting in God’s own face?

    • Phouchg says:

      Lorna, you may wish to read the wikipedia article on the Milgram experiment. You will see what can result from the blind unthinking obedience you advocate.

    • MJK says:

      Sounds like Jean is back under a new name!

  12. m says:

    Lona, awesome comment.

    My experience has been that leaders want (and actively seek) all points of view they can at the beginning. But once as many people have been heard as is possible in the time frame they have and they’ve made a decision, they take that to the Lord.

    And once they have an answer from the Lord, they’re obligated to execute on it.

    In this particular instance, there may be something going on that makes the switch necessary. Having people complain about a situation you can’t change as a leader is very frustrating. However, it’s also frustrating to be forced to do something and not be told why. Leaders typically understand this and are as transparent as they can be. Maybe they’ll provide more info when they can.

  13. EM says:

    I taught E.M. Seminary a couple of years ago; there were only 3 students. Time and time again students wouldn’t show up or 1 boy would and I’d have to tell the one boy to go home – (can’t be alone in the bldg. with 1 male). I finally went to CES and told them I was going the home schooling route as I refuse to waste my time traveling and preparing and have no one show. They told me no that it wasn’t the ideal, but I went ahead and did it anyway. A huge success. The next year the bishop put his foot down and said no home study or home seminary – the result no one went to seminary – students lose. There are times when priesthood leadership need to tuck their egos in their back pockets and leave well enough alone and let the ones working the program make decisions that will work best.

    • spunky says:

      I am with you. I think there is a degree of delusion in doing everything by the PH manual (which was reinforced by Uchdoft in the last conference). Its the whole, “if we build it, they will come” ideology.

  14. Ru says:

    While this will likely be an unpopular position, I think we should err on the side of speaking up. I’ve been a member of the church all my life, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I even CONSIDERED the idea of disagreeing with someone in church or a position of authority. (And I’m an attorney – I disagree professionally.) For the most part, we’ve been culturally inculcated against dissent, and the only way to break out of that mode is to force yourself to disagree (without being unpleasant) when you come across these uncomfortable moments.

    I know it’s a silly example, but right now my 15-year-old brother is in a battle of wills against his bishop. My brother is letting his hair grow out. It’s shaggy, but neat, maybe an inch below his ears. The bishop has told him he will be unable to pass the sacrament until he gets a haircut, and if he hasn’t cut his hair by his 16th birthday, he will be ineligible to bless it as well. (This bishop is also found of grabbing my 23-year-old RM brother’s hair when he goes home to visit and asking him when he’s going to cut it. The man is seriously obsessed with hair.)

    I know it’s a silly issue, but I don’t understand why the bishop has thrown down the gauntlet over a 15 year old’s hair. (It goes without saying he has some much bigger fish to fry in that ward, and maybe he should focus on some of those issues.) I’d rather my brother keep his long hair and decide to cut it when he wants than bend to pressure now and feel weird about it later, and I’m glad our father is supporting his decision to do what he wants. It might give him a minor rebellious streak, but that’s better than feeling like he was indoctrinated as a kid later.

  15. EM says:

    To RU same situation happened in our family – the length of hair was more important than the boy passing sacrament/coming out to church, consequently the boy no longer attends church. The bishop has bigger problems like being on a power trip. There was an instance in our branch where I was on the Activities Comm. I organized a fantastic event which was hugely successful. None of the branch presidency ever show up to any of the activities and when the AC Chairperson brought this to his attention he promptly released her and the rest of the committee! Consequently now when the BP wants anyone to organize an event. no one steps up to the plate – I wonder why.

  16. This would make me insane with rage. The fact that you hold the priesthood doesn’t make you right on every issue. It doesn’t give you any special insight. It’s just a way to try to get the last word and to try to get you to shut up. It’s a power and control issue, and in my opinion, exercising unrighteous dominion.

    Although, weren’t a lot of people excommunicated or disfellowshipped in the early church for disagreeing with Joseph?

    • G says:

      Actually, they tried to excommunicate Joseph. That’s right, they held a disciplinary council which he submitted to. And when it was over, he didn’t go after any of the people involved.

