8 August 2017

mormonism q&a, part three

a believing woman truth
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it has taken me many weeks to get to the last batch of questions that were asked by readers about mormonism, but at long last here are my answers. please remember that anything i've shared here is my personal belief/opinion/experience and does not reflect on the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints as a whole or any specific member of the church. and please remember to be generous and kind in your responses, whether in the comments or in your own head :) i've tried to just run through these quickly while moses is napping or entertained by his toys and books -- so my answers aren't perfectly articulated or perfectly thorough. but i hope they are useful/interesting/clarifying, and i'm happy to continue the discussion. {artwork by caitlin connolly}
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I am curious how divorce is treated in the Mormon church. Can you have a temple marriage after a failed temple marriage? What happens to the eternal family after a divorce?

divorce is permitted (not encouraged) in the church. legal divorces are considered separate from temple divorces (officially called "sealing cancellations"), which need to be approved by top church leaders. after a temple divorce, one can get married in the temple again. the cancellation of a sealing of two parents does not cancel the sealing of children to their parents. 

frankly, i think a lot of family dynamics are going to have to be sorted out in the next life. and i believe they will be, with perfect love and fairness, by god. 

What do you and Ian plan to tell Moses about same-sex couples?

we haven't officially decided on any specific explanations or dialogues, but we will tell our children something along the lines of:
some men are attracted to men and some women are attracted to women. that doesn't mean that those people are weird or gross, and we should treat everyone with love and respect. there are all kinds of families, and the most important thing in any type of family is love. we believe that god's plan is centered around families with a married mom and dad. some people don't know about that, or believe it, and that's okay. and you don't have to believe it just because we do! you should learn and decide what you think is true and then ask god about that in prayer. 

Would you feel comfortable speaking in a church meeting if you saw that the girls had a smaller budget for activities than the boys? Or if a gay member was denied temple access for being in a healthy loving same sex relationship, would you speak up about it? I struggle with similar issues in my own community. It's hard to strike a balance between trouble maker and blind sheep. You seem open minded and progressive and normal on this blog. I wonder if you have a comfortable space to be so in church amongst fellow LDS people, or do you dial it back and take extra care with your words so as not to stir the pot?

i absolutely feel comfortable to talk about my concerns in church, but totally understand how some don't. i don't necessarily "take extra care" with my words "so as to not stir the pot," but i do try to be sensitive to others' journeys of faith that may be different than my own - so the words i use would or the way i say something (or if i say something at all) would probably depend on the company i am in (wether in church or elsewhere). as of now, i have been able to reconcile, within myself and through prayer, any concerns i have with the management of the church or with church culture without feeling like i need to "speak up." i think if there was something that, after study and prayer, i felt was absolutely fundamentally wrong, i would feel a need to speak up in some way, but i'm not sure what that would look like. 

I'm a mother from Europe, where we have several weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave (it vary among countries, in Spain we have 16 weeks). Being the States the only industrialized nation without paid family leave and since Mormon people are so family focused, I'm curious if working for Mormon companies is better in terms of having more facilities to attend family issues.

this is a timely question, because the church recently changed the policy for its staff when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. to be frank, i am quite appalled that individuals that work for the church did not have paid parental leave until a change in human resources policy was made this past june. that said, having lived in europe, i am appalled by parental leave policies in the usa generally. i can't really speak for companies started or run by mormons (because i am unaware of their policies), but i sure hope that a religious focus on family prompts generous paternal leave! 

My question is if you can explain your belief in grace. I've heard the primary difference between Mormons and Christians is the understanding of grace. Both believe in Jesus and His essential gift of salvation. But for Christians, His sacrifice alone saves us. We can do nothing to earn or deserve His sacrifice but it is a gift to all who believe in Him. No amount of service or good deeds get you any farther in eternity. Mormons, as I understand, believe in Christ's gift but must ALSO earn their way to salvation through service and various sacraments. Christ's sacrifice is still essential but it is Christ PLUS works and those works get you "higher" in the afterlife - the highest is to be your own god? Can you please clarify if I'm understanding this correctly?

this concept is hard to sum up briefly, but i will try: i believe that it is absolutely impossible for us to be "saved," i.e. return to live with our heavenly parents and have the potential to have all that they have, without the grace of jesus christ. because we are fallible humans, we absolutely could not qualify for eternal life (not just living forever, but living like god) had christ not given all mankind the gift of his atonement (wherein he literally paid the price for our sins).
i also believe that god has requirements, and that, as the bible says, faith without works is dead. i believe that god has clearly defined what we need to do to qualify for jesus's saving power, and that he expects us to do all we can to follow his plan and keep his commandments. yes, there is no way i can earn salvation, but yes, there are certain things i must do to accept it and prove that acceptance.
{for what it's worth, the "parable of the bicycle" in this talk helps me understand grace.}
i believe that we all have the potential to become like god - to have all the blessings and knowledge and privileges and power that our heavenly father and heavenly mother have.

-I'm a Christian, so the first time I heard of heavenly mother I was quite shocked. How does she fit into the picture and why doesn't she have a bigger presence? I don't usually hear mention of her from mormons except for very rare occurrences. 
-I love that you mentioned Heavenly Mother, as many Mormon bloggers leave that part completely out. Since it's something not often explicitly taught in the LDS church, can you share how you came to learn about/relate to her?
we believe that heavenly mother is literally that - the mother of our spirits. i believe that heavenly father and heavenly mother are perfectly united in their love towards, plan for and influence upon their children. i don't know why heavenly mother doesn't have a bigger presence in our communication and teachings, and i wish she did.
i've come to my own understanding of heavenly mother by applying understood, clear gospel principles to the concept of a married god. i've also delved in a bit on the little that has been said about her by prophets and apostles, and i've thought about her in church and in the temple. 


-I've read that Mormonism started because Joseph Smith found gold plates while digging in his back yard but never showed them to anyone? Is this true and the whole religion is based off of this, how do you find faith in that? 

