Friday, October 12, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Tajikistan

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Tajikistan. Tajikistan is the only Persian nation in Central Asia that used to be part of the Soviet Union as the population of the four other former Soviet republics in the region are Turkic in ethnicity. The Church has operated a member group in Dushanbe to service foreign members although it is unclear whether this member group operates at present. There are only a few known Tajikistani converts. Significant restrictions on religious freedom, including the recent ban on individuals under age 18 attending public religious services, pose insurmountable obstacles for an official Church establishment at present. Nevertheless, the Church assigned Tajikistan to the Central Eurasian Mission in 2015 although prospects for outreach within the foreseeable future appear dim.


Paul said...

Completely off the subject, but I don't know where else to ask. Does anyone know what President Nelson has done over the years to remain so healthy? Diet? Exercise? He walks and talks like a person half his age. Truly impressive.

Eduardo said...

He takes the Sacrament every Thursday night, I think. And he uses his brain a lot, learning fluent (I heard) Chinese as an adult.

Christopher Nicholson said...

He does exercise regularly and as a doctor I'm sure he eats well too. But he undoubtedly also has lucky genes. The one crucial factor nobody can control. You can diet and exercise all you want but if your body wants to wear out in its seventies, it will. Life is cruel.

John Pack Lambert said...

President Helson was not just "an adult" when he learned Mandarin. He was a busy surgeon with responsibilities at a hospital and a medical school, and General President of the Sunday School. I believe the talk by President Kimball that inspired him to do this was given in about 1979, so President Nelson was over 50.

President Nelson evidently takes stairs at every change he gets, and moves from place to place with energy. He exercises a lot, lives the word of wisdom, and probably maintains a balanced and healthy diet. Considering he was a hear doctor and heart disease is the number one killer, I am guessing he has engaged in many healthy habits his whole life.

I'm not sure this explains all the factors. Presaident Packer who was a week younger than President Nelson in part died from post-polio syndrome. There are lots of other factors at play.

Gnesileah said...

I am amazed by President Nelson's health and stamina. It is fortunate for us to have someone that physically and mentally vibrant as our Prophet. In addition to all the other reasons given here, I also think he benefits by being married to Sister Wendy Nelson, who is quite a bit younger and equally energetic. I don't recall the exact dates now, but when I looked into this a couple years ago, I learned that Sister Nelson is actually younger than one or two of President Nelson's oldest children.

Unknown said...

I was just looking at the guidelines for family history callings. It still mentions the high priest group leader. There is a need for updating Church publications to the current policies.

James Anderson said...

They called the former high priest group leader in my ward to be in the elders quorum presidency as the second counselor, so we were able to immediately adapt things and integrate roles of the high priest group leader into the elders quorum presidency.

Wehave about 40 in attendance in quorum meting, so we are also doing committees, I am on the family history committee, after four months we are going to meet and assess needs, part of this is the chair has a newborn so that tied things up for a while. EQ committees, in my opinion, are going to prove crucial to the work with priesthood meeting only hapening twice a month now.

James said...

Paul, if I may, I'd like to add a comment here. Many people have mentioned here that, as a heart surgeon, President Nelson would know how to take care of himself. All heart surgeons should know about things like that, but there is one important difference: Not only does he know how to take good care of himself, but unlike many of his colleagues, he also has a gospel-centered perspective, including a firm commitment to the Word of Wisdom. So he has both the knowledge of how to take care of himself and has made a choice to do so.

Sadly, some who know what needs to be done to keep themselves healthy do not take steps to do so. And, as has been observed elsewhere, many surgeons seem to have a God-like complex, and many of them are ego-driven enough to not have that kind of discipline in their personal lives. President Nelson stands in stark contrast to that.

His Brethren continually report that he is hard to keep up with, and that he may be around another decade or two. Even though he is the second-oldest man to ever become Church President, I could see that happening. He could easily be considered the most healthy Church President we have had in 20 years or longer.

In his first two conferences alone, we have seen him act decisively in declaring what the Lord wants us to hear. And his Brethren of the apostleship all report that the changes we have seen thus far are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We all saw how President Monson's health failed for the last 5-7 years of his life, and how he had to take a less active role in the day-to-day administration of the Church for the last 3 years or so before his passing earlier this year. Somehow, I don't see that ever being a problem for President Nelson. He may not live forever, but I am sure he and the Lord will keep him going for as long as he is needed here.

How long that might be exactly is known only to the Lord, but for the rest of us, his example of practices that have maintained his good health for the last 94 years is one of many examples of ways in which all of us could be well-served to follow that example.

In the meantime, my thanks to Matt for this great report. Although many of these Middle Eastern nations are in their infancy in terms of Church presence, the Lord could, does, and will move His work forward, for which I am also grateful.

With my additional thanks to you all for the insights shared here, and to Matt for allowing me to continue to do so, I would like to again pass along the address of my blog. There have been quite a few significant Church and temple developments in recent days, and I welcome feedback on any of those posts.

James said...

Sorry. I had a couple of additional thoughts based on things said in the conversation above. John Pack Lambert, the interesting thing is that President Packer was actually only a day younger than President Nelson. In the case of President Packer, the reemergence of his childhood polio, combined with the effects of old age, other health issues, and his body and mind having been worn out through a 40-year apostolic ministry would have been enough to make anyone not trained or conditioned for that kind for global service completely exhausted. President Nelson, by comparison, has always been more healthy than his predecessor in the presidency of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and than his prophetic predecessor.

Gnesileah, I was curious, so i looked it up. It appears that Sister Nelson is roughly 25 years younger than her husband, give or take a few months. We saw Sisters Hinckley and Monson wear themselves out in serving alongside their husbands, and passing away some years before their spouses did. With President Nelson appearing, by many accounts, to shed 20-30 years minimum when out among the people, it is fitting that by his side should be someone around the same age as he appears to be. Some have commented previously on having issues with significant age gaps between spouses. I don't see that as problematic. I personally wound up marrying someone who is roughly six years my senior in age, but we are evenly matched in all the important ways (except those in which she is superior to me, which are very numerous).

As to the changes to handbooks and committees, some wards integrate those changes more easily than others. In a recent reshuffling of leadership following the restructuring of Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, the former High Priest Group Leader in my ward was called as the ward mission leader, while his second assistant is the only high priest currently in the EQ presidency in our ward. Interestingly enough, it appears that the counselors in my ward bishopric have also changed, though we do not have a new bishop. His new First Counselor had been serving on the Stake High Council, and his new Second Counselor had been the Ward Clerk.

