not in Primary anymore

with open arms

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Over the last couple days, the interwebs have been abuzz over Joni Hilton’s caricature of liberal Mormonism published through Meridian Magazine. When I first read the article, I was angry. I still am, actually. It hurts deeply to feel dismissed and unwanted. It hurts to feel like all the effort I put into claiming my Mormonism–my faith, my identity, my culture, my life–can be so easily brushed off and dismissed, simply because my lived Mormon experience is different from another’s.

After anger, my next inclination was to proclaim, “I don’t care!” But the reality is that I do care. I care deeply. I care not only for myself, but for the thousands, if not millions, of Mormons just like me: Mormons who are trying with their might to hang on. Mormons who simply don’t find value in living or believing x, y, z but treasure a, b, c. Mormons who embrace their faith tradition with all their heart, who take their religion so seriously that they expect better things of it, and who study deeply and come to some un- or heterodox conclusions. Mormons who see two sides to every coin and who after confronting the paradoxes and legitimate challenges to Mormonism’s truth claims, can never go back to a simple black-and-white faith. They see two (or more) pictures where they used to only see one.

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This last month, I have been privileged to attend a parenting class focused on a series of lectures by Gordon Neufeld called The Vital Connection. The overall theme of the course is simple: the relationship between the parent and the child is paramount. It is more important than behaviour, it is more important than external success, it is more important than “socialization” or education. Our children need to know that we are there for them–that we will support them, that we will put our arms around them, and that we will be their rock and their stay in this world that is often hard to navigate. Interestingly enough, studies have found that children who love their parents, who feel they can rely upon them and trust them, are the easiest to parent. Taking care of the relationship first is the most effective way to guide them and have them seek our will.

Crazy how that sounds a lot like Jesus’s teachings.

Jesus was known for rejecting the “checklists” of righteousness put forth by the Pharisees and Sadducees of his day in exchange for a message of peace and love. When the woman found in adultery was brought before him, he did not ask her detailed questions of her sexual encounters. He did not require her to prove herself to him. He did not ask her to take care of x, y, and z. He saved her. He was there for her. He became the person she could rely upon. After establishing himself as her literal saviour in that moment, only then came the command to “go and sin no more.” While the first commandment to “love the Lord thy God” certainly applied, the call to obedience was made more effective (and even possible, considering the tragic alternative), when the woman knew she was loved first. Interestingly, we don’t know the rest of the story. We don’t know if the woman ever committed adultery again. We don’t know if she truly did “go and sin no more” because frankly, that wasn’t the point. The point was that Jesus loved her and provided protection that was not contingent upon her commitment to future changes in behaviour.

Love. Protection. Relationship.

The reality is that we too often get this backwards in our mainstream Mormon culture. Once accepted into the fold through baptism, one must prove their worthiness according to a set of signifiers that they are one of us. Then, and only then, we will tell them of their worth and our love for them. But this is driving people away. We are losing some of the best, brightest, and most wonderful people because we have not held out our arms in love and acceptance first.

One of my favourite of Jesus’s parables is that of the prodigal son. In the parable, the father never asks the son to leave. He never tells him that he is unwelcome in his home. He never tells him “it’s black or white. You either stay or go, you see.” Instead, he honours the son’s choice to leave, to experiment, to live his life the way he would see fit. He even provides him the means to do so. After living out a raucous life, while the son is destitute and alone, he remembers his father. He remembers the safety he provided. He remembers the love he felt. And when he returns, it is to arms open and needs met.

I wonder how that story would have ended had the father forced the son out or had he told him there would never be any room for him should he squander away his inheritance. I wonder if he told his son, “why don’t you just leave?” if he ever would have returned.

To you, my fellow liberal Mormon, I want you to know that there are arms here to hold you. Whether you enjoy an occasional cappuccino or have an extra hole in your ear, whether you read Harry Potter with more regularity than Galatians or simply hold an unpopular political opinion in Utah County, remember these words:

There is room for you here. 

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26 Responses to “with open arms”

  1. lisey

    In an ideal world you (and Uctdorff) is right… But alas, for every 1 of you, there’s 10 of others saying to ‘get out’. I’m afraid the church you belong to is NOT the one most LDS belong to and it is almost cruel to say ‘there is room for you here.. when in fact there is not room.” It sets people up for pain and hurt when they encounter 90% of the people then pushing them out.

