Monday, October 11, 2021

All About Who *Didn't* Speak (very much) in the October 2021 General Conference

Ahhhh yes, General Conference.

Right now, I'm reminded of one of my most memorable conference moments of all time.

It was the Sunday Morning Session, April 5, 2021 General Conference. As you can see in the video below (at the 48:28 mark), President Oaks thanked "the Brethren for your great messages." This was after Sister Reyna Aburto had also spoken.


(My bet: It has become so normalized that conference talks are given by men, that it isn't surprising he forgot to include her in his comments).

The Essentiality of Women in the Church

Despite that little mix-up, the Church reportedly needs and values women a great deal. Here is what President M. Russell Ballard said at a BYU Women's Conference on May 1, 2015:

"For years I have spoken about the power of councils with faithful women participating. Your insight and counsel are absolutely essential." [1]

A month earlier, Pres. Nelson said this in the April 2015 Conference:

"We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them, women who can speak with the power and authority of God!" [2]

Elder Neil L. Andersen also said this during the October 6, 2013 General Conference Afternoon Session (which, ironically, had no women's voices included): 

"Sincerely asking for and listening to the thoughts and concerns voiced by women is vital in life, in marriage, and in building the kingdom of God." [3]

In the October 1996 Conference, Pres. Hinckley said, 

"You sisters do not hold a second place in our Father's plan for the eternal happiness and well being of His children. You are an absolutely essential part of that plan."  [4]

He also stated in the same conference, 

"In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise." [5]

President Spencer W. Kimball said, 

"When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner" [6]

Lastly, he also said,

"… It will be … female exemplars of the Church [who] will be a significant force in both the numerical and the spiritual growth of the Church in the last days." [7]

All that "Essentiality" at Conference

Unfortunately, that "significant force" of women doesn't exist in the upper echelons of the church. 

In the 1980s and beginning the 1990s, generally one woman spoke per conference (unless an organization president was released). Around 2002, the number went up to three female speakers. [8], [9]

Since 2010, women have typically delivered between 1 and 4 (usually 2) General Conference addresses: 

https://zelophehadsdaughters.com/category/general-conference/

Which means in the aggregate that they give roughly 10% of the conference talks: 

https://millionthingsihaventdone.com/data-analysis/women-in-general-conference/

Please check out these pictures. Does anything look a little lop-sided to you?  




missedinsunday.com

So, I think the evidence is pretty obvious: On one hand, the church says we need to listen to women. But on the other hand, it consistently invites disproportionately fewer women to speak.

How are we supposed to hear them if they're hardly speaking?

The church wants to continue to be able to say that women are important…without actually showing it.

It says how important women are, but then treat women as some kind of afterthought. Women are so important that the speaking ratio is abysmally male-centric.

Tough Questions…Lame Answers?

Looking at this data above might lead you to ask at least one of the following questions:

  • "Why do we have to hear from each member of the First Presidency more than once?" 
  • "Why can't the Relief Society Presidency speak every time?"
  • "Why can't at least one woman from the Primary and Young Women speak every conference?"
  • "Why do we have to hear from so many of the 12?" 
  • "With over 1/2 the church membership female, why can't we have something closer to equal representation?"

When the Salt Lake Tribune asked about the drought in female conference speakers, Church spokesman Eric Hawkins had no comment, saying only that the governing, three-man First Presidency "assigns the speakers" and "there are no quotas." [10]

But in November 2019, one person - Katie Rich - wrote and sent a letter to the First Presidency about the conference speakers' gender inequity, and received a (comparatively lengthy) response (you may have to zoom to read these): [11]

In my opinion, the First Presidency's responses are pathetic, insulting, hurtful and disempowering. They send a message that (1) it's OK to talk out of both sides of your mouth, (2) hypocrisy among leaders is acceptable behavior and (3) women do not have a meaningful place among the church's top leadership (at least during General Conference).

One could say, "Why do you care about the speaker's gender? The Spirit is the real teacher, and its instruction can come through a man or a woman equally." They could also say, "God is no respecter of persons so it doesn't matter to God (nor should it matter to you) if women speak or not." Also, "Why aren't you trusting the Lord/sustaining the Brethren who call people to speak?"

However, by minimizing womens' voices in General Conference, 

  • Women, girls, men and boys are free to increasingly believe that women have little to no worthwhile spiritual development insights (let alone value, intellect and skills) at any level of church government, even the local level.
  • Fewer female speakers means fewer female quotes in church talks and lessons. Following that lead, the General Authorities, Stake Presidents and Bishops are less compelled to strive for greater parity when selecting teachers, speakers and leaders.
I find it ironic that the First Presidency would say that "As a matter of policy, those who are invited to speak at general conference have been called and given authority to function throughout the entire church." 

