Public Dissent and Private Responsibility

[ 29 ] Comments

by Bonnie

GYM, aka SWRCMy oldest daughter couldn’t find a building for her young mothers group to practice volleyball anywhere last night, even though we live in the land of LDS chapels within every 8-block grid. The reason: their elders quorum had the building scheduled every Thursday night until the Second Coming from 6PM-10PM. Yes, you read that right. Four Hours. Her group had talked to the building coordinator and scheduled it earlier, but the digital calendar didn’t sync or the stars didn’t align or someone didn’t have the proper permissions, so they were all dressed up and no place to spend pent-up mom energy. They were frustrated. They recognized the dispensation wasn’t grinding to a halt, but they felt something could be changed.

The Church is a large organization with a mission of ultimate egalitarian promise. It should be so in its particulars, in its very local iterations where the core of the Church is being experienced. Worldwide policy creates an environment where the details are worked out in order at the local level. It’s one of the functions of the Priesthood structure above the stake level to provide that coordination. Ultimately, however, most of our problems occur and are solved at the local level, so many questions sent to Church headquarters are referred back to local leaders. While my daughter’s issue seems more local (better communication and collaboration), the underlying policy (permissions and digital structure of ward scheduling) may be more Church-wide. The ideal would be communication up the Priesthood line. In practice, that seldom occurs.

So how does one comment on Church-wide policy? And should one?

joseph smith relief society
Joseph Smith, deep in the real-life muck of persecution, apostasy, and discontent, in 1842 met intermittently with the newly-formed Relief Society. Eliza Snow records six addresses he gave, and in them he refers repeatedly to the difficulties created when people who think they know better voice their acerbic observations of leaders and policies. He also repeatedly comments on the importance of “not injur(ing) the character of any one” (March 17, 1842).

He reprov’d those that were dispos’d to find fault with the management of concerns – saying that if he undertook to lead the church he would lead it right – that he calculates to organize the church in proper order &c.

President Smith continued by speaking of the difficulties he had to surmount ever since the commencement of the work in consequence of aspiring men, “great big Elders” as he called them, who had caused him much trouble (April 28, 1842).

I’ve spent 30 years struggling with issues of Church policy and how contributing, intelligent, responsible members can provide constructive feedback in a faithful manner at whatever level. For the most part (with notable exceptions) I’ve done that silently, because the risk of becoming a great big hindrance outweighed the likelihood that I would contribute anything truly worthy of the kerfuffle. Interviewing with the Church to assist the VPs of one of its departments a few years ago solidified my understanding that the brethren are interested in constructive feedback, when a key question in my interview was whether I felt confident to speak my mind with General Authorities when they requested input. (I am not a big-wig; it’s a standard question in Church business-side interviews at all levels.)

How do we reconcile apparently conflicting counsels?

JulieJulie M. Smith, at Times and Seasons, provides a wonderful, concise evaluation in her older but suddenly very current (and incredibly good) essay, How to Dissent Like a General Authority, recently sent to me by a friend. Julie shares the personal observations of Elder Holland regarding the priesthood ban, recorded in this PBS interview (read her essay – the quotes are so poignant), then comments:

Note that he, faithful Church employee and future apostle, had (1) prayed for the ban to end which means he (2) presumably did not like the ban or think it was sound doctrine/practice but (3) had not argued publically against the ban or let it affect his activity in the Church.

Then she quotes Gregory Prince, who wrote a biography of President McKay and after the eye-opening responses from Pres. McKay on the subject of the ban, comments:

You’ll note from this that President McKay who was the President of the Church at the time (1) prayed for the ban to end which means he (2) presumably did not like the ban or think it was sound doctrine/practice but (3) had not argued publically against the ban or let it affect his activity in the Church.

And she concludes:

At the risk of draining the lifeblood of the bloggernacle, may I suggest that one approach to doctrines/policies that we don’t like would be to pray for them to change and not air our grievances in public?

The ban caused untold harm to countless Saints and potential Saints. It seems to me that one way we can honor our heritage and reclaim this part of our history is to learn something from our experience with the ban that we can apply to other situations. I made a stab at that here and I think I can now add to my list a pattern for dissent learned from our leaders.