    Reply
    • Abel

      There are so many problems with this article, hidden behind so many beautiful sentiments, that I’m not sure where to start, or how much to say. In the last days even the very elect will be led astray by the cunning of Lucifer. He doesn’t trick us with brazen lies and obvious deceptions. He tricks us with half-truth’s, and entices us with false concerns and fake kindnesses, and ideas that are just enough “off the mark” as to make us believe them. I can tell that this person really believes what she is saying, but she is missing a couple of very important points, and she is focused on the mistakes of individuals – rather than on the testimony she gained regarding the core gospel principles. One in particular is that the LDS church is actually run by fallible people, but organized and led through heavenly inspiration – not by perfect beings running an imperfect gospel. People are still fallible, and they make many mistakes. NO one on earth today can offer perfect love, and to expect that kind of love from ordinary human beings, like the kind of love that Christ is capable of. That is absolutely ludicrous to begin with. Christ had the power to instantly forgive, heal, resurrect, and perfectly love us. He also knew exactly what we needed to hear to affect the greatest depth of personal insight, and give us the greatest chance for our success. There are plenty of parable’s that show how human we are, including the one with the man who asked what he needed to do to be saved, but who couldn’t give up his fortune in order to receive salvation. His faith was not strong enough, and his trust was misplaced in his fortune. All of these women who are dragging feminism into the church are missing the mark, and they are not only hurting the image of the church in the process, but they are also influencing others in a negative way. They have bought into the wrong messages that they have been deceived into believing are necessary and true, and they have lost sight of what made them faithful Mormons in the first place. As many of you may know, there is an entire false LDS church created by homosexuals, who believe that the LDS faith is completely true, minus the fact that that homosexuality is a sin. So they ignore this important fact because even though they believe in the gospel, they can’t believe that they can’t fight those non-spiritual desires, or they are too afraid to admit that those desires are abhorrent to God, because then they would have to try and fight them – just like anyone else with one of the many other abhorrent sexual desires of any kind would have to fight – like pornography addictions, thoughts or feelings related to pedophilia, bestiality, etc… This “Mormon Feminists” movement is just as off the mark as they are. Just because we want something to be true or right, doesn’t make it so, and it certainly doesn’t justify it in the eyes of the Lord. We can’t expect to have the same kind of love and respect of which Christ is capable, to come from the fallible men (or women) who are placed into these positions, and trying to learn themselves how to deal with their positions of authority. If we were capable of that perfection now, we wouldn’t need the church at all. The church may be set up like a Patriarchal society, and I will agree that there are many male members that wind up in authoritative positions which abuse their authority, but that doesn’t mean that women play a lesser role, or that all of the men in the church overstep their authority. On the contrary actually. Most men who achieve roles of authority, especially the ones who make it to the quorum of the seventy or above, perform their duties admirably, without abuse of authority. And women are respected and appreciated as equals in the gospel. Not to mention that they hold the power of creation within their wombs – something that some men, like these women, would envy and fight for if – especially if they didn’t think that it was only biological, and they realized what power it truly holds. These women would not be fighting to take the power and responsibilities that the priesthood holders in the church have, if they truly understood the amazing gifts that they actual have dominion over. There is only one true vision that we should be focused on – Christ’s vision. He setup the same basic church function that we follow today – with twelve apostles holding priesthood authority. If any of you have felt the spirit of truth in the church, and you have prayed and received testimony of the Book of Mormon’s validity – which must be the case or you would be looking for something else that would more easily fit your wants, instead of trying to adjust the actual truth in an attempt to fit your wants, then you should trust in those truths that you already have, and work with the Lord on figuring out what is really causing your doubts and/or struggles. Haven’t any of you women noticed that there are almost no women talked about in the bible, and nothing mentioned about our heavenly mother? That is not on accident, and it is definitely NOT because God thinks women’s roles are lesser! Don’t you “LDS” women get the fact that God did that on purpose? One of God’s most important commandments was to never take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, right? But even when that happens, He is far more forgiving that if someone were to take the name of our heavenly mother in vain – which is likely why it is never mentioned. I mean look at how much flack Eve takes, just because she broke one of the two original conflicting commandments, which was put there to be broken in the first place. We couldn’t be fruitful and multiply if we didn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It had to happen, and there had to be a consequence in place, or it would have been impossible to cast them out due to breaking that law of our own free will, because of the temptation and cunning of the devil. She is still seen as the temptress that started the fall of mankind. And don’t even get me started on the whole Lilith thing. Taking our heavenly mothers name in vain is something that I believe would not be tolerated – let alone bashing her and claiming that she is in any way subservient to her husband – which is ultimately what is being claimed by this group! There is an air of reverence surrounding most persons thoughts regarding a heavenly mother, which are so much more reverent than even those of Christ – which no other name can conjure. I spent the first half of my life as an ignorant sinner – spending time with many people who had horrible opinions about God, and would use Christ’s name like the F-word – and NONE of them ever even considered bad mouthing the idea of a heavenly mother. That speaks volumes to me. Even Mary, Christ’s mother, gets her name flung around like a swear word in some religions. If all of us would spend more time being open to the promptings of the spirit, and less time being led astray by selfish arguments, or getting irritated by the mistakes of the fallible human beings in the church – who are really doing their best to progress, while trying to learn how to balance their authority with humility – then we would be a stronger, more united group of members, and a much better example to the world in general. We don’t have to fight about why men and women have different roles, and why one is better than another, or contains more power or authority. All things will be revealed to our satisfaction one day, and we will then understand our true natures. Even science has proven that men and women think and perceive things differently from one another, and that we handle the same stress’s in very different ways. Some things that completely stress out a man and shorten his life, are handled just fine by a woman, and Vice Versa. The only things we should be focused on is faithfully praying for truth, trusting and being convicted with the answers we receive, and being willing to receive the answers that we may not want to hear, but that we still need to hear. If these women would get back to focusing on the fundamentals of the LDS gospel, while realizing that they do have a testimony of its truth, instead of trying to turn it into something that would fit their personal agenda’s, and give them some kind of additional perceived power or equality, then they might be able to look past the imperfections of our fallible church members, and their lack of understanding, and focus on perfecting themselves instead, while being a better example to others in the process. God is good, both our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and I am positive that they don’t argue over who has the greater power, but they instead work together in harmony with the incredible gifts that they each possess. One day we will fully understand, and some of us are going to feel very foolish when we realize what gifts we were truly given, and how selfish we were to covet the ones that we weren’t. It reminds me of the fox and the grapes. You are dropping the wonderful grapes you have, in the process of trying to grab the grapes that you think are better – only to find that the grapes you were looking at, were a reflection of the grapes you already had, and you lost them while trying to reach for the others. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it isn’t meant to be split into different subsets with different fundamental rules, just because a few people aren’t listening to what they need to hear but don’t want to believe. If you have a real testimony of the Gospel of Jesus, and you have prayed to find that The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is true, then you need to have faith that there is a reason for the distinction between men and women, and trust that you can have that knowledge when you are ready to appreciate and understand it. Until then, focus on solidifying the truths that you have been given, and opening your heart to truths that you are currently not willing to let in – whatever those truths may be. You don’t have to just believe me, and I would think you foolish if you did, but you have the God given right and ability to pray and find out whether or not what I have said here is true. I testify that it is true, but you must find it out for yourselves. If your heart was open to the spirit while reading this, then you’ve likely felt it while you read this. If not, I encourage you to pray with an open heart, and a contrite spirit before you make a decision about these statements I’ve made. All I have left to say is that although I admit that I have nothing near all of the answers, I testify to you that these things are true. The LDS gospel is true. The Book of Mormon is true. And Christ is the true Savior of all mankind – men and women alike. His gospel has been restored, and women play an equally important and powerful role in the church as the men do. I know this with all of my heart, and I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

      End of rant. No hate messages please. Thank you.

