Zelophehad’s Daughters

Something Different in the First Presidency Letter?

Posted by Ziff

Yesterday a letter from the First Presidency was read in my ward’s sacrament meeting. It sounded like the standard letter that’s sent every so often asking members to please not write to Salt Lake about our concerns but instead to talk to our bishops or branch presidents.

But at the end I thought I heard something different from what these letters usually sound like. There was a bit where I think they said if you have a question or concern that your stake/district/mission president agrees might be helpful to bring up to the general leadership of the Church, your president can write about it to them on your behalf.

I concede that it’s entirely possible that either I misheard yesterday, or I wasn’t paying close enough attention every other time in the past when similar letters were read. But, on the off chance that this is new, I find it a very encouraging sign. I understand that the Church will always be run from the top down. But I’ve long wondered why the general leadership seemed so determined not to accept any feedback from the members, particularly when some members have such good ideas for making church better.

Of course I realize that their demanding schedules would require questions/comments/suggestions to be filtered somehow. I always figured an easy solution might be to have some employees at Church headquarters read everything, tally things up (278,511 requests for a 2 hour block, 5 requests for a 4 hour block, etc.), and then pass along suggestion counts and perhaps any particularly useful sounding unique suggestions to the general leadership. This might work kind of like how I assume politicians handle many letters or emails they receive. But (again assuming that I’m right that this is new) it appears that they’ve chosen instead to filter suggestions at the members’ end, by having local leaders decide what’s worth passing along.

So I have a few questions. Did anyone else hear this letter read yesterday? Did anyone else hear this bit at the end about having your local leadership write on your behalf if they agree your question is important? If so, has this bit always been in the “please don’t write us; our schedules are busy enough already” letters from the First Presidency, or is it actually new?

35 Responses to “Something Different in the First Presidency Letter?”

  1. 1.

    Ziff,

    I can think of an even better way they should handle the letters that arrive at church HQ. They should employ you to make graphs (pie, bar, and line) showing which questions and requests come up the most, then perform regression analysis to control for which geographic areas sent in more questions. Then you can assign a weighted value, so the people at the top know what is most important. Simple.

    I haven’t heard the most recent letter, so I don’t know if the content is different from the previous ones. But the idea of writing a letter to general authorities strikes me as really ineffectiive, and I should know. I once wrote a 4 page letter to the church commissioner of education outlining all the reasons why we should do away with early morning seminary. My reasoning was flawless and I can only assume he found my arguments unanswerable, because he never answered my letter. And looking back, I’m glad he didn’t, because I should never have sent it. I wrote it in an emotional moment, a few hours after the car which was carrying my son home from seminary was involved in a serious accident.

    Often, the letters that I hear read in conference present problems that have no clean and immediate answer. What, exactly, do women who write to the church president about their husband’s porno problem expect Thomas S. Monson to do about it? It seems that what is needed is someone to talk to, and for that, local leaders (SPs, bishops, RS presidents, etc.) are all that the church can offer.

    And I have to wonder how seriously they expect us to take the admonition to not write letters to HQ when some of those letters gain tacit approval by being read in conference.

  2. 2.

    From an earlier version of the same letter: “Such leaders who have need for further clarification about doctrinal issues may write in behalf of their members to the First Presidency.” (Ensign, Dec. 1990, p.71.)

  3. 3.

    I wonder why they don’t publish these letters from the first presidency in the Ensign, or somewhere, so we can read them. Like you, I have often wondered if I misheard, or my 1-year-old called my attention away for a more immediate need.

    I guess they don’t always want a paper trail.

  4. 4.

    2008:

    “Members of the Church continue to place telephone calls and write letters to Church headquarters about doctrinal issues and personal matters. The ability of General Authorities to respond personally to these inquiries presents an almost insurmountable task and makes it difficult for the Brethren to fulfill the duties for which they alone are responsible.

    The Lord, in His wisdom, has organized His Church so that every member has a bishop, or branch president and a stake, district or mission president, who serve as spiritual advisers and temporal counselors.

    We have the utmost confidence in the wisdom and judgment of these priesthood leaders. By reason of their callings, local leaders are entitled to the spirit of discernment and inspiration to enable them to counsel members within their jurisdiction.

