7 June 2017

ten thoughts on a wednesday |8|
{mormonism edition}

disclaimer.
-i speak only for myself - nothing that i've shared here is speaking for the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints as a whole or for any individual member of that church. detailed and accurate information about official doctrine and policy of the church can be found at mormon.org.
-i hope that readers will not make assumptions beyond what i have written here. i welcome reactions, questions, and further discussion in the comments, but please do not claim i have said something that i actually haven't. i think it can be really easy/natural to "read between the lines" on topics like these (i've certainly done that with thoughts others have shared), so it might be wise to double check that you aren't putting any words into my mouth before formulating a response, wether in your head or in the comments.
-this post is intended to share some high-level, general thoughts on the topic of my faith. i will publish another post tomorrow that delves into specific questions that blog readers have asked. i certainly don't have all the answers!! but i am happy to share my perspective and learn from others'.
-i've spent a lot of thought and time working on articulating my thoughts efficiently and clearly here, but i'm sure i've failed in some ways. (yes, there's lots of commas and parenthesis and words...i'm doing my best...) i could work on this for weeks and weeks more, but i'm not going to right now. these issues can be very complex, but i've tried to make my thoughts as simple as possible. i hope you'll give me the benefit of the doubt as you read and know that this list isn't exhaustive/these thoughts aren't necessarily complete, and i certainly haven't expressed everything perfectly.
-i've thrown in some pretty pictures from around london, just for good measure :)

one.
i believe because i asked (and ask) god, and he answered (and answers) my prayers.

all my life i have been taught that i can ask god questions, and he will answer me through feelings and experiences. and all my life i have personally and powerfully found that to be true.

i have earnestly inquired of god in prayer, many times throughout my years, if the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints is indeed what it boldly claims to be - the church that christ himself established, restored through a prophet of god chosen two hundred years ago, and currently holding proper authority and essential truth given directly from heaven.

through powerful feelings and experiences that i cannot deny, i've received consistent positive affirmations in response to that inquiry. in the same way that i am sure that i love ian and moses, despite being informed only by feelings and experiences, i am sure that god has confirmed my faith in his existence, his plan (with jesus christ at the center), and his church. the love i have for my family is real and i cannot deny it; the answers to prayer that i've experienced, and continue to experience, are real and i cannot deny it.

of course i have doubted my faith at times, and of course i have had questions and concerns about certain aspects of it. as i ponder on and seek understanding around those doubts, questions and concerns, i bring them to god - i straight up ask about them in prayer. and, through real and undeniable feelings and experiences, i find reassurance. that's not to say that i find perfect understanding or resolution - i don't. but i find (not always immediately, but certainly over time and through continued study and prayer) peace - over and over again as i turn to god and ask him questions.

two.
i believe that mormons do not have a monopoly on truth.

through earnest personal inquiry, i have come to believe that the authority to perform essential eternal ordinances (such a baptism) exists in, and only in, the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints. i truly believe that the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints is god's kingdom on earth, and that the basic, pure doctrines taught in the church are eternal truths revealed from god.

this does not mean that i therefore believe that truth and revelation exist only in mormonism. i believe that god inspires all of his children, and that there is truth in all religions, and it can be found in so many (sometimes unexpected) places. i also believe that we all are on different paths - paths that can be guided by god in different ways - in this life. i don't believe god intends or wants all his children to be mormons in this life. (although obviously i believe that being a mormon is awesome! :) and brings so much peace and joy.)

three.
i believe that all humans, including those called of god, make mistakes.

peter, the chief apostle chosen by christ during his mortal life, straight up denied that he knew jesus - three times! in a row! hours after he promised christ to his face that he would never deny him! that was not a good move. but it happened, and it didn't disqualify peter from being called of god as a special witness of christ with authority to act in his name.

i believe that the prophets that god called anciently, the apostles that jesus called in the meridian of time, and the prophets and apostles that have been chosen in the latter-days all make mistakes. some mistakes are bigger than others, some are weirder than others, some are simply informed by the failings of societal norms, and some seem really confusing, especially when information about them can only be pieced together from scattered historical records.


i believe that joseph smith was chosen by god to be the leader in restoring the church that christ organized; i believe that he was given power and authority from god to be a prophet. (i've studied this out in my mind and heart, and asked god about it many, many times - and have felt undeniable confirmation.) and i think joseph smith's role (and the role of the prophets that followed him, especially the first few) was super challenging. i believe god guided him/them, but - because the purpose of our life is to learn from our own experience and not to be compelled by god (see thought number five below) - god also required him/them to figure some things out through their own experience (which often includes personal, human mistakes).

prophets and apostles make mistakes, and all other humans who are not called of god in that way also make mistakes. every mormon has done something (many things!) - in a small deal way or a big deal way - that is contrary to god's teachings and character of compassion. some mistakes of mormon humans over time have created cultural aspects or specific traditions of mormonism that are no good. (just like all other humans,) mormons can be judgmental, prideful and misguided. all these mistakes do not disqualify truth.

four. 
i believe in eternity.

in the grand scheme of things (and i believe there is a grand scheme of things), this life is such a small sliver of time. i fervently believe that there will be plenty of time after this life for everything to be made right, for everyone to have a fair chance, for punishment and reward to be perfectly allotted (by an all-knowing and perfectly just and merciful god, because of the atonement of jesus christ). we all, i think by divine design, have mortal minds that fundamentally do not have the capacity to see and understand eternity. but when we consider that centuries of millennia are before us and ahead of us, the confusing and unjust bits of mortality have great hope for resolution - and, to me, some tenets of mormonism (what i consider to eternal truths) make so much more sense.




five.
i believe that it's supposed to be hard, and we are not supposed to have all the answers.

life is a test. and if we had all the answers, its purpose would be pretty much kaput. i don't know the details of why god requires certain things of us, or of how it will all work after we die, or of the trillions of threads in god's omniscient and compassionate plan. and that's okay. in fact, that's the point. i'm not supposed to understand everything - i'm supposed to learn, gradually and without compulsion.
indeed, i believe that the objective of this life is to learn from experience, without having answers right away. i think that faith is supposed to be difficult, just like i think a good workout or an effective college course is supposed to be difficult. it's the challenge that grows us; without the challenge, our efforts are not productive.




six.
i believe that gender is an essential element of eternal human identity, of our purpose in life, and of god's plan.

through earnest personal inquiry, i have come to believe that males and females are, and were divinely designed to be, fundamentally different and complimentary (and i'm not just talking about physical anatomy). i believe men and women have different roles in this life and in eternity, and neither is better or worse than the other.

of course, because of the mistakes and misguidance of people over time, human society at large has generated gender disparity that is fundamentally wrong (and not in line with god's will - and mormon society, naturally, has mirrored this pattern in certain ways.

but gender distinction does not equal gender inequality. i believe that men and women being different is not only a big part of god's plan, but a great benefit to humanity. obviously sexism is a huge problem within society at large and within mormonism, and in both of those realms things should and need to change. but i believe that change shouldn't be towards negating differences.

{i know this point is a big one that many readers had questions about, and i know this thought about it is quite vague. there are lots of complexities around this. i plan to go into more specifics in my q&a post, but i want to first establish the basic premise that i believe gender distinction is divine and important.}

seven. 
i believe that marriage is central to god's plan.

i believe that men and women are divinely designed to be different and complimentary, and to me it follows that they are also divinely designed to be married (one of each gender). because of the duality of gender (among other reasons), i believe that marriage (which i believe god defines as between one man and one woman) is essential to reaching our entire potential as individuals.

remember thought number four above! i'm not saying that everyone needs to be married in this life in order to reach their full potential. i'm saying that: in order to truly become complete and like god, male and female must be combined (at some point in eternity :) ).

