Mormon Discipleship

Twenty-one years ago when the “September Six” Church disciplinary actions occurred, I was living in Madison, Wisconsin, vaguely aware of what was happening and very upset by it. Madison was a heady LDS time for me. We had intelligent and provocative friends in our ward, the Wisconsin State Historical Library had a great collection of Mormon books that I devoured, and Wendy was teaching institute. Madison provided a rejuvenation of my Church commitment. My mission, which had taught me to love humanity, as my prophet Camus would write, had also instilled in me a deep cynicism towards Church leadership. My singles ward bishopric had not helped my cynicism nor did my elders quorum president after I was married (he accused me of “throwing stones” at other people’s testimonies). The Church’s statement against participating in symposia exacerbated it. Seemingly, my only medications for this growing cynicism were the sermons of Hugh B. Brown and B. H. Roberts—and the marvelous Mormon histories I was reading at the time.

When I faithfully went to the October 1993 General Priesthood Session, my testimony was faltering from my chronic cumulative experiences coupled with the acute trauma of having read Lavina Fielding Anderson’s Dialogue piece “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology.” Elder Faust’s talk pushed me to the brink. With what I took to be audacious arrogance of his own, Elder Faust derided those who disagreed with the brethren:

There is a certain arrogance in thinking that any of us may be more spiritually intelligent, more learned, or more righteous than the Councils called to preside over us. Those Councils are more in tune with the Lord than any individual persons they preside over, and the individual members of the Councils are generally guided by those Councils. (Elder James E. Faust, October 1993 General Conference)

I did not attend General Priesthood for years, nor did I read Faust (although later I found much in him that I liked). After conference late at night while my wife and infant son slept, I went to the living room of our student apartment, knelt at our green hand-me-down couch and followed Hugh Nibley’s advice Eugene England had repeated in his essay “On Spectral Evidence:”

Be the importunate widow and complain. Itemize your griefs, your doctrinal objections, your personal tastes. Lay them out in full detail and get it out of your system…With this understanding—you will do all this before the only Person qualified to judge either you or your tormentors.

My prayer resulted in one of the most concrete spiritual experiences of my life. My prayer did not give me a conviction of the rightness of the Church’s actions. Rather it was a blessing of peace and patience. A patience that has largely paid me off. But my patience has frequently been tested, especially when my friends and family get drawn into the periodic soap operas in the Church.

Two related ideas have helped keep me sane and in the Church over the years. First, Mormon history convinces me that, in general, the Church progresses—with fits and starts and backward drifts, admittedly—towards greater insight. Worked up authorities, while they may gain ground in the short run, usually lose in the long run. Almost universally, all of our panicked responses to evolution or the age of the earth—to pick examples from science—have damped down, and what is said and believed in the Church is much closer to the positions of the scientists (e.g., Henry Eyring) than to the apostles (e.g., Joseph Fielding Smith) who opposed them. Similar examples could be drawn from blacks and the priesthood (big list) and birth control (Lowell Bennion vs. Mark E. Peterson)

Second, is the realization that the Church’s sometimes slow path to realizing its own ideals is not unique and is common to all of culture. Patience is required, as Alfred North Whitehead observed:

Centuries, sometimes thousands of years, have to elapse before thought can capture action. (Adventures of Ideas, p. 55)

While of little comfort to those directly afflicted by the Church’s sometimes misplaced aggression, I am reminded that it is both inevitable (most likely) and certainly not unique.


I have not marched with Ordain Women, although I believe I wore purple to Church on the appropriate supportive Sunday.1 But I think feminist rabble rousers raise important questions that ought to jar us (the Church) out of our non-optimal complacency. I have a hard time, for example, believing that Elder Oaks would have given his April 2014 conference talk absent the alternate voices raising a ruckus.

Similarly I’ve never listened to any “Mormon Stories” podcasts or read any of the posts on the website. Yet I’ve known enough friends of diverse background that have found it valuable that I cannot but feel their pain. It is kind of ironic that Elder Perry encouraged the use the internet to discuss their religion:

We encourage people, young and old, to use the Internet and the social media to reach out and share their religious beliefs. (Elder L. Tom Perry, October 2011 General Conference)

Sharing religious belief necessarily involves sharing your unbelief, explicitly or implicitly. It is almost as if the brethren didn’t expect anything more than people reposting lds.org snippets. “Shar[ing] their religious beliefs” is necessarily a diverse (“their” not “ours” or “my”) process. But the Church and its uncomfortableness with “diversity” is a whole other essay that cannot be completed here.2

