The discipleship of the stressed.

It is easy to be righteous when things are calm and life is good and everything is going smoothly. The test is when there is real trial or temptation, when there is pressure and fatigue, anger and fear, or the possibility of real transgression. Can we be faithful then? That is the question because “Israel, Israel, God is calling.” Such integrity is, of course, the majesty of “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” —right when forgiving and understanding and being generous about your crucifiers is the last thing that anyone less perfect than the Savior of the world would want to do. But we have to try; we have to wish to be strong. Whatever the situation or the provocation or the problem, no true disciple of Christ can “check his religion at the door.”

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Israel, Israel, God Is Calling,” devotional address, January 2012, italics in original.
This is why our tendency to do less well when stressed, tired, worn out, or genuinely wronged is so sobering and telling.

Perhaps at least, we can keep wishing, and not use such extenuating circumstances as excuses. While we should welcome God’s mercy on such points, we ought not to be too merciful with ourselves in advance.

Cafeteria Christians

As General Conference begins, may I be preserved from any desire to be a “Cafeteria Christian.”

Our relationship to living prophets is not one in which their sayings are a smorgasbord from which we may take only that which pleases us. We are to partake of all that is placed before us, including the spinach, and to leave a clean plate!

Neal A. Maxwell, Things As They Really Are (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1978), 74.

How dare you ask me

I have on occasion seen members of the Church who are upset if they are asked about their ultimate convictions or “testimonies.” They seem to see this as an unfair intrusion.

Certainly, no one can be forced to articulate their issues of ultimate concern. Such things are personal, and move us deeply.

But, I do not understand the grudging attitude which some adopt, the I-shouldn’t-have-to-do-this-but-I-will-to-shut-you-up stance.

Perhaps that’s true. Perhaps they shouldn’t “have” to do it (whatever that means). But, why would you mind?

True disciples are “ready always” to contribute articulately to God’s work at any time and in any place (1 Peter 3:15).

Neal A. Maxwell, That Ye May Believe (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1992), 15.

Some act as if giving “an answer” (an apologia in the language of 1 Peter cited by Elder Maxwell) is something optional, or beneath them, or inappropriate given their role or venue.

Elder Maxwell and Peter seem to disagree.

The trial of your faith

As we discussed yesterday, there is a growing sense among some that discipleship does not—or should not—demand anything particularly difficult, or at least nothing that involves the loss or sacrifice of a true good.

Those who adopt this stance seem to have not paid attention, either to scripture or to the lives we live daily.

One of the more difficult is responding to things we think are wrong—things which may even be wrong. Too many act as if such things deserve a “pass” or don’t follow the same rules.

[Something] that happens in our lives is named “the trial of your faith.” As long as we live in the Church and in the world the process that’s going on is the trial of our faith. Sometimes we say: “The Brethren did ‘this’ and it tried my faith.” Or we say, “the bishop did ‘this’ and it tried my faith.” Well, maybe it does. That’s fine—that’s what life is all about. One of the great objectives of being in the Church is to see whether we’ll pass something that is named “the trial of our faith” in spite of everything that goes on, that may or may not be what it ought to be. If something ought not be the way it is, that’s sad—that’s just part of life—and we have to survive and do the right thing ourselves in spite of it.

Bruce R. McConkie, “1st Peter,” unpublished lecture transcript, University of Utah Institute, 27 May 1968; cited in Dennis B. Horne (ed.), Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluation Doctrinal Truth (Roy, Utah: Eborn Books, 2005), 325.

The sins and mistakes of others, then–no matter who they are–provide us no excuse, no exception, no relief from the stern demands of discipleship.

Indeed, it is for just such moments that discipleship comes into its own.

Avoiding spiritual gangrene

God refuses to give his children an aspirin for treating the consequences of sin when what we need is surgery. He will refuse to give us a rubdown when what we need are splints or a cast. He is not a silent, indifferent monarch in the sky, nor is he an indulgent grandfather figure who will give his children the irrelevant and incomplete therapy of partial truth. Only a portion of what he knows can we understand; and so much of what he would have us avoid, we must avoid by simple faith in what lies behind his “divine don’t.” This leaves us in a position like that of Adam, who acted in part on faith: “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” (Moses 5:6.)

 Neal A. Maxwell, “Talk of the Month,” New Era(May 1971).

More and more I am seeing a strange idea. The idea is often present implicitly, but I’m starting to see it stated outright, as a sort of axiom or self-evident point.

That claims is that nothing God will ask of us would make us unhappy, or cause us discomfort, or make us suffer, or ask us to give up something good.

Certainly, nothing God asks will make us unhappy in the long view—but that long view extends beyond death and into the millennial years of the Lord.

“My kingdom is not of this world,” however.

For those who push it, the utility of this point of view is clear, though—one can simply use one’s reaction against a commandment or demand as evidence for whether it comes from God.