{again, i haven't spoken here about the complexities of sexuality, which i acknowledge are very real and i am continually endeavoring to understand.}

eight.
i believe in heavenly father and heavenly mother.

certainly the prime example of the union of male and female is our heavenly parents - god the father and god the mother. when i talk about god, i (personally) am talking about the married unit of two individuals that are perfectly unified, and that have perfectly combined their male and female characteristics and roles to be one glorious and divine unit. when i pray, i feel that i am praying to both of my heavenly parents. i don't think either of them is especially concerned about which one is getting the credit or the title or the male/female pronoun used when their children are talking to/about them.

nine.
i believe in jesus christ.

i believe we all have the need for a saviour. i won't go into the doctrine of why we need a redeemer here - i just want to be clear in this post that i believe jesus christ is alive and is real (because, ultimately, that is the center of my faith). i have felt his power - in forgiveness, in succor, in the significant joys of life - and i cannot deny it. as i have learned about jesus christ, turned to him and tried to follow him, i have been strengthened, healed, and supported. i don't believe i could make those experiences up, or conjure them up through my own consciousness. i have also witnessed miracles in others' lives as they have embraced christ's gospel. i cannot deny it.

ten.
i continue to believe in and live my faith because it brings me joy.

i have been accused at times of holding fast to my faith because of familial or cultural pressure, or just by default (because it is all i've ever known). the truth is, i continue to believe in (through earnest inquiry as discussed in thought number one) and live the tenets of mormonism because they make me happy. yes, sometimes it's hard to hold onto and live my faith (as discussed in thought number five above) - but so much more so it is wonderful to hold onto and live my faith. i have found deep peace, love and joy in mormonism. being a mormon is the best part of my life.

aaaaaaand, i've just totally run out of steam after working on this post for days (and thinking about it for months, even years). so that's what i'm publishing for today :) i'll do my best answering specific questions in q&a post(s) coming soon. please remember to be generous and not make assumptions in your responses.

happy wednesday! life is beautiful!

110 comments :

  1. Well said (written) Charity! Couldn't agree more with what you have said in each one of your thoughts. Thought #9 really affected me, and moved me to tears, because I too have experienced the perfect love of our Savior in many ways in which I cannot find the words to describe, as well as in experiences that I cannot deny. He is the foundation of my faith, and His love and compassion is the bread and water I need to sustain me throughout this life and into the Eternities! Amen, Excellent job on this!

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  2. I love this!!! Thank you so much for your firm faith and testimony!

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  3. I appreciate your post and the glimpse into your faith, but I mostly look forward to the more specific Q&A version. I read quite a few Mormon blogs and the religious natured posts all sound the same to my non LDS ear. It's not a bad thing, just an observation.

    It's wonderful that your faith brings you so much happiness. Since last week, I took it upon myself to read a few links from LDS.org, and also listened to a few episodes of the Mormon Stories podcast with interviews of both believers and non believers. It was all fascinating!

    Your points on marriage and gender made me sad to read. I wonder if you would be willing to say that marriage should be restricted to one man and one woman to a room full of children of happily-married gay parents. Actually looking the children and parents In the eye? Do you think your words would be hurtful or harmful to them? I get the caveat you put about "in this life," but do you remember your heart ache post and the pain you described feeling while sobbing in the shower? That is the pain a gay person can feel in being denied the love and stability of a legal marriage. I never forgot that post because it was so relatable and poignant.

    I pray that your perspective on this evolves to a more loving point. I know you have empathy for that pain and rejection since you articulated it better than I ever could have.

    Are men really more capable than women of certain non-genitalia related tasks? You are an excellent ambassador for your faith. Don't sell yourself short in thinking you couldn't be a bishop, or bless your own baby. You would be amazing. I heard the BBC news podcast this morning about the fight for women's right to drive in Saudi Arabia, and I wondered how that is any different to certain LDS restrictions placed on women. Men in Saudi Arabia said in interviews that women have different roles, not better or worse, just different, and shouldn't be able to drive. Does that sound familiar?

    I'm trying so hard to keep an open mind and appreciate everything you have to say. I always love learning about different cultures and faiths and for that I thank you. You're not doing a easy thing here.

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    1. Thank you for wording your concern so clearly, poignantly, and respectfully. As ordained clergy in a Christian tradition that recognizes same-sex marriage and ordination, transgender individuals, etc. I share this concern and look forward to reading Charity's response.
      I also wonder, Charity, how you might respond if Moses or another of your potential future children is gay or transgender - obviously with love, that emanates from everything you do - but how you might wrestle with your beliefs on heterosexual marriage as divinely designed, essential to realizing human potential, etc. I can only imagine what it would feel like for someone to know their faith tradition exempts their LGBTQ child from something so core to their beliefs.
      Thanks for sharing!

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    2. Thank you Anon for your post. I could not have worded it better and I am also looking forward to reading Charity's response.

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    3. I totally agree with all of Anon's points as well. I really struggle to reconcile the loving, kind Charity that I see in the blog with the divisive and archaic points on gender and sexuality, and it honestly makes me sad too.

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    4. all above,

      thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective. i will answer these questions the best i can in an upcoming q&a post.

      xx

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  4. Beautifully written Charity. I hope everyone will be respectful here in the comments and a good, respectful discussion can take place. Thank you for all the time you put into this post, I really enjoyed reading it. Happy Wednesday!
    www.aprilrises.com

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  5. I love this. Thanks charity. You can tell how much time you've put into making this clear and concise. It's beautiful and real.

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  6. Charity - thank you for such a thoughtful post on your faith. As a non-LSD individual, it's great to see/read your viewpoints and learn more about your faith via this blog.

    I was disheartened to see the portion about marriage being between exclusively man and woman but you are certainly entitled to your viewpoint and I am sure you knew it would be a controversial section but were still willing to put it out there.

    I am curious if you feel that there is a difference between a religious/blessed marriage and a legal/civil marriage? Would you support family or friends who entered into a same-sex marriage outside the church? What do you and Ian plan to tell Moses about same-sex couples?

    Cheers.

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    1. hi! thank you. i will answer your question in an upcoming q&a post.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, very interesting. My question is if you can explain your belief in grace. I've heard the primary difference between Mormons and Christians is the understanding of grace. Both believe in Jesus and His essential gift of salvation. But for Christians, His sacrifice alone saves us. We can do nothing to earn or deserve His sacrifice but it is a gift to all who believe in Him. No amount of service or good deeds get you any farther in eternity. Mormons, as I understand, believe in Christ's gift but must ALSO earn their way to salvation through service and various sacraments. Christ's sacrifice is still essential but it is Christ PLUS works and those works get you "higher" in the afterlife - the highest is to be your own god? Can you please clarify if I'm understanding this correctly? Thank you.

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    1. Not sure about the book of Mormon, but the Bible clearly states that faith without works is dead.

      You can believe all day long, but if you don't walk the walk it's moot. The Bible also states that the Satan and his demons believe and shudder. Are they saved because they believe?

      Christ identified his true followers as ones who gave him to eat when he was hungry, to drink when he was thirsty... not just believed in him and accepted his sacrifice.

      Faith and belief is important, but without works, it's... well.. dead.

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    2. I'm not saying service isn't important or good or needed and part of living out your faith but rather those good deeds do not elevate you above others. Think of the thief on the cross next to Christ. He was saved in the very last moments of his life. He had no opportunity to "walk the walk."

      Ephesians 2:8-9 New International Version (NIV)

      8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

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    3. I think the Book of Mormon mentions something of "it is by faith after all you can do" - so you must walk it out, but because you aren't perfect, grace covers you. Christianity I believe is more along the lines of being covered by grace from the cross and you "walk it out" in response. That is my understanding of the difference, anyway.

      Also I think that mormons believe that the Bible was incorrectly translated, so if there is a discrepancy between it and the Book of Mormon, they follow the latter. Ben Stuart has a great podcast called "Has the Bible been corrupted?" that covers the Bible's authority in this way.

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    4. Well, since the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith by him looking down into a hat.... I think both so-called holy books are just a tad corrupt...

