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  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

Humbly Ceding, Sweet Retreating: When the Church Seems Not to Believe Itself



A friend of mine. A thoughtful, active and faithful member raising their family (the kind who you never think would write something like this) sent this to me. It shook me. Everyone can feel the divisions growing in the church. There seems to be a growing malaise and or confusion about who we are as a people and what we are really about. Sure we have the nuts on the right who think vaccines are the mark of the beast. And we have nuts on the left who want queer polygamy. But what happens when the core membership, the seemingly unshakable people in your ward begin to write things like this? I must admit my friend who wrote this is not the only person who fits this mold of "core member" who has reached out to me with these same sorts of sentiments. Increasingly, I am finding myself short of things to say in response to these kinds of letters. ------------------ By Henry J. Hallac It would be hard not to notice: The Church is slowly shrinking down, as if to fit just anywhere you might still have room for it. Shortened services, hair-trigger closures, symbols and sessions erased, indulging worldly fads, false boogeymen. It’s unseemly. The institution meant to fearlessly guard and defend the truth appears pliable, strategic, and shallow.

The Church has erased temple symbols, including those documented in ancient scripture and once lovingly explained in the temple. May I ask, are all our symbols so dispensable?

The Church has ended priesthood meetings in conference—a vital communication stretching back nearly two-hundred years. Why have they done it? Apparently to satisfy the tantrums of eight unbelieving critics.

BYU, my alma mater, has become a sandpit of subversion. Religion instructors nod approvingly as students dismiss apostles as “chaff” and “irrelevant, old white men,” administrators actively undermine sexual mores, and faculty—primarily in Sociology and Humanities—foster racism (humorously called “anti” racism).

The Church appears to drift happily in whatever direction its secular critics point. Members in lockdown states observed one particularly surprising example. The Church indefinitely suspended services as “inessential,” though you could keep your acupuncture appointment or frequent the liquor store. Don’t we have a constitutional right to freely exercise our religion? The Church offered no resistance as our rights were stripped away.

A friend sent screenshots of a survey the Church distributed to her. Does the family proclamation incense her? How does multiple marriage make her feel? Does she wish gay couples could marry in the temple? As if the Church is preparing to alter eternal doctrine. Everything is on the table, so it seems.

Why are they doing all this? Watching it unfold has chimed with an incisive story, The Franchise Affair, by Josephine Tey.

In the story, a local pastor is losing parishioners. In an ill-advised attempt to win the town’s praise, he adds to the chorus of people condemning a woman (falsely) accused of beating a teenage girl. By taking on the popular cause, the pastor believes he will win back some of the Church's influence. But he defeats his greater purpose to great ruin: By exacerbating worldly nonsense, rather than helping to reform it, he leads the town to act brutally against the accused—burning her house down with the apparent approval of their parson.

This story glowed to mind when listening to conference in October 2020. The conference appeared to reflect, more than anything else, the sentiment of riots gripping American cities, not the actual status of race in America, which evidence indicates is the least racist country in its least racist year.

A single talk referred to “racism” more often than all general conference talks combined since the Church began. Which is to say, the Church's interest in racism is inversely proportional to its prevalence.

Pretending that racism is influential in our society is dishonest. In supporting this false claim, the Church doesn't stand apart from the world to reform it—the Church abets the secular religion and the violence that springs from that lie.

The problems that make black life difficult are broken homes, constant truancy, widespread illiteracy, drug abuse, high crime, pervasive violence. Prejudice is not one of the top hundred issues injuring black Americans. The whole country is cheering for them. Sacrificing for them. No progress can be made by pretending one person is responsible for another's decisions. Neither can make progress by imagining each is responsible for everything, except what he himself does.

So what is the purpose of Nelson's statement? It appears only to be popular. No statement for the issues actually causing black misery. Nearly a third of black babies are violently aborted, but the focus of the Church centers on what is salient, rather than the most pressing moral issue. The Church merely echoes the world for praise.

We’ve seen the same pattern before in the mainline churches—now empty and deserted for their moral hollowness. Visit them. There are more ceiling fans than people.

When a church becomes a reflection of the broader culture—indistinguishable from what is written by broken institutions—what is its purpose? And does constant revision and shrinking down of the Church cause a broader crisis of confidence? I fear it already has.



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4 Comments


Carter Brown
Carter Brown
Jul 31, 2022

frankly, I think this letter is way over the top. I won’t get into too many details, but president Nelson told us not to be racist during a time when everyone was talking about it- cool. But now we just hear that same “don’t be racist” quote over and over again because some people are obsessed with it. But that’s not Pres. Nelson’s fault. Watch what the church is doing and not what people think they are saying. They are giving money to the NAACP to fund inner city self reliance education and family history. That’s good stuff that the black community really needs!

And Let’s not forget about the great talks we have had these last few years on…


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Nora Charles
Nora Charles
Feb 24, 2022

Jacob, Thank you so much for such a kind and thoughtful response to my struggle. You made some very good points, and I do feel comforted by them. I want so badly for this church to be true, to be God's church , because in spite of the things I don't like about it, it still offers so much more than any of the other versions of Christianity do. I mean LDS theology and the whole plan is just so vast and filled with such expansive eternal possibility, and the idea of eternity without that possibility of endless expansion is for me , too terrifying to consider. Which is why I want it to be true. Why I need it…

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Nora Charles
Nora Charles
Feb 24, 2022

I left the church 15 years ago, and for a few years prior to 2020 and the collapse of the world as we new it, I was finding myself increasingly drawn back to the church, because it felt like a beacon of light and constancy in an ever increasingly confusing and crumbling word. But then 2020 hit and the world changed, but so did the church, right instep with world, and I can tell you , it has shaken me. I was at a point where I was truly contemplating going back, but watching President Nelson take a knee to so much of the worlds destructive agendas, and seemingly care more about impressing the world with how woke he is…

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Jacob Hansen
Jacob Hansen
Feb 24, 2022
Replying to

Nora thanks for your message. I can empathize with what you are feeling. I often think about the history of the Church both now and in the past. The people of God have had ups and downs. Times in the promise land and times in the deserts wanting and struggling, not just individually but as a people. Sometimes leaders have made mistakes. Joseph Smith himself nearly sunk the church with the Kirkland Safety society. I am not going to pretend that leaders always get things right, but I don't always get things right in the stewardship God has given me. But God has still given me that stewardship. I fully sustain President Nelson and the Q12 as the holders of…

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