-I saw a recent post by Saren mentioning that Eliza was 14, and I could not help but connect Joseph Smith taking a 14 year old wife as a grown man. The "it was a different time" argument falls flat and I can only think there is no way that is or ever was acceptable. Do you think about that, or that Joseph Smith married many women who were already married? Not trying to attack, I'm just genuinely curious if that is an issue discussed openly in your family. Mine certainly doesn't discuss the reformation over Christmas dinner :) No religion is without warts, but as a woman raising a daughter, that is a deal breaker for me. 
-Have you and Ian read Rough Stone Rolling, or No Man Knows My History, or the CES Letter? I don't ask you those things to encourage you to go there if it makes you uncomfortable, or to try to dissuade anyone of their beliefs. I simply asked because I was at a point where I was genuinely trying to "stay in the boat" and really appreciated hearing from people who are aware of the messy parts of Church history and still choose to stay. I find THAT kind of faithful reasoning a lot more helpful at this stage of my life than equating simple faith (which can be beautiful!) with closing our eyes and plugging our ears when we hear negative (true) things about our Church. 

just for some quick clarity: joseph smith was led by an angel to an ancient record (written on gold plates) that had been buried in the ground for hundreds of years. i know that sounds pretty wild, but essentially all religions require some belief in miracles :) the plates were shown to eleven witnesses, all of whom testified to seeing them and eight of which testified to handling them, and none of whom ever denied their witness.
i find faith in the story of joseph smith because i have asked god about it - repeatedly and consistently over the past twenty five or so years and truly feel that i have received divine assurance that he was who he claimed to be and that the book of mormon is an authentic ancient record inspired by god.
issues such as the plural marriage of joseph smith are indeed discussed openly in my family. in fact, at our reunion that just happened last month, a few of my siblings and i stayed awake until 2:30am discussing issues like this one! i think that i don't know all the details and circumstances around joseph's actions, and that he probably made some big mistakes. i'm feel very little certainty around the issue of his plural marriages, but i don't let that spoil the certainty that i do feel around his calling as a prophet. i know that sounds really simplistic and maybe like the easy way out, but when i truly look inside myself and turn to god, it is genuinely how i feel.
i started reading "rough stone rolling" several years ago, but didn't get very far. i have not read the other things you mentioned (and i don't believe ian has either). it doesn't make me uncomfortable at all to consider reading that type of literature, and i totally get how "hearing from people who are aware of the messy parts of church history and still chose to stay" is helpful for many. i just personally do not feel a huge need or desire at this point in my life to delve into these things. i definitely agree that there is beauty in simple faith and power in faithful reasoning, and that we absolutely shouldn't just close our eyes and ears to facts.

-Do teenagers these days feel comfortable bringing doubts, questions, and curiosities out in the open? And are they truly free to opt out of church? My son has recently done a slow fade from attending (Catholic) mass and as his parents, we have allowed him the space to go when he wants. No one has noticed (except grandma :) ), but I don't get the feeling that Mormonism is quite so optional. Am I wrong? For example, if a teenager didn't want to attend church and seminary every week, he might not get to go on a mission and that would be a mark against him? I've heard a lot of references to marrying a returned missionary. Is that something you considered when choosing to date Ian? 
-Is it weird and awkward among groups of teen friends (or your friends Charity, if this applies) if a good friend leaves the church? 
-What happens if a family member decides they don't believe the ways of the Mormon church and decide they don't want to be Mormon? Do teens struggle with their faith and what is done to help them through it?

i certainly can't speak for all teenagers in the church, and i am sure there are many that feel uncomfortable being open about their doubts, questions and curiosities. but we are encouraged in the church, actively and from the youngest age, to ask questions and to find truth for ourselves. different families and different congregations have different dynamics and cultures that are sometimes what i would consider not optimal, but those aside, mormonism is absolutely optional. one of our most deeply held doctrines in that all humans have the god-given agency to choose for ourselves. of course, we don't get to choose the consequences of our choices (so, to address a specific in your question, yes if a teenager stopped attending church and seminary they would not qualify for serving a mission).
there is an unfortunate trend among some church members to (often unconsciously, i'm sure) place a mark against men who did not serve missions. i believe that is wrong. simultaneously i believe that god has asked all young men in the church to serve a mission, and that being worthy to do that and doing so faithfully is pleasing to god, helps others in a profound way, and is hugely enriching for the missionary. therefore, i can see how many women desire to date and marry a returned missionary. this was never a requirement for me in choosing who i dated, but i recognize that it is a really good thing to have done!
i think the awkwardness around a friend leaving the church definitely depends on the group of friends! i have some close friends that have left the church and our relationship has not been affected (with the exception of perhaps our conversations about spiritual things evolving).
there's a variety of paths and experiences for those who decide that they don't want to be mormon anymore - i've seen different journeys among those i know that have left the church. yes, teens struggle with their faith within mormonism and (in an ideal scenario) parents and church leaders strive to lovingly help them by encouraging them to study, pray, and choose. there are definitely resources for those that are struggling with their faith, and the message is loud and clear among top church leaders that it is okay to question and doubt.

I am truly curious how someone so well traveled, so curious, and so open continues to want to be part of a church that can be so ostracizing (to gays, to unsealed women [they also do not get to go to the celestial kingdom], to members who choose to leave, to members who choose not to follow all the rules to a "T," to blacks in the past, etc.)? 

there are a few things that help me to reconcile what is (totally understandably!) seen as ostracizing and troubling within mormonism. i discuss many of them in this post. i believe in eternity, and that life and faith are supposed to be hard, and that god allows humans to make mistakes. and the bottom line is that upon earnest inquiry, i have felt - over and over again, and undeniably - that the pure doctrine of mormonism is real and true.
i believe the church and its members have a lot to improve on - certainly there is judgment and pride and lack of unconditional love mixed into mormon culture, and that's not okay. i feel that, as a worldwide community, we are getting better ... but we will always be imperfect.

