Mormon Extremism

On December 12, 2015, I sat in Relief Society and heard something that has produced considerable anxiety in me over the last seven months. A counselor in the Stake Presidency was giving the lesson. I don’t remember the topic, but the sisters were asking him questions and he was answering them. I mostly remember that the meeting felt neutral and the discussion had managed to skirt the homophobic expressions that seemed to be a part of every meeting during those weeks. Church left me feeling anxious much of the time, but I was relieved that this class was not headed that way.

I’m not sure how we got to that awful place, but I remember what the counselor in the Stake Presidency said. He told the class that if the brethren asked him to kill someone, he would do it without question. It seemed to me that the women in the room were in awe of his expression of devotion to the LDS Church.

To be clear, this is not a second-hand story I am telling. I heard this with my own ears and witnessed it with my own eyes. I also want to tell you that I’ve heard statements like this before in LDS services and classes. By the time the incident occurred, I’d been living in my ward for eight years, which was located in a small rural community just north of St. George, Utah. I had heard members of the ward make similar comments on occasion. Typically, these comments were made by male class participants during Gospel Doctrine, but I had never before heard a local church leader make that kind of statement.

I would like to tell you that I stood up, and declared something to the effect of “Jesus asked us to love our neighbors, not murder them” and stormed out of the room, followed by the other women. Instead, I froze. I had been hoping to avoid the emotional violence of homophobic speech, but got something worse instead.

The rational part of me knew that this man did not have a reputation for physical violence, nor did I suspect it of him. In the following weeks, the sociologist in me knew that he was expressing his allegiance to the LDS Church in that dreadful statement. However, it is both academically interesting and emotionally terrifying that he chose to articulate his faithfulness and loyalty in terms of his willingness to commit murder on behalf of the church leaders that he loved and trusted.

For months, I tried to excuse his behavior in my mind. He was just repeating what he had heard others say and liked the way it felt when he said it. He was showing solidarity with church leaders. He was trying to be obedient like Nephi. Those may all have been true, but I have come to realize that that is also what religious fundamentalism-on-the-borders-of-extremism looked like. That is what nascent religious violence looked like. If it had been a statement by a ward member, I would have dismissed it more easily, but it came from the mouth of a local leader. I’m sure that many in that room didn’t think much of what was said, but I worry about those who will repeat this pronouncement or adopt this line of thinking. I fear that statements like this are a precursor to actual violence. Thinking about the potential horror and headline makes me feel dread.

I worry and I pray that as a religious group we will lay down our words of violence, our aggressive mentalities, our imagined holy wars between the forces of in-groups and out-groups. I pray that we will someday express our devotion to Jesus and his message by proclaiming that we will love and welcome and serve people on the margins of our communities. I pray that we, as a people, will long for peace. We are not there yet.

Nancy Ross

Nancy Ross is an art history professor by day and a sociologist of religion by night. She lives in St. George, Utah with her husband and two daughters and co-hosts the Faith Transitions podcast.

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49 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    I am astonished. If I heard this from a counsellor in my stake presidency (and I think I know them well enough to know they wouldn’t) or indeed any other, I would report it to the stake president. If it was him, I would take it further.

    Not being Nephi, and not being able to be as certain that it would be the Spirit (Lord) telling me to do something – I would not be killing anyone on the command of another, unless it was in a personal/family defence situation.

    Yes folks, not even I would go this far.

    • Nancy Ross says:

      I wanted to, but I had no social capital and worried that it would cause me more problems.

      • CeLena Callicotte says:

        Dear Sister,
        I urge you to reach outside of your area and make a “report of concern,” especially if you are feeling unable to speak with your Stake President.
        In my travels I’ve run into similar situations and we both know that this is not in the spirit of the Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ, nor Heavenly Father. I can say that when I and others spoke up it was helpful. This provides a way for re-education also.

  2. Jessica F. says:

    This is a great post and a very important one. White American extremism needs to be studied and understood. I really do hope that anyone who reads this would be empowered to speak up in the future when this happens. I think Nephi falls under the larger Abrahamic sacrifices that are unquestionably accepted in too many lessons. I hope we will push back on these harmful ideas.

    • Andrew R. says:

      ” I think Nephi falls under the larger Abrahamic sacrifices that are unquestionably accepted in too many lessons.”

