Last night some of my neighbors held the first bonfire of the year, and several people gathered around it and ignored the big patch of snow right next to us, and I stayed up late and I'm suffering for it today but friendship is important. I was actually about to leave when they started talking about LDS stuff in a way that piqued my interest. Usually I zone out when LDS people talk about LDS stuff, but this started with two guys joking that they marry each other to save money on housing, and they said they were sure the church would be cool with it. Then this girl Mia that I apparently had an institute class with but didn't remember said the church used to do "adoption" sealings of random non-related people to each other, and stopped around the same time it stopped polygamy. The guys said that was cool. She said the church used to do a lot of cool stuff, like for example, it used to let women give blessings as midwives until Brigham Young said they should stop.
I didn't think it was the time or place to get on my feminist soapbox, but integrity demanded that I go on the record as dissenting from any real or perceived implication that this or any of the church's restrictions on women's autonomy might have even possibly had anything to do with God, so I said, in a voice that I hoped was loud enough for her and nobody else to hear, "What a dick."
She responded in a much louder voice, "You ain't wrong, though!"
One of the most liberating parts of leaving the LDS Church is being able to acknowledge that Brigham Young was an asshole instead of having to try to rationalize that he was just a "complicated person." He did have his redeeming qualities, but he was an asshole. I was surprised and elated to hear this response from a member, though now that I think of it, I don't know for a fact that she's still a member. She did mention that she hasn't taken an institute class in a long time. Hmm.
Then someone probably said something else, and she said that Brigham Young was racist. And someone else gave the ubiquitous and only possible apologetic defense: "Everyone was racist back then." Because it's not fair to hold people who claim to speak for God to a higher standard than anyone else because reasons.
I would have said something, but Mia beat me to it. "He was exceptionally racist," she said. And that's an objectively true statement. Many of his contemporaries opposed slavery while he preached that it was ordained of God and pushed Utah to be the only Western US state or territory that legalized it, and very few of them taught, as he did, that God wanted mixed-race couples and their children put to death. God had no shortage of less racist men (or women) to choose from. Now the LDS Church wants to excuse all of his and other past prophets' faults with the "men of their time" card while simultaneously presenting the current prophet as such a paragon of virtue that we should emulate everything he does, such as the way he recycles plastic bottles. Make it make sense.
Someone else asked if Brigham Young is the thing that stops people from joining the church, and someone else said pretty much. I would actually hazard a guess that Joseph Smith stops even more people from joining the church. He's the one that missionaries teach people about, and then all those people have to do is Google him and find all the stuff that the missionaries didn't tell them and probably don't even know and be like, "Nope."
Then Mia or someone else mentioned Brigham's teaching of blood atonement, and this one guy who had either converted or returned to activity as an adult asked what that was, and someone explained it to him, that it's the idea that some sins aren't covered by the Atonement of Jesus Christ so some people need to be killed to be forgiven. And the convert guy was disturbed by that and he asked, "Then how could he be a prophet?" I don't know if he was on the cusp of a sudden faith crisis or just wondering. He was, of course, on the cusp of the obvious answer, which is "He wasn't." Not because prophets need to be perfect, but because they need to be good and they need to not say a bunch of stupid crap in God's name that will force their church to run damage control for centuries to come.
But of course someone responded by saying in a Batman voice, "He's not the prophet we deserved, but the prophet we needed." So they sidestepped the issue with humor and moved on to other things. Ah well. It was a fascinating couple minutes nonetheless. It's hard to say with any given Latter-day Saint if they're perfectly familiar with the church's controversial issues or if they'll go to pieces on hearing about them for the first time. With this little group, it seems like the church's innoculation efforts are working. They know what Brigham Young was really like and they manage to work it into their worldview even though it makes no sense.
Of course, I've also noticed that in the little over a decade since I've moved to Utah, mainstream Latter-day Saints in their twenties have become less uptight about multiple piercings, "immodest" clothing, shopping on Sundays, R-rated movies, and swearing. Almost every person in this group swore at some point during the evening and only one, the military guy who swore the worst and the most often, felt compelled to apologize. I swore thrice, twice while paraphrasing someone else who just swore and once while quoting Jeff Dunham's puppet Walter. I don't like how often I swear in general, but I have no intention of quitting entirely because they're just words. The whole concept of having words that no one should ever say is stupid beyond belief. Anyway, my point is that people who haven't left the church and haven't doubled down into QAnon-level stupidity are becoming more and more nuanced, and I'm not sure if that's a victory for the church or not. Its independent scholars and apologists go on about the importance of nuance, but its leaders, as anyone can see from the most recent conference, are going in the opposite direction. They don't want nuanced members. They want members who believe and obey them without question even when they contradict each other or simply make no sense. But they're in no position to be picky these days.
And honestly, the leaders are right in the sense that the LDS Church's truth claims are fundamentally incompatible with nuance. The Book of Mormon itself doubles down on the literal historicity of biblical myths that didn't happen (the Garden of Eden, Noah's flood, and the tower of Babel). The prophets are supposed to be the mouthpieces of God that we're supposed to trust and follow at all times, not violent, racist lunatics who can't tell the difference between God's truth and their own delusions. As soon as you adopt a nuanced approach to just about anything in the LDS Church, you're believing in a different religion than the one it teaches. And that's fair enough. I believe in people's right to believe whatever they want, and in most religions, picking and choosing what to believe is the norm. But the LDS Church explicitly tells you not to do that. I wonder how many of the people there last night have begun the process of, like me, nuancing their testimonies out of existence.