  17. Miri says:

    It’s kind of bizarre when people take one scripture or quote and claim it’s the absolute ultimate final authority on this issue. It’s not quite as simplistic as that. After all:

    “We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never.”
    –Joseph Smith

    “I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied… Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the Kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, ‘If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,’ this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.”
    –Brigham Young

    I think I agree with Ru about erring on the side of speaking up, and I agree with christer1979 about weighing the damage/good that could result from either choice. I don’t, however, think that we should only speak up if we think it will CHANGE anything. I believe that it’s our responsibility to speak up, at least partially for the sake of doing our part to break through the culture of repression in the Church.

    I also believe that we need more people expressing dissenting opinions, so that others who share them will see that they aren’t the only ones. The Church can often feel like an unfriendly place for those who don’t fit the typical mold, and our silence will only allow that to go on. The membership of the Church is a lot more diverse than it seems, but too many of us are afraid to let our differences show.

    • christer1979 says:

      Amen amen amen. This is why I feel a responsibility to reach out in empathy with a listening ear to my feminist sisters; even if I don’t feel the same pain they do (or perhaps not to the same extent), their pain is real. Ignoring it or pretending all is well in Zion will NEVER bring the unity, dialogue, and compassion we need to work through these issues as a religious group.

    • Diane says:

      Miri,

      Those are some great quotes, but, Current Leaders have a tendency of doing one thing and saying something else. The General Membership of the church(especially women) have problems speaking up because if we do so we are seen as: Prideful, sinners, murmuring against our brothers(as one of the most recent post suggest). In order to speak up and be herd we need to stop treating people with the negative attachments that are seen with it.

      IN MY OPINION A good bruhaha can be a good thing. It can help clear the air and it can move a problem forward instead of allowing it to become stagnant, because when this happens this why people become resentful and wind up leaving (at least that’s why I left)

      • Miri says:

        I agree, Diane. My comment, in addition to saying what it did, was also a subtle jab at the two-facedness that’s so common in the church (specifically in extolling the virtues of agency/thinking for yourself and then pretty much demanding conformity and blind obedience). 🙂

  18. LovelyLauren says:

    I absolutely think we should speak up, even just for the principle of not allowing power to become unguided and corrupt. I have noticed that often Stake Presidents are not only always men, but usually older, conservative guys with no financial difficulties. This means that they can sometimes (not always) become detached from a situation they don’t really understand.

    Speaking up is the only way to change a culture of obedience without questioning and to include a variety of voices. I applaud the girl who started a petition. Since she’s the one who is affected by the decision, her opinion should matter.

    Out of curiosity, is seminary allowed on school campuses? Mine were always across the street or nearby, but not allowed actually at school.

  19. Diane says:

    Heather

    I’ve been thinking about his all day. I’m wondering why the situation has changed. Did the member decide they no longer wanted to be seminary teachers? Or was this decision completely taken away from them as well? I think this would help clarify?

    • Diane says:

      The only reason I ask this is because you stated that there were rumors and I’m wondering how the rumors got started. And I also didn’t want you to think I did not read your post, I did, I’m just trying to figure out where these rumors started from.

    • Heather says:

      Diane,
      The family who held seminary in their home LOVED it and have been the strongest advocates for keeping it there. At their home the kids could be divided into an older (11th-12th) class and a younger class (9th-10th). Because of the expense at the high school, all the kids will now meet together. Apparently today’s lesson on Joseph, Potipher’s wife and lust was pretty awkward. A 14 year-old asked, “What’s lust?”I’m not sure 14 year-olds are on the same page emotionally and developmentally as 18 year-olds.

  20. spunky says:

    I suspect that this force-out-of-the-house thing has some legal reasoning behind it; there could be legally required insurance other item (like ensuring there is a valid escape plan in case of fire– and how many fire drills do we have at church?) It could also have to do with new policy around sleepovers (after all, a house is a building with beds- egads!)

    Here’s the thing: legal does not equal inspiration. Stake leaders should be clear on this and understand that we have no issue about it. For example, church buildings do not have fire insurance. Hence, it is policy that there are no candles on birthday cakes at church. Period. This isn’t inspiration, it is policy based on sound reasoning, so it is not really a point to argue.

    If the church or the seminiary teacher does not have the proper insurance or license to have home-school seminary, then that should be made clear, rather than going on (false) declarations of revelation.