Some seem shocked, stunned, or offended by the fact that handbooks were not instantaneously updated online and in print following the changes announced in General Conference in April or October. But they seem to forget that it is easy to announce a change, while the implementation of such changes (including updating all resources, such as handbooks) may not be as instantaneous as the changes. President Nelson reemphasized the usage of the proper name of the Church, and yet the updates of some Church-approved resources are pending on that as well. Some may feel that such changes should have been made to online and print resources before or shortly after they are announced over the pulpit, but that, in my mind, would be like suggesting that if the announcement of any temple location is truly inspired, it should have construction begin within a year of its' announcement, which would not be practical either. Just some additional thoughts, for what they may be worth to anyone here.

The Accountant said...

Since last week's announcement, family history can be under the direction of a ward family history and temple leader reporting to the bishop of course. This is a new calling. The other option is to have the EQ and RS Presidency head up family history in the ward. This is the same for missionary work. Either ward mission leader can do it or it can be assigned to a counselor in the EQ and RS presidency. If the EQ and RS presidency run it then they would attend ward council when invited by the bishop. The ward mission leader is no longer a standard member of the ward council.

The handbook probably won't be updated until closer to April conference. The changes from this past April have just made it into the handbook online. So it looks like it will be a few months before this happens since they have to revise several sections of the handbook with these latest announced changes.

Curious to hear your thoughts on the new Sunday school setup. I was on assignment visiting a ward council yesterday and they are looking to have two Sunday School classes because of so many people now attending it. (Pros and Cons with this) (Due to elimination of gospel principles and all other alternative classes like temple prep, family history, strengthening marriage class). I think many will have a mental struggle at first to realize this is only for two weeks out of the month. Second it is only 50 minutes to discuss two weeks of material from the Come Follow Me family workbook. Third this is a discussion not a lesson so the teacher has to be inspired to choose the one or two items to discuss with the class.

John Pack Lambert said...

I would say at heart it is still a lesson. We still have teachers, and so they still are lessons.

That said, I think that having multiple Sunday School classes is the best course of action in most wards. YSA wards in was in at BYU almost always had multiple Gospel doctrine Sunday School classes. A few years ago the Sunday School General Presidency gave statements that clearly indicated that having multiple gospel doctine classes in the same ward was allowed. I believe I once visited a ward in Lansing, Michigan that had multiple gospel doctrine classes.

Likewise I have seen wards with multiple elder's quarums and relief socieites. Most have either been YSA wards or other wards in Provo. My borther was once in a ward in Provo with very few high priests but two elder's quorums. It was a geographical ward but most of the members were married students.

James said...

Hello, The Accountant. I am glad to see the local flexibility in some of these matters. That goes back to something I had said earlier: The precise reason that so much of this process (the administration of the ministering and ward mission programs and also local leaders handling such things as dissenting votes cast during General Conference) is at the discretion and under the inspiration of local leaders is because they would know the "sheep" in their "flock" well enough to have some idea of what works and what is problematic, in addition to having knowledge as to why a dissenting vote might be cast. So handing these responsibilities off to leaders to determine what works best in that regard and how best to deal with it is a very smart idea.

As to the new Sunday School setup, I think it will work great. With only a few Sunday School classes that meet twice a month, the administrative load of the Sunday School Presidencies on all levels will be lessened. As someone who served in such a presidency in a scenario where I was often the only one there on a regular weekly basis, I can tell you that part of it will be appreciated by Sunday School presidencies everywhere.

James said...

In terms of the logistics behind doubling up on the curriculum every two weeks, I can tell you from experience that a teacher who has been properly trained to let the Spirit drive the discussion while hitting the most important points of each lesson will not find it difficult to get through two weeks of material in the course of one week.

But there's more to it than that. President Nelson and Elder Cook both emphasized the importance of home-centered and Church-sponsored curriculum, rather than the other way around. As families counsel together, they will know how best to have a productive discussion that will determine how they individually and as a family will study the course material, and with Church being an hour shorter, more time can be devoted to personal and familial study of anything that is not discussed thoroughly enough or at all during the regular twice-monthly meeting.

I get the overwhelming sense from the talks given by both President Nelson and Elder Cook in the first session of this last Conference that the idea is to move people out of what has become comfortable and towards practices that will allow our homes to take the rightful place of the primary location in which the gospel is studied and taught, and allow Church to supplement rather than supplant that opportunity. And that is pretty well confirmed by the talks of President Nelson, Elder Cook, and many others who referenced these changes.

It would be well worth all the time it takes for each of us to review the talks from this last General Conference, and to do so repeatedly for the next six months, as per President Nelson's concluding invitation during that General Conference. The study of scriptures is important, but should supplement rather than supplant our regular study of these talks. General Conference gives us what we need to know and do for the next six months, and to overlook the words of living prophets for those that are dead will not give us that knowledge and call to action that we need right now. Many Church leaders have said over the years that the words of living prophets should be more important to us than the words of those that are dead.

We live in a time where, miraculously, within 3 days of General Conference, those talks are available online. I close now with a link to those talks, and noting that any major questions that anyone has will be answered both through a review of those addresses, and through the official material that has been or will yet be released by the Church in the coming days. It is well and good for us to use each other as a resource, but I would always refer anyone back to resources officially endorsed by and published through the Church in these cases. Thanks again to you all, and I hope this information helps you, The Accountant, and any others here who have similar questions. Thanks.

Bryce said...

Matt - in reading your updated profiles of countries least likely to have significant changes to LDS growth in the near future, I read the recent announcements from GenCon in a new light. Between online proselytism and having a new emphasis on "church at home," perhaps this could represent a new phase in taking the Gospel to the remaining nations which have so many restrictions. I was really struck by a couple things Prez Nelson said:
From his opening remarks: "As Latter-day Saints, we have become accustomed to thinking of 'church' as something that happens in our meetinghouses... We need an adjustment to this pattern... As the Church continues to expand throughout the world, many members live where we have no chapels—and may not for the foreseeable future."
From his sermon on the name of the Church: "...if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church....We will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people...."

Eduardo said...

Tajik is a Persian dialect written in Cyrillic. Lots of drugs move through it on the way to Russia.

Eric S. said...