      Reply
      • Abel

        I should also mention, that none of my statement above was said with any anger, but completely out of hope and love. I really should have started with that, since that is what I was really feeling as I wrote it. I was not trying to hurt any feelings, or make any unfounded accusations. I was simply trying to explain the testimony that I have gained on this subject, in the hope that it will reach some of these women who obviously have some valuable testimony of the LDS church, but who appeared to me to be struggling with some deep and confusing concepts. If I have inadvertently offended anyone with my comments, I sincerely apologize. That being said, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard. I hope that you will take what I have stated as nothing more than my message of hope, and my hope for everyone’s greater understanding – mine included. I am still missing many truth’s for which I am searching, but I have learned many truths that others already knew by hearing what they’ve told me, and then pondering and praying about the validity of their statements. Sometimes those things are very difficult to hear, especially when I already have a set expectation, and a desire to hear something else. I hope that you will give me the same courtesy that I gave them, and earnestly seek after the truths contained within my post. Thank you. ^_^

      • amycartwright

        Abel, there is a lot to respond here and since only a minuscule amount of it is in response to my post, I’ll only respond to that portion. I believe we were commanded to love one another. I believe we were told that perfect love casteth out fear. I believe Jesus’s message to us is far more about learning to love than it is about learning to judge. That is the spirit in which I wrote this post. I had a very different post in mind when I set out to do this and truly felt what I identify to be the Spirit descend upon me and guide the words that were written. As a woman, I’m consistently told in the Church that I have a closer connection to God than the men of the Church, but it seems to me that the moment women begin to speak their truth–led by the Spirit–they are told they are wrong unless it fits into the message or the model that a man holds. This instance seems to be no different. I find that quite contradictory.

        As for the message of unconditional love, I am a parent. I have to practice this all day long. I have two young children who make mistakes time and time again. But I know that when they feel close to me, when soft words accompany my correction, when hugs are given, and when I take the time to truly understand them, our lives flow beautifully. When I focus primarily on behaviour, I have set myself up for frustration and anger because I’m dealing with pint-sized human beings who are still learning so much about the world. In the words of Kelly Bartlett, “A child whose behaviour pushes you away is a child who needs connection before anything else.” I do not believe it is impossible for us as a body of church members to do the same thing with our brothers and sisters. In fact, I believe that was among the greatest messages that Jesus taught. If someone is struggling with their testimony, if they are struggling to keep a certain commandment, if they are pushing against the pricks, this is the time when connection and love will make all the difference.

        One of my concerns was that this may be read as “obedience isn’t necessary.” I don’t believe that. I believe our behaviours should model our commitment to Christ and that there is great safety in obeying the commandments. I may not have articulated it well enough, but again, my overall thought is one that stems from my parenting philosophy–love and attachment are more important than behaviour. That’s not to say that I don’t care about my children misbehaving or that I don’t want them to do my will. Quite the contrary. I think raising my children to be responsible people is incredibly important. But where I place the *most* emphasis is on a loving relationship. If my children disobey (and they do…all the time) then the last thing I want to do is to put distance between me and them. I want them to know that no matter what they do, they always have a seat at our table and they can always count on me to be there for them. What I’m learning is that when they feel loved and accepted, and in turn love and accept, they’re far more likely to follow my instructions and lead than when behaviour is my number 1 goal.

        As someone who identifies as fairly Molly Mormon myself (i.e. living the standards, WoW, modesty in dress, etc.), I find great value there. But I know that for myself, when I was going through my own personal faith crisis, it was the feeling of rejection by my Mormon community that made me *want* to change my behaviours and *want* to disobey. Once I felt the love and embrace again of my LDS community, my desire to obey returned. So I guess what I’m saying is that we need to shift the focus. It’s not that we don’t care about obedience and behaviour, it’s that we make sure to put first things first. I think that was Jesus’s exact message.

  2. colleendown

    I accidentally stumbled on this site a few weeks ago and have been pleasantly surprised at the depth and insights of the “young feminists” of today. Thank you for the thoughts in this post–a gentle reminder to of so many important things.

    Reply
  3. Suzzie

    I completely agree with you. I hear all the time in church the phrase “I can be better” implying I can keep my house clean and my kids more perfectly behaved and put a little more effort into having dinner on the table at the ‘right’ the time. And I always cringe because the gospel is not about those things. It’s about being Christ like and the center of that is pure and simple love. Unquestionable and unwavering no matter what the circumstances.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    I have been a member of the church since 1962 but left because even though I agreed with the doctrine I had trouble with all the rules ‘that had nothing to do with Jesus and his teachings. I am back now going to church and still believing but decided if there is to be change it has to come within.So I support you liberal Mormons you are very brave.

    Reply
  5. Harvey

    Your response to a hurtful article is warm, comforting and welcoming. But as nice as it is, Joni Hilton’s article reflects the true thinking in Mormonism. You bid me welcome with open arms, but you are few, and behind you are many who judge harshly, accept begrudgingly, and shun gleefully. The door is closed to me because I sin differently.

    Reply
    • Frank

      I happily join the few who will accept you. Both attitudes in these articles are choices by people, either to live as Christ or not. Find those who love you. They are here, and they will welcome you.

