Monday, July 20, 2009


I probably won't post this until it's on the next page, just to prove how brave I really am.

Today in Sunday School the story of Thomas Marsh and the milk strippings was brought up. An occasional reader of BCC, I had read this post that explains there's more to Bro. Marsh's story than he and his wife leaving over spilled milk. So, when the story was brought up I said it was apocryphal and that Bro. Marsh left the church over concerns that the church membership were involved in mob violence themselves and that the leadership was not doing enough to quell the escalating tempers.

And for that I was called brave by a visiting member of the Stake Presidency.

I'm not so sure it was bravery as much as annoyance. The previous comments on what caused people to go apostate focused on things like homosexuality and disagreeing with the church's stance on prop 8. Useful.

Also, exceptionally annoying given a conversation I had with my mom while we were visiting Utah in which she claimed there were inappropriately strong cultural pressures within the church that obscure the gospel. I swore up and down that wasn't the case outside Utah, that once you pass outside the Zion curtain people have to develop deeper testimonies. And not one week later what am I confronted with but a bunch of cultural nonsense masquerading as the gospel. I hate the taste of crow.

The story could be so much more helpful to those of us who struggle with real issues, particularly if it were, say, juxtaposed with individuals who had similar issues and stayed in the church. Bro. Marsh's concerns about the violence the saints were perpetuating on their neighbors were very valid, and I think one could make a good analogy with prop 8 (even as I shudder to think of actually bringing it up in a group of faithful saints as I am quite certain the party line would be the only valid response for most people). I'm aware of quite a few members who had a negative response to the church's involvement in prop 8, some of them to the extent that it damaged their testimony of the LDS church or of the prophet. I'm sure there were individuals who fell into inactivity, some who at the very least contemplated inactivity. How useful would it have been to talk about Bro. Marsh and his concerns with respect, to let those with deep-seated, valid concerns know there are others out there who have disagreed--valiantly--with church leaders in the past and later regretted leaving? How much more useful would it be to also find some examples of individuals who disagreed and stayed? Compare and contrast is great, and would be wonderful in a lesson on apostasy, as long as the contrast isn't between some wicked person who left and us righteous people who've stayed. That just turns the person who left into a whipping boy (or girl). Not so useful, unless, of course, you're trying to pressure people into staying by basically ridiculing those who do.

Are we so immature as a church that we're incapable of looking at people's reasons for leaving as, at least occasionally, having some validity, even if leaving isn't the right response? Would it be so hard to talk about ways people with real concerns stay? I'm sure there are a number of examples from fairly recent history of people who had concerns about the priesthood ban and yet stayed and saw the reversal of that policy. Could we not talk about some of them instead of making fun of Bro. Marsh and minimizing his concerns?

1 comment:

  1. I think it's important, however, to keep in mind that the information presented in the BCC article does not explore all the history involving Thomas Marsh and the church authorities at that point. Marsh was propagating an unfortunate number of things that weren't true about Joseph Smith. Having concerns about what is going on in the church is one thing; accusing the prophet of things that he's not doing and that aren't true is a different one. Had Marsh gone to Joseph Smith in the first place, he could have learned the truth about the Danites and all the rumors that he was hearing. That he didn't feel comfortable or for whatever other reason chose not to talk to Joseph Smith reflects a loss of testimony in the prophet. That is more than just a concern about the affairs of the church.

    That said, I am personally very grateful to be in primary and far, far from poor lessons on Church History, as they tend to abound.