It Hurts

The words in General Conference can hurt. I know many people who believe this “hurt” is what is meant to happen in order for those of us who don’t conform to the Church’s wishes to be influenced into conforming. It is the “hard sayings” that prick the heart of the wicked.

May I contend that there is a better way to bring about repentance than hurting people and making them feel alienated? Because I believe there is.

Certain groups of people will always be hurt when certain things are said in Conference. But they also hurt because of what the membership of the body of Christ says after those words are shared on pulpits. Here are examples of responses online that people shared when Mr. Oaks spoke:

Think about it. You are just told by an apostle of God that what you’re struggling through—your sexuality or your gender identity—is contrary to God’s plan. That’s all you’ve been told. No help is given. No balm provided. A simple “That is not the way.” Even though you feel, in the deepest part of your soul and your very biological being, that even if it isn’t “the way,” it is still something you’re dealing with.

And then, once an apostle of God has illegitimized your very personal feelings, members of the Church cheer on those “hard sayings.” Instead of providing love for people who are struggling with coming to grips with what an apostle has said, these tweets—Oaks is on fire; Oaks is coming out hitting; Oaks is laying down the law—hurt. The words people speak in the halls of the church buildings for the comings months will harm because online or in-person, many members of the Church say the same thing. These sayings rip and tear at a soul—no matter how old you are, no matter how separated from these words you seem to be. They are, to utilize the Church of Jesus Christ’s framework, Satan working through you to harm these people who are attempting to reconcile what is happening in their body and what they are  being told over a pulpit.

It is a shame on every follower of Jesus Christ when a fellow disciple cheers for an apostle to “lay down the law” instead of doing what they have covenanted to do: weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.

Instead of cheering for an apostle who says in dispassionate terms that a friend or family member of yours is not welcome in the house of God, why don’t you reach out in love to those people?

“I love you” is a simple text to send. A heart emoji is not that difficult to type. A “I’d love to listen to your perspective on what we heard in General Conference so I can understand more about you. I don’t want to talk; I simply want to listen to you. How about dinner this week?” is not that difficult to ask.

I remember being the person who would say, “Hot dang, this apostle is really saying it how it is.” It’s difficult to get out of that mindset. But we really do need to change our mindset from one that only supports apostles to one that has room for those who the apostles are “calling to repentance.”

People are not brought to God through hard sayings; they’re brought to God through Love.

25 thoughts on “It Hurts”

  1. My husband and I heard him speak when he came to our town. We went with Hope’s of being uplifted and guided. We were immediately disappointed when we discovered we were at a political event that did not align with our beliefs. We got up and walked out. Yesterday, those same feelings overcame us and I muted the TV. I am fearful of the time when President Nelson leaves this world. Until then, I will follow my own feelings of Christ.

    1. Adam,
      I can’t say I understand your pain, but I too have my own struggles of different kinds within the gospel. May I just say that perhaps your are looking at yourself as less a child of God than those who fall into what we’ll call the perfect person of the Church of Jesus Christ faith. Or you may listen to those who want you to feel less than a child of God. From what I heard in these last two days is that we are all sinners. We all need the good physician to heal us.
      Please don’t think that there is even one person or family in the church who is not dealing with their own struggles, some of which may be greater than yours. At least you are trying to follow Jesus. Don’t judge yourself based on what others think about you or themselves.

      We all need to do self assessments against the scriptures and the word of his holy prophets. Not against what others think we should be. Ask yourself are you trying to.hold on to the iron rod? If you are then the people mocking you are the people in the great and spacious building. So what does that say.about them whether they are in the church or outside it.

      We all have our struggles of faith and endurance. So not n judge your faith against mine or anyone elses. I know it is hard but if people within the church won’t come to y o u, then you go to them. You be the example of Christ like service and living.

      Anyone doing a fist pump over Elder Oaks talk must have missed all the other talks this weekend because I heard a lot talk about course correction for the whole Church and not just one individual or group of people. I wish you the best in you desire to stay true to the Lord.as I hope.you would wide the best.for me as.well.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. It’s truly SO sad to see people rejoicing at the pain and hurt of others. Where is The Savior in this? I don’t know that I see Him in the LDS Church much anymore. 🙁

  3. The Prophets have been saying “this is not the way” for decades, and yet there are more advocacy groups within the membership of the church that try to force “trickle of revelation” and member celebrities and outside worldly influences who try to force the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle through a form of mobocracy. Don’t cry when you get a little bit of pushback and a call to repentance because you’re too stubborn to realize that it maybe you who has to change and not the church.