  • First, three auxiliaries - Primary, Young Women and Relief Society - have three female presidency members each. That's nine speakers. Each of these auxiliaries have general boards, which are themselves comprised of many more women. Finding a total of 20 female speakers (who have been "given authority to function throughout the entire church") shouldn't be a problem. 
  • Secondly, President Nelson has demonstrated significant enthusiasm for policy changes. If the First Presidency wanted to change General Conference speaker composition, they easily could. 
  • Third, I'm bewildered why a sister might have reason to be precluded from speaking in General Conference just because she's working full-time.

The curtailing of women serving in more church leadership positions is one of the greatest hinderances for growth in the church. How can the church possibly hope to make greater strides with potential female convert baptisms when its disdain for female leadership is readily apparent to the world every six months?

A Lose-Lose Situation

It's clear that the Brethren are conflicted as to what to do. For example: Speaking of sisters, Pres. Ballard said this at a Europe Area Sisters' Meeting on September 9, 2014:

"That you will let your voices be heard, we cannot, we cannot meet our destiny as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in preparing this world for the 2nd coming of the Savior of the world without the support and the faith and the strength of the women of this church. We need you. We need your voices. They need to be heard." [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSWPrzICnlQ ]

He next said:

"Don't talk too much in those [ward or branch] council meetings. Just straighten the brethren out quickly and move the work on."

So, in other words, we need your voices! Now don't talk too much...

(Pres. Ballard has left the door open to shut down any woman who tries to "straighten the brethren out." All they have to do is claim she's talking "too much" and BOOM. Nobody will hear a word she says from then on. Kinda like this YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS37SNYjg8w).

Thus, if women speak out, they'll be criticized for speaking out of turn (outside their authority in the patriarchal hierarchy). If they don't, they'll be criticized for not speaking up. A perfect set-up for being gaslighted.

As one sister said,

"Our leaders say: Sustain and obey your priesthood leaders.

Our leaders say: Don't steady the ark.

Our leaders say: Don't criticize the brethren, even if they're wrong.

Our leaders say: Sisters, step forward, speak up, we need your inspiration.

Obeying that last directive requires going against a lot of cultural conditioning.

As long as our model is patriarchal, partnership is impossible, and women will continue to choose silence over unsolicited assertiveness." [12]

Sources

  1. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2021/03/the-essential-role-of-women?lang=eng
  2. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2015/10/a-plea-to-my-sisters?lang=eng
  3. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2013/10/power-in-the-priesthood?lang=eng 
  4. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1996/10/women-of-the-church?lang=eng
  5. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1996/10/this-thing-was-not-done-in-a-corner?lang=eng 
  6. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 315-316
  7. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1979/10/the-role-of-righteous-women?lang=eng
  8. https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=5148693&itype=CMSID#gallery-carousel-446996
  9. https://juvenileinstructor.org/we-shall-now-call-on-some-of-our-sisters-lds-women-and-general-conference-participation
  10. https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=5148693&itype=CMSID#gallery-carousel-446996
  11. https://www.the-exponent.com/guest-post-calling-more-women-to-speak-at-general-conference-a-response-to-the-office-of-the-first-presidency
  12. https://www.the-exponent.com/the-impossible-position-of-lds-women-unsolicited-assertiveness



Saturday, October 2, 2021

Is the Church a cult? Let's look at it objectively.


It's a fascinating question: 

"What are the characteristics one would expect to find in a cult?"

Why do we think "cult" is a bad word? The base definition is "a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object. " In my opinion, the word isn't necessarily bad; rather, it's the attributes of the group (which are often irrational) which make it good or bad, safe or dangerous.

Once those characteristics and/or attributes are identified, the next question to ask might be, "Is the LDS Church a cult?"

For many decades, many have said that it is. 

But in my opinion, much like beauty, cult status may be in the eye of the beholder. After all, no church wants to be categorized as a cult. I mean, that puts them right up there with NXIVM, Heaven's Gate, Branch Davidians, Jonestown, Scientology and more, right?

Regardless, if you're in a cult, the perception is that not only are you whacked, but you're also helping to perpetuate the influence and power of the cult's chief whack-a-doodles as well. That's why there needs to be authoritative, objective criteria to determine if an organization is an actual cult.

Let's see what's out there, what works and what doesn't.

The BITE Model

What are the specific methods cults use to recruit and maintain control over people?

Steven Hassan's BITE Model may provide some answers.