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    5. A person doing works already made their commitment to Christ. It seems poor logic to be upset another sort of Christian believes faith without works is dead. Faith without works is dead. You can't just say Lord Lord and be saved. Christians follow Christ who told us to feed sheep and clothe the naked and give drink to the thirsty. It really doesn't matter. Our understanding is probably of that of the Pharisees. Jesus wasn't too impressed with those observing the letter of the law as man understood it. In fact Jesus said the divorce laws were of Moses and not God for the hardness of man's heart. What else was off? We can see the face of God in the next life because Christ opened the gates of heaven so that humans might enter, after the rift in the garden distanced us from God. Praying a rosary, or chucking some of the Bible and reading the abridged Protestant bible, or thinking one of the twelve tribes of Israel migrated to North America and witnessed the resurrected Lord isn't going to lead to damnation. All these people accepted the call to follow Christ/heart.. Revelation also suggested non believers who are kind in the "last days" and the Jewish faithful will see heaven. A thief on the cross was saved simply by telling the other thief to stop bullying Jesus. God can do what He wants.

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    6. interesting discussion, all! thank you for sharing your thoughts. i will attempt to share my perspective on grace in an upcoming q&a post.

      anon #3: how does the method of translation affect the corruption of a book?

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    7. It's the not the method that we, life-long Mormons are upset with. It's the lying/covering up of history by the church. My goodness! *I* read church history as a seminary teacher. I served a mission, but it took place before the essays the church anonymously put up their website (the essays don't have an author). ON my mission, I defended the church against all that was IN the essays. You see to me, a 40 something, married Joseph Smith marrying a 14 year old girl was propaganda by the haters. I taught blacks too. And the church was deeply dishonest and racist.

      Charity, read the essays. Study them. The church is very dishonest.

      I mean, I trusted the prophets/apostles. But how can you trust present-day leadership, when future leadership explains in essays that it's past leaders were men of their time. That past leaders mingled scripture with philosophy of men.

      Please, don't insult Mormon readers by asking how the method of translation matters.

      John 18:38
      Truth matters.


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    8. i am also upset that the church was not more transparent about its history in the past. i am upset that there has been dishonesty and racism in its history.

      ultimately, i don't trust present-day leadership. i trust god. i ask him if i should follow present-day leadership. i ask him about specific things members of the present-day leadership say. i consistently request confirmation and reassurance. and i genuinely feel it coming from god.

      i'm not sure how i'm being insulting by asking the question about the relevance of the method of translation. i'm so sorry if you felt insulted!

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    9. Sorry, but if you can't trust the present-day or any-day leadership of your church, you should choose another church. Why would God give leadership to someone you someone you admit is not trustworthy?

      Is this last "anonymous" still a "lifelong member" of this church he/she calls "racist and dishonest"?

      Does anyone else see the ridiculousness of belonging to a church you can't trust, and call dishonest and racist???

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    10. sorry, i can see how the way i worded that response could be a bit misleading.

      what i am trying to say is that ultimately i place my trust in god, not in the leadership of the church. that doesn't mean that i don't (at least currently!) feel that our leaders are trustworthy. when i ask god in prayer both about certain issues and about the trustworthiness of church leaders, i feel assurance that i sincerely feel is from heaven (and beyond just my own desires or leanings or inclinations).

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    11. In the temple-worthy interview, we (mormons) are asked if we essentially believe that we believe in the current apostles and prophet, Monson. I could not tell the bishop that I do not trust Monson and the rest of the apostles because all his predecessors ,according to the essays, lead millions to obey racist, immoral paths. I would NOT be given a recommend to attend the temple.

      Thanks for the apology. All this is my attempt at English. Thanks for opening up this can of worms. It's important to me (truth is).

      I always want the truth. Honesty is important to me. I want to follow a moral code that does not change with time because i believe that truth is timeless. Unfortunately, the Mormon church has been and continues to be all over the map on morality. I mean, who can know what else they have hidding? Our church refuses to give general financial statements, even though a century ago it did give financial statements. And who's to say tomorrow, 14 year old will not be encouraged to once again marry the prophet?

      Thanks for this discussion.

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    12. So, you lied about trusting Monson so you could get a temple recommend? That doesn't sound like you "always want the truth" and "honesty is important" to you.

      Sounds like you just want to be a member of this organization no matter what and you'd lie to do it. And accept lies from the leaders.

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    13. Anon 16:06 So you are mad at the church for actions that took place a long time ago and that is your current beef with the church? You won't be happy with any religion if you judge it by history.

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    14. @kms: I understand that every church has a history, but usually a church does not go out of it's way to hide it's history. To this day, it still attempts to hide much of its dealings (the gay policy was discovered by media/ it was not intended to be revealed to the general church, once the media disclosed the policy, Mormon newsroom spinned the truth as a revelation from God, lol).The Mormon church has gone out of its way to hide truth. I can give you more examples via email.

      Two examples of today's Mormon prophets. Short on time, kms. But why does the Mormon Jesus need a mall in downtown Salt Lake? One that's open on Sunday, sells alcohol, etc? (against its beliefs). This is a modern transaction/history that the church is not disclosing to its members. No one knows how thithing money did not buy that mall. Even if the money was an investment of an investment, it was originally thithing money, no? But it's none of my business according to the Mormon church. Accountability/transparency should be important.

      Some things that are true are not very useful. Boyd Packer (pg5) https://byustudies.byu.edu/file/1647/download?token=qNGXlqOS

      Do not question Dallin Oaks.

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JxyiHLg59ks


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    15. @Maria: nope, I was honest with the Bishop. At great cost to my reputation (within the church and in my community), I confessed that I did not have confidence in Monson or any of the other apostles or the church in general. I have children. I want them to know that their parents are people of integrity, no matter what. (Joseph Smith marriages to 14 year old and his marriages to married women was my point of no return). Remember Joseph Smith lived during Abraham Lincoln's time. There's no way that AL would have been as immoral as JS.

      I'm not going to lie to you either, Maria. Sharing/confessing all my concerns was very, very, very hard. I'm young in age, but because of my position in the church many saw me as an example. I have fallen from Grace in their view. But my conscience in clean and I feel confident when I pray to God. The price for living a truthful/honest clean life is high.

      I'll stop here because this is long and it's Charity's blog. I will not comment anymore. Rejoice in these days the Lord has gifted us.

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  8. "of course i have doubted my faith at times, and of course i have had questions and concerns about certain aspects of it. as i ponder on and seek understanding around those doubts, questions and concerns, i bring them to god - i straight up ask about them in prayer. and, through real and undeniable feelings and experiences, i find reassurance. that's not to say that i find perfect understanding or resolution - i don't. but i find (not always immediately, but certainly over time and through continued study and prayer) peace - over and over again as i turn to god and ask him questions."

    I think that "perfect understanding" is where I greatly struggled in my past investigation of the Church. Maybe in some ways I still do feel I need to "perfectly understand" (or close to it ;) things - or have proof - before I believe them. I think that's the key- being okay with not knowing everything, and being okay that not knowing everything will also not happen in MY time.

    I love this post - thank you for being so open to your readers, both LDS and non-LDS (like myself). I love learning about other faiths (especially since I do not have one of my own), and I really appreciate your transparency and care into writing on sensitive topics. I hope commenters can be as respectful of your beliefs and thoughts as you were in writing them.

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  9. I love that you mentioned Heavenly Mother, as many Mormon bloggers leave that part completely out. Since it's something not often explicitly taught in the LDS church, can you share how you came to learn about/relate to her?
    I also believe men and women are designed to be complimentary - "nice haircut!" - but not complementary. ;)

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    1. The church has released a very short essay affirming our belief that there is a Heavenly Mother, but not much is known about her. Given that we believe that we are led by prophets who literally speak with God I find it frustrating that that is all they are willing to "ask" about her. Or do they speak to her as well? Have they seen her as well? Sadly, I suspect that revealing too much about Heavenly Mother opens up a huge can of worms for the Church because of our belief in a polygamous afterlife. It is a core doctrine still in force (in the afterlife) today, and thinking too much about Heavenly Mother might cause members to wonder if there are in fact thousands or millions of Heavenly Mothers...

