not in Primary anymore

two churches

Sometimes I feel like I belong to two churches.

First I belong to the church that was founded by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith, who as a 14-year-old boy, felt uncomfortable with the popular teachings of the time and took his questions to God in prayer. Who came out of the grove of trees with a remarkable story of being visited by God and refused back down from his story, even when it would have been easier to keep his words to himself. As he said, “I knew it, and I knew God knew it, and I could not deny it.” Many people probably thought he was crazy, or deluded, or misguided. They may have even thought he was being led by Satan. This did not stop him.

In today’s church, we’ve become a church of conformists. There is a strong emphasis on obedience and on following our leaders. Some popular quotes from general authorities include “Obedience is the first law of heaven” and “When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done.” We are told that we are all capable of receiving our own personal revelation, but it is not emphasized.

In the early church, they recognized and valued the input of the young, not just the old and wise. Joseph Smith was only 24 years old when he officially organized the church, and many of the early converts called to leadership positions were in their 20s or even teens. Early accounts show that part of the charm of Joseph Smith was his sense of humor and fun; there are stories of him playing ball, running footraces, and wrestling.

Today, the majority of our leaders are in their 70s, 80s, even 90s. Don’t get me wrong, I believe they are inspired men, but the things a 75-year-old thinks are important are often very different than the things a 25-year-old thinks are important. I see this when people my age speak their mind and are labelled as fringe thinkers, and I often feel in my YSA ward that we are treated as as extension of Young Women and Young Men and not valued as full adults.

In the early church, they were not afraid to experiment with new and untested ideas. The early saints tried out the radically new idea of communal living in the Law of Consecration, nearly a century before communism did. They challenged current race relations by being abolitionists, and several black men were even ordained to the priesthood in Joseph’s day. They challenged the social norms associated with monogamy and experimented with polyandry and polygyny. They built a temple in Nauvoo and began performing an endowment ceremony which was unlike any religious ceremony being done at the time.

In today’s church, we tend to lean very conservative. We were behind the times in race relations (I’m told there is a BYU manual being used even today that discourages interracial marriage). Our elected officials are among the most conservative in the country, voting against anything that looks even remotely like socialism. In 2008 we became infamous for our unquestioning loyalty to “traditional marriage” between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all other forms of marriage.

In the early church we were once on the forefront for women’s rights. Women in Utah were given the vote a half century before the rest of the country. Mormon women were becoming doctors, running for office, working in journalism, and doing business outside the home long before these occupations became socially acceptable for women in the rest of the country. The Female Relief Society was organized as a “kingdom of priests” before any other churches began to push for women’s ordination.

In today’s church stay at home motherhood is touted as the ideal for women. Women are encouraged get a college education “just in case” rather than for a career, and women such as Kate Kelly who push for more equal treatment for women are threatened with church discipline.

In the early church the heavens were opened for all to see. There are accounts of angels, of speaking in tongues, and of heavenly visions. New revelations were received frequently, and while revelation for the whole church was received by the prophet it was often prompted by others asking questions, as in the case of Emma Smith and the coming about of the Word of Wisdom.

In today’s church I know that people still have spiritual experiences, but they tend to stay silent about them. New revelations are few and far between (or if they are more frequent, we are not told of them), and always seem to be top down, rather than the bottom up that we used to get.

Putting these two churches together, side by side, they can be hard to reconcile; it is hard to believe that they are in fact the same church. And yet I do see glimpses of the early church in today’s church. I see members who are willing to go against the grain and do things that are unpopular with their neighbors because their conscience tells them to. I see bishops who are making an effort to include all people, not just the ones who fit a certain mold, and individual members who reach out to their ostracized neighbors, be they black, poor, feminist, gay, disabled, transgender, or otherwise different from the norm. I see groups like Ordain Women who are ready and waiting to receive further light and knowledge from God. And it is these glimpses that give me hope for the future.

18 Responses to “two churches”

  1. Sweeney

    Hey look, it’s FWJ being a know it all again- he still knows everyone’s hearts and intentions. Well, I’ll give myself your power by calling you out for what you are- a stumbling block to further light and knowledge. Sorry buddy, but times, they are a-changing. Love it, hate it, accept it, deny it, but that’s your soon-to-be reality: a better world. Best to come to terms with it. Good luck! And I say that sincerely.

    • L.

      Sweeney, your statement sounds eerily similar to the statements that Elder Christopherson made just in April’s General Conference.