With such reasoning, Lehi’s journey in the desert could have been safely discarded. Indeed, Laman and Lemuel did so, complaining years later that but for Lehi’s visionary nature,

it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions. Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy” (1 Nephi 17:20-21, italics added).

Those who so argue will find many with welcoming, itching ears. But, those are not ears that have listened very closely to Jesus’ warnings. Eyes and hands are unarguably good things. Yet, Jesus tells us that even they must be severed and cast from us, on occasion. And, not insignificantly, such warnings come in the context of sexual morality:

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Matthew 5:28–30).

One of the cruelest things people do is assure others that their sins aren’t sins, or that they won’t be regarded as sins for long. This distracts from the steeling of self to do the plucking out, cutting off, and casting away.

Such things will undoubtedly hurt. But, it is a poor physician who assures you that a soothing poultice will do when amputation is the only answer. Gangrene does, eventually, set in.

And when it does, the quack is nowhere to be found.

More evidence of John Dehlin’s economy with the truth

In my last post, I pointed out how John Dehlin neglected to release a document that disputes the narrative he wishes to spread regarding his pending Church discipline.

Specifically, he did not release an August 11 letter from his stake president until later.

Now, a perceptive observer has done a bit of forensic analysis on the documents.

This observer points out that the version 3 of the letters has the following file properties:

Version 3
Creation date: Wed 14 Jan 2015 07:55:23 PM EST
Last edit: Thu 15 Jan 2015 02:56:36 PM EST
Tool to create: Mac OS X 10.9.4 Quartz PDFContext

And, the hidden packet with the August 11 letter has these properties:

Dehlin-King correspondence
Creation date: Wed 14 Jan 2015 07:55:23 PM EST
Last edit: Wed 14 Jan 2015 09:23:30 PM EST
Tool to create: Mac OS X 10.9.4 Quartz PDFContext

I’ve bolded the key data.

It appears that the packet was originally created with the letter in it. But, it was edited to remove the inconvenient letter that might lead the press to tell the true story, instead of the story that Dehlin wanted told. But, that creation date still shows in the Dehlin-King correspondence file, which has the incriminating August 11 letter.

(And, the edit to “Version 3″ occurred before the release of Dehlin’s press release (which has a creation date of Thu 15 Jan 2015 07:00:50 PM EST).

Full details are here.

This is one more good example of what has gotten Dehlin in trouble–a lack of forthrightness, and a willingness to distort and spin information to make himself look good and the Church look bad.

Dehlin has yet to even acknowledge his deception regarding the August 11 letter, or the implications of its contents for his claims.

I wonder if the media is paying attention? Surely they can’t be OK with being used.

Files in question

Dehlin screenshot 11 Aug link

Summary

A non-tech savvy friend asked for the “neaderthal’s” version. Here was my attempt:

  1. Dehlin makes a packet containing all correspondence between him and stake president.
  2. Prior to releasing his press release, he then EXCISES the 11 August letter from that packet.
  3. However, he gives the game away because when he quietly releases the complete packet, we see that it has the precise creation date as the 1st (incomplete) packet. But, the 1st (“Version 3″) packet was edited at a later date than the complete packet–probably to REMOVE the offending letter.

So, he didn’t just MISS the letter. He had it, cut it out, and then snuck the original file packet back on the site after the initial round of media stories broke.

John Dehlin and media manipulation

Some readers will know that John Dehlin, an LDS member who has long argued against core LDS doctrines, has announced that he is on trial for his membership.

Dehlin has demonstrated his usual skill at manipulating the media, aided perhaps by reporters who are too sympathetic and not inquisitive enough. Recent events give us another glimpse into his tactics. Dehlin announced his council and provided a copy of the normally-confidential documents exchanged by him and his local leader, the stake president. These are linked to here, and are apparently up to version 4. (They were version 3 yesterday). [I link to them here on my site, in case later changes by Dehlin obscure this evidence.]

Ad hominem to start off

One reporter was savvy enough to get a quote from Steve Evans, who suggested that it was unlikely that Dehlin’s support for gay marriage and the Ordain Women movement were behind his discipline.

(It’s also funny to see him resort, as he always does, to using “Mormon apologist” as a smear. I know Evans and consider him a good friend, but I also know Mormon apologetics–and that just isn’t an area that Evans has been much involved in. But, for Dehlin, “apologist” is an all-purpose ad hominem smear–see here on pp. 8-11 for numerous examples. The “apologist” serves as Dehlin’s sociological folk devil. Ironically, he too is an apologist for his own views, and has followers that are apologists for him too. To reason is to apologize, in this sense.)

