Saturday, April 30, 2016

Suffering Shame for His Name


Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
—Acts 5:29


There's a mistaken idea that all those who leave, or are expelled from, the LDS church are weak in faith, deficient in commitment, ignorant of doctrine, unwilling to sacrifice, or in other ways sub-standard church members.

Though this idea is false, it was most recently publicly proclaimed by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve. In response, my sister-in-law, Annette Larsen, wrote the following. I think her perspective is worth sharing.


Dear Elder Holland,

Let me first start by saying that over the years of your membership in the quorum of the twelve, I have taken great insights, great wisdom, and great solace from many of your talks. The times when you have taken a parable, or a passage of scriptures from Christ’s life and expounded upon it, shedding light on the situation and the humanity of those moments, I have found to be deeply profound. So it has been with a heavy heart that I have seen you over the past several years, becoming frustrated, angry and maybe even a little bit hostile with those that may disagree with you or the church.

I saw a link this morning to an amateur recording of a talk that you gave at a Tempe Arizona devotional. The recording was only 15 minutes long and is labeled as ‘part 3′ of the talk. I wasn’t able to find parts 1 and 2 but in the 15 minutes you covered several things, so I believe I understand the context of the remarks that I heard. Like many of your talks, there were moments when you opened the scriptures and pointed out some great truths. 

You spoke of Christ asleep on the ship while the storm raged. You pointed out what kind of utter exhaustion the Lord must have been feeling in order to sleep through such a squall. You pointed out that his whole life was filled to the brim with people following after him and asking things of him, and how that must have made him deeply exhausted for much of his life as he gave his all, literally his all.

But there were also moments when you spoke of those who have, or those who are, leaving the church. The reason that I listened to the talk in the first place was because of this quote which was highlighted by the person who posted it:
Don’t you dare bail! I am so furious with people who leave this church! I don’t know whether ‘furious’ is a good apostolic word. But I am. What on earth kind of conviction is that? What kind of patty-cake, taffy-pull experience is that? As if none of this ever mattered, as if nothing in our contemporary life mattered, as if this is all just supposed to be “just exactly the way I want it and answer every one of my questions and pursue this and occupy that and defy this – and then maybe I’ll be a Latter-Day Saint”?! Well, there’s too much Irish in me for that.
I was taken aback by your fury. I was taken aback by the way that you turned people like me into the butt of your joke. Each time you railed on those who leave the church, it was amid a chorus of laughter from your audience. You suggested that anyone who was ‘on the boat’ and decided to get off was stupid. In the quote above you seem to be suggesting that anyone who leaves the church is weak, without conviction, and selfish. I wonder if you think that it was a taffy-pull experience for me to step away from the church when I knew the damage it would cause. I wonder if you think it was easy for me to let go of years—a life-time worth—of belief and habit and yes, conviction. Do you think I shrug and say, ‘oh well’ when my mother cries for what I’ve done? Do you think I am unhurt by the friendships and community that I have lost?

To leave behind the only community I’ve ever felt a part of outside of my family was something I agonized over. It was gut wrenching to even consider that what I had believed—every comforting thought about my standing before God due to my membership—might not be right.  Or at least that it might not be everything.

You say you are furious. Perhaps then, you might have some empathy for the betrayal and fury that I felt. You may not agree with my decision, but perhaps you can at least understand the emotion. It was no patty-cake, no taffy-pull. It drove a wedge between me and many people I love. Nothing but a belief that I am doing what the Lord would have me do would have incited me to do something so obviously prone to hurt me and those around me.

Perhaps you might consider that the mockery and disdain you show toward those of us leaving the church gives us no incentive to return. I for one still have much love and tender feelings toward the church, but it’s difficult to hold on to those when you so openly speak of your disgust for people like me. Those who join the church against their families' wishes are lauded as heroes because of the faith and conviction it took for them to make that choice. So perhaps you might consider some compassion for those of us who desperately want to please our families but have had to choose to please God instead.

