95 Theses, Five Years Later
Five hundred and five years ago, Martin Luther is reported to have nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church. And, of almost equal importance, five years ago, I was joking around with my sister on the phone about how I should write my own 95 Theses for my own church and post it on what I considered to be my own virtual church door – the Exponent blog – AND I DID.
The theses ranged from the silly (Thesis #7 – speed up the hymns) to the serious (Thesis #65 – rescind the policy of excommunicating people in same-sex marriages), mostly touching on things that I thought most people could agree on (Thesis #1 – church is too long) to things that I am pretty sure are only bees in my particular bonnet (Thesis #32 – stop putting itchy carpet on the walls of meetinghouses). The post was never meant to be a serious policy discussion, and probably deserved a lot more thought than I originally put into it, but at the very least, it captures a particular snapshot in time. When I wrote the post, Thomas S. Monson was still prophet (he died just over two months later, and Russell M. Nelson took over). And, like a man on a mission, President Nelson came in and started making all sorts of changes, many of which were on this list! And so, a little less than five years into his tenure as prophet, I think it’s worth revisiting the list and seeing which things have changed (noted below as “yes!”), which have not (nope!), and which things are somewhere in the middle (unclear/TBD!).
The theses from the original post are in italics, and my responses to them are not:
- Church is too long. We need a two-hour block, and we need it now. Yes!
President Nelson announced in October 2018 General Conference that we would be moving to a two-hour meeting time, but in a sneaky “let’s not just do away with this completely,” he strongly encouraged a period of family home study to supplement the shortened formal instruction time.
- We need more snacks. I don’t care if this takes the form of a between-the-hours snack break or a monthly break the fast fellowshipping meal, or something else, but there should be an opportunity to break bread with one another and informally chat. Unclear.
Unfortunately, as far as I know, there has not been a push, officially or unofficially, to eat more snacks at church. I would like to amend this thesis going forward to include that the snacks we eat should have a global variety to them. Basically I’m asking somebody to make me tamales. I’ll let you know if it happens.
- The nursery toys should be cleaned more often. Unclear/Nope.
Strangely, the current church handbook doesn’t even mention toys in nursery at all? As though that’s not, like, the whole thing kids look forward to in nursery? But I digress. If y’all’s nursery has toys (as it should, even if they’re not officially proscribed), somebody needs to be cleaning those toys. Run the plastics through the dishwasher and put those filthy dolls through a hot water wash. Please. Hand Foot Mouth isn’t gonna kill itself.
- Relatedly, the nursery toys should be a budget priority. Our children need more than broken plastic cars and dolls that are missing arms. Unclear/Nope.
I am still reeling from the discovery that nursery toys aren’t required per the handbook! Again, you do you, but as for me and my nursery, we’re gonna have toys, they’re gonna be clean, and they’re gonna retain all their parts. But I do think that most noise-making toys should have their batteries mysteriously disappear.
- Primary should be more active. Those kids have been (or will be) sitting through all of Sacrament meeting and possibly some classtime without moving. Let’s get those kids dancing and singing and moving their boogie-bodies. Unclear/Yes?
So, Primary is only an hour now, and the sharing time portion (which was often a listen-and-learn format, at least in my experience) is gone. So kids are doing singing time, which lends itself to more movement, and class time, where your mileage may vary. I’m calling this a half-win.
- Primary & nursery teachers are a gift to the ward, and should be treated as such. They need reliable backup lists and team-teachers when at all possible. Unclear/Yes?
One thing the Primary handbook does require is at least two teachers for every classroom! Hooray! This is a victory for both child safety and teacher sanity. Unsure how the backup lists are coming along, but I think it’s important for more adults to be called into Primary (to develop empathy for those who serve there, if nothing else) and I think this is a 75% win.
- To quote a new convert I spoke with recently, “y’all’s hymns sound like we’re at a funeral every damn time.” Let’s get the tempo up to where it needs to be, and let’s try to add some gusto in our singing. TBD.
Again, this is one where your mileage may vary depending on the chorister and organist/pianist in your congregation, but I will say that the hymnal still has the same guidance for things to be sang “reverently” or “fervently” and we all know that is basically code for “slower than molasses.” That said, the church announced plans for a new hymnal in June 2018 that will have hymns in multiple languages (!) and requested submissions from church members in both “traditional styles and in more modern or culturally varied styles” (!!), so I am cautiously optimistic that we will get some more jubilant hymns when the new hymnal is released (date TBD, as the project is expected to take “several years”).
- Also, can we get some hymns that are more active and sound like praise? I wouldn’t mind some moving and some clapping, too. Let’s pretend that we’re happy to be singing at church. TBD.
See Thesis #7, but I am cautiously optimistic!!
- Don’t just show up at somebody’s house without calling! Missionaries and well-meaning church leaders, I’m looking at you. This has been aptly named “well-intentioned social terrorism” by leading experts and makes people less likely to fellowship with us, not more. If you keep making appointments with people and they don’t show up… maybe that’s a hint that they don’t want to hang out with you, and that’s ok. Also, don’t show up at somebody’s place of employment, or wait for another tenant of a building to go through the door so that you can get to a person’s front door without ringing a bell. Again, if they don’t want to talk to you, then they probably have a good reason. Don’t try all sorts of creative ways to trap them into a conversation. Nope!
As near as I can tell, missionaries are still using the same tracting tactics (tractics?) to talk to people, and I haven’t seen anything expressly forbidding them or other church leaders from using sneaky strategies like going through a locked door that somebody else had opened. I would really love to see something said about how to respect people’s time and boundaries, but I haven’t… feel free to let me know in the comments if there is guidance on this that I’ve missed. And…
- Relatedly, when somebody sets a boundary, respect it. If they say, “I don’t want visiting teachers right now,” don’t assign them visiting teachers who are just extra sneaky about visiting teaching. NOPE.
Sadly, I still hear about all sorts of ways that people conveniently circumvent people’s boundaries about whether they want to be contacted by church members, on ministering lists, or all sorts of things, and I am unaware of any official policy or procedure to make this less of a problem. Having never been a clerk (I lack the required genitals), I am not extremely familiar with the church’s organizational software, but can it really be that difficult to have a box that somebody could check to show that a person has requested to not be contacted? It cannot be that hard.
- Youth leaders should be trained in how to respond to and/or report issues of child abuse. Honestly, we all should, but especially youth leaders. YES, mostly.
Ok, the church has definitely been in the news about child abuse lately, and it has definitely not been for the best reasons. And as far as I know, the church still has their abuse hotline that redirects to a bunch of lawyers whose primary fiduciary duty is to protect the church. BUT. I will give the church credit in that it has started to require training on child abuse and working with children which launched in August 2019. Is the church perfect on preventing child abuse and properly handling child abuse? No, not even close, in my opinion. But my thesis asked for training on responding and reporting, and they have done that. Now they need to shift their priorities to protect children over the church’s reputation.
