Last week, after publishing a blog post about “selective disobedience,” I was treated to this screed in the comments:

Accomplice of LuciferI tried to brush off this obvious silliness in a lighthearted way: if Lucifer was depending on me, I wrote, then he would surely be disappointed. The whole accusation was so ridiculous that it scarcely seemed worthwhile to defend myself as more than a “wicked person.”

And judging from the way this commenter continued to drive the point home without regard to thoughtful nuance or even basic human courtesy, it would indeed have been pointless to argue.

Yet I have continued to reflect on it. Blogging is an interesting enterprise. Good bloggers strive to spark thoughtful conversations about important issues of the day, and sometimes we even succeed. At other times, we are simply providing a platform for people like this to call one another names.

Sometimes I am able to rise above hurtful or misguided comments and not give them a second thought. I say a prayer for the person and ask God to enter into whatever brokenness might have inspired their rigidity, their intense need for safety and order.

Their insults, so clearly driven by fear, reveal far more about them than they do about me.

You can’t blog for four years about religion and not encounter both the best and worst of humanity. My skin has gotten pretty thick since 2010.

But I’ve never been called an accomplice of Lucifer before, and it does give me pause. Not for the reason that the commenter likely hoped; people who hurl ludicrous accusations always seem to hope that the person on the receiving end will go away/stop writing/shut up/be afraid.

And that is not going to happen.

No, the reason the comment gives me pause is that it reveals “selective obedience” in perfect display — to the danger of the soul of my church.

How many times did church leaders in General Conference urge Mormons to disagree with civility, with respect for those people who hold different views? And yet within a few days, a commenter feels free to disregard that prophetic counsel in order to act as judge, jury, and executioner on a sister in the gospel who dares to disagree with his ideas?

Elder Andersen taught us that there is no place in our religion for bullying:

“The Savior taught us to love not only our friends but also those who disagree with us, and even those who repudiate us. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no place for ridicule, bullying or bigotry.”

I have a testimony that we as a people are grown-up enough — that we can become Christlike enough — that we can manage to depersonalize our disagreements with one another. There will be disagreements in the Church. That’s just a given. But we don’t need to seek to destroy one another just to come out on top in some theological or political argument.

I will not call people names on this blog. I will state my opinions clearly and openly but will not resort to personal attacks in order to prove a point.

If I ever violate this promise and descend from open civil disagreement to personal attack, I expect you all to hold me accountable. As U2 put it, we get to carry each other.

49 Comments

  1. Dear Jana…I sincerely apologize for the remarks you found offensive, I overstepped. Please accept my apology. Not withstanding the disagreement, more good than harm comes from the discourse.

  2. May I defend Brigham Young……you said…”. Someone (meaning me)who can’t even be swayed by actual facts (such as the fact that far from stating that the priesthood ban against blacks would be reversed someday, Brigham Young decreed emphatically that it never would short of death) will not be persuaded by argument.”

    This is found on the Church website “Race and the Priesthood”……
    In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination. At the same time, President Young said that at some future day, black Church members would “have [all] the privilege and more” enjoyed by other members. Brigham Young, Speeches Before the Utah Territorial Legislature, Jan. 23 and Feb. 5, 1852, George D. Watt Papers, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, transcribed from Pitman shorthand by LaJean Purcell Carruth; “To the Saints,” Deseret News, April 3, 1852, 42.

    • What she meant was, look up the sources the church points too. Here is a direct quote from one of them “the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the Priesthood, nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the Priesthood, until the redemption of the earth” Now do you see, he was far from saying what the church writes he said? This was one of the things I was mostly disappointed of in the article. This is clearly abusing a quote.

  3. having been told many years ago that “I wa teaching deviant” doctrine…you are late in age to get this title “an accomplice of Lucifer”…good job….as we say in my home state xoxoxox.

  4. It’s funny that she brought up Brigham young saying the blacks will one day carry the priesthood. I read that too in the church essay. It didn’t add up with other statements by Brigham regarding the issue, so I looked up the source. Guess what? When you read the quote in context it is clear that B.Y was saying that blacks would get the priesthood but not before the end of the millennium or as he put it. “the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the Priesthood, nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the Priesthood, until the redemption of the earth.”and he then explain the africans (blacks) is the seed of cain.

  5. Jana: You responded directly to Mr. Stamper, who accused you of being an accomplice of Lucifer, but you didn’t respond to reasonable comments with reasonable critiques such as mine (if I can claim that for myself) and Nate Oman’s. Maybe a good way of encouraging civil discourse would be to ignore the Mr. Stampers and instead engage with the Nate Omans? The folks who do try to civilly disagree with you. Don’t you think??? :-)

      • I noticed that too. Also, there were comments by people who didn’t agree with Jana, but who urged Harry not to use the over the top language that he did. From reading the other comments, it was encouraging that the discussion was civil and that Harry’s comment wasn’t representative.

