A Response to Elder Callister

 

TW: Sexual assault, slavery, lynching, forcible removal of Indigenous children

The Church has evidently decided to publish anything that someone with the title “Elder” chooses to write, regardless of how inaccurate, offensive or damaging it may be.  Thus we are again treated to an essay by Elder Tad R. Callister which is a Tad Un Christlike.  Elder Callister begins with a false dichotomy – whether one should address the symptoms or the source of a problem.  As he put it, should one put a fence at the top of a cliff or an ambulance at the bottom.  Ideally, I imagine, one could do both – warn folk away from a dangerous ledge while also mercifully providing assistance to anyone unfortunate enough to become hurt.  Mercy, however, does not seem to be on the program.

To Elder Callister, the fence would be “a return to family and moral values.”  As a historian specializing in the history of the family, I always find this sort of phrase a mixture of amusing and horrifying.  Which period exactly will we be returning to?  Perhaps to the 1950s, when it was legal to rape your wife and harass your secretary and when women were forced into domesticity by routine discrimination?  Maybe he meant a bit further back – perhaps Jim Crow and Reconstruction, when white societies routinely lynched and persecuted Black people with the goal of actively destroying the family?  It is very difficult to pinpoint an exact year for an imaginary historical construction that never was.  Luckily, Elder Callister does not shy away from a task just because it relies on historical ignorance and ideological bias.  Indeed, he thrives on such.

The year, it turns out, is 1833.  In this year Joseph Smith received the revelation which we call Doctrine and Covenants 93, in which each of the first Presidency at the time were instructed to “set in order [his] own house.”  He takes this as evidence that traditional family values are at the heart of the Gospel.  Of course 1833 is also the year that Joseph Smith married Fanny Alger, a sixteen year old girl, and then proceeded to lie about it to everyone, including his legal wife Emma.  I really think Elder Callister should define more clearly what he means by a “traditional family” since his example obscures more than it clarifies about what the golden age of family life looked like.

Elder Callister then quotes Bill Barr, an extremely controversial and polarizing figure, not known for his honesty or integrity.  Since Elder Callister follows the quote with the reflection “how right he is” it seems that Elder Callister is entirely in agreement with and endorses Barr’s views.  Let’s take a look.

“The reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion.”  “Illegitimate” is an offensive way to describe an innocent child, but let us assume he is referring to children who are conceived and/or born out of wedlock.  It is not correct to state that the rising number of children born outside of marriage is correlated to rising abortion rates.  Abortion rates have consistently been falling since 1980.  Neither Elder Callister nor Barr make the slightest attempt to understand or address the reasons why women seek abortions which would be the logical place to start if you wish further reduce the number of abortions. Marriage rates are also falling, with more children born out of wedlock.  However, that does not automatically indicate sexual irresponsibility.  While long-term unmarried sexual partnerships are not in harmony with Church teachings, they aren’t by nature sexually irresponsible any more than marital relationships are sexually irresponsible.  The commitment to the child indicates responsibility, not the piece of paper.  I believe in the law of chastity and teach it in my home.  But that does not mean my unmarried neighbors with two children are somehow reckless.

Unsurprisingly, Barr and Callister are firmly against compassion and a helping hand.  Offering help to people who are in trouble is no good – you have to punish people who fall off of cliffs, otherwise everyone will want to do it.  Drug addicts should use in public places where their hypodermic needles can be a danger to everyone who might step on it, and they certainly deserve the illnesses that can be transmitted by used needles.  Women abandoned by husbands and partners should suffer. Children born to struggling mothers should not receive any aid.  If you alleviate suffering in any degree everyone will want to jump into poverty and addiction.  

It seems that caring for the poor, the fatherless, the sick and afflicted is definitely not what Christ commanded us to do.  I tried to find scriptural support for Callister’s understanding of Satan’s plan and came across the following: 

“One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”

Mark 10:21

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” 

Psalm 68:5

I have definitely been misinterpreting these passages as being commandments from God and not the alluring plan of Satan, so I appreciate Elder Callister’s clarification of what Ol’ Scratch is up to.