      Since I don’t really understand your meaning of “Abrahamic sacrifices” I can’t fully respond to this. But I don’t believe Laban was killed as a sacrifice. His life was forfeited because he was in opposition to God. I have to be able to accept that God can command the death of anybody. And if Nephi was wrong in believing that it was God telling him to do so then that’s on Nehpi’s head. Like I said, I am not so certain of my communication stream with deity.

      Either way it was less barbaric than Elijah ordering the deaths of ALL the priests of Baal. And this was the last prophet to hold the sealing keys. Elijah certainly had the Lord’s ear as he had just called on His power to atomise his soaking wet bonfire.

      In our day though, apart from a call to arms in a legitimate fight – like the pioneers had to, or to fight for your country – I do not believe God is going to ask anyone to kill someone, and even less through the Brethren.

      • Nancy Ross says:

        Which part of the pioneers killing people was legitimate? When they killed people at Mountain Meadows? When they killed Native Americans? I don’t think that we can claim that all of this was in self-defence.

      • Jessica F. says:

        How do you not understand the meaning of an Abrahamic Sacrifice? It is all over Mormon history. The idea is that god/leader asks you to do something that is deeply offensive to your current morality. See polygamy.

        I really do not believe God would ask us to kill anyone. I think personally Abrahams test was to resist the awful idea. Or to insist on another way.

      • Wally says:

        Regarding the Abrahamic sacrifice mention, someone recently (on BCC, I believe) discussed another take on Abraham and Isaac. He suggested that maybe Abraham flunked the test. He was supposed to say no, so God had to bail him out to prevent him from doing something awful. What sort of a God do we believe in? One who would command us to do awful things just to prove that we are blindly obedient? Or one who would actually command us to do, well, the things he has repeatedly commanded us to do? I do not believe in a God who toys with us or gives us impossible tests just to see us squirm. I believe in a God with some sort of moral consistency. So, if I had a Church leader say something like this, I would say something to the effect of, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

      • Andrew R. says:

        Interesting idea that Abraham flunked the test. I don’t agree.

        “One who would command us to do awful things just to prove that we are blindly obedient?”

        Currently I think my wife would put sending your son on a mission and not being able to speak to him more than twice a year would fit into that category.

        We live in a world where the idea of killing anything as a sacrifice would seem very hard to swallow. I think if you lived in a time where it was a regular part of religious life then I don’t believe it would seem so odd.

        But hey, I guess we’ll just have to wait a while to find out the truth on that one.

      • Megan says:

        I’m uncomfortable with Mormonism’s use of the Old Testament as both rationale for behavior and source of revelation. As is taught by the Church itself, one of the reasons for Christ’s Atonement was to fulfill and do away with the Law of Sacrifice and to provide us with a Higher Law. So, if that’s the case, then the whole idea of Abrahamic Sacrifices is moot to begin with.

        Historically, I can understand why the concept was so popular in the early-Utah era of Mormonism; great sacrifices had been asked of the Saints and hearkening back to Abraham to both provide a rationale for those sacrifices and to provide one for doctrinal hardships like polygamy makes a kind of sense. Spiritually and doctrinally I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. But Christ’s Gospel, as I understand it and as it was taught to me, does not have a place for that kind of violence.

        Though, frankly, I think this may have a cultural component to it that I just can’t understand because I’m not a westerner and I don’t have a Mormon pioneer heritage. Growing up in the correlated 1980’s I didn’t hear about Mormonism’s more violent instincts and never had concepts like “Abrahamic Sacrifice” taught to me as doctrine. Heck, I didn’t learn about Mountain Meadows until I was an after-college-and-mission adult. Which, I guess, says something about how important those “doctrines” are.

        Two final things: One–I have opinions Joseph Smith’s greatest errors and how they equate with his greater usage of the Old Testament as a source of latter-day doctrine, but as I’m not an expert and haven’t done a lot of research, I’ll keep my opinions to myself. But I bet you can infer what they are. Two–Since I can’t reply directly to that comment below, I’d like to say that equating the sacrifice of sending a child on a mission and having limited contact beyond letters with killing or death is deeply disingenuous.

