Sunday, 25 September 2016

"What, if anything, could the Mormon Church do right now to make it more favourable in your sight, or in the sight of others who view it unfavourably?" - A Survey

*The 'Mormon Church', 'the church' and 'organisation' are used in this article in reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With a lot of issues that have sprung up in recent times regarding the Church's policy or stance on topics such as the church essays, seer stones, sexual orientation, females and the priesthood etc. I have compiled a set of responses to the question outlined in the title of this post.

The question was open to interpretation regarding whether one thinks the church has a necessary obligation to make certain changes to accommodate others, whether it would even be possible for the church to do just that, or whether it is people who need to change and align themselves with the church. As such, the question was answered in a number of different ways.

We cannot simply ignore the way this organisation has made people linked to it, feel. It is my urge that we have to seek for every opportunity to build bridges between active, less-active and ex-members. That the qualities of compassion, empathy and love manifested by Jesus Christ be the standard on both sides.

Building bridges may include listening to others instead of responding with a retort, demonstrating sincere empathy. Showing the Saviour's love for each and every soul may take precedence over attempting to prove that you are right in a doctrinal/historical/policy back and forth.

And now to the survey itself.

I do not personally agree with every comment made in this report. The comments of other individuals do not necessarily reflect my position on issues. However, I feel it absolutely necessary to publish everyone's comments exactly as they were given, with zero alterations. The comments contained herein were given from real people whom I contacted privately and separately through facebook messenger.

This survey is neither an attempt to slander the church or renounce my faith in it, nor an effort to narcissistically extol myself or the church. I am merely genuinely interested and intrigued by the people who have contributed their opinions, their method of thinking, and their vivid ideas and feelings.

The following messages contain candid and honest opinions both in favour of, and in opposition to the church. Please decide for yourself whether you wish to proceed in reading this survey after this point.


(This question was originally worded as "What, if anything, could the Mormon church do right now to appease you and make it more favourable in your sight?")

I will kick things off with Greg Rattey, who I became acquainted with in a conversation on facebook:

I met Henry Lions in the same facebook thread, and these are his comments:

Next up are some comments from a Graham:

Jolyon Folkett shared his views as such:

Gareth Horne offered up his response to the question as follows:

Sarah Fuller indulged me with her comments:

Hilary Presbury shared her comments here:

These are Eric Spaans' comments:

Next are Mitch Hilburn's comments:

Joanna Horne shared her thoughts about this question:

Finally, we turn to the remarks of Nephi Hatcher:

While the entries here in this survey are raw and candid, I have found that we don't have to share the same opinions in order to be agreeable. We don't have to agree on common beliefs to be respectful. And we don't have to see eye-to-eye regarding our concept of truth in order to attempt an empathetic response. It is these such traits or qualities - agreeable, respectful, empathetic - which provide a foundation to build bridges. Their exact opposites create chasms.

We cannot attempt to demonstrate these attributes without first listening to and understanding the different viewpoints and feelings of both members and ex-members. Whichever side we are on, we have all been affected by the church in one way or another.

Of course, I always welcome sincere comments but I really hope that such comments don't isolate individuals who contributed, castigate them, ridicule their opinions, or cast them in a negative light. We are all humans and we all have strong feelings. Let us treat each other with kindness as we all try to be civil and respect each other's right to worship how we may and our right to an opinion and a voice.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The dreaded DISCOURAGE word and what it means

Ah, the word 'discourage' when spoken by general authorities of the church. I hate it when I hear them utter this word. I find myself exhaling in a 'here we go again' fashion.

Quite obviously, if a warning, directive or piece of advice is coming straight from the Lord through the revelation of the Spirit, there is no room for 'discourage.'

However, when a person has a personal opinion on something which they feel others should comply with, they will 'discouarge' the object.

The following link provides the latest apostolic discouragement:

Now, I sustain the apostolic leadership of the church, which means I know of no indiscretion that would prevent them from serving in their callings. What it doesn't mean is that I agree with every word they speak in various settings and to differing audiences.

This very issue draws into focus the question of when an apostle is speaking on behalf of the Lord Himself, and when he is merely offering an opinion. It has become challenging for some to differentiate between the two scenarios.

Is the general church membership deemed so spiritually immature as to be unable to decide what is too much? When to start and when to stop something? To be so dull to personal spirituality as to allow Pokemon Go to destroy their lives? 

Elder Ballard self-admittedly doesn't understand Pokemon Go but has discouraged us from playing it. Why would he do that? Perhaps he has our best interests at heart? He wants us to focus on more spiritual things? 

John Taylor, the third President of the Church, reported:“Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. ‘How?’ responded the gentleman; ‘to us it is very difficult.’ Mr. Smith replied, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.’”3

Quite obviously, Pokemon Go has nothing to do with the principles of Christianity as contained in the Mormon Church. Extreme at worst, unwise at best, I think all that Elder Ballard was trying to say was that we need to exercise moderation while playing this game, just as we do in all other things. We don't want to get so consumed in video games, the internet, TV, unhealthy eating habits, that we stop finding time for family, the scriptures and other spiritual  matters.