Elder Callister is particularly upset by how nice Satan’s operatives on earth make compassion and empathy seem.  Satan uses alluring terms like “love” and “compassion” about fellow human beings wanting to be treated as human beings with the same rights and privileges as everyone else.  You can tell that on some level Elder Callister is tempted.  He describes empathy as being “cosmetically appealing” a “decorated” package wrapped with “glitter and a glamorous bow.”  To Elder Callister I say – why not unwrap the package? When has Satan ever been the one trying to tempt us to be more compassionate, more empathetic, more merciful, more understanding? Does that even sound like Satan to you? Because it sure doesn’t sound like it to me.  

President Uchtdorf said “Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships.  It is the bond that unites families, communities and nations.  Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility and respect.  It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate.  Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope.  Love should be our walk and our talk.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Love of God” October General Conference 2009

Given current Church policy and leadership, I wouldn’t expect Church leaders to express pride or support during Pride month.  But as members we could do a better job of expressing love.  We can lead from below.  If you feel tempted to be loving towards LGBTQ members, if it seems quite appealing to have empathy, then give in!  Satan never tempts you to be kinder, more generous of heart, more compassionate, more loving.  That isn’t an insidious voice of the Devil, that is the still, small voice calling you to love thy neighbor as thyself.  To want for your neighbor what you want for yourself.

Elder Uchtdorf’s vision of what will heal the nation seems much more aligned with Christ’s teachings than Elder Callister’s offensively ahistorical colonial analogy.  Elder Callister shares a quote celebrating the remarkable unity of Northern Europeans overcoming their differences to celebrate the sanctity of the white family.  Understanding how crucially important family units are, they actively weaponized that information to destroy, oppress and eliminate other peoples.  Chattel slavery depended on familial destruction.  Selling family members apart was an intentional decision to undermine resistance and more effectively oppress the enslaved.  White masters and overseers raped enslaved women, intending to destroy any father or husband’s identity as such – sexual assault drove home an enslaved man’s inability to protect his wife or children, or to have a monogamous relationship.  Indeed slaves were forbidden to have legal marriage, and enslaved women could not bring charges of rape against anyone.

These same colonists actively tried to destroy Indigenous families.  It was particularly tone-deaf of the Church to publish this drivel in the same week that the graves 215 Indigenous children were found in Canada.  This discovery has thrust into public conversation something that has been no secret to Native communities.  Beginning with the colonists, but continuing to this day, white-run governments have pursued active policies of familial destruction with the goal of domination.  These governments, supported by their citizens, wrested children from their parents. Destroying family was the point. The schools existed to try to eradicate cultural ties between generations and stamp out any sense of tribal (read: family) identity.  That these schools were also institutions of cruelty and death is not a coincidence.  The cruelty was the point.  Holding up white colonists as a source of wisdom on the sanctity of family is a disgusting racist misrepresentation of reality.

Elder Callister solemnly affirms: “No government program or policy can compensate for lack of strong families and moral values.”  However, government polices absolutely can constitute frontal attacks on families.  For example, having a stable living situation, a home, is hugely helpful to a family.  Redlining was designed to make sure that didn’t happen.  Disproportionate arrests of Black and other non-white men carries forward the role of slavery in ensuring that generations of fathers and husbands are not present to raise their children, while white men who commit the same offenses are at liberty.  Systemic racism perpetuates poverty, a consistent predictor of drug usage, lower education, fractured families.  