I know I'm always complaining about other people and churches so in the interest of humility, let's talk about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing I did last week. I went to a linger-longer after my old ward's church service to eat soup. That wasn't the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing because first of all, I was invited, and second, I paid tithing that I didn't know was being used to purchase Apple stock, so I feel entitled to eat food purchased with church funds. I went and this woman I've met a couple times asked me questions about graduate school because I did graduate school and she wants to do graduate school. I get a weird vibe from her that I can't really explain. Usually when pretty women talk to me I get a vague sense of benevolent condescension, like on some level they feel like they're doing me a favor, and that could be dismissed as my imagination except that once in a while it isn't there and I'm shocked. I think that's the case here. Her friendliness catches me off guard even though lots of people are friendly.
I was happy to share my wisdom and happy about her ambition. I wanted to say "Aren't you glad the church doesn't discourage women from having hopes and dreams anymore?" but it might have killed the mood and anyway, I'm not convinced it's entirely true. A lot of women in the ward seem to have career goals and that's great but I don't know how it isn't causing them hella cognitive dissonance. Or maybe it is. So anyway, I asked what she wanted to do in graduate school. She said Asian Studies. I asked what parts of Asia she wanted to study. She said China. I asked why. She said "Mostly to please my ancestors." And this is when I did the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing. I looked at her, and I thought she looked just as white as she had a moment ago before she said that, and I blurted out, "Are you adopted?"
Yes, I committed a microaggression - not my first or worst one, but that's small comfort. I hate the word "microaggression" because usually there is no aggression. Usually, as in my case, these incidents are purely the result of ignorance and/or stupidity. I had two thoughts as I was asking my question, neither of them aggressive. First, that if she had decided to claim her adopted ancestors as her own, good for her, I had no objection, I was just curious. Second, that I wouldn't have batted an eye at white parents adopting a Chinese child, but the other way around seemed weird somehow, but of course it would be allowed because why wouldn't it? An episode of Psych had a white character who was adopted by Thai parents and people thought he was racist for speaking with a Thai accent. In any case, though, if I had stopped to think for a few seconds I would have second-guessed prying into such personal matters.
She said no, she wasn't adopted, she was a quarter Chinese, her mom was half Chinese. And just like that, I could see it. She looked exactly the same and yet different somehow. I wanted to say "Aren't you glad the church doesn't oppose interracial marriage anymore?" but it might have killed the mood. It turns out she's really steeped in Chinese culture and not shy about bringing it up. I just hadn't interacted with her enough to notice. Anyway, she didn't seem offended at all but I have principles to uphold regardless. That evening I went to ward prayer, managing to skip the prayer and only do the game afterward, just so I could apologize to her for being an idiot. She was so not offended that she burst out laughing before I could finish. And then on Thursday I ran into her on campus and we ate dinner together and she caught me off guard with a fist bump so I think we're cool.
tl;dr: I'm not perfect, but I'm trying.
I don't often go to LDS meetings or devotionals anymore, but I went to one Friday night because I was really bored and lonely and it was hosting Madilyn Paige, a moderately successful singer of whom I had heard. She sang some songs and gave some good motivational speaking and showed some cute videos of herself singing as a child, including one where a sibling was saying, "Stop, stop, please, stop, stop." I feel the same about my roommate's singing, but even at that age, hers was actually good. Toward the end of the devotional she touched on something that's become almost obligatory to acknowledge in these settings: faith crisis. She said she's had doubts and she still has questions and it seems like people are stepping away from the church more than ever these days. She said she's thought about what if she gets to the end and it's all made up, but she can't deny what she's felt. And I mentally rolled my eyes at that and then I chastened myself for being judgmental because I was in the same position not long ago. Well, almost the same position. I was never famous or pretty or good at singing.
Because of what I felt within the context of the LDS Church - not often, but often enough - I thought for years that I was doing the right and intellectually honest thing by trying to rationalize or defend every issue with the predetermined conclusion that the church is what it claims to be, and by fighting to hold onto my faith at all costs long after I should have known better. I thought that if I just held on a little longer, everything would fall into place and make sense and the church would stop letting me down. After I had to accept that that wasn't going to happen and the church isn't what it claims to be, I clung to the hope that God still had some important divine purpose for it besides opposing social progress. After that hypothesis failed, I clung to the possibility that, as David Whitmer explained at length in "An Address to All Believers in Christ" (which should be required reading for all Latter-day Saints), the Book of Mormon was true and Joseph Smith started out as a true prophet but the LDS Church fell into apostasy almost immediately when he overstepped his boundaries. I didn't want to believe that I'd wasted so much time and energy defending pure fiction. But that's just how life goes sometimes.
Jeffrey R. Holland recently shared this big steaming pile of desperation in a devotional that I'm not sorry I didn't watch: "Real faith - life-changing faith, Abrahamic faith - is always in crisis. That’s how you find out if it’s faith at all. I promise you that more faith will mean less crisis until, finally, God says, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.'" Faith is always in crisis, but more faith means less crisis. (With this statement he broke his own previous speed record for contradicting himself, set in 2012 when he lied to a BBC reporter about the pre-1990 endowment penalties before conceding their existence seconds later.) I was never taught anything remotely like this when I grew up in the church, and of course it's not being taught now because it makes any kind of sense but only because none of the church hierarchy's previous attempts at damage control have worked. So now they're trying to rebrand constant cognitive dissonance as proof that the church is true. I did think for a while that I was passing an Abrahamic test, but when it didn't end and didn't end and didn't end, I decided that life is too short to put up with that crap indefinitely.
I don't deny that I felt feelings at times while I was in the church. I don't know what to make of those feelings now because all I have are memories of them, and memory is unreliable in part because it's filtered through my current knowledge and perspective. And of course I have no idea what Madilyn Paige has felt. But I know there have been people in every religion, including suicide cults, who have felt equally confident that their religion was the correct one. I don't know that this is common. The LDS Church places more emphasis than most on personal revelation (although it also teaches that any personal revelation that doesn't conform with its teachings is, ipso facto, invalid), and many, maybe most people just go through the motions in whatever religion they're born into unless and until they have a compelling reason to really think about it. But at least some people in every religion have feelings they can't deny. And then, if they so desire, they can find apologetics and scholarship to back up their predetermined conclusion that their religion is true, and they can reassure themselves that their testimony is based in logic as well as feelings, even though there's almost a 0% chance that they've actually held their religion to the same standard as all other religions. For example, LDS apologists make rationalizations for their prophets' and apostles' words and actions that they would never make for anyone else who claimed to represent God.