    Accordingly, in most cases, correspondence from members will be referred back to their local leaders for handling. Stake presidents who have need for further clarification about doctrinal or procedural issues may write to the First Presidency in behalf of their members.

    It is our desire that all members will feel they have the support and guidance they need; however, all things should be done in wisdom and order. We believe that both members and local leaders will be blessed as they pray and counsel together in an effort to resolve matters of concern to them.”

    2004:

    “Members of the Church continue to place telephone calls and write letters to Church headquarters about doctrinal issues and personal matters. With an ever-increasing membership, the ability of General Authorities to respond personally to these inquiries presents an almost insurmountable task and makes it difficult for the Brethren to fulfill the duties for which they alone are responsible.

    The Lord, in His wisdom, has so organized His Church that there is accessible to every member a bishop or branch president and a stake, district, or mission president, who serve as spiritual advisers and temporal counselors. We have the utmost confidence in the wisdom and judgment of these priesthood leaders. By reason of their callings, local leaders are entitled to the spirit of discernment and inspiration to enable them to counsel members within their jurisdiction.

    Accordingly, in most cases, correspondence from members will be referred back to their local leaders for handling. Priesthood leaders who have need for further clarification about doctrinal issues may write in behalf of their members to the First Presidency.

    It is our desire that all members feel they have the support and guidance they need; however, all things should be done in wisdom and order. We believe that both members and local leaders will be blessed as they pray and counsel together in an effort to resolve matters of concern to them.”

    1992:

    “The General Authorities of the Church have a special commission to serve as witnesses of Jesus Christ and to watch over the Church. In their service at Church headquarters or in Area Presidencies throughout the world, requests for personal counseling, administrations to the sick, special priesthood blessings, answers to doctrinal questions, and requests to officiate in temple sealings create an almost insurmountable task.

    The Lord has provided bishoprics, branch presidencies and stake, mission or district presidencies to share the task of ministering to the members. They hold the Melchizedek Priesthood as do the General Authorities. They have love and concern for those they are called to serve and are entitled to the spirit of discernment and inspiration in ministering to them. They are best acquainted with the members and with their needs and concerns.

    Members should seek the counsel and assistance of their local authorities. If local leaders are unable to resolve a matter, they will seek the assistance of the General Authorities as the Lord has provided and directed through established channels.”

    1990:

    “Members of the Church continue to place telephone calls and write letters to Church headquarters about doctrinal issues and personal matters. With the ever increasing membership, the ability to respond personally to these inquiries presents an almost insurmountable task.

    The Lord in His wisdom so organized His Church that there is accessible to every member – man, woman and child – a bishop or branch president and a stake or mission president who serve as spiritual advisers and as temporal counselors. By reason of their ordination, these priesthood leaders are entitled to the spirit of discernment and inspiration to enable them to counsel members within their jurisdiction. Such leaders who have need for further clarification about doctrinal issues may write in behalf of their members to the First Presidency.

    In expressing our love and appreciation for the faith and devotion of members of this Church everywhere, we are confident that both members and local leaders will be blessed as they pray and counsel together to resolve issues of concern to them.”

  5. 5.

    Mind you, this policy even applies when members have serious concerns about their local stake president. If a member believes their stake president is in error, and becomes concerned enough to write a letter to the general authorities, that letter is simply forwarded back to the person’s stake president, without further action. Thus, if you have legitimate concerns, all your letter will do is create animosity from the very person who’s actions led to your concerns. I’ve seen this happen when I’ve served as a stake executive secretary.

  6. 6.

    I’ve never even considered writing a letter to a GA so I don’t usually pay much attention when the subject comes up, but the mention of local leadership reminded me of a few things.

    Years ago when I was an exec secretary, the bishop and his counselors would talk amongst themselves about how to get members in the ward to rely more on their hometeachers for blessings and someone to just talk to in times of trouble. That seemed reasonable at the time.

    A few years later, I got a slightly different perspective when my wife swallowed her pride and went to the bishop to talk about a torubling issue only to have him blow her off (at least that is how she felt) by referring her to our hometeacher.