Elder Callister understandably finds it very alluring to imagine that all it would take to heal the world is to make heterosexual monogamous middle class life universal.  However, the idea that a father who can provide for children so the wife can be home full time and there is no need for child care is a fantasy that never was.  To the extent anyone ever lived it (i.e. middle class white women) it was always predicated on the labor of poor women and women of color.  In the 19th century homemakers wore cotton that was picked by Black slaves whose families had been ripped apart. The cloth was woven by women working under terrible conditions in factories. Their homes were cleaned by poorer women who by definition were not full time homemakers.  The middleclass housewife dream continues to be built on the labor of poor women whose poverty means they cannot be full time homemakers.  The cute centerpiece from Hobby Lobby was made in a sweatshop in China.  The cookies you baked this afternoon were made with chocolate from cacao beans harvested by trafficked workers, many of them children.  The idea that we can solve all social problems by just being married and having a single-earner family ignores the harsh realities of how the world works.

If we want to heal families, we should start where we are wounding them.  Elder Callister provides no clear directives on what “promoting family values” might mean, other than denying social services and lecturing people.  Instead of taking away ambulances, why don’t we ask why people are falling off of cliffs? Why is the fence not enough? And when the fence breaks let us strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back those who stray, and seek those we have lost. Let us feed the hungry, give drink to those who thirst, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and minister to those in prison.

Ezekiel 34:3-4 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Ezekiel 34:3-4

 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:41-46

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31 Responses

  1. anitacwells says:

    Thank you for articulating so eloquently what bothered me about that article.

  2. B says:

    If only we could have “Elders” like Em held up as our religious authorities instead of those who preach in the name of Jesus ideas and principles that are utterly unrecognizable to His gospel. Sigh.

  3. Lee Johnson says:

    The cognitive dissonance some people show is truly amazing to me. That so many can claim to follow the gospel of Christ and yet state in effect that poor people deserve to suffer for their misfortunes and that they have brought their misery on themselves, and refuse to give them aid and compassion – I find myself in the truly odd position of feeling aversion to the community of Christ’s church because of my testimony of the truth and beauty of His gospel.

  4. Geoff-Aus says:

    That callister would write this shout out to trump believers is one thing; that it is an editorial in a church publication is very sad, and horrifying.

  5. Phineas says:

    How hard you guys have to work to find something that he isn’t saying, that you can take exception to.

    Alma 10:25 But Amulek stretched forth his hand, and cried the mightier unto them, saying: O ye wicked and perverse generation, why hath Satan got such great hold upon your hearts? Why will ye yield yourselves unto him that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes, that ye will not understand the words which are spoken, ACCORDING TO THEIR TRUTH?

    At least look at what he is trying to say from his non-historian perspective to the bulk of people with a non-historian perspective. Look at the message he is trying to convey, if you can.

    “When has Satan ever been the one trying to tempt us to be more compassionate, more empathetic, more merciful, more understanding? Does that even sound like Satan to you? Because it sure doesn’t sound like it to me.”

    When he pretends to be brave and loving enough to sacrifice his place in heaven, and be willing to be banished from heaven, out of love for us and out of justice. *Wink. Anything goes in the name of love and compassion, right up to the other side chaos.

    Who expects the law of God to be congenial? Who rejects it because it isn’t?

    Isaiah 50:11 Look, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled— This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.

    • Em says:

      I did not have to work hard to find cruelty and ignorance in his article. It screamed forth. “At least try to look from his non-historian perspective to people with a non-historian perspective” What I hear here is that you’re saying it’s fine to reinforce ignorant untruths as long as the audience is ignorant enough to believe them. Why should it matter if the things he says are untrue if only a few people are aware that it is untrue? My expertise that allows me to point out the fallacy is exactly what negates the value of my perspective? Yikes.

      There is no scriptural support for your perspective on the fall of Satan. He did not pretend to be loving to sacrifice his place in Heaven. There’s no evidence he was playing the martyr. He was cast out against his will.

      “Who expects the law of God to be congenial? Who rejects it because it isn’t?” Why are so many ready and eager to believe in a harsh God, a God who sends forth fiery retribution, but are very reluctant to believe in a God of love, a God who stretches forth a welcoming, loving, inclusive hand? A God who is brimming over with forgiveness and compassion and affection for all? Perhaps we are both guilty of making God in our own image — you assuming God is vindictive and judgmental, and me assuming God is compassionate and a personification of Love. I hope for both our sakes I’m right.