We are each on our own journey back to the Lord. We each have different lessons to learn and different paths to tread. So while my journey may be different than yours, I will still wish you God speed, and I would ask you to allow me to go in peace.

You said leaving the boat would be “the dumbest thing you can do.” Perhaps for some of us, this is the sacrifice that the Lord has asked of us. Perhaps we need that experience, that refiner's fire as we are tossed on the sea, so that we might gain the faith to walk on water.

Annette Larsen

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A closing note:

I realize we all say things sometimes that we regret later. Therefore I hope Elder Holland's off-hand comment doesn't represent his true feelings, nor the view of the LDS church. And if it does, I hope Annette's letter will help both he and the church come to greater understanding of those who love the Lord—not an organization—above all else.


And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
—Acts 5:41


29 comments:

  1. What kind of flim flam ding dong ding a ling laffy taffy piddly paddly butterscotch wing ding yahoo leaves the church??

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  2. What kind of piddly winks, paddy cake, salt water taffy, give the dog a bone is that? I'm ******* pissed you all left the church! Who gives a gosh golly darn taffy pull hot dog breakfast what you believe or what kind of double Dutch jump rope questions and "doubts" you have? As if any of that matters for a golly darn minute!

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  3. My husband had this insight after listening to the talk, I thought it was worth adding here:

    This is the effect when the Lord withdraws his spirit from the leadership, which I believe began in April 2014. Now he can attack with vitriol the people that have left his institution. The image of him sitting atop the great and spacious building came to mind as I listened to him, also filled with those laughing in the background at the conviction less fools who have left. If only he knew the sacrifice required to admit your errors and let go of beliefs you've held to for years. It takes serious conviction to do that--

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    1. I so utterly agree ..... True .... The Lord spirit has withdrawn

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  4. You're a poet of the generously-caffeinated and terminally-cheerful variety, Anonymous. There are already bubbles of joy aplenty here but just imagine these little outpourings being sung? A younger generation would be tempted to slip "freakin'" or "fetchin'" into the mix as well.

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  5. Thank you for sharing such a sweet reply. Kind words turn away the wrath. Like you, I have been excommunicated because of my beliefs. I asked to remain a member, but was exed despite. Now people say I left the church. This reply expresses a lot of the feelings of my heart.

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  6. This is great. I wish I could post it on my wall. I have been laughing over these first 2 comments for 5 minutes now, as well.

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  7. We can only comment based on our family's experience.

    We had been life time, active, full-tithe paying, returned missionary, temple married, temple attending, sending our sons on missions, serving members when we were summoned to a disciplinary council almost a year ago.

    We presented our case that even though we knew they disagreed with what we believe, we would be agreeable to be limited to setting up and taking down chairs, cleaning the chapel and we would continue to pay a full tithing if they would allow us to remain members of the Church. We would continue to attend church in silence as we had been doing for a while and continue to support our sons on missions. We loved and continue to love the members of our ward. We enjoyed our association with them.

    We had never committed any moral transgression nor had we done anything dishonest or been in violation of our temple covenants. In fact the reason we were called to the council is that we were called in by our stake president and we did not want to be dishonest with him so when he asked if we had been re-baptized we answered yes. We were completely honest and open with him. He was our accuser at the council and used what we had answered to him in our interviews with him as the basis for excommunicating us.

    They excommunicated my wife and I and our oldest son in two disciplinary councils the same evening.

    We only relate this because when we read Elder Holland's words we were troubled that an authority of the LDS Church would so flippantly refer to any honest and searching individual as someone stupid and lacking in conviction.

    Before our excommunication we had already had a sampling of how we would be treated by our extended families.

    Believe us it is not a taffy pull to consider facing the rejection and shunning of family and friends. We have lived in the area we are in for 20 years. We have raised all of our kids here in this same ward. We were one of the oldest families in the ward. The shunning was hard. A member of the stake presidency and the bishop of our ward announced our excommunication in a special meeting the second hour of the block to all of the adult members of the ward the Sunday following our excommunication.

