S1E7: What No One Talks About
Updated: Mar 21, 2021
Do We Still Need To Introduce Ourselves?
Hopefully not. That won’t happen again.
A Historic Day
We brought a guest!
Our friend, Krystal, joins us for this episode to dive into the things that people don’t like to talk about. Please note that we don’t go too deep in most of our topics because we want to be able to do whole episodes on a lot of these issues as we move forward.
We are coming with scriptures and facts to talk about things.
We have to start somewhere. Even on the awkward topics. It’s about time we discuss the taboo subjects that people don’t like to bring up.
In this modern-day and age, people are indeed beginning to open up and discuss more serious and sensitive subjects. There is occasionally a call for this, just like there is a call to speak up.
We can’t keep shoving things under the rug. Because the rug is full.
It’s Time to Address the Topics
It’s not about giving them a spotlight but learning about them to understand them so that we can move on with our lives. This can help us to:
Feel closer to the Spirit
Feel closer to those that we love
Feel closer to the Lord
“It can be hard,” Krystal pointed out. “Even with friends, there is still just this fear of judgment that ‘what if this person disagrees with me?’ And then what if that affects their opinion of me? And my faith, my testimony? That shouldn’t matter, but it does–because we care what our family and our friends think of us. It’s about finding that solidarity with each other.”
It’s not just the church, but it’s also person-to-person.
“Historically, some subjects are simply not openly discussed within the church. But the Internet has made it difficult for families and official church literature to sidestep controversial elements of its history. As a result, both families and wards find themselves struggling with how to address issues for which there is no "official" church literature.” - Caleb Warnock
There is so much content/ideas that we want to discuss with other people, but we don’t have enough to go on… so we are left to use our agency and to think through these ideas. With that, there has been discomfort in the church to discuss a lot of these subjects.
But today, we can’t just ignore it.
Consider when you are trying to learn about something. You are going to go find an expert in that and pick their brain to ask questions and learn what you are trying to learn. That’s your cue to listen and soak it in. You can do that with complicated topics. As you do, we have a reminder to listen. You don’t have to believe them, but listen and learn from another angle as you go.
Where Our Focus Belongs
It is understandable to focus on what we do know well and on the most important aspects of the gospel. Take the atonement, for example. We have a lot of content based around that and plenty of material. We want to focus our energies mostly on this because it’s a core concept of the gospel― repetition in the church helps us to prioritize and better understand things.
Talking mostly about such topics is also helpful in the church because new members and investigators might be seeking to learn about the gospel, and we want to be able to focus on what we understand and what is most important.
When we get to a topic that makes people uncomfortable and they don’t understand well, the spirit can quickly leave. “Sensitive subjects do need to be discussed, but at the right time.”
“Yet even at the core, taboo topics are often quite simple. It’s just that we’ve taken them to a point in a church culture where we have made them uncomfortable, made them heavier and more awkward than they need to be.”
It could be:
“Hey, I’m curious about this.”
“Okay sure, let me explain this to you.”
But instead, it has become:
“Oh, well, uh, we don’t… talk about that, so…”
There is discomfort and shame and guilt that get attached to these subjects, which makes it harder to talk about. There is confusion that gets in the way and people begin to misunderstand things. And that can grow.
Consider the commandments. People can hear “love one another” and then ask, “but which ones? Which people?” when it’s not “just those people” but “love EVERYONE.”
We like to complicate things.
Let’s Talk about the Taboo
Things are deemed taboo by the culture of the church because people don’t understand or find topics uncomfortable. It becomes focused on opinions, miscommunications, and awkwardness.
We are here to be… awkward. But the doctrine is less so. We are awkward beings who are talking about awkward things―so, clearly, the awkwardness cancels out.
What do we know? Not a lot. But we will try.
First Taboo: Caffeine
The Word of Wisdom hints at not drinking “hot drinks.” So we don’t drink coffee, claiming it’s the caffeine. But we drink hot chocolate, some herbal teas perhaps, and we do have caffeine in our sodas and chocolate.