      • Phineas says:

        I am not assuming a vindictive God, or a harsh one full of fiery retribution.

        I was thinking more of GK Chesterton and his writing: The Suicide of Thought, where he outlines the consequence of forgiveness and charity in isolation from the law of God.

        The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful. For example, Mr. Blatchford attacks Christianity because he is mad on one Christian virtue: the merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. He has a strange idea that he will make it easier to forgive sins by saying that there are no sins to forgive. Mr. Blatchford is not only an early Christian, he is the only early Christian who ought really to have been eaten by lions. For in his case the pagan accusation is really true: his mercy would mean mere anarchy.

        https://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Gilbert_K_Chesterton/Orthodoxy/The_Suicide_of_Thought_p1.html

        “There is no scriptural support for your perspective on the fall of Satan. He did not pretend to be loving to sacrifice his place in Heaven. There’s no evidence he was playing the martyr.”

        Did you think he was going to accept the bad rap Christians give? The yarn that he is more merciful than God is quite something. I’ve come across it on three occasions,and it certainly answers your point

        I also wonder if your criticism was worth making given that you were apparently only able to make it from your position as a professional with much experience.

        I don’t believe that he intended to make such precise claims as you criticise him for not having correctly made.

        I think that most people understand the traditional ideal that he was referring to and value that Ideal, and he expressed that ideal in terms that the audience will understand.

        Your criticism seems largely to be that the ideal never existed broadly at any point in time, which is largely irrelevant to the point that he was making.

        The popular notion that there was such a traditional ideal is sufficient to provide the elocutive force for his message whether or not the few experts such as yourself agree with the technicalities of his representation of the ideal.

        Most people I believe have managed to progress to the idea that he was trying to convey and skipped over whether or not an expert might have constructed a better representation.

        We know what he meant, even if it was expressed in terms of the apparently false ideas that most people believe to be true.

        If Paul can refer to the unknown god, if Ammon can refer to the great spirit, but I don’t see why he can’t refer to this traditional idea.

        It all smacks of complaining that he didn’t give the talk that you would have given.

        I sometimes wonder how the rebels in the church (if they obtain authority as many wish) will cope with all those who will then rebel and criticise as they themselves are currently doing.

        The evidence that people’s minds fly apart like glass when they come in contact with an idea contrary to their thinking is very prevalent, and proof that leaders cannot lead the church away from where mainstream members are willing to be led.

        It may be that you are entirely correct but the path to your your desired position is unavoidably circuitous.

        It may be a case of what presentation will preserve the church with the the saving gospel and ordinances to the most number of people.

        Church apparently favours humbling willing fools who will be slowly led, rather than the smart rebels.

      • Phineas says:

        In addition to my response, the LDS tradition is that satan claimed to be able to save everyone. He also led away 1/3 of the hosts of heaven. He must have had a good cover story, quite possibly it was love and mercy and compassion. It’s even quite a powerful excuse these days for nearly any cause, even departure from the law of God. (See GK Chesterton comment).

        The fact of suffering of people was and is his lever to try to destroy God. Christ partook of the suffering with us and sustains and heals us, not overturning heaven as satan still tries to do using these same arguments as I have come across from those who more directly oppose God in this life.

        Those who think that they care for those suffering and that the servants of God (who they rebel against) do not, should look at who they are aligning themselves with, in opposition to the twelves apostles of the lamb. (There are only two churches)

        Don’t isolate the virtues of Christ, who kept the law of God, and even advised his apostles to respect the office of the corrupt Jewish rulers who occupied “Moses seat.

    • Libby says:

      How I wish our religious leaders would read the words of Jesus instead of the words of Breitbart.

