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Ministering to Mormon & African Polygamists (Part 5 of 6)

So far, we’ve talked a lot about faith crises of people who leave over church history or LGBT issues.  They aren’t the only are people who leave, however.  Some people develop a testimony of polygamy and join polygamist groups.  I asked David Ostler about how to minister to these people as well.

GT: I recently attended the Sunstone meetings, and I attended a session in which they had close to a dozen women that got up and stated why they decided to become polygamists. It seems like sometimes we talk about the left side of the church and the right side of the church. I can’t tell you how surprising it was for me to hear over and over and over again, from these women, “Yeah, I took Seminary in high school. I got married in the LDS temple, and now, I’m a polygamist.”  I just thought, “I don’t understand that at all.”

David:  You know, I must confess, I haven’t researched that one.

GT:  Because I think, this [book] does seem to talk about the people who are concerned about the church history and LGBT issues, and things like that. But there is another side of the church.  The church does have to keep an eye out the people that believe in the Adam-God doctrine and polygamy and that sort of thing. Do you have anything for them?

David:  So I think it’s the same thing. I think we meet people where they are and try and lift them to Christ. We do that with compassion and love and the like. Goodness. Brigham Young thought the Adam-God theory was right. So, he lived with that for years and years, and we don’t worry about Brigham Young’s faith. Maybe some do. But from a traditionally believing perspective, we recognize him as a prophet and a great man in the church, and yet he had beliefs that he held that now we don’t hold. So I think we can tolerate some different beliefs.

He told me about some of his experiences as a mission president in Africa, and how the Church deals with African polygamists.

GT:  Believe it or not, at least I’ve heard, the Community of Christ or the RLDS Church for years denied that Joseph ever practiced polygamy. And then I believe, I want to say it’s the 1970s, so John Hamer or somebody will have to correct me if this is not correct, but they started teaching in India and Africa, places that had polygamy and they said the question is, do you baptize a polygamist? If they’re Muslim polygamists, the Community of Christ actually started baptizing polygamists, if they promised not to take any more wives. So it’s interesting to hear that about Sierra Leone, do we have a policy on that?

David:  Yeah, we have a policy, we don’t baptize people who are in polygamy. We can’t baptize children that are living in a polygamist home. I remember one of my first Sundays, we went out to a branch a long ways away from the mission home and I sat in on the youth class, and it was being taught by this wonderful 17 year old sister.  She was doing a great job teaching, and so afterwards, I asked, “When did she get baptized?”  She says, “Well, I’m not baptized.”  “Really? Well, we’d be happy to teach you.”  She says, “Well, I can’t get baptized until I’m 18 because my parents are polygamists.” So she was accommodated into the church.

GT:  And she taught a class?

David: She taught a class. She joined the faithful community and I’m sure she was baptized after her 18th birthday.

Check out our conversation…

I asked David Ostler what the church should do with polygamists, and was surprised he had experience with African polygamists!

Don’t miss our previous conversations with David!

321: Creating a Better Church Atmosphere

320: 3 Ways to Help People Keep Coming to Church

319: How Active Members Get Ostracized at Church

318: Helping Leaders Understand Faith Crisis

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How People Get Ostracized (& How to Stop it!) Part 2 of 6

Sometimes very active people quit coming to church.  What are the causes of that?  In our next conversation with David Ostler, he tells us what people do that ostracize active members.

 

GT:  I think one of the things that I like about your book, I’m trying to say this as diplomatically as possible. It just feels like you “get it.” I know there are a lot of people that have really good, well-meaning hearts, and they want to talk about this idea of disaffection. But they do it in a way where [it’s not effective.] It feels like I’ve got to be careful. I have to censor myself because I might offend that person. It just feels like you are open. There’s an openness that you frankly don’t see at church. I mean, for one thing, I’ve expressed before. In fact, I actually interviewed Kurt [Francom] on my podcast a few months ago, and I expressed some frustration. I don’t consider myself in a faith crisis, but I also can’t speak up at church. It’s not safe. It’s almost just better to go sit in the hall and do your own personal study, because everybody’s all concerned about everybody’s testimony. For me, and like I said, I don’t consider myself in a faith crisis, but I felt the frustration of the people that you talked about in your book. Can you talk about how…? I mean, is there anything we can do?  I feel as Joe member, I can’t talk to my bishop. I just feel like he’ll look at me cross-eyed, and I’ll never get a calling again. Can you address that issue?

David:  I think what you’re talking about is probably a little bit more common than we think. I think that we all want to go to church and look polished, and at our best and the like. We know that we want to be faithful. We know that we want to express confidence in the institutional church and in our own belief, and so sometimes it takes a lot of courage. It can be very vulnerable for us to express any sort of concern we have that might go against that completely faithful narrative. So it’s sometimes very daunting to either raise our hand and say, “Well, I’ve got a concern here,” or to ask a question, “Well, what about this?” And I think sometimes, just because of the nature of our culture, that can be somewhat risky for people.

What I found when I started kind of going down this road, maybe it’s because of my career background, or maybe because of some my own personal experiences, I just wanted to listen to what people were saying. I just wanted to kind of understand from their perspective, how they felt attached to the church, if they were in crisis, what triggered their crisis, how they felt about it, what their concerns were.  I just kind of went down that road without care about my preconceptions, or whether they would say things that would make me uncomfortable, or that I might disagree with personally. So, I really wanted to just truly understand, and I asked a lot of questions. I wanted to know. I asked, “Why do you feel that way?” I’d say some things and they’d help me see how, what I was saying wasn’t either on target or wasn’t helpful or showed that I didn’t understand. I had some good friends that would help me see my blind spots on that. So, I’m grateful that you felt like that voice came through in the book.

Check out our conversation….

Sometimes active people quit coming to church. David Ostler explains what makes church culture difficult for people, and things we can do to improve out culture.

Don’t miss our other conversation with David!

318: Helping Leaders Understand Faith Crisis

 

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Helping LDS Leaders Understand Faith Crisis

David Ostler is the author of “Bridges:  Ministering to Those Who Question.”  This book is designed for LDS Leaders to better understand a faith crisis, and how to help members in their wards and stakes to better empathize and maintain members who struggle with issues of faith.  David has interviewed several hundred people to better understand their perspective and shares that knowledge with all of us.

David:  When I started studying faith crisis, disaffiliation, my own background is in evidence-based medicine. So, you know, it’s like, what does the data say? It’s the first question we ask. So I spent time trying to understand what we knew about the problem, what people had written, what studies had been done, what data had been collected. Like most problems, we all have impressions about a particular area, but when we go in and study it systematically, sometimes we find those impressions are not entirely accurate. For my own life, that’s been the case often. But certainly with this topic, I found it to be the case. So I wanted to, as I learned about this for myself, and then ultimately, as I wrote the book, to make sure that I had the best information that can be brought on it, and where it wasn’t available to see what I could do to create more information there. So with regards to Leading Saints, and Kurt Francom, we were able to, using the leaders that subscribe to his newsletter, to be able to survey them and understand what local leaders thought about faith crisis, issues of faith, how they were responding and the like. So that’s been kind of a fun thing for me to get to know Kurt and that community a little better.

Check out our conversation…

David Ostler has a new book called “Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question

 

And don’t miss our previous conversations with Kurt Francom!

223: Do You Disagree with the Exclusion Policy?

222: Should the Church Modify Bishop’s Interviews?

221: Results of Faith Crisis Research

220: “We’ve Got to Have These Difficult Conversations”

219: Ministering to the Faithful & Faithless

218: Is it Bad to be Called LDS or Mormon?