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  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

Faith Matters and Elder Holland's Muskets: A Thoughtful Reaction

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

The following is a message I received from a friend of mind who wished to remain anonymous. --------- Here are my reaction to Faith Matters Episode with Patrick Mason and Tom Christofferson regarding Elder Holland’s Talk seen below.

There were some definite disconnects for me and some things I thought were not represented accurately. The thing I found most troubling from both Patrick and Tom is the message that came across loud and clear that they believe and hope the Church will change its doctrine on Gay marriage and sealings. (At least that is what I heard even though they talked around that possibility without saying it explicitly.) Patrick did say that he didn’t want to be one to give anyone “false hope” by speculating on when he thought this would happen but he also admonished us all to not be guilty of telling God what He can or cannot do.

I’ve been surprised by things I’ve seen Tom Christofferson say online since Elder Holland gave his talk and with things that he said in this podcast because I when I read Tom’s book I got the clear message that he was willing to sacrifice his 20 plus year relationship with his partner in order to come back into full fellowship in the Church so that he could enjoy the Gift of the Holy Ghost which he said he decided he could not live without. I didn’t sense any of this “it’s worth the sacrifice to give up anything in order to have this precious gift” in this podcast, but only heard we should be seeking and following Christ and that is all that matters. I never once heard the word obedience or commandments mentioned, but only to seek to follow Christ. It made me think that those in the terrestrial kingdom will believe in Christ without having been valiant in how they choose to follow Him.

The first part of the podcast that I bristled at was when Tom characterized the letter that Elder Holland referred to that the parent wrote as saying they did not want to send their kids to BYU anymore because it is so welcoming to LGBTQ students. Tom said that there are now parents who are worried about sending their LGBTQ students to BYU because they fear the campus will not be welcoming to them.

I don’t know about you but I did NOT hear that concern stated in that way in the parent’s letter. Being welcoming to LGBTQ students and being in an environment interpreted as condoning that lifestyle and even championing it are two very different things. And the parent's letter was referring to much more than just the LGBTQ issue at BYU.

Tom then made this statement that strikes me as totally absurd. He said that Elder Holland questioned the propriety of Matt Easton using his speech to reveal his sexual identity at the BYU convocation. Tom then said how many previous heterosexual speakers have we heard refer to their wife or husband in a speech at BYU and we did not have a problem with them revealing their sexual identity by mentioning this. He said, "Is it ok if your sexual preference happens to be in the majority, to talk about it then?" he asked. Really? Doesn’t the fact that your sexual preference and being married in those cases happens to be in line with our doctrine also have bearing on this? That seemed like a huge stretch to me.

Tom also referred to what he thought was very offensive language in Elder Holland’s speech using the phrase, “same sex challenge” because he said being gay or trans isn’t an affliction it is a reality which in and of itself is not bad or good. What matters is that we choose to follow Christ. (I’m assuming he meant live the commandments although he didn’t say that.)

The problem I think Elder Holland was addressing is that there are those on campus who do not treat same sex attraction as a neutral thing but they try to teach that the doctrine of the Church on this is flawed. Are Tom and Patrick really not aware of this?

The young woman host of the podcast brought up the fact that some in the LGBTQ community were so hurt by the love that Elder Holland expressed in his speech. They said it sent such a mixed message. How could he love me and still hurt me like that? They said it seemed “abusive” for him to do so.

Tom said something I haven’t quite unpacked yet. He said we don’t want to be loved only as we suffer. We want to be strong and healthy in ourselves and not just an object of pity. Is he referring to the emotional and mental fragility of so many in the LGBTQ community?

Patrick Mason referred to the role of BYU saying “every church needs a place for the thinking to be done.” He said the academic tradition isn’t to start with a conclusion in mind and then only accept that research which confirms your bias, but to be rigorous in following the data wherever it leads you. My thought was, “seriously? That’s what you see happening with the woke influence at most universities including BYU?” He said when a university ceases to allow that kind of rigor it becomes propaganda. With this comment he seems totally blind to the one-sided narrative being pawned off on students at most universities as rigorous research. I can provide countless examples where not only conservatives, but classic liberals are finding themselves outcasts in the Leftist woke environment being pushed on most campuses today. He gave the impression that parents who wrote Elder Holland are trying to shelter their kids from healthy debate. He said if there’s any place we should be able to do this it is at BYU. Last time I checked rigorous debate requires representing at least two different points of view. I’d welcome that at BYU too, but my research in talking to many students and professors is that this is often not the case especially in certain disciplines. They are merely to parrot a certain popular narrative being pushed today. (But that’s another topic for another day.:)