    The connection to the GA letter writing thing is simply one of caution. I know that the leaders can’t deal with all the problems people bring to them. But it can feel hurtful to people if they feel like they are being ignored or disregarded in any way. I don’t have a solution — and this isn’t a criticism of church leaders — this experience just made me more aware of the potential problem.

  7. 7.

    ESO – There is a paper trail. Talk to your bishop. These are usually stored in the clerk’s office.

    Second – if you have issues regarding technology issues in the Church, I would invite you to start perusing tech.lds.org. Complaints about Church technology issues are moderated/read by project managers in some cases and are escalated to development teams.

    (Although, what you’ll hear frequently is that some technical issues remain undecided due to the brethren not making a decision. But still, it’s nice to be heard.)

    (Hey, for some of us, getting FamilySearch and lds.org features to work correctly is a bigger deal than Adam-God.)

  8. 8.

    They probably just don’t want 1,000 letters coming in every day from people of dubious common sense or even sanity requesting that someone replace the drinking fountain by the Relief Society room, or how their Bishop ruined their marriage.

  9. 9.

    Thanks, Justin and R. Gary, for demonstrating conclusively that this was just a case of me paying attention at the right time for once rather than that the letter had changed in any substantial way.

    I have to wonder how seriously they expect us to take the admonition to not write letters to HQ when some of those letters gain tacit approval by being read in conference.

    Mark, I have wondered the same thing. I wonder if perhaps the General Authorities like to receive letters–they want to know what’s on people’s minds–but practical-minded people around them point out that they really get way too much mail to get to even a fraction of it, so they agree and send the “please don’t write us” letters.

    It kind of reminds me of Moses getting advice from Jethro about taking on too much work as a church leader in Exodous 18:13-26.

  10. 10.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for the sense of feeling heard, even if a situation doesn’t get changed in the way you’d like it. And I’ve wondered if there might be ways to make that more possible. I realize that the church is just too big for people to go have a chat with a GA about what’s personally bothering them, and I can certainly appreciate why thousands of letters from members could make it difficult for them to focus on what they need to be doing. But for those with concerns or suggestions related to church-wide practices or teachings, as opposed to specific local issues, the problem is that even if your local leaders happen to be sympathetic, they’re really not in a position to do anything. I imagine that’s why, at least some of the time, people go over their heads and write GAs despite the repeated counsel not to do so.

    I’m curious–does anyone have any experience with doing this the approved way, and having a local leader write the GAs on your behalf?

  11. 11.

    I’m curious–does anyone have any experience with doing this the approved way, and having a local leader write the GAs on your behalf?

    I wasn’t the person approaching the leader, but I knew of a bishop who did this, on a doctrinal issue. (He also knew that the Brethren would do nothing, but I think was trying to be responsive to this member.) FWIW.

  12. 12.

    Mark, I would love the job of extracting data from letters sent to Church headquarters! It would be fun both because I love data gathering and playing, but also because I would be fascinated to see what people write about. Or at least I think I would be. The reality would probably be as you describe it, Seth, and I would lose my mind from boredom.

    Glenn and Nick, I guess the examples you cite show that the “bump things back down the chain” approach might fail in some circumstances, even if it’s likely a good approach for much of what’s written. Particularly when someone’s complaint is about the chain of authority above them as in the example you cite, Nick, it seems like there should be a way to complain to their superiors and be heard. As you, Glenn, and Lynnette said, there’s a lot to be said for just feeling that you’re being heard.

    That’s really interesting, m&m, about a bishop writing to the general leadership about something just to be responsive. That’s actually an encouraging counterpoint to the other stories. Come to think of it, I’ve done a similar thing when working in a customer service job, where a customer had a complaint, and I knew the management people weren’t going to do anything about it, but I passed it along to them just so the customer would know they were being heard.

    ESO, I’d like to see letters from the First Presidency published too. I know I’ve seen some tacked up to ward bulletin boards in my church building. But is there a more official archive that we can get to? Justin, how did you have these letters to quote, by consulting some such archive, or by being a packrat in a leadership position? (I say that with only affection for packrats, being a great one myself, as my sisters can attest to. :) )

  13. 13.

    Justin, how did you have these letters to quote, by consulting some such archive, or by being a packrat in a leadership position?

