When Church Leaders Call the Police on Peacefully Assembled Members

LDS Church leaders in Derby, Kansas called the police to escort Natasha Helfer and her peacefully assembled supporters off of Church property tonight, April 18. Natasha had been summoned to a disciplinary council. Two police cars are shown in the middle of the image. The total number was reportedly three cars. The stake president who was supposedly in charge is Stephen Daley.

Natasha arrived at the church with her witnesses and signed an agreement to not record the proceeding. Her phone had her talking points and data on it, but the church officials demanded she give it to them. She refused because it also had some personal, private notes on it. The officials would not go forward, and refused to allow her and her temple-recommend holding witnesses to even use the restroom and escorted them out with police presence. Four of the witnesses were women, including Jody England Hansen.

Ultimately, President Russell M. Nelson has “command responsibility” over Stake President Daley.

When Natasha stood at the Church stake center door she was not merely representing herself. Rather she was a proxy for all of us who have been traumatized by sexual shaming and unrighteous dominion.

Jana Reiss Article

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First they came for the September Six, and I did not speak out—because I was not a scholar.

Then they came for Kate Kelly, and I did not speak out—because I was not a feminist.

Then they came for John Dehlin, and I did not speak out—because I was not a podcaster.

Then they came for Sam Young, and I did not speak out—because I was not a street activist.

Then they came for Natasha, and I did not speak out—because I was not a psychotherapist.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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(Actually, I have written support message for Sam and Natasha.)


– Tom Irvine

A Consequence of Overstating Authority

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints needs fewer Inspector Javerts
and more Jean Valjeans, as well as more Bishop Monseigneur Bienvenus.

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There is a common teaching in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that its leaders are anointed representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are a few examples:

Teachings of David O. McKay

“The priesthood is the power and authority to represent God. Whenever the priesthood is delegated to man, it is conferred upon him not as a personal distinction, although it becomes such as he honors it, but as authority to represent Deity and an obligation to assist the Lord in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

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“How grateful we are for restored priesthood keys that give us the power and the authority to represent the Lord in blessing His children across the earth,” said Elder Gerrit W. Gong

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See: Elder Rasband, “Standing with the Leaders of the Church

These are reassuring quotes as long as the leader is compassionate and empathetic. But the same teachings are devastating when the leader exercises “unrighteous dominion” over members. The recipient will then conclude that the Lord himself is angry and abusive toward him or her. The leader’s harsh words then become a wedge that separates the member from the Lord. Members are expected to obey and sustain the leaders absolutely regardless.

“In no case are we to be guilty of any form of abuse or unrighteous dominion or immoral coercion — physical, emotional, ecclesiastical or any other kind.” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: ‘Not as the World Giveth,’ April 2021 General Conference

Priesthood leaders take the name of the Lord in vain when they condemn members out of the leaders’ own frustration.

I have learned this by repetitive, traumatic experiences. One General Authority angrily told me that I am destined for eternal punishment after I called him to explain how hurt I had been the first time he exercised dominion over me.

The lesson that I have learned is that I need to have my own relationship with Jesus Christ and follow the Holy Spirit directly. I can set and maintain healthy boundaries in regard to relationships with overbearing leaders. I can control my reaction to unrighteous dominion, past, present and future.

Walking the covenant path does not require subjecting oneself to abusive behavior or a toxic church environment.

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. 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

Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. 2 Nephi 28:3

I express gratitude to my priesthood leaders who indirectly taught me than I must not put my trust in man. We have the power to reconceptualize our traumatic experiences.

See also:
Fear & Reconciliation
Asperger’s Related Trauma in the LDS Church

Command Responsibility

Tom Irvine

LDS Church Surveys

Kyle Ashworth, Guest Post

No photo description available.

I’ve recently noticed an uptick in LDS church surveys being sent to active, disfranchised, and distant members.

With the Church, I never quite understand their motives—so I don’t want to speculate on why they do what they do. But one thing is more certain: the Church creates an atmosphere that prohibits open discussion and dialogue—but somehow they have to employ surveys to hear the “truth” from their members.

Imagine a world (church) where discussion of nuance and disagreement could take place in a two hour block, and freely accepted. Imagine a revelatory church where it’s issues could be forewarned long before the pews became empty and bare. Imagine a place of worship so strong that it’s strength is measured by the happiness of its members and not by the hiding of its history.

Surveys can only tell a fraction of the story, but the sound of feet leaving the chapels write novels. Hopefully someone is reading the surveys and listening to the doors close.

