Latter-day Saints for Change

"And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile." 2 Nephi 26:33

Honesty

To Whom it May Concern:
I remember as a young girl, how much I loved Primary.  I think that was due nearly entirely to the fact that I could have spent the entire 3 hour block of church singing my favorite hymns and primary songs over and over and been completely content.  Singing time was my favorite part of the week, and still, songs will pop into my head as I go about my day.
I remember reading about the changes made to President Packer’s talk in the days following the October 2010 general conference, and the song that was playing over and over in my head was, “Dare to do right! Dare to be true!” Those days were the proverbial straw, and my proverbial back finally snapped.
If there was one thing that I could change to make the church a better place, it would be to embrace honesty from the top down, the way it is taught from the bottom up.
How many of us are asked the question, “Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow men” every few years? Does anyone else remember making little crafts in Sunday School with spider webs and Sir Walter Scott’s famous line, “O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” scrawled across the top? Who else chose to recite the 13th Article of Faith at their primary graduation? We believe in being honest.
How betraying it feels to realize that you are asked to be honest, and yet are deceived in many small ways in return.
Honesty at the highest levels of the church organization would mean many things for me. First, it would mean that we would embrace our church history. The confusing moments would be discussed in Sunday School, the controversial moments would be acknowledged in general conference, even the ugly moments would be aired. We would include all the bad and the in-between with the good. We would do away with any rhetoric that implied that being “faith-promoting” is better than being real. We would recognize that a church that cannot trust its members with the truth, implies that it has something to hide. That a church that patronizes its membership with sanitized history is not worthy of the devotion it asks and requires. To whom much is given, much is required.
Second, it would mean that the church budget would be more accessible. Members would be able to see where their tithing dollars are spent. Do we truly have a lay leadership? How much of members’ donations goes to funding church schools? How much is spent on humanitarian aid? Do members deserve to have a say in any of that? Should they at least be informed? It seems to be a minimum standard to say, yes, they should. Is there any good reason to not disclose basic information that every other charity is required to disclose? Devoted tithing payers sacrifice much to continue to give their 10%, and are rewarded with a lack of trust and the implication that there is something to hide. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see. Or at least we would like to be.
Third, it would mean openness about the temple endowment. Openness about the history and evolution of the ordinance itself, but more importantly, openness in preparing young people to attend. We all hear the refrain that the temple is sacred, not secret, but we treat it as though it were secret. We have created a culture where we cannot speak about it, cannot voice concerns or misunderstandings about it, and we are sending our young people, particularly our young women into something they are completely unprepared for. They attend and are smacked in the face by what seems to many a ritualistic enactment of their own subordination, when they were told all along that they are daughters of God of infinite worth. They are shocked by the lack of a Heavenly Mother or an Eve with a voice. They wonder where the Atonement is. And in response to their concerns they are dismissed with a blithe suggestion to pray about it, or have more faith, as if they had forgotten to try that.
Fourth, honesty would mean admitting our faults as an institution. Maybe that would look like an apology for the priesthood ban that kept African and African American members from full fellowship. At the least it would look like an acknowledgement that the policy was not a good one. It would include an acknowledgement that the church has made mistakes and is growing and changing just like its members are. In my dream world it would include an acknowledgment of the harmful rhetoric that the church has embraced, that has taught women to hate their bodies, to doubt their eternal nature, and to feel as though they are second class citizens in a world where their God is a man, their leaders are men, and they are asked to give themselves freely to their husbands, hoping that these men will not abuse the trust that is being placed in them. It would mean recognizing that this rhetoric has allowed abuse to flourish in secret, and that are female members are not being given the skills or the confidence necessary to transition to independence when the trust is abused. Until we can fully admit and recognize these harms, how can we repent of them? How can we change?
It’s strange to me that it was such a small thing that finally convinced me that this church was no longer “my” church. After all the other things I’ve worried and prayed over, trying to understand how I fit into the things I heard every Sunday, it was a few minor changes to a general conference talk that hurt the most acutely. I wonder, is it difficult for those in the leadership to empathize with us? To imagine that we would feel betrayed by a rather blatant attempt to change history, with acknowledgement of it only after the fact? Is it hard to see how that feels like a cover up rather than honesty? Is it hard to imagine that if you can’t be trusted in small things, you can’t be trusted with something much larger. My spirituality, my relationship with God, is too important to me to leave in the hands of those that do not treat me with the respect and courtesy of simple honesty. If there was anything I could change about the church, it would be that.
Sincerely,
Kimberly Kay Anderson deLeon

