Everything can be taken from a man but one thing:
the last of human freedoms –
to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances,
to choose one’s own way.


– Victor Frankl


Long have I remembered an incident which occurred some years ago during a Relief Society lesson. I can’t remember what triggered the outburst, but a sister sitting in our midst got VERY upset with something that the teacher and class were discussing. Hotly, she burst forth into a long and passionate diatribe about the nature of the Godhead. She related a story of how she’d been in attendance at a BYU devotional where Elder Bruce R McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had clearly and succinctly reamed out a third eye socket into the skulls of certain apostate thinkers in our midst. Now, I’d long privately held the opinion that this sister was a little, uh, bats in the belfry… and I tried to avoid her as much as I could. But her obviously great feeling for the subject and her adamant declaration of truthfulness and doctrine piqued my curiousity. So I went home and searched online for the BYU address that she had cited.

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I found it. It’s called Our Relationship With The Lord and was delivered 2 March 1982 by Elder Bruce R McConkie at Brigham Young University. Here is the link.

When I tried to study this talk, I found it confusing. I found the tone to be dogmatic and condescending. I was puzzled because it felt “angry” to me in it’s tone… and why would an apostle be angry about this subject, especially while teaching it? I felt that in many respects, that these teachings muddied and muddled my view of the Godhead. (How typical… since I thought that sister was muddied and muddled in the head too.) I eventually just put this talk away. Maybe it was meant for greater minds and greater spirituality than my own.

“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;”
– D&C 93:1.

I was present in the audience when Elder David A Bednar visited my Michigan stake and taught that this verse was true and very much literal, even for us today. I spent the rest of that year and a greater part of the next year studying out and marking every scriptural instance where the Lord has appeared unto men. Which is all the more reason why I had to shelve the McConkie talk, because it was so dissonant to what I had learned for myself by study and faith.

This weekend I began reading a book sent to me by a friend of a friend I met online. It’s all part of a process and path with which the course of my life seems to have been set to cross roads. Ever since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicated of Sam Young, the founder of protectldschildren.org, I have been investigating spiritual, ecclesiastical and institutional abuse on a more intense level. Specifically, it’s actual existence within my faith community, and to what extent and strength.

To be fully honest, I would have to say that beyond my own personal experiences, which are many, what woke me up to the actual WIDESPREAD and COMMON existence of this problem within the LDS Church wasn’t Sam Young. He came later.

What came first were two television programs which initially appeared on A&E but now are being broadcast on the TLC network: Leah Remini, Scientology And The Aftermath and Escaping Polygamy.

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I was surprised and shocked by this media. Surprised that I kept thinking “I’ve seen stuff like this before, in my church… [or] my family of origin” and “Hey, this is like a corrupt version of what happens in my church… [or] my family of origin!”. Then I became shocked at how often I thought these thoughts while watching these shows.

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I later stumbled upon a video by someone who was thinking the same thoughts I was about Leah Remini’s show. I realized quickly that this person would be considered not only an apostate but an enemy by most members of my faith. So… why was I seeing many of the same correlations, similarities and connections that he was? Was I evil? Was my crime having a keen mind and an understanding heart? I did not view these as anything but what I have already been told by priesthood authority that they are: blessings or gifts from my Creator to be used in building up His kingdom.

And I would assume that my Father would want his kingdom, both in heaven and on earth, built as his Son, Jesus Christ, demonstrated. Honestly. Boldly. Nobly. And except at the very end – post-Gethsemane, when his doom was already fixed and determined – I don’t recall the Lord being shy about calling out corruption and hypocrisy when he saw them. But I also don’t recall him scrutinizing, terrorizing, persecuting and condemning those with broken hearts and contrite spirits (2 Nephi 2:7, In Humility Our Savior).

whatitmeansSo I was surprised to find, over the weekend, the rest of the story connected to the McConkie diatribe at BYU. And I am crushed by it. Though I have been reading a hard copy, I found an online source for the same material. Here is the link.

Crushed because I know it is true. Crushed because I have seen this before. And crushed because obviously few in my faith community even care… or care to accept the truth in all its ugliness… because this same story keeps repeating itself, over and over again.

So much for the unity of voices and the harmony of the Bells which I once thought existed.

Over and over and over again, the phrase that keeps circling in my mind is this one:

And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; 

It comes from the Title Page of the Book of Mormon. The rest of that sentence continues, “wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgement seat of Christ.”

The problem for me, now, is discerning what is of God and what is of men.

And once I determine that, to decide what I am going to do next.

Because everything has changed for me at church.

No more blank check… for anyone.

No more automatic trust… for anyone.

No more infallibility… for anyone.

No more obedience to the demand for blind obedience… for anyone.

No more believing what is said and professed despite the multiple and repeated evidences of what is being done right in front of my face. And done all the way up to the top.

I don’t feel safe at church anymore.

I don’t think I ever will again.

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After reading about how horribly this apostle treated George Pace, a stake president and BYU professor, you know what I can’t help but wonder? What if all this was triggered by book sales? Yes, what if Bruce R  McConkie was so angry because he was concerned about his own book sales? And what if he gave that talk just to make sure that one of his only notable competitors was fully, fatally and finally crushed?