This is the infamous video that brought me to that soul-crushing realization. It's a compilation of people bearing emotional testimonies that their various religions, including suicide cults, are true. By that time I had been out of the church for over a month, but it severely shook my confidence in God himself and I haven't recovered. I found it through FAIR. And I'm not being snarky for once, but I legitimately couldn't even understand what FAIR was trying to say in its lengthy and convoluted response. I thought the restored gospel of Jesus Christ was supposed to be beautifully simple. I thought we had personal revelation so we didn't have to get bogged down in philosophy.
So I no longer believe that feelings are a reliable guide to truth. Now I may, of course, end up having to give up on God entirely, but I'm not ready to do that yet. I still believe in him not so much because of what I've felt but because of philosophical arguments and experiences that I don't believe can reasonably be attributed to coincidence or confirmation bias. And I don't believe he cares what religion I belong to or don't belong to as long as I do my best to love others and be a positive influence in their lives. Maybe he did tell some of the people in the video to be part of the religions where they could do the most good. Having recently watched it again after thinking about it for months, I tentatively think that strong feelings, like ones that bring people to tears, are a red flag. I think the teaching that God speaks in a "still small voice" is onto something. And I think certainty is an even bigger red flag. Faith is faith. It is not and never will be certainty. A lot of people in this video think it is, and every month Latter-day Saints reinforce their beliefs by standing up in their echo chambers and proclaiming "I know this church is true" when they actually don't. I think certainty stifles growth and defeats whatever purposes God may have for not showing his face to the world and telling everyone exactly what to do and what to believe.
I don't know what Madilyn Paige's questions are. I'm going to take a wild guess that one of them is why "God" creates gay people and then commands them to stay alone until they die. The world of LDS musicians is a small one, and I'd be surprised if she wasn't personally acquainted with David Archuleta, who left the church because its teachings about his sexuality made him hate himself and contemplate suicide. The answer to this question that I came up with is very simple: God has nothing to do with it, but the church is run by old straight men who think gay sex is gross. Another question she may have is why "God" denies women like herself the opportunities and privileges in the church and in society that men have. My answer is very simple: God has nothing to do with it, but the church is run by old male men who think women are baby factories. Maybe she wants to know why "God" banned black people from the priesthood and the temple for 126 years. My answer is very simple: God had nothing to do with it, but the church was run by old white men who thought black people were inferior to them. Latter-day Saints - including myself when I was one - make these questions out to be more complicated than they are because they can't accept the logical and straightforward answers that don't involve the church being what it claims to be.
I bet I could answer all of Madilyn Paige's questions, but she wouldn't like the answers. And that's fair. I wasn't ready to accept them at her age either, and if she's happy where she's at, I wouldn't want to take that away from her anyway. I wouldn't bother arguing against the LDS Church's truth claims at all if it didn't harm people I love. And I don't think she's the type to use her beliefs to harm people. She's been a more positive influence in the world than I've been. Here's a nice uplifting song she did.
I stopped following r/latterdaysaints on reddit after I was banned for encouraging critical thinking and intellectual honesty. I was legitimately trying to help; I'm not such a jerk that I'll go into people's safe spaces for the purpose of tearing down their beliefs. For example, in a discussion about young people's loss of trust in institutions such as the LDS Church, I explained the real reasons for young people's loss of trust in institutions such as the LDS Church. One would think that anybody who wants to address a problem would want to understand the real reasons for it instead of a straw man. But no. So now I'm done trying to help and I'll just content myself with watching the church shoot itself in the foot over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. But the other day someone in another subreddit shared a screenshot of part of a post in r/latterdaysaints and I was going to write a post here explaining why it was wrong, but then I went and read the whole thing and several of the comments and I decided to just copy-paste them here and add my commentary in bold.
What is an "Anti-Doctrine?"Anti-Doctrine is my term for a doctrine or teaching that is said to be part of our shared beliefs only by those who do not believe.
"anti-doctrine" then, has a double meaning because it refers to both the opposite of doctrine - something that we do not teach instead of something we do teach - and it also refers to its use by "anti-Mormons" [emphasis in original]
Common usage by antagonists to faith
These anti-doctrines are often presented as "What your religion REALLY teaches" or as some sort of secret that was covered up and never revealed to you, the unsuspecting believer.
(insert snarky tone How kind of the non-believer, then, to reveal what you were secretly believing all along!)
How to recognize Anti-Doctrine
Because the word "doctrine" just means "teachings," anything taught by church members in any positions of authority could be called "doctrine." This can create confusion and, indeed, openings for antagonists to use to attack our faith. However, Elder Neil L Anderson guides us with a better standard for finding out what The Church really teaches:
There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many.
Therefore, long-ago statements by church leaders, no matter how important they were, may not qualify as a doctrine of our faith if those statements haven't survived to be taught today by our leaders.
In other words, "what the church really believes" is what it teaches in public today, what the majority of members actually believe, and what we practice. It's not the random thoughts, speculation, or interpretation of cherry-picked statements from other flawed humans - even when those words are found in scripture! It's certainly not the ill-willed proclamations of antagonists who want to extend the words or actions of an individual to be indicative of our entire belief system.
A Few Examples of Anti-Doctrine
The list goes on. Anybody trying to tell you what "Mormons Really Believe" is making an effort to load more and more into your "Truth Cart" so it's easier for them to tip it over.
There is no standard, consistent, accepted definition for what constitutes "doctrine" in the LDS Church, which is why nobodies on reddit have to go into long-winded explanations like this. (I don't mean to insult OP by calling them a nobody, but simply to differentiate them from the men in leadership positions whom one might think would be the proper source of such explanations.) The challenge is to craft a definition that includes all the parts that the current prophets and apostles teach but not the parts that past prophets and apostles taught that the church would rather forget about. Members commonly say doctrine is the stuff that never changes, which is useless circular logic because we don't know what's going to change until it changes. And this whole exercise is a pet peeve of mind because the word "doctrine" just means "teachings." I was surprised and impressed by OP's intellectual honesty in pointing that out. I was going to argue that most of these things used to be doctrine by any reasonable definition even if they aren't anymore, but I actually don't think OP would dispute that. I also like their acknowledgment that some things aren't true even if they're found in scripture, though I certainly was never taught that level of nuance in any church setting and had to get it from Ben Spackman's blog instead.
I would agree that most of LDS Church's doctrine, unlike its history and finances, was never hidden from me. But there was the small matter of women covenanting in the temple to obey their husbands. When a friend from high school asked me about that, I had no idea what she was talking about, but I believed my church's doctrine that men and women were equal, so I told her it wasn't true and didn't give it another thought until January 2019 when the media reported on the removal of that part of the temple ceremonies. It felt like a punch in the stomach.
In addition to dozens of statements by church leaders for over a century that certainly exceed any threshold of being "random" or "cherry-picked," the "skin color is a sign of a curse" thing is canonized in the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price. (What a strange coincidence that this teaching isn't in the Bible but it is in two books produced by Joseph Smith.) I was in my freshman year of college before I recognized how racist it is to believe that God gave the wicked Lamanites a "skin of blackness" to dissuade the "white and delightsome" Nephites from marrying them. In the last couple decades or so apologists have argued that this skin color change should be read metaphorically, but that certainly isn't what generations of (white) leaders taught and even now I doubt it's what the majority of (white) members believe. So okay, OP did say "even if those words are found in scripture." Fair enough. But this "anti-doctrine" has a more authoritative basis than the others on their list.
I will comment on some other items from the list as opportunities present themselves.
I was taught approximately a third of these as a convert, by several sources and leaders, and they were presented as doctrine. I understand my experience is not universal, but it is frustrating when members tell me I should have known they weren't "doctrine".
This is the top comment and I appreciate it.
I'm a recent convert (less than 6 months) and I've been taught a few of these things and yes they have been taught to me as doctrine, so I'm confused by this post.
This is a reply to the top comment and I appreciate it.
Can you list which ones you were taught? I also think this is tricky because the actual answer may be a variation of some of the statements given.
This is another reply to the top comment and I appreciate it.
Sure, and agreed, sometimes it's a variation.
I was taught as a kid that I would get to create planets, by a guest speaker at a youth activity who joked that he would create a planet full of ski resorts. He never said I would be limited to just one. Then as an adult the church came out with an essay claiming that "Latter-day Saints’ doctrine of exaltation is often similarly reduced in media to a cartoonish image of people receiving their own planets" and "few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet." So even as a believing member that was kind of annoying. Just last week I found this quote on its website by accident while reading about aliens:
"Nothing is more basic in the restored gospel than these truths that, because of recent events of space travel, are so timely. The great hope of the gospel for us is that we may come to a oneness with our Lord and our Father and partake of this same work and glory and godhood. Being joint-heirs of all that the Father has, we may then look forward to using those powers to organize still other worlds from the unorganized matter that exists throughout boundless space. Creating other worlds, peopling them with our own eternal posterity, providing a savior for them, and making known to them the saving principles of the eternal gospel, that they may have the same experiences we are now having and be exalted with us in their turn—this is eternal life. No wonder this possibility continues to fascinate and inspire Saints of all ages. This hope is what inspires members of the Church to seek eternal marriage and to seek in all things to be one with our Lord Jesus Christ, because we want to be with him and participate in all the marvelous things of which Paul the apostle said: 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.'
Pretending for the sake of argument that this is the only quote about exalted Latter-day Saints creating worlds (which it isn't), we could say that it's a prime example of "anti-doctrine" because it's just an assistant BYU professor writing in the church's youth magazine. But we would still be well-advised to ask why the church approved it for publication and where he even got the idea that "nothing is more basic in the restored gospel" than this "great hope of the gospel for us" which "continues to fascinate and inspire Saints of all ages." Or do we just need to split hairs about the difference between creating a world and receiving a planet?
I had an institute teacher who said that Black people's skin color was caused by the "curse of Cain" as recently as 2015. The Come Follow Me manual for 2020 included this quote: "The dark skin was placed upon the Lamanites so that they could be distinguished from the Nephites and to keep the two peoples from mixing [see 2 Nephi 5:21-23; Alma 3:6-10]. The dark skin was the sign of the curse. The curse was the withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord [see 2 Nephi 5:20]. . . . Dark skin . . . is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. , 3:122-23)." After an uproar from Black members, it was replaced with something entirely different in the digital version. Setting aside the fact that they edited this quote to completely misrepresent what Joseph Fielding Smith actually wrote (hint: it was more racist), it's kind of bonkers that the manual writers apparently didn't think it would offend anyone because it says that dark skin isn't a sign of a curse anymore. They're in their own little world sometimes.
I am surprised people are still being taught that polygamy is required for the highest level of celestial glory. I've heard members offer their opinion that we'll all have to practice it because a lot fewer men will be in the celestial kingdom, but nobody asserted it as a given. On the contrary, I was blessed with institute teachers who assured us that it isn't true just because Brigham Young taught it.