95 comments :

  1. I like your answers, I think they reflect that you have thought about and discussed these things over the years. I think this Is so important; to disagree with something doesn't mean you shouldn't discuss it. I think that's how we are refined over alifetime, by talking, discussing, debating and listening.

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    1. i agree! thanks for being here.

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  2. Well Written Charity! Just to add incase others read the comments. I am a member of the church (a convert as is my husband). My 18 year old son is opting out of the church. He was raised in the church and baptized. I was sure when he choose not to leave this summer our family would see some kind commentary by members of our congregation, but the exact opposite has been true. We have seen only love and compassion toward him and our family. While we hope he will come back someday, if he doesn't we will still love him. In regards to the the church being as some think against woman who aren't sealed and not having a place in the church that perception is also not true. While being sealed to a spouce for all time and eternity is the ultimate goal, woman who are not sealed in the temple can still find their reward. In regards to gays, I think the church is very kind. Yes, they may not attend the temple, but I believe if that was a mistake on the authorities of the church that all will find their reward also in the next life. He is a just God. However, we must remember that even back in the time of the Bible all men and woman did not have the same rights to certain ordinances. God is perfect and all will be revealed in his time not our time. Just because we want something to be doesn't mean it will. We once had a man who played the organ for our congregation. He was a homosexual and had Aids. There was never a man so loved in our congregation. How he felt about not being able to attend the temple or be married to his companion-that I do not know, but he came every Sunday until he passed away. I think the church has gotten a bad image on this issue in the press. The church policy is not much different than many of the other leading religions out there in the world today. Once last thing in regards to Joseph Smith being married to so many woman and a 14 year old. I most definately think that the time period has to be taken into accound because many young girls did get married that young at that time. We also have to remember that woman had no legal rights in terms of voting or having property. There is a lot that is not known also about the subject as their just is no record of the situation. These men and woman are dead and cannot stand up for themselves and for their actions. My personal opinion is he made a mistake when in regards to this subject, but that does not negate that the Bood of Mormon is true. Being Human beings and he was one it is possible he made a mistake. Maybe he didn't. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this subject and one thing that has me to believe that he may not have been married to all of these woman in a sexual way but merely in paper is the amound of time he spent in jail, running the church, and if he
    did have sex with all of these woman why are there no children from these marriages. The only offspring are from Emma. A very complicated subject. Hope this helps some of your readers.

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    1. Kelleyn. You are textbook. You have been indoctrinated (brainwashed). You know in your heart that this cannot be reconciled no matter how many excuses you try to think up. People who willingly convert to a cult, vs. being born in, do so mostly for the kinship, the culture and the "family" that comes with the strange, sometimes harmful doctrine. Your son has great courage to break free.

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    2. I can't help but laugh when people use the, "I'm not a homophobe! I knew a gay guy once and he was super happy having less rights that me!" Especially when you admit to never actually engaging him to find out how that made him feel.

      Also, how can he be "so so loved" and simoultaneously denied the same spiritual rights as others? That's not love. That's placation.

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    3. thanks so much for sharing your perspective, kelleyn. and also tabby for piping in with your opinion, although i don't think you can ascertain from this one comment that kelleyn has been indoctrinated/brainwashed.

      some food for thought re: anon's comment - are children still so so loved by their parents when parents deny them certain things for their own good? i know applying that concept to this issue may seem outrageous, but i truly believe that an all-knowing and perfectly-loving god (our parents in heaven) want the very best for all their children - in eternity, not just in this life - and so they keep us from some things.

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    4. If they want the very best for their children, why not leave Adam and Eve pain and suffering free to fill the earth with happy pain and suffering free children in a paradise? Rather than it being his "will" that they sin, suffer misery and death, just to learn? Why would he do that? Would you do that to Moses - for the learning experience? Or would you just teach him, while trying to keep him happy and free of suffering?

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    5. because we don't grow or learn or progress if we do not have any pain or suffering. when moses grows up, i will absolutely allow him to have pain and suffering for the sake of learning ... i will not keep him at home with me and keep him from experiences that will enable him to grow and develop on his own.

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  3. Whenever I read you or anyone defend the Mormon faith and Mormon history, I just want to yell "The Emperor has no clothes!" I know you want to believe. I know that it is your history and your culture but come on, "The Emperor has no clothes!"

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    1. But Anonymous, earnest inquiry followed by FEELS!
      Don't be afraid to catch feels
      Ride drop top and chase thrills (Hey)
      I know you ain't afraid to pop pills (Hey)
      Baby, I know you ain't scared to catch feels
      Feels with me

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    2. @anon15:58:
      I think I've written this before, but I'd say you repeat yourself as well (a bit hard to tell with all the anonymous' ):
      I can't see why it's snarkworthy that Charity feels these things to be true. It's religion, I don't think that religion can be proven without a doubt. The same goes for love. For example, I love my husband. I don't have a scientific proof for it or for the question of how and why. But I feel it.
      Do you think that I am wrong about that or do you have to distingiush between love and religion?

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    3. thanks kerstin - i was going to reply with a similar parallel to love.

      both anons - i think i can see where you are coming from. but i still can't deny what i know in my heart to be true - just as you likely can't deny things that you hold as true because you feel they are true.

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    4. The feeling stuff in your heart and KNOWING it to be true is just plain weird and is used by the church to make you suspend rational thought. What if despite all evidence, I felt in my heart and KNEW the earth to be flat? Read Jeremiah 17:9. Maybe knowing something in your heart is not a wise way to make decisions. Maybe we were given a brain for a reason.

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    5. Kerstin wie sagt man “snarkworthy” auf Deutsch?
      You are wrong, love and religion are two different things – this blog post isn’t “why I love ian q&a, part three”.

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    6. but anon, certainly you have belief (or even knowledge) that comes from feelings. how do you know you love your mother/sister/spouse/children? how do you know that treating others unfairly is wrong? how do you know that you like being in nature or watching action movies or trying different foods? because you feel it.

      in a volume of scripture produced by joseph smith as he restored the church, there is a verse where god says, "i will tell you in your mind and in your heart" the truth of things. i believe god wants us to use both our brains and our feelings to determine what is real.

      while love and religion are different, the parallel about feelings seems appropriate.

