[Update 2/8/2017 11 a.m.: I originally said “Elder Holland” but it was Ballard. Regardless I linked to the right talk]
My grandfather was nearing the end of his life. his hard years as a coal miner, sheet rocker and handiman had finally taken their toll on his fragile frame. A cancerous lump grew on his face, un-opperated on as the rest of his body was giving out anyway. My brother rushed to record some final interactions before his life faded. He related the following tale:
He grew up in Mormon polygamous Mexico, and when he was old enough, he was invited to one of the youth activities. Upon arriving at the church he quickly learned that a black man and woman had evaded the bank by saving up enough cash to buy a house outright. Black men and women were not allowed to get mortgages at that time.
The youth activity was to burn down the house.
My grandfather ran home as fast as he could to fetch his father and once my great-grandfather learned about the activity they both ran to stop it. They arrived too late. The house was burning. The woman had run into the house to save her very last possession. A piece of pottery with silver dollars in it. Covered in ash and soot as her dreams literally burned down by her, the men took the urn and smashed it, handing out the slightly melted silver dollars to the boys as a memento of the activity.
My grandfather never returned to church after that.
I can hardly listen to the cassette without weeping.
When I review the “Race and the Priesthood” essay, and it declares solemnly at the end that these things were never taught as doctrine, I feel exhausted.
Why then do you still stay?
When Prophets made declarations like Brigham Young’s that if a man “mixes with the African race” he should be put to “death on the spot”, taught in conference from the pulpit are so quickly dismissed as “not doctrine” or “speaking as a man”; how then can you continue to follow such flawed and heartless leaders?
Maybe you think as those in scripture “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” and trust that there is a greater understanding. Maybe you rely on the words of those who encourage you to “Stay in the boat”
With this record and question as a backdrop, I wish to speak directly to the believing people of the Church—young in years of age or young in years of membership or young in years of faith. One way or another, that should include just about all of you.
Observation number one regarding this account is that when facing the challenge of love of fellow man over the dictates of leaders, my grandfather truly followed the scriptures in loving his neighbor, regardless of color, as himself. He didn’t shy from speaking out when he saw an activity that was wrong. He didn’t excuse the behavior of others or hide behind rhetoric or questions of the definition of doctrine. I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, put the love of neighbor far over the dictates of man! In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent my grandfather’s, but only a boy at the time, challenge to stand for the right. These challenges already come to all of us as the Leaders of the Church belittle those who leave, who have a different sexual orientation or who do not fit within the norms. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, place love over following leaders who admit they can get the very fundamentals of doctrine wrong.
The second observation is a variation of the first. When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest alone or turn to those within the church leadership for guidance. My Grandfather, instead sought help from someone who had a firm moral foundation that he could trust: his father. There was no debate about the morally correct action. No hesitation or praying about what was right. They simply took action. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of faith is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of doubt. It is not! Faith can lead good men to do evil, just as all the men who burnt that house down did. Every one of them a leader in Zion. Everyone of them had faithfully listened to the words of the prophet of their day. And everyone of them now disavowed by the official essay on LDS.org as simply blindly following the precepts of men. Doubting was not the focus, but being in touch with his internal conscience and immediately reacting in accordance to his own inner-voice over the external voice of church leadership.
So let us all remember the clear message of historical account:
* Be honest with yourself internally; life is full of people who will try to convince you to take actions against your own conscience both within and without the church. But if you and your family want to be choose the right, don’t simply default to what leaders say or you could find yourself misled into hateful, misguided paths purely of men like those who burned the woman’s house down.
Furthermore, you have more reason to question than you think you do on what the church accepts and rejects because of what the Book of Mormon calls “the greatness of the evidences.”
* “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” Jesus said; and the impact to suicide of LGBT, the harm caused by the blatant racism such as the Indian Placement Program, or the misogynistic pressures put on the world’s largest women’s program being dictated and needing permission by and from men.
* The blatant and common for-profit efforts of leaders that trump and dictate their interactions with the religion. The Book of Mormon warns of Nehor and those who would pad their pockets by preaching the word of God. How then can one look aside as the organization pays the leaders salaries higher than some governors, their schedules reveal how little they interact with the church, and the vast structure of Deseret Management funneling for-profit efforts directly to their pockets.
