BY THE NUMBERS: HOW THE CHURCH IS MISSING THE MARK AND WHY REFOCUSING IS CRUCIAL



I like numbers.

Okay, not in the mathematical sense. I was lucky to pass college algebra (after taking it three times).

But give me stats and data that I can analyze, and I'm happy. Throw that shit in an infographic and you're an angel on earth.

Numbers in this sense speak to me, especially when they serve to illustrate current issues of humanity, but they also have a way of making the information they represent seem impersonal.

795 million people in the world don't have enough food to eat. That's staggering, but so overwhelming a number that it's easy to not completely absorb what it means. Consider tucking your child into bed at night, singing them their favorite song, and watching their face (that you've memorized) as they fall asleep, knowing their stomach isn't close to being full and you don't know the last time it was or the next time it will be. When looked at from an individual perspective, it's not as incomprehensible as it is devastating.

Ten to fifteen percent of teenagers suffer from depression, and depression increases a teen's risk of attempting suicide by twelve times. Again, it's scary, but it might not mean much until you think of each and every one of those teenagers individually. Each of them has a favorite meal, favorite color, and can probably tell you their earliest childhood memory if you happen to ask. Each of them has already made an impact on the word, has people that love them, and has dreams and opportunities they've yet to realize.

My point is, there are people behind the stats we read. Individuals with likes and dislikes, aspirations, to-do lists, and stories they love to tell over and over again.

Numbers and data are important factors in that they present facts and information in a clear and concise way, but they are just a piece of the bigger picture. To dismiss what and who they represent because it seems overwhelming or impersonal, thus failing to grasp the reality of the stories behind the figures, is problematic.

On the flip side, it is equally problematic and, dare I say, detrimental, to reduce an individual to a number, simply because you refuse to see them as more than data.

Holding tight to a limited capacity that leaves little room to see the humanity in, well, humans is tragic, and it happens all the time.

It happens in stories of world hunger, of teen depression, of suicide rates in LGBT youth.

It happens in church.

We know there are numbers there: leaving the 99 to seek after the one, feeding the 5,000, forgiving seventy times seven. But these are examples of Christ, and there's no questioning his ability to see the individual.

Let's look to the numbers we see and use today.

Like, the number of baptisms a missionary has.

Home teaching and visiting teaching numbers.

Percentage of adult members who hold a current temple recommend.

The number of meetings attended monthly so as to not be labeled "inactive."

FOUR TIPS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE AS YOU KNOW IT

I wouldn't say I'm exactly qualified to give much advice, but this is the internet, and, well, a lack of qualification has yet to stop anyone from advising.

(Hell, it's 2017 and a lack of qualification doesn't keep one out of office.)

Besides, it's not like I'm offering up medical advice (as much as I'd like to use my honorary med degree from Google U). Though, it's sort of your own fault if you follow that.

I'm not even going to call it advice. How about tips? Tips that, every time I implement one, I think, "I've really got to share this."

So here you go.



At no charge to you, I'm offering a few of my best tips. I hope that they're as life changing for you as they have been for me.

I will probably post a tutorial on how to take proper mirror selfies soon.

(This isn't necessarily a tip, but a good sarcasm detector will get you far.)

IF I HAD BEEN IN CHURCH: A RESPONSE TO CUTTING THE MIC


I can count on one hand the number of times I've stood at the pulpit on the first Sunday of the month, in front of an entire congregation, with my sole intention being to share what's in my heart and to testify what I know to be true.

For some, it takes little more than the fact that it's Fast Sunday and thus another opportunity to humble brag to get up from their pew and talk for an extended period of time about how blessed they are to go on vacation/look down on others/uphold an oppressive patriarchal society. For others, it takes a fair amount of courage to stand up and share personal, sacred experiences and perspective.

One of those brave souls is making headlines, which isn't exactly a common trajectory of fast and testimony meetings.

Savannah is a 12-year-old girl that came out to her congregation earlier this month. Standing at the pulpit, reading from a notebook, she testified, her voice unwavering, that she knew God made her just as she was; no mistakes were made, from her freckles to the fact she's gay.

She spoke of how important it is to care about others, especially when they are different. Still reading from the notes she'd so thoughtfully prepared, she declared her dreams to have a career, fall in love, get married, and have a family.

Then her mic cut out.

For those unfamiliar, the pulpit is controlled by one of the leaders of the congregation sitting behind it. They are able to move the pulpit up and down to accommodate height differences between speakers, adjust the volume, and, apparently, turn it off completely should the message being delivered be unwanted.

I've sat through many messages that were off-base, offensive, and outright inaccurate, and I've never once witnessed a mic being turned off. I've never even seen a speaker being tapped on the shoulder and asked to sit down.

That's not to say it hasn't ever happened, but what happened to this twelve-year-old-girl-- a child-- doesn't usually happen to adults.

It isn't typical

It isn't okay.

Given the church's official stance on homosexuality,* it isn't entirely surprising. The church maintains that "same-sex attraction" is acceptable, but acting upon that attraction constitutes sin. After a leaked policy change in 2015, gay members now stand to be excommunicated, apostates, cast into outer darkness. Should their children wish to be baptized, they must wait an additional ten years beyond the normal baptismal age, and the ordinance is to be performed only after they denounce their gay parent.

Would Savannah's mic have been cut if she'd simply stated that she felt same-sex attraction, and not called herself gay or made her plans to marry a woman and have a family known?

I don't know.

I do know that, had I been there and watched a brave child be humiliated and sent back to her seat during what could only be a vulnerable, deeply important moment for her, I would have stood.

I don't know the last time I made my way to the front of the chapel to stand at the pulpit-- I haven't been to church in months as it is-- but I would have walked up. There is nothing that could have kept me from saying what needs to be said.

This is what I would say: