On the Excommunication of Bill Reel, the Heterodox Testimony, and the Lessons of Alma

Another stoning has occurred in this week’s excommunication of Bill Reel, the creator of the Mormon Discussions podcast. The violence of his excommunication has me in mourning, not half so much because he’s lost something as because the Church I love has forfeited something—someone—of value. Brother Reel is a modern-day Mormon enigma, a human symbol of a Church in turmoil, and the action of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which will soon have the approval of the First Presidency) is evidence of its dysfunction. Continue reading “On the Excommunication of Bill Reel, the Heterodox Testimony, and the Lessons of Alma”

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All-In v. All-Inclusive: WWJD?

The recent apostolic push by David A. Bednar for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be “all in” regarding the gospel of our Savior emphasizes obedience, sacrifice, and consecration, offering each as a marker of all-in discipleship. I appreciate his message of devotion to our Savior and commitment to become like him. But as my soul dwells on his message, I keep sensing it isn’t complete. All-in is good; but all-inclusive is greater.  The difference between all-in and all-inclusive is that all-in focuses members on being fully committed to the formal Church while all-inclusive would focus the formal Church on its members. Continue reading “All-In v. All-Inclusive: WWJD?”

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?”

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”