The other thing that concerns me is the continued disdain in the LDS community for stories of faith experiences. All the hate comes out of the woodwork for the present-day dreamers of dreams and beholders of visions who dare to break protocol and Church decree by going public. Think John Pontius. Think Julie Rowe. Think Denver Snuffer. Think Mike Stroud. This is an historic pattern: think of the excommunication of Bishop John Koyle, an act which I suspect was influenced by the apostle James Talmadge. The moral of the story is that if there be “kooks” then the kooks must be quiet (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17, Helaman 14, JS-H 1:25, 1 Nephi 18:10, Mosiah 13:4).

Which all leads back to an astounding discovery I made awhile back. I’d always been fascinated by Joan of Arc. I’d written a report on her in school. But when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spent its tightly-grasped, precious tuppins to make a movie about a CATHOLIC French young woman who it lator cannonized, I was honestly intrigued. My church has never done such a thing before! Why in the world would it make a movie about someone not even of our faith?! What was the significance? Was there a hidden, greater meaning? My conclusion is that the answer, for the Church, is actually no. I have determined that they likely made this movie as part of the media and publicity campaign for the Paris France Temple. Perhaps it was even shown as part of the open house tour, or is even used at a visitor’s center now. I have no idea. But I believe the intended audience was mainly French, but since we are an English-speaking church and the international language of the world is English, there was also an English version made. I believe it’s creation was in the hope that by drawing a parallel between Joan of Arc and Joseph Smith, inquiring minds might led to investigate the Church.

My digging panned out. I was amazed to learn, for example, of what high esteem the cynical Mark Twain held for Joan. It was like finding out George Carlin might have had a thing for her.  I began to collect images of Joan that I had found along my search, and these were very interesting to my symbolism-oriented brain as well. Then finally, finally I found it: my treasure. It is this: The real reason that Joan of Arc was put to death by her own faith community was for daring to recognize the supremacy of God and her personal communication with Him over the supremacy of any earthly church or its tribunal of human authorities. I’m pretty sure that is not the primary take-away message that the LDS creators of the docudrama intended.

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Unfortunately, I think I am seeing a pattern here.

And it scares me to see which shoe is on which foot.

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“In 1856, when we were largely alone in these valleys, some thought we were safe from the ways of the world. To such talk, Heber C. Kimball, the grandfather of our beloved president, responded: “I want to say to you, my brethren, the time is coming when we will be mixed up in these now peaceful valleys to that extent that it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy to the people of God. Then, brethren,” he went on, “look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall; for I say unto you there is a test, a Test, a TEST coming, and who will be able to stand?” (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, Bookcraft, 1945, p. 446.)

I do not know precisely the nature of that test. But I am inclined to think the time is here and that the test lies in our capacity to live the gospel rather than adopt the ways of the world.”

– Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, October 1974 General Conference.

It’s interesting to think about that now, the experience I had way back then with Sister Bats Belfry. This weekend, as I recalled, one by one, the interactions which I had had with her and her family, I had this realization. If a woman never believes that a personal relationship with her Savior was possible or even proper… and if therefore a wife and husband believe the same… and therefore teach their children to also believe that a personal relationship with the Savior isn’t possible or even proper… well then, the undesirable fruits that I could immediately recall were ample evidence of what happens to individuals and families when they really believe that.

UPDATE:
It didn’t take much effort to search out a used copy of the very edition of the book that an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ took so much time and repeated effort to decry. It’s called What It Means To Know Christ.  I am going to read it and decide for myself what exactly is so dangerous about this, apparently, LDS banned book (Alma 14:8-13). There is one thing my heart already tells me, though. George Pace is more of a humble follower of Christ than Bruce McConkie ever was. I don’t care what the tongues have uttered; talk is cheap. Compare the deeds of these two men. Their actual acts, or the lack of them, in regard to this issue have already shown me everything I need to know.

UPDATE APRIL 2019
I have completed the book and this is my conclusion: Bruce R McConkie was an arrogant prick (and the bane of my childhood because of my father’s utter idolization of the man). George Pace’s book was the simple expression of a simple man of faith. For McConkie to have been offended by it means one of two things. Either he really did perceive George Pace’s little tome as a real threat, rivaling the bottom line of his own book sales, or he was viscerally offended by what he perceived as braggadocio. To me, the book read more like slightly self-delusional spiritual cotton candy offered up to impress and inspire the masses to follow his example. It was pretty much the Top Ten Greatest Hits of an Idaho farm boy who made it to the Mormon bigtime for a common Joe: a church-university education and employment within CES, Church Education Services. That book is hardly a threat to anybody, especially not to a man of McConkie’s stature. Though I believe George was 100% sincere, I found it so oatmeal bland, with an occasional surprise bit of raisin or apple, that it was actually a chore to finish.

I met someone online who knew George Pace, and she said that he was never the same after McConkie’s cruel public humiliation of him. Ya think?! At least George was given some divine relief, in the end, by being allowed to fade into the mind-relieving fog of Alzheimer’s. My confidential informant is still a true-believing Mormon, so she defended Apostle McConkie by saying that he did actually come once, in the middle of the night, to apologize to Pace. What insufficient drivel! As Spencer W Kimball taught,  the treatment, (the repentance), should have been as wide as the sore. I hope that when, if ever, Bruce McConkie kneels at the feet of his Savior, he will look up to find himself in a “Rich Man and Lazarus the begger” moment; that he will stare up, aghast, to discover that his Redeemer looks just like George Pace. He shall not know any better then, than when he asserted in his final speech, that Jesus is the Christ.  Fear a lot: thou didst it unto me.

 


 

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