Over the years the brethren have ignited their fair share of controversies—the laity have no monopoly here. Sometimes a higher-up reigns them in, sometimes in private, sometimes rather publicly, like when President McKay offered to be a defense witness for Sterling McMurrin at his Church court, disciplinary procedures that had been instigated on the behest of Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee, or when Hugh B. Brown defended the United Nations at BYU after some of Elder Benson’s political activity. Sometimes Church leaders retrench and strike back, unrestrained, at perceived violence with their own particular brand of violence (excommunication). Since the leaders’ violence is much stronger than that available to a few members, just as the state is far more powerful than a few recalcitrants, in my mind it is wise to follow the advice of the Christian anarchist and veteran of the French Resistance, Jacque Ellul, and reject all forms of “violence.” (Of course this paragraph begs for a definition of “violence” and as we have seen the Church does not seem to be strictly bound by statutory definitions, so a leader is free to define any activity as violence.) Additional relevant guidance might be drawn from Jesus who said:

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works (emphasis added).

Some people do sit in Moses’ seat, and with that comes ecclesiastical authority to which, for better or worse, we are at their mercy. Decades ago my mission president taught me the truthfulness of Aristotle’s observation: “[I]t is, as a rule, a terrible thing to be at another man’s mercy.” I feel genuine pain for people that are at the mercy of less than optimal ecclesiastical leaders.

How is it best to live conscientiously and authentically in a Church? Surely there is nothing more individual—nothing to which we must be more authentic than our religious selfs—than our religion whether that religion be a theistic or atheistic religion; it is the ultimate expression of what we hold life to mean and to be. Whitehead has given me a religious ideal that I hold to be inescapable:

[I]n some sense or other, justification is the basis of all religion. Your character is developed according to your faith. This is the primary religious truth from which no one can escape. Religion is force of belief cleansing the inward parts. For this reason the primary religious virtue is sincerity, a penetrating sincerity. (Religion in the Making, p. 15).

I would dare say that this ideal is often quite at odds with Mormon life that, in my mind, emphasizes conformity and loyalty over sincerity. For many people I know (including myself) balancing sincerity with conformity is the primary Mormon struggle. For example, under the maxim “silence is assent” can I in good conscience remain silent (implying my consent) when people I agree with are belittled, demonized or excommunicated?

Ought we to be endeavoring to influence the Church? After all, isn’t it a theocracy, we are continually reminded? B. H. Roberts did not see it that way. He called it a theodemocracy emphasizing the role of comment consent in Church governance. In his In Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Elder Roberts quotes at length the philosopher Josiah Royce:

Disciples and partisans, in the world of religious and philosophical opinion, are of two sorts. There are, first, the disciples pure and simple,—people who fall under the spell of a person or a doctrine, and whose whole intellectual life thenceforth consists in their partisanship. They expound, and defend, and ward off foes, and live and die faithful to the one formula. Such disciples may be indispensable at first in helping a new teaching to get a popular hearing, but in the long run they rather hinder than help the wholesome growth of the very ideas that they defend: for great ideas live by growing, and a doctrine that has merely to be preached, over and over, in the same terms, cannot possibly be the whole truth. No man ought to be merely a faithful disciple of any other man. Yes, no man ought to be a mere disciple even of himself. We live spiritually by outliving our formulas, and by thus enriching our sense of their deeper meaning. Now the disciples of the first sort do not live in this larger and more spiritual sense. They repeat. And true life is never mere repetition.

On the other hand, there are disciples of a second sort. They are men who have been attracted to a new doctrine by the fact that it gave expression, in a novel way, to some large and deep interest which had already grown up in themselves, and which had already come, more or less independently, to their own consciousness. They thus bring to the new teaching, from the first, their own personal contribution. The truth that they gain is changed as it enters their souls. The seed that the sower strews upon their fields springs up in their soil, and bears fruit,—thirty, sixty, an hundred fold. They return to their master his own with usury. Such, men are the disciples that it is worth while for a master to have. Disciples of the first sort often become, as Schopenhauer said, mere magnifying mirrors wherein one sees enlarged, all the defects of a doctrine. Disciples of the second sort co-operate in the works of the Spirit; and even if they always remain rather disciples than originators, they help to lead the thought that they accept to a truer expression. They force it beyond its earlier and cruder stages of development.

