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Monday, September 17, 2018

My Response to the Public Outcry Relating to Sam Young's Excommunication

Hello again, everyone! While I continue to welcome and appreciate any comments on any post I have previously done, and while I do not want to draw attention away from all the significant things that are happening in the Church, I wanted to take an opportunity to "sound off" in response to the somewhat vituperative public outcry against the Church in the matter of Sam Young's excommunication.

First, a review: Sam Young, a former bishop, raised some concerns he had about the Church's policies and procedures relating to interviewing youth and children. But he took the expression of his concerns to an unhealthy level, going on a "hunger strike" that lasted several weeks, and going so far as to say that he would not join the Church today knowing what he knows now, that he would discourage others from joining, and that the Church was willfully protecting those who were conducting themselves in a questionable manner. He further claimed to have a list of several hundred "highly inappropriate" questions which he said others had submitted to him based on their own experiences or that of their families in interviews with Church leaders.

When Sam Young received word that he had been excommunication through the action of a Church disciplinary council, despite his earlier expressed attitude about the climate of the Church and the fact that he would not join it today, and would discourage others from joining as well, he expressed bitter disappointment in his leaders' decision to excommunicate him. Although he lives out of state, he made a trip to the grounds of the Salt Lake Temple to read that letter aloud in front of a crowd. The letter said the reason for this action was his coming out in rebellion against the Church and its' leaders and not correcting course as he had repeatedly been invited to do so. But Young claimed that the one and only reason was his effort to protect the children and youth of the Church.

The action taken by his local leaders, on which the general Church leaders would not offer an opinion, has led to public outrage from many who side with his claim that he was just trying to protect children and youth, and say that if such questions as are on the list Young had were being asked in interviews, that would indeed be inappropriate. There was also outcry about the fact (as some claimed) that his local leaders took this action in retaliation for him having the courage to speak his mind. There were also claims that general Church leadership only changed their policies on children and youth interviews as a result of the concerns he expressed, so many wondered why that would lead to his excommunication.

I have so many problems with this whole scenario. First, the issue was not his efforts to protect the children and youth, but rather his remarks about discouraging others from joining and being ashamed to be a member of a Church that would allow the kind of questions on the list he had. He also publicly encouraged others to decline to sustain leaders of the Church.

Second, bishop's interviews are supposed to be confidential, and if anyone had a problem with any questions they were asked in any given interview, the proper way to handle the matter would be to take it up with the next leader in the chain of command in the Church. And if the questions tended to be the kind that would make someone uncomfortable, there are proper ways to handle that.

Third, although not many accounts had been previously shared the "uncomfortable and inappropriate" questions they allegedly been asked during such interviews, it was not until Young started actively campaigning for change on this issue that all of these people suddenly wanted to talk about inappropriate questions they had been asked. If such questions had been asked, and if these people were so bothered by it, why would nothing have been said about it until someone made a big issue of wanting the Church to act on it?

Fourth, the Church had clearly noted in official statements released about this issue that local and general leaders had met with him, reviewed his materials, taken time to understand his concerns, and counsel with him. But he still apparently decided that his protests on the issue would go forward and would bring the change he was expecting.

Fifth, his one big mistake (and that of those defending his actions) is in asserting that the Church did not change procedures until he started raising his concerns. But the Church has been very clear about the fact that when any concern or potential change in doctrine or policy is being considered, if any questions or scenarios arise about which the Brethren have limited or no experience, they solicit the opinion of qualified individuals in those fields to craft informed opinions in the decision-making process.

When mentioning the restructuring of Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums or the replacement of home and visiting teaching with ministering (both were implemented in April), President Nelson indicated that these changes had been "under study for many months". And a similar wording was used in the announcement in late October last year in which the Church noted that the Priesthood and Women's Session would both be held annually.