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    7. @German speaking anon: I'm not sure. I think you could translate it with "Grund für beißenden Spott", but in ordinary life, people wouldn't use it. Maybe - if you don't want a true translation, but a more fitting - it is "Grund zum Lästern"?

      Yes, religion and love are different things, but I still think that you can't proof both scientifically. It's a parallel like Charity said.
      As for the example of "The earth is flat" (I'm not arguing against that! :-)), I'd have to know an example of evidence against religion to form another opinion. Before you mention evidence against the LDS Church, I will however say that I am the wrong one to discuss this with. I am neither Mormon nor do I know enough about the issue for me to actually discuss it in depth.

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  4. Very well thought out Charity!! Thank you for being so open to taking the good and the bad from the comments I know will come on this subject. I just want to clarify a little bit. Women who are not sealed in this life but have been true and faithful will have the opportunity in the next. We believe in constant growth and progression, line upon line, precept upon precet. That means that progression will still happen in the here after, for everyone!!

    Jospeh did have children with his other wives. They were not just on paper but that doesn't take away the task he was called to do. He was not perfect. History is always messy, think Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson. These men don't get put through the ringer for everything they did because they did some bad. We as a whole allow them the good and the bad and recognize that grace must be applied to ALL! That includes poor Joseph, who gets smeared at every turn. Even if he had never made a mistake those who have left the church would find something.



    We don't have all the details but just because one thing is messy, or difficult, doesn't mean the church isn't true or the Book of Mormon isn't the most awesome book on the planet!!! We as a people tend to be rather harsh on those who can't speak for themselves. Innocent until proven guilty, that concept is dying away as the court of social media always seems to rule. I sure hope when I pass that grace and compassion is granted to me too!

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    1. There is lots is serious scholarship about Thomas Jefferson and his "ownership" of his children and lover, for example. "Poor Joseph" as you call him is not alone in being analyzed historically.

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    2. Thomas Jefferson was claiming to be a Prophet of God. He wasn't claiming to holding the keys to the One True Church. How foolish to sustain and make excuses for a sexual predator.

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    3. Thomas Jefferson wasn't claiming to be a Prophet of God.

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    4. Heather, you cannot possibly be serious. POOR JOSEPH? Yes, God may choose to forgive the perv for his sins against children (lots of "grace" needed for that one...) but for the loving, perfect, fair, good, etc etc HEAVENLY FATHER that you all seem to describe - would he choose someone that abused children as his prophet on earth to deliver his word to and start his ONE TRUE CHURCH?

      Please, take off the blinders and look at this realistically. (Even if Charity can't seem to - she just "knows and feels" it's all correct and true - no matter what snakes and skeletons are lurking underneath...)

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    5. thanks all for contributing your opinions/thoughts to the discussion (although i wish a one of these were said a bit more nicely... :) ).

      i don't think anyone can characterize joseph smith as a "sexual predator," "someone that abused children," or a "perv" based on the information we have about his plural marriages or his life in general.

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    6. Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Columbus have been called out on their disgusting behavior repeatedly, particularly in the past 20 years. It is nice to see history changing from just the side of the "winner" or the beloved white man.
      I would disagree that we can't easily call Joseph Smith a "sexual predator", "someone who abused children" and a "perv". He used his power to marry children. And no, it was not normal for 14 year old girls to marry much older men during that time in America. Especially not men that were already married.

      I respect that you answer these questions and share your thoughts and beliefs so publicly, so please respect those of us who see the historical truth and will not condone predatory behavior. Your own church frowns on this behavior now when it happens with the FLDS, which always leads me to wonder that if Joseph Smith came back, which church would he choose?

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    7. If he came back he would probably be a Buddhist. Or some other faith that has Reincarnation. :-) I think the whole polygamy thing was BY and not JS. I think BY just pointed to the dead guy people believed found the BOM. Emma said it never legitimately happened, his sons in their church that continued after their father's death back east never had the practice. There was a reason Emma and sons didn't go west. She believed her husband but didn't sustain BY and the next leader. And most people went with the stopping polygamy sect with statehood. I think if the government had just allowed the cohabitation to those already in such unions, gave divorces freely to those who wanted to severe at a later point and didn't allow new unions to be made we would not have the FLDS and further offshoots. They made it retroactive. They made cohabitation illegal. It would have died naturally in a few decades. Now it's a mess. How any person looking at the Old Testament thinking polygamy is a good? The whole Middle East conflict is over whether Sarah's son or Hagar's son inherited that little tract of land. Jacob didn't want it. It was Sarah's idea and Abraham not trusting God he would have decendants. God didn't want Israel to have a king and all the trappings of concubines. David and Solomon had a bit of trouble too. They were all cautionary tales not anything to copy. Taking her maid for that purpose was Sarah's people's tradition not God telling Abraham to do it, or God telling Moses. It was the matriarch's culture that happened to practice it at times.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this! I'd just make one edit from "the pure doctrine of mormonism is real and true." to "the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ is real and true." This includes all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and all that He will yet reveal (which includes prophets in all ages!)." Articles of Faith 1:9 :)

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    1. the pure doctrine of mormonism = the pure doctrine of jesus christ :) i'm just trying to distinguish between doctrine unique to mormonism as opposed to all ideas about jesus christ and his gospel :) thanks for reading!

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  6. Faith is such a personal journey. Each must come to Christ on their own with their own convictions. Moroni in the Book of Mormon hit it on the head when the invitation was extended to all to ask God in prayer if things are true or not. He, God, will only tell truths to all of his Children. Thank goodness for God's mercy. All of us, all of us have imperfections, including God's prophets. All make mistakes, including God's prophets. However, that doesn't take away from what good people did do, can do and are doing. I too have a testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. God has a plan for all of His children. A plan of happiness and love. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. and thank you for sharing yours!