    I found the letters in the Church News online archives. It’s difficult to remember what’s said in these letters, and sometimes parts aren’t read over the pulpit.

  14. 14.

    I should add that the Church News is selective in printing letters from Salt Lake City. I’d like to see the one about worthiness standards for missionaries.

  15. 15.

    I understand the problem with member’s problem-letters to the GAs, as most problems can be solved within the stake. However, about 30 years ago I sent a letter to the First Presidency, that was acted on: I’d been working for Utah State Welfare and was upset because of all the women applying for assistance, since their (ex-)husbands weren’t paying the much-needed child support. Many of those (ex-)husbands were active in the church, some having leadership positions, attending the temple, etc., while their “former” families were without adequate living expenses. It was a year or so later when another question, addressing this problem, was added to the temple recommend interview.

  16. 16.

    The hard part is that it can leave people feeling like they don’t have a voice. When I brought my questions to my bishop regarding women and their role, his response was that God was a man, there are some things men can do that women can’t (but he wasn’t a chauvanist!), etc. He also asked what anti-mormon literature I was reading and then stopped talking to me.

    The bottom line is that he simply was not equipped to deal with my issues. The ideas behind them blew him away. I think that the leaders send out these messages, but then don’t equip local leaders to deal with the docterinal issues that members have. Just my 2 cents.

  17. 17.

    This reminds me of Elder Packer’s infamous “Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council” May 18, 1993:

    These letters and hundreds more are from members who are hurting or leaders who are worried. I might say here that I can see in the last few weeks a change in the letters coming in. There isn’t time to talk about it now, but out in the Church there is another growing group of the discontented. That is the rank and file who are trying to do what they are supposed to do and feel neglected as we concentrate on solving the problems of the exceptions.

    Those who are hurting think they are not understood. They are looking for a champion, an advocate, someone with office and influence from whom they can receive comfort. They ask us to speak about their troubles in general conference, to put something in the curriculum, or to provide a special program to support them in their problems or with their activism.

    When members are hurting, it is so easy to convince ourselves that we are justified, even duty bound, to use the influence of our appointment or our calling to somehow represent them. We then become their advocates — sympathize with their complaints against the Church, and perhaps even soften the commandments to comfort them. Unwittingly we may turn about and face the wrong way. Then the channels of revelation are reversed. Let me say that again. Then the channels of revelation are reversed. In our efforts to comfort them, we lose our bearings and leave that segment of the line to which we are assigned unprotected.

    How do I say this without being snarky… um… let me just say it this way:

    What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

  18. 18.

    Several years ago, I wrote a letter to the COB. In it, I complained about both the district and branch presidents, but I couched my complaint about the DP by saying I thought he was a good man who wanted to do the right thing, but had a hard time understanding our perspective. I wrote it that way because I knew it was coming back to him, but I didn’t want him to know that I knew.

    I could tell when the letter came back down the chain, because the DP suddenly made a more concerted effort to understand me and my family.

  19. 19.

    This is an issue that’s very near and dear to my heart.

    What does one do if one has been wrong by one’s stake president? Someone exceptionally dear to me has been grieviously wronged by their stake president, and any attempts to clear the matter have been sent back to the same stake president, perpetuating a vicious cycle of ecclesiastical abuse.

    I understand that most stake presidents are just imperfect men trying to do the right thing, but what does one do if one’s local church leaders are in the wrong? They are the persecutors, judges, and funnels to higher authority?

  20. 20.

    Dora,

    I sure hope this doesn’t come across as flippant or belittling in any way, but I have to ask: if your friend understands their hand is going to get slammed if they stick it under the hammer, why do they continue to stick it under the hammer?

    My only point is that I believe God loves your friend and will comfort and succor your friend regardless of anything the local church leaders can say or do about it.

    Obviously I don’t know the details here, so I am speaking in complete ignorance, but I have had similar experiences and have just had to tell myself that I’m not going to go there — I’ll work it out with the Lord on my own. And one of the great things about this gospel is that we can.

    Through small things, great things can come to pass. That little feeling of hope in my gut or the sweet release of forgiveness does it for me sometimes. But again, I’ve never felt the urge to write a letter and take things up the chain, so it is possible that I really just don’t understand.