Also, what about iced tea? Cold-brew? There are a lot of gray areas in the Word of Wisdom.
“The word coffee isn’t always in the name of coffee drinks. So, before you try what you think is just some new milkshake flavor, here are a couple of rules of thumb: One, if you’re in a coffee shop (or any other shop that’s well-known for its coffee), the drink you’re ordering probably has coffee in it, so either never buy drinks at coffee shops or always ask if there’s coffee in it,” the article said. “Two, drinks with names that include cafe or caffe, mocha, latte, espresso, or anything ending in -ccino usually have coffee in them and are against the Word of Wisdom.” - LA Article
Shout out to Starbucks and their delicious chocolate frappuccinos. Also, they do have food. You don’t need to avoid the store “just because it sells the devil’s beans.” Also, coffee shops often have free wifi that is very helpful while traveling.
Then we have to dive into the soda aspect. There is caffeine in soda! There is a very fine line in the thinking process here. There is caffeine in coffee and soda. Both are addictive. (Can’t forget energy drinks!) And yet only one is approved. This confuses members and nonmembers alike.
“In 2012, church leaders clarified that the health code did not prevent members from drinking caffeinated soft drinks.” - LA Article
And tea. Tea is great. It’s good. The article talks about green tea and black tea, which are considered not okay. But apparently, herbal teas are okay. Possibly. Along with milk teas, only there is no clarification provided. We are asked to essentially read the instructions to see what is in the drinks. As shared by Kaylee’s sister on her mission, any tea is okay unless it has a “colored leaf” like white, green, and black.
For more information, read the article here.
Talking About Racism
Racial tension is a very sensitive topic, and for good reason. The common thought process is, “Hey, people of color have the priesthood now, so everything is perfect and fine.”
But that’s ignoring the painful past, generational trauma, and mistakes made by our leaders.
When did they get the priesthood? 1978! It’s not that long ago. Most of our parents were teenagers by that point in time. Our fathers would have had the priesthood, then, as deacons before any Black men of any age were allowed to have it.
The above argument is not okay. It’s not fine now. That is a band-aid ignoring the serious wound below. It may even be similar to the scriptural concern of how people will refuse the Book of Mormon, choosing to claim “We already have a bible!” so everything is fixed that way. Members like to claim, “We fixed it! There’s no more racism now! Be quiet about this!”
Our church has definitely tried to not talk about this topic as much as possible. But there are church scholars who choose to speak up about this.
“For decades, Mormon scholars were openly told by church authorities not to write about race or other fraught topics, she said. Scholars in the 1960s and 1970s who were exploring how black members came to be forbidden entrance into LDS temples were told the church would be harmed by any spotlight on the issue and scholars could lose their church standing.
But today, in a reversal of that policy, the church put out an official statement about its history of race relations, and that statement discredited what had been taught from LDS pulpits for generations, she said.” Joanna Brooks, an award-winning religious scholar, and writer, in Caleb’s article. “Those examples show that the Internet "has eroded the church's ability to manage the LDS message," Brooks said. Women of color are likely to soon be the statistical majority of church members, and they have questions about the church's history of dealing both with issues of gender and race. While the church once routinely "deflected" any attempts to discuss such issues, such deflection is no longer possible, she said.” - Caleb Warnock
The more we learn about church history, the more none of this makes sense. The gospel is perfect, the people are not―including prophets.
“The Lord saw fit to bring back the church at a certain time. That is a time period when racial tensions were huge in the country. It’s not something we can kind of differentiate and say ‘we had so many wonderful things going on in the church so racism can’t possibly be happening’. No, racism was definitely there. The Civil War was going on right when the church was growing. Clearly, racism was going to be a matter that people in the church were going to have to face during that time period. That had to have influenced some of the decision-making that went into place with the church early on.”