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  7. I think sexual abuse, and forced marriage, of children is more serious than "he made some big mistakes." It's a horrific irony that a church culture built around families raising children in healthy, happy, wholesome environments has it's foundation in child abuse. It is a telling thing about the "culture of faith" that families like the Eyres, completely dedicated to their beautiful
    Children, learn to accept the unacceptable. When a religion teaches concepts like young women's "purity" it's a good indication there's a serious shadow side.

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    1. jenny, we really do not have much information about joseph's marriage to a fourteen year old. it is unfair to jump to "child/sexual abuse."

      we definitely have a ways to go as a people when it comes to the way church members have talking in the past about young women's "purity."

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    2. Hi Charity, there are actually a lot of journal entries by Joseph Smith's wives. Its weird to me that you have not seen them. I guess you state above that you are not interested in researching them. It is wrong to lie and state that we don't know anything about his marital relationships and how the women felt when there are plenty of journals that tell us about many of their feelings.

      http://wivesofjosephsmith.org/26-HelenMarKimball.htm

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  8. Thanks Charity for answering so many of my questions. I understand your rationalizations despite not sharing the same world view as you. I'm learning from you, and that's great. From what little we know of Ian from your blog, I have a harder time understanding how a numbers guy (who I assume is also a facts and logic sort of person) can brush away the anacronisms in the Book of Mormon, the irrefutably misrepresented book of Abraham, and things of that nature.
    I'm trying to understand your answer about speaking up about the differences of budgets for young men and young women. Are you saying you are ok with it, or that you have no problem speaking up about it?
    I'm also totally confused on the heavenly mother thing. Is "heavenly mother" who most Christians refer to as "Mary?" or is she someone else, like God's wife? Why do Mormons not mention Mary very often? Sorry to add more questions to an already long blog post; I know you're not likely to be in the nap time window anymore. Thanks again
    PS Please tell Saren that I miss her blog in general. She has a very relatable and comforting internet voice

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    1. I think, but don't know that Mary and heavenly mother are two different persons.

      But I'm also interested: Is Mary according to Mormon doctrine Jesus' earthly mother? How was he concieved?

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    2. thanks anon! and i am learning from you a bit as well, which is good!

      both ian and i feel that the personal and powerful witnesses of truth that we have experienced are undeniable. additionally, despite anachronisms or misrepresentations that may be perceived by some, it is difficult for us to find a logical explanation as to how joseph smith could produce the books of scripture he did without having been divinely called. he was an uneducated farm boy that was mercilessly persecuted - how??? and why???? if not because of god?

      on young men/young women budgets, i mean to say that i would have no problem speaking up about it if they were unequal without a fair reason.

      on heavenly mother, yes, i am speaking of heavenly father's wife. when i use the word "god," i mean both of them. mary is definitely talked about and revered within mormonism, but not worshipped. mary is jesus's earthly mother and jesus was conceived by the power of the holy ghost (that's all i know, no technicalities!).

      i'll pass on the message to saren and saydi ;)

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    3. “Books of scripture” – filled with racism (Book of Mormon) and fraud (Book of Abraham). “Mercilessly persecuted” – because he was a philandering charlatan. But faith is HARD, so it helps to picture him as a “farm boy”.

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    4. hey anon ... i appreciate you sharing your opinions and perspectives here, but please do so respectfully. this comment is pretty snarky and sarcastic and i'd appreciate it if you shared how you feel about/understand the issue a bit more kindly.

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    5. BTW - this is NOT me. I agree, just a bit over the top here.

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    6. Ah, yikes! I'm the first anon (asking about Mary and heavenly mother), not the second more confrontational one. We don't gain anything by being disrespectful and I hope the few harsher comments don't deter you. I love these candid faith discussions. My biblical knowledge is as close to zero as it gets so my questions really are genuine and curious. I'm fascinated from an outsiders perspective. I've read a ton since you started this series and it all leads to more and more questions. About the last bit about him producing the scriptures he did being a farm boy, it seems a lot of the Book of Mormon is replicated from the King James Bible- complete with the same king James mispellings. Maybe he was inspired by that bible? I didn't even realize there were different bibles, and many changes to the Book of Mormon until I did more reading after your series. Like I said, lots for me to learn.
      And of course I meant Saydi too! Thanks

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    7. indeed, there are chapters in the book of mormon that are the same as chapters in the king james bible, but a small percentage. the bulk of the text is unique. you should check the book of mormon itself out! no matter what you decide about its authenticity, it is a beautiful narrative full of inspiring passages.

      lots for me to learn too :)

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  9. The only person required to be perfect in Christianity is Christ. Joseph Smith was a historical figure, not God. Heck even the Buddha abandoned his wife and baby.

    I do find it mildly humorous that a prophet eager to point out the traits of pope's and early church missteps having multiple controversies of its own. I think he possibly cheated physically or "in his heart" on Emma. Emma said it didn't happen. The family denomination after he was killed did not include polygamy. Perhaps BY played with the books to justify his own failings? If Emma wasn't on board it wasn't moral or legitimate or probably didn't really happen. In a few centuries it isn't going to matter. I can't think of a religion that does not have some person in authority hurting a child, I also am sad to see it happens among the agnostics and atheists. People are capable of bad things.

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    1. Yes, all churches have pervs, some very high up in the leadership. But for God to choose and single out a PERV to give his sacred scrolls to, yeah, NO.

      I can't see how Charity can reconcile that this perv was chosen BY GOD for any reason. True, you can't keep them all out of the religion, but what kind of God would choose a perv like Joseph Smith as a prophet of his TRUE CHURCH?? Were there not any suitable NON PERVs around at the time??

      "BY THEIR FRUITS YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM..." Instructions on how to find the ONE TRUE CHURCH. By the actions and behavior of it's leaders. So how can this be?

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    2. again, i don't think it's right or fair to jump straight from "married to a fourteen year old" to "perv," especially considering the context of the situation.

      honestly, i think faith is supposed to be hard.

      there are plentiful accounts of the remarkably benevolent, compassionate, wise and humble behaviour of joseph smith. i totally get being hung up on one behaviour that you find abhorrent, but there is a bigger picture. also, the fruits of joseph smith - the things he produced - are pretty amazing: a book of scripture that has positively impacted millions of lives being the first that comes to my mind.