Hassan's bio can be found here. I'll admit: With a resume including a PhD, M.Ed. and LMHC, who am I to argue with his credentials? Still there are others, like cults expert Rick Alan Ross, who dispute details of Hassan's resume.

And even beyond Hassan, one difficulty with the BITE Model is that it is supposedly only accepted by a fraction of all psychologists/sociologists of religion. But (1) even though the BITE Model may not be the academic gold standard, it does resonate with a lot of people and (2) BITE is based on research and theory by experts who studied brainwashing in China. So, while "BITE" may not have the credentials, the info it's based on certainly does. A quick Google search will bring up the info needed.

Which leads us to Hassan's book, "Combating Cult Mind Control." It provides a framework for assessing how cult-like an organization is (or isn't).  In it, he describes his BITE Model, which categorizes cult-like behavior into four domains:

Behavior Control,
Information Control,
Thought Control, and
Emotional Manipulation and Control.

Here's a video which explains BITE Model basics:


Now let's put this evaluation to practice. Below are the four components of the BITE model. Each point has a checkbox. Feel free to check any boxes you are absolutely positive are applicable to the LDS Church. 

Behavior Control

[ ] Regulate individual's physical reality
[ ] Dictate where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates or isolates
[ ] When, how and with whom the member has sex
[ ] Control types of clothing and hairstyles
[ ] Regulate diet - food and drink, hunger and/or fasting
[ ] Manipulation and deprivation of sleep
[ ] Financial exploitation, manipulation or dependence
[ ] Restrict leisure, entertainment, vacation time
[ ] Major time spent with group indoctrination and rituals and/or self indoctrination including the Internet
[ ] Permission required for major decisions
[ ] Rewards and punishments used to modify behaviors, both positive and negative
[ ] Discourage individualism, encourage group-think
[ ] Impose rigid rules and regulations
[ ] Punish disobedience by beating, torture, burning, cutting, rape, or tattooing/branding
[ ] Threaten harm to family and friends
[ ] Force individual to rape or be raped
[ ] Encourage and engage in corporal punishment
[ ] Instill dependency and obedience
[ ] Kidnapping
[ ] Beating
[ ] Torture
[ ] Rape
[ ] Separation of Families
[ ] Imprisonment
[ ] Murder

____ / 25

Information Control

[ ] Deception:
    • Deliberately withhold information
    • Distort information to make it more acceptable
    • Systematically lie to the cult member
[ ] Minimize or discourage access to non-cult sources of information, including:
    • Internet, TV, radio, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, media
    • Critical information
    • Former members
    • Keep members busy so they don't have time to think and investigate
    • Control through cell phone with texting, calls, internet tracking
[ ] Compartmentalize information into Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
    • Ensure that information is not freely accessible
    • Control information at different levels and missions within group
    • Allow only leadership to decide who needs to know what and when
[ ] Encourage spying on other members
    • Impose a buddy system to monitor and control member
    • Report deviant thoughts, feelings and actions to leadership
    • Ensure that individual behavior is monitored by group
[ ] Extensive use of cult-generated information and propaganda, including:
    • Newsletters, magazines, journals, audiotapes, videotapes, YouTube, movies and other media
    • Misquoting statements or using them out of context from non-cult sources
[ ] Unethical use of confession
    • Information about sins used to disrupt and/or dissolve identity boundaries
    • Withholding forgiveness or absolution
    • Manipulation of memory, possible false memories

_____ / 6

Thought Control

[ ] Require members to internalize the group's doctrine as truth

    • Adopting the group's 'map of reality' as reality
    • Instill black and white thinking
    • Decide between good vs. evil
    • Organize people into us vs. them (insiders vs. outsiders)
[ ] Change person's name and identity
[ ] Use of loaded language and clich├ęs which constrict knowledge, stop critical thoughts and reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words
[ ] Encourage only 'good and proper' thoughts
[ ] Hypnotic techniques are used to alter mental states, undermine critical thinking and even to age regress the member
[ ] Memories are manipulated and false memories are created
[ ] Teaching thought-stopping techniques which shut down reality testing by stopping negative thoughts and allowing only positive thoughts, including:
    • Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
    • Chanting
    • Meditating
    • Praying
    • Speaking in tongues
    • Singing or humming
[ ] Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism
[ ] Forbid critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy allowed
[ ] Labeling alternative belief systems as illegitimate, evil, or not useful
[ ] Instill new "map of reality"

_____ / 11

Emotional Control

[ ] Manipulate and narrow the range of feelings - some emotions and/or needs are deemed as evil, wrong or selfish
[ ] Teach emotion-stopping techniques to block feelings of homesickness, anger, doubt
[ ] Make the person feel that problems are always their own fault, never the leader's or the group's fault
[ ] Promote feelings of guilt or unworthiness, such as:

    • Identity guilt
    • You are not living up to your potential
    • Your family is deficient
    • Your past is suspect
    • Your affiliations are unwise
    • Your thoughts, feelings, actions are irrelevant or selfish
    • Social guilt
    • Historical guilt
[ ] Instill fear, such as fear of:
    • Thinking independently
    • The outside world
    • Enemies
    • Losing one's salvation
    • Leaving or being shunned by the group
    • Other's disapproval
    • Historical guilt
[ ] Extremes of emotional highs and lows - love bombing and praise one moment and then declaring you are horrible sinner
[ ] Ritualistic and sometimes public confession of sins
[ ] Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about leaving the group or questioning the leader's authority
    • No happiness or fulfillment possible outside of the group
    • Terrible consequences if you leave: hell, demon possession, incurable diseases, accidents, suicide, insanity, 10,000 reincarnations, etc.
    • Shunning of those who leave; fear of being rejected by friends and family
    • Never a legitimate reason to leave; those who leave are weak, undisciplined, unspiritual, worldly, brainwashed by family or counselor, or seduced by money, sex, or rock and roll
    • Threats of harm to ex-member and family

_____ / 8

TOTAL: _____ / 50

Interestingly, there may be times in a member's life when a particular point is relevant, and other times when it's not. For example, if you're serving a mission or attending a church-owned school, then yes, the church will "Dictate where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates or isolates" and "Control types of clothing and hairstyles." But those points may not be applicable to all members. Some members may find "Control types of clothing and hairstyles" applicable because they wear garments, whereas others don't.

And sometimes, there can be variation within a church. Could a BYU-I student ward be a tighter fit to the BITE model than a Southern California ward? Would a Sandy, UT ward be a better BITE fit than a ward in France? How about any of those wards compared with a mission?

Here is one person's analysis of how the BITE Model interrelates with the church.

Cult Research & Information Center / The Lalich Model

If Dr. Hassan's resume isn't solid enough for you, you might want to check out Dr. Janja Lalich, Professor Emerita of Sociology at California State University, Chico. As the head of the Cult Research & Information Center. Dr. Lalich is a world-renowned expert in cultic studies, and has the credentials to prove it. You can read more about her here: http://cultresearch.org/about

Dr. Lalich also has a model of sorts, found here. Here is what she says about it:

"Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may be manipulated, exploited, or even abused. The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments may help you assess a particular group or relationship. 

Compare these patterns to the situation you were in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved). This list may help you determine if there is a cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a "cult scale," or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult; this is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool:

[ ] The group displays an excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader, and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

[ ] Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

[ ] Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, or debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

[ ] The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (e.g., members must get permission to date, change jobs, or marry-or leaders prescribe what to wear, where to live, whether to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

[ ] The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (e.g., the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar-or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

[ ] The group has a polarized, us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

[ ] The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders, or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

[ ] The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (e.g., lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

[ ] The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and control members. Often this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

[ ] Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

[ ] The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

[ ] The group is preoccupied with making money.

[ ] Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

[ ] Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

[ ] The most loyal members (the "true believers") feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave-or even consider leaving-the group."

_____ / 15

Objective or Subjective?

In a way, the various cult models could be considered subjective in that somebody had to pick which things did and didn't belong on their list. It's sort of like how depression is diagnosed: People made a list of symptoms - symptoms they saw over and over again. They saw them so often, everybody pretty much agreed on their importance, and the list of symptoms was subsequently included in the DSM. Those who exhibited the symptoms found in the DSM were considered depressed.

Is such criteria arbitrary? One may believe so, but when you see the same characteristics/attributes over and over again in these various models, it must mean something. In this way, the subjective becomes objective.

The c word is offensive to many because it describes an organization that exercises undue/irrational influence on its members. It should be offensive. 

I'm not sure how your scoring of these various models went, but in my case, it's perfectly appropriate to use in evaluating today's LDS Church. 

After all, if it quacks like a cult and walks like a cult…

AN INVITATION


I invite you to score the LDS Church in relation to the BITE Model (individual component and total scores) and the Lalich Model.

Feel free to leave your scores in the comments below, as well as any comments you have as you scored the sections.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Coming Testimony of Earthquakes


Let's examine Matthew 24:7 for a minute:

"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places."

See famines, pestilences and earthquakes?