    • Anonymous

      And you are kidding yourself if you think it is not how church leaders feel today. With the internet they have had to start saying oh yeah read, study etc. In reality that is not what they want. Forgive my abruptness, but I am a member who learned, after much study and prayer, that the church I loved my entire life is not true. Most days I’m just very sad, but sometimes I also get angry at all the deceptions etc.

  2. Lurk

    General comment: Have y’all thought of tightening up your comment guidelines? Almost every post has a top-comment meant to stir up trouble. I’d sure like this blog more if the comment section fostered discussion rather than trolling, and sometimes the only way to create that space is to ban repeat offenders.

  3. Kristen

    I believe that God speaks to the prophet and I believe President Monson is a true prophet of God. If God were to reveal to President Monson that priesthood should be given to women, he would. However, that has not been revealed yet and we as women have our own powers. We have the power to create. What greater power is this? What greater power and gift could we ask for? Yet here we are as women, wanting more. I know that Joseph Smith restored the gospel and I know just as surely that President Monson receives correct and true revelation for our church today. Our church is unique out of all other churches because we believe in modern revelation. How the church is designed is by and of God, it is in the Doctrine and Covenants. If one does not believe that President Monson or the church is doing right by not allowing women to have the priesthood, than it is like saying that God doesn’t know what he is doing. This is the Lord’s church. Not ours. If this is the way it is to be, we must TRUST in Him, believe that we will receive all..and we will because he has promised that to us. Read Dallin H. Oaks talk from April 2014 conference, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood”. This is an apostle of the Lord! He is a witness of CHRIST. His words are from God, just as all the other general conference talks, scriptures, and church doctrine are the word of God. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s church. It is TRUE. Believe and TRUST in his PLAN for US.

  4. Mean Bob

    I think the fact that we can have these dialogues indicates that we all want truth. That is the essence of being Mormon, after all. But I do think there is a disconnect between some poorly performing leadership who are too patriarchal and those women who then say, by extension, that this is the entire church. If there are people who err in their behavior towards women, I think they should be openly pointed out, but saying that a world view of women and men has to be superimposed upon the church is absolutely apostate and is simplywomen and men deciding the nature of god. My wife has always been a feminist and was Episcopalian when we married. She is a professor of Anthropology and her initiation into the church was Relief Society. She admired and loved the division of labor model we had and said it fit her way of thinking and joined up. It is odd, she fights for the rights of all, but she never questions the authority whereby the church was founded and thus, she always supports the prophet. Now, she will go straight to the Bishop and tell him to lay off, and that is how is should be done: face to face, openly between persons in conflict, let them work it out. Marshalling forces in secret or the open to try and sway “opinion” to bring about change is not revelation. Do not deceive yourself into thinking so. The idea that the church has become something different is worth exploring, but revelation is not, and never has been, people dialoguing about what they want the world to look like. Every other church changes based on what its people want, not what god tells them. If you want a people based church, attend something else–and that is not being mean spirited, I am simply saying if you do not believe this church, by all means, find a religion you agree with. After all, in the early church it was enunciated quite plainly that all should worship according to their personal beliefs.

  5. Ruby

    Man, I don’t know how you deal with all these people. However, I am so glad they are reading these posts, even if it is to come back against you with full force. You are planting a seed in their hearts and one day, an experience, a thought, a moment will remind them of what they read on your blog and perhaps their hearts will change. I am really happy they are reading your enlightened thoughts because not only are they adding to your number of views but they are also going to crack one of these days. Cheers friend! I want the same church I fell in love with years ago when I converted and I would love to be treated as an equal within a religion that fully supports men and discourages women simultaneously. I would also like to be able to express my beliefs without people believing I am an apostate. I have worked hard for this church and it is JUST AS MUCH mine as it is the Pharasees.

  6. JoeHammer

    If you think the Temple Ordinance from Nauvoo “was unlike any religious ceremony being done at the time,” you should look into the Freemasons.

    • Megan Howarth

      A previous draft of this did include the Masons, but I ended up taking it out of the final draft since they are not actually a religion.

    • Anonymous

      Amen JoeHammer. But they won’t look into it because they are told to just keep drinking the kool aid and stay in step. I am not trying to start an argument, I just would encourage everyone to really look into the church’s history. I bet the majority of those reading this have no idea of why Joseph Smith was in Carthage. It had nothing to do with his so called new religion.


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