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    2. I think the reason we don't talk much about our Heavenly Mother is because our Heavenly Father has so much love and respect for Her He doesn't want her name to be taken in vain the way His is, and to be slandered the way his sadly is by some. Just a thought...

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    3. Thanks Anonymous & April. I hadn't thought about the Heavenly Parents & polygamy but that (as a can of worms) makes a lot of sense.
      April, to me your answer sounds like an example of something our society has bought into for a long time and that has done a lot of damage - the idea that women are somehow more precious or fragile than men and need to be protected by them. To me this is a very dangerous line of thinking because it inevitably leads to women's voices being silenced and their very presence excluded. I've read similar reasoning in various LDS talks and see it as part of the very troubling sexism Charity mentions - an attitude that completely undermines the church's official message that women are just as important/have equity with men.

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    4. first - complimentary/complementary made me giggle. thanks for pointing out my typo in such a good humored way, leah :)

      i will answer a couple of questions about heavenly mother in an upcoming q&a post. here i will just say that i don't know why we don't know much about heavenly mother. i don't have an answer to that one, and i'm okay with that. i personally do not think it is for the reason that april presented (although i'm happy for you to share that thought, april!). i haven't delved into much inquiry around heavenly mother's character, but my gut tells me that she's not fragile but gloriously strong. i also am not sold that a polygamous afterlife it is established doctrine (that's one i don't have an answer on either).

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    5. I had never thought about the fact that my thinking made Heavenly Mother fragile. I appreciate that perspective! I agree I think she is absolutely gloriously strong and amazing! I was just coming from the perspective that she is loved and honored so so much. Thank you for helping me gain a new perspective!!!

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    6. This is an amazing essay about Heavenly Mother using all church resources through BYU. In this essay we found out there is far more information about her than we've been lead to believe. Also, it address some "reasons" we've come up with about why she isn't talked about and they are absolute non-sense (Heavenly Father protecting her? Nope)

      It's about 28 pages and a great read!

      https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/mother-there-survey-historical-teachings-about-mother-heaven

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  10. Thank you for sharing your faith so wholeheartedly and being willing to put it all out there!

    I resonated with everything you said.

    And I also believe men and women are designed to be complimentary as well as complementary. :)

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  12. You expressed yourself beautifully and I appreciate your opinions and truth that you shared. Thank you, it really filled me up!

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  13. Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully express your beliefs. I love everything about this post. Job well done!

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  14. Hey Charity,

    I think it's interesting that you need/want to defend/explain yourself. Sometimes I also have that desire but have to remind myself that no one else lives my life and I don't need to explain to anyone my decisions/thoughts/feelings. But since you invited the discussion, I wanted to share this article with you about Mormonism and marriage that I found very interesting and touching: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/fashion/09Modern.html

    I guess I'm posting here for diversity of opinion as I don't agree with your views on marriage and gender at all! But like you, I am truly truly happy living out my own beliefs and values.

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    1. hi! thanks for sharing the article - i'll check it out.

      i don't need/want to defend/explain myself. many readers expressed curiosity and posted questions - so i just want to answer them! i love a good discussion, and learning about different viewpoints, so i thought i'd engender a bit of that.

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    2. What a lovely essay! Thanks for the link!

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    3. Thank you for sharing that NYT article. It was lovely. With so many young men leaving the church, the mismatch of availabilie men for the number of women looking for a husband is an increasing and under addressed problem.

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  15. As a non Mormon, I found this very interesting. It is great to have such a well written and thoughtful insight into your beliefs. I'm really sad to see the beliefs on gender and marriage, and am very much looking forward to your further responses to the more specific questions posed by anon and others above. I wonder: do you have any LGBT friends or family members? If so, how do you reconcile your beliefs and your friendship?

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    1. I think maybe what I'm trying to get at here is that you seem to be a very kind, thoughtful and empathetic person. But I'm struggling to reconcile my impression of you with views that seem very divisive and excluding of certain groups. I'm probably not expressing this well...

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    2. I'm a gay woman who has the pleasure and privilege of knowing Charity 'in real life' and I can say that she (and Ian) have never been anything other than kind, respectful and loving towards me. Actually, they have been a darn sight MORE loving and respectful about my sexuality than people in the more mainstream Christian churches. I have never got any feelings of exclusion or division from them.

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    3. marguerite (/margo :) ) - thanks so much for your comment - i am so so glad you feel that way. we need to get together again...i can't believe it's been since christmas! you'll be amazed at how big moses is!! and beca, there's your answer about having my lgbt friends :) i'll try to delve into your question a bit more in an upcoming q&a post.

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    4. Charity may be kind, respectful and loving towards you but you can bet the she and Ian are really sad that you won't be in the upper level of heaven with them in the afterlife. They pity you, and probably hope their influence will help you overcome your sin of being gay. Seriously.

      Do you think that if you and your partner wanted to become baptized in the Mormon church and still be openly gay that you'd be allowed? Could you marry your partner in the church? Would Charity help you fight that battle with church leaders?

      If you were to adopt a child and that child lived with you and your partner, and that child at age 13 or 14 wanted to be baptized in the LDS church, would she have to renounce you and your lifestyle?

      The only way the church would accept you is if you admit that your feelings of being gay are sinful and though you've tried to overcome them, you just can't. And you will either marry a man in a sham marriage and have kids, or you will remain single and celibate.

      Don't kid yourself as to the acceptance here.

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    5. woah there. i usually have quite thick skin about comments, but this one makes me quite mad. whoever you are, you have no right to say how i feel about my friend.

      i do not pity her, nor do i have any ulterior motive to influence her in any way. i have been inspired by her and definitely believe she has much to teach me about qualifying for heaven.

      also, it has been made very clear that the church does not consider feelings of being gay to be sinful.

      acceptance does not equal having the same beliefs about everything.

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    6. Yes, FEELINGS of being gay. What about an openly gay lifestyle? You did not address any of the questions above about your friend and her partner. You can't help feelings. But does the LDS church let you act on them?

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    7. right. feelings is what you incorrectly claimed to be classified as sinful.

      the lds church "lets you" do whatever you want. free choice is central to our doctrine. of course there are cultural pressures, and misguided people (including leaders), but in eternal truth there is no place for compulsion.

      those living openly gay lifestyles are absolutely welcome in mormon communities and church meetings (and any prejudice against them by individual members is sinful). but yes, because of belief in certain eternal truths, certain things (including homosexual relations) disqualify people from full participation in gospel ordinances such as baptism and temple marriage. god does have requirements. anyone can go to harvard, but they have to meet the requirements for admission. similarly, anyone can participate in mormon ordinances, but they have to meet the requirements for qualification.

      the recent policy around children of gay and lesbian individuals is something i am still coming to understand for myself. i am choosing not to speak about it publicly because i do not have a clear opinion on its complexities (yet).

      you're welcome to read more about my beliefs and thoughts on the topic of homosexuality and the church in future q&a posts. please do not make any more assumptions about my feelings towards my friend.

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    8. It makes me so so so sad that Homosexuals are excluded from parts of mormonism. It's people who make this decision, and it's judgemental. And that kids can't be baptised because their parents are gay-oh my. This must be so hurtful for everyone involved - but especially for the little kids.the mormon church really believes that homosexuality is a son that yoi can overcome. Oh my goodness.are we back in the medieval ages now??

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    9. ...a sin that you can overcome...

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    10. Having to meet requirements to get into Harvard is a LOT different than having to meet requirements to be fully accepted as/allowed to parts of mormonism. For thr first one you have to get good grades and stuff like that. But for the second one you are asked to deny or change your sexiality that is an essential part of a person's being.
      and charity, you say that god made the rules that mormond should stick to . but it's people who decide that gay

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    11. ...disqualigy for some parts of mormonism. It should be left tp god to judge this.

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    12. you're right that the harvard analogy isn't a perfect one (or even a great one :) ) - but i'm trying to figure out a way to get the point across that there are requirements, and that's not a bad thing.

      i do believe that god is guiding his church. i also believe that the humans he is guiding do and will make mistakes.

      i hope that i can articulate a little better some of my understanding on this topic in future q&a posts.