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    3. Charity, you seem to be a smart, rational person - except when it comes to this topic. I know it would be "hard" to admit all these bad things about the church of your childhood. But, please. Why are you defending this man?

      What if the church came out with a decree that polygamy is ok now? And that all Mormon men not only CAN take a second wife, but are REQUIRED to. (It could happen - look at the unbelievable new doctrine about kids with gay parents....but I digress...)

      So now, Richard Eyre has to take on a new wife. OK, so how would you feel if he took one the same age as Eliza. Or even a few years younger? Do you think this girl would be happy, married to an old man? What if he had a few kids with her? Imagining it through the eyes of Eliza - just as an example - would you join a church run by this person?

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    4. Or, on a more personal level, if the above requirement was set out by your church, of course Ian would follow it.... would you welcome his new 14 year old wife into your home, and his bed? And help raise their children?

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    5. tabby, have you read this article about joseph smith and plural marriage? it was helpful to me in understanding the issue:
      https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-in-kirtland-and-nauvoo?lang=eng

      woof, if the church came out with a decree that polygamy should be practiced again, that would be a TOUGH one for me. i definitely wouldn't quickly accept it - i would study it out, try to understand, and most of all turn to god in prayer. if i felt through earnest spiritual inquiry that indeed an all-knowing and perfectly-loving god was asking his children to engage in plural marriage, i believe i would comply. and if my father or husband was instructed to take a 14-year-old wife, i would turn harder and deeper to god. and then do what i felt to be right (i'm not sure what that would be).

      please bless that doesn't happen!! :)

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    6. Good answer. I can't believe it would happen either...

      "then do what i felt to be right (i'm not sure what that would be)." - hopefully both you and Ian *and Moses* would run in the other direction and never look back.

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    7. If my husband seriously wanted to take on a 14 year old wife I wouldn't have to "turn harder and deeper to God" I would use my God given brain and free will to leave immediately and call the authorities.

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  10. I hear you, Jenny, I really do. I have struggled with my church's (and my family's) history of polygamy and have wondered if it was driven by sexual deviancy. I just don't find that to be the case as I read about my own ancestors and the early members of the church (including Joseph Smith). In fact, I find the opposite--men who loved their wives and wanted the best for the women in their lives, not to subjugate them. I feel like the sexual deviancy would have been passed down if that was our heritage. I agree that our church has a long way to go around our narratives about women's sexual purity, and men's accountability for their sexuality, but I think we'll get there. I can see why some may have not come to the same conclusions I have, though.

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    1. thanks for sharing this perspective, ashley.

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  11. As always, I am so appreciative of your candid and honest answer Charity. There's much we disagree on, but I still feel like if I knew you in real life, we may be friends. I love how introspective and reflective you are on the tough topics.

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  12. You said: "i believe that we all have the potential to become like god - to have all the blessings and knowledge and privileges and power that our heavenly father and heavenly mother have."

    I wonder how you reconcile that statement with the statement in Genesis where the serpent (Satan) tempts Eve with eating of the fruit and he says (in effect) "go ahead and eat it, your eyes are bound to be open and you will be LIKE GOD...." They were punished for wanting to be LIKE GOD.

    Or do you not believe in the Genesis account of Adam and Eve at all?

    Thanks.

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    1. i (and mormons in general) absolutely do believe in the genesis account of adam and eve. and i believe that adam and eve eating the fruit was part of god's plan - that adam and eve recognized that the only way they could become like god was to transgress, become mortal, and be tested.

      here's a quick overview of lds theology around the fall (make sure you click "read more" under the first paragraph): https://www.lds.org/topics/fall-of-adam?lang=eng

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    2. Interesting. But they WOULD have had children. The command to "fill the earth" was given before the "fall". I personally believe that it is a parable, never really happened, just something for people to learn from.

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    3. i believe they would not have been able to have children if they had not partaken of the forbidden fruit.

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    4. Genesis 1:28 says "od blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth..."

      This was before they partook of the fruit.

      So, if as you said "adam and eve recognized that the only way they could become like god was to transgress, become mortal, and be tested." Did god know they would recognize this and partake? What if they didn't? God's purpose was to fill the earth with humans to worship him. Who would do this in that case? Would he just call do-over?

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    5. Every other Christian believes that man was always mortal. That God walked with Adam and Eve on earth until they disobeyed and shattered the relationship. Every since man had been taking baby steps to be in a right relationship with God. Jesus opened the gates of heaven so now we may enter and be reunited fully with God. There will be a new heaven and earth. God will still be God. We will not be god. Heaven is about returning to God. It's not about being bored out of our minds on a cloud listening to harp music or a big family reunion afterlife, though we will hopefully see them there and they made it to heaven. What would be boring about being with God?

      I don't doubt it's hard for a boy to decide which church of many to join with so many having prayed their guts out and picked different ones in the area during his lifetime, even his family were divided for a time and chose differently. It all comes from people deciding to translate the thing differently, chuck out a few books of the Bible that support stuff like purgatory so Luther can claim it's all made up The KJV threw out several books of the Bible. The JW and the LDS further amended verses. The LDS even added scripture. You will find Catholics, Lutherans, JW and LDS who all are sure they are the right church. All are capable of feeling and know how to pray. Jesus didn't really care and is probably wondering why all of this division and push to make each other their particular brand of Christian. He didn't care that the were people casting out demons in His name that were not part of the called apostles and criticized them when they told Him they tried to stop them. I doubt anyone is completely right. We are all human and can't fully understand the divine. The Bible has been translated from more than one language to another. So if you are happy being LDS, great.