- We have a proud cultural history of beards, and so any prohibition of beards on church-affiliated campuses or for temple workers needs to be abolished immediately. NOPE.
Sadly, as near as I can tell, beards are still a no-go at BYU, for missionaries, and for temple workers (can’t find a publicly available source here).
- Neckties are the pantyhose of men and should be culturally optional. NOPE.
I don’t know what to tell y’all, I just think men are being slowly strangled in their church clothes with no added aesthetic or practical value. Plus I always think of this post whenever I think of neckties. #freethenecks
- The Word of Wisdom is some good advice, and let’s get back to that. A cup of coffee shouldn’t keep you out of the temple. NOPE.
There was a real opportunity to loosen the vice grip on some of these things when the church recently revamped the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet, but while many things were cut, coffee and tea remain an explicit no-no. It sounds like we can continue taking the advice to “eat meat sparingly” as optional, though!
- For the love of Pete, please dump the Boy Scouts. And Cub Scouts. YES!
Yea, verily, there was no greater rejoicing across the face of the earth than the rejoicing at my own personal household when the church announced that they were cutting ties with the BSA in May 2018.
- Less meetings. PEC and Ward Council should be merged and all leadership should attend the one meeting. Unclear.
Ok, first of all, this has been bugging me for five years – I want fewer meetings. Ok, I feel better now. Whew. Now. As near as I can tell… this is a mixed bag. On the one hand, I think PEC meeting is gone? But now, Ward Council is encouraged to meet every week. And the bishopric still usually meets weekly. So I think the main difference is that, on the whole, women are in more meetings because ward council meets more often. But that the overall quantity of meetings has not decreased. I’m guessing this varies considerably from ward to ward, too.
- Make the priests properly wash their hands before preparing the Sacrament. And enforce it. I’m talking surgery-level scrubbing. Unclear.
Listen, the handbook says that “those who prepare, bless, or pass the sacrament first wash their hands with soap or other cleanser.” So is it the official policy that these teenage boys wash their hands? Yes. Have I seen teenage boys and their friends “wash” their hands? Also yes. I’m thinking enough attention hasn’t been given to this issue, even after we all supposedly learned to wash our hands during the coronavirus pandemic. I am skeptical at best.
- Follow the Prophet sounds like it’s a theme song for a cult. Get rid of it. Being in a minor key makes it even more terrible. TBD!
See Thesis #7-8, because along with a new hymnal, we’re getting a new children’s songbook! But until then, people continue to sing this creepy song, and I’ve even heard of wards who make up their own verses about the modern-day prophets?! WHAT. That’s a hard pass from me, folks.
- Stop interviewing teenagers behind closed doors without another person present. Nope!
Ok, the church released new guidelines for interviewing the youth in June 2018, and they said that parents are “typically present” for interviews with kids under age 11, and also include that “if a youth desires, he or she may invite a parent or another adult to be present when meeting with the bishop or one of his counselors.” But I’m gonna go ahead and say that is not enough. No! There should always be at least two adults, and at least one should be an adult trusted by the child. This shouldn’t be optional; it should be required to protect the youth from all manner of abuse (spiritual, physical, emotional, etc.) and also from grooming or other predatory behaviors. If we can’t guarantee children’s safety during these interviews, we need to come up with a new system. Full stop.
- Stop talking to minors about masturbating. Also, adults. Don’t talk to anybody about masturbating. Why are we talking about masturbating at church?! Nope!
Officially, church leadership is only supposed to be asking in a temple recommend interview if a teenager obeys the law of chastity. But that doesn’t cover what is taught in lessons, or what is said if somebody has a follow-up question about the law of chastity. Furthermore, the new For the Strength of Youth pamphlet specifically says to “avoid anything that purposely arouses lustful emotions in others or yourself.” So yeah, I think we’re still talking to minors (and others) about masturbation. It’s not developmentally appropriate, makes discussions of normal sexual behavior awash in shame, and overall is creepy as hell.
- Let’s make the temple clothes for baptisms for the dead a little less see-through. Unclear.
I think this is another one that might vary from place to place, but last time I was helping out with baptisms for the dead (and admittedly it’s been many years), we’re still using the same white jumpsuits of yesteryear that still are a little too see-through. Have you seen any improvement in this? Let me know in the comments!
- Have the girls help pass the Sacrament. There is nothing in the scriptures that prohibits this, and passing the Sacrament tray around isn’t required to be a priesthood function. Nope!
Sadly, passing the sacrament remains penis-only. Which is weird, because unless the deacons have been doing it wrong my whole life, they’re not even using their genitals to pass it.
- Bring the Sacrament to the mother’s lounge. If the Sacrament is the most important part of our Sunday service, it should be made available to all, including those feeding their babies. Unclear/Nope
This is one that got particularly stuck in my craw as I was a young mother who often felt sidelined at church while theoretically doing “my highest and holiest calling.” There is no specific guidance in the handbook on who to give it to, whether they’re inside the chapel (see Thesis 24) or in the mother’s lounge, or wherever. It simply says, “after the prayer, priesthood holders reverently pass the bread/water to the members.” It does also say that “when the bread/water has been passed to all members [emphasis mine], those passing the sacrament return the trays to the sacrament table.” So, one could argue that ignoring the mothers caring for children in other parts of the building is contradicting the handbook, but until I actually hear/see passing the sacrament to mother’s lounges made a priority, I’m counting this one as unfulfilled.
- Relatedly, those wards that only provide the Sacrament to those who are seated in the chapel because the people in the lobby didn’t get to church on time?? Stop that right now. Limiting access to the Sacrament based on arrival time is high-level Pharisee nonsense. Unclear/Yes?
Because of the guidance given to pass to “all members” (see Thesis 23), I think a good argument could be made to certain stake presidents in certain areas (looking at you, that one guy in Herriman from a few years ago) that restricting the sacrament to only those seated inside the chapel is going against the handbook.
- Women’s garments should be sleeveless, or at least without that little bunch under the armpit, which is unnecessary and uncomfortable. Nope!
I will give the church some credit for modifying women’s garments to be less terrible – the tiny, itchy lace waistband is gone on most, the nursing garments have been markedly improved (no more weird double flaps), and the cups are optional on some styles. But they remain very sleeved, and many/most still bunch under the armpit. Sigh.
- This one may be controversial, but get rid of the one-piece garments. Just… no. Nope!
They still sell these, and I still judge those who prefer them.
- Stop the worship/emphasis on The Family™. If you’re going to talk about defending the family, you’d better be talking about all families, not just the ones with cis-gendered, heterosexual parents who are married and who have 3+ children born in the covenant. Families, as a social unit of primary support and love, are worth defending. “The Family™” is code for being homophobic and it’s antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. Yes? But not how I had hoped?