This is confusing to me (as a lifelong member). I have heard many variations of the “polygamy is required for salvation” conversation. If polygamy ISNT important, than why is it canonized in D&C? I grew up being told polygamy would be happening in the celestial kingdom, and that has become something I’ve grown to include in my belief system.
Well for me, due to the lack of comment from current leaders, I chose to follow past teachings & scripture and believe that polygamy will be a huge part of the celestial kingdom. I think too many members are saying, “polygamy won’t be required” simply because they don’t want it to be. But again, past teachings and scripture seem to tell it in a much more black and white way. I’m happy to be proved wrong, but that’s just how I accept polygamy in the church.
It would be difficult to overstate the centrality of polygamy to LDS doctrine in the nineteenth century. The prophets and lay members of that era would unequivocally reject the church's current stance that the Lord's standard is monogamy and he only commands exceptions on rare occasions. For example, in August 1862 the Deseret News reported Brigham Young preaching, "Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire…. The scarcity of women gave existance [sic] to laws restricting one wife to one man. Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers…. Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. 'And is that religion popular in heaven?' it is the only popular religion there..." This wasn't the first or last time he denounced traditional marriage. But I'm sure the current prophet is entirely trustworthy on that subject.
Interesting post. One issue is when those points still correspond to scripture in canon still I don’t think it can be classified as “Anti”. Like D&C 107:53 which says adam lived in the valley of Adam ondi Ahman which is in Missouri and can be found on the church website:
“Spring Hill was named Adam-ondi-Ahman by the Prophet Joseph Smith, as indicated by the Lord in revelation (see Doctrine and Covenants 116). Five weeks later, on June 28, 1838, the third stake of Zion was organized there. An 1835 revelation identified the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman as the place where Adam blessed his posterity after leaving the Garden of Eden (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:53–57).”
Leaders don’t really talk about this anymore but it’s still there. So what do we do with it?
The issue isn’t the garden it’s that Adam the first man lived in Missouri when the rest of the Bible narrative was in the Middle East. When did he get over? You have believe in the literal flood to get them over there or some other migration and a lot of people want to believe that’s metaphorical or regional but it doesn’t work if Adam lives in Missouri. Next if there was a flood when did the native Americans from Asia get over to this land and how did they get here if not for the Bering straight? It makes sense if the Book of Mormon is the story of all the descendants but science puts the Asian migration at 15 thousands plus years ago.
Joseph Smith caused a lot of problems for his church by doubling down on the literal historicity of people who didn't exist and events that didn't happen. Adam and Eve, Noah's flood, and the Tower of Babel are all myths and were understood as such by the people who wrote them down. Joseph Smith misunderstood them through his nineteenth-century American worldview and codified his misunderstanding as doctrine. Many members today take more nuanced views of them, but the other three books in the LDS scriptural canon (and some other supposedly prophetic teachings) fall apart if they aren't literal history. No Tower of Babel = no Jaredites.
Well shoot if I was there thousands of years ago, I could tell ya. Stories from the old testament have been passed down over thousands of years surely with details forgotten and others exaggerated.
To be honest, in the bigger picture, it doesn't matter whether or not the garden of Eden was in Missouri or not. It has no bearing on our eternal salvation, and is likely why 'leaders don't talk about it anymore'.
Even as a member I hated when other members fell back on "That's not important to my salvation" as a way to avoid thinking about legitimate questions or issues. How many hours a day do you spend on things that aren't important to your salvation?
Do you consider (up-to-date) instructions in the church handbook to be doctrine? As a transgender person, I know some members who have rejected handbook instructions regarding trans people as being church teachings/doctrine (both to claim the church is more welcoming or less welcoming to trans folk, in fact).
Though to be fair, I think in most cases they simply refused to believe I was telling them the truth about what's in the handbook.
I just thought it was cool that a transgender person was participating in this thread. I bet fifty thousand dollars they'll be out of the church within five years.
If "doctrine" means "teaching," then there really is no separation between policy and doctrine. Handbook instructions, letters from the first presidency, and the like might all be considered doctrines.
But we must not put too much weight on the word "doctrine." Too many people treat that word like it means "eternally true forever and perfect" when it still just means "our current understanding"
Elder Maxwell used to speak about this occasionally, suggesting that there is clearly an as-of-yet unrevealed hierarchy of truths, ranging from the "true but unimportant" to the "true and of eternal significance." To say "the handbook is doctrine" doesn't really solve anything unless the person saying it and the person hearing it have the same understanding of what the word doctrine means.
Here, OP rejects the useless circular logic definition that annoys me so much, and I appreciate it. I also agree that the supposed distinction between policy and doctrine is pretty pointless. Supposedly they both come from the Lord.
Some of these things were certainly fringe ideas, but others were accepted beliefs taught and understood by most of the church at one point or another.
Once widely accepted:
Between 1967 and 1978, a churchwide policy (as opposed to a fringe idea) based on the First Presidency's interpretation of scripture (as opposed to, oh I don't know, revelation or something) prohibited women from praying in meetings at all. It seems the church was "inspired" to remove this policy by ERA activist Sonia Johnson, who wrote in her memoir, "Apparently what happened was that my testimony before the Senate subcommittee - in which I quoted church leaders' affirmation of the 'exalted role of woman in our society,' and pointed out that they considered women too 'exalted' to offer prayers in sacrament meetings - began circulating immediately and widely underground in Utah, alerting many Mormons for the first time that women had been officially cut off from such prayers for a long time.... Most Mormon women, accustomed to having so few rights in the church, had not even noticed, and besides, not allowing women to pray in sacrament meeting had been well on its way to becoming standard practice in many localities of the church before the directive....
"One woman in Provo, Utah, read the testimony and vowed that she would not sing in church until prayer privileges were restored, because 'the song of the righteous is a prayer unto God.' Several faculty members at Brigham Young University were shocked into action and demanded an accounting from church headquarters. In the end, so much hue and cry was raised that President Kimball was forced to admit that the policy was not in accord with scripture and could not stand..."