First, in the original Greek, the main words are in that same sequence: limoi (famines), loimoi (pestilences) and seismoi (earthquakes). Second, divers doesn't refer to a place where you can go scuba diving. It's actually related to the adjective diverse, meaning "various or assorted" Sure enough, the original Greek uses the term topous panta, meaning "all places." [1] [2]

(The Lord uses this same sequence -- famine, plague and earthquake -- in Mark 13:34 (JST) and D&C 87:6. Coincidence? I don't think so).

Let's add this up:

Have we seen famines over the last few years in various, assorted places? Yes.

Have we seen Covid-19 -- a pestilence -- in various, assorted places? Yes.

Have the famines remained during the Covid-19 era? Yes.

The scriptures are clear: Earthquakes are next on the list of judgments for mankind. And they could very easily run simultaneous to famines and current/future pandemics.

They will occur not just in one or two places, but topous panta -- ALL places -- just like Covid-19. Does that mean places which aren't typically home to earthquakes? Perhaps. 

Does that mean we'll see earthquakes more severe than we've seen in the past? Well, if the progression of events (from famines to pestilences) is any indication, then it would be a safe assumption that yes, these earthquakes will be more lethal than the ones we've seen in the past, killing hundreds or even thousands at a time. After all, your usual, run-of-the-mill, 4-5 pointers aren't that rare anymore. But 8s? 9s? 10s? I'd say those ought to catch people's attention, which (in my estimation) God has been attempting to do…without much success.

Despite what the mass media-government-pharma triumvirate would have you believe, there are medicines which cure Covid-19. In days.[3]

But tell me this: What medicines are there for earthquakes? How can we prevent them? How can we escape them? If our homes or buildings collapse, what do we do? Put on a mask? Get an injection? Talk about how grateful we are? YES! Have a churchwide fast for geologists and seismologists!

Let's get real: All these measures (via trusting in the wisdom of medical experts and government leaders, per the First Presidency's prophetic insight) aren't going to make a difference at all. 

When those tectonic plates start moving and bringing about disastrous consequences, it will be because of God's anger. 

Any why is his anger revealed? Because of the sins and iniquities of people. And also because the blood of the martyrs and innocents cry for vengeance (see Revelation 6:9-11). I would imagine that included in the list of innocents would be those who were aborted as fetuses. And how about all those who have been murdered, raped, tortured and terrorized? Them too.

Take a look around you. Have you seen society moving closer to, or further away from, God? 

Blessed is the one who abides under the shadow of the Lord, for he will have shelter and refuge. [4] [5]   


There is only one way out of what's happening (and about to get worse). And it doesn't involve masks, because masks aren't going to do you much good in a severe earthquake. Neither will swabs up your nose, injections or booster shots. And gratitude? That's great, but it's not the bullseye.

God has said again and again, through true prophets, that repentance is the key to circumventing these judgments. Those who do so will be protected under his loving, metaphorical wings. 

Here's what I said in a previous post:

"There are over four dozen references to "pestilence" in the scriptures. In the days of Moses, God sent pestilences to persuade Pharaoh to let Israel go [6], and then to an unrepentant Israel [7].  In Psalms 78; we are reminded that pestilences were sent to Israel because it "remembered not his hand."

Pestilence is almost always tied to sin  [8]. In 2 Chronicles 6:28, Solomon prayed that God would "forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel" in order to stave off pestilence. In response, the Lord said, "If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." [9]. Pestilences are also linked to unbelief in God  [10] and for not remembering him [11]."

In fact, check this out:

"Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.

Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.

When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence." [12]

(Hmmmm, have you heard of any fasts within the last year or two where it seems like the Lord didn't respond to their pleas?)

When you repent, God is moved to compassion, which in turn makes way for God's mercies to take over in your life. Just the mere fact that he hasn't exacted more severe judgments yet upon the world is a testament to the infinite mercies he has for us.

But repentance is not the only thing you need to do. You also need to be able to hear God's voice…

"And even so will I gather mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, even as many as will believe in me, and hearken unto my voice." [13]

"And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me." [14]

"And upon them that hearken not to the voice of the Lord shall be fulfilled that which was written by the prophet Moses, that they should be cut off from among the people." [15]

"And again I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved." [16]

…and hear it well enough so that you KNOW God:

"Verily, I say unto you, It is not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, that shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.

For the day soon cometh that men shall come before me to judgment, to be judged according to their works.

And many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name; and in thy name cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I say, Ye never knew me; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." [17]

Whom seek ye?

Anybody standing in between you and Jesus today?
Anybody standing in between you and Jesus today?

These days, hearing God's voice well enough that you know God might be a bit of a challenge. There are lots of competing voices out there.

