Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Free Exchange of Ideas

I wrote the following with love and an open heart.  I hope that it’s received with compassion and an open mind.  I’ll begin with a few stats for my active LDS friends to consider:

-Worldwide membership of the LDS church:  15.4 million.
-Worldwide estimated population:  7.2 billion.
-Percentage of Heavenly Father’s children who are not LDS:  99.7%.

Can we just stop and re-read the last stat one more time:  99.7% of God’s children on this earth are NOT members of the LDS church.  Now, these aren’t exact numbers, but you get the idea.  The Church was restored in 1830.  Here we are, 185 years later, and the worldwide membership of the Church isn’t even half of 1% of the world’s population.  85,000 missionaries?  145 operating temples?  Impressive and staggering to consider, but is this rate of growth enough to ensure that the other 99% is converted within the next 185 years?  

As I consider the math, I don’t lose sight of miracles and the phenomenal growth that the Church has experienced over the last two centuries.  I am also mindful of the millennium and the events that we believe will take place during that span of time.  But I strongly feel that a loving, kind, merciful Heavenly Father is just fine with the math I’ve presented.  It's 2015 and still, a tiny portion of His children are active LDS.  He knows what He’s doing and He has everything under control.  I believe with all my heart that He loves ALL of His children and that He is fully invested in bringing about the eternal life of the believers and non-believers, the righteous and the wicked, the Mormons, the ex-Mormons, the Catholics, the Buddhists, the Jewish, the Muslims, the non-religious, the Atheists, etc.  I believe that through His Son, He has truly made every possible consideration to ensure that the majority of His children return home to Him.

I don’t share these stats to discourage, to disrespect or to dishearten anyone.  My membership in the LDS Church still means a great deal to me.  I’ve been a part of missionary work and temple work and have enjoyed some very meaningful experiences as a result.  I’ve taken time to visit Kirtland, Nauvoo, Carthage, Palmyra, Adam-ondi-Ahman, Far West, Liberty Jail and other places where I experienced real and powerful emotions that I, to this day, believe came from a heavenly source.  I have served in a variety of callings within the Church and very much enjoyed these experiences.  I continue to believe and have a testimony of things that I consider to be sacred.  

I have loved this Church and have truly been grateful for my membership in it.  But consider this:  Members of the Church like some of you are pushing members of the Church like me out.  In droves.  Completely.  Unapologetically.  In the name of righteousness.  I am here to speak up and ask for change.  I’m asking my brothers and sisters in the Church to expand their views and open their hearts.  If God is just fine with 99% of His children not being members of “the only true church” in the year 2015, perhaps we can calm down and be more prepared to accept our brothers and sisters from all walks of life.  Then, maybe we can go a step further and see that many different paths lead to the same destination.

For the most part, my experience has been that members of the Church are among the kindest, most loving and most giving people around.  It's this kind of association that makes me proud to be a member of the Church.  But at the same time, I become amazed at how unwilling we can be to have conversations where beliefs are presented that differ from our own.  Our entire world view can be shaped by how we were raised without any thought as to what God has in mind for the billions of men and women who weren't born and raised in the Church or given the chance to accept the gospel as taught by the Church.  We tend to especially freak out a bit when someone who has been raised in the Church turns away and pursues a different path.  "How can that differing path lead back home?", we demand.  My next entry will provide 5 different ways that we, as members of the Church, can be more open and show a willingness to have interesting, insightful conversations with each other and, more importantly, with those who do not believe as we do.  Check back later this week for that.

I'm going to close this entry with a quote that one of my dearest friends, David Bennett, turned me on to.  It's from Hugh B. Brown, a former member of the First Presidency of the Church:

"I admire men and women who have developed the questioning spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas and stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent—if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it (emphasis added)."