So for Young to have suggested that the changes to youth interviews were only made when he raised his concerns originally is in direct contradiction to the way things actually work when decisions are made and matters are considered on a general Church level. But the issue goes deeper than that. Some have claimed that for a Church that bears the Savior's name, it is very much contrary to the nature of Christ's character to kick someone out of His Church.

But the Lord has said in modern times that He "cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance", and His admonition during His mortal ministry was for people to "go [their ways] and sin no more." In addition to that, Joseph Smith said this about those who oppose Church policies and its' leaders: "“I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.”

And at a time when apostates in Kirtland tried to suggest that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet and to put someone else in his place, Brigham Young was quoted as follows: "I rose up, and in a plain and forcible manner told them that Joseph was a Prophet and I knew it, and that they might rail and slander him as much as they pleased, [but] they could not destroy the appointment of the Prophet of God; they could only destroy their own authority, cut the thread that bound them to the Prophet and to God, and sink themselves to hell. Many were highly enraged at my decided opposition to their measures."

Following the release of the first Manifesto (which was an official call to end the practice polygamy), Wilford Woodruff said the following: "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty."

The Lord, through Joseph Smith, further said: "When we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man."

I might add that, based on these quotes, the fact that Sam Young kept asserting that his position should be taken more seriously than the official positions of the Church made after thorough consideration of the relevant concerns, and the fact that he persisted in behavior contrary to the counsel of the local and general leaders with whom he met suggests that, despite his previous service as a bishop, he has no understanding of the way Church policies are crafted, and demonstrated a lack of effort to change his behavior and a lack of respect for the counsel of his leaders relating to this issue.

Therefore, the argument that this action was somewhat uncalled for and unjustified seems to me to be somewhat disingenuous at best and blatantly ignorant at worst. Some also claimed that questioning one's leaders would result in one's excommunication without exception. But when the way in which that questioning occurs involves advocating a widespread rejection of the leaders the Lord has called to serve or implying that oneself or a group of individuals knows more about the Lord's will for His Church than those appointed leaders, or suggesting a boycott and rejection of the Church and the doctrines thereof, a line has to be drawn to indicate that is not correct behavior.

I hope that Sam Young will have the sense to realize his error in this matter and will eventually reconcile with the Church and want to rejoin, but part of me has a hard time seeing that as a real possibility given what happened and the way it happened. I want to apologize for getting up on my soapbox about this, but the attitudes that led to this situation unfolding the way it did, along with those who have been so quick to find fault with the way local and general Church leaders handled this issue, really bothers me.

I also hope that the perspective and additional context I have provided on this issue here is helpful to at least some of you who will read it. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly-added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Additional Church News Reported

Hello again, everyone! The Church News has reported three new developments recently. President Nelson spent his time in British Columbia sharing advice with parents as they continue to raise their children in an ever-changing world. Following the devotional held in Washington, 31 twitter posts highlighted the hashtag "followtheprophet". And  11 female Church members have been called to serve on the Primary and Young Women General Boards.

But perhaps the most significant Church-related development was one reported earlier today by the Church News. Church leaders (the First Presidency in particular) are recommending a special session should be held for the Utah State Legislature before the end of this year to regulate the legalization of medical marijuana in Utah.

As I previously noted, the Church is not opposed to the use of medical marijuana, and recognizes the benefits that many would get from having it available. The problem is and always has been the wording of the current initiative going on the ballot for Utahns this November, as there are too many loopholes that would not regulate it sufficiently and would open the possibility that it could be used recreationally by some people, with no penalties in place if that were to happen.

But the Church all along has said that many people would benefit from legal marijuana use, and that if an appropriate measure could be approved, the Church would get behind it. Although the Church remains politically neutral in relation to candidates, they have called on governments at various times to act on various issues. So the suggestion for a special session of the Utah legislature is in line with the Church's tradition of seeing a need and suggesting the most appropriate way to approach the issue. You can read more about that here.

I continue to monitor any and all Church news and temple developments and will do my level best to pass those along to you all as I receive word of them. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly-added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.