    This reminds me of my last temple recommend interview. I openly stated that I do not attend, but I do Relief Society (VT, compassionate service, etc. I just hate the classes and only go if I teach). The Stake 2nd counselor gave me a hard time about it, culminating with his saying, “I don’t have to pray to know that the Lord commands you to sit in Relief Society meetings.” I thanked him for his lack of desire to seek revelation in regard to me, then flipped something else he said in back at him which justified my not attending Relief Society. I ended up with the recommend. And I have no guilt in regard to not attending Relief Society meetings unless I choose to do so.

    That being said, I have found that a private challenge (such as the temple recommend interview) was sucessful, whereas a public challenge (in my experience, a stake YW meeting in regard to an upcoming camp here I disagreed about meals), was immeediatly shot down. I think the public challenge is the issue; perhaps private is the way to go.

    • Diane says:

      Spunky,

      I said it before, but, I’ll say it again, we are kindred spirits

    • Miri says:

      For what it’s worth, I attended four years of seminary in the teachers’ homes, and I know the wards in this area still do that ten years later. Doesn’t prove anything, but I thought it was relevant.

      What do you mean about the sleepover thing?

      • spunky says:

        I always had seminary at members’ homes as well. Sleepovers have been discouraged church-wide; I think it stems from this conference talk: http://lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/courageous-parenting?lang=eng&query=sleepover

      • MJK says:

        My mom taught seminary for five years, and it was in our home.When I was in seminary it was in another member’s home. the only time we had it at the church was when the member called to be the teacher lived farther away from town than everyone else and it made sense to meet halfway at the church.

      • Miri says:

        Oh, I remember that talk. I rolled my eyes at the time, and I’m rolling them again now as I reread that part.

        I don’t see why that would have the slightest thing to do with seminary, though. (Not saying that you’re wrong about that possibility–just that if that IS an influence in the situation here, then I think it’s utterly absurd.) Having seminary in a person’s home is about as much like a sleepover as standing in a kitchen is like burning your hand on the stove.

  21. Laurel Hamilton says:

    You are so lucky! After years of the seminary being in our high school, this year it was pulled out of the high school and moved to a far away church building (not our reasonably close building). So, we drive 25 minutes north of the school to the church building to arrive at 6am, wait in the parking lot for seminary to end, then fight traffic to drive our children to school.

    I wish I knew the logic behind this decision, when there are so many more reasonable alternatives.

  22. Diane says:

    Why hasn’t anyone suggested home based seminary. Given the alternative to paying to rent a space out I would think this is a reasonable alternative.

    • Diane says:

      I thought I would elaborate since I’m not sure if this is common in other areas. I know when I asked to teach seminary, there was a sister who had home based seminary, meaning the teacher prepared the lesson and emailed to her students and then they did the required readings. Seems viable to me, though not much interaction

      • X2 Dora says:

        In large geographic areas, I think online will be the way to go in the future. If they can develop the Pathways program through BYU-I, then they can do it for seminary.

        Thanks for bringing up this general issue, Heather. In my younger years, I was too timid to pseak up. Over the years, I’ve learned how robust discussion helps everyone who is willing to learn.

  23. Kent says:

    Did anyone think to ask if the Stake President knew something you don’t? Maybe there is a real good reason that is just not for sharing.

    • Ru says:

      While that is certainly a possibility, I think “there’s a reason but you can’t know” line of reasoning wears thin after it’s used time after time.

    • LK says:

      “Did anyone think to ask if the Stake President knew something you don’t? Maybe there is a real good reason that is just not for sharing.”

      Yes, but if you go about things rationally, then you most likely won’t get upset and offended… which is the modus operandi of the majority of content on this website.

      • dk says:

        Gimme a break LK. If what you are taking from this website is that the contributors are irrational and likely to get offended you are completely missing the point as well as proving a point. Good job.

  24. karene says:

    Yikes, the more I read the comments, the less I like the spirit in here. I’m out of here too much murmuring.

  25. Whoa-man says:

    Wow! I’m so glad you wrote this and are doing this. I have never found the right balance here. I need to read things like this and wish we had more discussions like this!