My YSA Ward had two Sunday School classes in addition to all the other classes being taught during that same hour (gospel principles, temple prep, mission prep, family history, etc.) until a couple months ago when they switched to just one to allow the other YSA Ward to have their Sunday School class in one of the larger rooms. The two wards meet at the same time with one having sacrament meeting first and the other starting with priesthood/relief society. With the new schedule all that will change. We will most likely go back to having two Sunday School classes. It will be interesting to see.

I imagine many larger wards might have two Sunday School classes unless if their time schedule and building size allow to meet in the gym or another larger room.

John Pack Lambert said...

Sunday school class in either the gym or the chapel to me is always a bad move. Class discussion is always better in a classroom.

On another note I was just trying to insert some more uses of the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into the Wikipedia article on Dallin H. Oaks. There is continued pushback from editors who insist on following Wikipedia's manual of style instead of conforming to requests from The Church of Jesus Christ to include his name.

That article also relies far too much on Gary Bergera's book in its coverage of the time President Oaks presided over BYU. That book is built on highlighting and overplaying controversies while ignoring areas of agreement between Oaks and the Board of Trustees.

The Chatelain's said... is unfortunately already taken but I have noticed that many ads from the church say from “The Church of Jesus Christ”

MeaganT said...

Matt (Martinich?),

I'm not sure if you check older blog posts, so I'm going to need to comment on here. I noticed that you linked to Religion News about the rates of early missionary returns. I noticed that Jana Riess owns an ex-latter-day saint blog; she does give compliments but she's also gone off on serious rants about the church. SHE IS THE AUTHOR of that study. I looked at the methodology and then I checked out her reference to the joint BYU/UVU study she links to in the blog. The rate of early returns among millenials was 6%--with 70% being sent home for health reasons in 2014 according to the more reliable academic UVU/BYU joint study, not 1/3 of all millenials. That's a huge discrepency. According to the Ensign article: Missionary Health Preparation March 2007, 3% of all missionaries were being sent home for health reasons. So it does look like an increase since 2007, but not an epidemic increase, and with the new missionary interview questions released in fall 2017 in order to reduce ERMs that number might fall. It appears Riess was using this study to frame the church as looking for any reason to send women home because their rates were slightly higher, even though she admits she has no proof. The church actually goes through extra efforts to keep the numbers of women going home early low: providing cars for women, having women wait an extra year to make sure it's right for them, checking in on women more, assigning them to low-intensity missions like giving tours, etc...the UVU/BYU study said that other than health and worthiness reasons going home, "other" reasons are rare (no more than 7% of all ERMs) So I'm skeptical of her women go home more rates--unless the 7% is almost all women.

MeaganT said...

Also, Matt, I forgot to add,

even her claim that younger missionaries now are getting sent home less is suspect, I know it seems innocent enough, but the joint UVU/BYU study explains how youth are "more vulnerable to psychological stress," and emerging adults are more "prone to mental illness"--this may be why the interview questions were introduced not long after the age reduction, to decrease rates of mental illness! There's good reason to suspect she manipulated data in order to drop a hint that women should serve at 18 as the answer to the higher rate of early returns. I know you're likely busy, I just don't want this data to have you go down a rabbit trail. Early returns aren't at an unprecedented rate--granted it would be nice if the church had a better way to pick out the best--but obviously can't with how big the church is. The sad consequence is many of our best historic missionaries would have been disqualified under this health system created by the Missionary Department of Health Services. The Q of the 12 has been forced to put a lot of trust in them, and it's clear from the UVU/BYU study lots of people are feeling rejected and hurt and dropping out. I share people's pain that we need a better system, but slow pruning of the tree, slow pruning, slow changes as Jacob 5 says so the tree doesn't have the issues we had in the past and will last through the millennium. It's not my idea, but then again it's my job to seek out justice and mercy for my fellow man, not make sweeping decisions for the church. I'm curious about the quorum of the 144,000, it looks like when they are restored they will deal with missionary work. It appears to be different than the seventies. Will they work at the stake level and replace mission presidents, or mission presidents will only be reserved for new territories? I'm excited to see how it's all going to work out. Also when looking at quotes dealing with future great growth and worldwide respect for the church, and there's several of them, all of them point to a change in the members--once the members are where they should be people will respect us. Makes sense, I couldn't be pulled out of this church through doctrinal skirmishes and being approached about what's true by strangers, but if I saw a group of people who figured it all out and their families were working out well I'd be begging for their secrets.

Eduardo said...

I wish we had more people like Jana Riess who spend so much time researching and publishing. I definitely do not agree with a lot of her views, but she is very hard working and thought provoking.
Nice commentaries on her efforts and analysis, good food for thought.

James said...

John Pack Lambert, I can certainly understand why some feel that holding classes in certain areas (such as the chapel or cultural hall) is a bad idea, but at certain times and under certain circumstances, it may be the best option. Although my parents' stake (which was my home stake until 2015) has since seen boundary changes and two of the wards belonging to that stake reassigned to neighboring ones, at the time I last attended that ward, the combined numbers of Melchizedek Priesthood holders (on their own or in combination with the Relief Society) were too high to fit in a regular classroom. So at times when we were the last ward meeting for the day, it was very common for us to hold those combined meetings in the chapel.

Far from being a "bad idea", it was the only practical solution because of the number of people in attendance and because we had several elderly members (including those in wheelchairs or with walkers) for whom holding such meetings elsewhere would have made accessibility difficult (if not nearly impossible). I appreciate the general sentiment of your statement, and would agree with it to a certain point, but in a scenario like that, we didn't have many other options.

It may be very easy for us to make sweeping generalizations about scenarios with which we have some personal experience, but to say that it is always a bad idea would have missed the mark in the specific scenario I described above. The Church has come a long way in terms of providing accessibility for disabled or elderly individuals in newer buildings, but it is more difficult to ensure those types of accommodations in buildings that were not originally constructed with those needs in mind. So it strikes me as a bit disingenuous to say that something that seems like a bad idea in one case is universally bad in all other cases. If the chapel or cultural hall had not been available in those scenarios, we likely would have had a few members feeling uncomfortable about either missing the meeting or not being able to participate fully.

I apologize if I am going overboard in my response to your comment. But it has been a sad truth in the older buildings in which I have met that accessibility can be an issue for many elderly or disabled members of our congregations, and because of that, the chapel or cultural hall were the only two options that would accommodate those needs.

James said...