  3. Jenny says:

    I love this article, but find the fact that you think this is worse than homophobic speach a little alarming. He was generalizing here (disgustingly) but our lgbt brothers and sisters are being killed and assaulted daily. And taking their own lives in massive numbers. Not just hypothetically. I find it problematic that you’d need to compare the two, and decide which is “worse”. Can we agree these things are all awful, in Christ-like and both appalling?

    And in other news, I’m sick to my stomach over your church leader saying this. This is out of control.

  4. Nancy Ross says:

    Jenny, I am bisexual and am in no way condoning homophobic speech. My post references the anxiety I felt during those weeks. It was truly an awful experience. The homophobic speech I heard at church during those months did not advocate killing people in the Church’s name, which is what this leader was doing. I think it is appropriate to say that language that excludes LGBT people is not quite as bad as language that advocates killing people, though they are both bad. We need to address the violence in our language, whether the violence element is explicit or not.

  5. Kelsi Moore says:

    Ugh I have been in those meetings where shockingly ignorant and hateful things are said where I’m left thinking like “oh my gosh did they really just say that? And they really actually believe that? I should say something but what the heck can I say to something as awful as that? Really no one else even seems to be batting an eye?” The sad thing is most of these comments are from my YSA ward which worries me for the future. Usually I spend so much time shocked and trying to figure out what to say that I miss my moment to push back. But I’m trying to do better at that. I hope that we as a people choose peace rather than the war so often talked about in the Book of Mormon and the bible.

    • Nancy Ross says:

      Kelsi – in those awful moments, how do you wish you would have pushed back? I often freeze in a bad situation and need to do more advanced prep so that I can respond appropriately.

      • Kelsi Moore says:

        In the moment I wish I could make some big scene like stand up and say “hell no! What you just said is wrong!” And storm out. Usually after a little distance I still wish I had said something but could figure out a nonconfrontational way to approach it. Maybe pull them aside and say “hey I was confused by your comment earlier because that’s definitely not how I see the world. Could you maybe clarify?” Or “im sure I must have misunderstood you because I thought you were saying this… Is that what you really think or am I misunderstanding?”
        There was one time that I did sort of push back on some comments and I think it went okay. We were talking about following and supporting and sustaining the prophet (how weird right?) and some people started making some really angry remarks about the people who have been yelling no at conference. Which I get it, I can see how it can be viewed as rude and how it could tick people off. But I personally feel like we shouldn’t be judging other people’s testimony or lack there of, of the prophet. And reacting in anger isn’t going to change those peoples minds or get us anywhere good. So I raised my hand and said that while I understand those actions are hurtful it’s our opportunity to forgive, turn the other cheek and love those who hate us. To really practice Christlike love. And I think that acknowledging where my fellow relief society members were coming from and encouraging practice lovingkindness went pretty well. So I hope that in the future I am able to push back with love, if that makes sense, rather than giving into my first reaction of anger. But it’s so hard.

  6. Heidi says:

    My husband and I were just discussing this post. He said, ” How about if your leaders asked you to love and forgive your daughter’s rapist?” Or love our LGBT members or children? We’ve often talked about living in Europe during WW II. Would we have helped by smuggling and hiding Jews? I hope so! I don’t like some apparently use killing instead of loving as an example of obedience. My stake presidency members old never say something like that.

    • Jessica F says:

      I think loving or forgiving someone is very different from taking a life. It is also sad that the church did was not part of the resistance in WWII and actually excommunicated members who did actively oppose hitlar.

  7. Elizabeth Moore says:

    It chills me to hear things like this and frustrates me that people are so incredibly ignorant of Mormon history. I wish that people would remember that in 1850’s Utah, murdering people in the name of the Lord was an actual thing that happened. It’s terrifying and so not okay.

    • Rachel says:

      Exactly this. My first thought was Mountain Meadows, where members not only spoke the kinds of words mentioned in the OP, but acted on them. My hope is that we as individuals and as an institution could lengthen our memories, and learn from them.

      • Lily says:

        The location is somewhat ironic since she heard this in a rural town just north of St. George – which is pretty much where MM happened.

    • Nancy Ross says:

      Mountain Meadows is about 20 miles away from my old ward where this happened…

  8. Ziff says:

    Wow, Nancy, that’s awful. I’m just glad I’m not alone in freezing when confronted by people saying outrageous things at church. And to your last paragraph, amen!