(And, you’ll note, their approach worked.)

Which brings me to what I believe is our first private responsibility.

We may think it is correction, but what if it is prayer?

hannah praying

The pattern is old old old. When someone has a question, he or she takes it to the Lord. I’m thinking of Adam/Eve, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Nehemiah, Daniel, Lehi, Nephi, and Joseph Smith (I left out a whole line of people who kept springing to mind.) I’m thinking of millennia of women who prayed and waited for children whom God intended to send them all along. In fact, God seems to have a vested interest in withholding something he intends from the very beginning to give, while someone prays earnestly.

Why is that?

In Isaiah, we read:

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Years ago I painted this in gold carefully around the top perimeter of my kitchen, where, as a mother of young children I spent most of my day. It informed my frustrations and connected me with God in the same way that the final chapters of Job do. In those prayers, offered daily there as I searched for and eventually received great comfort and protection from the destroyer (who was sometimes not-enough-time or not-enough-money personified but was sometimes my husband), I changed. Praying for something that I didn’t immediately get changed me, refined me, and built trust in the Lord as my companion. That’s counter-intuitive in our instant-messaging-power-feedback-user-driven world.

The bigger issue, however, isn’t that the world is impatient.

It’s that we don’t have faith in prayer.

Even in our circles of faith, we titter at the suggestion that fasting and prayer really do anything. That’s alarming to me. Fasting and prayer have done more than anything else in my life to open the windows of heaven to both knowledge and miracles. If miracles cease in our time, Moroni points out, “it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.” That means that anything we gain without going to the Lord in faithful prayer – any concession, equality, or change – is vain (having no value, marked by futility or ineffectualness.) Why would we go to the Church or the world for something we hadn’t taken first and frequently to the Lord? Why would we expect anyone but the Lord to work it out?

Prayer with real intent was the means for bringing about the restoration. Prayer with real intent was the means of turning the Revolution (research Isaac Potts’ testimony of the prayer at Valley Forge). Perhaps it is the best means for bringing about our little restorations and revolutions still. Perhaps the most important change occurs in us, not in the policy. And perhaps, our imperfect existence is precisely what we need to refine the very thing that will make us like God: not our administrative efficiency, but our humble willingness to prayerfully wait upon the Lord.

In what spirit, then, do we offer suggestions for what we know are trivial administrative matters? Whether it’s pants or public prayers or the building schedule, it’s likely the answer to that will also come in that humble prayer, because the Lord promises wings as eagles and a renewal of our strength.

Do we believe Him enough to try it and wait?

Image credits: lds.org, Pitts Theological Library

photo by: plex

About Bonnie

Living life determined to skid sideways into the grave and say, "MAN, what a ride!"

29 Responses to Public Dissent and Private Responsibility

  1. Elissa says:

    Brilliant – thank you

  2. Paul says:

    There are several wonderful conclusions I draw from your essay, Bonnie. First, of course, is your faith in prayer, which I hope will bolster others’ as well. Second is in the example you cite of President McKay and Elder Holland: we cannot judge someone’s heart by his or her outward appearance. Even if Elder Holland or President McKay did not seek changet in public (as in the case of the priesthood ban) does not mean they did not seek change. We often just do not know what is in others’ hearts and it is unfair of us to assume we do.

    As to the power of prayer, I have myself observed more times than I can count the influence of prayer in change (either in me or in my circumstance). Often these changes also involve changes in others’ thinking — enough that it allows me to believe that it is the power of prayer and not just my own positive thinking that plays a role in the change. One lesson that I continue to learn is that prayer and patience work together in faith; I must literally wait upon the Lord. And waiting on Him sometimes is serving, and sometimes is just waiting. And waiting.

    I remember sometimes when I was bishop, people would come to me to complain about something. They would often apologize for bothering me, and then spend half and hour going on about something someone else had done. My attitude was that I preferred they come to me rather than to their neighbor with these complaints. But often my counsel was just as yours is here: the proper place to take those concerns is to the Lord, so that He might soften hearts — sometimes the offender’s heart, and sometimes the offended’s heart (and sometimes both).