“In the same way that we have a certain level of historical forgiveness and context in remembering that George Washington, our first president who we love, also owned slaves… We revere these people but understand that they were not perfect. It still doesn’t make it okay that an entire society of people were enslaved, but we do have that level of historical context and forgiveness in a small way.”
As times change and we begin to learn and better understand the mistakes of the past, we come to terms that they didn’t have this knowledge and that if we could do something about it now, we would. A lot of things, that behavior, would not be tolerated now. If we knew the prophet now had slaves, that would not be acceptable under any condition.
Take history with a grain of salt, consider what we can learn, and we are sure that the Lord was trying to teach the prophets through the years that Black people deserved and were worthy of the priesthood. People were just so caught up in racism that they were ignoring this… Until someone came to power in 1978 and questioned this, finally hearing what the Lord had to say. The Lord was most likely like, “YES, THANK YOU, FINALLY.”
Very slow but we are grateful.
Please note that we are not experts on this topic or any topic here, and we are addressing the concerns in the church to bring them to light for us to learn more about them and seek truth and knowledge from our Heavenly Parents. We don’t support white supremacy, racism, homophobia, or any other inequality or hatred towards a minority group. While we would love to talk more on these subjects, it will take time for us to be able to do this right. We are still looking to learn more, listen to others, and prayerfully understand the truth. This goes the same for our next topic as well.
The LGBTQ+ Community
This is our generation’s racism, in the sense that it is a minority of people finding their voice and there is a LOT of opposition everywhere that people are very blatant about discussing. (Whereas most people believe that racism is no longer an issue because "the laws have been fixed", etc.) People want to say for both matters, “It does not exist if we don’t look at it.”
Some leaders are beginning to bring it up more and talk about it. Like D. Todd Christofferson― we know he talks very candidly about the community because his brother is gay. At the same time, we know several church leaders who are very anti-discussing this because they are still very adamant that this is a sin or a trial for people to overcome in their lives, therefore not wanting to address the elephant in the room.
We believe that this is going to be continuously discussed by our leadership. While some may be more open to change, some may desire change, there will be those who disagree and don’t want to make any changes. Until we have leadership all in agreement, then no changes will be made.
Krystal, and both of us, would love to find material from Black church members in the 1960's as they went through the Civil Rights movement and then had to wait for changes to be made in the church. They must have powerful stories and important messages to share. We feel we might be in a similar situation now with this community. Both matters of church members being barred from the church are highly sensitive and painful to many.
Do you know any resources?
“In racism and the LGBTQ+, the exclusion of our brothers and sisters within the church, it’s heartbreaking as a general thing. It’s hard for people to deal with. Some people take it easier because they don’t see the connection, they don’t see the person-piece of everything. They can’t understand the people who are being personally affected by these issues.”
This is not something that any of us can ignore. There are going to be parts of our lives and parts of us that we need to understand and learn more about. If we can’t do that within the church, then it's going to be very hard for people to stay within the church, to stay part of it, to find the help/support they are looking for.
This has drastically changed, like so many things, in the last ten years.
As we said at the beginning, Jesus commanded us to love everyone. But as time has gone on, people are asking “What about Black people? What about the gays?” The Lord is still screaming from heaven, “I MEANT EVERYONE. PLEASE STOP THIS.” But then people are going, “I heard that we only love straight people? White people? Okay cool.”
Prop 8 in California was a big issue that started things forward. To Kaylee’s everlasting shame, she was with her family holding signs to support it. Thank goodness for personal growth! Krystal highlights the importance of allowing people to grow and become more than they are― just like our Heavenly Parents desire. “We individually have paths in our lives.”
Growth and change has to happen― and we should applaud people who move past that. And encourage people to do better. We don’t want cancel culture like that― we want growth.
“We should be encouraging you and uplifting you in making those necessary steps to make those changes.”