    And bottom line for me — if your local church leaders are clearly in the wrong, and you just can’t deal with them anymore — then don’t.

  21. 21.

    My husband and I have written to an area authority about a stake president–at the urging of a respected older friend in the church who suggested that would be the proper chain of authority for going over the stake president’s head.

    We specified that we were not requesting intervention in our particular instance, and we did not name the stake president involved, but said that we simply wanted to provide our perspective. We suggested what would have been more helpful under the circumstances, requesting additional training for leaders in dealing with this particular issue.

    We received a reply from the area authority which stated that we had not provided enough information for them to take any action. Though we felt a bit disappointed at the response, we didn’t feel impressed to pursue the matter further.

    I’ve also sent a letter to a general auxilliary president with a suggestion for a particular church-wide program and received a personal response from that leader to the effect of “suggest it to your local auxillary leaders.” I have not yet done so, but perhaps I will!

  22. 22.

    Ziff,
    the church is not run by the membership and likely one impetus for that letter was all the people out there who wrote to the church leadership with suggestions on how the church can be made better.

  23. 23.

    The letter never said that you shouldn’t write the Brethren. Just don’t write them asking for something that your local leaders can address.

    If you’ve got a tearful testimony you want to share in a letter, go ahead.

  24. 24.

    Every time I hear one of these pleas read over the pulpit that members stop writing the First Presidency, I feel great sympathy for the GA’s who have so many issues to deal with. I can’t imagine how local leaders do it either. Because I’m sure a large portion of the letters/suggestions/complaints that have to be dealt with in some way are personal matters that individuals are trying to get someone else to take responsibility for, or they are petty quarrels between members, etc. People can just be strange and difficult, and I admire leaders who take on the task of trying to help them. I agree though that the structu

  25. 25.

    oops, the structure of having everything go back to the SP is a problem if the SP is who you have a problem with in the first place.

  26. 26.

    Dora, and others–
    I have had the experience of being ignored/ridiculed / oppressed on a ward/stake level. I have taken these issues ALL THE WAY to the top (and I don’t mean the Pres. of the Church) and received remarkable answers, counsel and consolation. Such help is there for all of us when leaders are unjust or maybe just distracted or clueless.

  27. 27.

    I agree with queuno (23). There’s a big difference between writing to a GA to say “your talk in the last conference helped me resolve my problem with XYZ” and writing to say “I’m having a problem with XYZ — what should I do?” or worse yet, “I have a problem with the way my bishop does XYZ .”

  28. 28.

    When I heard that letter read, I interpreted it as a way for President Monson to insulate himself from having to answer difficult doctrinal questions to which there are uncomfortable answers.

    It made me feel like the church leadership isolated themselves from very real concerns from sincere members who really want to know the truth about certain (potentially ugly) topics where contradictory information exists.

    The issues I am thinking of include polygamy, book of Abraham, historicity of the Book of Mormon, DNA of the american indians showing migration from Asia, not Israel. I guess I want the church to have the courage to open the can of worms and examine what the evidence would show, drawing an honest conclusion based upon logic.

    I think the church should produce a “frequently asked questions” page and address all of the topics the anti’s and exmo’s bring up. Those issues exist because the church hasn’t sufficiently addressed these topics, to date. I want to know the honest truth, even if it makes the church look bad. I believe the truth should be able to withstand scrutiny.

    Your thoughts?

  29. 29.

    I know the church is true. I know our leaders have been appointed by the Spirit of revelation. No, they might not be perfect yet. But I sure trust them no matter what. In my opinion, what’s the point of knowing everything about those doctrinal questions ? Yes, it’s interesting. But will it help increase my faith ?The Lord has decided not to tell us certain things for the moment. Will we send a chain letter to Him, requesting answers right away ? Won’t we learn from Joseph Smith’s experience with the book of Lehi ? Won’t we refrain from asking what we are not ready to know ? I testify this is the church of God, I know it and that’s what really matters to me.

  30. 30.