      Reply
  6. Lorrie

    Thoughtful and well-written, especially the references to John 8 and Luke 15. My comment though, is regarding the statement from the responder ‘Abel’, who stated, ” Haven’t any of you women noticed that there are almost no women talked about in the bible…”
    Actually, there are 205 women named in the Bible, and some of these are multiple women bearing the same name, such as ‘Mary’ in the New Testament and ‘Maacah’ (there were 7 separate women by that name) in the Old. In addition to those women who are named, there are over 600 women who are never mentioned by name–Noah’s wife, for example.
    Because so much content in the Bible is centered on men, it is easy for women to feel over-looked and uncared for. There ARE the stories of many men, but I think it’s important to remember that these things took place in a patriarchal culture and time in history. Also, until recently, the bulk of theologians and scholars have been men. Because experience shapes observation, and since the early scholars and church fathers were men, a masculine perspective is to be expected. We, as women, will have a different experience, and therefor, a different perspective AND a different voice.
    There are so many women in the Bible, that when we look at their lives we can see that then, as now, women are intimately connected to the unfolding purpose of God–women of every texture and hue, women who were old, young, childless, mothers, leaders, slaves, prophets, artists, schemers, apostles, queens, military leaders, teachers, AND MORE! Some are named, some are not, but regardless, they are still there!

    Reply
    • Abel

      I guess the point I was trying to make wasn’t made very well with regards to reverence or references toward women in the scriptures. The number I have personally seen more often is closer to 187, but I won’t argue about your statistics. That wasn’t really the point anyway. I was speaking from my perspective, and comparing more than just how many references to women there are in the bible compared to men – which is still relatively small, but I was also thinking about the difference in the amount of content devoted to women versus men, and especially in reference to holy women that were referenced as a good example, instead of for what they did wrong. Either way, none of that had much to do with my point, and actually might have hurt my point – which was trying to show that women hold a spot of general reverence in the minds of most men, including God – especially the ones who exercise faith and reach for righteousness. I believe that women can be both the best and the worst of us, and I have met, and read about, some of both. Some of what I believe could definitely be perspective based, especially when you factor in my point about women holding a special reverence that men don’t have. However, speaking from more than just my own experience, when a women is observed being vulgar, or ruthless, it shocks deeper than when a man is seen doing the same thing, because we have come to expect that kind of behavior from men in general, and because it violates that inner notion that is buried deep within us, that reminds us how women are the more reverent, revered, and nurturing of the two sexes. My other main point was how God has protected our Heavenly Mother in particular from scrutiny and verbal abuse, which is actually something for which I have received personal inspiration. Some women in this group might find the notion of THAT offensive too, but I find it shows a deeper respect and reverence for women in general, and especially with regards to our Heavenly Mother or Mothers. I was very brief and unclear about what I was trying to say in that section, and I felt a little off when I said it, so I have no one to blame but myself for the misinterpretation of my point. I meant that there are few books devoted to women, but NOT because women’s perspectives or views aren’t valuable or valued. Sure, the bible was written during a time that was very patriarchal, but if we start opening up that box, then we get into the debate regarding scriptures mentioning that women were put on this earth to be a helpmeet for their husbands by God, and the patriarchal theme has been there from the beginning of man, and none of us really need to go there. I can’t claim to know God’s plan, or every way that women fit into the eternal scheme of it, but I do believe that women are as important, and even more revered, than their male counterparts – due in large part to their power of creation, and their nurturing dispositions. I wouldn’t call women frail or dainty by any means, but they are generally more emotional and caring creatures than their male counterparts, which also makes them generally more sensitive as well. I can imagine that even though God is hurt and bothered by the slander of his only begotten, he would be far more wrathful at the thought of our heavenly mother being slandered. In addition to why God has given us different roles, I couldn’t tell you why some races seem to suffer more than others, but I am positive that there is a reason that would make sense, if those mysteries were to be revealed to us. Those are some of the mysteries that will be revealed when we are capable of understanding and appreciating them. I also know that a lot of us get hung up on what is “fair” in this world, and what isn’t. If we all thought life should be fair in the preexistence, then we wouldn’t have elected a single person to suffer and die for all of our sins, while we simply reaped the rewards of that sacrifice. If we were really concerned with “fair”, then we would suffer the anguish of our own sins, and there would be no one to make up the difference that would be left when we came up short. We should be focused on how we can be better people, and better examples, and stop getting hung up on who has what, who controls what, and what is “fair”. How many prophets have suffered in the name of the Lord? Did they complain that they were burned in fires, thrown in lions dens, hunted down and killed for their beliefs, or cast into prison after prison for their testimonies of the Savior? NO. Because they knew that life isn’t fair, and it isn’t meant to be fair, and that we must show our worthiness during our greatest trials. It is how we handle unfairness, and the examples that we become as we face adversity, which define us. Those things secure our places in eternity, and we won’t get there by coveting things that we can’t have, or by scoffing at the gifts we have been given by complaining that they are not enough. That doesn’t mean we should just sit down, shut up, and do whatever we are told without question. It only means that we should be humble, open-minded, charitable, full of grace and mercy, and that we should pray with humility and and open mind to find the answers to our questions. We must also keep the commandments of God, while proudly proclaiming our love of, appreciation for, and testimony of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Try reading Luke 6:27-38, and apply it to this Feminist Movement, or even the Liberal Mormons movement. Many of the verses after that can also be interpreted and applied here. Another good one to reference is Matthew Chapter 5, but especially verses 38-48. Anyway, I apologize that my previous point was not clearer, but words take up too much space for proper explanations. So much effort is needed to place the proper meanings behind them, and they are such a difficult way to convey, and then have understood, our true sentiment and understanding. I hope I did a better job of it this time. Thank you for listening, and earnestly praying about these things. Without prayer and the spirit, these are all just words. ^_^