The young man host said it is disturbing that we don’t welcome research that doesn’t align with our beliefs. He challenged the woman Elder Holland referred to who said her daughter was radicalized by what she learned from a BYU professor. This is where I thought they got pretty condescending in the podcast. They characterized this parent as over-reacting, making a joke that most professors would love to have that much influence on a student. Mason assured us that the professors try to be led by the Spirit and encourage healthy debate. Really? How can he know that? There is much solid evidence to the contrary. Again, how can you debate when only one side is presented on an issue. How can you have rigorous academic discourse and follow the data when only certain kinds of data are allowed? Mason or someone said every semester a professor’s inbox is full of letters from some disgruntled parent saying a teacher said something that was too liberal or too conservative or whatever, meaning you can’t please everyone. Do they not think that Elder Holland considered that very thing? Do they think he was merely being manipulated by a few overly-concerned parents?

Mason went on to state the difference in healthy disagreement (conflict) and contention. He referred to Elder Holland’s statement about a house divided cannot stand. He then lectured us on how so many members do not have the skill to engage in conflicting views without being contentious. He stated that many members try to avoid conflict therefore they harbor passive aggressive hostility toward LGBTQ members. He said if there’s any place we should be able to teach conflicting views with the lens of the Gospel it is BYU. Once again, I thought, “Really?” Does he really think that is what people writing to Elder Holland are objecting to? The person Elder Holland quoted said she was all for people thinking differently about policies and ideas.”

He talked about how we have an unsustainable divide in the Church right now. He described it as “Zion Canyon.” On one side you have the leaders teaching doctrines. On the other side you have LGBTQ members in pain. Pain fills the canyon. Some want to build a bridge over this canyon. Some fire shots across it. My question is what is that proverbial bridge supposed to look like? Are rainbow flags the bridge? Is becoming an “ally" part of the bridge? They said the gap in that canyon has to be filled with love. They never mentioned Elder Holland’s profound counsel "to not mistake love and empathy with condoning and advocacy."

One of the hosts posed the question that she said everyone is asking about and is tortured over. How can we follow our prophets and still show love to the LGBTQ people? My question is why does that have to be such a difficult question unless one has already determined that the only way to show love is to agree with them.

The responses that were given by both of them on this question is what caused me to think they really think the doctrine will change. While Tom didn’t come out and say that directly he did say we need to follow Christ and prepare our minds and hearts for more revelation and “whatever He reveals.” He said, “MORE REVELATION WITH FILL THE GAP IN THE CANYON.”

He went on to give the example of how things have changed within our own history in the Church. He said some previous Church leaders held the personal belief in the “doctrine of whiteness” saying that they thought everyone would be white in the hereafter. That opinion would not be accepted now. ( I think there is a big difference in a personal opinion and foundational doctrine.) He compared this to people telling gay people that in the next life they will be straight. Tom went on to give a poetic description of how God loves variety in all its forms and He made us all different and that is something to be celebrated because God doesn’t want us to all be exact duplicates. Mason then chimed in saying that we are not meant to all be clones which I took to imply that subscribing to the church’s doctrine on sexual identity and marriage in the family proclamation makes us all clones. The important thing once again, according to them, is to follow Christ. The doctrine of Christ.

Tom said he bristles at members who say some things will never change with regards to our doctrines. I have a quote by Spencer W. Kimball and several more current prophets saying that when it comes to God’s laws of morality and sexuality He does not change. Mason then brought out the church’s doctrine on marriage being between one man and one woman has certainly had its changes as in the case of polygamy. He uses this example to defend the possibility that the doctrine could be changed allowing for marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman.