As to your other comment about inserting the correct name of the Church in Wikipedia articles, I understand the frustration behind Wikipedia not complying with styles or seeing the notability of Church-related topics, leaders, and policies. That is one of many reasons I have stepped back recently from an active role in Wikipedia. The sometimes hypocritical nature of the way those changes are accepted or rejected has been a sore spot for years for me personally, particularly in recent years when actions relating to those articles that would have been unthinkable or unheard of several years ago is now seen as acceptable, rational, and defensible. I will hope to perhaps get back on Wikipedia myself within the next month or so, and if I can, I will try to work to help fix the problems you described above. I have a few people I know and strings I could possibly pull. I will see what I can do.

In terms of other comments about the Church's ongoing process of updating all resources in response to President Nelson's statement and the updated guidelines on the name of the Church, the Newsroom released earlier today a statement describing the way it is approaching that process. And as far as the inaccurate information that may have been found in earlier posts on this blog, Matt has always taken time to correct those errors when new information comes to light. His willingness to adapt to and share such corrections has been refreshing, but may take time as well.

As for Jana Riess, I have read in passing a few things which she has written and published, and she can be both complimentary and excoriating towards the Church and its' leaders and members. Does the good she shares about the Church outweigh the problems she sees? History will one day demonstrate that more fully. I would hope that Matt's statement referencing things she said were meant to reference her positive comments rather than those that were critical, offensive, or inappropriate. If the former is correct, I have no problem with that information standing. It is tragic that someone who praises the Church when it suits their agenda can turn around and criticize it if that will help advance the causes they embrace. Just some additional thoughts, for what they may be worth to anyone here.

James said...

Hello again, everyone! I just wanted to share additionally here that there has been a lot of new Church news and temple developments reported within the last week or so, and I have done my best to stay on top of it all. With my thanks again to all of you for your contributions to these discussions, to Matt for sharing these great insights into Church growth topics, in addition to allowing me to continue to share such things here, I wanted to again pass along the address of my blog for anyone who would like to catch up on the latest content and offer feedback about it. Thanks again, everyone!

Christopher said...

"For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies." D&C 84

James said...

Of which we have daily proof in the ongoing vitality of President Nelson. Speaking of which, he, his wife, and Elder and Sister Stevenson left today for what is likely the first South American leg of the Nelson's Global Ministry Tour. That tour, as you may recall, will culminate in the dedication of the Concepcion Chile Temple 9 days from now. Hope this information is helpful to all who read it.

Unknown said...

I will take things a step further and say that Riess and others do those of us who served an honorable mission and had to return home 3-4 months early as a blight upon the Church. It is way more complex than that and the 20 productive months we gave should not be sneared at because they were not 24 months.

Unknown said...

I tire of the attacks on missionary medical services. The general authorities are the ones who have made the policy decisions with Elder Schwitzer having headed missionary medical. What I know from before the current system is that many companionships were ineffective because of one member having severe debilitating medical problems.

At the same time the Church has a program that sends many people who are borderline cases especially with respect to mental health issues on 3 month mini missions. At the end the situation is evaluated and those who can continue on to full 18 month or 2 year missions.

James said...

I would agree with you there. I had a couple of friends from high school who, through no fault of their own, had health issues that prevented them from finishing their missions. I observed how heartbroken they were about not being able to finish their assignment, and the process by which they came to terms with all of that. Quite frankly, I don't understand the stigma attached to such scenarios. If any missionary serves in any capacity with real intent, and to the best of his or her abilities, the Lord approves of such efforts, whether they are part-time/Church service missions or whether that assignment ends earlier than anticipated, through no fault on the part of the missionaries involved.

I know that, at times, I have wondered whether I personally should or could have done more in the part-time opportunities I had (since I was one whose physical health did not allow for full-time service away from home). But there have been an equal or greater number of occasions when I have clearly felt that the service I could render was as acceptable to the Lord as it would have been had I been able to serve a full-time proselyting mission. And in my case, one part of my service (which I continued beyond the original anticipated time-frame) led me to the woman I would eventually marry, and if I hadn't had that service opportunity, that would not have happened. So it worked out well.

Just another general note, which I hope will aid in the discussion. With Elder Schwitzer having been granted emeritus status in General Conference earlier this month, I have confirmed that Elder Weahterford T. Clayton has, as of August 1 of this year, taken over for Elder Schwitzer in the assignment to oversee Missionary Health Services. As an interesting sidenote, as some of you might know, that Elder Clayton is the younger brother of Elder L. Whitney Clayton, who is currently the Senior President of the Seventy.

This is the second time in recent years where a pair of brothers has served together as General Authority Seventies. Brother Tad R. Callister, prior to his current assignment as Sunday School General President, had served in the Second Quorum of the Seventy and in the Presidency of the Seventy. But at the time of his call, his older brother, Douglas L. Callister, had been serving in that same Quorum.

Sorry for that interjection of trivia, but I hope the information I shared here is helpful to at least some of you who read it. Thanks.

MeaganT said...

This is probably too late, but I wasn't attacking Missionary Health Services, I didn't know that it was overseen by a GA, I just know from an article on Missionary Health they kept phrasing things as the Missonary Department has a policy of... not the church has a policy of or the Lord has a policy of. And the joint BYU-UVU study showed the majority felt they were spiritually directed to serve, most had spiritual experiences, and the majority had no choice in being sent home early, and the majority felt like failures. I also know that many historic missionaries who found major success had health problems, and were ERMs. According to What You Didn't Know About the 100 Most Important Events in Church History, page 192 "After three months in the mission field Jennie Brimhall was honorably released in November 1898 for health reasons". Wait, but Reiss said that nobody was sent home in those days except for in a coffin. I just was very suspicious of Reiss' claims, 1/3 of all missionaries are ERMS??? Really??? Especially when other recent statistics point to ERMs in the single digits, I don't know how much we can trust Reiss, of course she'll say good things about the church too, that's how even the very elect get deceived--by mingling and mixing truth. I'm not going to attack the church, I made a covenant not to, I just feel bad for those who were directed to go and then came home early, and others who feel they should go but likely won't get to do more than local menial labor--that's got to hurt their self-esteem. 1/3 left the church and half went inactive according to the BYU-UVU study. Should I not have compassion or compassion now considered a sign of apostasy? I'm sure the church is doing the best it can, I'm just looking forward to the future. We used to only have seminary in Utah, now it's everywhere, we used to have extremely long conferences and tons of meetings, now it's simplifying. CES is getting better. Saying I look forward to further pruning and more situations being refined is not an attack on the church; according to Jacob 5 pruning is basically a given. To say nothing will adapt in the future and everything is in its ideal place just causes people to doubt when things change and worry about if the past was inspired. I'm not trying to drag on this conversation, it's just that I promised to defend the kingdom, so here I am.