      Reply
  7. Abel

    @amycartwirght – I agree with almost everything you stated in your response. I wasn’t talking about unconditional love in my comments, I was talking about perfect love. None of us here on earth are capable of that. I completely agree with your unconditional love statements, because I too have children that I love no matter what. They too respond better to love and kindness, as is true of almost everyone, but they also require rules, consistency, and structure – like each and every one of us on this planet require, in order to guide us in the right direction, and to protect us from those who would prefer chaos to order. And although it is good and necessary to question and test, in order to learn for ourselves what is true, and what works for each of us in bringing us closer to the Lord and His truth – versus some cookie cutter version of us, we also need to respect that there must be generalized rules and laws to govern us as a group. Every individual must find their own path within the system, but they must also learn to obey the rules that have been established for everyone’s best good. I will use a law of the land example to help make my point. Let’s say that you are an exceptional driver, and that you have catlike reflexes, and fantastic depth perception. Maybe you are a race car driver. Being so exceptional at driving, you could probably drive much faster than most without getting in an accident, weaving in and out of traffic with ease and agility. You might get together with your group of other race car drivers, and push to get the speed limits increased, because you think that everyone should have the right to push the limits of their abilities on the roads. Unfortunately, Joe bad driver, or Jane fearful driver must then try to deal with those new laws that have been imposed on everyone, and they will likely fail and cause accidents. Just because a few people felt constricted by the laws that were placed to meet the general need of the many. Our “lettered” laws in the church are written for the greatest good of the greatest number of members. There will always be those that feel stifled our held back by those laws, who may even want to change the system to meet their own needs, and there will always be those that feel like those laws are unbend-able, and must be adhered to with complete strictness. I believe that it is up to all of us to compromise – to find a happy medium in which we can all strive in harmony toward a common goal – the Celestial Kingdom. That in no way means that you have to fit one particular mold. How boring and terrible that would be. I recognize that there are those strict Mormons who believe that everyone must fit that strict mold, and I believe them to be as wrong in their position, as the “Mormon Feminists” are in theirs. That isn’t to say that neither side has valid points, or that no truths can be found there. It is just to say that being extreme on either side is unproductive, and only acts to tear the very beautiful tapestry that is created when the members of this church are united in their faith – each bringing their unique and individual talents to be weaved into that tapestry. How boring would it be if that tapestry was only gray, when we are forced to follow the same path in the exact same way, with the exact same understanding! The people who are ahead of the game with regards to insight, love, and compassion, should be doing what they can to share their gifts, talents, understanding and insights, with everyone who is willing to listen, and not judge those for what they don’t yet understand, or asking that the generalized rules be changed so that they don’t feel so judged or stifled by those that don’t really get the true messages of the gospel – LOVE, PEACE, FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY. And those who would believe that we should adhere to strict rules in the ways that they perceive is God’s way, should be allowed to see the error of their ways in the Lords time, and in the Lords way. Instead of judging those people back, while listening to Satan whisper that they should feel guilty regarding their own particular struggles that they are currently facing. God doesn’t teach us with guilt, fear, or shame. God teaches with love, peace, and charity – but He still provides rules as a guide to lead us toward the path of true righteousness. That is the wonderful thing about the gospel. It is not organized to force everyone to reach the same point at the same time. It is designed to provide a way for us to each gain the understanding in our own way, at our own pace, with the help and support of like-minded members, without the need for judgment or expectation. The key to remember is that the church is organized for sinners – imperfect people striving for perfection. If we were already perfect in our understanding and our methods, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, because no church would be necessary, and no arguments about how we should follow the Savior would be necessary. My message here was more in answer to those who would try to rebuild the church in their own images, rather than to those who are simply speaking out about their struggles, and/or pleading for some enlightenment or approval. I completely agree with your message of love and acceptance, and I wholeheartedly believe that the spirit you felt in much of your words were confirmed by the spirit, as I believe that much of mine were. It is easy to misunderstand text, due to lack of tone, and different understanding or agreement regarding vocabulary definitions – all semantics. Perhaps I placed my comments in the wrong place on this site, and for that I apologize. I was brought to your particular post by a friend on Facebook, who is struggling to live the gospel principles as they are presented by the Lord, and is being led even farther astray by the “Liberal Mormon” movement – and he shared a link to your post. I saw the group at the top, before reading your post, and I felt like I needed to speak out regarding the way that groups like this are destroying the beautiful fabric of the gospel, just as much as those in the gospel who are living it with complete strictness, while trying to force others to live it the same way that they do. That is how Lucifer suggested that we all be brought back to God, and that plan was rejected from the beginning for very good reasons. I found your post to be mostly wonderful, but much of your comments implied your struggles with the judgments or unkindness’s of strict members, which should not be a reason to support a group like this. I hope that I was more clear with this post, and that you understand that I didn’t intend to lessen your own inspiration and understanding. I love that we are all here to learn at our own pace. The Lord will reveal all truths in His own time, line upon line, precept on precept, here a little, there a little, until we are all capable of complete understanding. I am learning at my own pace, and I would not hold it against anyone who is also attempting to learn at their own pace, only to those who would try to force others to learn at the pace that makes themselves feel more comfortable. Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Julie K.

    Thanks, Ms. Cartwright. Like others have mentioned, you are in the minority, but what you’ve done here is still very meaningful. I appreciate it.

    Reply
  9. Andy

    Abel,

    I get the feeling from your posts that you have not really taken the time to understand Mormon Feminism. It has been a tremendous force for good in the lives of thousands of men and women in the church. Mormon Feminists are very diverse in their thoughts, beliefs, background, etc. because people are diverse. I would recommend listening to your friend to hear why he or she feels the way they do before simply assuming he or she is being “led astray”. In my wife’s case, she has *always* felt the way she has, even from a young age. Mormon Feminism has helped her to *stay* in the church and strengthen her faith and testimony in basic principles because she feels she can finally talk to others who do not instantly judge, criticize, and dismiss her feelings. This has allowed her to successfully navigate a faith crisis which probably would have otherwise ended with inactivity and who knows what else. She now has a much stronger testimony of the gospel, attends church more often, and has stronger faith in her leaders. Even if you do not agree with your friend, it would make a world of difference in their life to have someone listen to their very real feeling and concerns without being judgmental or trying to correct them. I hate to see concerns and entire groups of thousands of faithful members dismissed so easily as if they all fit one easily-definable stereotype.