    The point is that our experience indicates to us that in the LDS Church today you are considered to lack conviction and faith not only for leaving or being kicked off of the "boat" but also if you do not believe exactly what those in leadership tell you to believe and nothing more.

    We agree with Sister Larsen. Statements like the ones Elder Holland made in Arizona and actions of leaders and members in our case cause us not to want to be a member of the LDS Church ever again. We hope that actions against us in our area and Elder Holland's comments are not representative of the entire Church.

    We believe in Christ and have found such great joy now as we are free to follow Him.

    We would invite members and leaders of the LDS Church to have great compassion and understand what kind of conviction it takes for any individual to face the potential shunning of family and friends as they seek answers to questions and seek to follow the Lord's voice on their journey in mortality. That can be a very lonely road indeed as far as mortal association is concerned.

    Jon and Tina

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    1. Follow the teachings of Christ and not the confused version of men.

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  8. Adrian

    Was this letter sent (I hope) to Elder Holland? Or is there a way to see that he reads it?

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    1. I haven't sent it to him, mostly because I doubt it would actually get to him. But perhaps I should look into it.

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  9. the rest of JRH's talk , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4_LcENySzQ

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  10. Jon and Daryl, our situation mirrors yours. My wife and I have been excommunicated for no greivous sin. If fact, my stake president admitted to me that I had committed no sin. We plead to remain members in the church and to sustain the brethren in their callings, but that wasn't enough, we had to say that they were prophets, seers, and revelators. It was not ok to question that. We hold no bitterness, but it does sadden me to see comments from the 12, such as this, that poke fun at those whom are accused of 'leaving' without understanding the incredible sacrifice that many have been called upon by the Spirit of the Lord to make. We love the Lord. His will matters, man's does not.
    Adrian, thank you for sharing. God bless! May we learn to love and forgive.

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    1. Glemser Family,

      Would you be willing to share what exactly was the reason given for your excommunication?

      I'm seeing more and more posts like yours. I'd like to understand better what's happening.

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  11. My experience is also very different to what Elder Holland described. http://upwardthought.blogspot.com/2016/02/i-have-been-excommunicated-from-lds.html

    I will say that, despite the fact that me and my friends are certainly not a match for what Elder Holland describes, perhaps he is describing the much more numerous segment of generally ignorant church members who resign as soon as one seemingly incongruent historical item is brought to their attention. That doesn't excuse Holland's remarks, but it would make for a different rebuttle. Here is one short attempt: Maybe there wouldn't be so many spiritual weak members of the church if something besides platitudes and cover-ups were preached over the last 75 years...

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  12. Here is another good post observing Elder Holland's remarks over on patheos.com

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kiwimormon/2016/05/tyler-glenn-and-jeffery-holland-the-power-and-the-limits-of-anger/

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  13. Like many of you, I was excommunicated for refusing to testify that I KNEW (having received a revelation from God) that the Brethren in charge were "prophets, seers and revelators," pledging to do WHATEVER they tell me to do, right or wrong (in my eyes).

    That being said, I wish to address this idea of "shame" for Christ's sake, perhaps with a little twist.

    One of the most difficult things we are called upon to do is confess our sins. Perhaps I am different from you. Perhaps I have sinned more than you have. (I normally don't think of myself as a sinner, but lately I've been reminded of my sins -- especially grave sins in my past, of which I've completely repented -- and the accusation is troubling to me, to say the least. When is one's penance enough? When is "shaming" done away?

    Shaming? Yes.

    I stood beside the waters of baptism recently and listened to a man I respect prepare to undergo the ordinance. But first, he had to confess his sins. He didn't bother with the "run-of-the-mill" variety confession that "I'm by no means perfect," etc. Rather he sucked it up and said what needed to be said: "I'm guilty of viewing pornography and masturbation."

    Nobody took up rocks that morning to throw at him. (Perhaps it worked in his favor that we were all standing on beach sand!) But I was touched by his honesty and humility. You could tell that his confession palpably HURT him to make. He was ASHAMED.