I’m sorry if this comes off wrong, but I have to be blunt concerning the quote from Elder Neil Anderson. It has bothered me since he said it at General Conference. His definition of ‘doctrine’ is not straightforward. Theoretically, in order for his definition of ‘doctrine’ to be taken seriously, all members of the Q15 need to repeat this teaching, right? But which Q15? Is it all living 15 at one time? Is it all 15 over a certain period? What if 14 have repeated the teaching, and the remaining one passes away? Do we hope the next one continues the tradition? Does everyone need to start over then? Are we all supposed to carry little notebooks with running tallies of who taught which doctrines when hoping we reach BINGO on our score card? Is this how we identify God’s doctrines? What do we have to hold onto that has been revealed by all members of the Q15? This list has got to be short and I would love it if anyone who has done the work tracking the individual teachings of all members of the Q15 to share it with me.
I am more inclined to follow the well established definition of ‘doctrine’ in our theology: a teaching conveyed by a member of the Q15 (prophet, seer, and revelator, witness of the name of Christ, whether in public or private, in the right context). Yes, this definition provides a litany of contradictions and forces us to conform nuance, but we are at least left with some doctrine to interpret. The ‘doctrine’ described by Elder Anderson leaves us nothing to hold onto.
It's especially silly when you consider how many LDS beliefs are based on one or two verses of scripture.
Mistakes are a certainty.
Science has shown over and over again that our politics are a greater predictor of our moral stance than our religion, and that's pretty obvious. Tell me you're a "Christian" and I know less about your view on some moral issues than if you tell me you're a staunch Republican or Democrat.
By implication, then, we can't rely on our own ideas of "church" or "doctrine" to keep us grounded. We will tend to either read our own philosophy into the scriptures (like when one person in my ward started blabbering about how capitalism is at the heart of the Proclamation on the Family) or we will have thoughts like "that's not doctrine, it's policy" or "that's just his opinion, not speaking as a prophet" or "They're just a local leader, not a general authority," or "the prophet made a mistake."
Our political and ideological bubbles are so thick sometimes that we are actually unable to recognize when we're the ones drifting on the wind. Has the world drifted to the right or the left, or have we? Has the church changed, or is it us? Our psychology, in a self-defense overdrive, tries to protect us from "being wrong" by making it impossible for us to consciously see what the truth may be.
As social pressures shape various churches and believers, we have something to anchor ourselves to: Prophets. Our prophets, speaking as a united quorum of diverse backgrounds and political leanings, can become an anchor during perilous times. Will they be wrong sometimes? it is a certainty. Will they be wrong less than you? Almost certainly.
But most important, they will continue to hold the keys of salvation.
I've been wrong about many things, but I try to keep an open mind so I can eventually realize when I'm wrong and change my beliefs. LDS prophets don't do that. Like, ever. They don't back down, they don't retract, they don't apologize. Therefore I consider myself a much more reliable spiritual guide for myself than they are. The current prophet and his wife have doubled down on perpetuating the falsehood that he speaks for the Lord every time he opens his mouth, and even though members are allowed to say "prophets aren't infallible" in an abstract sense, they're told that they can't pick and choose which of the church's teachings to follow, and they're told that if they ever receive personal revelation that the church is wrong about something, their personal revelation is wrong because the church said so. Members who argued against the priesthood and temple ban on Black people before 1978 were wrong until suddenly they weren't. The lack of an honest and coherent solution to the serious problems of prophetic fallability was the final straw that drove me out.
My grandmother, one of the most faithful people I’ve ever known, very much believed that she was destined to make babies for eternity and she was not looking forward to it. She even wrote a poem about her dissatisfaction with the prospect of “eternal increase”.
I’m not saying that means it is doctrine. But I am saying she did not get the idea from “anti-Mormons”.
I'm sure this was an isolated anomaly, right? Right?
I’ve been in the church 40 years and many of these were definitely taught as doctrine, even by Elder Anderson’s definition. I’ve been surprised that many now see some of them as ‘not doctrine’
Others, I agree we’re [sic] never doctrine, and other still, we’re [sic] definitely taught as doctrine, again, by elder anderson’s definition, but are no longer doctrine and in fact have been renounced by the church.
Anti-doctrine definition may help you, and that is great, but clearly this has seemed to create significant confusion over what is really doctrine.
Not much to add here, but "by the mouths of two or three witnesses" and all that.
There is a fairly clear precedent in the history of the church on how the church has made significant changes in doctrine.
In 1835, Joseph Smith and the general assembly of the church voted unanimously to print the “Lectures on Faith,” in the Doctrine and Covenants, in order to provide a sure foundational doctrine of the Godhead.
Almost 100 years later, in 1921, a council of leaders in the church felt the doctrine laid out in “Lectures on Faith” contradicted the then current acceptance of the teaching that man becomes like God, so with the new printing of the D&C, the lectures were removed.
Today, it is rare to find someone in the church that is familiar with Joseph’s Lectures on Faith.
I read the Lectures on Faith for the first time last year, having heard that they were really profound or something. They were okay, I guess. And yes, they do contradict current LDS doctrine, for example by asserting that the Godhead has only two members, the Father and the Son.
By definition, doctrine is what is generally taught by a religion. Granted, most of these things are not acknowledged as “doctrine” today, but at one point many of them were taught. My parents, in their mid-70’s still believe we’re all going to have to trek to Missouri. When I told my mom that isn’t taught anymore, she couldn’t believe it! Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s a lot of these were taught to me.
My sixty-something bishop in a YSA ward in a college town in 2021 had missed the memo that married women are allowed to have careers now. Kidding, there was no memo.