  26. Mike H. says:

    A former Bishop told me once that I did not need help from LDS Family Services Counseling, that depression can not exist, because of the scripture that you can’t be tempted above what you can endure. I just sucked it up, knowing there was no way I could win. Later, he softened his stance, saying maybe I should get Counseling from LDSFS. But, I put it off after that, due to being totally bewildered by 2 different viewpoints from the same Leader.

    The same former Bishop later told me that the Autism in my sons was due to bad parenting, that I was spending too much time with Family History. Well, I was spending a few hours here & there in Family History work. But, he scared me away from it, good. Yet, I know there’s fathers in the Church who spend more time following sports each week, than the amount of time I spent in Family History work each week. But, they don’t get blamed for “causing” Autism in the their children, because they don’t have it.

    Now, I have a different Bishop, who says Autism is something that will be a life long challenge, and is not from bad parenting. The LDS Disability site seem to favor what the second Bishop says:

    http://lds.org/disability/list?lang=eng

    So, who’s right? The former Bishop feels that if he was wrong, he can wait until the Day of Judgment to repent of it. If he was right, how did I fail on both of these? If he’s wrong, how do I shake the influence of bad counsel? I now feel that I’m not that important to the Lord, since I’m so bewildered by all this.

    What do you “Church Leaders can do no wrong” types have to say?

    • KaralynZ says:

      They have nothing to say to this because all they can do is criticize those of us who don’t blindly follow every order given.

  27. Steve says:

    The fundamental problem is that people treat church leaders like oracles.

    But, they are merely human beings dealing with the struggles of daily life, demands of work & family, etc.

    Too many of us expect them to be experts on medical issues, financial concerns, family dynamics, etc.

    Too often, they are not.

    Now, leaders can receive promptings but it is unrealistic to expect them to obtain divine promptings on each and every issue.

    We expect too much. We ask too much. That is a recipe for failure.

    • Ziff says:

      Steve, I don’t think the problem illustrated in the OP is one of members expecting too much of leaders. Members clearly know leaders are not oracles. The problem is when leaders don’t know that they’re not oracles.

      • Steve says:

        Ziff —

        That was a fair reply.

        The point I didn’t express (which is why I started writing my post in the first place — sigh) is that leadership worship creates the attitudes that underlie the posting.

        If we as members reduced our sense of awe a bit, I think leaders would be less dogmatic, less directive.

  28. kelly ann says:

    What a great discussion. I think we should speak up as much as possible even if fruitless in the end (although I like to be optimistic that it can make a difference). I really don’t think a church with blind obedience is healthy. I wish you well Heather with all the current craziness.

  29. Beatrice says:

    In psychology, there are several different parenting styles that tend to lead to various outcomes for kids. Some parents demand strict obedience with no explanation for why they are demanding what they are demanding of kids. Children of these parents tend to develop depression and anxiety because they feel like they don’t have control over themselves or their choices. I recently wrote a post about how the church exhibits different parenting models.
    http://gbbothsidesnow.blogspot.com/2011/10/on-obedience-parenting-styles-and.html

  30. Kristine says:

    “One girl (a favorite YW of mine) started a petition but when the Stake Presidency got wind of it, they sent stern emails to the YM and YW leaders to SHUT IT DOWN.”

    This is the part I find heartbreaking. How many talks about the importance of councils do you think it will take to convince this young woman that her voice matters? How many special televised training sessions will we need to convince the boys who saw how this went down that they need to be humble and open to input from when they leaders? This is these kids’ first lesson in church governance, and it is not pretty.

    • CatherineWO says:

      I was struck by this also, Kristine, and it just doesn’t have to be this way. When my oldest daughter was a teenager, she was asked to be on the stake youth dance committee. There were some real problems with discipline at the stake youth dances, and this committee was asked for some input. I don’t remember what my daughter’s suggestions were, but I do remember that the SP counselor listened to her, took her ideas back to the SP, and the changes she suggested were made. My daughter really felt like her voice was heard.
      Now that same daughter is an adult with three sons. She recently moved out of a ward in which the bishop was paranoid about maintaining control. He never listened to, or followed, any suggestions made by anyone, even the stake president. My daughter was constantly at odds with him and finally just quit saying anything at all. He successfully silenced her. Such a contrast in leadership.