  9. paws says:

    What an awful thing to say! For the record, I think Abraham and Nephi got it wrong. Surely God could have offered a non-violent solution in either case.

  10. Kathy says:

    Wow, has he never heard of Mountain Meadows? It’s amazing how unflinching obedience can distort a moral compass. When I hear someone say, “If the leaders asked me to do [horrible thing], I would do it.” Is that actually an admission of dedication or is it really just giving yourself permission to mentally entertain your basest desires in the name of virtue?

    Thank you for sharing your hope for peace, Nancy. You’re not alone in longing for it.

  11. Quimby says:

    I was reading an interesting article yesterday that posited that mass shooters were acting out a sort of hyper-masculinity wrapped up in resentment. It linked to another article (which I haven’t read yet because, kids needed to be tucked in, and then here was Orange is the New Black to watch, and you know, priorities; but my lack of actually reading the article won’t keep me from mentioning it because that’s just how I roll) that argued that basically that’s what religious fundamentalism is rooted in too – this notion of hyper-masculinity wrapped up in resentment. So it struck me that, in your experience, the people who express this are male. I wonder if resentment also plays a role? Do they fell that (women, Mexicans, some other religious group, Democrats, etc.) have taken what is rightfully theirs (a well-paying job, a nice home, social standing in the community, etc.)? Are they turning to religion in part because it gives them a feeling of superiority? (For instance, I think we’ve all known the odd priesthood holder who thinks the fact that he has a penis, and can hold the priesthood, instantly makes him better or more powerful or more in-charge than all us silly little women who just don’t understand that the patriarchy is God’s will.) (Lest I be excused of man-bashing, I’ll also add that I’ve known far more who don’t feel that way.) I should probably just go ahead and read that article . . . .

    • Nancy Ross says:

      I don’t know about mass-shooters, but I think that extremist comments in Mormonism stem from people wanting to express their devotion and doing that in terms of obedience and then taking an extreme example of obedience and expressing that. I think that it would also be wrong to say that this kind of statement is made by a person who is and always has been extreme. I don’t think that is the case. The counselor in the stake presidency who made this comment is *not* a nut job. It would be much easier to dismiss the statement if he was. I think that Mormon culture prepares us to be rigidly obedient (and rewards that) and asks us to trust our leaders like we trust God. Obedience in this context is seen as a virtue. BUT I think that this leaves us (normal Mormons who are trying to be good, believing, faithful Mormons) vulnerable to extremism.

      • Quimby says:

        This is the article about hypermasculinity and resentment and mass shootings – https://aeon. co/essays/humiliation-and-rage-how-toxic-masculinity-fuels-mass-shootings

        And this is the article I still haven’t read about hypermasculinity, resentment, and religious extremism – https://aeon. co/essays/why-isis-has-the-potential-to-be-a-world-altering-revolution

        Obviously close the gap between the aeon. and the co

        I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions drawn in the first article; and like I said I haven’t even read the second article; but there seems to be at least a casual connection between what you heard and hypermasculinity, at the very least. And as an outsider, it seems to me that a lot of American Republicans base their entire politics on the politics of fear and resentment – and I know southern Utah just well enough to know that it’s pretty heavily Republican. So, it’s plausible that it may play some role in what you’re talking about.

  12. Violadiva says:

    Statements like the one your SP guy made make it sound very cultish to “follow the prophet”
    I’m not sure I could ever believe any human so infallible as to say I would do something to extreme, so against all precedent and moral value, so against innumerable statements God has made previously about how we are to love one another, just to prove my devotion to them. In fact, the point at which someone might ask me to do something so against my own moral compass and contrary to commandments of God I already believed in, that might be the end of my loyalty…..

  13. wreddyornot says:

    I am glad you have the courage not to forget the experience and to bring it up here. I laud you for doing that.