Fort Worth, Texas

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7 thoughts on “Honesty

  1. Kimberly,
    this is to the point! Very eloquently said and if you’d hear me, I’d jump up and yell “Amen, sister!”

  2. Kimberly, I am very interested to know what you speak of here:

    “I remember reading about the changes made to President Packer’s talk in the days following the October 2010 general conference, and the song that was playing over and over in my head was, “Dare to do right! Dare to be true!” Those days were the proverbial straw, and my proverbial back finally snapped.”

    I don’t know that I heard anything about this, but I’m finding that there are a LOT of things about the church that I didn’t know anything about. A surprisingly HUGE amount, in fact. I am only beginning to see that a lot of what I have been taught and grown up believing are not the whole truth…

  3. Thanks Juliane! I filled out the survey John Dehlin sponsored last fall about why Mormons leave, and came out to some of my family, so it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

    Christine, President Packer’s talk in the Oct 2010 general conference was very controversial due to some statements he made that some people (including myself) took to be directed at gay members. You can read the changes to the talk here: http://mormonsformarriage.com/?p=299
    After conference, the talk was rerecorded and the released official versions online and in the Ensign included the changes only. The church made a statement after the fact, because there was a lot of hurt feelings. But there is no statement included with the official transcript to note that it’s not the talk as originially given.

    Apparently this isn’t the first time that’s happened, although I didn’t know anything about that until after President Packer’s talk. It seems like the general technique is to “fix” the talks, and then after a few years, people forget the original and the official version become the real one.

  4. Exactly Kim. I too would stand beside you and yell “AMEN!”.

  5. Here is another example of the church changing what was said over the pulpit–only actually far moreso than Elder Packer’s talk http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/02/best-conference-talk-you-never-read_13.html It’s quite a scandal, the cover-up that went down with this talk.

    I believe in being honest, and I agree with you Kim, financial transparency would go a long way, and frankness about church history (the good the bad and the ugly) would also help a lot. I struggle with these things, but at least thus far feel like I can do more good from the inside–I can teach my children and family and others around me some of the things that the GHQ won’t talk about. I can inoculate, as it were. I can try to push for change, but at the very least I can encourage others to notice and care about these issues. Maybe someday I’ll leave, but not yet. I think I can do some good yet.

  6. Jenni, I think whether or not someone stays in the church is such a personal decision, and I’m not trying to advocate leaving as a response. It was the right thing for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for everyone. I still have a little sister and nephews (and a soon to be here niece) growing up in the church, so it’s important to me to see it grow. But for my own sanity, I needed to do that from outside. Hugs to you and your journey!

  7. I am such a fan of the church. It has done such good in my life and introduced me to so many people I adore. You are totally right to be bugged by a ton of things that go on and have gone wrong in the church but I chalk it up to dumb men and women not thinking about the consequences of their actions. There is a real tendency for the “brethren” to think that the members can’t handle the whole truth of our history (actually, many probably can’t). It is going to come out and they should be the ones guiding and steering the conversation not playing damage control; people are leaving in droves because they weren’t taught this stuff. Many a version of damage control usually looks like, “faith crisis?, what sin are you committing or on the verge of committing?” All that said, I really do love the church. There is something real and special that keeps me going because I, too am very aware of the all the crap that goes on. My hint to survival is low expectations, and not in a condescending way. Everyone is trying their best and a lot of time their best isn’t very good but what are you going to do. Mortality works, it teaches us constant lessons.

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