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Two Degrees off Center: Stop the Train, I Want to Get On

Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience.  Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.

Moving Train

by Rich Key

I’m writing this just after watching the opening session of last month’s gen con. On one end, there was the announcement of the reduction of church block time from 3 hours to 2 hours, and the shifting of emphasis on teaching the gospel, its doctrines, and commandments to the home as the primary source and the church as a support. On the other end, there was Dallin H. Oaks being Dallin H. Oaks.

All other Christian churches teach how to get to heaven, but this church is the only one that teaches three degrees of glory and how to get to the highest, the celestial kingdom. It doesn’t teach how to get to the terrestrial kingdom or to the telestial kingdom. The only focus of all its doctrine and teachings and programs and support is to get its members to the celestial kingdom. There are 41,995 verses in our scriptures, yet fewer than 20 verses that teach about the terrestrial kingdom, fewer than 20 that teach about the telestial kingdom. It’s all celestial.

After listening to the opening session of conference, it seems the church is closing ranks even more, focusing on the active members, the covenant keepers, the faithful families, and ignoring even the inactives or others who don’t exactly fit the mold. If you’re made to feel like an outsider, a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God, and you’re starting to wonder whether you’d be happier in one of the other kingdoms, there are plenty of other churches out there that will teach you how to get there. Don’t fit in the core faithful? Not to worry. You’d make a great Baptist, or Methodist, or whatever church is closest to your home, and they’ll all help you and other honorable men and women get to heaven. Even if you’re a whoremonger and don’t even go to a church, you’ll get to heaven. That’s the beauty of the plan of salvation. We don’t have to worry whether you feel welcome or comfortable or like one of us. There are plenty of other churches to satisfy your needs. We’re only focused on those who will fit in the celestial kingdom with us.

I remember Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s description of new converts and others bringing what little they have with them, along with their weaknesses, differences, habits, and so forth; and as the church train pulls into the station and we see them board, we should ask ourselves whether we’re ready to accept them as they are. I’m starting to feel like the church train is passing by, no longer stopping, and leaving me and many others behind, alone at the station. When President Nelson was officially named as the next prophet, Elder Oaks was promoted and Elder Uchtdorf was demoted. I know we’re not supposed to think in those terms, but I hear a lot more talks now from President Oaks, and a lot fewer airplane stories from Elder Uchtdorf, and I shudder to think of my mansion in heaven being on the same block as Elder Oaks, and having him for a neighbor for the rest of eternity. Our meetinghouses have a sign in front stating, “Visitors Welcome,” but more and more also have a locked security fence around the entire building or property, sending the more subtle message, “Keep Out.” The scriptures tell us, “Choose you this day,” and I choose to get on the train. Why won’t it stop for me?

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.

One thought on “Two Degrees off Center: Stop the Train, I Want to Get On

  1. My dear, dear Bro. Keys,
    Reading your recent post, broke my heart. I admit that I know nothing about you or your background. Your struggles, experiences, & obvious pain seems very near the surface, & deep within your heart. For this, I am truly sorry that I can’t just scoop you up into a giant “Mom Hug” which I believe holds the key to all healing powers great & small. Nevertheless, it is a great place to start the healing journey that we ALL must travel.

    Every single one of us, come thru this life with bumps, bruises, & even at times…broken spirits. For me, within the teachings of Christ’s gospel, this is where I find the best tools for my healing. The old motto of, “The Church is TRUE, but not always the People” has always help me keep myself focused in the right direction.

    I am completely new to Affirmation, as I have only spent the past few hours reviewing & reading this website as my son has just sent me the link. He did so with the invitation for us, (his parents) to all attend together next summer’s conference. This of course is something that we are thrilled to do with him, anything at all that can help us all, strengthen & bring our love as a family more in focus, as we together navigate our new normal. We don’t have, (or even pretend to have) all the answers! But one thing I do know is that I can’t get in too much trouble by CHOOSING LOVE! I choose to view everyone thru the lens of love…NO MATTER WHAT!

    Just like a lot of Utah teens, our son suffered silently for many years without our knowledge, trying to find his way to continue living the life that he only knew, & at the same time, trying to figure out & navigate a way to live a life true to himself. He has the biggest & warmest heart of anyone I know, & as his journey continued to show him more & more suffering of others, it tore him up inside, which led him to use his agency to make some choices that we were sad about, but could understand.

    Ours is probably not the typical tragic LDS family story that unfortunately is all too common. In our family, we celebrate & hold fast to each other & our quirks since we all have them, & all need to know how fiercely we are cherished & loved! (Don’t get me wrong tho- I am NOT saying that sexual orientation or identity is by any means as simple as a “quirk”! Within our family, we deal with serious mental health issues, serious physical health issues, as well as the quirky- bad Dad jokes, seriously loud & strange laughs, & a vast variety of political opinions, as well as musical choices.)

    While I understand how you may have come to some of your conclusions you voiced in your post, & I celebrate your right to voice them, it saddens me when ANYONE choses to focus on the negative. There is no shortage of negatives in our world today. Hate, fear, greed, misunderstandings, grudges, pain, etc. can consume & take over not just our daily lives, but also bleed out to our families & communities.

    You may think my views are simplistic, unrealistic, nieve, corny, or just wrong. That’s fine. I have no problem with people not being in agreement. But do we have to be attacking, vicious, & rude? I just wanted to share with you & extend my hand to join me in hopefully shaping our individual spaces into a world we would be proud to pass on to our children. A world of respect, common goals of improvement for all, & a remembrance that at our core, we all share that deep need & desire, just to be unconditionally loved! Which I can tell you, without a doubt, YOU ARE!!

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