Ok, interestingly enough, it DOES seem like the church has backed off of using “The Family” as a queerphobic dog-whistle. I could only find one oblique reference to “The Family” being used in that way in General Conference since 2017. However, instead of just using the euphemism of “The Family,” they’re being much clearer when they rail against queer rights, so I’m not exactly counting this as a step forward. For example, Dallin Oaks gave a whole freaking conference talk in October 2019 (that you can look up if you want to, I’m not linking to it) about how acting outside of the church’s prescribed gender/sexuality roles/rules is sinning and against “divine law.” Searching for “same-sex” and “LGBT” in recent conference talks shows there have been others, too. So… I guess they’re just saying the previously quiet part out loud now? This isn’t what I was hoping for, church!
- Relatedly, we have turned church leaders into idols that we worship. Stop making a false equivalence between fallible humans who are called to positions of leadership/authority and Jesus. They are not Jesus. We worship Jesus, not them. We are supposed to obey God and Jesus, not church leaders. We have moved the center of our worship onto human beings who make mistakes and who see through a glass, darkly, and it belongs on God and Christ. Full stop. Nope!
There is a continued and concerted effort to shore up the legitimacy of church leadership, and to make sure people view them as God’s chosen messengers with an air of infallibility. For example, in the very most recent General Conference, Dale Renlund gave a whole talk about how you can receive personal revelation… as long as it doesn’t conflict whatsoever with what church leadership has said, because their counsel trumps all. In the same conference, David Bednar gave a whole talk about how our obedience is the most important part of whether we are considered “chosen” by God. So… prophetic/apostolic infallibility continues to be a huge focus of church leaders.
- Women are not necks who turn heads. We are people with our own necks and heads. So are men. We should work together in a collaborative and equal fashion. Nope!
Listen, until we give women the same access to ecclesiastical and administrative authority (see Thesis 30), we’re going to be doing this very weird dance with complementarianism where we tell men and women that they’re separate, but equal (historically not a great take, imo). Ulisses Soares’ most recent conference talk illustrates this quite well, as he talks about how there is “no superiority or inferiority in the marriage relationship” and also, “it is important to observe that the government in the family follows the patriarchal pattern.” So, like… which is it? And this kind of weird dance of chicken patriarchy makes it so that women find soft power that is dependent on their proximity to men and their hard power. So while we might not be officially calling women the “necks,” we’re certainly not allowing them to be “heads,” either.
- “Ordain women.” NOPE!
Sigh. Remember when there was that huge “get excited for General Conference!!” rumor spreading that women were maybe going to be ordained, and then they weren’t? Yeah, that’s as close as we’ve gotten to this one.
- Change the temple language so that women are covenanting with God, not through their husbands. Yes!
In January 2019, the church made a move that I honestly wasn’t sure would ever happen – they dropped the language about women covenanting with their husbands and instead had both people covenant to God. The language in the sealing ceremony was also revised to be a little less uneven, but also includes a bit about the husband presiding in the home. That said, these are huge changes (and I would argue, huge doctrinal changes) to how women relate to the overall Plan of Salvation.
- Stop carpeting the walls. Why do so many buildings have carpet running up the walls? That carpet is itchy and scratchy and makes it very difficult for toddlers to walk against the walls, because it’s not pleasant to touch or hold on to. Unclear.
I haven’t had the chance to be in a church building constructed in the last five years, so I have absolutely no idea if new church buildings are still putting that scratchy nonsense on the lower half of the hallway walls. Could somebody please let us know in the comments?
- I am all in favor of having ward members help clean the building, but if we could get professionals in to make sure that the bathrooms and kitchens are properly cleaned and sanitized every so often, that’d be great. Unclear.
This is another one where your mileage may vary depending on where you live. The handbook only says that members are “encouraged” to help with building care and maintenance, and that the ward building representative organizes “members and volunteers” to clean and maintain church buildings. I still think bringing in a professional semi-regularly who is accountable for a job well-done would make a lot of sense.
- Please make the women’s session for women, and have it be either 12+ or 18+. I feel like having the 8-12 year-olds really infantilizes the whole thing. They’re children, and that’s ok. They don’t need to be there. Yes…!
Hoo-boy, the women’s session of conference. This has always been cloaked in drama. A brief history (more here): the church started having women’s meetings in the early 1980’s every year. Then, starting in 1993 and lasting for a couple of decades, the church had a women’s meeting that met the week before each semiannual General Conference (spring for the Young Women, fall for the Relief Society), but was not officially considered to be part of General Conference. That changed in October 2014, almost definitely in response to the growing Ordain Women movement who had come to Temple Square to request admission to the Priesthood session in October 2013, as well as both April and October 2014. The church also put the Priesthood session online in October 2013 (before it was in-person at meetinghouses only!). Starting in April 2014, the church started inviting girls ages 8 and up to the women’s session… hence this thesis. In my opinion, it was a perfect illustration of how the church infantilizes women. AND THEN… starting in April 2018, the women’s session started alternating with the priesthood session (see Thesis 79), with the women’s session happening in the fall (I always suspected this was so the men wouldn’t have to make the choice between priesthood session and college football), so we got half as much women’s session overall for 3 years. And then… what would normally be the women’s session on Saturday evening disappeared in October 2021! No evening session at all! And then, in April 2022, it pulled a McRib and the women’s session was back, baby, and for only women ages 12 and up! And in the most recent conference, the Saturday evening session was ALSO back, but for everyone, not gendered in any way. Snip snap, snip snap, snip snap! At this point, I have no idea what is going to happen with the women’s session, but at least it appears that it’s not for females aged 8 and up anymore. I’m calling this a very strange yes.
- Let’s hear from more women in General Conference. This would hopefully naturally happen should we ordain women (see Thesis 30) but black men have been ordained for almost 40 years and we still rarely hear from them. NOPE!
I went back through the ten general conferences before I wrote these theses, and then the ten general conferences since, and I can tell you that women are actually speaking LESS. There aren’t just fewer women speaking on average (4.3 women/conference from 2013-2017, versus 3.5 women/conference in 2018-2022), but they’re also a smaller percentage of the overall number of speakers (12% in 2013-2017 versus 10% in 2018-2022). This seems to partially be a function of having fewer women’s sessions (see Thesis 34), but also a function of just not making any sort of effort to include more women speakers in General Conference. It should be noted that even though the number of female speakers has gone down, the number of women speaking to the entire church (and not just in women’s session) has remained about the same, because even when more women were speaking, there have never been more than three that speak to the general membership of the church (but more would speak in the women’s session). As a side note, something I noticed from gathering these numbers – after President Nelson became prophet, the number of MALE speakers in women’s session went from one to three. So instead of three female speakers and one man at the end (as it had been for the previous ten conferences), every women’s session after he was made prophet included three male speakers and 2-3 female speakers.
- Relatedly, make a concerted effort to have more diversity in leadership, and in talks during General Conference. We should value the experiences of all people in this church from all demographic groups. Yes!