  4. I try to understand both sides. I understand that love is a key ingredient to helping people overcome difficult circumstances, but I also feel people have beat around the bush for so long that many people often are too scared to talk about it. I am grateful that Elder Oaks has the strength to talk about it and remind us that those are the laws of God. I support him as an apostle of Christ’s true church on the earth. That being said I do try my best to love and understand those that do not believe as I do. My brother left the church a couple of years ago, he has dealt with gender identity issues and made many choices I do not approve of, however I still try my best to love him. I understand where you are coming from, but I don’t think it makes sense to put every member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under the same blanket. Members are not perfect, but His church is.

    1. “However, I still try my best to love him”
      I’m sure this isn’t what you mean but when I read that it sure sounds like you don’t actually really love him very much at all. What do his choices have to do with your love? For that matter why do you approve or disapprove of his choices at all? Leave that to God, it shouldn’t affect you much at all.

      1. Sounds like you are looking for whatever fault you can in what was just said. I think that person was sincerely trying to express their feelings on the matter, and didn’t mean ill, and I’m sure you judging that comment didn’t make them feel great. Being open and loving goes both ways. I know you meant well with this, but we need to work harder at understanding each other, and understanding each others story and not point fingers. This comment will likely look like finger pointing and I’m sorry. Just goes to show that loving, being open, being passionate about beliefs makes true Christlike love and understanding very hard. It’s hard, but I’m happy to see we’re all trying.

  5. Thank you for your words. I agree that we must love everyone and be more than just tolerant of the realities that many people live. We need to accept with open arms.

    I personally really enjoyed Elder Oaks talk. I felt like it was straightforward and clear of God’s plan (according to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ beliefs).

    But we can do better. Thank you for sharing.

  6. I know that my previous comment sounded rather harsh, but I just don’t know how members of the LDS church can treat people this way. I wish that the leadership of the church could address the membership of the church with more love and understanding. I feel like when Elder Oaks uses a certain harsh tone, people follow that example. Where is the Christ-like compassion and love that was shown by Christ in the New Testament on multiple occassions? Even when Christ was stating that something was wrong, there was more love than there was fire and brimstone. This has been heartbreaking to see these last few years.

  7. Thank you for posting this. Church members and their loved ones suffer a lot of anguish over the issues you are describing.

  8. I understand how this could be hurtful, but I have not read from the tweets or felt from the talk that it was indeed intended to be hurtful. Oaks talk focused on the Plan on Salvation, that was his talk, and he did mention how God has prepared several degrees of Glory for us, that He loves us, that He provided the Atonement so we can all return to live with Him again. We all go through trials of one kind or another, the teachings of the Church and other talks touch on this subject. Indeed if you listened to all Conference there were several talks on trials and hardships. We must have Faith and hope in Christ and in the Atonement. He wants us to all have joy. Members who struggle with LGBTQ are not turned away, the Church does not encourage anyone to do so, they can attend Church, get Temple recommends, attend the Temple, etc. If they are righteous and keep the commandments. You can still be faithful regardless of your sexual preference. This is true for all members of the Church. We all must love, we all must help each other through trials.

    1. Intent is immaterial to the pain the words have caused. I didn’t intend to drive my car into that family and kill them; so they’re not allowed to be dead.
      Sounds dumb, doesn’t it? Talking about intent is a distraction from the hurtful content of his talk, which is itself another distraction from the church covering up sexual assault by its leaders for generations.

  9. A letter to the editor: (haha)

    Adam, I see your point.

    What he said was not a change or big announcement…in fact, it is the same doctrine that has been taught in the church. If I understand correctly, your article critiques the fact that his words were harsh and perhaps interpreted as condemning by those sensitive to the issues, without any comforting words or directions for recovery.