    Reply
    • mediumharris

      Case in point: “groups like this are destroying the beautiful fabric of the gospel”

      This is just so far from my experience and hurts deeply that someone would even think this. The gospel is about faith, love, and repentance. In out church, you could also say the gospel encompasses saving ordinances and enduring to the end. It is the way back to God and the Celestial Kingdom. I know of absolutely no feminists who would ever even *think* about destroying something as beautiful and profound as the gospel. It is such a vital part of the fabric of their lives that statements like the one quoted above really, truly hurt. This isn’t because truth hurts. This is because people like my wife are still so misunderstood, feared, and criticized at such a fundamental level while at the same time putting forth so much effort to remain faithful *despite* the unChristlike actions of so many fellow brothers and sisters around them.

      Reply
      • mediumharris

        should be “in our church” and “I know of absolutely no Mormon Feminists”. Can’t find a way to edit my post 🙂

      • Abel

        @ mediumharris – I completely understand what you are saying here, but I believe that my point was valid. I am not trying to stereotype anyone, but I have read many posts that come out of this group, and they do mostly have one thing in common – complaints. Complaints about how unfair the Church is, and how there is so many things wrong with the structure of the LDS Church, and how it needs to be changed. They all seem to want it to change to become something that is easier for them to live, so that they can feel better about being a member. Some speak of their testimony of the Savior, but those comments are few and far between compared to the griping that is happening here. In my opinion, all of this griping about the Church draws in more people without testimonies, than it winds up comforting those who do have a testimony. There are many groups out there who will welcome you with open arms, but they are lacking some of the higher laws. I can go find comfort and find no judgment with a group of stoners (marijuana smokers), but that will not get me to my main objective – to live with my Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom. When I was young, I had no testimony of God or Religion, and I had a terrible home life. I was abused both mentally and physically, which led me to great depression and emptiness. I found solace in smoking marijuana with my friends. I was very content doing that, and no one judged me. We all laughed and had a great time together. We all found commonality within our marijuana circle. However, there was always something inside of me that knew I didn’t really belong there. I never felt like that was enough to keep me happy the rest of my life. Eventually I found God, and then the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Once that happened, I knew that I had found my home. Not because the member were awesome, warm, and welcoming, but because God was. The spirit testified the truth of the gospel to me, and the love that God and the Savior had for me. I too struggled with some of the concepts, like not allowing African Americans to hold the priesthood until later than everyone else, or how member could be cruel and judgmental – from Stake Presidents to everyday Church goers. But with thoughtful prayer and study, I came to the understanding that the Gospel is perfect, but its members are not. The structure of the Church is setup, guided, and directed by God and Jesus Christ. It is how it should be at this time, for all of our benefit and struggle. When it is time to adjust that structure, it will be adjusted – in His time, and in His way – as it has been since it was established by Joseph Smith. I feel way more peace and contentment in this Church, even with the judgments and unrighteous dominions that are exercised by members on a regular basis, then I ever did in my pot circles – and they never judged me or made me feel guilty. But you know why that is? Because Satan works in guilt and shame, and the Lord does not. I didn’t feel guilt or shame in my pot circles, because I was right where Satan wanted me, so he allowed me to feel accepted and content. He didn’t need to make me feel crappy or guilty. Once I joined the Church, that all changed, but the joy I feel inside from the spirit, far outweighs any guilt or shame that Satan tries to make me feel – whether from inside myself, or from outside sources. If we all understood that, and we all truly had faith in our Savior and His Church, then we wouldn’t have groups like this filled with members who are trying to tell Christ that He is doing it wrong.

      • amycartwright

        Abel, I think it might be helpful to be familiar with the article this post was responding to. It was quite awful–very judgmental and essentially telling liberal members that they have no place in the Church. I wrote this piece to assure them that Joni Hilton is mistaken and as President Uchtdorf stated so eloquently last conference, there is room for all of us.

    • amycartwright

      Alex, I am much like your wife. If it wasn’t for Mormon Feminist groups, I’m not sure what my story would be but I’m pretty sure I would have fallen into inactivity after experiencing an intense faith crisis. Mormon Feminism has helped me to feel that I have a place in the Church. The idea is not to destroy, just to create space and enlarge the stakes of Zion for the likes of me who have always felt like a bit of a misfit. It has taken me years to embrace that misfit self and see that I am not a misfit to God and God has a work for me to do, too. It just might look different than other people’s, and that’s okay.