James said...

Meagan, I can understand if you weren't aware that Missionary Health Services is overseen by a General Authority Seventy. There are very little facets of the work at Church headquarters that are not under the direct supervision of a general authority. The one exception may be the Church Auditing Committee, which, according to their report given during General Conference each April, has a comprised membership of Church members and friends of other faiths who are qualified to perform the yearly audit. That said, what they are auditing is based on reports from the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes, which is comprised of all members of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Presiding Bishopric, as divinely mandated by scripture. The article you mentioned in your earlier comment did contain some exaggerations by Reiss, but that is to be expected from someone who only supports the Church when it suits her agenda.

As to your comment on those who return early, through no fault of their own, or those who are not able to serve, I have experience with both scenarios. I referenced above having one or two friends with whom I attended High School who, through no fault of their own, had to return early. And it was hard for them to come to terms with that process. I watched them struggle with thoughts about whether they could have done differently, before or during their missions, which could have prevented them from having to come home early. But I also saw them eventually accept what they could and could not change, and many of them now understand that the Lord has accepted their best efforts. And in some cases, their early return led them to blessings they would likely not have enjoyed in the same way had they been able to complete their assigned service period.

I also, as noted above, have had life-long physical disabilities which precluded my serving full-time or away from home. My bishop and stake president honorably excused me from full-time service, but indicated that if I still wanted to serve in some capacity, they would work with me to make that happen. I had two great part-time opportunities, one working two or three days per week with Welfare Services (local Humanitarian efforts) and one working two shifts at the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple. The first call was for an 18-month period, and I opted to extend for 6 months afterward. The temple service was initially a 6-month call, but I had the opportunity of extending, and I wound up serving a total of 6.5 years in that assignment. Following the end of my 2-year formal service period, as I continued to serve at the temple, I had several remarkable experiences. But one of the main highlights of that service was that it eventually led me to the woman I later married..

James said...

That said, did I ever have times when I felt that my service was somehow less significant in the grand scheme of things than that of peers my same age who were able to serve full-time and away from home? Absolutely. But when those feelings came, by acknowledging that my service, such as it was, was just as acceptable to the Lord and His Church as it would have been had I served full-time, and by remembering that my missionary opportunities gave me unique experiences, the benefits of which I am still reaping today, I was open to the Lord at times when He clearly let me know that service on my part was acceptable to Him.

So I speak as one having experience with both scenarios you described above. If the figure you cited above about those who are sent home early leaving the Church is accurate, that is a tragedy. And compassion is never a problem in and of itself, nor does it constitute apostasy. But unless you happen to know the specifics of why such individuals left the Church, that may be more speculative, and therefore, having compassion without knowing all the facts may be unwise. I don't know all the facts either, but knowing what I know about publicized cases where people have either left the Church voluntarily or through excommunication, there is usually a lot more going into what happens there than is ever publicly spelled out. If these early-return missionaries left of their own volition, that is a tragedy indeed. But if they allowed their discontent over having to return early to lead them to question why the Lord would send them out in the first place, or if their feelings about being released early led them to conduct in violation of Church policies and doctrines, that becomes a whole different problem.

Of course there will be changes in policy, procedures, practices and programs of the Church. That is a given. As the times change, and as the Second Coming of the Savior draws nearer, the Church will need to focus on how best to navigate changing attitudes in the world while defending unalterable doctrines. And part of that will involve a "pruning", of which we have seen evidence recently. While we need to be adaptable to change, it will also be more important than ever for us to understand the process of how those changes are made. And the fact is that there is a lot more going on with the day-to-day business of the Church that is overseen and well-considered by many Church leaders than most people might realize. It is all well and good to defend the kingdom. That is very commendable for any of us to do. But when any of us do not take time to educate ourselves on the process by which such determinations are being made, or take the word of people who do not consistently support the Church or its' leaders above what the actual policies, practices, and official positions happen to be, that becomes another type of problem.

James said...

The Brethren never make an organizational, doctrinal, or practical decision unless and until there is an unanimity among them that such actions are correct. And that requires a lot of deliberation, studying the matter, and petitioning the Lord for answers. It is a pattern that all of us would be well served to follow. It seems that so many people are prone to complain about decisions announced at a general level without first gaining a genuine understanding of the process whereby those decisions have been made. If people would bother to educate themselves in that regard, then it is likely that a lot of the misunderstandings that occur in public or private discussions on those decisions would not be a factor any longer.

And there are sadly people who leave the Church but cannot leave it alone, which becomes a whole different kind of problem, and makes it harder to have compassion for them. As one who knows, I can tell you that the number of early-return missionaries who leave the Church is far and away overshadowed and outpaced by the number of early-return missionaries who remain true to the Church and their testimonies, and who accept that the service they were able to render as just as pleasing to the Lord had they served full-time. Just some additional thoughts for you, which I hope are helpful.

MeaganT said...

Thanks for the well-thought out insights, although I do feel misunderstood with your response.

I haven't been reading anyone's complaints or coming to this conclusion by social media. I didn't know anyone else was concerned about the Missionary Health Department, so I was taken aback by Unknown's comments. I felt Unknown was really rude sitting on his/her throne like that passing how dare anyone express frustration judgement calls.

That's great that the ERMs you know are overwhelmingly true, but your personal experience isn't a study, in the BYU-UVU study. Also a physical disability is far less stigmatizing than mental health, being in a wheelchair for instance is a given fact that people can come to grips with, but anxiety...maybe you can control that depending on severity (or at least some people with it are sure they can and are hurt by others saying differently)? And even if you come to terms with it one might not agree with the MDHS method of treating it (maybe someone doesn't want the negative effects of artificial medication). People were far more likely to lie on their applications for mental health according to the study, far more likely than physical disabilities. So you can't really speak for all ERMs, I can't either, but I can have compassion on them because I can't judge them. Yes some become apostates and pick on the church to deal with their feelings, but only Christ knows their pain.