    My loyalty is to God first (and I believe God represents a rainbow of diversity), not to any man or woman, no matter the title or an office held. Particularly if their dictum were given as exemplary, as it was in your experience. If God told me to kill, I’d hope to say, “Why? Why me? Why not you? If you really want someone dead, you do it?” I would hope to refuse, absent a convincing case made by the God giving the order. I would require, I hope, being moved to the core and it making complete sense to me in view of all I knew and after a back and forth with God before ever doing it. Even then I can’t imagine doing it. I don’t believe it would happen, because that’s not who God is. I expect that such a preliminary conversation would exercise all of the notions of asking, of seeking, and of knocking, according to the advice and counsel given us by Jesus . My inclination would be to said pretty the same to the Councilor in the Stake Presidency at the time, if possible. If not, then in I’d try to do it in private.

    No. No. No.

  14. wreddyornot says:

    My inclination would be to say pretty much the same to the . . . . Sorry.

  15. Les says:

    I have spoken up too often in combative, angry ways, and regretted it. I think it’s very very important to speak up when possible, but it’s also important to speak up in good, loving, non combative ways, if possible. I’m not good at this. So I tend to avoid sunday school like the plague. I just can’t handle it. However, even when I’ve spoken up in wrong ways, there has almost always been one or two people (usually someone i wouldn’t have expected) who has come up to me after the meeting and thanked me for my comments. So we might be helping people we wouldn’t expect. Even in our imperfection.

    I think the church’s focus on obedience, authority, etc, is not a good thing. It leads to bad things. Here is a quote from an article called “THE ROLE OF THE LDS CHURCH IN DEVELOPING TORTURE”:
    “How is it that a church that undoubtedly preaches love and basic Christian goodness has in its midst four individuals who developed, enabled, and implemented policies and techniques that resulted in the brutal torture of human beings in the almost universally fruitless search for useful intelligence information?

    I believe the problem lies with the LDS church’s supreme emphasis on authority. Joseph Smith claimed to have restored God’s only “true church” and proper “priesthood authority”. The leaders of the LDS church continually teach that authority is necessary in all important things, from leadership of the church, to leadership of the ward, to leadership of the home.”

    http://churchofthefridge. com/role-lds-church-developing-torture/
    (take out the space before com after copying and pasting the link)

  16. Les says:

    Here is the article I was originally looking for and couldn’t find about this subject: “The Senate torture report is a condemnation of Mormon moral reasoning.”
    excerpt: “Mormons are known for being good folk, quick to help in a disaster, organized and generally happy. But there are also assumptions about our behavior, our deference to authority, that frequently appear. Take this quote from an article about Bybee, for instance.
    Professor Blakesley said that while he liked Judge Bybee, “he has some basic flaws including being very naïve about leaders.”
    “He has too much respect for authority and will avoid a confrontation no matter what,” the professor continued.
    Consider the famous Milgram experiment. Should we consider what happened with Bybee and Jessen to be just another example of this? Possibly we are just average Americans, unlikely to question authority if it assures us that we act for the greater good and bear no personal responsibility. But I think that they aren’t wrong to note our deference to authority.
    Am I alone in having met Mormons who argue that they hope to have the faith of Nephi or Abraham? Specifically the faith to take another person’s life because God asks? Does God or do the Twelve simply require yes-men? When, in Abraham, God states that we’ll be tested to see if we will do all things whatsoever [he] shall command [us], if we do that, is it to our salvation or our condemnation? After all, as God says in Ezekiel 25:25, after establishing that the people would not live according to the good commandments he had already given them, “I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live.”

    https://bycommonconsent. com/2014/12/10/the-senate-torture-report-is-a-condemnation-of-mormon-moral-reasoning/
    (take out the space before com)

  17. Christine Balderas says:

    Nancy, I think that you have an obligation to speak with the Stake Presidency member and tell him how his statements felt very inappropriate to you. Our leaders from top down are fallible human beings, the best God has to work with. To kill someone on the basis of possible human error is frightening and breaking of a commandment. Anyone dang well pray and pray and pray for personal inspiration. Without that I would never consider breaking the commandments of God and man.

    • I don’t think anyone has that obligation, given the current state of church discipline policy in the church. A brave woman like Nancy, who has and continues to speak out publicly about ways that we can improve church policy and culture, is always at risk of retribution from local leaders. Church policy gives local leaders a great deal of power to punish people who displease them and very few, if any, safeguards for whistle-blowers and reformers, so we have to choose our battles wisely and consider carefully over which issues we will risk our membership status.

