Readers have pointed me to places on the Internet where discussions or blogs are critical of me. Some are quite funny; others are just mistaken. I assume the critics are well intended. They have every right to be skeptical of motivation and sincerity. Some of those who are most disapproving of me have had their hearts broken by trusting religious leaders who have failed them, lied to them, or abused them. Therefore, questioning motives is not only justified self-defense, but based on hard learned lessons they have taken to heart.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets, which were before you.” (Matt. 5: 11-12.) This is not just sage advice, it is the way the Lord would like people to interact with one another in order to come to understanding.
There are a couple of people on the internet who are fixated on me. They are watching to see their predictions of my future ambitions, adoption of plural wives and religious ambitions unfold. This is good. They care. They are paying attention and want to see for themselves the mess they have come to expect from religious people.
I understand their heartbreak and disillusionment with organized religions. They are right to be heartsick.
For myself, I believe the Latter-day Saints are some of the best people I know. They are sincere, and do many good things for one another, voluntarily. I love being among the Latter-day Saints. I do, however, have a different view on some things. The common view I have heard is that the trouble experienced by the church is the fault of the members, not the leaders. They accept their own failings, acknowledge their inability to measure up, and then go on to heap adoration on the leaders for their obvious righteousness. Latter-day Saints take as proof of righteousness the church leaders’ callings themselves. It is a “but-for” sort of argument. They would not be a “president” or an “apostle” or a “seventy” but-for their righteousness; because God would never call an unrighteous man to such a position. In contrast, my view is that the leaders are unworthy to lead the Saints. The basic member is more virtuous, more worthy, and better than those who lead them. I’m skeptical of the top, not the bottom.
Leadership treat the religion as a product they own, market and manage. Their decision-making is largely informed by business decisions about their product. The current demographic of tithe payers must focus on the Mormon corridor, and primarily the Utah segment of that corridor. Therein lies the financial engine which foots the bill for the rest of the worldwide venture. These are hardy, largely conservative, middle-aged and older, lifelong Latter-day Saints. As that demographic ages, there must be a new demographic. This new demographic is younger, more liberal, and integrated into a larger population which has very different values than the Mormon corridor. The management challenge for the leaders is to balance retention of the current financial support from the paying demographic, and adjust the message to suit the targeted demographic. Gay marriage illustrates the management’s dilemma. The older, conservative Latter-day Saints in the Mormon corridor oppose gay marriage. Utahn’s voted about 70% in favor of the law recently declared unconstitutional by the US District Court. But the younger demographic, particularly those under age 21, are overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage. The trend lines all suggest that in the future the church will need to remove this barrier to entry/conversion in order to attract the younger members. The church’s recent maneuver with the Boy Scouts is an illustration of the balancing act in open display. The Boy Scouts would have looked for support and approval from its largest sponsors before making this kind of major change to their policy.
Leadership must “hold the line” with their rhetoric to keep the current conservative payers paying, but need to give signals to the younger, more liberal coming population. They are doing just that. Ultimately, good management would seek to remove homosexual opposition as a barrier to converting the younger demographic. This would suggest a compromise of the church’s historic opposition so as to permit open acceptance. But that cannot be done now. Too quickly and it would be a financial disaster. For the present, the worldwide programs of the church require the current conservative payers to continue paying. Their opposition prevents any hasty changes.
From my perspective, the church is run exactly like a business would be run if its product was a religion called “Mormonism.” It gives lip-service to the faith by the leaders/managers/owners but the strong convictions and the righteous lives are not found there. Those things are to be found in the daily lives of the faithful who surrender their purses to the leaders for their use, consumption, distribution and enjoyment. This confers on the leaders the political, business and social power of the purses of the believers. With that, the leaders influence (virtually control) political life in Utah, wield influence in Washington, DC, own vast real estate holdings, and allow fortunes to be made by trading with favored companies and suppliers for LDS ventures.
Some disaffected Latter-day Saints believe that everyone who holds religious sway in any way at all does so for the same reasons as displayed by the LDS church. That is, religion is big business. It is a way to make a profit and acquire influence. They project these ideas on me, and then question my motives and sincerity. I understand it. I honestly do not envy church leaders. I pity them. I’ve concluded that nothing can be done any better in this world than what is being done at present. No matter how it starts out, eventually every organization will become captive of traditions and social and governmental pressures. All organized religions will eventually become Catholicism. I will not leave another relic to become the tool of the established order here below. Religion must be heavenly and otherworldly to remain pure.
However, since I now have these devoted critics’ attention, I’ll address them. Further, I get to live my life before these captivated critics and allow them to see whether or not:
-I love my wife and am devoted to her alone.
-I have no ambition to profit from others’ donations.
-I will/have sacrifice/d for my beliefs.
-I can gracefully endure rejection at almost every hand.
-I use my own resources to give talks, not accepting anything in return.
Or, in other words, they can measure whether I count myself “blessed” by having to live through the ordeal Christ described: “when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” I get to live the Sermon. They get to judge whether I measure up. I do not begrudge them their right to judge me. Their hearts, like my own, have been broken by pretenders. The challenge is to live without pretense. The challenge for me is to not break their heart again by proving there are none who are willing to worship God by what we lay upon His altar. I am keenly aware of my weakness and all my past failings. But I am converted, and I do believe with all my heart in the Lord and His message. Therefore, I do “rejoice” in the limited time I’m afforded to make my efforts here in this temporary world.