BYU is overseen by a general authority, does that mean they can do no wrong? But how does that explain hiring apostate teachers who led my relatives astray? How does that explain their embarassments? MDHS is made up of 200 people--who are not general authorities and are human. Read Elder Boyd K. Packer's Snow White Birds talk in BYU's speech archives--the struggles between BYU and the church are endless, how would MDHS, which is structured in a similar way make no mistakes but BYU can? And yet I still defend the church--why? Because, one integrity, and two I'm in it for the Savior who is perfect, not the people. He said this is what's true and where I need to be. I used to be founded upon the sandy foundation of lower authorities and church investments and programs doing no wrong, and that led to a crooked house for me that almost fell. But in building back up my testimony I found that Catholics weathered their storms by founding themselves upon Christ--similar to how the Samaritan woman at the well said she was waiting upon the Messiah to tell her all things, although "salvation is with the" saints, and I said aha, that's what I need to be doing.

You see, this isn't a complaint, I'm just trying to relate to people. Watch the statistical report, the last time the church raised the bar interest in missionary service and seminary enrollment dropped--rather dramatically. Already 67,000 is well below what the church thought we'd be at by now. The interview questions being made public are sure to have some people saying, great, I won't be allowed to serve full-time. Already mental health numbers are at 20%. They won't be brought back into the fold by anything less than compassion.

Personally, based on prophetic quotes, I prefer trading out the full-time proselyting culture for a more family-oriented culture if the church is going to grow. "Don’t neglect your children…Draw your children around about you. Teach them, guide them, and guard them…If we will do that, this church will grow by leaps and bounds in strength and influence throughout the world. No longer need you be considered as a hiss and byword"--Harold B. Lee, Conference, April 1973 Got that, leaps and bounds will be brought about good ordinary people who have fruits to show for it. Better missionaries can only go so far in a world where the "Nones" are the ultimate trend.

MeaganT said...

Ugh, my second paragraph was really hasty, sorry about that--I wasn't trying to sound critical. Neither of us knows what it's like for all ERMs. You are using personal experience, I'm using a study "Return with Trauma", 2015, BYU--although things in there didn't surprise me based on interactions with people. We're both sort of making judgement calls. I think, and this is me, it's better to err on the side of sympathy for youth who may feel rejected by others. A YSA who decides to only come to sacrament meeting and avoids social functions, and never attends their home ward because being diagnosed on their mission has made them self-conscious, and may or may not vocalize their disappointments with how they were singled out, is a lost sheep, not an enemy of the church who needs to be put in their place.

James said...

Meagan, I appreciate your efforts to clarify. But I feel that you too are sharing opinions without being informed. I said I had health conditions (including physical disabilities) that kept me from being able to serve a full-time mission, but I never once said I was in a wheelchair. For your information, I have cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus as major health concerns, and one of my earliest doctors told my parents: "Take him home and simply love him. He will never amount to anything more than a limp noodle on a sofa." They chose not to take that advice, and because of their initial decision not to do so, and due to my ongoing resolve to do as much for myself as I can, I am on the more highly-functioning spectrum of people with those same conditions. The only time I have ever "been in a wheelchair" is post-surgical periods where that was required, and to navigate lengthy distances that would otherwise be too hard on me physically.

I have had numerous hospitalizations and surgeries, and could say half my life was spent in a hospital. I am now in my early 30s and facing a unique situation where my health is declining in other ways not directly related to my physical disabilities. Right now, I do happen to know quite a bit about anxiety and depression, which are two of the regular conditions I deal with on a day-to-day basis currently. The sum and total of my health problems have led to my being unable to function as fully as I usually do, but I have never let any health problem stop me from doing everything I can for myself.

So you may feel misjudged and misunderstood here, but it seems you too are making assumptions without knowing the facts. And, as one who deals daily with anxiety and depression, and who has been misjudged and ignored by members of his own current ward in the midst of a two-year plight that has included seeing my wife deal with ill health, we have had a two-year very rough situation that has caused both of us to have extensive physical and mental health issues, for some of which there are no current answers. That is why I get a little tired of people assuming they know what I am dealing with but not bothering to ascertain the facts before asserting their assessment of my situation. I recognize you didn't know that, but if you don't know, perhaps you should not assume. I mean no offense by this, since you had no way of knowing, but assumptions are never a good thing.

James said...

I have also dealt with people on this very blog who feel that my lack of experience outside of Utah may disqualify me from weighing in with an informed opinion on the issues under discussion here. That said, if there is anything I want to weigh in on here, if I don't have personal knowledge about such subjects, I know how to do the research to form an informed opinion. Most of everyday for me currently is spent researching on Church and temple news and developments, passing those along on my own blog, and weighing in on the discussion of other subjects.

I believe you will also find, if you research the question again, that BYU-Provo is actually currently overseen by an area seventy, under the direction of the Church Board of Education and Boards of Trustees, a list of the members of which can be found at the link below:

Were you perhaps thinking of the previous BYU-Provo President, Cecil O. Samuelson, who was a General Authority Seventy during his tenure? As to your next comment, no Church leader I know is perfectly perfect (if they were, they would not be here), and I have dealt with truly imperfect Church leaders in the current situation of my family. I have only known of One Man who was ever perfectly perfect, and He is not currently among us. If these imperfect men and women assigning missionaries are acting on incomplete information, that is hardly the fault of the leaders involved. There has never been shame in asking for or receiving help. The shame is when anyone hides what they are dealing with because they are worried about a stigma being attached. Truly inspired leaders can only make truly inspired decisions with fully accurate information to work with.

James said...

And you may also want to pause and research some more before inferring that the problems between BYU-Provo and the Church which existed at the time then-Elder Packer addressed them. The Church has since tightened up the organizational structure of the Church Board of Education. Current membership includes a total of 2 former BYU-Provo presidents (Oaks and Holland) and 2 former Ricks College Presidents (Eyring and Bednar, under whose presidency Ricks College transitioned to BYU-Idaho). This is the first time ever (in my memory) that four former college/university presidents whose institutions fell under the Church Educational System are serving together on the Board. If anyone would be equipped to handle challenges associated with running such institutions, it would be those four that can give a perspective from first-hand experience. If the problems Elder Packer described are still an issue, then they will be dealt with.