  18. wilt says:

    While I’ve not had the misfortune of hearing such blatant support for killing, I have heard that if we obey our priesthood leaders, any blame would not be ours. I’ve stated in meetings that I fail to see a distinction between such a view and post-action claims of only following orders. Of course, I also don’t need to worry much about leadership positions. A godly person/priesthood leader/whomever may say a stupid thing. They remain leaders but it’s still a stupid thing.

    • Nancy Ross says:

      I think that many Mormons who are trying to be good Mormons may not critically judge the things that their leaders say, because they are taught not to do that. When that critical filter gets switched off, we have problems…

  19. Gene says:

    Hmmmmm… I think that there are a lot of things you could talk about in this article.

    It is interesting to me reading the comments that people expressed the opinion that, “God wouldn’t command us to kill.” I believe that right and wrong come from God. His ways are not our ways and we have lots of examples in the scriptures of people being commanded to kill a lot of people.

    To be fair I have never been in a situation similar to any of the instances in scripture where God told one human to kill another human. Furthermore because I would eternally doubt the command as coming from God I probably would not participate anyway whether to my damnation or salvation.

    In my mind a true Mormon Extremist looks much more like the Anti-Nephi-Lehis who were so fanatically committed to their faith that they knelt in prayer rather than raise a weapon against another one of God’s children and were themselves slaughtered.

    • Megan says:

      I am so here for Mormon Extremism that looks like the actions of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis. If we’re talking about sacrifice, the greater sacrifice would always be laying down one’s own life rather than taking the life of someone else. At least, according to my understanding of Christ’s Gospel, it would be.

      Thank you, Gene. If I ever hear anything like what the OP heard (and I pray I never do) I now have something to counteract that idea. Really great inspiration.

  20. Tobia says:

    Just my random, confused thoughts here:

    My reaction to the OP was, “If you’re willing to kill somebody just because your spiritual leader tells you to, what’s the difference between you and ISIS or the Taliban?”

    Just throwing this in here: I once read the idea that the idea for the sacrifice of Isaac actually came from Abraham himself, trying to show his devotion to God, and God had to come down and rein in the extremism.

    As for Nephi, it wasn’t his spiritual leader who told him to kill Laban, but God himself. It’s still hard for me to accept it, though, even if it was the only way to go.

    I like Gene’s idea of the Mormon Extremists who would kneel in prayer and let themselves be slaughtered instead of killing.

  21. Megan says:

    One: As a fellow LGBT Mormon, the blatantly and/or subtextually homophobic comments I heard at church were definitely a factor in my current inactivity. So I truly feel you there. Attending church shouldn’t feel like navigating a mine-field.

    Two: That being said, wow. That comment is just, wow. That’s not something I’ve ever heard at church. I don’t think that’s something I’ve ever even heard inferred. I know the members of my stake presidency pretty well and I can definitely say that that is something I would never hear any of them say. I think it helps that we don’t have much Mormon Pioneer blood out here–that kind of extremist sentiment is something pretty shocking as I’ve come into contact with more westerners here in on the internet. But, still, I’m really sorry you had to hear that. But thank you for sharing it. Religious extremism comes from many sources, not just from the ones demonized by modern America.

  22. Wayne Scholes says:

    I’m not going to call you a liar, I wasn’t there and I have no background to you or your credibility. In all my years I have never heard anything similar or even slightly aggressive. I have heard the opposite, people questioning whether in the same situation as Nephi they could actually do it. No different a question that other Christians and Jews have been asking for thousands of years relating to Abraham.