Mason said we cannot tell God what he can and cannot do. We have to be open to being wrong. Well, I certainly am open to being wrong. I was wrong for a big part of my life and realized that when the missionaries taught me the Gospel. We can certainly be open to ongoing revelation and have the kind of faith the brother of Jared had when the Lord asked him if he believed not only what he had said, but what He was about to say to him as well. I think it’s important to not limit the Lord or say things like, “I could never accept it if the Church changed …” Our faith needs to be centered in Christ and the leaders of His Church. I think as our faith in Christ and His teachings becomes firmly rooted we do not need to entertain doctrinal changes in order to feel good about our faith. We need not wish for a Church where we can be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. I get the feeling Tom and Patrick are hoping for and counting on some serious doctrinal windstorms. I don’t think it is appropriate to express publicly that one’s faith can be based in the hope that a most fundamental doctrine of our Church will change.

In the Discussion on “divisive symbols” that Elder Holland talked about they talk about Gay pride flags. Interesting personal experience from Patrick Mason on this. They talked about the flag being a celebration of diversity. So much talk about diversity and variety. It made me wonder if when God asks us to conform to the image of Christ if that kind of conformity is His priority over our uniqueness and diverse characteristics. At least in this life.

Then they discussed the musket metaphor. Mason, while making sure everyone knew he didn’t think Elder Holland meant it, made it very clear how offensive that metaphor is given that violence toward the LGBTQ community is real. Tom said so often the muskets in life are aimed at the most vulnerable and meek. They referred to how the audience in the Convocation at BYU where Matt Easton came out was celebrating with him when he declared he was a “gay son of God.” Frankly, I don’t think Matt Easton was meek at all. His exact words were, “Im proud to be a gay son of God. Proud, Gay and Son of God in that order revealed his priorities in that one sentence and the very next week he went on the national TV Ellen Show and totally criticized BYU and the Church. He said he was even afraid to even shake a man’s hand at BYU for fear of being punished.

The most shocking statement Tom said for me was that he felt this issue is critical for the growth of the Church. He said there would be so many more members gathered in if this doctrine was changed.

The host then asked how do we reconcile the family proclamation? Tom said, “So you save the hand grenade for last.” This next statement also shocked me. He said that our church is the Church of Christ and not the Church of the Family. And ultimately the goal is to seal the entire human family to God. Since we don’t really know how the details will all work out when it comes to the sealing of men and women and spouses who have remarried after one dies, etc. then we really don’t know that the nuclear family as we know it is eternal. The details on how the nuclear family we have here play out in eternity are “pretty fuzzy”, he said.

Tom ended by expressing how hard Elder Holland’s talk has been for him and how it has taken weeks for him to recover from it because Elder Holland has always been a good friend. The talk really hit him hard.

I found it interesting that throughout the podcast both Patrick and Tom referred to division as if that was the ultimate thing we must avoid. They called anyone to repentance for thinking or saying it is a time of sifting or dividing the wheat and tares and how only God knows who the tares are and it is not up to us to determine that. We must strive for unity.

Again, I never heard the word obedience or commandments, but only love. It made me think of this scripture: “If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness. (D& C 95:12)

I found it interesting that before I listened to the podcast I had read on FB a post by a young BYU scholar featuring an article from the non-member writer, Cristina Rosetti and her take on how “rightwing fundamentalism” in the Church is causing offshoots like the group who calls themselves The Doctrine of Christ. The BYU scholar prefaced the post warning people to stay away from Q-anon, alt-right, and the extremism of Heartlanders, and people who think the election was not fair, and those who are vaccine hesitant as being some of the ideologies that can lead to this kind of apostasy from the mainstream Church. (interesting that she chose to lump all those things together.) Someone I respect made the comment that yes there will always be this kind of extremism and most people recognize them for being fringe weirdos, but that these are not nearly as dangerous to the Church as “the ones taking over BYU and infecting the intelligentsia and influencer class of the church into the false ideologies of expressive individualism.” I thought that was something to think about.

The problem I see with Mason’s and some others' efforts at bridge-building with regards to this issue is that a bridge only works if it goes both ways.I’m seeing more and more people on “the other side” have no interest at all in connecting our two sides, but only in having us join them on theirs.

Anyway, thanks for listening to my musings. As always, no pressure to get back to me. I only pass these things along in the hopes that it might be helpful to someone. Here’s the link to the podcast if you want to listen for yourself. You may have a totally different reaction to it than I did.

God Bless - Anonymous

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