If any of us build our testimonies on imperfect Church leaders, we will all be in trouble someday. Helaman talks about building our "sure foundation" on "the rock of our Redeemer." Church leaders have admitted they are not perfect. But to suggest that somehow any imperfect Church leader is responsible for driving anyone away from the Church is to suggest that maybe those who fall in that category did not have their faith so based. That's not my judgment call to make, for which I am grateful. But if people open themselves up to the Savior more fully, then they will not have their testimonies shaken when the conduct of any leader on any level is less than it should be. In most significant ways, my wife and I have been abandoned and let down by our local congregation, with only a few being aware of the full extent of our plight and reaching out to us to assist where they can. But my faith is not on those leaders. None of those leaders understand what I and my wife are going through. Only the Savior does. Since my trust is in Him, I will not let the clearly imperfect conduct of imperfect people sway me from believing that the Church and the gospel are true, and that I can get through this current plight if I remain faithful. That has been a lifelong lesson I have learned through many experiences, most of which I would sooner forget.

And who are any of us to say that the Church cannot both strengthen the family and the missionary program? We saw the Church move towards a home-centered and Church-sponsored curriculum, which will be in full force next year. But the Church is also taking measures to improve the way missionaries and mission leaders are prepared. At the same time, the leaders at the highest level are only able to act on the information they have or can ascertain. So if anyone omits a disclosure of a mental health issue which leads to them being sent home early, I fail to see how that can be considered the Church's fault.

And I recognize that not all early returned missionaries do turn against the Church. If they do not feel reached out to, understood, or sympathized with by their local leaders, that is more the fault of the leaders and the wards than it is of the individuals affected by it. And I have experienced that personally in my current situation. I hope these additional thoughts are taken in the spirit in which they are given. I recognize that neither of us understood where the other was coming from, and I hope you will throw a cloak of charity over my ignorance about the reasoning behind your position as I am trying to do over anything you may have said without knowing what I shared here. Thank you.

MeaganT said...

James, thank you for staying true to what you know. I won't elaborate anymore and I withhold some much-tempted nit-picking.

Parting thought: For anyone interested we need a good dose of Mosiah 28:3 in the church. Most of us get the first part, but when it comes to the second part, most of the quaking is in our index fingers. There's a little too much good riddance and how dare you, and not enough of verse 2 when someone asks questions, gives concerns, or complains. Most of us forgive Emma Smith who did some pretty shocking things due to her life experiences, but we can't forgive the pharisees or someone like Kate Kelly, both of which were acting on life experiences/culture. Someday all of us will face our own version of the ban on black ordinations, or run into something so doctrinally messy like some of the things Brigham Young taught in the 1850s and then later the church pulled back from (adam-god, reformation, etc...), that we will be licking our wounds for years. Would we want people saying things along the lines of "I have little patience for're not informed...stop complaining, you know the church is true...well if you're offended that's your fault--or maybe your ward members should be more thoughtful but higher offices in the priesthood are incapable of giving true offense"? I used to be hasty to condemn and correct, still am sometimes. I thought I had mastered the whole trial of my faith thing when I was a youth, but God's not so sure; I continue to keep having to play the game of mortality at even higher levels as I get older. If you haven't met a trial of faith that breaks your heart, just wait.

James said...

It is all well and good to suggest that we should all tremble at the thought that any soul should endure endless torment, and something else again to suggest that serious misconduct should be overlooked. The Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants said He "cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance." And in His day, He did not tell the woman taken in adultery that he condoned her behavior. He said, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go thy way and sin no more."

What most people seem to overlook in their defense of people such as Kate Kelly is that she had several meetings with local and general Church leaders, who did take time to express love, show concern, and understand her position. At any point, she could have taken their counsel. She at any point had said to herself: "I don't understand the reason why women aren't being ordained to the priesthood now, but I know the gospel is true, and so I will stick with what I know until what I don't know makes more sense."

But just as the Lord did in ancient and modern times, her leaders could not overlook the fact that her conduct was constituting open rebellion against the Church and its' leaders. So further action had to be taken. It is heartbreaking why anyone allows their own preconceived notions about how things should be become more important than recognizing the process whereby decisions have or have not been reached by general Church leadership.

I have personally been through fiery furnaces numerous times in my life. Maybe they were not so much about doctrinal quandries, but there have been moments where my faith was tested, and where I have felt abandoned, misunderstood, forgotten, and very burdened. There have been moments (especially lately) where I have questions about why such things are happening to me, what the purpose behind these events might be, how long they might last, and how and if I will ever get through it. Such moments are normal, and very par for the course.

But then, as I have sought for it, the Lord has reassured me that, although not much makes sense in those times, not everything has to. I just have to trust that the reason behind my experiences is known to the Lord, and someday, with the benefit of hindsight, it will all make sense. If any one of the former Church members whose excommunications have been high-profile had taken that approach, they would have recognized the error in their behavior, and would have corrected it as invited to do so by the leaders who met with them. The fact that they did not cast them in a position of being in open rebellion to the counsel of Church leaders, and the Lord never has and never will condone that.

James said...

But there is a difference between recognizing the imperfection of the service of local leaders that do not know me very well and suggesting that general Church leaders should be held to the same standard. The difference between general and local leadership is that the former group have had decades of experiences in dealing with hardships to an extent that most of us are not aware, and they have consistently put aside their own preconceived ideas and notions about any scenario to bring themselves in harmony with what the Lord wants them to do in their service. And if any of our general Church leadership tried to do so, the Lord would, does, and will continue to move them out of their place. We saw that in August of last year with the excommunication of Elder James J. Hamula. I am sure those who had to take disciplinary action in that case did not relish having to do so, but they also could not overlook the misconduct for which that hearing was called. We don't know the specifics there, but I am sure it was a tragedy all-around.

Whether or not he comes back will ultimately be up to him. But that is true of anyone who has done things whereby they fall away, of their own volition or because their ongoing misconduct presents a danger to the testimonies of other Church members, or if that ongoing misconduct has a potential to lead others astray. But most people who leave do not choose to come back, as their ideas appear to them to be more harmonious with the Lord's will than the official policies determined by the apostles.

i don't know any current apostle that would have chosen to have their actions and deliberations publicly scrutinized or criticized. But because they have put aside their own wills, desires, and preconceived ideas in favor of following what the Lord asks them to do. Is it easy? Surely not. But He never said it would be easy; He only said it would be worth it.

James said...

