This weekend is General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I am hurting. I am hurting because what I feel should be an opportunity for church leaders to encourage specific and actionable charity among members, as Pope Francis has done in the Catholic church, is used as a platform from which to provide misleading confirmation bias, fluffy platitudes, and totally off-the-mark statements about things I don’t believe LDS general authorities really understand.
Why do I care?
I care about this not because I’m just a bitter apostate with nothing better to do with my time than rant about the LDS church, but because it’s hurting relationships in my life. When men who are perceived as more divine, more in-tune with God, and more aware of what “really matters in life” speak to millions of Latter-day Saints, those millions of Latter-day Saints (typically) listen, and adopt the same attitudes that are taught as inspired. (Hence why there was such incredible racism in the church for so long, and other such awful practices.)
Let me give you some examples of misguided statements I’ve heard were made at today’s sessions of conference. Know that I write none of this out of a desire for contention, but out of genuine concern and hurt for people in my life, not to mention worry about the perpetuation of false ideas.
“We can choose to believe.”
If something is true, do you need to choose to believe it? Even in the face of contrary evidence?
While I don’t doubt President Uchtdorf has good intentions (he’s actually my favorite church leader to this day, on account of the love and compassion he shows), this is simply a false statement.
Could you believe in Santa again if people told you there were really, really good incentives to do so? If you cared enough about truth to surrender your belief in Santa at the expense of no longer receiving presents from him, do you think it would be easy to just believe again?
Church leaders telling Latter-day Saints in General Conference that we can all just “choose to believe” does two things. One, it makes church members who have ex-Mormon loved ones feel validated in their idea that it’s a choice to stop believing in the church. (Something that was certainly not true for me and many others I am close to.) This limits compassion and understanding between Mormons and ex-Mormons. Two, it makes said ex-Mormons, who have LDS loved ones, feel like crap, because it totally belittles their issues down to a simple statement that encompasses the following ideas:
It’s not hard to see why “choose to believe” is a problematic and dangerous statement to make. It’s exactly what any false organization or religion can say to try and make people ignore their intellectual, moral, and personal consciences in favor of a regime laid out by other men.
President Uchtdorf, at what point do you think choosing to believe may be a negative thing? Do you think that attitude could lead people into deception or danger?
“There’s always an answer.”
We have a similar problem here that we have with “choose to believe”. There are things that the church simply does not have answers for. These things make it impossible for many to continue believing, because the ONLY answer, the only one that is a legitimate answer, is that the church is not true. Examples include:
“If we make no effort to believe, we are like the man who unplugs a spotlight and then blames the spotlight for not giving…light.”
I made every effort I was capable of to believe, and no “light” came. It is the same for countless ex-Mormons everywhere. Please stop telling us it’s our fault. Victim shaming is harmful.
“The Lord’s servants are inspired to know the Lord’s will.”
Except for blood atonement and blacks and the priesthood and calling interracial marriage an eternal sin and Adam-God theory and stuff. There seemed to be a few mentions of “giving prophets a break” or “prophets aren’t infallible” in conference today. These messages are in stark contrast to what is still contained in our manuals such as, “the prophet can’t lead you astray”. (Taken from a talk that was given then DISAVOWED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE CHURCH AT THE TIME!)
“Skepticism is easy—anyone can do it.”
Can they? Not the exceptionally high number of people who fall victim to fraud in Utah every year, apparently.
Why is believing something in the absence of evidence considered noble? Why is ignoring contrary evidence to one’s belief noble? Surely the hardest thing of all is weighing things up without bias, and in a very thorough way.
“I plead with you to avoid anything in your life that will deplete from your happiness.”
I totally agree with this statement by President Monson, but I think it’s misleading. Given that almost every single LGBT youth in the LDS church is depressed, does that mean they should stay away from the church? Given how miserable I was trying to figure out how on EARTH the church could be true when there is an overwhelming amount of legitimate evidence to the contrary and it was requiring excruciating mental gymnastics to make it work, should I have just left it? Something tells me that’s not what President Monson is saying.
“There are things that we can only see with our spiritual eyes”
Like the gold plates.