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Tom Irvine’s comment: My eldest son who is less active received one of these survey requests and submitted his answers. One of his biggest concerns was the “worthiness interviews” which triggered his scrupulosity, a form of OCD.

Sam Young’s Update Message

Excerpt

We petitioned for this. We marched for this. 1,000’s of stories of abuse were openly shared for this. A damn long hunger strike was held for this. And here it is…highlighted in the April 2021 Liahona. The official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In this article, the wife has left the church. The marriage is tenuous. Three suggestions on how to work through faith differences are proposed by the believing husband. Only ONE specific issue was mentioned. And it’s a doozie. -The Wife felt uncomfortable with one-on-one youth interviews and the questions that could be posed to their children!!! After discussion, believing husband and unbelieving wife agree that one of them would always be present with their kids. Together, they spoke with the bishop. He was supportive.YES!!!

.My friends, we did this. Thank you and congratulations.

Liahona, Maintaining Hope

God Works through the Marginal

“Unlike priests, generals, judges, and governors, a prophet does not have to be appointed by superiors, and a prophet’s status does not depend on advancement within a hierarchy or on completion of a course of study. As Amos and again Jeremiah inform us, God tells the prophet to speak. Prophecy is a “gift of the Spirit,” offered to whomever God wills, and societies can accept women as recipients of the gift and value them as prophets even as they deny women roles in the official hierarchies of religion and polity.

Toward the end of Israel’s history, King Josiah sent his men to see a female prophet, Huldah, to validate the discovery of a scroll in the Temple that called for Israel to behave in ways it had not been observing . . . (see 2 Kings 22:12–14).”It is not surprising to find . . . Huldah accepted as [a] professional prophet. Unlike priests, kings, judges, or administrators, prophets were not born to their role or appointed by a hierarchy.

There were cadres of professional prophets, but there were also lone mavericks, called by the spirit of God. . . . In Israel, where God often works through the marginal and brings the peripheral to the center, women appeared as the harbingers of history.”

—Rabbi Tikva Frymer-Kensky, quoted by Richard Rohr in his daily meditation

A Rabbi’s Perspective on Authority & Compassion

It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion–its message becomes meaningless.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, 1955

Stacy Redd’s Dream

(Reprinted with Stacy’s permission)

I went to bed last night just so sad thinking about misogyny in the church. But I had the most amazing, redemptive dream. In my dream, it was General Conference but in just a stake center building. The GA’s were sitting in a pew, and the plan was that they would get up one at a time to speak. But a few active, nuanced and post-mo women had a plan. After the opening prayer and hymn, a little group of us stood up and went to to the front and formed a human chain to block the GA’s from coming up to the microphone.

This caused an uproar from the believing members in the congregation, many of whom came up to make us move, pushing us, trying to pry us apart, yelling at us, calling us apostate, but we took the beating with grace, and refused to concede. The prophet and apostles were astonished and were “commanding” us to disperse and take seats or leave. We refused. More women in the congregation joined us. They left their kids, husbands, friends, and parents and stood with the women at the front. It was so many people that finally Nelson asked, “Why are you doing this? What is it you want?” And we said, “We want to speak.” So the leaders took a seat, told the people pushing us to take a seat and told us we could speak.

So we did. One at a time, women talked to the entire membership of the church who were watching, in person, or broadcasted all over the world, that we demanded apologies for bishops who traumatized us as young women with their inappropriate questions, for the church silencing and punishing people who told “anti-Mormon lies,” which turned out to be Gospel Topics Essays, for their treatment of blacks, LGBTQ people, and women, for propagating the us vs. them rhetoric that makes no place for people who doubt and question or their family members, for claiming church policies and doctrines that hurt people are from God, making people think God wants them to hurt, for claiming they speak for God when they really just speak for themselves and the social and legal pressure they’re under at the time, and on and on we went.

At one point, Bednar approached us and spoke, getting choked up, saying how he was moved by our plight and that the spirit was telling him this was important and needed to be sincerely acknowledged. Uchtdorf looked relieved. Oaks looked disgruntled. We were finally heard. We couldn’t be dismissed with letters of “go talk to your bishop.” We were all over the news. Deseret News’ headline: “Riot at General Conference.” MSNBC and others were more friendly: “Women Uprising at Mormon Worldwide Broadcast.”