    I agree, that it would have been nice to hear something like, “If you are struggling with any of these things, or anything else, here are some resources to help, and please know that you are loved” from President Oaks in his talk. However, his lack of saying that does not negate that fact that there are TONS of resources available, or that the general authorities do love and care about the members (which IS mentioned constantly by the speakers in conference, and I can add my own experiences to that…I’ve eaten dinner with many of the general authorities and always felt unconditional love from them).

    I’m confident that if we looked through everything Oak’s has said, we would easily find kind words to these demographics, encouraging them to “come unto Christ” and “return to the fold”. (I bet we could probably find something like that even in the talk we are discussing.)

    President Oak’s intention in his talk, and his calling as an apostle of the Lord, is to testify of truth, not to say things that will make us feel good. Truth might not always be comfortable to hear. I heard nowhere in his talk which felt like he was trying to convince the already downtrodden that not being alive will fix sinfulness, or that if you are gay, aborting or otherwise not in line with what God says that you are worthless and therefore evil. That is NOT a doctrine of any Christian church, especially not the one that I live and study every day, and he would have been stopped during his talk if he were preaching that.

    A separate, yet related issue – Last weekend a gay teen in Provo committed suicide. Tragedy. What is also tragic to me is that people are blaming the suicide on what President Oaks said. Suicide is never a thing to speak lightly of or dismiss easily. I have had too many close experiences with it to be able to dismiss it. That said, anyone who is in a place mentally where they could take their own life has a serious mental illness and needs treatment (secular and spiritual, although the course for recovery is different for everyone and totally possible)!

    I feel that blaming a suicide on one person’s comments is trivializing all that this gay teen was going through – I believe he would have wanted us to know the full story of his heartache and struggle. I don’t think we can blame a trigger for what a mental illness can do.

    All in all, I wish that recovery was discussed more openly – for all issues… addiction, depression, abortion, grief, sexual orientation, etc… However, I think that is a comment on society and community, not the gospel and doctrines of Jesus Christ. Jesus teaches to “comfort those who stand in need of comfort” and that “the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God”. Humans are still learning, internalizing and applying these truths.

    I’m grateful that you wrote this article to remind us to look outside of ourselves to see those who are hurting. Some of my favorite quotes from this conference agree with that:

    “Be kind to one another.” – President Dallin H. Oaks

    “In the eyes of Christ each soul is of infinite worth…eternal life is possible for all.” – Elder Robert C. Gay

    “Heavenly Father focuses on helping us to progress, not on judging and condemning us.” – Elder Brian K. Ashton

    “Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, if we choose to repent and turn our hearts fully to the Savior, he will heal us spiritually. That healing can begin immediately.” – Elder Matthew L. Carpenter

    I feel sorrow that you have felt hurt and struggled so much through your journey. I hope we can all choose to be more Christlike and loving.

  10. The social media posts quoted are an example of people going to far to the right. The calls for the Church to embrace gay marriage or otherwise accept homosexual behavior are an example of people going too far to the left. Christ said that those who declare more or less than these things is not of me. We must stay on the straight and narrow path. I agree with the content of what Pres. Oaks said. I think he would have been wise to add a sentence or two stating that those who have same sex attractions or other gender related issues are loved by the Lord and should never be hurt or discriminated against. He also should have stated that those who are gay but keep their covenants with the Lord have all the rights and privileges of every other worthy member of the Church. And finally, a mention of the fact that the Church has resources to help those who struggle with these difficult issues. During a high council meeting a few years ago, we had a training video on how to minister to gay members of the church who want to be faithful, active members. The one quote I specifically recall in that training video was from Elder Oaks where he said, “We don’t know why some people have same sex attractions, and its best that we leave it to other to figure out the reasons for this.” Everything from that video reenforced the message that those who are gay or trans, etc. can live as faithful members of the church and should be invited to do so, and not to be shamed or hurt because of what they go through.

  11. My heart hurt after seeing those comments! I can’t believe people would be so rude. Why is it so easy for people to forget “love your neighbor as thyself”?

    Christ boldly showed up for those who needed his love. He was there for all those that society looked down upon. That’s who we need to be.

    I’m so grateful that my job is NOT to judge but to simply LOVE.

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