    • Emily says:

      Thank you, Paul for your last sentence there. I have in my head that I should take my complaints to the person to try and clear it up, but that tends to backfire. Prayer is probably the first step.

  3. Sarah says:

    I am going through a period of waiting on the Lord, and it is definitely changing me. I am gaining patience – something I sorely lack – and greater faith in the “bigger picture” of my life. Well, not just my life, but all the lives that intersect with mine.

    Prayer is real. It is so very real.

    I love that Isaiah scripture. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Bonnie says:

    I didn’t add it to the essay, but one of the many realizations that came to me as I made an intensive study of the Doctrine and Covenants in November and December of last year was that Joseph was not the same man after Liberty Jail. Four months of intensive prayer, privation, and patience through cold, hunger, and loneliness solidified his relationship with the Lord. You can draw a clean line between the revelations received and recorded to direct the Church as sudden insight before and teaching the saints how to do this without him after. He had everything he needed philosophically before, Liberty tried and set it, and he spent the next years training the Church how to go on without him. It’s absolutely fascinating. I had not thought about our trials “setting” our previously accumulated understanding as they are endured with patience. It has happened that way in my life as well.

  5. Brittany says:

    Thank you, Bonnie. This and your “Why I Think We Are Having The Wrong Conversation” post have put these issues in a new perspective for me. I have a lot of compassion for my sisters who struggle and feel pain over their place in the Church, and as I have sought to understand to their perspective over the last several months, I’ve really felt that many of their thoughts are very valid. But something held me back from joining their causes, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. As I was studying in the Old Testament, I realized that sometimes we need to ask ourselves whether or not we are demanding Aaron make a golden calf rather than waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain with the stone tablets.

    • Bonnie says:

      I’m glad you’ve found clarification, and glad I could be along for the ride. I, too, have been in the camp of the causes in my life. There is still a bit of the advocate in me, burning strong and flashing to life when I perceive injustices. As I’ve gotten older in the spirit, however, I see this less as a cause and more as a shepherding. Your comment about us asking Aaron to make a golden calf rather than waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain was the most succinct, beautiful description of this cause-making that I’ve ever read. Thanks for that.

  6. catania says:

    I love this post. It reminds me of an experience in my marriage.

    My husband was frustrated with me because of some things that weren’t done around the house. I, in turn, was frustrated because he didn’t see all that I did do. We began to argue. It was about to turn bitter, when I had the thought that I should just pray. Instead of petitioning him, arguing, or blasting my husband, I needed to pray.

    It was tough, I have to admit. I had to swallow some pride. I was afraid to pray because I wasn’t sure what the Lord would direct me to do. I wanted to be right.

    Of course, as I began to pray, the Lord softened my heart. Then I had the thought, how hard is it to just clean the nightstand? (That was our argument). This thought spoke to me. I had been divorced and am in my second marriage, and had spent years praying for a companion. Now I had one…Sure, I wished that my husband would have noticed the 10,000 things that I had done that day, but really how hard was it to clean the nightstand?. In addition to this, as I prayed, I was comforted, and I was reminded that if I keep the peace, and live worthy of the Spirit, then the Spirit would help us to heal this disagreement. I also felt comforted knowing that my husband was not correct in his annoyance to me, but it was not my place to correct him. I could count on the Lord to do that, and if I lived in a way worthy of the Spirit to work in our marriage, then that correction would take place. (which it did).

    Thankfully, this experience happened early in our marriage, and has been a pattern for me when I face difficulty in my relationships. I’m still waiting for the Lord to tell me in a prayer, “You’re totally right…he’s a jerk, she’s lame, etc. etc.” But usually, prayers are answered with a reminder for me to be humble and wait on the Lord. When I do, I find that every time the end result is better than I ever could have imagined.

    Anyways…I love this post. I know that there are people suffering, and I agree, prayer works. It will turn the night to day. When we want change, and we humbly pray, with real intent, things happen. This is the pattern we should be seeking.