The delivery of this discouragement has raised a few eyebrows as not everything he described as effects of the game, are true. People do go outdoors playing this game and do see more of the world, sights and nature. It has actually brought some families together and been very educational.

Instead of discouraging members from things, I wonder if it would be more effective to encourage members to do good?

Monday, 5 September 2016

I thought of Enos

Looking for role models from the Book of Mormon who are applicable and relevant today can be very hard. Most of the characters have either waged war on their enemies or killed someone, neither of which is an advisable way to live.

Everyone has their favourite person in the Book of Mormon.

Mine is Enos.

Enos is the real man.

I think of Enos a lot.

Nephi beheaded another human. Ammon cut off other humans' arms. Captain Moroni executed the death penalty on otherwise innocent humans. Teancum murdered another human in act of revenge.

There were also many good points about these people, and their darkest moments I mentioned above may be rationalised away by many with decent arguments. Yet the point remains: how is beheading someone relevant to me? Chopping off limbs? Supporting the death penalty? Being filled with revenge and anger? 

And then there was Enos.

Here's a picture of Enos praying

What do we learn about Enos from the Book of Mormon?

We learn that he valued his parents' teachings so much that the memory of their words were able to suddenly and vividly come to his mind. We learn that he was an imperfect person who was magnified and emboldened by the power of prayer. He had gone off into the forest hunting beasts, which we may assume was a very normal activity in his life, and ended up having a profound spiritual experience. We learn that his energy and motivations in prayer was for people - for his own welfare and the welfare of ALL others. 

Enos also possessed a reverence and respect for the written record and requested for divine assurances that the record of his people might be preserved. The Book of Mormon on my dining table today is that very record that Enos was so concerned about around 2,500 years ago. 

We also learn that Enos understood that the Lamanites had something against the Nephites but that he lived amongst a people who tried to resolve conflicts and plead their innocence of false assumptions by peaceful means.

Enos is my role model. I too strive for peaceful resolutions to conflicts. I can relate to having spiritual experiences in the often normal and mundane tasks of the day. I am imperfect like him and stand in need of repentance like him. I understand the 'struggle' of prayer, of spending long minutes in quiet but pained thought and determined frustration to say what I want to say and not what I've been conditioned to say. To pray for people; myself, friends, enemies, local and world leaders, church leaders, all who have a need. That these are often the most fulfilling and meaningful prayers.

So when I was wondering where on earth to read in the Book of Mormon the other day, I thought of who I judged to be a good character and who I totally admired in the record. I thought of my role model. 

I thought of Enos. 

Saturday, 30 April 2016


This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

Zion can mean a lot of things:

- a place in Jerusalem
- heaven
- a city of God to be built
- the church
- the pure in heart

Zion is referred to in the scriptures and hymns as the ideal of beauty and perfection. It is both a place, an organisation, and an attitude. To me it seems that it's an ideal way of living that will prepare us to live in the presence of Deity in a future existence.

But can my family build Zion in the wilderness of Kuantan?

I believe we can.

As with all worthwhile spiritual endeavours, it is developed slowly, step by step, through consistent little efforts. It starts with the home. We build, establish and beautify our home. We build it by reverencing God; we establish it by avoiding anything that would tarnish it; and we beautify it by learning and living the gospel of Jesus Christ and searching out truth.

These things produce a Zion-like place of refuge and state of mind.

While we don't regularly gather with other church members, we gather as a family in our home in the wilderness, and for us, this is our little piece of Zion.

Where is your Zion? How do you create a Zion-like existence? What is your understanding of the concept of Zion?

Friday, 29 April 2016

Youth Program

This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

The Mormon Church runs two tremendous youth programs for 12-18 year olds, known as Young Mens and Young Womens. I now look back on my time spent in this program with great fondness.

In addition to having classes together at church, we also enjoyed activities on Wednesday nights which were mostly sport-related. On occasion, the young men would join with the young women for activities supervised by youth leaders.

I guess I was fortunate to have a lot of great friends at church and we developed extremely close friendships. We all loved football and spent many happy hours and days doing exactly what we loved. It also kept us in church on a Sunday as we checked the fantasy football scores and tables to see how our teams were doing.

Those in the church youth program became my closest circle of friends, much more exciting, meaningful and deep than my school circle. We would hang out as often as possible, whatever the time, whatever the weather, and my teenage years are filled with hilarious memories of these times and other crazy adventures we embarked on together.

Some experiences include: long summer afternoons at the park playing football and tennis, hitting golf balls on the field, cycling together, walking into town to play pool and buy 50p football socks, hanging around at someone's home (usually the Bayliss'), sleepovers, blowing up aerosol cans, throwing berries at house windows, and the list goes on.

We now have a (slightly) more mature relationship and it was awesome to see my best mates last year on my trip back to England where we reminisced about all of these memories!

Thursday, 28 April 2016


This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

Ex-Mormons can be generous, kind, loving, family-oriented, opinionated, idiotic, stubborn, vengeful.