  6. Tina says:

    Thank for you for this well articulated response. I feel like Elder Callister is regurgitating what he likely heard growing up instead of doing the work to learn more about the lives of other people around him. This is not ok for him to use his position to blindly spew words without thinking. It is a reminder to me that I have a responsibility to stay curious and continually learn and grow.

    • Carolyn says:

      Elder Callister grew up wealthy, in a white neighborhood in Glendale, California. I knew him then and remember when he and his brothers gave his mother a BMW when she would rather have a Cadillac

  7. Caroline says:

    “If we want to heal families, we should start where we are wounding them.” Absolutely. Thank you for articulating so powerfully why a focus on nuclear middle class families and family systems is utterly inadequate, given that those middle class families’ lives and comforts are based on the exploitation of other families and individuals. LDS people need to do so much better at looking beyond interpersonal relationships and examining how we are enmeshed in systems that are unfair and exploitative.

  8. InnerBrenner says:

    This is brilliant and articulates so clearly everything that I feel. I read this and feel inspired to go and be more Christlike…to strengthen, heal and bind. It hurt especially to see women sharing Callister’s painful and poorly constructed arguments, it makes we wonder why we even call it the “Relief Society” when it fact it more often feels like the Superiority Society.

    But you captured it so perfectly, all of the things that are wrong with his article and all that we should be if we are to truly follow Christ. Thank you for taking the time!

  9. Risa says:

    Thank you, Em. So many of my LDS LGBTQ+ friends are suffering because of this article. This article confirms their worst fears about what faithful members really think of them despite their outward declarations of love.

  10. Ziff says:

    Outstanding response, Em. I guess when all you’ve got in your hand is a FamProc, everything you see in the world is a call for more straight, single-earner families.

  11. Mindy says:

    Thank you for this! I agree that the church would benwfit greatly with you as an elder leading with love, compassion, and truth.

  12. Adam Smith says:

    Sure you could nitpick the brief article but it’s just the same stuff the church has always taught—not sure what it there elicits such an angry response. If you aren’t on board with the family proclamation what are you obsessing over articles in Lds magazines? This talk was just Mormonism 101. And this response actually makes even more of the kind of literary and historical errors than in the original talk. It’s like the parable of the moat and the beam.

    • tkcaudle says:

      No, the Callister talk was not “Mormonism 101.” THAT is faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. I just went through all the missionary lessons with my 8-year-old child about to be baptized, and nothing from Callister was in the discussions.

      What the Callister article IS, is Republicans 101. He quoted Bill Barr, for crying out loud, instead of any scriptures or prophets.

      • Adam Smith says:

        Honestly a lot of what the church has traditionally taught does sound a lot like republican talking points. The vast majority of Mormons including the general authorities are republicans. While of course you can be a faithful church member without being republican, many people take that too far and say it’s ok to be a democrat, Democrats believe X and therefore if the church doesn’t support X it’s fine- I just need to help the church come around to it or my leaders are not sufficiently inspired.

    • Em says:

      *mote

      Every time I see bigotry and cruelty masquerading as righteousness I will call it out. It doesn’t matter how many leaders have chosen a path of exclusion before, it still needs to be called out. As tkcaudle pointed out, Mormonism 101 is found in the fourth Article of Faith. And please, enlighten me about literary and historical errors. Since you have identified many I am certainly curious to find where I have made mistakes.

      • Ladd Morgan says:

        Actually I think I can guess why you’re angry and you shouldn’t flatter yourself that it’s mostly about having some more elevated morality than general authorities. It’s that Callister started to mix republican talking points with his talk. Again he could have avoided that more but the truth is that for many today on both sides of the aisle the higher loyalty is politics, not religion. You are a liberal or progressive or conservative for trump voter first and a Mormon second. I’m guilty of it myself. But we should not lie to ourselves saying we are just more morally enlightened for doing that. In terms of your own mistakes in your response it was angry and full of sweeping generalizations parroted from other internet Mormons – nothing very original. Probably the biggest mistake is this insistence that at no time and no place and in now way in history were people more moral than they are right now. The insistence that we can never look backward for moral inspiration. If you insist on painting historical time periods with sweeping generalizations like Christian men were all raping their wives in the 1950s and now they’re not it sounds bad. But there are some virtues that were better practiced in history generally within society and some better practiced today. We can gain inspiration from many peoples and many times in many places.