Brothers and sisters of the human race, this organization clearly is primarily a real-estate venture and has been since Henry D. Moyle pushed the church to the brink of bankrupcy in 1961 in order to buy 0.7% of Florida for cattle ranching (now 2%). It is evident in the purchase of a mall for more than the church donated to humanitarian causes over the history of the church. It is evident in the dismissal of youth suicides in areas of high membership. In dismissal of agitations for priesthood roles for women. In dismissing with harsh tones those who leave the religion, turning family members against one another where there should exist love.
If church leaders press you to do things against your conscience, to belittle your family, friends and others for having doubts please don’t hyperventilate. Simply stand for your moral convictions. Claims of the church need to be examined, understood, and researched. In reality, what we know do not know can and will hurt us. And remember, in this world, everyone is impacted by the realities of life.
So be rigorous regarding human failings—don’t fall for the foibles of those who call themselves leaders in a Church that claims they are led by volunteer, mortal men and women in one talk, and then admits; once exposed that leadership is actually paid. In another talk, or primary song, the demand one follow the prophet without consideration or doubt. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. But that doesn’t mean we must accept bad advice as divine or immoral dictates as edicts of the universe. And when you see imperfection, remember that the only way to correct it is for feedback to make it to leadership and for those leaders to be held accountable for change. As one gifted writer has suggested, “Accountability breeds response-ability” (Stephen R. Covey). Without accountability there is no ability to respond to mistakes and make lasting change.
Last observation: When we see corruption, fraud or abuse within an organization, we need not remain silent. If we want to make life better for future generations, as my Grandfather helped me, we must speak up and tell our stories. The scriptures warn of Pharisees, Nephite priests and even prophets who misled entire generations leading even to bloodshed. Indeed the primary messages of the scriptures seems to indicate that a people need not only be faithful to their God, but to hold leadership accountable at every level. I testify that in response to that kind of scrutiny, no underage individuals will be forced into difficult moral decisions with which they must wrestle the rest of their lives.
I said I was speaking to the young. I still am. My mother told me when I was a young boy, that her Sunday School teacher proposed she become his fifth wife. She refused and held him accountable. He died only a few years ago, in the penitentiary by the point of the mountain. When corrupt leaders abuse the money donated, commit fraud, or abuse those precious souls in our care, may we never dismiss those as simply being minor issues of frail mortals. When words are spoken by leaders that are blatantly and demonstrably false, such as that “Homosexuality is a choice” (decried even on Mormon.org) may they be removed from their positions no matter how high. And when organizations commit these atrocities without apology or correction and leaders go unchallenged or even be financially rewarded for these misdeeds, may we have the moral conviction to walk away.
Now, with the advantage that nearly 10 years give me since I left the church I declare some things I now know.
* I know that “anti-mormon lies” is a phrase that means “real history we’d rather you didn’t know about”.
* I know that Joseph Smith had over thirty relationships with women that are called “wives” by the church. That a majority were non-consensual, which is admitted to by the church. That He lied to his wife, and that the church lied to me and my family about this for generations
* I know that general authorities are paid in direct conflict with scripture. That Josephs Polygamy is in direct contrast with scripture. That the book of Abraham is not what it claims to be, “Written by Abraham’s own hand upon papyrus”.
* I know that Joseph Smith, who acknowledged that he wasn’t perfect, but the church still reverse and lies by omission about was declared a fraud, and correctly jailed on numerous occasions for actual crimes including illegal banking, divining, and that he committed treason in the Council of Fifty, whose notes were just revealed this year.
* I also know that the Book of Mormon is very clearly a forgery, including fictitious and anachronistic items such as “Brass Plates” containing Isaiah before it was written, Steel Swords in tower of Babel times, and ancient submarines carrying animals that didn’t exist in the new world.
* I know that we can be better men and women than any religion would manipulate us into being, because of the potential for the systems of organized religion to corrupt is nearly a guaranteed
* I know that 15 men whom you sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators absolutely have no claim to priesthood power, and are simply managers of a real-estate company, that consumes your donations in order to spin off interest for their real-estate investments.
These things I declare to you with the conviction of one who has spent years in research, one whose lineage is tied with the success and failure of the church, and whose family line repeatedly took moral conviction and conscience over what a leader said; and is all the better for it.
I say this in the very solemn words of one who wishes you the best in life.