Roberts then asks if there is room in Mormonism for disciples of the second sort. He forcefully asserts that there not only is room for but a “crying need” for them:

I believe Mormonism affords opportunity for disciples of the second sort; nay, that its crying need is for such disciples. It calls for thoughtful disciples who will not be content with merely repeating some of its truths, but will develop its truths; and enlarge it by that development. Not half—not one-hundredth part—not a thousandth part of that which Joseph Smith revealed to the Church has yet been unfolded, either to the Church or to the world. The work of the expounder has scarcely begun. The Prophet planted by teaching the germ-truths of the great dispensation of the fulness of times. The watering and the weeding is going on, and God is giving the increase, and will give it more abundantly in the future as more intelligent discipleship shall obtain. The disciples of Mormonism, growing discontented with the necessarily primitive methods which have hitherto prevailed in sustaining the doctrine, will yet take profounder and broader views of the great doctrines committed to the Church; and, departing from mere repetition, will cast them in new formulas; co-operating in the works of the Spirit, until “they help to give to the truth received a more forceful expression, and carry it beyond the earlier and cruder stages of its development.”

The orthodox view in the LDS Church tends towards the thought that there are 15 men who have the privilege to expound doctrine. For the rest of us, as Bruce R. McConkie put it, it is our “province to echo what [they] say or to remain silent.” I side with Roberts over McConkie on both doctrinal and practical principles. Doctrinally we are all, in Mormon belief, spirit children of God, having a spark of the divine within us, and, if members of the Church, blessed with the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It is in our nature as eternal intelligences to perceive and analyze the nature of the universe, of existence.

From a practical viewpoint, the more people we have expounding, watering, and weeding, “co-operating in the works of the Spirit,” the more forceful and refined our gospel message will be. Fifteen men whose primary daily activities seem to be ecclesiastical management, cannot be expected to achieve this on their own, or with the help of some quorums of Seventies or even with a large Church bureaucracy. Over-burdened leaders in the past have realized that concentration of power is not the long-term solution, as Moses said to Joshua, “would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29)

Even the authoritarian George Q. Cannon could see the value in this distributed model. He said:

The genius of the Kingdom with which we are associated is to disseminate knowledge through all the ranks of the people and to make of every man a Prophet and every woman a Prophetess. (April 27, 1867, JD 12:46, compiled in Gospel Truths, p. 270)

Recently while watching a university commencement, our twelve-year-old son asked, “Do only millionaires get honorary doctorates?” An obvious challenge is faced by every thoughtful disciple of the second sort: how to be influential? This question should not be viewed as insidious, as it seems to be for Kate Kelly, who has been accused of trying to recruit and sway people to her point of view. For a disciple, testimonies and religious philosophies are not academic games; they are to be in some sense shared, proselytized because they are held by the disciple to be in some way—perhaps only a limited way—true for them and thus true in part. Any statement made in a Relief Society or Sunday School class is an attempt to recruit others to a viewpoint, whether that viewpoint is parallel to the message of the manual, orthogonal, or opposed to it.

When I was a missionary, Mortimer Adler taught me the essence of Aristotle’s Rhetoric: ethos, pathos, and logos.3 In order to be influential, a speaker must proceed in the order of ethos, demonstrating your position as one who ought to be listened to, pathos, getting the listener emotional engaged in the topic, and finally logos, the evidence and logic of your point.

People with alternate viewpoints really don’t struggle much with the pathos or the logos, but the nearly insurmountable obstacle in a hierarchical Church of 15 million is ethos. Why should anyone listen to me (other than my high priest group on the third Sunday of the month)? I do not have an ecclesiastical title (or a position in the Church Education System), or priesthood keys. The position is especially challenging for women who have an even smaller set of titles to appeal to and never have priesthood keys. It cannot be surprising that groups like Ordain Women take a provocative approach: they may not have been influential (we can only judge on the short term) but they have been listened to. (Reading Gregory Prince’s interview with Chieko Okazaki is a good way to see how hard it can be to be listened to.)

A corollary problem is, “Why I should listen?” John Locke wrote: “For every church is orthodox to itself; to others, erroneous or heretical.” Locke’s statement has rung true to me in a variety of secular and religious settings. I expand on Lock to say “For every department chair/division chief/prince/apostle/seventy/stake president/bishop is orthodox to himself.” Orthodox to himself, orthodox to herself. Why do I need to listen to you? Perhaps I’m mixing orthodoxy with completeness too much here. But to listen, other than out of indifferent politeness, one has to think that one incomplete (either through omission or error) in one’s thoughts. And that is a viewpoint hard for most people to hold.