    Thanks for your testimony, Guill. I’m not so concerned about being able to write letters about esoteric points of doctrine. I just think it would be useful if the General Authorities made it easier for themselves to receive feedback about things that they could change or do and that they might not object to changing or doing, but they just haven’t thought of. Consider all the tweaking the endowment ceremony has undergone, for example. I expect there’s some core to it that they’re not going to change, but they’re clearly willing to change parts that they consider peripheral.

    Ladyship, I agree that the truth should be able to withstand scrutiny, and I would rather know the bad than have it hidden. That being said, I can see how Church leaders would rather not open what they see as cans of worms by addressing topics that will only make the Church look bad. I suspect they’re more than happy to leave discussion of those points to apologetics groups, although I agree with you that it would be kind of fun to see a big FAQ like you describe on lds.org.

    Thanks for the clarification queuno. That’s a good point. I’ll be sure to share a tearful testimony in my next letter to President Monson so he doesn’t send it back down the line marked “could be resolved at a lower level.” :)

    Anonymous, you noted that “the church is not run by its membership.” But, I would argue, neither are its leaders necessarily inspired to know everything that needs to happen. Can’t this life be a test for them just as it is for us? I think it would definitely be worthwhile for members in general to make suggestions to the general leadership and be heard. Consider the story of Zelophehad’s daughters from which this blog gets its name, for example.

    Tanya Sue and Dora, I’m sorry that this “please don’t bug us so much” policy makes it so you have no recourse when you have trouble with your immediate leaders.

  31. 31.

    The request to not write or call the general authorities of the church gives them ‘plausible deniability:.
    Higher general authorities can state that “they hear no complaints” from women who have faced unrighteous dominion in the wards and stakes. It allows the stake president to filter knowledge of his actions from those at higher levels. It makes it difficult for members to ask for clarification on a theological point.
    For example: I was told by a bishop that confidentiality was “whoever the Bishop thought needed to know.”
    I had thought confidentiality was between the Bishop and the member. This was not a criminal issue, just the discussion in an interview of whether church attendance was measured by the required sacrament service or if a member was also required to attend Sunday School, when participating male members were interjecting derogatory sexual remarks about women (e.g. calling their not yet temple married daughter in law a hoochie ma ma) or making derogatory gender jokes (e.g. What are the 3 fastest forms of modern communication? Telephone, telegraph and tell a woman.)
    I received, by mail, a two page letter of reprimand from a woman in our congregation, who had been apprised of my situation from this Bishop.
    Is there a definition of confidentiality in our church, or is it left to the subjective discretion of each Bishop to decide what confidentiality means?
    Does this “don’t bother us” approach by the general authorities allow Stake Presidents and Bishops to run their stakes and wards without oversight by the larger church? If so, would that explain the variation between stake requirements to renew temple recommends. (e.g. in one city, women can receive their endowments, in another, they must wait until their less active husband requests and receives his endowment before they can attend the temple).
    I do want to know how this works as schools have learned to use a due rights process and oversight committees to review procedural problems that come up from time to time. Of course, schools also give individuals rights and follow state and federal codes of law.

  32. 32.

    Glen gave us good advice when we are clearly wronged by church leaders. Turn to the lord in sincere prayer. I received an answer and a little miracle (finding my lost diamond in a large mica gravel beach area).
    I followed the prayer’s answer, rose above the situation, and reached out in love to offer to help, or pay for others to help, if those leaders needed to be taught by men. They have companies that do this type of training for school districts, when needed.
    We continued to attend church for months afterwards.
    For me, it was to prove to my husband, a newer member, that my church was good and just and could work through and resolve any problem situation.
    What I was told was “pretend it never happened” by a well meaning RS member. Later, I was told by my home teacher, “That never happened.” He wasn’t a witness or involved in any meeting, so for him to come to my home and make that statement was interesting. Educators are taught to say “I wasn’t at that meeting and cannot speak to that.”, rather than bear false witness to events that they did not witness.
    Denial of events is coping strategy. We see it in schools, usually by bullies when caught after an aggressive act. We even see other students, who will approach the victims, while they wait by the principal’s office, and tell the victims that “It never happened.” This is particularly telling, when we know that the students who approach the victims and make these statements, were in another part of the school when the incident occurred.
    I was dissapointed that our leaders lack basic skills in conflict resolution/mediation and think this is a good approach to addressing a concern at a stake level. I was even more dissapointed that my husband had to watch me try to work with these people over the last year. We finally requested that this stake not send people to our home as I do not wish to be a party to their bearing false witness against us.
    Sometimes we are tested, and sometimes we are the test. How long are we supposed to try to resolve a problem when faced with this kind of response.
    It does make not participating easier for me and that is a blessing from God.
    My husband, who is just relieved that I stopped trying, believes that the last stake we attended, where he became a convert, was the exception to the chruch norm.
    He did ask me an interesting question, at the meeting that he was required to schedule and required to attend, as the elder who scheduled the meeting told me, by telephone, that I could not schedule the meeting or attend the meeting with the stake president. My husband had to do that. Then I was told that I am to wait to renew my temple recommend until my husband wants to get his endowments, then I can go with him. This requirement for scheduling a meeting with the stake president was new to me and is now, one of the events that other members are stating, “never happened”.
    My husband asked me this question, “Why would you want to attend a church that treats you like a second class citizen?” I spent over a year, trying to prove him wrong, apologizing for their actions and saying they were not typical. Was I wrong?