      I see the reason in that the path to godhood is in rejecting God. That is what they did. For at least 5,000 man has been repenting that. Until a 14 year old decided it was a positive thing to have done? It is a positive thing to fall to the temptations of the devil? It seems prideful to think our purpose is to become god. So the purpose is for us mortals to progress and become god also. God seems absent from the "us" relationship we have been yearning for since the beginnings of man in this dcotrine. We are supposed to repent, forgive, tend to the material and spiritual needs of others, know God loves us, Jesus rose and opened the gates of heaven. The rift in our relationship with God doesn't have to be. Religion has gotten way too complicated. We were created to know, love and serve the Lord in this life and the next. It's not complicated but actually very easy.

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    6. Actually "every other" Christian believes that Adam and Eve were immortal. The deal on the forbidden fruit is that "in the day you eat from it, you will positively die". A year in the Bible is 1000 years. Adam lived to be in the 900s so the words were proven true. If they hadn't sinned by partaking of the fruit, they and all their decendents would be alive today, perfect, on a paradise earth. God made man to live, not die. If he wanted us all in heaven with him, he would have put us there in the first place.

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    7. this discussion has gotten a bit convoluted ... i don't have time right now to respond to everything or moderate all the comments on this blog post. but if anyone commenting here is interested in continuing the discussion, i would welcome that via email (charityeyre@gmail.com).

      for what it's worth, here's what i believe/understand about the fall, put as simply as i can quickly write --
      god is the father and mother of our spirits, and they want us to be able to have all that they have. they know that that requires us leaving their presence, becoming mortal, learning and experiencing on our own -- just like mortal moms and dads know that in order for their children to truly grow, they need to leave home, have experiences in the world (which often include pain and suffering) and not be shielded from everything by their parents.
      because god is perfect, he could not create something imperfect. but his children need to be imperfect in order to grow! so god put adam and eve in the garden of eden and gave them two commandments, both of which could not be obeyed: to multiply (impossible when immortal - no birth or death), and to not partake of a certain fruit. this was part of his plan to allow all of his spirit children to become mortal, learn, grow and be tested, and thus have the potential to become like him.
      i've studied this and prayed about this at length, and have personal conviction that it is true. i certainly don't claim to understand everything, but i do believe that the fall was part of god's loving plan for his children.

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    8. Many angels in heaven battled. If we had started out in heaven the same thing could have happened.

      They didn't die for quite some time. They were cut off from God both in earth and after death until Christ opened the gates of heaven. They won't get their bodies back until the end of the world. There won't just be a heaven but a new heaven and new earth. I think there is a difference between immortal and life everlasting. Immortal suggests nothing can cause any part of it to die. We needed food in the garden. Immortals could exist without it. Life everlasting means some part of the person always exists body, soul, body and soul. We simply had it easy and a direct face to face relationship with God in the garden. God at some point way later decided man should have a lifespan. For those not killed like Abel. It was also done during that obscure period where sons of God were procreating with the daughters of men giving birth to giants. He then proceded to wipe out everyone but Noah, sons and wives. The lifenspan wasn't enough population control.

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  13. So my good friend actually just published a whole book of poetry about Heavenly Mother! They're absolutely beautiful and moving and thought provoking. Here's the link to the book in case you're interested in checking it out: https://www.amazon.com/Mothers-Milk-Search-Heavenly-Mother-ebook/dp/B074GNL73S/ref=zg_bs_157081011_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=G2WB4BPDY86J5QZD9ASH

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    1. I was going to reccomend this book of poems too. I loved it.

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    2. very cool! i'll have to check it out - thanks!

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  14. Charity, this was a question on the 6/21/17 post of Q & A - could you answer this one, please?

    I have another question - I read this on another site. Please say this is not so. Or if it is, please explain how it could be.

    "....in a recent talk given by a high ranking leader of the LDS church he said that if you are faced with feeding your children or paying your tithing, you should pay your tithing...."

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    1. i am unfamiliar with this talk. i assume the point that the speaker was trying to get across was that god provides for his children in many different ways when they keep his commandments.

      tabby, where did you come from? i don't remember you commenting on previous posts, and you are super engaged here! i truly appreciate you piping in with your perspective (especially when you do so very respectfully) - i think the discussion is valuable.

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    2. I'm one of the "Anons" that chose to come out of hiding. :)

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    3. And Charity, I really do like your blog and you, from what I read here. Some things, like the marrying teen thing, just seem to go against everything I've ever read here by you and about you (been reading for many years..). Also, I am usually in a hurry when I am commenting so can't always include pleasantries and sometimes have to get straight to my point. Which does come across sometimes as rude.

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    4. thanks tabby! despite the sometimes coming-of-rudeness, i like you too :)

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  15. Love these posts SO much Char. Love you and miss you!

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  16. Many of my ancestors were early Mormon pioneers and polygamists. Many of them personally knew Joesph Smith. The early members were one of a kind! They had so much faith and sacrificed so much for a religion they whole heartedly believed in and were devoted to. Were they perfect? No! But you better believe Joseph Smith and so many of those pioneer men were some of the greatest men that have ever lived!! They were devoted husbands and fathers who worked heart and soul to take care of their families. They have left a rich and beautiful legacy. By their fruits ye shall know them. Polygamy is hard to grasp and understand. We live in a time when our sacrifices for our faith and religion are usually relatively small. But to those early saints they were willing to sacrifice everything, even life itself (ex: Joseph Smith) for what they loved and believed in. So haters are going to hate. But for most of the 13 million + Mormons, We have nothing but love and respect for Joseph Smith and our early Pioneers!

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    1. Polygamy that involves only men isn't the kind that produce generations.

      The fruits are the FLDS. Look how many schisms in the "one true church" within a hundred years of its founding. Was Emma a member of the church? Her son? They rejected BY. So you had the wandering Joseph Smith who was killed in a mob while in jail. Then you had the BY group go to Utah. That group splintered polygamy and not polygamy with statehood. There are now clans of FLDS. Meanwhile at some point the Smith family survivors had a never polygamy group also claiming to be the continuation of Joseph Smith. I don't think JS sacrificed his life. He was killed. Was he innocent in his role in the destruction of the press that landed him in jail? Were the rumors true or false that the paper stated against the community and Smith?