This one is kind of hard to measure, because “diversity” is kind of squishy word that could represent all sorts of things (racial diversity, economic diversity, geographic diversity, etc.). That said, there has been a marked uptick in non-white speakers since October 2017 (an average of 2.9 and 8% from 2013-2017 versus 4.8 and 14% from 2018-2022). Most notably, there was not a single woman of color speaker from 2013-2017, but there were five from 2018-2022. Elder Christofferson awkwardly praised this as “not a calculated or forced diversity but a naturally occurring phenomenon that we would expect, recognizing that the gospel net gathers from every nation and every people.” A sort of trickle-down diversity, if you will? That said, they’ve been holding steady at 50% women for a while now and strangely that one hasn’t trickled down? Weird. Somebody get a neoliberal economist on the phone and have them explain themselves.
- Either pad the pews, or make church shorter. Some of us have tailbones that haven’t fully healed from multiplying and replenishing the earth, if you catch my drift, and have a hard time sitting on hard surfaces for that long. Yes, mostly!
See Thesis #1, as church is shorter. That said, we could still use some padding on the chairs and pews.
- Engage more with community groups and civic outreach. Unclear.
This is another one that’s hard to measure. Are we talking about the church as an institution? Local wards and congregations? The people? To its credit, the church did encourage its members to become more involved with refugee service and relief around the globe in October 2015, and last year they specifically added a section to the handbook (38.8.35) saying that church members are to “offer their time, talents, and friendship to welcome refugees as members of their communities.” The church also announced a “strategic partnership” with the NAACP in May 2018 which has focused on providing scholarships for Black students and providing humanitarian assistance to projects in Black communities. These are good things! And yet… I would really love to see more community outreach on every level, like wards partnering with other religious or secular organizations within their communities, and less insularity. I know this is squishy and not particularly measurable, but I stand by the idea that the church remains too insular and focused on serving people within its membership, and less focused on community building. I would love to see more partnerships from the church itself, particularly with organizations that have a more global reach. So, I think this is improving, but not as good as it could/should be.
- Do more interfaith service work. I want to see more Mormons starting soup kitchens and doing anti-poverty work. Unclear.
This is similar to the one above, and I generally land at the same conclusion. I think we’re starting to do better, and I’d like us to continue to do even better.
- I may be biased, but every ward should call a Ward Social Worker to help both the Bishop and Relief Society connect people with resources in the broader community. Nope!
Sadly, the Ward Social Worker position is not a thing. There are definitely people within the ward who sometimes do these jobs (RS presidents, senior missionaries or others called in to smaller/struggling wards), but nobody to my knowledge is tasked with being the resource person for knowing what is/isn’t available within the broader community in terms of government or private resources to help people with whatever they’re struggling with. I want lists of food banks, counseling services available on a sliding scale fee system, domestic violence and abuse resources, child care resources, etc.!
- More security for missionaries, especially those serving in high-crime communities, and especially women. I know way too many women who have been sexually assaulted on their missions because they were asked to be places that were unsafe and known for being hostile to women. TBD/Nope?
This one is difficult to measure, because the mission presidents’ handbook is not publicly available, and they are making the local decisions of where missionaries will be living and proselyting, so it’s hard to know what guidance they’re being given (and if that has changed). The church did put out a series of videos in March 2019 emphasizing missionary safety, but in a way that places the responsibility for safety on the missionaries themselves, and not in a way that changes how or where the church places their missionaries, particularly women. While I do think that teenagers should be reminded to do things like wear bug spray, drive safely, and wear their bike helmets, the idea that missionaries should bear the responsibility of preventing assault (sexual or otherwise) irks me tremendously, so I’m not inclined to see these videos as a positive step in that arena. If somebody can point me to where the guidelines are for safety considerations for mission presidents (and whether those have changed), I would appreciate it.
- Increase the budgets for congregations outside the US. Wards in Mexico shouldn’t be receiving less money-per-person than wards in the US. Nope!
As near as I can tell, the church continues to allocate funds based on some opaque algorithm or something and that ward budgets outside the US, in particular, are much lower than inside the US.
- Fund fewer shopping malls. Yes!
As far as I know, the church has not funded a single shopping mall since the City Creek Center in Salt Lake City. That said, this one touches on the broader issue of how the church is notoriously opaque in how it spends its funds (and how much it has), and we did have that article that came out listing the church’s assets at over $100,000,000,000. So many zeros. Too many zeros, if you ask me.
- Make the mothers’ lounge more than an afterthought when planning buildings. Nursing mothers deserve more space than the broom closet, separate spaces to change diapers (without stinking up the whole mother’s lounge), and comfortable chairs. Unclear.
As is the case with the wall-carpet (Thesis 32), I haven’t been in any new church buildings, so I’m unsure if the mothers’ lounge is getting more priority in the architectural plans or not. Is your building new? If so, is the mothers’ lounge still attached to the bathroom or otherwise the size of a broom closet? Let us know in the comments!
- Put changing tables in all of the men’s restrooms. Women aren’t the only people who change diapers. TBD/Nope!
I haven’t seen this happen, but as I mentioned in Theses 32 and 44, I haven’t been in any new chapels. I feel like this would’ve made some news, though.
- More global hymns. Less songs about Zion in the mountains and more songs celebrating the cultural diversity of the church membership. TBD!
See Theses 7,8, and 18. Basically, we’ll see how this shakes out with the new hymnal and primary songbook.
- Take the Star-Spangled Banner out of the hymnbook. Also My Country ‘Tis of Thee and America the Beautiful. And God Save the King (even though it’s been a Queen since forever). It’s fine to be patriotic, but having those songs in the hymnbook smacks of nationalism and colonialism in a way that makes me deeply uncomfortable. TBD/Yes?
Ok first of all, I was sadder than I expected to be when I realized that the UK would be queen-less for the foreseeable future. Second of all, the announcement about the new hymnal specifically says the new one isn’t gonna have any national anthems, so I am cautiously optimistic, but waiting to see. They could still sneak “America the Beautiful” in there and be like “it’s not the national anthem!” So, TBD.
- Have a Gospel Essentials 2.0 Sunday School class. Basically it would be a Sunday School class discussing the basic tenets of the gospel, but in a much deeper philosophical/theological way than in the normal class geared towards investigators. Nope.
So I still think this is actually a great idea, but not one I’ve heard being implemented in any capacity. I have heard of wards that are having more informal “Sunday School for doubters” classes or weekly meetings where they discuss the Gospel Topics essays, but that’s not what I’m talking about here – I think it would be nice to have an actual Sunday School class going over the very basics of the doctrine (as seen in the Gospel Principles manual), but in a way that is less superficial and more applied to people’s lives, rather than functioning as “Intro to Mormonism.”
- The “Mission President’s Wife” needs an official title that makes her co-equal with her spouse. Nope!