I wonder what would have happened next if I’d stayed asleep? I want so deeply for us to be heard, for the church to apologize for its abuse but they gaslight and brush it off and ignore so much that I could imagine this being the only way we could actually confront them and make them say something in the moment. I’m so tired of being under the power of these men. I’m so tired of their manipulation and control and influence breaking people, breaking families. But I feel powerless. Maybe I have to just accept that.

LGBTQ students at BYU light up the ‘Y’ in rainbow colors

There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just “that way” and can only yield to those desires. That is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life. From our premortal life we were directed into a physical body. There is no mismatching of bodies and spirits. Boys are to become men –masculine, manly men –ultimately to become husbands and fathers. No one is predestined to a perverted use of these powers.

-Apostle Boyd K. Packer, “Message to Young Men,” General Conference 1976

There appears to be a consensus in the world that it (homosexuality) is natural, to one degree or another, for a percentage of the population. Therefore, we must accept it as all right. However, when you put a moral instrument on it, the needle immediately flips to the side labeled “wrong.” It may even register “dangerous.” If there has been heavy indulgence, it registers clear over to “spiritually destructive.”

The answer: It is not all right. It is wrong! It is not desirable; it is unnatural; it is abnormal; it is an affliction. When practiced, it is immoral. It is a transgression… Do not be misled by those who whisper that it is part of your nature and therefore right for you. That is false doctrine!

-Apostle Boyd K. Packer, 1978 BYU Fireside, “To the One”

Homosexuality is an ugly sin, repugnant to those who find no temptation in it, as well as to many past offenders who are seeking a way out of its clutches. It is embarrassing and unpleasant as a subject for discussion but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved in it, it is discussed in this chapter.

-Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 78


Projection is a psychological defense mechanism proposed by Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund Freud, in which an individual attributes unwanted thoughts, feelings and motives onto another person. Thoughts most commonly projected onto another are the ones that would cause guilt such as aggressive and sexual fantasies or thoughts.

Were some clergy who were most vocal in condemning homosexuality trying to cope with their own same-sex urges?

See also:

Fear & Reconciliation
Homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Tom Irvine

Priesthood Leadership Training

Conscience & Obedience

  1. “You must work through the Spirit. If that leads you into conflict with the program of the Church, you follow the voice of the Spirit.” (Elder S. Dilworth Young, First Council of the Seventy, 1945; quoted here, p. 17)

  2. “We have hitherto acted too much as machines, as to following the [Spirit*]. I will confess to my own shame that I have acted contrary to my own judgment many times. I mean hereafter not to demean myself, to not run contrary to my own judgment. …When [President Young] says that the Spirit of the Lord says thus and so, I don’t consider that all we should do is to say let it be so.” (Elder Orson Pratt, 1847, quoted here, ​cover jacket)

  3. “If we have presidents or apostles or anybody that we do not like, let us vote them out, and be free men, and cultivate and cherish in our bosoms the principles of liberty.” (John Taylor, 7 October 1872; “Discourse,” The Deseret News Weekly, volume 21, number 48)

  4. “We can tell when the speakers are moved upon by the Holy Ghost only when we, ourselves, are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak.” (President J. Rueben Clark, 1954 CN-7/31/54)

  5. “President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 237-38).

  6. “We desire that the brethren and sisters will all feel the responsibility of expressing their feelings in relation to the propositions that may be put before you. We do not want any man or woman who is a member of the Church to violate their conscience. We would like all to vote as they feel, whether for or against. (President Joseph F. Smith, 1902 October General Conference)

  7. We desire that the Latter-day Saints will exercise the liberty wherewith they have been made free by the gospel of Jesus Christ; for they are entitled to know the right from the wrong, to see the truth and draw the line between it and error; and it is their privilege to judge for themselves and to act upon their own free agency with regard to their choice as to sustaining or otherwise those who should exercise the presiding functions among them. We desire the Latter-day Saints to exercise their prerogative, which is, to vote as the Spirit of the Lord prompts them on the measures and the men that may be presented to them.” (President Joseph F. Smith, 1904 October General Conference)

  8. “Men and women should become settled in the truth and rounded in a knowledge of the Gospel, depending upon no person for borrowed light, but trusting only upon the Holy Spirit, who is ever the same.” (President Joseph F. Smith; as quoted by Elder Samuel O. Bennion, April 1941 General Conference, p. 32)

Perhaps the most compelling quote in this category speaks to us from the dust of ancient scripture:

“Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (2 Nephi 28:31)

-Tom Irvine