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    2. KMS- Joseph Smith's fruit is not the FLDS church- that would be a couple of his posterity's fruit. His fruit is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Joseph Smith did sacrifice his life. He had a choice to run and hide, but he chose to go back knowing it would lead to his death. He said, "I go like a lamb to the slaughter." Joseph Smith was a polygamist. He also was a kind, good hearted, loving, serving, generous, faithful, courageous, and amazing man. There are 2 sides to every story, I see you've been reading just the one side. How then can it be an accurate interpretation?? Emma's story is a complex one. She was a very faithful and important part of the early church history. She is revered and loved by Mormon women for all she did and sacrificed. After her husband was killed she did choose to stay in Illinois. She didn't leave the church, the church moved to Utah and she chose not to take the journey. Maybe she struggled with her faith for a while- I think I may have. But I have no doubt she is reunited with Joseph now and her heart is more faithful and devoted then ever- to her God and her husband. I would never judge her- she carried a load and lived a life I can't even fathom.

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    3. You really have no idea what happened to Joseph, his wife Emma and their kids.

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    4. "He also was a kind, good hearted, loving, serving, generous, faithful, courageous, and amazing man."

      You left out "who also raped 14 year olds."

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    5. tabby, the factual information that we have about this topic is that joseph smith was married to one 14 year old. we do not have information about their sexual relationship, the girl's feelings about the marriage, or other context around the situation.
      we could go back and forth all day debating the virtues or vices of joseph smith. all i can say is, no matter the length of the discussion or the shock-value language that is used, i have asked god if he was a prophet, and god has confirmed that to me in undeniable ways.
      again, if you want to continue this conversation with me, feel free to shoot me an email.

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    6. No, I can see that you are going to let your "feels" rule here rather than your brain and your common sense. So thanks, but you're right. No reasoning is being accomplished here.

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    7. i'm using my mind and my heart - as explained previously :)

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    8. Then I'm sorry but I have to question your mindset here, as I would anyone who thinks a grown man marrying a young teenager is normal. End of subject for me.

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    9. to be clear, i do not think that a grown man marrying a young teenager is normal. i think that is abnormal and wrong. i am open to the possibility of an all-knowing and perfectly-loving god asking someone to do this for some reason that i do not understand. i am also open to the possibility of joseph smith misinterpreting god's instruction. there's lots i don't know/understand on this topic. but i don't let that ruin what i feel very strong conviction about.

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  17. Anonymous 03:12 is drunk on the Kool-Aid. The worldwide activity rate is estimated at just 30% - that means at the very most only about 4 million could "love and respect" Smith:
    http://ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com/2011/07/countries-of-world-by-estimated-member.html

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    1. I don't believe your numbers one bit. But if we're to include all the Mormons who have loved and respected Joseph smith since he became a Prophet in 1830- I'm sure the number is way larger than I stated.

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    2. Given more than 60%, of male members during the polygamy years could not get a single spouse let alone 3 and many of the women and men in polygamy miserable about it I would not be surprised at the numbers.

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    3. i don't know the exact numbers/percentages on activity rate, but certainly there are many, many non-attending (and non-believing) mormons on our records (many millions). arguing about the exact number of people who believe in joseph smith isn't super productive in my opinion.

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    4. Why don't you believe the numbers Anon @ 13:11? Because you had a "special feeling" when the drone-in-a-suit said "13 million" across the pulpit? Because Trump said they were "fake news"?

      The source of the 30% figure is Matt Martinich, a lifelong active Mormon who has studied LDS church data for years and has been quoted in numerous media outlets, including the Deseret News. Bottom line, there are two inactive, non-believing "Mormons" for every one like you.

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    5. Anon at 15:59- why do you believe your source to be accurate and mine is not? Does it really matter the exact number? What point are you trying to make? Shall I say instead- thousands upon thousands- will that help your "feelings" to accept what I said? Such a funny thing to argue about.

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    6. If it's a funny thing to argue about, then why did you lash back with "I don't believe your numbers one bit"?

      The point is - for the third time - active, believing Mormons are a MINORITY of the "official" number on the rolls. Saying "millions love Brother Joseph!" is cast in a different light when you realize that for every million that believe he was a prophet, two million no longer believe or care.

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    7. It is dishonest of the "church" to count ANYONE except active, believing members as still being part of the group. If you're inactive and don't believe, guess what? You are not a member!

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    8. Agreed. But admitting that activity and retention is abysmal goes against the narrative of ever-increasing converts and temples, "the rough stone rolling to fill the whole earth".

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    9. As active members we are very aware of the poor retention and activity numbers. We try not to look at them as number, but as individuals who might need a little help here and there. The church isn't hiding this information from anyone. We certainly aren't the only Christian denomination to be struggling with this problem. It's a world wide problem. We don't take anyone off the role until they request that. And then they are off. That makes sense to me. People can also request to be placed on a do not contact list.

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    10. PLEASE. When you have someone recite statistics at the general conference twice a year, stating a number specific to the last digit, WITHOUT qualifying that most of those members are not active – yes you ARE hiding information.
      FYI I don't believe, I don't attend – I also don't need any help, and don't want to bother with making a request to be removed or not contacted. YET I am still counted as one of the "13 million+".

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  18. Charity, how would you define "non-believing Mormon?" Isn't the church itself a belief system? And also, Charity, how does the church view "non attending" and "non believing" Mormons? Other than just boosting their numbers by still considering them part of the church?

    (Not interested in others' comments/opinions, I'm asking CHARITY. Thanks)

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    1. i would define a non-believing mormon as someone who's name is on the records of the church but does not believe or attend.

      i don't think anyone is trying to "boost numbers," per say. i would say most members of the church consider those who don't attend and/or don't believe simply as people who have made that choice. of course we want to reach out to those people, just was we want to reach out to anyone, to share the goodness that we feel being active participants in the church.

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  19. Thanks. I think I would call them "former Mormons" or "not Mormons any more" if they don't believe and don't attend. (?)

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