      Reply
      • Abel

        @ amycartwright – Since there is no reply button to reply to your most current post, I will reply to that post from under this post. I am actually very familiar with that article. I have read it several times, and I agree with a lot of what she stated. She may have stated it in a way that was offensive to “liberal” Mormons, and she was definitely grossly generalizing in her comments, but I believe that she was very correct regarding the bulk of “liberal” Mormons. I’m sure that will offend people, and I am sorry for that, but that is my opinion. I’m not sure what would lead you to believe that I hadn’t read that article, or why you would think that reading it would suddenly change my mind or my beliefs, but you were mistaken. Sorry. Either way, I don’t see what that has to do with my comments. Did you actually read what I wrote? If so, did you try to read it with an open heart and/or open mind? From your comments it would appear that you missed it entirely. The bulk of my point, in my early posts down to my latest, was that creating a blog where a bunch of people get together and whine about how other fallible human beings (in this case Church members) make them feel judged (which is a non issue if you have a good relationship with the Lord, and you have a true testimony of His Gospel), is leading other investigators away from the Church, and in turn is giving anti-Mormons additional fuel for the rumors and accusations that they want to spread. The Church was structured and is led by Christ. It is run by fallible people. People like you and me. Not perfect beings who do everything right all of the time. The whole point is to learn and be challenged. To grow as individuals, and to be refined along the way. There is no question that there are mistakes that happen, and sometimes they are major mistakes. The Lord promised that He would never allow anyone to lead His Church astray. If you look at our church history, every leader has lead this church in the right direction, which has made it what it is today – with many millions of members in only a few generations. They were fallible men who made their own mistakes, but the direction of our Church was always assured. Our Prophets today are still leading this church with profound spiritual guidance and wisdom. Where is the blog that focuses on all of the great things that the church and its members do? Why are the people here all focused on what is wrong in the church? There are so many things that are right and true in the church, yet most people here are about shaping it into something that would be easier for them to understand, follow, or explain. In Timothy, he states that, “If any of you lack wisdom, let them ask of God, who giveth to all mankind liberally and upbraideth not.” If you are confused, or concerned that this church isn’t being run as it should, then earnestly pray and find the truth. The hardest part is letting go of your own judgments and opinions, submitting to the will of the Father, and letting Him confirm what the truth of the matter is. There are reasons that things are setup the way they are, just like there were reasons that African Americans couldn’t hold the priesthood until it was revealed to be allowed. I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have faith, and I have received my own personal inspirations and revelation with regards to these questions. Some things, though known, if explained to others without them having to find the answer on their own, would seriously hinder their progression. The answers must be found by each of us, through humble prayer – to strengthen our faith, understanding, familiarity with the Holy Ghost, and our relationship with the Lord. If you want the answers, I can only promise you that they are there to be found. Shouting your disapproval to the world is not the way to get them. Nor is gathering a large group together to try and force the leaders of the church to change something to fit within your ideals of what the church should be, without them having the Lord’s approval. It boggles my mind that on one hand you have faith in a Prophet of God, who provides constant revelation and guidance from the Lord. And on the other hand you are stating that the Prophet is incapable of receiving revelation regarding women holding the Priesthood – at least not without your group trying to force him to pray about it. He doesn’t have to ask for every piece of information he gets. When the Lord wants him to know something, you can darn well bet that information will get through! If you don’t get that, then you are a bit off the mark, and you should be working on a way to get back on track. The Lord and His Gospel welcome EVERYONE with open arms, but the fallible people sometimes make that feel untrue. It is not untrue. The open arms you need to worry about are the Lord’s alone, and they are always open to anyone who is willing to repent, try, and give their best efforts to keep His commandments. I can’t say how everyone will be judged, but I do have this testimony: Out of the two laws, both of which are important, God favors those who follow the spirit of the law, over those who simply follow the letter of the law. If you can understand and appreciate that statement, you will find some deep wisdom and additional answers to your questions. The Lord is there with open arms, but we have to get out of that great and spacious building to find Him. Amen.

  10. amycartwright

    Abel, this blog is a group blog with various opinions of various authors. To make blanket statements regarding it is simply ludicrous. As for the purpose of my post, it is simply to say that there are those of us willing to make room for the imperfect, those who sin differently, those who feel lost and alone. The reality is that Joni’s post was Pharisical in nature–a list of rules that if not followed, one is not welcome in her presence. This is the very thing Jesus counseled against. I am disturbed by how much this sort of thinking is perpetuated today and this is the precise reason many do not consider Mormons to be Christian.

    Reply
  11. amycartwright

    Also, per the priesthood ban, I suggest you check out the Church’s most recent release concerning race and the priesthood. In it, you will find that God was not the author of the ban, but fallible human beings with racist beliefs and a turning away from Joseph Smith’s teachings and practices of ordaining black males during his lifetime.

    Reply
    • Abel

      http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/blogalogue/2007/06/mormonism-is-not-christianity.html

      Here is a quote from the above article:
      “…So, what does Mormonism reject? The orthodox consensus of the Christian church is defined in terms of its historic creeds and doctrinal affirmations. Two great doctrines stand as the central substance of that consensus. Throughout the centuries, the doctrines concerning the Trinity and the nature of Christ have constituted that foundation, and the church has used these definitional doctrines as the standard for identifying true Christianity.
      The Mormon doctrine of God does not correspond to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Mormonism rejects the central logic of this doctrine (one God in three eternal persons) and develops its own doctrine of God – a doctrine that bears practically no resemblance to Trinitarian theology…”

