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149: When We Get It Wrong


Today we talk about when we get it wrong!  Can we speak out when we get it wrong or is criticism of any kind uncalled for.   What if what a leader says does unreconcilable, irrevocable, unrepairable damage?  What if young people are living alone in tents in the winter and some who becoming so depressed and seeing no hope because of what others do, say, and behave towards them; they eventually take their lives?  Can we speak out?  Can we say that teaching is wrong?  Can we criticize that teaching?

Marion G Romney’s talk on Better to come home in a casket

Elder Oaks Talk on Criticism

Elder Benson’s 14 Fundamentals 


9 thoughts on “149: When We Get It Wrong”

  1. I now remember that talk, I was on my mission at the time. I was and I still am appalled at the context, but at the time I just shelved it. Great podcast even if you did open an old wound. You make me think and study with your podcasts. I really appreciate what you are doing. Peace always!

    1. Ron, thanks for your comment.

      As I reflect on the content of past General Conference talks, I try to understand the surrounding circumstances. For example, let’s reflect on Marion G Romney’s 1981 chastity talk. Three points come to mind.

      1.) He cites his father’s words at the train station in 1920. While I assume his recollections are accurate, I ask if this story is anecdotal. In other words, does that advice apply beyond Marion, and if so, to what extent? Would the father’s wording be identical for Marion’s brothers who have differing sensitivities, strengths, or weaknesses? Was the father speaking in hyperbole to emphasize the value of a chaste life, not intending a literal interpretation of ‘death over losing chastity’?

      2.) WWI ended in Nov 1918; soldiers remained sick or dying due to venereal disease and influenza pandemic. Such facts likely weighed on father’s mind when he advised his son in 1920.

      3.) In 1981, Church leaders were still reeling and responding to the American Sexual Revolution (ASR) and other general turmoil of the 1960s; and leaders concern for the future and well-being of LDS youth showed in Conference speeches. Leaders tend to ‘shore up’ or ‘put a hedge around the law’ to save the youth, tomorrow’s leaders. In ’81, I was too young/naive to know much about the ASR; or to understand/process what little I did know. In large part, I discovered that the world was sinful through leader’s response to it, and less by my direct observations of it.


      1. 1) Death over Chastity is banal compared to a message much more dynamic and effective: The transcendent beauty of God’s condescension.
        Do the Right Thing, or else, is not Gospel.

        Neither is drawing an invisible circle around yourself and never breaching it for Honor’s sake. Our social contracts , our fierce and good moral commitments are far from close to God’s heart. Read Paul. It’s not that hard to notice. There are Calvinists who are in better harmony with the Book of Ether or Alma than our Honor-bound LDS leadership culture.

        2)Maybe, but, umm, maybe he just really, really, really didn’t want his son to sin. Maybe he was boldly betraying his sense of moralism.

        3)Shoring up and putting a hedge about the law doesnt do any better to reduce sin than teaching the bold and beautiful message of, say, the Prodigal Son. In the prodigal son, chaste sons are taught that they are not saved if they do not understand that they are as estranged from their God as their adulterous brothers. Why does Jesus want us to know this?

        Because it’s the truth! The ASR doesnt threaten the Gospel cause any more than the trappings of a Religion can. Sin prevention displaces Gospel. Gospel prevents sin without any fetishes for commodity righteousness!

        Far be it from a man sustained as a Propher, Seer, and Revelator to elucidate this obvious message from the scriptures. This is the irony of being a faithful LDS person, one has to know the Gospel despite the men we sustain, with moderate regularity.

  2. you have no idea how helpful your words and opinions are to my exasperated heart and head. i have been teetering on the fence regarding my desire to stay active in the Church or not, and words like these help me see that walking away isn’t always the best answer. the church needs people to stay and voice opinions that challenge false traditions and words, and to speak up with love and courage when necessary to contradict hurtful teachings. thank you for the inspiration to put my feet through those doors one more sunday at a time:)

    1. Please stay Lindsay, we need members with courage to voice a different point of view, usually the ones that leave the church are the ones that can do offer alternative insights… hopefully you can still find value in the church experience.

      God Bless.

  3. I was an impressionable teenager when Church leaders gave these strongly-worded talks in General Conference, and later, printed in the New Era magazine, where they were read and repeated in my home, Sunday classrooms, and bishop’s interviews. Lucky for me, my teen years stayed near the middle of the ideal LDS bell curve; nevertheless, I recall my personal consternation over the strict and authoritative wording of the Church’s/Lord’s position and recall my panic attacks, periodically waking from sleep in bed as my heart raced, recalling a dreamed indiscretion. – Even my conservative LDS parents expressed concern that I may be too literal in my interpretation or application of some leaders’ words; and I recall defending my position by saying that I was simply accepting and applying their words by their common, dictionary meanings.

    That’s when dad told me about hyperbole, saying that some speakers use extremes to emphasize key points. I felt that leaders should not use hyperbole, that their plain messages are too important to be misunderstood through hyperbole, and that they should simply say what they mean and mean what they say. Comments?

    Since I, a hetero-normative white male, had such questions and conflicts navigating adolescence, I fear for the well-being of gay, trans, and other kids who find themselves in marginalized groups.

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