There is still not an official name for a mission president’s wife. She is referred to as a “mission leader” together with her husband, but only he gets the title of “president,” or any title at all. EmJen illustrates here why this really, really matters.
- Female missionaries should be called as District/Zone leaders, with authority and stewardship over both male and female missionaries. Nope!
Sister missionaries can be “sister training leaders,” but only over other female leaders, and in almost every mission (except those that are exclusively female), they still have a male zone and district leader.
- Please remove the bit in the handbook about asking members to consult with their bishops before getting their tubes tied or a vasectomy. Why on earth should a couple have to consult their ecclesiastical leader before making a choice about their reproductive health and family size?! And what bishop really wants to sit down with a couple, only to have them say, “So, bishop, Jeff here is thinking about getting snipped and wants to hear your thoughts”? Yes!
The handbook has been updated, although I’m not sure when, and now says “The Church discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. Surgical sterilization includes procedures such as vasectomies and tubal ligations. However, this decision is a personal matter that is ultimately left to the judgment and prayerful consideration of the husband and wife. Couples should counsel together in unity and seek the confirmation of the Spirit in making this decision.” Bishops no longer are mentioned as part of the process! This is one less awkward conversation for everyone. Hurray!
- Screen-print the garments instead of sewing in the symbols. Children always pick the most inopportune time to ask, “Mom, what’s that on your nipple?” and it’s awkward for literally everyone. Yes!
This move wasn’t widely announced, so I can’t figure out exactly when it happened, but I want to say that around early 2018, the church started selling garments with screen-printed marks instead of having them embroidered on. Hooray!
- Now, I can’t find a documented source for this one, but it’s my understanding that if a child is born through surrogacy, the child is sealed to the man whose sperm is used *and the surrogate mother* until the child is later sealed to the biological mother and the biological father in the temple. WHAT NONSENSE IS THAT. The uterus/vagina through which a child is grown/birthed should not matter more than the DNA used to create that child. If this is true, that should change. If not, please let me know because I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about this for a while. Unclear.
Ok, so. The handbook currently says (38.6.22) that children who are born to a surrogate mother are not born in the covenant at all (meaning they’re not sealed to anybody), and that children born via surrogacy are only eligible to be sealed to their parents with approval of the First Presidency. I still find this baffling, though? First Presidency approval isn’t required to seal an adoptive child to its adoptive parents (Handbook 22.214.171.124), where there is no biological link, and children who were not born into the covenant to their biological parents can be sealed to their parents without First Presidency approval. But if you borrow a uterus, it suddenly becomes a whole freaking thing? Could somebody please clarify why our sealing policies are so counterintuitive? Side note – while looking this stuff up I found out that sometimes FOSTER CHILDREN are sealed to their foster parents?? What???? I cannot decide if this thesis has been accomplished or not because I cannot tell what obscure logic is behind this policy. Gah.
- BYU and other church-affiliated campuses should have coffee available as a courtesy to visiting and/or nonmember faculty and students. And, honestly, if students want to drink it, I don’t think it’s a sin. See Thesis #14. Nope.
According to the BYU Honor Code, no drinking of coffee is permitted on campus, regardless of member-status in the church.
- Missionaries shouldn’t ask members to commit to finding “x” number of people for them to teach by a certain date. Changing one’s spiritual beliefs and/or home is a big deal. I’m not going to force that on my friends or family because you have a quota to fill. Unclear/Yes?
I kind of think this is changing? Maybe? I don’t have a good pulse on this particular aspect of missionary work, but the church released a new missionary handbook in 2019 that seems to be more focused on both being/becoming good people and also on cultural sensitivity and loving one’s neighbor. I didn’t read through the entire new handbook but my bare-bones skimming didn’t see much of anything about using specific numerical metrics, especially when working with members. So… maybe? Yes?
- Stop measuring the success of missionaries by how many people they teach and/or baptize. Unclear/Yes?
Again, this is a very squishy metric, because who is measuring people how? I do think there’s still a certain amount of pride when one does a lot of teaching/baptizing on their mission, but I also think that the membership broadly understands that some missions are just more about teaching/baptizing, and others are more about learning to make amazing pasta (coughROMEcough). So culturally, my vibe is that this is improving, but let me know what your experience is on this one in the comments.
- Have missionaries do more service. Maybe make lasting partnerships with organizations in your area, and commit to having a certain number of missionaries available to them for a certain number of hours per week (so that organizations can depend on that continuity). “By their fruits ye shall know them!” Let’s make sure we’re bearing good fruit. Yes, mostly.
So, there’s a section in the new missionary handbook that’s all about “service in the community” which does encourage participating in community service projects when possible, and encourages missionaries to use the website JustServe.org (which rolled out in summer 2017) to find existing partnerships. I still would love to see this more formalized, with an expectation that missionaries commit a certain number of hours (20+?) to existing service organizations, but I’m encouraged by this progress and the emphasis that’s been made on it.
- Let missionaries call their parents more than twice per year. I know that we want them to focus, but especially with lowering the mission age, many of these kids are away from home for the first time. Let them call their moms or dads. It might actually make them more effective as missionaries, not less. Yes!
As of February 2019, missionaries can call home and text their parents on a weekly basis, and on other special occasions like birthdays and holidays! I think this is especially important since missionaries are often going out immediately after high school and not having lived on their own before. I am very grateful for this change.
- Let sister missionaries wear pants whenever they want, especially if they’re serving in places where they’re riding bikes, or where there is a high incidence of mosquito-borne illnesses. Yes, mostly!
As of December 2018, sister missionaries now have the option to wear pants! There are some caveats; for example, the guidelines say that they should wear skirts or dresses during worship services, conferences, baptisms, and devotionals, which I think is ridiculous because it’s not like Zika and West Nile virus cease to exist for religious functions (and a prevention of these diseases was cited as a main concern that prompted the policy change), but I do think this is a big step and I’m hopeful that missions within high-risk areas for mosquito-borne illness are more flexible on the pants-at-church point. I continue to think that skirts/dresses are not inherently more spiritual or devout, so I’d like to see this policy amended to say that women can wear pants whenever they feel like it on their missions, because again, sometimes it makes a lot more sense, and pants are perfectly acceptable professional wear in most of the world.
- Let families plan their own baptismal services. Let them invite the people they want and have people close to the individual being baptized speak. I know that there are a lot of baptisms in the Wasatch Front, but turning them into assembly-line functions makes it less special for the people being baptized. Let families celebrate this ordinance and rite of passage in a way that’s meaningful to them. Nope!
While this may vary from ward to ward, the official handbook says that “members should not request individual times for the baptism of a child, nor should they prescribe the content of the service.” Sounds like bishopric members are in charge and, interestingly enough, the handbook also says that the baptismal service may include “a brief welcome from the BROTHER (emphasis mine) who is conducting the service.”