Orthodoxy and completeness, “truth” and “error,” are more variable in the Church than our press releases and pulpit rhetoric implies. I have lived where in one moment I am a favorite of the stake president, and a moment later, when a new stake president is in place, declared anathema and heretical (if not apostate)—all while not changing one whit myself.

This roller coaster of religious life—the bishop’s roulette of spatial and temporal variation that people speak of—is something that I wonder if the brethren experience, considering the relatively slow drift of the top governing councils.4

Institutionally I think we must legitimize the individual voice and move away from the concentration of Mormon voices to priesthood leaders, and simultaneously eliminate the explicit or implicit granting of infallibility to Church leaders. I think the legitimizing the individual, who after all is a child of Diety, which seems to trump any of our earthly or ecclesiastical differences, is part of creating “profounder and broader views of the great doctrines committed to the Church” Roberts spoke of. Thoughts of infallibility stem, I believe, from a certain laziness, and are not a part of the Gospel. During the Reed Smoot hearings, the Church published in the Improvement Era, under the editorial hand of President Joseph F. Smith, a talk by Elder B. H. Roberts that clearly rebutted infallibility in Church leaders:

Now about men being constantly under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so that all they say and do is an inspiration of God, even the answering of questions.

There is nothing in the doctrines of the Church which makes it necessary to believe that, even of men who are high officials of the Church. When we consider the imperfections of men, their passions and prejudices, that mar the Spirit of God in them, happy is the man who can occasionally ascend to the spiritual heights of inspiration and commune with God! …. [W]e should recognize the fact that we do many things by our own uninspired intelligence for the issues of which we are ourselves responsible. he will help men at need, but I think it improper to assign every word and every act of a man to an inspiration from the Lord. Hence, I think it a reasonable conclusion to say that constant, never-varying inspiration is not a factor in the administration of the affairs of the Church; not even good men, no, not even though they be prophets or other high officials of the Church, are at all times and in all things inspired of God. It is only occasionally, and at need, that God comes to their aid.

That there have been unwise things done in the Church by good men, men susceptible at time to the inspiration of the Spirit of God, we may not question. Many instances in the history of the Church, through three quarters of a century, prove it, and it would be a solecism to say that God was the author of those unwise, not to say positively foolish, things that have been done. For these things men just stand responsible, not God.

It is well nigh as dangerous to claim too much for the inspiration of God, in the affairs of men, as it is to claim too little. By the first, men are led into superstition, and into blasphemously accrediting their own imperfect actions, their blunders, and possibly even their sins, to God; and by the second, they are apt to altogether eliminate the influence of God from human affairs; I pause in doubt as to which conclusion would be the worse. (“The Relation of Inspiration and Revelation to Church Government”)

People talk about the cacophony of Mormon voices in the 21st Century—as if this is a bad thing. It is the natural consequence of our collective and individual fallibilities but also of our diverse religious backgrounds, temperaments, and needs. The cocophony has always been there, even if the sound was muffled. We should see the advantages that the technologies that amplify these discordant voices brings. Recent studies have shown that groups in which all voices are heard and respected tend to make better decisions than groups dominated by particular members, and, incidentally, groups containing women make better decisions than groups consisting only of men.


Once when I was in an admissions meeting for a department at the University of Pittsburgh, a faculty member joked that Aristotle wouldn’t get admitted to our department. When the September Six were excommunicated I found that atmosphere so chilling that I was amazed that in my lifetime (admittedly my infant lifetime) a member of the First Presidency, Hugh B. Brown, had actually said, “We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts.” Twenty years later I am still in awe at the seeming audacity of that statement. Sometimes I wonder whether Hugh B. Brown could be a general authority of our Church forty years after his death. I do not mean to canonize President Brown: he was a man of his time, full of limitations that his most ardent admirers might find problematic now. Yet throughout his twenty years as a General Authority he expressed an advocacy of freedom of thought and expression that I think we would all be benefited to become familiar with. I know he is dead—unfortunately it is unlikely to live to a hundred and thirty in this era—and was never the President of the Church and thus not entitled to have his talks edited and excerpted for our Presidents of the Church manuals (although I would surmise that the vast majority of these manuals do not consist of teachings of men when they were actually presidents of the Church, a wee bit of false advertising). But humor me. A good starting point is President Brown’s 1969 address at BYU (available here), from which I will provide a few of my favorite excerpts:

One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking wrong, but generally more thinking is the antidote for the evils that spring from wrong thinking. More thinking is required, and we call upon you students to exercise your God-given right to think through on every proposition that is submitted to you and be unafraid to express your opinions, with proper respect for those to whom you talk and proper acknowledgment of your own shortcomings.