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    13. Charity, you refuse to speak publicly about it because in your heart you know it's not right and you can't think of any justification that will make sense and not show the LDS church in a horrible light.

      If you pray to God to let you know whether LDS is the correct religion, how would he say no? What type of sign, revelation, or feeling would it take for you to be able to hear a "NO" on that one, from GOD? And then, would you listen? Would you tell Ian, Richard, Linda, and all your relatives that God told you LDS is wrong and you are leaving?

      Ain't gonna happen, even if God jumped out in front of you holding a sign.

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    14. no, maria. that's not why. the reason why is the reason i already gave. please do not make assumptions or put words in my mouth.

      he would say no the same way he has said no to me when i have asked about other things - through confusion, continued doubt, lack of peace, etc. although i've clearly never been in that position, yes, i like to think i would listen, earnestly. and yes, i would tell my family. given my deep faith in god and his answers to prayers, i don't think i would dare to ignore a clear answer - especially one as monumental as that.

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    15. I am impressed. I wonder how they would take it. They'd still love you, but would they treat you the same way? Would they try to change your mind?

      And I still think that you are having major doubts about the children of gay parents issue. You have no problem expressing yourself on any other topic but not this one. I'm not putting words in your mouth, I'm expressing my thoughts on why I think you're keeping silent on this one.

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    16. Yeah, I have been really sad that so many women I know FEEL confusion and doublt and total lack of peace about the Policy, and yet stuff it down and toe the line with some rationale that God is leading the Church...All the while dismissing MAJOR past "mistakes" of prior leaders. So they can allow that prophets of the past were human and made mistakes, but they aren't allowing themselves to vocally express that THIS is one of those mistakes. I was in the Relief Society Presidency at the time and posted what I felt like was the kindest, most tactful open opposition to the policy I could. Good discussion was had within the post, but I was angered by how many women who I love and respect SO MUCH reached out to me only privately telling me they agreed with me completely but did not dare speak about it publicly. WHERE IN THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST HAVE WE EVER BEEN SOLD THE IDEA that we are to toe the line on a policy that is contrary to the dictates of our own conscience! Where! And especially one that hurts innocent children. You can say all you want about blah blah, the children won't be held accountable...blah blah, OF COURSE THEY WON'T. I was sickened that a general conference talk recently even tried to normalize the injustice by giving a lovely example of a boy who wasn't allowed to do baptisms for in the temple with his peers because of the policy and a he had a lovely time by himself in the church history library. See! Separate but equal! Seal claps for this awesome policy. Also by far the biggest danger of this maddening, disgusting "policy" is the message it sends the kids sitting in church knowing that they too might be like the wrong sex. This policy aggravates an already intensely difficult situation for a gay mormon kid. Let me just assure you that I have prayed about this issue intensely, and feel great in the site of God and Heaven screaming that it stinks and I will never be ok with it until it is removed and apologies are made. And I am completely OK with us receiving different answers. Some I know feel they have received entirely different answers. What I am NOT ok with is how many amazing men and women in the church feel as I do and figure this is some sort of twisted way God will separate wheat from chaff, with kids' lives literally in the balance. There IS a faithful stance from which you can oppose this pile of crap - it's called mormon history! It's called integrity. It's called compassion. It's called advocacy. It's called lifting the hand that hangs down, and it is exactly where I feel God wants me to (vocally) be.

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    17. "the recent policy around children of gay and lesbian individuals is something i am still coming to understand for myself. i am choosing not to speak about it publicly because i do not have a clear opinion on its complexities (yet). " I must have missed this.

      You don't ever need to have to defend this publicly. I was hard on you about this myself. It is okay to say you just don't have a answer that would be understandable to others. You didn't make up the policy.

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  16. Same here. I totally get you.

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  17. I like the way you've articulated this, Charity. Great work.

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  18. I like your wording: So often I have read a Mormon testimony beginning with the words "I know...", whereas you write "I believe" or "I feel". I've actually watched some part of one General Conference and there was a talk given by a woman. She mentioned another woman as an example who asked herself whether she actually believed what she knew to be true. This sounded so odd to me. How can you know something to be true if you're not even sure you believe it?

    Some time ago I "asked" you to write something that might enrage me, so I could actually contribute to a discussion. Not enraged (yet), but I think we have topics on which we differ.
    As for number 6: Can you give examples on the differences between women and men? I've thought and discussed this a lot and I don't know whether there are general differences at all and if so whether they are given by God/nature or by society (I'm well interested into the opinion of other readers, too!).
    As for number 7: All the questions above, plus: Why do you believe someone turns out to be homosexual?

    And for good measure - these are really pretty pictures!

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    1. hi kerstin. i will do my best to answer your questions in an upcoming q&a post.

      thanks about the pictures! london is so dang pretty.

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  19. Charity,

    I found this post really beautiful and earnest. I had asked your dad this same thing when he solicited us on GOMI and he ignored the question: Have you and Ian read Rough Stone Rolling, or No Man Knows My History, or the CES Letter? I don't ask you those things to encourage you to go there if it makes you uncomfortable, or to try to dissuade anyone of their beliefs. I simply asked because I was at a point where I was genuinely trying to "stay in the boat" and really appreciated hearing from people who are aware of the messy parts of Church history and still choose to stay. I find THAT kind of faithful reasoning a lot more helpful at this stage of my life than equating simple faith (which can be beautiful!) with closing our eyes and plugging our ears when we hear negative (true) things about our Church. I know a lot of people who choose to not even read the CES letter and I still respect their choice, but I admittedly relate a lot more to those who are aware of the warts and still choose to stay. (Richard Bushman, author of Rough Stone being a good example, or John Dehlin's earlier Mormon Stories work).

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    1. hi nat. thanks for sharing your perspective. it makes a lot of sense. i will try to answer this question/respond a bit more in an upcoming q&a post.

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  20. Hi Charity, I'm curious as to what your perspective is on LGBTQ issues such as marriage equality and transgender equality?

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    1. hi katybelle! i will go into my some of my thoughts/beliefs around gay marriage in an upcoming q&a post. what specifically do you mean by transgender equality?

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  21. Well can I just say how proud I am of this youngest daughter....of her passion, of her belief, of her faith, of her courage, and of her love!

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    1. Mr. Eyre, you should be ashamed of yourself. All the so-called men in your family should be. NONE of the men in your family are able to do what your youngest daughter has done here. Nevertheless, you do not allow your women to hold leadership positions. They can't hold church leadership positions in your church, but they can be used to face the curious/haters, comments. The women in your church can't even lead the women in the their bible study without a man's approval of what's going to be taught. All the material has been selected by your apostles. They need a man's approval (your pastor) of any woman's gathering, spending or church teaching. You use women.

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    2. okay...new rule for the comment section of this blog (and yes, i get to determine the rules):
      comments that make personal jabs and/or assumptions about personal character will be disregarded.

      anon, please take the energy you're using here elsewhere. really glad to have you read and share your thoughts, but assumptions aren't welcome here (as indicated several times in the original post).

      ps. women *do* hold leadership positions in the church.

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    3. To Anon above, I have left the church for many reasons, and I will still tell you you are way off base and inaccurate. I hope this was just silly trolling. I think you are confusing the LDS church with A Handmaid's Tale ;)

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  22. Hi Charity,
    I've been a member of the church all my life and to this day I stand firm of my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the joys we find through experiencing hard times and happy times on earth. Thank you for this post, I felt the spirit warm my heart as I read your beautiful testimony. I appreciate your goodness and the example that you share with me and those that are reading your blog.
    Love your sister in Zion.

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  23. I find it so interesting that so many people can't understand why some Mormons feel so deeply about marriage being between a man and a woman. It's a very natural concept. Our entire human race would cease to exist without that precious Union of man and woman. Living a gay/lesbian lifestyle isn't natural. Can there be love there? Yes! Can there be a connection? Yes! But can a gay couple reproduce? No! Does this mean Mormons don't respect or love those who are gay? Absolutely not!! But for me, personally, protecting marriage between man and wife is protecting the human family. And I believe so strongly in the role of father and mother. And even if a Mormon has a gay child, why should their perspective on marriage and family change?
    Good luck answering this heavy question. I really hope people can come away feeling like Mormons aren't gay haters. We just are family protectors.