And in answer to your final comment, I have had numerous "trials of faith." Again, they have never been doctrinal, and more in terms of physical and emotional challenges that I would rather not have dealt with. How have I gotten where I am now at? By recognizing that even if nothing makes sense right now, someday everything will. And no matter what comes, because I have a testimony of how to gain reassurance about what I'm dealing with, and because I know it will all make sense one day, even though it does not make sense now, I am perfectly content to rest on that witness. "For ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."

The Savior said, "If ye will do my will, ye shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or whether I speak for myself." So many who have fallen away have it backwards: They want to know the "why" of the doctrine, and only then will they bring themselves into compliance with what they are now challenging. The Lord never has condoned that, and He never will. By extension, nor can the leaders of the Church. But for those of us who continue to do the Lord's will without knowing the "why' behind what is being counseled and asked of us, or why there are these thorns in our sides, someday we will know. And that should be enough.

I have had many trials of my faith, many of which have broken my heart. I have almost died a few different times, have spent numerous nights in a hospital bed, staring up at the ceiling and wondering why I was going through my current set of circumstances, and at times have doubted that the Savior was aware of my situation, or that He even cared about my plight. I wrote about one such experience, and I was fortunate enough to have it subsequently published in the July 2015 Ensign. I include the web address at which you can find that article, and would be greatly honored if you would read it and give me your thoughts on it.

I would like to conclude with one last thought: I am sure I do not fully understand or have enough compassion for people like Kate Kelly. But at the end of the day, the judgement of her actions (as with the judgement of the actions of any of the rest of us) will ultimately lie in the Savior's hands, and, unlike any of the rest of us here, He has perfect compassion and will use that to perfectly judge all of us. In the meantime, I choose to believe that leaders on all levels, despite the apparent imperfections I see in their conduct, are doing the best they feel they can in their current assignments, and I leave the final judgement on that to the Lord. I am confident that when that judgement occurs, the Lord will know a lot more than I now do about what is driving the actions of any of the rest of us, and will perfectly know whether or not any of us have been misjudged here on earth. And that is very comforting to me.

Eduardo said...

Kate Kelly and her husband and her movement, or group, has had many effects on Church policy, I would assert. Unfortunate that she could not reconcile her membership and face the stake leaders, show some loyalty and/or contrition, and remain a member. Same for her husband and a few others.
Meagan makes a good point about calling out Riess' 1/3 Early Returned Missionaries stat. That seems ridiculous. Maybe one out of six, but even then...
I remember hearing in the MTC at the end of the 1980s that 1/10 missionaries would end up being gay. I disputed that figure then and now. I personally know of a few that have become same gender declared persons after their missions, but I still think it is not close to one of ten.
I also recognize that some will say that it does not matter what the number is, but I think it is worth considering. We like traditional couples as a growth model, at the minimum. When I say "we" I mean members of the Church of Jesus Christ.
As to those who return home earlier than their original assignments on missions: stigma should not be attached. I think the numbers have increased, but so have the overall numbers of the faith.
Keep kicking the nest, Meagan! Well done.
And we are a Beehive, afterall. 😊

MeaganT said...

Thanks Eduardo, but really it's not my intention to go on and on, I fully intend for this to be my last comment and not one that kicks up any nest (although knowing me it probably will). It really started out as an innocent comment to be like, be careful who you get information from, and I couldn't resist the temptation to drop a love note for suffering never-wents and ERMS, because that's just who I am.

I am not here to defend and promote sin (I'm not into Kelly's movement by any means, that was the first example that popped into my mind). I just want to be a peacemaker. I love Christ and the apostles and church leadership's approach to the lost sheep. I know a man who was praying for the blacks' well-being in the 70s and his last prayer before it happened he felt from the Lord that change was coming, that's so cool, I love using prayer to knit my hearts with the Lord's endless compassion.

Recently people were angry at millennials for suffering spiritually on a Deseret News comment thread and were going on pharisical rants about how those sinners needed to fall in line and snap out of it (such tact and grace, you know they REALLY cared about and were sorrowful and full of love over their salvation--no, I'm being sarcastic, you couldn't feel Christ's love at all). But some wise latter-day saints stood up and said gee maybe this attitude is why we are losing so many millennials!

Eduardo said...

Interesting, probably a lot of truth there.

James said...

I think we can all agree that it is unfortunate when any group of individuals is stereotyped, stigmatized, misunderstood, or shunned. I likewise think it is very unfortunate when any Church member on any level falls away from the Church, whether through sinful behavior that leads to excommunication, or by choosing to voluntarily request the removal of their names from Church records. My only brother falls into the latter category. During his late teenage and early adult years, he felt that my parents were unfairly trying to impose their will on him, and he went off the rails a bit in his personal conduct, beliefs, and practices. He took things to an extreme that I felt was very unfortunate.

After several relationships, he met someone who had similarly bad feelings against the Church, primarily due to her having a brother who identifies as homosexual. Though she has been good for him in many ways, his feelings about the Church have markedly changed to a more negative stance. He let everyone know on Facebook last year that he was sending a request to have his membership withdrawn from the records of the Church. He has told me he does not feel that anyone needs any religion to be a decent person. But he also said that he still believes in God and prays regularly, both personally and with his family.

So I know that my brother has been through a crisis of faith, and it was painful to watch all of that unfold. He does a lot of things now which I don't think he should be doing, but I respect his agency to choose. I think, when it comes right down to it, at the time the Savior comes again, he will be on the right side of things, but for now, I feel I can show love and respect towards him without condoning his behavior that seems unreasonable to me.

And the irony of it all is that, even in the midst of his own spiritual crises, he always had my back in the gospel-centered choices I was making. He was the first to get on board with support when I made the choice about my service missionary opportunities, and he came through with major and primary support when I started dating and got engaged to my wife. I hadn't dated much before that time, so, after a year of acquaintance and friendship through our temple service, when we started dating and things moved as fast as they did, many in my family were worried about that. His response was that if she made me happy, he didn't care about what anyone else in the family thought or felt: he supported my choice.

So in many ways, the path he is currently on has somewhat been a messy one, but in other ways, as he has taken advantage of his freedom of choice, he has become someone with whom I may not always see eye-to-eye, but who continues to show support, understanding, and concern for me regularly. I hope my mentioning this provides more context to things I have shared in this thread previously. I didn't have to go through a faith-related crisis of my own to understand how it impacts someone's life. I have seen it firsthand through my brother. Though I wish at times some of his choices were different, he is a relatively good man as a result of things he has experienced. Thanks again to you all for your great comments.