    But he "suffered" it anyway...because he loved Christ more.

    Those who partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life are INVARIABLY required to confess and CONTINUE to confess their sins (which are MANY!) throughout their lives. They (like Alma Jr.) may even be called upon to rehearse their sins YEARS after repenting of them -- to drive the point home that they have undergone a change of heart. The SHAME of admitting one's guilt is palpable and maybe even overwhelming at first. The fact that it HURTS drives many to look around and slink off into the darkness rather than CONFESS. They may even take refuge in that large and spacious building where EVERYONE is adorned in fine robes and NO ONE has ANYTHING to be ashamed about.

    We who have "left the boat" or who have been "kicked out," primarily because we were valiant and honest (either by confessing our sins or by bearing our witness) may feel shame from being "excluded" by our loved ones and peers. We are marked as "failures." Even when we know we're not failures, it still HURTS to be called such. Our love and association with Christ helps soften that blow. In fact, I would suggest we would NEVER EVEN UNDERTAKE THE EFFORT were it NOT for our love of Jesus (those of us who left the Church with our testimonies of the Restoration intact).

    The healthiest souls are those who EMBRACE shame, admitting their faults and bearing their testimonies, until they are SHAMELESS.

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm absolutely depending on it to save my soul...or all is lost.

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  14. Yours is a Christ-like voice speaking truth to power, Annette. Thank you. When we run across nonsense like Elder Holland’s nonsense it is all too easy to sneer and belittle him in return. Christ, on the other hand, would give him the benefit of the doubt and reason with him in a friendly, heartfelt manner as you have done.
    Your closing note is an excellent emphasis on the tone that Annette has taken, Adrian. When God said to love and forgive everyone he wasn’t uttering some correlated platitude, he was inviting us to follow Jesus Christ in becoming like them.

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  15. Annette.... I think your very well worded response needs to find its way to Elder Holland's desk. It's sincere and speaks well to a big problem that even church leadership seems to be overlooking as evidenced by these remarks. Unfortunately, what he is doing in this talk is what so many Latter-Day Saints are doing today to account for the large number of people leaving the faith. Due to a lack of understanding and willingness to investigate the reasons behind the exodus, church members lump all of those involved into one camp.... the faithless....regardless of their individual circumstance and situation. Elder Whitney Clayton recently said as much in his BYU commencement speech. It's hard to blame them for this wholesale mischaracterization when you have people posting their secretly recorded church court videos on YouTube and wearing it like a badge of honor. There is no honor in this and there is nothing about excommunication that is happy and worthy of celebration.

    Whether you agree or disagree that church courts have the power to cut a person off and strip him/her of their temple blessings, the act is at minimum symbolic of a very sad event and deserves somber, private reflection one way or the other. Nevertheless, the casting out of the just and unjust will roll forward and hearts will continue to be overlooked and misunderstood at every turn by families, friends and neighbors.

    Thank you for taking the time to put into words what so many are feeling. We extend our love to you and all of your family from all of ours.

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  16. Here's an audio of the whole talk. (I know someone posted a youtube link up-thread; this is a soundcloud link.)
    https://soundcloud.com/secondrescue/jrh-tempe

    I feel strangely detached from all of this. By that, I take no personal offense, even though I left. I agree with the person above who said that this is the result of God leaving the church to fend for itself (after they had kicked Him out).

    My prayer is that Jeff will be brought to the point (by God) in which he does question, in which he does feel deserted and cries the cries he so roundly and soundly condemned in others. Why? Because my heart aches at the thought of the pain these men will go through once they wake up and find themselves in hell like the rich man, while the poor, starving saints sit in Abraham's bosom.

    Would to God that I could speak with the voice of a trump and wake up the sleeping people, from the greatest, most powerful, richest, and adored (the 15) down to the most humble, poor member who believes in Christ but knows not where to find Him because of the lies and half-truths they have been taught. If I had my selfish way, everyone would awake and arise, come to Christ, and be healed.