  31. SES says:

    I’ve been lucky that during my 32 years of membership, there have been very rare instances in which I felt PH leaders did not fairly listen to people’s viewpoints and take them into consideration. There is always a PH leader somewhere who has personal problems, and he will be judged for his actions one day. Here are some ideas. Always express yourself, but make sure you don’t have your own power hungry agenda in mind. Remember that leadership revelation is top down, and that we each receive revelation according to our leadership responsibilities. That doesn’t mean you can’t offer up a better mousetrap at times, but remember the leader may know something you don’t. In this case, the SP is stake officer in charge of seminary. Although a CES coordinator greatly influences how and where seminary is held, each stake, even each ward is different. What about open dissent? I think dissenting opinions should be directed to the presiding officer. If you solicit “help” and “petition” others, you sound like you’re trying to be political and the world’s way to bring about change. Threatening to stage a sit in should never change a leader’s personal revelation. I don’t think that’s the Lord’s way at all. After you’ve expressed your opinion, then see if you can receive confirmation of what the final decision is. I sustained my Bishop in something. I didn’t agree with it, but I sustained him, and my life was blessed for having done so. I hardly think the day to day things that come up in ward or stake adminstration are things that should cause us to go inactive. That’s pride talking. Finally, remember what goes around tends to come around. You may be in a position one day where you will be faced with making tough decisions and you will be the object of someone’s ire. So, be patient and in the end, do what you feel is best for yourself and your family. Leaders will come and they will go, but your family relationships are what’s eternal. Teach your children respect for leaders but to trust their own testimonies above all else.

    • Diane says:

      “I hardly think the day to day things that come up in ward or stake adminstration are things that should cause us to go inactive. That’s pride talking. Finally, remember what goes around tends to come around. ”

      I really don’t like the idea that you have presented that if someone goes inactive, its’ because of pride When I went inactive, and then eventually had my name removed, it had nothing at all to do with pride. That’s a common misconception the church hierarchy likes to use to justify themselves. I quite simply because I didn’t feel safe in a church building. I left because when I went to address the emotional and spiritual bullying that I was experiencing no one had balls enough to stand up for me the way I was required to do for them. It finally became to much for me to walk into a building where I was not being supported. People leaving has nothing to do with pride. that’s a bit to trite for me

  32. Miri says:

    I just came across this today, from a post on Segullah that I read and loved a year and a half ago (before I knew any of the Mormon blogs):

    “At the very least, there are others in the classroom that can’t speak up, and you can. You’re smart, you’re caring, you’re concerned with living the gospel, and your opinion is just as valuable as anyone else’s. If you’re feeling upset about the way a discussion is headed, chances are you’re not the only one. You can say it gently and with a smile, or you can say it loudly.
    Just SAY IT.”

  33. I was once told that I wasn’t supporting authority because the institute student council wanted me to turn over a Facebook page that I’d created because of the lack of communication about activities. All I could think was, “Wow. This is ridiculous.”

  34. Wendy says:

    I think it’s harder to sustain local leaders than those higher above (regional, general authorities). You see them more as people, knew them before they had the calling, have social connections with them, etc. The reality is, that when you sustain leaders you are committing that you will help them in their responsibilities.
    Is there a way that you can seek for understanding as to why the seminary decisision was made and still be helpful to this leader? I think personally asking the stake president for the rationale of the decision is far more helpful than encouraging petitions, e-mail chains, and other group expressions of dissent. My experience has been that most local church leaders are hard-working, well-intentioned volunteers, trying to balance a variety of interests and concerns. No one does their calling perfectly; we will all be accountable for how we fulfill our responsibilities as leaders and members.

  35. Jill says:

    Goodness gracious! If my Stake President decided my children should go to seminary on the moon, I’d start building a rocket in my backyard. We ought to strive for exact obedience, not the greatest convenience.

  36. Francine Eubanks says:

    I believe that no matter what church you belong to some leaders got a power surge and think it what they said and that’s it. Boy are they so wrong !!! Our lord and savior has the last word and just might not be nice when he shows that certain leader a thing or two about not having an open view of listening to the concerns of his memebers. Personally I say what on my mind even if they don’t like it !!!!!!! Some people are just control freaks. Just keep them in your prayers. Some of these answer tell me that people need to get a grip and start thinking would the lord want us to really do and act !!!!!!! It’s about family and making us a happy family and not feeling like we want out .

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