This year, many sought God's counsel as to whether they should take the Covid shot or not. Of those who sought God's advice, many received crystal clear, definitive answers not to go through with it. Many held to that counsel until the First Presidency urged members to take the jab. They disregarded the personal revelation they received and instead followed a man, not their God-given inspiration.

What do you call it when someone or some thing stands in between a person and God? Oh yeah! "Idolatry."

Speaking of which, General Conference will be held this weekend. I'll be interested to hear the Brethren's counsel on how to overcome the challenges mankind faces with Covid-19. If the past is any indication, the results will be dismal. In the April 2021 General Conference, the word "Nelson" was used 58 times. "Oaks" 18 times. "Repent" (and any variations of that word) 31 times. And pestilence was mentioned zero times.  [18] [19]

It's fascinating that the church's top leaders refer to themselves
more than they acknowledge the true cure for what ails mankind.

In times of uncertainty, people yearn for certainty. Vaccines have given back that sense of control to many people.

But what will you do when these attention-grabbing earthquakes (which, again, are next up on God's to-do list) start to "diversify" themselves in your area? Will you be consulting medical experts? "Trusted" government leaders? Looking for that Covid mask?

When power, internet and cell phone service is indefinitely knocked out in your area, who will you seek then?

How about the leaders who could have preached the preventative gospel of repentance but didn't…or leaders who continually refuse to mention the R word in the first place?

Better start contemplating your answer soon. You'll need it.

Sources

 4.   Psalm 91:1
 5.   Psalm 18:2
 6.   Exodus 9:15
 7.   Leviticus 26:25; Numbers 14:12; Deuteronomy 28:21; 2 Samuel 24:13-15; 1 Chronicles 21:12-14
 8.   Mosiah 12:2-7; Helaman 11:15; D&C 97:26
 9.   2 Chronicles 7:13
10.   2 Nephi 6:15
11.   Helaman 12:3
12.   Jeremiah 14:10-12
13.   D&C 33:6
14.   D&C 84:52
15.   D&C 133:63
16.   D&C 45:2
17.   Matthew 7:30-33 JST

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Over 250 million reasons why the brethren lack discernment

After my last post, I was struck by how consistently church leaders consider church funds as sacred:

“It is a sobering responsibility to administer these sacred funds at Church headquarters.” [1]

“The sacred funds of the Church are carefully budgeted so that the expenditures never exceed the income.” [2]

“We will strictly tailor the program to the tithing income and use these sacred funds for the purposes designated by the Lord.” [3]

“Tithes are sacred funds” [4]

This is why I am completely bewildered as to why the church has offered a $250 MILLION settlement to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in lieu of thousands of incidents of abuse within LDS-sponsored troops.

And it’s not the first time the church has done something like this.

First, some background.

BSA sex abuse cases involving the church

As part of an overall bankruptcy case (Boy Scouts of America, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 20-10343), the BSA has claims from 82,500 victims of sexual abuse by its leaders. [5] Tim Kosnoff, the lawyer for 17,000 claimants, says that for context, 15-20% (or between 12,000 and 16,000) of the victims were in LDS Church-sponsored troops. [6] The Church is one of many organizations that fund (or funded) scouting activities and troops.

The Church’s $250 million settlement, combined with another $787 million coming from insurance group The Hartford, totals the settlement to $1.037 billion out of $1.887 billion available. [7] Combined, it is the largest sexual abuse settlement in U.S. history. [8]

Kosnoff calls the $250 million settlement “inadequate” and “an opening offer.” While the BSA has accepted it, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein must approve it. Then it must be approved in a vote by at least 2/3 of the victims. [6]

About this settlement, the church says, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints condemns abuse of any kind. We express our love and concern for those who have experienced abuse through scouting or any other circumstance. This has been a prolonged process that included -- as one of many interested parties -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a former sponsoring organization. This contribution will provide opportunities to alleviate the suffering of those who've experienced abuse.” [6]

Kosnoff says he doesn’t think 2/3 of the claimants will agree. [6] 250 million divided by 16,000 equals an average of $16,625 per LDS troop claimant. That’s the amount we’re talking about claimants who, in some cases, were anally raped for years. [9] One attorney for the claimants said, “While the sexual abuse inflicted upon the brave survivors in this case occurred, in some instances, many decades ago, it still feels as fresh as ever.” [7]

The length and breadth of church-involved sex abuse cases

The Perversion Files is maintained by the Los Angeles Times. It contains the actual paperwork of nearly 5,000 cases dating back as far as 1947, all derived from court records. Of those, about 1,900 case files with detailed information about the allegations can be viewed in the database. 86 are from Utah and 51 are from Idaho.

