I totally share your unease Gina and I think you are spot on.
I think there is some truth in the comment made about the past not being all that rosy – many of the trends in the Church have been very much for the better generally, at least until recently, becoming much more tolerant of diversity and professional in the quality of teaching and preaching and ministering happening at a local level in the wards I have experienced in England. The messages about Bishops not needing to feel obliged to make everyone’s decisions for them is getting through, much to their relief I’m sure, and people with major issues are appropriately referred to professional counsellors rather than given incompetent or abusive guidance from amateurs in Church leadership much more than used to happen, which has avoided some of the more extreme harm that used to occur regularly.
Church-wide improvements like trusting members to be ambassadors for the Church onlne rather than hyper controlling public communications, the Joseph Smith Papers project and Gospel Topics essays including a repudiation of all past racism as nothing to do with God…and flipping heck, October Ensign article about the seer stone in a hat that I never thought I’d see have been very encouraging leaps forward. And things were even thawing towards the gay members after the Prop 8 debacle,
But several things are rapidly going the wrong way towards pharisaism rather than Christianity and threaten to derail our progress considerably. I would summarise this as you do as putting American legal and political obsessions before spirituality and abandoning the ambition to engage with and convert the whole world, which was the positive, outward-minded atmosphere I grew up with in my Teen and YSA years in the 80’s and 90’s. A lot of that is attributable to self confident growth and President Hinckley’s general positive attitude to all the opportunities out there rather than seeing the world as going to hell in a handbasket, which is the current vibe from most of the GA’s that is starting to poison the general mindset since he died.
The Internet is a library of information that most of the world uses constantly and is usually a very reliable source of information as it is constantly fact-checked by all its users, but the last General Conference repeatedly insisted that it is a dangerous anti-Mormon conspiracy that can’t be trusted. That just represents the defeatist, terrified and embarrassingly ignorant mindset of fear and loathing that the aging GA’s seem to have towards the modern age and their inability to understand or engage with it. My Gospel Doctrine teacher today repeated some of those attitudes that she had picked up from Conference, so it is getting to grass roots.
I can waffle for England but will try to bullet point some of the reasons to be uneasy and feel things are significantly drifting away from core Christian and Restoration principles as Gina has described:
– Intense rhetoric emphasising obedience and conforming to authority and leaders as more important than free agency and questioning. never mind trying to find actual answers to your questions – why is the spiritual witness you got when you were first converted not enough for the rest of your life?
– Orwellian talks trying to redefine actual words like ‘doubt’ and ‘questions’ in talks by Oaks particularly, who loves to get his legalese going, but sadly even Uchtdorf with ‘doubt your doubts’, and his trashing of the internet as a source of information along with everyone else in October conference. If we can redefine the meaning of the word, the problems with disappear!
– Missionaries commanded to commit investigators to a specific baptismal date in the first discussion when the point of Preach My Gospel was meant to be to get away from rigid prescriptive prostelyting. It is now treated like a new Talmud in many missions, a prescriptive code to live by rather than an empowering foundation for flexible teaching as originally intended.
– Pharisaical hyper specific dress codes for attending youth conferences like EFY. Wrong on so many levels and feeding an obsession with judging by appearance that can only be damaging and create a barrier between members and seeing people for who they are and their potential whatever they dress like.
– Requiring a worthiness certification from the bishop in order to graduate from each year of Seminary. As well as adding to the pressure on our teenagers to lie about their sins to make it through and avoid public humiliation, that instantly kills seminary as a missionary tool for non-members.
– Blatantly hypocritical and inconsistent teaching and policy making. E.g. Elder Holland’s story about not breaking your mother’s heart by leaving the LDS Church, when we expect that of every convert whose mother is not a Mormon when they join our Church and it isn’t a deal breaking taboo in that situation. Also the horrendously bungled recent policy to bring back institutional ostracism and bigotry against groups of members for something that is nothing to do with their own choices. Just when we were finally getting over 150 years of racism, we are now denying saving ordinances and priesthood and temple to children with a gay or polygamous parent and Christofferson explained that the first motivation was to send a (political) message that we are against gay marriage, as if noone had got that point already, covered with the fig leaf that it was to protect children from pain and cognitive dissonance when this is absolutely the cruellest thing you could do to a child attending Church. If that isn’t incredibly obvious to them they have become monstrously detached from the empathy they are meant to be the world leaders at and can dehumanise groups of CHILDREN. When he was asked to explain the unfairness of discriminating against children with gay or polygamous parents but not all the other children who have very different lifestyles happening at home to what is taught in Church he didn’t answer the question. He just said we have been this cruel to children of polygamy for generations, so that’s OK then.
Car crash television and such a betrayal of so many core scriptural principles – suffer the children to come unto me, we are only punished for our own sins not those of our parents, 8 is the age of accountability, parents will be punished for not teaching and baptising their children age 8 and blessings are predicated upon obedience to the specific commandments they are related to, children and teenagers need the Gift of the Holy Ghost to teach them truth and access the atonement and as armour to battle Satan (Christofferson said they wouldn’t miss out on anything without it !!!), if you do it unto the least of these my brethren you do it unto me, prioritise the lost sheep over the 99. Nothing there about sacrificing the least of the lost sheep’s children so as not to contaminate the 99 with their presence or obligations to minister to them. Every single thing Christofferson said was either heartless, hypocritically inconsistent or actually anti-christian.
So frankly we are seeing actual apostate teaching and decision making from the apostles when they are condemning the members standing up against that as the faithless apostates. There are cultic, intolerant and un-Christlike policies and rules being introduced and ramped up in intensity all over the place and with 82 year old Oaks next in line to be President after 90 year old Nelson the prognosis for a chenge for the better any time soon is not looking good.
And it isn’t working – conversion rates per missionary have dropped by at least 40% in the last few years, in direct correlation to these recent trends.
Gina and I are wondering what has gone on to basically screw up the progress we and our families have devoted decades of our Church service to creating just to watch out of touch bigots who are quite happy to chase away all the intelligent, educated and creative members with the skills and faith to actually achieve our commission to convert the world derailing the project. They don’t seem to understand why there is a problem and why rather a lot of us are not keen to become like the Amish. We are meant to be the most compassionate, welcoming, patient, unconditionally loving people on earth but we are as an institution now one of the most intolerant, judgemental, controlling and specifically discriminatory of all the Christian denominations. It’s an inexcusable calamity.
I would also like to point out that none of what I have said is based on a left wing or liberal political agenda that puts political correctness before doctrine – it is entirely pointing out how these trends are incompatible with our own scriptures and the foundational concepts of the Sermon on the Mount and the Restoration – self sacrificing love and ministering to sinners, freeagency, love of intelligence and reason in tandem with personal spiritual autonomy to seek and receive revelation in a context of guidance from prophets and apostles when they are compatible with scripture, and significant doctrine changing decisions made only with the common consent of the general membership. All of these principles are being specifically attacked or contradicted at the moment.