Sunday, November 3, 2013

In Response to the Controversial Meridian article "Are You a Liberal Mormon."

Big Sigh. That's the response of most of us liberals when we read this kind of stuff. Others, like me, get out the lap top. In Joni Hilton's diatribe, rant, or whatever you want to call it, she got a few things right, but none of the motivations. We aren't lazy sinners (See Pres. Uctdorf's last conference message). We are frustrated though and this was just another article from a fellow Mormon to remind us why.

 Joni’s words from the article are in italics. “…Liberal Mormon.”It meant people who were of our faith, but who drew their own lines in the sand. They decided which aspects of our faith to accept or reject, from honoring the Sabbath to wearing less than modest clothing. Basically, it described people who were members of convenience. When they didn’t like something the Prophet said, they felt perfectly fine skirting around that one, and writing their own rules.

As my husband likes to say, we all have our favorite sins, liberal thinkers and by-the –book-thinkers alike. I consider myself, not only liberal religiously, but also politically. Joni assumes we all wear “immodest clothing.” Well, I don’t have the right kind of body that anyone would want to see too much of, including myself, so no biggie there. Besides, up until the hot-flashes started a few years ago, I was cold all the time. So unless you’re in my bathroom, you won’t see more than a few inches of skin. And the Sabbath—well as far as I know that one was covered by Jesus when he said, “the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath." So it’s between me and Jesus on how I keep the day holy. Joni’s right about writing our own rules. We all do. Or you could call it setting priorities. Another word for it is personal revelation. But Joni criticizes that one too.
Here’s something to chew on from a couple of our prophets, Harold B. Lee and Brigham Young. The LDS church believes apostolic revelation to be inspired, but not infallible. Lee wrote, "We consider God, and him alone, infallible; therefore his revealed word to us cannot be doubted, though we may be in doubt some times about the knowledge which we obtain from human sources, and occasionally be obliged to admit that something which we had considered to be a fact, was really only a theory." Leaders are still considered regular people with "their opinions and prejudices and are left to work out their own problems without inspiration in many instances." Brigham Young taught "the greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord." Members are taught to rely on the Holy Ghost to judge, and if a revelation is in harmony with the revealed word of God, it should be accepted.

Liberal Mormons are more slippery. They often attend church, but they’re the ones who dodge Gospel Doctrine class because the teacher is “so by-the-book.” This criticism is meant to imply that he’s a dolt who never questions anything, so why should I attend a class taught by someone so narrow-minded?

She’s right. We are slippery. She says we dodge Gospel Doctrine class because the teacher is “so-by-the-book.” What she doesn’t say is that we’re really doing is selling dope to the fourteen-year-olds who are also skipping class. Yes, we’re all behind the church, behind the bushes leading our little ones down a dark path. Or we could be skipping Gospel Doctrine class, not because the teacher is “so-by-the-book” but because he or she is interpreting the gospel in a way that doesn’t come from the manual. It might include rants about the moral decay of our society (code for we have a Democrat president.) Or the political slants may not come from the teacher at all, but from comments in the class condemning different classes or even races of people. She says that we are “members of convenience.” There actually isn’t anything convenient about having to be on guard the whole time you are at church lest someone make a derogatory remark about the president of the U.S.—and yes this has happened too. (P.S. Our ward has good GD teachers and yes they are on my Facebook so know this doesn’t mean you or you or you, but it happens.) And then there’s my liberal friends who are gay who dare to show up to church, and my single friends, divorced friends, widowed friends. It’s not so convenient for them. It's actually very inconvenient and yet, they are brave enough to believe that the church includes them. 

They disagree with several points in the Proclamation to the World, say no to callings that insult their intelligence, and create their own spin on how God will ultimately judge us (very leniently, usually). They think bikinis are fine, iced tea is a tasty drink, and R-rated movies are often artistic and worth seeing.