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    1. If a man and a woman who marry can't reproduce, are they considered unnatural? And I think we both know that men and women do not need to be married for the human race to exist.
      People feel that Mormons, and a lot of other religious types, are gay haters because they promote policies outside of the church that actively work to oppress LGBTQ people and families. No one is expecting the Mormon temples to have gay marriage, but we do expect that they keep their policies/beliefs out of the government/other people's lives.
      If you can't support the human family without destroying other people's lives, then being called a gay hater is probably the least of your worries.
      I like that Charity included the part about everyone making mistakes. I think that's true and important to remember, when looking at anyone from ourselves to family members to leaders. It also allows for some wiggle room.

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    2. I think the policies go too far. But there is a fear of requiring churches to do marriages. We were told in IL that medical providers don't have to distribute specific forms of birth control that can cause an abortion, only in recent law and practice the religious objection no longer exists. A baker who serves the same couple on the weekends and for birthday cakes just can't participate in the wedding and profit from the wedding have been told to change or lose their business and face fines, and not through the free market not giving them business. The catholic health system and school system has been challenged for not providing benefits to same sex partners/spouses and birth control. There should be a religious exemption but that is not secure. And this is a worry cause staff are hired no matter their religion or orientation. This is a good thing. IF we could go to back to thinking religions could be exempt there would no longer be this concern. It's really a nonissues. Marriage has been decided by the Supreme Court. It's the next step that is happening. The benefit issues. No one cares who is sharing a mortgage or who gets to make medical decisions for another.

      I wouldn't call those relationships unnatural. I do find it odd that heterosexuals get such pride out of staying away from the sin of homosexual behavior. Why should a parent's perspective on life change if their child is gay? Children teach parents more than parents teach children. Gay haters is name calling. All you will get is people defensive and not listening to what you have to say.

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    3. To Anon above:
      Actually, being gay or lesbian does naturally occur in a small percentage of our human family 3-6% is the estimate...therefore what part of it isn't "natural"? Even the Q12 now agree that it isn't a choice to be "SSA". But did you know that Spencer W. Kimball promoted shock therapy for the treatment of gays? Do you know how physically and emotionally abusive these church programs were? Do you know that shock therapy or "reparative gay therapy was ended because it was an abysmal, abusive flop? It just boggles my mind that a prophet of God wouldn't have the insight that this program was a horrible idea. It breaks my heart actually. You could read up on it and the experiences of faithful LDS members who were subjected to torture in order to change cure them of their gayness. We talk about prophets being humans who can make mistakes, yet we only apply our leniency of their mistakes to things very far in the rear-view and never allow the possibility that today's "Policy" might be tomorrows Polyandry or Adam God theory or blacks and priesthood. You can read the Miracle of Forgiveness again if you need a reminder at how far the leadership has come on gay acceptance.

      Procreation is in fact not the only purpose of marriage, in or out of the church. Within the church, individuals past fertility ages are welcome to be married, even as second marriages sealed for time only within the temples. These marriages do not last into eternity. They are simply for love and connection in this life. Fertile heterosexuals will never catch "gayness". Gays will not procreate whether they are allowed to marry or not, so what is the harm to the human family if they do? I would still like you to more clearly outline what exactly you are thinking you are protecting our human family from?

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    4. all above, interesting discussion. thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspectives.

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    5. My comment was rushed and quick- I can see that I lacked the courtesy and kindness that I truly feel towards those who are gay. I do stand by my convictions of the family as God intended. I could rebuttal all your questions, but I have a feeling Charity will do a way better job articulating it since we seem to be on the same page of thought. Sorry if I offended- I should have taken more time to write things down.

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  24. Check out the conversation on sex and LDS on Design Mom. Gives lots on insights into Morman culture regarding girls, women, and gender.

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    1. i will do! thanks for the heads up jenny!

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  25. Thanks for your testimony, Charity. It's hard to articulate to others beliefs that are so deeply a part of oneself.

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  26. I also do not speak for the LDS church, but wish to share my beliefs regarding their policy on same sex marriages. I know this is a policy that is quite tender to many people, and I hope that I may only offer comfort instead of hurting further.
    Because I believe that the LDS church is led by a prophet that receives direct revelation from God, and because I believe that God loves all His children, I look for His love in His commandments received through the prophet. I believe that we will be able to continue to progress and grow after this life is over. A key element of that growth includes the ability to create- including the important ability to procreate. Physically, only a union between a man and a woman can result in procreation. And because our Father wants us each to reach our full potential, He gives us the laws that will allow us to reach that potential. It would be unfair and cruel to tell us that something or action was okay here on earth, only to find out that it was not in the life to come. Having said that, I know that is not easy for anyone. We all have faults and temptations that draw us in an opposite direction. But God's love and our Savior's atonement will help us if we allow it to.
    One more thing, some have questioned the LDS church's stance on the baptism of children who reside primarily with a gay or lesbian parent. I was a volunteer as a children's advocate in the court system for a year. I was trained to advocate in the best interest of the child, taking into consideration their needs and wants. Many times what is optimal is not possible, so the best choice given the options available must be decided. I genuinely feel that this LDS policy is doing just that. It would be highly unfair to allow a child to enter into a covenant (which is what we believe baptism is), when they may not be taught in their home the principles and commandments that accompany the covenant that they have made, and the lifestyle of beloved parents would be contrary to those things. It would be unjust to place a child in this position I believe. I honestly believe that God will not hold these children accountable for the charge to be baptized until they are old enough (18) to make that decision on their own. Once again, these are my own beliefs and I do not speak for the LDS church.
    Lastly, (and I'm sorry this is so long!) I love Isaiah 51:6 "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath ..." Sometimes we have to look at things from God's perspective. I realize that my view may seem simplistic to some, but I know God loves all His children and simply wants what is best and what will allow the most growth for them. Thanks Charity for your thoughtful answers and your courage.

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    1. My church does not extend the sacrament of marriage to same sex couples. But there is no one keeping an active homosexual out of a church building because of it. But never in a million years would/should they "officially" not allow a baptism of a child or adult living part time or full time because a parent was gay, parent was living with a same sex partner, a parent was engaged in polygamy. An occasional priest may but at the next level up he would be getting a talking to. After all there are marriages with a Buddhist parent and a catholic parent. Decisions about religion are encouraged before and we would have no trouble baptizing a baby from an interfaith couple. We are not responsible for the "sins" of others. It's in your handbook as well. We learned with a reality show how there is an official church policy with extra restrictions/steps for baptism based on adult children who never practiced polygamy but who has parents who have practiced it. This child policy is goofy and I hope sorted out soon. What is next, banning adult converts whose parents drank coffee? Do both parents need recommends for their 8 year old to be baptized? They are living it all either. For a founder who disliked a Pope set up I'd say the Prophet set up is 10 times more controlling and quite similar. The Pope is a direct line. But we have a bit more agency and he is limited in his official mandates from God and opinions are clearly stated as his own. I think earlier in history when the church and governement were connected there was much micromanagement but not currently. But most complaints are about things men decide. Similar to most religions the complaints are mostly on customs or things that can change from one generation or century to the next.

      The fact you think kids can't live in a home unless both parents are living identical faiths suggests to me that all this excitement over it being the child's decision to join the church is phoney. A ten year old is only allowed to make the decision if her parents aren't gay? And parents should always be in the child's life unless there is physical danger. You are about split up families or lose a lot of ex spouses since their kids will spend some time with their ex. Why have one kid be a second class Mormon at home. Their older brother was baptized before the parent moved in with a same sex partner. It's entirely possible for people to want their kids to remain in church family and a "sinner" to believe all the rest about Joseph Smith even though they are not of the fold anymore.