The 2019 reversal of Prop 8 (with the US Supreme Court) was growth― along with removing the church policy that children from queer households couldn’t be baptized until they were old enough to renounce their parents’ way of life.
We know it upset a lot of people for a lot of reasons― especially because the church didn’t apologize for the former hateful policy. (Growth but still a band-aid on a current wound). They didn’t necessarily make things better, just made a minor fix. We love all our friends and understand their pain and anger. At the same time, we feel that this reversal was at least a small, if tiny and grudging, step in the right direction to amend their problems. The church has been slowly making steps that, we hope, means we are headed in the right direction. It’s not perfect, but they had to start somewhere.
More growth has come here as well.
Kaylee grew up in a household that didn’t believe mental illness was real. She felt that the church taught in this manner as well at the time. Believing these lies invalidates the suffering of people who are struggling with their mental health every day. It opens the door to accusations of “you’re not praying enough, you need to repent more, go outside, etc.”
Like we said, growth is important.
More steps are being taken in the church to help one another. This goes for missionaries as well. Missions get delayed, therapists are there for future, current, and returned missionaries.
Just in 2019, it was decided that future missionaries do have to see a therapist before they submit their papers. Everyone needs therapy.
“We hear professionals speak of neuroses and psychoses, of genetic predispositions and chromosome defects, of bipolarity, paranoia, and schizophrenia. However bewildering this all may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.” ― Jeffrey R. Holland
Holland started by saying “If you experience depression, seek help.” Then he came out to confess that he had depression as well. Hearing church leaders speak up like that is so important. It opens our minds and hearts to better listen to someone we respect and shows that it can happen to all of us.
If your appendix burst, you would seek medical help and a priesthood blessing. When you are struggling with mental health, then treat it like your physical health in priesthood blessings AND medical support. It’s not wrong or bad or shameful to seek help for your mental health.
The church has clarified/updated/softened the verbiage about suicide.
"There's an old sectarian notion that suicide is a sin and that someone who commits suicide is banished to hell forever. That is totally false. I believe the vast majority of cases will find that these individuals have lived heroic lives and that that suicide will not be a defining characteristic of their eternities." - Dale G. Renlund
This builds off the 1987 article by Elder Ballard entitled “Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not” where he said, “suicide is a very grievous sin.”
“Judgment for sin is not always as cut and dry as people seem to think.” - M. Russell Ballard
This article may have given cause to those beliefs, we’re not certain.
Elder Ballard even explains further that only the Savior can provide fair and true judgment on people, including those who take their own lives. He is a merciful and loving Savior. He alone knows all the facts and He alone can see the thoughts and intents of the hearts of the people of Earth. He will extend His mercy to them, as He extends His mercy to you and me.
There is no defining thing that suicide equals hell. Ballard’s content references McConkie, who we couldn't find proof made this serious claim either.
This topic is SUPER glossed over. It’s mostly just the mention of the word in documents like ‘For the Strength of the Youth’. That discusses the outdated “no petting.” And then the document says to avoid doing masturbation without going any further. No details into why, etc.
We can talk about the Law of Chastity, but that’s more expansive and there’s truthfully not a lot that specifically mentions masturbation. Even the church website mentions the word maybe 3x and then just moves on without explanation.
It gets brought up less than pornography but is spoken of in a like manner. “Don’t do it.” But they are separate things entirely. One is an action and the other is a type of media. You can bring them together, but they’re not always connected and are not the same.
So we had to look out to other church-related sources. One of our favorites is another podcast, Mormon Marriages.
In episode 13, they bring Daniel Burgess who specializes in relationship therapy. He talks about masturbation with married couples and how this can affect and improve their relationships. He makes it a respectful and reverent subject. What we got out of it was that we wouldn’t tie a ribbon on something and keep it locked up until marriage and suddenly say you can open it.
We need to talk about this more. But we also need to discuss it with people who understand the topic.