The idea that women will be eternal baby makers is unsupported. We have no evidence that pregnancy is required to make spiritual bodies. We have no idea what that process entails. Its a farce to claim mormons believe women will be eternally pregnant in the CK.
I know firsthand that some mormons believe it and some don't. I had an institute teacher who asserted that this is the reason why men can be sealed to multiple women but not vice-versa. I've seen a guy claim that his wife looks forward to it. I agree that it's an absurd and disgusting belief, but it's a pretty logical extrapolation from the church's doctrine that physical bodies and heterosexual marriage are requirements for exaltation in the CK. That's not "no evidence." On the other hand, Brigham Young taught it, so that's pretty compelling evidence that it isn't true.
Yeah that one drives me crazy as well. The ultimate, core doctrine of all our beliefs is, as best I can tell, "God is Love." If God loves his daughters perfectly, would he ever turn them into machinery or in any way seek to turn them from whatever path each of them wants to travel through the eternities? Would a celestial husband, seeking to be like Jesus Christ, be a part of making his other half a mechanism for fulfilling this insane idea of doctrine?
It's literal nonsense that preys on fears and exploits our inability to understand what awaits us in the life to come.
If the LDS Church's view of women is meant to be representative of God's view of women, they have good reason to be afraid. For most of its history it's treated them as little more than baby-making machines. The first quote that pops into my head is this gem from Spencer W. Kimball that was quietly deleted from the Eternal Marriage institute student manual last year: “Supreme happiness in marriage is governed considerably by a primary factor—that of the bearing and rearing of children. Too many young people set their minds, determining they will not marry or have children until they are more secure, until the military service period is over; until the college degree is secured; until the occupation is more well-defined; until the debts are paid; or until it is more convenient. They have forgotten that the first commandment is to ‘be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.’ (Genesis 1:28.) And so brides continue their employment and husbands encourage it, and contraceptives are used to prevent conception. Relatives and friends and even mothers sometimes encourage birth control for their young newlyweds. But the excuses are many, mostly weak. The wife is not robust; the family budget will not feed extra mouths; or the expense of the doctor, hospital, and other incidentals is too great; it will disturb social life; it would prevent two salaries; and so abnormal living prevents the birth of children. The Church cannot approve nor condone the measures which so greatly limit the family” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 328–29).
Perhaps most pertinent is Doctrine and Covenants 132, the section of canonized scripture that coincidentally outlines both polygamy and exaltation as if they're somehow related, wherein the God of Love references women as objects that are given to and taken away from men as he sees fit. If he has the slightest concern for their agency or happiness, he chose a strange way to show it. Now of course, the scriptures themselves may contain anti-doctrines, but I'm not sure that can apply here seeing as this entire section is attributed to the Lord himself in the first person and wasn't even translated from another language. We'd better pray that Joseph Smith made it up.
Antagonists will do this intentionally. Many people may simply be misinformed and think they are true. I’m confident many of our members also share anti-doctrine about other faiths. It’s also difficult to say some of these things were never presented as “doctrine” but your point on frequency and recency is well-noted.
Yep, I've been in multiple Sunday school lessons where we mocked mainstream Christians for supposedly believing that God the Father and Jesus Christ are the same person and that Jesus prayed to himself. That's not how most of them understand the Trinity at all. In fact, as I've said before, I can't understand how three persons in one substance are significantly different from the LDS doctrine of the Godhead. The Book of Mormon states multiple times that there's one God, most Mormons would insist that they only believe in one God, and most Mormons would also say that Jesus is God just as much as Heavenly Father is God. But that's none of my business.
Ali Khamenei and Brigham Young
When I saw these tweets on r/NewIran, no joke, my first thought was astonishment at how much Iran's theocratic dictator sounds like an LDS prophet. I didn't bother to mention it because most Iranians have never heard of the LDS Church and I see no reason to change that, but some of these statements could have come almost verbatim from a conference talk or Ensign article not very long ago.
Of course, I don't mean to insinuate for a moment that LDS prophets are exactly the same as this man or that they should also be publicly executed. Much of my astonishment over the similarity stems from the fact that this man is talking about mothers and housewives to sidestep the more pertinent subject of him having women imprisoned and abused for refusing to cover their hair. But other than that weird bit of misdirection, the tactic of defending oppressive gender roles by praising women, even by claiming they're superior to men, is identical to what the LDS Church has done countless times. And while we're on the subject, the LDS preoccupation with "modesty" stems from exactly the same place as the Muslim hijab requirement - namely, the toxic doctrine that women have a moral obligation to protect men from sexual temptations. One can easily imagine Ali Khamenei, or whoever writes his tweets, telling women without hijabs, as Dallin Oaks told women who don't follow the LDS dress code, that they are "becoming pornography to some of the men who see you." But as the Islamic Republic soon will be, the LDS Church has been forced to back down on this issue a lot.
You know who isn't backing down? Missouri Republicans, who recently voted to require female lawmakers to keep their arms covered. (Insert obvious joke about the right to bare arms here.) No, I can't believe this is real life either. The Republican Party is a cancer.
I recently read Wife no.19, or the story of a life in bondage. Being a complete exposé of Mormonism, and revealing the sorrows, sacrifices and sufferings of women in polygamy by Brigham Young's ex-wife Ann Eliza Webb Young. While I was reading it I met up with an old friend and she asked what I've been reading lately and I didn't mention this book because I assumed she was still a member of the church, but it turns out she's an atheist going through the motions for her parents' sake, so that was kind of funny and reinforced yet again how screwed the church is. Anyway, I had been aware of this book's existence for quite some time but somehow not curious enough to read it. I had an institute teacher who mentioned Ann Eliza Young in his church history course. Mind you, this teacher was/is in most respects a really great and thoughtful and compassionate and funny guy, so I regret that this one anecdote gives a negative impression, but he just dismissed her as a gold digger and portrayed it as funny that she lost her alimony lawsuit because Brigham successfully argued that she had never been his wife because polygamy was illegal. And for some reason that was good enough for me. But I recently was reminded of her book's existence and realized that now I had no reason not to read it.