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    2. laura and kms, thanks for sharing your perspectives. both make sense to me in different ways.

      kms, what i've tried a bit to get across in this post is that i believe that gender (and, by extension, heterosexual marriage) is a really, really, really big deal to god. as in, a *much* bigger deal than coffee. as in, a much bigger deal than most things. it's an essential part of our identity and essential to our potential.

      also, i don't see anywhere than anyone said that they think kids can't live in a home unless both parents are living identical faiths. please make sure you aren't making assumptions.

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    3. If Ian left you and started living with a man (God forbid) would you deny your minor kids who didn't yet receive baptism until 18, seek complete custody of the kids and deny them their father just so you can baptize them on time because of an arbitrary church rule saying they can't live with him and be baptized? You don't see trouble even with your extensive education? If the wisdom in this policy is so kids aren't raised contrary to the covenants they are making a Buddhist, atheist, etc are living by a different covenant just as the parent living in homosexual relationship. Is that rule next? I hope that LDS children aren't born with ambiguous genitalia. And if so I hope parents wait to do anything medically about it until the child grows up. Sometimes the chromosomes suggest a different gender than what is on the outside. I find it odd that people are allowed to trust feelings when it comes to BOM and about revelations from God and who to marry, but not trust what they know deep down about their gender identity. I get why the church doesn't want to make a woman prophet or marry same sex couples. I don't understand why they are shunning relatives from basic membership and worry the harm done to the family to particpate fully in church. You are not responsible for the child policy of the LDS church. It will likely go away when common sense prevails. Your church is young and you have many years to sort out this. Catholics are still being criticized for Galileo. Many formal apologies have been issued.

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  27. In the Book of Morman dark skin is a sign of God’s curse, while white skin is a sign of his blessing. When the Lamanites displease God, “because of their iniquity….the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” (2 Nephi 5:21). Later, when the Lamanites become Christians, “their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites” (3 Nephi 2:15). Other racist passages in the scripture have simply been changed by Mormon authorities—e.g., 2 Nephi 30:6, which originally referred to conversion to Christianity bringing about a “white and delightsome people,” now reads, as of 1981, “a pure and delightsome people.” As for black people, Joseph Smith taught that they are cursed as “sons of Cain.” Brigham Young, the successor of Joseph Smith, stated: “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10). Since blacks were a stigmatized race in Mormonism, black men were denied ordination to the priesthood in the LDS Church. While the LDS Church, under pressure, finally granted black men the priesthood in 1978, the racism in their Scriptures remains as offensive as ever.

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    1. Jenny's comments are fair, but probably warrant a little clarification. The Book of Mormon verses referenced are puzzling, but it's important to limit them to the context in which they were offered, and not read more into them than what the text actually says. Mormons believe those words were written over two thousand years ago by an imperfect person, who nevertheless was called as a prophet, in this case Nephi (following the same pattern God has always used from Adam to Noah to Moses on down--taking imperfect people, who will make frequent mistakes, but utilizing them to assist in His work notwithstanding their imperfections). Charity articulated well that no prophet is free of error, including Nephi, and Nephi's words here may not have been entirely inspired. It's also worth noting that while the words are troubling, an assumption is being made when it's conclusively determined that the "skin of blackness" referred to should be squarely associated with the skin color of many people of African descent, or any other ethnic group whose skin tone tends to be a little darker. While I can see how the wording may reasonably lead to that conclusion, we can't say with certainty exactly what Nephi was referring to, or what it really meant at that time. What we can say with certainty is that Mormon beliefs today unequivocally teach that any form of racism is completely unacceptable--it seems that current teaching should trump any past statements that may be attributed to prophets, and which may very well have been uninspired (e.g. the quotes referenced above attributed to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young would not be considered inspired teachings currently, and any thoughtful and in-tune Mormon will quickly discard them as a product of the very uninspired culture of 19th century America that promulgated slavery and racism, and which infected nearly all people at that time, but which has absolutely no place in Mormon belief today.

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    2. thanks to both jenny and adam for sharing your thoughts on this topic. jenny, you've just made a statement - is this something you want me to comment on, or do you have a related question?

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    3. Thanks for your perspective Adam - I find that your reasoning that "skin of blackness" might not have meant dark skin is really stretching. If those racist passages weren't really racist, why not simply explain rather than CHANGE "the most true and correct book of any on the face of the earth". That quote is still regularly cited in current general conferences, manuals, etc. In spite of thousands of changes to the text of the Book of Mormon. Grammar clarifications and spelling accounts for most of the changes, but changing the actual meaning of scripture to make them more palatable for a modern day audience when the book was written for our time seems like a head scratcher to me. I'd love to hear what you thought of the CES letter as well. Fair Mormon has done a thorough response to the entire letter if members are looking for faith based rebuttals such as the one you posed above, so you might like it. -Unrelated ANON

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    4. Agreed that suggesting the referenced passage isn't necessarily referring to skin tone is probably a stretch. My comment mainly is to highlight that when translation occurs across two, or even three, very different languages, across two (or even three) very different time periods, context and the underlying intent of the author and meaning of a specific passage can become muddled. Differing views have emerged as to whether Nephi was writing in reformed Egyptian (he makes the suggestion he is 1st Nephi 1) but some believe, given the numerous Hebrew language patterns (such as Chiasmus) embedded in the Book of Mormon, he may have used Egyptian characters to write Hebrew words. The same uncertainty exists for the exact language used by Mormon, the prophet-historian and compiler of the Book of Mormon who performed his task around 400 A.D., nearly 1000 years after Nephi lived. And Joseph Smith's early 19th century translation of the record to English--a language very different from reformed Egyptian and Hebrew--occurred nearly 2500 years and 1500 years after Nephi and Mormon's time periods, respectively. More on this here. http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Book_of_Mormon_Language

      The substantial time and translation leaps the Book or Mormon by necessity made can at times be puzzling when reading them in 2017 English.

      Again, the passage referenced is one that does cause me discomfort. It seems that discomfort can lead to at least two conclusions--one is that Nephi, or Mormon, or Joseph Smith, were not under the spirit of true inspiration in writing, editing, or translating this passage. If that's the case, it's unfortunate the passage remains in the Book of Mormon and I hope modern prophetic revelation will correct the mistake soon. Another alternative is that the passage was in fact written, edited and translated under the spirit of inspiration and the reason it remains in the Book of Mormon may require a deeper search as to exactly why it remains. One theory I have heard regarding this verse is that the curse to which the Lamanites were subjected was not their darkened skin color. The curse was being cut off from entering into a covenant relationship with God, the same curse to which all people are subjected who willfully rebel against God. Because an entire people had fallen into this curse, God used a different skin color to separate them from those who had entered into a covenant relationship. God separating a covenant-keeping people from other people is a practice seen throughout the Old Testament, the time period in which this passage was offered. More commentary on the subject here. https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Lamanites/Curse#Question:_Did_some_Church_leaders_believe_that_the_skin_of_the_Lamanites_would_turn_white.3F

      I recognize these explanations might carry little if any weight to those with darker skin color, and I imagine these passages likely cause them much more discomfort and pain than they do me. Exactly why some people have different skin colors remains in large part a mystery to me. A favorite passage, interestingly from this same Nephi, states "I know that [God] loveth His children; nevertheless I do not know the meaning of all things." (1st Nephi 11:17) Though it's cliche, I do believe God's ways are very mysterious and he often uses the hardships imposed in our lives to later bring about some of our greatest blessings. As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated "unjust suffering is redemptive" and I am fully confident that those who suffered unfairly because of their skin color will, in God's own way and time, be compensated wholly for that suffering.

      In the end, we can be certain that God in no way discriminates by skin color and no true disciple of Jesus Christ will either. Mormonism subscribes fully to this truth.