  1. with an open heart and an outreached hand in friendship, i recently asked and had my name removed from the membership rolls of the church. i am out, loud, and proud; and simply felt it was the honest and right thing to do. with no anger and no malice in my request, i offered to participate in any open dialog between the church and the LBGTQ community in the hopes of building bridges. i truly hope to hear back from the church some day. (nate is only too aware of who i am - we know each other well. my anonymity here is for nate's privacy.)

    1. Hey, I'd like to know who this is. Not concerned with privacy but feel free to message me on Facebook if that's more comfortable for you. Or email me at natebenincosa14@gmail.com. Thanks for the comment!

  2. “we should also be unafraid to dissent-if we are informed.” You raise an important question (small percentage). It just so happens I know someone who saw this very circumstance and he even saw WHY it happened. “And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.” (1 Nephi 14:12). God does not come across as being “fine” with this set of circumstances. Small percentage comes because of “the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.” Who or what is this “whore” that Nephi saw? Elder Oaks recently looked at several aspects of what constituted this “whore” in his address at BYUI “Witnesses of God”, 2014, and I would recommend that whole talk.

    1. I read this talk, but I still can't tell who "the whore" is? Secularism? Are you blaming the humanists, or science, for the small percentage of LDS faithful that Nate quotes?

    2. The Church could be 20% in the world and still be considered a relative few. Also this seems difficult when you consider many being called and few chosen. It's hard to have many called and few chosen when you have few called and even fewer chosen.

      Perhaps what was seen was something other than the LDS Church versus the world, but the invisible Church of the Lamb contrasted against everything that is not such. As we've been told the Church of the Lamb has membership from within the LDS Church and without. If so, maybe this vision is describing something we aren't prone to understand.

    3. First, let us look at your side thought - “But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen.” D&C 95:5 = few (ordained LDS) and fewer (chosen from among ordained LDS).
      Even more encompassing D&C 121:33-40 (won’t quote the whole thing here) again is few (LDS priesthood) and fewer (chosen from among LDS priesthood because they did not succumb the list of unrighteous behaviors outlined). When used in context, your quote does appear to apply to "few" and "fewer".
      However, let us not hijack the post. Let us address the author’s premise, that God is just fine with the way the world currently is - “Heavenly Father is just fine with the math I’ve presented”. Nate makes this statement without any reference to how he in particular knows God’s will outside of his own feelings - “I feel strongly”. He does not provide a reference, etc. He simply makes a statement which he regards as fact and then bases his entire argument on this statement. I chose to use the Nephi vision quote because it addresses his correct assertion of small percentages “numbers were few…dominions on the face of the earth were small”, it is global “all the face of the earth”, and clearly God as Nephi sees it is unhappy with the situation “because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.” If Nate simply had stated that the majority of people in this dispensation might go through life without the restored gospel and god has made provision for that (missionary work beyond the veil, temple ordinances, etc.) I would not have had any problems with his statement. However, his argument is essentially, there are few Mormons, God is fine with that, therefore all roads lead to heaven “different paths lead to the same destination.” This philosophy, I believe, is incompatible with the restored gospel as found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.”2 Nephi 9:41.
      A final thought. Nate seems like a nice person, but the straw men he created “unwilling”, “raised without any thought” “freak out” made me question his sincerity. I always find it insightful to look at the way individuals use straw men in their arguments. It is often revealing of their deeper feelings.
      If I came across as contentious then I apologize, it was not my intention.
      I hope that you have a wonderful day.

    4. Your statement isn't as contentious as it is incoherent, myopic at best. I'm not sure you a) know what a "straw man" even is and b) are capable of writing in sentences about the subject matter without trying to make it seem like you’ve got the inside track on the word of God, simply because you can point to a sentence in the book. Why don't you just SAY WHAT YOU MEAN? I’m not speaking for Nate but I’m pretty sure when he says “God is fine with that” he is drawing the conclusion by looking around, seeing the stats, believing that God has defined this reality, ergo, this IS HIS PLAN. Isn’t leaving the 90 and the 9 for the 1 the reality you’ve all embraced anyway? Nate never once mentions that “all roads lead to heaven” – you’re inserting that.