- Get rid of the one-year temple penalty on civil marriages within the US (and some other countries, I think). Let people plan their marriage and/or sealing in a way that best works for them and their families. Yes!
In May 2019, church leaders discontinued the policy of requiring couples to wait one year after a civil marriage to be sealed in the temple. Couples can now decide what venue is best for them and their families without the added worry or shame of waiting to be sealed in the temple. Hooray!
- Open up sealing ceremonies to everyone, regardless of “worthiness.” I don’t think we need to perform sealing ceremonies for everybody, but let family members and friends witness the ceremony and celebrate with their loved ones. Nope!
That said, sealing ceremonies continue to only be open to endowed members with active temple recommends.
- Allow cooking in the kitchens. We could be teaching all sorts of skills in there if they weren’t for “warming only.” Nope.
Per the handbook (35.5.12), “Food should not be prepared or cooked in meetinghouse kitchens and serving areas. Instead, food should be prepared elsewhere and brought to the meetinghouse. The kitchen and serving areas can be used to keep food warm or cold.”
- Allow children of same-sex couples to be baptized. What is this nonsense. I can’t believe I even have to say that. Yes!
In April 2019, the church issued a press release that the children of same-sex couples (including parents who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender) may be both blessed as infants and baptized without First Presidency approval. This reversed the November 2015 policy that prohibited the practice, and which (then non-prophet) President Nelson doubled down on as a “revelation from the Lord” just two months after the policy was leaked. So yes, this policy has been reversed.
- Relatedly, stop excommunicating married people in same-sex relationships. Let them come to church, partake of the sacrament, and hold callings. Hold them to the same standards that we hold heterosexual couples to, and encourage commitment, fidelity, and love. Unclear/Nope
As mentioned above, the November 2015 policy was rescinded in April 2019, and excommunication is no longer an automatic consideration when a couple is in a same-sex marriage. Currently, section 126.96.36.199 of the Handbook says that a membership council “may” be necessary for sexual immorality, under which same-sex sexual relations are listed. I guess it’s fine if you have a sexless marriage? But otherwise, you “may” need a disciplinary council. This gives bishops a lot of flexibility (and gives the church a lot of plausible deniability) in how these relationships are being handled. So, while automatic excommunication is gone, we are certainly not holding same-sex couples to the same standards as heterosexual couples. So this one is mostly a nope, I think.
- Truthfully, I think there’s space to allow same-sex relationships to be sanctified and sealed in the temple. Taylor Petrey’s “Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology” has some insight on this. Nope!
We have a long, long way to go before we are sealing same-sex couples in the temple (as mentioned in Thesis 65, first we need to stop assuming that their loving, committed relationship is a reason to consider church discipline). That said, I’m grateful that people are still thinking about it, and Nate Oman recently provided a very interesting case for how same-sex sealings could go forward with minimal doctrinal disruption.
- Amplify the fourth mission of the church: Care for the Poor and Needy. Tackle it not just on a case-by-case level, but on a systemic level. Nope!
I actually think this might’ve gone away?? I can’t seem to find any reference to the “four-fold mission of the church” on the church website anymore. The official mission is listed as the following: “The mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help all of God’s children come to Jesus Christ3 through learning about His gospel, making and keeping promises with God (covenants), and practicing Christlike love and service. Members of the Church believe in helping individuals and families fulfill the commandments to love God and to love your neighbor. Members do so by living the gospel of Jesus Christ, caring for those in need, inviting all to receive the gospel, and uniting families through family history and temple work.” So this specific thing hasn’t been amplified, per se. There has been a definite emphasis on caring for refugees (see Thesis 38), but otherwise, I’m not seeing caring for the poor and needy being amplified nor prioritized any more than usual.
- This has been improving in recent years, but broaden the catalog of “acceptable artwork” for church buildings. Let’s see artwork that reflects the diversity of the membership. Nope!
As near as I can tell, the catalog for acceptable artwork for the church has either stayed the same since 2017, or even shrunk a little bit. For example, this 2020 church bulletin about acceptable foyer artwork has the same pictures of Jesus I’ve been seeing my whole life, and he is super pale in all of them. We know he was from the Middle East, right? And as Margaret pointed out in her post from 2020, there are very few women in any of them, “with no variation in body type and almost none in skin tone.”
- Put pictures of female general leadership in the building, and not just in places where only women and children gather. Nope!
I cannot seem to find an online link to the catalog of church-approved art, but as near as I can tell, there is zero guidance to ensure that female leadership is represented in any capacity, whether in art or otherwise. We don’t study their words unless they’ve spoken in the most recent General Conference (and even then, that decision is left to local male leadership). I truly wonder how many adult members, both male and female, could name the General RS, YW, and/or Primary presidents if prompted. Female leaders continue to be less visible than male leaders, and treated as ancillary at best.
- Call women into the Sunday School presidency and men into the Primary presidency. Nope!
Sadly, Sunday School presidencies remain men-only and Primary is women-only. I have absolutely no idea why this is this way, as I see zero doctrinal foundation for such an arbitrary gendered rule.
- Stop treating young single adults (or old single adults, for that matter) as not-fully-formed members of the Body of Christ. Have them serve in positions of authority. Don’t require their activities to be supervised by married members. Trust them to make decisions as adults. Sort of yes.
As of March 2021, The handbook specifically says that single members can be called to certain positions, including ward/stake organization presidencies, as bishopric counselors, as high councilors, and as counselors in the stake presidency. That said, they cannot be bishops, which means that any single-adult ward is going to be presided over by somebody who is married, which does feel a bit infantilizing. That said, there’s nothing I can see about requiring single adults to have married-person supervision over their activities or anything, and I feel like that maybe hasn’t always been the case. So… we’re moving up? Jana Riess has an excellent article about single adults and how they’ve been historically infantilized in the church.
- Use the buildings during the week. Sure, there are probably insurance/liability issues, but other churches have found ways to work through them. Hold literacy classes. Help with childcare. Provide pop-up food banks or shelters. Let them be used for elections. These buildings sit empty through 90% of the week, and could be used to do so much good in the community. Nope!
Specific things that the handbook prohibits buildings to be used for: elections, any business where something is being bought/sold/promoted, anything with overnight sleeping (including use as a shelter), being rented out to be used by a third party. It does say that certain nonprofit groups within the community can potentially use the building, but requires all sorts of hoops to jump through. So yeah, these buildings are just gonna sit empty for most of the week.
- Model disagreement within church leadership. I would love for members of the Quorum of the Twelve to give conference talks that disagree with one another, and to acknowledge that they disagree. So much of our issue is thinking that there is one answer to every question, and that everybody needs to fall in line. Instead, we need a multiplicity of viewpoints, of ways to think about different issues, and a dialogue on so many topics. I know that the Quorum of the Twelve disagree with one another behind closed doors, but I would love to see them model a civil conversation of how to respectfully disagree and still be fully in line with church teachings. My hope is that this model would trickle down to provide much more substantive/interesting discussions in local church meetings. Nope.
