Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Nobody Should Leave the LDS Church. But if Conservatives Need an Excuse . . . .

My Bishop is a really great guy. In one recent visit, I was expressing my exasperation over so many who leave the church because their liberal-leaning souls are hurt. I exclaimed, "Why don't more conservatives who don't follow church teachings leave!"

His response that we didn't want anyone to leave calmed me somewhat. And then he went on so tactfully to encourage my responsibility to offer service and Christian love because that's what the Gospel of Christ is really all about. I was sufficiently humbled and chastened. And in spite of my weaknesses, I will carry on.

Sometimes, though, I just can't help poking the hornets nest. (I should stick to the beehive.)

The recent turmoil I felt over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the serious criminal charges including some relating back to the armed confrontation with public officials at the Bundy Ranch got me thinking. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a strong condemnation of the armed take-over at the refuge expressing concern about the attempt to justify the illegal and dangerous action by an unfounded appeal to LDS Scripture. It didn't help much. The perpetrators were arrested and one tragically shot while resisting arrest (he ran not one but two police stops, and it didn't look to me that he was attempting to surrender peacefully.)

I do find it odd that extreme, right-wing Conservatives can find a more comfortable home staying in the Church than leaving. In my opinion, a lot on the left leave because they feel so uncomfortable around so much conservatism. Frequently, those on the conservative right use LDS scripture and teachings to justify their extremely conservative views. So I just thought I would remind one and all of some fairly progressive and official positions taken by the LDS Church that seem at odds with this extreme conservatism.

My sources generally come from Mormon Newsroom at where it states,"The official resource for news media, opinion makers, and the public." I guess as a blogger, I could be considered an "opinion maker" even if I don't have that much influence as a voice crying in the wilderness.

On Immigration and Refugees, the LDS Church takes a compassionate and welcoming approach in support of  the principles of the Utah Compact in support of families and with charity toward refugees. This is a far cry from the current scramble in one major US political party's primary to see who is the meanest and crudest towards immigrants and refugees. But the Utah Compact is not so different from the Immigration Reform proposed by President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain back before their base balked.

Then there's the Environment:
You may recognize Mt. Moran and Jackson Lake of Teton National Park. And the statement is by President Nelson,
current President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles

Tree-huggers are a favorite target of ridicule for the far right. The Church takes a pretty strong position in support of Environmental Stewardship and Conservation. There are quotes from current and past leaders including Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Ezra Taft Benson. It gives me some relief and encouragement in my career choice to help protect and promote the legal, multiple uses of our public lands and national parks as we preserve them for future generations.

The LDS Church issues guidance on avoiding affinity fraud. While not necessarily a crime of just the far-right-wing, it seems it's the same sort of affinity bonding and outright fraud that lead some into extreme political action like the Malheur conflict. And it may just be my perception, but it seems that "get-quick-rich" schemes are more likely to be successful among a mindset that sees success in riches and unbridled capitalistic pursuits promoted by warped ideologies such as the "prosperity gospel" or the idea that God blesses the righteous materially and favors the rich. These seem more like conservative ideas to me - and false doctrines at that.

Then there are the frequent and clear statements of political neutrality promoted by the LDS Church. Sure, church leaders offer guidance and even lobby on what they see as moral interests affecting the church's teachings and practices, but the church does not endorse specific candidates or parties. Sometimes this is mentioned by church members with a "wink-wink-nudge-nudge" that the church obviously wants us to vote for one party or candidate, they just can't say it because it will risk the tax status. That is the most arrogantly cynical idea I just can't comprehend. But there is a lot of "code-talk" and "dog-whistles" in certain conversations and even teaching at church. I have it from some reliable sources on the left that it makes them feel very uncomfortable and unwelcome at church. Like our good bishop said, no one should feel the need to leave, but this seems somewhat one-sided. I take the statement at its word and support the political party of my choice even if in the distinct minority in this state.

Then there are still those who fail to understand that since 1978 when the priesthood ban for members of Black African descent was lifted by revelation, all the old rationales and justifications for the ban were officially false doctrine:
Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.
This is from the Gospel Topic Essay accessed from the Newsroom topic on Race and the Church. This is one that could have given Cliven Bundy some trouble as he was initially hailed as a conservative hero after his stand-off at the ranch. Then he made some statements on race that caused much of his support to back away.

And then there's religious discrimination. Not long after one major party political candidate made some rather harsh statements about Muslims entering the United States, the LDS Church issued a statement promoting religious tolerance. The statement included the Prophet Joseph Smith's support for protection of other religions including Islam. That seems to conflict not just with extreme right-wing views but with a leading main-stream candidate for President of the U.S. Or maybe it's more that the extreme right-wing has taken some control of a major party political process.

Another odd thing is that the LDS Church has taken neutral positions on many hot button issues for the conservative right-wing. Check these out:
Capital Punishment
Embryonic Stem-cell Research
Prolonging Life
Even on Abortion, the church takes a very strong moral stance supporting the sanctity of life, but allows for rare exceptions and that the "Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion."

You will likely see as I frankly admit that much of this is self-justification for some of my personal positions. Guilty as charged. But I can't count the number of times I have been in unfortunate and sometimes vitriolic disputes over issues for which appeals are made by conservatives to church authority that just isn't there.

I don't want anyone to leave the church either. And I think there needs to be a better effort made to tone down the conservative beliefs and rhetoric and reach out to more liberal souls who may feel left out. Just my opinion.


  1. While I was serving in the Netherlands, it quickly became apparent that the majority of the Saints there were far more liberal than those in the United States, and while many had some "conservative beliefs" especially concerning homosexuality, the vast majority were more liberal in their thinking. It wasn't until I was speaking with some of the conservative Utah Missionaries that I realized that my time in the Netherlands had changed my outlook completely. These good Saints viewed healthcare as a right, at the core of their deep love for the gospel of Christ. That charity was necessary, not because of tax purposes (because their tax system doesn't include the same write-offs for charitable contribution) but for the betterment of mankind, and while some were concerned with the growing population of immigrants, their support of refugees and courage in a crisis was impressive. Due to their history, they rejected extremism, in any form. Most, if not all, were anti-gun not because they hated freedom, but because they hated violence. I came back to the United States, and my entire perception of our "freedoms" was altered. Like Brother Vaughn, I struggle with the excessive conservatism that is preached from the pulpit, especially when such talk is done under the guise of gospel doctrine. I don't believe that politics and religion are oil and water, but I do believe that our religion should define our politics, and our politics should not define our religion.

  2. When I read your blog posts I find myself saying over and over "yes! That's how I feel". Because of that I would really love to know who you are voting for in this climate of extremist politicians.

    1. My idealism leads me to vote for Sanders in the Primary. What will happen in the General is yet to be seen. But even with the ugliness of the Republican candidates, Utah will still likely go strong that way so my vote won't much matter. I have a hard time supporting Hillary because of her Iraq War vote and all the other baggage. I may go Green as a protest vote as I have done before. (But NOT in 2000!! I was in New Mexico and it was a very close win for Gore).

  3. I am one who is constantly uncomfortable with the ever present assumption of conservatism in Sunday school and other adult meetings. I am weary of the winks and coughs and "apologies" made by those who want to bring politics into every gospel discussion. I do wish we could recognize that we don't all agree on any given subject and just allow people to hold a conscientious opinion that may be different.

    1. Thank you, Kathleen. And if you don't mind me pointing out, you are one who would not be considered the flaming liberal that some think I am.


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