Just my rambling thoughts about being gay and Mormon

Sunday, February 5, 2012

got what you wanted

I've been Mormon for way longer than I care to admit, maybe even before I was born since my family goes back to the very earliest days of Mormonism. I know something of the history before my time and much about what happened in the Church during my life. Therefore, I have some perspective on how the Church has changed. 
One of the most interesting changes to me is the absolute consolidation of power within the Quorum of the Twelve. I've seen it by the way people interact with and talk about general authorities. It used to be that they were respected as men who had been called to a position of responsibility. It was not much different than the way other church leaders such as bishops were respected. They were not viewed as infallible and they openly stated as much. They were loved by the people because they loved the people and served them. The lives of the members were made better because of Christlike leaders who served them.
In the past, the Twelve had been greatly influenced by their interactions with local members. These personal contacts had tempered their actions and helped them understand the real struggles of everyday members. 
Over time, the Twelve have systematically distanced themselves from the daily lives of the members and have eliminated every meaningful voice of dissent, opposition, and counsel to them. In fact, to even suggest that you propose to counsel a member of the Twelve is today looked at as blasphemous.
What a change from the leader-server model that Christ established. This may have been somewhat inevitable with a growing worldwide organization. But rather than allow organic growth and adaptation to happen naturally, the Twelve have somewhat ruthlessly imposed their mark on every aspect of the Church. Today, they are the undisputed kings of Mormonism. They achieved the goal of total control. This is some of the darker side of their legacy:

  • Church meetings that are bland, boring, and shallow
  • Testimonies that are cookie cutter copies of one another
  • Like it or not, these guys are opinionated, isolated, and out of touch, which results in the Church adapting to social changes 30 years after the rest of society (women, blacks, and gay rights are examples)
  • Putting many members in a nearly constant state of cognitive dissonance for one reason or another because what appears to be the best decision to thoughtful members does not match Church practice
  • Expecting they can control the story of church history like they control Sunday School lessons
  • Causing the disaffection of otherwise believing members who will no longer tolerate the curtain of deception in the name of the Lord
  • A cult of personality worship around the Twelve
  • The modern Quorum of the Twelve have run the organization with a ruthless efficiency that would make General Motors proud. Unfortunately, this has created a culture where it appears the Twelve have abdicated their pastoral responsibilities for the power of the corporate boardroom.
Saving souls both spiritually and temporally is a task that when done well requires adaptation to the needs of individuals. It requires caring one-on-one attention, patience, acceptance, and non-judgmental love. It is messy and time consuming and requires flexibility. It is wholly inconsistent with the principles of lean mean corporate governance.

What to do?  Not that they would ask my opinion, but below are a few suggestions. 
  • Allow members of the Twelve to retire
  • Abolish the seniority system within the Twelve
  • Don't create policy around things based on how they will politically effect the Church
  • Acknowledge past errors and injuries
  • Acknowledge that women can and did hold the priesthood
  • Allow women to be local leaders beyond primary and relief society
  • Allow men to serve in the primary presidency
  • Acknowledge the facts of church history
  • Encourage honest discussion, disagreement, and dialogue in meetings
  • Encourage diversity
  • Make public the church finances
  • Focus more on the journey and less on the destination
  • Stop the guilt trip and the incessant obsession with sex
  • Acknowledge that coffee, tobacco, and alcohol have nothing to do with salvation
  • Allow for local flexibility and adaption
  • Lighten up


  1. While I agree with most of your list of suggestions, I think a lot of what you say about the 12 being "out of touch" and unaffected by "everyday membership" is not _necessarily_ true.

    To be fair, the Church is huge, and you don't have a lot of direct evidence of their being out of touch or "ruling" as you say they do. The Church is a huge institution, and it's not transparent. Although your description of the 12 is a possible cause for the results you list of how the Church ends up, there are many other explanations you could offer within the scope of the institution that could explain the way things are just as well. Again, I'm not saying you're wrong, but you're not really providing any direct evidence of their personal nature.

  2. Trev, thanks for you comment. You are right that without transparency it is difficult to fully understand what is going on. However, a basic principle of leadership is that the folks in charge are responsible for the overall actions of the organization at every level. Are you suggesting that the Twelve are not in charge?

  3. No, they certainly are, but large institutions are very complex. It's like asking if the President of the US is in charge because he can't seem to get passed all the nifty things he promises--the Apostles certainly face "checks and balances" both horizontally and vertically in the institution, even among themselves.

    There certainly is a level of responsibility there for what comes out of the institution. I wouldn't argue with that. And I think it's perfectly appropriate to call them on what could be specific abuses of power or where they don't do as much about something as ought be expected. However, broad sweeping--even personal--attacks like much of the content of this post tend to turn me off and question their credibility, regardless of who the targets are.

    Most of what you write here are not clear instances of "overall actions of [an] organization at every level." You are describing phenomena that, due to lack of transparency, could be explained by other institutional reasons that would be just as valid. By all means, bring to light specific instances of abuse or failure of responsibility (they certainly are there), but I don't think this sort of ad hominem attack is very effective, other than to vent.

  4. And, by the way, sorry to never comment on your blog but to suddenly come out of the woodwork on the "attack" like this--it doesn't seem very fair. I've followed your blog for a while and quite like it. Keep up the good work.