I really do recognize how difficult it would be to balance prophetic authority with strident disagreement, but I also think it really would be so instructive to even hear a story of two apostles disagreeing and then talking about how they overcame that conflict. The inability to admit past wrongs is also frustrating – when Nelson called the November 2015 policy a revelation, and then rescinded it, there was no acknowledgement of any responsibility for the harm that was caused, nor any humility in saying something like “we misunderstood the principle we were trying to apply.” So this is a big fat nope.
- Revamp the Sunday School curriculum so that the teacher’s manual is less of a call-and-response. Acknowledge thorny issues in the manuals and provide a variety of ways to talk about/understand those issues. Nope.
As near as I can tell, the Sunday School curriculum hasn’t changed at all in the last five years, nor have teachers been encouraged to branch out past the typical correlated answers.
- Some wards still only allow men to be the final speakers in Sacrament meeting. Stop it! Women can speak last, too. Unclear/Yes?
The handbook makes no mention of the gender of the Sacrament meeting speakers, let alone the order, only saying that “most often” they are ward members, including youth. So I would argue that there is no basis for local leaders mandating that only men speak last, and should be called to repentance on this one.
- Create coming-of-age rituals for the girls in the church. This could be corrected with ordaining women (see Thesis 30), but girls need to mark their maturation into adulthood and feel welcomed and needed by their congregation, too. Give them responsibilities and ways to serve their ward community. Nope!
This may be something that families and individual wards are doing better at, but there are still no additional responsibilities or rituals that welcome girls into adolescence or adulthood. Even just letting the girls help pass the sacrament (see Thesis 22).
- Call the female presidents of auxiliaries “President.” Similarly, call the wives of mission presidents “President,” unless they get a better/co-equal title (see Thesis 49). We should be talking about President Bingham and President Oscarson the same way we talk about President Nelson and President Callister. Nope.
The last time a female auxiliary leader spoke in conference was in April 2022, and she was referred to as “Sister Susan H. Porter,” not President Porter. So women are still only called sisters, not presidents of anything, apparently. See Thesis 49 for a link to an article about why this really matters.
- Have women pray in General Conference. Remember how we tried that and it was awesome? What happened?? Yes.
So it was a big freaking deal when Jean Stevens was the first woman to pray at General Conference in April 2013. And it happened a few times, and then stopped in 2016 and 2017. And I don’t know exactly how long that lasted, but I can assure you that a woman (Sharon Eubank) offered the closing prayer in the Sunday afternoon session of the April 2021 conference, and women have prayed in at least one session in every General Conference since then.
- Have General Women’s Session alternate with General Priesthood Session every year in April/October. DONE! Undone/Nope!
Y’all, I went over this drama back in Thesis 34. Long story short, we’re no longer alternating. I don’t even know if we’re doing it anymore. It was (sorta) fun while it lasted.
- Teach about prominent women in the scriptures and church history. Make sure the men and the women know about our spiritual forbearers. Nope!
I haven’t noticed a single difference in how much we’re talking about women in the scriptures or church history. We are still studying general conference talks for RS/EQ, and the Sunday School curriculum doesn’t appear to have upped its female-inclusion game. It doesn’t help that so many of the women in the scriptures don’t even have names, let alone story arcs. So… nope.
- Stop doing Trunk-or-Treats. Unless you live somewhere that Halloween doesn’t otherwise exist, and you want to celebrate it for some reason, actually go out and trick or treat with your community instead of doing a quick grab in the church parking lot. Nope.
This is another one of those things that I have a particular hatred of that is likely not shared by many, but I really hate the insularity of a ward Trunk-or-Treat in contrast to going trick-or-treating in the larger community. There has not been an official word from the church in favor or against Trunk or Treats, so I’m guessing they remain popular in many areas. Blerg.
- Have mothers hold their babies during baby blessings. Nope.
I’m sure there is an occasional bishop here and there who permits this practice, but officially, the instructions are for only Melchizedek Priesthood holders to gather in a circle, place their hands under the baby, and do the blessing. Women are conspicuously absent from this whole section of the handbook (38.2.7).
- Encourage activities that are inclusive. Fathers/Sons campout is great, unless you don’t have a father or you don’t have a son, or you have three brothers who all get to go camping but you’re stuck home. I’m not saying that we can’t do activities that are just for certain groups, but examine the gendered makeup of these activities. Are the boys always camping and the girls always doing crafts? Maybe flip that script once or twice and have the girls go camping and the boys do crafts. I promise it won’t cause the earth to stop spinning on its axis, and you might meet the needs of some people who are excluded from the traditional activities. Unclear/Yes?
The church put out a new “children and youth” program in conjunction with the focus on home-centered, church-supported learning, and it appears to have more gender parity than it used to. For one, I think it offers a lot more flexibility and less prescriptions for what activities are required to support certain goals (earning a YW Recognition award, for example, is no longer a thing – the entire Personal Progress program is gone). I still hear whispers of boys going on “high adventure” activities while girls stay at home and make lists of desirable traits in a future spouse, but I like to think that the youth programs are moving in the direction of gender parity and increased inclusivity.
- Please, please, please turn up the heat in the Chapel. I swear the thermostats are exclusively set by people who are wearing suits. Some of us women are wearing skirts and dresses and we are freezing. Unclear.
Your mileage may vary here. I can’t figure out who is in charge of picking the temperatures, nor what criteria they are using to do so. But I still maintain that many of the buildings are way too cold.
- Embrace our glorious theology of a Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine. God isn’t just a He. Change the YW theme to say “We are daughters of our Heavenly Parents, who love us, and we love them.” Yes, mostly!
The church updated the Young Women theme in 2019 and did include the language “I am a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents, with a divine nature and eternal destiny.” That said, there was a super smackdown on speculating about/praying to/talking about Heavenly Mother in General Conference last April, so I don’t think we’ve exactly embraced the glorious theology of a Divine Feminine, other than like “yes she’s there, now stop asking questions.” So… it’s better, but not entirely changed.
- Focus on people over numbers. I know that it’s hard to measure outcomes and program success without quantitative data, but try to find innovative ways to determine whether your ward is healthy and functional beyond “percentage of adults with active temple recommends” and “percentage of households being home taught once per quarter.” Unclear/Nope.
I really have no idea how wards are measuring their health or function these days. I am guessing that reports are still produced showing things like attendance, percentage of adults with active temple recommends, and numbers of full-tithe payers. So unless somebody wants to correct me, I’m guessing this one is still about the same.
- Allow wards to do special musical numbers that are outside the hymnal. I’m not saying you just allow anything, but we hear “Consider the Lilies” all the time in Conference and that isn’t in there. Some wards are pickier about this than others, but realize that not all uplifting music is in the hymnal. Yes!