    Anyways…thanks for the great post. :)

    • Paul says:

      Your experience reminded me of Elder Uceda’s talk a few conferences ago (I think it was him) about his experience as a father praying before going to speak with his daughter who had stormed out of a family scripture study session. The prayer made all the difference in how he approached his daughter and what he learned from her in the process. It was very instructive to me, and your comment has been a great reminder of that lesson. Thanks.

    • templegoer says:

      Your experience resonates with my own process as I have sought to deal with difference in our marriage. What is miraculous about this to me is how different it is to any of my own experience, but the Spirit instructs me to differently than I have been shown. When we both seek the answers to our disharmony, the Spirit can help us both to change. I started by taking responsibility for the change I wanted to see, and found that my wonderful husband was able to match my determination to resolve our differences. I could not have done this alone. It does , of course, take two equally committed people to make a marriage. But I really had no idea of what could be achieved by two people equally committed to hearkening to the Spirit’s promptings. with tenderness of heart.

  7. Becca says:

    I just had the exact thought the other day, that I don’t really, deep down, believe in the power of prayer – at least, not to change things. I have found that my prayers are mostly prayers of gratitude, and I don’t really ask Heavenly Father for things. I think it’s because I come from generations of you-work-hard-and-make-your-own-future (Americanism?) and so I figure that if I want something to happen, I just have to make it happen.

    This post is a great reminder to me that I do absolutely nothing on my own. All I have, and all I am, is because of my Father in Heaven, and so it is not wrong for me to ask Him for things. It is not wrong to have faith that He will open doors that I cannot open, and create miracles that I could not on my own.

    Hmm… reminds me of the grace/works thing. I am definitely one who has a tendency to lean towards works – I know I can’t save myself, but I am going to die trying. So much to think about and learn…

    • Bonnie says:

      It is so funny you would say that, Becca, because I was thinking about an experience I had a few years ago in which I preached about prayer but was ready to explain to little people why it wasn’t going to work out for us. I called it Jack’s Miracle. The memory was so poignant I had to write about it again today on my blog. Everything about our life indicates that prayer is pointless, but everything about mine has indicated that it is everything.

      • Becca says:

        Bonnie, thank you for sharing that!

        I like to believe that I have faith in prayer and miracles, but I think I always have a ready explanation “just in case” my prayer isn’t “answered” (that explanation is usually “Well, it just wasn’t God’s will – which while it is important to recognize that God’s will is His will, that recognition gets in the way of my faith soemtimes, I think)

        I wonder if I would first pray to know God’s will, and then prayer for His will to be done I would feel more faith in what I was praying for?

        And I need to stop making excuses for God. He doesn’t need them. And I don’t need to make excuses for why a “miracle” didn’t happen or why my prayer went unanswered. I just need to have faith.

        • Carin says:

          I read once (don’t ask me for the source, I only know it is a prophet…..lame, I know) that prayer is the act of aligning the will of the child with the will of God.

          As I have prayed I have had to learn to listen well. I don’t tend to ask for things, not because I don’t believe God can do things for me but because I have issues with believing I am worth doing things for. (I won’t go into all of that…) But I have learned that the Lord wants me to ask for things, temporal or otherwise, and that sometimes during my prayer, I can even sense what to pray for. At those times, I feel confident that I am finally aligning my will with His.

          I guess I find it fascinating that the Spirit will even instruct us what to pray for, but that usually doesn’t happen unless I am on my knees in the first place.

          And if our petition is truly to do His will, as we pray about our mortal issues, we will receive line upon line bits of information that will help us to learn His will and be accepting of it.

          I guess what I am trying to say is there is a place to pray for what we want and the desires of our hearts and then, in the same place, we need to have room to accept what the Lord wants, His will, and to truly wait upon Him. I am reminded of that talk….But if not….from Conference several years ago. Basically, God can do these miracles and we believe He can,…..but if not, then we still believe in Him and will obey.

          • I think the quote you are looking for at the beginning of your comment comes from the Bible Dictionary for Prayer: As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.

            I especially love the last line. So many of us don’t want to make the effort or put in the work that is involved in praying with real intent.