You young people live in an age when freedom of the mind is suppressed over much of the world. We must preserve it in the Church and in America and resist all efforts of earnest men to suppress it, for when it is suppressed, we might lose the liberties vouchsafed in the Constitution of the United States.

Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts.

Affectation of any sort borders on vulgarity, and at the least it is ridiculous to pretend to feelings and beliefs that do not appeal to your intelligence.

But while I believe all that God has revealed, I am not quite sure that I understand what he has revealed, and the fact that he has promised further revelation is to me a challenge to keep an open mind and be prepared to follow wherever my search for truth may lead.

We have been blessed with much knowledge by revelation from God which, in some part, the world lacks. But there is an incomprehensibly greater part of truth which we must yet discover. Our revealed truth should leave us stricken with the knowledge of how little we really know. It should never lead to an emotional arrogance based upon a false assumption that we somehow have all the answers—that we in fact have a corner on truth. For we do not.

As you go forward in your search for truth, and as you espouse principles and establish ideals toward which to work, pray for courage to be true to you loyalties, to your ideals and to yourself

Alfred North Whitehead could not be a 21st Century general authority; he probably could not even be a Mormon. Nonetheless we could also do with a dose of Whitehead.5 Addressing the issue of conflicts between religion and Science, Whitehead wrote a wonderful article in The Atlantic in 1925 that we could frame on our walls:

Religion will not regain its old power until it can face change in the same spirit as does science. Its principles may be eternal, but the expression of those principles requires continual development. This evolution of religion is in the main a disengagement of its own proper ideas from the adventitious notions which have crept into it by reason of the expression of its own ideas in terms of the imaginative picture of the world entertained in previous ages. Such a release of religion from the bonds of imperfect science is all to the good. It stresses its own genuine message. The great point to be kept in mind is that normally an advance in science will show that statements of various religious beliefs require some sort of modification. It may be that they have to be expanded or explained, or, indeed, entirely restated. If the religion is a sound expression of truth, this modification will only exhibit more adequately the exact point which is of importance. This process is a gain. In so far, therefore, as any religion has any contact with physical facts, it is to be expected that the point of view of those facts must be continually modified as scientific knowledge advances. In this way the exact relevance of these facts for religious thought will grow more and more clear. The progress of science must result in the unceasing modification of religious thought, to the great advantage of religion. (“Science and Religion”)

In formal logic a contradiction is the signal of a defeat, but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward a victory. This is one great reason for the utmost toleration of variety of opinion. Once and forever this duty of toleration has been summed up in the words, ‘Let both grow together until the harvest.’ The failure of religious Christians to act up to this precept, of the highest authority, is one of the curiosities of religious history. (Alfred North Whitehead, ibid)


Within the wards I have lived in I have been, often to my pain and worrying, open about my beliefs and doubts, my religious rewards and spiritual struggles. For a few years I was on a high council where I learned to value my openness, as it allowed me to touch members of the stake disconnected from more traditional speakers. Yet since my troubled night in Madison, Wisconsin, twenty-one years ago, I have largely been silent publicly. I have written blogs, for myself and friends but kept them password protected and not indexed by search engines. My only exception to this has been one Sunstone publication. Recent events in the Church have forced me to rethink my public silence. So many people from the Church Public Affairs Department to bloggers to people commenting on news stories (and blogs) describe a Church very different from what I have experienced and that I know many of my friends and acquaintances have experienced.  I cannot in good conscience not join (in my own obscure way) the cacophony of Mormon voices. I hope that my friends and acquaintances join me so that the spectrum of Mormon experiences are more fully and accurately depicted.

I don’t know what my writing agenda should be, other than trying to reconcile my life experiences with my religious philosophy and testimony or facilitating discipleship of the second sort among my friends. In addition to my own ignorance, unrighteousness, and limited relevant eduction, there are a number of intellectual roadblocks, perhaps even “contradictions”—a.k.a. opportunities for “progress toward a victory”—within the Church that I hope are tackled by those more capable than me, but I’ll have to, for the sake of my own sanity, tackle them myself.

Some of the topics that I think are important to be addressed are listed here.

First, does the Church, as was implied by its publication of Elder Roberts talk, still believe that there is a “crying need” for disciples of the second sort? How does this fit with our correlated Church?

Second, we need a more robust discussion about the nature of revelation to prophets, presidents, bishops, and congregational recalcitrants. Receiver operator characteristic curves balance true positives against false positives and provide a good model for revelation that I think should be widely disseminated, but my own poor previous attempts to do this in Sunday school and priesthood classes have generally only been met by blank stares.