Trying to rebut Evans’ view

Since this is the narrative which Dehlin has been keen to play up, it is not surprising that he would wish to rebut Evans. Today, he wrote:

In the letter I received on August 7, 2014 from Dr. Bryan King, it lists as #3 on his list of conditions for continued membership:

“Stop promoting groups or organizations that espouse doctrines contrary to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

In my August meeting with Bryan King, I asked him to clarify specifically which groups or organizations were problematic. In that interview (with my wife, Margi, present), he explicitly mentioned both Ordain Women, and my public support of same-sex marriage as being problematic. When asked directly if my public support of same-sex marriage was a problem, he answered, “Yes.”

While it is impossible for anyone to accurately weigh the various factors that contributed to the decision to hold a disciplinary council, it is very accurate to say that my support for same-sex marriage and Ordain Women was a main factor (#3 of 4 specifically listed).[1]

Dehlin includes a hotlink on the text letter I received on August 7, 2014 from Dr. Bryan King. This link goes to a slightly different package of letters. It is available here.

A significant omission

The package appears the same, and it is—with one addition. In the package is an 11 August 2014 letter from Dr. King, Dehlin’s stake president. Dehlin nowhere draws attention to this sudden addition to his packet of materials. He does not even mention it in his rebuttal to Evans. This is unfortunate, because it speaks directly to the issue he wishes to rebut. President King’s August 11 was written in response to Dehlin’s 10 August letter. He writes:

Thank you for sending the [August 10] letter from you and Margi. I fear that in my willingness to engage in a discussion on all of the issues that you chose to address during our lengthy conversations, the direction of my true concerns may have not been clear.[2]

Thus, President King writes to correct what he sees as a misperception on Dehlin’s part. What is that misperception? Unsurprisingly, it is precisely the narrative that Dehlin is now trying to sell to the media. President King continued:

I am focused on five core doctrines of the Church: (1) The existence and nature of God; (2) Christ being the literal Savior of the World and his Atonement being absolutely necessary to our salvation; 3) the exclusive priesthood authority restored through the Church; (4) The Book of Mormon as scripture and the revealed word of God; and (5) the governance of the Church by doctrine and revelation through inspired leaders. As you know, and as my letter outlined, in the past you have written and spoken out against these core doctrines on numerous occasions and in numerous public contexts…. If you are prepared to renounce your previous statements we can move forward together.

Note that it is these statements which King believes Dehlin must renounce. He says nothing–in this clarifying letter–about the other matters that Dehlin wants to make the focus of his narrative. President King seems aware that Dehlin is preparing his letters with an eye to shaping the narrative that he will eventually wish to spread to his followers and the media:

…as I read your response, it reinforced my concern that your letter is an attempt to produce an official document of what occurred during our meetings. I feel that it is impossible to fully recount the spirit and context of our discussions in a written document.

Thus, President King has seen Dehlin’s document, and does not agree with Dehlin’s slant on things. President King has even written this letter to correct the written record. Yet, Dehlin tells the media none of this, does not include this letter in the packet he has released, and has quietly slipped it into this second collection of documents without noting his previous omission, and without citing it. President King concludes:

I hope that in the spirit of confidentiality, you will not be releasing it to the media and posting it on your web site. I hope that I am mistaken about this, because I believe it would undermine the trust we need to have in order to move forward. But if you nevertheless decide to post your letter, I hope that you will have the fairness to post mine along with it, making it clear that I presented my letter to you at the beginning of our meeting and that it contains the true focus of my concerns about your conduct.

Conclusion

President King is certainly not naïve—he predicted Dehlin’s course exactly. He is quite right that in the interest of fairness, Dehlin ought to provide all the data to allow easy comparison. I suppose that by putting the highly significant August 11 letter somewhere on his website, buried in a file that appears to be a duplicate of something he has already released, Dehlin has technically made the material available. (A search of “August 11,” however, turns up nothing. If you don’t know the letter is there, buried in what you have already seen, you will miss it.)

So, I don’t know if I’d really call his treatment of the matter open, honest, or fair. And, the initial rush of media stories has been written without access to this significant and telling piece of information.

Here’s hoping someone in the media is paying attention.

Dehlin has misrepresented matters to them using precisely the same tactics that he has used toward and about members and doctrines of the Church—spin, significant omission, and an avoidance of anything that challenges his narrative.

It seems, according to his stake president, that it is Dehlin’s repeated and open attacks on foundational LDS doctrines that is the key issue.

And, such tactics are not new for Dehlin–as I demonstrated at length years ago. Dehlin likewise tried to censor and hide my report–as I detailed here. Many others have had the same experience (this blog is collecting such examples, to which readers can add if they wish).

He certainly doesn’t want anyone to see data which challenges his version of matters.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


 Endnotes

[1] John Dehlin, “Reasons for Disciplinary Council,” Mormon Stories (17 January 2015, as of 20h01 MST).

[2] Bryan King, letter to John Dehlin, 11 August 2014.