  8. templegoer says:

    Prayer is such a sacredly individual process,in some ways it’ s difficult to generalise as we may be referring to very different things.
    I’m really struggling with prayer right now and feel that I have been thrust into a graduate program with whole load of undergrads for whom I have to get myself informed and quick.
    I’m not sure my faith was ever simple enough to think that good works would bring about my specified blessings, but I did think I would be happy with the outcome over time. That was encouraging.

    With real intent, I ask where I go with prayer, and it’s teaching in my home.
    Right now I face a household of young people who are too sick to continue studying or progressing in their careers, and are severely ill, as I am myself. This was not in the plan. Their tender faith can no longer be sustained by the hope that ‘all will be well in the end’ because it clearly isn’t. For my self I can accept that my Fathers plan is being brought to pass for us,anguished as it is. But I’m really no longer sure as to how to portray this to my little flock. Gets to the point where I don’t really mention it as it feels like waving a red rag in front of a bull. My kids are great and believing souls left to themselves, but a desert of a life without partner or accomplishment are a pretty overwhelming challenge when it has lasted 17 years, during which time it appears we as their parents have begun to lose our own health and ability to care as we have done in the past for them. We have just buried Grandma, and dealt with three hospital admissions with another coming up in relation to other immediate family members. Prayer has become for me personally a long slow process of ‘whatever’ punctuated with blind panic and attempts to bargain. It is truly hard to get a grip. I’m really confused with how I can teach our children to expect answer to prayer when there simply may be no improvement to their health and they may have to create a life of handouts and eventually carers-should God provide. And honestly honey using the chapel or no is no longer the top of my to do list, although I understand it is yours.With real intent, I ask where I go with prayer and it’s teaching in my home.

    I have come to the place where I think that the purpose of prayer for me is to become more christlike in my interactions , and grow to understand God better as I share his anguish for his children and do all within my power to ameliorate it according to their own will to engage in that process. And other than that their looms despair for me.My 17 year old prayers are tired, and I’m sure they are novices compared to our ancestors or our brethren and sisters in the developing world. How do we do this when we are in the midst of long term refusals, and that will lead to a life of exclusion. Tuly hard to understand, and part of the experience of the developing world. I hope they can bring us much wisdom. I’m tired, and I need help to understand what prayer can do for the darkness of our broken dreams and hearts.

    • Bonnie says:

      Those are real questions and real revelations, templegoer. I don’t think any of us can ever say that we “know how someone feels” because we never have been there. I once was in a hard place, where years of tragedies had piled up: abuse, choosing my children and losing my home to keep them, being harassed and threatened with homelessness, caring for extended family, having that go south, the disintegration of my extended family, the loss of my best friend, a job loss, living in a home that should have been condemned with mice everywhere and a bucket under my kitchen sink, and then a home purchase (that I had been working on for 18 months) disappeared in an afternoon. The whole decade before felt like one long nightmare, with my kids the only bright spot. I had done all I could, and I was tired, and the Lord was nowhere to be seen.

      I call it my “six hours of atheism” because I was angry with the Lord and vowed never to pray or attend church or be involved with God in any way ever again. My sense of abandonment played out, and eventually it was my absolute inability to throw my scriptures against the other wall (the symbolic act that seemed so important to me to be able to do) because I had too much history with the people within them. Eventually, I prayed. There were no quick answers. It took years for our life to make a turn, but now I look back and see a different journey. It did get better.

      You might be interested in something I found during those years. I had a dream about the number 17, so I did some research because I do dream analysis. In Gematria, 17 is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew “good” and signifies the ability of God to turn our experience for our good over that time. Since that time, I’ve noticed a startling number of increments of 17 in my life – days, months, and years. It’s all astrology if you take something like that too far, but the dream was from God, and the few lessons I learned from it were too. I wouldn’t suggest that your 17-year issue is of the same stripe, because I’m not God and this isn’t revelation, but it struck me when I read it in your comment.

      I wish you well. There is a special place for those who have endured long-term stresses. I think there is no other way to fire some kinds of faith. I will add you to my own prayers.

  9. Emily says:

    Fantastic, Bonnie. I’ve had the same thought. The problem is FAITH. We don’t believe anymore. (Generally speaking, that is).