Hmm. This is a hard one. I do disagree with several points in the Proclamation. I don’t consider it Christ-like enough. It isn’t inclusive of all types of families, those led by single parents for example, and yes, I believe that my LGBT friends have a place in the gospel, too. By focusing on the proclamation, some are left feeling broken. (Yeah, I know sounds liberal. right?)
Yes, I have said no to callings, not because they “insult my intelligence” but because again, I’m entitled to personal revelation. And this spin you talk about on how God will judge us—there’s another word for that too—it’s called the Atonement. I wouldn’t know how tasty iced tea is, but I have seen quite a few R rated movies. I follow what it says in the “Strength for Youth” on that and choose media that is uplifting. Yes, it is possible. The rating doesn’t tell you the overall content of a movie at all. I’ve turned off plenty of raunchy stuff during primetime TV, then gotten out one of my “artsy” Netflix R rated subtitled moves and cried because it was uplifting, enlightening, and “worth seeing.” Not that it's anyone's business besides mine. 

Invariably liberal Mormons do not read their scriptures every day. They do not attend the temple, they do not show up to help someone move, and they do not Home Teach or Visit Teach with regularity. They view those who do as quaint minions who never question authority and who follow the rules like mindless sheep. The one thing they do subscribe to with gusto, however, is free agency. In fact, free agency is their justification for the Designer Gospel they have refurbished to suit their individual tastes.

Wow! This paragraph just blows my mind. If the author had been reading her scriptures, I’m not sure where she would have found anything telling her it was okay to judge others on these details, but should have found plenty to tell her otherwise, unless the truly righteous have a whole set of scriptures I’m not familiar with. Temple attendance—same thing. Whether or not we visit or home teach—again same thing. However this one, I can truly argue with. And the moving thing, too.  But she’s right about free agency—we are big on that one—and if I’m not mistaken--so was Jesus and Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, right on down to President Monson. It’s actually one of the church’s selling points. The Designer Gospel, well yeah, she’s got me on that one because I also believe in another liberal ideal that we do harp on a lot, called personal revelation.

I’m skipping some of the Meridian article, so make sure you read the whole thing. But I’ll end with this gem.

Living in the gray area, the fringe, takes little– if any– effort. Like laziness, it spawns rationalization, something the obedient never have to worry about. The dedicated members don’t have to excuse or explain themselves; they simply continue working, inching along on the path Christ outlined. Only when we stray do we feel we have to justify our choices. Perhaps that’s one way to tell if you’re at risk. Only the Liberal Mormons feel the need to explain their twist on faith.

I’m wondering if she read my essay called “Living in theGray.” But if she had, she might understand that there is nothing easy about it. My own personal struggles to hang on to faith in spite of the constant marginalization by those who feel like their own brand of Mormonism is more superior to mine, is anything but easy. The true difficulty is not that some of us are fringe “liberals” and others are holding fast to the iron rod, it’s that we’re all too quick to draw our own lines in the sand, and not reach out to those who seem different than us. The irony in this last paragraph is that Jesus is the one who said, “My burden is easy, and my yoke is light.” He’s the one who told us following him would be easy and that the gospel came down to two simple commandments; Love God and love your neighbor and on these, hang all the commandments. I'm trying to remember that. 

Where was the writer of this article during PresidentUctdorf’s message this last conference? Here’s just a few excerpts: “Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.

In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.”

To those who have separated themselves from the Church, I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.

Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.

Some might ask, “But what about my doubts?”

It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.

Ok, me again. Also, be sure to read Elder Causse: In this Church there are no strangers and no outcasts. There are only brothers and sisters. The knowledge that we have of an Eternal Father helps us be more sensitive to the brotherhood and sisterhood that should exist among all men and women upon the earth.” (end quote)

By the time I finished writing this epistle or sermon or whatever you want to call it, my very liberal perhaps even “left-wing, liberal pinko” (one of my conservative father’s favorite phrases) heart has been moved to feel compassion for Joni Hilton. I’m sure, she’s had plenty of time to re-think her position. In all honesty, even though Meridian claims that it slipped through their editorial process, it seems it wasn’t very different from other stuff they have written, just a little more here and there until it’s a slippery slope of hateful spew. The problem is that it’s very divisive and not at fitting of any magazine that claims to be about the teachings of the Jesus Christ. So Joni, it’s ok. We all make mistakes and sometimes let our heads lead without remembering our hearts. So if I meet you somewhere along life’s journey, I really do have empathy for you. Maybe someday we could actually have a pleasant conversation. I hope so.