The earliest documented case in Utah dates back to 1976. A member of the Church was accused of molesting a scout in a tent while camping. According to the document, his Bishop knew about this and accusations involving other children, but “he feels that because of the confidential nature of his position as Bishop, he cannot release copies of this information.” These documents were called “ineligible volunteer records sheets.” [10]

Another from 1991 details a member of the church accused of child molestation. The documents says the scout leaders’ “ecclesiastical leader knew about accusations.” But “no charges were filed as the mother was talked out of it at the time by church leaders.” [10]

These instances of the church’s sweeping incidents under the rug and outright covering up are not unique. You’ll find them all throughout this online database. [10]  And the database itself is incomplete; these are just some (likely not all) of the instances through 2004 which have been reported.

This isn’t the only database of abuse accusations against LDS leaders. Here’s a 316 page dossier for your consideration.  Also, Protect LDS Children also has a database of over 1,000 more stories of child sexual abuse in the church.

Here are a few I’ve picked up along the way:

Which brings us to last week

In the week of Sept 12-18, 2021, two instances of sexual assault by a bishop made the news:

On September 15, 2021, we learned that Dylan Kevin Whiting, 33, of Nampa, ID had been arrested in April. Whiting had “served as a lay bishop [of Nampa’s 30th Ward] in the LDS church from December 2019 until January 2021, when he was removed from his position after the church became aware of allegations against him, according to a church spokesperson.” [11]

“According to an affidavit from the Nampa Police Department, the two individuals in Whiting’s case are known to him personally rather than through his church involvement. The abuse allegedly occurred between 2011 and 2020,” while he was serving as bishop. [11]

“Whiting has been charged with touching two underage girls in a sexual manner, according to a criminal complaint. Lewd conduct with a minor is punishable by up to life in prison, while child sexual abuse is punishable by up to 25 years.” [11]

In response, the church said in a press release, “Upon learning of these allegations in early January, Church officials immediately took steps to remove this individual from his lay leadership position in the Church. Abuse of any kind is not tolerated in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Anyone who engages in such behavior is rightfully subject to criminal prosecution and also faces discipline from the Church, including loss of Church membership.” [11]

Then on September 16, 2021, it was disclosed that a former Latter-day Saint bishop had been accused of inappropriately touching a teenage girl during a girls camp. James Douglas Robinson, 63, was charged Thursday in Duchesne, UT County's 8th District Court with forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. [12]

The alleged incident happened in June at Reid Ranch Resort in Hanna, Duchesne County. A 15-year-old girl said she was alone in a kitchen area when Robinson, her church bishop at the time, approached her from behind, "pinning her to a kitchen counter," and inappropriately touched her over her clothing, according to the arrest warrant affidavit. [12]

I’m not sure why it took a month to notify police (in July) and another month for the victim to be interviewed (August). But the investigating sergeant wrote that during the course of this investigation, he learned that Robinson had moved to Idaho.

"The church reported these allegations to law enforcement as soon as they were brought to the attention of local leaders and the individual was immediately released from his leadership position to allow him to focus on his legal defense," church spokesman Sam Penrod said in a statement. "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind and is awaiting the outcome of this case in the legal system before commenting any further." [12]

Regarding the church’s statement:

  • I’m amazed at the church’s utter disregard for concern regarding the victim.
  • Robinson “was immediately released from his leadership position to allow him to focus on his legal defense"? It would have been better if the church had said, "The church takes these allegations seriously. Given the circumstances, we felt it was in everyone's best interest to release Mr. Robinson from his calling and allow the appropriate legal process to play out."
  • I am glad the Church worked with law enforcement. This is a step forward, improving the likelihood of a just and accurate investigation. Or perhaps the family contacted law enforcement first, and the church had no choice.

Both Whiting and Robinson are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. My heart breaks for these victims, and I hope they can eventually gain a measure of peace in their lives after undergoing these horrific instances.

With all these atrocities committed over decades, how can any rational parent know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's safe to have your child alone with a youth organization leader? I mean, if they're potentially not safe around a bishop, then who can they be safe around?

But another issue remains.

Inspired Leaders?

In the hyperlinked list above, I spotlighted cases involving full-time missionaries, bishops, a high councilman, a seminary teacher, mission presidents and the director of the church's temple films. The common denominator in these last two reports – as well as many of the ones mentioned above – is that the cases involved actively-serving Bishops, who:

  • “Has been called by the spirit of prophecy and revelation”

“We have more than eleven thousand bishops in the Church. Every one is a man who has been called by the spirit of prophecy and revelation and set apart and ordained by the laying on of hands.” [13]

  • “Are respected by the Lord, inspired by His Spirit, and given the powers of discernment [judgment] necessary to their office.”