More sex therapists are coming out! Very educational and informational. Science of desire, the history of masturbation, how it helped with women and hysteria in the 19th century (there’s literally a play about the creation of the vibrator), and so on.
It’s been around forever. We just need to do the right research and come to a clear understanding of it. No more “hush-hush about the M word, tis shame!”
This is connected to the next subject:
As single adults, we are put in an interesting situation. We see the Law of Chastity and are taught it mainly as, “do nothing, nothing, nothing.” And then it abruptly changes if/when we get married.
It goes from “no, no, no” to “go, go, go.”
It’s such a high expectation, and really weird. Purity culture has started to attract a lot of annoyance and disgust beyond the usual fear.
Krystal highlights an early 2000’s blog that discussed the wedding night for Christian women and what a strange and discomfiting experience it has been created to be. Now, we better understand what she said. We can’t touch ourselves or anyone and then suddenly that is supposed to change. It’s a drastic change.
Some people have great honeymoons and some don’t. It’s entering the world of the unknown and it can be very uncomfortable― not exactly what you want at the beginning of a happy marriage.
Expectations are set up that suddenly turn to shame if anything isn’t perfect.
It can quickly become a negative situation because of the desire to make it so secretive. Too rarely people have the chance to adjust to having a paradigm shift and many of them feel alone.
More people should be told something along the lines, of “Sex is a good thing, you just have to wait” in order to come to better terms. It is good, healthy, and fun. It should just happen in the right situation.
Elizabeth Smart, the victim of kidnapping and repeated sexual violence as a teenager, is an outspoken Mormon woman who has voiced the drastic pitfalls of our culture’s view of sexual purity. One does not become spiritually unclean or lose spiritual purity if one is assaulted; purity is only lost with intention. Stressing the words “chastity,” “sexual purity,” and “virtue” together only implies that sexual assault victims do not hold those characteristics. Purity and virtue are not determined by virginity, but rather by obedience to commandments and integrity of heart or mind. LDS scripture affirms this, stating: “For I will raise up unto myself a pure people, that will serve me in righteousness” (D&C 136:37). Local lessons need to reflect this principle.” (I want to read the whole thing on here!)
The lesson of becoming chewed-up gum or useless tape is THE WORST. It is harmful and damaging. Get over it and start talking about it. We need to talk about it openly and honestly. It is normal and sacred and needs to be embraced in a like manner.
Also, sex ed. You need to have the dialogue to handle sexual assault. People need to understand consent, how bodies work, and how to take care of them. Young people don’t have the language often to talk about sexual assault, like Elizabeth Smart. She only had one way of understanding what had happened and she was ashamed because of it.
“Being able to articulate and know your own worth, in a situation of assault, it comes from being able to healthily talk about sex and about gender and body parts.”
So, why are Mormon women — a demographic of which I am a part — widely absent from the #MeToo movement? Perhaps it is because of the culture surrounding sexuality within the LDS Church. Culturally speaking, Mormons do not discuss sex in any concrete way. While we are encouraged to remain sexually pure and chaste, as is demarcated in the law of chastity, conversations about sexuality are often vague and awkward. It is almost taboo — and at the very least incredibly socially uncomfortable — to talk about sex within the Mormon cultural context.
If sex is taboo in Mormonism, sexual violence is even more so. However, remaining mum only serves to alienate those that deviate from the cultural norm. By acknowledging that many Mormon women are the victims of sexual misconduct, and by teaching the true meaning of purity and the intricacies of the law of chastity, the conversation may begin to take place and the problematic notions of purity, virtue, and virginity can be abandoned. While opening a dialogue to the complexity of consent and the harsh reality of sexual violence within our community is imperative, changing the way we speak about sexual purity and the law of chastity itself is even more crucial.” ― Rebecca Fetzer
It’s not just young women and it’s not just opposite-gender who face assault. This can happen to anyone― including members of the church. We want to be able to truly help and listen to anyone. That means we have to be prepared with knowledge and understanding.
