What Was, What Is, and What Will Be when Religion Limits Itself?

My name is Lisa Downing. I am a member of the Heath, Ward in the Heath, Texas Stake. I’m not an anonymous internet voice. I am a child of God, a convert to the great faith tradition encapsulated in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At my baptism at age 17 (some 40 years ago), I made a personal covenant with God—an extra one beyond those baptismal covenants outlined in the Book of Mormon—to always seek truth, light, and knowledge so that I can better honor and serve God and His purpose. Such a quest has no end yet is filled with new beginnings. It’s tiresome. Right now I’m tired. But my personal covenant requires something of me, something uncomfortable.

I find myself unable to validate through the gift of the Holy Ghost certain, limited statements made at Saturday morning’s General Conference, specifically remarks pertaining to truth in the address of Dallin Oaks.

These days, speaking up is becoming increasingly risky, and nothing feels more contrary to light of Christ than that. But the greater risk accompanies a denial of the Holy Ghost and so I will add my voice to that of Elder Oaks. Neither of us—none of us—can see God in any way other than through a dark glass, but perhaps, if I add what I have been given to see of the Divine, and if you add yours, the vision of God will come better into focus. Testimony is like a symphony. Each note alone has some small sound to convey, but only when all notes are joined do we understand the Great Composer.   Continue reading “What Was, What Is, and What Will Be when Religion Limits Itself?”

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An LDS Trans Woman’s Response to General Conference

Today’s guest post is written by an LDS trans woman in reaction to President Oak’s Saturday morning General Conference address. Her thoughts and experiences may be her own, but the responsibility to hear her through the lens of the pure love of God belongs to us all. –LTD

I spent Saturday with a lesbian friend.  We had barbecue hamburgers and a very pleasant day.  When I arrived home around 8 PM, I noticed several messages asking if I was okay.  I couldn’t understand why I, so I responded to a friend of mine, assured them I was fine, and asked why they were asking.  I was told that President Oaks had given a very disturbing talk regarding the LGBT members of the church at General Conference. Continue reading “An LDS Trans Woman’s Response to General Conference”

To the BYU-I Student Body, on Feelings and the Quest for Truth

Across the forty years since my conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve learned a lot of things; one of the most important of those things is that there are many ways to be Mormon. I’ve written, tongue-in-cheek, about the categories of Mormons, but I’m in a more somber mood today, having just consumed the recent address given by Henry J. Eyring, the BYU-I university president, to the student body. In it, he elevates feeling over intellect, claiming emotion provides testimony that the LDS Church is true. That’s one way to live an LDS life, but there is another—an opposite—way that can also lead to testimony. Continue reading “To the BYU-I Student Body, on Feelings and the Quest for Truth”

The Prophet, the PoX, and the Vulnerable Seminary Student

June, 1828: Joseph Smith and Martin Harris take a break from translating the golden plates onto foolscap because Emma Smith is about to deliver a baby. Harris desperately wants to take the 116 pages to his wife in order to justify the time and money he is investing in Smith. Smith reportedly prays twice for permission to let Harris show the manuscript to his resentful wife. Twice he’s told no. Harris persists and Smith, who imagines (financial) value in winning Lucy Harris back to his prophetic corner, prays a third time. And this time, the wearied Lord tells him Harris may take the pages. Cue foreboding music.

You know the rest of the story. Months after Emma is delivered, Smith journeys to Palmyra to learn why Harris hasn’t returned with the manuscript. Smith finds a distraught Harris, who admits the pages are missing and assumed stolen. Grief-stricken, Joseph loses his ability to translate further. After a period of repentance, his gift is restored.

Moral of the story: Don’t tempt God. Respect His answers. It’s often said that the Lord agreed to let Harris take the manuscript to teach his prophet a lesson about the difference between following the Lord’s will versus following his own. I propose it also teaches what happens when our study and faith is grounded in faulty assumption.

Like all lessons of history and scripture, the lesson of the lost manuscript is meant for more people than just Joseph Smith. Continue reading “The Prophet, the PoX, and the Vulnerable Seminary Student”

Unpacking the Polygamy Wound

Most families (and most individuals) lug a couple of proverbial storage trunks around with them. Into these, we pack the unpleasantries. The first trunk hides away the things we hope go unnoticed, often facts about our history we’d rather no one realize or things we’d like to forget. In the second trunk, we store our unexamined behavior and ignorance because out of sight and out of mind seem to belong together. We don’t reach into the first often, but we reach into the other too often. It shouldn’t surprise us that Mormonism also hauls around the same two trunks; after all, Mormonism is a collection of human beings, each linked as family in the way of strong cultures. The existence of these two storage trunks in Mormonism doesn’t diminish the many wonderful things each openly displays, like our love for God and one another. Yet, we can’t fully know ourselves unless we examine the things we’d prefer not to look at, nor can we grow fully. Continue reading “Unpacking the Polygamy Wound”

Protect LDS Children with Reason, Not Hunger

The Protect LDS Children movement aspires to eliminate closed-door, one-on-one interviews between LDS lay leaders and the under-aged members within their stewardship. The movement is led by Sam Young, a former Mormon bishop, who rightly asserts that closed-door interviews may groom young members for abuse by adults because of the way it normalizes sexual subjects in adult/child relationship. Young has collected thousands of survivor stories and garnered 56,000 signatures on a petition which asks the Brethren to end the practice. This week, Young launched a new initiative, which he told Mormon Happy Hour (MHH) is titled “Hunger Strike and Spotlight.” It is three-pronged, incorporating a hunger strike, an effort to focus attention on the hunger strike, and, lastly, temple-side chats with individuals of the Brethren about the pitfalls of closed-door, one-on-one interviews. He is also asking the 56,000 petition signees to join him by fasting during his hunger strike. (Pls see Correction)

I support the goals of Protect LDS Children. I signed the petition, and, in the vein of “there’s no such things as bad publicity,” I will do as Young asks by shining a light on his effort right here, right now.  What I won’t do is pretend to like Young’s hunger strike. Continue reading “Protect LDS Children with Reason, Not Hunger”

Polygamy Culture and Temple Rites

In my previous discussions of polygamy culture, I mentioned that the 19th century practice of Mormon polygamy has had a lasting impact on the emotional health of contemporary LDS women, but I shied away from a detailed discussion of how the still-present practice of sealing multiple women to one man negatively impacts LDS women. At its core, polygamy culture continues to thrive because of this issue. And, in reality, the ways the current practice of temple-authorized polygamy (geared, to be clear, for the next life) are so numerous that I can only scratch the surface here. But it’s a surface that must be scratched until the problem is clearly exposed. Continue reading “Polygamy Culture and Temple Rites”