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”

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””

Is the Potential Big 12 Exclusion Policy a Natural Consequence for BYU?

So a bunch of LGBTQ activist groups have asked the Big 12 to reconsider their interest in BYU because of discriminatory practices at BYU against LGBTQ students. Needless to say, many BYU fans are upset and protesting back, claiming that these activist groups don’t understand that BYU is open to gay students who live the BYU Honor Code; this is just another example of religious persecution, they say. Well, no. No, it isn’t. Its a natural consequence. Its accountability in action. For all the attention we Mormons like to pay to the idea of consequences, we sure don’t want to accept the unpleasant consequences when they crash down on us. Continue reading “Is the Potential Big 12 Exclusion Policy a Natural Consequence for BYU?”

Making Space: Tyler Glenn asks, “How Many More?”

So often, discussion of doctrine, particularly related to homosexuality, becomes academic in its characteristics. For so many believers, God is found in a book–in the Bible–and the inclination is to scour the words of the book for evidence with which to bolster the preferred argument. But the scriptures were not meant for argument, but to settle arguments–to settle them with the one great power all human beings can harness. Not priesthood, not the gift of the Holy Ghost, but love with its many names: empathy, compassion, kindness, and charity. Continue reading “Making Space: Tyler Glenn asks, “How Many More?””

No Man is “Trash”

Previously published at By Common Consent, dated May 4th, 2016. 

Angry? You bet. Tyler Glenn’s latest song and video boil with rage. Glenn, a gay man and former missionary, was embraced by the church for his Tyler-2advocacy in building the inclusivity bridge. That is, until the LDS church’s November 5th policy change regarding homosexuals—a change that codified those in same-gender marriages as apostates, required their excommunication, and forbade the baptism of their children under certain conditions. The policy change hit him hard, like a gut punch, he says. Feeling himself betrayed, denigrated, and literally dismissed over his sexual orientation, Glenn took a hard look at less-visited areas of Mormonism and decided he could no longer believe. The release of “Trash” depicts a stunning reversal of attitude toward his faith heritage. Continue reading “No Man is “Trash””

Numbers Tell the Story

rainbow darkOn November 5, 2015 the policy change to LDS Handbook 1 regarding homosexual members became known to the public. Since then, in the US, 34 LDS LGBT young people between the ages of 14 and 20 have committed suicide. The numbers are being tallied by Wendy and Thomas Montgomery, leaders in the Mama Dragons and Dragon Dads support groups for LDS LGBT families. That’s 1 suicide every 60 hours, or every 2 ½ days. That number does not include a count of suicide attempts, nor of suicides by any closeted LGBT young people. Twenty-eight of these suicides occured in Utah, a state that averages 37 youth suicides in a 12 month period. Thirty-four in 84 days is a stunning statistic. It’s horrifying. And gut-wrenching. It is also telling. It tells us we adults are not sucessfully supporting our LGBT youth.  Continue reading “Numbers Tell the Story”