      Amy,
      I’m not sure if it is a reading comprehension issue, a lack of study and spiritual understanding, or if you are being deceived by the wrong inner voice. Maybe it’s a combination of all three, but you are a bit off the mark on both of your points, and you didn’t really address mine. As far as the “precise” reason you stated regarding why other Christian faiths don’t believe that LDS members are “Christian”, it has nothing to do with the “Pharisical nature of its members”. It is because we don’t believe in the Trinity – plain and simple. There may be additional arguments to support their reasoning, but those arguments are all secondary to their main point. And just because we believe that God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three different beings, instead of one split personality, they don’t believe that we are Christians. I challenge you to find a support argument to the contrary. You can do a simple Google search to easily find that answer. If you had instead stated that you believe that most members LEAVE the church due to the Pharisical nature of many of its members, I would have probably agreed with you, but that still doesn’t counter my point. On the contrary. It actually adds to my point. People can actually be a member, and still be in the large and spacious building referred to in Lehi’s vision at the same time – shouting judgments and pointing out the flaws of others. How is that different from what you are doing here? Do you think your reasons are better? Do you think that your are spewing righteous judgments, so it makes it okay? The fact that members are judgmental only confirms that people are imperfect, and in need of the Gospel to help them find perfection. It doesn’t change the fact that the gospel is perfect, despite those members who fail to follow it properly. It also doesn’t change my belief in the fact that all of you complaining online about every issue that you have with the Church, is actually doing more harm than good. I am not saying that none of you have the right to question, discuss, and prayerfully seek the answers to your questions. On the contrary. I believe wholeheartedly that you should always seek for answers and greater knowledge. But you can do that in a private group, or in a humble personal prayer. And while you are searching for the tough answers, you should also be reminding yourself of the confirmation of basic Gospel principles. You must always remember the testimony that you received when the spirit testified to you the truth of the Gospel, of the Book of Mormon, baptism by immersion, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of Priesthood hands. It is easy for that to fall by the wayside when you delve into the deeper mysteries. As for African Americans and the Priesthood, there is too much to post about here. I did read the article released on LDS.org listed below, as well as many more articles related to it. I find it gratifying that our Church doesn’t hide its members flaws or try to cover them up. In fact they are willing to post the rectifications of those flaws on their own public sites. That says a lot about who they are, and what they are about. I can’t say for sure whether Africans not being able to hold the Priesthood until 1978 was due to member mistakes, political pressure, or God’s will. I can say that the church doesn’t change their policies without direct revelation from God. They might not have been able to receive that revelation earlier, even if they had wanted to. God provides revelation in his time, and in his way. God doesn’t bow to political pressure, but He has also promised to protect His Church and its members, and He knows what moves to make to enforce that promise. As far as you know, He didn’t allow Africans to hold the Priesthood until the world was ready for it. He heard their cries, and he answered them in His time, in His way, and through His church led by His perfect understanding. Can any other church say that? How many other “Christian” churches actually practiced segregation during that time? The LDS church never practiced segregation, not even in Brigham Young’s day. If the leaders truly believed that Africans were “second class”, or “cursed”, then why did they allow them to integrate fully in every other way? It was a very difficulty topic, which in my experience clouds ones ability to properly receive inspiration and/or revelation. Maybe the Lord was trying to reach them for a while before, but they couldn’t hear Him with all of their personal, imperfect feelings on the matter getting in the way. I don’t have all of those answers, but I do have faith. It all boils down to faith and trust. I know that the Lord is leading this church in the right direction. I know that He provides us with inspiration and revelation, both personal and doctrinal. I can look back on church history and see where He has NOT allowed this church to be led astray. That isn’t to say that He hasn’t allowed prophets to make mistakes, or to voice opinions that are contrary to actual church doctrine. It is to say that the church has been guided through tremendous adversity, both from outside and from within, to become a force for good in this messed up world. Do you have faith that the Lord is leading His church in the right direction? Do you trust Him? Are you willing to submit to His will, and trust that He will never lead you or His church down the wrong path? If so, then you can stop focusing on the fact that other people in the church make mistakes, and stop throwing stones like you aren’t one of them. You can also stop thinking that if your group places enough political pressure on the church, that it will suddenly allow women to hold the priesthood. If that is meant to happen one day, it will only happen through revelation. I can guarantee that the Lord’s prophets will receive that revelation if or when the Lord decides it is time, and in no other way. I find it humorous and hypocritical that your group can grossly generalize members of the church and their behaviors or mistakes, but you won’t stand for gross generalizations of the Church’s members towards your own group – like from Joni Hilton or myself. As for your particular “Open Arms” post, I considered it to be very mild compared to many others in your group. I also felt the spirit in some of your statements. As I stated way before, I didn’t post a response to your post directly so much, as I did for the entire group itself. Your post was still full of complaints, all due to member mistakes and having nothing to do with actual church doctrine, but I recognized that you were trying to make a good point. It would be wonderful if all church members could be less judgmental, and more welcoming. If we were all perfect members, all sorts of things would be better. That being said, we would no longer need the church if everyone was already perfect. It is here to help the imperfect work towards perfection, you included. It would also be nice if disgruntled members didn’t post all of their issues about other members in public forums, so that any investigators aren’t turned off by them, and instead are provided the opportunity to listen to that still, small, peaceful voice of truth, without negative members complaints getting in their way. It would also keep additional fuel out of the hands of Atheists who would like nothing better than to destroy what the Gospel stands for. But your group is afforded the same rights to free will and mistakes that every other member has, so here it sits.

      Here is the link to the publicly expressed priesthood information that you were talking about. I didn’t find anything in it that actually proved the point you were trying to make. If there is a better source that proves more of your point, feel free to post it, and I would be happy to read it:

      http://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

      Reply
  12. amycartwright

    Abel,

    My comment, ” this is the precise reason many do not consider Mormons to be Christian” was referring to the issue of grace vs. works. I have many Christian friends and their reasoning for not considering us to be Christian are two-fold: our doctrine of theosis and our emphasis on works rather than on the grace of Christ. Trinitarian vs. corporeally separate beings isn’t really a deal-breaker for them (with the exception of the fact that three separate beings leads in to our doctrine of theoisis).

    As for the rest of your comments, I do not feel the need to address your concerns with this blog as a whole. Again, this is a group blog. We have 26 authors. The point of a group blog is to put forth a display of the diversity of those who identify as young, Mormon, and feminist. As you can see, this means different things to different people and our lives look different (i.e. I am one of the few authors who is a stay-at-home mother with young children. Many of the authors are students. Many are young professionals. Some are still preparing for missions, others have returned. Diversity). If you have a problem with some of the content of the other posts, you are welcome to discuss particular issues you see with their points under the particular post that addresses those issues.

    In regards to my post in particular, my point is not to put on display the judgements of others or to call them out. You’ll notice that I spent very, very little time talking about Joni Hilton’s post. I referred to it (as this was meant to be a response to another online forum, Meridian Magazine) but beyond that, generally left it alone and attended to my own points. My hope is that this could be a model for how to deal with everyone’s sins. Yes, we see them. Yes we don’t agree with them. But after that, move on, live your life, live by the Spirit, the end.

    Reply

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