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  17. It seems the Lord gave Samuel the Lamanite some words that are applicable.

    Helaman 13:8 Therefore, thus saith the Lord: Because of the hardness of the hearts of the people of the Nephites, except they repent I will take away my word from them, and I will withdraw my Spirit from them, and I will suffer them no longer, and I will turn the hearts of their brethren against them.

    There is an order to the Lord's withdraw.

    First, he takes away His Word. I think you could successfully argue that he took it away with the murder of Joseph Smith.

    Second, he withdraws His Spirit. I think you could make a reasonable case that His Spirit was with the Church for a long time. I'll leave it to the ponderer if that is still the case and/or when that was taken away.

    Third, He suffers us no longer. So, He lets us flounder around in our own darkness, arrogance and ignorance. I wonder if the voices will become more shrill as the process of "all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet." continues.

    Fourth, "I will turn the hearts of their brethren against them". This is not a pleasant result to contemplate.

    Let us all repent so we may be found in Zion and not in the ruble heap.

    Gary

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    1. It’s fascinating and consistent with a divine being that the Lord has an ordered process for disengaging with a people who have rejected him. Short of some irritating messenger teaching from a wall or writing on a blog, calling the lost to repentance, the lost have no clue that the Lord is withdrawing. A great insight here, Gary. It brings to mind Mosiah 2:21:

      “ I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”

      We exist in mortality completely at his mercy and generosity. The thought of the Lord withdrawing even the smallest degree of his support that sustains us from moment to moment is painful. Turning from the Lord to such a degree that he withdraws his support altogether is a self-inflicted sentence to be removed. Every time in the scriptures that the Lord withdraws from a people they self-destruct or other wicked folks come do them in. God help us to repent.

      Indeed we want to avoid ending up on the rub(b)le heap. With the steep drop in oil prices over the last couple of years combined with economic sanctions against Russia, the value of the Russian ruble has dropped dramatically. They’re not to the point of financial collapse and hyperinflation yet but we wouldn’t want to end up where the ruble is heading.

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  18. To Adrian, to Annette, to all who have been cast out and treated unfairly and unkindly or scorned and derided: Look at the opportunity before you now! The questions should be, "How will I love the leaders and those who have abused me? What can I do to bless them? How can I do good to them? What can I plead to the Lord in my never-ceasing prayers in their behalf? How do I walk a mile with them? How do I agree with them when we are in the way together? How do I resist not the evil they have thrown in front of me?" That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good.

    THIS is the time to watch yourselves. Watch your thoughts and your words and your deeds. Observe what the Lord did when He was scorned and cast out. Did He curse those who inflicted Him? Or did He bless them? Do you dare say anything which might be deemed as a curse? Do you not fear the God of Israel?

    Open your eyes and come out of obscurity! Put your joy in the Lord and rejoice in the Holy One of Israel! As you see the Spirit fleeing the Church, and the scorner consumed and the terrible one brought to naught; as you witness those who watch for iniquity being cut off, who make a man an offender for a word, and have laid a snare for you and reproved you at the gate (as if they are the Gatekeeper), and set aside your feelings and experience as a thing of naught... do not be ashamed! Boldly kneel and bless them! That the Holy Ghost may come upon you and sanctify you, and prepare you for that which is to come!

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  19. Even the poets are given words sometimes:

    "They say that what you mock
    Will surely overtake you
    And you become a monster
    So the monster will not break you"

    U2 - "Peace On Earth"

    This is verified in the story above and in such occurrences as this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/27/us/rape-victims-brigham-young-university-honor-code-suspensions.html?_r=0

    Sad when it happens to any of us. Maybe Holland will gain a broken heart. Like Denver Snuffer says about anti-Mormons, their notice of things means they're interested in the issues. It would be wonderful if he, like Alma the Younger, repented and was re-baptized. We're all praying for you Brother Holland!

