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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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”

The Bishop, the Mission President, and the Sexual Predator…Now What?

It sounds like the lead-in to a bad joke, but the reality is, Joseph Bishop, a former LDS bishop and repeat mission president, is also a sexual predator. In the recent MormonLeaks audio release, a former female missionary confronts Joseph Bishop, her MTC Mission President in the 1980’s, about his attempted rape of her in the basement of the MTC, and then levels additional accusations of sexually predatory behavior with other women, including another young female missionary. He withholds confession of the attempted rape (he just doesn’t remember that pesky detail; it was so long ago), but aligns himself with adulterous husbands and accepts the title “sexual predator” without denial. To make matters worse, priesthood leaders up the chain of command—specifically Carlos E. Asay (deceased) and Robert E. Wells (emeritus)—took no disciplinary action against him. In fact, they allowed him to remain in his positions of authority and did not prevent him receiving other assignments in which he had private, intimate contact with vulnerable women. Needless to say, people are talking. Screaming. There is justifiable, warranted outrage. But the one thing that I have not heard anyone say is “I don’t believe it. This could never happen.” Continue reading “The Bishop, the Mission President, and the Sexual Predator…Now What?”

False Assumptions: A Response to MWS “A Protected Class of Sin”

Even though it’s more important to do right than to be right, its frighteningly easy to convince ourselves that the two always correspond, particularly in matters of religion. The recent Mormon Women Stand (MWS) post, “A Protected Class of Sin,” is an example of what happens when the desire to be right supersedes the desire to do right. MWS has a history of arguing ideas that are divisive. The group seems to envision its job as that of separating the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, this post (like many others) risks dividing the faithful from the Spirit of the Lord.   Continue reading “False Assumptions: A Response to MWS “A Protected Class of Sin””