  33. 33.

    oops! I hit send before proof reading, as the e-mail at my work will automatically proof read before sending.
    I apologize for the unedited reply.

  34. 34.

    Jo, I’m sorry you’ve had so many problematic experiences with your local community; that sounds very frustrating. Is it wrong to continue supporting an institution that treats you like a second-class citizen? I wish I knew the answer. It definitely seems like there are trade-offs–sometimes for the sake of your self-respect I think it can be helpful to take at least a sabbatical from church. At the same time, I recognize there’s good in the Church. Unfortunately a negative experience in the community can definitely influence one’s relationship with God.

  35. 35.

    First off, please forgive the lengthy post!

    Jo, whatever you do, please DON’T take a sabbatical! I did that after the death of my son and it was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made (see below). You say that the stake you were in when you husband converted was “an exception.” Isn’t it possible that the stake you are in now is the exception?

    ladyship (28) There is a book called “Answers to Gospel Questions” by Joseph Fielding Smith. Yes, it’s a little outdated (as it was published as early as 1953), but it does have some useful information regarding doctrine.

    What saddens me the most is how easily people (not just memebers of the church) can become offended. Myself among them. I know that my grandmother was treated (at least in her opinion) unfairly by her bishop while she went through a bitter divorce with my grandfather. That experience caused her to leave the church for decades. I spoke with her often as a teenager to try to understand why this woman, who had so much influence on my life, and who had such a peaceful spirit, could choose to not be a member of the church.

    After many years, she finally had a visit from the missionaries and began going to church again. When I learned of this, I immediately went to her to find out what had changed. She told me that the much over-used saying “the church is true, but the people aren’t” was very true. She had always known the gospel to be true and had known for years that something was missing. She was able to put aside her pride and her hurt from an incident 30 years ago, and have a chance to be whole again.

    A few years later, I lost my third child to a stillbirth. I felt that the best place I could possibly be in my time of trial was at church. I battled through Sacrament the first week and went home afterward. I went the following week and made myself stay for the entire block. I was upset by my perceived notion of the insensitivity of the members. One woman announced in church that day that she had the same due date as I did. Another man, who knew of my situation, sat next to me in Sunday School with his week old new grandbaby. I decided that I was not ready to face “reality” and stopped going to church for a while, with the intention of returning when I was ready. Unfortunately, that was all the ammo the adversary needed. He was able to twist my thoughts until I was no longer desiring to return to church.

    After many more trials and some serious prayer, I was able to get past that and realize a few things. The woman who gave the talk had no idea what was going on with me. The man who sat next to me did so as there was no other available seat in class and moved as soon as class was over (I had stepped out in the hall). The vast majority of the members and leaders were, in fact, incredibly supportive and I blew them off in response to my bitterness towards people who didn’t know.

    I truly believe that as long as you can find it within yourself to go to you Father in prayer and continue to read your scriptures, you will find solace and comfort in your afflictions, no matter what they be. I know this as I have been through many more tribulations, just as heart-breaking as the death of my child, and been all the stronger for it.

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