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    5. As to the CES letter, I find it a little surprising that it has received as much mileage as it seemingly has--it may be because it had the good fortune of being published at a time when there was an acceleration in information technology illuminating unflattering parts of Church history that were previously more opaque. It also seems to have gained traction because many may view the absence of a response by the CES employee as some kind of admission that the letter carried merit (a huge leap in my view). As to my own opinion on the letter: the author's arguments are not new or unique. They've all been considered, analyzed, and discussed before. For me, the spirit of the Restoration reaches well beyond the behaviors, sinful or otherwise, of Joseph Smith, his contemporaries, of current Church leaders, or of so called archaeological evidence that purports to call the Book of Mormon authenticity into question. Certainly there are events associated with Joseph Smith that form some of the deeper roots of my testimony, but nothing in that letter warrants serious consideration of uprooting that testimony. I often liken my own testimony of the Restoration to a sprawling, giant Redwood tree. The roots reach to previous dispensations, all of which I find in harmony with teachings revealed in the Restoration. The tree's branches reach to current day fruits of restored Gospel living that bless my life daily. Attacks on Joseph Smith and events and people associated with him, archaeological-based arguments (all of which are riddled with their own assumptions, many of which are highly suspect), or the shortcomings of other Church leaders, etc. may genuinely be akin to someone taking an ax to my tree. It may put some real dents in the tree, hurt it a little, and make it look a little less attractive at times; but those dents will in no way approach killing a tree of that magnitude and strength. I find those who lose faith because of letters like Mr. Runnells' are usually either not really weighing all the evidence (which evidence reaches way beyond topics addressed by Mr. Runnells, and which could never be contained in one letter, as much of the evidence will be received and confirmed spiritually) or are not living a life fully aligned with the spirit of the Restoration, a necessary element to understanding its truth. As Christ taught, you know a prophet by his fruits. To fully know the fruits of the Restoration, and believe the prophets of the Restoration, one has to live the teachings of the Restoration.

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  28. As in other conservative religions, the LDS Church emphasizes the importance of innate gender differences and promotes traditionally masculine traits for men (e.g., strength, leadership) and traditionally feminine traits for women (e.g., delicacy, gentleness). Women are not allowed to have leadership roles in the Mormon Church hierarchy, and are encouraged to take on a support role for their husbands. In fact, in June, the church excommunicated Kate Kelly, a Mormon woman who started a movement to allow the ordination of female clergy in the church.

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    1. My church certainly doesn't do this. I am a german protestant. Homosexuals Can not get married in my church, but they can get a blessing. I am so thankful to be a member of my church. Everybody is welcome, no one is excluded. I live in berlin the City and its people are very diverse. The city is officially a rainbow city. Freedom for everyone. So my church is a really good fit for me.

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    3. Jenny's points regarding Mormon gender beliefs are also fair, but again warrant some clarification. Mormon belief takes a much more long term view about family organizations than it seems many other belief systems do. Mormons believe the family units created on earth are intended to establish patterns that will endure forever, and that the functions of the family are much more important than any earthly institution, including the Church. While it's understandable that many might see Mormon practices as elevating men over women and instituting an uninspired patriarchy, a deeper look at the interplay between the family and the Church should hopefully at least start to dispel this. Mormons believe men and women are equal before God, and come together to create family units that form the basis not only for the regeneration and progress of the human family on earth, but also through the eternities. Any function of the Church is a means to that end. Mormon belief teaches that women have received a divine stewardship to provide life and possess unique gifts and responsibilities associated with the bearing and raising of children. Men, who do not possess these same gifts and responsibilities, carry a different stewardship in administering the Church, which again serves only as a means to strengthening eternal family units. Consequently, men will traditionally assume presiding roles in the Church, but it should in no way be implied that this makes men in any way superior to women. Their unique responsibilities within the Church are intended to help men grow in ways that will best prepare them to function in family units, the central unit of eternity. Every role in which a man (or woman) serves in the Church is temporary--it will not continue into eternity (and typically only endures for a short time on earth) though family units will. While questions often arise regarding what this means for those who do not marry, are divorced, widowed prematurely, LGBT, or who are unable to have children, etc. any answer has to first begin with an eternal perspective. Mormon belief teaches that the highest levels of progress and happiness in the eternities occur in family units, and that all who desire will have the opportunity to live in a family unit, even if that opportunity was not available on earth. All the functions of the Church are aimed at furthering this purpose. While it is true that most presiding roles in the Church are filled by men, there are many filled by women, and my own belief is that this is an area in which the Church has much room to grow. Just like people, the Church too goes through growing pains, and is regularly in need of shedding practices which have little or no basis in true doctrine. In that regard, I believe there are many roles in the Church which currently are not filled by women which could be, and the only reason they are not is because of uninspired, and always evolving, cultural practices which would hopefully will be corrected soon.

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    4. again, thanks jenny and adam (and anon!) for sharing your thoughts.

      jenny: it is not true that women are not allowed to have leadership roles in the church.

      i will delve a bit more into my feelings about this topic in an upcoming q&a post, but let me know if you have specific questions!

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    5. This is such an interesting discussion. My concern with the "equal but different" argument is that, in my experience, people's talents and strengths aren't necessarily related to their gender. It therefore seems wrong to box people into pre-defined gender determined roles. It is absolutely possible for a man to have gifts that are traditionally considered "female" and vice versa. So why not do what we are interested in and good at? Why should gender come into it?

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    6. i agree that talents and stengths aren't necessarily related to gender, and that it is wrong to box people into pre-defined gender determined roles, for the very most part. i believe, however (and have come to believe this through earnest personal inquiry) that men and women are designed to be different and to have a few roles distinct from each other - which through marriage are meant to be perfectly shared. gender should come into it because that is part of an omniscient and perfectly loving god's plan. i will try to explain this a bit more in an upcoming q&a post.

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  29. I know of someone whose baby was born with both male and female features. They are born with both genders.

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  30. Thank you so much for this. Seriously, thank you. I know we're in such different places in our lives and our faith journeys but I find your passion about your beliefs so utterly inspiring and thought provoking. You've made more difference than you can ever know to my own relationship with God. Thank you.

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  31. Hi Charity, Are you familiar with Amy McPhie Allebest? She is an LDS Stanford grad who lives in the Bay Area. Her interviews, articles, and book inspired my own feminist awakening. She remains "in the boat," but is a lot more outspoken and open. She toes a line similar to Design Mom (who also spoke out against the Nov 2015 policy) and it's great. I loved this interview with her (it's not church negative, and again she remains LDS- not trying to spam your comments :) ) also- I'm not the above anon talking about babies and gender. Her interview explains how someone can stay Mormon while also not loving the patriarchy.
    http://www.mormonstories.org/amy-mcphie-allebest/

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    1. thanks - i'll check this out!

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  32. I just have to say one of the many reasons I love this blog is because it is very thought provoking. I love the respectful discussions that we have in the comments (for the most part). Thank you Charity for creating such a beautiful space for positive thoughts and discussions!
    www.aprilrises.com

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  33. Number 4 is my favourite. Excellent post.

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  34. Number 4 is my favourite. Excellent post.

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  35. This is such a great post simply because you outline so clearly much of what I've wondered about the church.

    People need to realise and respect opinions other to their own. While I'm in full support of gay/gender/transgender equality, just as Charity supports and respects my opinion, I respect hers. While it may be different to mine, that's okay and needs to be respected. Some of these comments are so harsh!

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    1. I agree that mutual respect is so important. One thing I really struggle with though is the way that views like Charity's can impact on others in a way that doesn't always feel respectful. Ultimately, the view of the LDS church seems to be that it is sinful to be a practising homosexual. The church has actively opposed gay marriage. This means that, s a married gay person, it is very hard to feel respected by the church and its followers.

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    2. I think it's fine she is lds. I think it's fine if she doesn't have issues with her church and fine if she does. She can be happy belonging. Mainly people are responding her to her belief gender matters to God (roles of men and women) and same sex relationships are against God. She is bound to get some slack. I am glad she admits she can't explain the child policy. I was hard on her for that policy because I thought she was in favor of it and had a clear reason why. I don't think she has to explain that policy. I don't think every member has to be spokesman of every doctrine and practice and policy. But when they speak in favor of it some may feel strongly the other way. She did invite comments by not turning them off.

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