Mormons can be generous, kind, loving, family-oriented, opinionated, idiotic, stubborn, vengeful.

Hope that clears it up.

This is a post stemming from my very first posting here on open-minded-mormon titled Building bridges in interesting times. It's worth reading that post as a little background to this one.

Ex-Mormons, if treated in the right way, can open some valid and insightful discussions and questions regarding the church, its history, and policies. And it's not even left to ex-Mormons to do deep digging. Church members, most notably Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women movement, was excommunicated from the church for preaching her viewpoints which the church perceived to be in opposition to its own stances. Sometimes it takes people like Kate Kelly to cause us to think deeper, to cause changes for the better in the church. Ex-Mormons have quite different perspectives on the church from the typical comfortable member.

While it may be impossible to agree with each other's opinions, we can at least be agreeable in our understanding of and empathy for one another.

Ex-Mormons usually make a firm point of how happy they are after leaving the church, which is probably correct. But it doesn't mean that the happiness I feel in the church is in any way less than theirs.

I don't have to renounce my faith to be happy.

I don't have to leave the church in order to see other perspectives.

I don't have to forfeit my spiritual convictions in order to be open-minded.

I don't have to abandon my beliefs in order to acknowledge and consider mistakes of past or current church leaders.

I don't have to fight against the church collectively just because one person offended me.

From my observation, a lot of ex-Mormons are not necessarily bad people, they have just been perhaps treated harshly or unfairly by certain people in the church; they have been offended by one person's lack of empathy or unkind words or bad example; they have been overburdened with callings and responsibilities; they feel cheated by the church when they learn of proposed mistakes or contradictions in early church leaders or on points of doctrine or practise; they have differing personal opinions to church policy which leaves them marginalized and criticized by the majority.

I think we can show empathy, defend the faith, and do so with increased kindness so that we can build bridges instead of erect walls.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Women and the priesthood

This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

We need to get away from the thinking that holding the priesthood is the be-all and end-all of membership in the Mormon church. That somehow it is advantageous now and in the hereafter to be a priesthood holder.

It is not.

While the priesthood is important in administering the ordinances of the gospel, it cannot serve itself. It can only benefit and bless the recipients of the ordinances it authorises. It has no bearing on ability to receive spiritual convictions concerning the doctrine of Christ. Every man, woman or child in the church may receive personal revelation for themselves or their families. Such spiritual messages are not dependent on bearing the priesthood.

As a man, it is a duty that I didn't choose, but one that was willingly thrust upon me. I honour the priesthood I hold as it enables me to serve the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to my family each Sunday in the wilderness of Kuantan. It blesses me and my three girls in equal measure. We are all able to partake of the same emblems and associated covenants because of it.

The priesthood also serves a man and a woman in a temple by pronouncing the exact same covenants and eternal blessings on both of them at the marriage altar, representing the highest gospel ordinance available to Mormons, received equally by both sexes.

The woman is in no way disadvantaged by the use of the priesthood or the blessings it prescribes.

The "Ordain Women" movement could be looked upon as a landmark turning point in gender equality, or an ill-advised and misunderstood concept of church organisation. The day came when black males were informed they too could receive the priesthood. We may live to see the day where females are informed they can receive the priesthood. As with most policy changes in the church, it has to be at the right time and according to shifting circumstances, which we are certainly seeing now with the Ordain Women movement.

However, there is an order to how the church is arranged as it currently stands, and that order is connected to the allocation of priesthood responsibility to the males, and predominantly family responsibility to the females. The church has been taking steps to involve women more in previously all-male general church councils, which is definitely an exploratory step in the direction of ordination for women.

It's hard to imagine what would happen should these gender-defined responsibilities suddenly cease to be segregated by sex. Perhaps the order in the church would turn to chaos. Women would be seeking men's roles and vice versa. Roles which each may not be best-suited to as compared to the opposite gender. For example, a man may receive a calling in primary being alone in a room full of small children. A woman may not enjoy leading a sometimes rowdy bunch of teenage boys, neither might it be appropriate for a man to take charge of a group of adolescent young women. Suddenly, a baptism in the family would turn into an agonising decision as to whether the husband or the wife performs the baptism. Would revelation for the entire church flow as smoothly and reach unanimous decisions if the general leadership was a mixed bag of both women and men? 

I asked my wife about these issues to get a female perspective on women and the priesthood. And believe me, I pressed her on it! Among other things, I asked her if she felt marginalised in the church as every major decision is made by men. Was she satisfied with the perceived lack of equality between the genders? I was a little surprised to hear her rebuke me and inform me that she has so many other things going on in her life with family duties that she would have no time or effort left to hold the priesthood, attend meetings, fulfill callings that would then become possible as a priesthood holder. She left me in no uncertain terms that she is perfectly happy with how the church is ordered now, that she feels fine with letting the men get on with the church business. She ended by saying she wouldn't even want to receive the priesthood!

Time will tell what direction the church takes, how it responds to the changing circumstances, and whether by divine decree, women are instated to the priesthood here on earth.