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”

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November 5th and Why I Stay

Two years ago this November 5th, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints applied a mallet to a chisel and created a crack in the ability I once had to apologize for it. That day initiated what people like me call “the exclusion policy.” People not like me don’t call it anything. They ignore it. They say, “These men are called of God, and I have a testimony of that.” I can say I have a testimony of that as well, but I can also say I have a testimony that the exclusion policy is wrong, no matter who passed it down or who passes it off as God’s word. Every day I read words of LGBTQIA children of God whose faith in God is whole, but whose trust in the leadership is shattered. Across the past two years, there’s been an exodus of members who, like me, see a church leadership that can’t embrace the most important, the most basic, teaching of the Savior, namely to love others as we love ourselves, as equals. I can’t speak for the LGBTQIA community, nor for their families. I can speak only for myself–a cisgender, heterosexual female member–and today I’d like to answer a question I’ve been asked repeatedly, either in the form of “Why do you stay if you disagree with the prophets of God?” or “Why do you stay as if nothing ever happened on November 5, 2015?” I stay because I will not abandon what is rightfully mine. I stay because I own my relationship with the Divine Being, and the formal church does not. I stay. But I won’t stay quiet. Continue reading “November 5th and Why I Stay”

Power and the New Class of Sinners

SunflowerButterflyLike most progressive Mormons engaging in the discussion about inclusion levels of the LGBTQIA community within the Church, I’ve argued in favor of love—that love is a behavior, that Christlike love practices empathy and inclusion. There is no concrete opposition to that, since love is an abstraction, so what I hear from “opposing” voices sounds a lot like, “We do love; we want to include” followed by a caveat. In truth, most orthodox, mainstream LDS are sincere in their desire to love and include, but they both justify and endorse policies of exclusion without hesitation. It’s a baffling dichotomy. But this weekend, at General Conference, the fog lifted for me. I’ve had it all wrong. This isn’t about a lack of love. It’s about power and submission. It’s about the corruption of ethics and ideals and how we’ve exchanged them for easily quantifiable “standards” that bind a subservient class to the will of its leadership. It’s about control. Continue reading “Power and the New Class of Sinners”

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””

The Progress in Removing Rape Verse from YW Program May Not be only Personal, but Institutional

The “revelation of the week” is that Moroni 9:9 has been removed from the Young Women’s Personal Progress program, which offered the verse to Mormon teenage girls as a supporting scripture in the section, “Virtue.” Of course, this is significant because Moroni  9:9, 10 tells us that the daughters of Lamanites were taken captive, raped, tortured, and killed; it emphasizes that rape deprived these daughters “of that which is most dear and precious above all things.” In other words, the violent “loss” of their virginity is equated to a loss of virtue and is dubbed more tragic than either their torture or their murder. Fortunately, the verse had already been removed from “For the Strength of Youth,” but somehow lingered in the Personal Progress program. I suspect Elizabeth Smart’s public outcry against toxic chastity lessons was the match that lit the rather long wick prepared across decades by feminist outcry. The deletion of the verse is gratifying and a relief, but also signals something much more. Its removal is an acknowledgment that our sacred canon is fallible, that the views of the men who wrote, abridged, or recapped the events within that canon do sometimes pass on the biases and bad information of their eras—and that, when we know better, we should do better. The deletion reaffirms the pre-correlation notion that we are to learn truth from any source that brings it forward, and reject all untruth, no matter where it be found, including (as in this case) in our sacred writ. Continue reading “The Progress in Removing Rape Verse from YW Program May Not be only Personal, but Institutional”

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?””