    • Jana Riess

      I was working out of town from April 9 to 15, so I had limited energy for blogging to begin with and even less when I saw the Lucifer comment. At that point I had to stop reading and go live my life, do my job, and try to remember the many good things about my Mormon people. Sometimes bloggers need a break.

      Today I went back to those comments and have tried to engage with a few of them, including Nate’s. Thanks for contributing to that discussion. I do appreciate fair and reasonable conversation that is intended to further everyone’s understanding. Sometimes it is just hard to see those more moderate comments when other people employ harsh or deflating words.

  6. Bruce Hamilton

    The Old Testament is full of contradictions. Before entering the Promised Land Moses reveled a commandment from the Lord that forbid the Israelites from marring Canaanites, because they would lead the Children of Israel astray. Yet just after the fall of Jericho, Rahab, the Harlot, a Canaanite, who saved the two spies, is married off to Salmon, a prince of the Tribe of Judah, and becomes an Ancestor of Christ. So depending on circumstances, commandments can be changed. Blacks were never unworthy of holding the Priesthood, it was just a church policy that they could not receive it.

  7. Jana,
    I am glad Mr. Stamper apologized. His comment to you was not civil and was inappropriate by any measure. To apologize is a sign of maturity and I admire him for doing that.

    I certainly don’t agree with everything you write. When we blog, we stick our necks out. Having done so, you are not satanic in any way. I consider you to be a sister in the gospel and, if we ever met, a friend. I enjoy your perspective and to give the ultimate compliment, you make me think! Thank you!

  8. “And that is not going to happen.”

    And thank God for that. I love your voice and know (“with every fiber of my being”) that it is sorely needed–whether every member of the body of Christ realizes it or not. I will not tire of saying you have a gift and I feel nothing but gratitude to you for sharing it with us.

  9. I do so love the doctrines of this church. I am so thankful for the blessings I receive through the priesthood. I love the scriptures, and love the Book of Mormon in particular. I love general conference, too. I love how I feel at the end of conference weekend.

    I am aware, however, that not every word ever spoken in conference is inspired and true. I do not think they need to be. I do not believe this to be an apostate position at all, nor is it helping Lucifer to say so. Prophets do not need to be perfect to be prophets. If the Book of Mormon, a canonized book of scripture, can contain “errors of men”, as it says it may contain, why should General Conference be free of any error? General Conference talks are not canonized scripture. They do not constitute official doctrine. They are very valuable and contain inspired words given by the Holy Ghost to the speaker, but they are not somehow binding on us as members of the church. We need to be able to feel the Spirit and have an open heart and mind so that we can know what is true and what we need to do in our lives. This is not a church for the lazy. We can’t just sit back and receive truth without any effort on our part. We also need to use our minds and be open to the Spirit.

    • Hi A. Warner…..I come in peace…..;)…and I enjoyed reading your comments. Thank you.

      2 quick questions….you said…”I am aware, however, that not every word ever spoken in conference is inspired and true”…….how are you aware of that…?

      Second…about conference you said….”They are very valuable and contain inspired words given by the Holy Ghost to the speaker, but they are not somehow binding on us as members of the church.”……how is something “valuable” and “inspired” and “given by the Holy Ghost”……yet not binding…???

      trying to be thoughtful here……no wrong or right answer…..

      • SanAntonioRob

        I am a lifelong member, magnify my calling, consider myself faithful, and I am a fairly frequent defender of our Church on blogs and articles (previously have posted as RobH). I can’t answer for A. Warner, but it’s very clear that various things that were taught over the pulpit throughout Church history – and even practiced in temples – are no longer believed by the Brethren to be accurate doctrine (ie, blood atonement, temple adoptions as practiced in the 1800s, the ban on blacks to the Priesthood until the millennium, etc). When Bruce R McKonckie was asked about what he wrote in Mormon Doctrine and said over the pulpit regarding blacks and the Priesthood, he said “I was wrong”. Being a defender of the Church does not require ignoring history and facts.

        Very well said, A. Warner.

    • I am aware, however, that not every word ever spoken in conference is inspired and true. I do not think they need to be. I do not believe this to be an apostate position at all, nor is it helping Lucifer to say so. Prophets do not need to be perfect to be prophets. If the Book of Mormon, a canonized book of scripture, can contain “errors of men”, as it says it may contain, why should General Conference be free of any error?”

      SO well said, A. Warner. Great comment.

  10. Patrick Bristow

    I would not be too offended by the comment of being a willing accomplice of Lucifer. I seem to remember that Lucifer sat on Gods council and God appeared to be a “willing accomplice of Lucifer ” in the torment and testing of Job. Your partnership I am sure is designed to do far less harm.
    If I were to select a true co conspirator with Lucifer it would be our dearly beloved and departed Brigham Young.

  11. Marion Fust Sæternes

    “people who hurl ludicrous accusations always seem to hope that the person on the receiving end will go away/stop writing/shut up/be afraid.

    And that is not going to happen”.

    This response makes me happy today! So glad your voice is out there. May you never stop writing.