Third, how do we cultivate the courage of expression—“be unafraid to express your opinions”—President Brown called for. The common charge to keep your opinions private is untenable to a disciple of a second sort. Besides if the opinion is in error, airing an opinion is the first step to revising an opinion.

Fourth, tone in our discussions does matter, but it can’t take priority over substance. What constitutes the “proper respect” President Brown called for? It cannot be the cowering acquiescence satirized here. Similarly, what constitutes “proper acknowledgment of your own shortcomings”? It cannot be stating that the Prophet (prophets) is (are) smarter than we are and know more than we do. I don’t know their IQs and about some things I definitely do know more than they do, like my own life, magnetic resonance imaging, the music of X, and maybe, just maybe, the writings of Jeremiah. (Who could spend as much time on him as I have?)

Fifth, how do we resolve the contradiction between Mormonism’s elevation of the individual and the love for hierarchy?

Sixth, how do we overcome the prophet paradox that is the result of fallible ecclesiastical prophets sometimes being inspired but without an obvious way of knowing when they were or were not inspired, with the result that a prophet-led Church often lags rather than leads social transformations (e.g. Civil Rights as an example).

Oh the lists goes on, but I’ll stop at a perfect number, since in addition to my Mormon heterodoxy (hey, President Brown said it is OK) I’m a closest numerologist.


I am not a good prayer. My night in Madison was an exception in my life. But one of my mentors, Max Parkin, once gave me a set of B. H. Roberts’ Comprehensive History of the Church with the condition that whenever I struggle with the Church that I promise to pray about it. I try and I’ll recommend Marjorie Suchocki’s marvelous book on Prayer, In God’s Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer, to others who struggle with prayer. But along with my new commitment to be more public with my religion, I will try to be more observant in my private prayers.

I am through and through a Mormon and I find, on the whole, integrated over space and time, that there is more good than bad in it. The best that is in me is a product of this Church. The worst I have to blame on my genes and my parents (kidding Mom and Dad, just seeing if you are paying any attention to this.) But, man, there are some things in the Church that just drive me crazy! Far too frequently Church members react to people pointing out problems or complaining about the Church by saying, “Well why don’t you go find another Church!” My conviction is that such reactions are not only naive, the members imagining they live in a Church that doesn’t really but also uncharitable such that their eternal destiny might just be headed South, where it is a little warmer, as then Elder Hugh B. Brown told a BYU audience, since as Paul said, without charity we are nothing.


  1. I often wear colored shirts to Church and purple to me signifies the common (and thus equalizing) royalty in all of us; we no longer live in an era where only the few could wear purple.
  2. But I need to write a follow-up since all my anarchy reading of the last year has gotten me thinking about the need for fostering diversity and small-scale disorder within the Church.
  3. I read How to Speak, How to Listen.
  4. Exceptions to the slow drift certainly occur, such as with the death of Heber J. Grant where J. Reuben Clark lost his position of influence or the replacing of Hugh B. Brown with Harold B. Lee in the First Presidency upon the death of President McKay.
  5. “Whitehead is one of the least-read and rarely-cited philosophers in the American climate and maybe has the fewest serious followers. For Mormons it is at least interesting that such views commended themselves to one of the most religious of thoughtful men in the Twentieth Century.” Truman Madsen review of “A Christian Natural Theology”, BYU Studies 6:3-4
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One response to “Mormon Discipleship

  1. Michelle

    Brian,
    Excellent post. You made so many good points, including this one:

    “I have largely been silent publicly. I have written blogs, for myself and friends but kept them password protected and not indexed by search engines. My only exception to this has been one Sunstone publication. Recent events in the Church have forced me to rethink my public silence. So many people from the Church Public Affairs Department to bloggers to people commenting on news stories (and blogs) describe a Church very different from what I have experienced and that I know many of my friends and acquaintances have experienced. I cannot in good conscience not join (in my own obscure way) the cacophony of Mormon voices. I hope that my friends and acquaintances join me so that the spectrum of Mormon experiences are more fully and accurately depicted.”

    This is exactly how I feel, Brian. I am mostly silent, except in quiet conversations with close friends and family. I don’t know if I will ever be brave enough to post like you have above. Maybe someday I’ll muster the courage to show those around me that, actually, I don’t share some of their common thoughts, and that the membership of the church can have lots of different flavors and still function, and that it might even function better if we just showed our true colors.

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