      Given how many missionaries there are in the church, it’s shocking to me that few of you have gotten very good at breaking down “the word of God” and the message without the circular references to Nephi. Those references mean nothing to the 90 and the 9. That should probably be one of your 5 points Nate, “Let’s not have a quote-off whereby you try to one-up me on your scriptural knowledge and avoid the entire point of the conversation!” Previous poster’s muddling and quoting while avoiding the simple question: “What is the WHORE?” is perfectly in-line with the church's entire stance on gays in the fold though (or women in the priesthood for that matter, which is even more of an abomination insofar as I can tell.)

      Bottom line, if the Church wants Nate to “stay with us” and “Work through this with us” as Elder Cristofferson adamantly states, then isn’t it your job as a faithful and obedient Mormon to listen to Nate rather than accuse him of being a whore or creating straw men and nit-picking the minutiae of his statements without HEARING him? This is the entire point of his post Dude.

    5. What Nate stated was “Then, maybe we can go a step further and see that many different paths lead to the same destination.” Strictly speaking, you are correct. Perhaps Nate feels that many “different paths lead to the same destination” of Chuck E. Cheese. However, given the overall context of the post, it seems rather obvious that the destination that Nate is referring to is heaven. I actually make the further assumption that Nate is referring to the celestial kingdom. Strictly speaking, Mormons do believe that for 99.999999% of the human race, all paths do lead to a heaven, or a kingdom of glory. However, when most Mormons use the term heaven, they are actually referring to a specific kingdom of glory, namely the celestial kingdom. I would be interested to know which “destination” you feel Nate had in mind and why.
      I have read Nate’s post several times and I believe that at a fundamental level I disagree with several of the points of his post. I believe that the pathways we CHOOSE to travel in this life and the next have a very real impact in our ultimate “destination”. Further, I disagree with the notion that because the world is a certain way, God must be “fine” with that. In fact, I believe that God is very unhappy with the current state of the world. I think he is anguished by the atrocities that are occurring in North Korea, Syria and so many other parts of the world. I think he looks in disgust at those nations who have so much and yet share so little. I think he is angry with the self absorbed nature of so many of his children.
      Next, the question of who or what is the “whore”. That is a question whose answer could take up many pages. If we continue in the same chapter we read “the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, which is the great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil”. A study of the devil and his philosophies is outside of the time I have for this response. Please look at Elder Oaks talk.
      As a final note - you are not very civil or kind in your public discourse. You called me “incoherent” and “myopic”. Yikes. Are you so insecure in your position that you must resort to name calling. You should spend a little more time reading what people write. I never called Nate a whore, nor did I infer it. I do believe it was unkind of Nate to create a caricature where Mormons are “unwilling”, “raised without any thought” and “freak out” Finally, you reveal your own set of prejudices when you assume that I am both a missionary and a “dude”. Public discourse should be civil, kind and well informed. I am listening to Nate. It just so happens that I disagree with some of the things that he wrote and I have done my best to explain why I disagree. If this is to be a "free exchange of ideas" as Nate put at the top of the post, he should expect a complete and thorough analysis of the ideas he puts forth.

    6. I read the "destination" to mean salvation through the LDS church, so Nate will be the only one who can clarify that for us, and I think it's fair we're both reading our own perspective into his statement. I'm also perfectly aware of what kingdom most Mormons are referring to, so you're making assumptions as well. (As an aside: many of your elders will repeatedly remind you that you are, indeed, a missionary in every day and in every walk of life, including here, will they not?)

      I'll ignore your statements about whether or not God is happy and whether or not he is defining the world as it is, including Syria and North Korea, because this is where you all lose me anyway and it becomes a pointless exchange. This is the point in the conversation where I usually politely excuse myself without regret, but in this particular case I won't. I won't because I know Nate. I know Nate to be just the kind of person anyone should cherish in their family and in their community, regardless of how he defines himself, but particularly if an aspect of that identity IS NOT ONE HE CHOSE.

