Facts are not criticism. Opinions which differ from traditional historical opinions that I have fully explained and gathered the evidence from the sources to support, are also not criticism. If an event occurred and is accurately retold, it is not criticism even if the event is troublesome.
When it comes to evaluating our faith, indeed any faith, there are moments where two things are going to happen: First, you will encounter things you simply do not understand. For those issues, you may struggle with dissonance, or the inability to resolve the question sometimes for years, as I have. That is perfectly normal. It means you have more work to do. It does not mean you are wicked, lack faith, or are out of harmony with God because you are unable to understand a proposition. For me, plural marriage was a difficult topic which caused me to leave it unresolved for over two decades. It was not something I had time to resolve. During that time, the issue was an admitted "problem" for my faith. But despite that, I had a testimony, continued active in the church, paid tithing and served in callings. From time to time, when the topic was being discussed, I listened, asked questions, considered what others thought, and kept the matter in the mental file-drawer to be sorted through at some point. During that time many Latter-day writers took the effort to gather and publish histories of the practice. They aided me as I pondered the question. It was literally only a couple of years ago before I finally reached a conclusion. I've never fully explained my conclusions or why. I have, however, mentioned the matter in Passing the Heavenly Gift. That is a broad-brush treatment, and not an elaboration of my full understanding on the subject. I am now comfortable with how I view the subject.
Second, you are going to encounter information that proves what you believed before is wrong. It may be wrong because it was not true, or because it was poorly understood, or because it was based on a story or incident that never happened. It may be wrong because someone you trusted was mistaken, or they were dishonest. Whatever the discovery that reveals things in a new light, you will undoubtedly find along the path of faith that you were wrong at some point about some things in your religion. I've encountered that a lot since becoming a Mormon. When you encounter such things you have a choice to make - Either you can react with dismay and bitterness, or you can sort through what adjustments now need to be made, and proceed with faith and security in God to sort it out. In other words, you can act like the secure woman who was told the horizontal stripes had an unintended effect on her appearance, and proceed forward with that in mind.
There are those who have never ventured into our history. They don't want to do so. They feel insecure and frail, unable to encounter the material because of fear that it will unhinge them from what they value. I get that. In the case of Passing the Heavenly Gift I'm not writing to even address them. For the life of me, I can't understand why such a person would even read that part of what I've written. It was certainly not intended for them. The most frail and insecure of all, however, are those who have never read anything I've written and yet presume to be able to evaluate the intentions and even value of the work I have and am doing. I am not a critic of the church. I have never been one.
I have never said the church does not have the sealing power. Instead, I have discussed the scriptures and teachings of Joseph Smith, the revelations in the D&C, and Joseph's public addresses, the critical moments when the authority has been conferred, and both how and why it is given. There are three chapters in Beloved Enos, and several chapters in Passing the Heavenly Gift, and some material in Eighteen Verses, along with a paper on Elijah in which I discuss things relating to the topic. In none of that have I ever said the church lacks sealing power. In Beloved Enos I discuss an example from President Monson where I refer to its use. I also concede regularly the claim by the church that it has it and I do not question that claim. Never have.
The fact that the power to seal is given in only one way is very clear in the scriptures and teachings of Joseph Smith. That is a fact. That fact has been shown in what I've written. Therefore, there are several facts which ought to be considered. First, in scripture, the sealing power comes to man by the voice of God and in no other way. Second, I have never said and don't claim the church lacks that authority. Third, the church claims to have such authority, and I do not question the claim.
Frail and insecure church members, particularly those who presume they have the right to evaluate the faith of others are well advised to first ground themselves and their own testimony before deciding if an accurate observation about "horizontal stripes" is really an insult or merely a fact.
Here is a sample of the kind of foolishness my wife brings to my attention from various blogs:
"Far more important than the will to win is the will to prepare" -LaVell Edwards
Interesting that there are those who are "in the know" from inside the church who feel at liberty to gossip on the Internet about things such as this. What kind of an organization are they running? Why would the church pretend to have confidential conversations between members and leaders if there are going to be such leaks from within the COB?
Shame on all those involved. Shame on those who refuse to discuss openly the important issues rather than resort to subversion of members through back-channels.
For the Strengthening the Members Committee I have another thought for you: "The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion." (Prov. 28: 1.) That was Solomon. Today, if it were me, I would say instead: "Grow a pair. For the faithful tire of dealing with eunuchs."
If I err in doctrine, and you have several million words of mine propounding doctrine in very public places then correct the error. Show me the mistakes. Teach me the better view of history. Show the better argument. If I err, I will gladly be instructed. But effeminate men hiding inside a tower who lack the testicular fortitude to confront me and debate the truth are unworthy of any serious consideration. They have chosen to hide from the arena in which ideas are doing battle. Anybody creeping about behind a pseudonym when they dare to comment at all is in sharp contrast to my own public disclosure, public accountability and public defense of the faith I hold as true.
Here's another truth for the self-righteous eunuchs accusing me of wanting the glory of leading my own following: You can't find a picture of me on this blog, or in any book I've written, or in the advertising to the very few speaking engagements I've accepted. You can look into the Chiasmus Conference at which I spoke and you'll find that there is no picture of me in any of the material advertising it, nor in the book when it came out. My picture isn't in any of the material from the Portland Conference I spoke at last year. I'm not looking to be recognized. It is my IDEAS that are advanced, not me. I am nothing. I don't matter. You shouldn't recognize me, pick me from a line-up, or think you know me. I do not do that. Even the interview with John Dehlin was predicated on it being a voice recording, NOT a video. If it were a video, I would have turned it down. I'm not a publicity hog, and offer no competition to the folks who want a following. I do not want one. I do not accept speaking invitations. I turn down dozens of them and rarely speak because I do NOT want to attract attention to myself. I want the IDEAS to have a life, not me.
If you want to search for men seeking to rival the Brethren, take a look at CES. For example, one of my my former Bishops is able to fill a stake center to overflowing mid-day with Mormon housewives who dote on the man. I can assure you I have no intention of trying to accomplish anything similar. I KNOW that what I've written is deeply offensive to many, many church members. It has no advantage apart from being honest, and the honesty of the material is accompanied by my sincere belief in it also being TRUE. If it is wrong, then grow a pair and openly confront the ideas, tell us your name, give us your basis for contradicting the material, and act like you are confident in your beliefs. Or keep your skirts on and snipe from the sidelines, but never expect me to respect the frail and insecure who are unable or unwilling to compete in the arena where the valiant are found suffering for the Lord's cause. I occupy a place where insults come from those who ought to be supporting the struggle; making the Lord's cause all the more difficult for those making the sacrifice He has asked be made. It is not pleasant, but it does conform to a law ordained before the foundation of the world upon which blessings are predicated. Those blessings are personal, between God and myself, and worth enduring your attacks. I will not be deterred by weakness and criticism.
I have a testimony of the church. I have and do serve whereever asked. I pay tithes to her. But the horizontal stripes nevertheless are being worn, and they do affect her appearance.
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