  10. Emily says:

    And by the way, your first example reminded me of the second post I wrote on this topic the other day: http://latg.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-greater-good.html

  11. ji says:

    Thanks, Bonnie! I enjoyed your article…

  12. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the post, Bonnie.

    “While my daughter’s issue seems more local (better communication and collaboration), the underlying policy (permissions and digital structure of ward scheduling) may be more Church-wide. The ideal would be communication up the Priesthood line. In practice, that seldom occurs.

    So how does one comment on Church-wide policy? And should one?”

    I’ve had few thoughts about this. It’s more like a post, so maybe I should post this at MW or submit here?

    1. I am not at all convinced that change seldom occurs. I just think it takes longer than most humans are comfortable with. I love what a friend of mine who works for the Church said when some frustration was expressed about some slow-moving (or not happening) stuff that was going on. When asked if he thought the Brethren were aware of what was going on, he answered in the affirmative and then said, “They are very patient.” I think most of us aren’t. :) As you note in your post, prayer can help us with that, I think.

    2. There’s a lot more awareness and access and flow of information than people often realize or acknowledge. For example, the youth curriculum has been in the works for YEARS. And during the time that it was in the works, general leaders were showing that they knew they needed updating by providing a bridge solution of providing study guides, online resources for youth, new media content, and more. During that time as well, people could, at any time, give feedback to the curriculum department. But instead, many resorted to frustrated rants on blogs, with the insistence that because change wasn’t immediate (or there was ‘no other way to give feedback’), the leaders didn’t care or were unaware of needs.

    Another example could be using the one you gave (speaking generally, not specifically criticizing your daughter). Someone in your daughter’s situation could have gone to the ward tech specialist, who could communicate on a forum such as ldstech. Individual members can also give feedback on technical stuff via lds.org.

    The Church actually has many such entry points for feedback. I’ve been a ward tech person for years and have been amazed and grateful to see how much conversation and flow of feedback is there. I think we should trust and use the organization of the Church more and let people fulfill their stewardships. Because many are apt to circumvent the process, people within the structure don’t have the opportunity to learn and grow in their stewardships because people take it on themselves to do their jobs instead when something happens that they don’t like.

    We’ve seen efforts like this (an openness to listening/feedback) in the priesthood line as well. Sister Beck used a well-known Mormon blog to allow women to share their thoughts and feelings. She also was constantly asking people what questions they had as she went about visiting members around the world. She was asking and listening! The YW General Presidency posts their email address on the Church’s site. I attended a fireside with the General Sunday School president who shared his email address and actively sought feedback. These are just a few examples; I’m sure others have other examples.

    So when I hear voices saying that there is ‘no way’ to reach our leaders or ‘no way’ to give feedback or ‘no real change’ happening, or that the leaders are unaware, I feel like it reflects a lack of real awareness of and gratitude for all that IS going on and all the entry points that are available. I think also of Elder Holland, who said ” I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth. of the leadership of the Church being greater and more in tune with issues than any think-tank on the planet.”

    3. One of my favorite thoughts on this came from a friend of mine who recently said something along these lines: “If we all really used the council system as it is intended, the LORD would make the ideas that need to bubble up move up that chain.” I think along with your thoughts about prayer, I just think it’s good to remember Whose work this is as we consider when and if to speak up.

    4. I think we need to embrace the day in which we live. I often hear people who want to ‘change the church’ use examples like Emma Smith and the Word of Wisdom as examples of justification for public dissent or clamoring for change. But this isn’t 1833. We may not have the same direct, personal access to the prophet that Emma or others did, but neither are we being asked to go through what they went through. We should *expect* that things would be different 180 into the unfolding of the Lord’s latter-day work. We have our own role and place in the grand history of God’s work. We have things they couldn’t have ever dreamed of having. We have the things that many gave their lives for.

    5. The thought came to me last night that if the Lord wanted a perfect organization, He would have created the Church in the Garden of Eden. :) We should *expect* that there will be frustrations in the structure. We’re here to be fallen and to learn to lean on God and the Atonement most of all. We have families and the Church as central to His work, and where else do we get more practice for learning to be Christlike?

    • Bonnie says:

      Great thoughts, Michelle! Glad you gave such a robust response here, even if it might be worthy of a full blog post (and I think it might be.) Hopefully people will find it here and revisit the issue.