      When I called your statement myopic, I wasn't calling you a name, it just so happens that I disagree with the manner in which you wrote, and the words "incoherent" and "myopic" were the best descriptors I had. I do appreciate you holding back on the Nephi quotes this time around. Frankly, from one anonymous to another, I don't really care if you think I'm kind, or if you're offended. If I'm right and you're wrong, or vice versa, it shouldn't matter if we're being "kind." Guess Nate's the better person here, seeing as how he's the brave one with his name on his statement...

  3. Peace, good sir, well said.

    "We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent—if we are informed."

    It's become a theme of mine.

  4. An interesting conversation back and forth. Thank you for your comments. One thing I'll reply to is my statement that "God is fine with the math I've presented here". I can take some responsibility for that. In no way am I saying that I know God's mind and will. I am not His spokesman. Of course, as members of the church, we believe that God wants all of his children to have the saving ordinances that are offered within the church. I’m suggesting that as much as God may have a vehicle here on earth, even a kingdom upon the earth where ideally, His children join and receive ordinances and make covenants, He’s not exactly sending down legions of angels to get this accomplished in a hurried fashion. Has He put a missionary force in place? Sure! If this is His true church, sure, He wants everyone to join. But is He allowing the world to turn with a small minority of the earth’s inhabitants actually being a part of that kingdom? Yes, He is. That’s what I mean when I say He is fine with the math. He has the timetable and sees all. That’s all I was suggesting here.

    Past that, I'm not the type who feels prepared or qualified to exchange scriptures and quotes from the Brethren to prove or disprove this or that. So, let me say this: I have a love of the scriptures. I try to have an open heart and mind as I listen to the Brethren speak. Much of what they say rings true to my heart and soul. Some of what they say causes me great distress and sadness. I am not one who readily dismisses their counsel and guidance. I have tried as best I can to do what I believe Heavenly Father wants me to do. A lot of this effort is guided by direction from our prophets and apostles. I reverence their callings. I am also aware that, in the past, they haven't always been right.

    I will continue to post, mostly from my heart. Some will relate and identify and find it beautiful. Others will take offense and wonder where the doctrinal backing is. I'll be able to deliver sometimes. Other times, I won't.

    Finally, my first entry on this new blog stated that I am here to learn. I appreciate the comments and points of view. I don't claim to know everything. But when it comes to the experiences I've had at being a son of God who is a member of the LDS church and who just happens to be gay, I'm the expert there. I'd like to be able to share my experiences without being taken to task.

    If one feels the need to take my experiences to task, I can only agree to respond the best way I know how. From the heart.

  5. What compelling thoughts and reactions! Nate I think you have done an amazing thing by giving yourself and others an outlet and opportunity to learn. Myself included.

    This post has given me a great deal to think on and has certainly strengthened my testimony that it is okay to ask for clarification and understanding. I don't have to just take things as they are. I believe the Lord has commanded me to seek for my own understanding and testimony of the truths that I have accepted. Sure, I can follow blindly and I am sure that in some instances I do without much thought... but at no point have I not been given the agency and responsibility to seek after truth and discernment for myself regardless of the source.

    I have come to appreciate that my commitment is to spend my time loving and serving everyone. Just because I may believe a certain way doesn't mean that I should think any differently of those that disagree. Every one of God's children deserves my love and respect. There is no way for me to truly know the intents and desires of the heart. I have a hard enough time figuring out my own. The Lord knows and Heavenly Father is aware of everyone's individual path. That is enough for me.

    1. Tiffani, I'm catching up on comments. Sorry for the delay! Just wanted to say thanks for your support. I wasn't able to make it to your reception, but I'm so happy for you!