    It feels sometimes like there will always be people looking for a reason to be angry with the LDS church, a reason to leave, a reason to condemn someone else when what they constantly say is ‘why isn’t the church more tolerant of differences, or imperfections?’ Yet here we are listening to you saying you expect so much more from a ‘church leader’. To be clear, he isn’t a church leader, He is a man, frail, and imperfect like the rest of us. In need of the atonement just like you and me. He is a locally assigned person to handle local church administration and to give the best advice he can to those local people. In this instance, if this is an accurate portrayal of the statement then I might suggest that you took a sentiment and translated it with a literal meaning. Do we all say stupid things at times that we don’t mean, or express sentiments in ways that change the meaning of that very sentiment through our own lack of expression capabilities? You bet we do. Sounds like you don’t have that problem or weakness, I am glad that you have that nailed. People like him, and me, could use your help in working on that. Of course in this instance you chose to not speak up and help fix the issue, you chose another path, a more destructive path, Some people are still working on it. It is a shame that you feel you can publicly condemn another person but that you didn’t feel you could challenge him in the instant so that you could help him clarify his sentiment rather than taking it as an opportunity to condemn and publicly shame him and use it as a condescension and apply a label to the church of intolerant and vicious. Perhaps more could have been gained by discussing it with him or in the class to help others to whom the comment may have been a concern? Perhaps an opportunity missed? Standing up and being counted is often more effective at the moment if that is truly the issue we want to address. Doing it after the fact in a different forum just feels like a great opportunity to hurt the church and cast aspersions that cannot be verified or defended. I suppose I am questing your motivations, only to understand them, I don’t know you so I assume you have good intentions as a member of the church. Misguided though they seem in this instance.

    One of the biggest problems in the church today in my humble opinion is that we are so quick to demand that which we are not willing to give. Tolerance. We demand perfection from this in ‘leadership’ positions and yet we are critical of the church as a whole and of the ‘leadership’ for not being tolerant enough of our imperfections. Paradoxical behaviour at best. I think it might be wise to acknowledge that we are as much a part of the problem as anyone else. Without Christ we are all fallen and lost, rather focus on serving others than judging them by the sword, or the pen.

    • Nancy Ross says:

      I do not think it is too much to ask of our leaders and membership to stay away from extremism and violent rhetoric. I absolutely did hear this and I am not misconstruing his meaning. I know what words mean, both literally and figuratively, and I addressed this in the post. This isn’t about shaming an an individual, who I did not name, but is about pointing out a larger problem that we have within Mormonism. Some people have never heard such violent language at church, other people have. This isn’t OK. This isn’t harmless.

      • Wayne Scholes says:

        Now you are doing it to me. I did not say it was ‘OK’ or ‘harmless’. Far from it. Manipulation of my words doesn’t help. I made it clear I couldn’t make a judgement on what you claim to have heard, I said I would take it at face value and assume you were honest and doing it for the right reasons.

        I simply asked you questions about your reasoning and motivation in choosing to ‘expose’ it like this without actually helping the man learn from what would clearly be a ridiculous and unnecessarily intimidating thing to say. I gave you suggestions for why such a statement might be made and you have chosen to ignore all of my points, but you do go on the attack quite quickly don’t you? All I pointed out was that you appear very ready to judge him and yet you attack others so verbosely for being judgmental. It says a lot of about your motivation, which appears to just be about hurting the church at large and shaming ‘church leaders’ rather than being a constructive part of helping fix the problems in a church full of imperfect people. Why is that I wonder? I assume I am wrong and just misunderstanding you and your motivations.

        I admit to being confused at your unwillingness to help people learn at appropriate times on thins you clearly feel so strongly about, genuinely important issues that should be addressed in the light of day, so that people like his flawed man, can be better people as they learn from your wisdom; whilst you find it so easy to shame the church and the behaviours of individuals here in such a public forum. Unique methods that provide confusion at your motivations.

    • Christine Balderas says:

      Thanks for your comments, Wayne. We all need to speak up and question when called for and not be too hard on those who may have misspoken.

  23. Dean M says:

    Not to fault your stunned reaction at all – I am reaching the age where priesthood leaders are usually my junior – but my hand would have gone up. “President, with all respect, when you engage in wildly unlikely hypotheticals in a public setting, you always run the risk of someone leaving the meeting thinking, ‘Oh. I didn’t realize that the Brethren ask people to kill.'”

    If I were feeling particularly brutal, I might have followed up with a question about his readiness to do in a specific child in his family.

  24. Cassie says:

    Are you that surprised? They used to swear death oaths in the temple and covenant to pray that the US would be held accountable for killing Joseph Smith.

  25. Andrew R. says:

    “swear death oaths” almost. We used to swear that we would keep things sacred (and not reveal them) to the point where we would allow our life to be taken.

    Which is not quite the same, at least not to me – and I made those covenants.

    • nrc42 says:

      Well, those oaths were a bit more specific, along the lines of disembowelment, than simply keeping things sacred with your life.

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