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  20. What did christ do when those in his day did not recognize him? What kingdom or church did he offer in his life?

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  21. The reason so many of us have “bailed” on the Church, Brother Holland is that we are STARVING spiritually in our walk with the Church. Those silly manuals you and others of your Brethren publish and then require Church instructors to follow carefully do not produce any “spiritual food” and are nowhere near the power and stature of the Standard Works. If I have a choice between listening to another manufactured “boring” lesson in Church Sunday School or Priesthood OR reading the empowering words of Nephi or Mormon or Alma, I cannot but help to opt for the latter. They FEED me. They LIFT me. And I remember what they have taught me. Even reading the Early Latter-day Saints in the persons of Brigham Young or John Taylor or Orson Pratt is so invigorating, so uplifting, which is also why I just LOVE the Journal of Discourses.

    Years ago, I attended a Ward in Central California as the excommunicated member I am (cut off for “apostasy” as I preferred the Standard Works OVER current Church policy statements). I didn’t tell anyone I had been “cut off”. I just wanted to come and see if I could do any good or if there might be spiritual food there in this Ward. The Sunday School Teacher did not show up. So volunteers were requested “to teach the lesson”. Of course, I volunteered and then proceeded to teach out of Mosiah 27 and Alma 36 about being “born again” and the “Mighty Change” which President Benson had given a talk about in General Conference.I had the members of that Ward nearly hopping out of their seats, weeping with testimony, declaring their NEED to repent of their sins. Brother Holland, it wasn’t me!!! It was the power of The Book of Mormon as all we did was read verse by verse, and I’d stop and let class members comment and of course, I added my own comments. After the class, many class members came up enthusiastically said it “was the best lesson they had had all year” and “would I move into their Ward so I could be their Gospel Doctrine teacher”. I chuckled to myself and said to myself, “Well, maybe I ought to join your Church first before I become your Gospel Doctrine Teacher”. Again, I will say it wasn’t me It was the POWER of The Book of Mormon and the Holy Ghost bearing witness to them of the Truths in that book as it does with all our converts who read it and sincerely pray about it. The members took hold of that book and it burned testimony into them of the Restoration and of the Prophet Joseph Smith, but more importantly of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Program of Faith and Repentance as so clearly taught in The Book of Mormon. I plead with you. Teach us!!! Teach us the Gospel!!! Teach it to us out of the Standard Works. Let that be the Church’s ONLY lesson manual. You will see people FLOCK to this Church in HUGE numbers, as was once our legacy.

    Feed the Hungry Souls the Gospel. Tell them the Truth without “political correctness” and without excuse. That’s what we want. Again, I plead with you as you are one in authority in the Church.
    Else, many more will “bail” not because they are not heeding your words of “warning” but because there is nothing in the Church for them except the same old boring talks and lessons that are devoid of the Spirit such as we are now experiencing as a Church for the most part. Go back to Mormonism's ROOTS and you will never have to be furious again about members "leaving" with the mocking laughter in the background. We'll come back on our own.


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  22. I taught adult Sunday school for 8 yrs. I loved taking verses and have it as reading and discussions. I dislike the manuals that is so shallow and not getting to the gospel in depth.

    I will not even invite my inactive children to church or friends for that matter. I am ashamed at the rubbish and non doctrine being taught. 3 months ago I decided not to go to church anymore because I just got more upset every Sunday.
    After 36 yrs of being a full tithe payer and an active member with a temple recommend. ... when trying to take them back to doctrine and scriptures. ... They ignore me. Sacrament has become an hr of travel log and no reference to Jesus, Heavenly father or Holy Ghost.
    3 months ago I refused a calling due to valid reasons I won't go into now , the Bishop decided to tell me I have no right to refuse a calling. I tried to explain my feelings and he told me not to interrupt him.
    Well I decided I can't do this and stayed home. 3 months later and I am happy and interestingly I have not heard a word from any one at church.
    This is the love that is being taught. Oh and membership attendance is 50% down.

    Let them laugh.....

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