    • Not true. I’m the one who hurled the ludicrous comment. If you read my comments over there, I encouraged her to continue using her exceptional writing talents and even suggested a future topic. I subscribe to her blog because I enjoy reading it and as I said previously, it does more good than harm….hopefully like most of us. I do not want her to shut up or go away. I took issue with one aspect of publicly criticizing a conference address……that’s it.

      • Jana Riess

        Thank you, Harry. Harry has apologized for the insult and that is the end of it.

        One thing to note — for all of us! — I have discovered that I have the power as moderator to “edit” people’s comments. I may not always have the time to do this, but if I do have time to remove asides that are rude or personal, I will do so and keep what is reasonably voiced disagreement /dissent.

  12. In a blog post about women wearing pants to church last November, Jana said, “And life will go on as usual, with hyper-conservative Mormons bewailing this tiny token of women’s equality as a harbinger of doom, liberal Mormons countering that it’s not really that much to ask for, and everyone else wondering when Mormons might see fit to join the twenty-first century.” From the context, it seemed that members not supportive of the movement were categorized as ‘hyper-conservative’ people who overreact. It helps all of us if we move past stereotypes and see one another as individuals who are trying our best. It will hopefully keep conversation more civil as well.

    • In Jana’s defense (not that she needs it), wearing pants to church wasn’t and isn’t a “movement”. Women wearing pants (and even pant suits) is actually quite appropriate in the 21st century. Unless one is hyper conservative, by definition. So that’s really not stereotypical.

  13. By using the word ‘movement’, I was trying to convey the group action of wearing pants on the specific date that was encouraged. A different word may have been better.

    I think we’d do better not to use labels such as ‘hyper conservative’.

    • I’m pretty sure “hyper-conservative” was exactly the word Clean Cut was searching for. It immediately colors all perceptions of the conversation and dismisses any competing viewpoint as unworthy of consideration. Not a good way to establish truth, correctness, or brotherhood/sisterhood, perhaps, but it often wins arguments (or gives the perception of having won them), which of course was Clean Cut’s only intent.

  14. If you want me to concede the point–fine with me. I really don’t care about the semantics as much as you seem to. To me, “hyper conservative” speaks to extremes. Honestly the examples that come to mind are Hilldale and Colorado City, but that’s beside the point. One may reasonably be conservative, moderate, or liberal and disagree without resorting to extremes–sure. I don’t think Jana used this as a dig on conservatives. But I give her the benefit of the doubt. You should try it sometime.

    • Your connotation of the term “hyper-conservative” underscores why it’s a divisive label that would be better to avoid when describing those who disagree with you. Jana is a published author and is gifted with language. Semantics are key to what she does.

  15. I would like the time back I spent reading this post and it’s comments. I’m sorry that commenter was a crazy jerk and I’m sorry that it took any of our attention. So how about you respond to the civil arguments.

  16. There is no such being , either figuratively or in scripture , with the name Lucifer . A simple mistranslation . And with the ‘essay’ on blacks and the priesthood , the church totally renounced Brigham Young and the doctrine completely . How does one reconcile that and the concept of a prophet ? The church has said essentially that he was not one .

    • “How does one reconcile that and the concept of a prophet?”

      I can’t speak for anyone else but myself, Richard, but here’s a sample of how I do it:

      http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2013/05/terryl-givens-on-prophetic-mantle-myth.html

      http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2011/09/prophetic-expectations.html

      http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2014/03/what-church-means-to-people-like-me-aka.html

      http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2012/07/pioneers.html

      http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2012/03/pruning-our-bitter-fruit-and-lesson.html

      http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2012/01/great-example-of-respectfully-agreeing.html

      http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2011/12/heretical-beliefs-and-feeling-welcome.html

      http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2012/01/i-see-through-glass-darkly-and-i-kinda.html

    • I believe that Brigham Young was a prophet of God, but I do not believe that he was perfect, or that he got everything right. What most people don’t seem to understand is how it really works to be a “prophet”.
      First, a prophet is not a perfect person. He can get things wrong, he can be influenced by his own opinions sometimes.
      It’s almost like the line by Shakespeare, I think it’s from “Hamlet” or “Julius Caesar”, I forget, that the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.
      I think that Brigham Young did what he thought was right at the time, and for the times. WAS it right? I don’t know. We may never know.
      (another thing people seem to have a hard time with is judging 19th century men with 21st century standards)
      The good news is, that with our church, we always have a prophet and apostles, and God speaks through them as well as through past prophets and apostles. I read somewhere that many of our past prophets wanted to be the one who received from God the message that blacks could now hold the priesthood. But I guess the timing wasn’t right or something.
      In any event, I don’t believe that the LDS church has ever said that he was not a prophet of God. I believe that he was, because he did say many great things, and he did many great things.

  17. Patrick Bristow

    Richard. I agree with your comments. I took Brigham young off my Prophets list 40 years ago. I have to wonder why it took soooo many Prophets, Seers and Revelators soooo long to come to the same conclusion.

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