      I agree wholeheartedly. So much of what we deal with in the frustration of members is perception of alienation and the limitation of imperfect local leaders, and because we always look to the top, our worldwide leaders bear the brunt of that ire. For me, the issue boils down to what we think feedback is supposed to accomplish. When we give feedback and we feel heard and trust a response, we are quieted. We feel safe. Trusting that the global leadership are aware without receiving our feedback personally is a hard leap if people don’t inherently trust the system. Trusting the system is trusting God to manage the system, and I’d say it’s certain that many people aren’t there yet.

      And you are so right that engagement with local leaders can turn many of our concerns so much more efficiently, with your example of pressing a local leader to contribute to ldstech a perfect answer. I think the problem many people see is that sometimes local leaders are not responsive (in fact, I would guess that 95% of the frustration people experience with the Church falls in this category.) We are not comfortable dealing face-to-face with those who seem unaware of how to ideally fulfill their stewardships, so we want the more experienced spiritual leaders to create policy to ensure that bad things don’t happen.

      And they do, and it’s actually in our best interest that they do so that we can work them out. I think we gain more learning to work with each other in our imperfections than a perfect church would facilitate.

      • Carin says:

        “I think the problem many people see is that sometimes local leaders are not responsive….”

        That being said, I think the leaders are responsive, just not usually in a public forum. When a bishop is advised that such and such is out of order or so and so is struggling with this issue, he may take the matter into consideration and put things in motion to help the problem, but confidentially he cannot then turn to the person who reported and say what he has done to rectify the situation/individual.

        The local leaders I know take their stewardship seriously. They recognize they are representing the Savior and need to do things His way. They pray for answers and insight. They seek His will. They may not do it the way I want or make decisions the way I would, but they also have information I do not, and have a better understanding of how implementing such and such would affect the others within their stewardship also.

        I think it is also that way as we go up the chain of leaders. Often something we see as a solution won’t work for a greater population at large and as such needs more time to incubate so a better solution can be forth coming…thus the slow process.

        The rest of us need to learn to be patient. It is important that we share what we know and what we think, but also that we pray and feel and work for unity and be willing to stand in our places and support those leaders until change happens.

        • Bonnie says:

          And that is also true, as hard as it is to say to those who have had less positive experiences than you have. We must learn to strengthen each other’s faith.

  13. Diana says:

    This topic hits home on so many levels- my husabnd is our building schedule coordinator, and its interesting to see it from this side of the fence.
    I was around 10 years old when I gained a testimony through prayer. I tend to rely on prayer because of that, so getting my children to have that same experience as they grew up was important.
    We were homeschooling, and my oldest daughter (about age 10) was upset that her younger brother was in the same math book as she was. (the boys are smart that way like their dad) After struggling with the issue for a time, I finally asked her to pray about it- see what Heavenly Father said about her studying math. Every day for two weeks I asked her if she had prayed about it, and the answer was no. One afternoon she was bouncing around like she had something to tell me- she had finally prayed about doing math, and she got an answer- she could do it! It wasn’t always easy, but she applied herself and when she went back into public school she was able to tutor in math.
    She didn’t make the best choices as a teenager, did that experience with prayer help her in being able to turn her life around? Most likely. I’ve watched as she has married, is raising two energetic sons, taking college classes- I think even when things are tough and she’s getting stressed, she still feels that ‘I can do this’ assurance.
    I’m still working on the patience…

    • jendoop says:

      Diana, What a beautiful story about your daughter. I love how you watched her over the years, remembering her prayer about math and how it wasn’t just about math.

  14. JessK says:

    Such a lovely post focusing on prayer as the power to change. I think that as members of the Church we often forget that our leaders are volunteers, who also have family, employment, and other responsibilities, yet they give generously of their time anyway and try to do their best, just like each of us is trying to do in our own callings. Prayer helps us to remember that while we seek solutions to our current situations.

  15. Bonnie says:

    FYI – Steph @ Empowering LDS Women has written a lovely, well-reasoned and supported post along a similar vein that our readers may enjoy as well.

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