Truly, I’m shocked, but there is no longer any prescription that music used in church meetings must come out of the hymnbook. Instead, the handbook says, “musical selections should be consistent with the worshipful spirit of the hymns. They should teach the gospel with power and clarity. Sacred music that is written or sung in culturally diverse musical styles may help unify congregations. Music coordinators and priesthood leaders may include a variety of appropriate musical styles that appeal to members of various backgrounds.”
- Have less stuff run up through the RS President and Bishop. I know that oversight is important because things really do go off the rails sometimes, but our poor Bishops and RS Presidents) are overworked. Maybe the Bishop doesn’t have to sign off on the visiting teaching assignments, for example, and maybe the RS President doesn’t need to approve every activity. Less micromanaging, more delegating. Unclear/Nope.
I’m not entirely sure whether the process has become less micromanage-y, but I can tell you that the current handbook still does require the Bishop to sign off on, like, 80% of things, and that the Relief Society President’s instruction doesn’t exactly encourage delegation. Under “Relief Society President,” the handbook lists fourteen separate responsibilities, and at the top it just says “her counselors assist her.” So, like, yes… but also, it doesn’t do anything to encourage the delegation and seems to basically say the buck stops with her. So we haven’t done much to spread the work around.
- Change youth standards to be more inward reflections than outward. When talking about modesty, don’t just talk about what body parts need to covered, but talk about what it means to be modest in all of your thoughts and deeds. When talking about the Word of Wisdom, talk less about what substances to eat/drink and more about what it means to treat your body with respect and have moderation in all things. If we set less outward markers on what it means to be a righteous Latter-day Saint, we’re more likely to build an inner spiritual foundation that is based on principles instead of actions, and we’re also less likely to judge others who aren’t outwardly conforming. Yes!
As mentioned in Thesis 14, the new For the Strength of Youth pamphlet came out and it is a huge step forward, in my opinion. For example, the old version said, “you should not date until you are at least 16 years old.” The new version says, “For your emotional and spiritual development and safety, one-on-one activities should be postponed until you are mature—age 16 is a good guideline.” Similarly, the old pamphlet said, “Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. Young women, if you desire to have your ears pierced, wear only one pair of earrings.” The new pamphlet in response to the frequently asked question, “What is the Lord’s standard on dress, grooming, tattoos, and piercings?” says, “The Lord’s standard is for you to honor the sacredness of your body, even when that means being different from the world. Let this truth and the Spirit be your guide as you make decisions—especially decisions that have lasting effects on your body. Be wise and faithful, and seek counsel from your parents and leaders.” This is a huge step in the right direction. There are still some hard lines drawn (no coffee, same-sex sexual behavior is not approved) but overall, it moved big time to a principle-based model of instruction.
- Allow women to be sealed to more than one man in the temple, similar to how men can currently be sealed to more than one woman. We do this after women are deceased anyways (after women die, you can seal them to any husbands she had during mortality) with the idea that God will sort it all out in the end. I think we can be confident that God will sort it all out in the end if we do it in mortality, too, and it reduces unnecessary anguish to divorcees, widows, widowers, and their families. Nope!
You know, this one feels like a no-brainer to me, but it is still official church policy (188.8.131.52) that “If a husband and wife have been sealed and the husband dies, the woman may not be sealed to another man unless she receives a cancellation of the first sealing.” Similarly, for men, “If a husband and wife have been sealed and the wife dies, the man may be sealed to another woman if she is not already sealed to another man.” Sigh.
- No Sacrament meeting start times after 2pm. Unclear.
I care a lot less about this one now that church is only two hours long, but I still think that church should never go past 4pm. I have no idea if church starting times have changed, though. Do any of you start your meetings at 2pm or later?
- I really love our lay ministry, but provide more training for Bishops and RS presidents. I would love to see some sort of weekend training where new bishops/stake presidents/RS Presidents/maybe even auxiliary presidents get two days of serious, intensive leadership training. I would love to see them talk about ministering, and about knowing when you are out of your depth and to refer out to professionals. Unclear/nope.
Talking about ministering? Check, check, check–ah–roo. But weekend-long training? Nah, don’t be silly. There are period handbook updates, and there is an online “here’s how to be a bishop” manual, but I still think the onboarding process is lacking for people who have no formal theological training.
- Temple films that reflect age and racial diversity in the people being portrayed. Unclear/yes?
I’m gonna be honest with you here – I’m relying on other people for this one as I haven’t done an endowment session in many moons. But I’m told that the temple films have changed more than once since 2017, and that in a couple, there was slightly more racial diversity, but not a lot. The current films have still images that are taken from previous temple films, so again, not much diversity, but that there are other new still images in the film that are much more diverse by both age and race. Additionally, I’m told that the temple training videos are actually much more diverse – that they use people from all over the world, and that women’s voices are often giving the instruction, not just men. So… this is progress, I think?
- Home teaching standards that are more similar to the new visiting teaching standards. More ministry, less formality. Serve people in the way they need/want to be served! Yes!
More… MINISTRY, you say? BOOM BABY. In April 2018, the church announced that home teaching and visiting teaching are gone, and the new program is called Ministering. And, significantly, the standards are very much the same across the board between men and women. Women are still expected to host both ministering brothers AND ministering sisters while the menfolk only have to make time for one set, but overall, these changes are very much what I had asked for back in 2017!
- Put stained glass in the chapels. We suffer from a tragic shortage of stained glass in our meetinghouses. Nope!
Sadly, I have yet to see a new chapel constructed with stained glass (and artwork is still prohibited from being inside the chapel). Sigh.
- Church is too long. We need a two-hour block, and we need it now. Yes!
Ok! So in summary, here’s where we are:
Fifteen theses are a full yes, this has changed. Another sixteen theses fall into the category of a sort of yes or a TBD/yes. Seventeen theses are either Unclear or To Be Determined.
Eight theses get a TBD/Nope or an Unclear/Nope. And thirty-nine theses have definitely not changed.
Considering that, five years ago, almost all of these seemed to be to be a pipe dream, having thirty-one of them change either partially or completely is actually a huge surprise to me. While many of them aren’t large doctrinal shifts (although I’d argue that one of the biggest changes – Thesis 31 about temple covenant language – was a massive doctrinal shift second only on this list, maybe, to the ordination of women). And if this had been an actual policy proposal with clearly defined and measurable outcomes instead of just an airing of grievances on a random October afternoon, perhaps more of the “unclear/TBD” theses would have better answers as to whether things have changed there, too.
It’s exciting to me that so many of these things have changed in such a short period of time. Certainly there are things I would still like to change, but it is a little bit validating to me to know that these were issues that weren’t just mine, but that other people, including people with actual power to change things, were looking into them and trying to make things better.
What do you think about how things have/haven’t changed over the past five years? Does seeing this list against a snapshot from five years ago change your level of hope for change in the church? What theses would you add if you were to write your own list today?