      • Adam Smith says:

        The other issue is that you took a very short article written for a specific audience that is a little more provincial and steeped in a particular tradition and read it with an uber cynical lens as if it was intended as some kind of official statement by the church for the public at large. For example, he wasn’t saying you can’t have an ambulance and a fence and ambulances are bad. He was just saying that sometimes focusing primarily on the ambulance instead of the fence could actually exacerbate problems in society. This is actually a really good insight and very much in line with church teachings over centuries. Of course the church also teaches the importance of the ambulance if nothing else works.

      • Em says:

        Ladd Morgan/Adam Smith – since you are the same person, I’ll address the comments together. Know that sock puppetry is a violation of our comment guidelines and in the future your comments will go in to moderation.

        The problem is not that he chose to use Republican talking points – it is which talking points he chose to give his weight to as an emeritus General Authority. However there is little point in arguing about my motivation – you won’t be convinced and you also have no way of knowing what is in my mind or heart. Moving on to my mistakes.
        Being angry and sharing opinions with other Mormons is not a mistake. You don’t like that about my post, fair enough, but it isn’t an error.

        I did not say that at no time and in no place and in no way were people more moral than now. What I said was that the “traditional family” is a construct that has no basis in reality. I did not say that all men were raping their wives in the 1950s. I was trying to convey that glamorizing the 1950s as an ideal family era means deliberately ignoring realities that make family life in that period far from ideal. Even if we hold up that period as the ideal, it cannot be traditional because it existed only for a very short period of time. By definition a traditional family would be an institution that remained largely unchained over a long period of time and across many spaces. The way the phrase is usually used it suggests a monogamous union of one man and one woman who live in a nuclear family with children. They marry for love and find emotional and sexual satisfaction within their marriage. Both husband and wife save themselves for marriage and are faithful thereafter. The wife stays home to nurture children while the husband provides for them financially. That is the model of family life that the Church teaches, and in many ways I support that that is a good thing. But it isn’t traditional and suggesting that we are “returning” to some kind of ideal is simply not supported by facts.

        Families have looked like that only for a very short time. Even if we limit ourselves to Euro-American families, that is not the traditional model. Prior to the 19th century, couples wed primarily out of property considerations across the economic spectrum. Marriages were frequently arranged or at least heavily stage managed by parents. Families lived in multi-generational groups rather than as nuclear units. The entire family typically worked together in an economic enterprise and it would be impossible to sift exact economic contributions – a husband might make shoes but the daughters might cut the leather and the wife might work the counter and the sons might go on the road seeking buyers. They all live above the store. Or they might all work together on a farm. Women did not “stay home” because the home and the workplace were one and the same. There was not a clear division of labor between child nurture and paid work.

        The nineteenth century and the Industrial Revolution changed that. The workplace became separated from the home, and wages meant that you could put a number on the specific contribution of each party. The growth of the middle class created an ideal of a woman whose life was primarily decorative and nurturing rather than involved in economic enterprise. Very few women on a global scale ever lived this way, and it was always dependent on other women working on their behalf. Over the course of the 19th century marriage for love and an expectation of sexual and emotional fulfillment in marriage slowly became the middle class ideal. Gradually an expectation that men would philander changed toward an expectation of male fidelity. Of course this is the exact period when the Church was actively advocating against one man and one woman, instead pushing a polygamist model which meant that frequently plural wives were largely supporting themselves and their children with an absent husband. This is also the period when white Americans actively aimed to destroy Black and Indigenous families. So when I say that the traditional family is an imaginary construction, I’m simply describing reality. The further back you go in history the more stark the contrast.