“The offices of bishop and branch president and counselors are sacred in this Church. The men who hold those offices are respected by the Lord, inspired by His Spirit, and given the powers of discernment [judgment] necessary to their office.” [14]

  • Are “prayerfully” recommended by a stake president and approved by the First Presidency of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve.

“When the stake president feels directed to release a bishop, he fasts and prays for inspiration to know whom the Lord has chosen as his replacement. When he feels he has identified the Lord’s choice, the stake president then sends a recommendation to the First Presidency for approval. (There’s actually a form the stake president fills in and sends to the First Presidency.) The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles then prayerfully consider the person recommended by the stake president. Once the person recommended is approved, the stake president can extend the call to the potential bishop and ask his wife for her support. If he is worthy and accepts the call, the new bishop is then presented to the ward for their sustaining vote and is ordained and set apart, usually by the stake president.”  [15]

We are told that “We are blessed with revelation; the Church is built upon that foundation.” [16] We are also told that God is omniscient (knows all things) and has an overabundance of love for his children.

In my opinion, there is a disconnect somewhere in that last paragraph:

  • Does God delight in the sexual abuse of his children?
  • Does God delight in such abuse being perpetrated by church leaders?
  • As demonstrated by their actions, do his church’s leaders share these same values?
  • If the church is built on the foundation of revelation, then why do church leaders consistently call men to be a bishop who would go on to abuse children during his term of office?

Here’s how the church might respond to my questions above:

“The LDS Church has long had a highly effective approach for preventing and responding to abuse. In fact, no religious organization has done more. Although no one system is perfect and no single program will work with every organization, the LDS Church’s approach is the gold standard."

The actual “Gold Standard,” in my opinion, is The Presbyterian Child Advocacy Network's "We Won’t Let it Happen Here: Creating a Child Safe Church" program. It says that "Minimally, churches should have:

  • An ongoing plan for educating the congregation and its leaders on the reality of child abuse, risk factors leading to child abuse, and prevention strategies.
  • Procedures for screening staff and volunteers.
  • Safety procedures for church activities.
  • A directory of resources for children who have been abused and their families.

The church -- especially its local wards and stakes – generally have none of these precautions.

So, you tell me: Where is the inspiration and revelation that serves as the foundation of this church? Where are the policies which supersede, and are superior to, those of the Presbyterians?

Could it be that they either don’t exist, or they’re coming from a source that delights in the perpetual abuse of children?

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” [17]

We all know the destiny of the abusers. But what could be the fate of those who, FOR DECADES, have covered up abuse with ecclesiastical pressure, hush money and non-disclosure agreements, guilt shamed and gaslighted victims, involved lawyers before law enforcement and let perpetrators not only go on to abuse again, but also placed them again in positions of trust?

…AND proposes paying out $250 million in legal settlement money, when that allocation could have been prevented had leaders truly had discernment?

What’s their fate?

Is the worth of souls REALLY that great to the Church?

Sources

1.  J. Richard Clarke, "Successful Welfare Stewardship," October 2978 General Conference
2.  Spencer W. Kimball, "The Law of Tithing," October 1980 General Conference
3.  Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Condition of the Church," April 2003 General Conference
4.  Franklin D. Richards, "The Law of Abundance," April 1971 General Conference
5.  https://www.reuters.com/legal/transactional/boy-scouts-victims-lawyer-group-must-disclose-makeup-judge-rules-2021-07-29/
6.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEvjHv17CUg
7.  https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/coalition-of-abused-scouts-for-justice-secures-1-037-billion-in-latest-round-of-additional-settlements-with-hartford-financial-services-group-and-the-church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints-301376889.html
8.  https://www.law.com/delawarelawweekly/2021/09/15/latest-settlements-bring-boy-scout-sex-abuse-fund-to-record-breaking-1-9b/?slreturn=20210818135548
9.  https://www.legalexaminer.com/legal/boy-scouts-sexual-abuse-settlement-receives-mixed-reviews/
10.  https://spreadsheets.latimes.com/boyscouts-cases/
11.  https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/crime/article254264008.html
12.  https://www.ksl.com/article/50243084/former-bishop-accused-of-abusing-teen-at-girls-camp
13.  https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1988/10/to-the-bishops-of-the-church
14.  https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/bc/content/ldsorg/children/resources/topics/callings/Bishop-Help-2004-04-00-friend-eng.pdf
15.  New Era, October, 2011
16.  Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:282.
17.  Matthew 18:6