It's no secret that my feelings toward the LDS Church at this time are primarily negative, but this book's portayal of it is so overwhelmingly negative that I couldn't help being skeptical. Surely Brigham Young wasn't that evil. Surely Mormon vigilantes didn't murder that many people. Surely Utah wasn't hell on Earth for all women. Granted, this wasn't the first time I'd heard claims of Brigham swindling people in business or missionaries lying to European converts about polygamy. After reading it, I went to see what FAIR had to say about it, curious whether LDS apologists could legitimately call Ann Eliza Webb Young's credibility into question or disprove any of her claims about historical events. FAIR has no article about the book and only so much as mentions it a few times, usually to cite it as evidence that even "a later wife of Brigham Young's who divorced him, published an anti-Mormon book, and spent much of her time giving anti-Mormon, anti-polygamy lectures" believed that Joseph Smith took Fanny Alger as a plural wife before Emma caught them having sex in a barn. So I guess I'm free to assume the accuracy of everything she wrote.
I just want to share a couple of quotes that hit my heart especially hard. Page 395: "When flippant newspaper correspondents, after a visit to the valley of the Saints, go away and write in terms of ridicule of the Mormon women, calling them fearfully ugly in looks, they little know what bitter, hard, cruel experiences have carved the deep lines round the eyes and mouths, and made the faces grow repulsive and grim, and taken from them all the softness, and tenderness, and grace which glorify a happy woman's face, even if she be ever so plain of feature. If these men, who write so carelessly, could only see the interior of the lives that they are touching with such a rough, rude hand, they might be, perhaps, a little more sympathetic in tone. It is no wonder that the women of Utah are not beautiful; there is nothing in all their lives to glorify or beautify their faces, to add at all to their mental or physical charm or grace. They are pretty enough as children; as young girls they can compare favorably with any girls I have seen in the East; but just so soon as they reach womanhood the curse of polygamy is forced upon them, and from that moment their lives are changed, and they grow hard or die - one of the two - in their struggles to become inured to this unnatural life. This system either kills its victims outright, or crushes out every bit of hope and ambition from them, leaving them aimless and apathetic, dragging out existence without the least ray of present happiness or future anticipation to lighten it."
This claim of polygamy making women ugly would easily be dismissed as her subjective opinion if not for the fact that, as she mentions, outsiders noticed and commented on it - most famously, Mark Twain in Roughing It: "With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I was feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform [on polygamy] - until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically 'homely' creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said, 'No - the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure - and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence.'" Not so funny anymore, is it?
After escaping from Utah, initiating divorce proceedings, and going around speaking against polygamy with the help of Gentile friends, Ann Eliza Webb Young writes on pages 589-91: "I had felt [polygamy's] misery; I had known the abject wretchedness of the condition to which it reduced women, but I did not fully realize the extent of its depravity, the depths of the woes in which it plunged women, until I saw the contrasted lives of monogamic wives.
"I had seen women neglected, or, worse than that, cruelly wronged, every attribute of womanhood outraged and insulted. I now saw other women, holding the same relation, cared for tenderly, cherished, protected, loved, and honored. I had been taught to believe that my sex was inferior to the other; that the curse pronounced upon the race in the Garden of Eden was woman's curse alone, and that it was to man she must look for salvation. No road lay open for her to the throne of grace; no gate of eternal life swinging wide to the knockings of her weary hands; no loving Father listened to the wails of sorrow and supplication wrung by a worse than death-agony from her broken heart. Heaven was inaccessible to her, except as she might win it through some man's will. [Outside of Utah] I found, to my surprise, that woman was made the companion and not the subject of man. She was the sharer alike of his joys and sorrows. Morally, she was a free agent. Her husband's God was her God as well, and she could seek Him for herself, asking no mortal intercession. Motherhood took on a new sacredness, and the fatherly care and tenderness, brooding over a family, strengthening and defending it, seemed sadly sweet to me, used as I was to see children ignored by their fathers....
"Women are the greatest sufferers. The moral natures of men must necessarily suffer also; but to them comes no such agony of soul as comes to women. Their sensibilities are blunted; their spiritual natures deadened; their animal natures quickened; they lose manliness, and descend to the level of brutes; and these dull-witted, intellectually-dwarfed moral corpses, the women are told, are their only saviours.
"What wonder that they, too, become dull and apathetic? Who wonders at the immovable mouths, expressionless eyes, and gray, hopeless faces, which tourists mark always as the characteristics of the Mormon women? What does life offer to make them otherwise than dull and hopeless? Or what even does eternity promise? A continuation merely of the sufferings which have already crushed the womanhood out of them. A cheering prospect, is it not? Yet it is what every poor Mormon woman has to look forward to. Just that, and nothing more."
Oof. Until reading this passage, I had believed that the LDS Church was progressive on women's rights in the nineteenth century and had merely gone astray by refusing to progress further with the rest of society during the twentieth century. Ann Eliza Webb Young says otherwise. This could, again, be her subjective opinion, but I have no reason to doubt it. This isn't presentism. She wrote contemporaneously. She didn't look back through decades of hindsight, with the benefit of modern assumptions about women's equality founded on multiple feminist movements, to condemn the church. She looked around at what was, for her, the here and now, and she saw that the LDS doctrine that men intercede between their wives and God, which was explicitly taught in the temple ceremonies until 2019 (and arguably remains implicit in some ways), was already sexist by the standards of 1876. That's pretty damning. Of course, if some apologetics for this doctrine are to be believed, it's really placing an extra responsibility on men because women are superior to them. Ali Khamenei, or whoever writes his tweets, would be proud.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.