        Of course you can gain inspiration from many peoples and many times and many places. You just can’t claim that those times represent an ongoing tradition if they do not and still remain truthful. I’m not sure that some virtues were better practiced at any given time than others. People are people. Lust, greed, wrath, avarice, sloth – the same sins beset us all. We may be better able to observe them in some times or others but I’m not sure there’s a huge moral difference between lust happening in secret and lust happening in the open.

        I read an article written by an emeritus General Authority in an official Church publication. It is appropriate to critique it as such.

  13. Di says:

    Thank you Em – powerful response.

  14. Adam Smith says:

    Yes I use Adam smith on the internet prob for the same reasons you also don’t go by your full name here. Thanks for that history of the family which is very good to know but in drawing useful contrasts may go too far the other direction is drawing too great a contrast. In fact people are people and love and sex are love and sex. There isn’t too much new under the sun. Adam and Eve and Mary and Joseph had a family life we can relate to to the extent we know it. I can read diaries of my ancestors from the 19th century and doesn’t sound a whole lot different in terms of family relations. Just remember there are two types of people that have trouble following the prophet: the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

    • Em says:

      You’re free to use any pseudonym you want, that’s perfectly understandable. You just need to use it consistently when commenting on a single post so that you don’t create the appearance of a multi-person conversation.

      As for the two types of people — I think we can safely say there are many many more types of people who have trouble following the prophet. What about the proud and ignorant? The proud and poor? The proudly political? Surely the only qualification for failure to follow God is pride, any other modifiers are cosmetic. The other instance, and I fully admit this is very tricky thin ice, is when the prophet and God are not in line — I’m thinking specifically here of times when past prophets have said racist untruths (race of Cain, less valiant in the preexistence) from the pulpit in General Conference. The Church has now specifically disavowed these things as untrue and not God’s word. There were many people who knew right there and then that that was not true and that the prophet was not speaking God’s truth. Others felt that it must be true even if it felt wrong, because the prophet said it. Others, I’m sure, felt it WAS true because it confirmed their own prejudices and bigotry. Following the prophet is important, but they are men all the same, subject to the same frailties as the rest of us.

  15. Bro. Jones says:

    Did Jesus ever teach “self-reliance”? I don’t think he did but please do correct me. I do recall teachings of charity, mercy, and skewering the rich who would not embrace those virtues.

  16. Bryn Brody says:

    Thank you for this. And thank you for sharing your expertise. I wish church leaders would get some knowledge before they start spewing out harmful, oppressive drivel.

  17. Lynn in Europe says:

    Em, thank you for your excellent response and also for your willingness to engage with critics (and sockpuppets) in the comments. What astonishes me is how this retired general authority and his fans apparently fail to understand not just what is wrong theologically, sociologically, and historically with the published piece, but how ignorant or uncaring they are about the religious fallout: do they not see what a tremendous stumbling block they are putting in front of people? Why are they offering stones instead of bread, and snakes instead of fish? Why are they offering cruelty and contempt, and mocking those who are trying to practice mercy and compassion? Why are they promoting rightwing politics instead of Christ’s gospel?

    Callister and those like him are a huge reason that so many people are looking to other churches and religions instead of toward LDS, Inc. — and that includes a lot of people who, like me, were once very active members until those kinds of published statements and messages made it clear that people like us are not wanted. (Our money, yes, our time, yes, but otherwise, no.)

    • Adam Smith says:

      Lynn- just curious if you find so much distasteful in the words of LDS Inc leadership and are disaffected from the church, what interests you in reading the talk, the critique and the detailed comments on message boards like this? What aspect of the church do you still feel affinity to? Is the church doctrine mostly ok but the members and leadership suck? If the members were more informed and caring would it bring you back to the church?

  18. Sounky says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful analysis, Em. I was so flabbergasted by the article I could not even think of where to start in processing it! The whole thing was conservative Americana BS.

    You’re an angel!

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