100 billion dollars recently came out of the woodwork, by a whistleblower, as part of potential tax fraud.
This came out within the week of recording this topic and we saw a lot of discussions based around it coming from multiple sides. We understand everyone has a view of what happened and we wanted to better understand it for ourselves. We researched with friends, podcasts, and a slight understanding of VERY complex and vague tax law information.
Laws have a lot of room for interpretation. It’s a convoluted mess. You have to consider that accountants and lawyers are always looking for the best way to help their clients save money, and that is inclusive of the church.
The clickbait was not helpful either, because the money there was part of the information that we, as members, were already told about. That money was from an investment that has grown in the last years, from the basics that we understood, which can happen.
We believe that the church means well just like we know people are faulty. The church preaches to save money, so it is following its own advice, and we know it would be politically convenient to not talk about it. We don’t understand a lot of what is going on. When we pay tithing, we are wanting it to help people, and prayerfully trust that the church will do the right thing.”
We do all have the account from the church auditing department at every General Conference to listen to. They explain how they follow the church’s rules and expectations and show the work that they do.
People have concerns, and that is fair. Missionaries don’t believe they have enough money, people ask why they have to help clean the church and more. Sometimes we just have to trust our leaders who have been called of God.
We Could Go All Day
But we won’t. There are many more topics we wanted to discuss but cut it short for another time.
If there are more topics that we need to discuss, please reach out to us online.
We thought we were open and honest and maybe a little awkward about these subjects. Hopefully, you can understand that we meant well and wanted to share what we have learned.
“That is kind of a perfect example of how we can discuss things as a culture of the church. As the body of the church, we can start having these open discussions. That way we can go, ‘hey, I don’t know a lot about this, but this is what I know. What do you have to add to it? Let’s see where we can learn more information together to make these topics more understandable and more relatable. That way, we can end the stigma around these topics.”
That’s the only way we will come to learn about these sensitive topics. It’s also one of the best ways for us to grow our testimonies. The more we learn, the more we understand and can come closer to our Heavenly Parents.
We don’t know everything, that’s very clear. But together, we can learn more and come unto Christ.
Let’s talk about this. We want to talk more. It does help to talk with people you know and you trust. It is more fearful to discuss topics with people you don’t know and who may not take you seriously.
“Too many church members are looking for clean lines in the history of the church, said Faulconer. (BYU philosophy professor James Faulconer) "Real history, real lives, and real theology are incredibly messy," he said. "If we only look for things that reaffirm what we already know, I don't think we are being faithful." He suggested that members must become more comfortable "living in the questions" of the Mormon faith. Mormons simply need to be more courageous in discussing fraught subjects, Brooks said." - Caleb Warnock
We are here to learn. We have no place to judge one another. That’s definitely not what God wants from us. “It’s not shameful if we address it with humility.”
People don’t like to change, especially the older we get. Being humble is so important. Perhaps one reason why these are taboo topics, we are curious when we are younger and when we ask, we are given a vague answer and never try to ask again.
“Having the humility to acknowledge that maybe my personal bias led me to an answer along with the Spirit, and maybe that answer was right for me at the time, and then now as I’ve gotten older and have a different perspective on the issue, I can pray about it, again and again, be humble and really listen to what Heavenly Father has to say to me.”
“Good revelation comes from good information,” as shared to Krystal by one of her friends.
We can ask for more information. It is difficult and yet so important. The more we acknowledge the humanness of this process, acknowledging our faults as fallible humans, the more we learn what Heavenly Father has in store for us. The more we change, the more we are striving on the right path to be closer to our Savior.
That starts when we humble ourselves, start asking questions, and listen.
We are very curious, awkward, and are eager to discuss more taboo topics. Already we discuss the deep and taboo topics on the regular, so it was great to share that with all of you.
What else do we need to talk about? Who else should be a guest on our podcast?
A big shout out to our friend, Krystal. Thank you!